The Library’s Siren Call

I have a confession to make, a confession no bibliophile should ever have. I have not been to the library in about three years until the past week. How is this possible for someone who reads on average eighty books a year? Easy. I love used book stores and e-books on my Kindle. There’s something about seeing the books on my shelves and being able to scroll through my Kindle. I love entering a used book store and being greeted by so many once-loved books, imagining the previous owner for each book I pick up. However, buying books is becoming a more costly passion than I need with a new baby coming, so I’ve turned my attention towards the local library.

Shower Invitation

A baby shower invitation made by my good friend Jaimi. She definitely knows me well, and this awesome invitation may have been the motivation for me going back to the library after so many years.

I signed up for a library card two weeks ago, but a wave of nausea hit me before I could check out any books. However, I finally checked out one of the many branches of my county library system last week and was pleasantly surprised. I was greeted by a friendly staff and an abundance of books (a much better selection than the branch closest to my house). I quickly found four books after perusing just three aisles. It was time to leave before I was enticed by more books. When I got back home, I cracked open my first library book (Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, which is an interesting take on the consequences of our rapidly evolving technology) in years and was hit by nostalgia hearing the crinkle of the plastic cover. Memories of story time in school libraries from years past hit me, and I remembered how no matter where I moved, I could find refuge at the local library. I even visited the library in Nebraska closest to my grandparents’ home every time my family would visit. It became a ritual between my grandmother and me.

As I quickly devoured the first book, I looked at my stack of four books. Finding this to be an insufficient number, I visited the library once more last Thursday although I had already visited it on Monday. I quickly found five more books and now have a list of books to check out after perusing their online catalog. Although they’re now missing the iconic library cards attached to their back covers, there’s still something special about library books and the library itself. Where else are you allowed to borrow something completely for free? Think about it. Everything has a price nowadays, and if you wanted to get technical you could argue that we pay for libraries through taxes. However, it’s this great service where you can check out books and even movies, and as long as you have them back by their due date, you don’t pay anything extra. If you’re paying for it already through taxes, why not take advantage of them? Not only do they offer books and movies but also free Wi-Fi, computer usage, and printer, fax and scanner access. One building that contains thousands of secret worlds bound within books. How could this not be a siren call?

20150119_225909

My stack of library books from the past two visits last week. On my second visit, I returned Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, so that book is not pictured here.

The Frustration of Procreation: Part One

This week I’m discussing two things that have been bothering me. I believe, at least for me, that writing is my catharsis, and because we all share in the human experience, I also believe what I’m going through is not unique to myself. It always helps to know that other people are going or have gone through some of the same stuff as me. I know I may upset some people with what I write, and as this is never my intention, I apologize. So with that in mind, here we go.

The first thing that has bothered me for a while is people’s reaction to my pregnancy and choice to procreate. For some people, I have received positive feedback, and I appreciate this. However, I cannot count the number of times a friend or family member will look at me with scorn, scoffing how having children is the last thing he/she wants to do. Some of these people then go on to tell me in full detail how much they dislike children and the people who have them and how their lives change because of it. I’ve even had people upset that I’m having a boy instead of a girl. I get so many jokes directed at me because of my choice to procreate and have felt such a lack of support from some of the people I thought would be much more supportive. This making-a-baby process is turning into a lonelier endeavor than I ever anticipated.

Procreation!

I believe in everyone’s right to have or not to have children. It is not only a choice but a right. I stand behind anyone’s decision not to procreate and fully support people in this decision. Honestly some of the people who have been so harsh in their assertion that they never want children make me happy because I can see how they would not make good parents and am glad they, too, have come to this conclusion. (Let me be clear that this is not the case for every person who has asserted that he/she does not want children. I can see some of these people as great parents, but I respect their decision not to bring life into this world.) It’s not for everyone, and a woman’s worth is not linked to her use or disuse of her uterus. Hell, I also experienced quite a lot of critique when Hans and I were not having children. With that being said, I try very hard not to critique anyone’s decision about children, and I would love that same support. You may decide that children are not for you, but I have made a different decision. Both decisions are right and in no way wrong.

I’ve found that certain people no longer want to be close to me, thinking in some backwards way that the decision to have kids is something that can be contagious. Friends have held me at arm’s length, even making me an example of how much they do not want to procreate, and then have said such hurtful things as having to sit in a further chair so that they do not catch the “baby bug.” WTF? I’m assuming such things are said for humor instead of springing from actual belief, or at least I hope they are. If you truly believe your decision not to procreate could be swayed by something as easily as sitting next to a “breeder” then your decision was not that solid to begin with. I am not a disease. This baby growing inside of me is not a mistake that can make others endeavor to make this same mistake. Stop making me feel as though I am diseased and no longer worth as much because of my decision.

The second thing that has bothered me is Hans’s work policy about parental leave or rather lack thereof of a policy on paternity leave. He is afforded no time off for his wife having a baby, and this is from a business that deals with human resources. In fact, this company is originally based in a country that allows quite a bit of parental leave for both parents, so why they have changed their policy for their American workers is beyond me. Let me be clear that we are not looking for a paid vacation or a handout. We believe raising a child is a partnership; it is just as important that Hans has time to bond with the baby as it is for me. I want my husband to be as active in my child’s life as I am and so does my husband. I am well aware that I will not be back to 100% health right away (recovery can take up to six weeks after bringing forth a new life), and I would be up a creek without a paddle without the aid of someone else. Thank goodness my sweet mother has agreed to come up for a week or more to look after both myself and our baby boy. Hans will plan to take off a week if possible and work from home for a month, but there are no guarantees to this.

