Escape from Here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Books have always been my escape. As a hearing impaired child, and now as a hearing impaired adults, books are the one place where I'm never out of the loop. Everyday conversation is tiring because I expend so much energy just listening and processing everything I'm hearing, and making up for what I can't hear. My brain is constantly using its powers of deductive reasoning to fill in blanks. There are so many variables that affect the quality of my interactions with people-- a female voice is often easier to understand than a male voice, people mumble or cover their mouths when they speak, they look away while speaking, they don't enunciate, background noise interferes with my ability to discern speech, if I have a cold and I'm congested, I can't hear, if my hearing aids need to be adjusted, I can't hear.
But in a book, none of that matters. The only thing that trips me up is an unknown word here or there that I can look up in a dictionary. I can follow all the conversations and never feel lost (unless the writing just plain sucks, in which case, the book goes back on the shelf...). There are no awkward moments caused by answering a question with something from left field.
Books are a time-honored prescription for anyone that does not fit in a certain box. Whatever ails you, there's a book that'll make you feel like you belong, a book that won't judge you, a book that'll make you feel included and keep you in the loop.
I wanted to end this post with a list of books aimed at specific ailments, a la The Little Paris Bookshop but the truth is, I devour the books, take what I need from them, and then move on to the next one, so I'd be hard-pressed to proffer a list of books off the top of my head--the downside of being a escape artist, I guess. But you can take this neat Book Apothecary for a spin and see what comes up! Just click the book cover below.

Click the book to try out the apothecary! 

Disclosure: This post was inspired by the novel The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, where Monsieur Perdu--a literary apothecary--finally searches for the woman who left him many years ago.. Join From Left to Write on October 8th as we discuss The Little Paris Bookshop. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links. 

{Review}: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Thursday, September 10, 2015

I have so many thoughts about this book, it's hard to know where to begin.

First, I have to confess that though I knew of Salman Rushdie, thanks to his notoriety, this is the first book of his I've actually read. And now, I'm wondering what I've been missing all this years. I was only a few pages into this stunning novel before I knew I'd be adding his other titles to my TBR list.

Let me also say this: the older I get, the more pleasure I get out of reading. Being able to bring my 36 years of experience with the world makes reading a much richer experience as I'm able to pick up on cultural allusions and subtexts that would go over the heads of younger, less experience readers.

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is what I would call magical realism, is an allegory for our times. Rushdie rips off the veil of complacency, so that we can not ignore, or unsee, the terrible things that the human race has wrought upon itself. We cannot absolve ourselves of our responsibility  and cannot use ignorance as an excuse. Here are our choices: we change, we fight to change or we accept the terrible state of the world and let it lie. We can leave the mess for someone else, in some other time, if we want to. The consequences for all those choices are dire. It's a case of damned if we do, damned if we don't.

In this book, the worst thing that happens is truth-telling. It's the thing that knocks down the house of cards, and does everyone in. The truth-teller takes an unexpected, but not surprising, form.
A few weeks ago, right when I was getting into the thick of this book, I was driving my usual route home that takes me down a winding, sylvan road lined with modest and not-so-modest homes. And I struck by a terrible thought:
Behind closed doors in every town in America, horrible, unspeakable things are happening everyday and we just don't know until we know. Then, we take a collective gasp and ask, "how could this happen right in front of us?" 
Indeed. How could it? And what is our responsbility?

Besides the allegorical message, readers will be taken in by the powerful imagery, the explicit character development, the stream-of-consciousness pace of the storytelling. I have the ebook but will be getting a paper copy for my shelf, to be re-read in a few years. It feels prophetic, this book.

