I’ve finally finished!

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Monuments Men Book Cover

I finally finished! And the excitement isn’t because I was dreading reading it or anything, it was just a long read. I really enjoyed it when i got into the last two sections and read them in about 1 week, so the first part, with all of the historical background and context is what took me so long, which since I learned a lot of that while getting my degrees, is what bored me the most and understandable I suppose.

Also, as I saw the movie first, that provided me with some complications. The names in the movie were changed, which I don’t really understand because it really happened, they were real people, why were there names changed in the movie? The only thing I can come up with is that because they left some of the characters out they thought it would be better not to blatantly highlight certain individuals over others; especially since one of the carrying themes throughout the book was the degree of camaraderie and equality between all the monuments men. Anyway, because of the name changes it made it hard for me to match the people from the book to the character in the movie. So if you are interested in reading the book, do it before you see the movie!

My biggest takeaway from the book was the level of emotional connection the men had not only with the art, but the cultures, and the effects of the war. I feel like this is something that every soldier goes through, but they were experiencing it on a much personal level as they were mostly alone traveling through war ravaged countryside and working closely with civilians. Once labor and death camps began to be liberated, and the knowledge of them spread, these men had so much trouble not focusing their rage and confusion onto those civilians; who we know had some level of knowledge as to what was going on. Though it was hard for them, they were able to maintain focus on seeking and collecting of all the cultural treasures, which hundreds of thousands (art, documents, books, etc.) have yet to be found.

I feel like all of my thoughts are still kind of muddled. It’s a book that faces a lot of big moral questions, so to remove my emotional taint, I am going to get analytical on this. If I was reviewing this book for one of my classes it would read a little something like this (in a condensed form):

Edsel’s study encompasses the social, cultural, and human aspects of the men of the MFFA, but largely ignores the political environment outside of Army bureaucracy. The lack of political context does not take anything away from the account though, as it is general knowledge and his focus is on the men and their under appreciated role in WWII as they sought, preserved, and returned European and the global cultural and personal treasures.

Here are some segments from the book that really stuck with me and I think illustrate the message these men were trying to stress:

A letter by Ronald Balfour opened section V of the book: We do not want to destroy unnecessarily what men spent so much time and care and skill in making. . .[for] these examples of craftsmanship tell us so much about our ancestors. . .if these things are lost or broken or destroyed, we lose a valuable part of our knowledge about our forefathers. No age lives entirely alone; every civilization is formed not merely by its own achievements but by what it has inherited from the past. if these things are destroyed, we have lost a part of our past, and we shall be the poorer for it.

  Insights from the author:

(pg. 395*) –  The story of Nazi looting, after all, wasn’t merely the robbing of nations of their treasures and the human race of its historical and cultural touchstones. More than anything, the Nazis robbed families: of their livelihoods, their opportunities, their heirlooms, their mementoes, of the things that identified them and defined them as human beings. 

 

This last segment I think really sums up what this book was trying to point out. We all focus on the Holocaust as the illustration of the evil of the Nazis, but it included so many more aspects of destruction. Not only were they trying to destroy a people, but anything that did not fit into their standards of what made a “perfect” race and nation. And on top of destroying these peoples lives, they  did their best to erase any mark they made on the world, which I think is the scariest aspect of the Nazis plan. Not only did they want to get rid of these people, but they wanted the world to forget they ever existed. I can’t wrap my head around how people can do that to one another, which is why there is such fascination with WWII and individuals like Hitler. At one point in the book Edsel notes that part of what made Hitler so terrifying, is that he was human. He had passion for things like art (the art he deemed acceptable) and that proved that he did feel, he admired things, and that made him relatable; and if we can relate to Hitler, then we can’t ignore that on some level he was like us, and does that mean we are all capable of such atrocious acts?

* – according to my nook

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Let’s Party!

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You’re throwing a party — for you! Tell us all about the food, drink, events, and party favours [note British spelling – how cute!] you’ll have for your event of a lifetime. Use any theme you like — it’s *your* party!

Birds wake me up as the sun comes streaming through my window. But instead of feeling like Cinderella, their screeching jars me from my peaceful sleep to remember all I have to do before tonight. 0650, T-minus 12 hours before this shindig is launched!

