May 29, 2011



Quick note: The narrator isn’t actually named throughout the book, so we’ll just call her Wifey.

We open with a strange scene in which Wifey indicates that the couple is living as expats somewhere and something shady happened to ruin their previous happiness at Manderley (husband Max’s big house). Wifey is working as a young, personal assistant for an obnoxious American woman. (Even in the 1930s we were thought of as obnoxious. Sigh.) She meets Max de Winter, who is somewhat famous and owns a magnificent house and estate back in England. He’s mourning his dead, drowned wife, Rebecca.

Wifey and Max fall in love quickly, get married even quicker, and after a (you guessed it) quick honeymoon, head off to Manderley to live happily ever after. Only problem is that Wifey is a young, inexperienced, wimp. She’s terrified of the admittedly scary housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who worshipped Rebecca. Wifey spends most of the book afraid she can’t live up to Rebecca’s memory because Rebecca was so funny, pretty, smart, and awesome.

Turns out that Rebecca was all of those things and also a complete psychopath. Max was never in love with her, and when he discovered her true nature after they married, he didn’t want to risk public ridicule by divorcing her and revealing all the dirty laundry. After a few years of her shenanigans, when enough was enough, he shot her in anger when she announced she was pregnant by another man. Body was disposed of at sea and the whole affair played off as accidental drowning.

Well, the boat is found with Rebecca on it. An inquiry ensues, which rules that it was suicide and the body Max identified was all just a horrible, grief-stricken mistake. All would be fine (Wifey, by the way, has absolutely no problem with the fact that her husband is a murderer) except that Rebecca’s lover and first cousin (ew) shows up and threatens blackmail because he suspects the truth.

More inquiry ensues, which reveals that Rebecca was not pregnant, but had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She goaded Max on purpose hoping for the quick end she got. Justice is satisfied that she had motive for suicide, but lover boy and Mrs. Danvers are both firmly in the Rebecca camp and pledge revenge. On the drive back to Manderley from the inquiry Max and Wifey discover that Mrs. Danvers has set fire to the house and fled. End scene.

Other Thoughts

  • Rebecca is billed as a “world-famous bestseller of romantic suspense” (on the cover of my book). It was not suspenseful. It was rather tiresome for long portions as Wifey moaned about how scared she was of the help and how madly in love she was with Max. It only got really exciting at the end.
  • It was also not romantic. The romance between Wifey and Max seemed so one-sided and fake. For the vast majority of the novel it seems like Max only married her because he was lonely. When he finally confesses murder, he also confesses his wild passion for Wifey. Not only is it very strange timing, but it seems as though he’s just trying to get her on his side. Few of his actions afterward imply that he’s madly in love with her either.
  • How is it that a girl who is scared of her own shadow and doesn’t like to order around the butler is OK with murder? Not just OK, but willing to cover for her murdering husband? Not a second of doubt there. This is not a normal girl.
  • Why do we not get to know her name? The book even mentions at one point that it’s quite unusual. What’s the point? To place her further in Rebecca’s shadow? Is that even possible? Maybe it was a ploy to prevent the reader from identifying with her? I didn’t get it.
  • When Wifey shows up at Manderley, everything is being done exactly as Rebecca did it. The desk even still has Rebecca’s hand-written labels on the cubbies. Wifey is so timid that she doesn’t change a single thing! She doesn’t even take the labels off the cubbies. How much of a pushover do you have to be to so submit yourself to a dead woman you never met? Perhaps part of my problem with the book was that I wanted to slap Wifey for a large part of it.
Next on the novel list is The Hobbit. Ah, the return of our old friend Tolkien. I’ll have to gear up for more dwarf singing. In other reading progress, expect a post on my progress with the Bible sometime soon.

An Elmo Birthday Party

Well, when I was planning my spring Josh was going to miss H’s birthday. Rather than celebrate just us two, we decided to go down to Virginia and have a low key celebration with Nana and Nonno. Then we could have a real party when Josh got back. As it turned out, not only did we get to celebrate with the family in Virginia, but also with Grandma, Aunt Kaitie, Aunt Kim, Uncle Tim, and Daddy! But I’m still throwing her another party. Can’t stop me. Don’t try.

Our theme this time was Elmo. I went with cupcakes instead of a giant Elmo cake, and I have to say, they came out great. In case you know a short person who likes Elmo, here’s how I did it and some fun pictures of H’s big day.