{I received a  complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley for review purposes.  This post contains affiliate links.}

{Review}: Everyday Detox by Megan Gilmore

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

 Last month, my sister and I did this cleanse by a doctor that shall not be named. The cleanse itself wasn't so terrible-- a shake hree times a day, plus two light meals, which is about all I have time for anyway these days. But the shake was pretty gross, plus the vitamins that had to be taken with each meal made me nauseous. (I'll spare you the details of the time that I threw up in the bathroom at a hibachi restaurant ON MY DAUGHTER'S BIRTHDAY.) In any case, I stopped using the shakes and the vitamins but stuck to the basic idea of the cleanse, which included the usual no-nos: no dairy, no eggs, no caffeine, no wheat, no nightshades. It wasn't that hard but none of the meals were satisfying.

Why do a cleanse anyway? I always joke that we all already have a detoxer-- the liver! But a detox cleanse is a way of pressing the restart button on your eating habits, if they've gone awry, or to learn some good habits in the first place, if you've been inhaling ho-hos and chugging quarter water since you came out of the womb.  After the cleanse I did last month, I did feel pretty good, especially without dairy, which I've finally accepted is not good for me or my sinuses. I wanted to keep up with the "detoxing" but I needed something more substantial than two light meals a day, which basically amounts to a salad with some protein on it. Boring.

When Everyday Detox by Megan Gilmore, the blogger behind Detoxinista came across my radar, I was immediately taken in by the front cover. I didn't know what it was but it looked delicious. This was the kind of detox diet plan I could get behind. I wasn't familiar with Megan's blog at this point though I'd heard of it and read a few posts, so I didn't know what to expect when I sat down with the book. It turns out that this book is all about food combining-- the idea that certain foods should be eaten with certain other foods, or certain food combinations should be flat-out avoided. Food combining helps to improve digestion, and makes meals simpler by virtue of having less variety on your plate. At each meal, you pick one category of food: fruit, starches, animal protein or nuts & seeds. To that, you add non-starchy vegetables to make a complete meal. For example, in one day, you might start out with a chia pudding for breakfast, then a salad for lunch, and a butternut squash pilaf for dinner.

I decided to do the seven-day jump-start menu included in the book. After reviewing the shopping list, I realized that I had a lot of the ingredients in my pantry already but the grocery list for the fresh produce and proteins is pretty long, and some of the pantry staples are pricey. As I shopped for the ingredients, it became apparent that for someone on a strict grocery budget and three kids to feed, the jump-start was going to put me way beyond my grocery budget for the week. I allowed myself to go a little over budget and decided to do what I could, and omit the rest. One thing you'll notice is that recipes that call for coconut flour also call for a lot of eggs, like a crazy amount of eggs. In my house, eggs are a major source of protein and there's no way I could use eight eggs for one batch of pancakes, for example because I only buy farm-fresh eggs and they are more expensive than grocery store eggs so I ration them throughout the week.

But for the most part, the recipes are do-able, pretty easy to prepare and delicious. The chocolate chia shake is a great post-workout drink, and my two year old loves it, too. I've never used dates in a smoothie before. The dates made it satisfyingly sweet without being cloying. In fact, dates weren't a pantry staple for me at all but the last time I went shopping, I stocked up because I discovered my son loves them in oatmeal, and so do I! I also really liked the banana walnut smoothie. Despite it's green color, it totally tasted like banana bread, thanks to the cinnamon. It never would've occurred to me to put SPICES in a smoothie.

I also loved the "parmesan" cheese, which is nutritional yeast and walnuts blitzed together. I keep a container of it in the fridge and throw it on top of every salad I eat.

I lent the book to my sister, who tried a few of the recipes in the book. Her favorites were the Everyday Basil vinaigrette and the Skillet Fish Tacos. The tacos look amazingly delicious and they are on my menu this week!

I have a lot of cookbooks on my shelf, and there are only a few that are well-worn with stained pages.  Everyday Detox is one of them, even though I've only had the book for a couple of weeks. If you're looking for delicious, easy meals that will make you feel good, add this one to your cookbook collection.

{I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. This post contains affiliate links.} 

Mrs. Fix-It.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

This just looks like a regular old door knob, right? A month ago, the door knob was jammed and wouldn't turn, preventing access to the garage. Unable to fix it,  I ended up channeling all my frustration into banging the heck out of it with any tool I could grab. The end result was that we were left with a convenient portal through which bugs could travel into the house. No bueno. 
Henry was home for a little while but I never got around to nagging him to fix it, and so the bug portal remained. 

