Friday, January 28, 2011

My Girl

My girl is sick.

She's been sick for a while. 

I've been on the phone with the doctor every day.

I've also been in contact with the CDC.  They are coming over next week to place a decontamination chamber in the entryway of my house.

Today is a bad day.  I can't stop crying. 

This is probably very sexist, but I know I wouldn't be this way if one of my boys were sick. 

My girl is so little.  She will be four in three weeks.  She weighed in at 28 pounds two days ago. 

Which means she hasn't even gained 25 pounds since the day she was born.

Here's a pic of newborn Ella:

When she is well, she is my sunshine.  Just like the song.  We call her "sweetness and light." 

Caleb has figured out "Ella" language.

"You say a lot of nonsense, mom, and then say a real word at the end.  Like this. Nalal la ee ooo Batman."

Ella has missed a number of speech therapy sessions.  She has been sitting in front of the television, glassy-eyed.

She probably got this horrible cold from the ER.  Specifically from goopy-eyed kid. 

I have to get up in the middle of the night to clean off her face.

Her eyes are red.  And goopy.

She also has a bacterial infection.  She contracted impetigo and gave it to Daniel.

They're both on antibiotics.

She cries a lot.  And throws up phlegm.

I'm emotionally spent. 

When I went outside to get the mail today, I recoiled from the light.  Recoiled.  Like a vampire. 

I just finished writing articles on morning sickness for a medical site. 

Once upon a time, I was throwing up every morning.  My eyes were red, my hormones raged, my mouth tasted bitter. 

But my girl was snug and safe. 

I would go back to that, so she could be snug and safe again. 

I can't stop crying.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Special Guest Post from Kiah the Wonder Dog

I'm Kiah the Wonder Dog.  Here I am again, with my head tilted the other way:

I could be a model.

I am the leader and protector of my family.  This is not understood by everyone, but they will learn.

My family's two greatest nemeses are the vacuum cleaner and the fat cat who lives next door.  The broom comes in at a close third. 

My adopted mother, Holly, who is pale and not fuzzy at all, does not understand how incredibly dangerous the vacuum cleaner is.  In fact, she loves it.  She calls it her best friend.  I think she does this just to irk me.  I have tried repeatedly to warn her that her so-called "best friend" is probably a fat cat disguised as a high-end cleaning device.  I bite my adopted mom's calves and growl and attack the thing with an intensity that rivals a lion tearing a gazelle to bits. 

I do this out of love. 

My non-fuzzy adopted mother always puts me in my crate when she gets the thing out.  She says she can't deal with "The Sound AND the Fury."  I think I am the Fury.  

I worry about her.

I used to be afraid of the fat cat next door.  Now, I am a big girl who fears NOTHING.   I wait for it to cross our yard.  Just try it, I say, while staring it down.  The adopted mother has expressed concern that I will catch it and tear it to pieces like a lion eating a gazelle.  She doesn't understand that the fat cat is a horrible, manipulative, and cruel animal that must be kept away from my family.

When I am not busy protecting my family from the many evils of this world, which do not include other dogs or people, I like to chew on things. 

I love nerf.  Nerf is a substance made specifically for chewing.  My non-fuzzy adopted brothers and sisters get so mad when I chew on nerf.  I don't understand this.  They NEVER chew on nerf, so what, exactly, is their problem?  I would gladly share.  They've taken to hiding it from me.  I always find it, though.  I'm an excellent finder.

Man I love to chew.  I have chewed up those ridiculously fun hanging blinds in the sun room.  The adopted mother is getting new ones, because she loves for me to have fresh things to chew on.  She really cares about me.  That's why she leaves food, sometimes, on the counter for me get.  I love to jump up on the counter!  The adopted mother calls me a "horrible, horrible counter surfer."  She has a number of wonderful terms of endearment for me.

I am an excellent jumper.  I can jump up and pull down the mini-blinds.  Then I chew them up. 

