Archive from October, 2014
Oct 31, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Thoughts on Childbirth

Thoughts on Childbirth

I was reading random articles that people had shared on Facebook yesterday, which led me to more random articles (this is how this works), which is where I found an article entitled “I Feel Cheated by My C-Sections.”  It was an interesting article, and more thought-provoking than I’d expected; it ended in a way that told me the author knew what was most important in life and appreciated it accordingly; and yet it left me wanting to respond nonetheless.  (Not just me, apparently–I didn’t read any of the comments, but boy howdy, there were a lot of them.)  After all, I have a hard time not weighing in when I feel like I’ve got something relevant to say, and in this case, I do.  You see, I’ve done both.

My first child was born vaginally, albeit via what some of my nurses called a “vaginal c-section.”  Thankfully, my epidural kept me numb through the hour’s worth of stitching that entailed, but I was so trembly and tired (and emotionally overwhelmed) afterward that when my husband gave our daughter to me to hold, I was too worried my arms would give out and I would drop her to enjoy the experience.  (My doctor actually noticed and suggested my hubby take her back; I imagine years of delivering babies made him an expert at recognizing my level of exhaustion.)  I stayed numb enough throughout the night, but by 6:30 the next morning the pain was bad enough that I could not physically remain on my bed.  I got up and lay on my stomach across the bed, my shoulders hanging over the other side; it took me an embarrassingly long time to think to ring for help. The nurse who came into my room took one look at my chart and said, “All they’ve given you is MOTRIN?  Oh, honey, we have MUCH better things for you than Motrin.”  Every other nurse who came into my room from then until I went home winced visibly when she looked at my chart.  (I heard the phrase ‘oh, honey, you’re going to be in a LOT of pain’ multiple times.)  I took 2 Percocet every four hours for days, which enabled me to function at a “shuffling like an old man” level.  The pain was exacerbated by exhaustion and an insatiable thirst, which I realized only afterward was partially due to blood loss.  (The first thing the delivery nurse said when I was ready to go and she returned with the doctor was “WOW, there’s a lot of blood here.”)  Healing properly took a long time; there were all kinds of painful and embarrassing consequences involved in that much tearing, and on the day my oldest turned 9 months old, I remember wondering how you conceived a second child if the pain of having the first was still affecting that part of your life 9 months later.

Flash forward two years later:  my second child was born via c-section, after my new doctor (my old one had retired from delivering babies and recommended me to one of his partners) told me he was on the fence about recommending I have a c-section based on my chart.  My bone structure, he said, was narrow enough that my babies would always be forced out at a bad angle, and if I tore that much again, there could be very unpleasant permanent consequences (think Depends in your twenties).  At the thought of a c-section, I felt peace at the thought of physically having a second child for the very first time; when I actually had the c-section, I thought about all of the warnings about it being a major surgery and the recovery time involved and just shook my head.  Because I did not know you could feel that good after having a baby.  I could walk.  I could function.  I felt alive.

Now, I’m well aware that my experience with my oldest is really more of a worst case scenario; I also know that a c-section IS real surgery.  It does involve recovery time.  (And from what one of my sisters-in-law experienced, that recovery time is much, much worse if you’ve been in labor and tried to deliver vaginally before having to have the c-section.)  And I confess, since my hubby’s four sisters have delivered vaginally, but his two brothers’ wives have both had all c-sections, I did have a vague desire to prove myself in that regard; I wanted to be able to do what so many other women do simply because I don’t like feeling like so many others can do something that I’m not capable of.  Once I’d had the two experiences, however, I realized how little it actually mattered to me.  I don’t find the act of childbirth itself empowering; as my sister pointed out to me once, the women in our family don’t exactly suffer from a lack of empowerment.  I respect that people do, you understand.  I just don’t.  When I was pregnant with that first baby, we had a car with working ac and a car without; either vehicle got me to where I wanted to go. If, however, I was dressed up and going somewhere where I needed to look presentable, the car without ac was never going to be a desirable choice.  I love my three children and I am grateful to have them; I would not, however, go through that first vaginal birth again for any price.  I wasn’t capable of bonding time immediately afterward, and the physical ordeal contributed to a part-partum depression that lasted for weeks.

