Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Katie & J.D.'s Fairytale Wedding

I do not even know where to begin except to say that a girl met a boy and they fell in love. Watching Katie and J.D.'s relationship unfold has been like watching your favorite romantic comedy - but better because they're real, their love is rooted in their faith, and on July 13th they were married in a stunning redwood grove behind Saint Mary's in Moraga. 

I know I am not the bride, but as a bridesmaid I got to get done up too. Melissa Finlinson worked her magic and made me actually like a put together grown-up. 
The main challenge of the day was that I was getting ready with Melissa from 9-11am and had to stay beautiful for at least twelve hours. Quite the feat, but we did it.
Had to show you how great my eye make-up looked. I loved it! One friend said, "You should do your hair like this more often." Yes, I agree. Too bad I didn't do it myself. :)
Goofie selfie I sent to Jenessa on her mission. Yes, the pout was necessary.
The night before the wedding Katie, Brooke, and I stayed at the Lafayette Park Hotel. All the bridesmaids arrived by noon at the hotel, and we finished getting ready together. This is one of my favorite shots of the whole day taken on my phone waiting for the light to change in front of the hotel. Naturally this is Katie and Margaret (her matron of honor her sister, and her best friend). Seeing them together makes my heart happy.
This is the bridesmaids (Kelly, Margaret, Katie, Brooke, and myself) and Katie waiting behind trees in my car as the guests are arriving. We're hiding from the sun and from J.D. No peaking before the ceremony!
The Katies were my first two friends at San Ramon when I started teaching there in 2007. Katie, the bridesmaid, is currently battling breast cancer and valiantly persevered through all the wedding activities despite feeling pretty awful. Life is always better when both the Katies are around.
Part of what made this day so special was having Seth with me at the wedding, despite it being his 32nd birthday. He kindly let me introduce him to all sorts of people and made conversation with strangers while I got caught up rhapsodizing about who knows what. 

The whole event really could not have gone better. The weather was great. People were happy. The food was delicious. Love was in the air.
Someday I'll post more that includes the groom...and all the bridesmaids and the bride with dresses and flowers showing...but for now, just know that there is still good in this world. There are moments like watching J.D. and Katie smile at each other while they were being married by their dear friend Jer. And there are moments like slow dancing to Ingrid Michaelson's "Can't Help Falling in Love" as the sun sinks behind the trees with my handsome Mr. Mann. It really is a good life.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Z - A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Z: A Novel of Zelda FitzgeraldZ: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For a man who defined the Jazz Age through his writing, it is no surprise that F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda Sayre personified the Age simply by the lives they led. In “Z”, Fowler fictionalizes one of the most intriguing women of the era – whose real life matched the sensationalism of her and her husband’s creative work. The extravagance and decadence that seems to ultimately end Gatsby’s life also plagues the Fitzgeralds as they attempt to make their way into the circle of the literary elite.  Fowler opens part one of “Z” with a quote from T.S. Eliot: “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” This whole story is about how Zelda is in over her head for her whole adult life – not because Zelda is not smart or talented, but because the man she loves is forever seeking for something he cannot quite attain.

Reminiscent of Paula McLain’s “The Paris Wife”, I found myself captivated again by the expatriate scenes of France and Italy during the 1920s. More unsettling than “The Paris Wife”, “Z” brings up the argument again of whether truly great artists – be they writers, musicians, or painters – can achieve critical and financial success without leading debaucherous or tragic lives. Thus far in my reading, the answer seems to be a resounding no. Hemingway, who I appreciate but dislike profoundly, married four times and put a gun his mouth at 61. Fitzgerald literally drank himself to death at the age of 40. O’Brien had to live through the horrors to Vietnam to create his masterful “The Things They Carried”. Steinbeck was a manic-depressive. Perhaps a simplistic way to view the situation, but I cannot help thinking that great art needs great tragedy – be it self inflicted or out of their control.

