My Fellow Millennials, Cheers

26170643_870059737631_1385246405300429353_oMy New Years Eve post goes out to fellow millennials.

First, may we continue to take selfies because you know it drives them nuts (hashtag not sorry).

May we continue to work our asses off and enjoy the occasional avocado toast.

May we, as parents, professionals, students, and individuals build bridges, support our communities, look past failed political divisions, innovate our businesses, and put passion and people before profits. May we scorn debtors and push our future ourselves, paying our own way.

And to everyone, snarky generational commentary aside, remember that no year, be it this one or the one you were born in, may define you – only you can do that.

Cheers.

In 2018, do you. Authentically you. 

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2018 Resolutions: Look up and pay attention.

There is no denying it. New Year’s Resolutions are cliché, but for some inexplicable reason they resonate with me. The cycle of the year holds power in my life. In particular, the past three years my resolutions have been very important to me. I have changed my life by becoming more active. I have applied myself intellectually and professionally in new, brave ways. I’ve always focused on pushing myself toward some new and great achievement. This year I’m competing in my first women’s sprint triathlon and will train for my fourth half marathon.

I’m proud of those things and they’re great goals (I’m a bit goal orientated if that wasn’t coming through) but in 2018 I want to focus on presence.

I spend a lot of time taking pictures of my kids. They’re adorable and hilarious and I’m ridiculously proud by every little thing they do. Then, after I get the perfect photo, I spend more time posting those pictures to Facebook and/or Instagram with my witty asides or commentary.

Any parents familiar with the following?

Parent: “Oh that’s so funny! Let me grab my phone!”

Kid: “Cheese!”

Parent: “Why are you smiling weird? Smile normal.”

Kid: “Cheese!”

Parent: “Got it! Oh look at that so cute!”

Kids: “Mom, let’s play! “

Parent: “Hold on I’m picking a filter.”

Kid: “Mom, can I play on your phone too?”

Parent: “No, hold on I’m almost done.”

Kid continues cute activity but disengages from parent.

I really hate this. I’m really, really not proud of this. But that? I do that more often than I’d like to admit.

Sometimes I’ll wait until later in the evening to post the pictures, but I’ll say it: I take a lot of photos with social media in mind. Not for the memory books and picture frames, but so I can find a good picture for posting. Ew.

My 2018 resolution is to stop posting pictures of my kids on social media.

I will not stop taking pictures all together. I want photos for our family to print, share, send to each other, and enjoy, but no more posting. I’ll still mention family moments and activities because my family is my world, but no photos of the kids. No more drafting the post – sometimes even spending time thinking about possible posts ahead of time – and putting off engaging in the moment.

I don’t want their family memories to be of mommy staring at her phone… and I am worried I have veered off in that direction.

It is my hope that removing the “showing them off” element of capturing moments in my children’s lives will make me more present the moment.

My resolution is NOT a commentary on other people’s posting habits or choices. You can post many adorable photos of your kids and still be a present, wonderful parent (to be clear, I also do not think I’m a bad parent). This is just something I want to try for myself. This is about me focusing on the present rather than the post.

My reason is not about privacy so much as presence. I’m not combing through and removing old pictures and my parents, my husband, and other friends and family will, I assume, still share some pictures. I’m all-good with that.

Truth be told when I think about not sharing their adorable Halloween costumes or their first day of school pictures it sends sad little pangs across my heart – but here is the deal – they won’t know the difference. For them Halloween will be exactly the same whether my friends from high school know what they wore or not. We do Halloween events for them, not for me and certainly not for LSE Class of 2003, so I need to suck it up.

So, sprint triathlon and half marathon aside, my 2018 goals? Look up and pay attention.

My Favorite Books of 2017

December 1 2017 | I set a goal of reading 50 books in 2017. I did it.. and then I read 7 more and I expect I’ll finish another 2 or 3. Like my 2016 post, I want to preface this with some information about me as a reader. I read mostly 300-500 page fiction, usually of the general narrative, fantasy, mystery, science fiction or romance variety. These books are my escape. I very rarely read 600+ page or non-fiction books. So before everyone is all “how do you have the time?!” know that I can polish off a 300 page romance novel in about 72 hours, reading it post my children’s bedtime. I also read a lot while traveling. I loathe airports and books absorb me, so I turn to them while flying. I usually knock back 2-3 books per trip. Also, I count graphic novel volumes as a book. I do not count individual comic books/issues.

New this year I included a few chapter books I started reading with our kindergartener at bedtime. Because I’m going to start including the books and graphic novels I read with him – and eventually our daughter – that are read in multiple sittings and are 100+ pages and I’m going to set my 2018 goal at 100 books!

