I’ve been reading
Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee for
the past few days, and finished it last night. It is a
wonderful, moving, well-written story, and I encourage anyone who
is in search of a page-turner to run and pick it up from their
local bookstore. Little
Bee is a deceptively deep book about a
Nigerian refugee whose tumultuous life crashes straight into that
of a suburban English mother. The story is told from both
perspectives of the women, and enough details are left out that the
reader becomes the third narrator, filling in the gaps based their
own interpretations of the books’ events. It is a
refreshingly un-political book that merely presents a story of two
human beings and allows the reader to use the information in
whatever way they wish. At the end of my paperback copy, there was
and answer section with the author. Mr. Cleave
cited one true story as inspiration for Little Bee which
I would like to pass along: “In 2001 an Angolan man named Manuel
Bravo fled to England and claimed asylum on the grounds that he and
his family would be persecuted and killed if they were returned to
Angola. He lived in a state of uncertainty for four years pending a
decision on his application. Then, without warning, in September
2005 Manuel Bravo and his 13-year-old son were seized in a dawn
raid and interned at an Immigration Removal Centre in southern
England. They were told that they would be forcibly deported to
Angola the next morning. That night, Manuel Bravo took his own life
by hanging himself in a stairwell. His son was awoken in his cell
and told the news. What had happened was that Manuel Bravo, aware
of a rule under which unaccompanied minors cannot be deported from
the UK, had
taken his own life in order to save the life of his son.
Among his last words to his child were: ‘Be brave. Work hard. Do
well at school.’”* I don’t know why this particular story moved me
so much, but I found it heartbreakingly beautiful. I imagine
that things like this happen every day, and simply go unnoticed in
our rushed worlds full of babies, gasoline, and mortgages. I,
like Mr. Cleave, make no attempt to lecture or sway political
opinions; I am just sending this story out into the intellectual
ocean on an internet ice floe, thinking it may melt and raise the
temperature of the water one tiny tenth of a degree.
Have you read any good books lately?
I obviously just finished Little Bee, but
I also read The
English Patient during my flights to and from
California, which I thought it was a great story. Next up:
watching the movie! *Excerpt respectively taken from
Chris Cleave’s website, www.chriscleave.com.
Archive for December, 2010
December 30, 2010
I’ve been reading
from my family to yours
December 25, 2010
all i want for christmas…
December 22, 2010
fw: fw: fw: fw: fw: fw:
December 21, 2010
I have a very serious problem at work. I don’t know how to solve it, but it’s starting to affect my job in a rather alarming way. I’m afraid to check my email; I’m afraid to leave my cube; I’m afraid to talk to my coworkers for fear the problem will only get worse. I think I need serious help in fixing this situation.
I have become the victim of forwarded email chains.
And it is torturous.
There is one lady in my office that sends me email chains relentlessly. I can’t get through the day without receiving at least four. The one awaiting me this morning has the enthralling subject of “my room of 8” and requires the recipient to forward the email on to 8 women who have touched their lives or else they will be stricken with back luck FOREVERRRRR. ARGHHH.
Where do such email chains come from?? Is there a bratty, technology-savvy 20 year old geek who sits in his sci-fi-poster plastered room and cackles as he composes email chains designed to annoy 22 year old government employees via superstitious middle aged women?
I am obviously over exaggerating the effect of these dumb chains on my work life, but they still do pose a problem. What is the correct etiquette on how to politely ask Mrs. Email-Chain-Forwarder to leave me off her go-to list of recipients? I doubt that Ms. Manners has ever written a column on this, unfortunately, but maybe she will hear my cry for help and send me some advice. Goodness knows I need it before the weight of all my bad luck comes down on me.
December 14, 2010
Today I SPLURGED and bought Despicable Me on DVD. I had to. I’ve been counting down to its release for the past month now, and practically ran to the nearest Barnes&Noble on my lunch break to grab it.
