Happy Families

November 2017 Nobody Hosts Meeting @ Liz’s
– A recovery set back…we switched from Chinese restaurant to delivery at her home
– Karen C., Marie, and Viviane were missed (to manage their family priorities).


  • Katie brought electric tea kettle and Chinese green tea to keep with the original (location) plan. Mary brewed it up ever-so-nicely.
  • Oh, dang it! most of us forgot our homework – a title for the January Read draw. Mad searching on Liz’s (weird, slightly uncooperative) laptop and other phones
  • This set up various sidebar conversations & levels of focus that lasted until we sat down, so not all interactions will be noted.
  • Also, Yours Truly took over ordering for everyone. There was some general head-nodding and calls of ‘chicken’ or ‘not too spicy’ with one definitive ‘my kids like Happy Families’ (not a philosophical statement, but a favorite menu item…& now, an appropriate blog post title), but the process again took away from general chatter recording. #excuses #legit
  • Who watched Gilmore Girls & was it because your girls did? (Pretty much, yes). What other shows were family favorites? (a mixed bag)
  • Liz’s Injury Recap:  hip painkillers masked chronic back warning twinges >>> back pulled while making bed (proposal: that bed is dangerous; burn it). And, yes, she’s overdoing it as a general state of being.
  • Sue’s Retirement Mansion in Florida – a few more details…the more we learn, the better it sounds. C’mon, Steve…get ready to retire soon.
  • Mary’s Catherine moving to Chicago by January. Moving ‘everything’ in the car & driving her out. Oh, the fun.
  • Karen S’s Christopher back from a NZ adventure. Harvey being fabulously Harvey.
  • Some crazy boys (KS’s Daniel, Liz’s David, & anyone else from Bootleg DNA???) going Wild Boar Hunting somewhere in Appalachia #ofcourse (which state?) with a ‘responsible, adult’ guide. #ihearbanjoes
  • Kitty’s house goes on the market in ~February. They’ve seen great options in the Annapolis area. Local goal for the work week:  Bethesda digs within 2 blocks of Kitty’s office. All the better for Kitty to continue to NOT go out with the ‘hundreds of millenials’ she works with (and who continue to invite her).
  • Katelyn finishing NYC Marathon (with Katie & Catherine & others) cheering her on. [Katie didn’t make the entrance lottery; she did her 26.2 race in DC the week prior.]
  • Shelley making various funny comments all while madly trying to find ‘a Canada book’ for the January pick in honor of Kirstie staying in the Great White North (well, Toronto).


The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss hearts of horses molly gloss

Katie picked it because:

  1. Volunteering at Gentle Giants triggered a Renaissance of All Things Horses for Katie.
  2. Didn’t want to read Horse Whisperer, Black Beauty, War Horse, or anything that dwells on the ugly. Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes (Me Before You) seemed just a bit too chicklit for Katie & Bootleg.
  3. Just read The Summer Before the War by Simonson and …Horses is of a very similar era and focuses on similar yet very different kind of young women in a very opposite setting from The Summer... upper class Edwardian England. So the compare/contrast was a rich opportunity.
  4. Katie had just watched ‘Buck’ about the real horse whisperer, Buck Brannaman, and wanted more horse life & training insights like this (but couldn’t find any of his nonfiction books in the library).


  • Everyone read at least most of it. Karen S. couldn’t get a copy in time but plans to read the copy she finally got. We did a pretty complete plot summary.
  • Overall, thumbs up from everyone. Even Viviane made a point to share positive comments (after the meeting). It’s such distinct slice of American life and time. The ‘realness of real people’ struck all of us (in a manner akin to The Bartender’s Tale).
  • Family dynamics & fortitude also reminded us of The Glass Castle and even more directly of Half-Broke Horses, both by Jeannette Walls.
  • PHEW! (says Katie) – It was a huge risk doing a ‘horse book,’ esp. with Kitty sounding an email alarm about fearing a sobfest. But while this one did not shy away from harsh realities and how some so-called horsemen broke horses, it did a great job of staying with Martha’s methods and demeanor – esp. when sharing details and horse development
  • We enjoyed how ~90% of the book had an easy, looping style of present, past, future – no rush to share details, but all attended to and accounted for (like Martha Lessen)
  • The last bit just before she agreed to marry certainly was faster than the rest. Was this a page count thing? Or did it reflect Martha’s pattering heart or some other aspect of her transition to community & happy family life?
  • Martha’s appearance, ‘style,’ goals, and book-loving ways = so appealing
  • Horse how-to info very satisfying and inspiring; yet also not all prettied up or modernized. Ugly reality laced in (but not overwhelming)
  • Great contrast to The Summer Before the War (several of us had read this independently of Bootleg); & similarities like women’s rights, patriotism, hardscrabble life of the un-rich, freedom from negative family, local politics, charming romance
  • Tom/cancer- painfully accurate (Katie had to skip a lot); horrible and beautiful
  • Riding the circle to train horses was a cool concept and also a great writer gimmick to bring in all the families
  • Changing POV was good
  • Eastern Oregon – ‘wild west’ is less wild than Martha wants, but still wild. Does this reflect Martha, too? She vows to never marry & seems rather rough, but she actually segues into community life and romance quite readily. She keeps her standards, but is somewhat surprisingly quick/quiet to acquiesce on some issues (esp. marriage & continuing to ‘ride out alone’).
  • George & Louise Bliss, El Bayad, Will Wright, the old sisters Emma Adelaide & Aileen, Henry Frazer (beau), German family (Belgians over the cliff with wagon), Rumer (?) family (ptomaine poisoning & broken arm; drunk) – All these characters were well-liked (or thoroughly and appropriately disdained) by us. Their arcs were real. Dialogue was, too. Each brought out another facet of Martha and of life in that setting, time, place.
  • Insights on medicine (cancer, doctor’s hours, awaiting help, birth/delivery) were distinct yet integral to plot and/or character development. (Yes, there was a birth, Liz). Such an interesting period of some knowledge, but mostly hardscrabble grit as a key part of the ‘healing’ process.
  • Title okay, but did not really delve into the horses’ hearts – saw some good evidence, though of this (e.g. the German couples’ horses that had fallen off the road…no panic, strength, patience).
  • Martha’s romance – really was sweet (even the rather obvious foreshadowing didn’t ruin it). The dance, the skating party & hike to Native Am art – all good scenes. But, did she enter too easily? Give up too many dreams? We think not and the ‘epilogue’ seems to confirm that it works out.


