Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Shit Aaron Says - the anniversary edition

Y'all will never believe this, but today is our 25th anniversary. Twenty. Five. Years.






This post will mostly be photos but I also have some gems from the mouth of Aaron, past and present.







After a dinner that included zero vegetables and while scooping some mint chocolate chip ice cream: "I needed to have something green."








When Aaron thinks he looks good, he makes sure others know it, too. For example, at my dad's calling hours he said to some friends, "Don't I look good?"








While walking into church one Sunday, out of nowhere: "you look good, too." Thanks, honey.







But then he'll say something like this: "You're the prettiest girl in the room."






And of course, there are those two words he said in September of 1990: "Marry me?"






I'd do it all over again. And yes, you look good, too.



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Third Time's a Charm

It finally happened. After missing Sting the last two times we had tickets (remember this post from a couple years ago?), Aaron and I got to see Sting AND Peter Gabriel in the opening concert for their Rock Paper Scissors North American tour.




I had to take a shitty selfie to document the occasion.





I don't have many pictures from the concert because they just didn't come out well and I'm not big on taking pics at a show. But let me tell you, this was a fabulous concert! Sting and Peter Gabriel performed for close to three hours, singing not only their own songs, but also each other's (Sting covered "Shock the Monkey" and Gabriel sang "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free), sang backup for each other (so fun to watch Sting doing choreography of sorts and backing up on "In Your Eyes"), and sharing the stage ("Games Without Frontiers" was a highlight).


After the first couple songs, they talked a little about the thought process behind this tour and it's just so cool to see two icons like these guys who obviously have mad respect for each other. As this was the opening stop on the tour, it turns out they've been in town for two freakin' weeks! Last Friday I'd heard of Sting sightings mere blocks from my house. Fortunately I didn't act on any stalking urges.



Photo by Chris Russell for the Columbus Dispatch


Of course, both artists are socially conscious and passionate about global issues. After singing "Driven to Tears," Sting spoke about the events in Orlando and dedicated my all time favorite song "Fragile" to the victims there. Peter Gabriel debuted the song "Love Can Heal" and dedicated it to Jo Cox, the British Member of Parliament who was brutally assassinated last week. I can't wait to own this beautiful new song.



Surprisingly I didn't cry, but Aaron did. I won't tell you how many times, but once was during "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic."


OK, three. He cried three times.

The encore consisted of "Every Breath You Take" and "Sledgehammer." They said their goodbyes and took a few bows and Peter Gabriel said "Rock Paper Scissors started here." So crazy happy that I was there.


I don't normally buy concert t-shirts, but you can bet I did this time. And yes, I'm wearing it today.







Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Showin' My Books - Revenge of the JOTAN

** JOTAN = Jumping of Time and Narration. I've never seen this acronym, so I'm claiming it as my own.



I often have two books going at a time: one audiobook to listen to in the car or at the gym, and one that I'm actively reading, either by e-reader or "real" book. It can sometimes get a little confusing, and this month it got super confusing.

While reading The Good Girl by Mary Kubica, I was listening to The Widow by Fiona Barton for my real life book club. I've made a handy dandy chart to show you why shit got crazy between these two:

The victim in The Widow is a toddler named Bella while in The Good Girl she's named Mia and is in her 20s. (Side note, I originally typed those in backwards -- I'm telling you, this all messed with my mind and made me realize I need to be more careful about the style of books I read simultaneously.)

I liked both books. The Widow left me with a lot of questions. My book club is actually scheduled to discuss it tonight and I may end up getting a copy from the library just to clarify some things I may have missed in the audio.

In The Good Girl, the time jumps between before Mia comes back home and after (this is not a spoiler - you know by chapter 3-ish that she comes home). As it got closer to the time of her return, I could picture it as a movie bouncing between the cops closing in on her kidnapper and Mia revisiting the site of her captivity. I was NOT expecting the ending.



Now on to two books that I absolutely loved.

The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen - I didn't know until after I read this that Paul Pen is Spanish and the book was translated. It's his second novel, but the first hasn't yet been translated to English. This is another book in which none of the characters have names, which normally drives me crazy but didn't bother me here. It reminded me of The Compound by S.A. Bodeen, which I read several years ago and also highly recommend.


Please Don't Come Back From the Moon by Dean Bakopolous - This got moved up on my list because of The Armchair Librarians' podcast and Jana's deep love of all things Bakopolous. I read this in two days. It's not flashy, it's not suspenseful, it's just a beautifully written, poignant story. I borrowed it from the library but I will likely buy it.


What are you reading?


