Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

Books Review May 17, 2018

I have always loved to read – And even though there have been pretty big stretches of time when I just couldn’t make the time, this year has not been like that.  I have finished 10 (TEN!) books so far since January and I’m in the middle of 3 others as we speak.  Why 3 at once?  Which one I read all depends on where I am when the desire to read collides with some available time.  1 sits beside my bed.  1 sits on the table next to the couch and 1 lives at work.

 

Anyway, I figured I could do a quick book review post.  Also, if any of you have a recommendation for a book you think I’d love, please do share.  I tend to like realistic fiction; historical, drama, romance, action/adventure and maybe a little suspense.  I don’t do sci-fi, horror or self-help.

 

Anyhoo: My reviews – Not in the order they were read.

 

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

*Soooo good. Should be required reading.

This was a hard one to put down.  Every single character was believable and understandable!  Even the ones who you may not want to agree with.  The book showed many different sides to touchy subjects.  Poverty and police and privilege and race and blended-family.  I think many people might be turned off if they read a blurb about it.  They may assume they already know where it’s going and who will be made out to the bad guy; but it wasn’t like that.  It was honest on all sides and did not shy away from the ugliness/undesirables that is in the “hood” as well as the racism that black people often have to deal with and how difficult it can be to stay true to yourself while also trying to better yourself.

 

The Wife Between Us – Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

*Overall Very Good.

I really enjoyed this book.  Who is who and what is really happening?  What’s true?  What’s imagined?  Ooh, the suspense!  The details made it easy to really immerse yourself in the story but there were A LOT of details and sometimes it felt like overkill.  The story was solid though and there were a couple of interesting twists which is always good.  I enjoyed the ride the book took me on.

 

Empathy and Eyebrows – Danni Starr

*A Nice, Easy, No Frills, Feel Good, Read.

I finished this in 2 afternoons.  It’s kind of like an autobiography/a collection of stories about the life of radio personality Danni Starr.  She’s had an interesting enough life to make for some good stories.  A blind mom.  An alcoholic dad.  A cheating husband.  A daughter with severe health issues.  Some issues at her job related to her race/gender.  Ultimately, each story makes you feel like she’s a sister you can go to with all your troubles cause she’ll understand and won’t judge.  She is all about women being strong and brave and honest and fierce and owning their inner magic; while being empathetic and maintaining killer eyebrows.

 

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

*FIVE stars!  A definite Favourite.  Fist bump to the author.

I loved this book so much.  I told people about it on Facebook and on Twitter.  I felt like I was taken on an amazing journey.  Everything there was to feel, I felt it.  I picked this book up every chance I could to read another chapter.  So eager I was to see who I’d me meeting next and how they would tie into the story.  At times, the character the author chose to focus on was not initially the one I thought I wanted to know more about, but then bam, I’d be sucked in to their story too.  This book could have gone in any of a million different directions.  Even though I assumed there would be a nice little bow tying everything up at the end, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The last thing I will say though is that if you are a fan of audio books, I don’t think this would be a good one for that AT ALL.  I often referenced the family tree diagram provided in the front cover to keep my bearings.

 

Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

*Don’t Waste Your Time.

This book was recommended to me by a Barnes & Noble employee.  I should go back there and tell her how awful it was.  She said it was cute and charming.  Boring and pointless is more like it.  I dragged myself across the finish line with this one and in fact, I skipped through large chunks of it only to find that I hadn’t missed anything.  The book is chapter after endless chapter of some guy (who you don’t care about) floating down a river, meeting random people (who you don’t care about) on a quest to find somebody (who you don’t care about).  Next!

 

Behold The Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue

*A++

I didn’t know how to feel about the way this book ended.  It was good, but not what I wanted for them, but only because I cared.  I find myself wanting a follow up book so I can know what happens with the kids.  I felt connected to this family.  My immigrant experience was different from theirs in many ways, but the emotions are universal.  As an immigrant, you struggle.  But there were struggles in your home country too.  You want to be where you are, but you miss so many things about home.  There are amazing opportunities where you are, but nowhere feels/smells/sounds/is as comfortable to your soul like where you grew up.  You want to fit in.  You try to fit in.  You want to hold onto your culture and you want your children to know it too, but how can they?  Is it all worth it?

