“It could have been much worse.”

A few weeks ago my son was in the kitchen and found a bottle of Tylenol. Within literally twenty seconds he somehow managed to open the bottle, pour the pills out, pick them up off the floor, put a handful in his mouth and eat them.

While he was doing this I was in the living room getting ready for work, and frustrated that I was running late. One second I see him in the kitchen playing with the broom and in the time it took me to put my shoes on he had done the aforementioned act. When I got to him he had crunched into at least one or two pills and still had a mouthful more. I don’t know how much he ate. I don’t know how much acetaminophen he consumed. I don’t know why he didn’t just spit the pills out because those things are gross and bitter.

I cleaned his mouth out. I called the doctor. I called poison control. And the whole time he’s just playing with his toys in the living room, acting like nothing was wrong. He was fine. He was more than fine. He was perfect. He never knew anything was wrong. I hugged him. I wanted to yell at him and tell him again and again not to play with pill bottles. But he’s 18-months-old and doesn’t understand yet. I wanted to cry. I did cry. It was all so overwhelming. Twenty minutes later I was at work and couldn’t concentrate all day. I cried again. I left work. I picked him up and took him home. He was fine. He was perfect. He is perfect.

image

I don’t know how he opened the pill bottle. I don’t know where he found the pill bottle. It could have been worse. It could have been much worse. He could have found the bottle of half used hydrocodone in the cabinet that I never finished after my wisdom teeth extraction. He could have found the steroids I never finished after I had a bronchial infection. He could have found the bottle of prescription strength ibuprofen that is almost two years old that I never finished after having my C-section. Oh, yeah. There’s still an old bottle of hydrocodone up there from the same surgery. That’s TWO bottles of hydrocodone he could have found. That’s two pill bottles he could have found and knocked onto the floor. That two bottles of pills he could have put in his mouth. That’s two bottles of pills he could have eaten.

It could have been much worse. Instead it was a bottle of Tylenol that turned out to be rather harmless. “Don’t give him any acetaminophen for 24-hours” the rationally calm poison control expert told me over the phone. That’s all. “Oh, and maybe keep and eye on him if he throws up.”

I made a mistake. I don’t know what else I could have done to prevent the situation. I could have put my shoes on in the kitchen. I could have made him play in the living room. I could have made him put the broom down because I’m pretty sure that’s how he got the bottle off the counter.

But I didn’t. I was in a hurry, was frustrated and tired and overworked and just generally exhausted. I thank God it wasn’t worse. I thank God he was kept safe and it was only a bottle of Tylenol.

I’ve come to the shocking realization that I will never be comfortable with parenthood. Just when I naively think “I got this” I very quickly realize I don’t got this. Not at all. It’s hard work raising a kid. After 18-months we’ve made lots of mistakes. We will continue to make mistakes. We will make mistakes with Gibson for years and if we are blessed with another child we will learn from our mistakes. But we’ll still make mistakes. We’re humans. We’re imperfect.

As a Christian, I believe that God is always watching over my child. But it’s also irresponsible of me to believe that God will watch over him and I don’t have to. When Gibson was first born, I would put him in his crib at night and would say “I’ll see you in the morning, God willing” because I was so afraid of SIDS.

I don’t know how you parents with multiple kids do it. I’m so overwhelmed. From day one I have been terrified and as he gets older those fears have evolved. My fear of SIDS has lead to a host of other fears. I can’t help it. I don’t want anything to happen to him. I don’t want to lose my child when I’m just getting to know him. My fears are valid, I believe. I want another child one day and maybe by then the fears will subside; maybe the will worsen. But either way, I can’t live in fear.

image

I get to a point in my life where all is well. No surprises, no tragedies, no big drama. . .  life is just quiet and unassuming. But then something so small — like Gibson finding an innocent bottle and being curious about it — can change everything. My fears have finally gone back down to a normal level and my stress has also gone down. I can get dressed in the morning confident that he will be fine.

So yes. I’m still terrified. I’m still scared. I’m still not comfortable with this parenthood thing. But when my son looks at me and smiles and runs into my arms I know that my fears are valid and okay. This morning Gibson woke me up and he had taken his diaper off and peed all over everything. To top it all off the diaper was dirty, but thankfully he hadn’t had time to do anything about that. Thankfully. It could have been much worse. That’s what I keep telling myself.

It could have been much worse. “It could have been much worse” is what Robert texted me I told him what happened to Gibson that morning. After confirming our son was fine he sent me those six simple words.

He’s right. It could have been much worse.

Finding Hope in Times of Tragedy

On September 11th of last year, I wrote about tragedy. (You can read it here.) Yesterday, tragedy struck again.

I don’t know what to say about the senseless tragedy that happened in Boston. I don’t know how to accurately put into words the thoughts that I am thinking. I don’t know how to fully express my concern, my remorse, my anger, my sadness, my disbelief. I don’t know how to act or what to say or what to do.