Linking up with Steph and Jana



Life According to Steph



Friday, June 10, 2016

Standing with the Stanford Survivor

By now you know about the Stanford rape case in which Brock Turner received a mere six month sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. While debating about whether or not to address this, I thought "does the world really need another article/blog post about this heinous injustice?" And then I decided that really, there can't be too many. If people don't want to read this one, that's fine. But my hope is that everyone has read something about this and feels as angry (and sad) as I do.


I'm not going to rehash the details of the case, or of the statements made by the victim (who is one of the bravest people ever, in my opinion) and the perpetrator's father (who is ballsy but I wouldn't equate that with being brave). But I have a few thoughts that I want to share.


There's been a lot of outcry about how the media initially used a pretty yearbook picture of Turner instead of his mugshot and that they described him as an "athlete" instead of "rapist." While I agree with that objection I also think, go ahead and use a clean cut picture. Go ahead and call him a former Olympic hopeful. Make sure people see that rapists can look like the guy next door. They can seem like "everybody's all-American."


I'm not a parent, and I have no idea how I'd handle this as a parent. I hope I would encourage my daughter to be strong and confident, and also smart about situations she finds herself in.
I hope I'd reiterate to my son that no means no. And as my friend Christine wrote on Facebook, "anything less than an enthusiastic yes is a no." And while I can't believe it's necessary to say this, unconscious means NO.


It's still so infuriating that women are treated as second-class citizens when it comes to sexual assault. In the "he said / she said" scenarios, her word doesn't carry as much weight as his. In this particular case, the survivor has been traumatized for life, yet Judge Aaron Persky felt that jail time would have a "severe impact" on Brock Turner.

ISN'T THAT THE POINT?!



As I said earlier, there have been multitudes of blog posts and letters and articles about the Stanford case. I'll share two of them here, both written by people I personally know.


One is by Steph, whom most of you should know by now, and if you don't know her or of her, know that she is a fierce feminist and in this particular post, she's pissed off.

Rape is never, ever, EVER the victim's fault, regardless of what she did or didn't do, what she wore, how she acted. Her life is never less important than her attacker's regardless of what station in life either of them occupies.  ~ Life According to Steph



If you're looking for a softer approach, check out this article by Marty, a college classmate of mine who is a Lutheran minister.


  • When we compliment boys on their brains and girls on their appearance, we make Brock Turner possible.
  • When we warn female college students to take precautions against drunken fraternity brothers (instead of educating those frat boys on the true meaning of the words “mutual consent”), we make Brock Turner possible.
  • When we encourage our sons to enjoy their sexuality and shame our daughters for doing the same, we make Brock Turner possible. 
~ Martin Zimmann on the Living Lutheran website 



And a bonus excerpt from my friend Candy's Facebook post:


We have to be angry about more than one man, just because we happen to know his name. We have to be talking to our sons. We have to be talking to our partners. We have to be looking at the records of our judges when we vote. We have to be listening to our daughters. We have to be supporting the victims, wrapping ourselves around them the way we wish we could have that night.
Do not let your outrage be about one man. Let it be something that changes you, the way you speak, the way you care for others. The victim in this case has said that for right now, she prefers to remain anonymous so that she can be every woman. Let this be about every woman. Let your outrage merge with compassion and fuel something greater than one small man.





Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dear United Airlines,

Spoiler alert: this is NOT a complaint letter.


On May 11, 2016, I flew with my husband to San Diego from Columbus with a layover in Chicago. Upon boarding the second flight I realized that I had left my Kindle in the seatback pocket on the first plane. I notified a flight attendant, gave her a description of the Kindle, and she said she would see what she could do. At some point during the flight, she found me and said that they had tried calling the gate agent to no avail and suggested that I fill out a Lost Item form on United's website.

I filled out the form and received several update emails that United was "still searching" for the Kindle. I had described it as best as I could, but I had bought it from my friend Lisa so I didn't know the serial number. I said it had a burgundy case with an attached light and that it was called "Gila's Kindle."

I knew that you would only search for my item for 30 days, and after two weeks my hope was waning, but on June 2nd I received a voicemail, a text and an email letting me know that it had been found! I filled out more information and I did have to pay for shipping (but I didn't mind since it was my own dumb fault that it was missing in the first place) and that same day I received tracking information. I admit to being overly excited about this.

The Kindle arrived at my home on June 6th, and we have been reunited.