What’s my point in all this?  To the women who treasures her children, knowing that they are what matters, but still feels slightly cheated by her c-sections, I say–DON’T.  There is no guarantee that traditional childbirth will be any of the things you have wondered about; the disconnect and the delay can be worse, not better.  I know how hard it is to wonder when you haven’t experienced both–for Pete’s sake, I took the SAT when my college of choice didn’t require it just so I didn’t miss out on what everyone else in my senior class was doing.  (Also so that we could compare scores.  In a friendly and bonding way, but still.  I grew up in Ivy League land.)  I also, however, know that in this case, everyone’s experience is different.  There is no ‘club of ‘real’ women,’ but simply a club of mothers–adoptive, foster, natural, young, old, in-between.  I’m so glad you know that that’s what matters.

Oct 28, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on So I Was Craving Treats the Other Day…

So I Was Craving Treats the Other Day…

Shocking, right?  A pregnant woman craving treats?  Specifically, I was craving a chewy bar of some sort, and so on Friday night, when my feet could actually handle the extra standing in the kitchen, I tried out these Coconut Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars.  (Yes, I’m fully aware that there are several high-fat, high-calorie ingredients in them.  I’m over it.)  I was going to follow the recipe exactly, but my 8 oz bag of toffee bits was opened and therefore not full; I decided to use what was left and toss some peanut butter chips over the portion the toffee bits didn’t cover.  (It was what I had, and I figured at the worst, it would be a bit weird but not terrible.  As it turns out, what I had covered most of the pan well enough for me.  I think an entire bag would be okay, but if you have one that’s not quite full, I wouldn’t stress.)  Otherwise, however, I followed the recipe–unless you count being too lazy to lightly beat the egg before adding it.  And…

Oh, my.  The chewy goodness.  I specifically picked a recipe that called for oats, because I wanted the texture, and between the oats and the coconut, well…they were lovely.   (They were especially lovely with a glass of milk to go with them.)  They do use several not-terribly-cheap ingredients, so they’re not exactly something I’d make every week, but dang.  They hit the spot this time.  Of course, it’s up to you to try them yourself and see if that was the baby talking or not–let me know what you think!

Oct 26, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Maple Bacon Biscuits

Maple Bacon Biscuits

Really, need I say more?

Yeah…like I can help myself.  SO–today was the Primary program at church, which means that instead of adult speakers on church topics, the children (up to age 12) present a program.  Generally each child has a speaking part, and the speaking parts are interspersed with songs that they all sing.  In today’s case, both of my girls had speaking parts, my oldest sang a solo, and my hubby played the piano for the kids to sing. (Which left me and a tired, very grumpy boy on the bench with the near-enough-to-come Grandma and Grandpa.)  I still had to play for the women to sing as well, and my oldest also had to offer a prayer and read a scripture during the children’s class time.  (By the way, I helped pick a scripture suitable to any and all anxious ones who don’t love performing in front of people.  She read St. John 14:27–“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”)  All of this added up to a busy morning, and then my in-laws came back to the house for lunch, which was fabulous.  My incredible hubby took the kids for a walk after his parents left, and so I did the treadmill, but once they came back and the boy got a fresh diaper and the kiddos were settled, I suddenly realized.

I had no dinner plan.

Which is a problem, you see, because I’m a plan-ahead kind of person.  I really like to know what we’re having more than 3 hours before.  And so, even though my poor hubby doesn’t love breakfast-for-dinner, I went with that because it’s always relatively easy to do last minute.  I got on Pinterest and browsed, and the aforementioned Maple Bacon Biscuits caught my eye.

