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book review: Brilliance by Marcus Sakey

I recently joined a book group, which I am so excited to be a part of. However, life happens and in which case, last Thursday (our first book club review party) Evelyn had a fever and my father in law needed attention, calling my duties to stay at home rather than book clubbin’. So lucky you, you get to hear my book review thoughts since I missed out on sharing with the group.

Brilliance
Our first book was Brilliance by Marcus Sakey. This is the first book in what may be a series (a sequel was introduced at the end of the book). I hadn’t heard of the book prior to picking it up and had no expectations. I chose not to even read the back cover to get a hint of what it was about and in this case, I was happy that I hadn’t. I am the type who looks for parallels, deeper meaning, hidden plot lines, etc. and this book satisfied part of that search.
The basic plot: In the early 1980’s one percent of children born had capabilities unfathomable to the general population – such as being able to make $300 billion dollars off the stock market by reading patterns, being able to tell if someone is telling the truth or about to lie by simply looking at them, or being able to anticipate the next 10 moves a person is deciding to make before they even stand up. They became known as brilliants or abnorms. The book is about the dissonance between the brilliants and the normals.
This dissonance begins when a brilliant – activist known as “John Smith” assassinates 73 norms in a restaurant. A government agency known the DAR is set up to alleviate fear and threat to the normals, keep the brilliants in line and hunt for John Smith. The DAR also set up academies for all children born a tier one brilliant to attend to help assimilate them into the general population upon graduation (main focus is teaching them to hate being a brilliant and to trust only normals). The main character, Nick Cooper is a brilliant that sets out to help the DAR track down John Smith, anticipate the patterns of his kind and keep the general public safe. When another terrorist activity, set off by the brilliants, kills over 1,000 innocent people, Nick does the unthinkable as he puts his life on the line to fight for all he’s believed in and take down John Smith.

Without giving any spoilers away, this book has many twists and turns, keeping it a fast and easy read. The writing makes it easy to get inside the mind of Nick Cooper as he anticipates his next move, gambles with trust and unfolds patterns both past and present as the plot unravels to its conclusion. While some of the storyline was predictable, it was a very fun and exciting read. It was easy to put myself in the story as it took place in 2013 and depicted special traits in individuals that could be both a nuisance and a blessing (which I think we can all agree, we all have them). Our traits just are not as heightened and as advanced as the brilliants in the book but I had fun talking with my husband about what my super-enhanced trait may be: organization. It’s been fun to wonder what enhanced traits co-workers, family and even my daughter may secretly be living with in this alternate universe (as I sit hoping my daughter doesn’t end up as a tier one – another topic of discussion in itself).
I would definitely recommend this book as a fun, easy read. Well written, easy to dive into and engaging. Looking forward to the sequel coming out sometime next year (2014).

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the green wedding

The last weekend in September, Sam and I flew to Minnesota to celebrate my good friend Mikka’s wedding to her love, Adam.  This was the first trip that Sam and I took without Evelyn.   Sam’s mom, who Evelyn will know as Neena, watched her and our pup for the weekend which gave them some much needed bonding time without us hovering over every move Evy makes.  It gave Sam and I some much needed bonding and reconnecting time as well.  It was pure magic, for all involved.

Our first trip away!

Our first trip away!

The weekend consisted of ugly crying (all by me).  It started when we were dropped off at the airport.  Ugly crying all the way to the check in desk… and then to the TSA security guard who told me to suck it up and enjoy time away from the baby because it will be a long time til the next time we get the chance. Great advice – followed by the lady in front of us who was also near ugly crying about leaving her chuahaha for the weekend as well.  That helped me get over it as did the bloody mary’s we enjoyed pre-flight.  This also stepped in as a night cap for the flight.

When we landed in MSP, we had one stop before our five hour drive north to Grand Marais, MN (yes, it was truly right next to Canada).  Our stop was to pick up the wedding cake (!) & the grooms cake (holy pressure batman!)  The baker assured me that the beautiful three tiered wedding cake would be fine as long as we didn’t slam on the breaks and kept the air conditioning on.