  • Yours Truly must say so herself:  Dessert was awesome. Fresh, triple chocolate brownies with 3 toppings choices:  whipped cream, caramel sauce, and/or homemade maple icing (thx, Katelyn E). We all had it all. #yum #dangerous
  • Picking the January Title
    • Several cries of, “You all are going to be so mad if you pick mine!”
    • Same exact pieces of paper (thx, Mary). But, wait! How do we fold them to be identical. One fold? Two? Origami (you’re so funny, Karen S.)?
    • Pick #1:  Mary selects. She passes it for another to read, but… ACK!!! Two papers are slotted together. Mary is vindicated; the multiple fold is in order.
    • Pick #2:  It’s Shelley’s pick! She’s happy! She’s worried! It’s so new, she knows nothing about it. Tension builds as Sue checks…it’s NOT in the library. Alas.
    • Pick #3:  All goes well. It’s Katie’s pick & she’s not even sure if it’s a full Gaiman story or an anthology of myths that have been Gaiman-ized. We all shall see… NORSE MYTHOLOGY by Neil Gaiman
  • December:  Liz had wanted to do a Bootleg Bookless Tea again. Her status may preclude this. So, we are awaiting a Last Minute Call (if she feels up to it). Also… for those of you who actually read these minutes… Katie could host a Tea. Comment or email, if this appeals.
  • January:  Date tbd. It seems Katie and Karen S. (host) need to decide on it. Anyone know when a winter storm is predicted to come?

Details: obsession vs. vicarious impact

Note:  In Februrary, this post was inadvertently added as a page. It appears here now (11/1/17) as a correction to that error. 

February 27, 2017 @ Kitty’s House w/Viviane, Karen S, Mary & Yours Truly

Life & Family news:  Katie’s Dad continues the fight; Kitty’s sister’s son & daughter-in-law have twins by surrogate; Karen S Big Baby Boy in 2 months… L’chaim, everybody!

Oscars Chatter:  dresses, jewelry, etc.
Kitty’s great uncle – portraitist; new book (so cool); fascinating art talk by Viviane… bonus:  art class/samples by Viv (how colorful is YOUR white?)

Young Men & Fire by Norman MacLean

Karen S picked it due to coincidences:
– Christopher reading a lot about MT/fire watching
– CFO interview >>talked about Mann Gulch & this book
– She liked A River Runs Through It

  • Oh, Norman, how we wish you could have lived to properly edit this
  • long, draggy; REDUNDANCIES (with a few more reveals each time, yes, but the re-looping was so tiresome)
  • MacLean was rather OBSESSED that his love of research drowned out his literary skills in this ‘draft’
  • many descriptions of people & motivations were so excellent
  • historical context (behind/beyond the event) was enlightening
  • details like parachute design were edu-taining

SO… we turned to Literary Listography – My Reading Life in Lists
Randomly chose:  “Historical Period I Vicariously Lived Through” (based on Bootleg reads & what we considered ‘eras,’ not just ‘settings’) –

  1. Year of Wonder (plague)
  2. Devil in the White City (World’s Fair  & pre great CSI)
  3. In the Garden of the Beasts (Hitler rising)
  4. The Prize Winner of Defiance, OH (1950s wifery)
  5. The Help (pre Civil Rights)
  6. Nothing to Envy (North Korea, sadly still)
  7. Warm Springs (polio/iron lung transition)
  8. Elephant Company (humane training; WWI-WWII heroism)
  9. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (small scale WWII)
  10. The Color (NZ gold rush 2)
  11. The 19th Wife (est. cult of Mormonism)
  12. The Red Tent (Old Testament)
  13. The Dove Keepers (Masada)
  14. Memoirs of a Geisha (culture…is this an ‘era?’)
  15. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Cultural Revolution)
  16. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (cusp of DNA discovery)
  17. [we ran out of time…]

No, You Don’t Understand

October 2017 – Katie’s Meeting @ Liz’s House b/c Liz broke & we brought the party to her. Kitty, Marie, Sue, Mary, Shelley, & Yours Truly. We 7 missed everyone else. Also:  Team Brennan duly setting up Halloween décor – even if Liz won’t be scaring anyone in 2017.

