Saturday, December 20, 2014

a little late...reflecting on our wedding day....

Let's talk about a party.  I'm not sure which beginning to begin with but this post is way overdue.

I'd start with waking up but despite being under the covers by 10, I doubt I got much sleep.  I finally gave in sometime around 6 and climbed out to straighten a few things and let my hair lady into the room.  I'd been honored to have one bridesmaid stay with me and the other two arrived earlier than I had any right to ask (but I asked anyway!) mom had probably been up for hours too.

Prepping went way too fast.  My hair and makeup ladies helped make my loved ones even more beautiful and made me feel pampered.  A minor hiccup felt major when we couldn't get my mother-in-law-to-be to the room but they helped solve that too (a side room off the Inn lobby).  My officiant amazed me with his understanding of brides (well, he HAS done 2,000+ weddings and isn't called the Marrying Mayor for nothing) when he knocked and just passed word through the busyness that he was there, the groom was too, he had the papers he needed (including my uber-detailed schedule and thoughts), and he'd see me at the end of the aisle.  Somehow it was suddenly on the later end and, being me, I ran across the parking lot in "wedding hair/makeup" and my PJs (late isn't me, but PJs definitely are)....running past a good dozen guests and letting them know it never happened.

More blur....and then I was standing on my step-dad's arm and two staff members were waiting my okay.  I remember giving a subtle nod and the doors opening.  I must have moved, but that's all a blur (thanks for getting me there, Jim!) until I was holding Bill's hands and looking into his "allergy eyes" (or so he says).  We'd decided that we'd exchange matching vows but also read a previously-undisclosed message to each other.  I'm told I was brave for trusting him but that never occurred to me.  My words, however, had gone through a million iterations in my head before spilling onto the page the week before.  I'm not sure how I managed to read them, or how anyone understood through my tears, but I did and they did.  I listened to Bill and was glad I went first...I told the officiant I wanted to kiss him then and he kindly told me to take his hands instead.  And then, it was done.  Well, not really, but that's all I recall till we got the nod....the first kiss was practice, the second was perfect.

Pictures, appetizers, announcements....and the man I never knew to dream of singing to me as we danced.   And then the FOOD.  Worthy of its own post but we know I'd never get to it.  We'd picked a brunch for a myriad of reasons including money and convenience (just about everyone had a two hour-ish ride so going in and out was an option for those who wanted it), but also because we love the mixed meal.  We weren't disappointed with the spread that stretched from bacon to raw oysters (with lox, quiche, and house-made pastries in the middle!).

There's more I could say but I can't imagine more detail without MUCH more detail. But I must take the moment to thank all our guests.  I was beyond honored to have such a wide range of people join us, from friends I made at age 8 to college classmates to people I'd only grown to know and love in recent years.  From family, blood (who've been there through so much) and marriage, to friends-like-family and sisters of my heart.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.  For the generosity but so much more for your presence.  I'm truly blessed (and there's no better word, even for someone who had never been religious).

Of course, the best "guest" is the one I get to sleep next to every night.

Friday, December 5, 2014

two entirely different tales: The Enchanted (Denfeld) & A Star for Mrs Blake (Smith)

Once again, delayed more than I intended but I hope other readers find the insights helpful!!!

There's one review I read that referenced Dead Man Walking and that is exactly what went through my head at moments during this book.  You are reading about people who have done terrible things (the only first-person narrator's crimes are only hinted at but his crimes are called the very worst), some that I think one fairly would call terrible people.  And yet....  You do come to care.  The book, in large measure through the character called The Lady who is an investigator who works with a team that tries to overturn death sentences (the author's own background is in this job), asks you to consider how these men came to be who they became and do what they did.  (Aside: In case it helps provide context, I am a liberal who supports the death penalty in theory but recognizes severe issues in practice).

There's a lot of reality here.  And there's a lot of magic, brought in via the above-noted narrator.  The chapters shift b/w him, The Lady, a new prisoner (a 'pretty' young boy, he's not on death row but one can guess that his stay is not going to go well), and a fallen priest who works at the prison...we see background on all, as well as on the prisoner whose case The Lady is working on for most of the book...but the most-infamous criminal is the only first-person narrator.  He is mute who hides under his blankets, emerging only to grab reading materials and perhaps food.  He has been in the prison for a long time (not all in his current state) and he sees all sorts of magical beings in the dungeon-like structure, from terrible little creatures that feast on the ashes of the dead to powerful horses and beautiful nightbirds.  

Four stars.  I might even go to four and a half and I can't voice any particular aspect that keeps it from hitting five (which i do realize doesn't make for too helpful of a review!), but it didn't.  The language is often gorgeous, even when it is terrible,  The characters are full, a major plus for me (I'll take characters over plot, though both are present here).  I did get a bit tired of the magic and maybe that's my hesitation at even truly saying 4.5,  I'd recommend this to people who really enjoy words and what they can do.  It reads fairly quickly, but is certainly not light reading and you need to be ready to face a good bit of the very worst (both done by and done to the prisoners).  

Thanks to the publisher for the ARC, provided for this review but with no constraints on my comments.  
I never listed history as one of my favorite subjects largely because a poor memory for facts hindered my skills (I still rant about a Calculus test in HS that asked for memorized replies when I had managed to memorize half of the responses and knew how to derive the rest...that seemed reasonable to me and it balanced my strengths!).   Still, I can't recall ever hearing about a federal government program that sent mothers (and wives too, but mothers are the focus here) overseas to see where children who had been killed in WWI (and later WWII) were buried (here, in France).  It's a cool factoid to know.

