Third Time’s the Charm, eh? oh and Books

My husband and I completed our final IUI today.  We’ve been struggling with infertility for over a year and have previously tried two other IUIs, which were, unfortunately unsuccessful.  We met with our doctor last week and he advised us to move onto IVF if this final IUI doesn’t work.  Apparently, there isn’t much of an increase in odds after the third attempt, plus we have some other aspects that make it less likely to work for us. I’m really hoping it does, though.  As far as IUIs go, this one has the best odds of being successful so my fingers and toes are crossed, and most importantly, I am praying. The third time’s the charm, right?

Aside from that, my school, as well as every other school in Indianapolis, is going completely virtual starting November 30th.  All week, we’ve been prepping our in-person students for this shift and next Monday and Tuesday they will be working on packets from home while the staff preps for a full virtual shift.  I. Am. Elated. While this may not be the best thing for students academically, it is the best thing for them physically right now, and we have a really great plan set in place this time.  At this point, if students do not perform, that will be on them. We have done the leg work to make this successful.  Now, it’s on them. Which is hard, but I do feel okay about it. 

The choice to go fully virtual does positively impact me.  I am excited to work from home.  My husband and I set up a cheap work from home station for me this past week and I think this will be really good for my overall mental health. 

Thanksgiving is coming up and that is my favorite holiday.  I can’t wait to cook everything for my family.  We are still planning to meet together to celebrate the holiday, but there will only be 5 of us, so I’m not too concerned about the spread of covid for us.  With all of these positive things happening, it’s hard to feel down, which I had been for awhile.  I’m glad my mood has taken a step up.

This month so far, I’ve finished 6 books and am only 5 away from reaching my goal of 100 for the year.  I think I will be surpassing that goal, which is insane to me as I have never read this much in a year before! So, without further adieu, let’s talk books.

My first read of the month was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and wow. 

Have you ever read a book that was just exactly what you needed and hit you right at the perfect time? Well, that was this book for me. I’m so glad I read this one.  This one is definitely a favorite of the year for me and possibly in my top 5.  The story centers around a woman who essentially wants to kill herself and somewhere in between, she ends up living multiple versions of her life based on the books of her life in the midnight library.  Through this, she not only sees her regrets and mistakes and gets to play out “if” scenarios, she also learns to love life again. (5/5)

The next book I read was a very forgettable thriller called The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell.  I had previously read two other books by this author: one that I loved, and one that was predictable and unimpressive. This one, unfortunately, was more like the latter.  The novel was fine and it was fast paced, but I just wasn’t invested in the characters or the plot.  Jewell is an author that has proven she can write a great novel, but I worry she has fallen prey to the publishing world that insists she push book after book out. 3/5. 

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab was a book that took me far longer to read than I had originally expected.  The book itself was long, but the problem with my attention was due to the book not gripping it.  I was about to give up on the novel if it weren’t for everyone and their mom screaming about how much they loved this book.  Finally, about half way through, I started to love the novel, but the build was so slow that I became frustrated.  The main love interest doesn’t even come into the picture until the midway point, which meant that the first half was just a lot of set-up.  Too much in my opinion.  3.5/5.

After reading and loving The Midnight Library, I decided to check out some more of Matt Haig’s work.  The first of these was his novel How to Stop Time.  This one was not as big of a hit for me. The premise of the story focuses on time.  The main character has some sort of medical condition that makes him age at a much slower pace so he has seen centuries of life. I loved the concept, but the execution was a bit cheesy for me.  As soon as the main character kept meeting real celebrities and historical figures, it felt far-reaching for me.  The end was a bit too sappy and rushed as well.  I do hear this is being turned into a movie.  I actually think it may be better as film than book. 3/5.

My next Matt Haig book was a collection of essays and observations titled Reasons to Stay Alive.  This book is for anyone who has ever experienced depression personally or though someone near to them.  I found the raw writing to be an essential look into the trials of when that darkness invades your mind.  As someone who has struggled deeply with depression, I found solace in this book with the reminder that A) I’m not alone and B) it gets better.  This is a book I will definitely be recommending to people. Plus, it’s about time the world better understands this disease. 4/5    

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong was some of the most beautiful prose I’ve ever read.  I was absolutely taken away by the poetic writing.  Unfortunately, the story itself was lacking.  Vuong writes his novel in the format of a letter from a son to his mother.  This felt deeply personal and pulled me in initially, but about half way through it became jarring and felt pretentious to me.  The writing was so damn beautiful though.  I have to give this 4 stars, despite the lack of a fluid plot. 4/5.

I’ve just started This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens and so far I am enjoying it.  It’s reminding me a bit of The Unhoneymooners and One Day.  I’m excited to finish it.

