Monday, January 28, 2008

Two more weeks

We go back two weeks from today for the great uncasting. The orthopedist said he's almost ready, and if he hadn't had an infected bone before the break it would probably be off today, but he wanted to give it two more weeks, just to be on the safe side.

I appreciate the safe side, I really do. But two more weeks? Well, it stinks.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Trying not to get my hopes up...

(sorry for the crying on the video, Maren was, of course, trying to take the camera away from me)

Isaac goes back to the doctor on Monday. When he broke his leg, the doctors told us he'd be in the cast for 6-8 weeks. Monday will be 6 weeks and five days. He's been such a good sport about the whole thing. In fact, whenever we talk to him about getting it off, he says he wants it to stay on so he can spin. My boy loves his spinning.

I, on the other hand, am not feeling so laid-back about the potential uncasting. Yep, you know me, and I want it off now, for the following reasons:

  • The boy has not had a good bath in seven weeks. He's not potty-trained at night either. Lately, more often than not, he decides to quietly poop while wearing a diaper rather than alerting us and going through the whole rigamarole of pooping in a bedpan. Just imagine the funk and you'd probably be about halfway there.

  • We have watched SO much tv in the last three months. As soon as he gets his strength back, we are going on a hard-core tv fast for at least two weeks. I know the schedules for Nick Jr, Nick 2, Noggin and PBS Kids by heart. He's happiest right now watching tv, but enough is definitely enough.

  • "Play with me." I hear it about a hundred times a day. And I can't just put forth a halfhearted attempt at doing a little bit of business with some action figures. When he says "play with me," he means an involved creative session with me being some kind of bad guy. I feel bad for him, but I'm also eager for him to become a little bit more self-directed.

  • My bed. Isaac always went to bed easily, in his own bed, in the dark, by himself. He slept all night there. Eddie took pity on Isaac early on in the saga and started letting him fall asleep at night in our bed, with Eddie, with the lights on. It's become a habit that has stuck, and is particularly hard to manage on the nights when Eddie is at work, and I'm left to nurse Maren to sleep, then lie down with Isaac, while trying to keep the bigger kids occupied and quiet. To complicate matters further, Isaac now wakes up every night between 12-1 o'clock, screaming to come into our bed. But there's not room in our bed for two adults, a child, and a spica cast, so I end up sleeping in his bed. This often results in Eddie turning off my alarm without waking me, and me spending the morning in a pissy panic as I try to rush around and get everyone to school on time. Also, he sleeps on my side. If you think back to my first item on the list, you can understand why I no longer consider sleeping there to be a pleasant experience.

  • When Maren was born, we decided against buying a double stroller, figuring that when we really needed strolling space for two kids, we'd use the jogger. However, as I've previously mentioned, Isaac doesn't fit in the jogger right now. Three months ago, it wasn't too hard to stick Maren in the baby bjorn or the sling and put Isaac in the stroller. Now that she's very mobile and too wiggly for the sling, going anywhere with the two of them is next to impossible.

  • I miss preschool. And the gym daycare. And church. And going anywhere without looking like a circus freakshow. If I thought traveling with four kids was enough to make people stare, try traveling with four kids, one of whom is wearing a bright blue cast the size of his whole body and another one is running away at full speed, as fast as her 9" legs will carry her.

Monday cannot come soon enough. Isaac has been the greatest little trooper about the whole ordeal, but I'm really ready for it to be over and real life to start again. If the cast doesn't come off, it won't be Isaac who will be crying-- it will be me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A stage of babyhood our parents never had to endure...

If you've called my house lately and gotten sent straight to voice mail, chances are that the phone is off the hook. Maren is fascinated with all telephones, remotes, cameras and other small electronic devices. I've been writing some copy for our school yearbook, and can only do that (and my blogging) during her naptime, because otherwise she sits on my lap and bangs on the keyboard. She's also called her grandparents numerous times

It must have been easier when I was a baby back in the 1970s, when phones were attached to the wall with a cord, cameras weighed too much for the average American toddler to carry, children served as remote controls, and personal computers were still about ten years in the future.