I'm writing this for two reasons:


  1. I want to thank the blonde flight attendant on Flight 649 on May 11th for not only finding me on the plane to tell me that she had tried to locate the Kindle, but also for letting me know about the Lost Item form. It seems like common sense, but I don't know that I would have thought to look for such a thing myself. I'm sorry that I didn't get her name.

  2. I want to publicly thank United Airlines for this excellent customer service. Too often we are much more likely to express displeasure rather than praise. I want anyone willing to read this to know how much I appreciate getting my Kindle back after I was foolish enough to leave it behind.


Thank you again,

Gwen Carmack





Friday, June 3, 2016

TWO Years!

Today I'm celebrating two years since some awesome doctors and nurses weaved their magic to rid my body of breast cancer. Last year on this date I wrote a post about how shitty the first year was. Seeing as how I've been a blogging slacker, here's an update on that post.


The second year has been better than the first, but not without its struggles. The good news is that I continue to see the breast surgeon every six months and everything is A-OK. I still have some moments of worry -- how can I not -- but I don't take for granted how fortunate I have been in my cancer journey.

I still have some pain around the abdominal scar and I know when I've overdone it. This is annoying, but I have no regrets with the surgical choices I made, and I'm hopeful that this will get better.

I still get hit with bouts of depression. I went to therapy for a while and I'm not afraid to go back if I need to, but for now, when I feel low I know that I just need some time to myself. And that's OK.

We put my mom's house on the market in October. It's still for sale. This is pretty frustrating, not to mention costly, but we'll get through it.

I'm no longer afraid to fall asleep. If I stay up too late it's just because I'm wrapped up in a book or watching Netflix.

Our family suffered a blow when Aaron's mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died a mere 10 weeks later. It's still weird to think about how fast it all happened.

I remain overwhelmed and grateful for the love and support of my friends and family, including online friends I've never met.

This is by no means an inclusive list of the ups and downs of the past year, but overall life is good and I'm happy to be able to enjoy it. I'm still going to bitch about benign shit because, well, I'm still me.


Meanwhile, I try to remember this:


One thing I've never had is a kidney stone, but I'm certain I don't want one.




Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Showin' My Books - May '16


Hola, book lovers! It's time again for Show Us Your Books with Steph and Jana. I think last month they had over 50 bloggers link up, which is amazing, and I think I had a book hangover after reading all the posts. But that's a much better hangover than the other kind.


Life According to Steph



The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta - This is by the author of Saving Francesca, which was on my best of 2015 list. This book is not a sequel but it includes the same characters. It's five years after Francesca and we're focusing on Thomas Mackee. On the Goodreads star scale, which I'm not a huge fan of but what can you do, I gave both books 5 stars. The Piper's Son is told from the perspective of both Tom and his aunt Georgie (early 40s, single, pregnant). At times I wanted to both shake some sense into these two and give them hugs.



Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah (Audiobook) - This is my first Kristin Hannah book and it won't be my last. It's the story of two grown sisters whose beloved father dies and they are left to take care of their mother, who has been nothing but cold toward them their entire lives. But then they find out much more. We're told a story of WWII-era Russia, and it's one that I've not heard. There were times that I thought "wrap this up, we know what's going to happen," except that I didn't really know and I realized that the long build-up was all necessary. This is a heartbreaking, yet heartwarming book.



The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton - I read this for Erin's book challenge as the "written in the year I was born" book. I'm sure I read this book in high school, but I remember the movie, which came out when I was in high school. So I couldn't help but think of Patrick Swayze and Matt Dillon and Rob Lowe, et al, while reading this. I enjoyed revisiting these characters. Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.




Maestra by L.S. Hilton (Audiobook) - I found out about this through the All the Books podcast. It starts out with Judith who works in an auction house and ends up moonlighting as a "hostess" in a champagne bar, where she's known as Lauren. She discovers art fraud shenanigans at work and ends up getting sacked (oh yeah, she's British and since I listened to this I find myself using British terms). But let's be clear, she is no innocent lamb. This book was kind of all over the place. There were a lot of characters and I had trouble keeping track of them, and then I just didn't care. Also, warning, there is a lot of NASTY sex going on in this book. I mean, I enjoy some sexy times reading, but this is beyond. (The main character regularly refers to her naughty bits as the "c" word, so there you go.) Admittedly, the podcast recommendation mentioned that there were X-rated parts of the book so I had fair warning, but... wow. At the end of the epilogue she says "to be continued..." but she'll have to continue without me, not just because of the raunchiness but I just don't feel like there's any more to the story.


Funny how I wrote more about the book I hated more than the ones I loved.


Currently reading: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica. I'm doing some traveling this week so I hope to get through some books.