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We are nearing the end!! Only 26 days left in the year and still 10 books left to read. I may not have completed the NaNoWriMo challenge, but I WILL complete my reading challenge. Last time it was so fun doing head to heads that I decided to do it again! There were a lot of really close calls this month, so make sure you read my little comments. I would recommend all these suckers except for one.

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Last year I started my first 100 Books in a Year challenge with the Ender Quintet. It was awesome. So I was super excited to read Ender’s Shadow, which takes place during the same time as Ender’s Game but from the viewpoint of Bean. This book was amazing! I loved seeing another aspect of Orson Scott Card’s earth in learning about Bean’s history. He is a very thorough world builder and the author that made me love science fiction. I have nothing negative to say about this book.

But Ender’s Shadow doesn’t have the little gold star on it because The Circle Series is AMAZING. I am still in the middle of the last book, but this month I read Green, Black, and Red and loved every second. The series takes place in a distant future but also in a very near future. It’s a biblical narrative and it’s smart and deep and, again, thorough. This series of books won out over Ender’s Shadow because a scene in Green changed the way I think about my relationship with God. It also won this little challenge because we need more C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien types – talented authors who just happen to be Christians, who write excellent stories for the glory of the Lord.

FANTASY WORLDS
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Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley is about the Bronte family and the secret worlds they write themselves into. It’s a very imaginative and fun story that also has arc and growth and lessons about truth and relationship and recklessness.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne was in a word, underwhelming. I have been looking forward to reading this sucker for months and had it on hold at the library for just as long. I kept my expectations low because I didn’t want to read it with judgment and discernment. I wanted to enjoy it. And I did enjoy it! But I thought it was kind of lazy that the story was basically just a rewrite of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

LGBTQ+
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I don’t really like that this is a category, but How Queer! didn’t fit in with anything else so I had to stretch a bit. Mad About the Hatter by Dakota Chase features gay characters, but it’s way more about Wonderland. Alice’s younger brother, a doubter, travels to Wonderland and has to save the Hatter, but also be saved by the Hatter, or something. Anyway it’s one of those stories that could easily be super cheesy and lame but it wasn’t. It was fun and different from Alice in Wonderland but still congruent and there was even a surprise character twist in the end! Plus a little romance, which I always love.

How Queer! compiled by Faith Beauchemin is a necessary read. I am starting to sound like a broken record but we have to listen to people who are different than us. I can only ever know what is’ like to be a straight, cis, white female, so I have to listen to people who are not straight or cis or white or female in order to know what their experience is like. This book is a chance to listen to bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, sexually-fluid, and other non-monosexual perspectives. Which are important perspectives. Which is why this one got the little gold star.

YOUNG ADULT
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This one wasn’t a contest. Show and Prove by Sofia Quintero is about two teenage guys living in NYC and uh.. well.. just living life. There’s no real forward motion and I didn’t get the point.

Bleed by Laurie Faira Stolarz was a fast paced and intense read. It’s a collection of stories about teenagers whose lives intersect in different ways. I loved the style and the format and the different crazy characters. Clear win.

I didn’t save a lot of quotes from this batch, but you can always check out my favorite book quotes at Words, Wisdom, etc. 

Gilmore Girls Revival Feelings

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This morning my boss called me and said, “There’s really no reason for you to come in today. Have a nice, relaxing Sunday.” And I said, “Don’t mind if I do!” and fired up the Netflix. Friday evening I watched the first two episodes of the Gilmore Girls Revival with a few like-minded friends. It was wonderful. I was hooked and engaged and hanging on every quickly delivered word. I missed last night’s viewing party of the second two episodes to go to the movie theater to see Dr. Strange (which paled in comparison to Fantastic Beasts – just paled). So this morning when I got the chance to watch the second half of the revival I jumped at it!

As soon as I finished watching, and after I yelled, “WHAT?!” a half dozen times, I jumped on Facebook to check out all the Gilmore Girls-related articles I’ve saved over the past week and read them. Alise at Read. Write. Repeat. wrote a reaction piece that prompted my own post here. I started typing a comment to her post and just kept typing! Brittany Gibbons kept it simple with 3 likes and 3 dislikes. I could never boil it down so simply, but a good consensus seems to be nobody liked the musical and most everyone agrees something was off about Berta.

BuzzFeed has a nice bullet point style article that resonated with me. It tempted me to watch the whole thing again and make my own list of reactions. But there’s no time for that! I have feelings NOW. Lots of feelings. Most of them very positive. Some of them still fuzzy and confused. And the best way to figure out feelings is to write about them. So here I go.

