Wednesday, June 29, 2016

More summer reading

The Paris Key - Juliet Blackwell

As a girl, Genevieve Martin spent the happiest summer of her life in Paris, learning the delicate art of locksmithing at her uncles' side.  But since then, living back in the States, she has become more private, more subdued.  She has been an observer of life rather than an active participant, holding herself back from those around her, including her soon-to-be ex-husband.

Paris never really left Genevieve and, as her marriage crumbles, she finds herself faced with an incredible opportunity: to return to the magical city of her youth to take over her late uncle's shop.  But as she absorbs all that Parisian culture has to offer, she realizes that the city also holds secrets about her family that could change her forever, and that locked doors can protect you or imprison you, depending on which side of them you stand.

** An easy summer read that will stay with you about as long as it takes to read it.  The only thing sticking in my mind several weeks after reading it is the number of times the term "groin vault," or its derivatives, was used.  It probably wasn't even that many times, but if you remember it afterwards, it was probably still too many.

The Longest Night - Andria Williams

In 1959, Nat Collier moves with her husband, Paul, and their two young daughters to Idaho Falls, a remote military town.  An Army Specialist, Paul is stationed there to help oversee one of the country's first nuclear reactors - an assignment that seems full of opportunity.

Then, on his rounds, Paul discovers that the reactor is compromised, placing his family and the entire community in danger.  Worse, his superiors set out to cover up the problem rather than fix it. Paul can't bring himself to tell Nat the truth, but his lies only widen a growing gulf between them.

Lonely and restless, Nat is having trouble adjusting to their new life.  She struggles to fit into her role as a housewife and longs for a real friend.  When she meets a rancher, Esrom, she finds herself drawn to him, comforted by his kindness and company.  But as rumors spread, the secrets between Nat and Paul build and threaten to reach a breaking point.

Based on a true story of the only fatal nuclear accident to occur in America, The Longest Night is a deeply moving novel that explores the intricate makeup of a marriage, the shifting nature of trust, and the ways we try to protect the ones we love.

** The most interesting part of this story was the part about the nuclear incident, mostly because I have been to Idaho Falls several times and have driven past the nuclear plant and had never heard about the accident.  I am not sure if the author knows much about Mormons, or just knew there were Mormons in Idaho and therefore made Esrom, the love interest, a Mormon.  A interesting-enough read about an interesting time in American history.

We are the Ants - Shaun David Hutchinson

There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn't.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes.  He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend.  He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer's.  And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn't know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn't know they they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship.  He doesn't know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have.  And they've only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving.  That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters.  But before Henry can save the world, he's got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven't given him a button for that.

** I am not very particular about what I read, but I tend to go for the same types of things (what Bryce describes as "any book with a house on a prairie on the cover").  I have been trying to make myself get one book that I would not normally choose each time I go to the library.  This was my "not my usual" choice this time.  It is categorized as juvenile lit, but I wouldn't want my juveniles reading it.  The characters are well-written. The alien side story is just that, a random side story.  I imagine that somewhere there are teenagers experiencing life similarly to the characters in this story, but the constant casual sex and drug use is not exactly what I enjoy reading about nor a picture of adolescence I want my children to emulate. It was a good visualization of the hell that an LGBTQ teenager might go through daily though, or just a reminder that the teenage years can be hard for anyone to navigate.

Once We Were Brothers - by Ronald H. Balson

Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fund-raiser when he is suddenly accosted by Ben Solomon and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc.  Although the charges are denounced, his accuser is convinced he is right and engages attorney Catherine Lockhart to bring Rosenzweig to justice. Solomon reveals that the true Piatek was abandoned as a child and raised by Solomon's own family, only to betray them during the Nazi occupation.  But has Solomon accused the right man?

Once We Were Brothers is the compelling tale of two boys and a family who fight to survive in war-torn Poland, and a young love that struggles to endure the unspeakable cruelty of the Holocaust.  Two lives, two worlds, and sixty years converge in an explosive race to redemption that makes for a moving and powerful tale of love, survival, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit.

** My favorite of my library grabs for that week. I happened to read it the same week as the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. There was also a story in the news about a Nazi guard who had just been convicted of war crimes.  So it was a timely read, if nothing else.  Fortunately there was something else to recommend it. The story is engaging and the characters are interesting.  You actually care about what happens to them.  Instead of just telling Ben's story in the past, the author tells the story by having Ben recount it to his attorney.  This was the only aspect of the book that I did not like. It seemed very contrived and it was awkward to break in the middle of the story of Ben's childhood because the attorney "has a meeting" or "needs to call it a night" or "it's time for a snack" or whatever reasons were used to break up the story.  I wish the WWII parts of the story had just been told without the storytelling gimic.  I am not explaining that very well, so probably none of that makes sense unless you read the book.

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder (Herringford & Watts Mysteries) - Rachel McMillan

In 1910 Toronto, most bachelor girls are perfecting their domestic skills and finding husbands.

