Favorite Female Protagonists

My favorite fictional female protagonists! Who are yours?


My friend Anna has a great new section on her blog, which she cheekily dubbed a “lady list” in the great unveiling post earlier this week.   It’s a huge list of books, fiction and nonfiction, that she calls her “feminist reading list.”

This is not a list of my own feminist reading list, although, it would be dang fun to make one, and I could.  A lot of my exploration of feminism started as a way to wrap my mind around body image: both my own and the way the media and culture portray female body image.  I wrote about that a while ago here.   Instead, her list inspired me to make a list of female protagonists who I have loved, and who have influenced my life in big ways and small.

My favorite female protagonists


  • Laura Ingalls Wilder in the Little House on the Prairie Series.
  • Stargirl in Stargirl by J. Spinelli
  • Jo Alcott, particularly in Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
  • Frankie in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart.
  • Kit Tyler in The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Dicey Tillerman in Cynthia Voight’s Tillerman Homecoming Cycle
  • Meg Murray in A Wrinkle in Time by Madelene L’Engle
  • Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery

Here’s what I realized while making this list

1. Categorizing books on goodreads is too much fun.  Like 45 minutes of mindless fun.

2.  Female protagonists were way more important to me as a tween and teen than they are now.  When I look at the books I’ve loved and the female characters of adult fiction, they don’t resonate with me as deeply as the “girls” I grew up with listed above.  I suppose the notable exception is Kristin Lavransdatter, from the epic trilogy I read last winter.

3. Should I be ashamed (upset?) that my heroines in fiction are so predictable?  I mean, Anne Shirley and Laura Ingalls Wilder top quite a few “best of” lists.  However, that is also why those lists are also “best” lists, because the characters are loveable.

How about you – Who are your favorite female protagonists?


My Favorite Movies

Nothing to do in snowstorms but make lists of favorite movies. Oh yeah, and shovel.

Yellow Movie Posters

Remember college?  It seemed soooo important to have a list of favorite movies, bands, and books on the tip of your tongue.  As though, you might come across a potential best friend, and only your mutual appreciation for Bright Eyes would cement the relationship.  If you asked me what my favorites were, I knew them faster than my social security number. It was delicious to fill out profiles online, prove my erudition, or reveal guilty pleasures.  Since those days though, I don’t put as much stock in favorites, and it seems like filling out profiles is passe.

In the space when I was going to grad school and parenting a toddler, it seemed like there wasn’t enough time for 2 hour movies, only 30 minute TV shows.

But, in the midst of another epic blizzard for Boston, there has been some time to think about my favorite movies.

So long old favorites.

  • Empire Records
  • The Emperor’s New Groove
  • Fight Club
  • 10 Things I Hate about You
  • I heart Huckabees
  • Garden State

These are my new favorites.

  • Lars and the Real Girl
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Short Term 12
  • Starbuck
  • She’s out of my League
  • Looper

And this is my favorite commentary on movie posters. I‘m a sucker for big independent films.

10 New Year’s Resolutions I wish I’d made

10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 that I didn’t make, but had 100% success meeting.

Ah… the smell of New Years Resolutions!  The scent of goal-setting for 2015 is in the air.  Which is why I thought I’d take a minute and list the 10 New Years Resolutions I should have made in 2014 for ultimate successful achievement.

  1. Learn 90% of the countries in Africa.
  2. Volunteer over 100 hours.
  3. Make at least 3 new mom friends.
  4. Set aside money for Christmas gifts each month.
  5. Gain 5 pounds.
  6. Participate in a Craft Fair.
  7. Be the #1 NSCBC church softball fan.
  8. Take a business strategy MOOC (and pass).
  9. Read over 75 books and listen to at least one book on tape.
  10. (make my husband) Paint/Update the bedroom.

I’m getting sick of my New Years Resolutions practices, which have basically been the same the last 3-4 years.  This isn’t to say they haven’t been effective, or that I haven’t learned something.  Any time I’ve made a goal, and reflected on the process of achieving or discarding that goal, I’ve learned something about my habits, personality, motivation and abilities.  In fact, in most years, the practice of setting and attempting NYR has been most of the fun.

But… next year I’d like to try something different.  At the moment, I’m trying to decide between going with a word/phrase approach – like many bloggers who have set themes like “Simplify” or “Take Risks.” Approaching the daily business of life with a specific lens certainly appeals to me… and provides a specific way to reflect each month.

Or, there’s always simply filling out a chart, or other cute resolution template that I can search for via Pinterest.

Who knows, maybe I’ll abandon the idea of New Year’s Resolutions totally!

30 by 30 Countdown

With 6 months to go I’ve completed 7/30 items on my #30by30 list. Read more to see which ones I’ve done, and which ones have been the most trouble.

My 30th’s birthday is 6 months away – and I’ve done… 7 things. On the bright side, between September 8 and October 8 has been my most productive month – I hit 4 of them!