I’ll catch you again at the end of the month for more book reviews.  Until then, happy reading y’all!   

Disappointment

I don’t think anyone really reads these blogs aside from a few friends and family and they already know what’s been going on in my life, so I’m going to get pretty vulnerable with this post, because honestly, I need to write out my feelings.

I’m not happy today. In fact, I feel pretty foolish. My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for a year. After about 10 months of trying, my OBGYN directed us to a fertility specialist. I really like my fertility specialist, because he seems like a no-nonsense doctor. Basically, I was thinking it would be months before we would try something invasive like an IUI or IVF, but he didn’t want to waste any time. We had already been trying certain things through my OBGYN. When my specialist heard that Letrozole wasn’t working for us, he had us immediately get set up for an IUI where I would be taking Clomid, which is a stronger medicine.

I was really, really hopeful. It seemed like everything was turning around for the better in my life recently, so why wouldn’t this? I have previously written about my dad who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer, but that diagnosis changed to stage 2 due to more scans showing what was thought to be the spread of cancer, was really just a degenerative issue. Needless to say, I was feeling good. My dad’s news is excellent and it came right around the time I was getting set up for my IUI. This would work. I just knew it would.

When people who were praying for me would ask me about how I was feeling, I would tell them that I was at peace and I really felt like it was all going to work. At the specialist’s office, I kept saying things like, “this is gonna work!” when they told me about how billing would work in the event of a second IUI.

It was supposed to work. You see, on the actual day of our IUI, we did not have a single known fertility issue thanks to medicine and vitamins. In fact, both of us were above average on that day. Obviously, things were working. Prior to the IUI, I had started acupuncture, something I had never done before, because it was supposed to help the IUI to work. When I had my progesterone levels checked a week after the procedure, they were really high, which was a great sign. A sign that could mean pregnancy. I even started to feel “symptoms” My breasts had never felt more tender.

Unfortunately, those symptoms must have been in my head. Perhaps I was more acutely aware of my body, because I was looking for symptoms. I don’t know. All I know is, it didn’t work.

And I just feel foolish. Not only did I tell people that I just knew it was going to work. I also cut off caffeine and baths for fear that it may hurt the baby that was apparently never in my womb in the first place. I’ve been having really bad allergies with the seasons changing, and you know what? I haven’t been taking my medicine or the one thing that helps me (Benadryl) when my allergies get really bad. All because I didn’t want to ruin things. All because of hope.

How am I supposed to go into my second IUI with high hopes? How am I supposed to believe it will work this time? I just feel so defeated. Other women can get pregnant on accident. How come I can’t get pregnant with all of these other ways of helping me to do so? I think I would be a really great mom, but I can’t even get the chance to try. Does that mean I wouldn’t?

All my life, I’ve been in a season of waiting. I waited and waited for my first date, my first kiss, then for a significant other. All of which, I was a late bloomer. Those things didn’t happen for me in high school. But somehow, I naively thought I would be married with kids by 25. When that didn’t happen, I thought it would for sure happen by age 30. When that didn’t happen, I read and did Christian studies on waiting. Eventually, I found a sense of acceptance, but shortly after, my husband did come along. And now here I am again, in this season of waiting. I don’t know what you want me to learn God! I’ve been in this stage all my life it seems. I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of getting my hopes up only for them to be squashed. I’m tired of a lot of things, that I just won’t mention on here, because I’m worried it would offend others. I’m. just. tired.

Anyways, I think I got so wrapped up in my IUI and my hopes of being pregnant that I just didn’t find the time to read this month. I was looking up cute ways to announce my pregnancy around Thanksgiving instead of reading. How stupid is that. As a result, I only read 4 books this month, when I had been averaging 10. There’s another disappointment to add to the list.

If you’ve made it this far, I’ll be kind and make these reviews short. I’m exhausted and think I’ll take a bath after this.

The first book I read this month was The Honey Don’t List, which also was my favorite. This book is written by the same author team (Christina Lauren) that wrote The Unhoneymooners, which was a book I really loved a little while back. The novel follows two people who work for an HGTV type couple who just had me thinking of Chip and Joanna. Just as fun to read, but not as comical, this book receives 4 stars from me and a glowing recommendation for anyone who enjoys a light chick-lit/rom-com read. 4/5.

The second book I read was Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. Transcendent Kingdom is the second book by Gyasi, following her wide success of Homegoing (which is on my TBR list). This book, while beautifully written, just didn’t grip me. It was certainly more of a thought piece on depression and not a plot driven novel. I had high hopes for this one, but it did feel like a sophomore slump to me. 3/5.

