Friday, September 30, 2011

questions without answers...politics and weight

I confess...I've re-started this post several times.  I am having trouble working through my thoughts and I want to feel like I'm expressing myself well.  I do have "PC police" voices in my head but it is actually much more about truly wanting to respect people.  Part of why it is swirling in my head is all the emotions around the issues and wanting to be respectful of those.

Getting on topic, I've been thinking a lot about weight issues again as people raise them in the context of Chris Christie as a potential presidential nominee.  I don't feel like I can get to many conclusions here, but I do have a few issues swirling in my head:
  • Is his size at all relevant to the candidacy? 
    • While it is not always fair to correlate weight and health, I do think health is a relevant issue when picking our highest elected official.  We want someone to be able to handle the physical toil of a 24/7 job.  We don't want a leader unable to complete his/her term or hampered by illness.  That part feels easy to me..except that weight is NOT always a sign of poor health (I'd worry about health issues in a fit pres too). 
    • But, does it matter that the president is the face of our nation?  I remember looking at the portraits lining high school classrooms and thinking presidents have gotten MUCH better looking over the course of history as media has invaded (Van Buren wouldn't make the cut now).  And I think it sort of does matter that you present a good image.  I do think Christie is still very polished and it is very much possible to look good and be larger.  But it still lingers for me....maybe because our national image is definitely becoming linked with weight.
    • And does the president need to be a role model?  I'm lost on this one.  The "grow up to be president" idea is a big one and part of me does think that means being a good role model.  But, then again, I think the person and the professional are separate roles.  I didn't care too much if Clinton was a bad husband...I wouldn't want him as a spouse but was happy to vote for him as a leader.  Is weight the same thing?
  • Is it fair late-night fodder?
    • I am totally inconsistent here.  I don't like mocking people for their weight.  But Letterman's Top Ten list totally made me laugh. 
    • Does quality matter?  Is it because Letterman did it well that I liked his jokes more than a "You're so fat..." joke? 
    • Part of me thinks that you subject yourself to more as a public figure, but I also hate when celebs are mocked for their weight gain.  Again, I'm not consistent here...and it rives me nuts.
    • It seems MUCH more acceptable to laugh at a fat man than a fat woman.  Is it because women are more likely to have emotional issues with food?  Or is it cultural?  Women bond by saying "You look so cute!" while men often bond more over "Dude, when's the baby due?" 
  • Leading to...What if Chris was Christine?
    • More a comment than anything, but I just can't see a woman of Christie's size being considered for the big gig.
Like I said, not the most productive post in terms of actual answers.  And I haven't made much progress despite playing it through my head for a few days.  But I do think it is all worth the thought...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Compromise, Ramber-Style, and a Time Machine Toddler Me

I confess....I felt bad breaking it to MM that the duckies will be leaving soon.

Compromise in our home is unique.  I had wanted to see Bridesmaids so he agreed to watch it On Demand and I agreed to go feed the ducks.  Though he made out well since Bridesmaids was a lot raunchier than I expected and more his huor than mine.  We actually need to finish it tonight since he had to make an emergency run to the office and we didn't get to finish it.  Another recent compromise....he stopped to get me a treat, I agreed to taking the top off his "fun" car while driving around (fun but the volume and the long hair are issues for me).

I also swear I saw a time machine version of myself at the park.  There was a pre-school aged girl with crazy messy curls (I had Shirley Temple ringlets...still wavy/curly but I blow dry it straight) who was there with her mom.  She was trying to talk to a big group of very loud ducks.  She was using a very rational tone of voice and asking them to be quieter (they were VERY loud yesterday).  She eventually got frustrated, threw her arms up in a dramatic shrug, and said: "What's WRONG with you ducks?  BE QUIET."  Honestly, I can totally see four-year old me doing the same thing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

bulletpoint withdrawal...