But Merinda Herringford and Jem Watts have never been ordinary.  As the two detectives launch their business, the deaths of young Irish women lead them deep into the mire of the city's underbelly.

While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest.  Merinda could well become Toronto's premier consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever - if they can stay alive long enough to do so.

** A fun take on a Sherlock Holmes and Watson story, except the two main characters are women. A quick read, nothing graphic or unsavory (at least not that I remember a couple weeks later!).  I will read the next one in the series.

The Revolving Door of Life (A 44 Scotland Street novel) - by Alexander McCall Smith

Things are looking up for seven-year-old Bertie Pollock.  The arrival of his spirited grandmother and the absence of his meddlesome mother - who is currently running a bookclub in a Bedouin harem (don't ask) - bring unforeseen blessings: no psychotherapy, no Italian lessons, and no yoga classes.  Meanwhile, surprises await Scotland Street's grown-ups.  Matthew makes a discovery that could be a major windfall for his family.  Pat learns a secret about her father's fiancee.  And the Duke of Johannesburg finds himself in sudden need of an explanation - and an escape route - when accosted by a determined guest at a soiree.

From the cunning schemes of the Association of Scottish Nudists to the myriad expressive possibilities of the word "aye," Alexander McCall Smith guides us through the risks and rewards of friendship, love, and family with his usual inimitable wit and irresistible charm.

** I like anything McCall Smith writes.  Quick reads with familiar characters, full of observations about what makes people people. The Scotland Street novels always make me feel ignorant about art and literature and philosophy, but that is my fault and not the story's. Each Scotland Street book ends with a poem.  I particularly enjoyed this one as I read this story at about the same time as the shootings at the night club in Orlando:

"The remarkable thing about love
Is that it is freely available,
Is as plentiful as oxygen,
Is as joyous as a burn in spate,
And need never run out.
And yet, for all its plenitude,
We ration it so strictly and forget
Its curative properties, its subtle
Ability to make the soul-injured
Whole-again, to make the lonely
Somehow assured that their solitude
Will not last forever; its promise
That if we open our heart
It is joy and resolution
That will march in triumphant
Through he gates we create . . .

 . . . Love cannot solve
Every human problem, but it makes
A start on a solution."

A Doubter's Almanac - by Ethan Canin

Milo Andret is born with an unusual mind.  A lonely child growing up in the woods of northern Michigan in the 1950s, he gives little thought to his own talent.  But with his acceptance at U.C. Berkeley he soon realizes  the extent, and the risks, of his singular gifts.  California in the seventies is a seduction, opening Milo's eyes to the allure of both ambition and indulgence.  The research he begins there will make him a legend; the woman he meets there - and the rival he meets alongside her - will haunt him for the rest of his life.  For Milo's brilliance is entwined with a dark need that soon grows to threaten his work, his family, even his existence.

Spanning seven decades as it moves from California to Princeton to the Midwest to New York, A Doubter's Almanac tells the story of a family as it explores the way ambition lives alongside destructiveness, obsession alongside torment, love alongside grief.  It is a story of how the flame of genius both lights and scorches every generation it touches.  Graced by stunning prose and brilliant storytelling, A Doubter's Almanac is a surprising, suspenseful, and deeply moving novel, a major work by a writer who has been hailed as "the most mature and accomplished novelist of his generation."

** I am conflicted about this book. It is well-written.  The characters are complex and believable, although not generally very likable.  The main character is a math genius and there is a lot of math in this novel.  Math which I did not understand at all.  It doesn't effect your understanding of the story, however.  There is a lot of drug use in the story, with descriptions of its effects.  Not having much interest in drug use, I didn't find this theme all that interesting.  This is one of those stories about people that seems like it could be about real people, but also makes you a little depressed thinking about how screwed up people are.  The story did indeed span seven decades, and took about that long to read.

She Poured Out Her Heart - by Jean Thompson

Tracing the complicated friendship of two very different women who meet in college, She Poured Out Her Heart is a novel of remarkable psychological suspense, crafted by National Book Award finalist Jean Thompson.

The night that Jane and Bonnie meet on a college campus sets them on paths forever entwined.  Bonnie, the wild and experimental one, always up for anything, has spent the past two decades bouncing between ill-fated relationships, while Jane's seemingly perfect life, all but materialized out of a fantasy.  But these appearances contradict the quiet, inescapable doubt Jane feels about her life.  One night, in the middle of her own Christmas party, she steps outside into the snow, removes her clothing and shoes, and lies down in the backyard.  When she is discovered, nothing is the same for anyone.  As Jane begins to have visions and retreat into a private inner world, Bonnie finds herself drawn inevitably into an affair with Jane's husband.

Thompson's mystery of complex emotion begets a novel about desire and the nature of love - who we love, how we're loved, and, most important, how we reach urgently and always for a higher love, regardless of our circumstances.  She Poured Out Her Heart is a finely wrought, haunting story of female friendship and deception, and the distance in between.

