Monday, December 17, 2012

No words.

Many blogs are silent today out of respect for the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. I spent the weekend with my family, periodically grabbing my baby and squeezing her tight and making her moderately uncomfortable. I needed her to know that I love her, even though she already knows and is thankfully oblivious all that has transpired since Friday afternoon.

I don't know what to say. I don't have the wisdom or experience or the words to say anything to those grieving families. So many grieving families. Instead, I'm offering just two of my favorite hymns. These have always brought me comfort in times of sorrow. I don't pretend that these words will fix everything. We know that after Friday, everything is different. These hymns won't even begin to fix things. They're simply my way of telling those grieving families that my heart and my prayers are with them.

On Eagle's Wings
Michael Joncas

You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, who abide in his shadow for life,
say to the Lord:
"My refuge, my rock in whom I trust!"

And he will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of his hand.

The snare of the fowler will never capture you, and famine will bring you no fear.
Under his wings your refuge,
his faithfulness your shield.

And he will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of his hand.

 For to his angels he's given a command to guard you in all of your ways;
Upon their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.

And he will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of his hand.

How Great Thou Art
Carl Gustav Boberg

Oh Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout
The universe displayed

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
I hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze;

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

I think of God,
His son not sparing,
Sent Him to die,
I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden
gladly bearing He bled and died
to take away my sin

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great thou art
How great thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

When burdens press, and seem beyond endurance,
Bowed down with grief, to Him I lift my face;
And then in love He brings me sweet assurance:
'My child! for thee sufficient is my grace'.

 Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

When Christ shall come
With shout of acclamation
And take me home
What joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow
With humble adoration
And then proclaim My God
How great Thou art

Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art
Then sings my soul
My Savior, God, to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

How great Thou art
How great Thou art...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

On Your Second Birthday

Dear Hannah,

Today, my sweet girl, you are two years old. I can't believe it. You have grown and changed so much in the last year, in almost every way. This has been such a fun year for all of us. We went on trips. We camped. You joined your daddy on the picket line. You figured out how to put sentences together and really tell us what you want and need. You started your second year a confident stander and hand-holder, but afraid to take steps on your own. Much like how you came into this world, I knew you'd do it on your own terms and when you were ready. By Valentine's Day, you were walking independently, finally confident enough in your abilities and curious enough to try it out, falls and bumps and bruises be damned! Selfishly, I was happy that you waited to walk. Even though you were technically a toddler, I enjoyed having a "baby" for a little while longer. I knew that once you started walking I wouldn't be able to contain you--and I was right.

When you got steady on your feet, you took off running. You were never still to begin with, but once you figured out steps, it was impossible to stop you. There's so much to see and do and touch and play with. You know that, and you don't want to miss out on anything. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever see the day where you stop running at lightening speed, but I think I already know the answer.

Your personality has come through in full force this year. Watching you grow has been a joy. Early on you became A Person, and you never turned back. Watching you play and dance and learn, I know that your brain is firing on all cylinders. It has been amazing to watch you learn.

As much as it pains me to say it, you are a master manipulator. You manage to get exactly what you want from almost everyone--except me. I know you hate it when I have to be the Bad Cop, but I see it in your face when you get something you want from your mommy, and I know that you think it's just a little bit better than it was before. If it means that you have a sweeter relationship with your daddy, I'm all for it.

You have always been a talker, and you had so.many.words. even when you had just turned one. A year ago, I knew in my head that you would be a talker. I knew that by this time you would be a chatterbox and you'd share every word you knew. But, I really didn't know. I thought I knew, but nothing would have prepared me for all the words you DO know and all the talking you do all day. From the moment you wake in the morning to the time your eyelids finally droop closed, you are talking. You have full sentences. ("Too-maw-whoa, I be TWO!") You are curious and ask so many questions. ("What's DAT sound, Mommy?") You identify every single thing you see. ("A circle! In da sky! Be-hynd you!")

More than all that, you love to make people smile and laugh. You know that simple things, kisses and hugs, make Mommy smile so much. When you make someone smile, your face lights up and you start laughing. It's a joy to see, and I'm always so happy to be there to share it.

My sweet girl. You are so gentle and kind (95% of the time). You love to share, and you love to make people happy. When you find something that belongs to someone else, you're usually all too happy to return it to them. Finding cat toys hidden under the couch used to be a pain. Now it makes me smile because I know the moment I show you, you will want to run them right to Jane so she can have it back. You're always chasing her down. "Here Djayne, here! Here go, Djayne!" Even funnier is when you are done with something or don't want it. Before you begin tossing and removing the unwanted whatever-it-is from your sight, you offer it to anyone else. Food, toys, sippy cups, you name it! You hold it out, arms outstretched, "Want dis? Want dis, Mommy?" You really do love to share.

I consider it a point of pride that so many people, friends, family, and strangers, have called you the politest baby they've ever met. You always say please and thank you ("Tank yoo!") and will say, "Bless you," even to strangers. ("Besh yoo!") When I sneeze, you say, "Bless you, Mommy!" completely unprompted. In true toddler fashion, you think it's a game. Without exception, when Mommy sneezes, you say bless you and immediately give me a fake sneeze. If I don't say "Bless you, Hannah," you give me a funny cough and say, "Mommy!" You are so impatient and want your kindness returned to you right away. You know it's the right thing to say.

A few months ago, another child at the babysitter's hit you. When it was time for that child to apologize, she told them to give you a hug and say they were sorry. You were so excited for the hug--you apologized and tried to hug. You wanted that hug so much, it didn't matter that the other child had hurt you. It was time to forgive and forget and hug each other! When you bump into anything--a person, a table, a wall, the cat--you say, "Sowwee!" right away. You are always quick with a hug and a kiss and a smile. You love hugs so much, unless you're playing and busy. I am so blessed to be able to watch you grow, and I am so proud of the little lady you are becoming.

I love listening to you sing and talk to yourself in the car. On the way home everyday, you sing songs. Many of them are made up, and it's hilarious to listen to you make up the words as you go along. When I try to join in the fun, you always put me back in my place. "Mommy, no!" You know how the songs go, and you don't want anyone, even me, to mess it up.

Ah, "no". It's become a favorite word of yours. I know I hear it 1,000 times a day. Many times it's a rejection of something--dinner, hand-holding, you name  it--but so many times it's also a rejection of "baby Hannah". You have always had a fierce independent streak, but in the last two months, you have reminded me everyday, "I can do it by self! I can self!" There is so much you can do "by self", but when you fall down, hurt yourself, get scared, you come running for me or your daddy. Watching you go back and forth like this is a delight. It's a lovely reminder that even though you can do so much "by self" that even briefly, you're not ready to be completely independent just yet.

Hannah, you keep me on my toes. From the time you wake up to the time you go down to bed, you are busy! You have your daddy's curious, scientific nature. You take things apart to see how they work and get mad when you can't put them back together again. You want to know everything and see everything and do everything. Rare is the day I don't hear you saying, "Uh oh!" or "Oopsy daisy!" after you've gone to bed.

You are still smart as heck. Nothing gets by you. This entire year has been one amazing discovery after another. Watching you learn to identify your numbers, colors, shapes, and letters has been incredible. Watching you discover those same things out of context and in the real world, however, has been both hilarious and mind-blowing. Your amazement at finding the number five painted on the ground, or see a star hanging on a house has brought me so much joy. When you recognize what you see, you have to share it immediately. "A star! A star, Mommy! See da star!" You have been absorbing everything from the moment you entered the world, and I don't see that stopping anytime soon.

It warms my heart to see you loving books. You love to read, and every night we read books together. Often, it's Guess How Much I Love You or Goodnight Moon. You love to read along with me, chiming in at the parts you recognize and pointing out words. Sometimes, I swear you know how to read already. Every night, you go to bed with a book and you read yourself to sleep.

Sadly, you have never been one for cuddles. Recently, though, you've been waking up early in the morning, and either Daddy or myself will bring you back to bed. In those times, you will cuddle up to me and I fight so hard to stay awake so I can soak in these moments. You will pull yourself so close that our cheeks are touching. I want to hear you breathing in and out and watch your eyelids flutter as you dream those sweet baby dreams. I can't keep myself from staring at you and touching your soft curls just one more time. Sometimes your daddy and I find ourselves looking at each other and wondering how we got so blessed. A few nights ago, as I fell back asleep with you curled up against me, I whispered to you that I loved you. You said right back, "I luff you, Mommy." I'll hold that in my heart forever.

You are my fearless little lady. This year, you flung yourself out of your crib, forcing us all to get you into a big girl bed. You swam in Lake Michigan and were fascinated by the waves. You always run far ahead of me, making me chase you down and keep you from running in the street. You love when we go on "adventures". At the playground, you don't want to stay on the smaller structures. You run to the big climbers, the ones you're not big enough for. But you don't care because, in your mind, you are A Big Kid. Older children fascinate you, and you want to be just like them. If anyone asks, I always tell them that you have a Napoleon complex. You want so desperately to be big, and until that happens, you live by, "fake it till ya make it!"

