Category Archives: 2017

The Confusion of Languages

The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon

Hmm…. How do I feel about this book? I have to really think about that. It was a good book, but I guess what makes me rate is lower is that I did not like any of the main characters.

Cassie, while appropriately cautious about the culture and the military rules, is bitter about a lot of things in her life and almost seeks to bring Margaret down at times. A horrible personality flaw, but one that rings truthful, especially in military circles. Women can be vicious. How she acts toward her own husband, and with Margaret’s husband is also troubling. Her holier-than-thou attitude, even when she was technically correct, made me want to slap her.

Margaret is a little bit more likable and sympathetic of a character. Her naiveté is sometimes annoying. Almost like she knows better but acts clueless sometimes. She does not properly understand the implication of her actions, even when they get her into significant trouble the first time.

Both men are also flawed and have flawed interactions with their wives. Sad, but again often the case in military marriages.

Overwhelmingly, these characters felt like their story was written in a vacuum. There was minimal interaction with other characters on base. Possibly just because the story was focused on them, but it felt a little off. Usually on a base, there are way too many people up in your business. In this book, it felt like the Hugos and Brickshaws were on a military base on the moon and there were no other military spouses around. It was portrayed that Cassie felt alienated because she didn’t have any children, but all of it felt oddly disconnected. Even in a scene where a base party was thrown, there was minimal discussion of the other guests.

Ultimately, I think my relationship with this book feels like Cassie’s feelings toward Margaret. They would not have normally been friends, but due to a sense of military obligation you do your duty. You may not entirely like the other person, but you do want to help them out. At the end, I just wished that I had liked the book a little more. It was well done, but just didn’t capture me the way I really wanted it to.


I’ve never really been a non-fiction girl.  Most of the time, it is dry reading.  Boring. Facts and figures with very little to make me want to care about them.

Oddly enough though, I just finished one non-fiction book and am in the middle of another.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

I *loved* The Radium Girls! The author does an incredible job of telling their story. You almost do not even know that it’s non-fiction. It’s exciting, page-turning, suspenseful, and you really come to know the girls. The author gave them a life that endures. Their voice, their experiences, their suffering, their pluck and determination, their zest for life, their faith and loyalty… it is all amazing and inspiring.

I suppose you could say that I was already inclined toward this book, as I used to be a Nuclear Reactor Operator in the Navy. And to an extent, this is true. There is a certain wonder and fascination with radiologic material. But, in my time, also a healthy caution, respect, and sometimes fear. I live in an age which is after things like Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Chernobyl. We know of the power and destruction that fissile material can cause. We also know how it can be used in positive ways, including in the fields of medicine and power generation. I suppose you could say that I am a proponent of nuclear energy.

But reading this book gave me this sense of horror from the beginning. These girls were literally using it as makeup some evenings. *Coating* themselves in it. It made me want to reach over and pluck those brushes right out of their mouths and give lengthy lectures. Throughout the book, I was wondering about the lingering radioactivity of items that came in contact with the girls. Towards the end, the author commented on how a sister of one of the girls developed cancer later in life which was likely ascribed to the fact that the two girls had shared a bed. What about the radioactivity of their houses? Their beds? The plumbing that was surely coated in radium after they showered at the end of the day? The book describes the impact that the sites of USRC and Radium Dial had on their communities, but what about the effect the girls had on their neighborhoods? It leaves an Erin Brockovich question mark in the air.

I loved this book. Not because it was cheery, but because it is important. More than that, I came to really love the girls. I read this book when I probably should have been sleeping. In the middle of the night both Thursday and Friday night. Their story resonates with me and is not one that I will soon forget. I finished it sometime around 3 am this morning — all 496 pages of it. I had borrowed it from the library, having snatched it up from the New shelf. It had been published in April and I remember having been interested in it when I first saw it months ago in a Barnes & Noble, but it had fallen off my radar until recently when I paid my library fines and again went to pick up way too many books for me to possibly read before their return dates (Horrible, I know, but I can’t help taking too many and then owing money – my civic duty is monetarily supporting the library via fines, apparently).

I can only highly encourage everyone to read this book. Even if you only read one non-fiction book in a decade, read this one.

Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back by Nathan Bomey

This is another book that magically fell into my hands as I was perusing the library. I am only about half-way through this book. I originally checked it out from the library, but didn’t start it until after it was due. I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that it was on the HITS list and due back in a week. As soon as I got the email notice about it’s overdue status, I thought about reading it quickly before returning it, but at 336 dense pages, it was not likely that I would finish soon. So I returned it and purchased an audiobook version from Audible. This is what I have been listening due during my commutes to and from work this week.

