Friday, December 19, 2008

Cute Little Critter

Today Randy took his last final for the semester, and we all let out a huge sigh of relief. There was a lot of catch up to be done as the semester came to a close, because of an adorable little distraction that kind of interrupted things about a month ago. Plus nobody has been getting very much sleep around here ever since. We are looking forward to our vacation starting this Sunday. It is well deserved: Randy did so well this semester, and got really good grades in some pretty tough classes (accounting, music history). What a hard worker!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Baby Bump My Friends Never Saw Thanks to the Joys of Bed Rest

Today was a long, tiring day. Wes wasn't feeling that great--so I was rocking, and rocking, and singing, and rocking, and feeding every other time that I wasn't rocking and singing. Which got me to thinking. As hard as moments like this can be--that little screech just breaks your heart--I wouldn't trade it for the world. And I certainly wouldn't go back to a few months ago . . .

Many of my friends never saw my baby bump, so I have some photographic evidence for them that I really was pregnant (no, we didn't pick him up from the cute baby store). So here you go.

This one was taken in September, when I was aproaching seven months.

And here I am in all my glory, about a week before giving birth. Please refrain from the "wide load" jokes: no I did not beep when I backed up.

All I can say is holding the baby like this is infinitely better.

Life is Rough Being This Cute

Hi, My name is Wesley, and life is rough.

My sports team is having one of their worst seasons ever.

My grandma went home to her house in Oregon so she can't read me stories anymore.

I can't escape the cameras as hard as I try.

It just takes so much out of me.

Luckily, Mr. Monkey understands. He's pretty cute too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I was reading my friend Melissa's blog yesterday, and she was talking about Christmas traditions--which got me thinking. I really love the holiday season, and it has been an interesting process the last two years figuring out what traditions from my childhood to bring into our new family, and what traditions we would like to start. Randy and I were fortunate enough to go see the First Presidency Christmas Devotional two Sundays ago, and our favorite parts were when President Eyring spoke about the Christmas tradition of a Christmas play at their house, and President Uchtdorf's memories about Christmas traditions in Germany. On the way home Randy and I talked about our favorite Christmas traditions in our house, and the differences between Christmases in a big family (he is one of eight) verses a small one (only child). Last year he got to experience Christmas at my house: this year it is my turn to see the other side of the coin. Growing up, Randy's favorite tradition was the annual enactment of the Christmas story, inevitably showcasing his mom as the donkey in the stable (Darlene, you were such a good sport!). We never had adequate cast numbers to act out the story, but we always read the story out of the bible as we sat around the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Christmas at my house started the day after Thanksgiving, when we would bundle up (which most often meant rain gear--I am from Western Oregon, so who are we kidding) and trek out into the "woods" (aka a Christmas tree farm) and find the perfect tree. The rest of the day would be spent decorating the tree and the house, eating leftover delights from the feast the day previous, and listening to all our favorite Christmas music. By the way, favorite Christmas song ever: Santa Baby performed by Eartha Kitt. Feed me enough Christmas cookies and cranberry punch late at night and you'll get a performance. That night if it wasn't too late by the time the house was completely decked out, we might watch "It's a Wonderful Life." Cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies were a big tradition this time of year for my family--the more ridiculous the better. My mom has a top secret cranberry punch recipe she has handed down with an oath of secrecy (seriously, I think I would be disowned if I gave it away) that we drink all season--it's our family's wassail. We always have a ton of the most delicious chex mix, and assorted Christmas treats my mom has baked to give away to friends as gifts. Christmas day begins when my dad--I mean Santa--rings the sleigh bells hanging from our front door, and then we go out to the beautifully lit tree with presents from Santa magically there. Before we open our gifts we read Christmas letters that we wrote to each other and placed in each others stockings, which always brings a nice spirit into the gift giving. Then there was present opening, and general merryment. Later that day we would have a Christmas feast, prepared by my parents who are amazing cooks (it is a miracle I'm not like 500 pounds). The Christmas season would pretty much end for us at New Years, when my dad would finally insist we take the tree down.