Before I met Henry, I was an independent city girl living the city life. I did almost everything on my own. I moved furniture, I plunged toilets, I fixed broken things (one time, I replaced a ballc*ck. Heh heh.) Then I acquired a man and promptly outsourced all such fix-it tasks to him, because why not? Being taller and stronger, and more attuned to problem-solving than I was, I was more than happy to relinquish handyman tasks to him. 

But a funny thing happens when you do that. You start to lose confidence. You forget that you're perfectly capable of fixing stuff. You get lazy. But with Henry gone for months at a time, things either get fixed or they don't. Two lightbulbs blew out and stayed that way for weeks. The bug portal remained open. 

The thing was either going to get fixed or not. I was tired of looking at the gaping hole in the door and tired of the bug parade. Off to the hardware store to get a new door knob, and reclaim my independence. (My niece: Daddy can do it for you. Me: Or I can do it. Humph.)  

Fifteen minutes and the deed was done. High on that accomplishment, I went ahead and replaced two light bulbs, one of which required a ladder, so GO ME. 

{Review}: Living With Intent by Mallika Chopra

Thursday, June 4, 2015

So, that last post was really supposed to be a book review. When I started writing, I realized that before I could write the review, I needed to give some background and then it morphed into a post in and of itself.

I'm here, parenting alone with the kids (with help from my sister and my mom!). Being the sole parent 24/7 is pretty stressful and the first week Henry was gone, I did okay for a few days but by the end of the week, my nerves were frazzled, and my fuse was short. I was in the middle of reading Living with Intent by Mallika Chopra during this time.

Inspired by the book, I decided I needed to set an intent to be more patient, both with the kids and with myself, especially as we get used to this new set-up. I wrote it down in my journal: "Intent: Be More Patient" and I've been trying to internalize it. Part of being more patient means letting go a little bit. And I have. Whether or not that is a good thing remains to be seen. Alice said to me the other day, "Since Daddy left, you say yes a lot more." Ha ha? or Mmh....?

Living With Intent is the kind of book that you need to read more than once. The first time, you kind of get the lay of the land. The second time, you start to stuff into motion. What I really appreciated about this book is that Chopra acknowledges that there is a lot of one step forward, two steps back and that though we might try to take action, we might not be ready for it and so we fail, and fail again, and berate ourselves, and feel badly. It's all part of the process and we shouldn't be so hard on ourselves.

And what is the process? Chopra devotes a chapter to each step: Incubate, Notice, Trust, Express, Nurture and Take Action, but the process is reiterative, not linear and some steps take longer than others. Throughout the book, Chopra illustrates the process with stories and observations from her own life, and each chapter ends with an exercise designed to help you practice the chapter's focus. At the back of the book, you'll find a section for recording your daily intents, a mind map, and a balance wheel to make the ideas in the book more concrete and to guide towards purposeful practice.

This is a book that I will keep on my shelf and return to, time and time again. Highly recommended for anyone feeling a little lost and looking for some direction.

{This post contains affiliate links. I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books.}

Pursuit of Happiness

Saturday, May 23, 2015


I think a lot about male-female dynamics and roles in a marriage or partnership. My husband and I have what you might call a "traditional" set-up--he goes to work, I stay home and do the child-rearing. But truth be told, this is an economic decision. If I worked in a field where I made a lot of money, Henry would be the one to stay home. Alas, I am a teacher and he is a systems engineer, so he will always have more earning power than me. But with this reality comes a heavy burden on his part. There's a lot of pressure to work hard to support a growing family, and sometimes that means taking jobs that don't make you excited to go to work everyday.