I’ll have to say that it’s not nearly as engaging as The Radium Girls was, especially as it revolves around banks, politicians, and lawyers — not typically genres of interest for me. But I *do* have a fondness for Detroit and its people. The author does a good job of making a somewhat dry tale interesting and giving flavor to the main players surrounding Detroit’s bankruptcy and restructuring. I’ll let you know the rest of my thoughts after I finish the read (or listen, as the case may be).

One of my planner friends, Monica, turned me onto a podcast (and website) called What Should I Read Next (Modern Mrs. Darcy) by Anne Bogel. I’m constantly amazed by how many books they can mention in the course of a single podcast! It definitely feeds the bookworm in me and makes me want to read more. I think she is currently on episode 91, which gives me lots of catching up to do!

Not non-fiction, but this morning I took my car in for an oil change and started reading yet another library book. I’m about 90 pages into that one and will likely finish it sometime this weekend. I’m about to head out to the library to return The Radium Girls and have my eye on picking up a few more books. See you soon!

Go Wild 2017: Friday – Early Morning

The first full day of Go Wild!

Early Morning Turn-Out
I was only listed on the volunteer schedule from 12 pm to 10:30 pm on Wednesday for unloading/swag duty, but had checked in with Stephanie on Wednesday night and found that her calendar had me listed as working on Friday as Saturday as well, in addition to the all-hands-on-deck events (#swagfairy!).

All volunteers were to meet at 6:45 am at the ballroom for a run-down of how the day was going to go. I was excited to put on my Team Wild T-shirt and get ready for the day. I tried to coordinate with some grey eyeshadow, but it ended up looking odd. Kinda like the 70s blue eyeshadow debacle. Oh well. I cannot make-up. Usually, I barely manage to girl. I need lessons on how to be girly.

Rachel had headed down to the ballroom earlier, to get a place in line. Julia and I went to the ballroom and waited with all the other volunteers in the ballroom lobby, while an ever-growing line of attendees sat in a long snakey line in the lobby to the lobby (or whatever they called it).

I’m getting my days confused a bit at this point, but I think it was this morning, after we had our meeting and got our assignments, that the volunteer group went outside with the photographer to the patio and took a group shot of all of the volunteers. Looking at the photo (which I haven’t seen yet), I should be on the left-most side in the second row from the front. Yay for being short!

I was assigned to Spirit duty. Since I was too short to fit into the llama suit, I was going to be tossing beach balls into the crowd. Kemy and I ran down to the Ryman room and grabbed all the beach balls and carried them back to the ballroom. Correction: Kemy grabbed 4-5 garbage bags full of the smaller beach balls while I could only manage ONE GIANT beach ball. She had like 30 and I had 1. It was a little awkward to carry, so I held it over my head and danced with it as we passed the attendees waiting to enter the lobby at 8 am. I may have even dribbled it a little. We set the beach balls in the conference room and went about seeing where else we could help out last minute, while waiting for the conference to begin and everyone to come in.

I took this time to take a photo of Every. Single. Table. I didn’t get a chance to do this last year, because when the doors open, everyone floods into the room and you are consumed with finding your friends and figuring out where to sit (with your friends). By the time you have a seat, it’s hard to see all of the tables because of everyone already sitting at them. And usually there’s not a lot of time before the conference itself starts.

Sorry (not sorry) for anyone with a slow internet connection. There’s going to be a LOT of photos! Here are ALL of the tables! Enjoy!


Finally, it was time! The music was playing, the llama was on stage, I was dancing with my beach balls, and excitement was thick in the air! The doors opened and everyone started streaming into the room!

To be continued….

Go Wild 2017: Thursday Evening

Thursday evening is when Go Wild officially began with Registration starting at 6 pm, and the Happy Planner Happy Hour starting at 7 pm at The Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar in Downtown Nashville (about 20 minutes away).

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Go Wild itinerary by Kristin Damian of Krissyanne Designs

After cleaning up at the hotel, I decided to wander down to Ryman to see if they needed any help. I wasn’t scheduled, but if I could help, I’d like to. Most everything was finished in Ryman, so Betsy sent me up to Delta Ballroom A (where the conference was to be held) to see if anyone needed help up there.

Just inside the lobby to Delta Ballroom A. I was careful to not take any Top Secret photos. Don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone on accident!

