Challenge 2, Book 3: Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History

Well-behaved women rarely make history.” This quote has always been compelling to me. As a fervent feminist, I have always interpreted this to mean that in our society, women need to stand out in order to be heard. I am by no means one to make a ruckus or to be in the center of attention, and I certainly never misbehave, but I’d like to think that I can make history as well. So, I loved reading Laurel Thatcher Ulrich‘s preface in which she explains the origins of this phrase and how the now iconic quote has taken on a life of its own.

Ulrich explains that the phrase came from a scholarly essay that she penned in 1976 about the funeral sermons of women, and it was written as an aside. Years later, the quote has shown up on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and tote bags, and it has become the motto for a strong feminist movement. The slogan takes on a different meaning for everyone who says it. For some groups, it is a rallying cry, for others it is a reminder of a slow and steady march, and for others still, it is a license to have fun. To Ulrich, the quote examines how women who break the mold are remembered by history while those who are more conventional fade. This idea sets up the rest of Ulrich’s book focusing on three women from three distinct time-periods who acted in unconventional ways and recorded or shaped history.

The bulk of the book explores the work of Christine de Pizan, a 15th Century Frenchwoman who wrote “City of Ladies” – a book of women biographies; Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 19th century suffragist; and Virginia Woolf, 20th century writer. Ulrich explores how history influences the work of these three women and how they, in turn, each made history. She chooses a turning point in each woman’s life that helped them further their work in their respective fields.

Though the book often jumped from time period to time period, it was an in depth look at how these three ordinary women did something unconventional and made history. This further’s Ulrich’s point about woman’s history as a whole. Going back to the titular quote, Ulrich explains that the slogan originally depicted the dearth of information about women in history. Historically, women who were relegated to domestic roles did not do thing that were chronicled. Yet, all of these women have a history that shaped their communities. Ulrich’s goal was to point historians to examining  at the history of these “ordinary” women to uncover the hidden history of ordinary people.

While this book was not as quick of a read as the other, fiction books I’ve read this month, I found Ulrich’s writing to be compelling, and I found the histories told to be worthwhile and important. I highly recommend this wonderful account of women’s history.

Challenge 2, Book 2: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

Well, the best laid plans do not always work out as planned. While I did finish this book in a week, moving and finishing school has prevented me from writing about it until now… such is life.

In a contrast to The Paris Wife, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary was a much lighter form of historical fiction, with a heavy emphasis on the fiction. While the first book kept true to the historical events of 1920’s Paris and the lives of Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary used 1940’s London as the backdrop for a fictionalized fast-paced mystery, complete with espionage, false identities, and a plot to kill the prime minister. The events were not necessarily historically accurate, but issues of the day were well-represented (such as threats from the IRA and the bombing of London by the Nazis).

Like The Paris Wife, this book had a strong female protagonist who was at the center of all of the action. Maggie Hope is an intelligent, American (though English-born) woman who gets a job as a secretary for Winston Churchill, working in the underground war rooms. Though previously she was denied a more substantial job that would use her intellect, she takes the job as the typist and is quickly thrown into the world of espionage, intrigue, and national security. The book takes many twists and turns as many potential villains, and love interests, are introduced, and it is captivating throughout. I love classic whodunits, and this was a fun read set in a time period I find fascinating. Mr. Churchill’s Secretary is the first in a series of Maggie Hope novels by Susan Elia MacNeil, and I’m very excited to read the rest!

Challenge 2, Book 1: The Paris Wife

Okay, so school has kind of gotten in the way of my reading a book a week challenge, so this first book took a week and 2 days. I’m back on track with a Monday to Monday book week now.

For my first “Read a Book a Week” Challenge, I read Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife. The book follows the first marriage of author Earnest Hemingway to his wife Hadley. Though the book is based on their real marriage, it is a fictionalized telling of their life in Paris and their travels (and trials) around Europe. The book is mostly told from the perspective of Hadley, the devoted and insecure wife, but some important chapters, focusing on Hemingway’s affairs, are written in third-person, italicized prose. I loved this shift in perspective because it made Hemingway’s indiscretions that much more painful. Hadley was dutifully telling their story,  but every so often the prose would switch; Hemingway would be distant and Hadley would have no idea about the affair. Furthermore, these shifts in perspective captured Hemingway’s short and direct writing style as if these were stories that Hemingway was telling himself.

Aside from the creative use of perspective, McLain does a beautiful job of developing Hadley and Hemingway’s relationship from the time they met throughout their time in Paris. She paints a clear picture of how in love they were with each other while highlighting the challenges of their relationships. It is a beautiful portrait of their marriage, but it puts the spotlight on Hadley, who spent their in Hemingway’s shadow but became her own woman in the process.

The novel also includes familiar characters who were friends of the Hemingways throughout their time in Paris, including Gertrude Stein, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and other literary figures. It’s fun to have these characters sprinkled in, adding a bit more depth to the literary world of Paris in the 1920s.