Hmmm, I thought.  I have all of those ingredients.  I even have a springform pan (technically, I have a set of three–it was a Mother’s Day gift a few years back).  And thus, dinner was born.  It was a little harder coming up with a side dish, since our fruit supply is limited and we had apples with lunch.  Veggies seemed weirder, but I needed something that everyone would eat, so I opted for cooked carrots.  Not exactly your usual brinner fare, I know, but any leftover syrup was going to taste just fine with them.  You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

As for the biscuits, they were tasty.  I subbed almost half of the flour out for whole wheat flour, because this pregnancy has made me crave fiber and look askance at white carbs in a really weird way, and that worked out okay.  (I’m sure they would have risen more with all white, but I’m over it.)  My only real issue wasn’t with the recipe; I made a calculated error, but it can easily be fixed next time.  You see, my lovely set of 3 springform  pans includes a 10 inch, a 9 1/2 inch, and an 8 1/2 inch.   As you will note, the recipe calls for a 9 inch.  I’m used to erring on the side of “let’s make sure it’s not running over the edges,” and so I used the 9 1/2.  The problem there was that the under-layer of syrup got more exposure to the heat that way–the biscuits didn’t quite come to the complete edge of the pan–and so it wasn’t as gooey as I wanted it to be. Since there was room to spare at the top of the pan, I’ll just use the 8 1/2 next time.  (Also, I left it in for 8 full minutes after turning the oven off, since my oven only wanted to go to 470 degrees.  I figured I’d better go for the longer time to make up for baking at a slightly reduced temperature.  I ended up wishing I’d check it after 5 minutes.)

Even with a moving-towards-brittle texture on top, however, the kiddos gave them a thumbs up; I really enjoyed them, and my hubby liked them fine.  These are totally worth making the next time you’re wanting brinner (or brunch).  What’s not to love?

Oct 23, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Plan B

Plan B

I had my dinner plans set tonight.  We had a bag of Parmesan bagels from Costco that needed using, and we always like open-faced bagel sandwiches under the broiler; deli meat and cheese for everyone, as well as sliced tomatoes for everyone to top theirs with, and bread and butter pickles or banana pepper rings for those who choose.  (If we have lettuce or spinach, that’s an everyone topping as well, but no such luck tonight.)  In the past I’ve put some of that flavored butter Costco sometimes has on the bagels before topping them with the meat and cheese–that’s really very tasty–but we were out, so I was going to sprinkle a bit of seasoning on top of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (Light)” and call it good.  This was absolutely my dinner plan, you understand.  I got the girlies going on the clean-up in the boy’s room and the living room–when you and a friend are working on a Halloween costume prop together and your 1-, 2-, 4-, and 5-year-olds roam freely, they can create quite the chaos–and I got out the baking sheet and the bagel slicer (a handy item I inherited from someone), and then came the death blow.

The bagels were moldy.  The entire bag.

Now what?  It was Red Ribbon Night at the school tonight, and my hubby was planning on taking the girlies while the boy and I hung out at home; I didn’t want dinner to suddenly become an incredibly late affair.  Luckily, I was on the phone with my friend when I discovered the mold, and she’d already searched her Pinterest boards for dinner options.  What she’d chosen had sounded good enough that I’d already had her message me the link, and suddenly, hey presto! I had a new dinner plan.  Thus–in a bonding moment–both of our families had these Pumpkin Cornmeal Pancakes for dinner.

I must say, they went over exceptionally well with the kiddos.  My oldest happily ate her usual portion of dinner, but the middle and the boy just kept eating.  And eating.  (In the boy’s case, to be fair, he didn’t get much else.  He flatly refused to try even a tiny bite of plum, even for Veggie Tales, and so he didn’t get any other fruit until the very end.  Thankfully, he snacked on enough grapes this afternoon to make me more or less comfortable with that.)  And let me tell you, these were filling pancakes.  There were only 6-7 left over, partly because my hubby wasn’t feeling great and didn’t have any, and I was kind of shocked at that; I almost halved the recipe because it looked large enough that I wasn’t sure I felt like standing there flipping that many pancakes.  I’m glad I didn’t!

