Books

Purpose

 

Hugo: Did you ever notice that all machines are made for some reason? They are built to make you laugh, or tell the time, or to fill you with wonder. Maybe that’s why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn’t able to do what it was meant to do.

Maybe it’s the same with people. If you lose your purpose … it’s like you’re broken.

Isabelle: Like Papa Georges?

Hugo: Maybe … maybe we can fix him.

Isabelle: So is that your purpose? Fixing things?

Hugo: I don’t know. Maybe.

Isabelle: Then what’s my purpose?

Hugo: I don’t know.

Hugo: I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and type of parts they need.

So I figure if the entire world is big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.

Don't Stop Believing

Last night Hubby & I were “hangin'” at the local coffee house, both of us on our laptops. Well … actually, Hubby was working while I just putzed around. And really, I should have been finishing up on the “quickie” knit project I’ve been working on for the past two weeks (so much for quick!). Or I could have been catching up on some much needed blog reading. But instead I surfed the web. And listened to some tunes off of Hubby’s laptop.

I guess I should preface this by saying that I usually rely on Hubby to update my iPod. He’s the one who uploaded most our songs from our CD collection into our digital library. He’s usually the one to find new artists and songs on the web for us. If there’s a certain tune I’m itching to hear, he’s the one that finds it and uploads it on my iPod. Many times when I stick my earbuds on at work (to drown out those loud co-workers while trying to concentrate), I end up finding little gems on my iPod.

journey_escapeFor example, one week I had this incredible urge to hear that one Jo.an Je.tt song from that one movie she was in with Mi.chael J. Fox, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember the name of the song, let alone the name of the movie. (Oh yeah, I can hear y’all trying to remember it now, too … ) The next day at work, what do I find on my iPod? Uh-huh … He’s such a great guy, isn’t he?! I think so.

Anyway, lately Hubby’s been on an “Under $5” deal at the iTunes store, where you can purchase either movies or albums online for $4.99. Last week he got some great 80’s movies to watch on our iTouch. And this week? Well … that’s what we were listening to last night; the “Escape” album from Journey. “Just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit” … Listening to it is totally flashing me back to growing up in the ‘burbs of Detroit back in the early 80’s.

I was telling Hubby that I remember that this particular album was one of those “tapes” that Dr. Bro bought during his one “stint” at the whole Co.lumb.ia H.ouse “Eight Tapes for a Penny” deals; the expensive shipping cost paid for by mowing neighbors’ lawns and saving his weekly allowances. So listening to the whole album in it’s entirety is like stepping back to the summers where Dr. Bro and I would ride around our neighborhood with our “bike gang.” And summers with swimming lessons at the local middle school.

When celebrating my mid-summer birthday meant either camping out of town or heading down to the county “wave pool.” Where summers were spent earning money by babysitting the neighborhood kids. Of which were eventually spent at the local B. Dalton’s buying books … and then reading them late at night under the covers with the flashlight.

The "Bike Gang"

The "Bike Gang"

Those days seem like such a lifetime away; even though it was only 25 years ago during this lifetime. It was a time of naivety; a time of feeling care-free. Especially during summers which, in it’s own, was a time of freedom. No timetable to conform to, no expectations to finish homework.

Referring back to yesterday’s post … it was simply a time of feeling as if anything was possible. As if the whole future was yet to be discovered. As if believing in any dream made could actually come true.

I miss those days. I miss not having to conform to a daily routine. And I miss not having expectations of others; and others not having expectations of me. I miss that feeling of the future being so far ahead of us … slightly out of reach, but still within the realm of reality. Still believing that anything is possible.

There are some days that I truly wish I could go back to that moment and relive it with the knowledge I have now. But then I remember that the choices and decisions I’ve made are what has made me into the person I am today. Bruised and a bit broken … but otherwise ready to face yet another challenge. Especially now that I’ve got that “second chance” I’ve been waiting for so long.

Journey was right not to stop believing.

Reading & 'Riting

Well, today is Day 5 of our vacation in the Banff, Alberta area. We’ve been so busy since arriving to this beautiful area that today is the first day I’ve actually had the chance to sit down and write. And to tell you the truth, I’d rather be finishing up the novel I started reading on the plane ride down here than compose a string of words to form a sentence. BUT … I figured if I don’t do it now, I may never get around to it until I get back. And quite honestly, I think I’d forget all that we’ve done here on our vacation.

