Books #56

Reading in 2020 has been a struggle, for sure. Pre-pandemic, I read so much! I’d read on the bus to and from work. I’d read on the elliptical during my lunch break at work. I’d read on my breaks at work…then of course, every night at bedtime. But now, while I have the time, I just don’t read other than at bedtime. And I do not feel overly motivated to find time in my day to do it. I don’t know why (other than a general feeling of being burned out).

Despite that, I am reading some good books lately. Here are a few:

1 – Rage Against the Minivan by Kristen Howerton

I absolutely loved this book!

I heard an interview of the author on a podcast, talking about adoption and what it was like raising black boys in today’s world. She touches on that a little bit in this book. But this book is more about her life as a mother, the multiple miscarriages she went through, the horrific and traumatic processes of adoption (one was in Haiti and took 3 years and an earthquake for her to finally bring her son home).

She opened up about her struggles with anxiety, depression, struggling with balancing work and home life, how to do everything and raise 4 kids. How her marriage suffered and ended. The book was revealing and raw and I think a lot of mothers can relate to at least one thing in this book. She wrote about being lonely and not having many friends, especially when they left their church because she disagreed with their stances on racism, LGBTQ rights, etc.

The book was also hilarious. I laughed out loud too many times to count. I could relate to so much.

“They turned up their noses at vegetables or any kind of sauce, requesting instead the Bland Beige Food Group. They were uninterested in quiet family meals. Our table felt more like the breakfast scene from Cheaper by the Dozen than something painted by Norman Rockwell.”

“I was an amazing mother before I had kids. I had it all planned out. There were meadows involved. There would be handmade wooden toys and organic, home-cooked meals. There would be picnics on hippie-inspired blankets (in the meadows) and vintage books and lazy days at the park (more meadows).” (I had the same vision!)

Instead of the bliss she said it was:

“I felt tired and frazzled. I no longer recognized the body I inhabited. I didn’t have time for things like hair appointments or workouts. Or showers. Going shopping for food felt like an insurmountable challenge, and I may have once started crying in public when there were no double carts left at the grocery store. It hardly felt like living. I was surviving.”

I highly recommend this book. It was so funny, real and relatable.

2 – Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent

I enjoyed this book a lot. I’ve known a few midwives and they are all cool, calm and collected. It was fun reading about the early days of “modern” midwifery.

Peggy was a new OB nurse in the 1970’s in Berkeley. She didn’t agree with the way the male doctors treated labor and decided to become a midwife and go off on her own.

“Midwives believe birth is normal till proven otherwise. Doctors don’t.”

She got the training, kind of became a bit of a hippie (Birkenstocks and all) and started her own midwife practice. Each chapter was a short story about a woman’s birth that she attended. They were all different and interesting. There were a few that I felt like they could have left out of the book, but the majority were great stories.

“Just think about it. As midwives, we meet wildly interesting people and stay up all night with them. We ask them questions about their sex lives, eat their food, feel inside their bodies, snoop around their houses, drink champagne at all hours, and best of all, we get to catch delicious little naked, wet babies. What I can’t figure out is, why doesn’t everyone want to be a midwife?”

Toward the end of the book, Peggy had the unfortunate experience of a birth gone wrong. She’d warned the woman that she should birth at the hospital because of certain things, the woman refused, and then called Peggy to her home when she was in labor. Peggy arrived and saw immediately there was an issue. The ambulance service and EMTs bungled things. They got to the hospital. The doctor chose to do a C-Section and the baby had major issues. The woman ended up suing everyone involved for “wrongful life”. This might have been one of the first cases.

It was a sad way to kind of end the book because Peggy ended up losing her midwife insurance as a result (the doctor did NOT lose his malpractice insurance) and she went back to shift work at a Kaiser OB unit (she called it a Ford Assembly Line of birth). It was a bit of a bummer. 🙁

But overall I loved the book and the stories and the connections Peggy made with the women and their babies.

3 – The New Wilderness by Diane Cook

This was a very interesting book. It was a different kind of dystopian world. In this one, The City is toxic. It’s overcrowded. People are getting sick and dying just from living in the city. Bea is desperate to safe her young daughter, Agnes, from a untimely death. So she, Agnes and her husband, go to the “New Wilderness.” It’s outside of the city, completely untouched wilderness, and they are supposed to live a nomadic life, one with nature.

There’s a group of them. There are rules. There are Rangers that track them, check in with them to make sure they are following the rules. They live off the land, hunt animals. They aren’t allowed to build permanent structures or stay in one place for very long because it will do damage to the environment.

These people live a “pure” life here. It seems to be going well. Years go by. People in their group die. Eventually they get some new people added to their “tribe.”

It’s a fascinating concept. It was a little Hunger Games, a little Lord of the Flies. It’s worth a read just for the interesting concept.