I chewed the white knobs off of the Etch-a-Sketch.  My adopted brothers and sisters were so impressed, they went and showed their mother right away. 

I chew cookbooks, milk containers, shoes, my little adopted sister's play food, legos, and much more. 

I rip apart stuffed animals like a lion tearing a gazelle to bits. 

I'm a social animal.  I have a friend in the neighborhood.  We've never seen one another, but we talk constantly.  I bark, then he barks, then I bark, then he barks.  This can go on and on and on.  We have riveting conversations.

"I'm a dog!" I say.

"I'm a dog!" he responds.

"I'm a dog!"  I say.

"I'm a dog!" he responds.

We talk like this for a while.  It's so good to be able have meaningful conversation with another dog. 

The adopted mother is nice, but she doesn't feed me enough.  While the human brothers and sisters get three meals and two snacks a day, I get two paltry helpings of puppy chow and an occasional treat.  I have to sit down and roll over for the treat.  It's strange, but my human brothers and sisters do NOT have to work for their snacks.  This bothers me, so sometimes I steal their teddy grahams or cut up apples.  Then they squeal and tell my non-fuzzy adopted mother, who chases me and pries the food from my mouth.  If she actually gets the food, which isn't often, she throws it in the garbage.  She would rather throw the food in the garbage than let me eat it, which is a level of cruelty I hope you never become familiar with. 

No matter.  I can knock over the garbage can, no problem.

The adopted father, who is by far the fuzziest in the family, loves me the most.  I can't help it; whenever I see him, I wiggle my stumpy tail and jump up and down. 

Sometimes, he shares his lime chips with me.  He doesn't shriek and carry on when he finds one of my baby canine teeth on the floor, like my adopted mother does. 

Somtimes, I wonder if she is part cat.  It would explain her irrational loyalty to the vacuum cleaner.

It is exhausting being me.  I am always vigilant, and rarely rest.  There is so much to explore and steal and chew.  By 9 pm, I crash.  Then, suddenly, the non-fuzzy adopted mother loves me.

She pets me, coddles me, and gives me a good massage.  She coos and puts her feet under my belly to keep them warm.  And I oblige  her, because it is my job.

I am her leader and her protector.  One day, she will accept this, and we will all be better for it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Swear Jar

I first came up with the swear jar during the Patriots playoff game.  I was upstairs with Daniel when we heard the following come from my very own husband:

"Suck it Tom Brady!  SUCK IT!"

Daniel looked at me.  Then he snickered.  I knew we had a problem.

Today, Kiah kept stealing Ben's lightsaber because she's a compulsive thief who shows no sign of reform even though we've had several serious talks.  Ben became irate and called her a stupid idiot.  I wish I could blame the public school for Ben's potty mouth, but let's all be honest with each other;  John calls Kiah a stupid idiot on a regular basis (albeit affectionately.)  In fact, that was the excuse Benjamin used when I chastised him. 

So this very night, I invented the game "Gotcha," the rules of which are quite simple.  Daddy says a bad word, we yell "Gotcha," and Daddy has to put $1.00 in the swear jar.  The swear jar will be a Wegmans Basil Tomato spaghetti sauce jar, washed, with a pretty swirly-lettered label that says "A vessel is known by the sound, whether it be cracked or not, so men are proved by their speeches whether they be wise or not. - Demosthenes ."  When we collect enough dollars, we'll have a pizza night.  I fully expect pizza night will happen tomorrow, as we've already garnered $3.00. 

We had to make a list, of course, of the offending words.  They are as follows:


Ben lobbied hard to put "poopstick" on the list, and although it's a word not used in decent conversation, we decided though vulgar, it didn't constitute a "naughty" word.

Caleb is somewhat to very uncomfortable with this game- in fact, after consideration, he has decided he doesn't want to play it at all.  Caleb always defers and is respectful to those who are in authority over him, and so this game goes against everything he believes in.  John even gave him the go-ahead to play, but our encouragement was to no avail.  Not even the promise of pizza night would sway poor Caleb's mind.  He did say the following:

"Anyway, I know that even though mom made up this game, she'll forget about it in a few days." 