I don’t understand how there can be no policies in place for parental leave. Currently, employers do not have to offer any paid parental leave for either mother or father, and the amount of unpaid leave for both is up to 12 weeks without his/her job being in jeopardy (although this only applies to roughly half of the population as the Family and Medical Leave Act excludes small businesses and most part-time workers). The United States is one of only two countries out of 185 for which data was available that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave to new mothers. The United States “ranks last among developed nations in providing government support for working parents… The nation that ranks first, Estonia – whose GDP, at $22 billion, is also a fraction of our $16 trillion economy – guarantees new moms more than two years of paid leave, while their jobs are guaranteed for nearly four years. Other nations with generous parental leave policies include Norway, which offers 35 weeks off at full pay; Poland, 26 weeks (100 percent pay); and Bulgaria, 32 weeks (90 percent pay).” It seems that we are a productive country but not a procreative country.

I don’t understand how a country that touts the idea of a nuclear family can have few if any policies to support this belief in the importance of family. People will go to bat against a woman’s right to have an abortion but will do nothing to help her after she makes the “right” decision and the child is born. How can we expect men to step up to be good fathers if there is no support for them? To be clear once again, Hans and I are not looking for a government handout. However, I do not think it is right that parental leave is not an option for Hans (and would not be for me in many jobs I’ve formally had). Paid leave has been shown to help “companies retain workers and lower the cost of turnover,” not to mention the benefits it offers to both the parents and child. Why then is paid parental leave nonexistent in our country, the supposedly “greatest country in the world”? To be great, we must strive to have responsible, intelligent people to continue to make this country what it was and hopefully will be in the future, and this requires not only parents who will raise their children to the best of their abilities but also the support of the government, showing that raising children is important and one of the nation’s priorities.

Fix all the issues

A New Look at an Old Favorite

the-princess-bride_reunion

I love the movie The Princess Bride. I’ve loved it since I was little when my maternal grandpa first showed it to me after he had recorded it on VHS from the television. My brother and I devoured The Princess Bride every time we came to visit my maternal grandparents, much like we did Mrs. Doubtfire when visiting my paternal grandparents. To be honest, I had no idea the movie was based on a book until I met my husband (a fact that should have been apparent by the opening credits). Hans had read the book The Princess Bride by William Goldman in a college class entitled “Great Books,” and indeed it was a great book for Hans that turned into one of his favorite reads. Hans had encouraged me to read the book, and we even bought it after he couldn’t find his old college copy. However, the book sat on the bookshelf, collecting dust until recently. I got a deal on audible.com and have been listening to books read by the author. One of these books was As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (and read by Elwes and other cast and crew members). I enjoyed listening to this book immensely and felt my old favorite had a whole new life. I wanted to keep this momentum going, so I picked up my copy of the book.

princess-bride

The book was the movie and so much more. Goldman did a great job writing this book and then adapting it into a screenplay. All of my favorite bits and lines were in the book, and there were new things added to the story, again giving my old favorite new life. I couldn’t put it down and look forward to reading this to my children as I look forward to watching the movie with them. Some minor changes from the book to the movie were improvements, such as changing the sharks to shrieking eels. (A change I imagine had more to do with eels being less expensive to make than sharks.) However, I missed Goldman not including the Zoo of Death and rather changing it into the Pit of Despair. I imagine this change, too, had to do with expense with making a movie and with time restraints. The description of the Zoo of Death and then Inigo and Fezzik’s making their way through it were both favorite parts of the book for me. I also loved Goldman’s sly jokes, puns, and satire sprinkled throughout the book as they had been within the movie.

I’m not sure what else to say about the book and the movie The Princess Bride but that it is such a great read that I recommend for anyone looking for a fun book to break up the everyday monotony. If you love the movie and/or book as I do, I encourage you to read or listen to As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. It will make you see the movie in a whole new light.

A “Serial” Problem

My husband has asked me multiple times to listen to the podcast “Serial.” I’m not big on committing to listening to anything, as I believe listening is a more difficult skill than reading, but I finally caved in to his request. I just finished the last episode of Season One today, and I can’t stop thinking about this. For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about, “Serial” is a spin-off of “This American Life.” It focuses on the murder of Hae Min Lee and the question of what really happened with this murder. Adnan Syed is behind bars for first-degree murder, but did he really do it? This story of a true crime was told episode to episode each week for twelve episodes. At first, I didn’t think I would get into it. I’m not a fan of true crime stories. Yes, I like Criminal Minds and Law & Order, but I like them because I can remind myself that these are not actual events that took place. They’re fiction and far removed from reality. “Serial,” however, focuses on a real teenager who was murdered and dumped in the woods.

