Monday, July 23, 2012

Happy 1st Anniversary Kristen & Stacy!

How quickly a year goes! These two lovely ladies are celebrating their first anniversary today and I'm still as happy for them today as I was a year ago. To remember that beautiful summer day when they pledged themselves to each other, here is the poem I read during the ceremony:

James Dillet Freeman

May your marriage bring you all the exquisite excitements a marriage should bring,
And may life grant you also patience, tolerance, and understanding.
May you always need one another - not so much to fill your emptiness
As to help you to know your fullness.
A mountain needs a valley to be complete; the valley does not make the mountain less,
But more; and the valley is more a valley because it has a mountain towering over it.
So let it be with you and you.

May you need one another, but not out of weakness.
May you want one another, but not out of lack.
May you entice once another, but not compel one another.
May you embrace one another, but not out encircle one another.
May you succeed in all important ways with one another, and not fail in the little graces.
May you look for things to praise, often say, "I love you!", and take no notice of small faults.

If you have quarrels that push you apart,
May both of you hope to have good sense enough to take the first step back.
May you enter into the mystery which is the awareness of one another's presence,
No more physical than spiritual, warm and near when you are side by side,
And warm and near when you are in separate rooms or even distant cities.
May you have happiness, and may you find it making one another happy.
May you have love, and may you find it loving one another.

Congratulations, Kristen and Stacy, on your first anniversary! Here's to many more! Love you!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review of "Shadow of Night" by Deborah Harkness

Description from Goodreads:
Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel,A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending,Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.

I was so excited for this book to come out. I really loved the first book in the All Souls Trilogy and have read it many times over the last year. (My review of "A Discovery of Witches" can be found here.) In anticipation of "Shadow of Night" coming out, I was going to re-read the first book one more time when I found out that iTunes was running a special on the audio book version of it. I've never bought an audio book before. Partly because I didn't think I would like them, but also because they are so frigging expensive - usually about $30. But it was only $5 while on special the month before SoN came out, so I got it. It was an amazing way to refresh myself with a book I already loved and knew so well. The woman reading it did an awesome job with all of the different accents and voices, and it was nice to hear how some of the French words and names should be pronounced. I listened to it constantly over one weekend and when I could, I read along with it. Well worth the $5, and I'll likely buy this book in audio version, too. But now, on to my thoughts of "Shadow of Night".

I have now read through this book twice, but wrote down my thoughts after the first reading. Between the two readings, I did some much needed research. But I'll get to why in a minute.

This book picks up immediately where the last book left off. Diana and Matthew have traveled back in time to 1590 and landed in Elizabethan England. Matthew believes this will be a good place to hide from the Congregation and look for Ashmole 782, the manuscript they believe is the history of creatures (though the witches believe it holds their secrets, and for Diana to learn how to control her magic. It thrusts them into a hard world, where Matthew is a very busy man with his loyalties pulled in many different directions, Diana doesn't fit in, and witches are being hunted.

We are introduced to many new characters and only have glimpses of the characters we grew to know and love in the first book. Sometimes it's hard to keep track of who everybody is. The book also changes locales, which means language changes, too. They spend a good portion of the book in England, so of course the people speak in English. But since it's 1590, the phrasing is not always as straight forward as we speak today. Other parts of the book are in France and Prague, so Harkness sometimes uses French, German, and even Latin. She usually translates what they're saying into English, but it can get a little old.

So many of the characters are historically important, and Harkness very briefly tells the reader some of their accolades, but it wasn't really enough. That's why I did some research between my two readings - to research why these people were important. I felt at a distinct disadvantage because I didn't know the historical importance and associations of the characters, but after my research, I felt much better informed through my second reading. Some of these historically important characters were difficult to keep straight. There is such a large group of them and they go by multiple names - Christopher Marlowe is sometimes called Christopher, sometimes Marlowe, and sometimes Kit. Henry Percy is also the Earl of Northumberland and is called a variety of names as well. This is in addition to Pierre, Hancock, Sir Walter Raleigh, Thomas Harriot, George Chapman, Gallowglass, and a variety of other men. There is also Queen Elizabeth I (thankfully I knew her history - the daughter of King Henry and Anne Boelyn - thanks to The Tudors!), the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolff II and all of the various people at his court in Prague. There are so many characters that Harkness lists them all at the end, divided up by what part of the book they're introduced in.