Such a trip is the underlying setting of this book, opening with one woman receiving final notification of her impending voyage to her return.  In the midst, we meet a group of thrown-together travelling companions including the primary protagonist from a small island in Maine very much feeling the Depression, an Irish immigrant working as a maid in Boston, a Jewish New Yorker, and an upper-crust New Englander.  There's a fifth, but that takes some ironing out and the posse has a military escort and a nurse.  The book deals with how the travelling group relates to each other and copes with an emotional journey.  There's also a side story dealing with a reporter who was severely hurt in the war and now wears what sounds like a Phantom of the Opera mask but was the best potential option for covering burns and was painted to be as realistic as possible.

In general, this just hit me in the so-so ("meh" is a touch too negative") range.  It was an easy read and I enjoyed the concept as well as the mini-history lesson.  It is interesting to consider how such a random group would be pulled together and apart by such an emotional journey (and there's some hints to the role of the media that would certainly impact the trips today!).  However, I just wasn't overly drawn in to the book or the style.  It kind of hits me like Olive Garden...I can enjoy Olive Garden and believe it has its place, but it is not "real" Italian....the book held my attention, but didn't truly sustain me.  Historical fiction meets chick lit (and, again, I DO enjoy chick lit time to time). Could be an easy train/plane read.  

Three stars.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC copy (though it took a little extra time to get to on my shelf!)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review --- US by David Nichols- Let's Tour of Europe as Our Family Crumbles!

Again, I have delayed writing about so very much, truly from love (the wedding) to loss (of my mother-in-law).  But, despite reading quite slowly, I am determined to get reviews up in a timely fashion, or a reasonably timely fashion.  Though this book did hit the stores (and many private orders) on Sept 30 so maybe it is a great time to write.  The destined-to-love-it folks who pre-order because they knew the author's prior work (One Day).  And now it sits on shelves, hits some lists (Booker Prize longlist), and people are starting to look to reviews....

Douglas, a straitlaced scientist, is awakened one morning by Connie, his free-flowing artistic wife of nearly 25 years.  She thinks their marriage has run its course, that she can't see happiness in it now that their only son is off to university.  But, she still wants to continue a planned family Grand Tour through Europe.  She agrees to put off a final decision until the travelers (Connie, Douglas, and son Albie) return.

This is primarily a study in family dynamics (though moments of art history are thrown in).  We see the love story from the day they met and follow it through some unimaginable lows and the addition of family member three, a son much more akin to his mother than his father.  We follow as they embark on their long vacation and....well, i'll leave the rest....

I enjoyed this book, but it got far too long.  The beautiful words seemed to hold me inside.  Emotions ring true and actions feel real.  You could like, or disllike, multiple characters at once without inconsostency.  Both more depth than expected yet remained true.

4 of 5 stars.  As always, thanks to Harper for the advance readers' copy.   Would be interested to read a (shorter!) version from another point of view, or even a "response

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review:A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman

Mini-post.  A short book review, far from my most detailed, because I'm tired but also tired of it dangling off my mental To Do list.
  • A Replacement Life by Boris Fishman 

Odd.  That's definitely the word for this book.  Slava, an immigrant trying hard not to be pulled in the "all-but-home" community.  After his grandmother dies, he gets entwined in an unforeseeable way - he "ghost writes" claim forms that are sent to the German reparations programs.  During this time, Salva is also desperate to become a printed author, particularly in the New Yorker, and engaged in an undefinable relationship.

I just wasn't drawn to this book.  At times, the language certainly felt lovely but even then, I couldn't come to care.  And that tends to be the death knell for my enjoyment.

Two stars (of 5).  As always, thanks to Harper for the opportunity to read and review an advance wasn't a book I loved, but it was an interesting concept and worth a ponder or two...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

on the new housemate

We got a cat. (Note: By far not the most important matter mentioned  just the only one currently mewing at my feet)

But, of course, that means little to some of you since, while I know my biggest group of readers follow me from Facebook I must allow myself the deception that someone reading this sought it out otherwise. So I'll add detail.

MM and I are quiet different.  Career Military/Pacifist.  Graduated for-profit college in early 30s/Graduated at 21 from a top liberal arts school.and didn't stop there.  Conservative/Liberal.  There are more, but you get the point.  One thing we do have in common, HORRID allergies, especially to all furry four-legged sorts.  He is also the only other person I've encountered who will shout dog when one appears on tv in case the companions missed it.  And perhaps we both really want to pet the tv in hopes it will somehow transmit to the actual dog.

But we've long said we'd never venture beyond the aquarium dwellers: fish and two aquatic frogs.


There was an "AND."  A big "AND."

Well, to take the "just say it" approach, MM's Mom died.  There's not much one can add here; there never really is.  She'd been sick for over a decade, with on and off hospital stays so it both was unexpected and a surprise.  But she'd certainly not expected this turn when she brought a new (adult) cat home at the start of the summer.  Well, the four sisters declined (dogs in home, just plain uninterested) and, while I was made sure he considered the health aspects, my MM's a sentimental guy.  So we got a cat.

Day ONE sucked, but the generic Claritin D has helped (buy stock!).

