Life Review: 2018

Holy shit.

That pretty much sums up my 2018.  You may have noticed, I’ve been scarce (again).  Well, you can thank 2018 for that this time.  Let’s recap.

The Good

  • Went to Baltimore and essentially completed my Masters thesis
  • Started bullet journalling
  • Surprised my mom on Mother’s Day
  • Kidlet moved in with us
  • Awesome visit with friends
  • 10 year anniversary with the hubs
  • Had an awesome visit with the whole family
  • New Bean on the way (October)
  • Interviewed my nonprofit role model
  • Led my nonprofit to their most successful event ever
  • Elected as President of a start-up nonprofit
  • Finished several knitting projects

The Bad

  • 5 year anniversary of grandma’s death
  • Got fired
  • Super, super sick
  • Have you seen the state of politics lately?

The Ugly

  • My mom died.

So, yes, Holy Shit is about all you need to know and you instantly understand my 2018.  I’d say I broke even.

There is one silver lining to this whole nightmare: I’ve learned that I am made of freaking diamonds.  I had no idea what I could handle until this year decided I needed to handle everything, pretty much all at the same time.  That whole mom dying, super sick, event managing and getting fired thing happened in the same month, the last three in the same week.  And, yes, I struggled, but I’m still standing nonetheless.

I’d be a fool to say I did it on my own.  Hardly.  I have the most amazing friends and family that anyone could ever hope to have as a support system.  I will be forever grateful to those who held me up when I fell before the finish line.  I couldn’t ask for a better crew.

Finally, a note on 2019.  I’m not challenging you at all.  I really just want to be friends.  If you could cut me some slack next year, that would be the most amazing gift ever.


Book Review: Small Great Things

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My experience with Jodi Picoult’s novels has been hit or miss. Small Great Things, however, was a home run and it stayed with me long after I put the book down.

Like many of Picoult’s novels, Small Great Things is told from two perspectives. One is a white supremacist whose son has died and the other is the black nurse who was tending to the boy at the time of his demise. Both accounts are terribly difficult to read and Picoult has done an amazing job bringing both sides of the argument to life. There were times that I had no choice but to sympathize with a man over the loss of his son. Two pages later, I found myself repulsed by his words and actions. It was an intense read.

As always, Picoult has done her research. The medical facts and legal notes stick to reality relentlessly making for a powerful story. I applaud her for the digging she did into the White Supremacist psyche. I know that could not have been easy.

This is a book that cannot be ignored in this day and age. It’s important to understand each other, even when the other side is spouting hate and nonsense, there is a human underneath the doctrine. I’m not expecting this book to change the world, but it certainly presents the human side of people that seem entirely un-human. This book is a must read across the board.

Book Review: Replacement Child

Replacement ChildReplacement Child by Judy Mandel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Replacement Child is a very well written and gripping memoir. Judy Mandel is the third child born to a family that has suffered immense loss. Judy’s eldest sister was killed and her surviving sister Linda was badly burned after a plane crashed into their small apartment building. Following the tragedy, Judy is born and it quickly becomes apparent to her that she will never be the child her parents’ buried though she was created to fill the void.

This is a personal story but that does not mean that Mandel knew it by heart. Rather, Mandel doggedly assembled every newspaper clipping, photo, diary entry, and scraps of paper left behind by her deceased parents. What she discovered was the strength of her parents and their struggle to overcome immeasurable loss and heartbreak. Through her research and her own experiences as a mother, Mandel seems to find her own peace with her painful upbringing.

Replacement Child is divided into nearly 70 small chapters. There are 19 chapters recounting the moments before the plane crash and a mother’s gut-wrenching choices following the impact. These are interspersed with 50 memoir chapters describing Mandel’s difficult childhood and her struggle to find herself. The short chapters seem purposeful, as if it’s too hard for the reader to take in the tragedy all at once.

This is a difficult story to read but it is a beautiful tale of a family trying to overcome something that is insurmountable. It is a testament to redemption and power of the human spirit.

Book Review: Faultlines

FaultlinesFaultlines by Barbara Taylor Sissel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At its core, Faultlines is about the consequences of drunk driving. It begins with an early morning phone call — the kind that no parent wants to get. Sandy’s son and her nephew have been in a car accident. One boy won’t make it, the other will. Two sisters, two mothers must deal with the fact that one son killed the other. A tenuous past is broken further at the exact moment when family is needed the most.

Meanwhile, other strange twists and turns take our characters on a spellbinding ride. However, it’s a bit predictable in their resolution. The writing was good enough to keep me engrossed in the story so even though I was correct in many of my assumptions, I was ok with it. Good writing goes a long way!

In the end, I’m really on the fence about this one. I did enjoy the story at face value. Everything gets tied up in a nice little bow in the end and it just seemed too easy for me. I like a little tension, especially for such a grave topic. Overall, this isn’t a bad book and it does demonstrate the healing power of forgiveness and openness. Certainly worth a read.

Luctor et Emergo: A Commentary on the Ferguson Riots

Saint Louis is a very racially segregated area. It always has been and despite the fact that people try to hide it, the events in Ferguson have ripped that wound open and it goes deeper than many people realized. While I try to keep my mind free of the hate, anger, and fear I readily admit to falling into the old stereotypes that Saint Louis worked hard to breed into my mind.

That being said, I don’t know what happened on August 9th. I don’t know if Michael Brown was trying to surrender like witnesses said. I don’t know if he was charging Darren Wilson like the police said. I don’t know if his wounds were defensive like the prosecution said. I don’t know if they were offensive like the defense said.  What I do know is that a family lost a child. A community lost itself in violence. A long forgotten past has been thrown into the media circus and a city is trying to come to terms with an unstable present and an unstable future.

Rioting and looting and burning down buildings doesn’t show solidarity for the black community. It doesn’t help bring about peace. It won’t change what has happened in the past. Rather, it reinforces old stereotypes that run deep in the white Saint Louis community. The city is destroying itself when really it needs to destroy it’s people. The people need to change: both white and black.

Yes, in Saint Louis many of the white people have a very negative view of blacks. But many blacks present themselves as thugs. Charles Barkley recently said something that needs to be taken to heart, not just in Saint Louis, but around the country and around the world:

“We as black people, we are never going to be successful, not because of you white people, but because of other black people. It’s a dirty dark secret, you know when there are young black kids doing well in school the loser kids tell ’em, ‘Oh, you’re acting white.’

“For some reason we are brainwashed to think if you’re not a thug or an idiot you are not black enough.”

This is important because that quote IS Saint Louis. Where the black kids who do well in school are just “white kids with a year-round tan.” Where black kids who want to succeed are pressured by the thugs because they are too white. It’s the thug culture that is the issue, not the black community.

I can’t pretend to understand what it is like to discriminated against because of skin color. I can’t pretend to understand what it is like to be afraid to send a child into the world and not know if they will be killed because of the wrong skin color. But I do know that if it is going to change we need to first change ourselves and then we can change the world.

This is a polarizing issue. I feel strongly about it because my family is in the middle of it. Others feel strongly about it for a different reason. The bottom line is that neither side is right. The police royally fucked up when they killed that boy and left his dead body in the street for over four hours. But the community, black and white, fucked up by rioting and looting. Nobody has the high ground anymore. All we can do is join together and dig ourselves out of the hole we all took part in creating.