In case you were wondering.

Twin Boys I should knit a few little baby socks, I thought. It’ll be fun, I thought.

Then I convinced myself to wait until the 20-week ultrasound, at which I would find out the genders of the papooses. After all, I have a tendency to make little-girl things, and how sad would it be to expend all that effort on little Mary Janes if I ended up with boys?

I suppose it’s a good thing I waited to pick up the needles.

After the ultrasound, at which the doctor assured us it was pretty unmistakable that there were two little men in there, I thought, I’ll just knit two pairs of little blue socks and post the picture to Facebook and that’ll answer ALL the questions. Except I underestimated my own OCD and the time it would take to knit four teensy socks. I made the mistake of posting something about the ultrasound and healthy babies to Facebook, then took four days to knit those ridiculous little blue socks and make the information public.

As soon as I indicated on Facebook that my anatomy scan had gone well, my inbox was flooded with messages. It suddenly seemed like everyone had a very driving interest in finding out the genders of my unborn children. Some resorting to guessing or guilting, reminding me they had every right to know before the Facebook world at large. Others hinted at wanting “news” in so many circles that it made my head spin.

Shameless pregnancy selfie.

Shameless pregnancy selfie.

I don’t understand this at. all. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t mind the curiosity. I’m not irritated. It’s been incredibly entertaining. But it baffles me.

Perhaps because I’ve never cared been really invested in finding out whether my friends and family were having boys or girls–particularly early in their pregnancies. I will love those kiddos to death after they’re born. But at 20 weeks, I’m not going to be knocking you over for news.

Does that make me a terrible person?

If you’re the kind of person who’s been holding his or her breath waiting for this information, here it is. If, like me, you really don’t care much, my feelings won’t be hurt. At all. I totally get it.

And if I offended you by depriving you of this news for four long days, then… I’m not sure what to say. I’m sorry? Ish?

Neil Gaiman …and 19 Weeks Pregnant

American Gods CoverI thought I liked Neil Gaiman, and then I tried to read American Gods.

Actually, I might blame the previous month of blogging silence on the psychological trauma that constituted the first two hundred pages of that book.

I tried. Wanted to love it. Realized that every time I sat down, ostensibly to read and relax, I felt a tension headache taking form and a slight, but unmistakeable, wave of nausea.

Was Shadow supposed to be a dimensionless, remarkably boring character? Was the mishmash of mythology intended to be more irritating than it was interesting? What’s with the hallucinogenic-ish rabbit trails thrown in for free?

I’m guessing it makes more sense if you actually finish the thing, but really, you couldn’t pay me to go there again. Well, I guess you could pay me. But the price would be steep.

This ridiculousness makes Samuel Beckett’s style look eminently reasonable, believable, and optimistic.

Giving myself permission to give up on that psychedelic road trip was akin to the guilty pleasure of ordering a venti Frappuccino before breakfast. Sooo ridiculously good.

Maybe I’m just not cut out for the whole contemporary literature thing. That’s actually not unlikely.

Twin Pregnancy 19 Weeks Or maybe it’s hormones. This week, I’m 19 weeks pregnant with twins, more or less halfway through this crazy pregnancy.

One day, I felt like I could pretty much pass for a disproportionate, somewhat overweight person. The very next morning, my belly was preceding me everywhere, announcing to the world that I’m indeed expecting.

It’s getting hard to tie my shoes, roll over at night, and load the bottom shelf of the dishwasher. And I believe my toenail-painting days are over. Cue the wealth of well-meaning comments everywhere I go.

My favorite question: “Do you know what you’re having yet?! Are you going to find out?”

Um, human babies? I hope?

Next week’s ultrasound should give us the much-anticipated gender answer. Though I still don’t understand why relative strangers care so much. I mean, I’m not holding my breath to find out whether distant relatives and strangers in the grocery store are having boys or girls.

Next favorite question: “Wouldn’t it be AMAZING if you had one boy and one girl?”

I think it would be pretty awesome if I had two healthy babies. That would be miracle enough for me. Though I must admit, I’m hoping for at least one girl.

If I said every snarky thing that came to mind these days, I’d be well on my way to making the entire population of Springfield, MA hate my pregnant guts.