The Liz Report:

  • Sparkly wedge shoes, a speedy exit from the Anthem, and ever-so-slightly uneven walking surface made for a Gravity Wins moment. Various contortions to avoid falling may have worsened the torque or impact. Lots of pain. Carried to the car.
  • No ER, please…home. Several days of RICE and crutches. She definitely overdid it at work a few days despite intermittent stretches of feeling better. So, she made a doc appt. for the next week and she packed for the gang’s fall leaf peeping trip.
  • Sadly, another trip interfered – thanks to crutch + foot + bed leg + more gravity. Another fall – wrenching, blinding, hip-searing, immediately immobilizing pain.
  • This is when Liz’s constant refrain, ‘No, you don’t understand… I can’t do [xyz] because I’m in too much pain.’ started in earnest.
  • EMTs NOT prepared to deal with her pain level, thirst, stairs, and more. Much hemming and hawing later, they ‘taco-ed’ her in a stretcher & off to Suburban.
  • EXTREME pain not managed well at all in ER. A patronizing air about getting in the system and doing certain paperwork before discussing pain meds = bad, bad, bad. Liz persisted, doc gave some Rx. Scan taken, doc upped to Max Load Rx for pain.
  • Waited all night for surgeon to mosey in… Tim trying to sleep in the chair…. Ugh. Surgical nurse pops in at 7:30 a.m. ‘READY!’ and Liz hasn’t spoken with surgeon yet. Tim at home. Flash forward – all players gathered, surgery commences.
  • Diagnosis:  hairline fractures from first fall (like the shell of a hard-boiled egg); ‘exploded’ hip joint from second fall
  • Surgery was the one hour (easier-than-3-hours) version because small incision to use leverage/traction worked to realign femur + 3 screws in hip joint area.
  • PT & OT + 6,000 other people showing up in her (private!) room at all hours. Some semi-useful. None the doctor. Most in a big rush. Timing food, meds, and actual therapies for best combined impact – not a thing on any treatment orders. But when the experienced  PT shows up, confidence and positive options abound! The foot harness to move the leg! Realistic options for walking!
  • Released earlier than expected (um…family’s in Baltimore helping David move). Home is good. Megs is FT caregiver. Bed in Apt. B is a very negotiable height. Padded chairs, a walker, PT visits to home & oh, yes – morphine. She’s on her way to getting ready to get ready to be better.
  • Goal:  ‘normal’ in 3 months.

Real Estate Report:

  • Sue’s Florida Home! They close Thanksgiving weekend. North of Tampa, closer to Stephen than Stacy. 4 BR, 3 bath, a pool. All kinds of wonderful features. Let the home décor shopping begin (well, after they close)
  • Kitty’s Moving! Yes, it’s a familiar story, but with some new tweaks. Already listed with friend realtor. Will rent a small apt. near 20895 for work. Goal to own a small house near Annapolis.
  • Marie is hosting her ‘other’ niece. It’s been fun and upbeat.
  • Basements rock. Even if you stuff too much junk into them. Sorry, parts of country that don’t have the pleasure. Earthquakes & high water table count as good excuses.
  • Alana A (Parkwood realtor & resident) donated blood marrow over the summer & just heard her match (still anonymous via the registry) is ‘stable.’ Awesome.

Book Report:

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple semple 9780316403436

Sue picked it because …Bernadette was so funny and she wanted something lighter than last month’s slog.

  • Today’s understatement:  We did not like Eleanor Flood. Some of us couldn’t even read the whole book because she was so ugh.
  • Her day filled with angst-y, anti-social habits and flashbacks where she played the victim or drama queen to just about everything made most of us want to holler, “No, YOU don’t understand!” As in this is not how life works. Note: this use of the phrase is the polar opposite of Liz’s aforementioned campaign for comfort & care. [This could be some sort of irony or twist. Cuz, you know…we’re that literary book club in the ‘hood.]
  • Some acquiesced to the idea that she had tiny glimmers of trying to do right. Or maybe she warranted a bit of empathy for making choices out of fear or depression. But then she’d just do something (or reveal an old something) that was thoughtless, selfish, etc. And… ugh
  • Writing style was very readable. Witticisms were tight, astute…but just so barbed.
  • Commentary on Seattle demographics added to humorous tone. At least we had that from …Bernadette.
  • Why did her husband still love her? A testament to his faith… and maybe something we just don’t get to see of her.
  • We all sighed over Timby. Don’t really want to read any sequel of his teen years.
  • Book covers are covered with great praise from all points. Are these excerpts from the complete statements which reveal less sunny opinions? As in, “It’s a masterpiece [missing bit:  of unpalatable narcissism]!”
  • The last scene does offer a bit of hope/sweet relief. Maybe a lot of tomorrows later  (not today) it will be better for Eleanor.

NEXT MEETING:  November is hostess-free. So we’ll meet at a restaurant. Location & date TBD via email when Katie spreads word of her book pick.


Family Ties that Bind & Gag

September 24, 2017 @ Sue’s with Mary, Liz, Viviane & Katie (oh, and Charlotte, the spider); we missed the rest of you!

