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, that...situation...is 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.