Monday, August 25, 2014

Me Before You

Oh, you guys.  How to review this book!  I've been wandering around aimlessly after finishing this read, like I do whenever I'm fresh out of a good book.

This is such a tough one to review, because it's hard to talk about without giving away really important stuff.  I'm being extra careful, since the big stuff was spoiled for me by a bunch of Amazon reviewers, so I'm not going to do that to you.

I found this book like I do most of my books-- by googling "best book club books."  I like the style of book club-y books: quality writing & thought-provoking for starters.  This one though I wish I had actually read with my book club.  It's so controversial and just begs for a book club discussion.

The basic, non-spoiler premise is that a highly successful, wealthy 35-year old man gets hit by a motorcyclist while crossing the street and becomes a quadriplegic.  Meanwhile, a 27-year old woman with little to no ambitions in life but a quirky, bright personality loses her job at the local bakery and lands a new job as the caretaker for the quadriplegic man.  

Initially their relationship is one of mutual dislike and struggle, but it quickly evolves into something quite different.   Will (the man in the wheelchair) is intelligent, interesting, and witty, but also stubborn, depressed, critical, and sarcastic, with some dark secrets.  Lou (the caregiver) is chatty and wears fun, funky clothes, all the while dealing with family drama, relationship drama, and finding out that she's never found her voice in life.

Through the book, Jojo Moyes leads you to believe that Lou is helping Will and changing his life, when in fact in the end you see that it is Will who has changed Lou's.  The title "Me Before You" seems to refer to Lou before Will, but perhaps could also doubly refer to Will before Lou.

I can't make any promises about how you will feel about the book, because like I said, it's incredibly controversial.  But I can tell you that I absolutely could not put it down.
And I absolutely love that experience!

I'm about two seconds away from clicking another Jojo Moyes book into my Amazon cart.

*A few people who I think would like this book for sure (you probably already know who you are!): Aunt Melissa, Ilene, Kim, Kristin, Mom Anderson, & Allie's Book Club.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bringing Up Bebe

Bringing Up Bebe
by Pamela Druckerman

My friend Allie recommended this book to me when she was visiting Chicago this summer.
When Neal & I are with Allie & Joel, we discuss everything.  There's just nothing off limits.  It was only natural that during their visit, some of our conversation included my and Neal's experience of parenting Augy so far and what that transition has been like for us.

Through the course of such conversations, Allie talked about reading this book Bringing Up Bebe and how it was such a fascinating read regarding how the French raise their children.
One of the things Allie told me that was of interest to me is how the French have one national approach to parenting, not a pool of options and theories and approaches and camps and books and "wars."
When I was pregnant, I read next to nil about pregnancy/children/parenting just to escape this overwhelming pool of information-overload, so the French way of "one way" sounded interesting (appealing?) to me.

And that is just the beginning.  Delving into Bringing Up Bebe was profoundly interesting and satisfying for my curious soul regarding all things anthropological.

The book is written by an American journalist who married a British man.  Together they moved to Paris where they started a family.  They noticed French families all around them appearing to have a very different-- namely calmer-- experience of parenting small children than they themselves were having, and so this book is a result of Druckerman's research via observation, interviews, and personal applications in the matter of French parenting.

It is such a blast to read.  I thought it was funny, witty, delightful.  Thought-provoking, sharp, and demonstrative of great research combined with great writing.  It's memoir-style, which I find accessible and enjoyable.

I promise you (most of you?) will find it interesting.  You don't need to be a parent by any means to enjoy this book, although if you are, I'm curious what you'll think of the French's parenting principles; I liked quite a few of them and am trying a few with Augy!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

You Were Never in Chicago

by Neil Steinberg

I got Neal this book for Father's Day as an ode to the fact that our son was born in Chicago and Neal's first year of fatherhood was spent here.

After he of course read it first, I borrowed it for myself.
First, I have to say this book turned out to be a great example of why I really firmly believe a book must be finished!
It took me awhile to get the hang of it.
First half: didn't like it.  Second half: ate it up.  
And that's how it goes sometimes!  I'm glad I didn't miss out on it in the end.

