A book-book here and a book-book there: Q3


My book list is pathetically short this quarter. I have finally embraced the quitting of books that I don’t like, and boy howdy did I give up on books this time around.

Like the WWII historical fiction where in the first scene, a family in this small French town jumped into the bed of someone’s red Ford pickup truck and took a detour through the countryside to avoid the line of red tail lights in front of them. Red Ford pickup truck in 1940 France? Red tail lights? Maybe possible – a stretch – according to my quickie internet research. But I don’t want to be SO distracted by trivial details that I feel compelled to look them up before I can finish the first chapter. Done.

Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom? I slogged through half of it and then it dawned on me that not only did I dislike the characters (which is sort of his trademark, no?), I felt no curiosity about the rest of the story either. Done. Audio books where the narrators’ voices make me cringe? Done.

So what did I make it through, you ask?

Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell (3 stars) (nonfiction) (audio) – Not my favorite Sarah Vowell book, but anything by Sarah Vowell is worth your time. Here, she’s delving into the history of Hawaii with her usual combination of snark and history-geek excitement. I always listen to Sarah Vowell’s books because her deadpan delivery makes them even funnier; she gets bonus points in this one for her ability to say “Queen Liluokalani” so many times without stumbling.

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (fiction) (5 stars) (audio book) – I liked this movie but I LOVED THIS BOOK. My memory of the movie is admittedly poor, but the book seemed… darker. Better. Like the main character actually suffered from a mental illness and wasn’t just a hot guy pretending to be mentally ill. No offense, Bradley Cooper. The movie was up for, like, eight Oscars, so I suppose the problem is me and not him.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (fiction) (4 stars) – A young woman looks back at the grisly murder of the rest of her family when she was a child. Typical dark twisty Gillian Flynn. This one had the added intrigue of a small-town obsession with high school Satanists in the 80s, and I grew up in a small town under siege by high school Satanists in the 80s (really, they just spray painted everything in sight with their Satanic catch phrase, but for me it gave the book a nice authentic vibe).

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop by David Adam (nonfiction) (4 stars) – This is a book about obsessive compulsive disorder written by someone with obsessive compulsive disorder. He researches the disorder exhaustively but also intersperses the facts with anecdotes about his own obsession, AIDS. He discusses the history of the disorder, causes, treatments, and, for example, how he called an AIDS hotline with questions so often that he knew all the workers’ voices and they knew his.

Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho (fiction) (4 stars) – A novel about a twenty-four-year-old woman who, for no particular reason, attempts suicide and awakens in a mental institution where she awaits death again. Parts of the book are based on the author’s experiences being institutionalized as a young man. The book is poetic and philosophical.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (fiction) (4 stars) – This book is probably best classified as fantasy, which is not my usual genre. The plot jumps to new characters as time advances, and each time I resented it, a little – having to adjust to a new storyteller when I’d grown fond of the prior one. At first, the threads of fantasy are less frequent – just enough to create a sense of intrigue. By the end, the threads come together in a cataclysmic battle between good and evil.

What have you been reading?

#MicroblogMondays: Bullet Point Six

  • Mr T finished his foster classes on September 1 (mine were done in June). We should have started our homestudy by now (the final step in our foster certification process), except our paperwork-collector-worker (Not Her Real Title) waited until that date to inform us of the need for a physical for Miss E, and she also either lost/never received (but previously told us she had received) Mr T’s physical. One month later, we are still waiting on Mr T’s physical to be re-sent/re-received. I don’t know on which side the incompetence lies, but it is getting just a taaaaad aggravating.
  • I have insomnia. Terrible insomnia. I am not a good family member or worker bee in this state.
  • Speaking of working, I have had four interviews since July. Three declines. Waiting to hear on one, but without much hope that it will result in me advancing to the next round. Nothing brings out the self-loathing in me like an interview. I’m really good at what I do but apparently not at convincing people that I’d be really good at what they do.
  • About 10 days ago, some dude on the street asked me when the baby was due. I kept walking and yelled back at him “Not pregnant! Infertile actually, so thanks for that!” I had only mild endo-bloat that day and am otherwise *fairly* trim and *fairly* happy with my body. Not that I couldn’t be happier with it. So I immediately hit up my friend Kathy and joined a Beachbody Challenge. Damn it.
  • I love fall! (Hold the pumpkin, though. Ick.)
  • Someone called me a bleeding heart liberal on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and I still smile every time I think about it. That is SO not an insult in my book.