Here's a series of pictures of my tech-savvy baby:

I don't want to be in the pictures, lady-- I want to take the pictures!

"Oh yes, Mimi, I am quite the artist!"

Call me M.C. Miner. I mix the tunes, switching from High School Musical to Eminem with ease.

Looking for the home row.

Am I woman enough to handle two phones at once?

I wish I could blame her for sending Eddie's cell phone through the wash today. Unfortunately, that blame lies squarely on me.

Book #7: The God of Animals

Title: The God of Animals
Author: Aryn Kyle
Twelve year-old Alice and her father try to hold together their failing horse ranch during the hottest summer in fifteen years. Over the course of the year, Alice learns about selflessness and betrayal and friendship.

I liken The God of Animals to a more modern, more western, less drawly version of To Kill A Mockingbird. In The God of Animals, an adult version of Alice, like Scout, looks back on the year of her childhood where she lost her innocence and jumped over the divide into adulthood. The God of Animals is beautifully-written and engrossing (I read it in two days), despite, or maybe because of, its familiarity. Language might prevent it from being a good book group book in the more prissy circles, but it's a book that women should read and discuss.

Book #6: Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

Title: Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Author: Steve Martin

Steve Martin looks back on his childhood and his career as a stand-up comedian, focusing mainly on the 1960s and 1970s.

I like Steve Martin. I mean, who doesn't like Steve Martin. There was a lady in line in front of me at Borders the other day buying this book and gushing enthusiastically to the salesperson about how excited her husband would be to have this book in his hot little hands. I learned a lot about what Disneyland was like in the 1960s (Martin worked there from age 10 to 18), what it takes to perfect a magic act, what it feels like to be a successful stand-up comedian (isolating, apparently), and how a cold and unfriendly father can damage a son's psyche forever. The book was interesting and well-written, but not funny. From a stand-up comedian, I sort of expected a little bit more funny. I'll bet the lady's husband did too.

Book #5: The Good Earth

Title: The Good Earth
Author: Pearl S. Buck

Do you really need a synopsis for this one? If so, Wang Lung comes of age as a simple peasant farmer in 19th-century China, and finds his life complicated as he prospers.

Anyone else see The Good Earth as an melding of The Book of Mormon and King Lear? At the beginning, Wang Lung is poor and happy. He and O-Lan work hard and are prospered (if you can count stealing gems as a blessing from heaven, lol). Anyway, once they gain wealth, he gets bored, proud and materialistic. Instead of being happy, like he was when he and O-Lan worked hard in the fields together, he spends his days worrying. His kids fight and don't know how to work themselves. And as he ages, they discuss how they're going to split up the goods once he's gone.

I've probably read The Good Earth five times. I always dread starting it, thinking it's not going to have any power for me on the third or fourth or fifth reading. But every time, I'm sad when I'm done. This time, I was sad and a little bit scared. For our entire marriage, Eddie and I have either struggled as he went to school, or eked by as he's done his training. But in a little more than a year, he's going to have a good job. We've always dreamed about how cool it will be to have money, but if our lives are anything like Wang Lung's (and since we're human, I have a feeling that they are) I'm guessing that while the money will be good, it will bring its own set of challenges for us too.

Book #4: Amsterdam

Title: Amsterdam
Author: Ian McEwan

Following the funeral of a close friend, Vernon, a London newspaper publisher, and Clive, a composer, enter into a pact that will have consequences neither man could have imagined.

I've loved other books by Ian McEwan (both Saturday and Atonement rank high on my list of best reads ever). I did some scouting on Amazon and knew that this was both his Booker Prize-winning novel, and the novel which had received the most unfavorable reviews. The novel, at 196 pages, takes us into the work-related inner struggles that both Vernon and Clive face. And maybe I'm dense, but I wasn't prepared for the end (which I won't reveal, since, at least to me, was a total shocker). I just didn't feel that the characters McEwan drew in the first 90% of the novel (both very self-absorbed) would think broadly (and crazily) enough for what took place in the last 10%. My advice, if you're new to McEwan, cut your teeth on Saturday, and then dig into Atonement. This one might appeal to dedicated readers, but it might turn off a newbie.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A college crush I can't get out of my mind....