I confess....I'm feeling bullet-point withdrawal:

  • Dear Service Folks -- 8-12 is a decent-sized window.  If a customer calls at 1 when no one has showed for said window, the customer is unlikely to react well to being told the window has changed to 8-5.  Especially if you are befuddled when it is suggested you might have TOLD the customer of the change.
  • I love Community.  Okay, I love Abed.  Well, I love most of the other folks too but would be quite pleased to see Chang disappear.
  • I also love the ad with Jimmy Fallon seeing his pie-chart shows a small group that does NOT like more money and where he then argues with a toddler in the "no phase".  But I'll admit that the first time I referenced it I didn't get the product right so it may not be all that effective.  And the second time I named the wrong Jimmy...which is more about my clueless-ness.  I'd be a lovely person for a famous person to sit next to on a plane.  I'd leave them alone since I would not recognize them (unless it was Abed).
  • Still arguing with the scale.  It is also being tempermental.  I may have tried stepping on it a couple times in a row and saw different numbers (by over a pound and a half).  Like I need a factor to add in to my mental issues....yes, I could decide it is even MORE meaningless but I'm more likely to feel the need to check several times in a row.
  • Recovery update -- Just frustrated.  With still having pain when I feel like I shouldn't and with the darn brace I have to wear when I'm out of bed.
  • Another blog linked to this book: Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World.  I read pieces on the Amazon preview and was intruigued (but haven't ordered it yet).  The theme isn't new...the sad lack of intelligence and the fact that it is socially acceptable to know the names of Housewives while not knowing the branches of our government...but it does seem really well-done.  I'll wait till I can get a cheap used version though...and till I'm in the right mood for it.
  • How have I become a TLC watcher?
  • I have a love for small companies.  I had a not-so-great experience though with a smaller beef jerky brand (another addiction I did NOT see coming) and did let them know.  They offered to send another flavor to see if I'd change my mind.  When I was indecisive and asked for advice (re which might have less of the greasy feel that turned me off before), they said that they were mailing both.  Not naming the company since it isn't a product-rave, but the service at a small company is always so much nicer than a big name.
  • A post by another blogger made me confess in her comments that I often refer to bloggers I follow as "friends" even though I may not actually know them.   Oddly, I probably know more about some of the ladies who post regularly than I do about some "real life" friends.  I do appreciate the few people who are both bloggers and real-lifers. 
  • MM had a seven day week last week.  I am glad he only has a three day week this time.  When I want to be, I can call myself an only child (steps and halfs but none grew up in my home) and I guess I don't want to share him with his office.
P.S.  I'm curious how the FB revamp affects people seeing this since I know several folks come over from my FB status updates.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

two more for the shelf: Bright Lights, Big Ass (Jennifer Lancaster) and Rebeca (Daphne Du Maurier)

I confess...I get nervous when my "to-read" pile shrinks.  I recently signed up for an Amazon Visa.  The APR is high but there's no monthly fee so it is fine by me since I pay off my CCs monthly.  I got a $40 credit to the first order and am now getting Amazon points.  In my world, that may be better than cash.  I usually go for used books, often under a dollar unless it is one I am really seeking out....there's still shipping costs involved (esp since they are from different sellers so don't qualify for free shipping), but it is still a good deal.

I believe this is my third Jen Lancaster book.  I enjoyed it, but the sheen if off a bit since I feel like it is getting a bit repetitive.  Lancaster has a knack for humor, often a bit self-deprecating, but they do start to feel repetitious.  I am giving it three stars but it might have gotten more if I wasn't just a bit worn out on the same tale (really, how many memoirs can a thirty-something with a not-so-out-of-the-ordinary history have?!)  Totally my own doing in buying another one....and it might have more stars if it was my first or second foray in "Jennsylvania" (her website name).  She focuses on the reality of city life in Chicago, largely as she's climbing back up the economic ladder after a rough and sudden drop thanks to the economy.  Absolutely made me laugh but the change in focus from my prior Lancaster reads wasn't enough to make for a new book that held me.

After reading many more recent books where other reviewers made parallels to Rebecca, I felt like it was a gap in my reading list.  I have been enjoying what I term "literary mysteries" for several years, many of which could also carry the "gothic" label, and this seemed to be a frequently cited model for the genre.

This book, penned in the 1903s, presents an unnamed narrator who marries a man about whom she knows very little.  The marriage thrusts her into an upper-class world that is unfamiliar and takes her to his famed estate, Manderley.  The narrator feels haunted by the memories that her husband, townsfolk, and the staff (especially the head housekeeper) have of the husband's first wife, Rebecca.  It is hard to say much more without creating spoilers of things that unfold towards the middle and end of the novel.