 

The Orphans Tale – Pam Jenoff

*Awesome Experience.

This book started off a little slowly and I wondered if I’d made a mistake in getting it.  That feeling didn’t last long though and it picked up speed as I went along.  I was caught between wanting to know how it ended and not wanting it to end.  In real life, I don’t know any circus people.  I have never had a conversation with anyone about their or their families experience with Nazi occupied Europe.  Yet, I knew these characters.  I could hear their voices and in my mind I just knew what they looked like.  I cared about every single one of them and what happened to them.  I felt their joy and their pain.  Even though the book is set in WWII Germany/France, I was caught off guard by how dark it got at times, but it made the story more compelling.  It’s one of those books that if they ever made a movie about it, I’d be hesitant to watch it because I feel protective about how the characters should be interpreted.

 

Yellow Crocus – Laila Ibrahim

*4 out of 5 stars.

There weren’t too many surprises in this book, but that didn’t make it any less interesting.  I eagerly followed along with Lisbeth and her enslaved wet nurse, Mattie.  I loved seeing their relationship develop as Lisbeth went from a baby to a teenager to a woman.  Laila (the author) did a great job of putting herself in both womens shoes so we could see things from both their perspectives.  Lisbeth loved Mattie, but she was absolutely a product of her era and upbringing.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

*Good. Not Worth The Hype. 

As well known as it is, I had never read this book and then I saw it at the book store on a bargain shelf that was full of “classics”.  I liked it but I don’t really understand why it was SUCH a hit and why people are SO outraged at it.  There are lots of books that are set in “Jim Crow”, USA and none of them would be honest if they didn’t include language that is offensive.  I don’t think the story is better or more offensive than A Time To Kill for example.  Maybe it was a big deal because of when it was written or because it was written by a woman.  I have no idea.  I liked it though and I loved little Scout.  She wasn’t afraid to ask the tough/inappropriate questions.  She was bold and inquisitive and a boundary pusher.  May we all be little Scouts.

 

Living Right – Laila Ibrahim

*Highly Recommend.

This is another book that I think does an excellent job of showing a sensitive topic from both sides.  On one side we have Jenn.  She is 100% committed to her family and her evangelical Church.  On the other hand, we have her teenage son, Josh who swallows a bottle of sleeping pills because he’s attracted to the same sex and knows his families views on homosexuality.  What’s a mom to do?  This book is not political.  It’s not about laws or rights.  It speaks directly to what happens inside someone’s home and heart when their most tightly held values are questioned.  Jenn is not portrayed as a bad person and as a reader, I felt her struggle, even though I disagreed with her beliefs.

 

 

 

And there you have it.  My first ever book review post.  The books I’m reading now are Girl Last Seen, Before We Were Yours and The House Girl.  I also have Lion waiting in the wings.  I can let you know how those are when I’m done if anyone’s interested.

 

 

p.s.  I realized while writing this that all the authors are female.  That was not by design but it’s kinda cool too.

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MY Saturday Was Good May 15, 2018

It’s Saturday Morning

And I have told Jay that it’s time to get ready for his weekly tennis lesson.  When we step outside, the sun is shining and the birds are chirping.  It’s a beauty of a day.  I don’t know yet what it will be, but I know I will find something to do that will keep me outside for a good part of the day.  Even Jay is picking up on the good energy and arrives at tennis in a good mood.  Usually he’s a bit surly until the class is well underway; sad to be leaving his video games behind.

At 10:30 when his class ended, instead of making the left that would take us down the short winding road that leads home, we made a right and took a long winding road to a town 30 minutes away.  A Naval Museum there was hosting a STEM event for kids.  Both boys tend to enjoy science and we’re always looking for ways to get the boys involved in activities such as those.

At this point though, Jay was no longer a happy camper.  He wants to go back home – to his electronics.  He whines for the entire car ride.  We hear every complaint in the book.  He tries bargaining his way out of going.  When he raises his hand during one of the experiments, the teacher probably was not expecting him to ask: “Is this the last thing?  Can we go home after this?”

He suffers through the first task.  The second one is made only slightly more bearable because it involves starbursts which the kids get to eat when it’s over.  The third and final exercise, requires them to form teams of 2 and then use marshmallows and spaghetti to build towers.  The team with the highest tower would win.  Wouldn’tcha know, after all his protestations, with him as the leader, he and his partner win the challenge.  We leave, he chooses a bag of Doritos as his treat and then we head home.  Not before I also get a treat though.  KFC.

