Everything I Ever Wanted to Know I Learned From Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and The Happy Hollisters

Did you read Nancy Drew when you were a kid?  I did, constantly.  My best friend and I would pass them back and forth and discuss them endlessly.  I knew they weren't great literature but oh, they were fun! Nancy and her friends George and Bess were always involved in some huge adventure.  They would go racing off in Nancy's blue convertible and save the day, because Nancy always knew what to do and always was able to do it.  Everyone deferred to her, she had everything. She was pretty and smart, and well-off and again, she had that blue convertible-yes, I wanted it.  I still kind of do.

I knew the books were ridiculous.  I knew no one would ever run into that many adventures and always come out the winner.  I knew even at the time that the books were pure escapism, but I didn't care.  I thought Nancy Drew was wonderful.

Nancy was strong.  She was independent.  She stood up to people and stated her opinion.  She could fix a car, solve a puzzle, do any sport that was suggested, run a house, I think she could shoot a gun.  Basically there wasn't anything she couldn't do.  She was also very likable.  She didn't gloat when she did all these things. She was modest and humble and respectful. And pretty, let's not forget pretty.

Plus she only had an adoring father which basically meant no one telling her what to do.  There was the dream life right there.

I think I admired her independence.  She wasn't a shrinking violet.  She went out and did what needed to be done and spoke up for herself and others.  She was a strong independent woman  (girl actually, but when I was 10 I thought she was a woman.)  She didn't need to be rescued, she did the rescuing.  What is not to love?

I think I still want to be Nancy Drew.

On a related note, did anyone grow up reading The Happy Hollisters?  We had the whole series when I was a child.  A family of five children who were also always solving mysteries.  Mrs. Hollister always calmly waved them off to chase the bad guy with only an admonition to not be late for dinner.  Sometimes they had to leave Sue, the four-year-old, home because she might miss her nap but otherwise Mrs. Hollister never worried.  And the children always returned having vanquished the criminal, solved the mystery, and been lauded by all.

 And then there was Trixie Belden.  I loved those too.  Another group of kids solving mysteries.  No wonder that when I was small I thought being a detective was a feasible career choice. Practically every book I read had kids running into mysteries at every turn.  My prosaic life was a sad disappointment.

I think there was a definite theme to children's books back then.  Get rid of the parents and allow the kids to be independent.  It fits into every kid's dream.

Kids, Parents, and Other Nonsense

girl in the woods

So, this is about being a parent and being around other parents and raising kids.  If that isn't your thing, you can click away now.  If you enjoy listening to rants feel free to stick around, I'm glad to have you.

Our kids go to public school, I don't homeschool.

We see nothing wrong with requiring our kids to do chores.

We never let the kids sleep in our bed, even when they were tiny.

We are very strict about what video games our kids play.

My general belief is that a little junk food isn't going to kill my kids.

We are a bit old-fashioned and require the kids to use Mr/Mrs etc when addressing adults unless given permission to do otherwise.

I could go on and on.  These are our parenting choices.

Let me be very clear. The operative word here is choices.  I am not saying my way is the only right way.  It isn't. There are lots of ways to raise children.  It all depends on your family, your kids, your situation.  I know that, I am hoping you know that.  What I want to know is why so many other people don't know that.  Why do people feel free to tell parents that public school is bad, your child who is mowing the lawn is overworked, and you shouldn't bake because sugar is bad for your kid?  What is up with people?

I think if there is one piece  of advice I could give new parents it would be "don't judge."  It is so easy to always think that your way is the right way.  After all, it works for you, shouldn't it work for every other parent on earth?  And you know what?  Maybe your way is the right way or the better way.  But sometimes as a parent you can't do the better way.  You can only do the way that is working for you right now.  Sometimes there are circumstances that prevent you from doing the better way.

