Jun 27, 2012

Book Review: Monday Mornings

I would say that this book was an out-of-the-norm choice for me, but I'm beginning to find that I have no norm. Although I do tend towards fiction, I'm not usually drawn towards medical stories.

I made the mistake of wandering by the new books re-shelving cart at the library and Monday Mornings by Sanjay Gupta caught my eye. A book written by a neurosurgeon about the good, bad and the ugly of the daily lives of five doctors/surgeons at a large hospital in Michigan.

It's all too easy to elevate men and women in these roles as infallible super-humans. This is more than a job, this is more than a skill - it's a calling & a passion. You don't become a doctor for the money, or you would never last. I think about that with K sometimes: when she's a nurse, she'll be dealing with life and death on a daily basis. Pain and suffering. Second chances. What a profound thing to take home every night after work.

This book was real, the characters were multi-dimensional and diverse, the situations were heart-stopping and riveting. I seriously read the entire book in two sittings, I couldn't put it down. I love the humanity that Gupta brought to his surgeons, what it's like to hold someone's life in your hands, no matter if you're having a good day or a bad day. The competition and comradery between the doctors. I appreciated the author's technical knowledge and read with bated breath as doctors performed brain surgery.

This book brought extraordinary perspective with the individual developments of these five doctors coming to terms with their shortcomings, gaining appreciation of the things that matter most in life, and pushing themselves to their limits.

I would recommend this book to anyone, you don't need to be interested in medicine - it's really more of a study of being human. You might even learn a little something about the inner-workings of a hospital! I hope this is only the first of many fiction novels from Dr. Gupta.

Jun 26, 2012

Long Distance Love

Is it strange that my heart is overwhelmingly happy right now for two girls I've never met? I've hardly even known their blog more than a week or two, but I seriously feel so filled with joy on their behalf right now I don't think I can go to sleep. You've probably already heard of What Wegan Did Next. It's a blog by an adorable femme lesbian couple, Whitney & Megan (aka Wegan) who's been enduring a long distance relationship for a good four years. Well, it's not the relationship they were not enduring, it was the long distance. I refer to my relationship as "long distance", but me and K have nothing on Wegan. They are from the UK and the US. We're talking a transfreakingatlantic long-distance.

Anyway, the reason I am so ridiculously happy on their behalf is that Whitney was granted her visa to move to the UK, and they are officially together, as of today (you can follow frantic reuniting tweets @whatwegandid). Together together together. Like, permanently. They get to live together, and have a legally recognized union (not quite marriage, but still, the UK grants civil partnerships), do everyday things together. Wake up every morning next to the person they love!


I want that. I want my baby to come and never leave. Or I want to go, and never leave. I would take either. And I try to be patient, and I mostly am. But there's always that ache deep down, because she's not here. And I can't wrap myself around her while I drift off to sleep. And we can't sit and cuddle and laugh over the latest episode of whatever.

We're in that strange in-between stage in life right now. Important future things are forming, and it takes time. Jobs, school, family, life is evolving. I'm just counting on it evolving to a place where you will find us together together together.

So for now, it's the joyous occasional weekend, and in between: a text, a photo, a phone conversation, a card in the mail. A string of little bits of information and love passed back and forth to sustain a long distance relationship.

From K: bird extravaganza 

From Ruth: Goodmorning lovey

From Ruth: Miss you little bug

From K: T-10 days and counting...

From Ruth: Look babe!!! Baby raccoons!!!

From K: They miss you

From K: Loved the card babe

Jun 14, 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

I can already see you rolling your eyes at me! I know, I know. I basically just recognized that I would probably read it at some point in time, why not just get it over with? I had to understand why on earth this book by E.L. James has become so wildly popular.

So, after reading it, do I understand why this book has become so wildly popular? No. No I do not.

Oh my. I would have to say neither my subconscious, my inner goddess, nor I myself enjoyed this book. Secretly, I expected I might like it, in a guilty pleasure sort of way, kind of in the way I like True Blood or some chick lit. But I couldn't even appreciate it on my most pathetic levels. It was painful. Thank god I didn't pay any money for it. The poor library is going to be stuck with so many copies after this craze has passed, I am embarrassed for them...

It's really no use to you for me to just rail against it, so I'll try to break it down a little. I think it really boils down to three specific things I disliked:

The writing
This is the first thing you will notice. I don't claim to have any professional writing certification. And I don't know much about the author--I'm pretty sure she doesn't claim to be a great writer. It sounds like she was just playing out her fantasies in some Twilight fan fiction. God knows how it got so big! I'm sure she was just as surprised as anyone. I have nothing against you Erika, we are all certainly entitled to write down whatever our loins desire. But the writing is very amateur and distracting from the story. The repetition. The scattered thoughts misdirecting the reader. The poor dialogue between characters. The painfully obvious.

The characters
I wanted to like the female lead, Miss Anastasia Steele. But I could not. She was supposedly a "bookish" sort of shy girl, the brainiac English major. Quirky and clumsy and clever. (Loosely based on a Bella character from Twilight?) In most cases, this is the character I should relate to. The innocent, the smart one, the one who lacks self-confidence. But after spending the entire book in her head, I found her disturbingly vapid. Seriously, nothing at all substantial in her brain the entire book. Adding in a few quotes from Tess of the D'Ubervilles was not enough to convince me she was a sharp one.
And don't even get me started on this damn Christian Grey. He was very unlikeable. Don't think that just because he had a crack-whore mother until he was four I'm going to excuse away his urge to beat Ana raw before he fucks her. His whole story is completely unrealistic, he's this million-billionaire for some international company that he started, even though he's 20-something. If he is supposed to be based on Edward, he fell far short. He's possessive, cold, moody and inhumane. I'll admit, I don't understand the world of dominant-submissive lifestyles... but this didn't make me want to understand it.