 

It’s Saturday Afternoon

And we have dropped Jay home.  We have also checked in on Ace who is suffering from a severe case of “When will the pollen go the hell away so I can see, breathe and sleep normally again???”  The temps are in the high 90’s which for many people, only means one thing:  staying inside where there is AC.  Our AC has broken so there is no respite for us.  Also.  I have no intention of staying inside all day AC or not.  Between the 2 of us, I am, without question, the more outdoorsy one.  I suggest that we check out a state park not too far from us.  Their website says they have a “beach” and multiple trails.  The park does not disappoint.  I love driving through “farm land” Virginia to get there.  At one point we stop at a red light and 2 guys who are hanging out at a road side shop eating watermelon offer us some.  Once at the lake, I love kicking my shoes off and feeling the sand squish beneath my toes.  I love the coolness of the water lapping my ankles.  I love hearing children laugh as they play in the sand and seeing the canoes and jet skis further out on the lake.  Shaunie … keeps her shoes on, gives the side eye to teenage boys who’re throwing a football too close to her head and asks if I think she should reapply the bug spray.

When we’ve strolled the full length of the beach area and stood around chit chatting and taking in the scene for a while, we trot back to where we have parked.  I am actually willing to go home at that point.  I’m sure Shaunie has had enough.  But, she knows me and she loves me so SHE suggests that we check out one of the trails.  Yay!!!!!!   More bug spray and we are off again to see what the forest has to offer.

 

It’s Saturday Evening

And I have promised Ace that we will have a family movie night.  The problem though, is that I said that earlier in the day when I was feeling energetic  and spunky.  By the time I had finally gotten home, the LAST thing I wanted to do was sit for 2 hours and pretend to be interested in a kid friendly movie.  I wanted to shower, eat dinner and catch up on my own TV watching.  I had made a promise though.

We gathered in the living room and turned on Netflix.  The movie was painful.  And we were only 10 minutes in.  How was I going to make it 2 hours?  Then … Netflix went bonkers.  It just stopped working.  We went back to the home screen and tried again.  Nope.  We tried a different movie.  Still nope.  Before Ace could come up with any suggestions, I told him that our plan wasn’t going to work and we’d have to try again the next day.

He was disappointed but he understood.  After all, he saw what happened and knew it wasn’t anyones fault.  I got off scot-free.

I jumped up from the couch, showered, ate and was comfy in my bed before 9pm.  It was glorious.

 

All in all, I had a great day on Saturday.  How was it for my people?  Debatable.

 

 

*Netflix righted itself so Ace and I watched a movie on Sunday*

 

Oh, Mothers Day. May 10, 2018

It is chilly in here today so I have the oversized scarf that doubles as a blanket draped across my lap.  It is keeping my bare legs warm.  I sit at my desk and look out the window.  It’s not my window though.  I am not a manager, yet, so I don’t get an office.  I sit in a quad of cubicles with the other accountants who are also not managers.  The window I am looking out sits on the other side of the glass wall that separates me from one of our company’s lawyers.  I like that I have visual access to the outside.  I have always been a fan of the outdoors.  I love the way the sun feels on my skin.  The heat never bothering me.  More recently, I have found that I also enjoy the first prickle of a chill that comes in the fall and the way my entire body tenses while I am outside building a snowman with my son.  In my head I know that being tense won’t keep me warm, but it is involuntary.  It feels like if I relax, even more of the coldness will get in.  I like the anticipation of it coming to an end.  I know that after being outside for a while, I will get to open my front door and warmth will envelop me.  Then there will be the tingling sensation as my extremities thaw.   The sweatpants I will inevitably don, following a hot shower will feel extra soft and comforting.  I will feel content.

 

Content.  I can think of few better words in the entire world.  When you are content, it means that – at that moment – you are truly happy.  It means you have a moment of peace.  Of joy.  Of acceptance.  Of calm.  It is freedom from worry or stress.  Even if it is fleeting, it is always welcome.

