Spinster: Women Supporting Women

This post was inspired by Spinster by Kate Bolick, who explores singledom with famous women who fashioned life on their own terms. Join From Left to Write on May 5th as we discuss Spinster. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Spinster

From Left to Write is one of the best things I have ever found via blogging. It has opened many a door (erm or maybe a book) for me, but I have to fully admit with the end of B1’s first year in school, a pregnancy that has been rougher on me than I expected, and a tight turn around on three books for the book club, I just haven’t been able to finish the last one or this one. I know my posting has been sporadic at best, and I have no expectation that it will get better once B2 is here, but I am going to make an effort to write quality content when I can, thank you for sticking with me.

Now, back to the book post!

I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t really relate to the “spinster” title. Nick and I have been together since we were 20 and we’ve been married for most of that time. What I can relate to with this book is that women are expected to do certain “life moments” in a particular order, and they get questioned all the time, while men don’t.

Over time the mentality of society has changed, you don’t necessarily need to get married right out of college, and then have kids after that. There is much more acceptance for the woman who wants to travel and not settle down. Or the women who wants to focus on her career instead of having a family. While you will probably still have that relative that will ask you at the family get-together what you are doing with your life and when you are going to get married or have babies, etc… the general acceptance in society is there.

I have found however, at least in the north-east, that the woman who decides that she does in fact want to get married young and have babies young is judged. It’s as if she (or I) is being judged for not helping other women break ground in changing the ways society view women and what their roles should or shouldn’t be.

For me, I have friends that have married young, have had babies young, friends that never want to get married, friends that don’t want to have children, friends that want to travel the world before the settle down, friends that want to travel with their partner, friends that want to travel with their kids, etc…

This life would be pretty boring if we were all the same, I hope that someday women can just find it in their hearts to support the woman standing next to them, whether or not their lifestyle is one they would want.

The 13th Gift: Surviving Loss

This post was inspired by The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith, memoir about how  random acts of kindness transformed her family’s bereavement and grief during the holidays. Join From Left to Write on October 28th as we discuss The 13th Gift. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

The-13th-Gift-Banner-FL2W-Book-Club

I knew when I signed up to review this book that it might be a bit hard for me to read, I think the one thing that allowed me to actually sign up was the fact that it is based on a true story, I knew there wouldn’t be some unrealistic story line or fairytale ending. That being said, this is hands down one of the best books I have read via my relationship with From Left to Write. If you are feeling a little down with the holiday season approaching, please read this!

In case you are new to the blog, From Left to Write bloggers don’t write traditional reviews, we take a piece of the book we are inspired by and write a post from that theme.

Grief is something that I unfortunately have a decent amount of experience with. My maternal grandfather passed away shortly after the new year when I was very young, and a few months after that, right around Easter, my maternal grandmother also passed. They lived in California and I was in Vermont so while I have some really great memories, I didn’t have a close relationship due to distance.

This past holiday season was incredibly hard for me, it’s no secret that I had a miscarriage last September, but while everyone was getting excited for everything holiday related, I was finding it hard to get off the couch and put up any decorations. I wandered aimlessly through the stores. I bought B any toy he pointed out that he wanted (always a bad idea). My MIL ended up coming and helping with the tree and the decorating, and I didn’t want B to ever have any memories where Christmas didn’t have this magical spirit about it.

IMG_3783I decided I needed to pull myself out of it, I needed to surround myself with loved ones and to make these wonderful memories with my family. While B wouldn’t be getting a sibling, he would be getting involved in these traditions that he could one day help me show to a sibling.

The first was participating in the Food Blogger Cookie Swap (only a few days left to sign up this year). B helped me with the baking, and both he and Nick helped with the taste-testing.

The second was creating trays of cookies for our neighbors. This is something that my neighborhood used to do every holiday season and my sister and I loved it. I knew when I was an adult I wanted to continue this tradition, so I did. Baking makes me happy, delivering delicious treats was my way of passing along that feeling!

The last thing I did was host a cookie swap at my house for my girlfriends (and their kids if they have them). This is one of my favorite holiday traditions. I started when B was 5 months old, and I hope to continue for many many years to come.

Although it seems like cookies helped me with my grief, and I will fully admit that I ate entirely to many last holiday season, there was also plenty of time spend with our families and closest friends. Closing myself into my house was not something I should’ve been doing, and I am grateful for the people who made sure I didn’t.

These things didn’t change the fact that I was sad and grieving, but it helped remind me of the important things and people in my life, that they were still here, and while the loss was incredibly hard and sad, there will always be people there for you to pick you up when you are down. Let them pick you up.

What are some of your holiday traditions?

 

Dataclysm: How Do We Choose Our Relationships?