As Randy and I have started our own family, there is inevitable give and take with traditions. The cheesy Christmas movies are out (Randy just couldn't handle the really poor quality cinema. Plus there weren't enough explosions or car chases) but he has been good enough to keep watching "It's a Wonderful Life" and usually I can wheedle an evening of "White Christmas" out of him once a season. The tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving, along with the decorations still, and having been entrusted with the secret we sip on punch all season. The Christmas feasting is a little different now that I'm Vegan. I have decided that in place of the American turkey on Christmas night I will make traditional Mexican tamales, which I learned how to make from a lady on my mission--which is what hispanic families eat on special holidays like Christmas. In honor of our scandinavian heritage sometime during the season we have special rice pudding for desert, with an almond hidden in someone's portion. Be lucky enough to get the almond and you get a prize. This year I am starting a tradition of celebrating the 12 days of Christmas--British style, the 12 days following Christmas leading up to Epipheny, Jan. 6, when many Christians celebrate the arrival of the wise men to worship the baby Jesus. So my decorations will come down the 6th instead of New Years, and I'll have a special treat every day for those 12 days. I'll let you know in future blogs how this new tradition plays out.

With the arrival of our precious little Wesley, it is fun to look forward to all the years of traditions with him. It will be interesting to see the things that he likes to do at Christmas, and how he makes this season all the more exciting. Little kids at Christmas are the best--that excitement and joy are contagious, and I can't wait until Wesley has enough awareness to celebrate the season with us. This year he is our little stocking stuffer, and really he is all the Christmas present I wanted this holiday.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, filled with the best traditions and memories.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy One-Month Birthday Wesley!!

I can't believe we have had this precious little guy for a month already. Sometimes it seems like we have always had him--that he has always been a part of our family. Other times, when I haven't had very much sleep, I can't believe that I have lasted this long on little naps! I have never functioned well without my eight, maybe ten hours of uninterrupted sleep at night, but I guess it is one of the tender mercies of the Lord that I haven't flipped out yet! I have adjusted pretty well actually, and recovered very well from the c-section. Wesley and I like to go have adventures in the stroller. Yesterday we tackled the mall and did Christmas shopping for Daddy. He is such a good baby, I don't worry about taking him places. We can't wait to go visit both sets of Grandparents in a few weeks, and all the aunts and uncles we miss as well. Most of all we can't wait to meet Wesley's new cousin, who will be joining the family any time now. We are thinking of you Mandy!

The birthday boy. On Grandma Weatherspoon's monkey blanket.

Sleepy boy on the afghan I knitted for him.

Some cute pictures from the last couple of weeks:

All set and ready for operation "Get Mommy out of the house before she goes crazy!"

My little pirate boy. On his pirate blanket.

All snuggy in the bunting I knitted for him while on bed rest. Yeah, it's really big on him.

Sweet sleeping boy.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Blessing Day

On Sunday we were able to bless Wesley in our home. Originally we were planning on blessing him in Sacrament Meeting, but in the sharing spirit of the season, the entire Johnson clan that got together for Thanksgiving managed to give each other a nasty 48 hour (plus or minus depending on the person) flu bug, so we had to change venues last minute. We were so grateful to our accommodating bishopric who helped us out in that regard! In any case, we were very happy to share Wesley's special moment with family and friends, and we hope that the disease didn't spread to anyone else on our account!

Our little nordic boy! Something special of note: Wesley is named after Grandma Johnson's father, and she crocheted those beautiful booties and the blanket.

Our happy little family

Thursday, November 27, 2008

So Much to be Thankful For

All the help we have received--spiritually, from friends, family (especially my mom) during this long pregnancy
Good health
The pregnancy is over! No more labor
The most beautiful baby boy
Good friends
Faith, testimony, agency, the atonement
Good books, good music
The funniest chinchilla ever

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Spirit is Too Blunt an Instrument

The Spirit is too blunt an instrument
to have made this baby.
Nothing so unskillful as human passions
could have managed the intricate
exacting particulars: the tiny
blind bones with their manipulating tendons,
the knee and the knucklebones, the resilient
fine meshings of ganglia and vertebrae
in the chain of the delicate spine.