 

Despite my scarf blanket, a shiver runs down my spine.  Perhaps, it was not a good idea to leave home with wet hair this morning.  It is thick and curly so it takes a long time to air dry.  I can feel the dampness at the nape of my neck where my ponytail is tied.  I pull my bright green cardigan up higher, hoping that will help.  It does.  I am relieved.  I know it is temporary as the sweater will surely slide back to it’s more natural place across my shoulders.

 

I decide to take a break from responding to my work emails and processing the invoices that I know I will never stop coming in.  I check my personal email.  Most days, there are 1 or 2 announcing that new blog posts have been written by someone whose blog I follow.  Today there is only one.  Although I do vaguely remember seeing a notification a few days ago that went unacknowledged by me.  I will have to go look for it and catch up with that blogger.  Today, the one I am treated to was written by a woman who chose to tackle Mothers Day and the complicated feelings that it can stir in some.  Yes, Mothers Day is complicated for some.  For me.  I read her post, inserting myself into far too many of her scenarios.

Since I am nursing a cold, I stop midway through to blow my nose.  I think about the conversation I had with my 11 year old son the previous evening.

Ah, allergies finally got to you huh?

Nope.  It’s not allergies.  This is a cold.  I can tell the difference, I tell him.

A cold?  He asks incredulously.  Who gets a cold in the summer?  You haven’t even been out in the rain or anything.

I laugh.  Well, all it takes is for me to come in contact with the germs, I say.  Rain or not.

I marvel at this child.  I cannot believe how mature he is now.  How much more growing and maturing he still has left to do.  Mothering both he and his 10 year old brother is the best thing I have ever done.  It has brought me the most joy.  I neither want or need anything for Mothers Day, other than to know that they are happy and safe.

 

I read in the blog post about how we should take a moment to think of the women in our lives for whom mothers day brings sadness and that we should reach out to them with a kind word, or a card or gesture.

The woman who miscarried a few months prior.  I don’t know any, I think to myself.  The woman who has been unable to get pregnant in the first place after years of trying.  I pause for a bit before going on.  Yes, that is a tough one.  That wasn’t my story, but I do know that story well.  It is incredibly difficult.  The woman whose mom has just passed away.   The mother who is struggling to maintain her sanity while dealing with her teenagers.  I mentally add, the single mother who does not know how she will get through one more minute, much less one entire day or the next week, month, year.  I know that woman well.  My chests feels heavy with the memories of the days I was alone raising 2 special needs toddlers and the weight of trying to be all they needed as well as maintain a full time job.  It was the most difficult and exhausting time I’ve ever had in my life and there is no way anyone can understand it unless they have lived it.  At that time, I couldn’t even think of celebrating Mothers Day.  What was there to celebrate?  I push those thoughts away and continue reading.  I cannot get teary while sitting at my desk.

I continue reading.  The woman who gave her baby up for adoption, the one who is in jail, the still single 30 something year old who wants desperately to find her life partner and a chance to even begin the journey …  the list is long.  She is trying to make sure that every reader feels seen.

The woman who hasn’t spoken to her mom in years.  “She wishes things could have been different”, the author writes.  That one hits close to home.  Different.  Yes, there is so much that I wish could have been different in my own life.  I wish my Grandma were still here.  I smile as I think about her.  I wish I had a better, closer relationship with my actual mother.  Weeks, maybe even months will pass without any communication between us, and then we will talk, or text – always keeping things light, superficial.  There are no “I love yous” when we hang up, no inside jokes, we do not lean on each other for support or reach out for advice or to share good news.  On Sunday, she won’t wish me a happy Mothers Day.  Or at least, she never has in the past.  I will send her a message and she’ll respond with a polite thank you.

 

Finally the author gets to her final group.  My phone rings and even though I am eager to keep reading, I answer.  I am at work after all.  A few minutes later, I pull my browser back up and continue.  I realize that even though my body as shifted position and my sweater is back to its rightful spot, leaving my neck exposed and vulnerable to my damp hair, I no longer feel cold.  Then I sneeze into my elbow.  I should try a different cold medicine, I think.  The one I picked up at the drug store yesterday is not doing its job.  I wonder briefly if there is anything else I need to get while I am there.  I could use a box of tissues.  The toilet paper I’ve been using is harsh on my nose.  I toy with the idea of getting a Mothers Day card for my Mother-In-Law or GrandMother-In-Law, but at this point, it wouldn’t get to them on time.  I wish I had thought to get it sooner.  Just the tissues and a new medicine I decide.

