Letting the Little Angers Go + CRM Review: “The Unseen World” by Liz Moore

10689830_10204796102963790_4910210136918653776_nOur Katybug is a bit of a Zen master. She’s very good at helping us put things into perspective. She has a way of forcing us out of our everyday rat-race cycle–you know, that whole groove that your life gets into? That groove, that when One. Little. Thing gets in the way or goes wrong, and you lose it because that One. Little. Thing just slowed your roll.

I call them

THE LITTLE ANGERS

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Those little eruptions that cause you to use the bad words under your breath. Those things that ruin you day just a little.

Katy’s world is very people driven. It isn’t about the ‘things’ that get in her way–she doesn’t let them ruin her moments. for her it’s all about how to make the day better, how to make herself and those around her happy from moment to moment.

(Note to all: There is no stereotypical individual with Down syndrome. There is no one individual that fits that stereotype “they’re always happy!” That includes Katy. She has her ups and downs, and she cries quite a bit. But her personality is more happy than not. That’s just her personality.)

Lately (since about this past summer) she’s been taking larger and larger exceptions to our little angers. When we trip over the shoe in the hallway or can’t get the remote to change the channel and let the bad words spew from our mouths (and we might get ‘angry eyebrows,’ as she calls it). When we get upset, she gets upset.

Katy (after an eruption of little anger): “Are you mad at me (or anyone else in my immediate vicinity)?”

Me (or whoever has erupted): “No, I’m mad at the (shoes, remote, t.v., whatever  . . .)”

Katy: “Oh, okay.”

Except one day, not too long ago, when I was particularly upset about the dishes not fitting JUST RIGHT into the dishwasher. This was the moment Katy did her Zen thing and put it all in perspective.

“Mom, the dishes can’t help it. Just do what you can and deal with it.”

DUH!!!

She’s right. All those Little Angers just raise the blood pressure and do nothing to alleviate the situation.

See-Zen. For Katy, a hug is real. A smile is real. Those are the things that should matter. I’m in charge of the dishwasher. The dishes can’t do anything — they can’t change their placement or their size or shape (or color for that matter–but how cool would it be if they COULD!!!).

Of course, she doesn’t see that sometimes getting angry at the dishes in the dishwasher is just a way to redirect the anger I feel at someone else. A boss, a client, a spouse. Sometimes it’s nice to vent over that door that won’t close right rather than the ruin a relationship that you need to remain intact. In other words, screaming at an inanimate object is much safer than yelling at your boss.

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But, beyond that, I’ll try to take the lesson. I’ll stop getting angry at the remote or the dishes or the door. At least while Katy’s around.

Now, onto my thoughts on The Unseen World by Liz Moore.


“Only humans can hurt one another, Ada thought; only humans falter and betray one another with a stunning, fearsome frequency. As David’s family had done to him; as David had done to her. And Ada would do it too. She would fail other people throughout her life, inevitably, even those she loved best.”
Liz Moore, The Unseen World

The Premise

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, computers and what the could do were the future. And David Sibleius was in the forefront of this new world.

And he’s raising his daughter to understand it all. As a single father, David teaches takes her to his computer lab at a Boston university, where he sort of home schools her. She’s part of the lab, understanding their research and mathematics at an early age. More comfortable with this group of adults than children, Ada longs for friends her own age, but is content in her cocoon.

One of the lab’s projects is a computer program called Elixir, which is a very early form of artificial intelligence. Throughout their lift together, both David and Ada use Elixir as a sort of diary, chronicling their lives, but there is so much more that it is learning to do.

At 12 and 13, Ada starts to notice cognitive changes in David. He starts forgetting basic things, gets flustered and angry more easily, and disappears for longer periods of time. After prodding by his friend Liston (a lab assistant and a single parent herself), David sees a doctor, and is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. His condition deteriorates quickly, and soon after he’s placed in a nursing home.

Suddenly Ada is forced into the world. She moves in with Liston and her three boys. She’s thrust into Catholic school, where she must learn the rules, both written and unwritten.

Ada also starts to realize that the few things she did know about her father are not real, and that she has no idea who he is. While coming of age in a new world, Ada must also unravel the mystery of her father.

With the help of the lab and Elixir (where David left clues to his true identity and his life before Ada), Ada attempts to unravel the story of her father. Where The Unseen World can finally be seen.

My Thoughts

The Unseen World is a beautiful story. Multi-layered and multi-dimensional, this book has so many facets that blend beautifully.

At its heart, The Unseen World is a coming of age story for the most socially awkward of teenagers. But it’s got a bit of everything: history, illness, family, love.

The computer science component is fascinating, taking readers back to a time when being ‘online’ was fantasy, and the precursors for the things that run our lives were being imagined and created from 0’s and 1’s.

The Unseen World also gives readers a glimpse at the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s, and the fast decline that can come from it.

But mostly this is a tale of Ada and her difficulty in adjusting not only to the ‘real’ world (as a young teen!), but also the mystery of who David really was, and hows and whys of how he became to be David Sibelius, the father of Ada.

Set mostly in the 1980’s, this book jumps forward with Ada to 2009, and backward with David to his earlier years.

I  loved The Unseen World. It’s different and smart, but with a lot of heart. Ada is a great character, and David’s great mystery brings it all together.

spicoli-awesome5 stars. Intelligent, heartfelt and original.

 

 

 

 

 

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The slowing down of growing up + Emma Straub’s “Modern Lovers”

There was a time in life when I couldn’t imagine slowing down. Days when I ran or swam or biked from sunup to sundown. Downtime consisted of jumping on the trampoline or lying on the grass, staring at the clouds as they flew by.