I am a very conservative buyer of DVDs, usually because there’s nine million items of clothing I’d rather spend my money on. And while there are still nine million things I would like to have at this moment, I view Despicable Me as an investment–a go to solution for when I’m having a truly dismal day. There’s really nothing like curling up on the couch on a rainy (snowy!) Sunday, watching a cute, cheery, life-lesson-filled animated movie. I’m all for watching deep, dark, intelligent, convoluted films too, but a few weeks ago I popped Monster’s Ball in on a day I was feeling particularly depressed and I got so sad I thought the world was going to end. So, that’s why I usually prefer to spend my $25 on a movie that will make me happier, not one that leaves me to wrestle with Life’s Big Questions armed with nothing but 8 boxes of brownie mix and 1 blog.
Despicable Me is a sweet story of the worlds greatest villain and his adventures when he accidentally adopts three sisters. They unknowingly make his life hell before he (TA-DA!) realizes that he actually loves them. It’s a very uncreative story line, yes, but Gru has the funniest accent and his Minions are simply to die for.
Today has not been a bad day at all, but I see that as no reason to NOT watch my new movie. I hope you’ve had a wonderful Tuesday, and if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and go buy Despicable Me.
a squash story
December 12, 2010
Today I bought a lovely butternut squash from the grocery store.
But then peeling him turned out to be rather difficult.
Obviously frustrated, I attempted to stab my idiot butternut squash with the nearest kitchen knife, but because all my fingers had gotten chopped off during the peeling process, I could only stand there helplessly as I bled to death and cursed my squash into oblivion.
December 12, 2010
Last night was wonderful. Lis, Michelle, and I all made our way out to Pentagon City, where we slipped, slid, stumbled, and sometimes skated around the outdoor rink there.
As we teetered around the rink, we were passed left and right by infants zooming between people. Some were just showing off the moves they had learned in their 6-month-old hockey league, but others were pushing around little buckets with heartwrenching cuteness.
Considering the havoc these children were wreaking behind them, the three of us were very lucky that we didn’t experience one of those embarrassing omg-an-adult-fell! situations. We all thoroughly enjoyed our wholesome beginning to a Saturday night, and I recommend you visit this rink if you have never been (only $11 and so pretty!!).
my guilty pleasure: freezing.
December 9, 2010
I am curled up on the couch right now, getting smart by watching Jeopardy, toasty warm and very relaxed. But all I want in the world is an ice bath.
I crave ice baths like most people crave massages. The minute I submerge my legs into the freezing water a feeling of relief comes over me. I know it sounds weird–who WANTS to sit in 33 degree water for 10 minutes?!–but I honestly relish the idea of relinquishing control of my muscles to the wondrous icy liquid.
After years of grueling swim workouts, I learned that there was nothing I could physically do to help my muscles recover quick enough to be ready for the next practice. No amount of power gel, sugary cereal, stretching, hot showers, or rub-downs helped me ease the pain of persistent soreness. So at one training camp in Colorado Springs, I was immediately intrigued when I met a girl who sat in the cold tub after practices. She told me it helped her feel better in the mornings–and that was all I needed to get, literally, my feet wet. I hopped in and OH MY GOD IT WAS COLDD!!!! I think I practically had to tie myself to the wall so my body didn’t subconsciously jump out. But once I got through the first minute, I started to lose feeling in my legs. Numbness took over, and it was bliss. Not being able to feel my sore leg muscles for a full 10 minutes was totally worth the 1 minute of icy pain.
I was addicted. I discovered ready-made ice baths at most national level meets, and I was in them all the time. If there wasn’t one, I would spend an hour schlepping ice from ice makers in hotels to my bathtub to make one.
I don’t swim anymore, so one would think that I wouldn’t need ice baths anymore either. Wrong. Now I’ve transitioned to running (I’m “training” for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in April–did I tell you that?) and a new world of soreness has opened up. I love running for myself; when I have a lot on my mind or had a rough day at work, it’s great to just run and run and run and get away from everything. I always think of that Nike ad from the movie What Women Want: the road never lets you down.