The next book I read, has been a book I’ve been reading with my church small group called, The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg. I read ahead a bit as we are still discussing this in my group. I don’t know how to really feel about this book. Some chapters are great, while others just feel too “surface level.” The format is weird for me too, since there are big sections that are repeats of the text. It’s meant to make those passages stand out, but it happens so frequently, that it’s a bit off-putting. 3/5.

My final read for September was Memorial Drive, a memoir by Natasha Trethewey. This memoir was quick, but definitely not painless. The author experienced some really traumatic things with the whole premise being about her mother’s murder. The trauma did not start there, however. Her upbringing was not ideal and while this book is not for the faint of heart, I do find it an important memoir to read. 4/5.

After realizing I had only read 4 books in the month of September, I’ve made a point to start strong in October. I finished 2 books that I had started in September and read another book over the weekend. I’ve also just started the so far phenomenal novel, Betty by Tiffany McDaniel. All of this to say, I plan to have some really great reads for you in my next post. I hope that post will be a little more uplifting too.

I’m trying to remind myself that not all days are good, but there are good things in each day and while it’s okay to be distraught, it’s not okay to be destroyed. Life is what happens between the bindings, and with that, I wish you happy reading.

School Concerns and Books

Things continue to be uneasy in my life.  And quite frankly, I’m too exhausted emotionally to talk about it.  But if any of my blog readers are praying people, I would love some prayers.  What I will talk about is school.  I had initially planned to write about my concerns for schools to be opened again.  As a teacher, I just don’t feel safe. 

It’s different than other essential jobs.  As a teacher, I am shut into a room with 25 students and then swap those students out for another 25.  I see 100+ students a day and in small spaces.  I move around a classroom and get near students to check their work.  It’s different.  Not to mention, the sheer magnitude of how difficult this will be.  Students who already didn’t have supplies can’t borrow supplies.  Students are not adults.  They already struggle to follow rules.  Their brains are not fully developed. There’s so much to consider.  Are students better taught in person? 100%.  But is this a time where health takes precedence? 100%. 

I received an email last night that said our school would be pushing our opening date.  This gives me a bit more hope.  I hope that in the next few weeks either numbers decline or leaders come up with a clear, concise plan to keep all involved safe.  And when I say leaders, I mean all leaders (beyond schools).  I would hate to be part of a team trying to piece this together right now.  I know it cannot be easy, so I pray for wisdom for all involved.

Now to the books.  I wish I could say I was excited by this batch of books, but most of them were flops for me.  I am hopeful for better books next round!

My book club pick for this month was How I Made a Huge Mess of My Life by blogger Billie Best.  I have to say, I didn’t love this book.  Unfortunately, I could tell why this was a self-publish.  Best tells the story of her husband’s death, infidelity, and her personal rebuild.  The memoir topic is intriguing, but the book itself is directionless and feeds off a sporadic joking tone that doesn’t deliver. (2/5).

My next book was A Burning by Megha Majumdar.  I was impressed that the author took on such a large plot, but it was certainly a heavy read. This book was written with an active voice, which was somewhat jarring for me.  I struggled to make connections to any of the characters though.  It ended up average for me. 3/5.

Next up was The Beauty in the Breaking by Michele Harper.  This one has gotten a lot of rave reviews, but it was a miss for me.  The premise sounded intriguing.  A woman with a hard past rises above and becomes a doctor even in the midst of a failed marriage.  I was into that concept.  What the book was actually about was individual medical cases that expose the reality of the American healthcare system.  I saw less of the author’s personal life, which is what I personally wanted.  The book came off a little pretentious and preachy. 2/5.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes reminded me a lot of Katherine Center’s books.  I’m not much for romance or chick lit.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a sweeping love story, but most of the romance genre is either Harlequin or chick lit and they end up being very cheesy.  If I can read a lighthearted love story and it has heart and isn’t trying too hard, etc. I will love it.  If you don’t understand what I’m trying to say, imagine a Hallmark movie versus You’ve Got Mail or When Harry Met Sally.  Sure their both romcoms, but You’ve Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally are exponentially better.  They have heart. They aren’t over the top or cheesy.  Do you get it?  Evvie Drake was not a sappy Hallmark movie.  The novel focuses on a woman who’s obviously starting over and a famous ball player who is also starting over.  Only one of them was asking for a “do over” and not in the way she got it.  It had great characterization and the author really built tension between the two characters.  It also went deeper than the surface, which a lot of romcom books fail to do. I really enjoyed this book and will definitely keep on eye on this author’s work. 4/5.

