Still Alice: The Scariest Book I've Ever Read

I knew that Still Alice by Lisa Genova would bother me. A highly-intelligent, young (fifty, which is young for this condition) woman who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's? A woman who does everything she can to stay healthy,
mentally and physically is plagued with this horrible disease way too early]. I'm all about preventative care; I've been wearing sunscreen since I was sixteen, am very active, get physicals every year, and try to stay away from saturated fat and all those other things that will kill you (although I do drink Diet Coke and eat processed sugar, so subtract five years). My point: the things you can't control about your health frighten me. Like Alzheimer's. 

My grandmother is in her eighties and is suffering from the disease, and the progression was slow, until the last year or two (I don't want to divulge too many personal details, because it's not my place, but I saw her over the weekend and if I were a betting woman I'd say it's the later stages of Alzheimer's). She was an opinionated, productive, busy woman her entire life, raising six children. She played bunco, was in a bowling league, ran Girl Scout troops, volunteered at the food bank, was in the church's Mission Circle, camped in the trailer with my grandpa once a month, and enjoyed crafts. She wasn't the type of grandmother that would jump up to tell make you a sandwich- she pointed you to the fridge and told you to help yourself. She was always up for a last minute trip to the store and could kick most people's butts at Up Words. She was active mentally and physically, but the synapses in her brain decided to rebel. Nature? Nurture? Both? 

Alice, in Still Alice, knew something was up when she started forgetting things frequently. Some of the things were simple, like her Blackberry. But there were also more important things, like how to get home when jogging around the neighborhood she had lived in for years. She devised a test that asked basic questions about her life and programmed her phone with an alarm so that she'd take it every morning. If she failed she included a note directing herself to a folder on her computer with instructions on how to commit suicide. It was fascinating to see the loss of complexity her answers contained as the months, and her illness, progressed. Her relationships changed, her position at work became obsolete, and all the while a little piece of her knew that she wasn't who she once was. 

It's a horrible way to live. And die.

Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that effects more than just simple memory; it takes over how people act, think, and behave. It effects more women than men and is the sixth leading cause of death in the US. There is a lot of promising research, some of which links cardiovascular health and head trauma to developing the disease (also genes and race). Prevention suggestions range from staying active, to eating healthy, to staying social and intellectually challenged. [source].

Still Alice broke my heart, but not with the ending I thought I saw coming. Forgetting the people and things you love is almost as bad as them being ripped away from you. But, then there's the other side, too. What about those who love you that are no longer remembered? And must give up so many things to care for you? It's horrible for everyone and there is no "right way" to do it. For some families, caring for the person in-home with some professional assistance might be their right way. For other families, placing the person in a facility with round-the-clock care might be their right way. I've already told my husband that I'd like to be placed in a center (a really nice one, though, with like botanical gardens and piano players and fluffy robes) if I develop anything along these lines. 

Confession: I hadn't visited my grandparents in seven months before reading Still Alice. It's hard going over there, for me personally, and I can't take Sawyer since it's just not the right place for him now that he is so crazy mobile. Lisa Genova offered me a new perspective though, and I felt inclined to pop in for a few moments to say hi (they live an hour or so away). 

Getting old sucks. So, while we're in the process of slowly dying it's important we make the most of our time. Put that on a Hallmark card. 

A Day in the Life- Summer Break Edition

I was on the fence about doing one of these day-in-the-life posts, since I know that they're a little self-indulgent. On the other hand, they're also a nice way to log how life at certain times is. Right now it's summer and I'm a temporary stay-at-home-mom, so I thought it would be nice to record a typical day for Sawyer, my fifteen-month-old, and I. Four out of five week days we have some sort outing, usually to see one of my friends or to a park or beach or something fun like that. I try to take one day a week to stay at home, because I think that's important for both of us. Even we are out and about, I make sure that we have a chunk of time, usually the afternoon, so that we're home and he can nap and play. There as to be a balance between everything! 

Wednesday, July 29

6:00-6:20 Sawyer wakes up at six, after sleeping ten hours, so I can't complain too much. I mean, I really hate waking up that early, but it beats his old 4:50 wake up call, and my soon-to-be 5:15 alarm. I take him back to our bed, hoping he'll doze off. He does... for like five minutes. He likes to crawl all over and torment my sleeping husband (lucky), so we get up and head downstairs with the dogs.

6:20-7:50 I get breakfast for Sawyer (oatmeal, banana, milk), the dogs, and myself (cereal and lots of iced coffee). I put dishes away while Sawyer attempts to eat a whole banana (his idea), load the dishwasher, and then we head back upstairs. Sawyer goes into his crib to play while I get ready, and then I get him dressed. We head back downstairs and Sawyer plays with Scott for a little bit before he has to leave for work.

