Books #23

My goal for 2018 is to read 110 books! Here is the first post of 2018:

1 ) Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty

I was a little conflicted about whether or not to include this book in my reviews because for the first 40% of the book I was SO INCREDIBLY annoyed. “SOMETHING” happened at a BBQ. Something tragic, something horrific…and the first 40% of the book was alluding to that and it was so annoying, too drawn out, and I kept thinking “GET TO IT ALREADY!”

And then…? The incident was revealed and the way the rest of the story was told, from each person’s different point of view, was really really well-written. It was gripping and good and there were a few shockers at the very end of the book. So if you can get over the first part, it’s an excellent read!

2 ) Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

This was a very interesting book. Ava and Zelda are identical twin sisters. Two years before, there was some betrayal and a lot of family stress with their mother’s diagnosis of a degenerative disease, and Ava fled to Paris to avoid it all. Then Ava gets word that her sister has died in a fire at the family’s vineyard. She travels home to get the family affairs in order and plan the funeral.

But is Zelda really dead? Or is it a trick? Ava begins getting clues from Zelda that make her think she’s still alive and planned her own “death”, possibly for the insurance?

The book is very well-written and focuses on character development. The characters are all so real and written very well. The topic of alcoholism is also very real and well-written.

3 ) Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a memoir but it was more a reflection on aging, motherhood, marriage and feminism.

“Time passed, almost imperceptibly. First we were so young and then we were so busy and then one day we awoke to discover that we were an age we once thought of as old. [loc 65]”

The common theme throughout the book was aging and how to do it gracefully. The author reflects on her own life, the death of her mother when she was only 19 and how that changed her outlook on life and motherhood when she had her own kids.

“I would tell my twenty-two-year-old self that what lasts are things so ordinary she may not even see them: family dinners, fair fights, phone calls, friends. But of course the young woman I once was cannot hear me, not just because of time and space but because of the language, and the lessons, she has yet to learn. It’s a miracle: somehow over time she learned them all just the same, by trial and error. [pg 4]”

She did write about marriage but nothing too specific about her own marriage. That wasn’t really what the focus was. I did like this quote a lot and I think it’s a good way to sum up a good marriage:

“I was never one of those women who tell you that their spouse is their best friend, that they’re always on the same page. I feel like you’re ahead of the game if you’re even in the same book. [pg 18]”

She also talked about friendships and how crucial they are at different stages of your life. It made me think about my own relationships and friendships that have withstood the challenge of time and changing lives. Having kids was the biggest “tell” for me. It’s weird how your friendships often change when you have a baby.

“As we grow older we weed out our friendship circles the way we do our closets. Most women have a story about the friend who truly wasn’t, whose calls and visits left her feeling dreadful, the friend who dined out on other women’s shortcomings and mistakes. [pg 32]”

“We trust our friends to tell us what we need to know, and to shield us from what we don’t need to discover, and to have the wisdom to know the difference. Real friends offer both hard truths and soft landings and realize that it’s sometimes more important to be nice than to be honest…They are savvy enough to understand that there are friendships worth fighting for. And sometimes, of course, there are those that are not. Over the course of our lives friends fall away, sometimes because they were never really more than friendly acquaintances…There were friends we lost when we had children and they did not…[pg 32]”

I really liked her take on motherhood, too:

“There comes that moment when we give our children custody of their own selves or blight their lives forever, when we understand that being a parent is not transactional, the we do not get what we give. It is the ultimate pay-it-forward endeavor: we are good parents not so they will be loving enough to stay with us but so they will be strong enough to leave us. [pg 117]”

Those are just a few of my favorite quotes from the book. I read it in about three days and enjoyed most of it. Sometimes there were some run-on sentences that rambled a little bit and could use some editing…but overall I liked it a lot!

4 ) This is How it Always Is by Laurie Frankel

“Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan.”

What a beautiful story! Rosie, an ER doctor and Penn, a writer, have 4 boys. She gets pregnant a fifth time and they are secretly hoping they have a girl but…nope. Another boy! Except as Claude grows up, they realize he is very different. At only three years old, he says he’s a girl.

They are all very open-minded, despite living in rural Wisconsin. They allow Claude to dress as a girl. But once he becomes a little bit older and goes to kindergarten, they start to feel the societal pressures. School doesn’t understand and is not tolerant, and basically forces them to make Claude dress as a boy.

“I’ve lived life. I know what’s important. I’ve seen it all by now. You think he’s the first boy I ever saw in a bikini? He’s not. You think your generation invented kids who are different?”