This post was inspired by Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, where he analyzes online data to find out that people who prefer beer are more likely to have sex on a first date. Join From Left to Write on October 9th as we discuss Dataclysm. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Dataclysm-Book-Club-FL2W-Banner-

I will be honest, I haven’t quite finished this book yet, it is pretty fascinating, even for someone who has never used an online dating website. I think one of the themes that stood out is why we choose our partners, and for the sake of this post, and friends?

Do we choose based on looks, first impressions, etc? I think sometimes that we make our decisions based on what we’ve seen during our lifetime. Do you hang out with a group of people who constantly parties? Maybe that is what you are into, but would you naturally make that decision?

photo 1-6

For me, my life growing up wasn’t super structured, there was a lot of uncertainty, and I can see that in the relationships of my former friends and family. I craved the structure, someone who was comfortable with being settled and not having this really fast-paced lifestyle. To me this is not boring, this is real life.

Sure, we do exciting things and have taken fun trips, but I love the fact that Nick and I can sit at home and watch a movie and have fun. My husband is one of the most sensitive and responsible people I know. For a lot of people that translates to boring, but not for me. I grew up in a chaotic lifestyle, and this is exactly the type of life I want to raise my child in.

I also have chosen my friends to be similar, I don’t like having people who are unreliable in my life, if I can help it. It’s taken quite a few of my adult years to cut out the people who aren’t reliable or supportive. This doesn’t mean that my friends have to be in the same situation as me. Some of these friends are single and have yet to had children, and yet I am closer to them than I was with some friends that are married with children. Now, even though the friends circle is a bit smaller, I have a group of friends that I know I can count on 100%, no matter what the situation is.

Did you choose a partner with a childhood similar to yours or completely different? What about friends, do you keep all your old friends around even if your views aren’t the same?

The Underground Girls of Kabul: Raising Boys

This post was inspired by The Underground Girls of Kabul by journalist Jenny Nordberg, who discovers a secret Afghani practice where girls are dressed and raised as boys. Join From Left to Write on September 16th as we discuss The Underground Girls of Kabul. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Underground-Girls-of-Kabul-FL2W-Book-Club The first book for September is a bit heavy. If you’d like to read a bit about it you can read this modified piece from The Atlantic. The author talked to many families in Afghanistan, where it is not just nice to have a son, it is necessary. Regardless of your financial stature, if you do not produce a son you are not a worthy woman, and your husband should be embarrassed. This has led to a society where women will say that their daughter is a son, and will present the child as such. This is used for two reasons, the first is that many believe this will lead to the next child actually being a son, and also because the child can help out. The “boy” can get a job and make money, can escort the women in the family outside the house, etc…

This led to me thinking about raising boys vs. raising girls. I obviously don’t have a girl, but I have some friends that do. Coming from an engineering college, a lot of these women raise their girls with dolls and frilly pink. They have tractors and trucks, and toys that generally are labeled boys toys. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with raising your daughter that way, but I think there is a double standard. When a girl chooses a truck over a doll people think it is great, bend those gender stereotypes, but if a boy is seen playing with a doll or something pink they are immediately labeled gay or fruity or a pansy, etc…

Personally, my son can play with whichever toy he wants. He loves Cars and Legos (we have about 1000 of each currently strewn about our living room), he loves getting playing in the dirt and racing his Tonka trucks down the driveway, he also Frozen and Sofia, and at preschool the two toys he loves the most, right now anyway, are the lego table and the doll house. He wasn’t the only boy who gravitated to the doll house either, and no parent had a problem with it. If he showed up with the Sofia backpack he wanted, he already had a Cars one at home, I don’t know that all parents would have taken it in stride. My fear isn’t that my son would want to play with girly toys, my fear is that other parents or children will make fun of him for it.

What would you do if your son wanted a Sofia backpack?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: I’ve Got a Golden Ticket!

This post was inspired by the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.

Head over to From Left to Write to learn how you and your child can have a chance to win the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes where the grand prize is a magical trip to New York City plus much more! For every entry submitted, Penguin Young Readers Group will make a donation to First Book. Then, join From Left to Write on July 24 as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As a book club member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Charlie-Chocolate-Factory-From-Left-to-Write-Banner

 

I don’t know about you, but I am one of those annoying people where I totally believe the book is better than the movie, and the remake is NEVER as good as the original. However Charlie and the Chocolate Factory only falls into one of those categories. I saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory before I ever read the book.

While I believe the remake is much closer to the original story written by Roald Dahl 50 years ago, the original movie will always hold a special place in my heart. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen both movies!