Ever your daddy's girl, we can't go outside until you have shoes and a coat, and you remind me all the time. "Need coat? Need coat, Mommy?" You are so conscious of what you need and when you need  it. While we're working on the difference between "needs" and "wants", and I remind you that no, you don't need your crayons now, you will sigh and say, "Okay, WANT dat noooooooow!" You don't really care how correct or incorrect you are, you just know what you want.

As much as you resemble your dad, you are very much your mommy's daughter. You are a lover, but you'll fight when you have to. You have opinions about everything. You know exactly what you want nearly all the time. You're impatient, independent, stubborn, and so much more. I wish I had cultivated better qualities in myself to pass them on to you, but watching you embody so much of me and your daddy makes me smile so much. I can't imagine you any other way.

If I'm ever having a bad day, I just need to spend time with you, sweet girl. You make every day so much better. Not ever second of 2012 has been wonderful, but if I had the chance I'd live this year all over again, no hesitation.

I try not to wonder who you're going to be as you grow older. I want to stay present and know who you are right now. I know that today, you are a TWO year old who loves music and animals. You love dancing and singing. You always have time for a good book, your crayons, and an episode of Bubble Guppies. You love your baby doll and are always concerned about her well-being, making sure she has had a sippy and is wrapped tight in her blanket. The day is incomplete unless you have laughed and played and sung a song. You love going to church to see Jesus, and you love your little baby Bible, your "Jesus book". Surprisingly you are a toddler who loves "bwocowee" and "gween beans". You love your parents to the moon and back, and I hope that every day we are worthy of that unconditional love you offer.

Hannah Grace, I never knew how much my heart would grow until I met you. You're everything I ever thought I wanted in my daughter, and everything I didn't know I wanted until you showed up. I will never be tired of you, and I will always love you to the moon and back. You made me a mommy and opened up a part of my heart I never knew existed. More than anyone else in the entire world, you taught me how to love unconditionally. Every day, I am blown away that you belong to me and Daddy. Sometimes I find myself looking at you and marveling at how that tiny little bean in my first ultrasound grew into this tall, smart, inquisitive little daughter of ours. If you aren't living, breathing proof of God's love, then I don't know what is.

I cannot wait to see what the next year brings us. I know you're going to continue to grow and change, and I know already that you are going to be an amazing human being.

Mommy and Daddy love you to the moon and back. Happy Birthday, Presh.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

For Rebecca

Environmental Club, Spring 2000

On Sunday afternoon, I got some devastating news. My friend Rebecca, a beautiful soul and one of the most genuine people I have ever known, had died the previous day. To say I was shocked is the understatement of the decade.

Rebecca was easily one of the most vibrant people in the entire world. I don't say that lightly. She had this amazing ability to make you feel like you were the only person in the room. She never had an enemy. Rebecca was one of the few girls in our entire high school who could get along with anyone. She could draw you in and make you feel like you had been friends for years. She had perfected the arts of the casual touch and the side nudge. I'll always remember sitting next to her, listening to her tell stories and crack jokes, and then nudge me with her shoulder, usually with an, "Am I right?" She was a great listener. She was truly interested in who you were and where you were going and how you hoped to get there. She didn't judge and she wasn't ever mean. She is, quite possibly, the only person I have ever met who accepted everyone without condition.

She was easily one of the smartest people I have ever met. Where I was terrible at math, she excelled. She loved it. I would complain about my basic algebra, and she would be able to explain it to me in a way where I understood it. She was incredibly talented in pretty much every area. With all of that, though, she wasn't arrogant. At least, not to me. She wasn't full of herself, and she never made you feel like a dummy for not understanding. She went out of her way to help everyone. It was as though she had made it her mission to be of service to everyone, no matter who they happened to be or whether or not they were her friend.

What stands out the most in my mind is Rebecca's determination. It seemed like she accomplished whatever she set out to do. If you had a dream or an idea, she got excited for you. She didn't accept being lazy. If you had a dream or an idea, she found a way to help you make it happen. She was unstoppable. At the beginning of our sophomore year of high school, Rebecca was the only member of the Environmental Club. In the mornings before class, I'd sit with my friends Kate and Erin in the cafeteria usually. We'd snack, study, finish homework, talk, tell jokes, complain that the world was ending....the usual. One day Rebecca came to our table and said she was the only member of the Environmental Club, and she wanted us to join. I can't remember, but I feel like we all laughed at her. I, for one, didn't want to join the Environmental Club. I wanted nothing to do with it. And yet, I ended up in Ms. Zitlow's classroom every Friday morning, with Rebecca smiling the whole time.

In the picture above, Rebecca is spinning us all on the tire swing. We had spent the day cleaning up with the Friends of the Parks, in some god-forsaken park somewhere in the suburbs. Kate, Erin, and Rebecca had spent the night at my house and we stayed up all night--naturally. We were up too early and assigned to some park somewhere on the south side. We spent the morning up to our knees in mud and garbage, cleaning and weeding and being friendly to the park. At the end of it all, we rewarded ourselves at the playground. We crammed ourselves on the tire swing and took turns pushing and running each other around. At one point, Rebecca hopped off. "You guys suck at this!" She took the reigns and made us all nauseous, running in circles and making us dizzy. In my memory, that's Rebecca. She could take the reins and before you knew it, you were following her anywhere.

During our junior year, she flexed those muscles again. One day, she happened to mention she was on the school newspaper and that the staff was quite small. When she mentioned the room was air conditioned, I said something to the effect of, "Shoot, I'll join the newspaper if I can sit in the air conditioning!" The next thing I knew, I was standing in Ms. Gabel's classroom talking about The Amity and just like that, Journalism was on my class schedule.

I clearly remember one night where the four of us, Kate, Erin, Rebecca, and myself, all decided to see a movie. I don't remember if we ended up seeing the movie, or if that was even part of the original plan. What I do remember is Rebecca trying to convince us that bowling was cool. She loved to bowl and wanted us to bowl together. We spent hours driving around, looking for a bowling alley between Ashburn and Merrionette Park. It was a Friday night in the fall. It was easily after 10:30 by the time we found a place that had open bowl. We wasted hours, getting laughed out of every bowling alley we tried. At the same time, we had one of the best nights, laughing and joking and singing in the car. When we finally did find that bowling alley, she kicked all our asses.

Rebecca had a deep, deep love for The X-Men. She gushed almost daily for close to a year before the first movie was released. We went to see it the day it was released in theaters, and I spent the next two hours sitting next to Rebecca, with her whispering in my ear, "That's Rogue! That's Wolverine! What they didn't tell you was how Cyclops became a cyclops...I'll tell you later!"

To connect with her heritage, Rebecca started taking Italian language classes. She was so excited to start, and when I expressed interest and jealousy, she tried to get me to sign up with her. If she'd had her way, I'd have been right next to her practicing and preparing for a trip to Italy. She went to Rome in the spring of 2002 and could not have been more excited.

As news of her untimely death spread among the members of our graduating class, everyone said the same thing. "No, not Rebecca...she was so sweet, so friendly, so nice, so genuine." I think it really speaks to her character that, in a class of 300-something girls, not one person has said anything terrible about her. I know we're not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but truly, everyone loved this girl. She had this beautiful light inside her that you couldn't ignore.

I can't believe she's gone. I hadn't seen her in a while--we all got busy with our lives and jobs--but I have always considered her a friend. I know I'll always remember her smile and her laugh and the way she'd crack a joke. It seems unfathomable that her beautiful light has been extinguished. I know the last few years hadn't been the easiest for her, but I just can't wrap my mind around the very idea that she no longer exists in this world.

I'll miss you, my friend. I will miss your smile and your laugh. I'll miss your nudges and your jokes. I'm sorry that you were hurting. I'm sorry I wasn't a better friend to you. You were a beautiful addition to every life you touched. I hope that you have found peace. We were blessed to know you and love you.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I haven't forgotten you, my poor neglected little blog. I've been so busy with work and life and more work and life that in my "free time" I don't have time to do much more than close my eyes. In fact, after the past week, "free time" is non-existent. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to you soon and update you all on our life and our summer and things so far.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Review Tuesday: Room, by Emma Donoghue

A few years ago, my friend Courtney told me about Room. I was immediately drawn to the very idea of the story: told from the perspective of 5-year old Jack, who has lived his entire life in an 11-by-11-foot space. The very idea of a five-year-old boy confined to such a small space is haunting. Before I had my hands on the book, I had questions. Why is he there? What happened? Does he know about the outside? (FYI, I'm a very demanding reader.)

I received this book as a gift from my in-laws (thanks!!!) and started it right away. I'd been waiting a while to read it, and I wanted to peek inside Jack's world as fast as possible. Right away, the reader knows only what Jack knows. He's a captivating character, and quite lovable. Unlike most children his age, his imagination has limits. He has only known what he has seen and experienced in real life, inside the confines of this tiny space. He watches television sparingly, "because it rots our brains", and he has very clear definitions between what is Real and what is Pretend. He has no idea, like all children do, that his mother ("Ma") existed in the world before he was born, that she was not always Ma. He has no idea that before she was Ma, she was a young student, kidnapped and held prisoner in this tiny space. What he sees on TV is Pretend, so everything, from ice cream to cartoons to airplanes, is all made up. What he sees everyday, Bed, Table, Wall, Meltedy Spoon, is real, as real to him as Ma or Old Nick.

