Sterilized at 27

When I was younger, I always thought of motherhood in the abstract. There would only be one baby, for I surely did not want to manage more than that. I was curious to see in which funny ways my genetics would mix with another person’s. Would this kid have my temperament? My blue eyes?  Also, I knew my parents would want a grandchild, and I knew that society would expect me to do what women have done since the dawn of human existence. I would raise this child, make sure its basic needs were met, then send it off to college at the age of 18 and be done with my parental responsibilities forever.

I was not yet 18 before I realized that life didn’t work like that. At this time, I also became fully aware that I had a choice. I did not owe it to anyone to become a mother against my will. It would be a disservice to any potential child to bring it into this world when my motivations were clearly lacking. At this point, I made the decision that I would not have children. This was done with little fanfare at the time; I just came to this conclusion and went about my life.

I was 20 the first time I asked to be permanently sterilized. I knew my chances of getting someone to say yes were nil, but I figured I would start putting it out into the universe then. I did not want to spend the rest of my fertile years on hormonal birth control and constantly panicking that one small misstep could end in pregnancy.

I asked many doctors over the following 7 years and got many variations of no until September of 2015. I made the appointment and went it with my typical skepticism. My doctor walked in the room, and I braced myself. I gave my perfected, memorized spiel and then waited for yet another no. Imagine my shock when he told me that my reasoning was sound and that he felt that it was perfectly acceptable to help a woman like me in my quest for permanent birth control.

We immediately began discussing options. I could get Essure, a coil that induces fibrosis and blocks the fallopian tubes. I immediately discounted this, as I have heard of way too many serious complications resulting from the surgery. I could also go for a standard tubal ligation, a procedure that would involve clamping the fallopian tubes, but that did not seem to have the permanency that I was looking for. He then offered a new-to-me option – a laparoscopic bilateral salpingectomy, which is the removal of the fallopian tubes. This would bring my chances of being unable to conceive naturally to very-nearly 100%. Studies have also shown that there may be a correlation between this procedure and reducing the risk of ovarian cancer, since it is believed that many forms of the cancer originate in the fallopian tubes. My mind was made up pretty quickly; I wanted the salpingectomy. We discussed pre-op appointments and counseling, set a surgery date, and officially got the ball rolling.

This is my journey through the process of getting sterilized as a childless, single, 27-year-old woman. It will not be completely comprehensive, but in an effort to be an open book and be honest about the procedure I will do my best to cover as much as possible.

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It’s Been Twenty Years Already?!

Many things in my life tend to gather dust. Despite telling myself that I will use kitchen gadget or piece of exercise equipment, it inevitably ends up abandoned in some corner of my apartment.

My life has been weird for the past year. I uprooted myself and moved to a new area for a job opportunity in January, but then real life walloped me right in the face. I suffered some major personal losses, as well as a nearly debilitating bout of severe anemia that has hospitalized me twice since March – both times just barely avoiding a blood transfusion. I admit it; I am tired. I am bone-weary. I made some really good decisions and some really bad decisions in 2015 (although, interestingly, the best decision would not have been possible without the worst decision), and I am trying to maintain a degree of optimism that 2016 won’t hit me as hard.

Even though the illness and other issues have knocked me almost down and out, I still have good moments. During those moments, I tend to go through my apartment and find some dusty thing, wipe it off, and put it back to use. One time it was a copy of Slaughterhouse-Five that I haven’t read in years. I also dusted off a video game and took it for another spin. I even cleaned off my hand mixer and made a home-cooked meal for the first time in ages. Even though it has come dangerously close to a lost cause, I am now going to dust off this blog and see what I can make of it.

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It’s Been Twenty Years Already?!

I might be a baby of the eighties, but I am a child of the nineties. I had just turned two when we went into 1990. That decade was full of pop culture that still holds a special place in my heart – especially the music. All of it – the grunge, the hip-hop, the nu-metal, the Jazzercise dance music, the silly pop.

Skipping forward a few years, I got a LiveJournal in mid-2002. It was back when you had to have a code to join, and I had been trying for ages to snag one. My LiveJournal was full of exactly what you would expect from a melodramatic 14 year old in the transition from middle school to high school – whining about my parents, angsting over friend fights, and frequently typing out, “MUSIC = LIFE!”. I have locked it down so the general public cannot stumble upon it and relive my embarrassing teen years, but I kept it up there to occasionally revisit and reflect on how much time has passed. I cannot believe it has been nearly 14 years since I started that silly little online journal.