And then there were the next-times: driving down the road with friends in tow, to pools and parties and games, to practices and work and meets. That feeling of freedom given to me with a set of keys, the thought of sitting at home worse than the thought of anything else.

Next was the time of classes and friends, of more freedom but less money. But it didn’t matter. Work and classes, and then a few dollars to go out with friends, to parties or the movies or, later, the clubs and bars. To think about sitting home was the same as sitting in a box. Boring and stale and unwanted.

And then work. The time of work. Waiting for hours and days to slowly click by, waiting for the weekend, and time with friends. A time to make the most of those hours free from work, free from the responsibility of a job and the adult world.

Then a significant other. And time spent together in quite together sometimes, but also spent with others, out in the world, having fun and relishing in your coupledom.

And then babies. And time out in the world meant mommy and me and doctors appointments. Parks and pools again, but not the same. Watching, always watching, and worrying. And there were always other moms — and some dads — to talk to, and we became an ever evolving group.

And there were nights out, snatched here and there. Sometimes there was a need to get a babysitter, sometimes there were nights when the kids could come along. Dinner and a movie, sometimes a concert, sometimes a game. Or fun at a friend’s house. There was often something fun to do, and it was easy to find a time to get out, because the kids were too young for their own activities. But it was creeping up on us, those times when staying home seemed better than any other alternative.

And just when I don’t want to be out, when staying home seems like the best alternative most nights, I’m watching the cycle begin again. Running and biking and swimming. Games and meets and concerts and plays. Summer in the sunshine, running from place to place with friends, always with friends.

But this time I’m the driver. I’m the mom, marveling at their energy. Remembering the days when I had that energy. Now I’m happy with the get-togethers with friends and nights out with my husband. It’s enough. I don’t mind if people are having fun without me (no FOMO here — I’m happy to miss out), because I’m firmly planted on my couch reading or watching something worthy of my free time (or sometimes not so worthy, but I watch any way).

I can remember the carefree days and the not so carefree days, always with tons of energy. I can look back at those days with wistful fondness, marveling at the fact that I never cared if I slowed down. And I can watch my daughter’s run with boundless vitality, amazed that these are my girls.

And, thanks to them, I can relive days of non-stop action. And be thankful for my comfy couch.

Okay, onto a book that was born today!!! Here’s Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers.


There was nothing about youth that was fair: the young hadn’t done anything to deserve it, and the old hadn’t done anything to drive it away.

–Emma Straub, Modern Love

The Premise

Elizabeth and Andrew live in a nice, quiet section of Brooklyn. Just down the street lives Zoe, married to Jane. Elizabeth, Andrew, and Zoe all went to college together, at Oberlin in Ohio, more than 25 years ago. Along with another college friend named Lydia, the four formed a band, Kitty’s Mustache, and had modest, local success that defined their lives.

Lydia left the band, heading on for bigger and better things, making a huge name for herself with one defining song, Mistress of Myself, written by Elizabeth (and a hit for Kitty’s Mustache). After Lydia’s success, she OD’d at the age of 27, moving her further into legendary status.

But this is not just a story about them: it’s also a story of their children. Elizabeth and Andrew have a son, Harry, who is almost a high school senior. Zoe and Jane have a daughter, Ruby, who just graduated high school and has no plan.

Harry and Ruby have known each other forever. Suddenly they find themselves in some sort of relationship, and it’s driving their parents CRAZY!!!!

But, back to adult land, Zoe and Jane’s marriage is on the rocks, but it’s always on the rocks. Elizabeth and Andrew seem rock solid, until a Hollywood studio hack gets in touch with Elizabeth, explaining that a biopic about Lydia is in the works, but the studio needs the rights to Mistress of Myself,  and permission from her, Zoe, and Andrew to use their likenesses in the movie.

Andrew refuses, for his own reasons. Elizabeth forges his name. Andrew gets angry (and a little panicky).

Meanwhile, Andrew (who comes from money, so he’s never really worked), is going though a sort of crisis. Trying to find what to do next (his life seems like a series of hobbies), he stumbles into a yoga commune (for want of a better word) that seems to need him. He begins taking yoga and getting massages and doing other therapies that help him get in touch with himself.

At the same time, in the same Brooklyn neighborhood, Elizabeth’s career as a realtor is going well. Zoe and Jane run a successful restaurant. Harry and Ruby attempt to survive as teens.

It’s all very idyllic and angst-y and real. A snapshot of marriage, and friendship, and a neighborhood, and family, Modern Lovers is a multi-generational look at life.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed Modern Lovers  immensely.

Told in shifting perspectives, Straub’s characters have depth and dimension. The view of college friends who stayed together, not just in touch but as neighbors interconnected in hundreds of ways everyday.

Funny and touching, Modern Lovers  is about the nuances of life. All that unease and excitement of youth along with the understanding of middle-age. It’s all about the passions that guide our lives, and knowing that those passions can guide and ground us in a million different ways.

I think my enjoyment of this book comes from understanding, as a (GASP!) middle-aged woman with daughters, young women on the verge of adulthood. This book rang true, getting to the heart of thoughts and feelings, and telling a great story at the same time, and reminding me of college in the 80’s, of punk and New Age music. There was such possibility in those years, and then, after, the real world, the world that makes you carve out time for your creativity and passion. And you find that you have to carve out that time, or go a little mad.

Any way, I digress. I blame it on Straub and her ability to get to the essence of humanity, peeling back everything and laying bare emotions and sentiment and passion, and doing it beautifully.

I give Modern Lovers five stars. I loved it.

Other Book Facts

Book:             Modern Lovers

Author:           Emma Straub

Publisher:      Riverhead Books

Release Date:  May 31st, 2016

Pages:               368