I learned that very early with my son.  I had always planned on breastfeeding my children.  It was good for them, kept them healthy, promoted bonding, all the things new mothers hear.  Then my son was born and he had a cleft lip and palate.  He couldn't nurse, literally couldn't.  So I pumped and fed him with a special bottle and I was so disappointed and felt like a failure.  (New mom hormones don't make much sense.)  And some other moms would judge me for that bottle because they didn't know the circumstances.  I remember sitting in a group of moms as they all talked about the joy of breastfeeding and I thought then that we never know what is going on behind the scenes.  What about the mom who's baby was in the hospital for three months and she couldn't maintain her milk supply?  What about the mom who is taking medicine that could harm her baby so she can't nurse?  So much we don't know.

And it applies to all aspects of parenting.  We never know.  And we as parents want so badly to be doing it all correctly.  We want some guarantee that our kids are going to turn out okay.  If our decisions aren't the best possible ones then maybe the kids won't be fine.  So tell the world homeschooling/public school is best because that is what we are doing and we have to believe we are doing it right. Insist that never letting your kid taste sugar is the way to go because otherwise the work of packing alternative snacks and denying them donuts is pointless.  But you know what?  It doesn't matter.  There is no need to be doing everything right for the whole world.  We only have to be doing it right for our family.

But don't go around telling the other families they are doing it wrong.  Don't judge.  You can have your opinion but keep it to yourself.  If someone makes a different decision from yours that doesn't make their decision wrong, just different.  (Unless you are insisting that reading is a waste of time.  Then you are just plain wrong.  I'm joking...kind of.)  And their different decision doesn't call into question the validity of your decision. Why do people feel threatened by a different opinion?

You should firmly believe in your parenting decisions.  You should think about them, weigh options, consider, and then do what you implicitly believe is right for your family.  And you should still implicitly believe it is right even when someone else makes a different, also perfectly correct, decision. However, you shouldn't tell that person all about why their decision is wrong. Because there are two sides to every parenting choice.  You can argue for and against public school, for and against junk food, for and against co-sleeping.

So we send our children to school, we feed them sugar, we make them do chores, and we were always thrilled they slept in their own beds.

You don't have to agree.  In fact, feel free to completely disagree.  Just don't feel free to tell us we are doing it wrong.

End of rant.  This was not inspired by anyone who reads this blog, mainly because no one I know in the real world does read this blog.  It was inspired by some very opinionated friends.

Books Beside My Bed #2

My reading has been a little disjointed lately.  I keep picking things up and putting them down, not because I am not enjoying them, but because I keep getting distracted by other books.  Sometimes I think having a lot of books to choose from makes it harder to stick to one.  The grass is always greener.  I'll give you a quick rundown of what I have been dipping in and out of.

First of all, I just started Best Little Stories From The White House by C. Brian Kelly.  It is a book my dad loaned me and isn't something I would necessarily have picked up on my own.  It is what the title says, little stories or vignettes of various presidents or those surrounding them.  They aren't necessarily amazing stories but many are interesting or charming insights into the people and their lives.  I like the description quoted of Dolley Madison.  She was "a fine, portly, buxom dame who has a smile and a pleasant word for everybody." That just makes me feel as if I would like to know her.

I have been reading the Provincial Lady books by E.M. Delafield.  I have read the first two before and always enjoy rereading them.  I only recently bought a Virago edition that also has The Provincial Lady in America and The Provincial Lady in Wartime so those are both new to me.  I am enjoying them very much.  The Provincial Lady books just make me happy.  I love her wry observations.

I just finished A Small Death in the Great Glen by A.D. Scott.  It is a mystery set in the Highlands of 1950s Scotland. A small boy is dead and the newspaper staff ends up investigating.  It sounded like an easy read that I would enjoy but it just never worked for me.  The story felt a bit disjointed and I never cared that much about any of the characters even though I obviously should have.  I found myself skimming just to get the basic plot outline. It was a pity because I felt it had real potential.  Maybe it was just me because I see it is the first in a series and it gets decent ratings.

I am also reading The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock.  I just started this last night (because obviously I needed another book on the go) and am enjoying it so far.  It is the first of a trilogy, a family drama beginning in the summer of 1914.  It revolves around the family, friends, and servants of Abingdon Pryory.  I am still at the stage where all the characters are getting introduced but so far I am enjoying it.

I am resisting the urge to pull any more books off my shelves.  I woke up this morning wanting to reread This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart.  (I don't know, is it odd to wake up thinking about the book you want to read?) However, I managed to resist for now.  I'll wait until I have finished some of these.  I do love Mary Stewart though....