Thinking about that got me further down the “It’s been how long??” rabbit hole. This is my 10-year high school reunion year. How have I been out of high school for 10 years? How was 2006 a whole decade ago? I am still thinking the nineties were 10 years ago!

All of this is to say that 1996 was 20 freaking years ago. The albums that came out in 1996 are just a year shy of being able to drink. If these albums were human, they might be in college, or married, or still living at home smoking cigarettes and sneaking their parents’ booze until they are old enough to buy their own.

So, join me as I marvel at the fact that these albums will be turning 20 at some point this year. All information and photos were gathered from Wikipedia (so while I hope the release date information is accurate, it may be off a bit), and all music videos are from YouTube. I chose to focus on the radio singles since that is how I was introduced to all of these albums, but there are plenty of good songs that were not released as singles. Despite my parents’ best effort, I went out of my way to listen to music with those Parental Advisory stickers, so be aware that some of these songs posted have some language.  Enjoy feeling old!

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The Culture of Shame

All of my good intentions for keeping this blog running on a regular basis seem to have failed. My life suddenly exploded with a new job, a move, and personal hardships. It has been a wild eight months – some good and some bad. That is all a post for a different time, though. I have finally been brought back to my blog because of a phenomenon that I find incredibly disturbing.

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Over the past few years, I have seen several posts on Facebook that involve public shaming. As embarrassing as this is to admit, I am sure I have even partaken in this to some degree. You see someone who looks a certain way or is doing something out of the norm, you snap a picture on your phone, and you upload it to Facebook.

Some of them are posted with the intent of being humorous, such as People of Walmart (for those who are unaware, People of Walmart is a website where users can submit photos of people they come across shopping at Walmart who they find funny or ridiculous). The entire premise of the site made me slightly uncomfortable. While some of the people in the photos did seem absurd to me, I also know that I do not always make a concerted effort to look presentable if I am running to Walmart for a few items.

There was also the personal trainer who posted photos of an overweight woman at a baseball game. He commented on what the woman was eating and insisted that her lifestyle was not okay and could impede other peoples’ enjoyment of the event. I found that one downright disturbing as a woman who has struggled with weight issues nearly my entire life. I shudder to think of any of the times someone could have taken a photo of me to complain about me having the audacity to be fat in a public place.

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The most upsetting instance of public shaming I have seen is parents shaming their children. Videos pop up on Facebook that show a man shooting his daughter’s laptop with a .45 caliber gun after reading a post from her complaining about the chores she has to do. Many of the comments commended the man for showing his daughter that her selfish behavior would not be tolerated. There are also several photos floating around of young men who were given haircuts to look like they were balding because, and I quote, “So u wana act grown…well now u look grown too” (sic).

These stories always made me uncomfortable, but a recent story has completely turned my stomach and broke my heart. A young teen was filmed by her dad after he hacked off most of her hair. There are also (unconfirmed) rumors that her father then went to the school and had the principal pull his daughter out of the running for student council in front of classmates because of her behavior. That afternoon, the girl jumped off of a bridge to her death. While there were probably many factors leading to this suicide, it is not illogical to believe that this public shaming was a catalyst for this tragedy.

Being a preteen and a teenager is hard. Puberty kicks your butt, and you are dealing with all new emotions that make you feel like you’ve been dropkicked out of orbit. These feelings almost universally lead to acting out and pushing boundaries. Teens will make highly overdramatic statements. Here is an actual quote from an online journal I kept as a teenager:

I could punch my parents right now. It is SATURDAY. Jesus. Mom actually came in and woke me up at freaking 9 o clock, and the second I got downstairs Dad starts harping on about all the crap I have to do. Shut up shut up!!! It is the weekend. I don’t have to do shit for you.

And that was just the beginning. I was furious that my parents expected me to take out the trash, vacuum, and mow the lawn before I went to the mall (all chores that I surely had the entire week to do and had continually put off). Looking back, all I can do is roll my eyes. I was young, selfish, and lazy. My parents were teaching me responsibility, but I just wanted to complain about how awful they were and how they didn’t understand and how terrible my life was.