I found Elmo cupcake papers at a local party store, because you can never have enough Elmo. I just used a standard box mix for the cake. I have to thank my Nana for reminding me to put the eggs in the mix. That could have been disastrous. The frosting I made from Good Housekeeping. It’s just your standard butter cream with a shit ton (technical term) of red dye in it. Homemade frosting is always better.

To make Elmo’s fur, I used a piping bag with a flower tip and just made little spots of frosting all over. It took a while, but wasn’t too time consuming. The hardest part was spacing the cupcakes out so they didn’t smush (also a technical term) together and ruin the edges.

The eyes were mini marshmallows. The noses, I feel, were a stroke of genius. Others online had used frosting or orange gumballs. I didn’t want to dye more frosting, and I didn’t think a gumball, which is windpipe-sized, would be a good idea for a two-year-old. Also, if you can’t eat it with your cupcake, why is it there? My solution was to use mandarin oranges. Instead of using the whole wedge, I cut thin slices of the individual wedges, giving me the perfect nose. The pupils and smile were just store-bought black decorating gel.

I frosted the cupcakes the night before but didn’t put the faces on right away. I was afraid the red would run into the eyes and the orange would bleed into the frosting. My lesson learned was that if possible, it would have been better to do all the decorating at once. Once the frosting was in the fridge it hardened, and I had to use a dab of the decorating gel to make sure the eyes stuck. Leaving a small reserve of frosting you can warm up for attaching the eyes would work as well.


Elmo is delicious!

Turning 2!

A little frosting on the face is a must.

Regardless, they were pretty tasty. The orange slice in the middle was actually a nice palette pleaser.

May 22, 2011


Disclaimer: The writer in me would like to note that much of this was written piecemeal over several days. To keep the emotion, I have not overly edited, so it may be choppy.

Miscarriage. What a horrible word. I did not trip. This isn’t about my posture (atrocious though it may be). I lost my baby. My baby died. Miscarriage doesn’t really cover it.

When you see that pink line you know that the baby inside of you is perfect. Before your child is ever born you have held her, sung to her, dressed her, watched her sleep, played with her, and every other thing you can think of. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been pregnant five minutes or five months, it’s all there—an entire life—in your heart.

This is why it is so inconceivable that anything could possibly be wrong with your baby. Statistics of how many pregnancies end in miscarriage (almost half) mean absolutely nothing. How could it possibly happen to me? My child is perfect. My heart told me so.

There are many causes of spontaneous miscarriage. I’ll never know what reason caused mine (I was 10 weeks, five days). While logic tells me that there was a good reason, that something must have been gravely wrong, my heart tells me that’s not good enough. In high school science class they called it a “genetic defect incompatible with life.” At the time those words were funny. Now their coldness fills me with rage.

It happened without warning last Sunday evening. The first sign was the blood. Yet after we knew what was happening, I look back and wonder if maybe my body knew. When I conceived H, I knew right away. I was positive I was pregnant. This time I was very doubtful. When I finally saw the positive test, I was thrilled, but I remained very nervous. When I had to get a blood test for my OB referral, I stressed over the result even though I was several weeks pregnant. I chalked up most of my anxiety to Josh’s absence. Once he got back, I told myself, everything would be fine. Relatively speaking, I told very few people. Some people knew we were trying and others guessed. I was tempted several times to shout it out, but I always stopped because I wanted to wait until I heard a heartbeat. I was never very sick with H, but even less so this time. I wasn’t sick for more than two weeks. I just thought I was really lucky.

Did I know? No. Does looking back on the “signs” help? Not really. Realizing after the fact that a week earlier my come-and-go belly stopped appearing doesn’t make anything that happened afterward any easier to bear.

My only comfort, small though it is, is that the baby never really developed. Something prevented it from developing, though it did implant and an egg sac formed. If I had heard the heartbeat before this happened, I know what it would make everything so much harder. For whatever reason, the timing just wasn’t right for this baby. It would have been too sick to live. That doesn’t mean that I mourn the loss any less.

I find myself again and again curled in a fetal-position ball on my bed. Not crying, just numb. I am supposed to be doing something—getting dressed, taking a shower—but outside the buoying presence of my parents and daughter, the bed calls to me. It says, “Come lay down your troubles with me. Just for a little while.” I’m so exhausted in these first days that I usually fall asleep. A few hours spent in blissful ignorance of the fact that my already cherished baby will never be born.

