A Family Get-Together

book cover for Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days

Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days: An Almost Completely Honest Account of What Happened in Our Family When Our Youngest Son, His Wife, Their Baby, Their Toddler, and Their Five-Year-Old Came to Live with Us for Three Months by Judith Viorst, originally published by the Free Press, 2007, now available in a number of formats through Amazon and at the library. (The above is an Amazon affiliate link.)

To be honest, I haven’t been doing a lot of book reading these days. It seems as if every waking moment that I’m not spending on anything else I’m devouring articles about the election. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still love books and have ones that I recommend, and I can’t believe that I’ve never posted about this one. I bought it in hardback when it first came out and vividly remember reading it aloud in the car to my husband and son. The title is a takeoff of Viorst’s earlier children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good Very Bad Day. Same guy, but now he’s married with three children, needing a place to stay while his family’s house is being remodeled. So his parents invite the tribe to stay with them rather than renting a place. It turns out to be quite an adventure.

I love books that have a strong authorial voice, and especially those that echo my own personality. Oh my! Do I ever relate to Judith, whether she’s slipping an article underneath her son’s bedroom door about the dangers of too much bike riding, or trying to nonchalantly remind him about the instability of the big oak dresser upstairs, or restraining herself from shrieking about chocolate coming anywhere near her beloved velvet furniture. (I’m that way about my beloved dining room table and anything that could possibly scratch it.) She’s very self-aware, though, as I hope I am. Here’s a representative passage:

It’s inevitable, I suppose, that living, as Milton and I are now living, in close quarters with our resident grown-up children, there are bound to be opportunities–lots of opportunities–for intergenerational irritations. Some of them, however, some of us parents might be able to avoid by repeating the following mantra twice a day:

Don’t judge, advise, or criticize.
Respect their boundaries and choices.
Accept who they are.

Well, sometimes we need to repeat it ten times a day. And then we must try to abide by what we say. I’m doing my best.That doesn’t mean that I always succeed in keeping my mouth shut when I should keep my mouth shut. But I don’t understand those parents who won’t even try.

For me, the greatest delight of this book is that it reminds me of my own wonderful family, both immediate and extended, and how much I enjoy spending time with them. The long trips taken with my in-laws. The family reunions at the beach. The Thanksgivings and Christmases. This afternoon we’re heading over to said in-laws for dinner, so I’m trying to get this post done and my newsletter out before we leave. We haven’t had our usual Sunday-afternoon lunch for a couple of weeks, so it’ll be nice to see them.

Great takeaway: “And then we must try to abide by what we say.” A great reminder to me, as a champion maker of resolutions that I don’t keep,

Eventually the 90 days end and everyone goes back home. It’ been a great time, and now it’s over. One more quotation, only one, I promise: “I am full of smiles and tears at the same time, full of the difficult knowledge that I can’t, as the poet once put it, ‘cage the minute within its nets of gold.'”

Well, you need to read the whole thing.  Only 113 pages of big type, and every one of them full of wisdom. Well, well worth the time.


Self-awareness isn’t the same as self-absorption

Lincoln reading to his sonPicture two runners in a race. The first one is thinking, “I’m so tired. I’m not going to make it. My heel’s getting a blister. I should have gone to bed earlier last night. I should have drunk more water before the race. Everyone’s passing me. I’m not going to make it.” The second one is thinking, “Okay, not such a good idea to stay up late last night. I need to just pace myself, get to each fencepost. Feeling a little dehydrated. Well, nothing to be done about that now. Focus on the race. Catch up to that guy ahead of me. Plan better next time.

A Sobering Book that May Make You Happier

Book cover for Salt, Sugar, FatSalt Sugar Fat:  How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss, Random House, 2013.  Available through Amazon in several formats.  See the author’s website for more information.

​One of the ways we can live a happier life is to live a healthier one.  Bad health can be a constant drain, a chronic darkener of mood.  Good health doesn’t necessarily make us happier, but it removes the drain.  Does that make sense?  Having good health is like having enough money:  You’re freed to think about something else.

Readers of this blog will be seeing regular posts from now on about healthy eating.  (It really should be “healthful eating,” but I just can’t bring myself to use that term.  It sounds so pretentious.)  I have cut out sweets from my diet pretty much completely, as I talked about in this post about personality types.

Read moreA Sobering Book that May Make You Happier

What’s Your Type?

flooded roadwayHere’s the list of (some of) my types:

1.  Obliger.

2.  Abstainer.

3.  Type 1.5 Diabetic.  (Probable.)

I’ve discussed #1 a number of times, most recently in A Flash of Insight. . .

Because I know that I’m this personality type, I also know that it does very little good for me to just make resolutions; some kind of exterior accountability almost always needs to be put in place or I won’t do what I resolved.


Read moreWhat’s Your Type?

It’s Okay to Be an Introvert


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, New York: Crown Publishers, 2012.

My mother used to say to me, “Don’t be self-conscious.” Other times she’d tell me not to be shy. This book tells me that she might as well have said, “Don’t have blue eyes” or “Don’t be good at spelling.” Introversion is an inherited trait.

I got so tickled at Mimi Wilson, a Christian writer and speaker who was featured at a recent retreat I attended. She said she was such an extrovert that she’d have a hard time in Heaven if the mansions were all separated from each other; she was hoping they’d be more like apartments. But while I’ve become much more people-friendly since marrying Jim, I have to say that my idea and Mimi’s idea of Heaven don’t exactly coincide. While I do enjoy talking to people much more than I used to, at some point I have to have some alone time. My dear friend Cecelia said once that she drew energy from other people; for me, it’s the other way around in that people draw energy from me. I can take only so much togetherness!

Cain, herself an introvert, explores the implications of the way our world prizes extroversion. Quiet, thoughtful people who have a hard time elbowing their way into conversations aren’t valued much. And that lack of respect means that there are often times when the introvert’s good ideas are ignored and the pushy person’s bad ideas are followed, leading to disaster. As I looked back over this book to write this post I was impressed all over again with Cain’s ideas. Any book that skewers Tony Robbins has my vote!

I would say that this book helped me understand myself better, which is always a good thing. Why do I hate and despise meetings? Why do I find “team-building” exercises to be so silly? Why is my attitude “Just leave me alone and let me do my work!”? Because I am a confirmed, committed introvert. Why do I like standing up in front of people and talking but often find one-on-one conversations to be a bit daunting? Because I have an actor’s personality. (Most actors are introverts. Did you know that? They like becoming a different person on stage.) No matter what type of person you are (and there are many different points on the continuum between the two extremes of personaltiy; no one is totally one or the other), I can guarantee that you’ll gain some reality-based insights if you read this book. Go curl up somewhere quiet, maybe. Or get the audiobook and listen to it while you’re out running through the park with crowds of people around. Whatever suits your personality!

Are You an Orchid . . .


, , , or a dandelion?

I’ve been doing some reading in the past couple of weeks about introverts vs. extroverts and ran across this comparison.  It’s actually about children, not people in general.  So, dandelions thrive anywhere, they’re tough, and they’re cheerful.  They don’t know the meaning of the word “no.”  But orchids . . . well, they’re finicky.  They have exacting requirements for life.  They’re either spectacular — or dead.   Which are you, and which would you rather be?