Old Nick, his mother's captor and caretaker. Immediately, the reader picks up on Jack's distaste for Old Nick and his visits. We are given few clues about Old Nick, and we never learn his real name, nor do we learn much about him at all. On one hand, I prefer it this way. The story is told by Jack, and we are only given details that Jack believes are important. On the adult hand, the parent in me is shocked and disturbed, and I want to know as much as I can about this grotesque human being so I can protect my family.

There is an immediate uneasiness in the novel, and as Jack dropped clues about his life, I grew increasingly horrified. Without revealing too many plot points, I can say that more characters are introduced, and Jack's world grows larger. These developments are thrilling and exciting, but also a little out of order, I think, for the characters and their world. Jack is somewhat developmentally delayed, despite his precocious nature, and the sudden introduction of new people and things previously thought to be Pretend doesn't seem to phase him as much as one would think. It all happens so quickly, and as a hungry and excited reader, I was left a little underwhelmed.

When Jack begins to explore his new world, as a reader I was left wondering about freedom. In that small space, his mother was confined and kept prisoner. Her freedom is sacred. But to Jack, he was free in Room. Everything made sense. Now, Outside, he is confused and scared, unsure about his new world and without the comfort objects he was so used to.

The book brings up a number of interesting, debatable topics: Love, codependent parent-child relationships, freedom. So far, I haven't found a good answer for any of them, but I do strongly recommend this book. 

Grade: A-

Monday, June 18, 2012

Holy Schmoley, It's June!

On my drive back to the office from lunch, it hit me: IT'S JUNE! IT'S SUMMERSUMMERSUMMERTIME!

(I'm really quick on the uptake, folks. In case you hadn't noticed.)

I love summer. Autumn is, and always will be, my favorite time of year (apples, pumpkins, spices, crisp air, campfires, cider, baking, Halloween...ahhh...) but I really and truly love me some summertime. I know, I know. It's HOT. It's always ungodly hot here, but I love it. I love being so hot outside and being able to walk inside to central air. I love being chilly inside and going outside to warm up. I love going out for ice cream and making refrigerator pies and playing in the kiddie pool (with or without Hannah), going for long walks and bike rides, and doing anything and everything that makes summer kick so much ass.

This summer is a bit of a weird one for me. It's the first summer I'll have worked (read: not had off from everything) since.....ever. I had two work-studies in college that required I live in town for a summer, so I was 9-5ing it then, but life is different when you're a student. I understood that situation was temporary, and I knew that I was living out of boxes and duffel bags while house-and-dog-sitting for one of my professors. (Such is the randomness that is attending a small liberal arts college.)

I am loving the more relaxed pace at work right now. In what can only be described as an unhealthy and ZOMGstressful! work environment/situation, I was seriously questioning my judgement and wondering why I didn't trust my instincts in July and August. Thankfully, over. Done. Fin. And I'm able to get my work done in a timely manner without the hairs on my neck standing up every time I hear footsteps on the stairs. I can wear comfier clothes and shoes, park wherever I want, go for a leisurely walk around campus after my lunch...see? Relaxed, folks.

Last night, Graham and I sat in the backyard listening to the neighbors' music over the fence. In the middle of my shandy, I leaned my head back and stared up at the sky. It was a gorgeous, clear night, and I could easily see the stars against that lovely royal blue sky. It was a perfect summer evening, and I was so glad that I walked away from the dishes and joined my husband back in the yard. I'm so blessed to be here, on this earth, in this moment. Summer is all about savoring the moment, and I plan to do a lot more of it before September rolls around.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

April & May Resolution Roundup

I didn't realize I hadn't done one of these for April, so rather than post the same garbage twice, I'm just gonna rock it out.

1. Be healthier.

This one is going pretty well. I'm still eating garbage, not close to "healthy", but I've been making salads or vegetables with all our dinners, and I'm trying not to use as much oil and butter when I cook. Thankfully, summer has arrived and we've been grilling out pretty often, which helps with the fat content. (Though, isn't the excessive smoke a carcinogen? Damned if I do, damned if I don't, huh?)

I've also been taking pole dancing classes with a friend of mine, and that has done wonders for my upper body strength. I really feel a difference in my legs, especially. I know I will never be skinny. I'm just not built for it--I'm too wide. But more importantly, I'd rather be healthy. I'd much rather weigh 160lbs. and be more toned and fit than weigh 130lbs. and not have any strength, or worse, flabby and not healthy. I'm hoping that this class and routine becomes a habit, not just for me, but so that it sets a good example for Hannah. I want her to see me going out and living a healthy lifestyle. Sure, there will be days where we veg and eat goldfish crackers for dinner. But I want there to be more days where we eat dinner as a family, then go on a bike ride around the neighborhood.

2. Reading more.

Surprisingly, with as little "free time" as I've had lately, I've been reading. I got a great book for my birthday from my in-laws that I devoured in just a few days. I've gone through our stash upstairs and picked out a selection of reading for the summer--some re-reads, some books I should have read a long time ago--and I want to hit up the library and find some books that a friend suggested.

Starting when I was a child, and well into college, I would read up to 5 books at a time. It was a bragging point, for one, but I was also hungry for books. I wanted to read, and I wanted to read quality. The problem with reading that many books at once was that I found I wasn't reading well. I wasn't reading the way I wanted to--analyzing and, you know, thinking about what I was reading. I missed a lot of critical nuances in some of my novels because I was more concerned with reading a lot at a time.

3. Blogging more.

April and May were big, fat fails. Hopefully, the summer will allow me more time to play with my friends on the internets, and now that work has officially slowed down (God bless you, Summer) I'll be back to blogging and such.

4. Save more.

See March.

5. Simplify.

This is another resolution that has been working out really well. Graham is on board, and I have two bags of donatables from May that I want to take to church, and Graham found a stash in a tub (probably left over from January) that will be going to church or Goodwill for June. In six months, we've donated a lot of useless junk--clothes that don't fit, things we aren't using anymore, books that we won't read again--and that makes me feel great. We're paring down, and we are able to bless other families with things that are still usable, but just not for us.

6. Follow through.

This is one where I've definitely seen the progress I've made from this time last year. I'm not where I'd like to be, but I've noticed a significant change. A year ago, I'd start the dishes, do as many as I possibly could until I was sick of it, and then walk away but totally intending to go back and finish them I SWARE you guys! Now, if I can't commit to finishing the stack of dishes, I won't start them until I know I have the time to complete the task. Likewise, when I start the dishes, I finish them (or get really, really, really close, because I inevitably find a sippy cup on the floor and don't want to run a new sink full of water for ONE stupid cup). Same with other household tasks. (Except for the pile of laundry that I'm seemingly unable to put away this week. Sorry, Graham!) I've noticed this pattern at work, too. If I have a long list of tasks to complete in a day, I've found that I'm much better at managing my time than I used to be.

7. Recipe blogging.

Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh I suck so bad at this. I've got a good two months worth of recipes to blog. Photos of food on the camera go back for days. I really, really need a weekend to crank those out.

8. Less swearing, more church.

Graham and Hannah have been great about this. I suck. I have the best of intentions, I really do. Hannah has been to church more this season that I have, and I need to remember that it's important for all of us to go on a regular basis. As a family.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

PYHO: Trying

I've been busy as of late, and I'm doing my best to balance out home and family and work and fun stuff, like blogging. It hasn't been easy, but I'm trying.

Remember how I blogged that work was getting easier? It didn't last. Work, my friends, has been trying. I can't get any deeper than that, and it bugs me. I'm an open book, but I can't talk about work in this space. And if I can't write about it? I'm screwed. Let's just say that work has been trying.

I've got a lot of anger and resentment over an old, old situation, and I can't let go of it. I should, because it's stupid. But in the interest of moving on, and acknowledging that it's all water under the bridge, I'm trying.

My house is a mess. I work on keeping it clean, but because our babysitter has been out of commission for the last few days, Hannah's been visited by her grandmother at our house. I try not to let it bother me, but this morning, it really bugged me. I'm trying.

Lately, it seems like that's all I'm doing: trying. Trying to keep the house clean, trying to keep work stress from invading my home life, trying to get over things. I'm doing so much trying, I've realized there isn't much doing. How is that possible? Lately I feel like I'm doing too much--but I'm not. I'm trying to do it all, but I can't.

I wish I had an answer, or magic pill, or magic wand, or my very own Ask Jeeves who could help me out here. I hate feeling all spread out. I hate not feeling organized. I find I keep saying, "I'm trying....I'm trying..." but it's just not good enough. I keep telling myself that if something were to fall into place, everything else would go along with it. If work suddenly became less stressful. If Hannah suddenly decided that tearing apart the house wasn't so much fun after all. If....gah!

Spinning my wheels is irritating, and I can only spin for so long before I've had enough of myself. Don't you hate that feeling?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

PYHO: No matter who she is.