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As sly as I thought I was, I got caught plenty of times and was punished in a manner befitting the crime. Usually, I would get computer privileges revoked for doing stupid things online. It annoyed me and ticked me off, but it did not humiliate me. I can only imagine how I would have reacted if my parents put out a video or post on the Facebook-equivalent (possibly LiveJournal since my teenage years were before Facebook) about me. It would not have been pretty.

There seems to be this mentality of “Don’t dish it if you can’t take it” when it comes to teenagers, but there are so many factors in play. According to scientists, “It has emerged that the emotional region of the brain develops to maturity ahead of the part of the brain that controls rational thought. In other words, teenagers have well-developed emotions and feelings but have still not acquired the ability to think things through.” As the adult parent of a teenager, you need to use your fully developed rationality to see the long-lasting, damaging effects that public shaming can have on preteens and teens.

And, back to the original point, it has an effect on us all. Even those of us with supposedly fully developed brains can still be deeply wounded by public shaming. Nobody wants to be made fun of, and the internet has enabled this shaming on a global level. The next time (because, sadly, it will continue to happen) you see a morbidly obese person unknowingly photographed and posted online or a parent recording themselves punishing their teenager, reflect on the damage and negativity it brings to people. Don’t enable or encourage it. Focus on making social media a positive presence and not a tool for humiliation. Plenty of people deserve to be called out on their behavior, but public shaming and everything that comes with it is a punishment that seems overly harsh for the crimes of being fat, odd, or a rebellious teenager. Let’s leaving the online shaming for funny pictures of animals who have misbehaved.

I will end this with one of the best Ted Talks I have ever seen. It is Monica Lewinsky talking on, “The Price of Shame.” I highly recommend it!

I’m back!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wow, so it has been nearly one year since I updated my blog. My deepest apologies! Life got crazier and crazier, then less crazy, but my mind was constantly elsewhere.

I am back, and I want to bring this blog back to life. I have obtained my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science since my last post, and I am working towards becoming a full-fledged librarian. I am also trying to tap into my creativity and turn some ideas into something that I would eventually feel comfortable sharing with the world.

I am now on Bloglovin’ (see the button at the top of this post, and I will try to add one to the sidebar), so feel free to follow me there!

I plan to return very soon, so be on the lookout!

Reading Woes and BzzAgent Kroger Skillet Meals

Well, all of my good intentions with regards to reading have been stomped to death by grad school. Any time I have a spare second to read, I find myself uninterested in looking at more words on pages and end up turning on Netflix and watching Doctor Who.

I did read most of my October books, but I haven’t read many for November. I read Veronica Roth’s Allegiant (liked it better than I thought I would) and Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala (a very tough but inspiring read). I am currently trying to finish up big school projects for the semester, so it may be a while before I return to fun reading. I am (fingers crossed!) due to graduate in May, and I look forward to being able to fully and properly attack my “To Read” pile.

In the meantime, I need to take a moment to mention how much I love BzzAgent. I have been a member for over 7 years (which really surprised me when I just went to look. It’s been a fun 7 years, BzzAgent!).

I have received loads of products to try – everything from chocolate to wine to gel shoe inserts. In particular, I get to join a lot of campaigns for Kroger store brand food, including their Private Selections brand. Through BzzAgent I have been able to try ground beef, syrup, bread crumbs, pies, cakes, cheese, pizza, jams, and much more!

How does it work? I take surveys on the BzzAgent website, and they invite me to join campaigns. They send me products to try, coupons to redeem for full-sized products, or a combination of both. I give my honest opinion on the products and get points to spend at MyPoints.

My current campaign is for Kroger Skillet Meals.

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I received coupons for a free Kroger Skillet Meal, Kroger Salad Kit, and Kroger Garlic Bread. There were a lot of different skillet meals to choose from. I am never good with making a decision, so I basically got to the point where I closed my eyes and grabbed one! I ended up with garlic bread, a Caesar Salad Kit, and Sesame Chicken with Brown Rice Skillet Meal.

I am holding off on making the garlic bread since it is huge and I prepared the skillet meal just for me. The Caesar salad was lovely. I am a weirdo who does not use salad dressing at all, but I enjoyed the simplicity of a salad with just lettuce, Parmesan cheese, and croutons.