But what I do know is this: In times of great tragedy, humanity is what we remember. In a few days, weeks, months, years people will talk about yesterday’s incident and instead of talking about how scared they were, they will instead talk about how the people who finished the race continued running  to the nearest hospital to donate blood. They will talk about the people who opened their homes to those lost and shared with them the little they already had. They will talk about volunteers staying to help instead of running away to be with their loved ones and to find safety. They will talk about the man taking off his belt and using it as a tourniquet. They will talk about the pastors walking around offering hope and prayer to those who wanted. They will remember the way the resilient people of Boston came together in the face of tragedy.

It’s a shame that these senseless acts of cruelty bring out the best in human nature. But you know what is not a shame? That these amazing acts of human nature is what we remember most. It happened during 9/11; it happened during Sandy; it happened during the Japanese tsunami. Think of a natural disaster or a man-made disaster. What do you remember most? These monsters are trying to take away hope and to create fear. Sure, for a brief moment fear overcomes us, but hope is what snaps up out of that fear. Hope is what turns into love and helps create these beautiful moments, despite the tragedy and carnage around us.

These brave and courageous acts of human nature is what separates us from the monsters who create these senseless tragedies. They will not be remembered because we won’t allow it. Our hope and love and compassion greatly outweighs the fear and that, my friends, is why we win.

But you know what’s even better than beautiful humans coming together after a tragedy? Knowing that it happens every single day. Knowing that somewhere today humans are helping other humans just because. No, tragedy does not inspire great acts of human nature. Tragedy just makes it bigger and more noticeable. Tragedy doesn’t bring out the best in people, because people bring out the best in people. All over the world normal humans are doing extraordinary things just to help other humans. Not because there is glory or recognition; no, they do it because it’s ingrained into us and comes naturally. Humanity is what keeps us surviving and keeps us afloat. Humanity is why we are still here today and why we cling to hope and to love. It’s why we hugged our loved ones a little tighter last night and said ‘I love you’ over and over again. It wasn’t because we were driven by fear but rather by love. And hope. And faith. And humanity. And that is what makes tragedy so poignant.

Let’s not dwell on those who caused yesterday’s tragedy. Instead, let’s focus on the survivors, pray for the wounded and mourn those we lost. Let’s revel in the goodness of others and share our compassion. Because we will get through this. We will get through this together.

On How Being A Mother Helped My Confidence

IMG_0289

Gibson at less than one day old.

My son turned one year old on Monday. My son’s a year old. A year ago today we brought him home. A year ago I didn’t think I would ever sleep for more than four hours at a time. A year ago I didn’t think I could do it, because being a mom is hard work.

I’ve never experienced true fear until the day I became a mother. I didn’t know that the emotional connection I felt to this tiny, six pound screaming baby would so immediately be intense and scary. I didn’t know that I could love him anymore than the moment I held him for the first time. I didn’t know that he could make me so mad in such a short period of time. I didn’t know he could make me so happy with just a look. These are things that the baby books don’t tell you. They don’t tell you that the minute your child breathes for the first time on his own is the scariest moment of your life.

The baby books are great, but they can’t prepare you for everything. Like, for example, what to do when you physically can’t breastfeed. So, you go the mommy blogs to get some support and help and they all say the same thing: never feed your baby formula because it is of the devil and if you do he will grow horns and become a plague on my house and if my kid hangs out with your kid they would need to send in a priest to perform an exorcism on their darling child. “Oh, he’s one of the formula fed babies. Quick, let’s look the other way and shun him. His mom couldn’t breast feed so he’s half as good as my child.” Nobody told me that it was just fine to feed my baby formula because there was no other option. Nobody offered encouragement and advice on my situation, which made me feel even more horrible. First, I had a c-section, and didn’t have a natural birth. Secondly, I was told it really didn’t count because I didn’t feel pain and the joy of childbirth was done by a scalpel and heavy duty drugs. (Which, come on, is just ridiculous, asinine thinking. I still to this day do not understand this at all.)  Thirdly, I didn’t breastfeed, so I’m obviously a horrible mother in their eyes. [I’m definitely not saying this was the actual attitude, I’m just saying that’s what it felt like, but in a heightened way. There were many wonderful, lovely, supportive moms out there, but, unfortunately, they seemed to be overshadowed by the ones pushing their beliefs so heavily. I love all these women, and definitely learned some great, useful things, but one loud voice out of many is all it really takes to knock you down.]

IMG_0321

Once I got away from the self-aggrandizing, pompous, vitriolic, better-than-you attitude mommy blogs, and talked to some real people, I finally started to feel okay. It wasn’t my choice to have a c-section. I did it because it’s what was best for my son. It saved his life and I didn’t have to put him through any unnecessary trauma just so he could go through a birth canal. I still gave birth and I still had a son. Plus, I get a cool scar, and my vagina didn’t take six weeks to heal. So, win win. It wasn’t my choice to give him formula at less than a month old. God thought it would be hilarious to only have me produce less than three ounces of breast milk a day. My son was stubborn from the start and had trouble latching on so I would pump. I would pump for hours, until my nipples would crack and bleed. I got to the point where even air would hurt my nipples and I wanted to break down and cry so many times. I would pump so much that I was getting more blood in the bottle than milk. I was in so much pain, that I was stressing myself out. My sweet, caring husband told me to just stop and give our son formula but I couldn’t do that. All the mommy blogs said that formula was straight poison, so there was no way I was going to let my precious new son be poisoned. But then it happened. I had to give him formula and I cried the entire time. Three weeks in and I had already failed as a mother.