Logistics aside, I want to share my favorites of the year and hope that others will share theirs! A full pictorial list of my current 56 is below too. The reviews here are mostly what I wrote on Goodreads directly after finishing the book. I figure those reviews are the most fresh and frankly, putting this together was enough work. I don’t have time for more in depth reviews, but always happy to talk about books!

As I mentioned, finishing my goal doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading until 2018, so please, join me on Goodreads and finish out 2017 with me!

Finally – SHOUTOUT LINCOLN CITY LIBRARIES! Only two books of my entire 50 were purchased. Thank you for being an important resource to me and my family.

In no particular order, my favorite books of 2017:


Written in Red (The Others #1)

by Anne Bishop
writteninredGood Reads Summary: As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others. Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

My Review: I read another “first book in a series” by Anne Bishop earlier this year. I believe it was her first published novel. I enjoyed it, but uffda it was overly complicated and the sexual overtones (in a book I would NOT consider a romance novel) were… awkward at best. Fast forward to her most recent series, “The Others” and this book. Over-complicated turned into detailed world building. Awkward sexual overtones turned into a slow building, interesting, character nuisance. These books (I’m currently already into the second one in the series) are slow paced, but well crafted. If you’re into fantasy, human v. fantasy storylines check these out. Great fiction.


Once Broken Faith + The Brightest Fell (October Daye #10 + #11)

by Seanan McGuire

toby2Once Broken Faith Goodreads Summary: Politics have never been October “Toby” Daye’s strong suit. When she traveled to the Kingdom of Silences to prevent them from going to war with her home, the Kingdom of the Mists, she wasn’t expecting to return with a cure for elf-shot and a whole new set of political headaches. Now the events she unwittingly set in motion could change the balance of modern Faerie forever, and she has been ordered to appear before a historic convocation of monarchs, hosted by Queen Windermere in the Mists and overseen by the High King and Queen themselves.  Naturally, things have barely gotten underway when the first dead body shows up. As the only changeling in attendance, Toby is already the target of suspicion and hostility. Now she needs to find a killer before they can strike again—and with the doors locked to keep the guilty from escaping, no one is safe. As danger draws ever closer to her allies and the people she loves best, Toby will have to race against time to prevent the total political destabilization of the West Coast and to get the convocation back on track…and if she fails, the cure for elf-shot may be buried forever, along with the victims she was too slow to save. Because there are worse fates than sleeping for a hundred years.

toby1The Brightest Fell Goodreads Summary: For once, everything in October “Toby” Daye’s life seems to be going right. There have been no murders or declarations of war for her to deal with, and apart from the looming specter of her Fetch planning her bachelorette party, she’s had no real problems for days. Maybe things are getting better. Maybe not.

Because suddenly Toby’s mother, Amandine the Liar, appears on her doorstep and demands that Toby find her missing sister, August. But August has been missing for over a hundred years and there are no leads to follow. And Toby really doesn’t owe her mother any favors. Then Amandine starts taking hostages, and refusal ceases to be an option.

My Goodreads Review of the Brightest Fell: I loved this ending. I loved this leg of the story. This story feels like a transition so I can see how some felt this installment was boring or lacking, but it was clear. Darkness this way comes. Toby is no longer a novice, she’s all woman.

Blog Review: If you’ve talked to me about books in the past four years you’ve heard me scream READ SEANAN McGUIRE! You’ll note her name appear again on this list. The October Daye series has stolen my heart. Adventure. Silliness. Diversity. Extreme world building. Flawed but strong characters. These books are a joy and just get better and better.


The Quiet Child

by John Burley

quietchildGoodreads Summary: It’s the summer of 1954, and the residents of Cottonwood, California, are dying. At the center of it all is six-year-old Danny McCray, a strange and silent child the townspeople regard with fear and superstition, and who appears to bring illness and ruin to those around him. Even his own mother is plagued by a disease that is slowly consuming her. Sheriff Jim Kent, increasingly aware of the whispers and rumors surrounding the boy, has watched the people of his town suffer—and he worries someone might take drastic action to protect their loved ones. Then a stranger arrives, and Danny and his ten-year-old brother, Sean, go missing. In the search that follows, everyone is a suspect, and the consequences of finding the two brothers may be worse than not finding them at all.

My Goodreads Review: That book was… haunting? Comforting? I don’t know, but it’ll stick with me. Amazingly well crafted and I loved the shifting viewpoints.

Blog Review: I was right. I still don’t know if I even liked this book, but it’s still with me. I think of it often and consider.


