Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Body Modification, Renee Zelwegger and Judgment

I've been thinking about Renee Zelwegger a lot in the last 24 hours or so. Given the media (and social media) storm that erupted after her appearance at a charity event this past weekend, I know I'm not alone. Based on photos, it appears she spent some time with a plastic surgeon at some point in the recent past. Her characteristic heavy-lidded eyes are no more.

There are those who shout out that she doesn't look like the same person and how, HOW!?, could she do such a thing to herself. Women are supposed to age gracefully. To all of those people I have a question:  

When did we decide that changing our appearance was a bad thing? 

Almost every one of us does at least one thing every day that alters our appearance. Do you wear lipstick (to mimic fuller, more youthful lips)? Or eyeliner (for more defined, open and, yes, youthful eyes)? Is it an acceptable vanity because you can wipe it off at night? What about spanx? Or high heels? Does using these things mean that women hate their bodies? Or that there is some flaw in our society that they feel the need to do this? Come on.

Where is the line on making alterations to our appearance?? Is a chemical peel okay but facelifts are not? Is a tummy tuck okay but breast augmentation is not? What about ear piercings? Or nose piercing? Or any other piercings? What about tattoos? Or hair coloring? Or makeup? Or eyebrow waxing? Or diets? Or exercise? Is reconstructive vs elective a factor? Or is the degree of permanence the deciding factor?

Cultures around the world have had examples of this to one degree or another. The neck stretchers in Africa, the lotus feet in China, the Mayan sloped foreheads are all extremes, but lesser examples abound throughout history.

Are there people in Hollywood that make changes to their appearance for reasons other than personal satisfaction? Of course. Just as there are everywhere. But there are many, many people who make changes to their bodies for reasons completely devoid of outside pressure.

Ultimately, it just doesn't matter what a person's motivation was, whether it was driven by a basic desire to like what they see in the mirror a little more, or by a perceived need to look a certain way. It is their body, and theirs alone, to do with however they please. We all make changes to ourselves. Neither Renee Zelwegger, nor anyone else, owes anyone any explanations for their decisions.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Water babies

As a child, we spent every free minute at the lake. I learned how to ski when I was barely out of diapers. I could slalom before I was 10. Sophie, on the other hand, has spent little time in natural water. And what time she has spent, has been ocean. So when we were offered an afternoon at the lake during our visit to Kansas, I jumped on the opportunity to introduce her to one of the joys of my youth.

I knew she loved swimming and brave little thing she is, I really wasn't worried she would be too timid to try something new, but I was overjoyed with just how much she reveled in the experience. She watched her cousin tube first and then gamely jumped on with me. The very next run, she was ready to go solo. She would have stayed on it for hours if we'd let her. She had a grin cemented on her face the rest of the afternoon. 

Meanwhile, this old gal popped up on one ski on the first try despite not having set foot in a boot in more than 7 years. 

I guess it runs in the family.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Swim Test

Just yesterday I was saying that I couldn't wait until Sophie was independent enough at the pool that I could sit on the side reading a book while she ran around swimming and playing. 

As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for.

Today, after no more than a couple practice runs, Sophie tried for and passed the test to be allowed to swim in the deep end of our pool. The test included treading water for a minute and swimming the full length of the pool without touching or stopping. I was completely unprepared for her to do this. Based on friends' kids, I thought she would be 6 or 7 before she even attempted it.

But today she did. And then she spent the whole afternoon jumping off the diving board completely ignoring her mother. So much so that I actually did read a few pages of the book I had optimistically brought. After a while I found myself watching her longingly and wishing she would ask me to swim with her. She never did. At the end of the day I had to lure her off that diving board with the promise of froyo and Don Pablo's.

Kids grow up, it's the nature of the little beasts, but why does it have to happen so damn suddenly?

Friday, July 12, 2013


Despite repeated tellings that Myrtle Beach is the city rather than just the sandy place with the water, Sophie insists on referring to the beach itself as such, always asking when we're going to "the myrtle beach." 

At first a little irritated by it, now I kinda hope she doesn't stop.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What I'm Reading 2013

Another year down, another shelf added to my personal library. I read some really amazing books last year. Books that made me laugh. Books that made me weep. Books that had me so frustrated I could barely focus on the pages. I also delved into audiobooks for the first time, with mixed results. I sort of fell off the literary wagon for a while but I'm rediscovering how much I love reading and that is a wonderful thing.

The Year in Books 2012
The Year in Books 2011
The Year in Books 2010
The Year in Books 2009 

Currently Reading 
Monsters of Men - Patrick Ness (YA, Sci-Fi)

Five Summers - Una LaMarche (YA) Grade: A- Three years after they "graduated" out of their New England summer camp, four friends return for the annual camp reunion weekend to relive past glories and renew friendships, but the weekend takes an unexpected turn when secrets come out.  

The book navigates between the reunion weekend and experiences from each of the five summers the girls spent at camp together, deftly showing how the present is so often defined by the past. And while there is a romantic element, this isn't a love story. It is about friendships and the tests that time and distance place on them.

As a pre-teen, I spent a week each summer at a sleep-away camp and I vividly recall the microcosm of life that took place during that short span of time. Friendships raced from introduction to BFF at the speed of light. Boys and girls met, "went out" and broke up in 24 hour periods. The isolation and time constraints lent an air of immediacy and import to every minute interaction. So perhaps it is partially because of my own experience that I was so effectively transported back to that time of my life while reading this book, but each of the four main characters was so real and identifiable that it was definitely more than just nostalgia that made me enjoy this book so much. 

The first half of the book was a little slow as we learned about each of the characters, but the second half more than made up for it as we raced towards the emotional end of the weekend and the big "capture the flag" showdown between the boys and the girls. All in all, a fun read.