The view from Devil Track Resort

The view from Devil Track Resort

The drive was beautiful.  The radio was choppy so Sam and I sang/rapped to each other (will smith was the fave), chatted about anything and everything and snapped lots of blurry side of the road scenery photos trying to catch the fall colors.  When we finally arrived to the resort around 9:30 p.m. – Mikka was there to tackle me with a huge bear hug & happy tears.  She went to the back to take out the cake and IT HAD TOPPLED OVER!  We never slammed on the breaks & we froze our tushes off the entire way FOR THAT CAKE!  Mikka’s response? ‘No biggie – Adam didn’t even know we were having a wedding cake’ – BEST BRIDE EVER!  The groom’s cake was in perfect condition which was her real concern.  The cake came back to our cabin with us (ya know, to hide it from the groom).

Friday, Sam and I headed into town to have breakfast, see the town and enjoy each other.  It all sounds so cheesy but it was so necessary.  We noted that it felt weird not to have Evelyn with us, but it was easy to go back to how it was when it was just us.  {{We’ve still got it.}}  We were even able to get a bit of a hike in before the rehearsal.  Picture perfect day on the beautiful north shore.  Friday night concluded with memorable quotes from Sam including when I tried to tell him there’d be no more wine, he chanted “WINE NOT? WINE NOT?” & “BABY FREE WEEKEND! WINE NOT!?”  He’s adorable.

Superior Hiking Trail

Superior Hiking Trail

superior hiking trail

Saturday was the wedding day & the grey clouds inched their way closer and closer from 9 a.m. – 12.  An outdoor wedding was the goal for the bride & groom and I have to give them credit, the clouds did not falter their determination in any way.  Another goal was to not see one another before the wedding, so when decorations outside began to blow over and the rain turned into what we so enduringly named, Hurricane Green, communications on the game plan were tunneled through a chain of messengers running back and forth with the same message, “whatever Adam wants….” Or “ whatever Mikka wants..”   Adorable.

Hurricane Green

Hurricane Green

The beautiful bride

The beautiful bride

A compromise was made for having the wedding in the reception tent.  I mean it when I say, THIS WEDDING WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WEDDING I’VE EVER WITNESSED.  The love in this tent.  While there were tables blowing over and rolling towards the tent, Mikka & Adam recited their vows to one another in perfect fashion.  Mikka referenced Adam’s love of cars and Adam promised to stand by her no matter what.  Here is where I began to ugly cry:  Mikka’s niece, Louise, had vows to exchange as well.  Mikka & Adam have taken on parental responsibilities of this little angel who adores them.  Mikka vowed, Adam vowed and then Louise recited hers which were filled with requests such as, “all I ask is that you continually encourage me and that we do awesome things together…”  ALL THE UGLY CRYING HAPPENED OVER HERE.  One hand holding the wall of the tent and the other hand wishing I had thought to grab tissue as I blotted my eyes with my shawl.  BEAUTIFUL.

The bride with Jes & I

The bride with Jes & I

Everything from start to finish was so well thought out:

  • Welcome baskets in each cabin filled with snacks, games, activity books, scavenger hunt, sports drinks
  • Pre-wedding appetizers of pickled herring, cheese, crackers & spiked hot cocoa
  • After wedding green drinks (thin mint)
  • The bridesmaids each had a different color which just so happened to be each of our favorite color (mine was teal) – black dresses that we could style multiple ways, paired with shawls, jewelry, ankle ties, make up and nail polish of our color
  • A caricature artist
  • Bloody Mary bar
  • Late night snacks of nachos & wings
  • Candy bar with a chocolate fondue fountain
bridesmaid cup

bridesmaid cup

It was just all so perfect.  Mikka & I need to go into the wedding planning business (right, mikka?) Sam and I had a great weekend and were so happy we could be there to witness such a magical marriage take place.  AND MY PARENTS EVEN DROVE 2 HOURS TO GIVE US A HUG ON SUNDAY (because we needed it). Oh, & Evelyn had a great weekend with her Neena as well (big thanks to Neena – maybe we’ll do this more often?). Such sweet family & friends.

mr. & mrs. green

mr. & mrs. green

Cheers to the newlyweds on the beginning of something truly beautiful.