Three Months of Blogging


I started this blog on a whim three months ago, not sure how long I would keep it up and not even completely sure why I clicked the "create blog" button.  I didn't tell anyone, including my husband, that I had a blog for at least a month and now my husband and children are the only ones in my everyday life who know about it.  Because really, having a blog is a bit of an odd thing.  You write down your thoughts and opinions on the internet for strangers to read, not because you have to and not because you are being paid to but just because you want to.  The thing is, I find it much easier to have all you strangers reading what I write. You don't know me for real so you aren't reading everything trying to fit it in with the Jenny you know.  You just read it for what it is and click away if you are not interested.

However, I do have some observations after three months of blogging and you fortunate people get to read them.

There is a whole world of people out there who read the same kinds of books that I do.  That is absolutely fascinating.  Where are some of you in my real life?  I know people who like to read but they don't usually read similar books to me and their book addiction is not so over-the-top as mine.  You people make me feel normal, because it is normal to constantly have book parcels showing up in your mailbox, right?

No matter how much you say you are blogging for yourself, it really isn't true.  There is always that voice in the back of your head hoping people will read the post you just wrote and hoping they will like it.  If you were blogging just for yourself you wouldn't care.  Sometimes the posts I work the hardest on and am the most pleased with are the ones that get the fewest views.  I am not really sure what to take away from that.

Blogs get labelled.  I knew that, I knew there were food blogs and photography blogs and travel blogs, but I didn't realize that once you fell into a label there was a feeling that you had to stay there so you didn't disappoint your readers.  After all, if you usually write about books is anyone going to want to read your post about your kids?  I struggle with that a bit but I finally decided to write what I want within reason and you can  read what you want.

I think I lead a slightly boring, quiet life.  I read other blogs and they are always going out to eat and traveling to amazing places and going out with friends.  It makes for interesting blog reading but what I want to know is how do they find the time, money, and energy?  (Hmmm.  Showing my age right there.)  I think I like my slightly boring, quiet life.

Taking photographs is hard.  That being said, I do a much better job at pulling my camera out in everyday life.  Because I am aware of taking blog pictures I am aware of taking pictures in general.  Most of them never are put on here but it is nice for us to have them.

I feel like there is a whole world of blog etiquette out there and I am the person in a new culture trying to figure it out.  If someone follows you do you have to follow them back?  If you comment on someone's blog for the first time should you introduce yourself or just jump right in?  It does feel a bit awkward, especially when I want to comment on blogs that have been around for a long time and the people in the comment section obviously know each other already.  That being said, most times when I have commented on a blog people have been very nice and have responded.  I really, really appreciate the ones who have then visited my blog and who now make regular comments.

Twitter is really scary.  I can post tweets about blog posts but other than that I am a bit terrified.  What do you do, just tweet whatever is in your head at the moment?  Oh my goodness, I overthink too much for that.  I'll come to grips with Twitter eventually but that day has not come yet.

I read somewhere that most bloggers quit within 90 days.  I am still here.  We'll see how the next 90 days go.

I am curious.  If you have a blog, do your friends and family know about it or is it your little secret?