#MicroblogMondays: These Legs Are Made for Kicking


I posted this on Facebook but I think it deserves its own #Micro post. My girl started soccer this weekend, and so I turned to Amazon Prime for my last-minute “oh crap, she doesn’t have anything that qualifies as gym shorts” needs. And this is what I found: “Little Boy” shorts on the left, “Little Girl” shorts on the right, size 5T. T as in TODDLER.

what the what?

This was not unique to the Puma brand – I could not find any girls’ shorts that were of comparable length to the boys’ shorts. The girls’ shorts are cuter – I’ll give you that. Why cute requires showing off so much leg – so much four-year-old leg – I’m less clear on.

we wear boy shorts

Boy shorts and pink heart shin guards. 

See more #MicroblogMonday posts here.

Let’s talk about race: post 2


A reading/writing lesson brought to you by this opening paragraph from the New York Times:

Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City’s police commissioner apologized on Thursday for the mistaken arrest of James Blake, a retired top-10 professional tennis player, who said he was slammed to the ground outside his hotel in Midtown Manhattan after being confused for a suspect in a credit card fraud investigation.

People often read only the first paragraph or two of a news article, and so writers attempt to draw readers in with a catchy intro that also gives the basic facts – the ol’ who, what, when, where, and why. Articles can also contain subtexts through the selection of words or pictures or the omission of details. To me, the very basic paragraph quoted above brims with subtext.

The NYT wrote that Mr. Blake “said he was slammed to the ground” instead of “who was slammed to the ground.” So, Mr. Blake said he was slammed, a witness said he was slammed, and the police commissioner acknowledged concerns about the officer’s “takedown.” If the NYT felt uncertain about the accuracy of the verb “slammed,” it could have chosen another word. Instead, it put an implicit question mark in that paragraph – the NYT has granted you permission to wonder if Mr. Blake is telling the truth. He said he was slammed. Was he slammed? We report – you decide! (OK, that is an old Fox News catch-phrase, but you get the point. If you are not given enough information, how will you decide?)

Passive voice: Mr. Blake was slammed to the ground. Who slammed Mr. Blake to the ground? Hmm. Well, the Mayor and Police Commissioner apologized, so maybe the police did? The NYT leaves you to infer who did the slamming. Avoid passive voice unless you want to minimize the impact of the person doing the action – that is Writing 101 and certainly known to journalists who write for the NYT. So is the NYT attempting to minimize what occurred by removing the detective from the action? Or did the editors just approve sloppy writing? I report, you decide!

More passive voice/poor sentence construction: “After being confused for a suspect in a credit card fraud investigation.” Being confused? Who was confused? If only this sentence wasn’t written in passive voice, maybe we wouldn’t be confused about who was confused! Or wait, maybe no one was confused because Mr. Blake just said that someone was confused? I’m confused.

“Mistaken arrest.” Oopsie!

You may think this is just a coincidence… or just poor writing. But when I read this, I see unconscious racial bias. You might think I’m off my rocker, but just tuck this post away in your mind. More obvious examples abound, but I chose one that I consider subtle. Read enough of these stories, and a pattern emerges.

For more info, see:


Let’s Talk About Race is my occasional series where I talk about race and encourage commenters to as well. Here is Let’s talk about race: post 1.

#MicroblogMondays: Irreverence Edition


[Trigger warning for paragraph 3]

I was first called a cynic at age 12 — by my teacher. I remember because it made a big impression; it didn’t fit with how I saw myself. I just like to make fun of things. (Shrug.)

I say that as a preface (“Hey, I have a sense of humor!”) to this: I finally saw Book of Mormon this weekend. Now, I knew what I was in for. Essentially. I watched South Park fairly often back in the day. When people still downloaded music illegally, “That’s what Brian Boitano’d do” from the South Park movie made my playlist.

And Book of Mormon was hilarious. But also. Um. The Mormons go to Uganda. In case you’re not up on African geography, that’s awfully close to Congo (where my daughter was born). The things they made fun of in Book of Mormon? Like raping infant virgins to “cure” AIDS? Yeah, that’s happened in Congo. Not in the city where my daughter lived (that I know of), but, you know. Not that funny.

I mean, I still laughed myself silly at the show. Make fun of religion all you want — I consider myself a Christian and the Monty Python scene from Life of Brian where they’re all hanging on crosses and belting out Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is probably in my top ten movie moments — but I’ve discovered where my sense of humor ends.



#MicroblogMondays: Slow and Steady


36 months after our first feeding evaluation…

30 months after our first feeding therapy appointment…

22 months after we tried behavioral therapy…

10 months after we started weekly feeding therapy at our sensory processing clinic…

My child ate a new food – a grape popsicle.

You might think eating a sugary mess is no great feat. For her to eat something cold, drippy, and not yellow, white, or beige? That’s huge.


