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Friday, August 22, 2014

No Place to Hide- Book Review



No Place to Hide is the true story of neurosurgeon W. Lee Warren's deployment to the biggest Air Force hospital of the Iraq War. Dr. Warren details the stark differences between performing brain surgery in a state of the art San Antonio trauma center and in the middle of a war zone.  While surgeons in the U.S. may refuse to use an instrument they don't like (or throw it across the room), military surgeons in Iraq may have to wait hours for a set of instruments to be sterilized.  Dr. Warren had to adapt to an environment where supplies are in short demand, surgery may be performed while missiles are landing 100 yards away, and medical personnel must treat soldiers and terrorists with the same level of care.

Dr. Warren describes the stress and fatigue of his 120 days in Iraq so clearly that some readers may feel some stress just reading about it.  Aside from the challenges of being in a battle zone, he describes his personal struggles as well.  Facing divorce as he was deployed, Dr. Warren shares his disappointment with a failed marriage and fear of separation from his children, the testing of his faith, and the effect Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) had on him after his return to the States.

I have no background in the military as neither I nor anyone in my immediate family has served in the military, and I selected this book in part to stretch my usual reading selections.  I did not expect to be as taken with this book as I was, but I read it voraciously within a couple of days.  I highly recommend this book as anyone can relate to his struggles with faith and overcoming challenges and the depiction of life in a war zone is so insightful.  Some of the content may be disturbing for people who also struggle with PTSD or those are upset by descriptions of violence or serious injuries.  There are also eight pages of color photos from Dr. Warren's deployment with two photos showing injuries or surgery.

This book was provided to me for free by BookLook in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Birthday Weekend Spectacular

Saturday was my 38th birthday, and Sunday was S's 8th birthday.  The benefit of having birthdays back to back is the extended period of celebrating.  The downside of having birthdays back to back is the extended period of celebrating.  I was the only one awake at 10:30 pm Sunday night staring at a chocolate cake and a cookie cake- not cool.

For my birthday, I saw "The Hundred Foot Journey" and really liked it!  First of all, it stars Helen Mirren- love her.  Second, it is set largely in France, which is always a winner for me.  I haven't been to France (yet), but it is a biggie on my bucket list.  Third, the movie centers of a young chef, AKA delicious food is shown. Again, a winning topic for me.  It also doesn't hurt that star Manish Dayal is pretty easy on the eyes.

I went to a theater that lets you order dinner or drinks and they deliver it to you during the movie.  This may be old hat to some of you, but this is the first time I tried it and it was just as good as I expected.  Relaxing in a big comfy seat, watching a movie while a server brings you hot food and a glass of wine- perfection.  I ended up chit-chatting with the women sitting next to me before the movie started.  (Apologies to her husband who was largely ignored.)  We had a lot in common and she was really nice.  Plus, she has the same name as my BFF and sister, so that is a good sign, right?  At the end of the movie, the woman handed me her phone number and said to call her sometime.  Since I am trying to make and take new opportunities in life, and it is the complete opposite of what I would normally do, I think I will see if she wants to meet for coffee or something.

For S's birthday, she wanted a manicure and to have lunch at Cheesecake Factory.  She very specifically told me not to tell the server that it was her birthday because she didn't want them to sing to her.  She did not, however, pass this information on to her dad.  Can you see how thrilled she was to get all that attention?


HAHAHAHA!  Once she was eating the chocolate pudding cup they brought, she was all good again.  It was a great  birthday, but I will not be sad to see all this extra sugar in the house go away.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Happiness- Found or Made?

When I am going through a tough time, it is very easy for me to not see anything positive or happy.  I have a tendency toward depression that I have struggled with for years, with varying degrees of seriousness.  If you have ever experienced depression, it can be difficult just to get out of bed and eventually make yourself shower- looking for the upside was not a high priority to me.  I'm going through one of my lowest points in life right now, but I've been thinking a lot about happiness.  As in, I want happiness.  : )  I mentioned some marriage trouble in a previous post.  Well, Hubs moved out of the house Friday, our deceased son's birthday was Saturday and Sunday was the anniversary of his death.  I really expected the weekend to suck, but it was surprisingly okay.  Not great, but okay.  Here are some reasons I think I'm doing better than expected.

1) I hate chaos and the unknown.  It makes me crazy.  To counteract the chaos, I've started taking control. There is still a lot of uncertainty in my life, but rather than sit back and see what happens I've starting taking the reins.  Some actions are concrete, like opening my own bank accounts and finding my own therapist; other things are a conscious change in perspective.  It has helped tremendously to talk with other friends who have gone through similar situations and have every single one say "you'll be a better and happier person when you get through it." It's happening anyway, so I might as well figure out what about it will bring me happiness.

2) Skinnymom.com had this article on five ways to get happy.  I've been especially working on the being thankful part.  I've started praying again after a nine year absence, and since this marital mess started happening I've been telling God three things I am grateful for every day.  Now, some days I was just grateful that the day was over but I was able to come up with three things every day.  I can usually come up with more than three now.

3) A very wise friend sent me an Elizabeth Gilbert quote that contained the words "Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation." How awesome is that?  I'm looking at the "ruins" of my life as a chance to change things and be a better and happier person. I went on a tour and wine tasting at a local winery I have wanted to visit for years.  I've started visiting a church with the girls for the first time in a few years.  I'm more open to expanding my circle of friends and experiencing new things than I was before.  I also starting looking at what relationships are complete downers and cutting those out of my life (thank you, Facebook unfriend button).

For a lot of years, I based happiness on circumstances and waited to find happiness, like it was a magical unicorn you just happen upon in the forest.  I'm starting to feel like happiness is something you pursue or create for yourself.  And I fully intend to have it.