I went to his four-week well check and told my lovely doctor what happened. I told her that I was formula feeding him but also trying to pump. She looked me in the eyes, looked at my son and just said, “stop pumping.” My son was born at 6 pounds 9 ounces. My worrying and stress had made him go down to 5 pounds. He lost almost 20 ounces in a week because of me. I was doing more harm to my son by worrying about giving him breast milk that I forgot what was truly important: him. He is what mattered. After a few days on the formula he was back to a healthy weight and he was a normal, healthy, happy baby.

IMG_0565

A year has passed and he has never had an ear infection, never had the flu, never even been sick. Well, one day he had a stuffy nose and ran a fever, but the next day two teeth cut through. He’s in the 50 percentile in both height and weight, so he’s perfectly average. The formula didn’t make him fat like all the mommy blogs said it would. It didn’t make him sick or slow down his development. In fact, he was walking at 9 and a half months, which is amazing! He’s amazing! I have perfect, healthy, energetic, gorgeous boy who was formula fed. Guess what — nobody cares. I was taking things to the extreme, because everyone said the breast was the only way to go. I was so determined to do things the so called “right” way, that I lost sight of myself. I stopped believing in myself and felt I had failed my son. I was at my absolute lowest but hid it well. It was such a struggle to be “perfect” that led to a brief period of self-doubt and denial.

Having Gibson changed the way I do things, and how I feel about things. He wakes up every morning in the greatest mood. I’m serious, he doesn’t cry or fuss, but rather smiles when I go into his room. He’s so happy to be awake and to see me and it is the absolute greatest thing to wake up to. He babbles and coos until I go get him and then he’s at a 100 miles an hour playing with his toys. I don’t know where it comes from, but I can’t help but wake up in the same mood as him.

I no longer stress over little things, because, really, what’s the point. It’s not worth it. He has taught me so many things in the past year, but more than anything he taught me to believe in myself. Believing in myself has built up my confidence, so now I am ready to face the world. Nobody needs to know about my struggles with breastfeeding, or that my son was formula fed. But I don’t hide from it people because there are people like me out there who are struggling with the same thing. While I still stay away from the mommy blogs (look, ladies, I’m sure all-organic is the way to go, but when you’re on a budget, a non-organic apple is still better than a corn dog. Also, I work 40-hours a week, so buying baby food is way easier and just as good for him, okay?) I don’t take things so serious and so personal. I know what I believe and what works with my son.  He’s allergic to rice, so, easy, I just don’t give him any rice. Simple as that. Not something to stress over, not something to worry about. What worked for me might not work for you, because, hey, everyone is different and everyone believes different things. And, guess what? We’re all right! Every single one of us moms are right.  I know! How crazy is that. If you want to breastfeed your child until s/he turns seven then you have every right to do that. If you want to only give your child ice cream and cake then, surprise! You can! If you don’t want to vaccinate, or want to home school or want to bring your kid up as a cross burning Wicca then that is your right as a human being. What a wonderful world we live in. If you take away one thing from this post it’s this: you can guarantee that I will never, never criticize your parenting styles and motives. Freedom! Feels good, man.

IMG_0534

I believe I am a good mother, and I believe that I am a good wife. I have faith that I am doing the best thing for my son and no matter what anyone says, you can’t bring me down. Being a mother is by far the thing I am most proud of, and the thing I most fear. No matter what, I hope that never changes.

[Author’s note: The last thing I want to be is a “mommy blogger” which is why it has taken me so long to post this. This is still a blog about my life, my family, my son, but it’s not going to become a mommy blog just because I have a kid. There are literally 35 million mommy blogs out there, and they are all better written and make more sense than this one post. Also, please don’t take offense to anything I have written about. To the people who actually know me, I don’t mean to criticize or harass; this is just a post about my personal struggles with breastfeeding, and how it turned me into a better, more confident person. I would love to hear your stories — both of trials and tribulations and of joy and success. You are all awesome, strong, confident, gorgeous women and you’re doing it right. Congratulations, moms! We did it! Group hug!]

IMG_0616

[The pictures are just some of my favorites from his first few months on this earth.]

Anniversary(s)

One year ago today my husband and I were discussing baby names. We were about to embark on a new journey and wanted to know what to call it (we ultimately settled on “Gibson”). We were looking at cribs and bedding and wondering if a “Calvin and Hobbes” themed nursery was appropriate for a newborn (turns out it is). Eleven years ago today I was 16 years old sitting in Biology class as I watched complete chaos unfold in a city 1,800 miles away. It was supposed to be another boring, ordinary day in September, when a group of normal-sized people hijacked a group of normal-sized planes and flew them into the Twin Towers, some of the tallest buildings in our country, killing almost 3,000 people. Because of these lives lost, 9/11 is now something more: an anniversary.