And, while I tend to be a dog person, this is a lap cat.  She talks up a storm, She love to eat, but would pick a day without food over a day without companionship.

So, we have cat.  And we;re both suitably drugged.  And both in love,

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I feel like I'm in a state of near-constant flux.  And this interrupts my ability to sit and write.  I am saying sorry to any of my readers.  I am also saying sorry to myself because writing clears my mind and it is busy in there.  I do have a book review to tackle and I want to talk about the wedding, the Y, and the very recent death of my mother-in-law.

These and more WILL I get done

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

local folks spreading a love for books and a review of Lisa O'Donnell's Closed Doors

In my wanderings around town (seriously, treadmill, you broke less than a year after you arrived as a replacement for one that broke in the same fashion???  wonder how long the next replacement, arriving tomorrow, will last), I've found two Little Free Libraries.  I'd donated a few books to the first one I'd found...duplicates, of course, since I have a book-hoarding problem.  I feel oddly proud of donating one of my two copies of THE BEST BOOK EVER, neither was my original but I still have an odd attachment to any copy of The Monster at the End of this Book.  I did talk to the Stewards of both "libraries" (both are in the same Women's Club) and told them I applaud the effort to: 1) encourage reading and 2) encourage reading of physical books (Monster can't possibly work the same in digital form).

Moving review time:

Michael, age 11, likes to listen at doors, eavesdropping on his Mom, Dad, and Grandma when they talk about adult things.  He also likes soccer and is a bit uncertain about girls.  One night, his beloved mother comes home one night, badly beaten.  Listening at doors tells him it was more than a fall and he is asked to keep the story that he's told, a simplified version of the truth told, a secret.  He's good at secrets. Things continue to grow complicated as the town eyes his father as the culprit behind his mother' beaten face and his mother struggles to move beyond the truth of her rape.  Grown-up difficulties and secrets too big to understand accompany the more traditional confusion of being a pre-adolescent in a small Scottish community.

I'll give this a solid 4 out of 5 stars.  Michael is an endearing narrator, honest in his telling of the facts as he sees them, but definitely showing a growing boy's bias in his characterization of those around him.  While I got a bit tired of some topics (his obsession with "keepie-uppies," his soccer ball trick, and a potential children's talent show), I suppose the issues he dwells on make him a pretty realistic pre-teen.  The novel deals with very difficult topics and shows an appropriately complex journey for both the mother and the other family members in the wake of the rape.  The community's reaction to the unfolding story also felt both real and, at times, upsetting.  In a different vein, I also liked the portrayal of Michael's utter confusion and uncertainty when it comes to girls.

(Here's a link to my review of O'Donnell's prior novel, The Death of Bees.  Both were provided to me in the form of advance reader's copies by the publisher.)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

ramblin' on

I keep on intending to write, but I'm fining myself a bit stressed of late and with very little extra energy. Plus, I have so much to catch up on.  Which all clearly indicates a need for an update post in the bullet-point style I love so dearly:

  • On April 27, I became Mrs. Military Man.  I really intend to write a full post on the day.  I was a total girly teary mess during the ceremony but made it through a part I'd long promised myself would happen -- we both read some words we'd prepared for the other (not vows, I like matching vows, but more of a message to the other person).  I'm totally taking the suggestion to include both writings in the eventual album and tempted to post my own ramblings.  Those exchanges included, I think it turned out to be a lovely day.  Our week in Florida was a lovely, relaxing escape as well!
  • I wanted to throw a party the day I finished my Thank You cards!
  • I also have been seeing a new set of docs and had a radiofrequency ablation.  I tried to believe it would work and that they'd zap away the nerves that were causing my pain.  Sadly, enough time has passed that I have to conclude it might have gotten a bit of the issue, but no more than 5-10% of the problem.  My follow-up was one point he said "but you're not there yet" which upset me since he may be new to my case, but my case (i.e. my pain) is not new.  Anyway, for now he's trying some topical medicines.  He did mention maybe looking at a spinal cord simulator but I think he feels like they are going to improve considerably in a year or two. 
  • I've progressed well through the grieving process re my father, at least per Pain Shrink.  For brides who've had a similar loss, especially an unexpected one fairly close to the event, I highly recommend picking a day around a week ahead of time to just straight out mope.  It helped to assign a day of grief...not that grieving can be truly confined to a day, but I took one day to just be sad and it really helped.  Of course there were hard moments (I am lucky to have a step-father who served as my escort...I debated walking alone, even before the loss, given where I am in life but it would have been hard), but I think it was a lot better than it could have been.  There are some Dad-related issues that I'm having trouble with, but I feel somewhat at peace with my father in general and that helps across the board.  I still have an impulse to seek out his input on medical things and to send him random notes.
  • Perhaps you recall my new-found fondness for aquaucise (and my classmates).  Well, I'm still going but now find myself on the other side of the class.  The Y's aquatic director asked me to take over teaching for the summer.  I'm loving it and getting great reviews (including from at least one woman who'd stay quiet if she wasn't pleased, a contrast to some who I think might just want me to feel good).  Not sure if they'll have me give the class back in the fall or stay on....particularly since I get the impression that most of the class prefers me to the most recent instructor.
  • It may take a moment to see, but these are our recent visitors.  The first pic is the day they hatched.  In the second, one baby had already "fledged" (left the nest) and I caught the second as he was getting ready.  He sat and watched me for a bit and then I startled him and he took the big leap.  I think it is pretty cool to have the pics the day they hatched and the day (the moment!!) one of them left the nest.

