Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book Review Tuesday: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

In an effort to read more and become a little more discerning over what I read, and in order to keep up with my New Year's resolutions, I'm going to be posting book reviews each Tuesday. That's the hope, anyway. I know I'll miss a few here and there, but the idea is to read more books, post my reviews, and ultimately knock out two resolutions with one stone. And, these reviews will be my opinions and aren't anything close to print quality. I don't know anything about writing a book review, except to write what I liked and didn't like. I am the ultimate non-authority figure.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Mindy Kaling

I received a copy of this book from Brian and Robyn for Christmas. I was pretty pumped to see this, since I love The Office, and Mindy as Kelly Kapoor cracks me up every single time. (Remember Phyllis' wedding?)

On the whole, I enjoyed Mindy's memoir. She writes conversationally, and her memoir includes one-liners and a sardonic tone that I myself have often used.

I feel like I should mention here that this is NOT "great writing". Shakespeare, she is not. But for a book of this type, that's perfectly okay. No one wants to read a memoir that's didactic and ridiculous. And it's nice to know that Mindy has a sense of humor about herself and her career up to this point.

The first few chapters are my favorite. Mindy has a way of relaying the events from her youth as though she's sitting down with a girlfriend over coffee. Her description of herself as a fat Indian child are especially entertaining. ("Do you know how statistically rare this is?") She has a really great way of telling her audience about the realization that her junior high besties weren't the super fab group she thought they were, coming on the heels of a slumber party in which she was the only one tickled by Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks.

The first few chapters are written really well, with lots of heart and thought tucked in for good measure.

After that, especially in the last part, the writing feels really rushed. In the introduction, Mindy mentions that this is NOT Tina Fey's book. But I couldn't stop from feeling like she was under the gun to get her book printed because Tina Fey's book was coming out. (I have not read Bossypants.)

While Mindy's conversational tone lends itself to the first part, the latter parts of the book read like you're standing at your high school reunion, talking to that girl you were sorta-kinda-friends with who made it big, politely exchanging stories about your life since high school, all while she's sipping her drink and scanning the room, looking for her best friends or ex-boyfriend to enter the gym.

Obviously, The Office is a huge party of Mindy's life right now, and, at this writing, what she's best known for. She does a great job talking about her experiences there, though she's not above a little name-dropping throughout that chapter. She's also sure to mention specific episodes that she's written and/or directed. Basically, lines of this chapter read as, "The Office yada yada yada blah blah blah the episode, "Michael's Last Dundies", which I directed. Blah blah blah Dundies, which I also wrote." It comes across as though she's trying to make sure we know she's a writer/director/actor on the series, not just Kelly Kapoor. I'm uncertain if this is bragging, or just a poor explanation of everything she does as a member of The Office crew.

For reasons unknown, maybe so she can't be sued or out of respect for her former colleagues and employers, Mindy changes the names of everyone in the book who isn't directly associated with The Office and the two-woman show that launched her career, Matt and Ben. For a time, she lived in New York City and was a production assistant on Crossing Over with John Edwards. She doesn't really comment on whether or not she believes Edwards has supernatural powers, but notes that the shows gave comfort to people who were grieving and hurting. But she never refers to Edwards or the show by name. She calls it Bridging the Underworld with Mac Teegarden for some reason. In this instance, I think she could have said, "I was a production assistant for a television show that attempted to connect the living to the other side", but I'm not a writer, editor, or production assistant. Ergo, I know nothing.

I'm still trying to figure out why she chose to include a chapter titled, "These Are The Narcissistic Photos On My Blackberry." It doesn't add much to the book, just the knowledge that prior to award shows she likes to check herself and make sure her makeup looks okay and that she's not smiling funny.

Her eulogy, written by a friend, is pretty funny. It's the kind of eulogy I'd like to be given at my own funeral, given by my best friend who can say, "I'm so glad I can finally say these thoughts out loud."

Overall, this is a good, light, relatively entertaining read. Fans of The Office will/should be pleased. This is a great beach or treadmill read. I cranked it out in a week because my reading time is limited, but it's easily finished in two days if you have the time to read.

Grade: B+

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The past few days....

Plbbbbbbbt. That pretty much sums up the last few days here in Chez AngieandGraham.

First, Graham came down with a cold. He was pretty much down for the count, which left me on Baby Duty. Then I got walloped with a 24-hour head-thing. Graham was pretty good about taking over, especially in the mornings when I needed to sleep off my head-thing.

