Words to Live By

Happily married. 41. Infertile/perimenopausal. TV and iPod addict. Transplanted Canadian living in California. {Warning - abundant sarcasm and frequent *gasp* profanity lie herein.}

Friday, February 24, 2006

Lucky -- Review

Excerpt from Amazon's synopsis:
"When Alice Sebold was a college freshman at Syracuse University, she was attacked and raped on the last night of school. In a ham-handed attempt to mollify her, a policeman later told her that a young woman had been murdered there and, by comparison, Sebold should consider herself lucky. That dubious "luck" is the focus of this fiercely observed memoir about how an incident of such profound violence can change the course of one's life. Sebold launches her memoir headlong into the rape itself, laying out its visceral physical as well as mental violence, and from there spins a narrative of her life before and after the incident, weaving memories of parental alcoholism together with her post-rape addiction to heroin."

Her account of the rape was very disturbing (I’m sure it would be to anyone, but was particularly so for me), but I was expecting this book to be about how she healed; how she went on with day to day life after experiencing such a horrible event. For background and clarity she gives us a lot of information about her family, particularly her mother, who suffers from severe panic attacks, but little about how that affected her. That’s my main criticism of the book in a nutshell – it is written in first person but reads like a newspaper account.

More than three quarters of the book is taken up with the rape, the trial, and then the rape of her best friend (in their apartment -- the rapist made her friend move into Alice’s bedroom so he could rape her in the same bed that a previous rape victim slept in – talk about creepy).

Finally you get to the short “Aftermath” chapter (seriously, its 10 pages!), and all of a sudden you are filled in with all the self-destructive behavior that she was still engaged in, more than 10 years later.

“…I had published a piece in the New York Times Magazine, a first-hand account of my rape. In it, I beseeched people to talk about rape and to listen to articulate victims when they had a story to tell. …I celebrated with four dime bags and a Greek boyfriend who had once been my student. Then Oprah called, having read the article. I went on the show. I was the victim who fought back. …[I] flew back home to snort heroin.”

Now I don’t know for sure, maybe I would want to snort heroin too if I were on Oprah, but does that sound like someone who should be held up as an example of someone who fought back and reclaimed their life?

She is successful almost in spite of herself, and, ironically, it isn’t until she is quoted in a book called Trauma and Recovery (in the first half), that she figures out that she is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. As she reads first-person accounts by Vietnam vets she is finally able to start feeling, and therefore, healing.

She tells us her therapist had mentioned PTSD a year earlier but she dismissed it as “so much psycho-babble.” Wait – she has a therapist?? I’m sure there was a lot of fodder from those sessions that could have found a place in the book. I wish she had spent as much energy and pages on the aftermath and the healing as she did on the earlier events that made them necessary.

It takes a lot of guts to publish an account of your own rape, and I applaud her for doing so. It’s not an easy book to read, and despite my criticisms, I would recommend it.

I’ll discuss my own issues soon – suffice it to say for now that I wasn’t so “lucky” as to see my rapist go to trial and then to prison.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Holiday Photo Blogging

Today is Presidents' Day here in the US. I still haven't quite figured out who's birthday it is, or if today is neither Washington nor Lincoln's birthdays, just a day picked between them to celebrate. I'm sure one of my American readers can fill me in.

I finished reading Lucky last night. I need to work on the post-reading entry, it will take a little bit of time to make my thoughts coherent, and it will be the start of a trend of The Dark Side of Donna posts, so, y'all can look forward to that!

Instead, here's some more snow pictures of my house and property, plus an obligatory cute dog picture.

Front of the house. Our bedroom is at the top of the A, behind the little deck on the second story. There's no snow on the right side because the trees caught it all before it could get to the ground. It rained last night so most of the snow is gone now.

Directly behind the house. Right before we moved in 6 years ago a huge oak tree fell and took out a bunch of other trees with it. We've been cutting firewood from the pile ever since. Other than the fireline around the house and the driveway, the 2 acre property is all trees.

Tucker and Bailey waiting for Daddy to get out of the shower.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Snow Day

Remember I told you the other day it was in the mid-70s and we ate our V-Day lunch outside? Yesterday and today...not so much. As I write this its 35 degrees and snowing. Keep in mind we are 2500 feet above sea level, even though we are only 10 miles from the ocean (can you say steep hills on the way to Donna's house?).

These pictures were taken this morning by D. in his bathrobe from our deck.

We've spent time with D's son every weekend for the last month. When we picked him up before Cirque I even met D's ex. I was a little nervous about meeting her, but she was very gracious, hugged us both and told D it was nice to see him again (they haven't seen each other since they split up more than 20 years ago). I keep expecting to be uncomfortable -- if this had been my family, someone would have been an asshole long before now, I'm sure. Just when I thought C was a little too good to be true, we found out that he smokes. A tiny blip on the radar, but at least it's something to put on the right side of the ledger. Not that I think underneath this polite and thoughtful exterior there lives a serial killer, but I'm just too jaded and cynical to accept all sweetness and light. Seriously, how sad is that?