So here's the hang of it that I got:

You Were Never in Chicago is a memoir written by a columnist of the Chicago Sun-Times who has worked at the newspaper for over 25 years.  The book is essentially a collection of stories of the unique experiences he had working in the trenches of reporting and writing in Chicago all these years.
Steinberg tells you about his run-ins with mobsters, the infamous corruption in Chicago politics, neighborhood living, a bit of his love story, Cubs games and museums and all the Chicago things with his two sons, visiting multitudes of manufacturing plants in Chicago as a reporter, going down the Deep Tunnel to see the underworld of Chicago's water and sewer system, and more.

 I'm used to reading memoirs of authors who I'm drawn to and feel a kinship towards.
Steinberg really isn't my type, but come on.  It's Chicago.  And Chicago is totally my type.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Happy Birthday, Augy


My baby, you are 1 today!  How you've taken 2 people's world and filled it to the edges and to the brim with light.  It feels surreal to me that we have a 1 year old, that we are the parents at the birthday party, that I delivered a baby a year ago today (I know, I know, get a grip, right?)  But even while it's all surreal, my love for you feels more real to me than can be.  

From the moment I met you in that dim, windowless delivery room at 4:32am on a Saturday morning, you captured me, heart and soul.  Your chubby face!  The bags under your eyes!  Your beautiful coloring and bright soul.  Everyone says how much you're growing and how fast it's all going and while that is certainly true, I marvel at how it's just been you all along.  Augy, it's always been you.  At 1 year, at 6 months, at 4 months, at 4 weeks, at 2 minutes.  It's been you. 

Handsome. Social.  Happy.  Expressive.  Fun.  Curious.  Smart.  Confident.  Tender.  And hungry.  Mercy, were you a hungry baby.  

I've loved spending every day with you (even though you once broke my nose, my back is threatening to send me to physical therapy with all 26 pounds of you, and breastfeeding was the great villain that must not be named).  Really and truly, my heart cannot hold the love and delight I have over you.  Oh but hold it I will, with all my might for all my life.  I am so proud to be your mama, Augy.  I've never met anyone I like quite so much as you.

I love you, August Wells.  Happy first birthday!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What A Blast

Oh my gosh, you guys.  Second summer read was "Where'd You Go, Bernadette."  This is the perfect, perfect, perfect summer read, and I'm absolutely lost without it now that it's over!  It is everything to me right now.  Funny, witty, interesting, delightful, easy yet not simple, curious, quirky, and just such a blast.  You cannot talk to me lately without having to hear about how much I really think you must read this book.

I'm pretty jealous of you right now, because you have this delightful new book in front of you to read, and for me it's over.  Cannot move on.

Hope your summer is going well!
Where is it going?!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

First Summer Read

"Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone.  Dawn and doom was in the branches."

I finished my first book of the summer, on this first weekend of summer.  Goodness knows it doesn't feel much like summer though lately.  The city has been cloaked in fog and clouds and rain and humidity, and we really have been having a time of watching the skyline take on all types of different appearances with the fog sectioning off parts of skyscrapers and at times making them disappear altogether.

Summery or not, my summer reading list is off to a great start.  The first one on my list was "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston.  It's a modern classic of American Literature, published in 1937.  The book is known for being the "most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature" and also holds a significant place in women's literature.  While those accolades are true, it's not fussy and it's written in a particular African-American voice, much like "The Help," if you've read that book (one of my all-time favorites!).  It's a love story, as well as a story about a woman finding her voice, about community, and about brokenness and living and possibility and change.  I recommend it, certainly.

