Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Review: A Place We Knew Well: A Novel

A Place We Knew Well: A Novel A Place We Knew Well: A Novel by Susan McCarthy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book as an advanced e-galley from Penguin Books through their First to Read program. Review to follow, but I will say that I enjoyed this book. I don't know much about the Cuban Missile Crisis, other than what was covered in high school history classes back in the 1990s, so reading about it and how impacted a close-knit family, was very powerful. I love Charlotte and Wes Avery, these 2 characters have the kind of father-daughter relationship that reminds me very much of my relationship with my own father (and made me miss him, terribly). I want a little more time to think about this story before writing a full review, but I am very glad I received this book. I don't know who I would recommend this book to specifically, so I'll just do a blanket recommendation. Look for this book when it appears in stores, and read it, even if you lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis (or only heard about it in history class). It's very well written and the characters are written in such a way that they seemed very familiar.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Review: The Middle of Somewhere

The Middle of Somewhere The Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free advanced e-galley of this book from the Penguin First to Read program and did not receive any compensation for the below review.

Sonja Yoerg presents a tale about a journey a couple takes, both physically, emotionally and mentally, along the John Muir trail. The couple, Liz and Dante, face heavy decisions about their relationship as well as the long trek along the trail, while encountering other hikers of varied and interesting backgrounds. This story is as much about one person's quest to work through deeply personal experiences, as well as a fight for survival in more ways than one.

As Liz and Dante travel along the trail, enduring its various valleys and peaks, they encounter, and become suspicious of, two brothers by the last name of Root, who seem, at first, ill prepared for the demand of the trail, yet also a bit too comfortable. Strange things begin to happen along the trail, as Liz and Dante continue to travel forward, with the Roots on their heels. Liz and Dante are working through very large issues within their own relationship, dealing with the pain of honesty and heartbreak, while also fighting to stay one step ahead of the Roots, who seem determined to make this hike more adventurous than it should be.

I enjoyed reading this book and want to read it again! Liz's story is very compelling, and her desire to walk the entire trail has deep meaning for her. She's a very likeable character with just the right amount of flaws. Dante is also very likeable and flawed, but the love they have for another seems to help them make the trek as well as forgive each other, and themselves, for breakdowns in the relationship. The addition of the Root brothers created just enough suspense to make the hair on my arms stand up and I found myself pushing Liz and Dante along, hoping they'd remain out of the path of the Roots, two men who were suspicious at first glance, and then downright dangerous.

I would recommend this book to fans of both suspense as well as travel. Hiking the John Muir trail is a big part of the background in this story, this trail is where a lot of deep thinking and whole-hearted confessions are made, and it's where Liz and Dante heal. This is a story about love, forgiveness, suspense, a little murder and some heartpounding adventure.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Trayvon, George and Race in 21st Century America

I've done a lot of thinking the past week about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman and the protests and President Obama's July 19 response and these are my thoughts.  This is only one opinion out of the millions out there and I'm not saying I'm right or that anyone else is wrong. This is just my response. So here it is...

I think the peaceful protests are warranted and it warms my heart to see people of all races carrying signs saying "I am Trayvon Martin". When I see blacks, whites and Hispanics marching together in honor of Trayvon I begin to think that we are on the verge of seeing humans rather than color. Then, some protests become violent and people get arrested and race makes its way back into national dialogue.

There's a lot that went wrong in the shooting. Zimmerman should have done what the 911 dispatcher told him to do and remain in his vehicle until police arrived. I don't know if I can honestly say that Trayvon should not have confronted George. This kid was being followed by some strange man and he didn't know why. With all the stories about kidnappings, I think I would have confronted a person following me too.

I think Zimmerman should have used his fists against Martin rather than a gun. He outweighed the teen and could have thrown his weight into the fight. Was Trayvon going for George's gun? That would have been different but I don't remember that being part if the equation. Bottom line: Zimmerman should have stayed in the car as he was told to do.

Now for the next issue: was this a racially motivated crime? According to some reports I've read, Zimmerman had a history of following black youth around during his neighborhood watch patrols. Unfortunately, the reports don't say if he followed other ethnic groups as well, so I can't say he is racist just based on those reports.

I do think the attorneys on both sides played the race card. I think Zimmerman's attorney was greatly misinformed when he said that had Zimmerman been black and Martin white, there wouldn't have been an arrest. I don't know what United States he lives in but the one I live in definitely would have seen a black Zimmerman arrested and charged in the murder of a white Martin (and quite possibly convicted). Prosecutors mentioned Trayvon's skin color a lot during the trial, as if the pictures weren't clear enough. So, is Zimmerman a racist? I don't know.