Car Talk – north

  • It’s legal to travel with alcohol in closed containers (relevant info while using the Brennan Always-a-Party Bus
  • The One-Thing-After-Another for Viviane’s Family Saga – good news:  all are safe, many while driving her a bit nuts –in the best way possible! –  while staying at her house. Saga includes escaping socialism, Miami hurricane, Mexico City earthquake, & a 3-year-old in need of peers (and maybe a light saber)
  • The value of unpaid internships. This is becoming the new topic to replace Schoolitics and Poolitics. (sadly, nothing seems to replace actual politics)
  • No, don’t get on Rt. 70 to get to Sue’s. Really. Stay left. LEFT.
  • Some of us blatantly ignore or accidentally-then-on-purpose ignore club rule 11828 about bringing our own towels (Liz, Katie). Others go above & beyond by wearing her suit (Viv).
  • Paperwork:  Vivian taking the test to become a US citizen (almost ready!). Kirstie & Canadian residency/citizenship. David moving to Baltimore (a girl, the commute).

Chit Chat @ Sue’s

  • The WEATHER. Perfect. Warm, Long-lasting, gorgeous melon-ish pink sunset. NOT shivering at hot tub time. Drop the mic.
  • The FOOD. Sue not only provided a book-themed, yummy dinner of Indian cuisine, she did the same for appetizers. Such an array of dips and flavors, etc. She’s been charged with providing her menu (i.e. Wegman’s shopping list) so we can recreate and ‘save ourselves a trip to an Indian restaurant.’
  • Kudos to Liz for getting her fulltime-4-days-a-week position (those MFA-type people are not good at math) voted in – just today.
  • Sue & Steve almost got a Florida second home to rent then relocate in 1 year (Sue)/4 years (Steve); more house hunting to come. Kudos to Sue for reaching 30 years & I Can Retire Anytime status.
    • champagne for all of the above (well, barely more than a thimble for Wimp Katie and of course fizzy juice of another sort for Cheapest Date Mary)
  • Who’s reading what? A brief interlude while Sue put finishing touches on super-yum dinner. Biggest rave:  Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. For those seeking some mental fluff-that’s-not-vapid:  Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
  • We did not talk about the Redskins. Or whatever you choose to call them. No, we did not.
  • Word choices, Part A – What’s the word for adult children? Offspring is too stuffy. Heirs just sounds silly. Son & daughter work, but not as one-word aggregates if you’re kids are boy & girl. Spanish:  hijos (includes both genders); French:  just don’t say enfants after they turn ~17.
  • Word choices, Part B – Language-less children (deaf & isolated) who have learned language late in childhood & only have the verb ‘think’ are less capable at paper-based thinking tasks (e.g. comprehension, conclusions, inference) than those who also have words like ‘remember,’ ‘believe,’ ‘wonder,’ etc. So…having more words to think about thinking makes one a better thinker. Oh, the brain!
  • Poetry sucks. Poetry is awesome – it can take you so many places. Bob Dylan to baseball and beyond. PSA:  song lyrics are poetry.
  • The Emmy’s – yada yada yada. Oh, and what WILL the Oscars do this year? There are no good movies – yet. The movie industy plot thickens..
  • English is crazy. Here’s a post-meeting addition to acknowledge that fact (& fulfill a request. ‘The Chaos’ poem by Gerard Nolst Trenité http://ncf.idallen.com/english.html

Hot Tub re-cap – Overall – so nice to not be shivering!!! That giant spider going up & down & up & down will do no harm. Creepy yet elegant. It’s Charlotte, right? Tiki torches, color-changing lights, awesome water jets at all stations. Ahhhh. A nearby farm’s recent spreading of the manure pile to fertilize fields? Not so great. Physics lesson: the hot tub steam really helps to effervesce that aroma. #farmlife  New neighbors – fencing in for goats, chickens, horses, and emus. That’s how they do it from South Africa.

THE BOOK:  The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy god of small things

Viviane chose this book because Eva recommended it. All of us read (listened to) at least more than half. Only Viviane finished. The rest of us ran out of time (for the record – chasing your book from here to NC to the library actually does not count as an excuse; napping does) OR chose to stop b/c…

  • It was just so dang bleak. And it was next to impossible to truly care about the characters – at least enough to want to read the full details of Sophie’s &/or everyone else’s demise
  • No real plot. Well, not one with any pace or appealing rhythm. Yes, stuff happens, but it’s all at the end. And it requires slogging through some very, very dense and swirly and sloggy stream-of -consciousness from pretty much all characters.
  • Don’t care how somebody eats a mango the 39th time… As in:  the blurb is so much better than the ‘agonizing uncoiling’ of events.
  • GORGEOUS writing abilities.
    • Poetic and crystal clear in small spots
    • Such clever wordplay:  kid-centric mash ups ‘sourmetal smell’, All Capital Letters for Emphasis, Re-Returning
    • Conveying the surreal twin-connectedness – sometimes with actual whimsy
  • So many layers – family roles & rebellion, caste system, modern Indian history/politics, abuse & impacts…but less intricate interplay than jumble of perspectives
  • Listening with accents and all the unfamiliar (and oft similar) names – a challenge
  • We forgot to discuss the title. Is it good? What could be better?
  • The Big Reveals in the final chapter – too much, too late:  affair, incest, murder/cover up.
  • It won the Booker because it’s depressing and because reviewers want ‘artsy’ (are they bored with clarity?). Okay, okay…the writing is quite good in stretches.