According to the officially-sanctioned version of how Eddie and Shelah met, we hooked up at the very beginning of freshman year and dated the entire year. For the most part, that's the truth, but there was a week or two after I arrived in Provo and before I came down one night to the dorm lounge while he was flirting with another girl to ask him why he never bothered to call me. And in that week, I had a crush on another guy. A guy in my freshman orientation group. A guy, who incidentially, did not have a crush on me. A guy who has been on television a lot lately.

Do you recognize this guy? He bears quite a resemblance to his father. And I swear that every time I turn on CNN or Eddie leaves FoxNews on (which is totally against the rules around here), I see him. Usually standing in the background, behind Mitt, or else moving in a pack of other semi-official, good-looking thirtysomething Romneys.
I'm totally and completely happy in my marriage and with my husband. I know that I made the right decision (and since Josh never looked twice in my direction, it wasn't an issue). I hadn't even thought about Josh Romney for at least ten years before his dad decided to run for president. But over the last year I've found myself thinking that I could have been in those waterskiing videos, I could be the one who couldn't toast a marshmallow to save her life. I'm glad I'm not-- I'm just sayin-- it would be easier not to imagine "what if" if I didn't have to see the guy five times a day.
I think Eddie is now changing his support to Obama.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'm on a spinner's high

This morning I had a fourteen mile run on the training schedule, and I was just too scared to do it. My knee hasn't been great, and I really don't want to screw it up further. Besides, it's all messy and puddly here after several days of nonstop rain, and I didn't want to sully my brand-new shoes. So I headed to the gym to run a couple of miles to feel out my knee, then take a spinning class.

The first two miles were fast (.75mi at 9mph, followed by .25mi at 10mph, repeated twice). The spin class felt awesome. So I decided to do it again. Another fast mile, followed by another spin class. My knee feels fantastic, and for the first time since the marathon, I've gotten that endorphin rush I crave from exercise. I also feel like my speed is coming back, which really excites me! So Arlynda, I really do think cycling (and cross training in general) combined with the core classes I've been taking, are doing their job to strengthen my knee. When Isaac got sick, I stopped going to the gym at all. I either ran at home on the treadmill or pushing the stroller. I quit all of my cross-training (which had been two spinning classes a week). I quit working on my core (I'd also been taking two core classes a week). I was doing the minimum amount of training possible because the rest of my life was just too complicated. Now that I've been injured and Eddie has had a more flexible schedule, I've incorporated those back into my workouts (especially since the running has sucked) and I think it's going to help me be a better athlete overall.

By next week at this time, I really hope to be hitting the pavement for a good long run. But if I'm still not there yet, I'm so glad to know that the alternative is pretty great too.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thursday thoughts...

First of all, the weather. It was about fifty here today. If I closed my eyes really tightly, it almost, sort of, felt a little bit like winter. Not quite cold enough, in my opinion, to wear a coat, but still, undeniably chilly.

I went to have lunch with the kids at school today. Bryce's class goes to recess directly from the cafeteria, and as the kids were lining up, I overheard the teachers talking about how they had been instructed to have recess inside today because it was "too cold" to play outside. Annie said that their gym class didn't go outside either. When we lived in Minnesota and there was a foot of snow on the ground, and the temperature was below zero, my preschoolers sent 30 minutes every day on the playground. Also, when I went to pick up the kids after school, I was talking to one of the moms who was wearing a Lands' End parka. I remarked to her that it must be nice to have a chilly day so she could break out the heavy-duty winter wear (as I'm standing there wearing nothing but a sweatshirt). "Oh this? she asked. "I wear this all winter." Texans are wussies.