Galaxy Hill 27 Galaxy Hill 42 Galaxy Hill 41 Galaxy Hill 40 Galaxy Hill 38

4 Goals I finished in the last month:

  1. Finished my Masters Degree – I turned in my last assignment midway through September and Friday October 10th I finalized my paperwork for graduation. Although I won’t officially be graduated till December, or get my diploma until March, or be able to walk until May… (seriously. All that is kind of depressing)…. I am done with the work part!
  2. Attended a Professional Conference – NEHRA conference in Worcester on October 8, and I heard some great speakers, learned some great tools in my field, and yes, came home with a fistful of business cards.
  3. Went on a Weekend Road Trip – A friend recently asked me “Can you ever have as much fun with your friends if you all bring along your kids too?” A weekend long trip to VT with my ConnectShore buddies answered the question with a resounding yes. At one point we foolishly all tried to sit down to an adult type dinner with candles. I lit the candles – with great expectations – and they were quickly extinguished.  But hikes in the woods, apple picking, eating and so.much.laughter. really made the weekend amazing.  Different fun… but still very fun.  (See the above photos!)
  4. Went to a Wine Tasting – I tried a weekly wine tasting with a friend in Salem.  It was less pretentious than I thought, but as Marta pointed out, they do it every week.  I’m not necessarily sure I expanded my knowledge of wine – but I was happy.

3 Goals I’m having the most trouble with right now:

  1. Learning 4 new functions on my camera – I found a meetup group to join… but then the focus started going wonky on my Nikon D3100.   I’ve been seriously procrastinating on getting it looked at because it seems like a hassle.
  2. Running the 66% of the North Shore Trail Series – I thought it would be good to put a percentage on this goal- since SMART goals are well, smart. But then… life happened and I can’t make the percentage goal.   So, I will only run 3 of the races this year. My younger self – my black and white self- would declare this a failure. My wiser, older, more moderate self sees that challenging myself to try and run trail races, something I haven’t done in 10 years, helped to reinvigorate my love of running.
  3. Deciding what to do with this blogI love blogging. I’ve blogged for a long time, even here at this site!  But… I see the world of blogging is so different now than it was 5, 10 years ago…. I just can’t decide if I want to keep it personal, launch a more professional site, or … just keep on keeping on in the way that I do.

2 Goals in progress right now that I’m really excited about:

  1. Becoming a mentor – I volunteered to be a mentor for a freshman undergrad student at Salem State, and although the first student I was paired with dropped out of the program, I’m still optimistic about being part of a way to give back to an educational institution where I had a positive experience and share some of my hard won career and life skills.
  2. Getting a job – After going to the conference and new connections, I’m more excited than ever to continue reaching out to others, researching positions, and (hopefully soon) getting some interviews.

1 Thing I’m keeping in mind

Sure I’ve only done 7 things… but like my friend Emily said over at Relishments a week or so ago about her 101 in 1001 days list”many of these items were too specific for who I was when I wrote it and as things changed in my life, the list didn’t.”

Plans and priorities shift, roles change, and sometimes a list just shows a past self you aren’t sure you still want to be. 

Some of these things won’t get done… but I’m still excited to see how many I can do.

Here’s to the next 6 months!

All Growing Up 30by30

30 Before 30 List

Birthday Cake!
Birthday Cake!

Here is my 30 before 30 list.

Tackling Nagging “Adult” things.

  1. Finish Master’s Degree.
  2. Join a Professional Association.
  3. Buy a suit.
  4. Go to a conference.
  5. Get a job.
  6. Save 2 months of living expenses.
  7. Floss daily.

Go on (local) Adventures.

  1. Go on a weekend Road Trip.
  2. Run 6/9 Races of the North Shore Trail Series.
  3. Try yoga paddleboarding.
  4. Go to the Boston Harbor Islands .
  5. Eat at the Top of the Hub.

Continue to be a Navel Gazer.

  1. Go on a retreat to L’Abri.
  2. Make a wedding photo album.
  3. Update the 5 Year plan for our family.
  4. Send thank-you letters to three people who have had a big influence in my life.
  5. Start a new Blog.
  6. Write my 20’s in a long form essay.

Keep Learning.

  1. Take a cooking (or art) class.
  2. Go to a wine tasting.
  3. Try a new fitness style (adult gymnastics? TRX?).
  4. Take an Economics 101 MOOC.
  5. Learn Graphic Design Basics.
  6. Write a book proposal – or – Submit a story to Relevant/ Her.meneutics.
  7. Learn how to do 4 new functions on my camera (eg: white balance).

Get (even more) Social.

  1. Learn how to make 5 drink recipes from memory.
  2. Reconnect with a few high school friends.
  3. Become a Mentor.
  4. Host a story-telling party.
  5. Organize a group camping trip.

Some thoughts on the process –

It was both easier and harder to make this list than I thought.

Easier because…On the one hand, I feel as though the last five years taught me a lot of the types of lessons people vow to fix when they turn 30 (for example to get more organized or have better time management skills.  Not that I’m perfect, obviously).  And… I don’t feel my biological clock ticking because having an unplanned kid means at least I got that accomplished early.  I didn’t struggle with trying to pick which bad habit to fix – it was easy.  I do need to floss every day, and I’m currently terrible at it.