Car Talk – south

  • Kudos to Mary for driving the Giant SUV all the way home.
  • Yes, it’s still dark way out here in the country. Esp. with the little moon sliver. No, we don’t have to fork off. No, we don’t recall/know how or why or if that bridge thing was higher on one side or even there last time.
  • Who hosts in October? Katie? Liz will set straight.
  • No November host/book picker. So…do we need another member? Who? Or can we devise a Random Title Picking Game – played in November for our January read?
  • Saving the World & Getting Pregnant On Time – <<brush with eugenics deleted>>
  • Who’s working more now than they intended to be 3 years ago…and why? Center stage: Mary. Close 2nd:  Liz.
  • Term limits >>> limited discussion
  • Home by 10:15-ish. Thank you and goodnight.

The Importance of Being

August 2017:  We meet at China Gourmet because Hostess Viviane has newly-freed birds of a feather coming to rest in her nest. Hooray & Amen!

All attending, save Sue. We missed you, Sue!

Houston, oh, Houston. We wish you well.

Chatter, actually a round up of great & fun news (shared w/ varying levels enthusiasm):

  • the GOOD Harvey photos (Karen S’s grandson); middle name (Daniel), anyone???
  • Kitty & the vegan wedding – a few plans not planned, but a grand result overall
  • It’s raining jobs on Liz. It’s a tricky wicket.
  • Karen C. is fully finished. Her perfect position is coming; bridge consulting gig ok
  • Katie enjoyed the Project Run ALS events in NYC & beach (anyone wanna learn more or donate:  https://fundraise.projectals.org/campaign/project-run/c123999
  • Marie’s Robert’s girlfriend and co-condo owner is adorbs; they’re so happy!
  • Mary’s Michael is ensconced in his fancy (?) NYC digs > he has a full BR wall!
  • Shelley spilled everything (or was on the receiving end) and her hair remained perfect – as usual
  • Viviane trumps all – we toasted to new life & freedom

After the great Zucchini Confusion we did a rather efficient job ordering delish entrees for all to share (including all food-etarian needs). Brilliant split of checks by booze and food, Liz. And Karen S for bringing Order By Number to the fore. Hooray for Lazy Susans (and the housemate of that lazy wench who invented the table spinner for us)

***NEWS*** The Official Chinese Menu Item is the Pineapple Triple Delight

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde the importance of being earnest

Karen C picked it because she’d read it, ‘her’ 2017 pick was swept out from under her (Hillbilly Elegy), it’s a classic, it’s easy to read on the beach.

  • we liked it – it was the keystone for all witty repartee to follow
  • the wordplay remains rather unique even today and the ironic twists, too
  • intelligent banter movies & sitcoms owe this one (Philadelphia Story, Big Bang Theory); the modern versions have more layers & subplots, but this play is why
  • Shelley did scenes in HS & recalled them so well = Fun!
  • Some of us have seen it. Others heard it while reading (in a good, non-hallucinatory way). Others of us wished to be seeing it (over reading it) since SO much would be conveyed by skilled acting. Of course dialogue speed would be fierce, so reading first may be best after all
  • now THIS is satire – such skewering of social norms and reversing of roles and vapidly astute (yes, really) changes of heart
  • shout out for the pun: earnest/ernest
  • Who knew of and who read the 4th act? Some of us. Definitely better without it. Good decision, Oscar

Dessert – Yummy chocolate cupcakes from Karen C’s neighbor who has a baking business with no name. With a chaser of Chinese Statement Cookies. Oddly amusing.

September Meeting @ Sue’s – most likely Sept. 23 or 24; book TBD (Viviane)

Because It’s Good for You

June 2017 Meeting @ Mary’s House
(small-but-mighty:  Shelley, Liz, Karen C., Mary, Yours Truly)


  • The Parkwood Res. Assoc. approves a Little Free Library (the $$$, too; nice one, Liz)
  • stealing vs. taking without permission vs. absconding (Liz wants Mary’s glider)
  • Grace C’s vocal chord spasm>steroids (Dr. Mom Team diagnosis+cure; drop the stethoscope)
  • dog watching:  running/borrowing Maisie, Matt’s in Greece (how long until Liz & Tim also own a dog?)
  • good vs. legitimate reasons for missing book club – yes, there’s a difference
  • 4th graders free in national parks – who scams the system? do park rangers care? if you can do it, it’s so worth it! Ask Karen C. for tips
  • appreciating Mary’s and Kevin’s big backyard & access way
  • small town moment:  customer phone locked in at Sunflower’s; Ron just gives store key (Shelley was NOT leaving the meeting for such nonsense)
  • crazy names:  Precious, the hyphenated Queen sisters, etc. & names that simply cannot make a comeback (Mabel, anyone?)
  • Karen C – a deluge of pink slips at over-reaching office; may the odds be in her favor, eventually (who wants to give up working at/from home?)
  • email vs. verbal communication:  who can/will read vs. who is lazy or perhaps avoiding the efficiency/specificity of writing it all down & responding
  • swim team socials: keep it simple (or suffer). Do NOT ask Karen C. for tips.
  • Writing a book:  Volunteer Snafus. Chapter 1:  the craft closet
  • NYC – Michael Sing-Kirchner and his rental broker
  • Firefly – no sleeping plan, but at least a sleeping bag? And change of clothes?
  • Praise for Mary’s carrot salad! (started by Liz-who-hates-veggies)
  • Kirstie is staying in Canada with a Big New Promotion: Director. Not bad, eh?
  • Did some people miss book club b/c the book ‘scared’ them? (one person’s concern)