It might be easier and I'll be less likely to spoil something if I just list some of the things I loved/liked/disliked about the book.

- I loved seeing the progression of Diana and Matthews relationship. They have some obvious difficulties - hello, they're going back in time over four hundred years, they just got married after only knowing each other for a few months, they are different creatures who historically do not trust each other. They argue, work it out, and come back to each other, and come away stronger.
- I love some of the new characters and absolutely hate to see them go. But unless they are vampires, it's unlikely we'll see them again in the third book. Specifically, my favorite new character is Jack. I know everybody will love him. I also really like Annie, Mary, Henry, Goody, and even Mop. We also meet both Diana's and Matthew's fathers - Stephen Proctor and Phillipe de Clermont. Since we know from the first book that they are both deceased in the present, these meetings in 1590 are bittersweet.
- I also love Gallowglass - a new character, a vampire - that I believe we will see again. He is incredibly interesting and I believe his role in this story is much bigger than we know from this book.
- Diana's magical evolution is sometimes difficult to follow, but nonetheless, interesting. Her stunted magic was frustrating in the first book, so it's nice to see some growth and understanding.
- Throughout the book we are given little glimpses into the present, so that we might know what impact Diana and Matthew being in the past is having. I really like that. It gives us some new characters and lets us see what is happening with some of the characters we grew to love in the first book, like Sarah and Emily, Marcus, Ysabeau, and even Gallowglass.

- I was so completely turned off by the treatment of women in 1590 - men seemed very chauvinistic and demeaning toward women. Though most of Matthew's friends grew on me and eventually accepted Diana, that acceptance wasn't common back then.
- I seriously disliked some of the other characters, some new and some old - Louisa de Clermont, Kit, Gerbert, Peter Knox, Father Hubbard
- I still don't understand Alchemy, so the long passages dealing with this subject were hard for me to get though.

To go into one character I disliked a little further - I basically despised Kit from the first time we meet him. Practically his first words about Diana are, "I had no idea there was a brothel in Woodstock that specialized in overtall women. Most of your whores are more delicate and appealing, Matthew. This one is a positive Amazon." We know that Kit is attached and attracted to Matthew, so of course he's bound to be a little jealous. But his blatant rudeness and disdain does absolutely nothing to endear him to the reader. From them on, his behavior irritated me and I rolled my eyes whenever he spoke. At one point, after he had been out of the story for a while and was now back "in residence" I literally groaned out loud. I didn't want to hear anymore of his prejudiced, mad ramblings. Another time, he says to Diana, "Lady alchemists are nothing but kitchen philosophers, more interested in improving their complexions than understanding the secrets of nature." Diana says to him, "I study alchemy in the library - not the kitchen. Then I teach students about the subject at a university." Kit then says, "They will let women teach at the university?" Like it's absolutely the worst thing in the world that can happen to the future. So frustrating to continually read shit like that.

The last thing about the book that I want to mention is that I was absolutely SHOCKED by events briefly mentioned at the end of the book and I'm dying to know what happened. I literally asked out loud "WHAT? WHY?" I had to stop reading, go back, read again, and then stop reading while I cried for a bit. It will likely be explained to us in the next book, but I couldn't stop thinking about it and tearing up whenever I did. 

I highly recommend this book (and the first in the trilogy). I absolutely love them. Don't be dissuaded by some of the reviewers that compare this to an adult Twilight/Harry Potter, just because it deals with witches and vampires. Even if you loved those books, these are absolutely nothing like them, completely different. Check them out! (I've included a link to NPR's review because I thought it was so spot-on.)
NPR's Review of "Shadow of Night"

I totally forgot to include these pictures! Deborah Harkness posted them on her Facebook page and said these paintings were her inspiration for Matthew and Diana in 1590 and are featured in the story. Not exactly how I pictured them, but fun to see how the author does!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Boy Bits - Part 1

I've decided to write a series of posts on my past relationships. One of the bloggers I follow did something similar, though her stories were funny stories of screwy guys. My stories will likely not be funny, but more a way to remember why those relationships didn't work out. A way of learning from them so that maybe a new relationship will be easier. Starting at the beginning...

