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Rough night

I left work a little early yesterday, and was very excited that the weather was dry and fairly warm (high 40s). I planned to pick up Baby Beez from daycare, bundle her up in a hat and blanket, and take her for a nice long walk in the stroller on the Jail Trail.

She was whiny when I picked her up from daycare, but this was to be expected because she had just awoken from her nap.  By the time I got her home, it was clear she wasn’t feeling right.  She was a little warm and extra whiny.  All she wanted was to cuddle with me, suck her thumb, and moan.  We skipped the walk and stayed home.  She curled up with me for the rest of the afternoon and evening, occasionally sipping her juice.

an old picture of a snoozing Baby Beez

As the evening progressed, so did her fever.  She usually goes to bed around 7:30, but I let her snuggle with me and sleep as I watched a movie.  I finally put her in her bed around 10.  Throughout the night, she woke up every 1.5 to 2 hours.  Her fever was in the 101 range, and she had occasional “shudders” which woke her up and made her cry.  I did give her tylenol every 4 hours, but it seemed to wear off after about 2.  When she’d wake up, I’d snuggle with her and rub her back and try to get her to calm down.  I felt so bad, because I was doing everything I could for her, but she still didn’t feel well.  Finally around 4am, the fever wore off, and we did get a good stretch of sleep from 5 to 8:30. She’s not 100% now, but she’s doing considerably better. She’s interested in eating and in her toys, and I have a feeling once she wakes up from her afternoon nap, she’ll be full of energy and happy again.

When Baby Beez was a newborn, this waking up every 2 hours thing was a daily occurrence.  We’ve been extremely lucky in that she’s been sleeping through the night since she was about 4 months old.  It’s been almost a year since she’s woken up at night with any regularity. I am not used to this waking up at night thing, and consequently am feeling extra-rough today.

One Christmas when I was a kid, my 3 brothers and stepmom got the stomach flu.  My dad and I were lucky to avoid that plague.  My dad stayed up all night doing 16 loads of laundry, then as dawn broke, he put the turkey in the oven.  I think he and I were the only ones physically capable of even eating dinner that year.  That was a Christmas to remember. My dad likes to retell the story of that Christmas, but he never does so with bitterness.  He always retells it like a joke, and laughs heartily.

I’m constantly surprised by how love can convince you to do something that really, really sucks.  There are few people I would give up a night of sleep for, just to rub their back and try to soothe them.  I am even more surprised by Mr. Beez, who constantly tolerates all kinds of absurd things for me, just because he loves me. I’ve dragged him through countless movies, events, and concerts he’s in no way interested in, and he tolerates it without complaint because he loves me (or because he’s a sucker).

Here’s to hoping you have a healthy New Year’s, surrounded by the ones you love!

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City Lights (1931)

I’ve fallen considerably behind on my quest of watching the AFI top 100 movies.  I got
City Lights from Netflix almost a month ago, and just haven’t been in the mood to watch a silent film.  Watching an old movie is like going to the gym.  I often moan and groan and put it off, but when I finally get around to it, it’s an enjoyable experience.

City Lights is clever and charming, and Charlie Chaplin’s role in this film is by far his most famous.  Chaplin plays the “Little Tramp” who falls for a blind flower girl, and vows to scrounge up the money for a surgery that will restore her eyesight.  The downfall is that once she has the surgery, she’ll be able to see the real him, and learn he’s not really a millionaire.

Most of the film is physical goofs.  They really are funny, I laughed out loud a few times.  Chaplin is, well, Chaplin…but I do think Buster Keaton is funnier.  Chaplin tries harder to be funny, while Keaton played the straight man, who falls into funny situations–which I find to be a whole lot funnier.

I am glad for my AFI goal, because I would have never bothered to watch this film otherwise.  I probably won’t go out of my way to watch many more Chaplin movies (although I will be seeing Modern Times, since it’s on the list) but I’m glad to have seen this one.

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New Year’s fun!

It’s almost New Year’s Eve! Time for celebration!

Over the last several years, Mr. Beez and I have had a tradition of going out to fancy dinner with our friends Sandy and Ben.  We’ve been to several different restaurants, but last year we had so much fun at Ibiza that we’ve decided to go there again!  We have an old-people early dinner reservation, but that works best for all involved, since we have young children (they at home with babysitters–this is a grown up dinner, yum Sangria!)  In years past, Mr. Beez and I have followed up the dinner by going to a NYE party or other such fun.  This year we’re going to be extra glamorous and return home, put on sweatpants, drink champagne, and probably watch a movie. 

For as long as I can remember, my family’s New Year’s Day tradition has been to eat cinnamon rolls (usually Cinnabon), drink hot chocolate, and watch the Rose Parade on TV. 

One year we actually trekked it down to watch the Rose Parade in person, and decided that it’s not worth the hassle. It’s better on TV, plus you don’t have to get up at 4am to take a bus to Pasadena with 60 retirees.

Each year we carry on the tradition.  Since Cinnabon doesn’t exist anywhere in Pittsburgh (why?), I often pick up cinnamon rolls from Dozen.  They are truly the best in the city, although I do have a certain fondness for My Goodies Vegan Bakery’s Cinnamon Buns .  I am also known to bake a mean cinnamon roll, but I admit it’s not a recipe of my own design.  For my “secret” recipe, check out “Father’s Cinnamon Rolls” on About.com’s article “In Search for the Ultimate Cinnamon Roll Recipe”

I would someday like to attend the First Night Pittsburgh NYE celebration.  For this former-California-Girl, the prospect of voluntarily being outside at night in the winter is not an appealing one for me.  Maybe some year when the weather forecast says “warm and dry” I will check it out.

