b2ap3_thumbnail_madwoman.jpgThis book is hilarious, unnerving, irreverent, honest, and did I mention hilarious? An essayist for The Atlantic magazine and an NPR radio commentator, Tsing Loh has never shied away from addressing very personal stuff, and this book is no exception. She chronicles her experiences going through perimenopause, as her life seems to go up in flames. She has an affair, which destroys her 20-year marriage; she’s raising two preteen daughters; she’s trying to manage the affairs of her highly eccentric 89-year-old father – all while her hormones are raging uncontrollably. Tsing Loh obsesses about her weight, which seems to be increasing no matter how hard she exercises. She creates a “happiness project” for herself. She takes on a 12-year-old bully at her daughter’s school. It’s like any middle-aged mother’s life – only more interesting and way funnier.

Pretty much any woman older than 40 will relate to this book. Its chapters flow just like perimenopausal mood swings: one minute you’re up, the next you’re down. Some of the book is downright silly (her list of diet foods), some is touching (a sweet note from her 11-year-old daughter), and some is educational. Tsing Loh has thoroughly read the literature on menopause and has distilled it down to a couple of useful books and theories, and the tips she shares are realistic and doable. In fact, the book ends on a downright hopeful note. So while I’m ab2ap3_thumbnail_tsing-loh.jpg little scared of menopause after reading this book (I’m sure I’ll go off the deep end too), I also know that if Tsing Loh can survive it, I can too.

For more about Sandra Tsing Loh, here’s a great NY Times article from May 2014: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/fashion/for-sandra-tsing-loh-change-is-good.html?_r=0

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b2ap3_thumbnail_sweetjudyblueeyes.jpgI’m a doctor’s office People Magazine reader. I don’t buy it or go out of my way to read it but I invariably pick it up when I’m waiting for an appointment. So I’ve surprised myself lately to find that I’m picking up and devouring music celebrity memoirs. And if it’s an audiobook, even better!

A few months ago, I listened to Judy Collins reading her memoir Sweet Judy Blue Eyes: My Life in Music. I’ve always been a fan of Collins and her music.  She is totally candid about her personal struggles, her love affairs, her activism, and the folk music scene. Yet, she is gentle in her description of music industry insiders. There are juicy details about her “brilliant romance” with Stephen Stills, some inside stories about sex, drugs, rock and roll and her fellow artists.

I lived through the '60s but I certainly didn’t live it the way that the singers, songwriters and musicians did, committed to making a difference through their music. It was such a turbulent time yet much of the folk music of the day is still relevant and so beautiful.

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"You're gonna need a bigger boat...."

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_cant-we-talk-about-something-ftr.jpgThis is a graphic memoir by Roz Chast, longtime cartoonist for the New Yorker. With words, photos and illustrations, Chast describes the experience of caring for her aging parents with brutal honesty and plenty of humor. This isn't a pleasant topic, and Chast doesn't sugarcoat anything, sharing with the reader all the emotions she went through: denial, guilt, fear, worry, anger. She begins with the first stages of her parents' gradual decline, then describes the inevitable hospital visits, the move to an assisted living facility, the clearing out of all her parents' accumulated stuff, and finally, the moments of their passing.

While this could be a really depressing tale, in the illustrated format under Chast's practiced hand, it's just wonderful black humor. And it's a story that so many of us can relate to. If you've ever had to care for an elderly relative, this book will resonate for you.  Assuming the role of parent to one's parents is an uncomfortable task, and it's a relief to find a book that can make us laugh at the awkwardness of it all and feel a little bit less alone in the process. This is a bittersweet, poignant book that I'm going to go back and read again and again.

-Andrea Larson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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This week marks the Centennial of the start of World War I (1914-1918).  The Great War was triggered by the assassination in Sarajevo of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by a Yugoslav nationalist.  The political objective of the assassination was to break off Austria-Hungary's southern Slavic provinces to combine them with the Kingdom of Serbia, forming a new Yugoslavia.  The major powers were soon at war, with England, France, and Russia forming an alliance against Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey).  The United States entered the war in 1917, after Germany resumed submarine attacks on passenger and merchant ships in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.  The war proved to be one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with over 9 million killed.

 

Although WWI has not been the subject of as many movies as conflicts such as WWII, there are several outstanding films that are certainly worth re-visiting.  A few of our favorites are highlighted below:

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