Friday, May 30, 2014

still here, still reading, w/ reviews of a novel and collection dominated by place: The Kept (Scott) and The Other Language (Marciano)

Yes, I'm still here!  It has been a crazy period in Rambler-land and there are many updates from the medical to the marital (!!!).  But, since I'm feeling a bit neglectful of my reviewing obligations, I'll start my reappearance off with a pair of book reviews

Elspeth Howell is a midwife at the turn of the twentieth century.  Her husband and five children live an isolated and largely self-sufficient life in upstate New York, while Elspeth leaves for long stretches to go work in various towns.  This routine is violently interrupted when a gang, marked by red scarves, arrives and slaughters the father and four children.  Twelve year-old Caleb survives by chance and he is so afraid that he nearly kills his mother on her return.  After helping her mend, the two set off to search for the red-scarfed-men and for many other answers to a life Caleb had begun to suspect was somehow "off."  The rest of the book details their journey (in winter, of course) and stay in a tough town where Elspeth hides as a man and Caleb ends up in some unsavory company.

I'm afraid it's only 3 stars for this novel (Advance Reviewer copy provided by Harper).  It had promise, but it would have benefited from being cut at least by one-quarter.  The characters don't ring very true to me.  One "secret" was apparent to me from pretty much the start and there's a bit too much that feels incredibly coincidental as things went on.  There is a strong sense of place, always a plus for me but not enough to carry me.

Readers should know the book is quite violent.  That's not an issue for my generally, but it does get extreme, especially with the same scenes revisited multiple times (in the novel's defense, I suppose they are scenes that memory would revisit). Wilderness (within people and in the rough climate) and revenge are dominant themes and I think you'd need an interest in both to be pulled through and stay interested.

This is a collection of short stories tied together by themes of places and change.  The stories are fronted by women of all ages who are facing a wide variety of circumstances, but all are adjusting to change and very much shaped by their setting.

I suppose it is always a potential issue when it comes to reviewing short story collections, but it is one I haven't really faced before.  There are some stories in this collection (provided to me by Pantheon) I'd rank fairly high and others that I struggled to get through.  I struggled through "Big Island, Small Island," where a woman seeks out a man who formerly led her circle of intellectual friends and has disappeared to a small remote island.  I thoroughly enjoyed "The Italian System" in which a woman writes of the Italy that lives in her mind many years after her move to New York.  "An Indian Soiree" bored me and I didn't care about the marriage we peek in on as the spouses travel after a long period of the wife acting as support to the author husband.  The opening tale, which shares the book's title, is a coming-of-age piece with a bit of a shocking middle, and was one of my favored tales.

I think the fair point is a 3.5 and I'm going to resist rounding here and probably go with 3 on one "whole stars" site and 4 on another (I typically post reviews to Amazon and Goodreads).  I applaud the focus on place and character, not to mention the varied but often strong female leads.  Still, something made me really struggle to keep going both in certain stories and overall.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Rambler Raves & Rambler Rants

Since I have opinions about stuff other than books (and since I love my bullet-points!)…

Rambler Raves

·         Argan Magic Blow Straight

Love this stuff.  It really does get my thick somewhere-between-wavy-and-curly hair straight and nearly frizz-free.  It is one of the very few things that can also leave it in decent shape the following day.  I’ve rarely felt my hair looked under control when I woke up without having to take a full shower or use the flat iron, but this gives me a decent-enough result.  (picture from Amazon)

·         Arganicare Hair Mask

So, I’ll admit that the first time I bought both this and the prior item (TJ Maxx finds), I thought they were part of the same line.  They aren’t, but they still pair up quite well.  I use this once or twice a week and it helps keep my hair the softest it has been.

·         Sasyr

My go-to wine, now available at my local store since our little town got upgraded to a nicer wine shop (still PA so still the odd state-run system).  Deep and bold enough to meet my tastes, but still easy to drink with broad enough appeal that I’d bring it to a gathering and recommend it to anyone who likes reds.  Though the language on the above link is more than a little odd, even given the odd descriptive terms used in the wine world…

·         Love It or List It

Yes, I’m sure it is just as staged as all the other HGTV home shows (i.e. House Hunters).  After all, it is mighty interesting that there are always a couple of problems lurking in the renovation and the last-seen home is always the most likely contender for purchase, perfect but usually over-budget and out-of-the-desire-community (apparently, today’s obsession is dash connected phrases…).  Still, I’m addicted. 
  • Rumpelstiltskin & Patches

They deserve their own post and will get it.  They are Albino African Clawed Frogs.  We're totally in love with these guys, even if they only love us because we feed them (though we did train them to eat from our hands)!

Rambler Rants

·         Conair

My brush broke in my hair last week.  Particularly annoying since that brush was actually a replacement (that took several emails and two calls to obtain) for this brush…

Yes, as discussed before, my thick and somewhere-between-wavy-and-curly hair is a challenge.  However, there’s nothing incredibly unheard of about it and no reason for brushes to break mid-brush other than shoddy manufacturing.  My last brush (which had become a purse-brush but has been temporarily returned to regular status) was with me in college, if not high school, and is still in working order.