Is racism alive and well in this country? Yes. Is racism visible in our politics and criminal justice system?  Yes. Can we move beyond race? God, I hope and pray so.

The remarks of the President about the verdict and being black in America was open and honest about what it's like to be black. I have been watched and followed while shopping. I have been denied service or ignored by store employees.  I have been treated like a second class citizen and I have been called the "N" word and a coon. It's not a good feeling. There are places I won't go because of the color of my skin. The collective history of blacks in this country does bring about a certain level of dismay, disbelief and hurt in response to the verdict.

So, was the jury wrong? Well, our system is based on reasonable doubt. There must have been enough reasonable doubt in the evidence presented to result in a not guilty. I didn't watch the trial regularly so I didn't hear all of the testimony. I caught bits and pieces. All I can say about the jury is that they should probably never admit they were on this case given how people have reacted. I know I wouldn't tell anyone I was a juror on this case if I had been one, for fear of retaliation.  Especially now that the Black Panthers have said they're going to get justice (that does not sit well with me at all). The Black Panthers scare me so I can't imagine how Zimmerman feels knowing they're looking for him.

What about race?  Race is always going to be part of the dialogue when people talk about Trayvon Martin. Race is always going to be there. I think whenever a minority youth is killed in a situation similar to Trayvon, race will be discussed. I don't think anyone can discuss the criminal justice system without mentioning race given the large numbers of brown and black men currently in prison.
Maybe one day race won't be an issue. As the races continue to mix and new generations of children are born biracial then maybe the color of a person's skin won't matter and people will truly be judged by their character. Maybe the day will come when we don't have to check a box indicating what our ethnic background is. Maybe one day all of our commercials and TV shows will be like the Cheerios commercial with the biracial little girl, white mommy and black daddy. Maybe one day all of society will be colorless and the only racial identification will be Human.

I hope we have a future like that. I hope my son will not be judged by race, or rather the races of his parents. My son has a black mother and white father. He's a lot lighter than me and only a little darker than his father. More and more biracial children are born everyday and I think that is a good thing.
So what about the current situation?  My opinion is that justice was not served. Trayvon should still be alive. George should have stayed in his car. President Obama gave a great speech on Friday about race. The Black Panthers are dangerous. Peaceful nonviolent protests are warranted. Violence is not the answer. No matter if we agree or disagree we must respect the jury's verdict. Racism is alive and kicking. Hope keeps me going. I am an educated, affluent, black woman with a biracial son. We are Trayvon Martin.

(Written July 2013)

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Mommy Guilt

I am beginning to understand what "mommy guilt" is.  I think I have it actually.
When I'm at work, I can't wait to see W. When I'm home, I can't wait to go to bed. I enjoyed my 3 month maternity leave and it seemed like I was always learning something new about W. I'm sure he was learning all kinds of things from me, some good, some bad (if his first words are douche bag ass hat, that's my fault entirely; all other curse words are Daddy's fault).
When I drop W off at daycare,  I don't want to leave him. It's not that I don't trust the caregivers,  cause I totally trust them. It's that I feel bad that I have to leave.  I wish things were different financially. I'm stuck in a job that doesn't pay me what I'm worth and definitely not enough for 2-3 people to live on. T's job is extremely slow at increasing salaries when raises are awarded. I totally picked the wrong career path, but hopefully in a few years I can go back to school and change careers entirely.
Sometimes,  I feel bad that I'm not more of an attachment parent. I wish we had used a side sleeper when we first brought W home. He was in crib by 3 weeks of age, which seems to surprise people.  He sleeps very well in his crib, but I think having a side sleeper would have been nice. He sleeps pretty well in his crib and it's great because he can move around while he sleeps,  which he does.
I haven't really had the opportunity to do a lot of baby wearing, although that was a goal I had while I was pregnant. I have a Moby and Ergo baby but haven't really used either yet. I need to use them. The whole point in getting them was so I/we could go places without the stroller. His father has been a bit overprotective about going out places so we spent a lot of time at home during my leave, which was annoying for me. We had our first social outing September 28, 2013 when we went to a friend's house for a little dinner party. Granted, I have taken W out to meet my co-workers and lunch with Mimzy, Nana and Aunt A, but we haven't gone out much because of Daddy's worries about other people.  I think he needs to chillax.
A lot of my "mommy guilt" comes from things out of my control. W has eczema and I feel awful about it. Although I can't prevent it from happening, I can treat it. It runs in my family;  Mimzy and Aunt A both have eczema.  I have this irrational thought that it's my fault he has eczema. The logical side of me knows it's not my fault but the irrational side is concerned.
I also feel terrible about my breast milk supply. When I pump, I'm not producing enough to keep up with what he is drinking at daycare. I've always had problems with my supply.  Breastfeeding has not been very easy. It's been very difficult and painful and there have been times when all I did was cry because it was so difficult. Right now, I'm having the daycare supplement the breast milk with formula; the pediatrician suggested it. He runs out of breast milk so he gets formula. I feel like a failure. Now, I do realize that there are mothers out there who can't breastfeed at all and thinking of them makes me feel worse because at least I am able to produce breast milk and really, I should be thankful and stop worrying. Well, I'm a worrier and I do feel bad for not producing as much as my son needs while he's at daycare. Frankly, there's nothing wrong with formula and he isn't starving or malnourished (in fact, at his 4 month check-up, he weighed 14 pounds 14 ounces and was 2 feet 1 inch long, so he's definitely growing), so I should just accept it and move on.  Great advice, but I am a worrier and far too guilt-ridden about a lot of things.  I'm one of those people who overthinks everything and because of that, I end up disappointed 90% of the time.
Well, as with many aspects of life, things are going to be OK and work out for the best, but the mommy guilt still lingers.  So I wonder, will mommy guilt ever go away?  That's a question for another day.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Back to Work