The poor hubster.

One extra rant that hits particularly close to home this morning: The baristas at my local Starbucks have proven they are more than slightly ignorant about the contents of a London Fog. Isn’t this relatively common coffee shop knowledge? Clearly not. Because the unsweetened fruity (!) tea-ish thingy I got last time I ordered one didn’t even come close to the right ball park.

I can’t believe I’m reading this nonsense.

City of Bones CoverI did it. I ventured into the shady world of popular young adult fiction.

I don’t usually read YA stuff. Or sci-fi-ish stuff, unless the husband somehow talks me into it. I guess this falls more into the realm of fantasy?

If anyone recommended these books to me with any seriousness, I very well might have rolled my eyes inwardly and made a mental note to forever after question their taste.

But once I read the first book in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series–City of Bones–I was hooked. Not because there’s anything particularly amazing about the books. As a matter of fact, I wanted to hate the series and rail against its inconsistencies and its hopelessly twisted agnostic worldview and its typical young-adultish melodrama.

Digression: One Goodreads viewer actually wrote that she wants to believe this world exists. What kind of messed up person wants to live in a world where the only thing keeping us ordinary humans from the whims of demons is a team of narcissistic dagger-wielding teenagers and a group of even less-trustworthy adults who can’t get their act together?

Regardless. Instead of embracing my inner critic, I just picked up the next one. And then the next. Repeat like 7x.

They’re unlimited on Oyster, so why not? And why take the effort to get to know a whole new set of characters in a book I may or may not like when I’m already addicted to these and have. to. know. what happens to them next?

I guess Cassandra Clare must have done something right.

I’m claiming these as the trilogy on my 2015 reading list, since I have to claim it as something and technically the entire series is made up of three trilogies. I’m dismissing the critic in me, because I needed some junk food reading in my life, and all my pregnant self wants to do is sit on the sofa and do nothing, and for the month of May, this has been my nothing.

I feel like I should read War and Peace and then Moby Dick back-to-back next to make up for this indiscretion. And to clear my mind of nonsense like demon hunters with superhuman powers and angels with iridescent wings.

Babies times two.

Life changes dramatically. Or maybe it doesn’t. Six months ago, I was setting up shop at a Guam coffee shop drinking tea, writing web landing pages and blog posts for myriad companies. Today, I’m doing much the same thing on the other side of the world. I’m still drinking a tea latte. And I’m still procrastinating when I should be washing laundry.

Everything is very much the same. Everything is completely different.

The coffee shop is a Starbucks, not an Infusion. And I’m realizing (with some dismay) that I think I like Infusion better.

The tea latte is actually a London Fog, not a Japanese-esque earl grey royal milk tea.

And now my body is home to three heartbeats, not just one or two.

minijacoby.12weeks

minijacoby.twina

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the first several weeks of this pregnancy, I had been much sicker than I was with Miriam. I ballooned faster. But I told myself it was just a different pregnancy–and not very far spaced from the first one, at that. I took the sickness and exhaustion as a comforting sign that I had a healthy baby growing in there.

Your body is exhausted, I told myself. You just moved internationally. What did you expect? 

My midwife suspected twins the moment she touched my belly. I should have been eleven weeks along, but my uterus didn’t seem to agree. A few days and an ultrasound later, we’d confirmed her suspicions: two healthy twins, about twelve weeks old.

So here I am again, more nervous this time around, more excited this time around, taking less for granted, playing the waiting game that is pregnancy. Lord willing, November this year will welcome two new additions to the little home we just bought.

In the meantime, seasons change and remain as beautiful as ever. As locals promised, springtime in New England really shines. The landscape shaded from brown-gray to a rainbow of colors in the space of just a few days. It’s lovely to walk outside in the cool of the morning and for it to be cool, not dense and heavy with the aroma of jungle.

I miss Guam for the familiarity of it, the friends, and the ocean. I already miss that Pacific blue that I know I’ll never see on this side of the world.

A few days ago I treated myself to a pedicure and chose the polish closest in color to that one-of-a-kind ocean blue. But even photographs don’t come close, let alone OPI’s best attempt at an ocean blue.

Nevertheless, for now, I’ll take Massachusetts and whatever it has to offer. With pleasure.