I met Brian* (name has been changed) when I was a freshman in highschool and he was a senior. I was so ridiculously enthralled with him. Amazingly, he noticed me too, as evident by the note he wrote in my yearbook. (Sorry it's so hard to read! You can click on it to make it bigger. Also, I blotted out his name and phone number.)

Lizzy - I'm glad I got to know you. You are a real cutie. This summer we will definitely go out this summer and wherever I go to school next year I will keep in touch with you. I read what Megan wrote you. Let's get you $10. Please, please call me this summer. I would like to get to know you better. Love ya - Brian YOU BETTER CALL

For 15-year old me, this was HUGE! The senior guy I had a major crush on told me I was a cutie! And wanted me to call him! OMG! The $10 thing is a funny part of the story, that would later be quite telling about how he handled his relationships. 

Brian had a girlfriend already. They were even the runner-up "Cutest Senior Couple". My friend Megan knew how much I liked Brian, tried to convince me that he and his girlfriend were almost over, and told me she'd give me $10 if I kissed him. Oh, the things you do when you're 15. But Brian wanted to help me get the $10 - amazing!!!

I do believe that we earned that $10 that summer.

Anyway, Brian went off to college, but we kept in touch for the next three years. Every time he was home for any length of time, we'd touch base. But it wasn't until after I had finally graduated that things amped up between us. Brian moved home and we started hanging out all the time. That summer I lost my virginity to Brian - on a bale of hay in a field the highschoolers called "Field of Dreams". Though Brian was very sweet during the experience, I don't recommend sex on a bale of hay. 

That summer was fun. Brian and I spent a lot of time together and I learned a lot from him. I continued to date Brian after I left for college in Fort Collins. I would talk him constantly on the phone (wracking up HUGE phone bills) and would drive back to Denver as often as I could to see him. 

For a while, I thought this was a good relationship. But I had never had a boyfriend before. What did I know? I realized that though I was always available to him, he wasn't to me. And I realized that we never actually did anything. I was seeing my friends in their relationships and they included going out to dinner and the movies, hanging out in public. They took goofy pictures together. Their boyfriends got them flowers and cards and gifts. Brian and I never went out in public. We never took a picture together. He never got me flowers or anything else. We would meet up at his apartment, or he'd pick me up and we'd go somewhere relatively private. We'd have sex. That's all our relationship consisted of. 

This seemed to be obvious to everybody but me. None of my friends or family liked Brian. Countless people told me how wrong Brian was for me, but I just couldn't stay away from him.

It was around Christmas break, when all the college kids were home again, that I first found out. One of my best friend's older sisters was good friends with Brian, they had been in the same class in highschool. (Convoluted, I know.) She knew Brian and I were involved and had found out that Brian was also dating another girl from their class, Jen. She wanted to warn me about him, didn't want me to get hurt, wanted me to stop seeing him.

When I confronted Brian he didn't even try to deny it. If I'm remembering correctly, and I think I am - this kind of thing sticks with you, he actually said, "Why wouldn't I date her? We're not anything serious. We're not exclusive." I was devastated. I'd adored Brian for four years and thought I finally had him! We fought long and hard about this. I wanted him to admit that we were something and that I actually was important to him in some way. He eventually did, which felt like a huge win for me. But he also said that he was still going to see other people. I was so young and inexperienced and desperate to hold onto any little bit of him that I could, that I relented. I accepted that this was what our relationship would be.

That New Year's Eve, Brian told me that he wasn't going to spend the holiday with me. He wanted to party with his legal friends (and coincidentally the other girl) and not with young, 18-year old me. I was pissed. I went to a party in Boulder with lots of highschool friends, got stupid drunk, and ended up hooking-up with an old friend. Granted, Scott* (name has been changed) was a guy I'd liked on and off since we were in sixth grade and not just some random Joe Schmo, but he was still not Brian.

We spent the night in Boulder and returned to Denver the next day. I felt incredibly guilty. In my heart, I felt like I had cheated on Brian, even if my mind knew it wasn't technically cheating if we had an open relationship. Brian most definitely thought that's what we had, so I should think that way, too. Right?

I felt guilty enough that I told Brian soon after. But part of me also knew that he would be jealous. Brian knew Scott, too. They had grown up just houses away from each other. In a way, I wanted the fact that I'd been with somebody else make Brian jealous enough to realize that he didn't want me to see other people and therefore he wouldn't see other people. Oh, the crazy mind of an 18-year old.