I have to tell you, I am so utterly enthralled with the scenery surrounding Banff National Park (BNP). Not only do the majestic mountains continuously surround you at every turn, but all the water … Ack! It’s pure heaven for the Cancerian water-sign girl in me. The colors are simply amazing. You know how when you see pictures of certain bodies of water that are so brilliantly blue in color but when you actually see the water with your own eyes … it’s just this brownish-greyish color? Nope. Not here. Every picture I’ve ever seen of Lake Louise captures the exact same hue of turquoise that I’ve now seen IRL. It’s. That. Brilliant. And pretty much every lake we encountered was that shade of blue or … gasp … even deeper.

The thing about Lake Louise though is that it’s an incredibly calm and quiet lake. So quiet that the surface of the lake actually looks like glass. And because its surrounded by these beautiful mountains, you can actually see the reflection of them in the water. Hubby & I decided to rent a canoe for the hour to try to make it to the other end of the lake, but nope … we didn’t make it. However, in the process we were able to get some incredible pictures that we would have never been able to get otherwise. Out of all the things we’ve done thus far, I have to say that canoeing Lake Louise was one of the brightest highlights.

Not that we didn’t do other sightseeing things … in fact we did do quite a bit in these past five days. We took a gondola ride up Sulfur Mountain and then proceeded to climb the up to the summit … something my Dad didn’t think he could do and then did it on his own time. (Yay Dad!) We drove west on the Trans-Canada Highway and then up to the highest point of passing in BNP. Along the way, we saw more beautiful lakes and glaciers! I’ve never seen glaciers in my life, so to see how ginormous one is … it was incredible. We stopped at Crowfoot Glacier, which was named because it was appropriately shaped like a crow’s foot with its three fingers clutching the mountainside. Unfortunately, the lower finger has pretty much melted (damn global warming!) and all that’s left is the top finger and half a middle finger (oh … the jokes I could make … :-p ). We’ve done tons of walking that we would have probably lost some weight. If only we didn’t go around eating lots of good meals!

One of the best things we did for ourselves was an hour-massage at a spa located by one of the natural hot springs in Banff. And despite the fact that we arrived about 15 minute late, not only did we get an incredibly relaxing massage but the staff was kind enough to actually give us the whole hour massage! What a great way to help us destress.

We spent Canada Day (July 1st, for my fellow Americans) with my cousin and her hubby & 10-month old son at their house in Calgary. And that was just simply wonderful. So wonderful that I’ll probably post more about it in another future post.

And tomorrow on the 4th of July, we’re heading back to Calgary for the day. For … da da da dum … the Calgary Stampede! Who’d a thunk that a city-gal would want to go see a rodeo or a chuckwagon race? Or surround herself with all things Country-Western … Well, hey, because Calgary is known as the “Nashville of the North,” I figured that “when in Rome” …

So that’s what we’ve been up to this week thus far. Perhaps when I get back I’ll have more stories to tell, along with pictures of my cousin and Hubby with their adorable 10 month old.

And now … back to reading. And relaxing.

Have a great 4th of July, everyone!

When the Old-Fashion Way Isn't Working … A Book Review

I’m finally living up to a promise that I made to DayzofRain. (Although I’m pretty sure that she thought I must have forgot about it!) But after over a month of nonstop holiday stuff, followed by the two untimely trips to Virginia Beach, I have finally completed the first of the two tasks I’ve been given. This post, to do a book review, is the second task.

To tell you the truth, I’m not quite sure of the reason why DayzofRain specifically contacted me but I was truly honored to do so as I am an avid reader. Okay, so I mostly dig chick lit (sounds like chewing gum) but I do truly enjoy immersing myself in a good book.

The book I was assigned to read was “Having a Baby… When the Old-Fasion Way Isn’t Working: Hope and Help for Everyone Facing Infertility” by none other than the RESOLVE celebrity spokesperson, Cindy Margolis. For those of you who aren’t familiar with RESOLVE, they are the nation’s leading voice for women or men experiencing infertility. And for those not familiar with Cindy Margolis, she’s a model and an ex-Baywatch girl who is also famous for being the “Most Downloaded Woman on the Internet.”

