Life hasn’t been only space TV shows, work, parenting and Listen to Your Mother over the last few months. I managed to read a few books, but I never had a chance to write a thorough review for them. At this point, a thorough review seems like a lost cause, so I thought I would combine my thoughts about them into this post. Maybe one will make it onto your “to read” list.
I Read Books!
A 14-year-old boy is found stabbed to death in the woods near his school, and Assistant District Attorney Barber is shocked to discover his son is the prime suspect in the case. Jacob insists that he is innocent, and ADA Barber shifts into defense mode to save his son as the world he thought he knew falls apart around him and he is forced to confront unpleasant truths about his past as well as whether he really knows his son. Most of the book is a courtroom drama, but there is a shocking plot twist at the end.
This book was a very fast read and very engrossing. That said, I didn’t think it was a very good book, but it earned raves from many prominent reviewers. The father’s a jerk. The mother is a cipher, and Jacob is never fully present in the book. He is portrayed through recollections and stories. One of Landay’s goals is to make you question whether Jacob is an sullen, emo teenager or a psychopath as well as whether there is such a thing as a genetic disposition towards violence. The problem is that you never get to see the world through Jacob’s eyes but through only his mother’s and father’s, and they are not what I would consider to be reliable narrators.
Landay employs a very surprising plot twist at the end that I didn’t see coming – it truly shocked me – but I felt like he spent so much time setting up the twist that it impacted his characterization. Maybe that’s why Jacob never seemed like a main player in a book that is ostensibly about him and his supposed crime.
Coincidentally, I read the book a few days after the Newtown shooting and maybe it was too soon. Maybe the frustration I felt over the lack of character development mirrored the frustration we felt at being unable to ask Lanza WHY. We’re left to extrapolate meaning from memory and conversation relayed by others when what we really wish we could do is talk one-on-one.
Maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t had a chance to write a review for this book because I’m not sure how I could do it justice. Andrew Solomon spent a decade meticulously researching and investigating ways in which children can be profoundly different from their parents and what that does to our notion of family, identity and the world. He begins with his own experience as the homosexual child of heterosexual parents and goes onto explore deafness, autism, disability, dwarfism, genius, schizophrenia, Down Syndrome, children of rape, criminals and transgender.
I cannot say enough positive things about this book. Solomon does a masterful job of helping you enter the worlds he describes and handles each identity thoughtfully and with great respect. I learned so much, and I also had so many ideas challenged. Each identity is its own chapter and that made it easy to jump around or take a long time to read the book (as I did). I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a big book to chew on.
So Sheryl Sandberg wrote a book. Maybe you’ve heard of it? I eagerly read this book, curious to see what had generated so much debate and whether I, as a working mother, would agree or disagree with Sandberg’s advice. Overall, “underwhelmed” describes my reaction to the book. A lot of what she advises is common sense: marry a man who will be a real partner; even if you plan to take time out of the workforce when you have children, don’t use that as an excuse t0 check out too early; take a seat at the table; don’t let fear hold you back.
I don’t mean to imply that it is a bad book; it isn’t. Sandberg offers a lot of useful advice about finding a mentor (if you have to ask someone, then they aren’t a mentor) and how to assert yourself (focus on what problem can you solve for someone). I liked that Sandberg talked about the conflict, guilt and a judgment she feels from time to time. Sandberg has achieved a lot and knows what she is talking about, but I expected more. Sandberg’s advice is for the individual woman in the workforce and what she can do to succeed, but there is no talk about how corporate America and our work infrastructure must change in order to make it easier for women to succeed and have families. She comes closest when she notes:
“For decades, we have focused on giving women the choice to work inside or outside the home. . . . But we have to ask ourselves if we have become so focused on supporting personal choices that we’re failing to encourage women to aspire to leadership.”
There is a lot of truth in that statement, but what is left unsaid is that encouraging women to aspire to leadership is not enough. Aspiration won’t be sufficient to break through the real barriers that exist; what can business do to support women better?
Summer Reading List
We’re going to the beach in about 6 weeks (yay!), and I have been adding books to my list in the (likely) deluded hope I get to read any of them. Here are a few that have caught my eye:
- The Interestings
- Sisterland (I’m not a huge Sittenfeld fan, so we’ll see if I like this one any better)
- The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
- The Shining Girls
- The 5th Wave
- Life After Life
Don’t worry. I’ll also go through my book sale treasures for the conspiracy theory books that are my guilty pleasure
I’ve stated that I will read almost anything, and I mean that! If a book sounds fun or interesting, I’ll give it a shot, no matter how pulpy. To prove this to you, I’ll share what I consider to be my most embarrassing read:
The Left Behind Series.
Yes, I read every book in the series. All 16. I checked out those suckers 3 and 4 at a time from the library. I was hooked. I was intrigued at how the authors would tackle the Rapture and the events in Revelations.