I'm having more trouble than normal organizing my thoughts on Rebecca.  I'm giving it four stars, although it definitely dragged.  In many ways, it felt more like a "novel of manners" (throwback phrase from my English-major days) and a romance than a mystery.  But I do think the subtlety of Rebecca's presence is very well done and much more realistically drawn than a lot of novels garnering the "gothic" label.  It is a mental and emotional haunting, not a story of ghosts.  I never developed a very firm opinion of the narrator, which may explain my hesitation on the four stars.  But the prose, while lengthy, is quite lovely and held me through the whole story.  I appreciated the was the author built the intrigue in a story that is largely about mental and emotional struggles (the "action" starts late).  I also appreciate that the novel clearly lays a foundation for future works and for future women authors.  Worth a read for book lovers captured by more recent titles who want to see a bit of their "roots" and have the patience for a slower paced read.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

(little) girl talk

I confess....I feel kind of like the people who claim to have known a band before they went big, but I actually got into this topic well before it blew up the internet world a couple months back.  I simply noticed that I often greeted little girls by telling them they were cute and it began to bug me.  An internet post (HuffPo) on talking to little girls brought the issue to the forefront for a while, but I was SO there first.

I can't imagine meeting a woman in the grocery store line and cooing about her being cute.  I might compliment funky earrings that I like but would never have the guts to run, but "Aren't you adorable/cute/pretty?" isn't going to be uttered.  That said, I very well might call a little boy "handsome" or "cute" (or praise his eyelashes...what it is up with little boys having the world longest lashes???). 

There's an ad lately aimed at little girls for a DVD about Barbie going to charm school and learning "there's a princess in every girl"...well, if she learns to curtsy.  This drives me NUTS.  I am not totally oppose to all things Barbie, but can't there be a future research scientist in every girl...if she works hard in school and applies herself?!?  Or even a future star soccer player?  I get mad.  But then I go back to wondering if I'm adding to that culture. 

I've debated how to remedy this. It really isn't easy to give a little girl more concrete praise on being smart or kind or strong since these are pretty fleeting moments. I could, of course, say nothing at all, but I seem to be innately unable to do that.  I at least need to wave or wink.  I've praised a cute top but I'm not sure that's any better. I have actively tried to find roundabout alternates...."Wow, you must be a pretty special girl for Mommy/whomever to be buying you such a great toy!"...."'You are getting lots of yummy veggies!"...but that's not always an option.   I've even gone for "Wow, you must have been really good and sat still while you got such pretty braids"....though I'm less certain that's an improvement.

And I do think it is good for little girls to feel pretty.  ALL of them.  My concern is making that the number one trait for which they are recognized.  Then again, like it or not, it IS pretty realistic.  We ARE defined by our outward appearance.  Especially by strangers.  I'm treated differently than I was 30lbs heavier. 

I don't see myself totally ignoring the cute tyke (of either gender) sitting in the cart behind me at the store.  I can commit to trying to avoid the appearance fallback.  But, despite good intentions and doubts about messaging, I doubt I'll ever totally be able to "quit" the cute least cold turkey.  I have committed to at least trying...and to complimenting other traits when I can see them.  But now I'm thinking of traits to remark complimenting a girl for being patient and quiet any better if it plays into gender roles?  My head is going to hurt if I keep going down that route. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

taking control back (from the cookies)

I confess...I'm feeling VERY un-body positive.  I know I am not truly overweight, but I'm not where I want to be and not feeling good.

I generally do not advocate "diet" as a four-letter word.  I prefer to define it as simply "what one eats" and as "lifestyle" rather than a short-term fix.  I tend to scoff a bit at pre-packaged plans or shakes or such thing because they aren't something one can sustain.  That said, I have said in the past that I think such plans can be good for a "blip"...getting rid of a more specific weight gain in a generally healthy lifestyle.  And that's where I am.  I've simply indulged too much in comfort food during my recovery.  Healing does take fuel, but not like I've given it.

Of course, I made it Sunday and Monday before faltering on Tuesday.  But I'm trying to let that pass. 
I suspect I'll still have off-days (weekends, likely...though this week is odd since it is MM's work w/e). I need those in my week.   But I want to get control of the other days and to just get back where I like to be.  And not let the off-days be TOO insane (which they can be).