My last book this time was Untamed by Glennon Doyle.  Let me just say, I was super into this book for the first 50 pages.  While I didn’t agree with everything the author believed, I still found myself underlining a lot of her sentences.  The latter part of this book focused on motherhood, and since I am not a mother yet, I struggled to relate.  I will also say that I did start getting annoyed by Doyle.  The more I read, the more I thought that this woman is just rambling and honestly, why should I care? It seems like she struggles with grass is always greener syndrome.  Everything has to be perfect all the time and if it isn’t she runs away and chases perfection.  So the more I read, the less credible she became. 3/5.

I forgot to inform the winner of my book giveaway on July 1st.  Like I said, life has been rough.  However, the winner, with permission, will be formally congratulated in my next post! The next book giveaway will be October 1st! The book is TBD, but am welcoming suggestions!

Happy reading y’all!

Life Updates and My First 5 Star Read of the Year!

In my previous post, I wrote about my worry that my Morocco trip would be cancelled, and lo and behold, it was.  I’m not sure if it will be rescheduled or if I will go somewhere else or anywhere at all. There is real fear surrounding this virus and the World Health Organization officially declared it a pandemic, to which I’m like… why did it take this long? 

I can’t even buy Clorox wipes, which is comical, but at the same time, is this something we should fear? Should I be buying water and toilet paper and stocking up on food like the panic stricken Americans?  Or is everything being magnified and over exaggerated by the media?  While the news is now reporting over 120,000 cases worldwide, with over 1000 of those cases in the U.S., the news is neglecting to inform that of those 120,000 cases, almost 70,000 have been discharged or “recovered,” and almost 45,000 who currently have the virus, are seen as experiencing it “mildly.”  I think it matters how the world reacts, and right now it seems that the world is reacting in a big way.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months as we wait for a vaccine.  I just can’t believe I had a real fear of being quarantined.  It really makes you feel like you’re living in a dystopian novel.  Guess I won’t be reading Station Eleven any time soon. If you don’t know anything about that book, look it up and you’ll see why.

In other news, Spring Break is just around the corner and thank the good Lord Jesus, because these kids are driving me insane.  I had planned on having a sub next week, and having an extended spring break, but alas now I have to actually be present and do my job. Ughhh.  Luckily though, I’ll have (what will feel like) 2 weeks off.  The first week is half days, and the second week is sweet, sweet freedom.  I can almost taste it. 

Talking about spring, who really despises time change? Whether I’m springing forward or falling back, I cannot stand this body shift.  And it is a body shift.  I can’t seem to get tired until midnight, which is then causing me to sleep in.  The darkness doesn’t help either.  I was liking the fact that I was driving in with the sun in the morning, and now, it’s just bleak and dark and depressing.  I know I’ll eventually get used to it and that the sun will eventually join me again for my morning commute, but this week has been a struggle.

Enough about me, let’s talk books!

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler is my first 5 star read of the year, but it’s not for the faint of heart.  This book was told from an interesting point of view, but it didn’t put me off.  The plot was so perfectly pieced together, with the second half of the book really picking up steam.  I so strongly disliked one particular character and his selfish delusions that my reactions were somewhat visceral and if an author can create a character so vivid and unlikeable then kudos to them.  I wouldn’t say that this was an enjoyable book in that some parts were very tough to read.  However, I was completely pulled in by the drama that was unfolding and the overall themes in this novel are important and so well conceived throughout.  When I was thinking of how I would rate this book, I debated rating it a 4, because maybe it didn’t read as fast as some books or end happily, but then I was like, nope, this is a 5 star read. Matter of fact.  It just is. 5/5.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo wasn’t even on my radar until I read Daisy Jones and The SixDaisy Jones was one of my favorite books last year and while many loved Seven Husbands, it just didn’t do it for me.  The book was a quick read and the characters were likeable enough, but in a book so heavily reliant on the characters, I needed to like them more. The author, Taylor Jenkins Reid actually wrote and published The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo prior to her successful Daisy Jones, which I loved. Both books seem to have a commonality: they both tell the tale of a creative icon though an inventive format. I’m wondering what Reid will do next? Perhaps an artist?  I am excited to see what Reid comes up with. 3/5.

I listened to Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks, mostly because I knew Tom Hanks was the narrator of the audiobook and I wanted to listen to his comforting and soothing voice.  I so wanted to love his short stories, but I had waited this long to read his collection, because I had heard bad things.  Some stories were stronger than others and I even tried to validate his usage of older language like “yowza” and the phrase “hook, line, and sinker,” because it’s Tom Hanks and of course he would use that language.  Part of me even liked it, because it’s nostalgic and recalls a simpler, more charming time in our history.  A time, I often long for.  Unfortunately, too many of the stories just didn’t deliver.  Short stories really need to be beautifully written due to their conciseness.  Hanks just didn’t have that delivery.  I did really like a few of the stories though, and since this is his first effort, I’ll say it was a 3/5, but I’ll also say I’m being a little generous too.