One thing (perhaps the only thing) that has always bothered me about Gilmore Girls is how they completely disregard time. We all know about Friday night dinners, but then the next day was rarely Saturday and the girls would talk about last week or last Wednesday or yesterday and well, watch the first 7 seasons – the timeline rarely makes sense. Winter seemed to really follow that pattern. Rory is here, she’s there, she’s apparently a millionaire with her own jet just zipping back and forth across the Atlantic. It was a little distracting, or at least it would’ve been if I hadn’t decided years ago to just suspend the realities of time when it comes to the Gilmores.

I actually booed when I saw Logan. Ugh. Heavy sigh. I’ve just… it’s just… Logan’s a douche. Right? I mean, I know, I know he has a long list of really great qualities. It’s adorable that after all these years he still calls Rory “Ace.” It’s wonderful how he pursued her and believed in her and encouraged her. It’s fun and inspiring how he takes her on adventures and whisks her away and interrupts her college class to put on a show. But, well, he’s completely having a full blown affair with her when he’s engaged. Not exactly a class act move.

Also, he’s competent and confident and successful and while there is nothing wrong with any of those qualities, he still manages to make me feel slimy. I don’t think he’s hiding anything – he’s never been ashamed of his money or how he gets things done – but there’s just something about him that has never sat right with me. And I think his affair with Rory and how he clearly sees absolutely no problem with the arrangement is the kind of thing that has never sat right with me about him. Whatever he wants to do, he does, without apology. Which sounds good, until what he’s doing is something terrible for which he absolutely should apologize. And when Rory is with him, she is him. She becomes part of his entitled world. She steals a yacht. She drops out of Yale. She sleeps with another woman’s fiance. I never was and never will be #TeamLogan.

I actually cheered when I saw Luke standing in Lorelai’s kitchen. They’ve always been meant for each other. We all knew that, right? Lorelai’s darkest days, in my opinion, where the days when she got married to Christopher without Rory there. Ugh. A mess. We all also know that Lorelai doesn’t always make the best choices in her relationships, but with Luke it just felt right. Comfy and home. I like that Lorelai is still working at the Dragonfly, living in her house, wearing poofy floral print blouses tucked into form fitting dress pants, eating at town hall meetings, and drinking coffee at Luke’s. I like that Lorelai settled in. That her life is comfortable and routine and dependable. (Hm, Suzanne, I wonder what kind of life you’re dreaming of…)

Their wedding was perfect. While I was looking forward to a good ol’ fashioned party in the town square, we’ve had those. Luke and Lorelai’s love is beautiful because it doesn’t have to be all that. It doesn’t have to be a room full of daises or a trip to France. It’s just the two of them standing where they’ve stood a thousand times before and loving each other as they have and will for years. It’s beautiful. Although I do believe Jess should have been there and I was totally hoping for another Jess/Rory wedding kiss.

If I could whistle, I would’ve done that sexy cat calling whistle that people do when I saw Jess. Oh Jess. My heart. And frick can he fill out a v neck. I have always believed that Rory is at her best with Jess. Even when she was kind of emotionally cheating on Dean (that girl does have a history with unfaithfulness) and missing her mom’s college graduation, Jess ultimately brought out the best in Rory. He understands what is, or at least what should be, important to her. He doesn’t get caught up in the flash and glamour of money like she does. He is a simple man with a passion and a talent. He is someone you can trust, someone who will choose to love Rory and then just keep loving her. I believe that! I honestly do! And yes, I do recognize that these people aren’t technically real, but characters are real people, too, in their way, with consistent characteristics and behaviors. And this is who Jess is. He is good.

I’m certainly not surprised that it’s Jess who gave Rory the idea of writing a book. And I’m certainly not going to deny that when I saw the name of the manuscript I jumped straight to the ugly cry. It’s perfect. Rory’s whole life is somehow her relationship with her mom. And in the closing scene (before Rory dropped the BOMB) I thought about how beautiful this whole journey had been, this journey of Lorelai’s. She is the one who grew and succeeded and failed and lived her dream! She is the one moving forward, who had to work really hard and make hard choices. She had to learn how to apologize! But she did it! She did it. And now she gets to keep going.

I guess we’re here, at the end. Those four words. Rory’s pregnancy. My first thought was, “Rory is not going to be a good mom.” For which I feel like I should apologize, but let’s just picture Rory with a baby now for a moment.