·         Halos

I’ll put aside the oddity of suddenly using brand names for fruits (Chiquita may have been associated with bananas, but I never saw the fruits called Chiquita).  I’m bothered by their ad campaigns since I don’t really think we should be suggesting it is improper for adults to eat any sort of fruits given the state of our nation’s health.  I might find the idea of the Dad in the race-car bed amusing if the subject was some sort of cookies or similar fare, but it rubs me the wrong way with a fruit.  Anyway, the “Cuties” brand has adorable little stickers on “their” clementines (ex. Ninja Cutie with a black costume, Cutie on Board with a car and a smiling figure).

·         Stress

Okay, an odd inclusion, I’ll admit.  Wedding is one month from today and I’m getting nervous about some little tasks (and getting all the RSVPs in….used the etiquette-approved timeframe which really does leave things tight). 
I have also been having a really rough time physically.  I see a new doc next week, an appointment that it took a few month to actually get.  I'm not afraid of docs so it isn't so much the visit itself, but I really need him to offer some hope and some sort of plan.  I can't keep us

Friday, March 14, 2014

Review Day - At the Bottom of Everything by Ben Dolnick

I saw a deliver truck for Scholastic Books the other day.  I LOVED the Weekly Reader (why, yes, i was a bit of a dorky kid).  In addition to the "magazine" portion, there was always the opportunity to order books and get a prize for doing so.  Think about how different America would look if they took off as well as Happy Meals did!  Anyway, I don't think I was a materialistic kid and I would struggle to fill up a birthday or holiday list, but I never struggled when it came to picking out books!

Anyway, time for a book review from your Ramblin' Reader:

The early chapters of this novel alternate between protagonist Adam's childhood and his mid-20s.  In his youth, he became close friends with Thomas, a bit of an outcast and a strange kid.  Adam also becomes close to Thomas's very academic parents.  As they get older, however, Adam drifts into new circles and begins to leave Thomas and their friendship behind.  He just outgrows it and yearns for girls, sports, and popularity.  This process speeds up after the boys are involved in a frightening and guilt-provoking act.  

In Adam's twenties, he's working as a tutor and, having recently been dumped after a long relationship, begins an affair with a client's mother.  He and Thomas haven't talked in years when he hears from Thomas's parents that Thomas has gone missing in India.  This followed a mental and emotional breakdown that caused Thomas's parents to bring him home from college and generally pushed him off his expected-success trajectory.  Eventually, after a few emails pass between the old friends, Adam agrees to go find Thomas, leading to a large portion of the book dealing with his trip, a cult-like philosophic movement, and the search to find Thomas and save him, mostly from himself.

I enjoyed the early portions of the book.  I liked watching the friendship between the boys develop and I liked "meeting" Thomas's family.  There were definitely moments i could relate to as a child who felt lonely and different.  I even enjoyed the present-day scenes in the early chapters...not as much as the childhood ones, but it still held me.  However, I could barely get myself through the India chapters.  The prose was readable but I just didn't care and didn't find much of it believable...I do understand the power of the childhood friendship, but I just don't see Adam taking the steps he does and I don't buy the happenings in the India chapters.  When I don't care, it is almost always a death knell for a book in my mind and that applies here.  I will say I did like the very ending.

Overall: Good portrait of a childhood friendship and its evolution, but lost me when the setting shifted.  The search for his friend and for redemption from a youthful tragedy was slow-going since I wasn't invested in the characters or their outcome.  Two stars.  Review copy provided by Pantheon (publisher).

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Endometriosis Awareness Month 2014

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month.

If you know me, then you know at least one person who deals with this chronic who only chased it down after passing out from the pain and after the pain became month-long (myth 1 - endo only hurts when a woman has her period).  It was a pain that took my breath away and eventually, at night when it wore me out, I'd hope for it to get a smidge worse so that my mind would float away (myth 2 - it's just cramps, all she needs is a couple midol).

I was "lucky" docs heard me and although they did a ton of other tests first (myth 3 - you can diagnose endo in an office takes surgery, although there's a possible improvement on the horizon that is being tried by a few very specialized docs), they had endo in their minds earl due to a thorough patient history and were willing to do the laproscopic surgery and get a diagnosis.  It's mostly managed.which is impressive since it is getting through all my back pain meds too (no idea how the endo would be without the constant pain mgmt routine for the back)...but there are still bad, very bad, days (myth 4 - there's a cure).

Endo can be disabling.  It can take away MUCH more than a woman's sex life, though that is often the first area to suffer (and is a big deal itself).  In addition to the patients, it impacts the partners, children (myth 5 - all women with endo are infertile.  truth is that it is a leading cause of infertility but most women with endo can have a child, a fact that does not at all take away from the very intense pain of infertility), families, friends, bosses, colleagues, and the whole society b/c it makes SO many women less than they could be if they were healthy.

(myth 6 - there's one 'endo experience') Every struggle w/ endo is different.  Some involve pain, sometimes debilitating pain.  Some are painless but become a focal point when fertility issues bring it out.  Some women's insides are covered with growths, some have few (myth 7 - the amount of endo is tied to the amount of pain.  truth is you can have insane pain with a small growth if it hits the right nerves).  Endo is individual.

Endo needs AWARENESS.  Endo needs ADVOCATES of both genders.  Endo needs better TREATMENTS.  Endo needs a CURE.

