Dear Hangers On

To the people still on my mind:

  1. To the family who doesn’t show:  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to see who’s really important to me.  When you failed to come, they didn’t.  And when they are missing and you are there… I fixate on their absence.  You gave me the chance to choose a better family- one who loves me not because there is an antiquated obligation, but because they know me, and genuinely like me.
  2. To the family who do show up:  I love you.  You’ve been there at the greatest and worst moments in my life.  We’ve laughed at funerals, cried on beaches, drank A LOT of tequilla and eaten even more taquitos.  You know me better than anyone, projectile vomiting and all- and I could not have found a better group of people to claim me.
  3. To the boys who didn’t want to date me:  I’m still not a huge fan of you.  But I’m over it.  It’s a lot more fun to hang out with people who like you.
  4. To the boy who poured his heart out and I didn’t sleep with: Life is funny, isn’t it?  I’m sorry we drifted apart… we should still be friends.  But I’m still not going to sleep with you.
  5. To the girl who calls me fat: Go eat a hamburger.  Seriously.  I’d rather carry an extra 5 pounds and be happy eating what I want, than to starve like you.
  6. To the boy who calls me fat: Go f**k yourself.  Did you really just say that to a girl in size 4-6 jeans?
  7. To the IT department at work: Thanks for dealing the the other people, so I don’t have to… I couldn’t describe the power switch as many times a day as you.  But know this: I already tried jiggling the cord and turning it on and off.  Next flow chart step, please.
  8. To the men who banned real sudafed in our state: Ugg… I understand, but I hate you all the same.
  9. To the mentors who set me right:  Thank you.  I’ve never had a hard time having good people around me when I needed them, and I am so greatful you answered my questions, set me straight, and helped me grow.
  10. To my boss: If you understood what I did, you might understand me a little better.  Also, we have the same Google.

XOXO Sarah Mae

PS- Idea blatantly stolen from Thought Catalog’s Maria Aeliya

I’ve committed to writing 30 letters in 30 days, according to the 30 Day Letter Challenge.  To learn more about my project, check out my introduction.

Dear Baby Rosenfeld

For you I pray.  You haven’t appeared in this world yet, though you are dearly missed in our arms.  I can’t imagine what it will be like- to face this much love as you enter this world, but I promise you, we’ll keep it up.  You have been loved for years, though your parents have only been married one.  You are loved, and you are going to be loved, but that does not mean we will make your life easy.  This I can promise you too:

  • You will get a nick name.  You will have no choice in said nick name.  We will call you by it in the most embarrassing public situation possible.  We love you.
  • Stories from your childhood, from before you acquired complex critical thinking skills will be retold.  Often.  To prospective sexual partners. We love you.
  • We will not like your first five boy/girlfriends.  This will have nothing to do with your gender, orientation, or them.  This is to teach you to defend your choices, and to choose better.  We love you.
  • There will be yelling.  At the table.  For no reason.  You will not be allowed to crawl under said table.  You will learn to yell back.  We are loud people.  We love you.
  • Your mother will insist on using a coupon.  She will dump the all contents of her suitcase sized purse onto the table looking for this coupon while the waiter impatiently waits.  This is a family tradition.  We love you.
  • There will be 35 people at your high school graduation.  We will force you to trade favors for tickets.  We will shamelessly bawl the whole time.  We love you.
  • You will mention once a preference for a candy/animal/artist/subject.  We will purchase said item 10,000 times for the collection you never meant to have.  We love you.
  • We will build traditions around you.  Stand in support for the little things.  Celebrate the big things.  Give you your first drink.  Take you camping, to DisneyLand, to summer camp, to Oregon and Washington and London.  We will call to check up on your maths tests, and let your best friend come on family vacation, and dance at midnight before letting you play hooky from school.  You will love us.

And I can’t wait.

XOXO Aunt Sarah Mae

I’ve committed to writing 30 letters in 30 days, according to the 30 Day Letter Challenge.  To learn more about my project, check out my introduction.

Dear Bethany Grace

Eleven year old me would like to tell you that you have become the prettiest most amazing lady in the world- and she wouldn’t be wrong.  I think of the dreams that we had, a million years ago, and I think of the life you live, and they couldn’t be more different, and reality couldn’t be more fabulous.  You’re not a prima ballerina, or a lawyer, or a bazillionaire, but you haven’t done too bad for yourself, kid.

Remember back when we first met, how we hated each other?  Its amazing what nearly twenty years will do to you.  Twenty years, two and a half advanced degrees, the loss of many incredible people in our lives.  You sacrificed to stand with Arizona Mom, while I couldn’t.  Sure, if you hadn’t been there one of us would have stepped up- but you were there, brilliant, and we loved you for it.  You took our other sisters voluntary exit from the family with class and poise while I threw things at a wake, screaming at the walls.