McLain’s writing is beautiful and inviting. I had a hard time putting the book down as I was swept into the wonderful story of Jazz Age Paris. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction and strong characters!

Sticking with my theme of historical fiction and strong female characters, my next book is Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. Report to come next Monday!

 

Challenge 2: Read a new book a week

I love to read. However, during the school year, my time for leisure reading is limited. Now that the year is coming to a close, I have more time for reading for fun! So, my plan is to read a new book every week starting today.

This week’s book: The Paris Wife by Paula McClain. I picked it up from the library a few weeks ago, and I now finally have the time to read it! I’m excited to start reading!

 

Challenge 1, Day 28, 29, and 30: Concerts, and a new job!

This week has been fairly exciting – and it’s only Wednesday!!

Day 28 and 29: Final Spring Concert and Jazz Choir performance at the district retirement dinner.

Day 30: New Job!

Today, I told my students that I have taken a new job. After our wonderful concerts last week and this week, the discussion was definitely a challenge. However, I have been offered the chance to run my own choir program (and it’s full time). While I am sad to be leaving my current students, I am so excited by the possibilities. I think this is the biggest “Say Yes” opportunity I have (which is certainly fitting given that it’s the end of the month). I love my current school, but I said yes to an opportunity that would push me and give me space to grow. I am incredibly excited for my new adventure!

That’s it! Challenge #1 is complete. Stay tuned for challenge #2 -starting tomorrow!

Days 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, and 27: Too Busy Saying Yes!

The last week has been INCREDIBLY busy with all sorts of new adventures! So much so, that I have not had the chance to blog about any of my ‘Say Yes’ happenings. Once again, I find myself playing catch up. Instead of chronicling all of my adventures this week with detail, I am choosing to focus on one. Days 22-26 included many experience that took me out of my comfort zone or out of my routine including a choir concert, meeting a colleague for coffee, making new recipes and seeing old friends, trying new breweries, playing new games, and having dinner with students. Each of those experiences were wonderful, but the highlight had to be Day 27.

Yesterday, I went to the Denver Actors Fund Benefit Concert featuring local performers and performers who are from Denver but have gone on to have successful careers on Broadway or elsewhere. The DAF provides monetary gifts to actors and technicians who are struggling with medical needs. They have given over $86,000 as gifts in their short 4 year existence. This organization is truly one of my favorites in Colorado.

The concert last night was terrific and all of the performers brought their A-Game to this wonderful concert. Some highlights included a rousing disco number sung by the First Lady of Denver, Four Seasons hits performed by the always entertaining Jerseys, and performances from Broadway stars Mara Davi, Beth Malone, and Annaleigh Ashford.

While the concert was wonderful, that was not my “Say Yes” moment. My friend Kayleigh and I stayed for the VIP Reception after the concert. The concert did not end till 10:30, and it was a school night, but I am so glad I stayed. I had the chance to catch up with some old Academy of Theatre Arts friends (many of whom I had not seen in 15-20 years) and got to hob-knob with the theatre community of Denver. It was truly inspiring to see the community come together for a great cause. I will definitely be at DAF events in the future!

 

 

 

Days 18, 19, 20, and 21: Yikes, I need to Catch Up

Wow! So this blogging thing totally got away from me! I was busy doing so many new “Say Yes” adventures, that I forgot to blog! Here’s a short recap of my past weekend.

Day 18: Recital time! One of my best friends from grad school had her Master’s Voice Recital. While I now live an hour and a half away, it was incredibly important to me that I did. Allison was wonderful, and her program was beautiful! Even though I’m around music all the time, I never get to just sit back and enjoy someone’s performance. It was so nice to take a moment to appreciate really good music.

Day 19: Game night! During my stay in Boulder, my friend Vicki took me to a game night with some of her friends. Though I am often quiet around new groups of people who know each other well, I found myself quite at ease. I was introduced to new people (including some who live in Colorado Springs!), and I was introduced to new games! I now have the Head’s Up App downloaded on my phone. For anyone who likes guessing games, such as Pyramid or Password, this one’s for you!

Day 20: A Spot of Tea. I have explored many of the hipster coffee places in Colorado Springs, and I really enjoy the minimalist atmosphere of these locations. However, none of these coffee shops are really cozy. Yesterday, I met a friend at Montague’s Parlour, an adorable tea parlour just south of Downtown Colorado Springs. This could be my new favorite place. China plates and comfy arm chairs adorn this cozy and inviting establishment. There’s a comforting air about the parlor, as if patrons are sitting in the living room of a Victorian home. Their tea was lovely, and the cases of pastries were enticing. I will definitely be returning (especially when I’m eating sugar again 🙂 ).

Day 21: Senior Luncheon. As the end of the school year is quickly approaching, my calendar has filled up with various activities and celebration that require a choir performance. Today marked the start of these occasions with the senior luncheon. As I walked in the ballroom of the Antler’s Hotel, I was flooded with flashbacks from my senior luncheon 9 years ago. It was exciting to see all of the seniors dressed up, and the memory boards they had put together were adorable. It was nice to have an afternoon off campus and honor the students I work with.