7:50-8:15 We walk around the neighborhood with whatever Ninja Turtle the purple one is. 

8:15-8:45 When we get back I hop on the treadmill. I'm not training for anything in particular and wasn't really feeling it today, so I decided to just walk some hills and read a bit of Judy Blume's new book. I have a play area set up for Sawyer, which he tolerates for about a half an hour. At some point I hopped off to give him something and rolled my ankle, all the while face planting on the floor. Once I ascertained that it wasn't broken, I stupidly got back on and finished my walk. 

8:45-9:05 I put Sawyer in our big soaking tub in the bathroom so I could get get ready to leave the house later in the morning. This is probably the last time I can do that, since he chose today to learn how to crawl out. 

9:05-10:00 I lay Sawyer down for his morning nap. While he slept I iced my foot while working on a blog post. We needed to leave the house a few minutes after ten, so I had to wake him up to get him dressed in his "nice" clothes (ie the ones that aren't $4 a piece at Target). He was slightly less than thrilled to get up and have to change his clothes and get his hair done. Too bad, kid.

10:00-11:30 We drive to the mall (ugh) and walk through Nordstroms, Macy's, and JcPenney's, trying to find a pair of Stride Rite shoes for him, or something comparable. He's sill not walking yet, but since he's in PT from his torticollis still (which is gone, they just won't exit him until he walks so they can make sure he's aligned properly), I get plenty of suggestions from the therapist. She thinks a lot of the issue is just a lack of interest- crawling works well for him. She also thinks he may have inherited my weak, flat feet, so she suggested getting him a pair of shoes that's more supportive than his flimsy sandals, might help, or at least not hurt. We had zero success, so I'm going to have to go to the actual store when we're in Orange County tomorrow. 

11:30-12:30 We meet my mother-in-law, who wanted to see Sawyer, at the Cheesecake Factory for lunch. He's pretty well-behaved in public, but would rather goof off than eat lately.  

12:30-12:45 He falls asleep on the drive home and I plop him in his crib when we get back. This has been super easy to do lately.

12:45- 2:10 While Sawyer naps I do some chores (wipe down the bathrooms, sweep the kitchen, clean the stainless steel appliances, and fold a load of laundry). I finished the blog post from the morning, look up a few things online for tomorrow's outing (unless my foot gets worse). and read a few more pages.

2:10-2:45 Sawyer wakes up, he has a huge snack to make up for his lack of lunch, and we get ready to go swimming. I text the neighbor to see if she and her son want to join us but I don't hear back.

2:45-4:00 Pool time! 

4:00-4:30 We run up to the grocery store to grab fresh french bread for dinner

4:30-6:00 After we get home we read the three new books Sawyer's grandma got him (well, I read while he plays, but close enough), we play ball, and then LEGOs. I also drink some coffee because by this time of the day I start getting sleepy. I read a few more pages of my book while he destroys the Tupperware drawer. We also learn that he can finally drink from a straw, which he's super proud of. 

[Mr. TIger Goes Wild was great; I'm planning a new kids book post soon!]

6:00-6:35 The neighbor invites us over to play in the backyard, so we go over there to hang out for a little while before dinner. He tortures their two cats- "meow" is the only animal sound he knows so he was very, very excited to see one in person. Every time he touched it he giggled hysterically. And then the little boy tried to beat Sawyer up, so it was time to go (he's two, though, so what can you do? Sawyer was fine, just a little surprised, and the mom intervened immediately. I'm learning to roll with this sort of stuff). 

6:35-7:00 I give Sawyer his food (peas, meatballs, bread, and oranges) and prep ours. Nothing glamorous tonight- french bread pizzas. Last night I made this fancy roasted tomatillo dish that had lots of steps and ingredients, so tonight was a little basic. 

[I only took a picture of this because I realized how few I had for today]

7:00-7:15 Bath time for Sawyer. He's a huge fan of lining up all his little animals on the tub, and I'm a big fan of sitting on my ass and watching him. Scott comes home. 

7:15-8:00 Scott and I eat together in the dining room (I feel very strongly about this, and luckily he goes with it; we never ate in front of the TV growing up... I prefer, you know, like talking to each other!) while Sawyer discovers he can figure out how to stand on his tip toes and play with the shudders. I clean up dinner while the two of them play. We then bust out the bubble wrap that came in a package. Fun for alllllll. Teeth are brushed, good nights are said.