He's eight, but he already knows I have a problem following through with things.  Like my scrapbooking projects.  My marathon training.  Grad school.  Flossing on a nightly basis.  Things like that.

So, I'm cleaning out another spaghetti sauce jar, which will be labeled:  "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours-  Henry David Thoreau."  Only I'll change the hes to shes.  For obvious reasons. 

Every time I don't follow through with something, the kids will yell, "I TOLD YOU SO!" and I'll put $1.00 in the jar.  When we save up enough dollars, we'll order out for subs.  (I find food is a wonderful motivator.)

I would admit that we're going to be eating a lot of pizza and subs, but let's face facts.  This is definitely the year we slap a G-rating on John's mouth.  And I'm going to follow through with my grand ideas.  Or at least my not-so-grand ideas.

We may be eating a lot of subs. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Seven Hours

On Friday, Ella woke up with what appeared to be herpes. After some "intense" research, I discarded my herpes diagnoses and went with impetigo- treatable with antibiotics. I put a heavy dose of Neosporin over her mouth sores and stuck her in bed, fully expecting everything to be fine in the morning.

Alas, Ella woke up with more sores around her mouth, ugly hideous sores that prompted my husband to mutter things like “living here is like living in a 3rd-world country” and “flesh-eating virus.” John, as I may have previously mentioned, takes the half-glass-empty approach to any kind of sickness, whereas I have generally misplaced the glass or spilled it all over my pants. (Kids have funky rash. Holly’s diagnoses: Probably dry skin. John’s diagnoses: Leprosy.)

John has also accused me of being a very poor detector of fevers.

“She has a fever, Holly. A high fever.”

“Nah. She just woke up. They’re always warm and lethargic when they just wake up.”

“The thermometer says she’s at 103.”

“Huh. Well, I stand corrected.”

Despite my laissez-faire approach to treating my sick children, pus-filled sores on lips gross me out, so I decided to haul Ella off to Urgent Care. To my chagrin, the local Urgent Care is walk-in only, meaning one could be sitting there for a long time. We probably waited 45 minutes before we saw the doctor. In that 45 minutes, Ella’s legs turned tomato red, which I thought was odd. Good thing we were at the Urgent Care facility! They would know what’s up, being doctors and all!

They had no idea what was up. Ella’s sores and a spotty rash on her hands looked like Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. The bright red legs with a lacy rash “confounded” the doctor. That was the word she used. “I’m confounded. I find this very concerning.” She was confounded AND concerned. Ella was running around the room like a looney-bird, with a very low-grade fever and ample spunk, so at the moment, I did not share the doctor’s concern. I had come in for some antibiotics; the doc freaking sent me to the emergency room. A pediatric emergency room, of which there are only two in Rochester. And on Saturday’s, they are very much like 3rd-world countries.

Ella and I stopped home for some supplies, i.e. sippy cups and cereal bars and teddy grahams and books, and high-tailed it through the snowy tundra to Golisano Children’s Hospital, which beckoned us with its screaming babies and feverish grade-schoolers puking into their mother’s Tupperware. For the first half-hour, there were no seats in the waiting room. I finally scored a chair next to a highschooler who had injured himself snowboarding. Every once in a while, a nurse would come out and give the waiting kids popsicles or juice or animal crackers. Ella was having the time of her life eating and playing with goopy-eyed kid. I spent a good three hours saying, “DO NOT TOUCH ONE ANOTHER!” Because goopy eyes plus flesh-eating rash would be a bad thing. Goopy-eyed kids' mother sat listlessly in the corner repeatedly trying her cell phone, though there was no reception. She had a newborn in a car seat sleeping soundly, oblivious to the woes of those around him. Goopy-eyed’s mom turned to me,

“Can I ask you a favor?”

“Sure!” I responded.