4 – Our Time is Now by Stacey Abrams

Very very good. So informative, lots of history and very very current events. The afterword even talks about Covid-19. I appreciated her service and description of politics in Georgia, about gerrymandering, about the despicable things the GOP has done to suppress votes for so many people in America. She had some good types on how to get involved. I appreciated the book very much and was happy to support someone who has done so much for the democratic system.

5 – The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory

I recently watched this series: The White Queen, The White Princess and season 1 of the Spanish Princess and they were so good! I used to read Phillipa Gregory a long time ago but it’s been awhile. I am so glad I picked up this book because it’s very good. It is a super fast read, covers a lot of history in an engaging way and I highly recommend it!

6 – Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

I heard about this book on a podcast interview with one of the authors. It was a very interesting concept. There are so many books written about romantic relationships but rarely about friendships. Friendships play such a big part of our lives, but we don’t always put the “work” in like we would with romantic relationships. The story of the two authors, their friendship, the rocky times, how they worked to fix things, were all very interesting to read. It was part memoir style, peppered with research on friendships, etc but it never felt bogged down with quotes/facts/research.

The book also talked about race and feminism, among other topics. It gave me a lot to think about and I enjoyed reading the book.

Happy Reading!

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Food Psych

I recently started listening to a podcast called Food Psych. I heard about it from someone on Twitter and decided to check it out. It’s about intuitive eating, breaking out of diet culture, eating disorder recovery and Healthy at Every Size.

I’ve listened to about 10 episodes so far. They are long, a little over an hour or so. Each episode starts with a Q&A and then the rest of the episode is an interview with someone new each week, depending on the topic.

I am finding it very informative and interesting.

I learned that bulimia isn’t always about throwing up after eating. It can also mean a binge and then a strict restriction period to “make up for” the binge. I did not know that.

I also learned about orthorexia.

It was interesting to hear this term and learn more about it. Reflecting on my time blogging and reading “Healthy Living Blogs” for almost a decade now, I can see clearly that that whole “thing” was probably orthorexia. Focusing on diet culture, weight loss, over-exercising, being rigid about workout schedules and only eating “healthy foods.” There was a blogger that put a carrot in a hot dog bun instead of eating a hot dog, and a bunch of other truly bizarre (and disordered) things.

I was definitely part of this culture. It makes me think long and hard about my own journey. The podcast talks about how 90% of people who lose weight cannot keep it off. I guess I fall into this category? I lost 110 pounds and kept it off for over 10 years. I think that is pretty commendable. But at the same time, I maintained my weight by strict workout schedules and very low calorie intake. I don’t know that I fall into the eating disorder category per se, but definitely the diet culture category.

Something that happened recently: Logan has been telling me repeatedly lately that he’s hungry. This is after a meal, he had plenty of food during the meal. Michael and I have questioned if he was hungry or bored. We offer “you can have applesauce or a banana or some carrots” and of course he says no. He wants the crackers or granola bar.

This has been very triggering to me. First, I remember being a kid and wanting a snack and my mom would offer fruit or vegetables only. I grew up in a very strict food house, in the 90’s when it was the all low-fat/non-fat/no-sugar craze. So we didn’t get “treats” which lead to me bingeing later.

So hearing my son tell me he’s hungry and he wants to have a sweet treat, is triggering. Michael and I have been very conscious about letting him be intuitive, not being strict with food. We don’t want him to grow up with body issues/food issues etc. I especially don’t want that because I know how it feels and what it leads to.

But here I am, Saturday afternoon when Logan has had some crackers and raisins as a snack (with watered down apple juice to drink) and he’s whining that he’s hungry and I feel MY food issues pop up and I am mixed: do I restrict him? Do I give in and potentially create not healthy eating habits?

Boys can have eating disorders, too. It’s not just girls, even if it USUALLY is girls. I don’t want Logan to grow up like I did. I don’t want him to have body shame, or become obese, etc. It’s a hard balance for me, especially since I am still trying to come to terms with my own food issues.

At one of Logan’s recent “well baby” check up appointments with his doctor, whom I REALLY liked, gave me pause. She weighed him and stuff and suggested we “monitor” his weight. I was flabbergasted. Logan has been in the 97% percentile for height his entire life. 95% sure he will be a very tall boy (my brother is 6’6) because there are a lot of tall men in both sides of the family. His weight was around the 50% percentile, as it has been his whole life as well. I didn’t question the doctor, partly because I was so surprised she even mentioned my toddler’s weight. But I left feeling like “WTF”. Logan is tall and skinny as a rail. His clothes in his size are always a little too big.

This was the first experience as a parent of “Body shaming” my kid. It stuck with me for months. And listening to Food Psych Podcast, I am hearing in these interviews of people who had their body and food issues start at a VERY young age. Like ME. I was 9 when I suddenly realized there was something “Wrong” with my body. (I was not fat in anyway, but I THOUGHT I was.)

I’m working through a lot of things right now, thinking about stuff. But I wanted to pass on the info about the podcast because I am really enjoying it and I think a lot of people will too.