I was right on one part. He was jealous. SO jealous. But instead of not wanting me to see other people, he determined he wasn't going to see me anymore. Backfire! And double standard much?!?

We didn't stay away from each other for long. But we continued on this path of cheating on each other, breaking up, and getting back together for at least another eight months. Mainly, he would get pissed when I was with somebody else and punish me by breaking up with me for a while. Sometimes he would treat me well, but mostly not. Mostly I was getting my heart stomped on. I don't know why I didn't have enough self-respect to stop seeing him. I just accepted to how he treated me. I accepted that there were always other girls. But in retaliation, there were other guys for me. Nobody meant much though, because my heart really belonged to Brian.

At the beginning of my sophomore year of college, I went home one weekend to visit Brian. Something was different with him. He was a little distant, more hands-off than ever before. He ended up telling me that things were getting serious with one of the other girls. He had actually told me about Lauren* (name has been changed) months before, but I just assumed she was like all the others. And since we were still sleeping together, I didn't give her much thought. But now, this girl was becoming something to him. She was a family friend so she came with guaranteed approval. She was Jewish and was his same age. He had told me once that his parents would never approve of me because I was too young and wasn't Jewish. I knew then that this Lauren was very different for him. And then this encounter with Brian was the first time we were together that we didn't hook-up. Ever. 

That was essentially the end of us. Since we weren't exclusive, we didn't have the big break-up drama. At least we didn't together. I was still heart broken. Back at school I cried on the shoulders of my always supportive sorority sisters. I mourned the loss of my first real relationship. Yes, it was an incredibly crappy, deplete your self-esteem, screw you up for your future relationships, relationship. But it was my first. He was my first love, even if he didn't love me the same back.

I make it all sound bad here. But really, there are aspects of our relationship that I'm thankful for. I actually like that he was more experienced than me. We weren't two unknowledgeable, bumbling young kids figuring it out together. He was my teacher and I learned a lot from him in that regard. And even if Brian was an awful boyfriend, he was actually a pretty good friend. We talked a lot, about everything. He helped me through difficult times - the difficulties of being away from home for the first time, separated from all my best friends. He made all of that easier by being there for me, listening to me. As evident by our huge long distance phone bill. So there were those things, which really aren't negligible in the grand scheme of the relationship.

Brian and Lauren ended up getting married and have two kids now. Over the years, I've seen Brian around here and there. Denver is essentially a small town, especially if you've grown up here. Once or twice he tried to get us together, for a drink or dinner. I never would go out with him. I have no idea what his intentions were. I didn't want to find out if he was a faithful husband or not and I wouldn't be a part of that. I just know that he was always a playboy before and I know that's hard to change. I was never able to say no to him either and I didn't want to test that now that he was married. Even if I was more mature and educated about relationships now. 

I bear him no ill will. I am as much at fault for our crappy relationship as he is. Yes, he was a terrible boyfriend, but I'm the one who accepted his behavior and treatment and stayed in the relationship for so long. We're even Facebook friends, now. He was actually one of the first people to friend me when I joined the site years ago. It's nice to see pictures of him with his kids. He seems happy. I hope he is.

Though this post was sometimes difficult to write and I hesitated to publish it (it sat in my folder as a draft for months!), I think it's interesting to look back at my past relationships and will continue this series. I changed the names of most people since I'm still friendly with them and I don't want to upset them in any way. Up next - Steve and Jake* from sophomore year!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My Favorite Little Girls

Eeeek! I've been ignoring my little blog. So sorry. I'll get better about writing soon. But in the meantime, I'll share some photos of my favorite little girls, who I've been spending a lot of time with lately.

Little Miss Kinley. Looking so precious here, just angelic. Her hair cracks me up.

Miss Mira, being goofy.

Kinley apparently likes to suck on her toes. Here she is going for them.

I love Mira's eyes in this picture, they look so pretty.

Both girls together. This was the best picture I could get.

The girls spent the night. Though Mira went to bed immediately and in the guest bedroom, Kinley was up for quite a while. Here is her safely bordered area in my bed. And she's going for her toes again!

Seriously, how cute!?!