I'm a daily weigh-er and the scale showed this lapse more than normal....significantly more (seriously, higher than it had been Sunday morning after more than one "off" day).  I know this is why one isn't really supposed to weigh daily, but it's not a habit I see changing.  I do try to keep it in context and I know I fluctuate a good bit.  I have this fear it'll be an "up" day on the one day I weigh if I go weekly. 

No starving...I need nutrition for my bones to grow and heal the back.    I am also noticing a loss of muscle tone...especially in my arms. I can't do much about that for right now.  I can, however, take action and control rather than moping (and eating even more to comfort myself). 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Fight Like a Girl Story (endo)

I confess...I didn't proof this as well as I should.  I've had joining Fight Like a Girl on my to-do list for a bit but it was definitely in the post-op category and just hadn't happened yet.  I joined today and also submitted "My Story".  It'll post there eventually, but here's a preview for my readers of my story about my endo battle.

I remember my Mom telling me how lucky "we" were that we didn't get painful periods.  Heavy, yes.  Painful, no.  Well, at least according to her.  And for some reason I can't pinpoint, this made me unwilling to speak up and say that I DID have pain.  In the early womanhood years, the pain was bearable.  The heavy flow (had to get up every two hours the first couple nights to change) was a tougher battle.  But, over time and bit-by-bit, the pain came.  At first, it was pretty minor but it steadily got worse  In college, I'd occasionally lie down to escape it.  By grad school, I'd curl up to cry and lose a few days of studying.  Within a year after finishing school (24yo), it was at the "just hope to die" level.

I still didn't speak up.  I don't know why.  I'd never been healthy.  Two prior ENT surgeries, hives from nowhere, migrines...I was used to docs and talking but there was a block here. I went on the Pill for the heavy flow (and, well, the birth control side) and STILL didn't speak up about the pain.  It helped the flow but not the pain.  Eventually the pain became an every day demon instead of a monthly visitor.  I finally spoke up when I fell out of my desk chair from the pain.  The doc fit me in, my secretary offered to drive but settled for putting me in a cab b/c I looked like a ghost (hard for an Italian girl!).

As soon as the docs and I talked, I KNEW endo was the culprit.  But, since endo diagnosis requires surgery, we did lots of other tests first.  Each test (ultrasounds, upper GI, barium enema...)was a roller-coaster.  I wanted an ANSWER but feared what it would be.  I finally got the laproscopy scheduled and I showed up for my pre-op screeing.  With walking pneumonia...I guess I'd been toughened...just thought it was allergies.  A delay (and a BIG cry in the office women's room) ensued but eventually the diagnosis was made.

Endo is a tricky beast.  I was in a LOT of pain but it was actually a small amount of endo that was the culprit.  This is a reality...pain and the amount aren't always correlated....some women with severe growths never hurt (and only learn of it with fertility troubles), others have a small amount that just hits the wrong spot.  The small growths make it tricky...I've had three laps to remove tissue but still struggle.  I take continuous BCP (no placebo week) and will end up in tears if I somehow miss even one.  I've had three surgeries for it and wonder if it'll just be a recurring event.  There's no cure.  I appreciated the doc who said "It is likely we'll never get you pain-free" b/c it was honest.  I learn to deal...the bad days are less often but still bad.  I warn people I'll be snappy when it hurts (my favorite phrase: "it is NOT an excuse, but it IS an explanation").  I've faked a phone call on the train to voice the invisible pain and guilt someone into offering a seat.

By far, the best thing I've done is live this fight openly.  I've found other women who can relate.  It took my breath away when another woman shared that she also sometimes hoped the pain would notch up JUST a bit b/c then she'd get to "go away" (not fainting, not sleeping, just the brain letting you leave...).  And I hope that I've also helped at least one other woman. 

A few years ago, I started having a bit of pain I wrote off as gym-soreness but eventually clearly became something else.  In an odd way, my severe back pain "cured" the endo for a 8-level pain in the back beat out the 7 in my pelvic region.  And it was oddly comforting to have something we could TREAT rather than just CONTROL.  I did all the basic treatments and ended up in surgery on Aug 8 2011 (spinal fusion).  I'm healing from that now.