On Sunday, we made a noble effort to get to church, and technically, we were there. We parked in the lot and everything! The true reason we were there was to check out the parish school. We've lived here 2 years, and we've only seen the school basement for Bon Jovi Tribute Band concerts (Yes, that's a real thing) and Market Day pickup. We decided to check out the school because it's a very real possibility that Hannah will be a student there someday and we wanted to see the facilities and talk to current families.

Oh, and we're big nerds with backgrounds in education who have unrealistically high expectations for our obviously-a-genius-child's educational future.

[Pause for riotous laughter]

We had fun at the open house, and we got aaaaaaaaaaaaallllllll kinds of fun looks from parents and teachers. "Where's your older child?" "Right here. This adorable, not-yet-walker right here is our oldest and only child." ::wide eyes:: "Oooooooooh...."

As a teacher who attended plenty of open houses and met with new and prospective parents, I knew they were sizing me up. And I knew exactly what category they were placing me in. It's okay. In their shoes, I would have done the same thing. And on Monday in the teacher's lounge, I totally would have said, "Did you see that couple with the infant? Ugh. I hope they don't send their daughter here. Can you say, "Pain in the butt?"

After Sunday, Hannah's demeanor started to change. She was clingier than normal, a little warm (but no fever), and she'd go from zero to pissed in no time at all. She was also coughing a hell of a lot, after practically losing her December cough. I got her some baby cough syrup (something hippydippy that tastes like baby crack) and baby tylenol, and while it helped, my wee one just wasn't feeling like herself. On Monday, her babysitter said she had a fever and her nose was running non-stop. We took her to the pedi to see Dr. Amazing, who said her lungs were clear (YAY) but she had an ear infection (BOO). Today, Graham stayed home with her, and while her demeanor is better (YAY), her nose is still runny (BOO).

In summation, sick babies totally suck. My poor kiddo doesn't know what's wrong, just that she doesn't feel good, and "BuhBuh" (Mama) needs to be around all the time for hugs and cuddles.

Also, sick baby screams? I didn't realize humans could hear that tone.

Thankfully, my boss has been amazingly understanding. She let me leave early to take Hannah to the doctor, and she asked about her multiple times today, making sure I wasn't trying to be stoic and leaving my sick baby. Amazing. Have I mentioned how much I like where I'm working?

So that's that. A long few days. A sick baby. Cold as hell again. Can't wait for my baby to feel better.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

PYHO: Carpe Diem, my ass

Just this morning, I read this article.

Funnily enough, I'd been working on a blog post on this very subject for a few weeks. I'd been going back and forth in my head for over a month, feeling guilty for feeling this way when there are millions of women in the country who would gladly give their right hand to be stuck in a public place with a kid having a major meltdown. It would mean they were mothers. Friends of mine have been to some very dark places just trying to conceive, and whenever I'd complain or gripe about a rough morning or two hour bedtime, I'd feel guilty. In their silence, I could hear their responses: "At least you have someone to dress in the morning. At least you're a mother. Why aren't you more grateful? Why do selfish people like you get to have babies, and I can't?"

Over the Christmas holiday, I got to see one of my best friends from high school. I hadn't seen Kate in over a year--I was pregnant the last time we got together. I was so barely pregnant, I don't know if we knew that Hannah was Hannah.

Kate is one of those women who, even as a teenager, we knew was destined for awesomeness. She's brilliant. She's one of the smartest, most intelligent, and well-spoken people I've ever had the pleasure to know. She's incredibly perceptive and kind, and when she asks about you, you know she means it. She stopped by for a visit with her niece, and the first question Kate asks? "How's parenthood?"

My response? "It's hard!"

That's not to say it isn't wonderful and rewarding, but damn if it's not hard. Some days, it's easier than others. Hannah's in a good mood, and she wants to play and snuggle and laugh all day.

Other days, I want to climb in bed. I want to tell her, "Okay, you don't want a nap? I do! Go watch your stories and wake me in an hour. Trust me kid, one day you'll need a nap and you can't take one."

On days when her teeth are killing her. (She's 13 months and has 12 teeth. Someone kill me.)

On days when she's extra clingy. (I don't always mind, but sometimes, I need to pee and would like to do so in relative privacy.)

On days when I'm home alone and she's tearing the house to pieces.

On days when she doesn't feel like getting into the car, and I have to wrastle her like a hillbilly, and I'm pretty sure my neighbors think I'm beating her with the seat belt.

