Happy Halloween! (Even though it’s my least favorite holiday)

Okay, so truth?  I really don’t like Halloween.  I never particularly enjoyed it as a child even though I felt like I should.  My costume was never good enough for all the other kids at school because my parents didn’t have the money to go all out for one measly day.  Also, I was a rather sickly kid.  My asthmatic bronchitis was much, much worse back then and I didn’t exactly relish schlepping it out in the freezing cold through snow to beg my neighbors for candy.  And because my mom was so paranoid about me getting pneumonia (a very real concern considering I was hospitalized for it in 3rd grade) I always had to wear a coat, which defeated the purpose of showing off my costume.  There was an older single lady in my neighborhood who went bowling every year on Halloween, but before she did she would give out full-sized candy bars and invite the kids to come sit by her fire and warm up.  I always tried to make it out for trick-or-treating early enough to hit her house.  Some years I was successful, some years I wasn’t.  The years I made it to her house in time were my favorite because for 5 minutes I got a reprieve from the harsh Utah cold.

I enjoy Halloween much more now that I’m an adult because I insist on being the candy distributor instead of walking the kids around the neighborhood.  That way I can stay in my warm house, the only downside being getting up every 5 seconds to answer the door.  And I refuse to go through the work of dressing up in a costume.  I admit I’m a full-on party pooper.

There are things I do enjoy about Halloween.  Baby costumes break my heart.  I think babies and toddlers in Halloween costumes are just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.  I really like how my mother-in-law makes pumpkin chocolate chip cookies every year and don’t mind gorging a few dozen while we show the kids’ costumes off to the grandparents.  I like going with my in-laws and the kids every year to the family pumpkin patch and picking out our pumpkins.  I don’ t even really mind carving pumpkins that much (because, let’s face it, the hubs does most of the hard work).

However, I hate all the gross/scary stuff surrounding Halloween.  I’m not that into death and I really don’t relish seeing a decoration that is a rat with a meat cleaver stuck in it (like I saw at one restaurant recently).  I really don’t want to see Zombies with rotting flesh, or dead whatevers, and just icky yucky stuff.  Give me the happy part of Halloween (benign ghosts of the Casper variety, unassumingly nice witches, jack-0-lanterns, dancing skeletons) and I’m okay.  Bring out the gore and it’s puke city.

And for me, Halloween is kind of a sad time for me.  Oh sure, I try not to make it sad for my kids.  I try to get as excited about their costumes as they are.  I pick and carve pumpkins with them with a huge smile on my face.  I impose a 50% candy tax on all three of them (just kidding).   The truth is Halloween five years ago was the last time I saw my Mom lucid and happy before she succumbed to pancreatic cancer 6 days later.  It was the very last time my oldest two children ever saw her alive.  She was in the hospital and we brought the kids up there in their costumes so she could see them and they could see her.  She was so happy to see them and gushed over their costumes. If I had known that would be the last time my daughter and oldest son would ever see their grandma again in this life, we would have stayed all night.  However, we stayed for just a short time in order not to tire her out.  They might not remember that was the last time they saw their grandma, but I do, and that makes me sad.  Halloween 2o07 was a Wednesday, just like it is this  year.

So, I’m happy for all my friends who say Halloween is their favorite holiday.  It is a fun one, for sure, just not one that I could ever make myself like.  And goodness knows, I’ve tried.  Halloween 2007 kind of put the nail in the proverbial coffin for me as far as my enjoyment for Halloween goes.  But it will be fun to see my sweet kiddos in their costumes.  My daughter wants to be on of those Monster High girls, whatever they are.  My oldest son is going as a ninja.  He’s covered head to toe, so he’s sure to be nice and warm.  And my youngest boy has been begging to be Iron Man since he saw The Avengers this summer.  I know their enthusiasm tonight will be contagious and I will let myself enjoy it, and I will only have a twinge of the bittersweet in my heart.

Advertisements

Book Review: Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer

 

Sarah Strohmeyer’s first novel for teens, Smart Girls Get What They Want, is jolly good fun. I’ve been a fan of Strohmeyer’s ever since I read her first Bubbles novel over a decade ago. It’s been my goal to get my hands on every novel she’s written since. Strohmeyer has an easy writing style that makes all her books just a darn good time. (And on a personal note, she’s an exceptionally nice person).

 

Smart Girls is about Gigi and her two best friends, Bea and Neerja, who are three of the honors students in their high school. These three best friends are so dedicated and focused on good grades and getting into the Ivy League, they forget to have the carefree time that high school is all about. Determined to not let just their academic achievements define their high school years, the three set out to step out of their comfort zones and try something new. Neerja auditions for the school play to get closer to her crush; Bea joins the skiing team despite her attorney parents fear of her getting hurt; and Gigi puts aside her fear of public speaking to run for Student Representative for the School Board. Along the way, Gigi attracts the attention of the cute new boy and a jock she’s known since kindergarten.