Other posts focused on endo include:

And sending a big hug to Jamee (prior blogging group organizer) who has been battling so many health demons of late.  Take care of yourself, get some answers, and feel better!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

on wholeness and invisibility -- more rambles on life with pain

I spend a lot of time thinking about the impact of chronic pain, how it touches every facet of life.  Heck, that recurrent thought is itself one of the side effects...I see it impacting my life and, although some might counsel doing so, just ignoring those impacts is impossible.  If you dig into the online pain community, you'll find many references to Spoonies.  The Spoon Theory is one woman's attempt to explain chronic illness to a healthy person, with a focus on the pure exhaustion.  It's worth a glance if you've never come upon it.

I also think about how these constant impacts can occur with very few outward signs, particularly with respect to strangers we might see at the grocery store or crossing the street.  I've said this before, but I look like a fit 30-something woman so no one expects me to move like an unhealthy 80 year-old (I know women near 80 who move a LOT better than i do!).  Aside from people not understanding why I'm fighting to get the soda in my cart at the store and why I need the handrail-side of the stairs, there is no way to explain, in the moment, how the pain (and meds) invade my brain and steal my words so I might grasp for the word "penny" when digging for one I know I have in my wallet.  Ironically, I can't very well explain the loss of words when my words are lost...long-term companions will get an explanation eventually, but the cashier I'm standing before and the angry guy behind me just see a fool.  And, to be a bit prideful, this is especially hard b/c I'm generally a smart cookie, especially when it comes to communicating.  It is common for tots to either walk or talk early and then be a bit later with the other.  I talked early and quickly got the hang of combining words....I think I walked even later (and less) because I could just SAY what I needed instead of getting it.  Not being able to "say" is frustrating/crushing/humiliating.  And that' just a single goes on and on...
There are days I want to wear a big flashing neon light that says "Severe pain on-board" in the hopes it will explain some of my actions and, frankly, get me a little extra help (I could write pages about help offers, non-offers, the visibility of the issue at said time, etc.).  Yet, there are other days when I want nothing more than to look "normal".  (likely a grammar error, but I stand by it...grammar is about clarity and the outside period advances clarity).   The newest challenge for the latter days is that I hit the length of disability needed to be Medicare eligible which feels so awkward, even if the only people who I need to reveal it to (ummm, besides the Internet) are at doc offices and pharmacies and many of those people know that Medicare is for more than just the elderly.  Still, this has hit hard; the need to say Medicare and have it mean me is almost outside of my comprehension. 

Anyway, Sunday night ramble done.  Reply if you wish.  I may soon solicit input for a future post and hope I'd be able to get enough.....prob will have to turn to my FB to get enough....

Hope you all have a lovely week.  Thank you for visiting....there's been an atrocious pain spike for a few days and it does help to know some folks out there are watching (and maybe learning) from my rambles.  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

on dwelling, social anxiety, and looking in

There are moments in life that I dwell on and replay in my mind.  In some cases, it is truly about the moment itself.  In these cases, I am often left wondering how a different response on my part might have led to a different result whether that's a momentary difference or a life-altering one.  In other cases, it isn't really about the moment itself but about what it represents in my mind.  These are moments that stand for a bigger pattern or bigger issue and for one reason or another my mind has chosen that moment to represent the larger whole.

One such moment occurred when word traveled back to one of the hosts that I was upset over not being invited to a gathering.  The gathering has several hosts and I considered a couple of them friends.  The others weren't friends, but I kinda assumed there was a shared neutrality...not friends, not people I'd avoid.  A member of the former group stopped me and said he heard I'd been hurt.  He blamed the lack of an invitation on the belief that inviting me meant inviting another person and said the "neutral" folks didn't want to invite her.  He extended an invite and apologized on behalf of the two I considered friends for the hurt.

I didn't believe it for a moment and didn't go.  Life proved me right and it was me, not the other gal, who wasn't wanted (she didn't say it, but I am certain she received the same talk but with a change in parties and it became clear in time she was very much wanted).  I can't say how the conversation had truly gone down and whether I was wrong about the "friends" or it was just the "neutrals" who didn't want me to attend.  

I have often said that people don't have to like me.  That's true.  But the moment above is partly a dwelling point because I am often on the outside looking in and I can't say I don't get caught up wondering what it is that leaves me there.  The moment also left me with the familiar question of whether or not the people I deemed friends also preferred I leave them alone.  That one bothers me a lot.  It leaves me in the rather pathetic position of needing reassurance that I'm wanted....which I know doesn't help my popularity.  I've pulled away from relationships because of that fear.  

I know I have some social tics.  I didn't learn certain social traits early and then (and I hope this sentence makes sense outside my head) not knowing them kept me from learning them later.  I was a dedicated student and I did well but it took a LOT of work and that took time.  I never felt I fit in because I felt like I wasn't up to the caliber of my classmates, yet I know I gave off an aura of thinking highly of my academic self.  I somehow missed being in the social group of my honors classmates and I really never met anyone else.  This all adds up to missing some vital social growth.  

Sometimes it feels like I'm on the outside before I even have a chance to be socially awkward.  When I do get a moment, I do see some repeat "issues" and yet haven't learned the fix.  I am apt to respond to a story with a story of my own and I'm not sure that's always wise but I'm also not sure what else to do.  I have trouble extending social invitations because I worry about pressuring someone into my company and I am aware that not asking makes me less likely to be asked.  While I fear it sounds like a major cop-out, the continuous health problems don't help matters...until I am quite comfortable with someone, socializing takes energy I don't always have.  I talk about health too much...I learned to hide the physical pain for work purposes, but I couldn't keep it up after hours.  