My second thought was a jump forward in time to Jess and Rory. To Jess being the Luke to Rory’s Lorelai. To Jess sacrificing for a child that wasn’t biologically his because the child’s biological father (who I’m just assuming is Logan) was too busy being rich and entitled to make any kind of sacrifices. Of course Logan would say what he was supposed to say. He would say, “Are you sure?” And Rory would say yes, she’s sure, she can do this herself. Her mom did it. But she would be tearing up and she wouldn’t look him in the eye and we would all know she wasn’t sure, but Logan would take her word for it because it would be the easy way out.

I just hope that Rory wouldn’t string Jess along for as long as Lorelai did Luke. That because of Lorelai and Luke that Rory’s eyes would open quickly. That she would see what she had in front of her and not let pride or weird projections of her own mistakes get in the way of what she could have.

Again, I do know these people aren’t real.

Random final comments –

Sookie is the best. Just so great. She was the same ol’ Sookie! I wish Sookie and Jackson hadn’t left, though. I wish we had gotten to go back to their house. So many memories there!

I love Laine and Zach’s life. That they have their kids and they have their band and they have their crazy comfy house and their… life! It’s nice.

Luke giving out random Wifi passwords at his diner might be my favorite part of the whole thing. Seriously.

Berta and Gypsy being the same person wasn’t really an Easter egg. It was just weird. That being said, I kind of liked that Emily opened up her home to this family. I imagine when you lose someone as she did it would be very natural to want to fill the emptiness with relationships. Also, Berta didn’t really actually speak real Spanish, which was also weird. The fact that she just said lots of Spanish words (not really real sentences) made me think there was going to be some Berta twist – like she was really someone’s relative pretending to be a maid or… something. I don’t know. I obviously didn’t spend as much time thinking about Berta’s possible secret identity as I did about Rory and Jess’s future. But something didn’t sit right with that lady.

I’m a little bummed we didn’t get to see Liz and TJ, but super tickled they accidentally joined a cult. And then that the cult decided they were too weird. Perfect.

Kirk was great. Just the right amount of Kirky weirdness.

I think it’s dumb that Paris and Doyle were getting a divorce. They were so perfect together! I bet Doyle realizes what a sell out he had become just before their divorce is final and they work it out in the end.

The musical bit was too long.

I love how Dean and Rory got to chat in Doose’s and of course Dean would have a son named Grady. Super fitting.

I didn’t care for the Life and Death Brigade outing. That part of Rory’s life has always seemed so surreal to me. Who just goes to a tango club and then buys it?

In the end, I’m so grateful for this whole thing that is Gilmore Girls. For how much it means to so many of us and how it brings people together and causes us to think and process and imagine and dream and defend. Any episode of the show always makes me feel this nostalgia that kind of hurts and also makes me smile. It’s a wonderful thing and having this next installment just felt so special. It felt like going back to visit old friends. I wish for more while at the same time fear what more would do. We can’t live in Stars Hollow forever can we? At some point I guess we have to say goodbye.

I’m a loser baby

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It’s December now! The first thing I felt this morning when I woke up and remembered it was December was relief. November was great. Novembers are always great. But November was hard. And busy. And really full.

The month started off with my boss and her family in the States, which meant I was running the hostel alone. It also meant that I worked like, 15 days with only 1 day off or something crazy. Hard! Busy! Full! But great. Because guess what? I can kind of run a hostel. And when my boss got back we got to have a couple good conversations about how we can love and serve each other better as we work together. I ended November feeling better about my job than I have in while.

I turned 27 this November. And we all know how I love birthdays. And I did love my birthday! I celebrated the whole weekend. I hung out with some friends and played games, I went to Wendy’s, I saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (so good!), I had solo sushi while watching Glee, and I had dessert with friends! I cannot believe how fortunate I have been with these new friends of mine in Jarabacoa. They are so great!

My birthday was busy and really full! And hard. Because I turned 27 and I’ve been watching Glee. Remember that episode early on called “Never Been Kissed” when Coach Beast shares with Will that she’s never been kissed? She talks about how hard it is being an adult who has never had the same experiences that most other adults have had and she talks about how easy it is to believe something is wrong with you when you’re a grown woman who’s never been kissed.

She gets me.

This November I, for the first time in my life, got paid to write words. My very own words are out there for the world to read and I got paid to write them. Only you’ll never know it was me because I’m copy-writing about things like taxes and fashion watches. And it’s super fun and awesome.