Bleak House, house buying, Hawthorne, Melville, and Bryant…

Bleak House CoverIt took me a month to read Bleak House, mostly because moving from Guam, buying a house, and generally not feeling great has been monopolizing life lately. The book itself is classic Dickens–brilliant and impossible to review. Everything that can possibly be said about it has already been said by more well-spoken readers than me.

Somewhere around page 300, I laughed out loud at something (this happened a lot while reading this book). The hubster looked up from his computer. “Good book?” he asked.

“It’s brilliant.”

“What’s it about?”

And for the life of me, even though I was already a third of the way through the thing, I couldn’t really say what it was about or where it was going. The action really starts around page 700, which is probably why so many people find BH such a daunting read.

Nevertheless, it’s brilliant. You should go read it now.

The hopeless situation of that Chancery lawsuit was a nice break from househunting and moving stress. Dickens takes effort to read when all you’ve read lately are more modern, American-authored books, and I needed something to keep my mind occupied.

So there was that, and it took forever to read, and it made me feel like I needed to go read every single Dr. Seuss book ever written to catch back up with my 52-book goal on the 2015 reading list. Although BH would qualify for several different items on the List, I’m counting it toward “a book that I own but never read,” because it really has been collecting dust for a while.

I found Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose!

I found Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose!

 

Side note: Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was born in Springfield, Mass–the same town in which we’re buying a house. There’s even a memorial sculpture garden, and it’s kind of awesome.

This weekend I learned a little more profoundly just how much literary history is EVERYWHERE around here. The hubster and I went to hike Monument Mountain, just west of town, on Saturday. Google revealed that a picnic on that mountain once spawned a friendship between Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, that one of their conversations supposedly inspired Moby Dick. 

 

Poet William Cullen Bryant also waxed rather eloquent on the subject of that mountain’s rocky crags.

Let thy foot
Fail not with weariness, for on their tops
The beauty and the majesty of earth,
Spread wide beneath, shall make thee to forget
The steep and toilsome way.

Read the entire poem here, if you’re feeling dedicated.

Monument Mountain

The views up there were beautiful. But I’ve seen unquestionably more spellbinding mountains than that one. Did William Cullen Bryant ever visit the Rockies? That bears research, but I doubt he would have been as impressed by the Berkshires if he had.

I am a bad blogger. And a bad traveller.

They say the golden rule of blogging is to blog regularly.

Judging by that benchmark, I’d say I fail pretty profoundly, seeing as I’ve published all of two? three? posts since the first of this year.

I’m not without excuses. For the last month and a half, life has been one big international move. On March 2nd, the hubster and I flew out of Guam, travelled for something like 27 hours, then landed in Hartford, Connecticut. The only really consolatory part of that trip? Knowing that I wouldn’t have to travel it again anytime soon.

So, apparently the hubster has a sketchy travel history.

At four different airports, the conversation with the TSA began like this:

Excuse me, sir, I need to pull you aside for a moment and unpack every item of your carry on while you tell me everywhere you have travelled in the last five years. 

The hubster is in the Air Force. He has an extensive travel history. I don’t know that I could name every country I’ve visited or flown through in the last five years, and he’s traveled five times as much as me.

“I’ve been to Turkey, Quatar, Japan, the U.S. a few times, Hawaii, Russia, Uzbekibekibekistan…”

“And what was the purpose of your visit to Turkey?”

“I am in the military. I was deployed there.”

“But what were you doing there? And what dates were you in Turkey?”

….

Then, you know, you get to the domestic side of things after getting off a 14-hour-long transoceanic flight. And you overhear fellow travellers having the most edifying phone conversations:

Oh, you know, I just got off the longest flight everrr from Seattle to Detroit. …yeah, it was awful. The guy sitting beside me slept, like, half the time and I couldn’t even get up to walk around. I hate flying.

And then you watch the same passenger go up to the ticket counter and ask for an upgrade to first-class because of all the travel they’re having to endure that day.

Ma’am, you don’t understand. I have been in transit for FIVE HOURS now. 

One day it’ll be funny. Right?

In other news, we are here, we haven’t frozen yet, our poor Guam boonie dog, Frank, survived the trip (although he discovered a very entitled, needy disposition somewhere along the way), we found a house we love and are waiting to close on it, and in the meantime we’re living out of a hotel.