My first thought is that I should have hired that party planner, for a small party like this it really wasn’t that expensive, and not to mention all the cooking I wouldn’t have to do. After putting the coffee pot on I check the to-do list on my white board:

  • Mix sangria/Pimm’s and let macerate in fridge
  • Dust/Vacuum/Febreze the crap out of everything
  • Slice and arrange cheese/salami plate and leave in fridge
  • Make melon/prosciutto wraps and leave in fridge
  • Bake cupcakes and let cool
  • Prep artichoke dip
  • Prep stuffed mushrooms
  • Set tables – cocktail, hors d’oeuvres, dessert
  • Set up lanterns outside
  • Shower and put on party dress
  • Pop dip and mushrooms in oven

It’s going to be a long day, I wonder if I can fit a nap in there. All of this work better pay off, I didn’t by that $300 cocktail dress that makes me look four inches taller and 15 lbs skinner for nothing. Tonight I’m going to wow those potential in-laws and get that ring. Then I’ll definitely hire someone to plan the wedding.

 

 

Fitness Tangent

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First off, let me just say that when you type “running” into Google images, this is the most accurate picture that comes up on the first page; real people don’t look that pretty running! And if they do, we should  trip them as jog past with their made up faces, glowing skin, and even breathing. And I know I usually talk about books, but I just really feel like I need to share this, I went on a little running/shoe/shin splint journey this week and made some discoveries.

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I starting to run again, thank’s mostly to my running buddy. Without having someone who I am accountable to I find every reason to stay in bed and not get my fat ass out on the sidewalk. It also helps that we go first thing in the morning, I don’t care how many times my husband tells me that “you get more out of it if you go at the end of the day,” by that time I’ve come up with a multitude of excuses not to work out, and then to ease my guilt top it off with a scoop of ice cream, fueling my guilt even more, and the vicious cycle continues.

Anyway! So my friend Sara and I have been running twice a week together, Tuesday’s and Thursdays, and I usually go on my own either on Monday or Wednesday, and Friday I am at the barn all morning – and whoever says horseback riding is not a workout/sport, come say that to my face!

Running has been going well though, and we are building up our route (a 2.2 mile loop around our housing area) and almost have it to where we can run the whole thing (there are 2 killer hills). But on my solo run last week, my shins started to hurt, I thought it was just usual muscle soreness, until Monday when they hurt so much I had to stop running and limp/walk until they loosened up to walk normally the rest of the way home. I finally admitted to myself that I was developing shin splints. I have never had this problem before, and it hurts! So i did a lot of research and even though everything I read said it has nothing to do with the shoes you use, I’m pretty sure it was triggered by my shoes.

A little background: My freshman year of college I started running to avoid the freshman 15 and stay in the shape that lacrosse got me into. I have relatively high arches and underpronate slightly, so I was running in shoes meant to cushion – nike air pegasus – I liked them because I could feel them up against my arch and they were super comfy.

The last year or so I have been going back and forth in my running routine and for a time I was frequenting the gym more than street running, so I went to a pair of Asics, and then another pair of nike’s that were a bit closer to the minimalist shoes that my husband runs in but still provided me enough cushion not to have aching arches. Well I went back the air pegasus at the start of the month, which have a higher heel and are pretty stiff, they forced me to run differently, and I honestly think thats what triggered the shin splints.

So I took this quiz that recommends shoes for you, and as I ran up and down my hallway consciously thinking about how my feet land and whatnot, I realize I’ve thought I run differently than I do for at least this past year. I call myself a shuffle runner, I lift my feet only high enough to move them without tripping over them and I use my hips a lot, so I don’t need these high cushion shoes because I am not pounding my feet into the ground, or running particularly far (I do hope to get up to about 5 miles soonish – you can do it too Sara!). So after looking at the shoes the quiz recommended, a pair of Asics and Brooks (which is what my husband has run in forever) I decided to try something else, but similar. Altra is a new brand, at least to me, that makes shoes that keep your feet on an even plane. They basically provide the minimalist idea (like with toe shoes) with the cushion you want for a street running shoe and encourage you to run as your body would naturally. My husband bought a pair before he left for training and ran in them a few times, he says they are different, but didn’t really notice anything special in his running. I bought the Torin’s, thinking that with their high cushion they will be a good introduction into this “zero drop technology.”

Running Tuesday and Thursday with my Nike Flex’s has alleviated most of my shin pain, so I am thinking these Altra’s are going to be my golden ticket to no more pain; and people said they helped them run faster, that would be fun! And I did find one great shin splint stretch – you sit on your knees and lean back to position your weight over your ankles – it’s amazing!

 

The Extremes of my Productivity

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Are you a night owl or are you the early bird? What’s your most productive time of day? When do you do your best work?

I’m at the extreme on both ends of this productivity spectrum. I am really productive first thing in the morning, especially if I work out before hand, but I find I am more creative at night. I like to work on the blog in the morning, which I feel is a bit more analytical work. As I drift off to sleep I come up with these scenarios or ideas that I think would be great to write about, but as I am drifting off it usually gets lost by the time I wake up. So my problem is trying to hold on to the ideas I have simmering in my head at night to keep them fresh so that the next evening, after dinner, I still have them in my head. I know a lot of people say to keep a journal, but the thought of getting up out of my “almost asleep” state to just wake up again does not appeal to me; maybe I’m just not dedicated to this writing thing enough.