“Claude wore his bikini because Penn found he could not say to his son, ‘The suit you love is okay at home but not in public,’ because Rosie would not say, ‘We’re proud of you in private but ashamed of you at the pool. [pg 46]”

Claude is miserable and depressed. And only a few years old. It’s heartbreaking for all involved. Then Rosie treats a trans-gendered patient in the ER who was beaten almost to death at a frat party.

” ‘Everyone loves you for who you are.’ “

“‘No one but you,’ said Claude. ‘No one but us. We are the only ones.’ [pg 58]”

Rosie decides it’s time to leave. They move to Seattle, a liberal, open-minded area where Claude can become Poppy.

“Maybe parents just wanted their kids to invite Poppy over so they could gossip to their own friends or make a big show of being open-minded and tolerant. Maybe the kids wanted to play with Poppy because they were curious about him rather than because they liked him. [pg 98]”

Except Rosie is still terrified that something horrible will happen to her child. So they don’t tell anyone that Poppy used to be Claude. The story goes from there. Poppy lives as a girl, has girl friends, no one knows the difference except for family.

“Just being yourself never worked, but if you made yourself up, you got to be exactly who you knew yourself to be. [pg 285]”

The book is an emotional, beautiful, heart-breaking and heart-warming read. While the book does address bigotry and trans-phobia, it’s not your typical book where something horrific and homophobic happens. It’s really more about navigating the trans-gendered world as parents, what’s right, what’s wrong, how they decide what to do during puberty, etc.

I highly recommend this book!

 

5 ) The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde

This is the newest Catherine Ryan Hyde book. Aiden is a cattle rancher who gets a “wake up” on a hunting trip. All of a sudden he can feel the emotions (the fear, the terror, the pain) of all animals. It definitely throws a wrench in his career as a rancher and breeder, and alienates him from his ranch hands and the community. His girlfriend breaks up with him. He’s feeling very sensitive about his new ability to sense animal’s emotions.

Gwen is new to town with her two pre-teen kids. She left an abusive marriage and is trying to rebuild her life. She meets Aiden and they fall in love. The problem is that her son, Milo, has some very serious mental/emotional issues due to the abuse he suffered from his father.

“You hope wildly. And, as a result, having a child tends to mean getting your heart broken on a regular basis. It takes courage to hope for something you know you might not get. But the alternative is not to believe in your child or hope for great things for him. [pg 236]”

Milo is showing some not-so-kind behaviors towards animals and with Aiden’s new ability to sense pain in animals, this is particularly difficult!

“But people come into our lives and point things out to us for a reason. [pg 34]”

The story is about relationships and about healing, for both Aiden and Milo. It’s also about family, (sort of) about alcoholism recovery and step-parenting.

“It’s easier to see the big picture when you’re standing a few steps outside it. [pg 198]”

“Human nature. After something works out, we forget the frustration of the steps we took in getting there. [pg 316]”

It’s a really, really lovely read. It was a fast read, I read it in about two days. There were a lot of layers in the book and kept you thinking about things long after you were done reading.ย I will end the review with the best quote from the book:

“He would say, ‘Are you doing what your heart says to do?’ [pg 317]”

Excellent advice.

HAPPY READING!

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Bend Adventures

For the holiday weekend (and my birthday) we went to Bend! We haven’t been in winter time in a few years. I think maybe 2 years ago for my birthday? We rented a house with friends who had never been snowshoeing before and we arrived and there was…no snow…?

Well this year we booked the same house we stayed in last May with my parents (see that post for photos of the house!). Man, looking back at those posts from last year…Logan is so tiny! He looks like a little baby still. Awww heart melting…he’s such a big boy now!

Our friends that came with us this time have a 5 year old daughter, so it was nice to have another kid for Logan to play with. Logan LOVED it! He was following her around and copying everything she did. It was totally adorable.

We also discovered that the park across the street from the house we rented was PERFECT for little kids! Logan had such a blast. We went to the park a few times.

So we caravan-ed to Bend and stopped in Madras for a quick lunch (Mexican food) and then checked into our house. Saturday was WARM! We totally did not need jackets when we walked to the park for the kids to blow off some steam. Sitting in the car for 3 hours is hard. Logan did great and slept for a good portion of it, but he was happy to be out of the car and playing on the swings and slides and kid toys.

It was about 62 degrees! It was crazy! Like I said, no jackets needed. I was beginning to be a tad worried about our plans to snowshoe……….

So for dinner Saturday night, our friends made a delicious pasta dish (Michael and Ben had walked down to Growler Phil’s to fill the growlers, pick up some breakfast sausage at the meat department, and go to the grocery store for some essentials) and we munched on bread and cheese and drank beer. It was all so tasty! What a fun night. Lots of good food. The kids went to bed pretty easily. And then we all got in the hot tub with some champagne!