On the other hand… I wish I had the money to put international travel on the list, or take a lot more costly classes and experiences (sky diving – yeah, I would have tried that).  I don’t need more money to be happy, I am happy, but… it would have made for a more adventuresome list and I’m very envious of those that are travelling a lot more than I am.

And now… I plan to print the list off and stick it in my study space so I can work on it over the next year.


Tackling To Do Lists

Understanding (your) Self:

In my social psychology class one week we studied the concept of The Self.  Roy Baumeister, author of the popular book Willpower, and editor of the text my class used, proposes that there are three basic roots, or areas of study, when considering selfhood: Self Awareness, Interpersonal Relations (how others perceive us), and Self- Control (how we make and achieve goals).

Since Self-Control is fascinating to me as a person trying to navigate this ‘growing up’ thing, I paid particular attention to that section of the text. I grinned when Baumeister cited some research that confirmed my personal experience that “self awareness is essentially for the sake of self-regulation.” Self regulation is therefore necessary to achieve goals.  My initial impressions of adulthood are that most of it is an exercise in self-control.

Self Control and Adulthood:

Well, in order to achieve anything long term (and in direct contrast to childhood – almost everything necessary to function in adulthood is long term – owning and caring for property, paying bills, contributing meaningfully to society, raising children…etc) you need to have a certain level of knowledge and mastery – which is mostly achieved through self-controlled study or experience.

Which leads to another personal conclusion that to-do lists are a necessary tool of adulthood in a modern world where we’ve got dozens of competing goals we need to decide between prioritizing.  BUT… even though tackling to-do lists will help you get many things done – depending on your level of energy, time, and motivation you might find it impossible to check things off.

This is why I think it is equally important to categorize things to do and then use the right strategy for tackling the To-Do list. I don’t think you can always accomplish tasks in the same way each time, mainly because you become accustomed to that particular approach and then start slacking off.  There’s a similar phenomenon in dieting – people get bored of eating cottage cheese, salads, and chicken every day so they start seeking novelty – and fall off the bandwagon.

Here are 3 of my strategies for tackling to-do lists and achieving focus.

Note: These strategies are particularly for tackling mental work.

3 Things Method

The Three Things Method:

Every 2 weeks I make a list of mental tasks that need to get done – generally things I can’t accomplish with my son around. This allows me to identify what times are useable (nap time, bed time) and what times aren’t (the witching hour 5-7pm). Then depending on the day and amount of time available, I pick 3 things (the most important on the list!) and focus on ONLY those 3 things – nothing else on the master list.  Clearing my mind of the other items makes it easier for me to focus.

Checkbox Method

The Checkbox Method:

I have a weak prospective memory – or in other words – I’m easily distractable. (Doesn’t the first one sound so much better?!).  I might sit down to read a book, then remember I need to answer an email, and find myself reading a newspaper article which prompts me to check my bank account.  It’s easy (for me) to lose an hour of productivity that way. Which is why, when I often start work I take a scrap piece of paper and make a series of boxes.  Each box represents 15 minutes of focus on a task.  If I complete 15 minutes of focus, I check it off.  If I don’t, I X it.  I feel a certain level of shame if I look at more than 2 boxes with an X in them, which prompts me to try harder to focus.  In my experience – focus begets more focus… and I can usually con myself into just fifteen more minutes of work.

Categorize Method

The Balanced Modes Method:

On my master mental tasks lists there are generally three types of tasks: thinking, reading, and writing. Although I sometimes have the energy to tackle 3 reading items… I often don’t. Who can read 100 pages of psychology textbook at once?  Answer: Not me.  So, I try and balance the tasks that I accomplish by switching between two modes.  First I’ll read for a set amount of time or length – then I’ll write for set amount of time or length.


I also like Gretchin Rubin’s 15 Minute “Tackle a  Nagging task” method which I read about in “The Happiness Project” (highly recommend!).  Sometimes tasks are so tedious, or difficult, or simply abhorrent that you can’t do it,  So, you break the task down into 15 minute pieces and you commit to doing 15 minutes (and ONLY 15 minutes) on the task every day until it’s complete.  This works for mental tasks AND other household tasks.

Could you see yourself using any of these strategies?  Do you have other strategies to get yourself through your to-do lists?

Subjective Hierarchy of Popular Novels

I’ve spent most of today, a bit of yesterday reading Gone Girl.  I like it.

I only read about 33% fiction each year (see this bar graph) half of which are probably YA novels and  then a classic or two. I’m still slowly working my way through The Brothers Karamazov; last year I reread The Great Gatsby.  This year I may try for a re-read of Of Human Bondage since I loved it so much five years ago. Re-reading becomes so much sweeter the older I get.

I admit, I really like fiction where the psychological aspects are in your face.  That is… until I find it aggressively in your face, I mean you Cloud Atlas.

I decided to make this little chart I’ve affectionately titled:

Beth’s Subjective Hierarchy of Popular Novels.

Subjective Hierarchy of Novels