And they truly weren’t the worst books I’ve ever read. Sensational? Yes. Over the top? Yes. Dogmatic? Yes. But this all-but-professed atheist found them riveting. Maybe they play into my conspiracy theory-loving soul. Maybe I was bored. I don’t know, but I read the entire series, and I don’t regret it.
What is the best book you read recently?
What is on your summer reading list?
What’s your most embarrassing read?
Last weekend, Daniel and I went to a local farm and picked strawberries. It was a blustery day, very unusual for May in North Carolina. Daniel was so excited. Honestly, so was I. I’m not sure I’d ever picked my own berries before, and we’re fortunate to have several farms in the area that allow you to do so.
I quickly schooled Daniel on how to identify ripe berries vs unripe ones. That explanation mostly worked. I was left holding the pail as my super-fast little boy’s fingers nimbly plucked berries from the vine. He might have picked a few green berries by mistake, and he definitely ate more than a few berries as he picked them. I gave up preventing him from eating them and tried to keep him from putting half-eaten berries in our bucket.
It only 20 minutes, we had a huge bucket filled with strawberries for which we paid only $10. Daniel tried to carry the heavy bucket to our car but after he left a trail of berries in his wake, I convinced him to let me carry the bucket.
I used some of the berries in daycare lunches for the week but was at a loss at what to do with the remaining strawberries before they went bad because I knew Daniel would want to go pick berries again and soon. As I was prepping for the Listen to Your Mother cast party last Wednesday, I was inspired to bring along the remaining berries. They had been picked by Daniel and he had more or less listened to my instructions, so it seemed right to have them at the party, like a little token from him.
Listen to Your Mother. Y’all. I don’t even know where to begin or how to find the words. The cast was amazing and read flawlessly. It was so gratifying to hear the audience laugh at the parts that made us laugh and cry at the parts that devastated us. Our sold-out (!) audience was very into the show, and it felt like we were performing for family and friends. OK, many of us were, but there was an intimacy in the hall, and it was possible to connect one on one – a glance here, a smile there – with the audience.
I am so damn proud of us and the show we put on. That these 14 women and 1 man were able to swallow their fears, doubts and anxieties and bare their souls. To be brave, to use the word of the night. It’s one thing to write something, publish it and walk away. It’s another to stand up in front of a crowd and read it, exposing the most vulnerable parts of you.
But this cast did it and knocked it out of the damn park.
Mingling with my pride is a wee bit of sadness. It’s like the day after Christmas, when you have the let down after weeks of euphoria and anticipation. I can’t believe the show is over and that 14 people came to mean so much to me in such a short period of time. But we’ve converted our FB group to an alumni group, and I hope that we can continue to stay in touch. I can’t imagine any of us would turn turn away the possibility of more friends.
There are pictures to come and the full video will be on YouTube in a few weeks, but for now, check out show photographer Jess Rotenberg’s post on the show with a few gorgeous pictures.
Too often motherhood is portrayed in the media as black and white: you’re either good, perfect and saintly or bad, selfish and neglectful. In reality, though, we know that motherhood is complicated. Mothers are complicated. It’s not and we are not black and white. There are many, many, many shades of gray and I am honored that we were able to give a microphone to these amazing women and man so that they could tell their stories.
Today’s the day. At half-past-7 (imagine that in a pretentious British accent), 14 brave women and 1 intrepid man will file onto the stage at Kenan Hall on the campus of William Peace University, take their sits and the inaugural Listen to Your Mother: Raleigh-Durham will begin. For the next hour and a half, the audience will be treated to original readings on motherhood: the highs, the lows, the hysterical, the wistful, the sweet. Tears of mirth as well as sadness may flow. And then, it will be over.
Somehow, it has become May, and it’s time for our show. It truly seems like only a few weeks ago when Marty and I were trying to find a location and then holding auditions. It seemed like we had plenty of time before the show, but the day has come.
We’re ready. There are a few show-day hiccups however: one cast member is in the ER for pain and shortness of breath, and I sound like a 3-pack-a-day smoker thanks to allergies (hopefully) or a poorly-timed cold (hopefully not). But the show will go on, and it is going to be so awesome.
We’re sold out, y’all. Sold out. We hoped we would sell out, but actually seeing the ticket site say zero tickets remaining gave us chills.
And our cast rocks. Despite only getting together a handful of times, the 15 of us plowed through forming, ignored storming, and quickly progressed to norming and as of tonight, performing. They are exchanging emails and offering each other hugs and advice, and swapping stories.
I learned in Performance Leadership that the quickest way to build trust and intimacy is to share something about yourself, to show that you are human; that’s what each of us have done in our pieces. Baring our souls has allowed us to gel, and I’ve never felt so close to so many former strangers in such a quick period of time. Everyone one of us is grateful for the opportunity to be in the show and keep thanking me and Marty while we keep thanking them. It’s their stories that make this first-ever show in Raleigh-Durham possible.