It took 30 minutes and a couple miles, but I made it to the ballroom (I kid, but I can’t stress enough how big this place was!). There were only a few people in there decorating tables and some people setting up the Michael’s displays. No one needed any help at that time, and I didn’t want to be in the way, so I went back to Ryman. I took over blowing up some beach balls from Julie, then Marci needed a ride to The Big Bang to decorate the bar.

Jennifer Jones-Oliver, Marci Wagner, and I headed to downtown Nashville. It had started raining a little, so the roads had a slick on them. There was also a very steep section of road by the parking garage. I had to hold the brake until the last second when taking off from a stop so that I wouldn’t slide backwards into the car behind me. Once, the tires took a second to gain traction. OMG, Nashville! Are you trying to kill us? The parking garage entrance also wasn’t very intuitive (looked at first like a private entrance, so I passed it). I backed up most of the length of the alleyway to get back to the entrance, as Jennifer put it, “Like a real New Yorker!” Damn skippy!

Jennifer and I at set-up! I love her so much!

Kristin Damian of Krissyanne Designs had made decals for the bar, so we put these up on the mirror that ran the length of the stage, on the pianos, and even on the front of the bass drum! We put slips on the tables so people could request songs from the pianists, as well as slips for them to enter a giveaway from Happy Planner. We set out custom Happy Planner napkins on the tables and at the two bars, and put the special drink menus into frames, scattered throughout.

Drink menus. I tried the Llama Lemon Drop and Stephanie’s Strawberry Splash.

We finished just in the nick of time! Stephanie Fleming from Happy Planner and her group arrived just before 7 pm.



The pianists were hysterical and it was a great time! Everyone kept trying to get these guys to sing “girly” songs like Britney Spears and 90s music and they were both good sports and made it a very fun evening.

The front bar

The Big Bang was located on the second floor, with a patio area overlooking the street. A great space to hang out and people-watch.

Downtown Nashville, Broadway St.

It didn’t fill up immediately, as people were still back at the hotel registering (and it was a 20 minute drive once you got an Uber/Lyft), but it really wasn’t too long before the bar was packed!

You can’t see the whole place in one shot. There’s a front and a back bar and an extensive porch/patio/loft area.

Marci and I had fun calling to arriving Llamas from the balcony!

Even our Llama mascot made an appearance at the bar!

Stephanie with the Happy Planner giveaways! Also, everyone who attended received a Happy Planner pin!

About 10:30 pm or so, Marci and I decided to head back to the hotel. It had been a lot of fun, but we were tired and Marci hadn’t gotten anything to eat yet! Jennifer volunteered to stay until close and clean up.

Marci’s table

We snuck back into the ballroom when we returned to check on Marci’s table. It looked incredible. All of the table sponsors had used the time during the Happy Planner Happy Hour to decorate all the tables for Friday morning. We didn’t stay long, and I actually did not try to look at everything. I like to keep some things a bit of a surprise, even for myself.

This late at night, all of the hotel restaurants were closed, as well as room service. The Conservatory Cafe (Faux Starbucks) by my room was open 24 hours, so I picked up a sandwich, coffee, and snack-size hummus and crackers. $18. Such is resort eating.

My roommates, Rachel Donlin and Julia Miller, returned shortly and we went to bed. Julia and I had to be up and at the ballroom at 6:45 am for an all-hands volunteer meeting, while Rachel wanted to be up and in line (to get into the ballroom) even earlier! One of the best reason for volunteering, outside of getting to make people happy? Not having to sit in line for two hours waiting for the conference to open every morning. Truth.

By the end of this day, I had over 20,000 steps recorded on my Fitbit. Buffie, I think, had the high water mark for the day, with over 25,000 steps. I should have initiated a Fitbit challenge, had I been thinking about it. I definitely would have blown my friends out of the water!

Go Wild 2017: Thursday Morning and Afternoon

Early Morning
I woke up (and woke up my roommates) at 5 am, because I forgot to turn off the alarm on my phone. But we had planned on waking early anyway. For some reason.

I didn’t have any volunteer duties scheduled this day, so I used my time to meet up with some planner friends (Isa Wilson, Kay Matuschka, and Lois and Scott Evans; Lois is Buffie’s aunt) who had eaten breakfast at the Cascades American Café. I crashed their table with my venti Starbucks.

After eating, we spent some time wandering around the resort. The Gaylord Opryland is really beautiful. FREAKING HUGE but beautiful, with water features, plants, and natural lighting everywhere.

(Sorry, not sorry, but this post may or may not have a billion photos.)

Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center
The hotel is HUGE, but luckily, each area has different carpeting, so you can kinda figure out where you are. This is the hallway to our room in the Garden section.

Wayfinding: From this photo’s perspective, you are standing at the Starbucks in the Garden section, looking at the Conservatory Skywalk, which will take you across and above the Garden section, connecting with the Cascades section (where the hotel lobby lives).

There were three of these large atriums, and Atrium rooms had these adorable balconies with wrought iron bars, tables, and chairs. I wasn’t able to snag one of these rooms, but can imagine that they would have been a lovely place to hang out in the morning with your planner and a cup of coffee, enjoying the atrium view. On the downside, the atrium can get a little noisy and our room was a lot quieter. Not that we were in our room much.

There were a lot of restaurants in the hotel. Most of them cost an arm and a leg, with the notable exception of the Mexican place with the reported $3.50 tacos. I never ate there, but wanted to. Sometimes, you’d spy a restaurant, but have no idea how to navigate to the entrance. This place was a maze of ups and downs, elevators that only went to certain floors, and mysterious Staff Only passageways.

Big guitar. Because Nashville is known for music or something?

Wayfinding: From the Starbucks, if you walk AWAY from the Cascades section, you will reach brown carpeting (Magnolia section), pictured here. Continue down the hallway until it ends to reach Fuse (restaurant/bar) and the other 2 bars where Planjama will be held. I didn’t find this out until later on Wednesday, but going to Fuse, then down the staircase was a MUCH SHORTER trip to Ryman than the circuitous route through Delta (and ALL AROUND the hotel) that I had been taking. Of course, by time I figured this out, we were all but done with working in the Ryman room. Alas.

Cascades American Café had a small aquarium tank. Most of my pictures were blurry, except for this one of the puffer fish, who refused to puff up for me, even when I tapped on the glass.

I took a TON of photos this morning. So many. You may think, OMG! Jennie! Enough with the pictures already! BUT! I really *am* practicing restraint. Don’t believe me? Here’s the link to my Flickr account with ALL of the photos. All 673 of them. And I haven’t uploaded my video files yet. Muahahahaha!

Surrounding the Cascades American Café and between the lobby and the escalators to the Garden section is this koi pond. Also, where a bunch of waterfalls can be found. Hence, “Cascades.”


Cascades American Café

Fish with fancy fins

One of the waterfalls – longer exposure


Pretty Isa

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Isa and I (left) in Cascades

Lois and Scott Evans

Waterfall – long and short exposures

I love palm trees! And they were everywhere!



Wayfinding: If you stand just inside the Cascades atrium outside the lobby, looking at the lobby, walk down the sidewalk to the right (away from the Cascades American Café) and up the stairs. Above the lobby level, you will find yourself at the spa. Go through these wooden double doors and down the corridor to the right to get to the fitness center and pools.

Fitness center

Outdoor pool

Juice, Tea, Gatorade, and Water vending machine

I totally face-snuggled one of these robes. Not even sorry. It was so soft and luxurious!

Indoor pool

Wayfinding: From the lobby, walk straight over the bridge over the koi pond between the double waterfalls (on the left) and Cascades American Café (on the right) to these escalators. They will take you to the Garden section, and subsequently, the Magnolia section. For Delta, make a hard right before you get to the escalators.

Opry Mills
After wandering around Cascades for a while, we decided to go to the Opry Mills mall, which is right outside the Gaylord Opryland property. Thankfully, I had valeted my car and it only took 5 minutes for them to retrieve it!
I don’t think they know I took this. Heeheehee. [Rachel Donlin, Susan Basnett, Kay Matuschka, Nicole Cocci-Mayer]

Ironically, I had Bourbon Chicken from a Cajun place in the mall. #GeauxWild and #GoWildYAll mashup!

After I tried on a bunch of clothes in a store (but didn’t end up getting any), Holly and I were separated from the rest of the group. We were then waylaid by some flirty vendors. I flirted right back, shamelessly, and let him tell me I was pretty, while he basically gave me a mini facial in the mall. I bought some of his products, as they also supported the Holy Land. Unfortunately, this ate up a bit of time, but he was really funny, so it was like a performance. I don’t think I really missed out on the mall experience because of it.

Grand Ole Opry House
On the way back to the hotel, Holly and I made a quick stop at the Grand Ole Opry.

It was super windy, so all my selfies look awful.



I dropped off the car at the valet, freshened up in the hotel room, and went back into volunteer mode!