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The Sesame Chicken skillet was delicious! As the instructions promised, it only took me about 10 minutes to prepare. There is a perfect amount of vegetables, chicken, and sauce that all mix together for a great flavor. My only small quibble is that I felt as thought there could be more rice. I used what I thought was a normal serving of rice for one person and ended up using about 2/3 of the rice.

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Yum! Kroger Skillet Meals – Sesame Chicken with Brown Rice.

Overall, I was pleased with the skillet meal and salad. I cannot yet speak on the garlic bread, but I am sure I will be as happy with that as I am with most Kroger brand products that I have tried thanks to BzzAgent! I look forward to sharing my money-off coupons with friends and family (and maaaaybe keeping one or two for myself!).

Note: I received coupons for free Kroger products from BzzAgent in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Books for October

BookPile

Good lord! Look at that giant pile of books I need to read! That is a solid mixture of ARCs received from publishers, books won from Goodreads giveaways, and a few that I purchased.

Most of them will have to wait, though. It’s October, which means I am reading all spooky books this month! (We won’t count the fabulous middle-grade ARC I read a few days ago because I couldn’t help myself.)

My love of supernatural and horror novels is a bit strange, considering I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’ve been devouring them ever since my early days of reading. I went from R.L. Stine to Christopher Pike to Stephen King and John Saul. I always tended more towards ghost stories over zombies and the various creatures of the night, but I am reading a really enjoyable zombie novel at the moment that is making me consider reading more in that category.

So, what have I read so far? I technically started reading it in September, but I finished Sarah Pinborough’s Mayhem in October. It was an incredibly interesting twist on a Jack the Ripper-esque novel.

Mayhem

(That does not look like the cover of the copy I had, but I don’t know whether that was to do with the fact that mine was an ARC or if there is a difference between the US and the UK version.) Click here to visit the Goodreads page for Mayhem.

I am currently reading Jamie McGuire’s Red Hill. I won this from the Goodreads giveaways. It is a zombie novel focusing on three different sets of characters that end up in the same place and have to survive a zombie apocalypse. It is probably a fairly standard zombie novel, but I am really enjoying the characters. Click here to visit the Goodreads page for Red Hill.

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I have two other books that I plan on reading during October. One is Diane Setterfield’s Bellman & Black (Goodreads page here – there is currently a giveaway for this book ending 18 October) and Susan Hill’s Dolly (Goodreads page here). The first is an ARC I received, and the second is an autographed copy that I purchased at Hatchards when I was in London last December. Both look very interesting and have lovely covers!


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As long as school doesn’t end up kicking my butt, I do hope to read more than these four books. I don’t have any other titles lined up, so I’d love any recommendations! Anything spooky, macabre, supernatural, or just plain creepy is welcome!

REVIEW: Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age by Mathew Klickstein

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I was not aware that this book even existed until several weeks ago. There was a giveaway on Goodreads, and just seeing the cover sent me right back to my childhood. To my extreme disappointment, I did not win a copy. I knew I needed this book in my life, so I contacted the publisher explaining that I worked in a library, had a blog, was an active Goodreads user, and would love an opportunity to read and review an advanced copy of this book. I went to work a few Fridays ago to find that I had received Slimed! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age. Words cannot describe how excited I was! I managed to not start reading it while I was on the clock (though it was a struggle).

To begin, I should say that I believe I am the target audience for this book. My review could probably be considered biased because my positive reaction to the book has to do with the pure nostalgia factor along with enjoying the actual content.

Me circa 1997 with the always brilliant Kenan Thompson. Sixteen years later, and this still holds up as one of my favorite celebrity encounters ever.

Me circa 1997 with the always brilliant Kenan Thompson. Sixteen years later, and this still holds up as one of my favorite celebrity encounters ever.

The book has seven sections. Each section begins with a general theme and question (for example, the first section is called The Tween and poses the question, “What was it like to grow up on Nickelodeon?”). Instead of a normal narrative, this part of the book is derived entirely from interviews with Nickelodeon people. It was a set-up that initially took a bit of getting used to, but once I realized that I would be getting the whole story from Nickelodeon people with no input from the author I began to enjoy reading the words of the people who knew it best.