Secondly, I got chewed out by a librarian today. If you notice the book list on my sidebar, you'll probably see it's quite a bit more ample than usual. I did some book scouting over the weekend, and then reserved a whole bunch of books at the library. When I went to pick them up today, I had a pile of ten. When she brought over my pile (practically collapsing under its weight), I said something to the effect that I was surprised that all of the reserves had come in at once. She told me that it would be much better for me to just make a list and reserve one or two at a time than get all of them at once. Now I'm determined to read them all and prove her wrong. And besides, what else am I supposed to do in the evenings during the writers' strike?

Finally, any runners out there with a surefire cure for runner's knee? My left knee has been bugging me since the marathon. It hurt really, really badly for about a week, and it's been getting slowly better, but now that I've resumed my normal pace and distance (30-40 miles a week), I'm starting to worry that it will never fully heal. I did get some rocking new shoes yesterday (the Asics GT-2130s) and I'm hoping that wearing running shoes that don't have 900+ road miles on them will help too. I'm getting scared that my running schedule for the next few months, with another half and another full marathon on the horizon, may be a little bit too much work for my poor knee.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A year of Maren

Maren turned one a couple of weeks ago, and amidst the chaos that comes with having four extra houseguests for two weeks, I completely spaced doing this. It's Maren's first year in review....

In the hospital on Christmas Eve, getting ready to go home:

Ten days old:

Two months old, kissing Annie:

Annie gives it right back on Maren's blessing day in February:

Three months old (March):

Easter Craziness:

Serene in the bouncy seat at five months:

Sitting at six months:

Happy to send the big kids back to school in August:

At Disney World with Daddy in September:

Cozying up to Isaac in October:

Playing in the sand in November:

All tuckered out in December:


The first birthday and Christmas cards are on my mom's memory card in Minnesota, so some day I'll get around to showing those! She's such a cute baby. But hardly even a baby anymore-- now she's more like a little girl! I think I'm going to go off and cry now.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I think you all must be feeling bad for me...

By the time I finished writing my third of three book reviews today, I already had four comments on the first two.

Book #3: Proust was a Neuroscientist

Title: Proust was a Neuroscientist
Author: Jonah Lehrer

Lehrer shows how Proust, Whitman, Cezanne, Woolf, George Eliot, Escoffier and Gertrude Stein all anticipated in their various works recent advances made in the field of neuroscience.

I bought this book for Eddie for Christmas, at his request, but since he was reading something else, I read it first. Just looking at the book, you probably wouldn't expect it to be much of a challenge. It's short, less than 200 pages without notes, and the exact shape of the hardcover versions of Mitch Albom's and Richard Paul Evans's books. But don't let yourself be fooled. I had to actually use my brain to understand this book about neuroscience. I remarked to Eddie, who is reading it now, that it's like a really long New Yorker article packaged as a gift book.

That said, it's worth reading. I particularly loved the chapters on Escoffier (food) and Woolf (realistic portrayals of mental illness in literature). Days after finishing the book, I still think about it every day. And that's saying a lot for my quickly decaying brain. In his chapter on Eliot, Lehrer talks about how neuroscientists have recently discovered that the brain can change and
sort of get smarter, by creating new pathways or something like that. Anyway, since I finished school, quit my job, and spend my days now watching and reading Dora the Explorer, I feel like my own brain has gotten a bit mushy (I also get a lot more questions wrong on Jeopardy than I used to). Maybe all hope isn't lost.

