Ode to My Umbrella + “Good Girl” by Sarah Tomlinson

11186438_10206509638641111_430250533_nI know it’s odd to write an ode to an umbrella, but I’m gonna do just that. Because every time I use this umbrella, it makes me happy. And it has been with me for quite awhile.

When I worked at Starbucks in the early Zeros, not too long after we were married (I talked all about my Starbucks years here and my coming to love coffee here), I got a lot of coffee paraphernalia. Awesome mugs, coffee grinders, a French press–all of which are still in use, some on a daily basis. My Starbucks was in Colorado, a nice one that was very busy in the heart of Denver’s Tech Center. We got some really great, cream of the crop stuff–including the umbrellas.

Now, Colorado doesn’t get tons of rain (and, when it does, it is immediately in jeopardy of floods, often of the flash variety). When there is rain, you can see it coming from far away and get inside. And, in the summer and even the fall, the rain usually comes in the late afternoon for maybe a half an hour, and then it’s over (there are exceptions to that rule, but that’s the gist of it). Umbrellas aren’t a big seller; at most you need the small, cheap ones. Or at least my family only had those, if we had them at all. Other than golf umbrellas that is, and those were used more often for sun on the course than for rain.

So, these larger, sturdier umbrellas weren’t big sellers in the fall of 2000. When I started at Starbucks in December, they were marking them down. And they still didn’t sell. I waited until they were REALLY cheap, and then snatched up two of them for even less with my discount.

I believe I gave one of them to my mother-in-law; she live in New Jersey and they actually got rain. And I hung onto one of them.

I quit working at Starbucks when I became pregnant in 2002, and I was working as a teacher. Libby (the baby in my belly) drained me too much for me to keep working two jobs. We moved a couple of time, gave birth to another baby, and then made the big move across country to Ohio.

Where it rains. A lot.

Now, I’m surprised that it didn’t get torn up in our closets in Colorado. Or our moves in Colorado. Or our move to Ohio. And, since we moved her in 2007, it has been used A LOT. It has been mistreated in our coat closet, left outside for a few daywpid-img_20150505_112055.jpgs, kicked around in the car.

And it’s still kicking ASS and keeping the rain off my head.

It’s a big umbrella, but not golf umbrella big. It’s perfect for one person or two people. It’s never ripped or bent, the up and down mechanisms still work really well. Even if you discount those first few years of non-use in Colorado, it is still been in steady use for about eight years. That’s a pretty handy umbrella.

A couple of weeks ago my husband began an organizing project in our garage. Hooks and bins and storage everywhere. And my umbrella got its own, special hook. I think it’s earned it.

I love that its basic black on the outside, but underneath it discusses the beauty and necessity of coffee in life (at least in my life). I love that it’s understated but long-lasted, getting the job done without flash or splash but with personality–much like myself.

I love that umbrella combines two things that go together so naturally in my mind–rain and coffee. And I love that this umbrella has been with me almost since the beginning of our marriage–nearly 15 years.

And I really hope I haven’t jinxed it by glorifying it in writing.

Okay, book time. Onto Sarah Tomlinson’s memoir: Good Girl.

I’m not a huge fan of memoirs, for the most part. They often seem whiny or self-aggrandizing, a little too much like you’re sitting next to someone and listening to every detail of their lives.

And it’s hard to critique a memoir, which is why I’ve put this off. It’s her story, and it’s seen from her eyes. The author may whine, or promote, but it’s their story seen from their eyes. It’s probably not whiny to the author.

That said, and taking out the things I don’t necessarily like about memoirs, this one wasn’t too bad.

The Premise

Sarah is bright, precocious child born to hippy parents in the 70’s. When her dad’s lifestyle and gambling force her mother to leave him, she and a few others head to rural Maine to live life on the land. She reunites with her college boyfriend, and bands with five other families to buy 100 acres.

Sarah’s upbringing is rural and bohemian, but she dreams of more, including more time with her father. His visitations into her life are hit or miss, making young Sarah believe that if she can just be good, he will show up more often.

Sarah is smart and ambitious, seeking more than her small high school and her bohemian home life. Acceptance into early college at age 15 (a special program at Bard College), Sarah seeks to grow closer to her father (a gambling, acid dropping, mystically ‘enlightened,’ itinerant taxi-driver) by growing up. While seeking a place to be safe and to fit in, Sarah’s life is scarred by a school shooting that shatters her small school.

Sarah’s tale continues with her search for meaning and growth, taking her back and forth from Maine, Oregon, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. She lives a big life in search of her place, and she shares it with us.