Now, I can almost hear those of you out there thinking, “How the HECK does a swimsuit actress/model end up becoming a spokesperson for RESOLVE and, to top it off, end up writing a book about infertility?!” Well, it’s because she and her husband have experience in going through infertility; in fact they have almost 10 years of experience in this subject matter.

After marrying her husband in 1998, Cindy and her husband, Guy, set out to start their family right away. Unfortunately it took 3 years, three failed IUI‘s along with three failed IVF’s before bringing their son, Nicholas, into the world. It also took another one failed IVF and one surrogate pregnancy before adding biological twin daughters, Sierra and Sabrina, to their family.

I, myself, first found out about Cindy Margolis’ experiences in infertility a few years ago, before the birth of her twin daughters. One weekday on my day off from work (probably less than a year after my own failed IVF experience), I happened to be flipping through channels and stumbled onto a program on VH1, called “Cindy Margolis Inside Out.” I had never paid attention to Cindy’s career in the past, but when I heard her talking about her struggle with infertility, I put down the remote control and watched. The show documented the one IVF experience they went through as they tried to give Nicholas a sibling. I was fascinated and amazed that a celebrity would be out there letting the world know what it was like, emotionally and physically, to go through infertility and IVF.

As it turns out, Hubby happened to call home during one of the commercial breaks just to check in. When I told him what I was watching, he told me that I probably shouldn’t be watching that program. When I asked why, he simply said that it was better that I didn’t. Well … being the stubborn person I was, I ignored Hubby’s warning and watched the rest of the program. Now, if you haven’t put two and two together from the previous paragraph above, this program was documenting the one failed IVF attempt that they went through before deciding to go through surrogacy. And since I didn’t heed Hubby’s warning, I found myself crying inconsolably.

So back in mid-December, DayzofRain asked me to read this book, I was excited to do so. Ever since seeing that VH1 program (which, coincidentally, I haven’t seen since … nor can I find much about it on the internet), I wanted to know what Cindy had to say and contribute about infertility and options.

In the book, Cindy shares rather candidly her whole experience from trying to get pregnant, to being diagnosed with “unexplained infertility,” to the emotional lows of failed ART procedures, to finally the emotional highs of finally becoming a family. And in between her own stories, she included other’s experiences of success and failures in their attempt to have a baby. For me, reading all those stories and all the emotional roller coasters was simply validation that I was not as crazy as I thought I was.

In addition to other people’s experiences, she does include quite a bit of resources. At the end of each section, whether it be about finding a good RE to finding different agencies for surrogates or donor egg / sperm or adoption, she lists many organizations and their addresses/websites to contact with any questions or request for information. These lists are not all-inclusive, but they do provide a starting point for doing some research.

On a personal level, the only thing I found lacking in this book was information on adoption. The book only includes one chapter of information on adoption to the six or so chapters devoted to various ways to have your own biological child (either through IVF, surrogacy, donor egg/sperm). It skims through the various programs (international vs domestic; open vs closed) over one page within that chapter. While that one chapter did have an inspiring story that deeply touched me, I wish there would have been more information. Especially information about getting through the grief of not being able to become pregnant, to sustain a pregnancy, or to have a biological child of your own. As Cindy’s journey did not take her on the adoption route, I am sure that is one reason why there isn’t much included in this book.

Overall, the book is an easy read, especially for those that are pretty new to the infertility journey. The back of the book contains a glossary of the most basic ART terms as well as a recap of all the resources at the end of each section. For those that are “seasoned” in the quest for a baby, especially for those who are already in the process or have already gone through the various ART procedures, this book may be too simple. However, the personal stories (including the elusive male point of view as well as a surrogate mom’s point of view) are enough to keep you interested in reading.

So. There you have it. My homework is done. Just in time, because I was running out of excuses to make up for not doing it sooner. I can only use the excuse that “the cat used my paper as her litter box” for so long.

"PS I Love You" … and Other Emotions

I love the book, “PS I Love You” by Cecilia Ahern. I picked it up used at the local B&N a few years ago, just in time to bring it with me to our trip to Seattle. And as I was sitting on the plane reading the book, I would need to dig through my purse just to find a napkin or a piece of tissue paper just to wipe all the fallen tears. It was THAT good of a book for me.