A Few Burning Questions About Life

autumn leaves

  • If I plan meals for the week and make a grocery list why do I then always leave the list on the coffee table when I go to the grocery store?  
  • Why is the child who can't hear you ask for the five hundredth time for chores to be done perfectly able to hear you whisper the question "Should we order pizza?" from three rooms away?
  • Why do my children need to talk to me as soon as soon as I make a phone call?  They are never so eager for conversation at other times.
  • Why did no one tell me that it was possible for a night owl to give birth to a morning person?   
  • Why do clothing stores never sell complete outfits?  If you find a skirt you like there is never a top to match.  And if you buy it without the matching top it will then become a task akin to the labors of Hercules to find one.  
  • How come once you hit my age stores think women want to dress like old ladies?  I may be "mature" but I am not ready for "mature fashion."
  • How come the only other clothes in stores have been designed for 13-year-old bodies? Don't clothing stores realize there is a whole vast market of females in between those age groups who would love to purchase clothes?
  • Is rolling of the eyes an art form taught to all teenagers?
  • Is exercise really worth it?
  • Why was homework ever invented because, frankly, it seems pretty pointless to me.  And what kind of teacher gives it over school vacations?  That is just miserable for everybody.
  • Why is the online world fascinated by introverts (just go on Pinterest and look at all the quotes) but the real world still thinks you should come out of your shell?  I like my shell, it is peaceful.
  • Is anyone else shocked by how much they have forgotten?  Just try to help your child with math homework and you will know what I mean, or is it just me?
  • To go along with that, why have they changed the way they teach math?  I have no idea what my daughter is talking about and she thinks I don't know how to do long division.  I do, just not the new way.  Isn't math hard enough without changing it?
  • Can you ever buy too many books?
  • Has anyone ever seen the bottom of a hamper?  That would mean all your laundry is done and I don't believe in fairy tales. 
  • Where do teenage boys put all the food they eat?  Even hollow legs can't account for eating an entire week's grocery shopping in 36 hours.

Little Things #5

Things look a little different around here, don't they? It's so pretty now.  I was never really happy with how my blog looked, but I thought I should see if I was going to stick with it before I got too involved in changing it.  Over the weekend I bought a template for next to nothing on Etsy and installed it.  It was surprisingly fun figuring everything out.  I think everything works fine now, but if you find any problems please let me know.

This week has been a little slow, full of boring but necessary things like car repairs and more car repairs.  I was in an accident about six weeks ago, no one was injured and it wasn't my fault, but the body shop can't seem to get everything done just right.  I have to bring the car back again tomorrow because they didn't reconnect the rear window defrost.  Then Tuesday I have to bring it in because one of the key fobs isn't working.  It is all just annoying.  Plus we have had a cold working its way through the house.  There is nothing like sending kids to school to guarantee a full supply of germs for your whole family.

So I don't have any new and fascinating books to write about.  I have been rereading the Provincial Lady books.  Light and fun and easy to read while sitting in a waiting room. I did start listening to Longbourn by Jo Baker.  It is Pride and Prejudice told from the servants' perspective.  I am only a couple of chapters in but I am enjoying it so far.  I have never been too enthralled with audiobooks, I get impatient because I can read them faster by myself.  However, I have been using them lately because they make time on the treadmill go by much more quickly. I read a lot of books that I never write about on here.  I can never decide.  Do I write about everything I read or only about the things were I feel like I have something to say?

We have also been planning our family vacation for next summer.  We are going to Chicago.  My husband is originally from Illinois and we lived out there for the first 7 or 8 years we were married.  We usually meet up with his parents every couple of years somewhere halfway between Illinois and Connecticut.  Their health isn't too great lately and they can't do a long drive this year so we have known for a while that we would have to fly out there.  We are spending the first half of the week with them and then for the second half we are going to visit old friends and do touristy things with the kids.  The kids love the city and have been asking to go to Chicago for quite a while.  They were both quite young last time we went. It sounds like a bit of a chaotic week but I think that is the way it always is when you are visiting relatives and trying to fit too much into one week.

It is getting dark so early now.  I hate that.  As soon as it is dark I just want to curl up on the couch with an afghan and a book but that is not conducive to getting anything done.  I am not sure I care today.  I'll just ignore the world and keep reading the Provincial Lady.

Book Recommendations: The British Home Front During WWII

I have mentioned a few times that I am very interested in the social history of WWII, especially in relation to the British home front.  I can't really pinpoint what started this interest, probably a book at some time or another, that is how most of my interests start.  Whatever began it, I am just fascinated with the everyday life of people living through the war.  I like finding out what they thought, how the felt, what they did to stretch the rations, how they clothed their families, what they did for entertainment, how life changed and how life stayed the same.  Maybe it is just my nosy side coming out, maybe it is just a fascination with people in general.  Possibly this is why I also love people watching.  Whatever the case may be, I thought I would share some of my favorite books about that time period.

books--Simon Garfield

First of all, we have a trio of books by Simon Garfield.  They are We Are At War, Private Battles: How the War Almost Defeated Us, and Our Hidden Lives: The Remarkable Diaries of Post-War Britain.