North to the Orient
by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Goodreads Summary: In 1931 Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh set off on a flight to the Orient by the Great Circle Route. The classic North to the Orient is the beautifully written account of the trip.

northMy Goodreads Review: Anne is witty and poetic in her writing. The antiquated terms are at times charming and at times jarring. Her descriptive paragraphs about viewing rivers generally from above was just beautiful. I was saddened by the last 20 or so pages and their account of the massive flooding in China. The horrifying situation was covered rather topically, which I found odd. She seemed somewhat disconnected from it.

I appreciated her humor in regards to the ridiculous questions she faced as a woman. I was curious too about how she felt about leaving her son and undertaking this journey as a parent. I got the impression to was common for women of means to leave children in the care of nannies, so perhaps she (oddly) faced less criticism for that decision then, than a modern mother would now.

 


Down Among the Sticks and Bones(Wayward Children #2)
by Seanan McGuire

sticksGoodreads Summary: Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This is the story of what happened first… Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got. They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted. They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

 

My Review: Holy Shitballs. This discussion on the influence of parents and the theme of gender as an obligation is well crafted, remarkably intellectual, and delivered in a consumable and easy to grasp fantasy story. This is whimsical, but be warned it is also desperately sad. Also, a must read for parents in my view. The Wayward Children series is shaping up to be one of the best collections out there.


Witches Abroad (Discworld #12)
byTerry Pratchett

witchesGoodreads Summary: Be careful what you wish for… Once upon a time there was a fairy godmother named Desiderata who had a good heart, a wise head, and poor planning skills—which unforunately left the Princess Emberella in the care of her other (not quite so good and wise) godmother when DEATH came for Desiderata. So now it’s up to Magrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg to hop on broomsticks and make for far-distant Genua to ensure the servant girl doesn’t marry the Prince. But the road to Genua is bumpy, and along the way the trio of witches encounters the occasional vampire, werewolf, and falling house (well this is a fairy tale, after all). The trouble really begins once these reluctant foster-godmothers arrive in Genua and must outwit their power-hungry counterpart who’ll stop at nothing to achieve a proper “happy ending”—even if it means destroying a kingdom.
My Review: I love Pratchett but admit his quirky style is sometimes a bit exhausting for me to read – so I love the audiobook versions. Perfect. I feel like Magrat Garlick, Granny Weatherwax, and Nanny Ogg are my constant companions. These books are so damn clever and fun. 


Ready Player One
byErnest Cline

playerGoodreads Summary: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
My Review: Is this a very tightly crafted story? No. It is a joyride for pop culture loving, 30-something nerds? Yes. I hope the movie doesn’t screw it up.

Paper Girls, Volumes 1 and 2 (Paper Girls #1)
by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang(Illustrator), Matthew Wilson(Illustrator)

paper1In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.
paper2My Review: Can I just stay up all night reading comic books? These make me want to.
I did not love Cliff Chiang’s artistic style in the Wonder Woman Blood/Guts/Iron/War/Flesh/Bones volumes/series, though it grew on me – but I am obsessed with his work in Paper Girls. Just swooned by it. It’s possibly retroactively making me like the wonder woman art more. Vaughn is great here too. I’ve heard that the story is too out there or confusing, but I’m loving it. Space and time travel with teenage paper deliver girls is (apparently) sort of my jam.

Everything Else:

To be fair there are a LOT of good books down here (and some shitty ones) but they can’t all be the MVPs

2017Books12017Books22017Books3

Words For My Children

It’s rainy. I feel as though my life is in beautiful transition. Forgive me my sappiness.

Words For My Children:

Just like the rest of the world, you do not always bring out the best of me. I’m more patient now, which you likely can not believe. Yes, I was somehow even less patient than now. You’ve changed other things too.

My Maxwell, you’ve made me strong. My mother raised me as such, but you cemented it, drawing strength out of me from pits I didn’t know existed. You are my refuge from fear. You made it clear your first day on earth: there is nothing love can’t heal. Your arrival marked me as a warrior. You plant my feet to the ground.

Maxwell, I expect too much from you. I know that. But you, my little soul, are worthy of great expectations. You’re clever, sometimes too clever, and careful. You play and fall, sure, but you anticipate what is to come. You are made of emotion and passion. I hold you to high standards because your own standards are higher. Your heart is gentle and your mind is fierce. Your spirit is much like mine. I imagine you and I have shouting and arguments in our future, but know, please always know, you have my love unconditionally. Knowing you makes me better. Raising you makes me proud.

You’re creative too. I’m never quite sure what is happening in your mind, what story is unfolding. Embrace that son, even when I’m barking at you to get into the car faster because it is raining. I can’t promise I’ll stop being grumpy, but I can promise storytelling will always be worth your time.