As for me, well, hmmm.  I really love the taste and texture of cornmeal, and I liked that aspect of them; they were just a bit on the pumpkin-y side for me.  I tend to like milder pumpkin flavor; I tend to prefer milder pumpkin flavor mixed with dairy fat, whether whipped cream or cream cheese; and I like chewy.  I loved what there was of the cornmeal effect, but I’d almost have preferred oatmeal in them, since the thick smoothness of the pumpkin partially obscured the loveliness that cornmeal usually brings to the table.  I did, of course, like them better with maple syrup soaked in; I can’t help thinking, however, that I’d almost prefer them as part of a vanilla ice cream sandwich.  What it boils down to is this:  if you like pumpkin unreservedly, you’ll love these (unless, I suppose,  you’re anti-cornmeal or anti-maple syrup).  If you have reservations about pumpkin, well, look at it this way.  Fall is all about pumpkin anything, and these really were a perfect Plan B!

Oct 21, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on New Perspective

New Perspective

I confess–I’ve never gotten terribly into the ‘pink for breast cancer awareness’ thing.  It’s not that I don’t know of people who’ve had it–because I do–and it’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I’ve never really thought it mattered much.  Sports teams will do their ‘go pink’ thing and I’ve thought, once or twice, that ‘that’s nice,’ but the games on Facebook where you type a certain location or something–I’ve never seen the point.  This week, however, I’ve seen two different items online–one a picture, one a blog post–that have changed how I view those things.  Before, I didn’t really care much one way or the other; after all, I’m aware, I know I’m going to need to get mammograms at a certain age, but I figured maybe the pink did help, so that was nice.  Then, however, I saw an image on a high school friend’s FB page.  The woman in the picture had her entire chest taped over with pink tape, and on it and the message she was holding, it said to “SAVE THE WOMEN NOT THE BOOBIES.”  The message accompanying it was so good that I would have shared it myself, except that I couldn’t edit out the language.  I’m reproducing it here; I don’t love the milder language either, but it was the f-word (replaced here with asterisks, I confess) that kept me from sharing it on FB..

“This is honestly the best poster I have found in a while supporting breast cancer awareness. I am honestly so sick of seeing, “set the tatas free”. There is no reason in hell a life threatening, life ruining disease should be sexualized.  “Don’t wear a bra day,” go **** yourselves.  You’re not saving a pair of tits, you are saving the entire package, mind, body, soul included. Women are not just a pair of breasts. Pisses me off.  #sorrynotsorry

I’d never really thought of it before, but suddenly the emphasis on the breast in breast cancer is really bothering me.  Colon cancer is possibly deadlier unless detected really, really early; what sort of awareness campaigns are we seeing about that?  Language or not, I found myself emphatically agreeing with Brittany Myers, whoever she is.  And while this was percolating in the back of my mind, someone else on my FB feed shared this blog post.

Suddenly the idea of the ‘no bra’ day morphed in my head from “That’s pointless and uncomfortable” to “Seriously?  How did I not see the underlying cruelty there”?  Because really, what else can you call it?  To promote awareness of people losing a body part that is often directly linked to a woman’s sexuality, let’s shove our healthy versions of that body part out there for everyone to see.  Let’s make sure we garner some sexual attention in the name of supporting those with breast cancer.  Let’s up their self-consciousness multiple notches and make sure they can’t miss the difference between them, the sufferers, and us, their so-called supporters.  I know that’s not actually the intent, but does it really matter when the result seems unavoidable?

I shared that blog post on my FB wall, and I really can’t stop wondering how I failed to see the whole issue in this light before.  One thing is for certain, though; that image and that message changed the way I look at breast cancer in our society.

You won’t see me going bra-less any time this century.

Oct 19, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on That Moment in Time

That Moment in Time

Between being pregnant tired and being sick lately, I feel like I’ve barely been keeping my head afloat; I’m also well aware that I’m grumpier, and I’ve been trying harder to keep my calm with the girlies for quite a while now.  (To be clear, I recognized just how grumpy I was getting weeks ago, and while I still snap, I’m trying harder to a) not to and b) come back down from snapping instead of escalating.)  What I hadn’t realized until last week was just how short I’ve been with my poor boy.  Some of that is due to the cessation of nap time–no midday break from an active two-year-old uses up anyone’s store of patience more quickly–but some of that is also me.  I finally realized just how prone to being impatient with him I’d become, and so I’ve been making an effort to be more positive, even when I truly can’t do what he wants me to do.