For Thanksgiving I got to take my first post-move-to-Jarabacoa trip to San Pedro! It was such a gift and a delight to spend a day eating with my San Pedro family. I am so, so grateful for those wonderful, amazing people and how they love me and feed me.

I also participated in NaNoWriMo this November for the fourth time! I teamed up with my friend Alise (whose blog you need to be reading if you like books) and it was a great experience. I remembered that I’m not done writing the story I started four years ago. It feels so real, like it’s all happened already and I just have to write it down.

But I didn’t write it down. At least not all of it. Not even 50,000 words of it. I failed NaNoWriMo for the second time. Which gives me a 50% NaNoWriMo success rate. Which is still really cool because I’ve written almost 200,000 words just in the past 4 Novembers! And because while writing 46,696 words I also read seven books, including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which I’d love to talk about, and three books from Ted Dekker’s Circle Series, which I’d also love to talk about.

Remember when Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequiest and other such wise ones told us about the art of saying no? Well, November was overwhelming. And being the problem solver that I am, I brainstormed how to feel less overwhelmed. These are the problem solving strategies I came up with: prayer, honest conversation, figuring out what I want to say no to. And this month I decided that I was going to say no to the pressure of having to finish NaNoWriMo. It was liberating.

So here’s to December! To letting things go and making room for the full and great and hard things to which I want to say YES.

We really can do hard things

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You know all those bible verses we quote like, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and, “Nothing is impossible with God,” and, “I do it all for the glory of God”? And you know how I’m always saying we can do hard things? Well it turns out that actually living out those verses is a really hard thing and doing hard things is well, hard.

My job for the past four months has been a hard thing. Not over all and not in most moments, but in some moments, in the moments when I get overwhelmed or in the moments when I have to go to work when my friends are going to brunch, my job is a hard thing. Oh, and also the moments when I have no idea what someone is asking me because they’re speaking Spanish over the phone or the moments when it’s been raining for weeks and our dryer quits working. Those moments are hard things.

And it turns out that all those hard things I’ve been talking about doing are well, hard, and I’m kind of a baby. Because my personality and my experiences and my privilege. So today I wanted to quit. I felt deep down in my gut that I wanted to quit. So I went to a couple of trusted friends and looked for justification for my entitlement and pride. I went looking for permission from smart people to quit. And I didn’t find it.

Because my friends are smart and godly women who want what is best and godly for me. And so, as some of them have told me before and as I’m sure all of them will have to tell me in the future – they reminded me of the words I’ve spoken and written so many times.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“Nothing is impossible with God.”

“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

“We can do hard things.”

This morning I sat on my couch and cried about my hard things and even as I was crying I realized and knew a very true truth. That my things really aren’t that hard. That getting up in the morning and going to work and doing my job because that’s what I’ve committed to do until May really isn’t that hard. That there are people who have to do the very hard thing of getting up and living their life in a country where the president mocks them. There are people doing very hard things these days in the United States of America. Hard and scary things like being their very selves.

I have to do the hard thing of getting over myself. Removing myself from the center of my universe, putting my eyes back on Jesus, and doing the work that He has asked me to do. And He surely hasn’t asked me to quit.

My sweet friends keep reminding me that God has me here with these very people at this exact time for a reason. And because God is good His reasons are good. His plans for me are good. Nowhere in the whole stinking Bible does it say that His plans are us for easy. Jesus, as our example, did a lot of hard things. Like ignoring cultural prejudice and misogyny. Like building relationships with other humans. Like raising people from the dead. Like dying.

Because He loves me, because He has deemed me worthy, because He has called me, because He has hunted me down and bought me back from death and sin and entitlement and pride, I really can do hard things. And so can you.

What Glee taught me about myself

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For a while in college I told people (namely, my gal pals) that “my type” of guy was big and broad. I would say that I liked a man with a little meat on his bones, that I’d prefer a linebacker type. But it wasn’t really true. I’ve always like ’em skinny. Tall and skinny and preferably tattooed. Of course that isn’t to say that I’ve never been and never will be attracted to a guy that isn’t skinny – handsome comes in all shapes and sizes. But I told people that I liked bigger guys because I thought I should. Because – get this – as a bigger girl, I didn’t think I deserved a skinny guy. 