Occasionally I wish that I had the luxury of just wallowing the way I would if I didn’t have any kids. The rest of the time I am fiercely relieved to have my beautiful daughter here to remind me that it will all be OK. Of course, the worst ear infection with the highest, longest lasting fever ever has coincided with my loss. For a while we both suffered together.

But I am not a person prone to depression. This time with my bed must stop soon. I know it. But not today. Today it’s OK to lie down and let my mind drift. I just can’t stay. H is downstairs waiting.

I am officially on bed rest while my body recovers. I am not supposed to pick H up. Thankfully I have some of the best neighbors on the planet who came and helped until my parents arrived Monday morning. I could not have handled losing a child and caring for another very sick one at the same time. On Monday, while I was having the ultrasound that would fail to find my baby’s heartbeat, my dad was taking H to the pediatrician. Neither of those appointments could have been delayed. I could never have done both. Not that day.

Meanwhile Facebook is atwitter with announced pregnancies. I am unreservedly happy for each couple. I also wish I didn’t know. I wish I didn’t have to hear. If I hear them, I can’t stop my mind from comparing, being jealous, and being sad. It isn’t fair to those couples. But there it is. I imagine it’s like when you break up with someone. You’re not exactly overjoyed to have other girls run up to you and gush on their new romance. The feeling will pass. I hope it passes quickly.

On Friday I received a beautiful flower arrangement from my brother- and sister-in-law. I love them both, and I appreciate their thoughtfulness to send something because they are far away. The arrangement was all white—carnations and gladiolus. It looked like a funeral arrangement. I couldn’t keep it. I took it next door to my neighbor.

The rest of the day I felt fine. Josh got here very late Thursday night, and I didn’t even cry then. I thought seeing him would cause me to fall apart anew. We had a really normal “Saturday,” just hanging out and running errands. The flowers did me in. I tried to put them on the counter in the kitchen where we put flowers. They lasted 45 seconds before I had to get them out of the house. They screamed, “Loss!” at me.

I suppose this is how life will be for a while. I’ll be fine, and something will happen, and I won’t be fine. Maybe not just a while. Maybe it’ll be like this forever. I think that’s normal.

Every day from now on is a chance to be torn apart by grief or to trust that life will go on somehow. More because of H than anything, I cannot fall apart. I can and I will be sad. I’ll probably be sad for a long time. My grief, however, is soothed every time those chubby arms wrap round my neck and those pink lips kiss any little boo-boo.

Certainly, pregnancy has taken on new dimensions for me. Something that was never scary to me at all now seems like a perilous undertaking. I am sure like every woman who has lost a child, I fear that I will lose another. Statistics are in my favor. But I will never feel confident until I hear a heartbeat. I can’t let that stop me, no matter how scary it seems. Hopefully next time the timing will be right.

May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Being someone’s kid (as all of us are), I’ve always celebrated Mother’s Day. And it’s always been about saying thank you. Thank you for the kisses and hugs, the fixing boo boos, the stories, the cookies, and the playtime. Thank you for supporting me and cheering for me. Thank you for proof reading my essays and dropping me off for orchestra rehearsal. Thank you for helping me move, so many times.

Three generations of pretty women.

You buy a card and serve a sometimes barely edible breakfast in bed. You get flowers. When I was in kindergarten we hosted a Mother’s Day breakfast. I made a mom pin. It was a blue “Mom,” and I think my picture was in the “o.” If I go upstairs to my mom’s room, it’s probably in her jewelry box right now. We helped make the food, and I helped make the asparagus rolls. When I very proudly announced my culinary skills to my mom she smiled and yummed over the asparagus rolls. I didn’t find out for years that she kind of hated asparagus.

But now that I am a mom myself, I’ve discovered that there is this whole other secret side of Mother’s Day. You spend the day gazing adoringly at this creature (or creatures) that have made you a mother. And you burst with love and joy and pride. Today I find myself, even more than usual, staring at H and being amazed that I created such a perfect little girl.

I am thankful for her smile. For her words (more of them every day). For her kisses. For her dancing. For the way she runs through the house pumping her arms and shaking her butt, nose wrinkled, smile on her face. She made me a mother, and I could not be more thankful for that.

In a few years I’ll be attending a Mother’s Day breakfast. I’ll receive a pin, or a macaroni necklace, or a hand made card. I’ll munch an asparagus roll. H will be so proud that she is doing something special for her mommy. I will be so proud that my baby is such a happy, smart, beautiful little girl.

So, I think the best Mother’s Day sentiment I can express to my own mom today is to say, “I totally get it now.”

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