Days 15, 16, and 17: Getting Lost in a Book

I love to read. Unfortunately, my schedule does not always provide me the time (or energy) to spend hours getting lost in a book. Recently, I have been spending a lot of time at the local library. On Tuesday, I went to the library to pick up some books on my ever-expanding reading list.  I love the Pikes Peak Library District. The libraries are cozy, inviting, and have a wealth of reading material. Perfect for a bookworm like me. Because of the vast selection, I’m finally making a dent in my never-ending reading list. On my last trip to the library, I picked up House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz, a Sherlock Holmes novel, and The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, which has been on my list for ages. I never make time to go to the library mid-week, so it felt especially luxurious and out of the ordinary to go on a Tuesday.

On Wednesday, I went to my new favorite hipster coffee shop in Colorado Springs for a cup of coffee and a place to read. Loyal Coffee is the epitome of a hipster beanery, with its artisan coffee, fancy toast options, minimalist decor, and succulents. Instead of curling up on my couch and reading, I decided to venture out in public. It’s nice to have a change of location and feel a sense of camaraderie with other people, even if it’s while silently reading a book. Places like Loyal Coffee have a nice sense community. I may do my reading there more often.

Today, I decided to join a book club. A co-worker of mine and I were talking about books we’ve read and how we are both trying to read more. She mentioned that she’s in a book club, and she invited me to join. I’m so excited to meet new people this way and to read books I might otherwise pass over!

Day 14: No Sweets

Half-way through challenge 1, and I’ve decided to make it harder on myself. I am adding another challenge in the middle of this one.

When I started this venture, I asked a good friend of mine what my project should be. She joked, “Whole 30.” She was about to start this plan in order to figure out some allergies, and joked that I should try this with her. After doing some research, I realized that the Whole30 plan is not for me, but I could give up some foods in solidarity. Plus, it would be good to focus on eating more whole foods and less processed sugars. So, I have decided to give up sweets and processed food for the next 30 days. I have carefully planned a set of meals, and I am excited by the challenge. My first day had several temptations, but I avoided them well! I’m not giving up all of my vices, but I think this is a good start!

 

 

 

Challenge 1: Days 11, 12, and 13: A Workshop, A Trip to the Zoo, and Games

Hello! It’s been an active few days, and while I have continued with my “Say Yes” challenge, I have not had time to blog about it. So, I’m going to get caught up now.

Day 11: A Workshop With a Mentor

Last summer when I was newly hired, I had coffee with a high school choir director of mine to ask him tips and tricks as I navigate my new job. He mentioned that he does clinics for the choirs of former students, and he asked if I’d be interested. Well, I quickly said “Yes!” We scheduled a date far in advance, and he finally came to work with my groups on Friday.  Though I was incredibly nervous, I can easily say that having Mr. E come and work with my students was one of my most exciting days I’ve had all year. It was wonderful to see my students get the same joy from hearing him talk excitedly about choral music, and it was completely rewarding to have him complement my groups on their music making. Many of the tricks I use come from his class, so it meant a lot to me to show him what I learned. While my students grew a lot from working with him, I may have learned even more by being on the director side of the rehearsal. I ended that day re-energized and excited to finish out the year, complete with new strategies and tools. I am so glad I have such an incredible mentor and colleague.

Day 12: A Trip to the Denver Zoo

My brothers came to visit this weekend! It has been almost a year since my whole family of 5 has been together, and the stars aligned that we all could be together this weekend. Because of this, my parents planned a fun weekend, jam-packed with family activities, including a trip to the zoo. If you haven’t been to the Denver Zoo, it is one of the best zoos I have ever been to. It is well laid out, interactive, and diverse. Often, visitors can see animals active in all of the exhibits, and Saturday was no exception. Recently, the zoo has added a few animals to its number – a baby giraffe and a baby gorilla. The baby giraffe was lovably awkward and adorable, but it was the baby gorilla that stole my heart. Her tiny frame was dwarfed by the full grown gorillas in the habitat, but she actively played and followed his parents. It was adorable to see her attach to her mother for a ride across the floor or just help getting up. I could have easily watched her all day.

Day 13: One of the Weirdest Card Game I have Ever Played

I love card games of any kind. Hearts, Gin, Spades, Poker, Spit, Uno, Cards Against Humanity – you name it. I become incredibly competitive, especially when there are absolutely no stakes whatsoever. I have been introduced to some odd and complicated games over the years, but Sushi-Go! has to be one of the strangest, but most fun (and strategic) games I have played. Sushi-Go! was introduced to my by a friend at an Easter gathering tonight. The goal is to collect the most points in a round by collecting cards and passing along others. The cards, which all feature different types of smiling sushi, have different point values at the bottom or ways to win points, so players need to pay attention to how they are choosing cards. After several rounds of complete and utter failure, my friends and I finally understood how to play this game, and it was a blast. It was exactly what I needed heading into a long week at school.