THE BOOK:  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

brave new world huxleyLiz picked the book because:

  1. Return to original goal of this club:  read what you’d not otherwise pick for just yourself (classics/supposed to, different genre, etc.)
  2. Has her mom’s copy of the book from her old book shop jaunts with old boyfriend
  3. It’s on David’s List (son); he read it and did not seem to hate it
  • very modern tone, pace and voice – how did Huxley do that from 1931?
  • ‘1984’ usurped this title from most of our HS reading lists – a shame, really
  • for the record:  pneumatic means plump-ish (but not really)
    • the new terms were fun; for the new-to-us terms, some of us wanted dictionaries
  • story’s emphasis on different head sizes – was it a reflection of Huxley’s oddly large one? or just the clearest way to display genetic meddling
  • Huxley visited the US in the post-WWI era; he found the society to be vapid…this showed up here, for sure
  • genetics – pretty sophisticated prognosticating
  • world building – so clever, but took some careful reading to get the full parameters; no spoon feeding of the reader, here (intentional? unlike the spoon-fed masses in the book? probably)
  • The Savage (also, Christ figure):  only person who could think for himself and had fairly even (depth, not time) exposure to Shakespeare, Native culture, traditional religion, and Society
  • Head Controller also could think for himself; he chose power over autonomy (Savage did the opposite) – unfortunate choice (plot) that the Savage suffered while HC seemed not to…
  • “Economy of Happy” – but is numb/middle-of-the-road the same as happy? no pain/no passion was the goal – was it working? maybe* (esp. with the pressure relieving islands for those who would not accept lack of individuality)
    • *IF you ignore the soma addictions
  • Ford/God – fun and prescient pun (at least in terms of automation-of-all)
  • more predictive genius:  media frenzy, paparazzi, fan-damonium, cruelty of public opinion/mob-induced-by-media
  • was it racist? did the lower castes also all have dark skin?
  • Names were fun puns:  Lenina, Bernardo Marx
  • was it more fun to discuss than read? 50/50 for some, yes for others
  • Recommended: Huxley’s follow up (non-fiction); some books had it included

Mary’s July book pick:  Circle the Sun by Paula McLain 

Meeting at Karen C’s on Thursday, 7/20 at 7:20 – b/c we are just that clever.


Get ‘er Done – means, method, motivation

May 31, 2017 @ Liz’s
(missing Mary; spewing ‘friendly invectives’ at Viviane for late cancel>>No Salad Crisis)

Chatter (Or w/all the good news, should this be Snaps?):

  • Karen S:  Christopher’s graduation & Montana trip!!! New grandbaby, Harvey!!! Bro married significant other of 16 years!!! Drop. The. Mic.
  • Sue’s Utah trip. Pictures for miles! Almost too much to absorb. AND she resolved the No Salad Crisis!
  • Karen C: passed all 4 CPA exams; hours done by end of June!!
  • Kitty’s wedding news!! June 10th!!  Getting ready:  a repeat of worked with Barry  (DC JP); uncomfy-yet-gorgeous shoes; vegan receptions require music…and alcohol
  • Liz’s Savannah Wedding Adventure – location, food stations (fried chicken, shrimp & grits), DJ (better than live), so much dancing!
  • New baby stuff – Bootleg gift to Karen S (The Story Book Knight + gift card); the new stuff is tricky but awesome…old car seat & stroller woes
    • holding babies (infants):  some of us love and some of us defer; point to ponder:  wet nurse as ‘career choice’ (long ago…not now, silly)
  • Our Wedding Stories – Marie’s drunk, sunburnt guests & JP @ Quaker Meeting House; Katie’s fainting & fab reception; Liz’s judge (Catholic/Jewish)>>Unitarian Church on Cedar Ln; Shelley’s Catalina Island & Ron’s white jeans w/Hawaiian shirt; Kitty (see above); anyone else?

Dinner Notes

  • paper towels in lieu of napkins:  grocery store faux pas or themed décor?
  • Mountain Dew as center piece (nice one, Marie)Hillbilly Elegy

The Book:  Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Shelley picked this book because:

  1. At the April meeting Marie mentioned a book and Vivian said something like, “I’m foreign & I know only a certain type of American.” This book presented something very un-20895. (If only Viv had been here…)
  2. Shelley’s mom’s husband started out a hillbilly and rose to mega success. The potential parallel was of interest.