You have become the woman I want to be, one day- even if you are my little sister.  You are my therapist, beauty guru, personal shopper, Arizona airport shuttle, love-line, trivia life line, I love you more than words, books, salt water taffy and amaretto fudge could ever explain.  Even if you look better than me in every picture, always.

XOXO Sarah Mae

I’ve committed to writing 30 letters in 30 days, according to the 30 Day Letter Challenge.  To learn more about my project, check out my introduction.

Dear Mom & Dad

Mom & DadIt is a rarity in this world to be married this long.  30 plus years is an example that you set that I intend to follow.  Happiness, and cooperation, and love governing every choice you make for years and years and years means more than just showing up and faking it until you make it.

I’m sure there was some of that- back in the early days.  Back in the first ten years, when you spent seven of them apart.  Back when wars and politics and a random assortment of nations security meant not seeing or speaking for days and weeks.  Back when CNN was just becoming a thing, and you watched half horrified, half thrilled that you might catch a glimpse of the person you loved.

In all those years you’ve done a lot.  You’ve raised children, you’ve built a family.  You taught me to cook, to clean, to drink.  How electrical and plumbing work (or don’t work, as those lessons usually begin).  How to drive, how to hike, how to get a fish hook out of my sister.  You’ve taught me putting your family first sometimes means not getting what you, or what they want, so everyone has what they need.  You’ve taught me to hold my panic in, to ask for help, to admit my weaknesses and own my strengths.  That dry feet are the most valuable thing you can have when everything comes to chaos, what to do in crisis, even if its just to come home to you.  You taught me to think with others, of others, and for others if necessary.

But most of all, you taught me how to be in a family.  How to bring the people who love you close, and to learn to love them.  How to let go of the hurt of those who don’t love you.  How to acknowledge that which the law will not, the marriage and union and parenting that paper cannot validate.  And you taught me to do all of this freely, and carefully.  Because my family is our family.

And for that, I am grateful.

XOXO Your Mouse

I’ve committed to writing 30 letters in 30 days, according to the 30 Day Letter Challenge.  To learn more about my project, check out my introduction.

Five Favorite Friday: April 18, 2014

This Friday is brought to you by my Grandmother… and her brilliance of wanting a 75th birthday party in Las Vegas.  Happy Birthday Gran!

Gran, Mom and I on a Dinner Cruse for my Birthday. Honolulu Hawaii, October 2010.

  1. My accountant mother, who does my taxes with me standing there, supplying her with various forms I’ve received.  Seriously she does the whole families taxes in a weekend, and I basically just show up.  Love you Mom!
  2. Powell’s Nalegene Collection I have a small large collection of these, and I proudly let my Portlander Geek Freak flag fly while I travel with them in hand.  Mine also sport my bumper sticker collection, since I’m not a fan of getting my car keyed.  Smart people Hydrate!
  3. This week’s The Broke and Bookish Top Ten Tuesday Responses.  The prompt was amazing, and I really enjoyed seeing what everyone else wants… now of course my covet list is up to like 90, instead of just my original 10.

    The Lobsters and I, many New Years Eve moons ago.   Lobster J is in the middle, Lobster K is on the left, I am on the right.

  4. Lobster J.  This week was her Birthday.  And she’s been a fantastic friend since the last day of seventh grade, when she learned my whole name in a singlegreeting- she still has the yearbook with it written into the crease.  Without a doubt I would be a different person without her in my life.

    BookBoy and I at Mt. Rushmoore, September 2012. The guy who took this was a BIG biker and was very excited because it was the most romantic place  to propose- we were afraid to tell him we weren’t getting married.  Note the Nalgene in my hand- he is hiding his behind his back .

  5. BookBoy, whose Birthday was also this week (they are only 1 day apart).  BookBoys mom (BookMom) chatted the Lobsters’ and I up on Registration Day of Senior Year in High School.  Since then he and I have written hundreds of letters, shared prayers and secrets, survived my college and his war experiences, and driven cross country in a Mazda.  We have never dated- but I am closer to him than I have been to most boyfriends.

What (and who) do you loves this week?