** I wouldn't call this a mystery and I must have missed the psychological suspense.  Sex scenes aren't my thing, and there were plenty to skip over. Any book that centers on an "inevitable" affair is not likely to be a favorite of mine. I am not really a fan of stories that seem to want us to feel bad for the poor people that can only find love with someone who happens to already be married.  I understand that affairs are nothing new or rare, I just don't particularly enjoy reading about them.

A Handful of Dust - by Evelyn Waugh

After seven years of marriage, the beautiful Lady Brenda Last has grown bored with life at Hetton Abbey, the Gothic mansion that is the pride and joy of her husband, Tony. She drifts into an affair with the shallow socialist John Beaver and forsakes Tony for the Belgravia set.  In a novel that combines tragedy, comedy, and savage irony, Evelyn Waugh indelibly captures the irresponsible mood of the "crazy and sterile generation" between the wars.

** This book was a gift from a book-loving friend.  I am glad I looked up the author before I started reading.  The cover design made me think the book was contemporary fiction, but it was actually copyrighted in 1934.  I also didn't realize that Evelyn is a man. :-)  Since he seems to have been a prolific author, I am somewhat surprised that I haven't heard of Mr. Waugh before - or, at least, I don't remember if I have.  This book makes a lot more sense, and is probably a lot more enjoyable, if you have read some of the turn of the century British novelists or books from this time period.  Since it is almost satire, it is probably just confusing if you read it without any context.  Fortunately, I spent a whole college course reading tragic British novels so I enjoyed this one.


Thursday, June 02, 2016

Summer Reading 2016

The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe - Alexander McCall Smith

   The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency often helps people find things they have lost.  But they have never had to help a client find herself - until now, in this latest installment ofAlexander McCall Smith's best-selling and beloved series.
   A kindhearted brother and sister have taken in a woman known only as "Mrs." - a woman with no memory of her name or of how she came to Botswana.  And so it's up to Precious Ramotswe and her new co-director, Grace Makutsi, to discover the woman's identity.
   Meanwhile, motherhood proves to be no obstacle to Mma Makutsi's professional success.  As she settles into her role as partner at the agency, she also launches a new enterprise of her own: the Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe, a restaurant for Gaborone's most fashionable diners.  But even Miss 97 Per Cent isn't fully prepared for the temperamental chefs, drunken waiters, and other challenges that come with running one's own business.  Help may come from an unexpected source, if only Mma Makutsi can swallow her pride and ask.
   And next door to the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is all too familiar with the difficult decisions of business owners.  He is finally forced to make a tough choice, one that will bring major changes to both Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors and the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - at that will require all of Mma Ramotswe's finesse and patience to sort out.
   With sympathy and indefatigable good humor, Mma Ramotswe and her friends see one another through these major changes and discover along the way what true friendship really means.

**** I think I have read all of McCall Smith's books.  Each one is like a chat with an old friend.  Familiar characters and slightly-mysterious mysteries make for quick reads that are always entertaining.

The Year of the Runaways - Sunjeen Sahota
 
   Three young men, and one unforgettable woman, come together in a journey from India to England, where they hope to begin something new - to support their families; to build their futures; to show their worth; to escape the past.  They have almost no idea what awaits them.
   In a dilapidated shared house in Sheffield, Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his life in Bihar.  Avtar and Randeep are middle-class boys whose families are slowly sinking into financial ruin, bound together by Avtar's secret.  Randeep, in turn, has a visa wife across town, whose cupboards are full of her husband's clothes in case the immigration agents surprise her with a visit.
   She is Narinder, and her story is the most surprising of them all.
    The Year of the Runaways unfolds over the course of one shattering year in which the destinities of these four characters become irreversibly entwined, a year in which they are forced to rely on one another in ways they never could have foreseen, and in which their hopes of breaking free of the past are decimated by the punishing realities of immigrant life.

**** I am not very familiar with Indian culture, so I am sure that many of the cultural references in this book went over my head.  I don't know any Indian slang or vocab, so there are quite a few words and phrases that I did not understand.  Given the context, I suspect many of them are swear words - but I wouldn't know.  (There is some crude language I could understand, however.) It is hard to understand how the Indian caste system can continue in present times, but I think you can find unofficial caste systems everywhere.  Reading this novel certainly gave me a better appreciation for what people are willing to do for a chance at a better life.  Whether people are going from India to England or Mexico to the United States, I think the stories are similar.

The Things We Keep - Sally Hepworth

   Anna Forster is only thirty-eight years old, but her mind is slowly slipping away from her.  Armed only with her keen with and sharp-eyed determination, she knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted-living facility.  But Anna has a secret: She does not plan on staying.  She also knows that there's just one other resident who is her age: Luke.  What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life.  As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.
   Eve Bennett, suddenly thrust into the role of single mother to her bright and vivacious seven-year-old daughter, finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind House. When she meets Anna and Luke, she is moved by the bond the pair has forged.  But when a tragic incident leads Anna's and Luke's families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them.  Eve has her own secrets and desperate circumstances that raise the stakes even higher.