I’m just going to say that again because when I realized what I was doing and why I was lying it kind of blew my mind a little bit. I didn’t think I deserved a skinny guy. Which meant that for some reason (entertainment industry, culture, supermodels, the usual culprits of the warped sense of self) I thought that skinny people were worth more than fat people. I thought somewhere deep inside of me, because surely I never would’ve voiced this thinking out loud and it is only now looking back years later that I can even recognize what was going on, that skinny people were worth more than fat people and so I couldn’t ever date a skinny guy because skinny guys were inherently worth more than I was and I didn’t deserve to be with someone who was skinnier than I was.

It sounds ridiculous right? It better. Because it’s a load of garbage.

I’ve been fortunate to never really go through a hating the way I look phase. My own physical appearance has just never meant that much to me (my fashion motto is “comfort trumps all”), so I never could muster up the energy to hate the way I look. I remember rocking bikinis in high school even with a gut and back fat and not really thinking twice about it. I just liked being in my bathing suit because that usually meant I was going to a pool party. But even me, who managed to hold onto a fairly healthy self esteem through high school and college, thought that a skinny guy deserved better than me.

Gross.

I watched the show Glee back when it was newish and I’ve recently picked it back up again. There’s a lot to like about Glee in my opinion. Blaine is just adorable, Puck is a babe, Sue’s insults are creatively hilarious, the songs are fun, and I eat up all that teenage romance with a spoon. (Seriously. Have you read any of my flash fiction? I love teenage romance.)

My all time favorite Glee couple (and there are a lot of them!) is Puck and Lauren. Lauren joins the Glee club after Matt (is that his name? Mark? the black football player who never has any lines) transfers. Puck, no longer deemed “cool” by his football teammates because of his glee club membership, is locked in a port-a-potty for a day and Lauren is the one who finds him. She’s a female wrestler. She’s a badass. She oozes self confidence. She tells Puck that she’ll let him out of the port-a-potty if he’ll give her seven minutes in heaven. Then she walks out after only three minutes because she isn’t impressed with his moves.

Oh yeah, and she’s fat.

Puck is like the ultimate bad boy hottie. He has a rocking bod, a handsome face, plays the guitar, and sports a mohawk. And he falls head over heels for Lauren Zizes. And at first she couldn’t care less. She makes him woo her, win her over, chase her. And he does! And they date for almost a whole season. Which is like an eternity in Glee relationships.

Puck and Lauren’s relationship is super important. Because I’m willing to bet I’m not the only girl in America who believed for a time that I didn’t deserve a skinny guy because my weight made me somehow less than. Puck and Lauren (and Schmidt and Elizabeth) are important because our weight doesn’t define our worth. Because you can be fat and have a hot boyfriend! Because you can be fat and hot. Because I can be fat and have a hot boyfriend and because I am fat and hot.

Somehow I let the lie that my worth is someone directly tied to my weight sink down deep into my bones. I let that lie come out of my mouth in the form of other stupid lies about what I find attractive in a man. Lauren Zizes is important because she knows her worth. She knows, understands, and demonstrates, way down deep in her fictitious bones, that her worth is not determined by her weight or her looks or her hair or her clothes. She knows that she has value simply because she is.

I want to let that truth sink deep down into my bones. The truth that I have value, and a lot of it! just because I exist. Because God deemed me worthy of creating. Because I have a job to do on this earth – people to love and listen to, stories to create, children to teach. I have just as much value as anyone because we were all created by the same loving and attentive God.

I am beautiful just because I am. I am worthy of a healthy relationship with a handsome guy of whatever shape or size. I have value just because I am. And that’s the truth.

 

 

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This group had a lot of similar pairs so I’m going to do some head-to-heads and let you know which ones were my favorites.

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I love historical fiction. Historical fiction is my jam. These two great pieces of historical fiction to read. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer Annie Barrows is about a woman who falls in love with a community of readers through letters. The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini is about a young teacher working the underground railroad. And of course there’s a dash of romance in each. So basically, everything I love.

In this historical head-to-head, The Guernsey…Society comes out on top, if only for the Pride and Prejudice vibe I got from The Sugar Camp Quilt. Mr. Nelson is no Mr. Darcy, brood as he might, and that other racist guy whose name I don’t remember is no Mr. Wickham. Their similarities to Jane Austen’s classic made the relationships predictable. I would highly recommend either book to lovers of historical fiction looking for an easy and fun read.