I bought the first of these books when I went to the Imperial War Museum in London.  We went to see an exhibition called A Family in Wartime.  It was about the Allpress family in London and how the war affected them.  There are reconstructions of rooms in their house, photographs, and audio recordings.  It was fascinating.  I bought the book in the museum bookshop.  I started reading it that evening.  It was the first time I had heard of  The Mass Observation organization.  It was a social research group that collected information about everyday life in Britain, including during the war years.  Diaries were kept, observers took notes on what people were doing and saying, and volunteers responded to written questions and other prompts about day to day life.  Garfield used the archives of this organization to compile fascinating accounts of life during the war.  In each book, he follows four or five people and their diaries, interspersed with a few explanatory notes.  It really brings the time period alive.  You are reading in someone's own words what they thought and felt at the time.  I highly recommend all of the books.

Book--How We Lived Then

Next, we have How We Lived Then, A history of everyday life during the Second World War by Norman Longmate.  This is a comprehensive history of exactly what life was like during the war.  It is extremely detailed but extremely readable.  He quotes extensively from individual accounts of the war.  This book really makes the history come alive.  Plus it answers every question you didn't know you had about what it was like to live then.

book--Nella Last's War

Nella Last's War, edited by Richard Broad and Suzie Fleming is probably the most well-known compilation of diaries from the war years.  It was made into a movie, Housewife, 49.  I wasn't wildly impressed with the movie but then, I frequently get annoyed with movies that are based on books.  Nella Last submitted her diary to the Mass Observation Organization.  This, and the two further volumes, are an interesting depiction of one woman's viewpoint on life during the time.

books--Mollie Panter-Downes

London War Notes by Mollie Panter-Downes was recently reissued by Persephone Books not too long after I had spent a year stalking copies of it online, trying to find one that was affordable. Ah well, that's life.  Panter-Downes wrote a column called "Letters from London" for the New Yorker.  There were over 150 columns over the years from 1939-45.  They gave Americans a window into the life of the British during the war.  This is intensely readable and absolutely fascinating.  (I feel like I am saying that about all of these books, but if I hadn't enjoyed them I wouldn't be writing about them now.)

One Fine Day is also by Mollie Panter-Downes.  It is a little different because it is a novel and it is set just after the war, but I included it because it gives a beautiful picture of one day in the life of a family living in a small English town after the war when they are trying to adjust back to a permanently changed life.  It is a quiet and lyrically written book. Do you ever read a book were the language almost makes you feel like you are listening to music?  I don't know how else to describe it. I highly, highly recommend this book..

I have a lot more books on my shelves about this time period.  I find it endlessly fascinating.  Currently I am looking for more novels set during the war years.  Does anyone have any they suggest?

The Joy of Recommending Books to a Daughter

books-Ingalls and Alcott

I am not sure you can really call it recommending because I basically force my favorite childhood books on her.  In a very nice way, of course.  I have always looked forward to having kids who like to read and I am so glad it has worked out that way.  Of course, I like recommending books to my son, but our taste in books is a bit different.  Understandable, I guess, but it does mean I am getting double pleasure out of seeing my daughter read the same books I did.

Sometimes, however, I realize that the books I loved are such an integral part of my childhood that I assume my daughter already knows all about them.  For example, I have been trying to get her to read Little Women lately. It was my favorite book for years and I have such fond  memories of it.  She has been very polite but obviously not interested.  In my usual need to make everyone love the books I love, I tried again the other day when she was looking for something to read.  She finally (patient child) got frustrated with me and asked why on earth she would want to read a book about a bunch of old ladies.  Which is when I realized that in all my raving about the book I had never actually summarized the plot for her and, based on the title, she had a very strange view of what it was probably about.  I immediately cleared things up and with only a minor boggle when she found out a character dies, she changed her view and decided it might be interesting.  Though I have also changed mine, and decided maybe she should start her Alcott reading with Eight Cousins, another favorite of mine.  This time I summarized the plot right away.