**** An ok summer read, but not one I will buy to keep on my bookshelf.  We barely get to know anything about Anna before she is just seen as a dementia patient and we don't know anything about Luke outside of his disease.  Once the players are established, the book moves along predictably and the 'surprises' are not very surprising.  I thought Still Alice was a more interesting read on the topic of early-onset Alzheimer's.

Moon Over Manifest - Clare Vanderpool

   Abilene Tucker feels abandoned.  Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job.  Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
   Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it's just a worn-out old town.  But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler.  These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even thought they are warned to "Leave Well Enough Alone."
   Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past.  It seems that Manifest's history is full of colorful and shadowy characters- and long-held secrets.  And as those secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story in to the fabric of the town.

**** Categorized as juvenile lit, this novel is a fast read.  Jumping back and forth between the stories of 1918 Manifest and 1936 Manifest got a little confusing at times, but maybe just because I was reading late at night.  The characters are well-developed and sympathetic and reading about life in Manifest made me wish my kids were growing up in a small town.
 


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

And then you were here

Dear Addie Jane,
Here is the story of what happened the day you were born. Just in case you want to know.

You were due to arrive on August 30th. Since I have c-sections the doctors scheduled your birth at their convenience. They determined you would arrive on Tuesday, August 23rd. "Heh, heh...we'll just see about that!" I thought. Since both your brothers were early I was confident you would choose your own birthday just like they did. In fact I thought you would end up being a little earlier than your brother Sawyer was (3 weeks and 1 day early). August approached and still I was confident that the universe would bring you to us some day most definitely before the 23rd of August.

Grandma Dickerson arrived 3 weeks early. Because, you know, you were going to be early.

And you did not a darn thing.

You were apparently quite content to just hang out. Will started 1st grade on August 22nd. I went to lunch with Grandma and Aunt Mollie and then raced back to school in time to pick him up. The whole day I thought that maybe, just maybe you would get a move on and choose your own birthday after all.

But you did not a darn thing.

That night we went to Chuck-A-Rama for a little "first day of school, last day before baby" celebration. I don't think the boys really grasped the concept that by that time tomorrow there would be someone new in our family.

The hospital called to tell me that I needed to be there at a ridiculous hour in the morning. I went to bed late. And slept not long enough. Especially knowing there wouldn't be any more sleeping through the night for quite some time to come.

We got up early. Very early. Like 4 in the morning early. I got showered and grabbed my bag and we headed to the hospital. When I walked in and said hello to the nurses they must have gathered I wasn't in labor since they replied "You must be our 7:30 c-section." Yup, that's me.

The nurses started an IV and put those terrible anti-clotting squeezey things on my legs and asked me 8 million questions about the health histories of every family member for 3 generations. Yes, someone in my family has had EVERY SINGLE disease you are possibly going to ask me about. But they also all lived to be 90+ so I'm not sure how this is relevant.

I kept my contacts in. I feel a little guilty writing that. They always say you can't have contacts in for surgery or when you deliver a baby, but since I don't deliver through my eyeballs I'm not inclined to go along with it. If I don't have my contacts in I can't see and I feel helpless and I hate it. Despite the 8 million questions they asked me they did not ever ask if I had contacts so I didn't volunteer the information and I didn't take them out. I wanted to be able to see you and make sure they didn't try to pull any baby-swap-funny-business on the blind mom on the operating table.

When they pulled up my hospital file they wanted to verify that I was allergic to Monistat and something else I had never heard of. I have no idea where this came from. I told them that I did not have any allergies. Your brothers were born at the same hospital so at what point they assigned me random allergies I have no idea.

I had to tell the nurse if I had ever had any other surgeries. I told her I had lithotripsy (to treat a kidney stone...for which I received treatment at the same hospital). Later I saw the computer screen and she had typed in that I had liposuction. Not quite the same. But close. Always nice to know the nurse has never heard of the medical procedures they are attempting to record. I'm thinking that when I went to the ER with kidney stones and told them I was "resistant to morphine" it somehow became "allergic to Monistat." Anyways. This is all besides the point.

Another interesting point is that once they had me hooked up to all their monitors they wanted to know if my heart rate and blood pressure were usually low. I got asked the same question at every single one of my prenatal appointments. What can I say? I guess my heart just likes to take it easy. But the monitors did not like it so it kept setting off an alarm every time it went below 50 beats per minute. Which was about every other minute. Like this: heartbeat = 52...51...50...49 BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! (Nurse comes in and turns off the beeping.) Meanwhile the obnoxious beeping has startled me so heart rate jumps up to 52. Then after a minute 51...50...49. BEEP! Repeat. This happened the entire 4 days I was in the hospital. Moving on.