When I found out that they were making the book into a movie … let alone starring Hilary Swank, playing the lead character, Holly Kennedy … I had my apprehensions. First of all, the book was supposed to be based in Ireland and yet the movie is in NYC. Second, it was starring Hilary Swank. Don’t get me wrong … she’s awesome in any of her Academy Award performances, but I just didn’t see her playing Holly.

What got me to the theater instead, was them darn trailers. That and seeing that not only Denny (from Grey’s Anatomy) was in it, but Gerard Butler (King Leonides from “300”) was playing the husband. Yum. (Yes, along with Johnny Depp … I have a sick fascination for certain celebs.)

One weekend, I dragged Hubby to the theater to see it. And honestly, although there are parts of the movie that aggrevated me, I did like the movie. It certainly does not follow the plot exactly to the specifications of the book (I mean, really … what book-to-film movie ever does …), but it highlights much of the same core emotions that got me in the book. There’s one scene in particular that totally got me. It’s one of those rare situations where seeing it on film right in front of you is ten times better than reading the book.

(If you’re wanting to see the movie and/or read the book, I suggest you skip the next two paragraph.)

*
At this point in the movie, Holly is on a weekend trip with her girlfriends, all set up and paid for by her husband prior to his death. Her one friend just confessed that she was finally getting married. Her other friend also confesses that she’s (finally) pregnant. The look on Holly’s face said it all. While she was happy for them, she couldn’t help but be sad for herself. Then after the initial “Yay! We’re so excited about the news in our lives!” the subject was suddenly and akwardly dropped.

What’s more is later, Holly overhears her friends in the other room still overly excited about each other’s announcement and hears them planning for the next stage in their lives. It was nonstop chatter, while Holly stood there just looking utterly sad and alone.

*

At that point in the movie, I just completely lost it. Tears were streaming down my face while Hubby held me tight. I turned to him at that point and said, “I know exactly how she feels.”

And I totally did. It’s that feeling of emptiness inside of me. That black hole that some days I think will never be filled up. And in certain circumstances, the more happiness other people have in their lives, the deeper I feel like climbing into that big black abyss and just not resurfacing until all the excitement dies down.

It’s not because I’m being selfish (as later on in the movie, it was pointed out to Holly that she acting that way … pissed me off, too. Grrr …) or that I’m not happy for the other person. It’s not even jealousy that drives me to feel that way. It’s the feeling that I should be able to have some of that happiness too. That I’m entitled to have those type of exciting moments in my life as well.

Yes, I can hear people say … “Well, you can’t just expect happiness to happen. You have to make those moments happen for yourself.” And that’s where I say to that person, “What makes you think that I haven’t tried?”

I have put myself through everything possible to become pregnant with my Hubby & my biological child. I have had enough procedures to “clear” me out to last me a lifetime. I have suffered through months of poking myself with needles to help create the “optimum conditions” to impregnate me. I have dealt with month after month after years of hope at the beginning of my cycle followed by failure at the end of my cycle. I suffered the ultimate blow with my one failed attempt at IVF. I feel I have spent enough time and money and emotions of trying to get to that happiness. And yet here I am, barren and still childless.

So don’t tell me that I haven’t tried to create that biological child of mine … that exciting moment I’ve been wanting for the past ten-plus years. And don’t tell me that I’m being selfish for feeling as angry as I do at those times. And please please PLEASE don’t say to me, “Well, you could always adopt.” The truth is, we are looking into that option, but I still need to grieve the fact that I cannot produce my own biological child. And I will never know what it’s like to be pregnant. And I will never know what it’s like to breast-feed. The fact that I won’t be able to even announce to our family and friends that Hubby & I are pregnant is enough to grieve.

So please allow me have those moments of sadness and anger about my childless situation. And please, even though I find it difficult to talk about … push me to do so. Because, while it’s ten times easier to write or blog about it, sometimes having the physical human touch behind it makes me feel less alone and more loved.

PS Thanks for letting me vent.

Harry Potter Mania

Okay, I fully admit it. I love Harry Potter. No, not in that sick sense where I would have a crush on a fictional character (although ask me later about my unhealthy obsession over Captain Jack Sparrow – aka Johnny Depp), but in the sense that I love the series of books by JK Rowling.