Can you guys comprehend how many 3,000 is? My little brain still has a hard time trying to understand that number. I had five people in my graduating class. My entire university was less than 2,000 people. There are usually 150 people at my grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving. And yet 3,000 people died that day. Why? Because a group of zealots, fueled by religious fervor, decided to fly some damn planes into a  damn building. Religious fervor. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Will it ever make any sense?

Have you guys ever experienced tragedy? I’m talking absolute, epic, transformative Greek-style tragedy. I have not. I have experienced great loss and pain, but tragedy in the ilk of 9/11 I will never, and hope to never, experience. But you know what I have experienced? Unmitigated, pure joy. I have felt joy, and it is one of the greatest things in the world. What the opposite is of 9/11, then I have felt it. I get to be with the ones I love. I get to see my son learn to crawl and talk. I get to spend money left over at the end of the month on frivolous items. I get to open my eyes one more day and experience all that life has to offer. In the past years I have achieved dreams and have come closer to making other dreams a reality. Being apathetic is no loner something to look at as cool or idyllic. You’re young and free and unburdened: why waste life by being apathetic and allowing the world to move on without you? Start living your life now, just as many did 11 years ago. Find out where and to whom you belong; get out and embrace life.

You’re alive. You’re not dead. You’re physically not dead. How cool is that? You’re probably hot or cold or hungry or sleepy or bored or running or eating or sitting or writing out your thoughts onto a computer screen in the hopes that some one, some where will read it and say, “yes! I am alive!” You’re not dead and this is awesome. Anniversaries are joyous occasions. On this day, the eleventh anniversary of tragedy, you’re not dead. Let’s celebrate.

I love America, I love being not dead, and I love you.

I’m not a size two…

As most of you know, I had a baby six months ago and I still have the scar on my stomach to prove it. Since I had a c-section, which is, like, major surgery, I have a huge scar that is still healing. I don’t have any feeling around it and I can still feel the stitches that they used to stitch me up under the skin. It’s so weird and the scar is about six inches long, too. I’m proud to sport it, actually. Since my son’s birth I have lost all but ten pounds of my baby weight. Because I work a full-time job, and rely on people to watch my son during the day, that doesn’t leave a lot of time to go to the gym and work out. So I work out by walking around the house with my son in my arms or by doing a couple of quick circuits while he is napping. It’s way too hot to put him in the stroller and walk around the neighborhood, but I’m looking forward to doing that soon. So, without going to the gym or anything I’ve lost almost 30 pounds in six months. I’ve still got that weight I gained before I was pregnant, but I’m still super proud of the weight I have lost.

Since I’m in between sizes I decided to go buy some clothes, and to celebrate the weight loss. I took Gibson and we rolled up to the mall for a few hours of shopping. He did great. He sat in his stroller and played with his toys and then took a nap. But I couldn’t really bring him into the dressing room with me and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone while I tried on clothes. I grabbed some clothes and just kind of estimated the size I would wear. Well, needless to say all but a few I had to return.

I think American Eagle has cute clothes so that’s where I spent the majority of my money the other day. I had every intention of just replacing the clothes I bought with ones that fit. Well, not anymore. I know I’m not their ideal customer: I’m not a size two, I’m only 5’3″ so my 147 weight makes me a little frumpy. I’m a little plain, pretty casual, and wear very little to no makeup. I’m used to being ignored when I walk into American Eagle (see also: The Gap) and it’s never bothered me before because the employees are generally pretty nice. Working on a time crunch, I went into American Eagle on my lunch break and talked to the sales person and told him I wanted to exchange the clothes. He wouldn’t even look me in the eyes as he huffed and huffed while he scanned my items. I told him that I had my son with me and wasn’t able to try anything on so everything I had was either too small or too big. He muttered something under his breath like, “…wouldn’t fit you anyway…” I ignored it and just said “It’s a little hard to shop by yourself with a baby” and he muttered back: “yeah, that’s why I’m never having kids.” Again, not offended because I don’t care if you want kids. That’s totally fine. It’s your opinion, dude. But then I started getting annoyed when he started sighing as he looked at the sizes I was returning and sort of nodded his head as if to say “yup, of course these won’t fit.” I mean, I was returning medium shirts because they were just a little snug and the one large I was returning I actually needed a medium because it was too big. It’s crazy how he was reacting.

After he scanned all my items, (remember that he’s not looking directly at me and holding my super-insane-extra-extra-extra big shirt in his hands as if it would soon explode because it’s so hideously large) he asked if I just wanted the money back on my card. I just nodded and said yes, that I needed to get back to work and I would come back and re-buy a few things. And I really was going to. I liked the clothes and I had the intention of wearing them once I got the correct sizes. My total was almost $100.00, so I guess he needed a manager to approve the return or something. The manager came over, smiled, and just said “sorry they didn’t work out” and walked away. He seemed nice. Well, the guy who was originally helping me out (still never looking at me) continued to mutter under his breath remarks about my weight and how of course I was returning his precious clothing because he didn’t want them on my grotesque body — or something to that effect. I wanted to cry but to also snap and go off on this man with the stupid haircut and ugly jeans and the shirt that was four sizes too small but instead I found myself apologizing to him. I found myself saying sorry for buying clothes that didn’t fit and having to return them. And I left the store, but not before I wished him a good day.