Observe the distinct eyelashes and sharp crescent
fingernails, the shell-like complexity
of the ear with its firm involutions
concentric in miniature to the minute
ossicles. Imagine the
infinitesimal capillaries, the flawless connections
of the lungs, the invisible neural filaments
through which the completed body
already answers to the brain.

Then name any passion or sentiment
possessed of the simplest accuracy.
No, no desire or affection could have done
with practice what habit
has done perfectly, indifferently,
through the body's ignorant precision.
It is left to the vagarities of the mind to invent
love and despair and anxiety
and their pain.

--Anne Stevensen

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wesley's Story

Wesley Edward Johnson entered our family November 10, 2008. He weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces and was 19 inches long. Wes came out squawking like a tiny baby owl, and immediately captured the hearts of his mom and dad who had been waiting so long to see him. He's a strong little guy who never needed oxygen and breathed on his own just fine in spite of coming to us at 35 weeks. He has his daddy's eyes, his mommy's nose and chin, and his grandpa Weatherspoon's mouth. And this is his story.

It was Sunday night, and I was so tired. I had been contracting all day, but I wasn't prepared yet to go back to the hospital for another checkup or more drugs. Randy was up late studying for an accounting test he had on Tuesday, so I took Che back to our room to let her hop around and get some exercise. I read my scriptures, played with our squirrel, and around 12:30 I put her to bed and tried to lay down and rest myself. I was contracting pretty hard, so it was difficult to fall asleep--but I finally took something for the pain and dropped off for about an hour and a half. Randy came to bed around 3 and I woke up again, pretty uncomfortable. We talked for about fifteen minutes about his upcoming test and schoolwork he had to take care of . . . when all of a sudden I felt a suspicious . . . how shall I politely put it . . . wetness. I interrupted Randy by telling him I thought my water had broken. He asked if I was certain, and as I stood up out of bed, all doubt was removed. My water had definitely broken and I stood there awkwardly half disgusted, half amazed that it was actually happening and that there was that much "water" inside of me. Randy pops out of bed asking over and over, "What do I do?" so I sent him to the bathroom to get me a towel and then to wake up my mom. He runs to the bathroom and comes back with two little face washcloths, which made me laugh because I needed more of a beach towel at this point. So he went and woke up my mom, and she helped us gather ourselves together, get me into some dryer clothes, and drove us to the hospital.

Now as you know I have been a frequent visitor at Orem Community Hospital. The nurses all know me, I know the quirks of the different rooms and so on. But this time I was sent straight into a delivery room, where I was hooked up to the monitors and waited to find out how far along I had progressed (up to this point, after nearly 8 full weeks of pre-term labor, I had only dilated to a 1+). The nurse checked me, and . . . I was only 60% effaced and had only dilated to a 2. The contractions were strong but they wanted to hurry things along so I got my epidural (heaven bless the person who invented those. It was the first relief I had experienced in two months) and then was placed on pitocin. They turned up the dosage of pitocin until I was going full blast, and by noon I was . . . dilated to a 3.
At this point the nurses were joking about my IV tree, because it was full. I had my epidural catheter, a saline drip, antibiotics for strep B, a saline bag they were pumping into me to cushion his cord through the internal fetal monitor (who knew they could do that?) and shortly after this picture was taken I was also hooked up to the oxygen mask. From the decels on the fetal monitor, I think baby was getting tired of this ordeal as well.

Around noon my doctor came in to check me again. Nothing had changed--just a few hours more exhausted. At this point we had a decision to make: get a c-section right then, or wait all day, possibly all night, and see if I ever progressed further. Since I had been having contractions strong enough to have a baby for 8 weeks, the odds weren't very good that even with the added boost of pitocin I would ever progress. After seeing our little baby's heart rate drop dangerously low earlier, I was ready to have him safely out--so after talking with Randy we decided to opt for the c-section.
Isn't Randy cute in his space suit? I was not feeling so cute at the time. Mostly just really, really scared of the c-section. I never thought I would have one, so I wasn't quite prepared. I just said a prayer, practiced yoga relaxation breathing, and tried to focus on the little boy that we would have very soon.
The nurse and anaesthesiologist wheeling me in the OR in the picture above were so nice. The anaesthesiologist especially helped by talking me through everything that was happening. Thank goodness for the curtain they put up to prevent you from seeing your insides open in front of you . . . I don't think I could have handled that! I haven't even asked for too much detail from Randy, who did take occaisional glances on the other side of the curtain. The whole idea of my insides being on my outside kind of freaks me out :o)