 

I found myself identifying with Strohmeyer’s heroine more than I thought I would. I was an AP/honors nerd in high school and so were most of my friends. Only I never dreamed of the Ivy League (too out of reach for a Utah girl) and instead just dreamed of getting a scholarship to a state university. I identified with Gigi feeling invisible to the rest of her classmates who weren’t in her classes and how she was surprised that two popular girls would feel snubbed by Gigi as well.

 

I liked the book’s message of how a girl should never stop being who she is to find someone to like her. Gigi firmly believes that she should never dumb herself down for a boy even when everyone is telling her that boys don’t like smart girls. I’m glad that Gigi stays true to herself while also expanding upon her strengths to improve who she is at her core.

 

I really enjoyed this book and what a good role model for smart girls Gigi and her friends are. This is definitely a book I’ll have my daughter read once she reaches those teen years.

October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

In support of Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network is providing resources for families, teens, educators, clinicians, mental health professionals, and law enforcement personnel on how to recognize, deal with, and prevent bullying (source: NCTSN).

Bullying can be physical, verbal, or over the internet.  Studies have shown that children who have been identified as a bully by age eight are six times more likely to have a criminal conviction by age 24. Children who are bullies may continue to be bullies as adults, and are more prone to becoming child and spouse abusers.

Check out the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s great website to get more information on how to prevent bullying, how to deal with bullying, and get information and support.

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Wow.

This was my reaction after putting down Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I felt like Flynn just took me on the wildest roller coaster ride I have ever been on. This book is a psychological thriller that keeps you guessing at every turn. A huge fan of true-crime and fictional crime novels/stories, I thought I had this book figured out. Every time I did, I was punched in the face with a new twist. I read this 415 page book over the course of probably only 12 hours, if that. I could not put it down. I didn’t want to sleep because I didn’t want to stop reading it. It was that thoroughly engrossing.

This fictional novel begins on Nick and Amy’s five year wedding anniversary. Nick is from Missouri and moves to New York City to become a magazine writer. It is there he meets, falls in love with, and marries Amy. She is a born and bred New York City girl who does not have to work, but does as a writer of magazine quizzes, because her parents are famous children book authors who have made a fortune chronically Amy’s childhood. After two years of marriage, both Nick and Amy lose their writing jobs and move to Nick’s hometown in Missouri to take care of Nick’s dying mother, Alzheimer’s ridden father, and rebuild their lives. The morning of their five year anniversary Amy goes missing and Nick is the number one suspect in her disappearance. This is not your ordinary wife-goes-missing-husband-did-it stories, a la Scott Peterson and Mark Hacking. To say more would be ruining it.

If you can’t stand harsh language, this isn’t the book for you because some parts are very brutal. If you can stand dicey language and are looking for a thrill-ride, this is your book. Flynn is a genius story teller and I’m putting the rest of her novels on hold at the library.

I say again…

Wow.

Book Review: The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers follows two sisters over four decades of their lives after their father murders their mother. Lulu and Merry are two young girls living in Brooklyn, New York, suffering through their childhood with neglectful and self-involved parents. After their mother kicks their father out of the house, he shows up drunks, kills his wife and attempts to kill Merry and himself. The girls’ father is then sent to prison and they are essentially orphans.

At first Lulu and Merry’s maternal grandmother takes them in and cares for them. After her death, their paternal grandmother is too old and frail to care for them and their Aunt refuses to take them in because they are the daughters of her sister’s murderer and the girls are sent to a home for girls (read: orphanage). After a few years the girls are taken in by a foster family and the book follows them through their angsty teenage years through their adulthood.

Lulu and Merry have very different reactions to their mother’s murder and their father’s incarceration. Lulu is wracked with guilt and believes she could have somehow prevented her mother’s death if she had not let her father in their apartment that day. Lulu wants nothing to do with their father and instructs her younger sister to lie and say their parents were killed in a car accident. Merry dutifully visits her father in prison every other week with her paternal grandmother for years until their grandmother’s death. This difference in how they individually deal with their situation causes friction between Lulu and Merry despite their deep devotion to each other. A wrench is really thrown into their lives when it looks like their father will be able to make parole after 30 years in prison.

I thought this book was exceptionally well written. Neither Lulu nor Merry was perfect and they each had distinct characters and voices. They are individuals who are deeply flawed and deeply affected by their past. Lulu and Merry are relatable and likable, even when you want to shake them for their bad choices or the ways they react to each other. The book was a page turner and thoroughly engrossing. I didn’t want it to end and wanted it to continue to follow Lulu and Merry into their later adulthood and watch their relationship grow and change.

Despite the shocking premise of the book, two girls who are orphaned by a vicious act of domestic violence, it is a gentle book about two girls growing into women with a huge tragedy hanging over their heads. It makes the reader empathize with all those real-life children who are abandoned, orphaned, or stigmatized by the sins of their parents. Meyers’ fiction novel is haunting while being aggressively honest. I highly recommend this book.