Sometimes my almost evangelical need to suggest books is a bit more successful.  She loves the Little House books which is fortunate because love of those books is basically a prerequisite to being my child.  She has read the entire series multiple times and is happy to discuss them endlessly with me.  Oh, the joy!  She also loved The Secret Garden, but resisted my efforts to convince her to read A Little Princess.  She has never jumped on the Princess bandwagon and, once again, the title put her off.  That time I was smarter and told her the story line right away.  She read it and liked it, though not as much as The Secret Garden, which is fine because I agree with that opinion.

Right now she is working her way through the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace.  Our library only has the first two so we have been requesting them.  Sometimes it can be hard to find books that I loved as a child.  I didn't always buy them because they were readily available at the library, but now they are viewed as old-fashioned and libraries get rid of them.  It annoys me.

A love of Anne of Green Gables was also a requirement for being my daughter.  Thankfully, she passes with flying colors.

It is interesting to see her fall in love with books with which  I am not familiar.  I had never heard of the Swallows and Amazons books by Arthur Ransome, but she loves them.  It is the same with the Famous Five series.  In fact, when my husband and I go to England in April she is requesting that I bring home more books by Enid Blyton. Someday she will probably be trying to convince her children to read those books.

I think one of the most important things you can give a child is a love of reading and of books.

What were your favorite childhood books?

Man Overboard by Monica Dickens

books-Penguins--Monica Dickens

Man Overboard by Monica Dickens is the story of Ben, a widower and the father of a daughter, who is decommissioned from the British Navy and has to figure out how to make his way in the civilian world.  His entire working career has been in the navy and he struggles to find a job and to decide what he really wants out of life.

The book follows Ben through the confused early stages of his new life when he gets involved with a beautiful television actress who obviously isn't right for him and when he is desperately trying to find a job.  Many characters seem to come and go in this book.  Just when you get used to a character and settle in thinking they are going to be a continuing part of the story they disappear.  In many ways they seem to symbolize the impermanence of Ben's own life.  He isn't settled so the people around him aren't either.

One character I really liked is Ben's daughter, Amy.  Here is a description of her.

"Amy, who was never the same child for more than a few weeks at a time, was having one of her old-fashioned periods, when she called Ben Father and was rather stiff and formal with him. Since it made her more docile too, in a beaten down Victorian sort of way, it was one of her easiest disguises to cope with; but it made her rather dull, and the lunch, which was a celebration of her tenth birthday, was not being very gay."

How can you not love a little girl who play acts and who constantly fits her personality to what she views as the exigencies of the situation?

I also really liked this window into Ben's personality since I also am an inveterate people watcher.

"He had found out long ago that the fascination of a group of strangers fades as soon as you become part of the group.  The discovery, however, did not impair his enjoyment of other people's lives at a distance. Without envy or discontent, he was an appreciative Peeping Tom, yearning after houses glimpsed from a train, basement kitchens, shadows moving behind a blind, lighted front rooms seen from a street at dusk before a silhouetted figure drew the curtains on the intriguing interior."

Ben, after many trials and tribulations, comes to realize what is important in life.

"He must go back and make her understand the truth; that nothing was any good alone, that if they were all together, something would turn up, and whatever it was, however small and unimportant, they could all be happy sharing it."

This was not a book of any life-changing wonderfulness.  It was however, a pleasant and enjoyable read.  I found myself really caring about Ben and Amy and hoping things would work out for them.  Monica Dickens writes books that pull you into the story.  This is not my favorite of hers, but I definitely enjoyed it.  Sometimes a little enjoyment is all you are looking for.

A Walk in the Woods


My kids had the day off from school earlier this week so I took them out to lunch and for a walk in the woods.  Lunch wasn't anything fancy, just fast food burgers at Wendy's, but that is what they wanted.  The walk in the woods however, was definitely something special.