When I was pregnant, I got a lot of parenting advice. When Hannah was days and just a few weeks old, I got parenting advice. This I was prepared for, though the real onslaught was a surprise. What I wasn't really prepared for was the critique of my parenting in rather....unusual (?) forms. Specifically, the level of "girl" I allow in my home.

When I was growing up, I was pretty "girly". I liked to wear dresses. I played with dolls and Barbies and dammit, I liked it! I played with My Little Pony and brushed her hair. I had a PJ Sparkles doll I slept with for over a year. I played beauty parlor with an overstuffed bear (read: I took a pair of scissors to it and called myself Nancy while pretended to smoke a cigarette). I'd play teacher and house and mommy, all in our play kitchen. I read princess stories and pretended I was Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel trapped in her tower. But never Snow White. She was pretty, but she was also really annoying.

But all that said, I wouldn't have considered myself "girly", and to this day, I probably wouldn't. I liked "girl" stuff, but I didn't compartmentalize in that way. I just wanted to play with things that looked cool and looked like fun.

As much as I enjoyed the girly stuff, I liked "boy" things too. I made an effort to self-teach myself every sport because I wanted to be an athlete. I pretended to be Marc Summers during backyard Double Dare. And in my yearly letters to Santa, I always asked for "boy" toys: Matchbox cars, legos, Ninja Turtles. Sure, I wanted the tea set and the Barbie RV, but damn if those Ninja Turtles didn't look like fun. I never really segregated toys into "boy" and "girl" categories. I was just concerned with what looked like the most fun.

My sister? She was a "tomboy." Growing up, she was a three-sport athlete. She got along better with boys than girls. She cut her hair short and my mom was loathe to do it. (Chill, Mom. It was way easier to comb out at the end of softball practice, wasn't it?) And for Christmas and birthdays, she got "boy toys". She had a Ninja Turtle action figure that to this day I am jealous of. She had a green, gender neutral bike, and I had a pink scooter. Her bedroom was orange and bright and fun, and mine was pink. One year at Christmas, she got to wear her Bulls jersey (likely after throwing a fit about not wanting to wear a dress), and I got to I hated pink. I swore that I'd never make my daughter wear pink and wear itchy dresses and not be allowed to play in the dirt or play with cars or action figures just because someone in an office decided they were for boys and not girls. And that was before my feminist high school met me.

When Hannah was first born, we dressed her in whatever was clean. Half the time, that was pink. Despite my distaste for the color, I certainly wasn't going to avoid dressing my newborn in anything that was pink. Clothes are clothes. When we took pictures of her and posted them to Facebook, inevitably, we got a call from someone, anyone, who said, "THAT'S what your putting your daughter/my grandchild/niece/nephew/friend/neighbor/fill-in-the-blank in? THAT?" (Note: not all those people necessarily said something.) So in addition to my new parenting skillz, my fashion sense was now being questioned? Ridiculous. My baby was warm and happy, and yet I had gnats in my ears shouting nonsense about what she was wearing. Have you ever met a newborn? They don't care about anything. As long as their basic needs are met, they could be dressed up like Big Bird, and they wouldn't care. If Hannah was a boy and I dressed him in pink, he still wouldn't have cared. It's always the adults who care about silly things like clothing colors.

And on the opposite end, a few months ago I had a friend congratulate me because I didn't dress Hannah "like the way little girls are supposed to be dressed." are little girls supposed to dress? Pink or no pink? Dresses or no dresses? Hell, why buy clothes at all? Everyone knows babies are happiest when they're naked. I mean really. Have you ever seen a kid at bath time? And to be honest, I thought I was dressing her like a little girl. Her clothes are cute. I'm a sucker for anything with a butterfly on it. I think jeans and a long shirt is adorable. I'd put her in sundresses all day, everyday, if I could. Personally, I can't stand the color pink. I was over-pinked as a kid and even now, I shy away from that color when I see it in stores. It's too much for me, and it makes me just a touch nauseous.

So why, then, are there dozens of pictures of Hannah wearing pink?

Days old. We were both pretty tired.

Three sleep-deprived humans.

Snow day!

Why do I frilly her up and make sure that her clothes scream GIRL?

She loved her ballerina onesie.

Ready for Kristie's wedding.

Memorial Day 2011

The truth is, I don't think I'm making a conscious effort to do it. The truth is, some of that frilly, pink, girly garbage? It's pretty damn cute. And I don't pick out anything for her that I don't 100% believe is awesome. And, to be fair, last year in preparation for St. Patrick's Day, she wore girl and boy t-shirts I picked out for her.

Boy shirt

Girl shirt
Shamrock dress with tights and Mary Jane socks.
 On our camping trip, she wore some "boy" onesies that her aunt picked out.

From the boy side of BRU.
For Christmas, Santa brought Hannah cars, a picnic basket, and t-ball (among many many many many many many many other things). And for the South Side Irish Parade this year? Ooooh, I'm going to hell for that outfit:

Cars from Santa.
Parade Day!
Because the skirt wasn't enough, she needed a shamrock hoodie. And a hat.

 And when it came time to pick out her winter coat, Hannah picked the pink one.

(I thought I had a photo of her in her coat. I do not.)

The fact of the matter is that it doesn't much matter to me if Hannah's wearing pink or black or blue or plaid. If she likes it and it makes her happy, why does it matter if it's for "girls" or for "boys"? When we were shopping for a winter coat and her eyes lit up when she saw that pink plaid coat, what was I going to tell her? "No! Pink is NOT for you! No pink for you!" No. That's just silly. Who cares if I hate it? It makes her happy. She's ONE. One year old. She wants to surround herself with things that make her happy and make her smile. Right now, her only concern is having fun and being happy.

I want her to be whoever she is supposed to be. Girly or not girly. Tomboy. Badass. Sweet and gentle. A scientist. A soccer player. A dancer. A model. An Olympic athlete. A mechanic. A great aunt. A princess. Whoever. Whatever.

I think part of the "problem", if you will, is that from the moment she came into being, she meant so many things to so many people. She was a new adventure, a new start, a second chance, a promise.....but to us, she's everything. But when someone's "idea" of who this little person should be or can be is challenged? Oy vey.

I think every parent wants their child to be just like them. They want their children to take on their best qualities, perfect them, and grow up into a kickass, take-charge adult. I would love for Hannah to be a loud, opinionated, polite, intelligent, and wise-beyond-her-years adult. I want her to eschew the princess garbage and be the kid who stands up to bullies and climbs trees and skins her knees and somehow still has a fair amount of grace. But the fact of the matter is, there's no way to force that or change who she is. So she might be a princess who stands up to bullies, or she might be a softball player who loves dressing up in heels. I really don't care, because I want her to be exactly who she's supposed to be, even if that means pink and rainbows and princesses and all this other stuff that I hate. And if I love her, I certainly can't hate everything she loves.

We will inevitably disagree on clothes and music and dating and television and movies and life in general, but I know that respecting what she loves and is passionate about, even if I don't like it or can't stand it, will mean so much more to our relationship long-term. I don't ever want her to think that just because she likes pink that she's "less than". I don't want her believing that because she's a tomboy that she isn't worth anyone's time and effort and love. She is who she is, and I LOVE who she is. She's curious and smart and goofy and loving and a little bit of a rough-houser. And no matter how that changes, or if it changes, she'll always be my best girl.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

March Resolution Roundup

Only nine more monthly updates to go! Woooo!

1. Be Healthier.

This one was incredibly hard to stick to in the first part of the month. At work, we were gearing up for Big Major Mega Uber Event and I was working a lot of long hours. Throw in general "life" stuff, and by the time I got home, I was just exhausted. I didn't feel like it, so I didn't. On top of that, I wasn't eating anything close to healthy because I was so distracted by things at work, and I was just a lump.

The good thing to come out of all of this is that I recognized my lumpy-ness. I talked to a friend, and later this week I'll be taking a class with her, and I've been trying to get out more. The summer-like weather we had in March was great, because it not only forced me to get outside, but I wanted to get out in the yard and play. Hannah and I took some good walks and reacquainted ourselves with the neighborhood. Yesterday, we met some people who live on the street behind us, and Hannah even scored a free coloring book and Chicago Bears sticker. Ah, the perks of living among the elitist of professional sports mascots.

2. Reading More.

Again, life sort of intervened on my behalf here. With The Event wearing me thin, I came down with some sort of crappy sickness in the middle of the month. I was out for about 3 days, and in that time I was able to read The Hunger Games trilogy before the movies came out, so I am officially a Capitol Sheep, just like the rest of you. I have to say that they were good, but not great. There's a pretty big debate going on between some of my more literary friends, and some of them think the books are trash, others think they're awesome. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. I recognize that they aren't works of art, and I feel there are some pretty major flaws with the books, However, it's YA lit. YA is anything but a work of art. I think they do a nice job of redefining the idea of a heroine for YA enthusiasts, but they aren't the best! books! ever!

3. Blogging more.

Yeah, again, I have to point the blame in the direction of The Event. I was seriously tired, guys. By the end of the work day I usually felt like I'd run a 5K. I'd say marathon, but I'm not an athlete, so who am I kidding? Add on a dollop of work-related stress, and I was just anxious to get home, eat some dinner, and get into my comfies. I've already blogged more this month than last, so I'm calling it a win.