As I got into the series and listened more and more, I realized that the reason I do not listen to or watch true crime stories is because I empathize too deeply. The first time I watched the last recording of Hae Min Lee on YouTube I cried. I didn’t know how invested I was until I watched that video that my husband sent to me. The world had already become obsessed with this podcast, and I quickly did as well.

The last episode was a letdown for many people. Sarah Koenig, the host and executive producer, didn’t end on a definitive guilty or not guilty stance. We, as a society, are so used to conclusions being succinct and neatly wrapped up that this last episode left us disappointed. Why listen to this whole podcast if you don’t even find out whether Syed is guilty is not guilty? However, so many great stories are open-ended. When I read the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I felt cheated. The story was too neat and tidy at the end. I could have made up my own mind about what Harry and the crew did after the defeat of the Dark One. Open endings make us think. They leave us thinking about the story way past when it ended, and this is what “Serial” has done.

“Serial” is set up as more of a story-telling podcast than a journalistic podcast. We hear Koenig putting in her two cents about what she is feeling and thinking; in journalism, these feelings are usually exempt, reporting just the facts and nothing else. Perhaps Koenig’s feelings have swayed audiences into thinking one way or another about Syed. I know they did for me. I waffled about Syed’s guilt just as Koenig did. I thought he was not guilty and then guilty almost at the same time Koenig expressed her feelings. Because this was set up as a story rather than a journalistic piece of work (they even sell it as “one story told week to week”), we felt for the people perhaps in a way we may not have had it been simply a good piece of journalism.

But the bigger issue presented in this podcast is not whether Syed is guilty or whether Jay, the witness, was lying. The bigger issue is people’s ignorance or misunderstanding about reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt is defined as the following: “The standard that must be met by the prosecution’s evidence in a criminal prosecution: that no other logical explanation can be derived from the facts except that the defendant committed the crime, thereby overcoming the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty. If the jurors or judge have no doubt as to the defendant’s guilt, or if their only doubts are unreasonable doubts, then the prosecutor has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant should be pronounced guilty.” This means that the prosecutor must show how the crime happened without any doubt or logical explanation of another way it could happen. The crime happened this way and no other. Many times jurors go into trials with a prejudice against the defendant (whether this is conscious or not). They assume that he/she is guilty solely because he/she is on trial. In our court systems, we tout the line “innocent until proven guilty.” In most cases, though, it is really “guilty until proven innocent.” Syed’s case was full of reasonable doubt; there were many different logical explanations that could be derived from the facts. However, as admitted by a juror in the series, Syed was assumed guilty simply because he was being tried. People trust the police to do their jobs for the most part, and do not take into account that it’s more a job of clearing one’s desk than of uncovering each and every fact. Detectives are overworked and underpaid. They simply do not have the time and resources to uncover every fact and give it the attention it deserves. They tend to find one person to attach a crime to and do not look for alternatives or uncover more stones. Is this an excuse? No, but let me just say that everyone involved in catching a criminal and trying said criminal is human and, therefore, full of flaws.

Adnan Syed did not have a fair trial. According to how our system works, he should have been acquitted based on reasonable doubt. There should have been that one person, a person akin to Juror 8 in Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men, who said this was too important a case to not review all the evidence. A person to say deciding a man’s fate in two hours that includes a lunch break isn’t really giving the case the attention it deserves. A person to say all the evidence here is circumstantial (meaning evidence that does not directly tie the person to the crime and that requires a leap of faith and reason to believe it is hardcore proof of guilt), and there is reasonable doubt. A person to remind every other juror that Syed was innocent until they all decided on the verdict of guilty rather than looking and pondering whether he could be proven innocent. Sadly, this person didn’t exist for Adnan Syed’s trial, and this makes me wonder how many other trials lacked a Juror 8.

Do I believe Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee? I have no idea. I want to believe Syed didn’t do it because I like to think of the good in people and keep that rose-tinted outlook that people are not capable of such heinous acts. However, I know this is idealistic rather than realistic. Part of me hopes Syed is guilty of Hae’s murder because I can’t bear the thought of him in prison for so many years for a crime he didn’t commit. At least if he is actually guilty than those years served are for a purpose. However, I am aware that our prisons are full of innocent men paying a debt to society that they do not owe. Our system is flawed, really flawed, but I can’t offer a solution besides the education of reasonable doubt and circumstantial evidence and trying to push prejudices aside. The one thing I am sure of after listening to “Serial” is that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Syed. The state’s case was not strong enough. The reasonable doubt based on circumstantial evidence should have led to a verdict of “not guilty” regardless of whether Syed was guilt.

Year-End Resolutions Update and Next Year’s Resolutions

If you recall from a previous post entitled “Welcome 2014,” I made three resolutions for this year. I resolved to publish this blog every week, to read 80 books by the end of the year, and to create a piece of art or a craft project each month. To keep me honest to these resolutions, I tried posting my progress each month on this blog. That didn’t last too long, though.

This year has been a roller coaster. I had surgery on my foot, had a miscarriage, quite a few family members has surgery, and two family members passed away. Amidst all these events, I let my resolutions die. I have not continued to make art or be crafty each month. I find my creativity is more suited to writing, though this will not stop me from creating on canvas in the future. I also did not publish to this blog every week. Some weeks took so much out of me that I had nothing left to give to the written word. Some weeks I had so much to say about what was happening that I let myself become too overwhelmed to write. I have published over 76 posts on this blog, though, and as it’s only been around for a little over a year, I say I made my 52-post quota at least.