The very last paragraph in the book will stay with me forever, I'm pretty sure.  Some of my favorite lines I've ever read:

"She pulled in her horizon like a great fish net.  Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder.  So much of life in its meshes!  She called in her soul to come and see."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Project 365: Week 21

Day 143: Hanging with Big Papa out on the patio at Grammy's.
 Day 144: Ty & my grandparents over Memorial Day weekend. 
 Day 145: My sister Hope asked me to do baby Cruz's newborn photos.  He was so sweet!
 Day 146: The Lurie Garden at Millennium Park + pretty light.
 I have to sneak this one in there too.
 Day 147: Ellie Sue saying a mealtime prayer.
 Day 148: Book Club's last meeting before our summer break.  Can't stop the love.
 Day 149: New spot-- Stan's Donuts in Wicker Park!  Hello, lemon pistachio old fashioned donut.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Project 365: Week 20

Day 136: Watching him grow.
 Day 137: The northern part of Lincoln Park is such a pretty and relaxing area, and one that a lot of people (us included!) often forget about.
 Day 138: Chicago spring tulips
 Day 139: Ellie & Augy.  Buddy bears.
 Day 140: Face.
 Day 141: Our book club read Donna Tartt's new book, The Goldfinch, this spring.  Fannnnnntastic.  Read it this summer if you're looking for great writing at 800 pages+.
 Day 142: Blooms on Moody campus.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Project 365: Week 18 & 19

Day 122: Morning reading with Grandpa.  Wakin' up.
Day 123: Mailed out invitations for Kirra's baby shower, made perfectly by Katy Girl Designs.
Day 124: We love walking up to Plum Market for their Glazed & Infused donuts.  Any day.
Day 125: Favorite L platform.  And it so kindly has a working elevator, unlike so many of the stops.  Which can basically give you a panic attack when you have a stroller.
Day 126: 9 months and it's like a light switch was flipped-- he is so into reading books now!
Day 127: Joan Cusack's store on Wells St.
Day 128: These two playing together.
Day 129: That's a lot of coffee.
Day 130: A new favorite.
Day 131: The Montrose view we love so much.
Day 132: August's dedication at church.
Day 133: First Mother's Day!
Day 134: Dark chocolate treats re-stocked. 
Day 135: Most fun person I know.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Psalm 19:7-14

On Sunday-- Mother's Day-- we dedicated Augy at our church.  It's something I've seen done over and over my entire life in church, and it seems ever so completely surreal that it was me up there with my son in my arms on Sunday. 

Besides feeling surreal, here's how else dedicating my child felt: Sweaty, from trying to keep Augy quiet in the service up until the dedication, a bit like a juggling act passing Augy between myself, Neal, and Pastor Brian, and feeling how bright the lights actually are in your eyes when you're up front.  Still special though, most definitely.  In a sweaty sort of way.

The verses we chose for Augy's dedication are also the verses from the reference that is engraved on the inside of my wedding band, Psalm 19:7-14.  It's my favorite passage in all of Scripture and has been for probably the last 11 years or so.  I first fell in love with the passage my second year of college.  I printed it out and slipped it into the cover of my binder that I carried everywhere for school.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Choosing this passage for August and his dedication got me reading it again, and it reminds me of when I was pregnant with Augy.  What I remember is that when I tried to pray for my unborn baby, I was so surprised that all I could find myself praying for was that he would know and love Jesus so deeply.  Everything else literally paled in comparison that I couldn't even pray for those things.  I guess I was surprised because I'm a person who cares about those things.

Those things like health, good friends, great school experiences, good grades, a fulfilling career, a wonderful spouse, on and on.  And it's not like I won't do everything in my power to give August those things.  Heaven knows I'm into it all.  And heaven knows I have never felt more devoted to a creature in my life than this child.

But the thing I know too well in 30 short years of life-- the terrible wonderful-- is that circumstances come and go.  I also know that bad things happen to good people.  And that good people make bad choices sometimes.  That the world is full of heartache and toil and trouble and tragedy amongst its more pretty moments.  And that he will be no more in ultimate control of all of this than I am.

My prayer for him is that he know the Jesus who is an anchor for the soul in this terrible wonderful.  If he does, then I know he will be ok no matter what.  If he does, then I know he will be spiritually alive, wise and rejoicing in heart, bright-eyed and confident that his life is centered around what is true, lasting, and void of evil.  That he will be satisfied much deeper and more richly than riches can ever provide, and that he will taste sweet reward in this life and most assuredly in the next.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Neal and I spent the weekend in NYC!
Such a dream of mine for the past few years since I've come to love cities so much.
I'm still pinching myself that we were actually there.
It was my first time to visit and also our first night(s) away from Augy together since he was born.

