Wednesday, November 30, 2011

33, part 1 - the not-so-good...

I confess....I'm not waiting two more weeks to write this.  It is drumming loudly in my head and I hope hashing through it helps me with that. 

My pre-turkey gratitude post referenced some of the events of 2011 but I also want to reflect more broadly on my 33rd year.  As I noted last year around birthday time (early then too....), my AP English teacher once told us to be alert for 33yo characters.  The age carries biblical significance and often is a hint that the character will be experiencing some significant change.  33 has been busy for me...I do have two weeks to go but I'm ready to reflect early.  In pondering the process of pondering, I decided two posts were needed.  When asked, I always pick "bad news first, good news second"...I'd rather start down and end up.  So look forward to a celebratory post to come...but this isn't it....

The most obvious disappointment of 33 (and the focus of most of this post) is on the career front.  In a week, I become one of the 99ers....unemployed long enough that my benefits all expire.  I do have my little writing gig (that will be in 33, Part 2), but I haven't found a full-time job.  I feel exhausted by the job search.  I apply to many jobs each week, some that I'd truly love and others that might work for now.  I don't hear back much, though I get totally jazzed when I do and start dreaming and planning and thinking about how perfect that job would be.  Good for showing enthusiasm, not so good for the let-down if it falls through.

I feel like my education and career background has been a huge hindrance in this.  I went to a top college.  I went to a top law school.  I do NOT want to be a lawyer (I have a lovely speech about that topic...) but people get stuck on that.  I have expressly heard hiring folks say they thought I'd be underwhelmed by certain jobs b/c of my background.  I have no big ego.  I get that I'd be entry-level in some jobs and I am cool with that.  I'd love to find and build the RIGHT career and I can pay my dues.  I would absolutely come and stay with the right job.  Getting paid helps, but I am not primarily motivated by money.  I had the high-paying job that made me miserable and I want something more intangible.  But I don't get the chance (see this post for one of the harder rejections....but there were many more).

And now I'm also prepared to take a non-career-path job too.  I do have savings and MM has never complained about paying the vast majority of the bills.  But it matters to me that I help with some when I can and that I pay for my personal expenses (groceries, drug store, cell phone, insurance, lingering medical bills).  I have savings...I won't starve....but I do need some cashflow.  But, again, I have the stumbling block of my resume.  Approaching 34, I can't leave it all blank but I know the supermarket is going to pick the high-school kid over the applicant with the BA and the JD.  Truth -- on some of those jobs, I really couldn't promise that I won't leave when I find a career-path job.  But I'd be a darn good worker (and there's no reason to suspect the career to pop up tomorrow when it hasn't yet).  I'd be on time.  I'd do my job.  I'd be helpful.  I'd be polite.  I'd respect the managers, even if they are younger than me.  I don't know how long that 17 year-old plans to stay either.  I'd at least be courteous and give notice rather than not showing up one day.

I look hard.  I've networked, I've made targeted resumes, I've applied, I've followed-up.  Heck, I went to an interview one week post-op AND prepared a presentation for it (most people can only get out of bed for 20min at a time at that point)!!  I feel defeated.  Truly, that's the biggest thing missing from my thirty-third year.  And the one I'm finding it the hardest to deal with.

Moving on....I am not thrilled with where 33y50w has me in terms of body image.  Or, frankly, in terms of body/fitness.  That one, however, I feel more able to tackle.  A lot of it relates to the aftermath of major surgery (also to be included in Part Two since it IS a positive) and is somewhat expected.  I am finally getting ready to start physical therapy and have a consult late tomorrow afternoon.  I plan to ask about being able to start getting some muscle back on my own in addition to the work with the therapist and I know that will be a HUGE step forward for me.  Losing definition has been tough on me and send me into a cycle where I feel icky and then respond by eating and then feel ickier.  I think being able to work on getting the muscle back will help break that.  It won't happen overnight, but it WILL happen.  Fitness level is in the negative column for 33 but I see it moving into the positive for 34.