As for whether or not you should read this story, it is not amazing, but it is powerful. If you love Gatsby or were fascinated by The Paris Wife or even thoroughly entertained by Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, then this book should keep your attention. I know it held mine. Happy Reading.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer Plans

Based off my recent blog posts, a person might think all I'm doing is reading so far this summer. That wouldn't be a completely false assumption. I have very simple goals for my summer. I want to run. I want to read. I want to get organized. And I want to see all the people I often get too busy to see during the school year. Throw in a few adventures - North Carolina, hot air ballooning, Tahoe, Katie Fin's wedding, turning 30, etc., and you have a fantastic summer in the making.
(More to follow on the hot air balloon ride - it was SO much fun!)

A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's DreamA Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I dreaded teaching Midsummer more than any other book this year, perhaps with the exception of All Quiet on the Western Front, but I had SO much fun teaching this play. I had never appreciated before how clever this story is or how hilarious the lines. It was very nice to read a story where everything works out, even if it does take a bit of fairy dust to make it happen.

[The line "Though she be but little, she is fierce" is one of my favorite ways to describe my niece. It's a perfect description for Mae's fiery personality.]
(The exasperated Henry pictures are just a bonus. Love those two!!)

Of Mice and Men...Again

Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This spring marks the third time that I have taught Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. This year I was struck by how sad Curly's wife's story is. She's so young and characterized in such a way that makes you dread any moment she steps into the scene. And yet, she is also one of the unloved misfits of the story. Her life is just as tragic and her choices just as flawed. I love this story. It is absolutely brilliant.

The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck ClubThe Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's been months since I finished reading this in preparation to teach it to my sophomores, but the word masterful comes to mind. Tan's imagery and subtle weaving of plots lines creates captivating story telling at its greatest as well as awe at how well written her book is. The details about each of her mother/daughter pair is so specific, and yet the application of each story is universal. I love it.

(Again with the half stars - this would 4.5, but it earns the step up since I have to choose.)

The Lost Wife

The Lost WifeThe Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I did it again – I bought a book because I liked the cover. I got sucked in by the critic’s comment of “The Sophie’s Choice of this generation” and the rose palette used to color the picture of a couple kissing on the St. Charles Bridge in Prague. Don’t get me wrong – hard decisions about how to proceed under Nazi occupation are a compelling idea for a novel, but the writing is just good, not great. The tense shifting is awkward, and the twist is not subtle. I did love the use of art and color in the story. That is Richman’s greatest strength in creating her arc and imagery. So, read it if you have time or if you love this era. If you’re only going to read a handful of books this year, I can just tell you about this one. Happy reading!

Those Who Save Us

Those Who Save UsThose Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this book because it was on a “buy two, get one free” table at Borders. Borders should be the signal word to cue how long ago I bought this book. I chose it in part because the cover and the premise intrigued me immediately. World War II fiction is like catnip to me – one whiff of that era, and I’m a goner. Years later, I finally got into this book because my book club was reading it. And now that I’ve read it, I almost wish I hadn’t.

Blum’s approach to the Holocaust is unconventional considering that she tells the story from the perspective of a German woman who becomes the mistress of a Nazi and from the woman’s daughter, born of a love affair right as the conflict is beginning in Europe. Blum’s themes and historical detail are thought provoking and haunting, but neither of her main characters is very likeable. I recognize that my love of The Great Gatsby proves that it is possible to love a book despite its characters. Nevertheless I cannot fully understand the characterization of Trudy, the daughter, and so much of her storyline is lost on me. The story also is graphic – not so much in its depiction of the violence going on around Anna and Trudy, but the sexual abuse experienced by Anna from the Nazi commandant. Blum does manage to make real the depth of a mother’s love for her child during the war years, but then there is a major breakdown in that portrayal once the war is over.

And so, I don’t know what to tell you. People in my book club loved this book. Others were frustrated by the characters or how the story ended. I think this book is supposed to make you uncomfortable and to take a fresh look at the war, but I’m not sure this is one I would recommend. How’s that for non-committal?

(Definitely needing the half star for rating purposes - this would be a 2.5)