My Eleanor. Oh, Eleanor. I call you little warrior because of your stubborn impulses and love of plastic weaponry, but there the title fades. You’re made of joy, and delight, and possibly kittens. You’re a playful and compassionate little being. Your grin shatters me into pieces of love and happiness that leave me incapable of coherent thought briefly. You get away with a lot. You call for me a lot, which I secretly love, though less so at three in the morning. I sometimes feel as though we have a secret language you and I. One made entirely of touch and smiles. You sink into me when we hug and snuggle.

You dance Elly Bear, oh how you bop about and jump and twirl. You bring the world light it desperately needs. You’re also confident. Your sense of self is more robust at two and half than mine at 32, but that is a gift you’ve been sharing.

You’ve taught me to love myself where I am, not a far off ideal. Watching you romp about discovering things made me stop putting off my joy. I find peace in everyday now. My hope for you is that you grow and change but always know yourself the way you do today.

Words for my children: Thank you.

#mileaday

In April of 2015, roughly 3 months post-partum, I challenged myself to start walking one mile per day (or 30 per month). In May 2015 I started taking one photo each walk to document my journey and tagging it #mileadayinmay, later just #mileaday. A few months later I added running. Since then I’ve run three official half marathons and a handful of 5K and 10Ks. I lost 85lbs, reaching a peak low in the fall of 2015. Since then I’ve grown professionally somewhat significantly… and I’ve gained about 35lbs back. Whoops. I’ve been feeling so discouraged in my running, my weight, and my overall stress level. I loved feeling so strong, but lately find myself short on time to devote to fitness given my passion for my career, community obligations, and caring for two kids.

The long and short of it is this: time is precious and I can’t take the emails with me. I want my career to grow, but I need to take care of myself and my family. It may make things take longer, but I’ll have my health for that time. It’s time to let focus in, get back to work, and continue to be proud of journey (the scale’s opinion be damned).  My favorite thing about “mile a day” is that it is so doable. Just one mile per day; more if I can, but no pressure. Just get up and move. Celebrate small victories. From January 2015 (pre #mileaday but started tracking) to today, I have run and walked 1,900.04 miles. That’s a reason to be proud, setbacks and all.

To inspire myself, I combed my Instagram and pulled every photo I tagged #mileaday or #mileadayinmay. There are 520 of them, spanning from May 2015 to yesterday, September 25, 2017. They include walks, runs, and moments I associated with my fitness journey (seriously, just anything I tagged with #mileaday).

My comments and context has been stripped – I’ve saved only the images. They’re not in perfect chronological order, but a happy mess of achievement and determination.

These pictures show love, they celebrate several of the trips I’ve taken since 2015, they showcase Lincoln and the University, they remind me that I have passion, drive, and will power I never knew I had until I dug for it.

Here’s to another 520 photos and another 1,900 miles.

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My Favorite Books of 2016

November 23 2016 | I set a goal of reading 50 books in 2016. I did it! I want to preface this post with some information about me as a reader. I read mostly 300-500 page fiction, usually of the general narrative, fantasy, mystery, science fiction or romance variety. These books are my escape. I rarely read 600+ page non-fiction books, that I’m sure hold merit but not my eyes open at 10pm after a full day at the office and getting a preschooler and a toddler to bed. So before everyone is all “how do you have the time?!” know that I can polish off a 300 page romance novel in about 72 hours, reading it post children’s bedtime. Other books take more time. I also read a lot while traveling. I loathe airports and books absorb me, so I turn to them while flying. I usually knock back 2-3 books per trip.

Logistics aside, I want to share my favorites of the year and hope that others will share theirs! A full pictorial list of my 50 is below too. Note, I count graphic novel volumes as a book. I do not count individual comic books/issues.

The reviews here are mostly what I wrote on Goodreads.com directly after finishing the book. I figure those reviews are the most fresh and frankly, putting this together was enough work. I don’t have time for more in depth reviews, but always happy to talk about books!

Finishing my goal doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading until 2017, so please, join me on Goodreads and finish out 2016 with me!

Finally – SHOUTOUT LINCOLN CITY LIBRARIES! Only two books of my entire 50 were purchased. Thank you for being an important resource to me and my family.

The Department of Speculation
by Jenny Offill
Read: October 16, 2016
18473997Goodreads Summary: Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all. Jenny Offill’s heroine, referred to in these pages as simply “the wife,” once exchanged love letters with her husband postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes—a colicky baby, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions—the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art.With cool precision, in language that shimmers with rage and wit and fierce longing, Jenny Offill has crafted an exquisitely suspenseful love story that has the velocity of a train hurtling through the night at top speed. Exceptionally lean and compact, Dept. of Speculation is a novel to be devoured in a single sitting, though its bracing emotional insights and piercing meditations on despair and love will linger long after the last page.