There are some other disappointments in 33...a misunderstanding leading to a lost friend is one...but those are the biggies.  So, there's part one...the bad news.  Not fun but now I get to look forward to assembling part 2.  And 33 had some pretty awesome stuff too. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Special: 3 Book Reviews (Let the Great World Spin, The World to Come, Attachments

I confess...I'm waiting on four freebie books (3 Harper, 1 Goodreads contest) and was sad the mail-lady didn't bring any today.  I used to regularly mix in re-reads but haven't lately given the Harper books and the deals I can score on Amazon's used books.  I'll venture down to the shelves tonight though, especially since I have three newly read books to bring down.

The tie that binds the characters in Let the Great World Spin is a daring (and illegal) stunt in which a man walked on a tightrope strung between the Twin Towers in 1974.  The book has a wide-range of characters including two Irish brothers living in a rough Bronx neighborhood, a wealthy woman who lost her son in Vietnam, and a prostitute who is a grandmother to two despite only being in her 30s.  The chapters focus on different characters but they do connect up to each other so it feels more liked linked vignettes than short stories.

I'm landing back on my 3.5 star rating here, rounding up to 4.  I enjoyed the book.  I think it is natural in this type of novel to find some characters more compelling than others and I did sometimes regret not spending more time with some of them.  This isn't a happy read, although there are some inspiring moments.  I'd call it gritty realism with a hint of hope.  At times, I felt like it dragged but there were parts where I definitely looked forward to the next time I could pick it up.  Mixed feelings but still worth the read and I rounded up because I do think the author shows skill and took on an ambitious project that is not just the standard fare.
This book has a bit of history in it.  In 2001, a small piece by Chagall was stolen from the Jewish Museum in NYC during a singles happy hour.  The author takes this theft and creates a fictional story around it.  The story does include some history, including a look at Chagall's life in Russia in the 1920s and an author with whom his path crossed but whose future turned out very different than Chagall's successful career.  The fictional art thief is a recently divorced man with a rich family history that the reader sees as the focus shifts among a number of focal characters.  Throughout, there is a backdrop of Yiddish folklore, including a lovely story about the divot between a baby's nose and upper lip (I wonder if I'm alone in repeatedly touching my own lip dimple while reading). 

This is a strong four stars for me, possibly even four and a half.  It is a complex novel in that there are many interrelated characters, but it also feels like a simple little story at the same time.  I loved Horn's writing and the weaving of the folklore through the tale.  It is a rare novel that can make me root for an art thief (not that I condone his actions....though they do get placed in context)!  A great mix of historical fiction and modern characters that I enjoyed immensely.  Recommend to literature lovers, especially any with a curiosity about folklore and the way we carry the past with us.

It is unusual for a novel that borders on chick-lit to have a male lead and perhaps that's why I'm not sure if the chick lit label fits here.  I saw another review calling it a plane read and I can get behind seeing it as plane or beach fare.  The book is set in 1999 when a Midwest paper is tentatively moving into the digital age and hires an IT security guy tasked with keeping an eye on internet usage more than on our more modern concerns of online privacy invasion.  Lincoln's job includes reading flagged emails and issuing warnings on misuse, including the use of email for personal chats.  He finds himself wrapped up in the emails exchanged by two women (all the main characters seem to be late 20s) and continues to read the emails without sending a caution and with increasing guilt over the invasion as he finds himself falling for one of the women.  The novel encompasses all three as they grow into the next stage of their lives negotiating family, relationships, and potential parenthood.

This is a three star read for me.  I think it does what it should and what it is intended to do.  It is a fun book and you can forgive some of the magic that is often associated with rom-com movies.  Nothing too deep but enjoyable.  I enjoy sometimes taking a break from more serious reads and this fit the bill but it also isn't quite on the level of Good in Bed or Bridget Jones. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

gratitude 2011

I confess....I am compulsively early.  In college, it was pretty much the norm to be late and I recall one friend saying she tried really hard to be on time w/ me because she knew being 10 minutes late meant I'd been there for 20.  In one organization, they told people to put "1:50" on their calendars for a 2PM meeting.  They told me to put 2:10.