Happy Friday! Love, Mae

BOOK REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling

Oh here we go- into the wonderful (and possibly dangerous for a reviewer) world of Harry Potter… be kind, commentators, be kind!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (aka Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US) is the first of the seven novel J.K. Rowling epic generally known as Harry Potter.  For most of you (and me too) this is old comforting well read literature, and so rather than discussing the novel ad nausea, I’m just going to give some reactions and thoughts about the book, and later the whole series.  For those of you who don’t know the series, or those who need a reminder of the plot book to book here’s a quick synopsis:

Harry Potter is an orphan stuck living with dreadful relatives.  On his eleventh birthday, he learns he is a member of an elite secret society: the wizarding world.  As a wizard Harry must travel to the top wizard boarding school, learn his craft, and become a functioning member of this new-to-him society.  As a young man, he must learn a whole new culture, become accustomed to the idea of friendship, mentorship, love, and support.  Oh, and while all of this is happening, he is a legend amongst his peers because of the way his parents died.  Then, during Act III to really throw off spring term, the killer pops in for a little visit.

Got it?  Okay- lets get to the interesting analysis and stuff!

First let’s start with the title.  
I have a little gripe with the American publishing company/industry.  Scholastic changed the name from Philosopher’s to Sorcerer’s Stone.  A) While those are two regularly used fantasy character types- they are different.  One is interpretative and seeks only knowledge, while the other is transformative and often seeks power. B) Are American kids really too stupid to learn a new word or a few new words that are used in Britain?  C) I kind of can’t correctly spell or say or conjugate Philosopher (don’t tell my sophomore year Philosophy professor) so I find it helpful, but annoying.  In the end, more annoying than helpful, because I would rather just teach kids (and myself) about the little things than dumb them down to an American audience.

Then there’s the slow start.
Harry Potter is an epic- as defined by the literary meaning of the word.  It is also awesome as a Middle Reader / YA series- if you can get through the first dozen chapters.  The purpose of this book is to build a world for the next six installments, and the novel does its job- but that doesn’t help the fact that you have to slog through the details.  I appreciate the difficulty Rowling faced- first you have a main character (along with the readers) thrust into a secret sub-culture- so there’s going to be some explanation necessary, but I often wonder if she bit off more than necessary, knowing it would allow her to gloss over some things later (I don’t have to explain Quidditch in book 3, I did that in 1! Need cash in book 2, 4 and 7? I explained it in 1!)

And a slow plot.
This was intentional.  I know it was.  The point was to have the curve ball at the end- turning a kids getting into things they shouldn’t story into a meet this evil guy who is going to try to kill you later epic. But intention aside, playing “guess what’s in the parcel” and “let’s break into a hallway” was dragged out.  While I appreciate that’s how real detective (and research) works… I rather enjoy the wham-bam answer in an episode investigations of our current culture, and kids who are age appropriate for this book do too.

Followed by a too fast conclusion.
While there is no doubt this book was building up to the next six, I wanted more from the conclusion.  Basically the final act feels like they (I think this was an editorial issue, not a writer one) were trying to cram it in without going over, like a kid with a maximum page limit on their Creative Writing class project.  I wanted a richer, more in depth experience between Harry and this new (old) arch nemesis.  I wanted Harry to come to detest this corrupted soul from his own experience, rather than just that of his parents death.  It feels like just as Harry is building up his new found courage and acceptance of his position, a grown up swoops in a saves him, doing a great disservice to his character development and the plot.

All the while Adults are Clueless.
A common trait in middle reader and YA novels is the clueless adult.  I get it- good attentive parents know where their kids are, thus eliminating the chance of grand adventures.  But really?  Guardians (the Dursley’s) fighting sooo hard to resist sending their charge to this place, then one goon (sorry Hagrid) shows up and it’s all over with?  And the House Professors are more academic advisors than house moms.  Kids can slip out of their secure sleeping quarters, past no adults on guard, and get out the front door portrait?  In a place where magic exists?  I’d have magic little bells glued to their magic little butts.  And then there’s the issue of Hagrid knowing the kids have been accessing this horribly dangerous and important part of the castle and failing to report it or adequately intervene.  Come one adults- these are eleven year old’s, it’s bad enough you okayed having dangerous materials present, you also let them break into the cabinet?

No matter the difficulty, I still love it.
No matter the pacing issues, plot holes, and the unlikely character traits, I still turn to Harry Potter year after year (like every single year).  There is a certain comfort of re-reading a contemporary classic, getting the same sort of rush I had at 13, sitting on the docks at the lake lapping up the first three books in preparation for the release of the fourth.  There is a certain adoration each time Hagrid knocks down the Dursley’s cabin door, and thrill when Hermione saves the day with her books and studious nature.  In many ways this book was the start of my book nation citizenship- and for that I love it.  And I know, having gotten through Philosopher’s Stone once, that it opens the doors to all of J.K. Rowling’s greatness- the themes of friendship, family, personal values, and most of love.