“I need to make a phone call. Can you watch my kids while I find a spot that has reception? I’ll be about two minutes.”

“Okay!” (I try to be accommodating when possible.)

Thirty minutes later.

“So, did you find cell phone reception?”

“Kind of.”

These are the sort of people you meet in the ER.

Meanwhile, Ella had taken to wandering into the hall to yell at the nurses:


“They never gave me any juice,” the highschooler mumbled. Because the ER is also an all-inclusive freaking resort.

We finally got a room. An hour after we dozed on a cot, a young resident came in and diagnosed Ella with Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease. But he wanted his attending to take a look at her. Two hours later, the attending came in and looked at her and diagnosed her with Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease.

Seven hours in the ER. We read “Moose’s Loose Tooth” about 10 times, watched countless episodes of Scooby-Doo, drew pictures of various vegetables (because vegetables are one of the few things I can draw), and played ER hide-and-seek with Goopy-eyes.

Guess what the treatment is for Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Now Daniel has it, too.

Life is beautiful.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Caleb's Birthday Eve Post

Caleb will be eight in t-minus seven hours.  And since tomorrow I will be running around like a looney-bird, I thought I'd do his birthday post tonight. 
This post will come in two parts:  Part 1: the sniveling and complaining part.  Part 2:  The nice homage to Caleb part. 

Part 1.  Ahem. 

First of all, I would just like to say that no one took be aside before I had kids and told me they would grow up.  I mean, I knew they would grow up, I don't believe in Peter Pan or anything, but no one told me that the hair on their head would turn from downy soft to coarse adult-like hair, and that they one day might say, "Mom.  Please don't call me cute.  Babies are cute.  I am NOT a baby."

These are things no one can be prepared for.  You have to learn them on your own.

And how many times has it been said by countless moms around the globe- it goes by so fast.  Last night, I was driving down the highway in the snowstorm and as the flakes were flying at the window I said, "Look!  I just put the car into light speed!"  Which, by the way, they thought was really cool. 

It's been like light speed- memories blurring together in long streaks outside the window of my mind. 


Part 2:  In which I pay homage to Caleb through a poem I wrote on his first birthday seven years ago.  It's not Rilke- more like something you might read on a greeting card.  But it is heartfelt.

To Caleb
I want to say something about you that has never been said before.

It has already been said that you have perfect toes,
Your father’s eyes and your mother’s hands.
That angels dance when they hear your laughter,
And are frozen when you cry.
That your hair is softer than fine sand
And your baby words sound like a babbling brook.
That enough prayers have been prayed about you to fill a canyon.

That you are loved.

I want to tell you that the day you were born
I broke.
(Before even the sleeplessness, the post-partum depression,
the swollen breasts and haggard arms)
I was broken.
Because never had I felt a part of me take on a life of its own
And never could I have imagined you would come,
Rip apart from me and
Destroy any possibility that I
Would ever be able to look at the sky,
Would ever be able to walk in the warmth of the sun,
Would ever be able to plant a flower, give a kiss,
Sing a song,
Write a poem,
Hear a child cry,

Without thinking of you.

Caleb's newborn feeties.  Snivel.

(Caleb's birthday falls the day after my Dad's, whose birthday might be overshadowed a bit.  So if you see or know my dad, be sure to wish him a happy fortieth birthday.  Ha ha.  That would mean he had me when he was seven.  Today is Caleb's last day of being seven.  See how it all comes back to Caleb?)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ribbons and Ink

Today's Scribophile post:

The Christmas I was fourteen, my parents bought me an electric typewriter for Christmas. It was my second typewriter; the first was small, pink, and I had to turn a wheel to choose the letter I wished to type. The new electric typewriter was grey, had a cover, a full-sized keyboard, and a backspace that activated an erase tape.

My desire for a typewriter stemmed from those rare occasions when my father would take me with him to work, where I entered a scene straight out of Mad Men. He worked in a high rise building where all of the secretaries sat in cubicles outside the attorneys’ offices, clicking and clacking away at their electric typewriters as fast as Clark Kent. It was captivating white noise.