I have a new dress. I have new jewelry. I have a new haircut. And most importantly, I have new shapewear.
Of course, none of that is important. We could read in burlap sacks and it wouldn’t alter the impact of our words.
Spare a moment to whisper “break a leg” at 7:30 PM EST if you can. I can’t wait.
Hi. I’m here. Insane, but here. We have under 2 weeks to go until our Listen to Your Mother show and much like a wedding, there are many last minute details to finish up. I find myself humming, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” at odd moments, but you know? It feels GOOD to be back in this theatrical environment. Also? Tickets are still available!
And work has responded by crowding my calendar with meetings, meetings and more meetings. Today I was in Greensboro for our strategic plan refresh session. I was in meetings pretty much every day last week and will be in meetings every day this week. Even Friday, and that’s just wrong!
Months ago, I signed up to be part of PAIL’s Monday Snapshot. They told me it would likely be April before mine went up, and I promptly forgot. Last week, they emailed me that Monday was my day, and I promptly forgot again. Then this morning, I woke up to an email asking if I had gotten the earlier email and if I could still participate. Yikes.
I was looking so forward to participating and had screwed up royally. I hurriedly found a picture, wrote a few paragraphs and sent it out. The PAIL ladies were very sweet to work with me despite my tardiness, and my profile went up later today.
I’m not usually so disorganized, and I hope to be in better form soon. In the meantime, check out my Snapshot if you have a moment.
We survived Monday, right?
I’ve read a few stories the past few days that are horrific. They make me sick to my stomach and want to cry. They also force me to conclude that there is not only a war against women (not that I was a doubter) but also that there is true disdain for being a poor woman.
I wonder if the right, the so-called conservatives or family-values brigade, realizes how contradictory its positions are. Don’t have sex until marriage (the 1900s called and they want their values back), but if you do and get pregnant, you better keep it. If you are pregnant, that 8-celled embryo has more rights than you, but don’t expect us to help if the child you dutifully birth needs Head Start to prepare for school. If you expect to get government assistance (AKA welfare) to subsist, you have to work; where and in what conditions you put those kids we begged you to have isn’t our concern.
Sure, I’m likely generalizing quite a bit and being a bit inflammatory, but honestly, I’m shocked and appalled at what is going on in this country lately when it comes to reproductive rights and then the lack of policies to help care for children from the self-named “family values party.”
Look, people are going to have sex. They’ve had sex for hundreds of millions of years, and your declaration that sex outside of marriage (a fairly recent invention) is immoral isn’t making a difference. Women want to have sex responsibly and be in charge of their own reproductive outcomes and seek contraception, yet there is a war on that. Women get pregnant (because they didn’t have access to contraception) and decide to seek a legal (remember that fact?) abortion. Unfortunately, for lower income women, it may be difficult to obtain one in the legally-allowed time frame due to cost. As a result, they may have to seek one at type like Gosnell’s. Do you think a woman wants to have a partial-birth abortion? Do you really think a woman wakes up one day and says, “you know, I’m tired of this whole pregnancy thing. Think I’ll get a partial-birth abortion.” The woman who settles on a place like this clinic is desperate and poor. She can’t afford earlier procedures or better conditions and puts her life in the hands of this so-called doctor. It’s NOT a whim.
Let’s say the woman decides to have the baby and parent it. That’s wonderful, right? Except for the fact that she will need to work to support her family and/or obtain any government assistance. She has to do something with the child, right? Decent, regulated child care can be difficult to obtain at best and unaffordable at worst. Do you think this mother wants to leave her beloved child in a situation that might cause unease? That might seem unsafe? Daycare is expensive. Good daycare is VERY expensive. How can you demand a mother work to receive any assistance, yet make it impossible for her to find decent care for her child? And then when tragedy happens, you cluck that this is what happens when mothers enter the workforce, conveniently ignoring the fact that you have contributed to this Scylla and Charybdis.
You might be wondering what dog I have in this fight. I admit that I am privileged. I own it. Jimmy and I are fortunate to be able to afford the best daycare for our son and any other services he might need. We have the ability to shop around and evaluate excellent facilities according to our whims. I’ve never worried how we were going to support our family. Never worried about the toll an extra mouth to feed might take. Never had to fight for any type of contraception (and I write that with great irony given my particular conditions). Hell, we were able to pay a lot of money to have a baby. Conservatives, we are your people! Except for the fact that I loathe injustice. I loathe children not being able to get a fair shake in life. I loathe children being placed in unsafe conditions due to a lack of government intervention. I loathe women being treated as lower-class citizens. I loathe feeling like my gender is denied intelligence in some political circles. And I also loathe being told what to do with my own body. And overall, I loathe unfairness.