Book #2: Songs Without Words

Title: Songs Without Words
Author: Ann Packer
Liz and Sarabeth, now in their forties, have been best friends since childhood. When Liz's daughter Lauren attempts suicide, their friendship is rocked by their past histories, especially the suicide of Sarabeth's mother.
I loved Ann Packer's first novel, The Dive from Clausen's Pier, so I was really excited to find Songs Without Words sitting on the new releases shelf at my library the other day. The things I loved best about Clausen's Pier, specifically the way Packer draws conflicted characters and makes us like them despite their faults, are present in Songs Without Words as well. But Songs Without Words didn't engross me the same way that Clausen's Pier did. Mostly it scared the crap out of me. The first novel deals with a woman who has to decide whether or not to break up with her fiance after he becomes a quadreplegic (she was contemplating the breakup before the accident). In my personal life, I had already successfully navigated dating/marriage part of my life, so I could look in on the novel as a casual outside observer. But Songs Without Words is about the perils of having teenagers and getting older, which are two things that aren't too far down the road for me. Will it be as hard for me as it was for Liz? I hope not.
As an aside, doesn't it seem like there are a whole lot more solitary people in literature and film than in real life? For example, in this novel Sarabeth is an only child whose parents have both been dead for 20+ years. Other than her best friend, Liz, she has basically no family. In my reading over the last few years, I can't tell you how many characters I've read about who have literally no family in their lives. And they're all screwed up to a certain degree. Maybe giving my kids lots of brothers and sisters will help them from becoming as depressive and morose as most of the solitary characters in 21st century American Lit.

Book #1: Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance

Title: Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance
Author: Atul Gawande

Vignettes from the work experience of a surgeon to highlight how we can improve our performance and productivity.

I loved Complications, published in 2002, in which Gawande looked back at his medical training (he was a general surgery resident at the time of the book's publication) and wrote about patients and situations that represented his experience as a doctor. In Better, Gawande still refers to his patients and surgical experience, but this time to emphasize how we could be more productive or produce better results. He's a great writer, and engrossing even for me, who sort of looks in from the outside of the medical profession on a daily basis. This would be a great book club read since it's short, straight-forward, clean, and thought-provoking.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What would you read....

...if you were going on a week-long cruise for a week with no kids? I figure that with three days at sea, I'll need at least three books. We've never done the cruise thing before, so I might very well hate it and spend the whole time reading. I don't leave for six weeks, but I want to have some good stuff to read while I'm gone. So hit me with your best book recommendations.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I'm wearing a bra today

A real, honest-to-goodness bra. No weird flaps that unhook, no bead in the center to tell me which side I have to use next time. Heck, the bra I'm wearing today could even be from Victoria's Secret (it's not, but it could be). I cut Maren off from her midday nursing yesterday. She's down to nursing only at bedtime and first thing in the morning. She's almost thirteen months, and we're going on a kid-free vacation next month, so it's time, but I'm taking the whole weaning thing so hard this time around, especially since she's likely our last baby. Why, you might wonder, am I sad about this? After all, nursing means that I can never be apart from my baby for more than a few hours (which in a twisted sort of way I like), it means that my boobs droop down to my knees, it means that if she's hungry and I'm in public I run the risk of flashing unsuspecting strangers.

But it also means the end of enforced cuddle time. The end of feeling justified in reading while sitting in a recliner for hours on end. The end of eating cookies without gaining weight. The end of a break from fasting on Fast Sundays. The end of feeling ok about not going to the temple as regularly as is recommended around here. The end of hanging out in the mother's lounge at church (if you've never been there, it's a very strange and wonderful place). The end of feeling needed in such a literal way.

Before I had kids, I always figured that I'd nurse for a year and then be done with it. When Bryce was born, he didn't want to nurse. It took a full month of trying and pumping and working with a very patient lactation consultant to get him to latch on, and for four more months I had to nurse him with water running (the white noise let him focus or something). After that experience, I became kind of passionate about it. I love the bond it gives me to my kids. I know that my babies love me best out of anyone in the whole world, and in part I think it's because they get their milk from me. If I weren't going away, I'd probably nurse Maren for another six months or so, but, alas, it's time.

Soon I'll be free.

I've never been so sad to have my freedom.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I've been bitten... the marathoning bug. Or, some might say, by the crazy bug. Last week at this time, I was cursing my existence on this earth, and I felt like running the marathon was harder that birthing all four of my kids at the same time. But later that afternoon I signed up to run another half-marathon (Surfside Beach on February 9th) and today I registered for Nashville's Country Music Marathon on April 26th. Yes, it's my 11th anniversary, and I'm traveling 800 miles without my husband to run another 26.2. What does that say about me? I'd probably rather not know.

Since I didn't post pictures last week, here are just a few of the race.