I spent most of my non-blogging time over the past several weeks not making much progress on the 2015 reading list, because I was reading Bleak HouseMore on that later.

Swimming with Sharks, and The Worst Hard Time

It’s hard–really, really hard–to put yourself in the perspective of a homesteader in the Texas panhandle when you’re surrounded by views like this.

Swimming with Sharks at Spanish Steps, GuamThere are sharks in that water. Black-tipped reef sharks. And I got pretty close and personal with a few of them this afternoon.

Swimming with sharks is one of those things that divers and snorkelers around here shrug off: “Oh, sharks? Psssh. I punched one in the face last week. No biggie.”

Though I’ve done a pretty good chunk of diving and snorkeling in my two years here, I’d never seen one up close until today. And even though most Guammies don’t think it’s a big deal to see them in the water (and even though I must admit that the sharks I swam with today were pretty small by most standards), I’m unreasonably happy.

Anyway.

Soaking up the tropics–and having cool bragging rights like swimming with baby reef sharks in the wild (cough)–makes it hard to imagine a different time and place where clouds of dust rose more than 20,000 feet into the sky and smothered little homesteads and towns in the Great Plains. But that’s what I’ve been reading about.

The Worst Hard Time tells the story of the American Dust Bowl–a period of intense drought and dust storms that hit a vulnerable area at the very worst time possible.

The Worst Hard Time CoverI think it’s interesting that many Goodreads reviewers make comments like, “I didn’t finish this book. It was too depressing.” Um, the title didn’t tip you off?

You can’t read an honest book about the Great Depression in general, and the dust bowl in particular, and expect it to be anything but depressing. You just can’t.

The Worst Hard Time reminded me of John Hersey’s Hiroshima, though the two are dramatically different. Hiroshima compresses the pain of the most devastating manmade disaster in history into 152 dense pages (pages that, if you’re me, make you want to throw up at times).
The Worst Hard Time also covers a devastating manmade disaster, but in this one, you become far more invested in the lives of the homesteaders and in their dreams for the future, which makes it even harder to watch them struggle.
I can’t help but sympathize with the homesteaders’ plight. But. Their attitudes are overwhelmingly irritating. Why didn’t they just leave? I wish I could ask them if their stubbornness to stay on the land was worth the lives of the children they lost to “dust pneumonia.” All those babies sleeping with wet sheets over their cribs and Vaseline in their nostrils to filter out the dust, only to die slowly because their lungs filled with dirt.
The homesteaders couldn’t afford to leave, but they couldn’t afford to stay, either–not with banks foreclosing on their properties and the ground unwilling to grow even a carrot during the worst of the drought years. Why not go someplace where there may not be jobs, but at least the very air isn’t trying to kill them? Even though I’m baffled by the stubbornness to stay in a place that was killing them, the stories of these sturdy homesteaders did break my heart.
Though I’m miles away from West Texas now, the story of the Dust Bowl hit particularly close to home for me since I grew up near the southern end of the dust bowl at the bottom corner of the Texas panhandle. I saw the desert that was once fertile grassland, and have heard Grandma talk a little about her family who took on the (derogatory) title “Okies” with pride and made a home for themselves.
Much of The Worst Hard Time follows the folks of Dalhart, TX. I’ve been there. Really makes the history come alive when you realize that those little wide-spot-in-the-road towns have such deep (and, in this case, painful) histories.
 Dust-storm-Texas-1935
I love the way Timothy Egan weaves together the story of this time from the lives of people—German, Irish, and other settlers, including the Comanche Indians who called the land home, the old cowboys of the XIT ranch, African Americans who had the misfortune of passing through those racist communities, and those of mixed ancestry who loved the land.
Egan also covers the media’s reports of the phenomenon to the rest of the States and their not-so-sympathetic response to those living in the dust bowl during the Depression. Lots of new perspectives from newspapers, personal diaries, and interviews that we never hear about from the history books.

I kept finding myself putting the book down so I could research. A Google image search yields some mind-boggling photos of dust storms burying homes under layers of silt.

Books like this make me love non-fiction and wish there were more books like this.