Don’t regret what you say
so long as it’s the truth.
– The Sugar Camp Quilt, Jennifer Chiaverini

TWISTS ON A CLASSIC
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Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad is the story of Odysseus from the point of view of his wife and her handmaids. I’m not sure why I put this on my To Read list. I’ve never been particularly interested in Greek mythology. But it was an interesting read – one I would definitely recommend to any high school English teacher. I’m sure it was fun for Atwood to write a classic from another point of view, to explore Penelope’s character, and I’m sure it would be fun for lit students to do the same kind of thing.

I tried not to judge Beastly by Alex Flinn for what it wasn’t. It’s not supposed to be a deep thinker – it’s just a fun, modern twist on the classic story of Beauty and the Beast. That being said, and that being my mindset, it was still too cheesy for me. A little too hard to believe. The Penelopiad wins this round!

YOUNG ADULT MYSTERY
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I read more than half of these 10 books in their paperback form, which was something special for me, as most of the books I read these days are ebooks. But I happened to be in Michigan at the beginning of this month and of course one of my first stops (after Taco Bell) was the library. I made a random list of books from my To Read list that I hadn’t been able to get ahold of in their ebook form and these two books just happened to be on that list and in that library. They are weirdly similar. It’s weird because I’ve never read another story quite like these two.

I don’t want to give anything away, because they are mysteries, but let’s just say they both have a surprise ending. In Of Scars and Stardust Andrea Hannah kind of unravels the mystery, though. By the end I was pretty sure I had it solved, but it was still a twist, still a surprise. Stephanie Kuehn’s Complicit has a similar twist, so I saw it coming from a little further away (I read it after Of Scars and Stardust) but solving the mystery felt a little clumsier in Complicit. The “clues” were scattered and disconnected, whereas the “clues” in Of Scars and Stardust seemed to lead in a straight line. Both good, suspenseful reads, but Of Scars and Stardust wins hands down.

CRAZY
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This is a very insensitive category for two books featuring characters who probably suffer from mental illness, but these stories are just crazy! This might’ve been the hardest pairing from which to pick a favorite. Pretty Baby was my second Mary Kubica novel and man she knows how to spin a tale. Reading her books is like watching an episode of Criminal Minds. She peels back the layers of the story and the characters one scene at a time until finally it all comes together in a jumble of craziness. My only complaint is that the book was written from the perspective of three characters – Heidi, Willow, and Chris. Heidi and Willow are the real main characters, and I feel that Chris’s perspective didn’t add anything to the story and should’ve been omitted. We all know how I feel about books that are unnecessarily long.

For that reason alone, this head-to-head winner of the crazies is This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp. Right in the first sentences I knew I was going to love reading this book. It is fast paced – I think the whole book only covers about an hour of action – and dives right in. It is written from the perspective of a few different characters, all involved in a school shooting situation, and each character adds something to the story. Nijkamp was not afraid to kill some darlings and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crying by the end.

There are more stories
in the universe
than stars in the sky.
And in every story,
there’s the light of hope.
– This Is Where It Ends, Marieke Nijkamp

THE MISFITS
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These two books are not similar. The Goldfinch by Donna Tart is about a boy who reflexively steals a painting from a museum when the museum is bombed. The story goes on to follow this boy as he moves to Las Vegas to become a drug addict and then moves back to New York City to become a lying drug addict and then I stopped reading. This is the first book in all my book challenges I haven’t finished. But it was long and I had lost interest so I moved on. I loved the first half. I was hooked and engaged and wanted to know what happened next! And then I was over it and annoyed and didn’t care.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is an important series of essays written by a black father to his black son about race and suffering and all of the hard things I imagine a black father has to explain to his black son. It’s an important book, and one I’m glad I read, but it was a bit repetitive. However, I did finish it, and did a lot of nodding and affirming while reading it, so Between the World and Me is the winner of the misfits.

I am sorry that I cannot make it okay.
I am sorry that I cannot save you –
but not that sorry.
Part of me thinks that your very vulnerability
brings you closer to the meaning of life.
– Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

For more book quotes check out Words, Wisdom, etc.

When You Love Someone

Every fictional character I’ve ever written has come to me in a dream. A couple of weeks ago I dreamed about a brave young couple and I instantly fell head over heels in love with both of them. I’ve been wanting to write down their story since then and today I finally did. My method of writing fiction (well, writing anything for that matter) is just to get it all out. I don’t do a lot of outlining or planning and I don’t do a lot of editing or proofreading. At least not initially. So today I want to share with you these lovely people who came to me in a dream and their raw, unedited, as-it-came-to-me story. It’s a story inspired by all of the brave and lovely people who have chosen the hard work of adoption. I hope you love Jules and Junior as much as I do.