My next book was The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver.  Some might remember this author from her wildly successful breakout novel, One Day in December, a book I actually hadn’t read, because I couldn’t get into it when I skimmed through it at the bookshop.  Regardless, everyone seemed to love that book. I had pretty high hopes for Lydia Bird based on the plot and thought maybe I was missing out when it came to her first book, but after reading Lydia Bird, I think there is just something I’m not connecting with regarding the author’s style.  The Two Lives of Lydia Bird was very meh to me.  Partly, the book was marketed as a love story, but in fact, it was actually more about the grieving process.  I think I was expecting something different than what I read. 3/5.

I’m looking forward to more books! Shortly, I’ll be reading Darling Rose Gold, a new thriller said to be spine tingling and twisted; In Five Years, a new book of friendship and love that is getting pretty solid reviews; and I’m thinking of checking out Sharks in the Time of Saviors, a magical realism book set in Hawaii that pushes into some Hawaiian legends.

That’s what’s been going on between the binding.  Happy reading y’all!

Waiting and Reading

Life between the binding has its ups and downs and I’d be lying if I said the last few days haven’t been more on the down side.  Fortunately, it hasn’t all been bad.  Yesterday was a fun night out with my husband and I was showered with flowers and chocolates and most importantly, love.  Valentine’s Day had previously been a dreaded holiday for me prior to meeting Jeremiah, so I don’t want to discredit an overall great night. 

What a lot of people don’t know is that my husband and I are approaching our 6th month of trying to get pregnant.  I know that some couples struggle for much longer, but it’s hard.  It’s hard each month when I get my hopes up and get negative results.  It’s hard when it feels like pretty much everyone I know is pregnant right now.  It’s hard when I see a new pregnancy announcement each day.  I wish this was an exaggeration, but it’s not.  It almost feels like a malicious taunt.   I’ve never experienced so many pregnant people in my life.  Everyone but me. 

The other day I was in Target, purchasing items for 3 separate baby showers.  I started to cry in one of the aisles and managed to get myself together until I got home, where I really let it go.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m incredibly happy for my friends.  I mean that. Some of them had their own wait just like me, but this waiting period is difficult and the more we try, the harder it gets and the crazier I go.  Case in point, I randomly read up on palm reading and tried to see where the children line was on my palm only to find out that I don’t have any “children” on my children line.   Then I realized that I was being ridiculous and moved on with my life. See, this is literally making me crazy.

The plus side is, I purchased a better ovulation kit then the one I used last month and I’m getting blood work done Monday, so hopefully there will be answers soon.  I’m trying not to feel defeated. I have faith that I will eventually get pregnant.   But again, it’s just hard.

Enough about my life, let’s talk books. 

I did end up finishing Sing, Unburied, Sing and it was absolutely stunning, writing wise.  I was completely swept up in the poetic language and it inspired me as a writer.  I did struggle with the believability that everything took place in such a short span of time.  Was it realistic? Eh, that’s debatable.  The plot itself is where the novel faltered, but the writing was some of the best I’ve ever read.  4 stars.

Next, I read my Book of the Month pick, The Holdout.  I love a good legal thriller and this one definitely read fast and held my interest.  Unfortunately, the author focused so much on moving the plot that he failed to fully develop likeable characters, setting, etc. This was likely due to his script writing background.  My big gripe with this book was that the author tried to tackle too many social topics, which made it seem like he didn’t really cover any at all.  3 stars.

One of my favorite books of the year so far was The Sun Down Motel. This was my first ghost story/horror read and I really enjoyed it! This was the first book this year that I really could not put down. It was suspenseful and thoroughly kept me engaged. Unfortunately, I guessed the twist and had imagined better ones in my head. 4 stars.

I just finished my first nonfiction book this year, When Breath Becomes Air. This book depicted a doctor’s battle with cancer and yes, I cried.  A lot. The book itself was fairly short and focused more on who the doctor was and his medical career and only focused on his cancer in the second half of the book.  I’m not sure what I expected when I picked up the book, but it wasn’t what I had in mind.  3 stars.

I’m currently listening to The Girl With the Louding Voice.  So far, there’s a lot going on in this one.  I’m not quite sure how I feel about it yet.  I’ve started reading Things You Save in a Fire and my book club’s next read is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.  I’m excited to get into these next reads! I’m still waiting on my first 5 star read of the year.

Until next time! Happy reading!