In only a couple of years, typewriters in the work place would go the way of the dodo bird, but at the time, only a few had computers in their homes. My mother still pulled out her manual typewriter to fill out forms and write letters.

I wrote two books and countless stories of unrequited adolescent love with that electric typewriter. I still have them filed away, somewhere. I spent hours holed up in my room, typing until my joints ached. I dragged my parents to the office supply store and shelled out babysitting money for new ribbons and paper. That typewriter may have been the best thing that ever happened to me as a writer. I became obsessed with getting the thoughts that percolated in my young brain out, noisily, into printed format. I loved the whole typing process: the whirr of the machine when I turned it on, the methodical inserting of the paper, turning the feed rolls, engaging the shift lock, hitting the carriage release, and of course, the noise of the type striking the paper, making perfect ink impressions that would occasionally smear if I hit return before they dried.

Eventually, my parents bought our first computer: an Atari. A primitive printer came soon after, and it was noisy, but without my typewriter’s pleasant demeanor. It sounded like an instrument of torture each time it eked out one piece of printed paper. While the typewriter clicked away complacently, the printer made a loud and unseemly racket.

A better computer came in time, and I was allowed to take the Atari with me to college. I gave the computer up quickly; my roommate had a newer model that could access something called the internet, plus a campus-wide electronic mail system. The Atari went back home and gathered dust. After college, I got married, and happily, the new husband came with a set of Cutco knives and a brand new Dell.

In the years we’ve been married, we’ve purchased newer models. We’ve gone from the old bulky grey monitor to a sleek, black, flat-screen monitor. We have, in what seems an unnecessary indulgence, two printers: a laser and an ink-jet. We share the computer. Hundreds of Word documents and pictures have been transferred from computer to computer over the years.

This Christmas, the husband got me a netbook- a nice sized netbook with nearly a full-sized keyboard, and a tough, kid-proof exterior. (It crashed about five hours after I opened it, and I am still waiting for a replacement.) When the new netbook finally comes, I will own my very first computer. With my own secret passwords. My own files. My own, well, everything. My excitement is palpable! It feels almost like the Christmas I got my typewriter, especially since I found a program online where I can download typewriter sounds for my keyboard called “Home Typist.” The website claims that “the program is useful for home typists. At every touch of the keyboard there is the new sound, which makes the process of typing more interesting, amuses and reduces stress and helps to produce rhythmic typing.”

Somehow, I don’t think it will be quite the same. Also, I don’t think the patrons at Starbucks would appreciate the noise. So, I’m left with my memories… and high speed internet access. Just the same, I feel incredibly lucky to have been around at the end of an era- an era when writers could be inspired by the musical cadence of an old-fashioned typewriter.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Child Watch

So I’m fairly certain my three-year old daughter is on cocaine. I realize this is a shocking revelation- please feel free to take a moment to process. Where would she even get this highly illegal and addictive drug? you might ask. There’s a shady kid at the YMCA’s Child Watch that I’m keeping my eye on.  He has this Thomas the Tank Engine fleece- and he always keeps the hood up.  Always.

I have no other explanation for Ella’s insistence on using her bed as a trampoline during naptime or for her incessant babbling from 8 until 11:30 at night. Plus, she has a perpetually runny nose.

Even worse? I think she’s given some to the dog.

I’m extremely sleep deprived. My imagination has gone rather bent. Three of my kids have horrific colds and the fourth shouts in his sleep. In the wee hours of the morning, these words came suddenly from the mouth of Caleb:

“We are not going to eat THAT steak. Get the green puffles. And shoelaces. Cuidado!”


Last night, Ella coughed every hour, which was followed by her crying in her sleep. I think crying in one’s sleep is a sign of cocaine use. She settled only after I stroked her hair for a couple of minutes.