I’ve worked retail and I know how hard it is to be happy and smile at every customer. But you do it because it makes the customer feel better. Maybe they’re also having a bad day and your smile will help them out. Customers would say nasty things to me and I would just hand them their purchase and wish them well as I sent them along on their way. I worked in a pet store and only yelled at a customer once who was deliberately trying to make this kitten cry. It made me so mad that I grabbed the kitten and kicked him out of the store. I put up with a lot so maybe this guy was just having a bad day. But I’m proud of myself for keeping my cool and ignoring the jerk before me.

I don’t care that I’m not a size two. I’m comfortable with my body. My husband still loves me has never once made a comment about it. You try having a baby and having society tell you that you have failed if you’re not down to model size in just a few short weeks. I actually want to spend time with my son since I get so little time with him anyway. The last thing I want to do is spend hours in the gym when I could be sitting at home reading a book to him or rolling around on the ground, or making funny faces and noises to get him to laugh. I love every minute of it and I have no regrets. The last thing on my mind is losing weight. I’m about to have a kid that will be walking and running so I have no doubt the weight will soon come off.

Having a son is the best and hardest thing I have ever done and it is the thing that I am most proud of in my life and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

I was having a pretty horrible day but then I found this adorable robot necklace which has cheered me up immensely.

20120808-150258.jpg

Reading Recommendations For All!

With the arrival of 50 Shades of Grey, more people seem to be reading as much as ever. Now, I’ve never read the book, or its counterparts, but I’ve read enough reviews to know that I’m not missing out on anything. I’ve heard people complain about the story line and the crappy writing. I’m glad that people are reading, but let’s read better fiction, guys. I recently finished these three books and highly recommend them. So, maybe read these three instead of the “50 Shades” trilogy.

First Up: The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol 

The Overcoat is a short story written by Gogol in 1842 and centers around Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin (nailed it!). He works as a government clerk and typist in St. Petersburg, Russia and regularly gets teased about his ratty, threadbare overcoat. He saves up all his money and goes to the local tailor, Petrovich, to have a new coat made, of which he thinks of little else. Once he receives the new coat his coworkers are in awe and his boss decides to throw a party honoring Akaky’s coat. On his way home after the party Akaky gets attacked and has his coat stolen. With no help from the local authorities, most notably a general who refuses to help him, Akaky soon dies and becomes a ghost who takes other people’s overcoats. Once he approaches the general and takes his coat he is never seen again.

The overcoat acts as a symbol of importance to Akaky. It makes him more outgoing as people start noticing him and stop teasing him. With the overcoat comes respect and admiration. When it gets stolen, Akaky is back to being a nobody, and without his new coat he can’t function so he just gives up an dies. The ending can be (and has been) interpreted in many ways, and I’m not quite sure which theory I agree with. I will leave it up to you to decide what it means. Being a short story, this is an easy read. Back in college I tried to read every piece of Russian literature I could get my hands on — it was a phase and I’m not sure where it came from — but I somehow missed this little gem.

Continuing the Russian Theme: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith 
Leo Demidov is a member of the State Security Force, or the MGB, during Stalin’s reign in post-war Soviet Russia. As a high-ranking officer of the state, it has provided him luxuries that very few afford. When his superior wants Leo to announce his wife as a spy, he refuses. He gets arrested and interrogated and Leo and his wife Raisa are transferred to a poor region of Russia, working as a disgraced and denounced MGB officer; prison would have been a less harsh punishment.While there, he discovers several grisly murders and believes they are the work of a serial killer. But, every murder has been “solved” by the state, even though the killer keeps killing young kids. Leo must use his training and resources of the MGB to catch a criminal the State refuses to believe exists.

The book is dark, dangerous, and scary, but somehow not totally hopeless. It’s a political thriller, a horror story, and a murder mystery all in one convenient package. The characters are well-rounded and the accused murderer is terrifying. It’s one of the few books where the short, stilted conversations actually work in its favor and helps move the plot along. But my one complaint is that all the conversations are in italics. Italics. Leo is a fascinating character who really only turns on his moral compass after he has been demoted and realizes how awful the MGB really is. His allegiance is no longer to the state but to the victims of the criminal he is risking his life to catch. This book can be a bit graphic at times, so it’s not for the faint of heart. But it’s absolutely worth the read.