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honey,.. there’s a stranger in our car

Last weekend, Sam and I had a little get away to one of my best friend’s wedding in Minnesota.  It was absolutely wonderful (more about that later).  Needless to say, coming down off a high from the weekend, while struggling to get back into the weekday grove left me in a bit of a fog.  Monday’s are my roll out of bed, shimmy to the car, autopilot all the way to work, wake up to coffee.  Tuesday’s however, I wake up early to shower, make a bottle, wake up miss e, change, dress, feed her – all before 6 (if I’m on time).  This Tuesday was different though, this Tuesday, I woke up much before my desired cup of coffee.

I was running on time, having completed my list of to-do’s all by 6 a.m.  With Evy in my arms, bags strung over my shoulder, and keys in my hand – I opened my front door about to load up and head out only to notice that my car’s dome light was on and there was a stranger sitting in my passenger seat, looking through my assortment of cds.  My first reaction was, ‘hm,.. I didn’t know anyone else had the same car as us on our block’… then shifted to,’ is that my car?’ … then the next move was, ‘let’s find out by locking my car’.  Sure enough, with the hit of the lock button, I locked the intruder into my car.  I think both he and I were in disbelief as he stared at me and I at him.  He locked in my car, Evelyn and I standing in the front door of my home.  Realizing safety in numbers, I finally alerted my sleeping husband: “honey,… there’s a stranger in our car!”  In my distracted efforts to wake him up, the stranger found the unlock button and ran out of my car.

Either I had startled him moments after his entry, or he’s not into our Rockabye Baby cd’s because he left the scene empty handed & our car in perfect condition.  Even so, I felt the obligatory, “I’ve already called the cops…” threat as he ran down the street was necessary.  The cops came, neighbors were alerted & our house is now a fortress of security.  Really though, we probably forgot to lock our car door as we carried groceries in the night before.  Not to say that anyone entering a vehicle (not their own) is permitted, but we welcomed the chances in our forgetfulness, rush & fog from the weekend’s prior activities.

Our beloved car

Evelyn was perfect through the entire morning ordeal.  For all I know she was probably waving to the man while I was holding her in my arms (that’s her new favorite thing).  It’s a bit funny to reflect as you can never predict how you’ll truly react in a situation such as this.  Never did I think I’d just stare at him, continually hitting the lock button to keep him in my car.  Or, never did I think I’d actually go outside and yell after him as he fled the scene.  And never did I think I’d be laughing about this just two days later.

Lesson learned here, folks – lock your car doors & if you can – buy a house with a garage!

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we’re still here!

It’s been just about a month since our trip to Portland (which means, it’s also been a month since our last update to our cozy space here).  We’re still here! (I did suggest there may be a bit of a hiatus as we settle down from the events spurred by our trip.)

To recap:  Portland still exists in all of its beauty, uniqueness and charm.  Due to such acknowledgement, we made sure to frequent a few of our favorite spots while there such as:

  • The Lovejoy Deluxe at Lovejoy Bakers
  • Any one of the daily specialty sandwiches from Laurelhurst Market
  • The tapas menu from Hoyt 23
  • Thai from our old usual place in the pearl (ya know.. that place since I can’t seem to remember the name)
  • Stumptown coffees & lattes
  • Café Nell bloody mary
  • Salted Caramel & Balsamic Cracked Pepper Strawberry Ice cream cones from Salt n Straw
  • … among a few other local eateries

Stumptown Coffee

Auntie Kate

Welcome Back Weinstocks

Lovejoy Bakers

Laurelhurst Market

Yes, all of the above are food joints, but Portland is a very foodie city – to which, Sam and my list would be a disgrace but really, you can’t go wrong.  Other things enjoyed were a friends get together at the lovely Elia’s place.  It was great night filled of brief catch ups, youtube sharings, twerking attempts and learning how to prune (right?).  The boys did their thing, the girls did ours just like 8th grade, because it was long overdue.   The babe hung out among everyone for an hour or so and then snoozed during the rest of the festivities like the perfect tike she is.

my lovely ladies

This trip was more of a mission: bring Papa Weinstock to MD.  Well, mission accomplished after three straight days of packing up, about 60 phone calls to the shipping company, about 30 lattes and countless other  “little – last minute – to do’s.”  All in all, I wouldn’t have wanted to deal with all that it entailed in any other city because it’s really where I am most comfortable, confident and calm.  That city brings out the best in me.