Daniel and Ben were able to sleep through their loud, hacking coughs. I was not so fortunate. At least John wasn’t here. John, a hypochondriac who projects his fears onto everyone else who has the most minor of sicknesses, listens to the children’s coughing with absolute dread.

“Are you going to check on him?” he’ll ask after each cough. At 3am, when you are snug under your cozy comforter, desperate for sleep, you might actually say something like this to your hypochondriac husband:

“Well, if he’s dead, he’s dead, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Let’s at least get some sleep and we’ll deal with it in the morning.” Which, by the way, is the wrong thing to say. He will probably get up in a huff to hover over the child who has the common cold, listening to each breath until he has convinced himself that imminent death is not on the horizon.

They look terrible, the kids. Red noses and chapped upper lips, shiny and slick with snot and the Vaseline I have slathered on for protection. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror this morning. I am pale, I mean paler than usual, with stringy hair and dead eyes. I wear baggy sweatpants and stained sweatshirts. I walk in a fog of sleeplessness, relying on caffeine for a temporary kick. I’ve been out twice in the past week; the world outside my house is slowly becoming a place of myth- I’m not sure it exists anymore. And yes, I’ll admit it. I contemplate the horrible, the unspeakable, the thing a mom should never ever contemplate.

I’m seriously considering approaching that kid in the Child Watch to ask for some cocaine. It seems to really help Ella get through the day.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Year in Books

I read 29 books this past year. This does not include the self-help books I skimmed, which I did not include in my “One Word Book Reviews” because, quite honestly, who likes to admit they’re reading self-help books?

29 books isn’t a particularly grand number for someone who claims to be a “voracious” reader. In fact, initially I was sure I had read 39 books- recounting I am somewhat shocked the number is so low. What have I been doing this year? Writing too many blog posts, I guess.

Most of the books I read weren’t even particularly memorable. Of course, it’s hard to tell if a book is worth committing time to until you’re a good way into it, and once I am invested, even a little, in a book, it’s hard for me to close it leave it behind.

This year, I read three books about the holocaust, several memoirs about Christian life, two classics, two books about fundamentalist Mormons, one lesbian love story (you can probably guess which one by the title, which SHOULD have clued me in, but didn’t), and one book about a woman who falls in love with a man who was raised by wolves. Which was weird. I read more female than male authors, and hardly any non-fiction.

So, here is a review of some of the books I read in 2010 in three categories: Pretty Pretty Bad, Meh, and Pretty Pretty Good.

Pretty Pretty Bad:

The Shunning by Beverly Lewis: And this is why I don’t read Christian fiction. Plot: An Amish girl is shunned by her family for something or other, I forget what. Why is the Christian book market inundated with Amish romance novels? What is the obsession with the plain people? I mean, I like the movie Witness, but it had Harrison Ford and a young Viggo Mortensen. Beverly Lewis is a major Christian author. This book had a ridiculous plot, shoddy prose, and a predictable, absurd ending. It was Harlequin without the sex.

Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott: I love Anne Lamott. I really do. Operating Instructions helped me through my severe post-partum depression after Caleb was born. (I think I’m still here thanks to Zoloft and that book.) Anne is refreshingly candid, and really, really funny. Grace (Eventually) is her third book of essays about her faith. A friend commented that although she enjoys Lamott’s writing, as a person, Lamott hasn’t really… progressed. Grown. Become wiser. Learned from her mistakes. Those kind of things.

I began this book when it was first published and finally finished it last year. There are some lovely pieces, but so many are just full of political wackiness. In one essay, Anne vehemently slams anybody and everybody who is against abortion. And though Anne’s passion was once something I appreciated about her, her passionate stance, dare I say hatred, of anyone who refers to a fetus as a human being, is unreasonable. And scary. And to follow up that essay with another about how she helped a dying friend commit suicide was just- what’s the word? There’s no word. It was too much.

Her essays have turned from thoughts on personal faith to far, far, far leftist propaganda. And here’s what bothers me most. As much as I love Anne and her hippie Jesus-loving ways, I know in my heart of hearts that she would not like me.