The next thing I knew (it happened really fast--I think the actual c-section took less than 4 minutes) I heard the funniest little squawk, followed by more little birdie noises. The surreal thing was that the baby bird I heard was our baby--after all that time, and labor, and pain, and weeks spent on the couch, he was here. And he was beautiful. And so I cried. And Randy cried. And we were finally a family of three.

He has been such a little angel from the beginning. He came out so healthy and strong--thanks to all those prayers that family and friends had been sending on our behalf--and I was so grateful that he didn't need oxygen or time in the NICU. He sleeps well, feeds well, and makes the funniest little chinchilla noises that melt his daddy's heart.

He already discovered his thumb!
Special time with Grandma. Thanks to her, we made it to almost 36 weeks!
How cute am I?
Thank you Grandma Johnson for my cute elephant hat!
And for even more photographic evidence of the miraculous cuteness of Wesley's first week of life, see my mom's blog!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Couch Potato

So the reason my blog has died off for the past two months stems from a couple of reasons. First off, we took a wonderful two week vacation to see family--the first real vacation we've had since being married. When we came back I was still very morning sick, but finally managed to get a prescription for Zofran (aka the wonderdrug) after a few best forgotten vomiting incidents and more lost weight. Then I had three beautiful weeks. Three whole weeks in September where I felt pretty good, got some energy back, and Randy had a wife again. I cleaned the house, we went to the park and threw the baseball around, we went on walks, the chinchilla got a playmate, I got a new job freelancing from home . . . and life was beautiful.

Then, it started. The braxton-hicks I had been experiencing turned kind of nasty, and I ended up in labor and delivery on an IV and being shot up with all manner of drugs. One drug was a muscle relaxant and supposedly helped calm the contractions (I felt like I had parkinsons and a heart attack), one drug was for the pain (morphine shots = no fun), and one drug was for the nausea that morphine causes (true irony--this is the same drug they had given me for morning sickness earlier in my pregnancy I refused to take because it turned me into a Zombie for 24 hours). The only consolation to all the poking and prodding--of which there was plenty, let me assure you--was that kiddo was doing fantastic. Through every hospital stay ( we just had number nine) he has flirted with the nurses, tap danced away from the monitors, kicked the monitors, and practiced what I can only imagine is some kind of energetic tai-chi inside my stomach. By all accounts he is very healthy, and I can verify that he is VERY active.

This all started about six weeks ago. at that time I was not quite 28 weeks, which is pretty small for a baby to be delivered. I received steroid shots to develop his lungs more rapidly, and have been a good girl (thanks to my angel mother who flew into town to rescue Randy and me) and have been on bed rest for the aforesaid six weeks. Tuesday we celebrated 34 weeks, the big milestone where we can not worry so much about our baby. Randy brought me the most beautiful flowers to cheer up my little prison, I mean spot on the couch, and now we are just waiting to see when our little guy will finally join us.

We have been so blessed throughout this entire ordeal. At every point along the way when I thought I just couldn't handle it anymore, something has come along to make things livable. When it was morning sickness, it was Zofran. When I was in the hospital three times in one week, it was my mom flying into town to take care of me. When I have been discouraged I have had blessings and prayers and flowers from my husband to cheer me up. So I really can't complain--I have been well taken care of.

I probably won't post again until the baby comes, unless I get ambitious and decide to take pictures of the little crafty projects that I have been doing to ease the boredom of bed rest. I finished the afghan for baby, knitted a bunting, some critter hats for a friend's baby shower, and now I'm finishing up some socks. Some day maybe I'll post pictures from this summer--from our fun vacation, a baseball game etc. But until then, you know where to find me. On the couch trying to drink the three quarts of water I'm supposed to drink a day, in between a few very important naps and the occasional trip to the hospital for more delightful drugs :o)

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's A . . . Boy!!