8:00-8:15 I take Sawyer up to his room and we sing our little song and talk about our day and he's out in less than five minutes. I always hold him a few extra minutes, though, because he's so cuddly and sweet. One day he will smell horrible and look at naked women (or men) on the Internet and I won't get to snuggle with him.

8:15-8:45 Shower. Relish in the quiet. Carefully plan out my powerful speech accusing my husband of using my razor (he staunchly denies it. Now I don't know what to believe). 

8:45-9:05 Talked to my husband about a work thing he needs me to help him brainstorm for (he's a copywriter at an advertising agency). Ice very, very sore foot. 

9:05-10:20 Talk to husband, read, answer a few work emails, go to bed.

(13,549 steps... on day I hurt my foot! Not bad.) 

Super exciting, I know. It was actually a really easy, enjoyable day, minus the foot pain. Got some stuff done, played, read... not bad.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

Hello! Link up, link back, or just say hi!

1. I just finished Andy Weir's The Martian and loved it. I'm definitely not a sci-fi reader, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was truly emotionally invested. Weir balances the science talk with a great personality and plenty of emotion. I don't think it's exceptionally well-written, exactly, but the story and voice make up for it. I convinced my husband to read it and he started this morning, which reminds me of college when we took some of the same English classes. I love talking about books with people, so I'm pretty excited.

2. Last night on a late-night allergy pill run to Target (side note: now that I'm 100% done nursing I can take awesome things like cold medicine and Claritin again! Interestingly, within a week of being done my allergies came back with a vengeance, after laying low since getting pregnant) I head a couple having a heated debate about keeping things out on the kitchen counter. He was made about the banana hammock and she thought it was fine. I'm totally Team Clean Counter- I am for a small stack of mail, the coffee maker, and a container with some cooking utensils. It also made me happy that there are other couples that argue over really stupid shit.

[I googled "cluttered countertops" and had an anxiety attack; source]

3. Over the past few weeks I've been around two newborn babies and have felt zero inclination to have another one any time soon. I was worried that holding those sweet, sleepy, innocent little ones would make my ovaries start hurting, but not even a twinge. I can't decide if this is good, bad, or natural since it's been only fifteen months since Sawyer was born and I'm just now getting good sleep. 

4. I finally bought a map for my Reading Globally Project that has been in the works for at least a year. Now I'll have to go back and figure out the settings for the books I've read in the last seven months and pin them. I'm trying to figure out the rules, though, since many books have multiple settings. Maybe the primary two? Or over a third of the book has to be spent at a particular place?

5. I downloaded Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies on Audible and so far I'm entertained but am glad I didn't buy the book to read- it's like funny chic lit so far. 

6. My friend, who is a new mom, texted me a link to a Mindy Kaling reading/talk that's happening in LA in two months asking me if I was interested and if we could make it work with the husbands watching kids. Heck yes! I just know her from The Office, but a chance to go into the city together, without kids, is enough for me.

7. Last Friday I took Sawyer to Irvine Regional Park and we had a great time. We road the little train, went to the zoo (it's more of a place where native animals have been rescued), watched other kids go on pony rides, and had lunch. We've also baked cookies together (he's getting good at pouring things in and loves to talk about the "balls" aka eggs, and the "vroom vroom" aka mixer), gone swimming a few times, kept up our walking routine, and visited with lots of friends. Tomorrow I'm going to attempt to take him to the Orange County Fair, which I have never been to.

8. I can't decide if being good at small talk is a skill I wish I had or not. I've been in instances lately where my lack of ability has been painfully obvious (at least to me). 

9. Yesterday I let someone have it on Facebook because they posted something about defunding Planned Parenthood (along with a Confederate flag, claiming PP had killed more "black babies" than "the other side"). I was so, so, so angry, as Planned Parenthood is a phenomenal organization that has helped so many women in times of need. Maybe it is with an abortion, maybe it's with STD screening, birth control, or good old-fashioned information. I'm getting angry again just thinking about the ignorance. 

10. My "bad foot" is in bad shape right now, and I just rolled it hopping off the treadmill this morning. I have flat feet, am an over-pronator, and have an extra bone in my ankle, so anytime I'm off it for more than thirty minutes it gets stiff and hurts for a bit when I get up, as is. Plus, it's always a little swollen. I've had to ice it every night before bed to keep the pain manageable, and I'm super sick of it. I've saw a podiatrist many years ago and spent a lot of money getting inserts made, at his advice. When I started using them they were very uncomfortable and did nothing for me. I guess the only other alternative is surgery, which I'm not interested in. So for now I'll just whine. And ice. 