The opening credits always made me crave milky sweet chocolate. I always wished that I had a local candy shop like Charlie and his classmates. I think, hands down, my favorite part of the movie is when Willie Wonka leads the kids and their guardian through the factory and into the first room with the fudge waterfall and the gigantic gummy bears. Did you ever talk about what you would eat first if you ended up in that room, because my sister and I totally did. I totally memorized all the oompa loompa songs in the original movie and I have to say, I loved those way more than the ones in the second movie.

There were parts that totally scared the pants off of me, and probably you too. The scenes with Mr. Slugworth, totally creepy, and the boat ride after the first room, terrifying. These are scenes that are most definitely not in the remake, but are also not part of the book. And can we talk about the part where Charlie’s mom sings in the alleyway? Does anyone like that part?

Are you more of a fan of the original or the remake? Any favorite parts that remind you of childhood? 

Don’t forget to enter the Golden Ticket Contest!

National-Golden-Sweepstakes-Charlie-Chocolate-Factory

Bittersweet: Leaving Your Hometown

This post was inspired by Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, a novel that exposes the gothic underbelly of an American dynasty, and an outsider’s hunger to belong. Join From Left to Write on May 20 we discuss Bittersweet. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Bittersweet-From-Left-to-Write-Book-Club-Banner

It’s no secret that I don’t spend a lot of time talking about going home to the house I grew up in, my hometown, or life pre-college. It’s not a place that holds a lot of happy memories for me. I don’t feel comfortable or at ease when I am there, so for me it is not a happy place. The problem is I love lots of what Vermont has to offer, I love the idyllic imagery any picture of Vermont gives, I just don’t love what else it reminds me of.

While reading Bittersweet I related to Mabel’s character, the average looking girl from a meager background, with the beautiful wealthy friends. Never feeling accepted, working hard to earn everything she had.  Then Mabel and Ev go to Ev’s family estate, in Vermont of course. They even mention my hometown in the book, the town I went to my first year of college in, and a few places that do hold great memories for me, like Al’s French Frys.

I had to leave Vermont, it just couldn’t give me what I needed out of life. Even though many of the people who used to be in my life suggest that I think I am better than they are because I left, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I just needed a better life, and Vermont wasn’t going to give that to me. At the age of 18, I packed up and went to college. I spent my first 2 summers going home and working the three jobs I had when I was in high school. After my junior year, I had off campus housing and I never went back home.

Leaving has never been easy, there is the guilt that others put on me. At the end of the day, I have to do what is best for me and my family. The life we have now is wonderful. Close to the city, but we still have a backyard. Plenty of friends and family members that live nearby or visit, friends and family that are encouraging and supportive.

But there are many things that I miss about Vermont. The local food, REAL maple syrup, fall foliage, seeing the stars at night, Ben & Jerry’s factory visits, Burlington, Long Trail, Magic Hat, the lack of fast food joints, Cabot cheese, and Dana’s breakfast in Quechee.

I will never forget Vermont, but Boston is my home now.

IMG_3860

Thrive: What do you want your Eulogy to say?

This post was inspired by Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington who encourages everyone to sleep their way to the top. Join From Left to Write on May 1 we discuss Thrive. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Thrive-From-Left-to-Write-Book-Club-Banner-2I’ll be honest, I loved the idea of this book and there was tons of great info and tips, but it was also extremely heavy on the data. While I understand it is important, I think it took away from the whole idea of the book, so I did end up skimming some sections, especially data that I had read before.

One of my favorite lines from the book was “Eulogies aren’t resumes”. I think this hit close to him because of what has been going on in our personal lives but it is something that everyone should remember.

When someone passes away, no one talks about the night the closed a big deal with a company, or the time that they stayed up all night working on a huge project. They talk about the love you shared, your friendship and kindness, the times that you made them laugh.

jack and kelly

Not the most attractive photo, but I will always remember this night (even now – almost 9 years later), even if he passed away months after this was taken.

There will always be petty arguments and fights and disagreements, but I think all relationships can make it through those moments if they want to. We also have to be willing to let go of relationships that are long over. Whether it be because you just naturally drifted apart, or because someone did something extremely hurtful.

Then there are those relationships that you need and want to put work into. I am not just talking about marriages. Relationships with family members and with friends.If we are being honest, we will not always agree with our friends, and there might be moments when their words hurt us. Both parties have to be willing to put in the effort to sort through those disagreements and hurt. Often times, coming out on the other side makes the relationship stronger.

DSCN2184

I have dealt with a lot of loss in my life, and I am glad have memories with those people who were full of love and laughter.

I am also grateful that my husband knows that the value of the dollar is important, but that he will never choose his work over his family, and I know that I am very lucky that he is like that.

What do you think? Do you believe your relationships are more important than your work?