And it has made me realize a bit more about what makes endo an evil beast.  After surgery, the doc (who does a few of these a week) said my disc was among the worst he'd seen in years.  And I felt an odd relief...not just b/c it bodes well for success...but b/c I felt VALIDATED.  My pain was REAL and BAD and I wasn't a whiny baby.  THAT had been an issue in a failed marriage.  And THAT is one of the real cruel parts of is so often written off as minor ("Oh, I get cramps too...sometimes I need TWO Midols...") or even imagined.

So, MY mission is to tell every woman out there fighting this demon...IT IS REAL.

Monday, September 12, 2011

readin' on: Kate Morton's The Distant Hours and Shilpi Somave Gowda's Secret Daughter

I confess...I really did want to get these up yesterday for the symbolism of following my own theory,  Oh well  Both are books I purchased rather than Harper picks.

In general, I think my favorites books tend to be from authors who only produce a single novel, maybe two.  I guess they are the type of single stories an author almost feels the need to get out.  The bad part is it means I don't get to anticipate another novel from a favorite author too much.  Kate Morton is an exception...I just love her haunting stories.  I consider them literary mysteries although the word gothic is bantered about more.

The Distant Hours is told in two time periods, the pretty modern-day journey of Edie to uncover the past and the WWII-era residents of Milderhurst Castle.  Edie learns her mother was evacuated from London to the castle as a girl during the war and discovers the castle was also the place where a favorite childhood read was penned.  The book explores the mystery of the book as well as the disappearance of a young man engaged to one of the sisters living in the castle.  It is heavily influenced by concepts of family...both those that are arguably too tight and those where mothers and daughters feel at a loss to understand one another. 

It probably isn't my favorite Morton book (The Forgotten Garden would win), but I still fell into and it is still a solid 4 star read.  The characters have complex histories and emotions and their relationships are much more real than perfect.  It's a long book but I devoured it.  I often want to savor a good read and not let it end, but I really wanted to know the book's secrets.  I'll definitely re-read it eventually....I think it would be interesting to go back to the start while knowing the secrets.

I had this on my nightstand and moved it up in the pile when a friend mentioned it on FB as a great read (too odd that we'd both suddenly picked it up). 

Throughout this novel, the chapters vary focus but all revolve around the individuals tied to one little girl.  In India, Kavita gives her newborn daughter to an orphanage to save her from the gender-based infanticide that took her firstborn.  The child is later adopted and moved to American by Somer, a California doctor married to an Indian man who came to the US for his own medical training and stayed after they fell in love.  We get to see not only the two mothers but also their spouses, a bit of their families, and the shared daughter.  When the girl, Asha, is in college she takes a Watson Fellowship and goes to India to live with family and work on a journalism piece, allowing the reader to see both her American and Indian families.

I appreciate that the author really avoids one-sided characters.  We even grow to understand and see the good in the husband who had directed the infanticide of Asha's older sister.  We also see a lot of the beauty in the Indian culture as well as the startling contrasts in modern-day India between the well-off and those living in horrid, fetid slums.  India itself is a charcter, a well-rounded one, and the book is about both culture and family. 

I'm at 3.5 stars though.  I'll round up to 4.  While I loved the way it felt very real and showed that reality is rarely pure good and pure evil, I just felt like it missed something that prevents me from the full 4 stars (despite the rounding that the websites require).  The characters were all real and flawed but I never truly felt like I understood them.  I did appreciate the ending and the vivid sense of place and definitely enjoyed the journey but I never fell in love with the book.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I confess....I'm really torn between writing a dual book review and a 9/11 post.  I'm going with the latter but including a mention of why the former also feels like patriotism (and maybe I'll do it later).

I remember seeing my friend Mike in the hallway on 9/11/01.  He looked a bit dazed and told me about the first plane.  Honestly, I thought it was some sort of massive pilot or mechanical error.  The law school lacked any TVs (this was remedied in my time on the equivalent of student council) and the computer lab was jammed but, as folks know, everything was jammed.  I went to my first class and the prof (also the Dean) had been prepping so didn't know the news and held class despite a few students protesting.  When my next class started, the rumors were real news access and proximity to D.C. added to that.  My prof came in and very solemnly (and impressively) cancelled class saying there were more important things to think about. 

I went home and watched the coverage with my roommates.  Even when it was clear it was an attack, I'm pretty sure I didn't comprehend it.  We watched for hours, like everyone else I suppose.  We called our folks to check in.  Mom will always be a New Yorker.  Dr. Dad (who is from there too) volunteered to go help...they didn't need him since he wasn't a first aid specialist and simply put not enough survivors needing his neuro expertise. 