 

I read on:

… there’s a stepmom smiling through her disappointment. She knows the marriage is new and everyone is trying to adjust and gracefully work out how to be a blended family. But she had hoped for a card or some acknowledgement this Mother’s Day. She’s loved her stepchildren as her own, but has struggled to gain their trust and love in return. As happy as she is that they are close with their mother, she hopes someday they’ll be close with her, too, and wishes that day were today.

 

I sit with this one for a moment.  The copier next to me is making loud noises.  Step-parenting is fraught with challenges for sure.  However, I bristle at her description.  I imagine that my own step mother might have tried to describe things that way in the early years.  She would have been wrong to do so.  She never loved me.  I won’t even add the part that says “as her own”.  She did not try to gain trust or love.  She was not happy about other close relationships I had and wished only to have me out of her life.  For reasons mostly unrelated to her own behaviour, she eventually got her wish.

Then there is my Shaunie.  She jumped into step-parenting head first.  She does love my children and they her.  In many ways, it is the best anyone could hope for.  That does not mean there are not times when things are not aligned properly.  Understandably there are times she feels unappreciated.  Or overwhelmed.  There are times she does not understand the things I do.  But how can she.  I will always feel differently about the boys than she does and those feelings will shape the course of my actions.

 

I glance at the clock on the lower right side of my laptop screen.  11:03.  It’s nearly time for me to eat lunch.  My stomach reacts to this realization.  A few new emails have come in and I need to address them.  I’ll tackle the easy ones now and save the ones that will require more time or brain energy for after lunch.  The lunch that will include the trip to the drug store where I have decided I will purchase 2 Mothers Day cards.  If I am lucky they will get to NJ on Saturday.  More likely though, they will get there on Monday; one day late.  I reason, that’s better than not at all.  I want the 2 women who have become family to me, to know that I appreciate them.

 

Another sneeze and sniffle.  In my mind, I add orange juice to the growing drug store list and gather up my phone and keys to head out.

 

Letting Off Steam May 2, 2018

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Marriage,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 10:13 am
Tags: , , , , ,
I just need to vent a little.  Let off some steam if you will.
So, I have this “aunt” who is a vocal fan of #45.  I put aunt in quotes because neither her nor my uncle who she’s married to are biologically related to me.
She posted this whole thing on Facebook about how he’s the greatest president ever.  Apparently his accomplishments include lowering taxes and wiping out ISIS.
I was itching to comment on it.  I typed up some questions for her and then deleted them all.  Partly, because I promised Shaunie that I would cool it with the politics on FB (due to her job) and partly because I feel like there is no reasoning with people like her.  If she’s confident enough to post that crap knowing all the other horrible things there are to know about him, then, hell …… what could I possibly say to her that would make a difference?
I checked back on her post a couple of times to see if anybody else (especially anybody I knew) had either “liked” it or commented on it.  So far, nothing.
The thing is, I don’t feel good about leaving it alone.  I feel like a fraud.
I feel like leaving things alone is a huge part of the worlds problems.  Nobody wants to rock the boat, or cause a stir, or get into an uncomfortable argument.  I get it.  But it’s frustrating as hell too.
……………
*Just so when I read this again years from now, I’ll remember what happened – Kanye West made some comments to TMZ (a celebrity gossip site) and among other asinine things, he said that for slavery to have lasted as long as it did, it seems to him, that people chose to remain enslaved.*
That to me, feels kinda like a coworker I had who once told me that Jay (who is autistic and has a lot of struggles and challenges associated with it) was so lucky that he got extra time to complete tests in school and that it wasn’t fair to her son (who is neuro-typical and fully capable, but kind of lazy) because he didn’t get extra time.
Her and Kanye are both totally clueless about real life shit and they can both eff all the way off in my opinion.
 
When I watched the video though, I couldn’t help but notice all the people in the TMZ room who heard the crap Kanye was saying and just stood there, with no rebuttal.  The ONLY person to say something was the 1 black guy who was there.  All the white people in that newsroom are just like all the people who heard that comment about Jays “good fortune” and just sat there silently, even though they knew the situation.  And unfortunately, just like all the white people I’ve known in my life who have heard their friends and family say racist crap but chose to ignore it rather than speak up because they didn’t want things to be uncomfortable. Well, guess what? It was uncomfortable for me.  I guess that was the lesser of the 2 evils to them.  
Vent complete.  Happy friggin Wednesday.
 