On days when we're at the grocery store, and she's done. When she doesn't cry, but screams and begs to be held, then let down, then picked up again, then put down, and then OH MY GOD WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU WHY WOULD YOU PUT ME DOWN I THINK YOU HAAAAAAAATE ME!

In those moments, I think back and remember the moments when I had dignity. When I could walk in and out of a store in 10 minutes with my head held high and no emergency cookies or pacifiers in my pockets.

I love my daughter. She is, without question, a walking, breathing miracle. Sometimes, though, it's so hard to "seize the moment" and "treasure every last minute" because she's a person with thoughts and feelings and ideas that don't always jive with mine. I want her to wear her mittens, and she wants to run around naked. When I have to wrestle her and shove the mittens on her hands because it's 11 F. outside and sending her outside without proper gear on is child abuse, I'm not "seizing the moment" because I'm busy seizing the child. When her diaper is awful and gross? SO not seizing the moment. When I was nursing and she bit my nipple? Not a moment I cared to seize.

I'm okay with that.

I think parenting is a little like childbirth. It's awesome and terrifying all at once. It's going to hurt. You are going to have parts of you ripped open. You think, "I can DO this! I am a champion!" and inevitably, at some point, you end up begging for drugs because you're losing your mind.

But it's also awesome. You look at yourself, completely amazing by what the human body is capable of doing. Not only can I grow some elbows and push a person out a small space, but I can also simultaneously drive a car and pass a cookie back to a screaming toddler. I can hear my child cry and know exactly what's bothering her. I can walk into a room and instantly scan it for potential choking and stabbing hazards. (Suck it, RoboCop!)

And, much like childbirth, I think we forget the pain. The memory fades after a while, and we think we can do it because the payoff is pretty freaking awesome. Baby smiles and snuggles. Watching your child learn to walk. Watching the act of learning take place as they figure out their shape sorter. Hearing them say a new word for the first time. Asking for kisses and getting a sloppy, open-mouthed kiss in return. Getting snuggles and contented sighs at bedtime. Coming home from work and getting a big smile and squeal, just because you exist and you are, in that moment, the most important person in the world.

Those are the moments I hold on to. Those are the moments that will make me clutch my heart at 90 (hopefully not a heart attack). And those are the moments I try to remember when my toddler strips me of all my dignity while we're at Target and she's done for the day. Those are the moments when, at the end of the day, I can say, "Today sucked. But, it's over, and for the most part, this parenting thing is pretty bitchin'."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In Which I Resolve.

Ah, January, you saucy little minx. You sneak right up on me every year, and I always make "in my head resolutions", which, much like my "in my head recipes" and "in my head conversations with my husband about things we want to do" never seem to make it out of my mouth.

No more! I am relying on you, bloggy friends and readers, to help keep me accountable.

I have a lengthy list of resolutions I'd like to keep for 2012. After all, if it's our last year of existence, why not make it a good one?

I need you to comment and email and bug the heck out of me. Help me stay on top of these resolutions, particularly when I fall off the wagon and hide out with a package of cookies. So, here are my resolutions for 2012, in no particular order.

1. Be healthier and live healthier.

Yes, this is one of those "weight loss and exercise more" resolutions that everyone else makes this time of year. Bottom line: I'm a fat ass. I am overweight for my frame and body type. I'm chubby. My husband doesn't care, and my daughter doesn't care, but I do. I care. I need to lose some of this excess weight that's hanging around me, and overall I just need to live a healthier lifestyle. This means eating less crap (and sadly, consuming less soda. Waaaaaaah!) and being a little more active.

2. Read more.

I love to read. It's one of the reasons I majored in English, and one of the reasons I want to be a librarian. Since getting my first real job (I don't count my first job out of college because it afforded me far too much free time. It was essentially "College Plus), I haven't made time to read for fun. I haven't exercised that part of my brain enough. For Christmas, my sister(-in-law) and brother(-in-law) gave me Mindy Kaling's book. It's funny, and it makes me laugh, and while it's not exactly the best well-written memoir on the market today, it reminds me that there are books out there that are worth reading. To keep this resolution to you all, I'll be posting book reviews weekly, to prove that I AM reading. So there.

3. Blog more.

This one is where you guys need to call me out when I don't do it. I enjoy blogging. I love to write, and writing has always been a kind of therapy for me. When I don't write often enough and keep my thoughts to myself, I find that I'm crankier, sloth-i-er, and much more scatterbrained. Even if I'm writing something more than a touch ridiculous, blogging and writing helps me. So when I don't post? Bug me. If you're my friend on Facebook, bug me. If you're not my friend on FB but find me and bug me.....well, that's creepy.