The story
There's really not much of a story, actually. She throws in a few paragraphs of half-assed scenes. Ana at work, Ana with family or friends, a graduation. But within a page she is with Christian again and his penis is in her vagina. The sex is nominally interesting at first, but by the millionth time it's happened, I am actually bored during the sex and looking forward to something else happening afterwards. Very repetitive. Very predictable. Ana always can't WAIT to have it. Christian always can't RESIST fucking her (he specifically says he only "fucks", he doesn' t make love, so excuse my language). Their actual relationship is very twisted. He basically owns her, and she pathetically will do whatever he wants just to keep him. I'm so annoyed by the end of the book at the lack of anything happening EXCEPT them having sex, I feel not the slightest pang when the novel ends abruptly, just relief that it's done.

Well, there you have it! My Fifty Shades review. I know a lot of people hated this book, but I also know there are some diehard fans who loved it. I won't judge you if you loved it. Ok, I might, just a little. But we're all entitled to read whatever trash makes us happy, and if this is your trash, enjoy! Everyone else, save those hours of your life for something slightly more worthwhile. Sleeping maybe? Reading Twilight? Or maybe watching this clip from Ellen...

Jun 12, 2012

A Life Well Lived

My grandpa passed away this weekend. Five days later, after meeting hundreds and hundreds of people, after hearing story after story of his life, I am stunned by the impact one life can make. I knew already who he was. But I don't live in his town, and I wasn't there to know everyone who knew him on a daily basis. A father of seven, a grandfather of sixteen, a great-grandfather of four. Numbers still growing! None of us would be here if it weren't for him. But it wasn't just us--it was countless friends and neighbors, fellow veterans, co-workers, church members, an entire community. And probably quite a handful that he creamed at bowling, horseshoe and card games. He was very competitive.

I think the thing I'll always remember most about my grandpa Ed, was his wry sense of humor. He was always giving grandma a hard time and having all of us chuckling at his wise-cracks. He could make just about any situation funny. He loved life, he lived it to the absolute fullest and packed more into 82 years than most people could in several lifetimes. He was someone people just enjoyed spending time with.

I've spent the last few days in a strange sort of daze. I knew his time was coming. I was lucky to spend some time with him a couple months ago. He's a man who was active all the time and he spent the last 4 or 5 months of his life pretty much bedridden. That alone might have killed him!

This was my first real loss of someone I love since I became a "non-believer". It really changes your perspective on death. Before, it was always: "it's not the end, I'll see you again in heaven". But now... I can't honestly say I believe in any sort of afterlife. I don't know if I'll see him again. I think more likely, I won't. Strange enough, I'm at peace with that. I'm at peace with the belief that life ends when our breath leaves our bodies. We return to the earth. New lives are born. And the world goes on turning.

It sounds cold and callous, but I don't feel cold. I feel incredibly grateful for the time I had with him, I am thankful for who he was and the impact he made on others, and I am happy that he is at rest for his sake - it is the end of his suffering. Yes, I will miss him. I will always miss him, and my other grandpa. I'm only 25 and there will be much more death in my life. I would prefer that no one went before me, but that is just selfishness.

Grandpa, I will love you always. We will miss you so dearly, especially when we're all gathered together. You had a life well lived, and you were (and always will be) so well-loved.

A 1930 Model. This was a special guy.
Bean bag racing two years ago at our reunion.
Modeling grandpa's hat collection with cousins, as kids.
He made all of us "medals".
My family at his funeral today.
His resting place. 

Jun 6, 2012

The Quiet Between Breaths

I've had a life-long love of swimming. I grew up spending every day of the summers going to swim team practices, and then coming back to the pool in the afternoon to play with my siblings and visit the snack bar during breaks. My favorite were our diving games in the deep-end.

In high school I joined the team on a whim my junior year. I missed swimming. I knew I wouldn't be the fastest or the most valuable team member. But I actually wanted to do it for the sake of doing it. Even if it meant damn 5:30 am practices.

I joined the Y earlier this year. Life has crowded in and I find excuses not to go. But recently I've finally been getting into the habit of swimming again. The truth is, I know I'm not doing it just because "it's good for me". There is a huge laundry list of things I'd be doing daily if I did everything that is good for me. Something about swimming strikes a chord with me, it always has. I need the "thinking time" swimming creates in my life.


Swimming creates a quietness. The space between your breaths. The rhythm of your strokes. You get lost in it and it clears your mind. Lap after lap, you listen to the bubbles as you exhale. Breathe in...breathe out, out, out.

You are suspended in the blue, chlorine-filled water. You watch the tiles gliding by below as you pass along, almost weightless on the surface. It is smooth, cool and calming. There may be other people in the pool, but you are alone, just you and the bubbles. Your body is working muscles from head to toe to propel you, but you don't sweat a drop.

I've really never found anything like it.

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