So, a pre-turkey gratitude post.  I am focusing on the past 12 months rather than just the world in general so don't expect the more general "having food to eat" stuff.  I AM grateful for such things, but I want a more specific focus.  And bullet-points.

In 2011, I am grateful for:
  • Finding MM.  There's so much I could put here but I'm gonna limit myself and go with the moment I said I was jealous of the backrub he was giving the host at a NYE gathering and the "Don't worry, you're next" response.  We'd talked a bit earlier in the evening and the first kiss didn't come till the next night (we go with 1/1 as the official marker...the backrub was well after midnight) but that's when it really started.
  • My mom "letting" me go to move in with MM even though it was crazy fast but more because I know she and my step-dad would always take me back in if it hadn't worked.
  • My dad for answering all the million medical questions and for him and my step-mom babysitting me when I first got out of the hospital.
  • My bones for growing.  I see horror stories of surgeries failing and knowing that bone growth was happening was a relief.  Hopefully next year I'll be grateful for being "fully fused" (i.e. the bones have grown all the way and the surgery was a success) and for the pain being a memory.
  • Centre County, PA.  Despite the press deluge on our area recently, I really like it here.  It is such a friendly place...our mail-lady chased us down so I didn't miss a package once and several people came to help when my car got stuck after some snow. 
  • Fireballs.  Yes, they make the list.  Think jalapeno poppers but in pizza dough.
  • Risotto Cakes.  I'll stop at two food nods.  MM uses credit card points for Omaha Steaks orders and we added these since I'm not a big red meat gal.  They are freakin' awesome.
  • A home treadmill. Yes, it is an odd one to include (though pairs well with the food), but I really love having it. It has been especially helpful in recovery since going to the gym and being able to only do a slow walk would have been even harder for me and having full cable (only about 10 channels at my gym and obv do have to consider other folks) is really helpful when I'm on the "long and slow" route.
  • Electric fireplaces.  I've never had one before and didn't really "get" the concept but it totally keeps the living area warm without turning up the oil heat.  It is pretty too....not quite the same as a "real" fire but it also avoids having to leave the flue open and losing heat after plus it is super easy. 
  • The fact that I can say I have been paid to write.  It isn't fancy, just ghost-writing for an attorney's blog (personal injury focus but also branching out) and the style is dictated by the forum, but it totally still counts.
  • People who actually read my blog.  Love that the number of followers went up a bit and know other folks click over from FB or use blog reader apps. 
I inevitably think of other things to say after I hit post.  No promises that I won't come back and edit.  But I'll throw in a catchall and note that I'm thankful for the things and folks I've found in the past year that enrich my life and I think the best things are sometimes the ones we don't even think to list.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

bullet-points are addictive

I confess...I totally go into bullet-point withdrawal:

  • Thanks to a friend who suggested me as her replacement, I am ghost-writing a lawyer blog.  It ain't fancy, just three posts a week for a personal injury lawyer out in CA, but I'm actually able to say that I am being paid to write!  Totally one of my dreams...even if it is in a very lay audience style and hampered by the need to include search engine friendly phrases that don't always feel natural. 
  • Weaning out of my brace sounded so wonderful.  I could not WAIT to be free of it (though decided it would not burn well and I couldn't have a brace bonfire).  I was NOT ready though for feeling like I'm back in the early weeks of recovery.  It makes sense that I'd have pain and spasms and my back wakes up, I just hadn't thought it through.  Not fun. 
  • Also not fun...sinus issues.  I thought a half-developed cold was to blame but it took a break and returned so I'm not so sure.  MM uses a saline sinus rinse but I'm a bit chicken about trying it myself (and would need to buy my own since it sounds even worse than sharing a toothbrush).
  • Gingerbread marshmallows are AWESOME but can never again be bought by me since they disappeared in two days.  But, if you have self-control, totally try them
  • This post is on my mind.  I am refraining from a too early check-in on year 33 (though that post was a bit pre-turning 33 itself).  A lot of great changes, but still waiting on one big one.
  • Funny how events turn.  I was dumped from a job recently for having the nerve to ask about salary or non-traditional hours (even though I agreed to EVERYTHING in the end and only insisted on seeing paperwork...see ramble here).  That job involved young children.  So, of course, the next job I get in the process for (beyond just an app...millions of those) involved convicts.  And, yes, parental types, I will make sure it is all safe and secure if I'm chosen for an interview beyond my 10min intro convo.
  • Still fascinated by the PSU story, more than I feel like I should be.  I think the tension b/w legal and moral duty is part of it.  As for Sandusky's interview where he admitted showering w/ kids, lots have questioned how a lawyer let that happen.  Well, the lawyer was once representing a teen girl in an emancipation proceeding and ended up having a sexual affair with her.  Started when she was 16 (legal in PA, apparently, which continues my legal/moral divide), she had his kid at 17 and did marry him years later and had 1 more before they split).
  • It feels like eons ago, but I saw Herman Cain's conference on the harassment claims and was surprised to see a familiar face.  His attorney had joined my firm about a year before I left.  He'd previously had a small practice that included several high power media-related cases.  I wondered how the case got approved by a big firm machine and found out he'd since left the firm.  The cool of the three partners was a friend and office-neighbor of mine at the firm.  She's a liberal who got me involved in NARAL and who is now a Democratic member of the GA State House.
  • We get a crazy number of wrong number calls on our new-ish home line.  And they are for at least 5 different people....several from collection folks.  Sixty percent are machines that never have a "you have the wrong folks" option.
  • MM and I shall have our own Thanksgiving this year.  I haven't reserved a turkey but was glancing yesterday.  I'd hoped they had a stand-alone turkey breast but only found full turkeys and cutlets.  He's the cook but I may be the shopper and I'm not sure what I'll get....leftovers are normal but a whole turkey's leftovers, esp since I'm not a huge fan of actual turkey and freakishly like turkey cold cuts but not roasted turkey, after only 2 diners is a bit much.  I plan to make my mom's lox/smoked salmon rolls as an app and might get my act together enough to make a cheesecake too.  The secret crust ingredient is Zwiebacks, the biscuits often used for teething tots.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Not-So-Happy Valley

I confess...I am captivated by the story, much more than I'd have imagined.  I live just outside State College.  The region is known as Happy Valley but there's truly nothing happy in this saga and, November weather aside, the town feels very gray and somber.  Beyond a quick sports score report, our local stories are rarely national news.  Until this week when the story of football coach Jerry Sandusky repeatdly abusing young boys hit the news.  The story became more involved when it became clear that other university representatives were aware of the situation, including Joe Paterno ("Joe Pa" to the town), the head coach of the football team, a legend in college sports and an idol in this town. 

Of course, my heart aches for the victims of this abuse.  It went on too long.  Even one innocent life disrupted is too many.  There are currently nine victims listed and there is little doubt that there are many more out there.  The evidence, including two separate eye-witness accounts by adults who observed blatant sexual abuse, is pretty convincing.  I do believe in our presumption of innocence, but I have a hard time thinking that this many stories are all false.  Other than a few purporting to reserve judgment until everything is heard, I have only heard condemnation for Sandusky.  The outrage at the allegations is just.  It is cases like these that make me wish we had truly harsh penalties for serial child abusers (i.e. you misused "it", we're gonna cut it off).  Okay, I wouldn't want that system most days, but I can't deny feeling like jail would be too easy.

When you get beyond Sandusky, I do think it gets more complex.  I took a course called Higher Education & The Law and I know that there are very complex rules that govern colleges and universities.  These rules can be especially detailed with a large university such as PSU.  It seems clear that Joe Paterno was informed of the abuse on at least two occasions by direct eye-witnesses.  These weren't "iffy" cases, like a hug that lingered too long, and the reports were clear.  In turn, Paterno reported the incidents to his superiors.  This is, from what I can tell, what the rules dictated.  Although there may be added wrinkles given that children were involved and child abuse does have some strict reporting guidelines, it seems like Paterno did follow the letter of the law.  Moral duty is a whole different question and I do think his failure to go beyond the reporting scheme likely allowed Sandusky's actions to claim more victims. 