A Quick Read – On Respect April 10, 2018

People have a tendency to talk about (not to) children – As if they are not standing right there.

People especially have a tendency to do this to special needs children.  Heck, people do this to special needs adults.

 

It’s often not consciously done and not intentionally meant to demean.  BUT IT IS DEMEANING.

 

I don’t think Shaunie and I have ever had a specific conversation about this – Which is why I was particularly pleased to get the below message from her this afternoon following a doctors appointment she took Jay to.

 

He is getting a shot as part of his 10 years shots.
I had to tell them to ask Jay questions instead of me. 
I never want him to feel like he doesn’t exist.
And he asks when he doesn’t understand a word they use.
He is human and he needs to be independent in most ways.
She drives me nuts sometimes (as spouses do) but in all the ways that count, she is a good egg.
 

The Unexpected Gift March 13, 2018

Filed under: Family,Marriage — The B Side @ 9:25 am
Tags: , , ,

My Grandma  was born with a cleft lip – and as a result of the corrective surgery, she had a tiny little scar.  It was almost undetectable but she was always a little aware of it.  By the time I knew her, she had delivered 2 children by c-section so she had the tell-tale scar down her abdomen.  That was before the cute little bikini line scars we have now.   She was diligent about applying Oil Of Olay to combat wrinkles.  She preferred contact lenses to glasses  and often commented on how unattractive her varicose veins were.

She was a jogger and a vegetarian.

She wasn’t a vein woman but she did care about acting like a lady and presenting herself well and about living a healthy life.

 

I was sent a picture recently.  A picture I had never seen before.  What a treat to see myself sitting on my Grandma’s lap.  In the picture I must be about 9 or so.  9 year old me, in my favourite of all places to be.  On my Grandma’s lap.

I thought she was perfect.  Scarred lip, glasses, wrinkles and all.  Her strong legs and her soft curls and her slightly crooked teeth.  The way her fingers were always gracefully positioned and that she was just as stunning – maybe even more stunning – even after she stopped colouring her hair and let herself go grey.  I loved how her eyes sparkled.  I loved her entire face.  I wonder if I ever told her how beautiful I thought she was.  I don’t think so.

 

That initial picture I got was quickly followed by a few more.  Except for that first one, all the others were pictures of text.  It seems there is a cook book that highlights the favourite recipes of notable Jamaicans and our family made it in there.

It would appear from reading the passages that the author actually visited our house.  I wonder where I was.  I should have been there.  It sounds like they visited on a Sunday.

The book speaks of the drive from Kingston to our “country home”.  They briefly mention her faith and upbringing and also how my Grandfathers family ended up living in that town.  They offer a couple theories into how our street got its name.  My Grandma thought it was named by an avid golfer while others think it got it’s name due to the many pot holes.  The article quotes my Grandma as saying “We have our 10 year old grand-daughter living with us and it’s wonderful.”  *Cue me getting teary eyed*  Humbly she tells them that she is no expert but they note how evident it is that she has a green thumb.  She did.  I wouldn’t expect them to learn things about her like the fact that she loved a good foot massage or that she lost her original engagement ring years before I ever knew her; but I was a little surprised that her love of animals didn’t come up.  She was so good with them.  She trained all our dogs to come, heel, sit and “say please”.  She even knew how to do that loud fingers-under-the-tongue-whistle thing that would make our dogs come running no matter how far they had wandered.

She tells them about her love of a good book, her and my Grandads charitable endeavours and his bird watching hobby.  I had actually forgotten that he was a bird lover.   It made me happy to remember that.

Then they dive into the food.  Her creative ways of making veggie dishes and her fond memories of eating seafood in Vancouver.

 

You can’t even imagine how much I LOVED and appreciated receiving these pictures and reading those tidbits about our life.  I basked in the memories – Both the ones that are still fresh and the ones that had to be triggered.

 

Life takes interesting turns.  This I know.  As pleased as I am to have found out about this hard copy piece of my history; this gift was from someone who is not connected to my Grandma in a positive way.  It added something else that I cannot describe to my feelings about it all.