Reading Margaret for the First Time as an Adult

Somehow, I missed the memo as a preteen that I was supposed to read and identify Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I read some of her other books, but this one somehow slipped through the cracks. I saw Blume speak a few years ago at a festival and mentally put the YA novel on my wish list (for the record, it's the only YA book on there) but, once again, overlooked it. I finally picked it up this summer after grabbing her newest adult novel, In the Unlikely Event, and seeing other bloggers, like Rory, revisit this classic. So, I decided I'd read about twelve-year-old Margaret for the first time at thirty-one.

One thing that stood out to me the most was the lack of technology. I loved it! These kids had to work at finding out if someone liked them- they couldn't just jump on SnapChat. They had to use house phones and look people "in the book." They experienced boredom. They had to go outside and run in the sprinklers to cool off instead of streaming a movie on Netflix in the air conditioned indoors. Oh, and they use encyclopedias for school work (and to look up male anatomy, naturally). It's all so endearing and refreshing. 

Another thing that struck me was Margaret and her friends' extensive conversations about boobs and periods. Maybe it's just me and my total disgust with bodily functions, but I never ever remember talking about those sorts of topics with anyone when I was that age. It's probably a good things I have a son.

I did love how religion was handled in this book. Margaret's parents aren't practicing, since their parents had conflicting ideas about such topics before they married, yet she is still very interested in religion and embarks on a school project to invest her options. Honestly, after reading this I decided that everyone should wait until they're an adult to pick their religious path. So often people are Catholic or Methodist or whatever because that's how they were raised and haven't really thought about it for themselves. But anyway, I digress. 


It was a super, super quick book that I read in snippets while keeping one eye on the kid. It was nice to see what all the fuss is about, but I'm guessing I'd feel a little more warm and fuzzy about the whole thing if there was a nostalgic factor for me, which there is not. I do think this is still a great book for the ten-twelve crowd, though! 

Reading Log- A Week of Keeping Track

There's a lot of things I have been doing very little of this summer, that I thought I'd actually be doing more of, like drinking wine (my child's sleep is too erratic), swimming (the weather has been fairly mild, for this area, and cloudy), and cleaning (wahhhh I don't want to!). Then there are things that I've been doing more of than I thought, though, like socializing, cooking/baking (usually the heat minimizes oven use), and reading. I thought it would be fun to keep track of my reading habits for a week to see how I'm doing and then repeat the process once work starts. 

Before I go any further, I invite you to do the same! I think it would be fascinating to see how everyone finds the time to plow through their TBR pile. Let me know so I a can be nosy. 

For those that are new followers, or found this blog because Google failed them in some way, I'm a high school English teacher on summer vacation, mother of a very active fourteen-month-old, a wife to a low-maintenance husband, and lover of to-do lists ("read ten books" is an item on my summer list). I also don't really watch much TV (we don't have satellite), which frees up a lot of time. We are currently working our way through Newsroom (love, love, love!), so we maybe watch two or three episodes a week at night after Sawyer is in bed, and maybe two or so movies a month.   

Here's my log:

["nap time" is when Sawyer sleeps... not me]

[Yes, I leave my child so I can go read at Starbucks]

First of all, this is the beauty of summer vacation; when I'm back to work full time in two weeks things will drop off drastically.

Secondly, I feel good about the time I read in front of my son- it's always while he's independently playing, right in front of me. He's obsessed with the tupperware cupboards lately, so I sit in the kitchen with him while he's destructive. I always stop within a minute or two if he comes to see me and if he indicates he'd like to play ball, be read to, etc... He also goes to daycare twice a week for a few hours, which is good for him socially and to stay familiar with the care-giver, so I'm able to read during that block too. I've been reading two books at a time lately, something I've never done before, so that I have something less challenging while I'm hanging out with him. I like that he sees me read- I know I'm setting a good example. 

And last of all, I think that this proves that if something is a priority or passion, you can fit it in (as long as it's reasonable, that is). I try to do things, like folding laundry, when Sawyer is up or my husband is around. I make sure we're busy and having fun outside of the house, but I've tried to not double-book us or over-extend our days. My husband and I spend time together in the evening, but he has his own hobbies too, so we tend to sort of split the difference. If only cleaning organizing were something I was as devoted to (not that my house is a dirty disaster, I just need to do some of those boring, not fun projects we all have).

Let me know if you log your time, too (no you don't need your parent to sign off), or if you know how much time you read a day. It's always interesting to see how people fit it in.