I wonder what it says about a country that values upholding the right of its citizens to own guns–even guns that could almost be weapons of mass destruction–over valuing and caring for its youngest citizens. As Cohn’s article points out, government subsidy of childcare could have huge returns as far as reduced prison, health and special education costs and increased economic contributions. To me, it seems a no-brainer. What am I missing?
After Newtown, I lost a friend on Twitter after I tweeted that the Republicans cared more about embryos and potential than actual children since they were reluctant to enact gun control measures. I understand she was offended, but I stand by that sentiment, and nothing I have read has altered my stance.
The explanation often given is to let the free market decide. Capitalism will decide. I don’t think so. When I was in high school and learning about different types of economic systems, my teacher pointed out that capitalism without restraints can be very harsh. Capitalism is the “honey badger” of economic systems. Unsafe conditions or too-low wages? Capitalism don’t care. Read The Jungle and then tell me government intervention is unnecessary. The programs FDR put in place and similar social programs were necessary to blunt the sharpness of Capitalism. Yet too many politicians seek to dismantle them. Why care for the elderly? Why allow our citizens to feel like their country rewards them for any service? Hell, just let us die and then bulldoze over us to build the next monstrosity to profit (for a few!) Capitalism demands.
I’m mad. I’m angry. I’m furious that anyone, let alone any woman, any mother, regardless of financial status has to justify any decision she makes. Has to jump through hoops to make pertinent decisions for herself, her body and her children or future children. Has to believe she has no other option than to go to a cut-rate abortion provider who doesn’t even clean up after prior procedures. Has to put her precious child in a situation that feels not quite right in order to earn money.
We live in the richest, most free country in the world, yet we’re content to let religion and dogma prevent us from doing what is ethical and what is right. Am I wrong to be bothered by that?
The (Unintentionally) Inappropriate
Daniel, to himself, as he puts on his pants: That’s not the right hole.
Me: That’s a life lesson.
Daniel, at story time: Mommy, I want to get in you
(He means he wants my arms around him, but my eyebrows raise & I snicker like a 13-year-old boy every time he says it)
Daniel, after dropping a starfish in the car: Mommy, get that for me.
Me: I can’t; I’m driving.
Daniel: Oh, I think you can.
Me: Can you share your water with Elly (the starfish)?
Daniel: No. I will not share with Elly.
Me: Would you share your water with me?
Daniel: No. I will share with myself. I’m not sharing with anyone.
Me, during tuck time: Can I have one more hug and kiss?
Daniel, rolling over: I’ve already given you one.
Daniel: Elly and Henry (two of his starfish) are best friends.
Me: Who is your best friend, Daniel?
Daniel: You are, mommy. You’re my best friend.
Me: unable to respond because I’m a puddle on the floor.
A month from now, it will all be over. All the meetings and Facebook conversations. The tweets. The texts. The sponsor soliciting. Celebrating when your cold call gets a positive response. Gnashing your teeth in frustration when you are turned down by a potential sponsor or charity who doesn’t get what you are trying to do.
A month from now, these 15 women and men who were brought together due to their heart-felt pieces on motherhood, camaraderie formed, confidences shared, enthusiasm evident, will disperse.
For Raleigh-Durham’s Listen to Your Mother show will be over.
I remember in January as Marty and I bounced venue and charity ideas off of each other, how much time it seemed like we had. Suddenly it was time for auditions and building our cast and our show. And now, here we are in the last few–very few—weeks before our show. It’s time to shift our mindset to publicity, to ensuring we have a full house for our show. It feels like there are a thousand balls in the air that we are juggling for the show in addition to our “normal” lives of working, parenting and living. We’re at the detail stage right now: designing ads, posters, programs; thinking of cast gifts; finding an after-party location.
It’s been difficult for me to be as engaged with the process as I would like since work has been crazy just when I need to contribute the most. I hate feeling like I’m not pulling my weight.
Sometimes my mindset shifts to my old theater days in terms of thinking of the production: need to do this, tech rehearsal, costumes, etc. But then it dawns on me how special our show is, how remarkable it is to be part of the Listen to Your Mother organization.
Our cast is comprised of real women and men with real stories. These aren’t scripted lines. They come from the heart. They are their reality. The darkest moments. The highest highs. Painful histories. Worries. Doubts. Appreciation. Love. Side-splitting humor I feel honored that Marty and I have been given the opportunity to help bring these stories and these wonderful voices to a wider audience. I take a step back and am awed and so proud to be able to do this for our community.
Tickets are on sale. I’ve added a feed of the latest posts on our LTYM site to my sidebar (it’s a bit wonky). Right now we’re posting cast profiles and posts on our gracious sponsors. I’d love it if you’d click over and get to know the amazing man and women who will be reading on May 8.