My Review: I read this book on a plane today as I was told it’s best to read it in one sitting. My goodness. At only 179 pages, it still managed to leave me a bit speechless. It’s written in a broken, but beautiful, chain of consciousness and prose. It took me 10 or 15 pages to fall into her mind, but once I did it no longer felt fragmented but comfortably, if not oddly, sequential. I’ve never read anything quite like this. A narrative in short prose, but not poetry, definitely a narrative. A walk through love, marriage, becoming a mother, martial struggles, aging – but without any of the cliches often plaguing books of that subject matter. It’s not an easy read exactly, as I had to re-read several pieces multiple times, but it was thoroughly satisfying.

 

Sparrow Hill Road
By Seanan McGuire*
Read: September 4, 2016

Goodreads Summary: Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off 17666976the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea. It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running. They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her. You can’t kill what’s already dead.

My Review: A little more than halfway through this book I found myself thinking that Rose’s POV reminded me quite a bit of Verity Price’s (a lead character from another series by this author). About that time the Healys are mentioned and the shared world is obvious. Loved this book and bouncing around the timeline. A take a ghost stories that only McGuire would be capable of. I love how she blends ancient mythology from a variety of different backgrounds with modern snark. Recommended.

* Seanan McGuire is my favorite (urban) fantasy author. Hands down. No competition. Always, in every novel, Seanan’s voice shines through, full of wit, empathy, and somehow hopeful cynicism. Her character’s are powerful and flawed, and everything is tinged with silliness and yet seriousness. This year I also read her InCyryptid series and her newest stand-alone, Every Heart a Doorway. Her October Daye series dominated my 2015 reading list and is far and away my favorite of her work. I also applaud the diversity of characters in her work and range of characters, though she occasionally leaves some undeveloped. The only real issue I have with most of her books are the covers. I know from her social media she loves her cover artist, but honestly, I find them a little… bad.

 

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore
By Robin Sloan
Read: August 9, 2016

13538873Goodreads Summary: The Time of Shedding and Cold Rocks has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.

My Review: This novel is a fictional mystery and a narrative about a 20 something startup failure working in a used book shop next to strip club – but it draws a beautiful metaphor and striking parallel between the development of the printing press and the rise of digitally stored data accessible world wide. What does immortality mean as our ability to literally leave our mark shifts? While is occasionally (ok, somewhat regularly) goes into overdrive trying to be “of the moment” with its tech references, this book is charming, smart, witty, a bit exciting, and thoughtful. Quick read, also. Epilogue is a bit over the top.

 

Sleeping in Eden
by Nicole Baart
Read: June 18, 2016
Goodreads Summary: The lives of a middle-aged doctor and a love-struck young woman 15803042intersect across time in Sleeping in Eden, Nicole Baart’s haunting novel about love, jealousy, and the boundaries between loyalty and truth. On a chilly morning in the Northwest Iowa town of Blackhawk, Dr. Lucas Hudson is filling in for the vacationing coroner on a seemingly open-and-shut suicide case. His own life is crumbling around him, but when he unearths the body of a woman buried in the barn floor beneath the hanging corpse, he realizes this terrible discovery could change everything. Years before Lucas ever set foot in Blackhawk, Meg Painter met Dylan Reid. It was the summer before high school and the two quickly became inseparable. Although Meg’s older neighbor, Jess, was the safe choice, she couldn’t let go of Dylan no matter how hard she tried. Caught in a web of jealousy and deceit that spiraled out of control, Meg’s choices in the past ultimately collide with Lucas’s discovery in the present, weaving together a taut story of unspoken secrets and the raw, complex passions of innocence lost.

My Review: I couldn’t put this down. Finished it in the space of 18 hours, distractions in the form of sleep and my children slowed me down or I’d probably read it in 6! Characters were relatable, empathetically written and the bit in Omaha’s Old Market was spot on. My only complaint is that clues and pieces led almost exactly to the outcome I expected. It took some twists and turns getting there but overall, who “Woman” is was relatively clear from the get-go.

 

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow
By Rita Leganski

Read: June 13, 2016
15732761Goodreads Summary: Conceived in love and possibility, Bonaventure Arrow didn’t make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead. No one knows Bonaventure’s silence is filled with resonance – a miraculous gift of rarified hearing that encompasses the Universe of Every Single Sound. Growing up in the big house on Christopher Street in Bayou Cymbaline, Bonaventure can hear flowers grow, a thousand shades of blue, and the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops. He can also hear the gentle voice of his father, William Arrow, shot dead before Bonaventure was born by a mysterious stranger known only as the Wanderer. Bonaventure’s remarkable gift of listening promises salvation to the souls who love him: his beautiful young mother, Dancy, haunted by the death of her husband; his Grand-mere Letice, plagued by grief and long-buried guilt she locks away in a chapel; and his father, William, whose roaming spirit must fix the wreckage of the past. With the help of Trinidad Prefontaine, a Creole housekeeper endowed with her own special gifts, Bonaventure will find the key to long-buried mysteries and soothe a chorus of family secrets clamoring to be healed.