I returned to work on September 3, 2013 and it was difficult. Originally,  I was looking forward to returning because I missed my co-workers and missed adult conversation, but I was also a bit afraid because I had to leave my son in the care of strangers.

My first day back was hard. I hit the ground running and never really felt caught up. While it was nice to see everyone and hear how everyone missed me, I felt out of sorts and missed my boy. I called to check on W at daycare and he was doing better than I was.

At work, I discovered that a lot of things changed while I was gone. There was new staff, a new law clerk and my first impression was that I didn't care for her. A law clerk I had known for years, and who was a great co-worker,  was moving on to greener pastures. There were a lot of "inside" jokes I heard and didn't get. I was out of the loop and I felt alone.

It's strange returning to work and feeling so out of it. I've never been gone longer than a week until I had W, then I was out 3 months. I missed a lot. Things happened that I wasn't a part of. I also discovered how much my boss (The Judge) and my law clerk missed me and appreciated me. I figured they liked me but being gone 3 months really showed me that they truly appreciate me. It feels kind of nice to be missed.

I know my future at my job is changing. Now I have to leave a little early to pick-up W from daycare. I have to pump at least twice a day (although if I can get 3 times, I feel very accomplished). I have to be more mindful of using my PTO and actually take vacation time, even if we don't go anywhere on vacation. Now, the BS I put up with is just that, BS, and I have more important things in the world to worry about than petty people.

My job has made me a very negative person and my son has melted my icy heart. The negativity of this job is no longer acceptable. For my sanity and for my son I think it's time to look for a more positive opportunity. It's going to take awhile, but it's time.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Maternity Leave

My maternity leave is winding down, I return to work on September 3, 2013.  As I get closer to my "return to work" date, I have been reflecting on how my leave has gone.

First, I have to say that I am thankful I was able to take 12 weeks off from my job.  I know that not all employers allow their working mothers to take 12 weeks for maternity leave, I've read on several mommy community sites that several women had to return after 6 or 8 weeks.  Frankly, I wish this country had a better attitude towards maternity and paternity leave.  In England, maternity leave is a year, which I think is wonderful.  It would be great if this country had an attitude like that about leave for employees.  I was saddened that my partner was not able to take paternity leave.  His employer let him take 1 week off to be home with us, which I just think wasn't long enough.  Granted, daddy has been able to bond with our son in the evenings and on weekends, but it just isn't the same.

Because I had a C-section, my mother took care of me while T was at work and I'm extremely thrilled that she did that.  I'm thankful that my mother lives in the same city as me and that she was in a position where she was able to spend Monday through Friday for 5 weeks with me while I recovered and got used to being a new mom.  There's not enough "thank yous" out there for what she did for me.

I haven't had very many visitors while I've been on leave.  Maternity leave, I've discovered, is very lonely, especially if you're healing from a C-section.  I didn't notice the loneliness when my mom was here, but once I was declared healed and cleared to go back to doing normal things (drive, workout, clean house, etc.) and my mom went back to her life, I discovered I was very lonely.  My days were filled with just the baby, which I would not trade for anything in the world, but it would have been nice to have a little more human contact.  Now, in reality, my whining is silly, because all of my friends have full-time jobs and I can't expect people to skip a day of work just to visit me.  That being said, it is a lonely thing being on leave.  I don't miss my job, but I miss the people I work with.  I have the great fortune of working with great men and women, people I enjoy working with and who I enjoy seeing every day at work.  I miss them and look forward to seeing them when I return to work in September.  I don't miss my job, it's not something that makes me happy and it doesn't pay me anything close to what I am worth, but at least I'm employed.  Having wonderful co-workers makes up for the fact that I received my first salary increase since 2006 and it wasn't much of an increase.