I love the work I get done in the morning though. With my cup of coffee and my mind racing with all these thoughts on what I can get done for the day; never mind that most of that productivity seems to dissipate around 1130 with the morning haze. The issue with my writing schedule, is that at night when I feel more creative, I am already tired from my day at work and whatever else is going on, so sitting down and working again (no matter how enjoyable it is) doesn’t appeal to me. Though when I do sit down and start writing I have a great time and it’s not taxing at all, I just need to get into a better schedule. With my husband gone for 45 days I think I will have the time to do so. Those significant others just get in the way of so much don’t they.

From what I have discovered about my production levels, it would make sense for me to write more in the morning, but does that mean I need to wake up hours earlier to get some creative time in? I love my sleep, and I really love staying up to read, so I just don’t see that happening. Honestly, I think I just need to set a certain block of time aside everyday for writing, have it like a meeting or something so no one bothers me and no one expects me to be available. Ideally, I would also have a separate space to write in. I have my home office, but in our small apartment I can hear my husband watching the TV, or the neighbors dogs/kids, and there are so many distractions that I often find myself somehow on Amazon looking at things I don’t need; maybe I need a typewriter. . .

How do you designate writing time? I obviously need all the tips I can get.

let’s go back to unitasking

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untitledI decided to re-read the Matched series, and kind of regretted it. I enjoyed the first one, and half of the second one, then I started getting bored and remembering how it ended, without wanting to re-read that ending. I ended up skimming the last half of the second one, and can’t decide if I even want to finish reading/skimming the last one.

Honestly, this feeling is a little disappointing. I like to reread books, and the fact that don’t want to finish this, for only the second time, makes me wonder how much I really liked it to begin with. I’m starting to think part of it is the story in general. I remember liking  Matched, and didn’t really have any lingering sentiments about Crossed, and Reached; I feel like that should have been my red flag.

Matched  did a great job at really showing the growth of Cassia, and set up the stories message of going against the grain even of its not the norm. Though, as I’ve said before, I don’t like Cassia much in the beginning but her growth and questions of The Society and her feelings towards Ky, Xander, and even her grandfather are what really appeal to me in the first book. She grows into a young woman with clear thoughts about what she wants and why, and is prepared to face the consequences of going against The Society in both political and personal terms. Its such a great start to the series, which makes it even more of a letdown with the other two books.

Crossed starts out on the strong note that the first book ended, and it adds Ky’s POV to the book, which I think was a good move because of their seperation. We start with Cassia beginning her journey to find Ky and discover what is really going on with The Society and eventually The Rising. All that sounds great, and it is, until Cassia finds Ky, and they start having weird relationship issues, which KY tries to explain from his POV but it doesn’t really convince me. And the new secondary characters don’t really do it for me, but thinking about it, I didn’t really love the secondary characters from the first book either. So, we end with them finding The Rising, and Cassia and Ky are separated once again and their life is now being dictated by The Rising and The Society; this feels like a step backwards. . .

Reached, oh our finale, just confuses me. I think produced a similar feeling to Allegiant with its ending. Though I am going from what I skimmed and remember from the first read, it just seemed to backtrack. The love triangle is heightened, which I think is unnecessary, but was hinted at in the second book so I wasn’t completely surprised. On top this weird plague and Cassia’s strange artsy way she goes about to find the cure. All to save Ky though, which again made the love triangle thing seem stupid to me. it just all felt  like it came from out of nowhere, leaving me with a lack luster ending; ya Ky and Cassia are together, and they found a way to cure the plague, but no one really seems happy, and the political aspect of the story doesn’t seem resolved, or like it every really developed throughout the series to begin with.

I guess overall the series was a disappointment, but I still really enjoyed Matched and the first half of Crossed. I’m also thinking I’ve ODed on the YA’s, which may be a factor to my recent issues with the Matched series. So I am going to go back to only reading one book at a time. Especially since it is taking me so long to read TMM. So I am going to finished TMM, and then we’ll see where I go from there. I’m going to take this week, while I finish TMM, to decide where I’m going next. I have a lot of new books to read, and a ton of pre-orders that are coming out soon, so I may go down the grown up, non-fiction book route  for the next couple weeks, until May 6th, when Infinite Sea (so excited!!) and a  ton of other sequels/finally come out. I never should have tried to read multiple books at a time, I’m terrible at it!

Liebster Award

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Thanks Ana Linden for nominating me for the Liebster Award!