I have certainly felt better for the effort, and I hope he’s happier as well; on the one hand, he seems to be, but on the other hand,  he’s also slept later the last two days, which helps a LOT.  (No nap + waking up before 7 = grouchy two-year-old, but he just stays awake later if I let him fall asleep in the car and STAY asleep for a significant amount of time.)  Today my very patient hubby worked with him more at church, and I felt like we did better working together than I do on my own.  (Our poor son LOVES to run and HATES being confined, especially inside; church is always a struggle.)  After church we had lunch and a visit from our home teachers.  (Our church’s home teaching and visiting teaching programs are a way for members to look out for each other, share inspirational messages once a month or so, and give help when needed.  I visit teach four women, and it’s my responsibility to be first in line to help when someone has a baby, or has surgery, or needs something else I can give.  One of my visiting teachers took my girlies to church when I had shingles and my hubby wasn’t feeling well.  It’s really an amazing program.)  After that my hubby and I did a trade-off; he kept an eye on the kiddos while I made my first-ever batch of grape freezer jam from grapes our neighbor gave us (apparently he and his wife had a bumper crop this year), AND while I exercised, and then he made biscuits with the girlies while I kept the boy from “helping.”  (Based on the amount of flour on the floor when he and the girlies were done, he had quite enough help as it was.  He wiped down the counter, but the laminate in the kitchen is what pushed his back over the edge in the first place.  The floor and his back don’t get along.)

Anyway, to (finally) get to the point of this post, the boy really wanted to, um, help, and so I lured him outside with bubbles.  I’d just gotten off the treadmill and was still pretty warm, and so I sat on the grass, in the shade, and blew bubbles for him to chase.  He kept at it, saying “Bubbles!” delightedly whenever he found one to follow, and I kept blowing.  I’m normally not so good at the just sitting with the kids; I like to read aloud, and I like to involve them with projects when they’re old enough to listen more or less reliably, but my hubby’s better at play.  Tonight, however, I sat in the cool breeze, resting my sore feet, and watching my son run and grin and collapse on the grass at intervals, and I thought–this is it.  This is one of those perfect moments of parenthood, the kind of moment to treasure.  He is thrilled to be playing outside with me, and I am thrilled to be sitting outside with him, and this is what I want to keep in our relationship.  THIS is why I need to stay calm and patient and loving, even when he’s throwing something ELSE for the 50th time in any given day.  He is two, and I have to do my best to love him and let him BE two.

This, of course, is easier said than done.  I know quite well that I won’t be able to maintain that level of perfection–which is what made it so special.  But that moment in time made the trying worth every second of it; it also made me want to try that much harder in the future.  In the meantime, I had an absolutely perfect 20 minutes with my son today.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

(And, in typical child fashion, nothing about it was expensive.  The Easter Bunny found those bubbles at Target’s dollar spot.  Note to self:  try and keep it simple for Christmas.)

Oct 16, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Rediscovering Old Favorites

Rediscovering Old Favorites

A month or three ago I started reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz aloud to my kindergartener…come to think of it, it was actually in August, because we’d forgotten the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book we were currently reading when we visited my parents, and so we had to find something else to read aloud while we were there.  She loved it, and we’ve since moved on to The Marvelous Land of Oz (which, by the way, is a bit more interesting with regard to gender roles than I remembered).  In the meantime, my 2nd grader started The Wonderful Wizard of Oz last night, and I am honestly thrilled to see both my girls enjoying books that I got such a kick out of as a kid.