I can see an argument for staying within the rules, a trust that they work and an attempt to avoid any potential false claims even though that does not feel likely to be happening here.  Even when someone is fully cleared, I doubt they can ever recover their reputation after a false allegation of sexual misdeeds, especially with a child.  I don't think this excuses anyone but I do think it merits note.  It seems to me that Joe Pa should have done more, but that the people to whom he reported bear even more of that responsibility. 

I understand the decision to fire Joe Pa.  Even more, I understand the decision to fire the University President.  Several in the middle resigned.  I think that would have been a smarter (and nobler) move for all.  PSU seems to have given them the chance and only acted when it became clear they didn't plan on it (Joe Pa said he'd retire at the end of the season).  I do not condone the violence in some student protests, but I can also feel a bit for the students.  Most of the protesters have been peaceful.  They are 20 year old kids whose idol was just ripped out from under them.  They want to still believe in him.  He did a lot for the team and for the school and, in a way only young people can, they feel this vivdly.  I do not think they are demeaning the victims...none are protesting in favor of Sandusky.  I think they just feel like Joe Pa, a beloved figure, is being made a scapegoat.  He followed the rules and that is what they see.  Beyond that, it is complex and they may not be ready to take it all in.  They want to believe in Santa, even after seeing presents in the closet.

And that idolization leads me to another thought.  I've heard some people say "this isn't about football, it is about abuse."  Of course, it is about abuse.  There's no question there and no question that nothing can give back to the victims the innocence they lost.  But, it IS about football too.  It is about idols and heroes.  It is about the power we place in the hands of the few.  The degree to which people worship the team and its leadership is a big issue here.  It is always hard for victims to come forward.  Especially children.  Especially boys.  This is exponentially increased when the abuse is perpetrated by people in power.  Sandusky was seen as a "great" and the full package.  He was not only an athletic leader but also a mentor dedicated to helping young people succeed.  This gave him access and granted him more silence.  It is hard to speak against a hero and even harder to speak against someone you are told is providing opportunity to so many young people.  This makes the analogy to the church abuse scandals feels very apt.  This story is about football because it is football, and the community work that grew out of his football career, that gave Sandusky power.  It gave him the silence of his victims and no doubt also made it harder for the eye-witnesses to report the crimes.  A winning and loved coach versus a janitor, in a town that worships sport and loves idols. 

Taking a pretty big tangent onto the sport....I also feel awful for the members of the team.  In general, I think high-level college athletes are spoiled.  I'm not a fan of the amount of glory (and, in ways that sneak around rules, fiscal reward) we give to the college football elite.  But these kids certainly have worked hard to excel at their sport and, for lack of an eloquent way to put this, it just stinks that their college sports career will be forever marred by this story.  It will be a tough remainder of the season and their football days will always be associated with events over which they had no control.  They are certainly not to blame. 

There are talks of boycotts.  Others seem even more likely to attend this week's game because they view it as a way to show support for Paterno.  I admit I'll be interested in seeing how the Saturday game unfolds, both in the stands and on the fields.  Of all the suggestions I've seen on how the community should respond, my favorite involves fans still attending the games (assuming they'd have gone prior) but wearing black to show grief for the abuse victims (others say blue but that doesn't feel like a strong message to me since it is "normal" for fans to don blue and white). 

There's a lot of emotion in this story and a lot of emotion in this town.  Legacies will be altered by the story, sports history will be written about these days.  The town and the school need time to process and time to grieve.  Tee-shirts have long advertised a city that Bleeds Blue and White.  There are wounds, especially given that the school often prided itself on a team that did right in addition to winning games.  I think the strength of the community will, however, let it move ahead.  It will heal. 

As for the victims, I doubt they can ever fully heal and they cannot be given back what they lost.  But I hope they find help and find their feet.  Maybe that's actually the best way forward...for the school and the community to show support for ALL victims of abuse.  There is little that is better for the spirit than a united cause.  I hope the community can use all this energy and all the spirit behind it to help prevent future abuse and help victims find support and guidance. 

Go Bones, Go!!