What are your New Year’s plans?

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Books I plan to read in 2012

These are the books on my “to read” list for next year.  Summaries courtesy of Barnes & Noble.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

A sophisticated and entertaining debut novel about an irresistible young woman with an uncommon sense of purpose.

Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year- old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.

The story opens on New Year’s Eve in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, where Katey and her boardinghouse roommate Eve happen to meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a ready smile. This chance encounter and its startling consequences cast Katey off her current course, but end up providing her unexpected access to the rarified offices of Conde Nast and a glittering new social circle. Befriended in turn by a shy, principled multimillionaire, an Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, and a single-minded widow who is ahead of her times, Katey has the chance to experience first hand the poise secured by wealth and station, but also the aspirations, envy, disloyalty, and desires that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her orbit, she will learn how individual choices become the means by which life crystallizes loss.

Elegant and captivating, Rules of Civility turns a Jamesian eye on how spur of the moment decisions define life for decades to come. A love letter to a great American city at the end of the Depression, readers will quickly fall under its spell of crisp writing, sparkling atmosphere and breathtaking revelations, as Towles evokes the ghosts of Fitzgerald, Capote, and McCarthy.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

After igniting a firestorm of debate across the nation, Amy Chua’s daring, conversation-changing memoir is now in paperback.

At once provocative and laugh-out-loud funny, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother set off a global parenting debate with its story of one mother’s journey in strict parenting. Amy Chua argues that Western parenting tries to respect and nurture children’s individuality, while Chinese parents typically believe that arming children with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence prepares them best for the future. Achingly honest and profoundly challenging, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua’s iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, the Chinese way-and the remarkable, sometimes heartbreaking results her choice inspires.

The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell travels through the American past and, in doing so, investigates the dusty, bumpy roads of her own life. In this insightful and funny collection of personal stories Vowell — widely hailed for her inimitable stories on public radio’s This American Life — ponders a number of curious questions: Why is she happiest when visiting the sites of bloody struggles like Salem or Gettysburg? Why do people always inappropriately compare themselves to Rosa Parks? Why is a bad life in sunny California so much worse than a bad life anywhere else? What is it about the Zen of foul shots? And, in the title piece, why must doubt and internal arguments haunt the sleepless nights of the true patriot?

Her essays confront a wide range of subjects, themes, icons, and historical moments: Ike, Teddy Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton; Canadian Mounties and German filmmakers; Tom Cruise and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; twins and nerds; the Gettysburg Address, the State of the Union, and George W. Bush’s inauguration.

The result is a teeming and engrossing book, capturing Vowell’s memorable wit and her keen social commentary.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the YA scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

What books do you plan to read in 2012?

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Student debt and the death of opportunity

The American Bar Association published an article this week entitled The Law School Bubble: How Long Will it Last if Grads Can’t Pay Bills?  In short– the feds are generous in handing out student loans, but while the cost of tuition has skyrocketed, the job market has stagnated.

I’ve recently had several opportunities to speak with prospective law students and new law students.  The one theme that I try to hammer home is that Student debt closes doors.

Five-figure debt? Try well into the six-figures...

Education theoretically creates opportunities.  But a graduate saddled with $160,000 of student debt can only pursue those opportunities she can afford. A Juris Doctor is a license to practice, but a grad with heavy student debt cannot hang her own shingle.  A grad with heavy student debt can’t run for political office, or pursue research opportunities or seek out another degree or teach.  A grad with heavy debt can’t be an entrepreneur.   A grad with heavy student debt cannot work in most government or public interest jobs.  There are some public loan forgiveness programs, but those don’t help during those first 10 years of work you have to put in before being eligible and those don’t help with the $80,000+ of that debt that is private loans.   A grad with heavy student debt must limit herself to the job opportunities that pay enough to cover her debt and  her living expenses.  Those jobs at entry level are evaporating quickly.

So many students, myself included, go into law school because in college they majored in fields they perceived to be “useless.”  Law school seemingly provides opportunities for a career, and opportunities to provide for yourself and your family.  That message is overly-optimistic.  A liberal arts student who enters law school with few-to-no job prospects, in this economy will likely leave law school with few-to-no job prospects plus six figures in debt.  Financially, that student is better off hitting the pavement and doing whatever she can to put that “useless” college degree to work, even if the work doesn’t pay well.

I studied abroad in Germany in 2002, and remembered feeling so bitter toward German students.  University education was publicly funded, and students even received a governmental stipend for living expenses.  I was disgusted by that system, and felt that “free” schooling hindered students from taking ownership and responsibility over their education.

My perspective is markedly different now.  I’m on a 30 year student loan repayment plan, and pay nearly $1000 per month in loans.  I ran an analysis of what the effect would be if I paid an additional $1000 per month…oh, my debt would just be paid off in sixteen years.  Even when you’re working hard, and making timely payments, and taking responsibility for your financially questionable educational decisions, the prospects are bleak.  You become debt fatigued.  Why pay more money into a hole that will seemingly never be filled? And of course, student debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.  If I were to lose my job, or become ill or disabled such that I couldn’t work, that debt will stick right there with me.

An educated citizenry benefits the whole country.  The only benefit I can imagine of sending young grads out into the workforce with crushing educational debt is the pulling-yoursef-up-by-the-bootstraps feeling after paying those debts off (if ever). If there is a justification for individual students carrying the financial burden of the American system of higher education, I would love to hear it.