In case you didn’t read them back in the day, there are actually 14 Oz books (or so I remember).  The movie is based solely on the first one, but is quite a bit different; L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy is more like 5 or 6, for one thing, and then of course there’s the matter of Oz being real.  Not the wizard, you understand–he’s still a humbug–but the land itself.  There’s no question of it being only a dream.  There is also a second good witch, and quite a few more strange events, and, well, you should see for yourself.  (Unless, I suppose, you are a die-hard worshipper of the movie.)  It’s a fun series, and Baum’s writing style is amusing for adults in a way that young readers will likely miss entirely.  (I want to say that it’s similar to the Chronicles of Narnia, but it isn’t, not really; Baum is too American, and there is no sense of underlying Christian symbolism and theology.  On the other hand, I think it likely that young fans of one will also enjoy the other.)  If you’ve got an elementary schooler into fantasy and you’re looking for something safe, fun, and appealing, give the Oz books a try.  I know at least one fourth grader who’s adored them for years.


Oct 13, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on If At First You Don’t Succeed…

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

We went to my in-laws’ house for dinner yesterday–the kids and I did, anyway, since my hubby worked sick all week AND got up to practice for the church children’s program (he’s their pianist) after hacking all night Saturday night; we left him sleeping–and I decided to make these Coconut Caramel Cookie Bars, because hey, they looked tasty.  And I had all of the ingredients.  So after getting home from church, I got the kids eating and started in with making the caramel sauce, diligently following all of the directions.

Yeah.  I ended up with a thick layer of rock candy on top with a very, very shallow layer of amber-colored viscous liquid at the bottom (I didn’t even bother adding the cream).  So I called my friend Andrea, who bakes a lot AND did well in Chemistry (my worst subject ever), and she explained why it happened.  So I tried again.  (With my almost-8-year-old at my elbow offering versions of “Maybe you did _____!” and “Maybe you should _______!” every other minute.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.)  This time I tossed the crystally ooze before even adding the butter and faced the fact that while that recipe MIGHT be possible at sea level (although it would probably still be a royal pain to make), it wasn’t ever going to happen in the Salt Lake Valley.

The thing is, I really wanted the bars.  So I did what I should have done after the first batch failed.  Remember Mel’s amazing Caramel Pear Crisp?  From a week or so ago?  I halved the recipe for her caramel sauce, which came out to exactly the amount needed for the bars I was making.  (Seriously.  It was a beautiful thing.)  Everything else went smoothly, and my, they smelled amazing in the oven.  (They tasted pretty darn good, too.  I did think they were a bit sweet yesterday, but I think that was more the contrast of the individual oreo cheesecakes one of my sisters-in-law brought.  Those turned out to be exactly what I wanted at the time, which made the bars too sweet by comparison.  Today, however, those same bars hit the spot very nicely.)

The moral of the story?  Sometimes trying again isn’t worth it.  (It just wastes another cup and a half of sugar.)  Sometimes it’s just plain better to do a little creative problem solving.  The trick, of course, is distinguishing between those times and the other times…

Oct 11, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Happy Ending

A Happy Ending

This morning I finished Natalie Kinsey-Warnock’s Lumber Camp Library, which was short and sweet and possibly poorly named.  I suppose you could see the whole book as leading up to the creation of said library, but since that didn’t seem to be the main idea of most of the book–I don’t know.  You’ll have to read it and judge for yourself.

It is a nice little story, though.  And while it all wraps up nicely into a taking-good-care-of-everybody sort of happy ending, there is enough real life in it to save it from being corny.  (The book jacket actually says that Kinsey-Warnock bases all of her stories on either her own life or family stories that have been passed down to her, which may explain that.)  It should be easy reading for my 7-year-old that still has enough meat in it to be worthwhile.

Ruby, the main character, idolizes her lumberjack father, and he dotes on her even while also loving her mother and 10 (yes, 10) siblings.  When he dies while rescuing a fellow lumberjack, however, the Sawyer family’s life changes completely.  How they find a new place in life that they can all be happy with takes the entire rest of the book; to tell more would be spoiling it.

I’d recommend this one for people–like me!–who love either historical fiction or stories of New England.  It’s also a good pick for middle elementary school.  Enjoy!