I had never heard of this, so after some research, I discovered that it’s because I’m still pretty new to the blog world (by the way, did any one see today that scientists have found a planet similar to earth? How cool is that!). It seems like a great way to get word about your blog out there an discover new ones. So, even though I always rejected chain mail, and this seems similar, I am going to go for it!

The basic premiss is that you give whoever nominated you a shout out (first line), then answer the 11 questions they posed for their nominees (below), then provide your own 11 nominees and 11 new questions for them.

Let’s do this!

1. What three places describe you best?

Places, interesting. I’d say my home office, the stables, and my parents house.

2. There must be an author or book close to your heart; would you like to share this information with us?

There are so many! I can’t narrow it down to just one. One I always go back to though is Night by Eli Wiesel. I have always been fascinated with the Holocaust history (maybe that’s why I have two degrees in history?), and his book is so thought provoking.

3. What is you dream destination, that mysterious place you always wanted to visit?

I am lucky to be a pretty well traveled person, one place I have not been though that is on my list is Greece, there is so much history and culture there I feel like anyone who visits there must return so much more worldly than when they left.

4. Where did you spend the nicest vacation?

Again, I’m fortunate enough to have had many awesome vacations, but recently the best ones have been going to CO with my family to ski. Snow, fireplaces, skiing, spiked hot chocolate; it doesn’t get much better!

5. What historical period would be best suited for your personality?

This is especially hard since I am a historian. I am fascinated by the post war era, but I think I am much too opinionated a woman to have really fit in, and I don’t like that whole racism thing. I think the fashion of the 40s and 50s best suits me, but I am certainly in the era I belong in.

6. Do you identify yourself with any artist(s), and if so, with whom?

Not really, I am still trying to explore the more artistic side of myself.

7. What nice memory from your childhood would you like to share with us?

I got a pony for christmas when I was 5. He turns 28 this year! (thats him the picture, he’s my cutie bug!)

8. What’s the greatest satisfaction you derive from blogging?

I think it’s really cool the level of support we all have for each other. It gives me the courage and inspiration to continue to try and achieve my goals with writing.

9. What are three of the most important principles you try to observe in life?

I think I come off a bit blunt, so I try to cover that up with being generally friendly and outgoing, honest, and dependable.

10. Do you like to plan everything or are you a spontaneous person?

I’m definitely a planner.

11. What do you prefer: a good book or a good movie?

It depends on my mood. I love reading, but some days I just can’t focus. On days where I am not in a reading mood, or am going through something emotional, a good movie is what calls to me.

Alright! Now here are my nominations:

1 – http://lilajunesbooksaloon.wordpress.com

2 – http://teripolen.wordpress.com

3 – http://amandasnoseinabook.wordpress.com

4 – http://elysevasiliades.wordpress.com

5 – http://johnguillen.wordpress.com

6 – http://nextpagenewchapter.com

7 – http://jacquelincangro.wordpress.com

8 – http://reflectionsofjared.wordpress.com

9 – http://mchellerussell731.wordpress.com

10 – http://300stories.wordpress.com

11 – http://citystatewritings.wordpress.com

OK! Now here are my questions for all of you (sorry if they are lame, this isn’t my area of expertise):

1 – what encouraged you to start blogging, and what is the message you are trying to send?

2 – Most influential book?

3 – What is your go to activity on a rainy day?

4 – How has your career/school interest helped you with your blog?

5 – What character do you think represents you the best?

6 – Book or e-reader?

7 – How have your travels helped you with your writing?

8 – What’s the one piece of advise you’d give your younger self (you can tell I’m reaching here)?

9 – How do you feel about your career, is your blog a way for you to escape that and do something that truly interests you?

10 – Where do you go to blog/write?

11 – What is the most beneficial thing you think will come from this award?

Brand that Blog!

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Today’s assignment for blogging201 is all about branding. I have noticed as I follow and check out more blogs just how important the layout is. If your readers can’t access information quickly, and we all know the internet is all about speed, then what’s the point?

After noticing the things I liked most about the blogs I follow, widgets on the side, pretty pictures that aren’t distracting, mellow background colors, and my personal favorite the widgets that show what they are reading/writing; I decided to re-vamp my blog last week.

My initial choice was something clean and simple, I liked it, but access to widgets and whatnot was difficult because everything was shoved at the very bottom of the page, so unless people read all of my post, which we all know doesn’t always happen, half of the things I want readers to see were overlooked. Now my look is still clean and simple, but I think the organization and layout are much better, and my readers actually see what I want them to without having to search!

So what do you all think about this new look of mine? Anything you want to see that I don’t have, or things I do have that you don’t want to see? As I am still learning any suggestions are welcome, and what about that photo? I don’t know how I feel about it, but it was the best I could come up with at the time.