My Review: This book impacted me. It was very spiritual but didn’t quite cross into preachy or judgmental (though it edged closely here and there). I’m still sitting with my reactions and deciding how it spoke to me, which it what one should do after a good book.

 

A Sudden Light
By Garth Stein

Read: March 22, 2016
Goodreads Summary: In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his 21412272first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into “tract housing for millionaires,” divide up the profits, and live happily ever after. But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah’s wish is fulfilled, and Trevor’s willingness to face the past holds the key to his family’s future. A Sudden Light is a rich, atmospheric work that is at once a multigenerational family saga, a historical novel, a ghost story, and the story of a contemporary family’s struggle to connect with each other. A tribute to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, it reflects Garth Stein’s outsized capacity for empathy and keen understanding of human motivation, and his rare ability to see the unseen: the universal threads that connect us all.

My Review: I didn’t take the time to review this on Goodreads in writing (though I gave it 5 stars). This book is brilliantly crafted, creepy and emotional. This story has stuck with me.

 

Rat Queens (Multiple Volumes)
By Kurtis Wiebe, Illustrator Roc Upchurch
Read: January – February 2016 
20299683Goodread Summary:  A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they’re in the business of killing all god’s creatures for profit. It’s also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!23012877

My Review: There are moments it feels like it’s trying a little hard, but it’s fun as hell. Diversity, flawed entertaining female characters, sex, drugs, and questing. What’s not to like? I really enjoyed the second volume (a) because I love origin stories, (b) I love relationship and battle stories, and (c) this felt more serious and grown up than volume one. As before I love the art, but I felt like this volume was a little inconsistent. Never bad, but a character’s features would look totally different one page to the next.

 

Garden Spells
By Sarah Addison Allen*

Read: May 20, 2016
1158967Goodreads Summary: For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother’s unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town’s constraints. Using her grandmother’s mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business — and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life — upon the family’s peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire’s routine existence upside down. With Sydney’s homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire’s own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways. As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney’s child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.

My Review: It’s been a long time since I read an entire book in one evening, even a 305 page shorty. I love this author for that. Always the right mix of lightness, relaxation, and ease with interesting plots and such fun and subtle pieces of fantasy and magic. It’s like a quilt and coco in book form.

* Sarah Addison Allen is another of my favorite authors for fiction that includes just a touch of magic and fantasy. Her books are a warm fire, a cup of tea, a connection with an old friend. She is amazing at bringing love and warmth off the page and bringing the reader into lovely and magical places.

 

Graphic Novel Honorable Mentions: Saga Volume 6 by Brian Vaughen, Wonder Woman Volume 3 (Iron), Volume 4 (War), Volume 5 (Flesh), Volume 6 (Bones) by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang (Artist)

 

The Full 50:books1books2books3

wonder woman to human trash fire and back

We all have hard days. Days we feel bad about ourselves; feel like we’re not enough. At least I do.

Not every day. Most days I fly my fabulous flag high and authentically. Less often I have days I feel like a miserable failure of a human. This is, of course, not true but that doesn’t fix that overwhelming “I’m a human garbage disposal” feeling entirely.

I thought that when I lost “the weight,” or passed the bar exam, or finished this, that, or the other, THEN. THEN I would finally stop having days this occasionally. For example, I truly believed I only had self-doubt regarding my intelligence mostly because I hadn’t passed the bar. I thought that a piece of paper would suddenly make me realize my intellectual worth – and truth be told, it does help. It’s a concrete marker of skill. However, here I am today having a “I’m a human trash fire” kind of day. Same goes for my weight loss, running, or anything else.

Our external markers of success don’t always speak to our internal ones.

Oh. Did you think I was going to present a solution to conquering self-doubt even when you’re in a period of external/public success? Nope. I ain’t got one. I just thought someone else might like to hear they aren’t alone. Some days I feel like a human septic tank too.

… although, I think it’s OK to feel sad some days. Maybe we don’t fix it. I think, just maybe, we should hold hands with the anxiety, and the worry, and the doubt. I think we let our brains be scared, hurt, and vulnerable little kids for a day – for tomorrow we raise our flags again.

PS – you are never a human trash fire to me ❤

Being Brave

Updated to Add April 11, 2016: I PASSED! I passed, I passed, I passed. No way I could’ve pulled it off without my family and without Themis Bar Review. Legit.