4. Save more.

We need to save more money. I'm not going to share financials with you because it's one of the few things that I don't feel comfortable sharing on the interwebz, but trust me. We'll be sticking to this one.

5. Simplify.

I own a lot of crap. I need to streamline my life a little more, starting with my belongings. I recently read an article on CNN.com that discussed going through someone's belongings after they've passed away. The author had recently lost her father and was hesitant to part with anything that had once been precious to him. I totally get it. I'm totally that way. But when Graham and I talk about moving, or when we need to rearrange furniture (again) because we have something clunky and awkward to move around (again), I'm always amazed by the pure amount of crap I/we own. So this year, I'm simplifying. I'm getting rid of the garbage I can't seem to part with, starting with the useless stuff, and moving on to more sentimental items. My goal is to get rid of one bag of stuff a month. Even if it's a small bag, it counts! Why? Because it's my blog and my resolution and I said so. So there.

My pledge to you is to post pictures of the garbage I'm getting rid of. AND I can say that I'm already ahead of schedule because in addition to putting together a bag of stuff to donate to church, I also broke my largest Pyrex mixing bowl the other day. Literally thousands of pieces of glass were scattered all over my kitchen floor. My kitchen is minus one piece (that will be very missed). BUT! The good news is that if I die tomorrow, that's one less thing my family needs to decide what to do with. You're welcome, America.

6. Follow through.

I have awful Adult ADD. I've never been diagnosed, but I swear (I SWARE!) I have it. I get so easily distracted. I start projects with the best of intentions, and then I get sidelined by something else. I'll start cleaning the bathroom and bust out the windex to do the mirrors, then decide to clean every window and glass surface in the house like I'm strung out. At least all my glass surfaces are clean? I need to complete projects from start to finish. The end.

7. Try more new recipes.

I am addicted to cookbooks and recipe sharing websites. Over the last few months, with work being so incredibly busy, I fell into the trap of using my old standbys over and over again. While I can make a bitchin' pot pie, it's a little too much over and over again. We get bored of it. I am going to try more new recipes, blog more recipes over here, and if I try out cookbooks and don't like them, they're being purged.

8. Swear a little less, go to church a little more.

Self-explanatory.  I need to watch my language, particularly when it comes out of my mouth and lands on the ears of my kiddo. She's a mimic these days, which means if I say it or do it, she's following suit. Did I tell you guys that she's started playing with blocks and pretending she's on a cell phone? I'm in trouble, dudes.

In Which I Explain. And blog.

So, if you haven't noticed, I have royally sucked at blogging lately. Sucked, I say! I keep meaning to--and wanting to--but my job has gotten so busy and chaotic lately that I haven't had the time. If I had extra time, I'd blog at work. Unfortunately, I have a crazy fear of being caught not working by the IT people (a fear I never had when I was the lone IT professional at my previous job), and we can't afford for me to be out of work right now. Since I can't blog at work, that leaves me nights and weekends. I usually try to keep weekends for family, unless I'm home all alone with nothing to do (LOLZ). I have a longish commute home from work, so by the time we're done with dinner and Hannah and general "at home-ish" things, I'm so damn tired that I don't have the energy to blog. I'm a firm believer that if you have nothing to blog about, don't bother. Look at Hyperbole and a Half. She blogs infrequently, but has a huge following because her blogs are kick ass. And funny. I don't have a big following, and no one wants to read my random, one-sentence thoughts on shoes. That's what Twitter is for.

As a way of explanation, I work for a non-profit in Development. Or Advancement, depending on the day. The calendar year just ended, if you hadn't noticed. During the holiday season--which, if you're Target, begins in April--you were probably bombarded with requests for donations or gifts. In your email, your snail mail, on your way in to Walgreens...damn bell ringers. I apologize on behalf of all Development/Advancement workers everywhere, because I was one of those people harassing your inbox. Our annual campaign kicked off in the fall, and I was literally Go! Go! Go! in my office all day, everyday. From November to early January. I was working all the time. A twelve hour day for me was not uncommon.


I was tired a lot.

Now that things have calmed down quite a bit, and my desk doesn't have a small mountain of paperwork I have to deal with, I'll be blogging more. In fact, it's one of my resolutions for 2012. (That's another post.)

So. How have you been?

::tap tap::

Is this thing on?