I confess....I am actually interested in chatting about the child abuse story that is focused right in my backyard, but I do want to do a quick health update too so y'all may be getting two posts back-to-back.  I know, you are excited.  My blog traffic is down according to the "stats" button on my "Dashboard" but I've been told that may miss folks who view it through readers.  Not sure if that's the case and I do get a kick out of higher view numbers, but I also find the blog pretty useful for collecting my thoughts regardless.  That's semi-honest. 

Anyway, I do like that I will be able to look back on the back journey and also may be able to refer others here who are facing similar challenges. I had my 3 month follow-up appointment on Wednesday.  As a quick refresher, I had an anterior lumbar interbody fusion at L5/S1 (a low back spinal fusion that went through the belly) on 8/8/11. It followed a couple years of increasing pain and failed attempts to use injections and physical therapy to remedy it.  The doc reported that the disc was one of the worst he's seen in years, significant given that he regularly does multiple fusions a week and a validation that the pain was quite real.

My mental chant has been "Go bones, go!" since the bones need to fuse themselves over the inserted cages.  The first month appointment was too early to tell much so I was anxious to see the x-rays this time and THRILLED to see "new bone" growing.  This is VERY good news and a sign that I will eventually "fully fuse" which makes the operation successful and hopefully remedies the pain.  The full fusion takes a year but it is encouraging to see it is going in the right direction.  The surgeon was very pleased with the status. 

I do still have a good bit of pain but the doc was not concerned.  It has been more focused on the lower back in the past weeks which scared me.  I was more certain it was my body adjusting when it was full spine and this felt too much like my "old" pain.  But the doc was not concerned.  I am going to wean off wearing my brace over the next two weeks and then he'll send an order to start physical therapy.  The PT will focus on strength and stretching related to the operation but the doc said that PT can also give me tips on getting back into weight training more generally which is great.  I miss my triceps!

I will pretty definitely have a scar.  It is a little bigger than "four fingers" and between my navel and bikini line.  A bit jealous of my wise back buddy (met her on a forum, she's a couple years younger but we have a LOT in common....she had a similar surgery about 3w later and is also a fitness person so we can relate a lot) who actually asked for and got a horizontal incision that is low enough for coverage in swimwear.  Mine is vertical.  It is still red but the doc says it will turn white.  It's funny, the first time I wore a bikini in my life was at age 27.  I'm not at my happy weight these days so the excuse to turn in the two-piece is not such a horrid thing and it certainly is not an everyday public area so it could be much worse.  The incision pain was HORRID the first few days but that did disappear pretty quickly and the itching calmed over time. 

So, good news all around.  Still feeling frustrated with the pain and the limitations but it helps to know it is all going in the right direction.  Progress is being made, I'll get to make more progress with PT etc., and there WILL be a day when this is all in the past.  Thanks to all who have shared support and sent good thoughts.  I can't express how valuable it has been to have a cheering section!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Books, The Women & Power Edition: An American Wife (Sittenfeld) and Pope Joan (

I confess...I' often amused to find that I go on unintentional theme sprees with my reading.  The two books I'm reviewing today are VERY different but both have women protagonists and both involve positions of power.  They are very different, but I like the theme and would love any suggestions for other books in the same vein.

  • An American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (side note: Curtis is a woman....just FYI)
I very deliberately avoided this book for a long time.  I get nervous about the "big book of the month" and it just didn't intrigue me.  That all changed though when a fellow blogger (Julie) mentioned it as a possible reading selection.  I hadn't thought about it in a long time but suddenly the recap that specifically mentioned a woman with very different political views than her husband, whose career revolved around those ideals.  As you know, I'm a liberal pacifist who fell totally in love with a conservative military guy.  I ordered it even before it "won" the vote on Julie's site.