Original Post February 23, 2016:

I’ll cut to the chase: I’ve realized that no matter what failures I experience in my professional life, it could never touch the fear of Max’s premature birth, the anxiety of a high risk pregnancy, or intensity of Eleanor’s very fast birth. Reflection on my children, their births, and their natures allowed me to feel brave. Brave enough to face my fears of being incapable and unintelligent.

Failure does not make me less valuable as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, employee – person. Character is creature of perseverance, not success. Full stop.

Long Form: I saw a blog a while ago that was aimed at helping women who had “lost themselves to motherhood.” I immediately felt guilty that I didn’t feel that way at all. Am I a horrible mother? I don’t feel “lost to motherhood” at all – does that mean I’m not invested enough in my children? In the wise philosophy of T. Swift I quickly allowed myself to shake it off. I know why I haven’t lost myself to motherhood – it’s because I found myself in motherhood. No, I don’t mean to imply that my entire state of being is validated because I’ve had two children – it’s that my children have made me brave enough to be truly comfortable with who I am.

When I came across this post I was standing on the precipice of what can best be described as a really intimidating but entirely administrative task in nature. I started studying for this exam back in October in the midst of buying and starting the process of renovating our home – plus you know – the two small children, marathon training, and my full time job. It felt beyond intimidating, but upon reflection I realized my life was never going to feel “slow.” It was time to jump off the side of the pool – for a second time. I failed the Bar Exam when I took it in February of 2012. I was 6 months pregnant with our first child, uninsured, and utterly broke. My head was not in the clearest place. All of that aside, I tried my hardest. I did. I did the best I could with what I had to work with. Still failed. That feeling sucks. No pretty or poetic words can soften that. It sucked. I was unfamiliar with putting in that amount of work and effort and still failing. Just 30ish hours after receiving news of my failure I went into premature labor. My husband was at his father’s funeral across the country. Everything had fallen apart.

One of my greatest struggles in life has been battling my self-doubt. I wasn’t as smart as my friends, so I tried to be cool. I’m not particularly cool. I made (make) an ass out of myself a lot. If I’m not the smart girl and I’m not the cool girl, who was I? Failing the Bar Exam amplified these feeling to about the 100th degree, but I’m nothing if not stubborn so onward I marched as a new mom and a law school grad who couldn’t practice law. While I was equal parts humbled and annoyed, with my husband and my family’s support, life turned itself around. That said, not a day has gone by since the moment I didn’t see my name on that Pass List that I haven’t thought about the Bar Exam. I knew I’d have to face that son of a bitch again. I’m too stubborn not to.

I’ve often joked that Max is my Zen master. He is a bundle of feelings and empathy. He is ever present in the moment but often lost to what he is feeling. It’s hard, but damn it’s beautiful. He will touch people, impact them, and guide them. He is my rock in the storm. I started to realize that nothing could ever frighten me more than his premature birth. Touring the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit hours before his birth, without his father by my side, created the biggest feeling I’ve ever felt. I don’t know what to call it exactly, but no other level of fear or intimidation I’ve ever experienced could touch it. He has taught me that overwhelming feelings are hard but beautiful. I need to be present. I need to live presently in my feelings, express them, mourn them, love them, allow them to be a part of me.

If Max is my master of patience and empathy, Eleanor is bravery personified. Both of my births were unmediated, but I fully contend that the first one felt nothing like the second. That amount of pain shouldn’t be allowed to exist on an earthly plain. After a pregnancy that felt like a 9 month long red-wine-hangover, that girl tore out of me, on her whim, in just two hours time. Then she screamed when any non-family member attempted to touch her and immediately set about the task of nursing – which she did rather successfully with really very little guidance or input from me. At a year old her general demeanor is laid back, but make no mistake, her spirit radiates tenacity. She is not to be ignored.

These two little beings came from me and from the man I’ve chosen to spend my life with. If these qualities are a part of them, they must be a part of us, a part of me.

I must face hard feelings, like insecurities about my intelligence and abilities. I must forgive myself for being intimidated. I must be fully present in my fears in order to face them. I must be tenacious in my efforts to better my life. I must not ignore myself.

These lessons are so much bigger than the Bar Exam. Sure, as a test it’s intimidating as hell but I’ve likely blown it way out of proportion in my mind. It’s an exam based in memorization – not a strong point of mine. But with Eleanor’s example and Max’s perspective in hand I tried again.

I don’t know if I passed yet. I suspect it’ll be narrow either way. Either way, I’m proud.