You can fill in the blanks any way you like.

 

Yeah, life is interesting all right.  Wanna know what else though?

This weekend I’ll be making a frozen lemon pie.  That was both mine and my Grandma’s fave dessert.

 

A Birthday In Reviews March 12, 2018

It’s safe to say my person knows me pretty well.  As such, she knows exactly the kind of things I enjoy and what would make for a good birthday outing.

Two days ago we went to the Newseum in DC.  We followed that up with dinner and then closed out the night with a play.

I’m gonna talk about them in reverse order though cause the Newseum will take up most of the post so I might as well knock the other 2 out of the way.

 

The Show

We went to see Chasing Mehserle.  I do not recommend it.  I really wanted to love it but … oye … they made it impossible.  They bill it as a “new play for our times about a young man trying to come to terms with gentrification, injustice and violence in his community.”

Sounds deep and profound and like there is some lesson to be learned.  The truth though is that the actors were all reading their lines from note pads they held in their hands.  Yeah, seriously.  Also, the language was very stereotypically urban and I think the N word and other profanity was way overused.  I felt nothing.  Learned nothing.  Laughed at nothing.

We actually considered leaving at intermission.  For some unknown reason we stuck it out and it was as much a waste of our time as the first half had been.  Do yourself a favour, if you see this play advertised anywhere and feel any desire to see it rising up in your chest, chase that feeling away.

 

The Dinner

We went to eat at Floriana in DC’s Dupont Circle neighbourhood and it was da bomb.  Full disclosure:  I was really hungry when we went and you know that tends to make food taste better but …

The service from start to finish was good.  The pesto that they brought out with the bread was delish.  The calamari appetizer we got was delish.  The lamb and gnocchi that I got was delish.  I’d 100% go back there.  I don’t know if Shaunie would second that only because the smell of garlic was still on me the entire next day.

 

The Newseum

After 10 minutes of being there, I already felt like even if I didn’t see anything else, it had been worth the visit.  They describe themselves as “a dynamic, engaging and interactive museum of news that allows visitors to experience the stories of yesterday and today through the eyes of the media while celebrating the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment.”

The first exhibit we went to was “Pulitzer Winning Photographs”.  Wowza!  It was heavy.  There were SO MANY amazing photopraphs in the gallery but it quickly became clear that the vast majority of them were taken during awful tragedies.  War, famine, genocide, apartheid.  It was really hard to say “this is a beautiful shot” when the picture is of a starving child but the truth is that the photos were stunning and often highlighted in a way I had never fully appreciated before just how dangerous the job of journalist can be.  The picture that really hit that home for me was one that showed a journalist on the ground taking a picture of a rebel shooting a gun at his enemy.  The shooter was an arms length in front of the photographer.

We needed a little pick-me-up after that so we took a tour through the “Comics in Newspapers” section.  It brought back a lot of happy memories.  Who here is old enough to remember Beetle Bailey and Hagar The Horrible?  We posed for pictures in front of the Peanuts gang.

Next it was back to the serious – and perhaps the highlight of the museum for me.  They had a whole section of the actual Berlin wall.  When you walk up, the wall is full of colour due to brightly spray painted pictures and messages.  Then you walk to the other side and it takes your breath away.  It’s grey and depressing.  It’s kind of shocking to the system.  There is a giant guard tower and you immediately feel the oppression.  There were videos playing that show what was on the news at the time.  I vividly remember what a big deal it was when the wall fell.  In actuality, I think that wall coming down was 1 of the first big news stories that caught my attention and sparked my love of news that persists today.

We spent the next hour or so touring through the 911 gallery and “Inside The FBI” and  seeing the shoe that the shoe bomber used and the backpack from the Boston bomber and the vehicle used in the Times Square bomb attempt.  We saw a world map that outlined all the places where the press is free to work and the places where they are restricted.  They had a section of newspapers from around the US and the world.  Yes, I posed with the Jamaican Gleaner.  Lastly, I got to pretend to be a news anchor – complete with a video recording of my performance.

Even the gift shop was entertaining with the items they had.  I loved all the references to strong women and to the importance of correct grammar and to how important freedom of speech and freedom of the press is.

 

Overall, I would for sure recommend it.  The one downside is that unlike most of the other museums in the city, this one is NOT FREE.