The moment I opened with popped in my mind today and I felt a need to "blog it out."  I'm not sure I did so successfully, I don't know that there's much clarity in these ramblings.  While writing about an emotionally charged subject, like reliving certain moments, isn't fun, I believe doing so helps me process.  Maybe one day it'll lead to some more clarity, either in a light-bulb moment or in a gradual parting of the clouds.  I'm not looking to get reassurance or pity or anything of the sort.  However, as with blogging honestly about pain and certain demons, I'll hit "Publish" in part because I hope one person will stumble upon these words and feel at least the smallest bit of reassurance that they aren't alone in the world and that they aren't the only one wondering how they always end up looking in.  

I won't re-read this, which is totally selfish because sometimes immediate editing also means a bit of sad dwelling, so I apologize if it is hard to follow or if typos abound.  And if anyone happens to recognize the opening moment, please know that while I dwell on it, I don't hold any anger about is a tangible moment that taps into many intangible ones and dwelling on the moment isn't really about dwelling on the moment at all.  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Guide to Living With the Rambler

I've had millions of thoughts over the past months about blogging topics.  Yet, as may be expected, when I sit down to keep my commitment of writing more often, I go blank. 

My world continues to be dominated by the back issues, although wedding planning is rivaling medical matters as a source of stress lately!  I never really imagined throwing a full-on wedding again, and in many ways it is a much simpler affair than my "practice round," but there's still so much to do as the late-April date approaches.  Including figuring out why my computer refuses to be cooperative when it comes to my invitation envelopes (it won't put addresses even close to the middle of the envelope and feels "Mr. and Mrs. Tom Smith" is a two-line affair).

Like many couples these days, Military Man and I have already been living together.  There are certainly reasons why the "old-style" approach is nicer, but it does mean that he already knows many of my "quirks."  I actually provided him with warning regarding a number of them prior to move-in day, I didn't want any avoidable surprises.  Since I'm in bullet-point withdrawal, some important items about living with the Rambler:
  • I come with books.  A lot of books.  Poor MM....he just watched as they kept arriving...and had to carry them down a flight of stairs (note: one paperback is light, hundreds get heavy). 
  • It is my most noticeable feature, but all that hair doesn't stay put.  Seriously, I'm worse than a dog.  I'm not sure I shed more, but the dark, thick, long strands are certainly more noticeable...and quite the challenge for vacuums.
  • The hair also means a LOT of conditioner.  I am not a make-up gal...I only wear a BB cream...but I have a number of hair "potions."  Pictures from before I found my go-to products provide proof of their worth.
  • Really, the last hair-related item...I blow-dry my hair.  I can't do it in the bathroom because it frizzes like crazy.  I'm perfectly happy with my current set-up in the guestroom/treadmill-room and I've gotten much better at getting it done pretty quickly, but the sound of a hair dryer would definitely be on the soundtrack of my life.
  • I am pretty sure I eat more cereal than a typical household of 4...maybe 6. 
  • I still have my food issues.  I will likely need some of my own pantry-space and may need certain of your items kept in places I don't see often.  Like PB.  I've also been known to find the PB and leave a note promising to replace it after it "disappears" in a two-day period.
  • Don't plan on late night conversations, at least that you want me to remember.  My current medication regime means I often forget the last 30 minutes or so each night.
  • I need my workouts.  Even when it isn't the best idea for me and even if it means doing them at odd hours.  Lately, I lift at 10PM because that's when my body seems willing.  In my Boston days, I was on the treadmill before 5AM.  I got my own treadmill when I moved to State College and it is probably one of my most-loved and most-used possessions.  I was seriously grumpy this summer when it kept breaking down (and thrilled when they finally replaced it...I was just under the warranty wire)
  • I call my car Betty.  If I live with you, I will probably name your car too.  I may name other household items as well (the aloe plant is named Sally). 
  • I like saving wine corks.  I finally got a trivet to make out of some of them.  I still have dozens despite separating the ones I need for that project (delayed till post-wedding and till I figure out the best knife for trimming them).  And yet still keep more. 
Oh, and one more (though we all know I'll come back and add some to the above since I always think of things once I hit "Post"):
  • I ramble.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

a memorable cast, a unique journey...a review of The Good Luck of Right Now (Quick)

Of course, while I want to get back to blogging more regularly about other stuff, it wouldn't be my blog if I didn't still have book reviews....

Even as I start this review, I'm not quite sure how I'm going to rate this one.  This novel is composed of letters from Bartholomew Neil to Richard Gere....yes, that Richard Gere.  Bartholomew has lived a quiet life.  He clearly has some form of developmental disability, likely someplace on the autism spectrum, and he writes to Gere in the wake of his mother's death.  Bartholomew trying to find his footing as an adult and figure out who he is without his mother.  As the book progresses, we meet a bipolar priest, the "Girlbrarian" (Bartholomew's longtime crush), a grief counselor in need of her own counselor, and a man who is a bit obsessed with cats and unable to get through a sentence without at least one four-letter word.  Some "secrets" are a bit more apparent to the reader than to the characters, but the book is more about the journey these characters take, together and individually, than their destinations.