4. Save more.


5. Simplify.

I feel like I'm doing my best with this resolution. I seriously hate clutter, and I feel like every time I turn around, there's more "junk" that I need to get out of my life. I've donated six bags already this year, and my one March bag turned into two really fast. I've really forced myself to look at my closet and dresser, especially. I had to say goodbye to my favorite pair of pre-pregnancy jeans, which was pretty sad. It's not that I'm too fat for them these days, it's that my hips are wider. I've lost weight, and the damn things still didn't fit. Le sigh. I know that this is for the best, in the long run. I mean, why hang on to comfortable, still-in-good-condition denim? My hips won't magically shrink. I can't undo the damage done by pregnancy and L&D, so hanging on to those old jeans was just holding me back.

6. Follow through.

I've made significant progress. I'm not yet at the place where I'd like to be, but I've noticed that when I remind myself that stopping isn't following through, and it isn't what I want to do, I get better. I think I've made strides in my "follow through", and I am doing a good job at pointing out when I'm not doing what needs to get done.

7. Recipes

Ugh. I suck at this.

8. Less swearing, more church.

Less swearing has been a big, fat fail. I either need to keep a swear bucket with me all the time, or accept the fact that I have a potty mouth.

Church, however, has gotten better. When Hannah was an infant, I got up with her overnight. I was--and still am--the one who gets up with her when she wakes up at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. On a normal, day, this isn't a problem since I have to get ready for work anyway. Because I was always up with Hannah, Graham began waking up with her on the weekends so I could sleep in. This, my friends, was a glorious, glorious thing. One of my biggest--and probably the most selfish--concerns about having kids was the sleep, or lack thereof. I love sleeping. I love sleeping in on weekends. I didn't want to have to give that up. Thankfully, Graham took it upon himself to let that happen as much as possible. An unfortunate side-effect of this is that on Sundays, I was just crawling out of bed when it was time to go to church. I want to attend church. I want us to attend as a family. It's important to me that weekly church services be an important part of Hannah's life as she grows up. To counteract my sleepiness, Graham wakes up with her on Saturday, but I wake up with her on Sunday. We have also made it a point to attend the earlier service (though not the earliest service--let's not get crazy) because it forces all of us to wake up and get moving, but because Hannah's nap usually falls around the same time as the later service. Crabby baby in church = ewwwwww, we're those people. Waking my fat self up and getting to the earlier service means that it's a happier day for all of us.

Something that hit me on Sunday: Our church doesn't have a nursery. I love my daughter, but I'd be ecstatic if there was a nursery space available for small children. Some days, I absolutely do not mind standing in the back of church and following her around as she explores and wanders. Other days, I would really like to be able to focus and pray and participate. Not that I want to dump her off on someone else, but it'd be good for my spirit, I think, if we had that as an option. There is a "children's church" during our service, but as of now Hannah is too young to participate, even if I went with her. Le sigh again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

PYHO: I'm doing okay.

Ever since "coming out" with my battles with crazy pregnancy-induced anxiety and PPD, I've noticed the following: interweb strangers are incredibly forgiving and kind in their comments, and have sent remarkably nice emails that tell me they're thinking of me and hope I'm getting better (thanks, internet friends!), and 99% of the people who know me in real life don't exactly know how to respond, soooooo what if we just pretend we didn't hear about it at all, mmmkay?

I get it, I do. My PPD post wasn't exactly a light-hearted read. It was rough. It was hard to write, and come to terms with what I had been feeling. It was hard to admit publicly because I don't like looking like a hot, filthy mess. I spewed out a lot of ugly, and it was sad and frustrating and awwwwwwwwwwkward to read. Most people who I know read my blog (::waves::) didn't acknowledge my PPD in any way, and that's okay. Really. I don't begrudge anyone their awkward feelings, and I don't blame them. Hell, if I were on your side of the laptop screen, I don't know what I would have done, or how I would have handled it. And for the handful of people who do know me and have hung out with me and had a few or more beers with me, the outreach and kind words you shared with me will stay with me forever. Knowing that real, tangible people had my back and accepted my very human faults and still didn't call child services means so, so much.

So that's why, today, I'm a-pourin' out my heart (and perhaps a glass of wine) and letting you know that most of the time, I'm doing okay.

Admittedly, there are days that suck a little more than the others. Winter wasn't awesome, but I noticed overall that I was doing pretty well compared to the last few winters. I attribute that to the non-winter we had and the less than 12 inches of snow that fell between December and March. SO not complaining about that. And still, despite that, there were days that made it a little harder to wake up and get out of bed, days that were made for being lazy on the couch, and days that I really needed to force myself to put on clothes that weren't pajamas. (It's like there ceased to be a difference between my "awake" clothes and my "asleep" clothes. Damn you, yoga pants.)

I don't cry anymore. (Well, I cry, but not that awful, ugly, crying-for-no-reason PPD cry. I DO have a soul.) I don't flip out when I drop my shampoo bottle in the shower. I shower. I don't pull the covers over my head when Hannah starts crying at dark o'clock in the morning. (Well, I do, but for a completely different reason.) I don't hear "Bad mommy!" when she cries, and I've returned to some of my old habits that fell away when my anxiety started to eat me alive: singing in the shower, singing in the car, dancing in the car, talking to myself, reading for fun, writing, exercising, and overall self-maintenance that should have been taking place but wasn't.

I have a great doctor who likes to tell me I'm not entirely out of the woods, but I'm pretty damn close. He feels that I am still showing some behaviors that are indicative of depression, not necessarily PPD. It's hard to say. I can't quite tell what's what anymore. I have almost always used humor as a way to deflect criticism, or bring it on. Since PPD, that humor's been a little more cutting, and I haven't exactly let that go, but is it a sign of depression? Or is it a nasty habit I picked up and haven't let go? It's one of a few things I'm working on, but most days, I feel whole. I feel like me again.

I know this because a few weeks ago, even when I was sick and achy and probably should have been sleeping, I was reading. Voraciously, even. I know that I'm feeling complete because I'm singing and dancing in the car on my way to work. Yeah, I'm that girl. I know that I'm okay because when Hannah cries out, my first instinct is to hold her and make it better, not to run and hide because I don't know what to do. I know I'm better because when I play with my daughter, I love it. I love spending time with her, and I love watching her discover the world around her. I love making her laugh, and when I'm not with her, I miss her. I know I'm whole because when I hold my daughter, I know what to do. When she reaches for me, I'm not scared I'm going to do something wrong and end up breaking her in two. I know I'm better because I missed my favorite activities. I know I'm better because my productivity at work has skyrocketed. And I know I'm better because I'm not afraid to talk about it. It's okay to talk about it. I generally don't bring it up because it's one topic of conversation that makes people uncomfortable. But if you're reading this and you want to ask how I'm doing? It's okay to ask about the PPD.

A few weeks ago, someone asked me if I was jealous of women who never had PPD. Am I jealous? Hell yes, I'm jealous! I'm angry I had to go through that. I'm mad that I missed out on a few months I'll never get back because I couldn't see straight. I'm mad that I was going through the motions and didn't take away as much as I should have. I'm pissed off that PPD chose me and not someone else. I'm pissed off at people who didn't experience it because it's not fair. Why was I one of the lucky ones? Why me and my family? Damn right, I'm jealous.

I'm also thankful for PPD, if that makes sense. I know I'm not alone, even though so few women talk about it. I know that it's normal for women to go through it, even though each experience with PPD is different. And I'm thankful because I was able to experience it when Hannah was small and fragile, but young enough that she'll never have any memory of it. She'll never remember me crying, afraid to hold her but afraid to let her go. And I'm thankful that I went through it when she was small and tiny and new and blessedly, blessedly boring. If I were in the middle of that hell now, I know that when it was finally over, I'd be so pissed that I missed out on this time when she's exploring her world and so desperately curious about everything she sees.  And I think that I treasure these moments a little more because of it.

I find myself looking forward to the next few months. I'm excited about visiting with family again, and I'm counting the days until my next 3-day weekend. I'm not jazzed about Mondays, but I'm also not desperately clinging to the covers and waking up at the last possible second because I can't stomach the thought of facing another day. Am I great? Sometimes. Sometimes not. Am I good? I'm damn good. Not everyday, but most of them.

I'm doing okay. Some days I'm great. Some days I'm lazy. On rare occasions, I feel beige. But if you asked me today, I'm going to say I'm okay. Because I am, and I will be.

Book Review Tuesday: Bossypants, by Tina Fey

I've been stuck in memoir-ville for a few weeks. I can't help it. Over the course of the last few years, I've learned that while I love fiction, I really love memoirs. Maybe it's because writing about my own life is something I find enjoyable. (Narcissistic, much?) Maybe it's because memoirs are (usually/typically/in a perfect world) the truth, meaning there's very little anger directed toward the author. If I don't like how a relationship turned out, there's no point ranting and raving and shouting to the sky that someone was allowed to publish such garbage. Why? Because such garbage actually happened (or happened in the author's own mind).

