We biked to the library this afternoon and my girls wanted to play in the wash out back. It is wonderful to see it with actual water. It is promising to be an amazingly green spring.

The Woman in the Dunes

The Woman in the DunesThe Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finished this book a week or so ago but it took watching the film, a good book group discussion, and much thought to decide how I really feel about it. My library book group chooses only international authors and we all really like seeing the perspective different cultures bring. Someone at the meeting asked if this book provided insight on Japanese culture and I had to respond no. I feel like it had little to do with life in Japan and more to do with the human condition in general. It's very extensional and thought provoking and most beautifully written.

What I learned:
Learning might be the wrong word, but what I took away is the idea that our circumstances don't really matter. We're all shoveling metaphorical sand out of a pit to keep ourselves afloat. Good circumstances or bad, we all wake up, work and something that will eventually come undone, and go back to bed only to repeat it all over and over again. A little dismal yes, but I suppose there is a release in acknowledging it.

What I loved:
The writing was beautiful. And I do truly enjoy books that make me think. The characters weren't fully drawn, they mostly stand it as forms to move the plot along, but the book still kept me fully engaged.

Some favorite passages:
Things with form were empty when placed beside sand. The only certain factor was its movement; sand was the antithesis of all form. However, beyond the thin wall of boards the woman continued shoveling as usual. What in heaven's name could she hope to accomplish with her frail arms? It was like trying to build a house in the sea by brushing the water aside.

"Suddenly a sorrow the color of dawn welled up in him. They might as well lick each other's wounds. But they would lick forever, as the wounds would never heal, and in the end their tongues would be worn away.

"Loneliness was an unsatisfied thirst for illusion.

View all my reviews

More Party


Tessa, after *months* of discussion, decided on a sleepover with some school friends  for her birthday party. I'm sure I've made it readily apparent that I am not a huge birthday party enthusiast in any form, but sleepovers are definitely mixed bag. On the one hand there is very little planning. The girls did decorate t-shirts with puffy paint, but there was little supervision required (or desired) and I had no games or entertainment to figure out. The less of me visible the better, which is all good. But on the other hand there are girls waking me up at 1:00 am when their movie ended and they simply could not contain the giggles any more. There are girls screaming as they slide down my stairs in sleeping bags. There is a whirlwind of noise and mess all over my house. And now as I sit down to type this out, there is a suspicious silence that makes me feel the need to check on them, like they are naughty pre-schoolers that might be drawing on the walls with markers. I realize I tend towards the grumpy side when there are gaggles of girls involved, so I try to keep it contained but I am truly looking forward to a quiet afternoon when they've gone home. I'm also coming down with a cold so my little patience is further diminished.

But it's not all bad. They are lovely girls every one and it is fun to hear them gossip and chat and plan and be silly and enjoy this wonderful time of life. I remember 5th grade fondly and they all seem to be enjoying it too; they seem very happy in their own skin. Mostly I am glad to have my beautiful daughter enjoy the company of her friends, to have her special celebration that is just the way she wants it.



Preparing for birthday sleepover madness.

Wow indeed

I am apparently on a nostalgia streak. This morning I found this post with some pretty fantastic photos from the 90's. It's funny to me that I always think of the 90's as so classy until I go back and see the visual trail of badness. And I've gone further down memory lane with the tunes; I require a little INXS today. To further connect the random threads from my brain making their way to my blog this week, I also remember someone on my Seattle trip singing this song after one or two pub stops. Alcohol is fun for those not drinking too :-)

Last fall my sister's homecoming theme was 90's retro. Really? I'm retro now? The Fresh Prince is now classic? Wow.

Lovely, lovely Seattle

I was looking through some old photos recently and I came across my pictures from Seattle. I went to Seattle for a professional conference in May of 2008 and it was a transformative trip in a lot of ways. Not to mention just a gorgeous few days. It came at the end of a *very* difficult semester where I was acting director of my department, working away from home a whole lot more than I was accustom to, selling our house in Phoenix, and planning for our move to Austin. I needed a few days away. This was the also first trip I had taken away since my girls came on the scene so it was more than a little fun to be just Amber rather than Mommy. I remember very little of the actual conference, but there was a perfect nexus of colleagues and friends that kept the happy going. So much good food, beautiful walks around the city, late nights and much laughter. As I wrote the first time, I kinda fell in love. I associate this trip with a time in my life when I finally gave myself liberty to be an adult on my own outright. It's hard to articulate, just a very, very good feeling... Something I desperately need right about now...

It took me almost four years, but I finally made good on my promise to post pictures :-)

Who Do You Want To Be


I've been firmly entrenched in new releases the past year or two and I'm sad to lose touch with all the albums that came before. So I've been making a bigger effort lately to go back and enjoy favorites from years gone by. Today I'm enjoying a little Oingo Boing and it reminded me of my very first concert.

I was pretty sheltered from music in my high school years as nothing was allowed in the house other than classical music. Unless you count my mom's old Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond records of course. Which I don't. There was of course music at school and dances so I wasn't completely oblivious to what was going on, but I didn't have much of a investment in developing personal taste. The very first cassettes I bought at the tail end of my senior year (this being the early/mid 1990s right before CDs hit large) were The Cranberries, Everybody Else is Doing it so Why Can't We? and U2's Joshua Tree. I felt like a woman of the world! I also remember at some point there being an unfortunate Chicago tape since many hours sent listening to Peter Cetera sing sappy love ballads had convinced me that they were awesome. Of course I was clueless so I bought one of their early albums in the bargain bin and didn't realize how different they sounded back then. Anyway, I digress.