The Fifty Book Challenge: Year Three

It's a new year, and I'll once again be chronicling the books I read. My numbers slipped a bit in 2007 (72, as opposed to 85 the previous year) so I'm hoping to see a rebound. My reviews might get a bit shorter. They take a lot of work and no one responds to them (which I totally understand-- I rarely respond to book reviews either), but I know that some people read them to get ideas, so I'm not ditching them entirely.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Book #72: Loving Frank

Title: Loving Frank
Author: Nancy Horan

In my junior year of high school, when I was still taking drafting classes and holding out hope that BYU would add an architecture major, I wrote a research paper on Frank Lloyd Wright. I remember writing about how he wasn't much of a husband or father, but I don't remember hearing about Mamah Borthwick Cheney or her story as I was doing my research. Loving Frank chronicles the ten-year relationship between Wright and Cheney. The couple originally met when he was commissioned to design her house in Oak Park, Illinois. She was married with two children and he was married with six children. After several years of an emotional attachment, Wright and Cheney became sexually involved, and both of them left their spouses to live together, first in Europe and then at Taliesin, the house Wright designed for them in Wisconsin.

Loving Frank presents the story from Mamah's perspective. She wrestles with the idea of leaving her marriage (boring, but not unhappy), her comfortable home and her children for the sake of a great love. Was it worth it? At times Mamah really questions her choice. She turned to the ideas of Swedish philosopher Ellen Key to justify her actions. It was hard for me, as a mother, not to judge Mamah. While I understand leaving an abusive or truly unhappy marriage, it seemed that Mamah's marriage bored her, and as a result she put little effort into it, which exacerbated the problem. Her husband encouraged her to take classes, was proud of her advanced degrees, and adored her, but she gave it up for something bigger. Even though Mamah frustrated me, Horan drew her as a character who wanted to do the right thing, even though she made mistakes. I certainly wasn't prepared for the end of the novel. I wasn't sure how Horan would wrap things up, but history did that pretty effectively for her. Yowza!

Book #71: Run

Title: Run
Author: Ann Patchett

At twenty-one, Tip Doyle has a lot on his mind. Well, fish, mostly, but as a Harvard student, he's feeling the pressure to get back to his books and his thesis, instead of standing on a freezing street corner in Boston, arguing with his father over whether or not he'll go to a reception honoring Jesse Jackson. But when he steps off a curb and an African American woman dives in front of a car to save his life, Tip's life changes forever. Tip and his younger brother, Teddy had been adopted by Bernard and Bernadette Doyle twenty years earlier. But it turns out that the mother who gave birth to them never stopped looking out for them (or following them!) to the point that she was eventually the woman who saved her birth son's life.

I enjoy the way that Ann Patchett combines literariness and good drama. In her earlier novel, Bel Canto, she humanized a terrorist/hostage situation. Although some parts of Run feel sort of like a string of amazing coincidences, I don't recall finding those coincidences preposterous as I was reading. I read the book quickly and really enjoyed it!

Book #70: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Title: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Author: Lisa See

As a six-year-old, Lily, the daughter of a Chinese farmer, is pronounced to have the most perfect feet seen in her province in years. Because of her high arches, Lily's entire life goes down a different path. First of all, she's arranged in laotong relationship, a friendship with another woman which is supposed to be closer and longer-lasting even than marriage. Her laotong is Snow Flower, a girl from a wealthy home in a nearby city. At first, it appears that Lily has hit the jackpot with Snow Flower, but we watch as Lily's star rises and Snow Flower's falls over the course of their lives.

I learned a lot more about foot binding than I ever wanted to know in reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and that part was gross. I was also highly frustrated by the lack of resources that women had in both their natal and marital homes in Lily's society. Many of the women suffered at the hands of their mothers-in-law, but it appeared that years of abuse practically guaranteed that women would become abusers by the time they were in charge of their households. We're reading The Good Earth for our February book group book, and I think the two books are really good companion pieces.