We went to a state park near us.  We have been there before to swim in the pond, but we didn't realize that there are all kinds of trails throughout the acres and acres of land surrounding the pond.

a girl in the woods

We crossed a little bridge and meandered up a hill.  My son was almost out of sight ahead of us.  My daughter had to stop to look at everything and climb on everything climbable and I kept stopping to take pictures.

a boy in the woods

Here he is semi-patiently waiting for us to catch up.  It was a gorgeous sunny day and it didn't feel at all like November.  We didn't even need jackets.  We only saw two other people the whole time we were walking.  It was so peaceful.  It looked like it was raining leaves.  They just kept coming down slowly, swirling all around us.  Squirrels and chipmunks were running frantically through the brush and my daughter was convinced if we were just quiet enough maybe we could surprise a bear.  I am really glad we didn't!  That would be more excitement than I would need on an afternoon walk.

a boy in the woods

He is still waiting patiently, as you see.  He was having more fun than it looks like.  He told me the woods is more fun than his favorite computer game so I am viewing the walk as a huge success.

woods and water

We ended up talking about all the books the kids have read that are about people stranded in the wilderness.  Hatchet by Gary Paulsen was one they mentioned.  Also The Swiss Family Robinson and My Side of the Mountain.  My son loves the idea of being out in the middle of nowhere, having to depend on your own wits to survive.

All in all, it was a very nice afternoon.  We will have to go back with  my husband before the weather gets too nasty. I think it is good for all of us to get away from the frantic dash of everyday life and just exist for a bit.  You can't walk into the woods without feeling more peaceful.

Book Recommendations

The Persephone Biannually

This came in the mail this week.  It is bad for my budget but so much fun.  Wouldn't it be fantastic to just be able to order every single Persephone book ever published?  Well, I can dream, can't I?

I am trying to decide what book to read next for the Classics Club. I am in a bit of a reading slump and just can't seem to get into anything.  I read the first couple of pages and give up.  Maybe I just need to read something light and fun and then try again.  I was looking at my Classics Club list and realized I had made a mistake.  Somehow a recently published book had gotten on it.  Probably the result of having too many lists of books I want to read floating around the house.  I took that book out and added in another Jane Austen, because you can never have too much Jane Austen.

My father has been recommending books to me lately.  I just finished The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.  I wasn't going to read it because I had not particular interest in the Wright brothers but my father insisted I give it a try.  I am glad he did.  It was fascinating.  It is a quick and easy read but packs in a lot of information.  The Wright brothers were interesting men.  You wonder what makes some people so driven to figure something out and to invent.  I always found it interesting that they were much more successful in France to begin with.  It took the US a while to become really interested in them.

This weekend my father gave me The Last Hurrah by Edwin O'Connor.  Now, one thing you need to realize about him is that he never reads novels.  His book recommendations are usually history related, but he loved this book.  I looked it up and apparently it focuses on a mayoral election in a city on the east coast.  It was #2 on the bestseller list in 1956 and a movie was made of it starring Spencer Tracy.  If I like the book I will have to try to find the movie.

A friend of mine recommended Hawaii by James Michener.  We tend to have very different taste in books so I am not sure.  She likes books full of doom and death and I like books with beautiful language and quiet development of the characters.  We each keep reading the other's books and being slightly puzzled by them.  Has anyone read Hawaii and what did you think?

I like getting book recommendations.  Frequently they lead to me reading books I would never have picked up on my own.

So, what do you think I should read?  Do you have a favorite you recommend to everybody?  Maybe something you feel like you discovered and want the whole world to read?

Tips for a Happy Marriage

Today is our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.  I thought about putting up a picture from our wedding but my husband is a private person and wouldn't want that so you will just have to imagine it. If you picture me with a perm and wearing a gown with a big bow in the back you will be right on target.  In my defense, everyone had perms in 1990 and all wedding gowns had huge bows.

So, how have we stayed married for twenty-five years, you ask?  (Let's just pretend you want to know, because I want to talk about it.  That is how this blogging thing works.)  So here are my tips for a happy marriage.  (And just to be clear, I don't think I have it all figured out.  These are just the things I have learned over the last twenty-five years.)

The wedding isn't the end, it is the beginning.  Don't get so caught up in planning the wedding that you forget you are planning a marriage.

Communicate.  I feel like an advice columnist but honestly, talk to each other.  Listen to each other too. Maybe I am not particularly interested in exactly how the engine on his motorcycle works (welcome to my world) but I can bet he also isn't particularly interested in the plot of the latest novel I read.  But we are interested in each other.  And who knows, maybe someday a knowledge of motorcycle engines will come in handy.