I've enjoyed watching my son grow from 1 day old to 3 month old and I think the next 18 years are going to be full of amazing things.  He is truly a gift.  Right now, T and I are trying to work on giving him belly time, so he can develop his ability to lift his head and chest with his arms.  This is all in preparation for him crawling in a few months.  This is something the pediatrician (and every baby book I've read) suggests we do and it's nice to try to help him work on moving.  He has very strong legs and is holding his head up fairly well, he can't sit up by himself, but he's a bit too young to have that kind of strength anyway.  At his 2 month check-up, he already weighed 12 pounds, and he's just getting heavier and bigger (at 3 months old, he's 14 pounds even).  I'm happy he is growing, the first few days of his life, he lost 14% of his birth weight, which is not good, and I struggled to him back to his original birth weight.  Thankfully, by the time he was 2 weeks old, he was .5 ounces over his original birth weight and he's been growing ever since.  He eats very well.  I breastfeed my son but I have nothing against formula.  I had to use formula the first 2 weeks of my son's life to supplement my breast milk, which was very slow coming in.  That's why he lost so much weight, I wasn't producing along the "normal" timeline, because of the magnesium sulfate I had been given during labor for preeclampsia (I talked about my labor in this posting  If it hadn't been for the use of formula those first couple weeks, he would have had to be hospitalized and given an IV.  I'm grateful for the fact that formula exists and that I was able to use it to help my son gain weight and nourishment.  I do not feel superior or believe I am a better mother just because I can now successfully breastfeed, I just am glad I can feed my son.  I tip my hat to all mothers who feed their infants, whether it's with formula or breast milk (this article made an impression on me:  August is National Breastfeeding Month and frankly, I think not only should breastfeeding mothers be protected, but formula feeding mothers should be protected, because they are looked down on and attacked more than the breastfeeding moms; formula moms are made to feel bad for not breastfeeding and frankly, until you know why that mother is choosing to breastfeed, don't judge her, cause she may not be able to breastfeed.  I'm stepping off my soap box now.

During my leave, I spent time looking for and researching day cares.  I researched 20 and narrowed it down to 9 to contact.  After contacting the 9, I interviewed 3 and chose 1.  I'm excited about the place we chose, it is on a quiet street, has a large staff and I think the baby will do well there.  I'm not looking forward to my first day away from him, but it has to be done, we need two incomes in today's economy.  I think he'll fair very well his first day of daycare, but me, well I will be a basket case.

We are also working on figuring out a sleep pattern.  Some nights, I can get him down between 9pm and 10pm, other nights it's 11pm by the time he's sound asleep.  Some nights, he goes down without a fuss and is perfectly content after nursing, other nights he fusses all through nursing and after nursing and needs to be walked around in order to calm down.  He takes about 2-3 naps a day but they don't last very long, maybe an hour if we're lucky.  I'm not sure how any of this is going to impact how he acts at daycare.  Hopefully, he'll do okay and the employees won't hate me when I come pick him up (I hope he doesn't earn the reputation of being a "difficult" baby).

I'm just a few days away from returning to work.  I need to get a few more items for the daycare (diapers and wipes) and I need to get things for myself for work (lunch items).  I need to get out the ironing board, which I haven't used since buying it, and I need to get my pre-pregnancy items ironed.  I need to figure out what I'm wearing my first day back after being gone 3 months.  I need to learn to breathe and not be hard on myself as I return to work.  I've been very hard on myself the past few weeks and I need to just calm down and move forward.  Here's to a calm return to work.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

To My Son (letter #1)

Dearest William,

At the writing of this blog "letter" you are 6 weeks old. You are a healthy baby and, according to the pediatrician, your diapers are also "healthy". Believe me, this is a good thing. You are very loved.

I wanted to say a few things to you before I forgot things. I have a feeling this will be the first of many blog "letters" to you.

I have always known I've wanted to be a mother, ever since I was 10 or 11. I know that seems young but I just always knew. I have dreamt of being a mother more than of being a bride/wife. Being married isn't something I gave a lot of thought to until I was in my 20s. At that point, a lot of my friends were getting married and I kind of began to feel left out. I don't know if this is something guys do, but in many cases when women get married (this only applies to the 20 something women I was friends with cause that's where my personal experience lies) they have a tendency to turn their backs on their single friends and stop spending time with them. In my 20s I felt as if I was being pushed away because I was single and my friends were married so I started thinking about marriage and looking for a husband.  I am embarrassed to admit this to you (and anyone else reading this blog). It makes me come across as pathetic and I admit I was pathetic and lonely and sad. I suddenly had no friends and thought the only way they'd become my friends again was if I joined the "married" club.