Here's where I might lose you.  After hours of coverage, I went to my room and put on my gym clothes.  I just couldn't watch anymore.  I felt more relief than I care to admit when I opened my door and saw a roommate had done the same thing.  And I went to the gym.  I thought this through and came to a conclusion that I still hold....we lose if we don't keep living.  It is patriotic to go to the gym (or write a book review).  "They" win if we stop living our lives.  That does NOT mean we can't mourn or can't remember.  I actually finally found my tears while on the wasn't a matter of ignoring the event at all.  It was a matter of living and not letting anyone take that from me.

I've always refused to let fear run my life.  I am careful if I'm out alone at night.  I carry a key poking from my fist and ask for an escort if it feels right.  But, as I told my Mom when she'd fret about me walking at night in college, I will to be aware and I will certainly avoid undue dangers, but I'm going to live.  I got on a plane late October 2011.  Aside from the fact that I knew security was as high as it could be, I also knew it was an important message.  Yes, even one girl getting on a plane for the West Coast, since all the "one"s add up to a "many".

Always remember.  Never forget.  But don't let evil win by giving in to fear.  Living is patriotic.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

rainy rambles

I confess...I had a screening interview that asked about my presentation style and I totally confessed my love for bulletpoints.
  • We got a reverse-911 emergency services call last night warning of 7+ inches of rain.  MM felt bad about it but did ask I try and tend to our wet basement occasionally during the day.  I started with a towel but that wasn't back friendly...filled half a gallon bucket with wetness that way and then wised up to using a sponge mop for the next half bucket.  Slower but back-friendlier.
  • MM and I survived my cooking last night.  Made my mussels dish.  Since it says to use pepper "to taste", I never put in the same amount and it was less spicy this time but still yummy and you could appreciate the tomato and basil flavors more.  Sadly, one plastic bowl did not survive my klutzy-ness.  It is well and good to pour the mussels into a bowl to serve more easily, but one should NOT put said plastic bowl on the stovetop when doing so (insert "I'm truly an idiot" smiley here).
  • First follow-up doc appt is tomorrow.  I'm still in a lot of pain and know as soon as four hours is up and the one med wears off.  I've tried to reduce it but my body isn't ready yet.  The weather does NOT help.  The appt also involves an x-ray which I'm nervous about.  Fusion surgery is kinda cool in that the surgeon facilitates but your body really does the healing by growing bone.  The x-ray will show if that's usually does, but some patients "fail to fuse" so fingers crossed.
  • I am thinking about a short-term style diet fix beginning sunday and then pretty much weekdays for a bit.  I do NOT usually recommend these but I DO think they can help for folks who generally have good habits and put on a few pounds due to an outlying event.  I will be sure it is a protein and calcium-rich plan and it won't be for too long...just getting back on track.  Waiting till Sun since there are dinner plans Thurs and Sat.
  • I am not girly, but my hair does go nutty in wet weather so I can be a bit of a rain-phobic.  I have also been feeling sympathy for the local teen girls as it has poured yesterday and today.  First two days of school AND frizz are not fun (well, I was clueless as a teen, but it would majorly suck for a non-total-dork).
  • Watched the first episode of Wonderfalls on DVD.  Totally fun, quirky world.  Speaking of which, I can't wait for Community to start.  My Abed love trumps over my total dislike for Chang.
  • Hoping to get the nod for PT from the doctor.  There's a new PT place really close to us but I can't find any history on it....or really on anything in our town.  My awesome Boston PT was asking around in State College for me but so far doesn't have a recommendation (he volunteered to help...we've stayed in touch regarding my progress and the surgery choice).  Everything is REALLY tight and I can't really stretch on my own.  And I want to build back muscle without harming anything so need the professional guide.
  • I was sent home from the hospital with a sponge-on-a-stick for foot and leg cleansing without bending.  I quickly upgraded to a nicer back brush.  Seriously, a new item on my favorite things list.  More for how great it feel on my back than the actual leg-cleansing that I bought it to do.  It will definitely remain post-healing.  (I want to give this a good review but don't want to create another freakin' login account...I have had no problems with the product).
  • I HATE the PSA that tried to tell parents their babies will all die of whooping cough if the parents aren't vaccinated.  They say "up to 80% of babies get it from family members."  Of course, that is only for babies who GET IT at all and the small print notes the statement only qualifies where they can identify the source.  Well, OF COURSE that's true.  Babies are around mostly family and professional caregivers, the latter of whom are likely required to keep up with vaccines.  And, if they get it from some stranger in an elevator, then there won't BE an identified source and it won't be counted towards the stat.
  • One bonus to central PA versus MA is that my fall allergies have at least waited until early-September instead of starting up in mid-August. 
  • Allergies make me think of puppies.  I like puppies.  No, I cannot have a hypoallergenic one...they STILL bother me.  And I want a golden lab.  I'll just keep a puppy in my head.  Bonus: no poop-scooping. 
  • An addition -- After hearing about it for a while, MM and I finally tried Pinnacle Gummy.  We all know I'm a red wine girl (promise I'm not as much a lush as I sound like!!), but the Pinnacle flavors are kinda cool...esp the chocolate whipped cream!  Gummy seriously tastes like Swedish Fish....well, vodka soaked Swedish Fish (I recall folks soaking gummy bears, but not the red fish). It is a bit eerie.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Happy Birthday, Military Man