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store - Robin Sloan (Fiction)

Flutter - Gina Linko (YA, Paranormal)

The Ask and The Answer - Patrick Ness (YA, Sci-Fi)

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness (YA, Sci-fi)

The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman

Childhood's End - Arthur C. Clarke (Science Fiction) Grade: A-

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple (Fiction) Grade: A
Golden - Jessi Kirby (YA) Grade: B-  On the edge of graduating high school and winning the college scholarship that will make all her dreams come true, 17 year old Taylor takes a leap and does something unexpected on the trail of a decade-old mystery. But she discovers more than just the answers to the mystery in her quest.

The story centers on Taylor's discovery of the private journal of a girl, Julianna, who went missing and was presumed dead 10 years ago. I enjoyed the interplay of Taylor's story and the journal of the ill-fated Julianna. Despite their differences, the parallels between their lives were striking and poignant, each with a seemingly *golden* path ahead of them that they began to question as events in their lives unfold.

Despite this, I'm sorry to say that I couldn't get emotionally invested in this book. Too much of the plot hinges on quirky, unbelievable elements that didn't ring true to me. And I say this as someone who regularly reads fantasy and science fiction. The author has to make me believe and I just didn't here. I couldn't even understand how Taylor and Kat could be best friends. Class valedictorian and town screw-up? Has this ever in the history of teenage girls happened? Since this relationship is pivotal to the story, that's a pretty big flaw for me.

Ultimately, I would put this in the beach read category: it's fast paced with a light emotional payoff, but flat, stereotypical characters and predictable turns make it unremarkable and easy to put down when you want to run out for a swim.

World War Z - Max Brooks (Sci-Fi) Grade: A-

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes (Fiction) Grade: A

You Are Not Here - Samantha Schutz (YA) Grade: A-

A Princess of Mars -  Edgar Rice Burroughs (Sci-fi) Grade: B+

Delirium - Lauren Oliver (YA) Grade: 

The Obvious Game - Rita Arens (YA) Grade: A
The Sky Is Everywhere - Jandy Nelson (YA) After her only sister unexpectedly dies at 19, Lennie struggles to figure out who she is without her. I loved this book. I loved the words. I loved Lennie's family. I love her relationship with Joe. My favorite book of 2013. Grade: A+
Return to Me - Justina Chen (Fiction) Just before Rebecca is scheduled to begin her freshman year at Columbia, an upheaval in her family throws her world into a tailspin. A thoroughly enjoyable story about a young girl's struggle to find herself when her parents, friends, and boyfriend are pulling her in different directions. Grade: A-

I am the Messenger - Marcus Zusak ( Genre: Fiction) This book was so beautifully written and such a poignant story. But it didn't have quite the punch that The Book Thief did, so I'm dropping it down that one star. Still, it was a wonderful read and I wholeheartedly recommend this book and pretty much anything Markus Zusak writes. Grade: A

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie - Ayana Mathis (Genre: Fiction) I am generally skeptical of Oprah book club books. This was chosen by my book club, though, so I gave it a chance. Sadly, it felt like typical Oprah fare. This book told Hattie's tale, through the lives of her 12 children. However, the twelve stories felt disconnected. Grade: B-

Feed - M.T. Anderson (Genre: Science Fiction, YA) During spring break on the Moon, Titus and his friends are touched by a hacker and their internal "feeds" are cut off from the steady stream of information they've had their entire lives. A thought-provoking read about the increasingly pervasive nature of technology in our lives. Grade: B+

Sea of Tranquility - Katja Millay 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dia de los Muertos

Somehow October turned into one of the craziest months of this year. We've had birthday parties, at least one, every weekend; Sophie's birthday was the 14th, which meant working and baking for her birthday at school, and a small get-together turned chaotic free for all on the 27th; finally, working and preparing for Sophie's school Halloween party on the 31st. Wedge in a number of other engagements and appointments to fill up the dwindling spare moments in between and there wasn't much left of this month.

I don't mind the busyness. In some ways, I thrive on it. In the days leading up to Sophie's birthday party, I was up each night until the early hours of the morning baking and preparing. I felt exhilarated in my drive to do everything that needed to be done. Much like when I worked, and the push for a proposal would have me working long hours, I felt purposeful in a way that I don't often these days. Which isn't to say that my life is without purpose. It is. There is nothing more important than raising a happy, healthy child. But the day to day of it is wearying in a way very different from working outside of the home. It is a quiet weariness. The fatigue that set in after a hard stretch at work was harsher but easily recovered from.

The exhaustion I felt as this month came to a close was bone deep. It was the result of running a marathon and sprinting every other mile. After Sophie's party, I hurt. The aches weren't localized like they are after a particularly hard workout or vigorous exercise class. The legs. The chest. The arms. This was every single muscle of my body. I felt a weight of a thousand pounds when I tried to pull myself out of bed that morning. It took most of Sunday spent laying around before I started to feel like I wasn't under water. Even then, I was still beyond exhausted.

And now, with the school Halloween Party over and the final bit of insanity passed, I find myself sick. The running and running and running caught up with me. The recuperative days spent sequestered indoors during Sandy were not enough to bring me back from the edge. I awoke today, the Day of the Dead appropriately, with a sore throat, aches and chills. I've functioned. Even, probably inadvisably, made it to the gym for the first time in a week. But the message is clear. SLOW DOWN. Give my body a rest. Have some of those regularly tiring days before I jump back into the insanity that has become my life lately. And I plan to.

Just as soon as I go to the Mom Mixer event in Philadelphia on Saturday. And another birthday party on Sunday. And book club on Monday. And...

I think I need an intervention.