I'm having a tough time getting through Lucky. I generally read right before I go to sleep and I've been having strange dreams and restless nights. When I finish the book I'll give a more detailed review; not so much of the book, but how it affected me.

Raise your hand if you remember this song!

Cool Change -- Little River Band

Let me know if you have trouble downloading this, I'm trying out a new archiving tool. I thought this was a fitting choice for this post, both because of the weather and my struggle to change my negative thinking patterns.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Reason #897

I can't even count the reasons why I love the San Francisco Bay Area -- the weather, the restaurants, the beaches, the different characters of the cities...not least of these is the politics. I realize I live in an exceedingly liberal area and it is not in any way, shape or form representative of the country at large. I literally would not survive in a more conservative part of the country. Not that I'm a raving lunatic or anything, I just think everybody should stay out of everybody else's business.

In September 2003 and again in September 2005 the City Council of my little beach town called for an investigation into impeaching Bush and Cheney. Last week the news came out her big sister San Franciso's City Council is working up a resolution calling for the "full investigation, impeachment or resignation'' of those two yokels. Their alleged crimes include:

-- Waging an unnecessary war in Iraq.
-- Authorizing torture of terrorist prisoners.
-- Failing to respond adequately to Hurricane Katrina.
-- And not to be forgotten -- ordering the secret wiretapping of U.S. citizens without a warrant.

Read the entire article at SF Gate if you're interested. Discuss amongst yourselves, and enjoy the tunes. It was 73 today, so sunny and warm D. and I ate our Valentine's Day lunch outside on the restaurant's patio.

The Magnetic Fields -- Come Back from San Francisco mp3
Led Zeppelin -- Going to California mp3
Mamas and the Papas -- California Dreamin' mp3

If you want to hear and see the video for Rufus Wainwright's "California", head on over to my girl Tiffanni's blog.

Friday, February 10, 2006


This was posted over at Bird in Hand the other day and I am stealing it to share with you.

From NPR: Babies' Cells Linger, May Protect Mothers
February 8, 2006 · Some scientists have proposed that when a woman has a baby, she gets not just a son or a daughter, but a gift of cells that stays behind and protects her for the rest of her life. That's because a baby's cells linger in its mom's body for decades and -- like stem cells -- may help to repair damage when she gets sick. It's such an enticing idea that even the scientists who came up with the idea worry that it may be too beautiful to be true.

Actually, the study shows that when a women gets pregnant, regardless of whether a live baby results, she still gets the benefit of these fetal cells. Some small consolation for those of us who have been pregnant but don't have a baby to show for it. Read and/or listen to the entire article here and tell me what you think.

Secondly, the other harbinger of all things newsworthy, Access Hollywood, recently posted a story on their website called "Celeb Hot Moms May Redefine Motherhood". I almost didn't read the article since it seemed to rehash what a lot of other stories have said lately -- its cool and hip and hot to be a Mom in Hollywood these days. However, deep in the article were two paragraphs that grabbed me. My comments are in parentheses.

"It's hard to imagine that there was a time when motherhood, especially the unwed kind, could spell the end of an actress's career. In 1935, Loretta Young resorted to pretending to adopt her own baby daughter, and later altered the child's emerging family resemblance through painful plastic surgery, rather than admit that she and Clark Gable were the parents. [This was alleged in a 1994 book, "Uncommon Knowledge," written by Loretta's daughter, Judy Lewis, who claimed she was the result of an affair between a married Gable and Miss Young. According to Ms. Lewis, Miss Young had her baby in secret in late 1935, then eventually "adopted" the child when she was 2. A spokesman denied it, and in a 1995 New York Times interview, Miss Young refused to discuss the story, calling it a "rumor of a bygone time," and adding, "I have made peace with my daughter."]

"Hollywood actresses wanted to keep their luster as an attractive, young unmarried woman," says film historian James Robert Parish, author of "The Hollywood Book of Love."

Motherhood was out of the question, Parish says. "In the '20s, '30s and '40s, big actresses would have abortions --Judy Garland, Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford, not only because the studios would be mad, but because they were so afraid someone else would replace them in the public's affection."

I'm happy that at least in this regard, Hollywood and our society has made some progress.

Monday, February 06, 2006


This has been a busy weekend, but a great one.

Friday I had the privilege of meeting up with Manuela and Statia, as well as non-blogger Amber, who I met at the Bay Area IF Blogapalooza a while back. Manuela's Mr. Pink Line was also there, what a cute couple they are! He was very gracious and interested in our conversation and just a really cool guy. Manuela is every bit as fabulous as you would think she would be; so gregarious and smart, just the right mix of tough and sweet. Statia is so self-aware and confident and direct, she scares me just a little bit. In a good way. If I had my shit that together 10 years ago just think what I could have accomplished. Watch out for Statia, she's headed for big things. Amber is sophisticated and whip-smart, quiet yet strong. Sort of like a latte with a tequila chaser.