I feel pretty strongly that it is not healthy to sacrifice for your family at the expense of your own happiness. An unhappy spouse and parent is toxic to the whole family. This doesn't mean being selfish but it does mean that it's okay to take your own needs into consideration. When I was pregnant with Alice, I was profoundly unhappy at my teaching job and Henry supported me when I left that job, even though I had many months left before the birth. I've always encouraged Henry to take trips and vacations without me, if that was something he wanted to do. One year, he went to Italy for a week to a friend's wedding. It was too expensive for the four of us to go there together but I felt that he should be there at least, and so he went alone, with my blessing, and had an amazing time. Much better for him than staying home, and wishing he were in Italy, celebrating his long-time friends.

When Henry was laid off two years ago, he found a new job pretty quickly but that job turned out to be at odds with his own professional goals. He was offered an amazing opportunity to interview for what is basically his dream job. The catch? The job was in San Antonio. (If you missed it, we live in Connecticut.)

For a variety of reasons, I was not willing to relocate. I could tell that Henry was really excited about this job, so I urged him to ask about a remote position. Lo and behold, it turned out that the company was just beginning to open up remote positions. He did a whole mess of phone interviews, he flew down there for a face to face interview and killed them all with his intelligence, talent and passion. So, of course, he got a job offer. But there was yet another catch: the offer required him to be in Texas for a year. I definitely was not willing to uproot our lives and the kids just to move to Texas for a year. So, I told him to go--we'd wait for him here. He didn't want to do it; he worried about leaving me here alone with the kids, he worried about missing us and being lonely but I told him he couldn't go on being stuck in jobs that didn't make him happy or excited. And he knew it, too. At this stage in his career, he deserved a job that would utilize his strengths and encourage his professional growth.

A lot of people think I'm nuts for encouraging him to go. But why is it nuts to want your husband to be happy, to take an opportunity to pursue something he deserves? A year is nothing in the grand scheme of things, and if it all pans out, the payoff will be huge for him, for us, for our family. When we get married, we don't suddenly morph into a single person. I'm still very much the same person I was before we got married and had kids, with the same need for independence and solitude, and I take it upon myself to make sure those needs are met. In fact, we both do. We look out for each other. I think that is the key to our marriage--it isn't perfect by any means but we work hard to understand each other, and support each other, with varying degrees of success.

So, we're here, and he's there. To get his emails describing his days at the company, all the things he's excited about makes my heart swell, and tells me that this is worthwhile, this sacrifice that we're making as a family was the right thing to do.

You've Got Mail!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Communication is so easy and immediate these days. Texting, tweeting, facebooking. Who needs a landline anymore, or regular old snail mail? Even email seems quaint!

When my husband left for Texas, he suggested that we email each other back and forth, in addition to texting. It made sense-- we could share so much more in an email--things that weren't urgent or on the fly. One of my favorite things about e-mailing is that I find it easier to express myself in writing, to say the things that I find it hard to say out loud.

What I didn't expect was that waiting for an e-mail from him would be like waiting for a letter to show up in my mailbox! We are both so busy, and a long e-mail full of updates and the little things we share with each other means that we have to find time to sit and write the e-mail.  I find myself waiting in anticipation for a e-mail response from him. It's kind of like the early days of our relationship, when I couldn't wait to see him again and felt giddy at the prospect of it.

It's the same feeling I used to get as a kid when I had a pen pal, never knowing when the letter would show up, and wondering what the letter would say. To this day, I love checking the mailbox and wondering what surprises it might hold for me. Of course, as a grown-up, I'm more likely to find bills and other boring stuff but every once in a while, I'll get a package I forgot I was expecting or a new book to be reviewed.

In this age of instant gratification, there is something to be said for slow communication, to have no choice but wait for a response, to have something to look forward to, to know that whatever response you get, it wasn't off the cuff-- someone took the time and care to craft a letter and share their thoughts with you, to make your day a little more special.

And so I wait for my husband's response to my latest e-mail. Whenever it comes, I know it'll make me smile.

This post was inspired by The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy, a novel about two women connected by an Underground Railroad doll. Join From Left to Write on May 19th as we discuss The Mapmaker’s Children. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.This post contains affiliate links. 

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