I confess...I'm sappy sometimes.

But, what it boils down to with MM is a simple truth -- there's nothing better in the world than finding someone amazing who, by some miracle, thinks you are amazing too. 

I'll hold off the lists and corny stories and just say Happy Birthday to the man who taught me how wonderful such a basic equation can be.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

review time -- LA Mental: A Thriller (Neil McMahon) and Notes on a Scandal (Zoe Heller)

I confess...I feel odd about combining a Harper and a non-Harper review.  But I'm getting over it.

L.A. Mental was provided to me by the lovely folks at Harper and I will confess at the outset that I'm not usually a huge thriller girl.  This is important because I do always want to give my reviews context...reading for Harper encourages me to step out of my box, but that is sometimes reflected in my opinion.

This is an interesting mix between the detective/thriller genre and a bit of sci-fi.  Tom Crandall gets caught up in drama when one brother takes a fall after going a bit nutty, another brother becomes deeply involved in a movie project headed by a cult-ish leader, and a sister is threatened by the nutty-going brother.  The movie producer character has all sorts of theories and seems to be playing out mind control theses on his followers and his detractors.  There's a beautiful love interest and several sketchy potential villains in the mix, along with family money and secrets that make the Crandall clan a target.

I'm rounding down to 3 from a preferred 3.5 stars.  It just didn't compel me.  It read fast and easy and it did hold my interest okay, but I never got emotionally involved which I need.  The characters were a bit too simply drawn for my tastes.  The author definitely leaves room for a sequel but I don't feel any need to seek it out.  However, I do think that my genre bias is at play and would guess a thriller fan might round up to 4.  To use an overused (including by me) phrase, "it is what it is" and that just isn't my style.

It is rare for me to see a movie and THEN read the book but the reviews suggest I'm not alone in doing this with Heller's book.  I saw the movie some time back and I do recall it being good but I honestly didn't seek the book out because of it, instead I just happened upon the title online and decided to order it.

The book is narrated by Barbara, a long-time teacher who says she wants to chronicle the true story of her colleage Sheba's affair with a teenage student.  The narrator herself is a fairly lonely woman in her 60s who seems to have a history of intense friendships that become a bit frightening as Barbara gets overinvolved/obsessed with another woman.  In this case, it is Sheba who is a new pottery teacher at the school and who has a husband and two children at home. Much of the plot is based on second-hand knowledge of the events relating to Sheba's involvement with the male student.  There is also a lot about how the women became friends and the caretaker role Barbara takes when the affair becomes public.

A strong four star, maybe even four and a half, read.  Truly, this is about Barbara, not Sheba, and Barbara's need for companionship that stretches the boundaries of healty friendship.  She isn't a narrator that the reader likes nor is she totally reliable, but she is fascinating.  Heller's talent is in her ability to get inside this narrator's head and present a very nuanced character.  The voice feels so very real, even as the reader grows increasingly uncomfortable with the narrator herself.  Strong book for readers who like character studies and are okay with not finding any heroes.  I doubt you'll love anyone in this book, but I do think you'll be fascinated by them.