And finally: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

When Nick Dunne’s wife, Amy, goes missing on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, he is automatically a suspect. While Nick tries to find out what happened to his wife, the question “how well do you know the person you love?” plays out before him. This is one of those books where I can’t really tell you too much less I ruin the book. Nick’s a narcissist and Amy’s a psychopath, and that’s pretty much all you need to know about the two. Whatever you think this book is, you’re wrong. It’s not at all what you think. It’s so twisted and, well, fun. You’re going along and everything seems fine and right when you’re about to say, “ah-ha!” the book does a u-turn right before your eyes. It’s the kind of book that keeps you guessing and I giggled out loud several times at the crazy turns. It’s a book that you won’t be able to put down and will most likely read it in one sitting, much like I did. And even the ending is not one you’ll expect, but I actually found it fitting and weirdly satisfying. If you’ve read anything from Flynn before and been disappointed, pick up this book and try again. She delivers in a way many don’t. It’s definitely not for everyone but I can’t recommend this book enough.

In Defense of e-Readers

I love books. I love owning them. I love the smell, their fragile spines and pages, the way the paper feels in my hands, and how every book has a different texture. I love physically turning the pages and discovering new worlds and falling in love with characters. I love displaying my books for everyone to see. So, because of these reasons, and more, I’ve always been against the idea of e-Readers. I mean, sure, when they first came out I was intrigued.

When I graduated from college my dad got my one of the first Sony e-Reader devices. I was so excited. I thought that I would use it every day. But I didn’t. I barely used it. It was a little cumbersome and I had to download the software, open the app store, buy a book, download it to my computer and then transfer it onto my device. Even though it took a few minutes (back when my computer was awesome) I just never did anything after that. I found myself going to Barnes and Noble and still buying books. I would read them and then add it to my collection. Plus, I had just graduated college and had taken four senior level English classes in one semester and I had to do my senior research project. That project alone I had to have 80 sources for my annotated bibliography, so that was a lot of reading. I’m going to exaggerate and say I read 200 books that semester. I was a little burnt out and remained that way for far too long. I never picked up my e-Reader again.

But then I had a baby. I brought a book with my into the hospital and never picked it up. It was too hard. Trying to hold and feed my son while also holding a book was way too hard. I’d have to prop the book on my son’s head, or my arm would hide half of the text because my other arm was holding my son up. I got a little frustrated because I was in the middle of the book and really wanted to finish it. (I did. It was great.) But wait! I had an iPhone. It could connect to the internet and I could download books! So I downloaded my book and finished it right there in the hospital. I didn’t have to maneuver around my son just to turn a page; all I needed was a thumb to turn the page.

Since then I have only read e-books. It’s so nice to get my phone, sit my son in my lap while I rock and read him to sleep. I love it and he must find me boring because he goes right to sleep.

Then all of a sudden I wanted more. I loved reading books on my phone, but the screen was just a little small.

A few weeks ago I told Robert I wanted a Nook or a Kindle. I tried using my old Sony e-reader, but it just wouldn’t work. Well since we also need a new computer we started looking at tablets and e-Reader devices. We took the plunge and became THOSE people: we now own an iPad. It’s excellent. We tell ourselves that we got it for the kid, but who are we kidding. It’s as easy to use as the iPhone, but it gets a little heavy trying to hold it with one hand for long periods of time. Now I have unlimited room for books (well, 16 GB worth, but still) whereas my poor bookshelves are sagging and gasping for more room.

So I’m a convert. It didn’t take much. Honestly just using an e-Reader changed my mind. I can put it in my purse and take several books with me at one time. Yes, I’m that person that reads at least two or three books at a time. And yes, I always have a book in my purse. I’m like high school Rory Gilmore before she left for college and got annoying.

So yeah. I’m a fan. They are portable, probably more so than books — especially books that aren’t in paperback yet. They have a huge library and it is very easy to buy a book. I mean you can start reading in seconds. I love it. I can use it while also holding my son while he drifts off to sleep. But there are a few cons, too: it’s expensive to buy, it might get stolen, and it is a little fragile. It can also hold games and other distracting apps. But other than that I have no complaints. I’m reading more than ever and also teaching my son to read. (We also read physical books to him too.)

I still love books, but my heart now belongs with my e-Reader. I will still go to Barnes and Noble and peruse the shelves; I will still go to used bookstores and find copies of the classics to add to my growing collection. But I’m a convert and I highly recommend e-Readers for those that love to read. You’ll thank me later.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Hooray for Web-Shooters!

Robert and I went and saw “The Amazing Spider-Man” last night. Even though it wasn’t needed, I loved it. Plus, it stayed more true to the source material than the original films. Which began only ten years ago. I know. I think we all know the plot line of how Peter Parker became Spider-Man, so I’m not going to go over that part.

So Andrew Garfield is Spider-Man. And he’s really good! He’s more of a geek than Toby Maguire’s nerd, but it works. I found Garfield’s Parker more nuanced than Maguire’s, honestly.  I actually saw Garfield play in two episodes of Doctor Who before I saw him in The Social Network and I’ve been a fan ever since. (Seriously go watch Never Let Me Go.) He just looked so enthusiastic to be playing Spider-Man. If you’ve read the original comics, then you know that Parker, using science!, created web-shooters and attached them to his costume. However good the Raimi movies were, the fact that his Spider-Man developed web organically just didn’t feel right to me. I don’t know, I just loved that they gave Parker web-shooters. Also, they needed to find a better mask for Parker to see out of because he kept taking it off during fights. Get better eye holes, Parker! You’re like a genius, surely you can fix that. Also, Garfield’s suit looked better than Maguire’s.

Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man’s first love interest. And you all thought it was Mary Jane. Pfft. Also, there’s someone else in between Gwen and Mary Jane. I love Gwen Stacy’s character more than Mary Jane and I am still angered over what the writers did to her character, which is what it looked like they were trying to set up at the end of the movie. Without spoiling too much, I’ll say that Stacy doesn’t last much longer. Stacy conveniently works for Dr. Curt Connors (Lizard!) even though she’s still in high school. She’s just way cooler than Mary Jane because she’s a science nerd and all that jazz. Also, her dad’s the captain of the NYPD.

Rhys Ifan (Connors), Denis Leary (George Stacy) and Sally Field (Aunt May) were fantastic supporting characters, even though we never really understood what The Lizard’s motivation was. And my one complaint (SPOILERS!) was that in the comics Captain Stacy gets killed by Doctor Octopus, and not The Lizard, but since he was the villain it made sense to end Captain Stacy’s life that way. And finally, in the comics Aunt May hates that dirty Spider-Man, but in this movie I think she knows her nephew is Spider-Man. It’s cool because how could Aunt May NOT know who he was.

The movie is over two hours long, and I found myself losing interest here and there, but never long enough to keep me totally out of the movie. I liked that we got to know Uncle Ben a little more and it helped to understand why he was such a big and important part of Peter’s life. The actors were charismatic and charming, which never gets boring. The visuals and effects were spot on, and the script didn’t try to fill its dead time with cheesy one-liners. It wasn’t perfect but it sure was entertaining.

Which begs the question: even though the movie is good, is it necessary? I’ll say no, but knowing there are two other films coming, it’s going to be a long time before we get away from Spider-Man. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Raimi’s movies, but I really enjoyed this one. A lot.

 

Code Name Verity

Image courtesy of bing.com

This is going to be a hard review to write. I really want to talk about the plot and specific ‘oh my gosh’ moments, but to do so would completely ruin the book. And I really want all of you to read the book. So, how can I write a review of a book without giving away the plot?

“Code Name Verity”, written by Elizabeth Wein, is a fabulous, powerful book. It’s a remarkable story between two incredible women and their beautiful friendship. It’s a story about women doing extraordinary things. These two women — one an intelligence officer and the other a pilot– are the central characters. And that’s all you really need to know. “Verity” (it’s a code name. I don’t want to give away her real name less I ruin it.) is a beautiful woman who speaks German and French and works as a radio operator during World War II. She becomes an English spy and one day in France while crossing the street she looked the wrong way — a very English mistake — and gets taken by the Gestapo. She gets tortured and beaten in order to spill state secrets. I mean, when we first meet her she is tied to a pole in her underwear. She’s totally humiliated. Her German captor and interrogator, Captain von Linden, makes her write her confession in between bouts of torture. As long as she writes she can stay alive. So she gives up codes and aircraft and airports to the Gestapo, but continually gets beaten and humiliated. It’s very dark and dramatic but I laughed out loud several times. Even though Verity is being tortured I was laughing. That’s how spectacular and strong Verity is. While writing her confession she tells the story of Maddie, her best friend.

Maddie is the opposite of Verity. She’s Jewish, plain, not great at talking to men, but is ethical, fierce, loyal, a skilled pilot and a genius mechanic. All she wants to do is fly and serve her country. And she does. But when her plane goes down in Nazi occupied France, she has to go into hiding until she can get back to England. And also, she is trying to find Verity. She knows where she is and works out a plan to get her out of jail before she gets sent to the concentration camps.

Verity and Maddie are two extraordinary women. They are not nurses or women waiting for their lovers to return from war. They actively helped out the war movement and didn’t care about the risk. That’s what I loved most about the book. You don’t hear much about women pilots or spies during WWII, so it was cool to know that they actually existed, albeit there were very few. It’s not a love story. It’s a story about bravery and loyalty to their country. Or well, since Verity is Scottish, to England.

Even though the book tends to ramble like woah, (much like this review; apologies.) I was never bored. Every character is rounded, including Captain von Linden, and Verity’s translator in the prison, Anna Engel. Even though this is meant to be a young adult novel, I think it’s geared more toward adults. The torture scenes can be quite graphic at times and there are bits of course language throughout. But when you finish this book you want to hold it close to your chest and silently cry. And cry I did. More than once, for sure. Maddie and Verity have quickly become two of my favorite heroines. They are that amazing.

Once everything begins to wrap up, you almost immediately want to read it again. And when you do, you realize that everything that happens is laid out for us. We shouldn’t be surprised at what’s coming, but we are. It’s genius.

So, that’s it. Does it make you want to read the book? I don’t think I’ve spoiled anything for you so go now and pick up your copy so we can talk about it!

