November 24, 2011

Being Thankful

It’s been a rough year. When I first saw several people joining in the 30 days of thanks on Facebook, I just couldn’t be positive enough to join in. I was feeling quite unthankful.

Today I am seized by the spirit of the holiday. The truth is that I have a very long list of things to be thankful for. It’s almost embarrassing. I have wonderful family and friends, a loving husband, a beautiful daughter, security, safety, really cute shoes, etc. But the one thing that I am most thankful for today is the opportunity to try again.

For example, today I made cupcakes from a DC Cupcakes recipe. Caramel apple cupcakes. It’s an apple cupcake with caramel filling and cream cheese frosting. You make your own caramel to fill the cupcakes. Making the caramel was actually what I was most excited about. I’ve make cupcakes plenty of times, and I always make my own frosting (instantly makes it taste like you’ve been slaving for days, but it’s super easy). But never have I made caramel.

I made it twice today. The first time I didn’t plan ahead well enough and at the last minute I was standing at the stove, frantically stirring my sugar and yelling for my dad to bring over butter and vanilla. The directions said to add in the heavy cream to achieve “a beautiful golden brown caramel color.” Mine was really dark brown. At first I didn’t think much of it.

Thankfully I tasted the caramel before putting it into 24 cupcakes. It was dark because I had burned the sugar. The stream of expletives I longed to spew nearly choked me. H was in the next room, and two is a little young for that number of F-bombs.

Once you burn the sugar there’s no saving it. The whole thing had to be thrown out, and I did it again. Thankfully, I had enough cream and butter. This time I kept the heat much lower. It was so low that I nearly ruined it a second time. I was stomping upstairs to get my shoes for a mad dash to the store when my mom pointed out that a little extra heat might solve the problem and dissolve the lumps that had formed. She was right.

I haven’t gotten to eat a whole cupcake yet. But I tried a little bit of a core with some caramel and icing. Heaven.

I share this story because it’s a nice metaphor for 2011. Complete and total shit followed by a bumpy but (we hope) ultimately successful comeback. So I am thankful for do overs. I am thankful that it’s not over until I say it’s over. I’m thankful that I have a team that will back me up. I’m thankful that there will be more tomorrows.

Also, I’m thankful for this brandy slushie I’m about to consume. That’s good too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

November 14, 2011


There is no timeline for grief which you can set. This is why it so discomfits the people around the griever. You cannot predict its wanderings. It comes into your life and stays for however long it sees fit. You become a prisoner of sorts. You breathe in and out. You get out of bed. You cook food and eat it. You take care of your children. You even go out with your friends. Meanwhile, Grief forces you to live as if you were in a cage that is almost tall enough to stand in and almost long enough to lie in. You can’t actually stand up, and you can’t actually lie down. Most of the time you crouch and are generally uncomfortable. You long to be free, to run, to not feel the pressure of your little cage of grief. To not fear turning around too fast and smacking into a wall of grief.

Your little cage follows you to school and work and home again. You stand up too quickly and jam your head into grief. Someone bumps you and you collide with the wall. Grief hammers you from all sides until you learn to stay very very still inside your cage. You learn how to move inside it as if you were playing Operation. You don’t touch the sides, the grief doesn’t ring the buzzer, and you have another moment of peace. That’s all well and good, so long as nothing surprises you or changes quickly.

You can keep your old life, but not actually take part. You watch yourself eating, playing, and laughing. You wonder how you do these things. Why there is a necessity to keep moving. Why you do or do not feel joy. Whatever the answers, you wonder if that’s normal. Grief just smirks at you.

Grief eventually gets bored of you. You fail to react quite so spectacularly to its prods and pokes. It becomes so familiar that you think it’s normal and perhaps even begin to ignore its presence. The cage gradually gets bigger, roomier. I’ve been told that one day you’ll stand up and find that you are standing erect. You’ll lie down and find that you’re comfortable. You’ll step into your life and it will feel as if it is again fully yours. You look around with astonishment to find that your jailer has left.

Grief, though, is a terrible packer. When it leaves, it always manages to forget a sock or hat. When you find it, you trip and fall flat on your face. It can take all of your effort to throw the vile thing away from you. Yet, you can never throw it out, because it isn’t something you can control. It belongs to Grief.

But after a while, even that smelly sock can’t trip you. You learn how to avoid looking at it too closely, how to kick it aside while tacitly ignoring it. You walk on. You actually walk on.