The downfall to reading memoirs is that the author-as-narrator isn't typically your most reliable, trustworthy voice. If they don't want to write about specific life events, they don't have to. They can gloss over what they don't want to remember, and present--as fact--the sequence of events from any moment in their life, and as their loyal audience, I really have no choice but to accept it as fact. The upside to reading memoirs is that I can state without a doubt that I wish an author or speaker (since so many are "as told to") spent more time telling me about [insert topic here]. It's a memoir, not fiction. In fiction, any events relayed to you are typically important to the action of the story. Rarely do authors interject some random drivel for you to read while they fill space in their novel. But in a memoir? Quite the opposite. It can take any direction, really. And I like to spend time asking about Events A, B, and C. I like knowing things.

After reading (and reviewing) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I felt like it was necessary to read Bossypants. I'd heard nothing but good things, and even if it received poor reviews, I like Tina Fey. She tickles me. I also like to call her by her full name: Tina Fey. Like it's one word. Tinafey.

I think that Tina Fey (tinafey) did a really nice job balancing out the "before" and "after". The chapters about her childhood, high school, college, and a struggling performer in Chicago in the early 1990s were entertaining. She writes about her dad with reverence, but also acknowledging that her father is one of the old guard, and as such is "impressive", or so says Lorne Michaels.

I liked her style of writing. It wasn't rushed or condescending, and Tinafey points out on more than one occasion that she was a woman in the He-Man Women Haters Club that is the writers room. She is unashamedly feminist and points out on more than one occasion the injustice done to female writers and performers. When she wrote about her Second City years, she made sure to mention that Amy Poehler, in my opinion, one of the funniest women alive today, if not ever, was a background player. She was short, cute, and blond, and often had brief appearances in sketches, consisting of, "Mr. Williams will see you now," and "Would you like some coffee?" and "Here's your coffee." I was furious. Who puts Amy Poehler in the corner? When they approached their director at Second City about a Tina and Amy sketch combo, he said, "No one wants to see a sketch with two women." My jaw? On the floor.

Tinafey combats this injustice by working hard. She doesn't give herself accolades, nor does she bend over backwards to make you see how wonderful she is. She clearly paid her dues.

The SNL stories are some of my favorite. Unlike Mindy Kaling, she doesn't change names or titles, she just tells stories. Her first meeting with Lorne Michaels, her unlikely casting as co-host of Weekend Update (and why she wore the glasses), and yes, the Palin Saga. The whole Palin story is really entertaining to me, actually. And it's told really well. Facts are laid out, and it's properly peppered with Tinafey's thoughts and stream-of-consciousness commentary, which is something I have always loved about her.

My favorite chapter is appropriately titled, A Love Letter to Amy Poehler. It's no secret that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are friends. They're like George Clooney and Brad Pitt, only stranger and funnier and with more boobs. Tinafey makes no secret of the fact that she was ecstatic that her friend had been cast on SNL. She knew Amy, she liked her, and they had great on-stage chemistry together. In what is easily my favorite part of the whole book, well...just read it for yourself:

“Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday read-through to start. There were always a lot of noisy ‘comedy bits’ going on in that room. Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except that it was dirty and loud and “unladylike.”
Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it!”
Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit.”

Some gimme a pen and her address, because now I want to write AP a love letter. The worst insult I ever received was when a guy I knew in college told me he didn't think I was pretty, but that I was cute. It wasn't that I cared so much about my looks or what Random Guy #4 thought of me, it was that he took the time to point it out. I was friends with his girlfriend, and I was meant to fill a supporting role. The cute friend. RAGE.

For the first time, I looked at AP and Tinafey and identified with them. I knew that I could take that moment to them and they'd identify with me, commiserate with me, and turn that shit into comic gold.

After getting to the end of the book, I read a lot that was empowering, in addition to being entertaining. Tinafey gave a lot of really great advice, like this gem: “I suggest you model your strategy after the old Sesame Street film piece “Over! Under! Through!” (snip) If your boss is a jerk, try to find someone above, or around your boss who is not a jerk. If you’re lucky, your workplace will have a neutral proving ground – like the rifle range or the car sales total board or the SNL read-through. If so, focus on that. Again, don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go “Over! Under! Through! And opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”

If only I had read this before I left my last job.

The one thing I wanted more of? Tinafey wrote a chapter about babies, and I was so looking forward to reading more about her as a mom. Her working mom stories were hilarious and helped reinforce my decision to be a working woman, not just a working mom. The biggest disappointment (for me) came from her baby chapter. It wasn't a story about learning to cope with a baby or living with a baby, or even pregnancy, or thoughts on babies. The baby chapter was basically one long rant about breastfeeding and why moms who don't or can't shouldn't feel bad about it. I get it, Tinafey. I'm on your side. Formula is not the devil incarnate. I just felt that it was a little too soapboxy for the book. It felt so out of place compared to the rest of her story.

By the end of her tenure at SNL, the standard for gender equality had leveled out. Tinafey told a great story about a week in which Mr. Sylvester Stalone was hosting. (I call him Mr. in case he ever reads this and comes to find me and kill me in my garage.) They needed an Adrian for the monologue, and Cheri Oteri (best name ever) was desperate to play the part. Instead, it went to Chris Kattan in drag. I think Kattan in drag is some funny shit, but how is that any better than Cheri Oteri? Tinafey makes sure to mention that such strong, competent, and funny-as-hell women were cast while she worked for SNL, and by the time she left, no one would have thought to cast a man first to fill a female role. Applause, applause, now replace Seth Meyers as head writer.

I really liked this book. A lot. I think Tina Fey is funny to begin with, but I adored having her in my train bag each day. I was struggling so hard to keep from laughing out loud once that my train conductor actually stopped me to ask what I was reading. He said, "You're da furst lady I seen readin' a book dat was cryin' becaus she was laughin'. Normally youse lay-dees read dat Nicholas Sparks junk."

He is now my favorite train conductor.

I couldn't help but notice that Kaling's book was creepily, eerily similar. She even references an "Irish exit" in the same way Tinafey tells a story about an "Irish goodnight". Where Kaling's book felt rushed and almost entitled, Tina Fey's goes a little deeper, because rather than telling stories out of Hollywood and dropping names here and there, she is actually giving advice. Good, practically, and often hilarious advice about working in any industry and not taking crap because you have two boobs stuck on the front of your body.

I really enjoyed Bossypants. So much, in fact, that I'm looking forward to reading it again.

Grade: A solid A.

And for the record, Mr. Second City Director? Sketches with two women are fucking hilarious. Tina and Amy on Weekend Update. Delicious Dish. The Bush Twins.

I suck at life

I was thinking the other day that it had been a long while since I've blogged, or at least, it certainly felt like it. Then I logged in and whaddya know, it's been nearly a month. Pathetic. So much for that "blog more" resolution, eh?

The good news is that I do believe I will have more free time to blog between now and the fall. Summer in the office is always slow, and now that our Big, Major, Expensive Event is over, my hours at work are much more manageable. I've even found that the piles I'm leaving on my desk at the end of the day are smaller than when they began.

I have a feeling that the time period between now and late May will be an interesting one. On one hand, things at work will be relatively slow, but they'll pick up here and there. June will undoubtedly be a crazy hectic month for us at work, especially based on some news I received the other day. (I'm being intentionally vague on purpose, yo.) Then July and August will most likely be blissfully slow. I'll finally have time to catch up on projects that have been building throughout the year, and I'll be able to dedicate significant chunks of time to database cleanup. Does that sound boring and monotonous? It is! But more than that, it's self-paced and won't require copious amounts of time stuck here in the office. If we get the database integration completed, I might even be able to do parts of it from home. Mini squee!

Other than that....I probably owe you a Hannah update, huh? Look for that later this week.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February Resolution Roundup

It's the first day of March. Time to look back at the last 29 days and see how I fared.

1. Being Healthier.

I'm doing my best here, I really am. I haven't done my DVD in a few days because we've been extremely busy going in and out of town, but I'm determined to get back on the wagon....after the weekend. I need to do this almost daily for a month, I think, for it to be a habit that sticks.

I've been doing my best to eat healthier, but the triple-layer enchilada casserole I made last night, while delicious, isn't doing anything for the number on the scale.

2. Reading more.

I'm still working on this. I am nearly done with Bossypants. I don't have the time to read when I don't take the train in to work, but I have a stack of books that is steadily climbing. I feel like I need to force myself to sit down and read while Hannah's napping instead trying to do other things, like laundry or dishes.

3. Blog more.

Blogging has taken a back seat over the last few days. It didn't feel right to post about pointless things when my friend LOG was (and still is) grieving her mother. I am very back-logged on pics, so maybe sometime next week I'll get them loaded off the camera and do a recap post.

4. Save more.

Still working on it.

5. Simplify.

Success! When I decorated for Valentine's Day, I found some small, useless pieces of junk that had been sitting in that box since we moved. I almost threw them out then, but Graham asked me not to. This time, I think we're both okay with purging our home of some of these things. We're not getting a ton of tangible space back just yet, but if we can successfully remove a box or two from "that closet", we'll be successful. My January bags were dropped off at church, and my 2 February bags are ready to go: one to church, and one to Goodwill.