  • Some of us had childhoods with some similarities or had parents who lived this kind of life (albeit not in the same location) – so for some, this book was off-putting and for others it was intriguing/familiar; for others it was just alien
  • thought-provoking
  • sounds like Pat Conroy:  sharing ‘his people’ and some similar milestones of personal development
  • not stark, not lyrical; more family memoir than dense non-fiction sociological treatise = overall style engaging (or at least easy) to read
  • the family had $100,000/year and still lived in disarray and squalor? It’s expensive to clean up civil & social fallout of addicts
  • Vance’s point seems to be you can bootstrap and somewhere along the line it works thanks to important moments with key people (math at the table, books in the house, another place to stay)
  • socio-economic status is major (less so than culture) & access to/use of education
  • military = a saving grace
  • surveys:  totally bunk? usually the questions are so poorly structured, so YES
  • some contentious exchanges on purpose or perceived tone of book – it seemed to boil down to how much anyone thought Vance was trying to push his personal experience and/or philosophy as a solution (as opposed to relaying his story). And if we liked/understood/abhorred what seemed to be his suggested solution options.
  • enabling vs. enriching = the ultimate tricky balance when trying to help somebody (both personal and social program-wise)
  • Is housing aid working? What about if public funds go to helping people move to where jobs are? Would they go?
  • reminded some of us of The Glass Castle – (theme of using whatever you can to get ‘there’)…but not nearly so literary
  • Marie shared Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Questionnaire and Resilience Questionnaire. Some did not see themselves at all. Others saw self or parent with very high scores on both.
  • agreement:  the solution is closer to home than within top-heavy government; more community, less impersonal policy

Next Meeting:  Mary’s house; Tuesday, June 27th at 7:15

Liz’s Pick:  A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

It’s Who You Know (er..Who Knows You)

April 2017 Meeting @ Shelley’s House (we miss you, Karen C…)


  • Liz’s NC property woes (wood rot)
  • Day of the Book – good crowds, less well-known authors, lots of fantasy & kid books, Read to a Dog station, Poetry Tent (packed all day…who knew?), music
  • Bethesda Lit Festival as Competition – meh:  all indoors, spread out, 3 days, not family fun (true literati only?)
  • T-shirts:  self-printing iron-on = yes! w/a brief  ‘remember when’ nod to puffy paint
  • Velcro on the fireplace remote:  Ron B Designs – available for hire (if you dare)
  • Move stacks of wood or go to the gym = equal options (less driving for wood…)
  • chimney sweeps – bad reps (except for Bert); yet needed 1x per decade, please…
  • Viviane’s wrist PT:  ‘distraction’ = LYING! SO painful. When the PT switches to Spanish you know the pain is coming. Marie concurs (for English-only), too.
  • LONG DIVERSION – innocent start: Karen S, is there baby news? All too soon: Red Tent 2.0… we all have a story or two or more (and some TMI tendencies)
  • Mary’s brother’s well engineered marching sign…weatherproof, too!
  • wedding blues – Kitty’s daughter’s new mom-in-law WILL NOT host rehearsal dinner…bucking protocol not acceptable (wait…is she more Bootleg than we are?)
  • Shelley’s ravioli spinach alfredo – a surprisingly light and delish delight! Ditto on Marie’s mini cheesecakes and hand-dipped strawberries. yum.
  • Viviane and Shelley:  founders of the George Clooney is Meh Club

The BOOK:  The Possibilities by Kaui Hart HemmingsThe Possibilities Apr 2017

Marie picked it because she was looking for library-available books. She liked The Descendants and the light and frothy Hemmings title was not available. Decided this was an okay option (beyond availability) because several Bootleggers are having hard times and this was a ‘meet you where you are in hard times’ book…maybe more of a fit for these moods/states of mind than something silly.


  • a very real and close look at one version of grief
  • unimaginable situation for parent – some of us ‘didn’t really want to go there’
  • appealing characters and easy to connect with or at least recognize as ‘real’
  • dialogue had nice flow; ditto speech  mannerisms
  • noticeably low on physical descriptions; Billy & Kit had a bit than others (this was preferred by most)
  • Sarah’s return to work scenes were painful, real, amusing – Hemmings either knows that biz or interviewed somebody in it (NOTE to Jane Smiley:  that’s how you do satire)
  • Sarah’s dad: quirky funny mix of real Dad Behavior + solid albeit skinny thread of retirement choices theme
  • some/many of the scenes/encounters were quite amusing, realistic or both
  • some of us did not like being in main character’s head – esp. for so long
  • book plot and ‘something else’ kind of fell apart at the 7/8 mark
  • though some thought the ending was very good (go home and consult with your actual family about what to do)
  • 1 (maybe more) suggested the ‘real’ problem – parental grief – was waylaid by the baby discussions; the first topic was sufficient for a book (and was not well resolved by the change of focus)
  • too much drama of all sorts
  • sex scenes were bad/dumb/purposeless and skip-worthy
  • the slow roll out of Cully’s dad (Billy) as a solid person, good father was well done over the course of the book; nice, comforting thread
  • parallels between Kit’s and Sarah’s lives were a bit too convenient
  • the setting was not a character, but it was so key (in many good ways) to character arcs and plot points
  • Suzanne and Sarah – their friendship had strong points, but was odd in some ways…and why did Sarah have to keep saying how it was almost a point of pride that neither of them expressed their true positive feelings for each other?
  • some of us agreed this was written to become a movie; it rang falsely…not coming from the heart