Here are a few pictures of the art projects I have completed since last posting my progress on my resolutions:

Paintings made for our superhero-themed nursery.

Paintings made for our superhero-themed nursery.

My first attempt at painting Day of the Dead skulls.

My first attempt at painting Day of the Dead skulls.

Despite these disappointing resolution fails, I did manage to keep my resolution to read 80 books or more. I just barely squeaked by with 81 books, and although these include some children’s books, many young adult books, and quite a few graphic novels, I am proud of this achievement. Here are the books I read this year:

  1. Allen, Sarah Addison. Lost Lake.
  2. Anderson, Laurie Halse. Prom.
  3. Andrews, Mary Kay. Spring Fever.
  4. Andrews, Mary Kay. Summer Rental.
  5. Andreyko, Marc. Fairest: Of Mice and Men (4).*
  6. Bauby, Jean-Dominique. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
  7. Beukes, Lauren. Fairest Vol. 2: Hidden Kingdom.*
  8. Black, Holly. The Coldest Girl in Cold Town.
  9. Bray, Libba. A Great and Terrible Beauty.
  10. Brin, David. The Life Eaters.*
  11. Butcher, Jim. Skin Game.
  12. Chapman, Gary. The 5 Love Languages.
  13. Dahl, Roald. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
  14. Dahl, Roald. Charlie and the Glass Elevator.
  15. Dahl, Roald. James and the Giant Peach.
  16. Dahl, Roald. Matilda.
  17. Dahl, Roald. The Witches.
  18. DeConnick, Kelly Sue. Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More (1).*
  19. Dessen, Sarah. Just Listen.
  20. Dessen, Sarah. Keeping the Moon.
  21. Dessen, Sarah. The Truth About Forever.
  22. Dessen, Sarah. Someone Like You.
  23. Dessen, Sarah. That Summer.
  24. Dessen, Sarah. Dreamland.
  25. Dessen, Sarah. Along for the Ride.
  26. Dessen, Sarah. The Moon and More.
  27. Dessen, Sarah. This Lullaby.
  28. Dessen, Sarah. What Happened to Goodbye.
  29. Dessen, Sarah. Lock and Key.
  30. Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol.
  31. Dickens, Charles. Hard Times.
  32. Elwes, Cary. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.
  33. Forman, Gayle. If I Stay.
  34. Gaiman, Neil. The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes.*
  35. Goldman, William. The Princess Bride.
  36. Green, John. Paper Towns.
  37. Greer, Judy. I Don’t Know What You Know Me From.
  38. Grossman, Lev. The Magicians. (I only read half of this book as I found the main character annoying and the plot was not worth further reading. Because I read over 200 pages of it, however, I did decide to include it on this list. Never push yourself to read a book you don’t enjoy; this could ruin your love of reading.)
  39. Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
  40. Hammond, Diane. Hannah’s Dream.
  41. Hammond, Diane. Friday’s Harbor.
  42. Hart, Miranda. Is It Just Me?
  43. Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God.
  44. Khoury, Jessica. Vitro.
  45. Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead, Vol. 18: What Comes After.*
  46. Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead, Vol. 19: March to War.*
  47. Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead, Vol. 20: All Out War Part One *
  48. Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead, Vol. 21: All Out War Part Two.*
  49. Kirkman, Robert. The Walking Dead, Vol. 22: A New Beginning.*
  50. Lewis, C. S. The Magician’s Nephew.
  51. Lewis, C. S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  52. Lewis, C. S. The Horse and His Boy.
  53. Lewis, C. S. Prince Caspian.
  54. Lewis, C. S. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
  55. Lewis, C. S. The Silver Chair.
  56. Lewis, C. S. The Last Battle.
  57. Meyer, Marissa. Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles).
  58. Meyer, Marissa. Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles).
  59. Meyer, Marissa. Cress (The Lunar Chronicles).
  60. Moran, Caitlin. How to Be a Woman.
  61. O’Neal, Barbara. The All You Can Dream Buffet.
  62. O’Neal, Barbara. How to Bake a Perfect Life.
  63. O’Neal, Barbara. The Lost Recipe of Happiness.
  64. O’Neal, Barbara. The Secret of Everything.
  65. Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia.
  66. Pearce, Jackson. Cold Spell (Fairy Tale Retelling).
  67. Perkins, Stephanie. Isla and the Happily Ever After.
  68. Poehler, Amy. Yes Please.
  69. Roth, Veronica. Allegiant.
  70. Showalter, Gena. Alice in Zombieland.
  71. Showalter, Gena. Through the Zombie Glass.
  72. Showalter, Gena. The Queen of Zombie Hearts.
  73. Stiefvater, Maggie. The Raven Boys.
  74. Stiefvater, Maggie. The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle).
  75. Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
  76. Wiebe, Kurtis J. Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery (1).*
  77. Williams, Sean E. Fairest: The Return of the Maharaja (3).*
  78. Willingham, Bill. Fables: Snow White (19).*
  79. Willingham, Bill. Fables: Camelot (20).*
  80. Willingham, Bill. Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland.*
  81. Wilson, G. Willow. Marvel: No Normal (1).*

*These are graphic novels.