Quick supplies one of the more unique narrators that I've come across in a while.  Its hard not to enjoy Bartholomew, although its also hard not to get frustrated with him and the other characters at times.  The entire character of the cursing cat-lover (other reviewers suggest he likely has Tourette's) was a bit much for me, including his alien obsession and coincidental relationship with another character.  I was very much rooting for Bartholomew and I appreciated that he often showed himself to be wiser than he first appeared. 

While the ending wasn't exactly typical, it was a bit tidy for my tastes.  Then again, as I noted earlier, its really about the journey more than the destination and Quick certainly crafts unique and memorable characters.  4.5 for Bartholomew, 2 for the cat lover, and I suppose an ultimate 3.5 for the book as a whole...I'll round up where I need an even number.  A unique read, with a unique and hard-to-forget population...while there are elements I'd have preferred to see done differently, I'll still say thanks to the folks at Harper for the introductions (and the review copy).

P.S.  I did love the theory behind the title and may very well have to ramble about it sometime on its own.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

a class full of lessons

I really have every intention of reviving this blog and posting more regularly.  I'm still fighting the back fight and will be seeing a new doctor in April.  I'm still doing my ghost-writing gig, though recently moved down to 6 posts instead of 7 per week which alleviates a bit of stress since I sometimes struggled on topic selection (and really should use that extra time for this blog since it really does do me good and I still hope it does someone else good someday too).  I'm still getting married and the wedding is suddenly only three months away so bridal stress is definitely setting in!

One thing that is sorta new, though really started in late summer, is my Aquacise class.  It took a lot for me to walk in the door the first time.  I knew full well that I'd be a bit out of place since it is a class that caters to an older crowd (the Y does have some water classes that are more strenuous, but I knew what was realistic for my body).  I'm glad I got up the courage.

The class has varied a bit over the months, in large part due to a shift in instructors.  As a general matter, in addition to a warm-up and cool-down, the class includes a cardio section and strength-building section with exercises aimed at the upper body, lower body, and core.  I'm definitely in it for the strength work since I still do my walking most days.  I do have to modify some moves in order to take my back into account, especially moves that involve twisting or any sort of backwards kicks.  The new instructor started with the new year and I'm still learning what I can and can't do in her repertoire (she does help when I ask and made special note in the beginning of things she thought I should modify). 

As expected, the class is largely seniors and female (we had two men previously, one spouse and one rehabbing an injury, but none at the moment).  Some of the ladies have been coming for well over a decade!  Many know each other from church groups or their prior occupations (a huge portion were teachers).  At their holiday lunch (they schedule a lunch every few months and a nicer one in December), they even have a "white elephant" gift that gets passed around via some random selection and the chosen person has to take care of it for the year and bring it back to the next year's party, pretty strong evidence of the tendency to stay in the class for the long-haul.  There are 22 or so registered and usually around 15-18 come to class though it has been smaller with the recent weather woes.  There had been one other "young" woman but she was doing it as a way to stay active during pregnancy and departed with the little one's arrival in December. 

Physical aspect aside, watching these women has been good for me.  They genuinely care about each other and even about me.  When my dad passed, they knew before I said a word (welcome to small town neighbor attends church with one of the ladies and that's how the word was passed) and I got many a supportive hug.  Last week, one woman mentioned that she worries she might bump me when we do some backwards walking as part of the warm-up and they all agreed.  It was a bit funny....a class full of older women and I'm the one they fear injuring...but also very kind.  I do tend to require the most modifications and I do seem to deal with the most constant pain, although plenty of them battle their own physical issues.  It is a very supportive group, yet also quite welcoming, and they watch out for each other.  Cards are signed when injuries arise (one woman fell while hanging holiday lights, she returned as soon as the docs allowed it!).  There are a few who do not go into the deep end, but their progress getting a bit braver over time is very much noted and applauded (without becoming negative attention).

They also show me a lot about body image.  New suits are noted as pretty and the wearer never seems to focus on what it might do for her tummy or chest.  The women don't hesitate to strip out of their suits when they shower after class.  I'm the only holdback...I rinse off but don't take a full shower and leave my suit on as I do...I tell myself it is because I will walk later so just get the chlorine off and shower later. I change after rinsing, but in a fast and efficient manner.  My classmates gab nonstop as the steam rises, with suits or without, and chat as they re-dress after. 

Bodies are bodies.  They are appreciated for what they can do and pushed to stay their physical best for the sake of well-being and health.  Certainly, looking good is appreciated.  They joke about my relative youth, though I've heard more about my thick mop of hair than anything else, perhaps because they understand that appearances can be deceiving.  Still, they lack the body consciousness that I feel and that I associate with my peer group.  They are, or appear, at home in their own skin.  It's a goal that I think women in their thirties are often striving for, a goal that I think becomes more pronounced in this decade of life, but a goal of which many of us fall short (or at least I think that's true).  In my case, I am far from that finish line.  My ailments have certainly provided many a lesson in form versus function, but they haven't removed the body image struggles.  My classmates give me hope.

(Another note -- I highly recommend water classes to anyone with back issues.  Beyond providing an impact-free workout, there is NOTHING like having a float belt on, using floating dumbbells for balance, and just "standing" in the deep end.  I rush to the deep-end to have a few moments before the next exercises begin.  No pain medication provides anything remotely like it.  I get a moment without my body and, while it isn't necessarily pain-free, sometimes it feels like a miracle.)