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A well meaning sex ed teacher once told them that sex was an act between two people who loved each other very much. Well, Jules and Junior loved each other very much, so sex is what they did.

She was 14 years old when she started to notice something was different. It wasn’t long after that her ninth grade literature teacher, Miss Compton, noticed, too. Miss Compton noticed that Jules rushed out of the classroom and to the bathroom three times in a week. She also noticed when the too small shirts that Jules would wear start exposing more of her belly, in addition to jeans that wouldn’t button anymore.

One morning after Jules slept through a class discussion on Lord of the Flies, Miss Compton asked her to stay back. “I’m so tired lately,” Jules said, before Miss Compton had a chance to say anything at all. “I sleep at night, I swear I do,” she said, anticipating a talking to from her teacher. Miss Compton looked carefully at Jules. She’s just a child, she thought. Jules looked just like her mom only fresher, younger, less worn out from worry and substance abuse. Miss Compton had only met Jules’ mother once, and it certainly wasn’t at a school event. It was in a gas station parking lot, when Jules waved Miss Compton over to proudly introduce her teacher to her mother and younger brother.

Miss Compton looked at Jules there in her classroom and knew that with all the innocence of a student who proudly introduces an intoxicated mother to a public school teacher in a gas station parking lot, Jules had no idea. She had no idea she was pregnant. “Let’s go for a walk,” she said, picking up Jules’ backpack from the floor beside her desk. The backpack was pink, dirty, and nearly empty. Miss Compton set her hand lightly on Jules’ shoulder and steered her towards the nurse’s office.

//

Junior’s first reaction to hearing he was going to be a 15 year old father was intense joy. He still loved Jules as much as he did that afternoon when he unbuttoned her jeans and expressed his love for her just how he thought he was supposed to. His next reaction was intense fear. “Jules,” he said quietly, looking her straight in her blue eyes, holding her delicate face in his hands, “what are we going to do with a baby?”

They told Junior’s dad that same day Miss Compton had walked Jules to the nurse’s office. They sat on the couch in Junior’s living room across for his dad in his recliner. They held hands. “Jules is going to have a baby!” Junior said and despite his fear he couldn’t hide his excitement. He and Jules had done this together, just the two of them, and no matter what happened, he was proud of that.

Junior’s dad had seen the signs, too, and like Miss Compton had drawn his conclusions. He was hoping he was wrong, however, and he was blaming himself. He ran his hand through his graying hair and wished for the thousandth time that Junior’s mom was still alive, that he didn’t have to do this parenting thing alone. “Well,” he finally said, “that is something.”

Junior beamed. Jules smiled weakly. It was her idea to tell Junior’s dad. She knew he wouldn’t yell. She knew he would care. She knew he would do something. “Well,” she echoed. “What should we do?”

Junior’s dad blew out the breath he had been holding it. What should they do? How should he know? He had spent the years since his wife died burying himself in his work on the farm, out of necessity and out of desperation. He didn’t know how to do life without her. Now he looked across the small living room at this young man in front of him, this father to be, his son. Her son. Their son. It was like looking in a time traveling mirror. Thin and tall with black greased back hair, Junior looked just like his dad when he was his age. Of course at my age I was too busy working to have time to knock anybody up. And even though he thought that maybe he should feel a number of things – anger, disappointment, fear, shame – he looked at his son and all he felt was intense love.

“What we’re going to do is what’s best for everyone involved,” he said. He looked at Jules now, so small. “Jules,” he said, “what do you think about giving this baby up for adoption?”

//

Junior couldn’t believe how quickly Jules’ stomach had grown. He loved to put his hands right on it, to feel the tiny baby move around in there. She still came to his house every afternoon after school just like she always did. She said her mom still hadn’t noticed her belly. He didn’t believe that her mom hadn’t noticed, but he didn’t like to burst Jules’ bubble. She was so positive, so sure of herself, yet he was sure that behind all of those weak smiles Jules knew that her mom had noticed. But pretending her mom hadn’t noticed was easier than admitting that her mom didn’t care.

The doctor at the clinic said the baby would be coming any day now. They had met with the adoptive family – that’s what they were called, the people who were going to take care their baby, the “adoptive family.” Jules kept forgetting and calling them the “adopting family.” Junior didn’t correct her, because in his mind her word was just as right as the right word – they were the family doing the adopting.