While they were taking this very accurate medical history, they were also pumping me full of bags of fluids through the IV. Once they finished the questions they left us sitting in the room with a bunch of monitors and stuff hooked up to me and more fluids flowing in. I stayed like that for about an hour. And after having fluids pumped in for an hour it wasn't really a surprise that I would have to use the restroom. I finally had to page the nurse who had to come in and unhook a dozen different contraptions and wheel the IV stand into the bathroom. When I came out a second later the anesthesiologist was standing in the room wondering where his patient was. Nice to meet you too. They said they were ready for me to go to the OR.

The anesthesiologist said they liked doing nice, routine c-sections because they were usually calm with no surprises.

Once in the OR they had me sit on a table while the anesthesiologist put in the spinal block. I'm not sure why it has to involve being freezing, but it does. The doctors commented that they get hot with all of their sterile gowns and the lights so they purposefully keep it cold. Which is well and good for them, but when you are sitting there with nothing (NOTHING!) on it is freezing. Then they swab your entire back from neck to tailbone with popsicles which doesn't help. (Ok, not real popsicles but some kind of freezing ice-like contraption.) The real fun part is when they stick needles in your back. I tell you this so that when you are a teenager and angry you will remember that it wasn't that much fun to get you here. As soon as he was done poking needles into my spinal column they laid me down on the operating table.

This is the moment when I became very nauseated and my head felt like someone was running over it with a car. The anesthesiologist said "How are you doing?" and I said "I'm very nauseated." He said "Hold on! I'm gonna give you something for that right now." I responded by throwing up. He grabbed the nursery nurse that was standing by to take care of you and handed her a basin and said "Hold this. You've been called in." The doctors were doing their pre-op procedures and wanted to know if the nurse had checked the fetal heart beat. The nurse said she had and it was in the 140s. They told her to check again. She said "I just did it." Then the doctor said "Well check again because her heart beat is in the 30s." Low heart rate for the win! Yours was still plugging away at around 145 though.

The surgeons started the process of getting you out and I continued to vomit for their viewing pleasure. After about 10 minutes I heard "I see a head of dark hair!" I was happy because I was hoping you'd have hair. I guess I'm vain, because I kind of wanted you to take after me. Then I heard "1...2!...3!!" My first thought was "Babies?! What the crap?" but luckily they quickly followed with "The cord was around her neck 3 times...and it has a knot in it." The anesthesiologist told me "Remember how we were saying we liked calm births? It's a good thing you had a c-section scheduled because this wouldn't have been a calm birth." So I guess I can't blame you too much for just hanging around until the 23rd.

Once again I didn't get to see you until they had cleaned you off and wrapped you up. Well, I should say they tried to clean you up. There were a number of comments in the room about the amount of vernix on you and despite their best scrubbing efforts when I finally got a glimpse you still had a lot of waxy white all over you. The nurse even commented on it as part of your hospital notes along with your APGAR scores and length and weight. Not sure what that says about your future. You were a slippery little thing. I got about a 2 second glimpse of my little dark-haired thing with the tiniest features and rosebud lips and then they took you and your Daddy off to the newborn admitting room.

It seemed to take forever to get sewn up. (Don't worry, I won't tell you about the nasty smell when they were cauterizing my flesh. MY FLESH. Don't say I never did anything for you.)

They finally got that all finished and moved me to a bed. At one point when they were moving me from table to bed I saw a bare leg up in the air and had zero recognition that it was part of my body. But since it didn't make sense for it to belong to anyone else I figured out that it was mine. I just couldn't feel it at all. I had no sensation that it was attached to me in any way. I probably shouldn't tell you that because it is just weird. But there you go.

They wheeled me to a recovery room where I sat by myself for about an hour. Daddy was busy watching them do their deal with you. Not that I'm bitter or anything. I mean, just because I was cut open, stapled back together and then left in a room by myself to vomit continuously. Finally Daddy came back with you and I got to hold you and stare at your sweet little face with your giant cheeks.

And then you were here. I love you. You were worth it.

(I'll cover the joys of the rest of our hospital stay in another post - you can find it under the "Why you owe me" label.)

PS: I didn't actually write this the day you born. I wrote it on April 16, 2012, but it doesn't seem like it could possibly have been 7.5 months ago. You were upstairs asleep in your playpen, but we both know how you hate that whole sleeping concept so now you are crying so I will go and get you. The whole no sleeping thing also explains why I am writing this 7.5 months later.

My Response to Ordain Women

It has only been a year since my last post!  One of these days I will actually get this updated with the family minutiae that you forget so quickly.  For today I am posting on a matter of Church politics, if you will. Obviously I don't work for Church headquarters, so nothing I say (or write) on the topic should matter to anybody, but maybe my kids will think it is interesting one day.

To sum up: A group of LDS women known as the Ordain Women  Movement has requested tickets to attend the upcoming Priesthood Session of Conference.  Six months ago the group tried to gain admittance to the session by waiting in the standby line at the Conference Center - they were denied entry.  Yesterday, a Church spokesperson (spokeswoman, incidentally) issued a reply to their request. Here is the reply I wish they would have received:

TO: April Young Bennett, Debra Jenson, Kate Kelly, Hannah Wheelwright
FROM: Just some LDS woman
SUBJECT: Ticket and Meeting Request
DATE: March 18, 2014

Dear Sisters,
Thank you for your letter.  Please understand that while I am writing as a representative of the Church, the words are mine alone.