Pick your battles.  Do you really want to have a big fight about the socks left on the bathroom floor?  I didn't think so.  Save it for the things that matter.

If you have to argue about something, take your time.  Don't hold a grudge and refuse to talk but also don't jump right in when you are emotional and angry.  Give yourself time to cool down.  Go mow the lawn, scrub the tub, bake fifteen batches of cookies, whatever calms you down, and then go back and talk about it a little more rationally.

He will never be able to find anything in the fridge, even if it is right in front of him.  Get used to it.

Give your kids away occasionally.  Seriously, that is why grandparents were invented.  Whether it is for an hour, a day, a weekend, spend some time just the two of you.

To go along with that, don't make your kids the center of your marriage.  Of course, they are important.  Of course, you devote a lot of time to them. However, your goal with kids is to get them to grow up and move out. Your goal with your husband is to get him to grow old with you and never move out.  Don't forget that.  If you give all your time and attention to your kids, what is left when they are gone?

Find romance in the little things.  When you are first married you want flowers and chocolate.  Honestly, I don't get those very often anymore and that is okay.  Because now he fills my car with gas when he notices it is empty and he orders the books I leave in the Amazon shopping cart.  That is romance right there.

Sometimes life is boring because it just is.  It can't be fun and games all the time.  Don't mistake a dull patch in your life for boredom in your marriage.

Marriage can be work.  We are willing to work for our careers, work to make successes of our children, work at our friendships, but sometimes we expect our marriage to just fall into place.  Sometimes it does, sometimes you have to work at it.  Having to work at it doesn't mean you are doing it wrong.

Have a sense of humor.  Men are strange creatures.  I am sure they say the same about us.

Pay attention to autocorrect.  Yesterday, when I was texting my husband, it changed "I didn't hear" to "I didn't cheat."  Good thing I caught that one or he might have really wondered.

A wise man will never ask you if your period is due when you are upset about something.  A wise woman will consider whether he has a point when he asks that question.  Resign yourself to the fact that neither of you is likely to be wise in those circumstances.

Respect each other's pet peeves.  Sometimes it doesn't matter except for the fact that it matters to him.  Is it going to kill you to go along with it?

Be loyal in every sense of the word.  Be loyal physically, emotionally, verbally.  A marriage is built on loyalty.  On love too, of course, but you can have love without loyalty and then the marriage falls apart.  If you have love and are loyal, your marriage will be strong.

You will want to kill him occasionally.  A truly successful marriage is one where you don't get beyond the planning stages.

He will want to kill you occasionally.  Don't take it too personally.  After all, didn't you just want to kill him?

Be affectionate, and not just in bed.  Hold hands, hug hello and goodbye, kiss.  It will keep you close and it will gross out your kids.  That is a double win in my book.

If there is something bothering you and it needs to be addressed, speak up.  Men are not mind readers.  They also are not always good at picking up on those subtle clues you think you are giving them.  Give the guy a break and tell him what is going on.

Be appreciative.  Don't get so caught up in what you are doing for the family and your relationship that you forget to thank him for what he does.  You don't want to be taken for granted and neither does he.

Marry someone you enjoy talking to.

Compromise.  You don't always have to get your way even on the big things.  Sometimes there are two right ways.  It doesn't always have to be your way.  

Be forgiving. That means don't bring it up the next time you are angry.  No one needs to be reminded of all their past mistakes.

Agree to disagree. Just because you are married doesn't mean you will think the same.  That is what keeps life, and conversation, interesting.

Make plans for the future.  Have things to look forward to together.

So there you have it.  My tips for a happy marriage. I just counted and I came up with twenty-five, one for each year we have been married.  That seems appropriate.  What suggestions do you have?  

And one final thought, I wrote this whole thing including the part about being okay with not getting flowers much anymore.  Then my husband walked in the door holding flowers.  That is what keeps marriage interesting. Just as you think you know exactly what your husband is going to do, he surprises you.  The flowers are beautiful, roses and lilies.  But I still think books are romantic too.