As for 2015, I do have a few resolutions for myself. These are as follows:

1. Worry less about other people’s problems.
2. Say “No” to obligations more often, and be honest about what I want to do.
3. Have more days with the TV off.
4. Write at least 52 blog posts.
5. Read at least 25 books. (With the expected arrival of our baby boy, I wanted to give myself I break on this one as I have no idea how busy I’ll be as a first-time parent.)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I Carry Your Heart To My Detriment

“i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)” – e. e. cummings

Although a sentiment from a love poem, I find this is increasingly true for all the important people in my life. I carry their hearts in my heart. OK, not literally, but I take on their triumphs, their worries, and their problems. Triumphs are no problem at all; who doesn’t like to share in the successes of their loved ones? However, the worries and problems are weighing me down. I’m not sure how to distance myself from people’s problems. I can’t seem to put them down and walk away after hearing about them. They become attached to me as if I’m made of a magnetic material and all of these problems are tiny magnets. One or two are not that big of an issue, but pretty soon the tiny magnets become overwhelming due to the sheer number of them. Some magnets are quite a bit heavier than others, and these rest right on my magnetic shoulders. Try as I might, I cannot turn off my magnetic material. They are stuck on and can only be removed when the tiny magnet itself becomes demagnetized from solving the problem or losing the worry. I may have taken that metaphor a bit far, but I think it helps to illuminate my current issue. I was so worried last night that I couldn’t even sleep because my shoulders were so tense with worry. Tylenol didn’t touch the pain, my husband massaging my shoulders and neck didn’t touch the pain, and heat didn’t touch the pain. I find more and more that I only find solace in sleep when my worrying mind is turned off. However, I then dream, and last night’s dreams, when I did eventually get to sleep, included being sold as a sex slave and hacking off man parts. Probably not the most restful night’s sleep.

This problem of my own (see, I’m adding a tiny magnet to you now) is becoming increasingly troublesome. I can’t look at Facebook after a certain time at night and can have problems sleeping when others reach out to me about something late at night or, depending on the magnitude of their problem, when they reach out at any time. I wake up thinking of the many problems of my loved ones and with someone on my heart. I have trouble telling others that they’re being stupid and should have done A, B, or C rather than the obscure Z they chose to go with on their problem. I have trouble telling others that their choice or lack of choice in resolving a serious issue is dangerous not only to their happiness or relationship but to their health. I suppose most of all I have trouble keeping my mouth shut as I listen to problems instead of providing a point of action. Perhaps I think more like a man in this as that sex is more apt to try to fix a problem than to just listen to it. However, whenever I try to fix something or offer advice I find myself getting that look that says, “This isn’t your place to fix it.” I’ve even lost friends. But why then do people tell me their what-seems-like infinite number of problems if we cannot brainstorm how to fix them together? It’s like I’m getting heavier and heavier in my magnetic skin, and although I can tell the other person how to demagnetize some of the weight I’m carrying, they refuse to do it. They refuse to lighten the load.

I realize when people tell me their concerns and problems that they do not intend for me to bear it with them. They intend to get something off their chest and confide about something with which they are currently dealing. The sharing of these are not done out of malice but rather out of love because of our strong relationship. They feel I may be one of the only people to deal with it. I appreciate being the type of person that others feel they can confide in and trust. I know what this means. Honestly, though, it’s killing me.

I’m positive I’m more sensitive now that I’m pregnant, but I recognize that this has always been a problem. When I was younger, I would just drop a person when they continually made dumb decisions. I figured there was no help for him/her so why should I have that kind of turmoil in my life, too? However, it’s not that easy to do anymore as I get older. I can’t turn my back on certain people, especially family, because they are connected to my life by others as well. I could cause a rift in family or our group of friends because of this desire to have nothing to do with someone, and it would be heartbreaking to me, as well, to let certain people go. As I’ve grown up I’ve learned to love on a deeper level, but this love has brought a whole new set of problems. I have closer and more friends than I’ve ever had before, and although I love this, my inability to distance myself from their problems is killing me.

futurama-fry-meme-generator-not-sure-if-i-m-getting-annoying-or-just-worrying-too-much-63ec14

I know I’m complaining and doing the very thing I am writing about with which I have issue. However, I am not providing specific examples and details that tend to, in my case, weigh me down more. I have taken on health issues that are not being resolved. I have taken on the knowledge that relationships will not work. I have taken on a million different issues of my friends and family. I am drowning.

So how do I remedy this? The most important and difficult thing to do is to figure out how to distance myself once again from problems without totally cutting these people from my life. How do I do that? I have no idea. Perhaps this should be a resolution for the new year. Figure out how to lay down others’ problems and not carry them in my heart. Another way of dealing with this is to simply stop being that person that others feel they can confide in. Again, I have no idea how to do this without killing relationships and burning bridges. To be honest, I like being that person but I’ve seen, particularly in the past week, how this is detrimental to me. I’ve never been a “No” person. I am a pleaser. And this is hurting me. I spend way too much time stressing and worrying about what has been told to me and what has been asked of me, and had I simply said “No” to begin with, I would not have this stress on my shoulders. So another way of dealing with this may be to exercise my “No.” Instead of constantly saying “Yes,” I need to think of these affirmative replies as being limited rather than limitless. There are only so many times I can say “Yes,” so I must used these sparingly. My “Yes” and my “No” should be balanced. All of this doesn’t mean I do not care about what’s going on in the lives of my loved ones; this means I need to protect my own heart.