The Brethren are aware of your concerns, specifically your concerns regarding the role of women in the Priesthood.  They appreciate your openness about the topics that trouble you.  They know that too many women in the Church have had experiences involving Priesthood leadership that have caused them to feel demeaned or degraded in their role and identity as women.  Some of these experiences are the result of cultural traditions and practices within the Church that are not illustrative of Church doctrine.  You have seen the efforts to correct some of these non-doctrinal practices.

At this time there has been no additional revelation that would lead to the ordination of women to the Priesthood. The reasons for this are known to God.  We believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God - the shape and substance of which we do not yet know.

Some things we do know.  We know that men and women were created by a perfect Father who loves and esteems His children equally.  We know that He sees his children, not as the world sees them, but with a perfect love and with a perfect understanding of the intents of their hearts.  We trust that one day we will more fully understand His purposes for His children.

Your request for tickets to the Priesthood Session has not been granted.  The meeting focuses on topics and teachings which the speakers feel are of special importance to the male members of the Church.  Therefore, the tickets are distributed to the intended audience.  We know that some of you plan to wait in the standby line to gain admittance.  You will not find the doors locked to you, sisters. However, we ask you to consider allowing the seats available to be used by men who may be in need of the messages that will be delivered and that all the men attending may benefit from the feeling of unity and mutual responsibility they share as men in the Church.  You are welcome to participate in the session via live broadcast.  Certainly there are lessons applicable to everyone to be found in any meeting of the Church.

Of course, the free speech zones surrounding Temple Square are open to you as they are to everyone.  You can find these areas delineated on the attached map.

Whatever you do, sisters, please don't leave.  The Church needs you, and more importantly, the Lord needs you.  Your voices of faith are welcome.  Your contribution to your wards is essential. Your influence on your families and communities is vital.  There is a place for you and all who seek to follow the Lord.

Sincerely,
Not a Church Spokesperson
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At any rate, that's what I would have written if it were my job!  Personally, I don't think there is sexism in the true doctrine of the LDS religion, but there is plenty of it to be found in the LDS Church.  Just read the comments on any news article covering this topic and you will find a lot of superiority, judgment, unkindness, and 'if you don't like it then leave.'

My two cents, okay maybe more like fifty cents, on the topic.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

For only $5 YOU can send a child to public school.

This is my blog.  I come here once in a while to complain.  It isn't anything personal, ok?

School.

School should be about reading and writing and 'rithmetic.  Right?  Kids should gather at their teacher's knee and listen to stories and make crafts out of dry macaroni noodles and eat (or not) questionable school lunches and learn to survive on the playground.

School shouldn't be about fundraising.  I know I brought home my own share of wrapping paper orders that I was supposed to guilt my non-existent nearby extended family into buying.  But I think it has gotten worse.

Today my 5 year-old (FIVE YEAR-OLD) came home from school and the first thing he told me was "MOM! My teacher says I need to sell 5 pizza cards because our school needs new computers because a lot of them are breaking and we need to buy new ones so everyone has to sell 5 pizza cards, but I need to sell 10 pizza cards so I can get a prize!"

I just had parent-teacher conference for this same child at which I was informed that he needs to be able to write numbers up to 30 and that he can only do it to 12 and that he only recognizes 5 out of the 30 sight words he needs to know.  (For one thing, I know he knows more than that, he just doesn't appreciate being tested.)  So you are telling me that he isn't meeting his curriculum standard and I need to work on it more at home, but heaven knows he KNOWS HOW MANY PIZZA CARDS HE HAS TO SELL.  How am I going to fit in all of this home practice with his, I mean my, door-to-door sales job?

Will he be getting a marketing degree awarded along with his kindergarten diploma?

Here is the other blatant problem.  There are 7 houses on my little section of my street.  5 of them have children attending this same elementary school.  And, oh yeah, there is another little salesperson who lives in this same house.  Because Will arrived home a few hours later and the first thing he said was "MOM! Can I go door to door and sell pizza cards because everyone has to sell 5 and I have to sell 10 so I can get a prize!"

This is on top of the month-long pleas I just endured for box tops because they HAD TO collect box tops because the class with the most box tops got an ice cream party.  I offered to just buy them an ice cream cone, but that was not cool enough.

And the "hassle-free fundraiser" which asked everyone to just go ahead and send in some money and BONUS we wouldn't even have to sell anything for the privilege!

And the Krispy Kreme cards which are for sale in the office.

