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.)