The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby: Ruby’s ghost story is set on Canandaigua Lake, which is just outside of Rochester. The novel was profiled in the local paper, and always one to support “local” authors (I’m not actually sure that she’s local), I ordered it right away. Yes, I spend way too much money on books.

I think this is her first novel, so I’m cutting her some slack. Ruby weaves together Native American folklore with a pretty forgettable love story. However, Ruby’s lyrical prose saves the novel and I have a feeling her next novel will be better.

Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess by Matthew Paul Turner: Another kindle read- this one was funny, but felt incomplete. I imagine writing it was a cathartic exercise for Turner, a guy raised in a strict, fundamentalist church. The book is filled with stories that will astound the non-religious. (For the rest of us, it’s hardly anything we haven’t heard before.) My beef is with the title: I have no idea where he stands with God now. I frequent Turner’s blog, Jesus Needs New PR, which only baffles me further. The book felt incomplete to me, probably because Turner hasn’t yet reconciled his beliefs, whatever they may be, with the holy mess from whence he came. Still, he is a witty writer, and I will watch out for future books.

Second Nature by Alice Hoffman: Hoffman writes fantastic stories- modern-day magical realism. There’s always an extraordinary facet to her storytelling, and I usually enjoy her novels. This one, the one about the woman who falls in love with a man who was raised by wolves, was too much of a stretch for me. A reader needs a story to be believable. And this was too far a stretch of imagination and ultimately failed as a “fairy tale,” though it was as bleak as Grimm’s.

Pretty Pretty Good

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro: There is one short story in this volume that I can’t get out of my head. Every writer should read Munro, arguably the greatest female writer alive today. Her stories are poetry.

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz: The novel’s protagonist is an admissions officer at Princeton. The author was once an admissions officer at, I believe, Dartmouth. The story isn’t particularly compelling, though it holds one’s interest- some reviewers complain about the main character’s “aloofness.” Just the same, I liked her, and empathized with her personal plights and her fall into a rather deep depression. The most fascinating aspect of the book is the rare glimpse into the inner-workings of an ivy-league school’s admissions process. Plus, there are enough allusions to great literary characters and scenes to keep any book geek on her toes.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky: This is supposedly the easiest of Dostoevsky’s novels. I’m going to tell you why reading these Russian novels is so difficult, just in case you were wondering. Every character has three different names, and they all freaking sound the same.

Our main character is the murderous yet sympathetic Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. Sometimes he is referred to by his first two names, sometimes only by his last name. His close friends and family call him Rodya. All of the main characters are similarly afflicted with multiple slavic names. Semyonovna Marmeladov- or Sonya! Dmitri Prokofych Razumikhin! Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin! (Who is not to be confused with Porfiry Petrovich, of course.) My pee-sized brain had trouble at first, but thankfully, the characters are distinct and can be sorted out in context.

A truly great novel. It raises moral ambiguity within the reader- sure Rodya killed two women in cold blood, but we do so want him to get away with it. Because poverty drove him to it, and deep down, he’s a decent man who loves his family. And isn’t his inner turmoil punishment enough?

Other stand-outs from this year include Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, Markus Zuasak’s I Am The Messenger, Edith Wharton’s Twilight Sleep, and Lorrie Moore’s Anagrams.

As for the self-help books. They were both pretty good. One was about depression and the other about organization. The problem with both books was the way they were set up: the first halves explain why we are the way we are: depressed, unorganized, or in my case, both. The second half offers solutions. If, like me, you have difficulty FINISHING a self-help book, you end up knowing WHY you are the way you are, but have no idea how to fix yourself.

Both books seemed promising; perhaps I’ll give them another go.

The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs

Living Organized: Proven Steps for a Clutter-Free and Beautiful Home

Because I am a comment whore and because I LOVE a good book recommendation: what was your favorite read of 2010? (Commenting is actually quite easy. You can even comment anonymously if you want to.)