The Development Chronicles: Four Years Old

Dear Miss E,

This morning you asked me: “Now my birthday’s over and I’m three again?” “No, sweetie, you are still four.” “When will I be three again?” “You are done being three.” Bittersweet.

You came into your own this year, my girl. I think of your third year in terms of “before Occupational Therapy” and “after Occupational Therapy.” I never would have expected that running over different sized mats at a gym and jumping into a ball pit and spinning on a swing would make such a difference in your life. But it did. Now you conquer everything on the playground, muscle your way up climbing walls, love sledding, beg for bouncy houses, and swing swing swing!

As usual, you never stopped talking this year. (Except right after your tonsilectomy and adenoidectomy – it was bizarre to hang out with you for days in complete silence.) Little by little, you lost almost all your baby words this year. “Mommy, I don’t say pe-an-eo anymore, now I say piano!” Riving room became living room. Thank goodness you still say “nakedbaby” instead of “naked” – as in seeing the neighbor washing his car without a shirt: “Mommy, why is that boy nakedbaby?” – otherwise I’d have to completely mourn your toddlerhood.

You are bright and hilarious. Some of the gems you came up with this year (which I combed Facebook for, since my memory is impaired by insomnia lately):

  • Merry Christmas! (while Trick or Treating)
  • (Me) Hey, I bought you a present! (You) I think it’s going to be a violin! (It wasn’t a violin.)
  • Mommy, why are you eating so much chocolate?
  • I want some milk, lady! (To a ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park)
  • (About my Bulls shirt) Lookit! There’s a reindeer on your shirt and it is MAD.
  • Horsey is my best friend in the whole world.

The highlight of our year was taking you on a trip to Iceland and Denmark. (It is precious to hear you explain to geography-challenged adults that Copenhagen is in Denmark.) We also bought a house with a back yard, and you got a plastic monstrosity of a playground for your fourth birthday from us and your grandma & grandpa. You love having a neighborhood to walk and ride around in.


Your favorite things are soccer at school, music of any kind, musical instruments, speaking Spanish, the carousel at the zoo, making up funny songs, telling “dark dark” scary stories, reenacting feeding therapy and preschool with me, and reading books together. You can read a few words but you have every book we own memorized word for word – even the long’uns like Green Eggs and Ham.

In many ways, three was a tough year, but three was also a fantastic year.

Love, mommy

A book-book here and a book-book there: Q2


It’s that time again!

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (audio) (5 stars) – “Beautiful” and “post-apocalyptic” aren’t words often used together, but this “end of the world as we know it” tale is stunning. It features characters with loosely interlocking pasts, and the plot meanders through the years before the apocalypse, the aftermath, and 15 years later. Best book I’ve read in a long, long time.

Agorafabulous! Dispatches from My Bedroom by Sara Benincasa (4 stars) – At first this mental health memoir just made me wish that Jenny Lawson’s mental health memoir had been released already because the Bloggess is funnier to me. Sara grew on me, though.

The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice by Rebecca Musser (audio) (4 stars) – Several years ago, I read Under the Banner of Heaven and became intrigued by the FLDS religion. A Twitter friend recommended this book, which is a fascinating first-hand account of life inside the polygamous group.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave (4 stars) – I had my doubts, to be honest, about a white man writing from the point of view of a Nigerian teenage refugee. Setting authenticity aside, because he did a good enough job that I stopped being distracted by that thought early on, he told an emotionally rich, engrossing story from alternating points of view – the aforementioned refugee whose path had crossed a recently widowed businesswoman.

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay (audio) (4 stars) – The essays that were overtly about feminism or race or her past were compelling and thought-provoking. And her voice (her writing voice, I mean, not her audiobook voice, which was someone else’s voice) is conversational to the point that I feel like we’re friends now. Or maybe that’s also because I follow her on Twitter. The essays about books or movies that I haven’t seen – which were plentiful – bored me a bit, though.

Rabbit, Run by John Updike (3 stars) – Best book lists always feature this book – and I love the satisfaction of checking things off best book lists – but I don’t see the hubbub about this one. Rabbit is a person, not a rabbit (in case you always envisioned this book as Watership Down part 2, as I did). Rabbit runs from his life/wife, which interested me for about a chapter and then I became increasingly bored.

Bad Monkey by Carl Haiisen (3 stars) – This is not the most interesting novel I’ve ever read. In fact, the plot would be worth fewer stars, but for the writer’s gift of humor, which is oddly delightful to find in a murder mystery.

The Closers by Michael Connolly (3 stars) – the eleventh book in a murder mystery series that I read occasionally when I’m in the mood for something mindless. It never disappoints: solid, but nothing to write home about.

What have you been reading?


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