Or so I’ve heard. Grief has not yet left me. It’s sitting just over there, and it seems rather amused with me at the moment. It taps its watch to remind me that it will be here all night, and when I wake in the morning, it will be there too.

November 6, 2011

The Time Traveler's Wife

There is no easy way to give a synopsis of this book. There’s, this is shocking, a lot of time traveling. Taking it roughly chronologically, Clare meets Henry when she’s a little girl. He time travels and spends time with her throughout her whole childhood, and she falls in love with him. When they finally meet when she’s in college, he is meeting her for the first time, because it was future self that had traveled back. (You can see how this can get confusing.) Either way, they fall in love and get married. They win the lottery, do very well in the stock market, and decide to try and have a kid. Many, many, many miscarriages later, they successfully give birth to a little girl named Alba. She takes strongly after her father and is also a time traveler.

A side note: In this book time traveling is a genetic condition. It’s somewhat akin to epilepsy. Henry’s doctor actually isolates the genes and makes time traveling mice that he uses to try and find a “cure.” Also, time travelers can’t take anything but themselves through time. This means they show up naked a lot.

Continuing on, Henry and Clare, despite a lot of heart break while trying to have a baby and a lot of tough situations caused by time traveling, are very much in love. Their happiness, however, is short lived. When Alba is five Henry time travels and ends up naked in January in Chicago. By the time he gets back to the present he’s hypothermic and his feet are so frostbitten they have to be amputated above the ankles. This is very bad for a time traveler. Showing up naked means that you very often have to run for your life.

When Henry is 43, after losing his feet, he travels back in time and shows up at Clare’s house during deer hunting season and is accidentally shot by her brother. He dies. Clare just about completely loses it. The book ends with a brief glimpse of some of Henry’s stolen moments with an older Alba courtesy of dual time traveling and a tantalizing moment when Henry travels forward to Clare’s old age and sees her one last time.

Other Thoughts:
  • While the movie is very rarely better than the book, in this case, the movie is still good. It actually follows the book pretty closely. I can see why they made certain changes for the sake of the movie, though they still managed to keep the flavor of the book. To be fair, I saw the movie first. Usually I am more forgiving of the movie when I read the book after I see it.
  •  It was so nice to read a love story that shows how strong and good love can be despite dramatic obstacles. So often I am yelling at characters in books, movies, and TV shows who, when faced with the slightest little obstacles, just give up on their love. You’re moving away? I guess we have to break up! That is not real life. I can tell you from experience that when you love someone you fight for that person.
  • This segues nicely into my next point. Being married to a time traveler apparently has some uncanny resemblances to being married to an Air Force pilot. They both leave suddenly and unexpectedly. You don’t necessarily know where they are or how long they’ll be gone. You live a strange double life in which you both do and do not have a husband. (A physically present husband. No hanky panky going on.) I am, however, quite thankful that of the two I picked the pilot.
  • I appreciated her take on the whole time traveling causing paradoxes thing. The story, which was hard enough to follow, would have been made impossible if every time he traveled he was in danger of causing some cosmic rift. Things that happened will happen and you can’t change them. All you can do is be present in the present and make the best decisions you can. Actually it’s wise advice for all of us.
  • Reading books with miscarriages in them have a whole new meaning for me now. I wish I could say that I would be as strong (or crazy) as Clare is to keep going, but I’m not sure I would be. I was just glad to know ahead of time that she would be rewarded with Alba.
  • I was a little disappointed with that last time traveling scene when he sees Clare as an old woman. We didn’t get any details at all, which left the reader free to her own interpretation. I just couldn’t decide if they held each other lovingly, if she told him about how wonderful her life had been or how awful, if Alba was still alive, if she had kids, if those kids were time travelers, etc. There were so many variables. Plus there was a sort of unsettling feeling that she had literally spent her life waiting for him. That made me sad to think that because she knew he was coming, she never moved on. If she chose to never remarry then I’d rather it be without feeling the obligation that she knew he was coming. The fact that she knew made it feel forced.

Definitely an excellent read that fell somewhere between chick lit and serious novel. It was a nice oasis before we get into some heavy stuff. Next on the list is technically Gone with the Wind. I couldn’t make it to the library quickly enough, however, so we are detouring down to number 84 and reading The Remains of the Day because I had it in the house.  Also, there should be another Bible posting soon. It’s slow going, but I’m doing it.

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