Just in case you were wondering…a hot tub and champagne sound like an AMAZING idea, and it was at the time, but dang did it give me a headache! I guess the combo on the champagne and the heat. The hot tub felt so good though! I was still a little under the weather, so it was nice to just relax. We chilled in the hot tub (it was probably about 25 degrees overnights outside in Bend) and then I went to bed a little early because I knew the munchkin would be up at dawn. (And I was right.)

Sunday morning I got up with Logan and made coffee and had some breakfast. Then everyone else got up and we took the kids up to Mount Bachelor. It was a gorgeous, sunny, warm day. And there was no snow.

Are you kidding me??!?!?!

I am beginning to think we are cursed! Both times we have taken friends to Bend in January to snowshoe (for their first times!!!) there was NO SNOW. We are seriously cursed. UGH.

So we couldn’t find any snow to snowshoe. Michael’s back was bothering him so he stayed back at the house with the dogs and the rest of us set out to find somewhere the kids could at least sled. Wanoga Sno Park had enough snow that we could sled, so all was not lost!

I bundled Logan up pretty good, even though it wasn’t that cold and everybody went sledding. Logan LOVED watching everybody sled. I found a teeny tiny hill and took Logan sledding with me about half a dozen times. He LOVED it and said “WEEEEEEEE” and he laughed. But when I tried to put him in the sled by himself and pull him on the snow he did NOT like that at all.

After sledding for a bit we went back to the Virginia Meissner Sno Park to go for a “hike”. It was such a beautiful day out with the sun and we had some time and wanted to be outside with the kids, so we all “hiked.” Below are pictures of our trek on the snow. If you want to see pictures of what it would look like WITH SNOW, check out this post and this post. Dammit! I can’t believe there was no snow again!!

For the first time ever, I tried hiking with Logan in the Kelty backpack with me carrying him. Michael usually does it. I’ve wanted to try it before and we’ve made plans for me to try carrying Logan to try and build up the strength to do it for longer, but we just never got around to it. So this was trial by fire! First, Logan is 30 pounds (and he’s not 2 yet) and the pack is probably 10. So an extra 40 pounds on me was hard and weird. It was doable, but my shoulders are what hurt me, honestly. It was really really hard on the shoulders. Maybe I needed to adjust it? I don’t know. I carried him for about 1/2 a mile up the snowy/icy, empty trail, then took him off to give my shoulders a break. Logan walked for some of it. Then I just carried him.

And Ben helped on the way back. ๐Ÿ™‚ I definitely need to practice carrying Logan in the backpack before hiking again. It was also a weird distribution of weight. A few times I felt like if I lost my balance and fell backwards, I’d just lay there like a turtle. ๐Ÿ˜‰

We went back to the house and had lunch (sandwiches) and everybody kind of chilled. Logan didn’t want to take a nap so I decided to go for a little drive and give him a chance to nap in the car. I drove around some of the fancy areas of downtown Bend, up in the hills, overlooking everything. I was pretty high up there and there was a ton of mist and fog. It was cool and kind of spooky.

Then I pulled over because all of a sudden a huge deer ran across the road and into someone’s front yard! I stopped to watch as the deer grazed and then another deer joined him. I sat there for about 15 minutes and just watched as a family of deer (about 5 of them) were all together. It was really cool to see! I posted some videos on my instagram.

I went back to the house eventually and the guys watched the kids while Charla and I went for a walk and back to Growler Phil’s because I wanted more Boneyard. ๐Ÿ˜€

We ended up ordering pizza for dinner and just eating in. It was easier with the kids. There was a restaurant we REALLY wanted to try but the wait was SO long we gave up.

The kids went to bed after dinner. I escaped to the hot tub and enjoyed it by myself for about 30 minutes, reading my book and eating gelato (!! perfect !!) before Ben and Charla joined me for a bit. Man, after spending an hour + in the hot tub relaxing, I slept SO good that night. I think we might need a hot tub at our house…

Monday Morning…bright and early…packing, eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and then we went to the park for one last hurrah.

 

I feel so bad for Bella. Saturday was her birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELLA!) and she was basically cooped up in the house most of the weekend because there wasn’t any snow, we didn’t take her on the hike because Virginia Meissner doesn’t allow dogs…I just felt bad. And I felt bad for our friends who didn’t get to snowshoe. SIGH. Seriously. Where is the snow?!?

Monday we drove back to Portland and Logan sleptย the entire drive home, it was amazing. Unpacked, chores, laundry, I hit the gym since I didn’t get any workouts in really, and then I collapsed into our bed for a fantastic night’s sleep!