 “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” — Corrie Ten Boom

To Santa or Not to Santa?

It’s that time of year again when Santa Claus comes to visit. Or does he? Many parents are deciding to stop the myth of Santa with their children and are instead telling their children the truth. There are many reasons why this is becoming prevalent. The most popular that I’ve seen so far is the religious reason. Christians are afraid that the myth of Santa may make the Nativity story not the focus of Christmas and may even make their children greedy or legalistic. I mean, Santa can spell out Satan, right? 😉 For Hans and I with our baby boy on the way, we’ve talked about the issue of telling or not telling our children the myth of Santa based on the issue of lying to our children over the religious issue. It’s been a difficult decision and one that is still not entirely set in stone. Thank goodness we don’t have to worry about it right this minute. But all the talking between my spouse and I and now all the articles currently being posted on Facebook have got me thinking. Is it right to Santa or not to Santa? That is my question.

Here’s where I’m coming from. I believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny probably longer than I should have. I chalk this up to my belief in my parents’ honesty and my need to hang onto the fantastical. As children (and even as some adults) we blindly believe what we are told without questioning or wondering about things. I reached the age where I did start to question the world around me in fifth grade, and with this questioning came the question of the truth about Santa. When I found out my parents had lied to me all these years about Santa and the Easter Bunny, I was crushed. This was a pivotal moment in my life where I realized that instead of the perfect superheroes I had believed my parents to be they were actually flawed people like everyone else. I started to doubt anything they had told me, wondering what else they may have lied about and what they may still be lying about. Could I trust my parents?

gullibility

Furthermore, I had been taught about Jesus Christ since I was a toddler. He seemed too good to be true, as well, when I found out about Santa, and thus, I believed he was a lie as well. It took me over a year to regain my faith, but I didn’t really feel close to Christ again for many years. The lies about Santa had ruined it for me until I became an adult.

Let me state before I go any further that my parents did not intend harm from this myth they told me. They intended for Santa to be a fun and fantastical adventure for my brother and I. Perhaps if I didn’t have the tendency to overthink everything it would have still been a fun thing about Christmas even after learning the truth. I don’t blame my parents for this at all. They had the best of intentions. It was a magical experience every Christmas when “Santa” left us presents and to see that he had eaten the cookies. I believed magic was real and that the world was a wondrous place. I believed in the fantastical, and it was fun to believe that anything was possible.

santa-is-real

After my experiences, though, I am at a loss of what to do in the Santa situation. I’m not keen on the idea of having my children sit in a stranger’s lap every Christmas for pictures. I hate the thought of lying to my children repeatedly and then possibly having them look at me as I once did at my parents. I even don’t like the idea of buying presents for the kids and not getting the credit as the giver of these gifts (kind of selfish, but I’m human). However, I hate the thought of my future children not having the experience of the fantastical. For them to miss out on the belief that anything is possible is abominable. Hans and I are on the same page with these conflicting thoughts as he, too, had similar experiences to my own.

Because of these warring thoughts, Hans and I are leaning toward being honest with our children from the start, meaning telling them Santa Claus is a fictional person to enhance the holidays. Instead of focusing on this stranger that enters the house in the dead of night and leaves presents (stranger danger, anyone?), we’ll focus on the time we have with family, the abundance of what we have already and the need to donate and give to those less fortunate, and the love we show through the presents we receive and give to each other no matter how small or handmade. Christmas will still be a magical time because of the spirit and meaning behind it, both for their Christian mother and Atheist father and no matter what religion on which our future children eventually decide. And to have the children experience the fantastical, we’ll encourage them to read, read, and read some more and will even start the tradition of reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens every year. Nothing can transport you to another realm and make you believe the impossible like a great book can. I, for one, still believe there is a Hogwarts somewhere in the world. 😉

For further reading here is an interesting article that encourages parents to tell their children about Santa and a counter article that explains why parents should not tell their children about Santa.

elf

My New Obsession

I love comic books and have become a collector of graphic novels (compilations of comic books). I used to play X-Men on the playground in fourth grade (I was Rogue), and my friends (playing Jean Grey and Storm) and I would defeat imaginary bad guys every recess. My love was pushed aside during high school for chapter books and during my undergraduate program for television and partying. I had forgotten my love for this type of literature until I started to ponder what I should do my thesis on for my graduate program. I eventually decided on “Using Comic Books in the Classroom” partly because of the new nerdy man in my life who would eventually become my husband and partly because Rogue was still buried deep inside of me from all those years ago. I explored the different types of literacies people can learn from comic books in addition to learning to read and enhancing the skill of reading the written word, such as auditory literacy, spatial literacy, and visual literacy. Through my thesis, I truly learned how valuable comic books are to any growing mind.

rogue

Since then, I’ve been exposed to the literary masterpieces of Maus and Persepolis and have found my favorite series in Fables. I was content to read The Walking Dead and Fables whenever a new graphic novel would come out with just a few different comic books sprinkled throughout. However, this changed about a week ago. I suddenly had this craving for graphic novels (which I may attribute to the baby and his future love of this genre). I found a sale of “Buy Two, Get One Free” at a book store and took full advantage of this – an $85.00 advantage to be precise. For the past week, I have been engulfed in several comic book worlds. I have reveled in the unique story lines and beautiful artwork. I have yearned for more volumes of particular series and then immediately became upset that I would have to wait another six months for the next volumes to be released.