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Middle Reader, 223 pages)
Written by: J.K. Rowling
Published By: Bloomsbury (UK), Scholastic (US)
Released: June 1997 (UK), September 1998 (US)
ISBN: 978-1-78110-027-1
Genre: Fantasy, Bildungsroman
Source: Personal Collection (Hardcover Chapters Books Canada / E-book Pottermore)

Rating: C

Pros:  Philosopher’s Stone opens the Harry Potter epic.  The world and character building are very detailed, giving the reader a deep understanding of the secret sub-culture’s infrastructure and key players in the plot.  Rowling also secretly introduces many key details that will come into play later in the series.

Cons:  Functions largely as a world building episode, and doesn’t focus enough on the story arc of the Stone, and secret surrounding it.  Rowling asks for a lot of suspension of disbelief- even extending into that of real world problems like child abuse, neglect, and the general lack of involvement of adults.

Final Recommendations:  Pick it up if you haven’t- because you are behind the times.  Know this is an opener, and it gets faster and more auctioned packed as the epic builds to a massive conclusion.  Perfect for the reluctant reader, especially for boys looking for more fun and less internal struggle.  Ultimately, a book every child (and adult) should read.

Don’t Kiss Me- I’m Scottish American

Today may very well be the Holiday I most despise.
Now if you don’t live in American culture, you may not know today is St. Patrick’s Day. I say this because this holiday seems to really blossom here, in the land of cultural bastardization I mean the great melting pot.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for a good party (or at least, this geeky girl is all for your right to have a good party and for me to stay home with my book).  I’m good with copious amounts of food colouring, if that’s what you’re into (I mean red velvet cake, anyone?).  I even like the sort of community event where there is a marathon, a parade and a street faire all on the same weekend (we don’t live downtown, and Portland has an okay transit train- so what’s there to object to?). 
My problem with St. Patrick’s day is this:

Not everyone is Irish.

I’m not.
My friends aren’t.
My co-workers aren’t.
In fact, most people I know aren’t Irish.  Or if they are it’s like 1/32 and their Irish ancestors came over in the Potato Famine and they don’t even know that Great-Great-Great-Grandma’s name.
I’m not prejudice against the Irish- they’re lovely people, history and politics aside.  In general they have a warm, welcoming culture, not terribly unlike my own Scottish American upbringing.  They have good beer, and decent food on the Celt scale, and the perfect genes for amazing hair (and if our recent-immigrant neighbors are any indicator they also make the most adorable babies).
I think it’s demeaning to pretend we’re all something we’re not, both to our own families ancestral cultures which are being belittled and ignored by this claim, and to the Irish culture, which is being co-opted by those who have no interest in engaging in the thousands of special rites, rituals, and norms that fully embody the rich heritage.
I’m proud to be the daughter of Scots.  I’m proud to have a mother who gave up her family and career and life to marry the man she loved and immigrate to a new country.  I’m proud to have Grandparents who brought their son, my father, into the world while immigrating- intent on building a brighter city, and a new home church (my grandfather was an engineer, and an elder in our church).  
I’m as proud to be Scottish as my Irish neighbors are to be Irish.  They are proud to have come from families that fought for peace during The Troubles (Protestant/ Catholic unrest from the 1960s to the late 1990s), proud to teach their children the step dances that once protected revolutionaries in their homeland, proud to call a mystical fairy-tale laden homeland their own.  
The trouble is, Saint Patrick’s day (when celebrated as Americans do) isn’t about that culture.  It isn’t about the pride, or sharing the history, or supporting the many current, historical, or ancestral immigrants.  It isn’t about Saint Patrick and his kidnapping, or priesthood, or his long work in Christian evangelicalism.  It isn’t even about that weird snake story (that National Geographic explains is a big fat lie).
Saint Patrick’s day (in America) is about getting drunk, dirtying waterways, sexually harassing others,  and gleaning fake “luck.”  And these traditions in “celebrating” Irish heritage cheapen the Irish people.
The Irish, contrary to 19th century American ideals are not drunkards who suck down green beer daily, in fact alcohol and alcoholism are serious issues often discussed in Irish homes and communities.  They do no go around dying rivers, canals, and fountains with often environmentally damaging chemicals like Frat boys during Rush- they have many centuries worth of conservation and environmental protection efforts, and they are a leader in eco-building and tourism today.  The Irish do not go around pinching a girls butt based on her shirt colour.  And they certainly don’t believe you will magically gather luck from the kiss of a person who happens to have been born or have ancestors born on an island with the Blarney stone (never mind if that person has actually ever seen, or touched this stone).  In fact, like most cultures- Irish fathers would really rather you keep  your drunk paws off their daughHolidaers.
And my father, like the Irishman next door, would rather that too.
So don’t kiss me- I’m Scottish American.
And don’t pinch my butt either- because you may very well end up with a green and black and blue eye when I prove my heritage.
And that would be a sad way to celebrate a sad holiday.