Sittenfeld admits the book takes the life of Laura Bush as its starting point (and I'm saying more about plot points b/c they have not been held secret).  She suggests it is all fiction, just with big mileposts that are the same as the former First Lady, and I'm in no position to judge how much it overlaps in terms of personality etc.  Alice is a young woman growing up in Wisconsin.  She has some liberal tendencies and some family issues, but she's a pretty typical teen until a car accident where she is driving results in the death of a classmate.  Alice ends up leaving town for college, pursuing a library/education career, and eventually ends up (in her early 30s) meeting a man from a well-known family who has some political ambitions.  They marry fast, have a child, and the book follows them as Alice adjusts to (and is somewhat uncomfortable in) a posh suburban lifestyle with a very challenging extended family.  After a bout with drinking and questionable behavior, her husband becomes very religious and grows professionally as he moves from the family business to owning a baseball team to serving as Governor and later President.  Through it all, Alice questions how she can be so in love with him and yet disagree with so much of what he stands for as their different political views becomes more prominent.

I enjoyed this book.  I'm giving it 3.5 stars but easily rounding up to 4.  It wasn't great literature, but a fun "guilty pleasure" read.  I liked watching Alice adjust to her changing surroundings and seeing her try to feel okay living a country-club life while her heart was often tugged by stories of those less fortunate.  The vast majority of the book is set in their pre-White House years and I would have liked a bit more about her adjustment to life in such a unique environment.  I appreciated that Alice fought to balance being a supportive partner with her own beliefs and related to the struggle to understand how to retain her own views while her spouse pursued a career that had some very different underpinnings. 

Recommended as an easy and fun read that is someplace between "chick lit" (which I totally think has its time and place) and "serious fiction"....though probably much more of a woman's read than a man's.
I'd never heard the story of Pope Joan prior to picking up this book.  I really haven't done any research, beyond reading the notes at the end of the novel's text, so I can't comment on how likely it is that a woman held the papacy for a brief period in the 800s.  The author suggests evidence does favor the existence of a female pope and a later attempt to cover-up the embarrassment.  She also includes many events that are supported by the history books making it fit the historical fiction genre even if the ultimate storyline is not fully agreed upon,

In the ninth-century, "female" has a lot of negative context and women are expected to remain uneducated and to submit fully to the wills of fathers and husbands.  Joan bristles against authority from a young age, seeking out learning despite being harshly punished by her father for it (and blamed for the death of a much-beloved son).  Joan eventually escapes from her father and is able to attend school as a female while living with the family of Gerold, the only man that really stirs desire in Joan and one who supports her desire to learn.  As Joan's education is ending and she is facing the more traditional role of women in her time, a Viking attack provides her with an opportunity.  She assumes the identity of a slain brother and begins to live as a man.  This life takes her to a monastery, a life as a healer, and, eventually (as the title tells you so I'm not considering it a spoiler), the papacy. 

I enjoyed this very much.  I thought the author did a great job showing that the decision to live as a man did open doors for Joan (aka John) but also came at some sacrifice.  While the time period worked against Joan in many ways, the dislike of the body meant it was usually pretty easy for Joan to keep her secret and there are only a few times when her sex is close to being revealed.  In general, Joan enjoys life as a man but she clearly feels limited in her ability to push for things, such as schooling for girls, that were contrary to the beliefs of her day.  There is also a love story weaved in.  It is not the focus of the book but it does give Joan pause and makes her question what her heart wants and whether the sacrifices are worthwhile.  I didn't always care for some of the battle stories but they were in place and necessary.  It moves at a good pace and I was able to buy into the times when a lot of lucky coincidence saves Joan's secret and her life. 

I'd recommend this book to folks intrigued by secrets and by life in a very different time.  I am not a history buff but I am interested in "everyday life" in different eras....this book had both.  I expect more women will pick it up, but I do think it can hold appeal for both genders.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

tough week, but trying some positive thoughts too

I has been a hard few weeks....

First, there's the job front.  I'd applied for a job and had two interviews.  They'd pressed for a number from me on salary and I gave one eventually but said, honestly, that it was not the sole element for me.  I really want to have a job I enjoy more than I need a certain number right now.  The next week, they said they'd loved me but could not afford me.  I called and said the number was just a number and I really could look at any offer.

So, they made an offer.  I've heard so often about how women are paid less b/c they fail to ask (Women Don't Ask) and I think that a bit of negotiating is normal so I did ask for a dollar per hour more.  They came back a couple days later and said no.  So, I said I'd take the number (it WAS really low but I did genuinely think it would be a great fit and I might like it and be of value).  I asked if they could do some hours-shifting and maybe have only a 30m lunch-break and leave early one day. I said, several times, that this was NOT a deal-breaker but I wanted to check.  I also asked to look at any contracts etc.

