200 Years of Dutch Parliament

200 Years of Dutch Parliament

One of my favorite things about living in Amsterdam is the sheer amount of stuff to do. In my bad moments, I used to call central Florida a “cultural wasteland.” To be fair, it was possible to find things to do there other than theme parks and the beach, but we certainly weren’t doing them every weekend. Here in Amsterdam, every weekend I have to choose between several different activities that all sound wonderful. From museums to concerts to festivals to educational expositions, there is just so much going on. And if I widen the net just a little, to cities reachable by train in less than an hour, I have Rotterdam and The Hague, as well as places like Haarlem, Utrecht, Amersfoort, and Leiden, all of which have their own vibrant cultural scene. Truly an embarrassment of riches.

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Friday Afternoon Blues

Friday Afternoon Blues

“Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?”
“Yes.”
“All like ours?”
“I don’t know, but I think so. They sometimes seem to be like the apples on our stubbard-tree. Most of them splendid and sound – a few blighted.”
“Which do we live on – a splendid one or a blighted one?”
“A blighted one.”
Thomas Hardy

Am I just in a bad mood, or has it been kind of an awful year so far?

Working loosely backwards, there’s Ebola, which while it hasn’t killed anywhere near as many people as more prosaic diseases like malaria and the flu, is wreaking serious havoc in West Africa, and is nowhere near containment or control.

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The Red Tent, Confessions of a Latter-day Virgin, The Mists of Avalon, and A Song for Arbonne

Yes, more book reviews! Here are a few incisive feminist retellings from the Bible, Arthurian legend, and the Age of Chivalry. As well as a funny and heart-wrenching memoir about being single in the Mormon Church.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The core of this book is one of those disturbing and troublesome stories in the Bible that we don’t tend to talk about much–like the time Judah’s widowed daughter-in-law got pregnant and he wanted to burn her alive, but then it turned out that he was the one who had impregnated her. Or the time Lot hospitably offered to give his virgin daughters to the mob of rapists outside his door. Or the time the nameless female actually is shoved outside to appease the mob of rapists, and ends up being raped to death and then dismembered.

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My Imaginary Well-Dressed Dog

If you can’t wait to meet My Imaginary Well-Dressed Dog, I just gave you the link, so go ahead. But if you’d like the explanation, here it is:

I think most of us have had at least some exposure to that reservoir of superlative fantasy, home of improbable D.I.Y. projects, and well of inexhaustible mommy-guilt that is Pinterest. Usually, it’s not really my thing. As you know, my style for birthday parties fits better under the “lazy parent” category than the “Pinterest perfect” one. And I’m not one to seek out unsolicited reminders of how awesome I could be if I only dedicated myself to the full-time creation and beautification of cupcakes, party invitations, and other crafty delights.

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“It was the most beautiful, the most civilized city in the world . . . “

I spent a restless night last night, and every time I fell asleep I dreamed of Syria. I suppose it was because every time I turned on the radio yesterday, they were talking about Syria, much in the vein of this Onion article. And over and over in my head, I keep hearing the opening line of a sci fi story set in the Balkans that I read when I was a teenager:  “It was the most beautiful, the most civilized city in the world . . . ”

Damascus is neither, really. Except at certain times, and in certain lights. But maybe I wouldn’t even know it anymore now, as it slowly grinds itself into rubble and blood. As gut-wrenching as it is to watch Syria tearing itself apart from the inside, imagining missile strikes and escalation, regime change and a sectarian bloodbath is hardly more palatable.

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The Working Life

Tony and the kids popped in to my work on Thursday, and Tony of course had to document the moment, like every other significant and insignificant moment of our life, for inclusion on the family website. So here is actual photographic evidence of my industrious ways:

And in fact, I’ve been at my job for a month now, and Tony and the children have been back for the past two weeks, which seems long enough to state some preliminary observations about how things are going.

The short answer is, I am happier than I’ve been in quite a while. I have way more patience for my children when I come home at six o-clock from an office full of adults than I did when I was at home with them all day. My emotional resources are magically magnified by being away from home during the work-day doing something interesting and creative, and I am much better able to deal with the inevitable complications and setbacks of life.

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Working Mother

I think it’s time to tell you all my big news. I didn’t just happen to decide to go to the Social Security Office because it sounded like fun. The reason I needed a new Social Security card this week is that I have a new job!

Yep, I’m excited. Although I’ve done work from  home in the meantime, it has been quite a while since I worked full-time away from home, and I am definitely ready to leave SAHMhood behind.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids, and I enjoy spending time with them. If I didn’t like being with them, at the very least I would have sent them to school rather than kept them home with me all day for educational purposes. However, I am greatly looking forward to:

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Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Guns, Germs & Steel, and Book of Mormon Girl

I have some absolutely wonderful books to review for you today.

The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith by Joanna Brooks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book, and I love Joanna Brooks. I related to so much of what she said, from the evident nostalgia with which she recounted her childhood experience of growing up in the warm, safe certainty of the Mormon faith to the anguish of finding a “knot of contradictions” at the heart of her faith.

My struggles and doubts and questions about my faith have been somewhat different from hers, but my feelings are very similar, as is my tightrope walk to find a way to belong to the faith I love while dealing honestly with its sometimes troubling past (and present).

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Why I am Voting for Barack Obama

Polling for this presidential election is nearly constant, both in “key battleground states” and in the nation at large. As a bemused inhabitant of one of those key battleground states, I admit that I check the polls . . . well, we won’t say obsessively. But often.

Recently, however, a rather unique poll was brought to my attention–the UPI/CVOTER/WIN-Gallup International Poll. The poll asked 26,000 people in 30 countries outside the U.S. how they would cast their vote for President of the United States of America if they were allowed to vote in our election.

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Inkheart, Marsupials, More Phineas, and The Handmaid’s Tale

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adored the movie Inkheart. It was funny and quirky, with lavish sets and costumes, even if it was a little weird that the main characters are named Mo and Meggie. Maybe it’s not so weird in German.

In any case, the movie is right up there with Ladyhawke, Labyrinth, and The Princess Bride when it comes to glorious fantasy cult classics that don’t take themselves too seriously. Inkheart was also set in beautiful Northern Italy, and made me awfully homesick. In particular, Balestrino, the town on the Italian Riviera where Capricorn has his headquarters is now on my list of must-sees next time I go to Italy. So of course I couldn’t resist the book. And I think the book is as good as the movie.

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