6. Follow through.

This one, again, is a little harder. I'm doing better at finishing a project when I start it, but the past 2 weeks have been quite busy, both at home and at work. Yesterday, I'm proud to say that I cleared my desk at work of a giant stack of reports that had been sitting there for quite some time. They're back to being filed away, and they're even in the proper order for easy access when we need them this summer. I have some corresponding paperwork that needs to go with the reports, but that involves a glass of wine, Top Chef, and a night in front of the TV, spread out on the couch and living room floor.

7. Recipes.

Still working on it. Again, I don't have a tremendous amount of time to blog in the evenings. I need to start sitting down on a Sunday night and just setting up post after post to broadcast automatically and not just when I press the "Publish" button.

8. Less swearing, more church.

We skipped church on Sunday because I chose to worship God from the comfort of my bed. We did attend the week before that. This coming Sunday is a wait-and-see event.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rest in Peace, M.

LOG's mother passed earlier this evening. Her suffering is over and she's no longer in pain.

Rest in peace, M. You are forever missed.

Smile Friday

Me and the bestie-September 2009. One of my favorite trips, and one of my favorite memories.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


It wasn't supposed to be like this. It wasn't supposed to be this way.

In May, I'm going to be participating in a walk with my friend, LOG. We shouldn't have to do this. She shouldn't have to do this.

 This is a picture of my friend, LOG, with her mom, M. No, those aren't weird, stupid acronyms or nicknames to protect their identity. Those are their names. To those who love them, they are LOG and M. This picture was taken at LOG's bridal shower in 2007. You can see how happy they are and how close they've become. M was so thrilled for her daughter. She was so happy she'd found someone she loved to spend her life with, and that they were equally nuts about each other. She'd found happiness with her husband, T (also his real name), and she knew LOG and John were going to have a long, happy life together.

This is a picture from LOG and John's wedding. LOG's caption? "My absolute favoritest picture of me and my parents."

M & her husband, T. They're young and happy and thrilled to be celebrating their only child's wedding day. I wasn't there, but from what LOG's told me, M danced the night away at her wedding and shut the party down at the end of the night.

When LOG and John wanted to have babies, M was thrilled. She knew exactly what type of grandmother she'd be, and she wanted to babysit all the time.

Before LOG's first child was born in 2009, M hurt her hand. It wasn't getting better. Before long, her hand was basically useless. At LOG's baby shower, 3 years ago today, M's hand hung at her side and her fingers had curled inward. She couldn't use it, and LOG had been telling her mom for weeks, "You need to get this looked at, because you can't hold your grandson." They were worried, but not too worried. They were confident they'd find the problem and fix it. My memories of that day are clear. LOG was happy and glowing, M was thrilled that she was going to be a grandma, and T gave me crap about giving his grandson a White Sox onesie. They were elated that they got to watch LOG become a mother, because they knew she'd be a damn good one.

Unfortunately, months and months went by, and M wasn't getting any better. Test after test revealed nothing. Because it's a diagnosis of elimination, ALS, Lou Gerhig's Disease, was still an option on the table. Memorial Day weekend 2009 was when the official diagnosis came. LOG will always remember that day. To hear her tell it, I feel like I'm in the room with her. She's home with her son because she's still on maternity leave. The phone rings, and the news she receives is a death sentence. M is upbeat and positive, convinced that she'll beat it. T feels confident that he can save M and that together, they'll show the doctors they were wrong.

By the end of the summer, M is no longer worker. By LOG's son's first birthday, M is wheelchair bound and needed help to do the simplest tasks, things that I take for granted everyday. By LOG's son's second birthday, she couldn't and wouldn't come to the party. M was losing her body to ALS.

It's been 2 years since I last saw M.

Today, she's a fraction of the woman she used to be. I'd post the picture, but for LOG's sake and M's dignity, I won't. It's horrific. She can't speak, or even grunt. Her breathing is shallow. She weighs under 100 lbs. Her eyes are hollow and you can see her bones beneath her skin. A once vibrant, talkative, engaging woman has been taken away, and a dying shell of a human being has replaced her. Her husband, the love of her life, has taken "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health" to a new level, one that has played out beautifully over the last two years.

Last night, LOG shared with us that her mom's death was imminent. M's brother has flown into town, and her family is moving to be with her in her last hours on earth. Finally, M's suffering will end.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. It wasn't supposed to be this way. She was supposed to be a grandma. She was supposed to take her grandchildren overnight so LOG and John could date each other. She was supposed to spoil everyone rotten. She wasn't supposed to die in her 50s, because she had a good 30 years left. It wasn't supposed to be this way.

LOG's children will have no memories of their grandmother. This will be the second grandparent they've lost in a year. It's up to LOG and John to keep their memories alive, and it's not a task I envy.

ALS is a horrific disease. It robs you of basic human dignity. For years, M has been trapped in a body that doesn't work. In a matter of hours, 36 at most, she'll finally be at peace. She'll finally be set free. Unfortunately, ALS gets so little funding because, in the simplest sense, not enough people have the disease to qualify for major government funding. One day there will be a cure, but not soon enough. It's too late for M, but not for someone else. That's why I'm joining LOG in May for the Walk to Defeat ALS. They say it best: Because I Can. I can walk. So that's what I'll do. I have 80 days left to raise $500 in M's memory. Please consider donating, because it's not fair. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

And keep LOG and her family in their prayers as they say goodbye to M.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Smile Friday

Another gem from her 6 month shoot. I mean, just look at her! If you're not smiling, you have no soul.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Smile Friday

This is easily one of my favorite photos of Hannah. She's 6 months old here, and she's always this happy.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

January 2012 Resolution Roundup

I'm hoping to help keep myself accountable with my New Year's Resolutions by blogging about them monthly. Maybe I'll let myself fall off the wagon in December....just in time for more resolutions!

In January, I was busy. I thought work was slowing down a bit, and it did. Unfortunately, that lasted only about 5 days or so, and now we're full throttle yet again. At least I'm earning lots of overtime, right? Let's see where I am in Resolutionville, shall we?

1. Being Healthier.

I'm not exactly where I'd like to be, but I'm back on the wagon/bicycle/horse. I've made a few vain attempts, but I didn't really "get serious" until last night. In early January, I checked out some of my local fitness options. I'd really love to be able to swim at the park district, but by the time I remembered to sign up, the $40 fee for 2-3 nights a week really wouldn't be worth it this late in the winter season. I'll investigate again for the spring. I looked into the waterobics classes, step-aerobics, and fitness center all available to me at my local park district. The fitness center is pretty nice, but was packed with resolutionists when I checked it out. I'm hoping that it'll be a little more open in the coming weeks. The park district classes all looked pretty good, but again, I'm signing up too late, and I don't want to throw that money away. An option on the table is signing up for waterrobics ($15) and using half of the pool as my own personal open swim while the elderly do their jazzercize on the other half. I talked to the lifeguard, and she said that technically I need to sign up for the class going on at that time if I want to use the pool, that way if I drown, it's no one's fault but mine. I figure if I get in the habit of swimming now, I'll be more likely to go to the outdoor pool this summer.

I'm also investigating dance classes in the area. I know everyone's all Zumba crazy these days, but I'd rather learn a style of dance. Before we got married, I took some ballet classes and really loved it. Unfortunately, none of those are offered for adults through my local park district, so I've got to investigate the suburbs.

Last night, after weeks of putting it off and telling myself I was too tired, I popped Jillian Michaels back in the DVD player. In short, she kicked my ass. Again. My legs and arms are sore today, but it felt good to be active with a purpose. I had to take a few pauses--I haven't done the 30 day shred since just before I learned I was pregnant--but I did it. HA!

2. Reading more.

I'm really proud of this one. I have been reading more, and I've forced myself to wake up the other side of my brain, the side that relies on creativity and literary analysis. It's been fun! I'm reminded of why I enjoyed my literature classes in college. I've read a few books since the start of the year, and I'm in the middle of Bossypants, by Tina Fey. I'm loving that I'm reading again, and I'm loving that it wakes up that part of my mind that had been a little sedentary for a while. It makes me want to go back to school and get the degree I keep talking about getting.

3. Blog more.

Proof! I've been trying to keep my creative side awake with blogging--actual, for-real blogging--and not just memes that go around here and there. It's nice. I know I piss people off, and that's okay. I'm putting myself out there and it's not always pretty, but at least you know where I stand on things.

4. Save more.

Again, the only issue I am not comfortable publicizing. We're working on this. Because the cost of everything has gone up, we're looking at scaling back in most areas. With the threat of the teachers union going on strike, we need to take the necessary measures to provide for our child. We already took a few steps in that direction, and I feel pretty good about it. We'll take a few more steps, and go from there.

5. Simplify.

Another area of progress! I have four plastic bags of stuff to take to church. We've skipped Mass the past few weeks, so I am so far behind in that area. The goal is to get that stuff out of the house before Friday.

6. Follow through.

This one's a little harder to blog about because it involves an internal commitment from myself. So far this year, I think I've done pretty well. I fall here and there, but take Resolution #1, for example. I stopped talking about getting healthier and took actual steps to make it happen. More of that needs to happen.