The week before the baby came Jules and Junior got off the bus in front of Junior’s old farm house. Junior carried his backpack on one shoulder and Jules’ on the other. Her hand was on her lower back and she walked slowly to the house. He set their backpacks down with a thud in the foyer and helped her lower herself onto the couch. “Are you feeling okay?” he asked her, crouching in front of her and resting his hands on her thighs. “Is the baby coming?”

“No, no,” she said, laughing. “The baby’s not coming. Not yet. It’s just my back is killing me.” She shifted on the couch in an attempt to get comfortable.

Junior sat back on his heels and thought for a minute. He had a flash of a memory – his mom coming in from helping his dad on the farm with her hand on her lower back saying, “My back is killing me.” What would she do?

After a moment it came to him, “A bath!” he said.

“What?” Jules asked.

“A steaming hot bath!” he said, squeezing her thighs lightly. “That’s what my mom used to do when her back was killing her. That’s exactly what she’d say, too. She’d say, ‘My back is killing me,’ and then she would fill up the bathtub with steaming hot water – I mean it, there was actual steam – and lay in there for a while. It helped!”

“Okay,” Jules said, putting her hands on Junior’s shoulders in order to hoist herself from the couch. “Do you think I could take a bath here?”

“Of course! Yes!” Junior said, excited to be able to do something to help. He had rubbed her back during her bouts of morning sickness, helped her clumsily sew elastic into the waistband of her jeans, and helped her remember to take her vitamins. He wanted to be a part of every step. He started running up the stairs, then came back and took her elbow to help her climb to the top. He led her into the big bathroom, the one with the claw-foot tub in the middle. “You sit here,” he said, pulling over a stool.

He sat next to her on the floor and they watched the tub fill up with steaming hot water – “see the steam?” When the tub was full, so full some was sure to slosh out when Jules lowered herself in, he said, “Okay, I’ll give you some privacy,” and headed toward the door.

“No, don’t,” she said. “You can stay.” She dropped the t-shirt of Junior’s she had been wearing and her jeans on the floor. She stood in front of him in her mismatched bra and underwear. He looked her up and down and loved her fiercely. She smiled at him, feeling safe with him, but she was still a child in so many ways. She turned and climbed into the tub in her underwear. He sat back down on the floor next to the stool, and smiled at her.

“How does it feel?” he asked.

“Steaming hot,” she said, smiling. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back. The ends of her blonde hair floated in the water around her shoulders.

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Junior figured she had fallen asleep. She did that so often nowadays. But then she turned her head to look and him and said, “Will you sit with me, Junior?”

He stood up. “What do you mean, Jules? I’m right here.”

“Will you sit with me in here?” she asked, indicating the tub with her head. “You know, behind me,” she sat up and motioned behind her with her hand. “Like in the movies.”

He knew what she was talking about. Anytime a man and a woman were in a tub together in the movies, the man sat behind the woman and she leaned her head against his chest. It sounded nice to him. He wordlessly dropped his t-shirt and jeans next to hers, and climbed in behind her in his underwear. Some water splashed out the side, but neither noticed. She leaned her head back against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her swollen belly.

They talked about all the things their baby might have and be and do. He kept his hands there on the thin skin that kept their baby safe and thought about how strong and wonderful Jules was to grow their baby. “I can’t believe it, Jules,” he said.

“What?” she asked. “You can’t believe what?”

“That you did this!” he said. “That you grew an entire baby. Soon it will be here, breathing and pooping and crying. And you did that!”

She laughed. “We did it, Junior.”

“You did most of it, though,” he said.

They didn’t hear his dad coming up the stairs. They were too busy dreaming and laughing and floating to hear him call for them. It wasn’t until he was standing in the doorway (of the door they had left open) that they noticed him. “Oh,” he said, utterly taken aback. “Oh.”

Junior and Jules stared at him, wondering if he’d yell at them. Jules even put her hands on the edge of the tub like she was going to hoist herself out. But Junior’s dad didn’t yell or even say anything besides, “Oh.” He just turned around and walked back down the stairs.

//

He walked back down the stairs, out the door, and into the field. “Did you see them?” he said to the wind, to his wife. The tears streamed down his face and only the cows could see. “They’re just children. They’re just babies, baby. But they love each other so much, you know?” The wind blew softly by his face, drying his tears as soon as they fell. He felt her there. She was the reason he recognized true love and he saw it there in the claw-foot bathtub where she used to soak after spending a day helping him on their farm.

“They’re so strong,” he told the wind, he told his wife. “They’re so strong.”