Don’t Go Change’n on Me

I’m a social media addict. I post at least once or twice a day on multiple different platforms. I’m not ashamed. Sure I concede its touch narcissistic, but some of my best friendships and business networking has come through the relationships I fostered on Twitter and Facebook. Even so, I find it a bit self-important when people post a “I’m taking a break or quitting this site” status. That said, when I’ve taken a short breaks in the past friends who don’t know me in real life have actually grown concerned for my well-being, so I’m putting something here.

Until February 23rd-24th I’m working on what is a large, intimidating, and exciting goal: I’m retaking the Bar Exam. While I don’t suddenly want to practice law, it has weighed on me as “unfinished business” and it’s become a bit of a personal vendetta. I failed the exam (by only a few points, sigh) when I took it in February 2012 right after I graduated from law school. I was pregnant, uninsured, and unemployed. It was a trying time. Thankfully I landed in a position where a legal license wasn’t needed and my life and my finances quickly recovered the post-professional degree slump. I’ve identified that a traditional legal career isn’t for me, but I feel like my law school experience is incomplete.

Anyhow, I’m studying all 17 subjects for the two day Uniform Bar Exam alongside my full time job, training for my races, and remodeling our house – not to mention the two kids and lack of sleep.

I need to focus. Checking in is distracting. Constant news and information input is draining. I’m deactivating and disappearing for awhile – for my own good.

I’ll be back.

I am still lurking on Instagram until February or so because it’s easier to ignore throughout the day. I’m @peltoinspace.

Smooches.

Don’t Go Change’n on Me!

A Tale of Two Boobs 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us…”

…and about there the metaphor would get too depressing and thankfully inaccurate. This isn’t a post about London and Paris in the French Revolution – it’s about my boobs. More specifically it’s about breastfeeding.

An act that is fulfilling yet sacrificing and ripe with optimism teetering on potential heartbreak. So many feelings are wrapped up in caring for our children and the very vulnerable act of nursing seems to carry a special emotional impact for many mothers, or at least it always has for me.

I’m standing at the beginning of the end of my time as a breastfeeding mother and bittersweet doesn’t begin to describe it.

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Using the  Bryan Health Nursing Nook at the Pinnacle Bank Arena while attending an event.

Let’s get the political part of this out of the way right quick, shall we? My stance is clear: Your boobs, your body, your business. I know tons of fabulous mothers who formula fed their babies. You go ladies. Love your babies and do what works for you. I breastfeed because it works for me and that choice isn’t a judgement on anyone’s decisions. We have enough to worry about without making each other feel like crap. OK, now that’s done.

My son got his last drop of breast milk around 7 months. He was born early and never really got the hang of nursing. We would occasionally nurse for comfort but he was never good enough at it to take his meals that way. I pumped. I pumped A LOT. For the first two months I triple fed (first you nurse, second you bottle feed breast milk or formula, third you pump, then after a a short break you start all over) – which is to say I did nothing but worry about milk. After two months I gave up the nursing piece of puzzle and just let myself become an exclusive pumper. It was fine I suppose, but it’s a logistical night mare. I was proud of my dedication to pumping and given the fear wrapped up in Max’s premature birth I think it gave me something to feel in control of. It was fulfilling, but it was exhausting. When I stopped pumping I felt free. Perhaps a bit of sentimentality came with that, but mostly I felt as though a burden had been lifted. I knew that if I had to do that again with our second child I may not make it very long.

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Got Mommy’s Milk? Eleanor does.

Eleanor came along and turned everything I knew about birth and babies on it’s head. Her birth felt nothing like Maxwell’s and her demeanor was similar. Within 20 minutes of being born she found her own way to my breast and nursed for almost a half hour. Since then she has (lovingly) picked up the name Eleanor “I could eat” Magilton. I was unfamiliar with those early weeks of marathon nursing session. Max had been in the NICU his first two weeks, then after that he mostly bottle fed. Eleanor and I spent hours camped out on the couch nursing. This drove 2.5 year old Max nuts, but was generally heaven for her and I. Eleanor is an excellent nurser and I am excellent at nursing her.

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Glamorous: Nursing on the floor of the indoor playground at 3 months old.

She will be a year old in about a month and half. She does not seem remotely interested in weaning. I’m beginning to feel a bit differently. After her birthday I plan to begin a very slow decline to weaned. I’ll hold on to the nighttime nursing for a long while I’m sure, but even that is just part of the inevitable end. Eleanor is our last baby, biologically anyway, and the gravity of that is not lost on me. This is the last time I will nurse.

I sincerely hope I don’t end up knowing when our last moment of breastfeeding happens. I don’t think I could handle it. I’m ready to move past the world of babies and into the world of children and I’m more than ready to have my autonomy back – but that closeness, that sense you’re endlessly needed, the bond.

I’m really going to miss that.