I bought a CD walkman just as I was leaving for college in 1994. I remember paying something like $110 for it which is scandalously high by today's standards. And it gave me many, many good hours of listening pleasure. Especially during my janitorial hours cleaning the administration building at BYU. Good times. And *finally* back to the original point of my post, Best O'Boingo was one of those first CDs I bought in college and I loved that album dearly. Some roommates were going to their farewell concert and I jumped on board. A little late at nineteen for a first concert experience, but it was awesome enough to make up for it. How great is the $18 sticker price on my stub? CD players may have gotten cheaper but live music certainly has not.

Turn it up to eleven!

Birthday number 11 for my Tessa. She is such an amazing girl and every day I just sit back and watch with pleasure how she has become such a fine person. As I've said many times before, I just do my best to stay out of her way. Eleven feels a bit like the beginning of the end to me - childhood is moving into something a little more messy and squishy. Despite my fears and trepidation, Tessa seems to be moving forward with grace and confidence.

For her birthday, I knew she wanted "stuff" like shoes and clothes but she is particular like her mom so I was nervous to pick stuff out on her behalf. Instead I made her a (somewhat fancified if I do say so myself) coupon book with her "eleven birthday wishes" and we went to the mall to cash them in. Some small, some big, but it was fun to see her explore her taste. It was a great day.

Why We Love


Why We Love: The Nature And Chemistry Of Romantic LoveWhy We Love: The Nature And Chemistry Of Romantic Love by Helen Fisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating book. The author studies and expounds upon the biological underpinnings of romantic love, lust, and attachment. Some of it made a lot of sense in a "I knew that but didn't fully articulate it to myself" way, and some of it was surprising and new. In the end I'm glad I read it, but I'm not sure if it made be believe in love more or less. Does understanding the mechanisms behind such a miracle make it more or less real?

View all my reviews


I took my girls to the bounce house this morning and now we're out to lunch before running errands. They're biding their time waiting for our food by using chop sticks to pick up ice. I love these girls.



Rollerblading with umbrellas. How cute is that? Hopefully no one pokes an eye out.



First mountain laurel I've seen bloom this year. Makes me happy.



I took the day off to hit Barton Creek Trail. I am officially go for the Grand Canyon in April and it's time to get my legs and feet ready. I won't be able to do as much training as I did last year in the months before the hike, but I'm hoping it will still be a success.

I have one sole Saturday off from my certification program  and that just happened to coincide with a necessary trip back to GCC and the date worked beautifully for the group of friends that I'm hiking with. Kismet. We wanted to do North to South this year, but the North rim isn't open until May so we're sticking to what we know and doing the same route from last year. I'm just glad to be there in any fashion. The cherry on top is that my sister Xandy is going come and do the hike with me. Party!

Today's hike was good. As I've mentioned before, Barton Creek is mostly flat so not very serious hiking, but good to get my feet used to shoes etc. I ended up doing only 13-14 of the total 15 miles because right near the end of the trail down the creek towards Zilker I was stopped by a park ranger and told that the trail was closed due to the big rain yesterday and given a mild reprimand. I told him I couldn't just leave, I had 7 miles back to my car. What was he going to do? So I turned around and headed back. The trail was a little muddy in parts but not that bad. I guess they close it after big rains since people tend to widen the trail to avoid the mud and cause too much erosion. I understand but it still seemed strange. I was certainly not the only person on the trail today.

Good day to be out. The sky was clear and the temperatures perfect. It was really nice to be away from work, away from my computer, away from all the busy to have some time on my own. Just me and some lovely thoughts in my head...



I was supposed to be out hiking today but instead the weather has got me sitting in my office with a mug of tea, gazing out my window at sometimes rainy, sometimes gray skies. That's okay.



Doing my best to be present and accounted for...



I love to sit outside with late afternoon sun in my eyes.


Late afternoon with my girls at the greenbelt. Which is glorious in the orange light of sunset.



The good news is that I finished my Math content course today, the first part of my teacher certification program. Just over two weeks to remember all my high school Math. Whee! The bad news is that it did not sufficiently prepare me to really take the certification exam in April so I will be continuing to study on my own. I was a little disappointed with the structure and content of the course, but at least it gave me a feel for all the holey spots in my memory. And I really, really enjoyed it; I had forgotten how much I totally enjoy Math. I think having stepped out of pure Math for so long will actually be an asset to my teaching because I will be able to relate to students on what it feels like to have pieces of the puzzle missing. That's what I'm telling myself anyway :-)



The new dog bed I bought seems to be a meeting ground for canine and non-canine friends alike.



Cuddling in bed with my girl, watching a little Netflix. Tessa is obsessed with the show Eureka and even though the semi-formulaic plot lost my interest a while back, I still loving having a "thing" with her. That plus I secretly wish I lived in a hidden town dedicated to cutting edge research science as depicted in the show.



Date Night with my baby girl, watching movies. Cuddlicious.



I am studying a lot in the afternoons and Sylvie comes into my office to keep me company. She is adorable and it brightens my day.

New Song


I'm feeling the buzz of new music this month. I'm not sure about this album, but this song has got me hooked.