Additional Notes:
“It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”  Verity

“We’re still alive and we make a sensational team.”  Verity

On being called English while in prison: “You ignorant Quisling bastard, SS-Scharfuhrer Etienne Thibaut, I AM SCOTTISH.” Verity

“I am a coward. I wanted to be heroic and I pretended I was. I have always been good at pretending.” Verity

KISS ME, HARDY! Kiss me, QUICK!” Verity. OK, if you get to this point and you’re not in tears then you are much stronger than me.

While setting up a raid to intercept the bus taking Verity and the rest of the prisoners to the concentration camps: “A raid is actually quite a lot like a battle. It is war. It’s war in miniature, but it’s still WAR.” Maddie

“We’ll keep your secrets and you keep ours. ‘Careless talk costs lives.'” Maddie

“It is coming down. We are still a sensational team.” Maddie

What Jacob Taught Me

I wrote this about my brother about a year ago. Just thought I would repost it.

I often times find myself writing about Jacob. Whether it’s the tragedy of his dying, or the comedy of his short time on earth, I just can’t seem to get away from it from a writing standpoint. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but as a writer, I want to get past this part of my life and start the next chapter. The problem is: what do I have to say that I haven’t already said before? For those who know me they know that I can’t stop writing about Jacob. It’s not a bad thing, but now comes a point where all my writings start to sound the same. It’s time for something different, and I think I have finally found it: I’ve never sat down and written about what my brother taught me after he died.

Before Jacob died I was afraid of getting too close to people. Not because I didn’t like them; it was because I knew one day I would have to let that person go and say goodbye. My naïve self thought that never opening my heart to others was worth it if I didn’t have to experience the inevitable pain later. Jacob taught me that it was ok to unwrap your heart – think of it like a limited edition comic book: it’s ok to let it out once in a while and read it – and let others in. Since his death, I have been actively trying to open my heart and it has provided some remarkable moments in my life. I have met and married the man of my dreams and we have a beautiful son. Before, I was afraid to fall in love because I thought it was easier to live alone than to have my heart broken. Now, instead of thinking about the end of something in the future, I embrace the now. It’s ok to take risks with your heart – it will pay off in the end, and make your heart that much bigger. Open your heart and allow others to see what’s inside. You never know, but you just might find yourself in someone else’s during the process.
When my brother was sick, I asked him if there was anything he wanted to do in life. For the most part he was content. But there were two things he wanted. One, he wanted to be able to walk on his own feet, unsupported by a wheelchair or cane, across the stage to accept his high school diploma (he had recently had surgery that prohibited his walking. He was confined to a wheelchair for a few months since he was partially paralyzed), and two, he wanted to own land. I know owning land is not the normal dream of an 18-year-old boy, but that is what he wanted. When my brother’s name was called to accept his diploma, he stood up on both feet, walked across the stage and grabbed his diploma and walked back to his chair and sat down. The entire auditorium erupted with cheers as he received a standing ovation. With tears in my eyes, I watched my brother accomplish one of his goals when he had only a few days left on this earth. Just know that it’s never too late to accomplish anything. Set your mind on something and never give up.
Don’t be afraid to take risks and accept challenges and obstacles that stand in your way. Limit your nos and replace them with yeses. Say yes to things that scare and excite you. By taking these risks and putting yourself out there, your vulnerability will show through and amazing moments will transpire right before your eyes. Dreams you never thought were possible are now a closer reality. Also, you’ll probably fail once and make a fool of yourself. Who cares. Don’t be afraid of failure. It’s ok. It makes you stronger. So, get back up and start over. But, just make sure you try new things. Don’t get to the end of your life and still be saying: “I’ve always wanted to…” or “I’ve never done that…” Don’t live your life with a “maybe one day” attitude. Make that “maybe” a yes by swallowing your fears and insecurities and step up and say, “Yes, I would love to do that.” If you do this, you’ll find yourself at the end of your life saying, “I did that” or “I tried that.” Isn’t that better than just wishing and dreaming?
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can’t do it by yourself. Remember when you were younger and your parents willingly helped you out? It wasn’t because you were useless; it was because they loved you and wanted to help you. And later on, when you became too cool to ask your parents to help, you might have prayed to whomever you believe in to help you out. Begin this process again. Stop being so independent. Look at the people in your life. How many of them would jump at the chance to help you if you only asked? Now, ask if you would do the same for them. If you can’t answer either question then you need to reevaluate some of the people you associate with. Make sure you surround yourself with people who inspire and you and others. Seriously, no one wants to be friends with someone who constantly looks down on others. Make sure these inspirational people lift you up and encourage you to become the best version of yourself. I mean, let’s face it: you’re not going very far in life without a little collaborative effort. Take others with you and allow their voices to be heard with yours. Let those shared memories and experiences you created together spread to others who help, too.
By doing these simple things you’ll be amazed at the small changes you will begin to see around you. Embrace the change, because remaining stagnant will only make others alienate you more. Allow others to use your heart, say yes, and never be afraid to ask for help.