 

Dad Is Fat: Parenting is Fun(ny)

This post was inspired by the novel Dad Is Fat by comedian Jim Gaffigan who riffs on his adventures co-parenting 5 kids in a two bedroom Manhattan apartment. Join From Left to Write on April 22 we discuss Dad Is Fat. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

 

Dad-Is-Fat-From-Left-to-Write-Banner

This is the 4th book for the month of April for From Left to Write this month, and possibly one of my favorites. I have been a fan of Jim Gaffigan’s for a while so I knew, especially since I am a parent, that I would love his book. As I read I kept marking passage after passage that would give me ideas of what to write about, and there are a million ideas I have swirling around in my head.

What I ended up deciding on is something that I find some parents struggle with, and those who aren’t parents might not understand. Parenting is fun, but it is also funny, but it isn’t for everyone. Having kids, especially if you are the first among friends and family, can be very alienating. You are navigating this brand new part of life, and are in charge of this human being (!!), and you don’t have anyone who can relate to you.

Jim Gaffigan writes about how he is called anti-family because of some of the things he says or posts on social media, and I too have gotten rude comments about things I have said. As Jim writes in the book, complaining about taking your kids to swim lessons or navigating the world of play dates doesn’t make you a bad parent, you are taking your kids to these events, and most of the time other parents can relate about how hard some aspects of parenting are.

It is hard to find mom friends and play groups if you don’t have kids at the same time as your social circle. But I guarantee you will have some stories to share that are on-par with blind date horror stories.

2013-07-19-22.40.36.jpg

You will learn that swim diapers are not meant to hold pee, and will have a horrifying moment before you realize that, and then you will laugh at your ridiculousness.

 IMG_7394.jpg

You will constantly question if you are doing things the “right way” and social media will always tell you that you are doing it the wrong way. Spoiler, social media is full of martyr moms and know-it-alls. 

photo-1.JPGYou will find your own way as a parent, and just when you thought you’ve got one aspect figured out, something else will throw you for a loop…I’m talking to you sleep.

IMG_5596.JPGAnd if you are lucky, you will find someone to share this journey with you. A dad to your child that you just couldn’t imagine parenting without. The person that will laugh with you when you finally share your ridiculous swim diaper story, and who will also have their story to share with you.

I loved this book, I laughed through the whole thing and I had to refrain from reading passages to Nick every 30 seconds. I highly suggest you get your own copy ASAP!

What is one of your hilarious parenting stories?

The Opposite of Maybe: Lucky

Here’s hoping that I wake up to a UCONN win this morning!

Before we get to today’s post, make sure you head over to Friday’s post and see who won the giveaway!

This post was inspired by the novel The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson. At the age of 44, Rosie finds herself suddenly single and pregnant. She tries to hide in her grandmother’s home, but meets two men that will change her life forever. Join From Left to Write on April 8 we discuss The Opposite of Maybe. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

FYI this post does have some spoilers.

Opposite-of-Maybe-From-Left-to-Write-Book-Club-banner-1024x683

 

This book also brought up a subject that is extremely difficult for me, pregnancy. I am beyond lucky to have been able to bring one beautiful little boy in to this world and I am very aware of that.

At 44 Rosie got pregnant after unprotected sex once, once! She didn’t know and didn’t even take a pregnancy test until she was 9 weeks along, it seemed like every appointment was perfect, labor wasn’t a disaster or have any scary parts, and her child was healthy.

All of this makes so angry and so sad. After another month of tracking and testing and all of the stuff no one talks about when you are trying to conceive which is followed by another disappointing negative pregnancy test, it was so hard for me to read this entire book without hating Rosie.

She was so cavalier, at first, about the fact that she got pregnant by chance the one time they didn’t use protection, she even walked into a clinic for an abortion (this is not a political post). Eventually after the first trimester was over she got her shit together and started cleaning up her eating and reading about babies, but I just couldn’t get over her luck and her reaction.

I am not one of those people who can just listen to these stories about how someone beat the odds and got pregnant. It is so hard to hold on to the hope that things will miraculously get better. It sucks, that I have to wait a year from my miscarriage to even have the discussion with my doctor about seeing a specialist.

I, naively, though I would be pregnant by the time my due date from the miscarriage came, and I am not. That due date is 12 days away. I know that things happen for a reason, at least I need to believe that. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when friends start posting on their blogs, FB, twitter, etc… that they are pregnant. That they weren’t even trying or that they got pregnant the first month. And on April Fools Day, the amount of people who posted fake pregnancy announcements, not only did it feel like a punch to the gut, but it seemed like people don’t understand how hard infertility or the struggle to get pregnant is. Or how long the emotion and mental parts of a miscarriage affect you.

I am LUCKY to have the support system that I do, I know that. I am LUCKY to have the most amazing husband and son. I am LUCKY that I live in a place where I might be able to have a baby when it feels like the odds are against me.

I am trying to believe in the LUCKY, but it is so damn hard.