There are a lot of people involved in this book. Many names I recognized immediately, but many I did not. There is a helpful “Cast of Characters” in the book, but it is near the very end. In my copy, it begins on page 263. You can figure out who they are with context clues, but I suggest reading up on the cast of characters if you want to know who is who before beginning.

I loved all of the little details that this book provided. It was interesting to see who was well-loved and who was considered a diva. The author often artfully arranged the interview clips so one actress was swearing up and down that she was not a bitch, only to have the two or three interview snippets after hers talk about how difficult she was.

There were all sorts of fun anecdotes in this book. Stories about adventurous car rides, disasters on set, sneaking things into the cartoons that were originally shot down for being too adult, and more. There was also a section dealing with challenges on the sets, including the firing of Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi. It was fascinating to see all of the points of view regarding that particular issue. I went in to that chapter with certain opinions about the whole debacle and left it with a new perspective. Behind the scenes drama is always interesting to me, and this was no different. I also loved hearing about the fashion, music, and sets. Every time they mentioned a theme song, I went off to YouTube to listen to it even though most of them I still know by heart.

The one section that left me with mixed feelings was the one on diversity. It posed the question, “Why were so many of the people on Nickelodeon white?” That is a fair enough question, and it is important to have a discussion about it. I am glad that they acknowledged that early Nickelodeon was very white, but I felt like some of the people interviewed spent a bit too much time justifying it. Clarissa Explains it All was set in the Midwest so of course it was white, we were marketing our shows towards the people with cable who were usually white, we thought we were being diverse, et cetera. Also, while I feel it is crucial to have these conversations so that maybe in the future it won’t even be a problem, I think it was almost a bit dismissive to not recognize the shows that were better about the diversity issue (All That and Kenan and Kel weren’t mentioned in the section, for example). I am glad that this section was included in the book, though. Like I said, it is important now to look back and concede that the network was too white and hopefully continue to work and change that.

Overall? This book was a great experience for me. Everything about it, from the interesting facts and stories to the tiny bits of slime going down the side of the right pages of the book, was brilliant. It brought back some really fun memories of my childhood and the decade-plus I spent watching Nickelodeon. As I was reading, I was reliving the dog days of summer spent at the local rec center watching Nick in the Afternoon with Stick Stickly (alright, nostalgic Nick fans, sing along with me! “Write to me/Stick Stickly/PO Box 963/New York City/New York State/10108!”). This book isn’t for everyone; I believe you will not find much of interest unless you are a fan of behind the scenes information and Nickelodeon’s “Golden Age.”

To end, I am going to post my very favorite Hey Arnold! episode. It was interesting enough as a pre-teen, but it is really striking and poignant watching it again as an adult. Hooray for nostalgia!

REVIEW: The Dog Lived (And So Will I) by Teresa J. Rhyne

I am on a mailing list for an independent publisher called Sourcebooks, and several months ago I got a newsletter with a contest for The Dog Lived (And So Will I). All I had to do was send an e-mail with my favorite pet story for a chance to win a signed copy. I decided to go with this:

When I was in ninth grade, we moved to a new house to put me in a different school zone. The first day that we all went to work and school, we left our German Shepherd mix dog outside in a little fenced-in area that came with the house. I was daydreaming on the bus ride home from school when I heard someone yell, “Hey, look at the cute dog!” As a dog lover, I hurried to get a glance at the dog. To my surprise (and horror!), it was my dog. He was walking steadfastly, as if he knew exactly where he was going. I yelled at the bus driver to stop and jumped off the bus. My dog and I made the mile+ walk back to the house, and as we were walking I realized that he was heading in the exact direction of our old home. The poor thing thought we had dropped him off at a new house and was coming back to get us! That night, as I was relaying the story to my parents, our cat decided to run up a lit fireplace. Panic ensued. After rescuing her (with no harm done), we decided to spend some time helping the animals get used to their new home. It didn’t take long before everyone was happy and all was well.

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My Jake

I was one of the winners and got my copy of the book shortly after that.

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I was finishing up my summer classes, as well as preparing for a move and a holiday, so I was not able to pick it up immediately. I started reading the book right as I was leaving for my trip to Guam, and I finished it at some point during the fourteen hour flight from Newark to Tokyo.