It took well over a week.  I sent another email saying I really wanted to make it formal, reiterating the hours were not a deal-breaker, and asked again about paperwork.  Since I agreed to everything they asked, I really thought it was fine.  Three days later, they pulled the offer.  Having been in hiring, I know they worry I'd leave fast but my resume reflects long-term stays so that's a bit unfair.  And the fact that it took forever to hear back really upset me. 

On the personal side, X is engaged.  And has been since July.  I am a bit pissed he didn't tell me himself.  We're not really friends these days but it feels like it would have been a courtesy to not have me find out from a random mention by a shared friend.  The fact that it is the girl he dated before me also feels weird.  He got engaged almost exactly a year after I moved out.  It just makes me feel like the eight years were really all false. 

I have learned that it was NOT the right relationship for me.  I am VERY much happier with MM.  But I had all good intentions and I just feel like X didn't.  All his "complaints" were there from day 1 but he hadn't wanted to leave b/c he felt bad leaving when I got sick and then later felt like he didn't want to break up and knew I didn't want to more w/o it being official so he proposed.  Going back to the girl before me (who fit may things I didn't)  just makes it feel more like he DID know it wasn't right and never really liked me for me.  I'll avoid going too much further on those thoughts in public, even without names.  I can admit that X was right on paper and wrong in practice. And, in some ways, he'd say the same thing. But I just feel like I didn't see it while he he knew I wasn't the right one but didn't act on it till too late.  It feels like a lot of false-ness. 

Which is emotionally hard.  I do NOT want to go back.  I totally LOVE my current guy and he loves me, for who I am.  This is NOT about him at all and I hope he "gets" that this mess in my head is NOT about that.  It is about processing my past.  And I know I'm not being totally fair to X.  Of course, this is all from my viewpoint.  I am the one who "defriended" on FB. I really found it unhealthy to see each other's daily updates and think that was a normal decision, not one that justifies a lack of courtesy.  And he probably did have better intentions in our life together than my head says right now.  But it is what's been in my head.


Let's list some GOOD things:
  • I DID get to fulfill a goal this week.  Thanks to a friend who had to stop doing it, I am writing a couple blog posts a week for an attorney via a legal blogger service.  It isn't fancy and it is all ghost-writing but I can officially say I got paid to write.  Not much money, but I'm excited anyway.
  • I got "sheet suspenders" with a bit of doubt.   I had flannel sheets that I loved for cold weather.  MM's mattress is the right size but is extra-thick.  It really needs sheets made for that, esp with two regular sleepers...he had been okay with regular Queen sheets alone but the corners popped off all the time (I'm a flipper when I am getting to sleep and I kick when I'm sleeping so I'm a challenge).  The suspenders work great though.  The sheets stay on fine and I love getting in a warmer bed and not the chill of regular sheets as it gets cold.
  • I made dinner last night. This is always impressive.  I had to add some extra V8 juice to the sauce (it is the base) and that cut back a lot on the flavor in my Mexican Chicken, but it still turned out well.  I also tried roasted chickpeas...I wasn't a fan but MM liked them a lot so that made me happy.
  • We're getting some sunny and warm-for-November weather.  Always a plus for me since I'm def not a fan of the cold.
  • My three month follow-up is next week.  I do still have more pain than I'd imagined at this point, but I also do feel like I am seeing progress.  I am hopeful for good news when they see my x-rays....go bone growth, go!!
  • My eye doc (still VERY near-sighted but no changes and healthy eyes even if they suck) told me that near-sighted folks have IQs than regular or far-sighted folks.  My guess is that we needed to have smarts to survive THIS blind.  She wondered if it was b/c we read more since it was all we could see but also noted it could have some random genetic tie. 
  • MM rocks.  I am so lucky to have him.  Thank you for everything MM.  You make me feel so valued and loved and I just think you are awesome and I am proud to be able to call you my guy.