Needless to say, my 20s were pretty pathetic. I hated my 20s and hated the whole dating game. I lived in Colorado Springs and found it difficult to meet men I had things in common with. As you will discover, I'm not very outdoorsy and hate camping, hiking, backpacking, climbing and fishing. I used to love skiing but can't afford it now. The majority of Coloradoans enjoy doing the things I hate or can't afford so finding someone I have something in common with was difficult.

Finally, my 30s arrived and things improved. I moved to Denver and met a very diverse group of people through I met some awesome folks and had a lot of fun. I met your pseudo-Aunties Frances, Laura and Carla through Meetin and there are many other men and women I consider friends whom I met through Meetin. I did meet and date 3 men I met at Meetin but they aren't worth mentioning other than to say douchebaggery is alive and well in every area of Denver.

I liked Denver a lot more than Colorado Springs and settled in fairly well. Now, I'm going to say this and it may upset you, but I have always hated living in Colorado. Your grandfather, my dad, moved us to Colorado Springs in 1992 when I was 16 and I never forgave him for that (I know, it's sad that I would hold a grudge like that but I was ridiculously happy in Redlands, California and didn't want to move to Colorado but my feelings were not important at that time). I tried to get back to California but, in hindsight, I took many wrong paths. Looking back I should have gone to college at California Lutheran rather than Pacific Lutheran so I would have been able to stay in California (PLU is in Tacoma, Washington and I had no desire to settle there permanently). Between 1999 and 2010, I sent out numerous applications and resumes to California as well as New York, Washington DC, Hawaii and Chicago, and I even had some interviews (for the Teaching Fellows programs) but did not get hired. While I do like Denver a lot more than Colorado Springs,  I just don't fit in here in Colorado,  hopefully you'll never have to worry about fitting in or "belonging". It's very lonely not fitting in, very lonely feeling like you don't belong. My wish for you is that you never know those feelings.

I stopped looking for out of state jobs when my dad died. He lost his third battle against cancer on July 22, 2010. I'll tell you about him as you get older. He would have spoiled you if he had lived to see you. You would have loved him and his stories. I'm sorry you two never met. Unfortunately, my father would not have liked your daddy (don't tell daddy, it would hurt his feelings). I know my father very well and I know without any doubt that he would not have liked your dad. My dad never got to meet your dad.

Because I want you to have a fun childhood, I plan on going camping and up to the mountains when you and your dad want to go. I want you to love where you live so I won't complain about how much I hate living here, at least not in front of you.

Your father and I are not married and I don't know if we will get married, it's not something we've really talked about. Maybe down the road we will get married. I don't see any difference between being married and cohabitating except that we don't file our taxes together and we don't have the same last name. Even if we were married,  I'd still insist on having separate bank accounts and I'd keep my last name. We're still your parents whether we're married or not. I still love your father and being married won't change that

I cried when you were born. You arrived via c-section and they had a screen that prevented me from actually seeing you. I heard you cry though, as the doctor lifted you out of me. It was the greatest sound I'd ever heard. Daddy brought you over to see me and it was so great meeting you. You were so small and so quiet but we soon learned you had powerful lungs. Your lungs have only gotten stronger over the weeks too.

I'm not really an Attachment style parent but I guess I do do some things that are considered "attachment" parenting. I pick you up and hold you when you cry. I don't want to try the "cry it out" method cause it makes me feel guilty, like I'm ignoring you and I don't want you to think you were ignored. Daddy and I gave you a lot of attention.  Another attachment thing is breastfeeding,  which I didn't realize. You are a breastfed baby. I also want to buy a Moby carrier so I can carry you around as I do things and that is also part of attachment parenting. Now the things that are attachment that I don't do: co-sleeping and breastfeeding past age 2. You slept in our room for several weeks but not in our bed. We've never let you sleep in the bed with us for fear daddy would roll on you in his sleep. Daddy is a deep sleeper and the times you slept in our room, your father never heard you and never realized I had gotten up a few times. He can sleep through anything. Now, we put you in your crib and you're getting comfortable in it. It will be a good space when you get older, you'll have room to play or move around in your crib as you ge older.

I hope that I am a good mother to you. I want to help guide you in learning to love books and finding your creative side. When you're an adult I hope you look back and say you had a good childhood.

I should wrap up this letter. I love you more than anything and you have my heart.

Love, Mommy