Speaking of alcohol, it flowed freely...cable cars, lemon drops, amaretto sours, scotch -- and that was without Amber (she's 15 weeks and looked amazing in a leather skirt and Italian stilettos).

We met here...

...then headed up to the 21st floor and talked for hours.

Yesterday we went to see Cirque du Soleil's latest touring show, Corteo. If you've never seen one of their shows, you MUST go. I've seen almost all of them; we try to go every year when they are in town. Synopsis from the Cirque website: "Corteo, which means "cortege" in Italian, is a festive parade imagined by a clown. The clown pictures his own funeral taking place in a carnival atmosphere, watched over by quietly caring angels. Juxtaposing the large with the small, the ridiculous with the tragic and the magic of perfection with the charm of imperfection, the show highlights the strength and fragility of the clown, as well as his wisdom and kindness, to illustrate the portion of humanity that is within each of us. The music, by turns lyrical and playful, carries Corteo through a timeless celebration in which illusion teases reality." The only word I can come up with is magical. Usually it is the acts that amaze me, but this time it was the back-story of the clown and the angels that enthralled me.

One of my favorite parts was when the clown brought out his tiny lady friend, Valentina (a full-grown woman who had to have been less than 3 feet tall). She was riding in a little contraption attached to huge balloons. He gently guided her over the audience and people pushed on her feet as she glided down to them, sending her around the tent.

These pictures don't begin to do the show justice, you have to see it for yourself. My step-son C. ended up joining us, which was an added bonus. Last night my jaw hurt from smiling for hours.

I really am lucky to have all that I do. I've found that learning to be happy is a process, a skill, like learning to do anything else. I'm wary and distrustful of happiness, a part of me is sure it will be taken away at any moment, like it has so many times before. But I am making progress.

I'm about to start reading Lucky by Alice Sebold, her memoir about being raped. I had a hard time with The Lovely Bones, Sebold's novel about a little girl who is murdered and then narrates the story looking down upon the family she left behind. I'm more than a little anxious about reading this book but I think it will be good for me. My own rape is tied to my separate history of sexual abuse, and is something I know I haven't dealt with fully. I feel like I am ready to at least peel back that page a little bit, even if it is someone else's story. You have to start somewhere.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Return to Narnia

I don't usually comment on politics, but I heard something in the State of the Union speech that really got my hackles up. This is a quote:

"A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners, and that recognize the matchless value of every life. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos. Human life is a gift from our Creator -- and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale."

WTF? First of all, there were far too many references to our Creator, God, whatever you want to call it, in this speech. But what really burns me is W's attempt to put the lid back on stem cell research, science that is already helping people in other countries. This is the best he could come up with? I for one can see a lot of benefits of creating human-animal hybrids, anyone who saw The Chronicles of Narnia knows that.

Mr. Tumnus is a faun: half-man, half-goat. He made a great cup of tea and was a true friend. Also, always had an umbrella handy.

There might not be a lot of practical uses for a faun, but a centaur, that's a whole different thing.

General Oreius here is H-O-T.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Secret History

I just finished reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I read her second novel, The Little Friend, first, and I almost didn't pick up her debut novel as I didn't enjoy Friend that much. They seem to have been written by different authors, which I suppose is a testament to her abilities. This book is meaty and thick, both in length and in language, not a beach read -- my kind of writing.

Excerpt of synopsis from Amazon: Part psychological thriller, part chronicle of debauched, wasted youth, it suffers from a basically improbable plot, a fault Tartt often redeems through the bravado of her execution. Narrator Richard Papen comes from a lower-class family and a loveless California home to the "hermetic, overheated atmosphere" of Vermont's Hampden College. Almost too easily, he is accepted into a clique of five socially sophisticated students who study Classics with an idiosyncratic, morally fraudulent professor. Finally they reveal to Richard that they accidentally killed a man during a bacchanalian frenzy; when one of their number seems ready to spill the secret, the group--now including Richard--must kill him, too.

It took her ten years to write this book, and another ten before her second was published. This fact certainly puts a bit of a dark tint on my rose-colored view of becoming a novelist one day!

I'm currently reading The Amber Room by Steve Berry. In contrast, this book is a very easy read and reminds me a lot (too much) of The DaVinci Code. Since there is a large, glowing quote from Dan Brown on the dust jacket I am guessing they are colleagues. Like Code, this book seems as though it was written with the thought of it being made into a movie, ignoring many opportunities for insight into characters' thoughts and foregoing description of places and people in lieu of action. This topic interests me greatly, so I'll look for a good historical non-fiction account of the room and the search for it after World War II.

So, a recommendation for The Secret History and a pass on The Amber Room from me.