Lumber Camp Library

New From: $1.93 USD In Stock

Oct 9, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Warning: This Review May Get Ramblingly Philosophical

Warning: This Review May Get Ramblingly Philosophical

I’m not sure what attracted me to Zane and the Hurricane, but something did–I grabbed it off the library shelf on a whim.  (I did enjoy Rodman Philbrick’s Newbery Honor book a few years ago–he wrote The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg–and I’ve lived through a couple of hurricanes, so it wasn’t necessarily a surprising whim, but still.)  And I have to say, I’m impressed with his storytelling.  Zane is likable and draws you instantly into the story; he also feels more real, and more individual, than any of the characters in Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library did. (I’m not belittling the one; I’m just saying that Philbrick is impressive at doing approachable with depth.)  If there is a weakness, for me it’s the coincidence of timing that turns the major characters’ luck towards the end; on the other hand, the bad they experience before that is real enough so that it avoids being too much.  In brief, Zane is a New Hampshire boy visiting the great-grandmother he’s never met in New Orleans when Katrina strikes.  He and Grammy are separated, and Zane’s path through the hurricane is a varied one.  I learned more about Katrina in general while being riveted by Zane’s story in particular.  This one kept me going right up to the end, which is pretty good for a book about a modern event with a male protagonist.  (It’s not that I dislike books that fall into that category, mind you, but it’s rare that I really can’t put them down.)

At any rate, I shan’t spoil the story for you with any more details.  What this book got me thinking about, however, were my memories of Katrina.  I was living in Utah and working two jobs at the time, so my memories aren’t incredibly detailed; I do remember, however, that there was a lot of criticism about the federal response to the disaster.  I don’t remember hearing as much criticism of the local government, but then, I wasn’t paying enough attention to guarantee that there wasn’t (not to mention the fact that hurricane news is not as prominently reported in Utah as it was in RI).  I was thinking about this as I was reading this book.  At first I was considering it a sad commentary on our society that we’re so concerned about who’s to blame…after all, a hurricane is a natural disaster.  They happen when they happen.  Then I started to think about how complicated the blame issue really is; those in authority had been warned that the levees might not hold, and those living on the coast had to be aware that hurricanes happen and their location carried some inherent risks, but that doesn’t mean that assigning blame is easy.  I imagine some of those in power put off strengthening the levees, but I also imagine that the people living in those areas wouldn’t have been terribly excited about bearing the financial burden involved.  (Who loves to pay more taxes?)  Yes, people living on the coast were betting against a disaster like Katrina, but then again, if that’s where you’re from and what you know and what you can afford, it’s not exactly easy to pick up and move.  I could sit back and say that those who chose to ride it out and died in the floods brought about their own fate, but where do you evacuate to if you haven’t the money for a hotel and don’t have somewhere else to go?  Ultimately, isn’t it human nature to put off preventative projects that take a great deal of effort and money?  Don’t we all take risks, sometimes extremely foolishly, because we’d rather take our chances than face the alternatives?  And don’t we all, eventually, see our luck run out or our risks fail to carry us through–and want to blame the likeliest culprit?

My junior high band director asked me once, when I was explaining away the blanks on my practice record:  “Is there a reason for it?”  I said yes, because there legitimately was–I was that kind of kid.  His follow-up question gave me pause.  “Is there an excuse for it?”  I was smart enough to understand where he was going; I’m pretty sure I told him no.  I haven’t seen Kevin Kane for well over a decade now, but that’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten.  We all have our reasons, and sometimes they are excellent; often, however, we still know better.  Being human is a complicated thing.

I suppose my point, assuming that I have one in the midst of all of this philosophical rambling, is that rather than pointing fingers–either personally or as a society–isn’t it better to acknowledge the tragedy, admit that we made mistakes, and focus on what we can do to fix them? I’m certainly not claiming that none of that happened at all–like I said, I wasn’t aware enough at the time to know–but I think it’s pretty safe to assume that not enough of it happened.  After all, after 3 kids and almost 8 years of parenting, I still find myself wanting to excuse being impatient or losing my temper by pointing out the behavior of the child (or children) in the situation in question.  I still have to remind myself to stop and think —Earth to Self!  You are the PARENT!  It’s your job to stay patient and deal!  They are CHILDREN!

Then again, as long as I’m trying my best to tell myself that, day after day, well–I’m trying my best.  In doing that, one can only hope that one’s best will get better.

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina

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