7. Recipes.

I'm doing it! I've been making new food, and I've even taken pics of a few new meals. I made a soup last week that was to die for. I need to be a little more consistent with this, and I need to make time to blog this stuff.

8. Less swearing, more church.

Uh, yeah. So far, 2012 is a wash. Back on the wagon!

Book Review Tuesday: Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love

Continuing my weekly book reviews, today I'm writing about Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love, by Matthew Logelin.

I need to say that this book is incredibly hard for me to review objectively. I've been reading Matt's blog since March 26th, 2008, the day it came across my cooking message board and a day after his wife died. I, like millions of others, was instantly hooked. For some background, Matt and his wife Liz were expecting a baby girl in May 2008. Liz had a difficult pregnancy and wasn't gaining weight, resulting in a small fetus and weeks of bed rest. On March 24th, their daughter Madeline was delivered via c-section and was transported to the NICU. Liz had to wait 24 hours to hold her baby, and she had just a few moments with her daughter before she was placed in a plastic box with a feeding tube to keep her healthy. Twenty-seven hours after her daughter was born, Liz died, the victim of a pulmonary embolism to her lungs. Matt's high school sweetheart, best friend, wife, and now mother of his newborn child died without ever getting to hold her daughter.

The tragedy in and of itself is heart-wrenching. Matt's writing in the weeks and months after Liz's death kept me coming back. Top it all off with his reflections of fatherhood, all alone with a newborn who was born seven weeks early. Holy crap.

The reasons this book is hard for me to review are many. First, this is a story I've been following for nearly 4 years. I feel like I know Matt and Maddy. Second, I've met them, so I do kind of know them. (Here's where I'd link to the blog post detailing my visit to LA, but I started it and never completed it because I suck at life. So.....)

Oh, how I love this.

Seventeen months old and very, very okay with strangers

Aaaaaaaand, nap!
Matt was totally and completely chill. When I tweeted him and asked if I could meet up with him, he was so incredibly calm about it. He welcomed my best friend and I into his home and was completely open about everything. (I'll touch more on that later). He let us sit on his couch, play with his child, and drink his beer.

These pictures were taken roughly a week or so before Matt flew to India to write this book, funnily enough. Again, super chill. "I'm leaving for India in six days and I'm not packed. Sure, strangers! Come on in!"

The third reason this is a difficult review to write is that Matt's story touches so close to home. He and Liz were high school sweethearts who dated in their last semester before college. They dated through college, grad school, and in different time zones for years before getting married. They had very different adolescent experiences, despite living a few miles apart. Matt towered over Liz by a foot. Liz had lost all her jewelry in a burglary, and Matt made a heartfelt promise to slowly replace it ....I could go on, but on nearly every single page, I read something that took my breath away. "It could be us. They could be us."

(In another strange similarity, a song I've always wanted played at my funeral called, "Dress Sexy At My Funeral" was played at both Liz's funerals/memorials. Until I found Matt's blog, I thought I was the only one who'd ever heard of it. Creepy.)

Unfortunately, this won't be a truly objective book review. But I'll do my best to be honest.

Now. Matt's memoir of his last days with his life and his first year of fatherhood isn't a light read. It's probably not a book I would recommend reading in a public place unless you're okay with sniffling, crying, and looking like a crazy person. For example, the train ride to and from work isn't where you want to be seen reading this book. Not that I would know anything about that....

As a reader of the blog, I was very familiar with the story. I'd heard it all before. What I didn't know were the small, intricate details of those days. Whether because they were too painful to recount until he wrote the book, or because in all the shock of losing his wife and becoming a father so suddenly he never shared those details, it was nice to have some more background. Matt writes in a way that he lets you in to those moments. I didn't feel like I was peering behind the curtain, I was in the room with him, waiting for Liz to wake up so she could meet Madeline. I could smell her hospital room and hear the panic in his voice when Liz slumped over, and I felt the rush of air behind me when he was pushed out of her room. That moment is raw, and he has an impossibly lovely way of sharing it with his readers.

While the story is the same, (duh!) the book differs from the blog in many ways. First of all, the writing. Matt has an e.e. cummings quality in his blog that doesn't carry over to the memoir. This is a good thing, because I think I'd stop reading and just keep turning pages if it wasn't in a format that gives me time to read and reflect before turning the page and starting the next chapter. The book does include small peaks into the blog and an introduction to each chapter, for those unfamiliar with Matt's story.

The first year or two of Matt's blog, he posted photos and stories of life with Maddy, but he also posed questions to the readers (mostly women). Questions about parenting and, "Crap, how do I [____________]?" and "What do I do when [________]?" The memoir describes the struggle, but not so much "How do I change a diaper in public?" The struggle is more, "How do I do this alone? How can I keep going without her?" (In the early days of the blog, this was a question Matt asked almost daily.)

TKFM also gets into the real loss of Liz. Matt discusses in detail Maddy's first Christmas, and the empty feeling that permeated the house. He tore my heart out when he described crying with Liz's mom and for the first time saw the pain of a woman who had lost a child, something that had rarely been touched on in his blog.

Matt writes that he wanted to talk about Liz and wanted to let people know it was okay to talk about her and share stories about her. He writes about the internal struggle to keep Liz's memory alive, and to channel his wife's spirit for his daughter, even though it was always painful to do. He writes about being a social pariah because no one knew what to say to him after Liz died. On more than one occasion, he writes that the better of Maddy's two parents had died. You want to sit next to him, hold his hand, and tell him he's doing a hell of a job given the circumstances. And it gives you an appreciation for the dead and you start to wonder why no one speaks their names after they've passed.

The memoir concludes with Maddy's first birthday, seemingly appropriate, as it was also the culmination of the first year without Liz. Even though I knew this, I wanted

Even though the memoir is peppered with names of family and friends who helped him and stepped up to be pillars of support throughout what can only be described as a shitty, shitty year, it's largely a solo flight. The description of being alone in their house at night for the first time is kick-you-in-the-gut heart-wrenching. I felt completely enveloped in the silence.

The tone of the entire book is largely bittersweet. I think this is largely because, by the time the book went to print, Liz had been gone for 3 years. Plenty of time had passed, but what was really impressive to me is that Matt wrote it in such a way that it felt like Liz died days ago. The emotions are raw, and I still can't bring myself to go back and re-read the entire first part. I have to put it down before Liz dies. There's really no way to describe how impossibly unfair it is.

Something Matt really stresses in his memoir is that he doesn't want to forget Liz, and doesn't want others to forget her by not talking about her. When I met Matt and Maddy, he talked about Liz as though she was in the next room or just out for groceries and would be back any moment. His house was relatively clean--he gave us a tour of the whole place--but he apologized for the mess, saying, "Liz never would have let you in here with it looking like this." Both of Maddy's Weirnermobiles were on display, and he half-joked that Liz would have demanded they live out in the yard. (See the blog for deets on that.) When Maddy climbed onto her play piano, he said that in twelve years together, he'd never heard Liz play, "...and she was fucking amazing, or so I was told." There was a touch of regret in his voice, and whenever Matt wrote about the what-ifs and never-weres, I heard that note.

In the face of all this awfulness, there were light-hearted and amazingly happy moments. Matt's inital successes as a parent gave him more strength, and with each hurdle, he grew more and more confident. Matt also went into greater detail about establishing The Liz Logelin Foundation, a non-profit aimed at helping the newly widowed (with families) overcome those early, horrific days without their spouse. With the establishment of the foundation, in addition to the blog, Matt garnered a fair amount of media attention in the first year without Liz. Matt was on Rachael Ray, Oprah, and easily a dozen other talk shows. Throughout the entire book, he never once name drops or makes note that he was ever on television and effectively a blogging celebrity. The book is the detailing of what happened after Liz died, and I appreciated that Matt kept the focus on Liz and Maddy. He never even says, "I went on Rachael Ray with Maddy and felt like shit the whole time because I shouldn't have been there." Amazing.

Because I was familiar with Matt and his story, the excessive use of "colorful language" throughout the memoir didn't phase me. In fact, I barely noticed it. And he says, "fuck" a lot less than I would have. However, it's definitely an issue with some readers. If you hate four-letter-words, check out the blog first and see if this is a story you want to read.

There's no one in the world, not even the people who have truly hurt me, who I would put in Matt's position. Personally, I think he's handled himself with a fair amount of grace and dignity. TKFM is a fast read, though not a light one. Matt writes as though he's talking to you and welcoming you into his home--and I speak from experience. He doesn't whisper Liz's name, or follow every mention of her with some garbage like, "God rest her soul." He is completely open and honest about their life together, and it's clear that their 12 years together were far too short.

Before I wrap this up, I think it's worth mentioning that the book isn't a complete sob fest. Matt's sense of humor is very evident throughout. His early parenting experiences, his resourcefulness, pictures of Maddy and Liz. Basically, he does a nice job of keeping you from feeling like you're at a funeral. There are so many happy moments  he shares, and there were moments where I laughed and chuckled, and came crashing down with Matt. In a few moments, he'd made me forget Liz was dead, and each time I turned the page, I felt a sting of loss all over again.

I'd definitely read this again, but I'll need to wait a while. I'm too much of a sap these days.
Grade: A-