One of these, and quite possibly my new favorite, is entitled Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrated by Roc Upchurch until Fall of 2014 and now by Stjepan Sejic. This is a story set in a fantasy world (akin to Dungeons and Dragons and many other RPG fantasy games) and follows the main characters of Dee, Violet, Betty, and Hannah. Each woman has something different and necessary that they contribute to the group and are even different races listed as follows: “Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief.” The artwork is beautiful that shows both the darkness of the world in which they live while also showing how kick-ass these women are. Unlike many comics before Rat Queens, this series shows women as equal to men and does not focus on their boobs and “assets.” They’re dressed as beautiful warriors with costumes that fit their needs of combat. I also appreciate how this series shows a homosexual relationship as well as heterosexual relationships with both being shown with the same decorum. Looking for something new to read? I highly recommend the first volume of Rat Queens fittingly entitled “Sass & Sorcery.”

The Rat Queens - Hannah, Violet, Dee, and Betty

The Rat Queens – Hannah, Violet, Dee, and Betty

I also was surprised and enthralled with Ms. Marvel written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona. The main character Kamala Khan is a Pakistani American, and Marvel took a risk having a Muslim as the lead character of this series, particularly with mixed reviews upon announcing this change. However, their risk paid off. Not only is Kamala learning to fight injustice and crime with her new Ms. Marvel (think Carol Danvers) powers, but she’s also dealing with the banal issues of any sixteen-year-old that makes her accessible to anyone who’s gone through or is currently in their teenage years. Her parents are strict, and Kamala is ready to grow up. How can she reach a balance between what she wants and what her parents want for her? She is insecure about her Middle-Eastern looks and wishes she was the stereotypical blonde haired, blue eyed white American. Will she be able to reach contentment with her own body? Not only is she dealing with these pivotal life issues, but she’s dealing with them while trying to figure out how and when to use her new powers. She is also dressed appropriately for a sixteen-year-old rather than appropriately for past female main characters (think bulging bosoms and painted on pants), and this is addressed within the comic itself. Genius! Readers can tell this was lovingly written and illustrated, and this love from the creation of the comic will transfer to a love of reading it.

Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel

Because Fables, which is written by Bill Willingham and has been illustrated by many talented artists throughout the years, is my favorite series, I would be remiss not to devote at least a paragraph to it as well. In the past week I finally got around to reading the spinoff Werewolves in the Heartland, and this just reiterated how much I love this series. Fables is a series set in modern-day New York City and stars fairy tale creatures who were kicked out of their homeland by the Adversary. Some of the fables currently reside in Fabletown, an isolated farm for those fables not able to fit in with the “mundy” population (like the talking animals, giants, etc.). The main characters are a mix of both male and female, and their interactions and storylines are always interesting. In fact, both NBC and ABC played with the idea of making Fables into a television show until they realized the budget would be too much and settled for Grimm and Once Upon a Time. Thankfully, Telltale Games did not feel the same and made the game A Wolf Among Us (a great addition to the Fables canon). There is still talk of a movie series, like the Harry Potter movies, based on Fables. Fingers crossed!

Fables-by-Bill-Willingham

For years comic books have been ahead of their time and paved the way for many different social changes. These comic book series, among a plethora of others I unfortunately do not have time to name, show just how far ahead comic books are. Women are equal and sometimes even stronger than men. Muslims are just as important as Christians. Homosexual relationships are treated the same as heterosexual relationships. Even many big heroes have been changing ethnicities recently so that more people can see themselves in comic books. I believe this is the main reason these stories have caught my attention recently. The morals and themes explored in many comic books are crucially important. Have you checked out a comic book recently?

The Fluidity of Family

What is the meaning of family? This is a question that was brought up in Sarah Dessen’s Lock and Key and is a difficult question to answer. There’s the dictionary definition of “a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for.” However, family is so much more than that. It’s the first people you run to for help, the people you can’t wait to see and sometimes the people you see too much, the people who know your history, the people you fight with and make up with, and the people who love you unconditionally (though you may be talked about depending on your choices). People have many different families. For me, I have my mom and step-dad and then in turn have their children and all the extended family on my mother’s side as a family. I then have my dad and step-mom, his two step-granddaughters, along with my father’s extended family. I have my parents-in-law and my husband’s side of the family. My husband, my dog, and I make a separate family as well and will soon get a new addition in April when our baby boy joins us. I even consider my group of friends as a family.