Book #69: Away

Title: Away
Author: Amy Bloom

Here's another immigrant story. Lillian Leyb is twenty-two when she arrives in New York City, after escaping the destruction of her Russian village and the massacre of her entire family. Using her pluck and her feminine whiles, she's quickly able to transition from a seamstress to the mistress of the most famous Jewish actor of his day (and his father!). Just as Lillian begins to feel comfortable in her new life, a cousin from the old country arrives to tell Lillian that her daughter, Sophie, is still alive. So Lillian leaves her new life behind and heads west, believing that it will be cheaper and easier for her to get to Siberia through Alaska. Away recounts Lillian's journey and the stories of the people she meets along the way.

Although some of the Amazon reviewers have reviled Away, I loved it. I was sucked in by Lillian, and loved all of the colorful characters Bloom created. But my favorite thing about the novel was the way that when a character exited the story, Bloom would tell us what happened to that person in the rest of their lives. I found that intensely satisfying, in much the same way that I loved the final chapter of Harry Potter 7. It rounded out the stories well and made each character feel fully rounded, not just a device to advance Lillian's story.

Book #68: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

Title: The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears
Author: Dinaw Mengestu

Sepha Stephanos has lived in the United States long enough that he's no longer starry-eyed about his prospects. He's no longer out to change the world. He's doesn't dream about sending money home to his family in Ethiopia (in fact, his mother sends money to him). For the last ten years, his life hasn't changed much. He runs his convenience store in an inner-city DC neighborhood and gets together with two African friends to drink, talk about their disillusionment and reminisce.

Then the neighborhood begins to gentrify, and new neighbors move in. Among those neighbors are Judith and Naomi, a history professor and her biracial daughter, and suddenly Stephanos finds that the world looks different. Better, at first, and then maybe not so much better.

Reading The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears reminded me a lot of my days teaching at Rochester Community and Technical College. Many of my students were either Ethiopian or Somalian, newly arrived in the United States and full of enthusiasm, if not English skills. The frustration that many of them felt as the semester wore on was palpable. For centuries, foreigners have come to the United States thinking that it held a better life. For many of them, it probably did. But what about those who found life as hard or harder than in the place that they left? Mengestu's book is beautifully written and allows those of us whose ancestors have been here for generations a glimpse inside what it might be like for those who have arrived more recently.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Marathon report

The short story is that I finished in 3:55. Go me.

The long story... For the last two weeks or so, I've been feeling sort of off. I've had a sore throat and enormous lymph nodes. I've been really tired. I have mono. Now, after the kind of fall I've had, any sane person probably would have taken the mono as a sign from God not to do the marathon. Not me. I guess I need lightning or something. Eddie and I talked back and forth about it and decided there wasn't anything really dangerous about me running with mono, and I knew that my time probably wouldn't be my best. I was cool with that. I didn't even really tell many people about the mono, because what kind of idiot runs a marathon with mono?

This morning, I started the race strong. Too strong. I met up with this cool LDS guy (Steve) from Wisconsin, and we did the first thirteen miles together. He needed to come in at 3:30 to qualify for Boston, and we were both feeling pretty confident that we could do it. I finished the halfway point in 1:40 and was in first place at that point. Around mile 12, I started to cramp. First my calves cramped. Then my quads cramped. Then my bowels cramped (not a pretty sight). The last 13 miles were so hard. I had to stop and walk every half mile or so and try to get the cramping to stop. I tried squatting, stretching, drinking all of the electrolytes I could, but nothing was making them go away. But I finished. And all things considered, it wasn't so bad. I was the 59th finisher of about 400 runners, and I'm guessing about the 15th to 20th woman.

I'm also down a toenail and one of the cramps hasn't completely subsided. Eddie says he's sure that the cramping was a side effect of the virus. Lucky me. But I'm already thinking about the next one and how I'll run smarter next time (without mono, for sure). Yeah, 3:55 was 15 minutes above my goal pace, but considering how I was feeling, I'm just glad I finished.

I'll post pictures when my mom wakes up. They're on her camera. She walked the half marathon and I think it did her in!