Before I get into the review, I have a confession I need to make: I am really not a fan of beagles. One of my family members has a beagle, and that dog is the most awful, obstinate, terrible, stinky, stubborn, bullheaded dog I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with. After her, I swore off beagles, saying the only one I’d ever love again was the cartoon Snoopy. This book has helped me learn a few things – the biggest of which is that I like beagles a lot better when I am not the one responsible for taking care of them. Looking in on a beagle’s home as an outsider, I find them endearingly amusing. Also, all of his quirks aside, Seamus had been added to my very short list formerly only containing Snoopy of beagles that I have a fondness for.

So, on to the book review! Here is the description of the book from the publisher (here is the link to the book’s page):

Teresa Rhyne vowed to get things right this time around: new boyfriend, new house, new dog, maybe even new job. But shortly after she adopted Seamus, a totally incorrigible beagle, vets told Teresa that he had a malignant tumor and less than a year to live. The diagnosis devastated her, but she decided to fight it, learning everything she could about the best treatment for Seamus. Teresa couldn’t possibly have known then that she was preparing herself for life’s next hurdle — a cancer diagnosis of her own. She forged ahead with survival, battling a deadly disease, fighting for doctors she needed, and baring her heart for a seemingly star–crossed relationship. The Dog Lived (and so Will I) is an uplifting and heartwarming story about how dogs steal our hearts, show us how to live, and teach us how to love.

I genuinely enjoyed this book. I am always a sucker for an animal book, though I constantly have to remind myself that the ones with animals dying will usually turn me into a sniffling, crying mess. I appreciated that the very title of this book ensured me that the dog would indeed live.

Seamus was a joy to read about. I laughed out loud more than once at Seamus’s antics (especially the food-grabbing, which is definitely funnier when it isn’t happening to me). When he got sick, I immediately began to root for him. When his vet didn’t seem to care as much about him as she should, I was angry on his behalf. I knew he would live, but I still breathed a sigh of relief when I found out that his cancer had gone into remission. I also loved the little quirks such as his affinity for toast and the author’s translation of Seamus-speak.

This story was just as much about Teresa as it was about Seamus. Her cancer diagnosis and her relationship with her boyfriend are prominent plots in the book. Though I was expecting the book to be largely about the dog, I was pleasantly surprised at how emotionally invested I found myself with Teresa.

She has a fabulous sense of humor and a way with words that made every aspect of her life fascinating. I enjoyed reading about her relationship, meeting the parents, her adventures with Seamus the beagle, and her journey through cancer treatment. She wrote it all with such a spark that you want desperately for her to succeed at everything from stopping Seamus’s uncontrollable barking to beating breast cancer. Her writing is clean, articulate, captivating, and funny. I loved the blog posts written by both her and her boyfriend Chris (especially those dealing with his hair growth). I actually began laughing uncontrollably when she relayed the story about going in for chemo and seeing the Beanie Babies hanging by their necks from the I.V. stands. Seeing as it was the middle of the night on my fourteen hour flight, I am sure my fellow plane passengers enjoyed my amusement. Oops.

What I appreciate most about this book is that it has heart without being preachy. The author doesn’t rhapsodize about praying or remaining constantly positive and eternally optimistic. She willingly acknowledges the struggles with both her cancer and Seamus’s cancer. There were tears and hopelessness and anger and frustration, but there was also a light at the end of the tunnel.

As soon as I got off the plane and to a computer, I looked up Teresa to see how she was doing. I was glad to see that she is doing well, but I was saddened to learn from her blog that Seamus passed away in March. I still think it is wonderful that he lived for eight years after his cancer diagnosis and that he had such kind and caring owners to see him through it until the end. And though his story has ended, I still highly recommend The Dog Lived (And So Will I) for dog lovers, cancer survivors, and anyone who loves a good, funny, well-written memoir.

“A Return to Normalcy”

I don’t actually have any concept of ‘normalcy’ in my life, but it seemed like a good enough blog title so there you have it.

I have just returned from a nearly two week trip to Guam. The island was lush and beautiful – plus I had the benefit of visiting family members as well as getting a tropical holiday. Two for one! It was absolutely wonderful getting to know the nephews I’ve really only ever spoken with via phone calls and Skype. They are fun and bright and exuberant and adorable, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with them. My brother, sister-in-law, and nephews will be coming to visit us in Virginia for the Christmas holiday, and I cannot wait to show the nephews around my turf.