My Thoughts

Again, not a memoir fan. But Tomlinson’s story is interesting and engrossing. A child of divorce, seeking to connect with a father that is a little to introspective to realize what he is doing to his daughter, I can imagine that Sarah’s story is probably familiar to many children of the seventies and early eighties (when the Age of Aquarius folks were becoming parents). Her quest for more from life is familiar to me, although my life was much different.

Tomlinson is a gifted writer, and a pretty good storyteller. She does a good job of telling her story in a captivating, compelling way that I enjoyed. The fact that a memoir kept me reading is proof that it was pretty good.

I’ll give it 3. 5 stars.


Reunions and This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

10586823_10204414566265611_1933601858_oLast week I chronicled our great trip to my home state, Colorado. The reasons for this trip were two-fold, with many pleats in those folds. First off, it was time for my class reunion, so we kind of planned the trip around that, but also, family. We stayed with my cousin and her family, who graciously opened their home to us. She has two daughters who are pretty much the same age as my girls, and the four of them got along great (you never know, as the four of them haven’t been together for a couple of years). We would have just up and returned to Colorado if it wasn’t for our life in Ohio.

My mom and stepdad came up from Arizona to stay with her sister. My cousins (siblings of the cousin we stayed with) also came in for the weekend. So, it was a quasi family reunion; all except my brother. Who is mad at me right now because I don’t call him enough. So, just as well he didn’t come . . .

We also got to see Ted’s brother, who lives in Boulder. He’s an awesome young man, and we love seeing him.

The weekend started off with a class get-together on Friday night. Really fun. Not many people there, but I had a great time. It is amazing how you can fall back into friendships easily after so many years. We live in different parts of the US, have incredibly varied careers, raised or are raising children of incredibly different ages, and are of incredibly differing political ideals, we all fell into conversations just like it was yesterday. We laughed, drank, reminisced–all the stuff you would expect from a class reunion. Or at least a good class reunion.

Saturday night was different, but the same. We had two public high schools in Greeley, one semi-private (at the time affiliated with the University in town. Now it is a charter school). Saturday night we had all three schools together. It was great fun and awesome, but a little overwhelming. So many people from so many different facets of an old life, it was hard to put them all together. My brain hurt by the end of the night.

Sunday we, as a family, headed to Estes Park and had some family fun. Last summer that part of the Rockies flooded, along with towns down river (including Greeley, which is about 60 miles east of Estes). The destruction was incredible, as was the spirit to rebuild. Much of Estes is back, although a lot of the damage was still evident. But we had a great time; we bought sweatshirts, cruised the street, and hit the ‘fun plex’ for go-karts, bumper boats, bumper cars, and x-treme trampolining.











The rest of the week seemed to go by in a blur. We went to WaterWorld in North Denver, an10586979_10204421918329408_646403273_o incredible water park with tons of land. The girl’s had a great time on the slides and in the wave pool, and even Grandma and Grandpa got into the swing of things!


We got together with extended family (my mom’s cousins), went back to school clothes shopping, went to Boulder for dinner with Ted’s brother at an incredible Mediterranean restaurant (MED). Boulder does Gluten Free seriously, and that is so nice to see (the rest of the trip, especially on the road, we had more trouble, but made it work). It was so successful that we spent the trip home trying to figure out if it was feasible to move back. The answer is not at this particular moment, but in the future. Luckily, we live in a town we like and have a lot of good friends; if we were miserable, we would be moving heaven and earth to get back.

I miss and love Colorado and my family. One week was not long enough!!!

And now, This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.

The quirky, angst-driven Foxman family in Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave You is totally dysfunctional. But it works for them.

I fell in love with the Foxman family, mostly because they remind me of my own family (with whom I am spending an extended vacation as I finished this book), minus the Jewish part.

The family is thrown together when their pretty much religion-free father demands they sit Shiva for him on his death-bed. The story is mostly told by Judd Foxman, the third of four Foxman children, who is separated from his wife, jobless (because his wife slept with his boss), and living in the basement of a “crappy house.”

Judd is the author’s main focus, but we also get large doses of the rest of the family. Judd’s mother is a sexy older woman who is best known as the author of a well-known book on child-rearing. His older brother, Paul, is angry and resentful, the athlete whose career was stunted, and is now running the family sporting goods business (concidently, my family’s business, as well!). Wendy is his older sister, married to a wealthy, distracted man and caring for her three children. And Phillip, the good-looking younger brother who can’t keep his hands off pretty girls, even though he is engaged. Throw in neighbors and old friends, and you have a great story to which many and most can relate.

Coming together for seven days as adults means dealing with childhood issues that were never completely put aside compounded with adult issues. The Foxmans handle it all with just enough anger to be believable and enough sarcasm to be funny. You want to hug them and then laugh with them.

I read this because of its soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture status, and I’m very happy I did. Loved this book. I think the movie will be good, but I’m glad I read it first (as I usually am).