How about you?  Are you a generally happy person?  Do you think your happiness (or lack thereof) is circumstantial or more an issue of perspective?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Divorce Papers- Book Review

 



The Divorce Papers is a novel by Susan Rieger about criminal law associate Sophie Diehl.  Sophie is happy to represent criminals as it limits her face-to-face contact with clients (I totally get that), but is stuck doing intake on a big client's divorce case when all the partners are out of town.  Having no experience in divorces and seeing this case as particularly nasty, Sophie wants nothing more to do with it.  Against her will (and better judgement), Sophie is pressured by the client and her boss to stay on as lead attorney in the divorce case. As she works through the case, Sophie examines the complicated relationships in her own life and reevaluates whether she is truly happy.

I was partially drawn to this book because I am an attorney and the inner workings of a law firm are fascinating to me.  However, I did not anticipate that I myself would be faced with the prospect of divorce when I selected this book.  The irony is not lost on me.  : )  These factors may have contributed to how much I enjoyed the book, but Sophie is a very likable character.  She has a sarcastic, frantic nature that I relate to and she is genuinely concerned about doing a good job.  This novel is written entirely in the form of emails, office memos, personal correspondence and legal documents, so if you really like a flowing narrative, you may have to get used to this style. Some of legal documents are a little tedious but the relevant portions are highlighted in gray.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in a story about the nastiness of divorce, the struggles of a young lawyer or the story of a young woman figuring out her complicated relationships with parents, friends and co-workers.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.  All opinions are my own.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

I Don't Think That Means What You Think It Means

Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with children knows that you absolutely cannot use the bathroom without interruption.  If it were a once in a while occurrence, it might be tolerable.  When it is every single time, it becomes much less endearing.

This is why parents establish rules about interrupting their bath, shower or other bathroom time.  I've told my children repeatedly to not bother me when I am in the bathroom unless it is an emergency.  By "emergency", I mean someone is bleeding, someone has passed out, or something is on fire.

Here are examples of what my children thought constituted an "emergency" this weekend during my bath or shower:

  • "G has the iPad and I want it."
  • "The TV is saying there is a new version of Netflix ready to download.  Can I click "okay"?"
  • "Biscuit (the dog) coughed but he's okay." 
  • "Can I ask you something when you get out?"
These "emergencies" may explain the current popularity of dry shampoo.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Love Skip Jump- Book Review



I don’t personally know Shelene Bryan, but she seems awesome and inspiring and a little bit crazy!  In Love Skip Jump: Start Living the Adventure of Yes, Shelene encourages us to say yes to God and experience what great plans He has that we might otherwise miss.  Shelene said yes to traveling to Africa to see where exactly her charitable contributions were going.  That trip inspired her to form her own charity, Skip1.org, which provides food and clean water to children around the world.  The book chronicles the numerous times Shelene said “Yes!” and how it has changed her life and many other lives in response.

Shelene makes many wonderful points about how much richer life can be when we say yes and jump in.  I was completely on board with working in impoverished communities or feeding starving children.  Putting your house up for sale by God (chapter 15) just to prove you’re willing to sell your house is where it got a little crazy for me.  However, I still took away her point about our own openness to God’s will.  (But I’m not putting my house on the market.)

One passage that really made an impact on me was when she said sometimes God wants us to go through a process without ever achieving what we thought was the goal and that the journey can be more important than the end result (page 134).  I tend to be very goal focused.  I like marking things off a to do list, so the idea that we may go through things to get a completely different result than we wanted is something I grapple with.  This book encourages me to look for more opportunities rather than challenges, and to really listen for what God is asking us to jump into. 

This book was provided to me for free by BookLook in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions stated are my own.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Accepting Help

I like to think of myself as a generally helpful person.  I don't think twice about helping a stranger pick up things they have dropped or pushing rogue grocery carts over to the cart corral in the parking lot.  Of course I do all sorts of things for my kids and would be glad to help family and friends if they needed it.  Accepting help, on the other hand, is not my favorite thing.  It may be a sort of pride or determined independence, but I hesitate to accept help when offered and would almost never ask for help (shudder).

I'm going through a personally difficult time that is just so emotionally draining, I have almost nothing left to give.  However, I still have to work 40 hours a week.  I still have three kids that need love and reassurance and attention and, you know, expect dinner every night.  It's been tough.  And still, my first instinct was to act as if everything was okay.  To just carry the burden myself and stuff it down.  It really made me feel better. Just kidding- it was awful.  Keeping these major distractions inside made it so much worse.  As I have started sharing my situation with friends and family, my load has felt a little bit lighter.  It is still there, of course- but it seems a little bit more manageable.

Accepting help reminds us of how loved we are when we feel unlovable.  My dear sister has listened to long, tearful phone conversations, numerous complaining emails and has repeatedly offered to come visit or have me visit her.  I have spoken with two friends who have previously been in a similar situation to mine and their advice has been golden.  One has exchanged numerous, lengthy Facebook messages with me offering support and tons of things to consider I had not thought of yet.  Another sat with me for over three hours in Starbucks Saturday listening to me cry and say all the things I needed to say (probably more than once). She also offered fantastic perspective and texted me Sunday to say "Hey, I'm making you and the girls dinner tomorrow night.  Is 5:00ish okay for delivery?".  If she had asked what she could do, I'm sure I would have told her nothing, I'm fine.  I'll admit I hesitated a moment before texting back that 5:00 was fine.  I ended up feeling really grateful that she took something as simple yet overwhelming at the moment like making dinner off my plate.  The girls and I enjoyed a delicious hot meal that I didn't have to think about, and I felt like special.

If you need help, please don't be afraid to ask for help or to accept it when offered.  People genuinely care about you.  If you are the one helping, please know that it is appreciated.  Any small gesture may be the one thing that person needs most and will remember for years to come.