It also helped that my good friend, Madalyn offered her adorable little cottage-style studio to us in Sellwood for the week.  It was the perfect little place and if I had thought to take a few photos of its charm, it’d be worth sharing because she’s really made it adorable, cozy and perfect.  A huge thank you to Madalyn for her generosity.

… Another successful mission was completed that was unexpected to say the least – closure.  I had anticipated that this trip would be like the re-opening of a wound.  I have missed Portland (& continue to) but the idea of potential regret of moving across the country was quieted upon returning home to Maryland from PDX.  Portland will be there should we ever find ourselves in an opportunity to move back, but for now, we’re happy to start creating a network here in Baltimore.  Portland will be (hopefully) a yearly trip (for now).

As for Papa Weinstock’s arrival – we’re still sorting things out, settling through details, belongings & future plans.  It’s challenging but so far, there are not too many lessons to offer about moving a parent closer and the idea of care-taking.  All I can say is that support and a listening ear go a very long way.  To those who have offered this to us, we are forever grateful.

I promise to not be as much of a stranger!  Here’s what you can look forward to:  A Green Wedding, There’s a stranger in my car, I’m not 21 anymore & an update on little Miss E.

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appreciated support

I’ve been a bit MIA on our site recently.  Have you ever had a time where you have SO much to say but just don’t have the right words?  So, it’s not for lack of things to say for my absence – it’s due to too much to say.  I still haven’t found the right direction to approach all that is going on in the world of the Weinstocks recently but with certain relationships, words or approaches aren’t necessary.  What matters is that support is needed- and I have to say, the support we’ve received is overwhelming.

The value of a true friend is priceless.  Truly.  My husband and I are feeling the love all over the place and it’s genuine, it’s heartfelt, it’s powerful, it’s healing.

I keep trying to find the words.  I don’t have any.  Mostly because I haven’t organized or processed emotions to properly detail what’s been going on in depth  (because I don’t understand it fully, yet) and I don’t have the ability to communicate what’s going to be going on (because I can’t predict the future or how certain things will play out).  I just wanted to communicate in some form and that’s to say thank you to our friends & family.

Sam and I are heading to Portland later today to bring his Father back to live in Baltimore.  He needs to be near us and we need to be near him.  All I can say, is that there is need for prayers, understanding and patience.  This trip is going to be overwhelming for many reasons.  Not only are we organizing this huge transition for his father, but we are also entering a world of decisions that are completely foreign.  On top of that, we are reconnecting with friends who mean the world to us in the city and region of the world that we love.  There will be emotions to say the least.

Sometimes in life, it’s important to throw logic and reason out the window and follow your gut and heart.  You do what you know is right; although not easy.  You do what you know will make a difference, although it might not be convenient.  You step up when it counts.  Our friends and family demonstrate this to us consistently.  You’re great role models, folks and we love you. 

I’m not entirely sure how much detail I’ll end up getting into on our cozy little space here, but send positive vibes our way during periodic absences.  The support is priceless.

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holiday shuffle

If you’re like us and live away from family (one side or both) you know that time to decide and plan for where to spend your holidays is rapidly approaching. Air fare will only start to sky rocket from here which warrants the conversation, whose family are we spending Christmas with this year?

Sam and I have spent four holidays together, coming up on our fifth. The first year, I flew out to visit him and his family the day after Christmas, the second year, we both went separate directions and the third year, we agreed on an alternating schedule with my family one year and his next. The third year was spent in Wisconsin with my family. The fourth year was spent in Portland welcoming and adjusting to life with our little three week old, miss e. Due to her young age, we didn’t want to expose her to chaotic airports, flu infested recycled air on the plane (and truthfully the passing her around to all of the new baby hungry family members as she was so new to us and we wanted to study her every move and didn’t want to share quite yet) we decided stayed at our home and invited family to us. His mom and my parents both came out at separate times. Our fifth Christmas, in keeping with the promised schedule, will technically have us with his family for the holidays.