So, Guam! I could write plenty about it, but here are some pictures since they sum up the beauty better than I ever could:

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Simply gorgeous. My flights to and from Guam were atrocious (mainly because of issues with United Airlines then an illness that I thought was a cold but turned out to be bronchitis well on its way to pneumonia). United will be getting a nice, long e-mail from me about their horrific service and all of the issues I encountered trying to make it through this trip without getting stranded somewhere. I very rarely complain about airline service since I expect it to be poor, but my experiences this time were really abysmal.

But anyway! I am now back in Virginia, moved into a new apartment, and ready to start the first classes of the last half of my MLIS degree – which includes an internship.. I have continued to receive Advance Reader Copies of books, as well as winning a few in contests. I owe several books some reviews (mostly because the books were fantastic and deserve more traffic, even if it is just from my silly little blog). Look forward to future reviews of The Dog Lived (and So Will I) by Teresa Rhynes, Help for the Haunted by John Searles, and Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh.

Tonight, though, I am just going to say that I hope everyone has had a fantastic summer! Mine has been pretty remarkable, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for me.

REVIEW: The Returned by Jason Mott

TheReturned

Description from Amazon:

“Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That’s what all the Returned were.”  

Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time…. Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old. 

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human. 

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

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I received a copy of Jason Mott’s debut novel The Returned from NetGalley to read and review. I was thrilled to get it because two of my lovely coworkers made it to BookExpo America, and they said this was one of the very highly anticipated novels from the expo. To be perfectly honest, the fact that the book was published by Harlequin scared me. I associate them with bodice-ripping romances, which are not on my radar at all. A little bit of reading up on The Returned had me intrigued enough that I had to find a copy. Be warned that my review below contains some spoilers.

This was one of those amazing, soul-crushing books that will sit heavy on your mind long after you’ve finished it. The premise is beyond interesting: people have suddenly begun to return from the dead. No explanation, and no rhyme or reason as to who returns or where they return. It is something most people have thought about. What would happen if our loved ones could return? What would we say to them? I sometimes find myself thinking about what would I say to my deceased family members if I could see them just one more time. But Jason Mott reminds us that it isn’t so simple.

I love the flow of this novel. The main story follows Harold and Lucille as they deal with the return of their son Jacob, who drowned in 1966. Interspersed throughout are stories of various others who have returned and the living family members grappling with this unexplainable phenomenon. While there is confusion throughout regarding the return of these people, you see it rather quickly morph into suspicion. Suddenly, Harold and Lucille’s small town is turned into a large holding cell for the Returned.

The characterization in The Returned was excellent. The suspicious townspeople who quickly turn against the Returned and attempt to drive them out of town, the family who was brutally murdered by a passing stranger and Return together only to be shunned by their friends and neighbors, the Bureau agent who never really seems to believe in the abilities of his department to solve the issue of the Returned and who ends up being a surprising ally, and the couple who tragically lost their son decades ago only to have him show up on their porch – Harold, the man who makes up jokes with his son, and Lucille, the devoutly religious woman who has a deep love of finding the perfect word for every situation. In the beginning, Lucille appears to be far more receptive to the return of their son Jacob, but you find out in the most heartbreaking way that things are not always how they appear.

This is not an action-packed novel. Most of the actual action occurs at the very end. Up to that point, it is a meandering, slow buildup of tension. I believe that what made me love this book so much is Jason Mott’s raw talent. So many authors could have taken this concept and cranked out a mildly entertaining, mediocre novel, but Mott crafted a beautiful story that continues to stay with me weeks after I finished reading.

I believe that most people will find the poignancy and beauty in the novel, but it is not for everyone. If you want constant action, full explanations, and happy endings, you would be better served elsewhere.

Jason Mott has also written several short stories set in the same universe, “The First,” “The Sparrow,” and “The Choice.” The Kindle editions are free. You can access the first two here and here, and the third will be available here beginning August 1.

TheFirstThe SparrowTheChoice

The Returned will be available beginning August 27, and a pilot is currently being filmed for a television show based on the novel (the show is called Resurrection). I highly recommend the book, and I plan on tuning in to the show when it airs.