Now, the Krispy Kreme cards and the pizza cards aren't even a bad deal.  They probably aren't nearly as much of a rip-off as the wrapping paper catalogs I used to drag home.  My problem is that my 5 year-old doesn't have any friends with money.  So clearly the idea is that I will sell them to the people I know with money.  And it wasn't just given out with the instruction to "have your mom and dad look at this paper and see if they might be interested."   Instead they were worked up to know that they NEED to sell them or they won't have computers AND they need to sell a lot so they can get a PRIZE.

I offered to just give him a prize.  But that was not cool enough.

Anyone want a pizza card?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

I feel better now

A few things.

1. Pox parties.  I dare not put into words my opinion of any parent that would take their child to one.  I usually try to maintain a fairly live-and-let-live attitude towards parenting.  And I think American parenting has become a rather embarrassing competition sport.  But if you think pox parties are a good idea I apologize in advance for my judgments about your judgment.

2. Men who try to hurry past you not so they can hold the door for you, but just so they can beat you in line.  This happens to me constantly around here. (I don't know where else it would happen since I am always "around here" but I am inclined to blame it on a lack of manners in my general locale at the moment.)  I am carrying a baby carrier, leading another child by the hand, as well as juggling a diaper bag and a purse, and guaranteed some guy pulls into the parking lot, hops out of his car, and books it so that he can be sure to get into the Subway/Panda Express/Walmart check-out line (to name 3 recent examples) ahead of me.  And then lets the door slam in my face.  And studiously avoids eye contact.  You make me think bad words.

3. People who insist on posting blatantly untrue things on Facebook.  Snopes.com.  Use it.  Or any basic internet search.  Now I know that 75% of Facebook content would cease to exist if we all followed a basic fact-check-first-then-post policy, but for the love of truth please stop.  Theoretically I could also just stop looking at Facebook, but this is just a theory and hasn't been proven.

4. Rompers.  Super adorable on babies.  Super awkward on adults.

5. Fluff.  Why can you not buy it here?  How am I supposed to send my kid to school every day with a peanut butter and whipped-sugar sandwich without a local Fluff source?

6. Spiders.  Within the last 2 weeks I have found two giant spiders in the house.  Well, technically, one was on the door leading from the garage into the house and the other was in the crawl space.  Obviously their forces are getting alarmingly close to our actual living quarters.  This is a problem because as soon as I find one in said living quarters we will have to move and that sounds like a lot of work.




Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's my bloggy and I'll sigh if I want to.

Because I think writing something on Facebook is like walking into a room filled with everyone I know and making pronouncements on random subjects, I am not writing this on Facebook.  No matter how tempting it might be.

But this here blog, well it's like a private conversation...which you, gentle reader, are welcome to walk away from.

So I'd just like to say that I sure hope the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act tomorrow.  Because it sure has been aggravating to not pay any co-pays when I take my kids in for well-child checks.  And I think it is despicable that kids in this country with pre-existing conditions can get health care.  I mean, that just should not happen in this day and age.  And we were warned about what would happen with this nonsense.  I called to make my kid a doctor's appointment the other day and I had to wait a whole week and a half to have her seen!  They might have said they could see her same day if she were actually sick and didn't just need a well-child check, but I'm ready to be done with all this health-care rationing.  That has gotta be unConstitutional!

Sigh.

But now in all seriousness.  We all know that hospitals are required by law (Constitutional!) to treat you if you show up in need of treatment.  They have to.  They can not say no.  It doesn't matter if you march in announcing "I am uninsured and don't plan to pay you a dime ever!"  If you are in labor, or in need of medical treatment, they have to treat you.  But the government can't make you have insurance right?  (Constitutional?...UnConstitutional?...tomorrow will tell...for now.) So who do you suppose pays for the folks who, whether by personal choice or not, don't have insurance and show up at the hospital doors? That, my friends, would be you.  And me.  And everyone else who DOES have insurance and pays taxes etc.  It seems only logical that if we can't require people to have insurance then we can't require hospitals to treat you if you don't have any way to pay them.  Right?  "Sorry that your dear dad is having a heart attack.  Please stay outside on the sidewalk.  We only treat insured patients here.  Thank you."  Or maybe little Timmy is bleeding from a head wound from the car wreck you just got in (you know, while driving your car, which you are required by law to insure).  Quick!  Pull up a youtube how-to video and stitch the poor little guy up!

Maybe that doesn't sit quite right with you.  Maybe a person's a person no matter how small (or rich, or poor, or uninsured).  Maybe people deserve to have medical treatment because they are members of this human race with us (and some are winning that race and some are not).  Maybe it isn't little Timmy's fault he was born with a genetic condition that is going to make his entire life much harder than mine or yours.  Why should he get to have insurance?  And when he doesn't have insurance (because no one will take him), why should a hospital have to treat him?  We know he can't pay.  Which means you and I are gonna have to pick up the costs one way or another.  And he ain't my kid.  So it ain't my problem.  Because I've got insurance.  Thanks to my job (which I hope I still have tomorrow).  And I shouldn't have to pay for sick people that can't bother to insure themselves (because I'm healthy...today).