But running until I’ve cleared my head usually means I’ve gone farther than I was ready for. Today I ran down Connecticut (key word: DOWN. As in DOWNHILL.) until I had a better perspective on life. But then I had to turn around and run back up (UPHILL!) Connecticut. And when you’re not thinking about running as you run, you don’t notice how far you’ve gone. (Or that the street you’re running on is rather steep. Perhaps vertical, even.) So I was one of those people whose breathing you can hear from a block away–one of those people you want to hand a pair of crutches to and tell them they’ll be thankful for them later. Thus, via one long, steep, torturous Connecticut Avenue, I’ve returned to that unforgettable soreness. So I’m sitting on the couch thinking about the miserable irony of it all.
I run to forget about the unpleasantries of life, and then want an ice bath to forget about the unpleasantries of running. Hmmmm. I think I need a new strategy.
denny’s & memories
December 5, 2010
Happy Sunday, bloggies!
I’ve spent the past few hours lounging on the coach, watching the Redskins-Giants game. It’s halftime right now, and so far the Skins are not looking too good. The game must be sponsored by Denny’s, because amazing ads for Denny’s breakfast keep coming on during every commercial break.
Denny’s is greasy, slimy, carb-y, cheap, fast food and low quality, but I LOVE IT. Any thought of Denny’s transports me back to high school Saturdays, of finishing a 10 thousand yard workout and dragging myself, muscles aching and chlorinated eyes burning, to Denny’s for a big group breakfast. Being at Denny’s always signified the beginning of a 36 hour weekend, and usually it was a time when our coach, Steve, would let loose a little and share some wild stories from the swim generations before us. Back when I could easily consume 5,000 calories at a time, our team trips to Denny’s were little treasures that I didn’t know I should treasure until they stopped.
So watching these endless Denny’s commercials on my lazy Sunday, I’m overcome with nostalgia for my high school days of swimming. In no way do I miss the Friday nights spent crying, dreading Saturday’s workout; or the incessant drama that accompanied eight teenage girls with big egos; and definitely not the 3:53am alarm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday (I cringed as I wrote that).
But I do miss my overwhelming optimism about life. I miss having an amazing coach who I saw 25 hours a week, one whom I could tell anything and would give me his impartial opinion. I miss my group of girls about whom I knew everything–what their bra size was; what their favorite shampoo was; exactly how they swam their races; what they used to protect themselves from chafing swimsuits. I miss my high school swimmer body. I miss eating (LITERALLY) everything in the house and still being hungry.
At 16, my life goal was to be married by 22, preferably to someone extremely wealthy so I would never have to work. I am 22 now, scared to death of relationships and completely in love with my job.
At 16, I thought I would stay best friends with everyone I was close with in high school. Today, I am close only with those who I swam with–our experiences together bonded us more than anything else ever could have.
At 16, I loathed the 40 million XL, light gray, logo-emblazoned Seahawks shirts Steve gave us. Now, I love them for the memories and spot each one has in my heart.
At 16, I thought leaving for college was the end of the world. Now I know that your life is as good as you make it, no matter where in the world you are.
At 16, I wanted to be in the Olympics. Today, I dream of getting all my laundry folded, metroing to work on time, and finding an affordable vacuum cleaner.
At 16, I thought duct tape hearts left on my hotel room window were a sign of love. At 22, I know that a true sign of love is when your parents fly across the country to cheer you on at every important swim meet in your collegiate career–and dress up as the school mascot.
Ask me tomorrow and I’ll probably tell you that swimming for 15 years of my life was the worst decision I ever made. But today, I feel indebted to my swimming career. It gave me my drive, my competitiveness, my goals, my work ethic, my need to be successful. Sometimes I wish I could go back to high school Saturdays, slumped in a Denny’s booth wolfing down three Grand Slam breakfast specials, shoulders burning and hair dripping, but I can’t. So I must be content to look back on those days with fondness, as I relive them through NFL Sunday commercials.