6350193

Family is fluid. Events change families. Falling outs change families. From year to year, families change sometimes even drastically. The death of my maternal grandfather rocked our family in such an emotional way that we’re still grieving it years later. His Alzheimer’s and death changed our family dynamics and yet strengthened our need for each other. The death of my paternal grandfather rocked that side of the family, and like the death of my beloved paternal grandmother Sue-Sue, his death showed how he was the glue for the family. With the children of the family all grown up, holidays are not as lively and loud as they once were, but with the addition of babies and children from these now grown children, holidays will change once more for our family. When a friend gains a new girlfriend, boyfriend, or partner, the “family” dynamics of the group shifts and sometimes we gain a new member who offers a certain something that was once missing from our little family.

No matter how our family changes, grows, or even shrinks, it is apparent to me how these people are the riches within my life. Money may be awesome (and even necessary to survive), a new pair of jeans that fit just right may be divine, but without family, life is lacking an essential puzzle piece that makes it all worthwhile. I thank my family, in its many forms, during this season of thankfulness, giving, and love. You are the ones who keep this woman happy and content. You are the ones that offer light in darkness. You are the ones I can both learn from and teach. To my past, present, and future biological family, family-in-law, friends, teachers, lovers, and role models, you have shown me what it means to love and be loved and for this I am grateful.

“What is family? They were the people who claimed you. In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless. It wasn’t just about blood relations or shared chromosomes, but something wider, bigger. We had many families over time. Our family of origin, the family we created, and the groups you moved through while all of this was happening: friends, lovers, sometimes even strangers. None of them perfect, and we couldn’t expect them to be. You can’t make any one person your world. The trick was to take what each could give you and build your world from it.” – Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key

Happy Holidays not just Merry Christmas

It’s that time of year again. The time when people start posting the following: “It’s Merry Christmas not Happy Holidays,” thus ruining any good mood I am in. Let me explain. If you’re a follower of this blog, you already know I’m a Christian. I believe in Christ and that he died for our sins. For me, it is “Merry Christmas.” In fact, I’m writing this with Christmas music playing in the background, and these beloved songs and their messages are enough to make me tear up. However, I am cognizant to the fact that not everyone believes as I do, and I am fine with that. No, not just fine; I am happy for that. If we all believed the same thing, there would be no possibility for “inquiring and discerning heart[s],” a part of most baptismal covenants.

As many of you may already know, my husband is what he calls an Agnostic Atheist. He doesn’t believe any god exists, but because he cannot prove a god’s nonexistence, he qualifies his core belief with “agnostic.” And despite our differing views on faith, our marriage works. Perhaps it’s because of these differences, but that’s another blog post altogether. Contrary to what most would tell me, I do not feel the need to convert him to Christianity. He knows the gospel. He grew up Christian. He’s been to church with me as well. He sees my example of Christianity, and unfortunately he’s seen the examples of others (specifically when I was ostracized from my church for marrying a nonbeliever). So there’s no need to push my beliefs on him; he understands but just doesn’t believe. The main reason, though, that I do not feel the need to convert him is that it’s not my place. Only God can do this, and I’d be pretty darn conceited to think that I could play this role. Plus, I love him no matter what.

But I digress. Our home is full of two different views on faith, yet we celebrate Christmas. My husband may not believe what I do, but he respects it and looks forward to the traditions each year. Why then is it so difficult for us to accept others’ beliefs outside of the home?

I am blessed with an abundance of family and friends with different faiths. I have friends and family who are Agnostic, Atheist, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, and I respect and love these people. For me this season may be “Merry Christmas,” but for many of them it is not. Therefore, I never mind saying “Happy Holidays”. I also don’t mind wishing someone a “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Kwanzaa” if I know that’s what they celebrate. It’s not what I celebrate, but it’s not my place to judge whether their holiday is valid or not or to feel superior in my own choice in Christmas. And thank God it isn’t my place to judge what is right and what is wrong. That is a task that no man is up for as it is the task of God. Why then are all these graphics and Facebook pictures saying that it is “Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays”? Is that not judging what this season should be for ALL people? Is that what Christ would want? The same Christ who instructed the following:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7: 1-5

I admit through this post that I am judging those who post these messages, but I’m writing this not in the spirit of judgment but enlightenment. I am a big believer that to tolerate is human but to accept is divine. The definition of “to tolerate” is “to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of… without interference” and “to endure with forbearance.” We tolerate what we do not like, what gets on our nerves. To tolerate is a negative idea. But let’s look at the definition of acceptance. To accept is “to give admittance or approval to” and “to welcome.” That’s a much more positive act. We need to not only tolerate what others believe, but to accept them as Christ would have and would want us to do. We were not instructed to love our “Christian” neighbor. We were not instructed to love our neighbor but only if he or she shares the same beliefs. We were instructed to love our neighbor. A succinct command that turns out to be the most difficult to obey. Therefore, let us accept our brothers and sisters. Let us love them as Christ would want us to and be examples of the crux of our religion. Let us reflect God’s love instead of God’s wrath.

So to you, dear reader, I wish you happy holidays and hope it is full of love, family, understanding, and peace.

Happy Holidays! Not only does it encompass all religious holidays, but it includes New Year's as well.

Happy Holidays! Not only does it encompass all religious holidays, but it includes New Year’s as well.

1 2 3 4 10