Because America is not a country for the weak.  Literally.  We don't want you.
And maybe someone once said to give us your tired and poor.  But we're done with them now.  And the wretched refuse of your teeming shore?  - shudder - No thanks.

(And please...I paid good money to sit through a semester of Con Law so I am quite aware of what is in the Constitution and what isn't...whether this is ruled Constitutional or unConstitutional tomorrow has nothing to do with what the Constitution does or does not say.)

And now that I am writing to an empty room I shall bid myself adieu.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

9 months

Dear Adelaide,
You are 9 months old!  That really doesn't seem possible.  Especially when I think about the fact that I have not slept through the night in 9 months.  Actually, I have slept longer than 4 hours in one stretch exactly twice since you were born.  I will try to get over this.  You could avoid making this an issue between us by sleeping more.  Please and thank you.

You are asleep right now like a good little girl...but somebody nearby has decided that 9:40 on a Thursday is fireworks time so that may not last.  They might be a little surprised when I march down and hand them a baby to deal with.

Back to the point.  You are 9 months old!  You started off your 9 month birthday with...a trip to the pediatrician's office!  Only the best for our baby girl.  You didn't have to get any immunizations this trip, but just to keep things lively they poked your toe for an iron test.  You didn't even flinch when they poked your toe.  I guess your brothers' tough love has desensitized you.

Seriously, the fireworks are getting annoying.

This month you decided that life would be more fun if you were mobile.  Up until now you have been our lazy baby.  You never really rolled over.  If I set you on the floor and you got bored you would just scream until someone came and got you.  At the beginning of the month you started getting up on your hands and knees but weren't sure what to do from there so after looking around you would just plop back down on your stomach.  If there was something interesting you wanted to reach you would try desperately to kick your way toward it, but only ended up going backward.  With this maneuver you frequently got yourself wedged under the couch with the object of your desire farther away than when you set out for it in the first place.

Over the past 10 days you have started crawling.  Real live text-book crawling.  You also roll around from front to back and back to front whenever you want.  I suspect you've been capable of doing this for quite some time, but didn't want to let on that you really didn't need me to carry you around every second of every day.  If I sit on the floor you will crawl over and climb your way into my lap and pull yourself up onto your feet.

Your laughs are still few and far between.  The more desperately I try to make you laugh the more likely you are to stare at me apathetically.  And then you will bust out laughing at a strange loud noise - like grandma making crow noises in the bedtime stories she recorded for Will.  I can usually get a little giggle by tickling your armpits and squeezing your chunky baby thighs.

You ALWAYS smile for Daddy.  You have done this since you first learned how to smile.  Mommy...not so much.  You prefer to have me holding you, however.  Clearly I am the transportation and food provider and Daddy is the entertainment.

The physician assistant we saw for your check-up asked if I was brushing your teeth twice a day.  I said you didn't have any.  She said I should brush your gums twice a day.  (That is a little low on the priority list I will admit.)

Now that you can sit up on your own (another skill you picked up this month) you will actually take a bath without screaming the entire time.  You like to keep a death grip on my arm until you re-discover how fun it is to splash and then you spend the rest of the time slapping the water with your hands.

You are still very quiet, but once in a while you get in a squealing mood and sometimes you talk to yourself when you are playing or when you are upset and want attention.  It sounds like you say "momma momma momma" and, while I'd like to think you know what you're talking about, I won't flatter myself.

You were 16 lb. 4 oz. at your checkup, putting you in the 28th percentile, and you were around 47% for height.  You look like a chubbers, but there actually isn't much to you!

You decided that solid foods were acceptable this month.  You went from eating some puffs and taking half an hour to eat 2 ounces of baby food to guzzling down 8-12 ounces of baby food in about 5 minutes!  All of this mobility must have made you hungry.  You will feed yourself Cheerios all day and love any bits of fruit or beans or bread that I give you.

Your sudden abandonment of your lazy ways makes me laugh.  At the beginning of the month you really did not roll over, sit up, or crawl.  You would try to feed yourself food, but it would get stuck in your fist and you couldn't figure out how to release it into your mouth.  You must have been feeling neglected, because it seems that suddenly one day a few weeks ago you decided you were going to have to take care of yourself.

You may not sleep through the night, but you have been helping me out by taking a 2-3 hour nap most afternoons.  This is a first since you were born.  Up until a few weeks ago you took NO naps during the day (zero, zilch, nada) except for occasional 10-30 minute catnaps when you fell asleep on me and only for as long as I did not move and no noises woke you up.  It is kind of strange to actually be able to accomplish a couple things each day - even if it is just taking a shower.

You are a sweet thing and we love you.  Let's work on that whole sleeping at night thing though, okay?  You are still sweet at 3 in the morning...but let's just say it would be even sweeter if Mom got some sleep.  mmmmkay?

And I just heard you start fussing upstairs.  This is the point where I start chanting in my head "please go back to sleep - please go back to sleep."  Aaaaand if that car drives down the street blasting its horn again (at 10:15 pm) I might go let the air out of its tires.