The trip was in celebration of my 30th birthday, and I love that when I think of turning 30 I'll get to think of our time in New York City.

We only spent 48 hours there, so you can imagine that there was much, much more we would have wanted to see or soak in than we were able to.  But in such a short time, we saw so much and had such a good time doing it.  We were able to stay relaxed and in sync with each other and avoid rushing too much or stressing about getting lots of pictures or trying to see everything.  We couldn't believe our good fortune of beautiful blue sky and sun each and every day of our trip. We were freezing a fair amount of the time as well (big sad face), but that sun and blue sky was definitely the way to see New York in its spring bloom.

I could write paragraphs about what moved me about New York City in the two short days I was there, about how it differs from Chicago and not, and about how I unexpectedly felt on the verge of tears when I was about to exit Penn Station to step onto the streets of NYC for the first time.  It was such an incredible experience to be in the city that has such an impact on the rest of our nation.
But let's move on with photos.  Lots and lots of them!

 I'm going to say all these photos count for all of Project 365: Week 17, ok?
^^^ Flying ^^^
Our flight on the way there was sparsely populated, so we got to sit alone together.  I can't remember the last time I've been on a flight like that, if ever.  So relaxing!
^^^ Columbus Circle ^^^
As soon as we dropped our bags at our hotel (we got our hotel that morning using the Hotels Tonight app), we walked by a deli and grabbed sandwiches to eat in Central Park and then wandered into Columbus Circle to catch the subway.
^^^ Times Square ^^^
We didn't plan on visiting Times Square, but we ended up walking through on our way to dinner the first night.  On the way back, we went all the way up the red stairs in the square to see from a bit of a height (in the rain!).  It was so energizing, and I'm glad we didn't miss it.
^^ New York Pizza ^^
Delicious pizza date.  We rarely order deep dish pizza, even being the Chicagoans that we are.  Instead we typically opt for thin crust most of the time, so we were pretty happy.  Dad, I think this is the kind of pizza you're always looking for in Chicago!
^^^ Vanilla macchiato in bed :) ^^^
^^^ Tisserie ^^^
A coffee shop and bakery right next to our hotel that we loved.  Perfect to run in and grab breakfast, coffee, and hot tea before walking over to Central Park each morning.
^^^ Central Park ^^^
Our favorite place by far in all that we got to see of New York.  Absolutely magical. We kind of died a thousand deaths over this place.  Big respect for you, Olmstead.
^^^ City, city, city ^^^
^^^ City Hall Park ^^^
Smitten with the cherry blossoms here!
^^^ Ground Zero ^^^
So moving, so meaningful, and so well done.  So proud of our country and thankful for our freedom.
^^^ A quirky sandwich place we found for lunch in lower Manhattan. ^^^
^^^ Bus Tours ^^^
We were huge nerds about the bus tours.  We bought a two-day pass and rode constantly, with the little earbuds in our ears to hear the tour guide and all.  It. was. amazing.  I honestly think this was the way we were able to see so much in such a short amount of time.  We could not get enough!  Favorite.
^^^ Statue of Liberty ^^^
We sat at Battery Park for a bit and enjoyed a far off view of the Statue of Liberty.
^^^ Breakfast at Sarabeth's on Central Park ^^^
^^^ The Met ^^^
^^^ Bike riding in Central Park ^^^
^^^ Park Central Hotel ^^^
When we were choosing between hotels, I kept coming back to wanting to stay on the park.  I'm so glad I stuck to my gut on this, because it was so worth it.  We loved the location and the hotel.  Recommend!
^^^ Shake Shack ^^^
The type of food we dream about, ha.  And we hear there's one coming to Chicago!  That better not be a rumor, Shake Shack!
^^^ Madison Square Park ^^^
We loved the vibe of this park right next to the Flatiron building, and all its many pink blooms were just the prettiest!  Of course it's totally cliche to end this post by saying we want to go back, but I really would go back in a heartbeat!  Catch ya later, New York!