Evy's first ugly sweater party - in a stocking

Evy’s first ugly sweater party – in a stocking

Here’s the debate – we made this agreement when we lived away from both sides of the family and were in Portland, OR. Now that we’ve moved within 5 minutes from his mom, his cousin, his aunt, his grandma and within 30 minutes from his other two uncles – we get to see them and celebrate with them for every other holiday (including Easter, memorial day, labor day, all birthdays, presidents day (if we wanted to), etc.). Is it fair to request that we start a tradition with the weekend before Christmas celebration with his family in Baltimore and make the trip to Wisconsin for Christmas Eve and Christmas day as an annual occurrence (if we can afford it)? We’d spend every thanksgiving and every one of Evelyn’s birthdays in Baltimore with his family but we could give Christmas to my side of the family as a semi-even trade. Is it really a fair trade though? At some point, we will most likely start our own non-traveling holiday plans but for now, traveling is in our plans. With this debate, it should be noted that I absolutely love celebrating every large and small event with his family but yes, I am a little biased as I miss my family and my nieces every single day.

Sam so generously agreed for us to celebrate the holidays in Wisconsin this year, but the debate of future rotations is still up in the air. How do you and your family decide how to spend your holidays or personal celebrations between two families?

Honest opinions and suggestions welcomed.

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things my daughter is most likely trying to tell us

evelyn six months

“ahhhh, yah, yah, ahh bweeough”

Those are the sweet, sweet sounds of my little ladies “first words.” Evelyn is developing quite the personality. Every day with her is a blast. Each morning when we peak over her crib, she’s changed a little from when we put her to bed the night before. Whether it be her hair, her smile, a new “ability”, etc. It’s hard to believe our little girl is  8 months already. We’re loving every single moment with her.

She’s extremely chatty. When she communicates, she yammers on and on.  Based on her really mom? smirks, her overly dramatic sighs (at all of the appropriate moments) and her perfected pre-eye rolls (body language), here’s our interpretation of her sweet chit chats:

To Wyatt:  Come over here you obnoxiously loud furry creature; let me chew on your tale!

To Netflix: Really, this episode again?  I already know that George is going to mess up the trains and the conductor is going to save the line up at the very last minute possible, dad.  Either change the episode or put Big Bird on already. 

To meal time:  Why do you keep cleaning the avocado off my face? Don’t you know I’m trying out a new mask for smoother skin – let me be already!

To why she only talks back to our baby-talk:  Yes, I understand what you’re saying in English but hearing you talk baby is just too much fun.  {When we speak in English, nothing. When we speak in Evy-language, we’re in business.}

To teething: Stop shoving your fingers in my mouth already.  I’ll let you know when a tooth comes in with constant screaming paired with the inability to sooth me and repeated temper tantrums when you don’t let me gnaw on whatever I want to, deal?

To bath time:  You really need to learn a new song if you’re not in fact going to let me splish and splash to my liking.  Who cares if you’re worried about flooding the bathroom floor?  Also, rubber duckies and wash clothes are meant for eating.

To paparazzi (aka mom & dad): Another photo?  Didn’t you just take 52 photos of me trying to enjoy my sweet potatoes yesterday?  Did you want me to turn my head left (just slightly) and look longingly into the distance?  Were you hoping for a smile while I’m trying to conquer the light game on this remote?  Sorry mom, I’m a little bit busy. 

I'm moisturizing mom, leave it there!

I’m moisturizing mom, leave it there!

We love hearing her yammers, but we will appreciate the moments of interpreting her infamous facial expressions, her dramatic sighs, and her pointed body language until she is able to communicate in full sentences because we all know, she will most likely have the wonderful speaking abilities of the D’Angelo’s paired with the stubbornness/sass of (whatever my side of the family wants to take credit for that, Campbell’s, Hoffman’s, Lenser’s). I have no doubt that this girl will always be right. 

are you questioning me?

are you questioning me?

From her first actual word, have sympathy for Sam.  He’ll really have his hands full then ;).