NEXT BOOK:  Hillbilly Elegy (Shelley’s pick; she has 4 copies to share)

NEXT MEETING:  7:!5 on May 31st @ Liz’s (who never would assign herself May…)

No Lie: Friends Provide Undying Support

March 2017 @ Marie’s House
(missing Mary/work; Karen C/family; Viviane/broken wrist!)
special guest:  Kitty’s sister, Margaret (don’t even think ‘Peggy’)


  • dogs:  familiarity, control (or not); poor Viviane
  • visiting adults kids & vice versa – there’s some calculus about the farther away they live the more you see them
  • Shelley is a neat reader; does she wear gloves? sit in a bubble? with perfect posture? (full disclosure:  she re-sells her books)
  • young adult kids & driving in major snow storms – they all do it at least once
    • Katelyn’s hotel room in Bethlehem, PA was sold out from under her…no room
  • redemption movies:  ugh. too much pain for the 10 minutes of relief
  • Katie tuned out a bunch of Hollywood Bad Behavior – blah, blah, blah
  • Kitty in the Hot Seat:  telling her sister what each of us does (in life and for a living). She was not batting 1.000. But it was fun
  • Babies/grand babies:  people, just add 3 weeks to the due date (but have a bag packed)
  • good books don’t always engender good discussion & vice versa, for sure
    • favorite:  when bad book engenders good chat
  • Sue & Steve doing Grand Tour of Utah in May: they are the best travelers
  • DNA Genealogy test:  Liz, Marie, Shelley, Kitty, Margaret. Apparently it’s a thing.
  • Marie had a toast for us. Actually, it was to honor Katie’s dad (he died March 11). Not a dry eye. Read it; you’ll be happy (well, and crying) that you did. Here you go:

    An Irish Funeral Prayer

The Book:  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty Image result for big little lies bad guy

Kitty picked it because:

  1. Her sister (and our guest) had suggested it a while back. Kitty liked it.
  2. The recent HBO series reminded her of it.
  • ~98% of us read it
  • overall:  interesting; light, easy page-turner; our genre title:  ‘heavy chick lit’
  • also:  Real Housewives of Australia (was it Melbourne?) – some of his were entertained by the drama/snark & others not quite so much
  • author did NOT over-reveal; clues were doled out with some finesse
    • Jane’s reason for going to PP in the first place = particularly satisfying
    • main gimmick (who died? how?) was engaging/appealing
  • clever chapter format:  the point of view changes and the police interview quips
  • title was good – so many layers
  • each character had a reasonable-to-realistic mix of good & bad
    • helicopter parenting – bitingly accurate portrayal
    • realistic men, for the most part; for the record, we like Ed best
    • Mrs. Ponder – not really necessary, but we’re glad she was there
  • subtle wording  made some of us wonder:  did Perry decide to let go when Bonnie pushed him? his ‘perfect’ life was gone… & would such an athlete really go over so easily or die from a 2nd story fall?

April Meeting:  Shelley’s

Marie’s book pick:  “The Possibilities” by Kaui Hart Hemmings. 

Elephantastic Heroes

January 2017 @ Karen S’s with everyone but Karen C. (she’ll be back!)
Snow earlier today, but no major storm. A variation on the Storm Theme of recent years.

Neighborly News:  Hardware City closing in March (maybe Strosniders coming); Town Planning for empty gas station & Savannah’s = zippo; so many fails at the Frankly Pizza site (but it’s holding); Dish & Dram = new winner (3 pm Happy Hour->KP Moms can hang to 4:15 then meet the bus)

Kitty:  Madeline getting MARRIED June 10 @ JP + Union Station Party
Choosing last names – who, how, why???
Aging well:  Mary’s mom (99), Sue’s aunt (98)

THE BOOK:  Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke

Katie picked it because:
– craving nonfiction
– loves elephants
– despite being wary of yet another WWII theme/setting, this was so unique >> risked it


  • we underestimated elephants before this book (or at least Asians)
  • we want it to be a movie!
  • some patches of writing were ‘fact listing’ and the start was a bit slow while the end seemed a bit rushed – perhaps the pacing was impacted by whether or not Croke had detailed/extensive primary sources…after all, this is not a novel (though it almost reads as one)
  • SO HEROIC – the people (all of them) and the elephants. Wow.
  • Why so much PR on this being a WWII book? It’s so, so much more.
  • Wife Susan was just so cool in the face of the lifestyle & jungle realities (early training with wacky uncle poppy)
  • curmudgeonly mentor relationship – well wrought & ‘entertaining’
  • the return to England = another fascinating chapter
  • relationship with Burmese elephant handler and the layers of reality/hardship of the handlers = so well handled by Croke
  • Oh-So-British: the teas, the cutlery, the protocols for everything
  • priority:  keep it all streamlined & healthy for the benefit of the ELEPHANTS
  • relationship between people and elephants = so nicely revealed
  • his running his hands over elephants to analyze/diagnose them was so organic, advanced and impressively right
  • we liked it!

So disappointing to end such a great discussion with The Stupidest Conversation Ever:  Ryan Reynolds/Ryan Gosling, twins or not? [NOT!]

Next Meeting:  Kitty’s / Karen S’s book