I have been an avid reader all my life. I thank my parents, particularly my mom, for this habit. I remember both my parents reading to my brother and me when we were little; always bedtime stories. Later, it would be the weekly Saturday trip to the local library where, every summer until high school, I would take part in their summer reading program. I can remember being dragged to the mall (before I liked to go shopping) and begging my parents to leave me at the bookstore (B. Dalton’s, remember them?) so I could read books while my mom or dad went shopping. I would spend my allowance on books and, eventually when I got my first job (babysitting), I would spend my earnings on books as well.

One of my earliest and fondest childhood memories was making my mom read “Fox in Socks” by Dr. Seuss. If you have ever read that book, it is quite the tongue-twister of a book. The little devil on my shoulder used to make my mom read it faster and faster each time, which would inevitably make her mix up her words. I fully appreciate the fact that she humored me now, as the last time I read the book was to my nephew on one of his sleepovers at our house quite a few years back. It was that same exact book, tattered and masking-taped together, that I read while he was cuddled up to me in bed. I love that book as much as I love the memories it invokes.

Why do I love reading so much? I am an admitted and full-fledged daydreamer. I have, what my parents probably said to me over and over again while growing up, an “overactive imagination.” I love reading stories and “seeing” in my mind the scene that is described to me in words or imagining exactly how a conversation occurs in the context of the book. I love the way a good book evokes a range of emotions, from angry to sad to happy to surprised and of being able to go through those emotions with every turn of a page. And when that last page is turned, I love the satisfaction of closing the back cover of the book and taking in the whole story while going through my mind what I loved (or hated — or both) about it.

Now, I love movies as well. However, if given the choice of movies and books, I’d probably choose to read. While I fully appreciate the art behind storytelling in making movies, there is still nothing like imagining it in my head. That’s why whenever I’ve seen a movie that’s been adapted from a book, I will always (okay, nine times out of ten) will inevitably say “The book was MUCH better than the movie!” There are just some things, like plays on words or abstract descriptions, that just can’t be translated literally into a film. And that is one of the things (if not, THE biggest thing) that I enjoy about reading.

Hubby and I started reading Harry Potter in 2000 at the recommendation of an older co-worker, who just happened to work in the Michigan Film Office. She knew that the two of us enjoyed reading and told us that the writing and the universe created in the series was really good. When hubby told me about her suggestion, my first thought was, “A children’s book? Why she would recommend a children’s book?” Nevertheless, we picked up a copy of the first book at the local Border’s store and, while driving around on an errand one Saturday, hubby opened to the first page (I was driving, by the way) and read aloud:

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

I was hooked. We spent the rest of the weekend reading the book aloud; each reading a chapter at each turn. Both of us chuckled whenever we were described something particularly funny, excited when we read about the first quidditch game, sad whenever we were told about Harry’s parents, and incredibly amazed by the turn of events towards the end of the book. We went on to read the next book and part of the third book together.

Being the impatient one in the relationship, I went ahead and read book four that was just published that year in 2000. With the following books, I forced hubby to stand in line with me to get them on the days they were released (July 2003 in Border’s in Chicago and July 2005 at Meijer’s in Rochester Hills). After watching the “Goblet of Fire” movie in November 2005 (book five), hubby finally went back to reading the series; partly because we enjoyed to movie so much, but also because other (younger) cousins and I kept driving him insane about the the ending of book six and speculations about what would happen in book seven which was to be the last book in the series.

So it was this past Friday that we found ourselves once again in line (at Meijer’s in Royal Oak) before midnight to pick up “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Part of me wanted to rush home after purchasing the book and stay up all night reading as much as I can. The other part of me didn’t want to start it, because I just didn’t want to face the end of the series I’ve grown to love so much. Ultimately it was the third part of me that won out in the end: The one that was too frickin’ tired to stay up after having had such a long day. (Hey, I’m no longer that spring chicken that can stay up all night … I need my “beauty” sleep, after all.)

Instead it was the next morning that hubby opened up the book and again read me that first line:

“The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.”

And once again, I’m hooked. And as we are both now caught up with the Harry Potter series, we’re reading this book aloud. In many ways, reading it to each other invokes those same memories I have of constantly reading while I was growing up. To me, it’s such a fitting way to end the story of Harry Potter, a boy who is now all grown up, in the same way we began reading his story. Together.

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