So today we got the big news. We had our ultrasound, which was pretty involved since we had it done by first a sonogropher, and then a perinatologist who brought with him a med student intern. The sonogropher thought it was a girl, and even took a cute little bum picture of our little guy and labeled it "girl," (I'm sure that will come back in the form of teasing from his father and/or siblings some day), but he had been making the gender labeling difficult by having his legs crossed the whole time. Finally he opened them up while the perinatologist was checking everything out . . . and he is definitely a boy. I was pretty shocked, but now I'm excited to have a little Randy-let running around our house. Plus he will have a little boy cousin a month older than him (my cousin Sarise is expecting in October), not to mention little Sammy and Henry who won't be too far off in age. If Mandy finds out she is having a boy, we will be on our way to a little Johnson baseball team!

We feel very blessed because so far my health has been better than I could have expected and the baby is by all signs a perfect little guy. I was a little nervous before I got pregnant, not knowing how my body would react to such big changes, whether or not my arthritis would be a big problem. But our Heavenly Father has really looked after Baby Boy and me--I've only had one real day where my arthritis flared up, and it resolved itself without my having to take medicine for it. Our baby is a feisty little guy, and seems to take after his daddy so far. He doesn't like to go to sleep at night, but decides to start kicking and doing gymnastics right when I am about to drift off. Boys!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rice to Die For

On Saturday I needed a quick meal to take to Randy at work, and I didn't have a lot in the kitchen. Compounding matters, I didn't have a lot of energy to make anything too fancy or time consuming. So after about fifteen minutes of sitting on the couch like a beached whale, staring at the kitchen, I finally came up with something, and it turned out pretty delicious. (I base my deliciousness-factors based on how soon after I make something Randy asks for it again.)

I ended up taking a nine by nine glass pan and layering the bottom with refried beans, then adding a small layer of cheese (still trying to convert Randy to the soy cheese) and some salsa, then topping it off with some rice that I kind of winged--but turned out to be a keeper. We ended up eating half of the pan just with chips that night, and then I made the rest of the pan up into burritos the next day. So here's how I did the rice:

I took a cup of white rice, and placed it in a medium kettle with plenty of water and one vegan bouillon cube (it is like fake chicken bouillon, so if you aren't crazy like me I'd just use chicken). Then opened up a small can of chipotle peppers in adobo, and chopped up about three, and threw those in the pot as well. You want to make sure you get a little of the adobo in there, because it adds this great flavor. Then I just added a dash of salt and some fresh ground pepper, and let the rice boil down until the water had evaporated and the rice was tender--about twenty minutes. And voila! Smoky, yummy rice that works great as either a side dish or an ingredient in burritos etc. The next time I do it, I want to chop up some cilantro and green onion, a few roma tomatoes and squeeze lime over the top, mixed with a little salt and pepper and add that as a garnish on the rice. But in a pinch, the quick way like I did it still turns out surprisingly good!

Sunday, July 13, 2008


So, it is really hot here. Pushing 100 degrees, so my brain is pretty much fried. In lieu of something more creative, here is something fun I got from my friend Robyn. I had a hard time picking one memory about her . . . we were pretty spastic our freshman year of college!

Here are the directions: 1. As a comment on my blog, leave one memory that you and I had together. It doesn't matter if you knew me a little or a lot, anything you remember! 2. Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you. It's actually pretty funny to see the responses. If you leave a memory about me, I'll assume you're playing the game and I'll come to your blog and leave one about you. If you don't want to play on your blog, or if you don't have a blog, I'll leave my memory of you in my comments.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pink and White Basketweave Scarf

I have been waiting to find out whether we are having a boy baby or a girl baby before I start in on any big projects, but I needed something to keep me occupied in the meantime. So I looked through all my leftover yarn and decided to make a scarf. And here is the end result. I don't need any more scarfs, so I'll put this one away to give as a gift this fall/winter. Who knows, maybe it will eventually end up on Etsy if I can't figure out who to give it to :o). Now the hard part comes . . . waiting until a week from Monday when we finally get the big news! I'm going to have to find some small projects to keep me busy until then. I have some fabric to make into a receiving blanket and some burp rags, so that will last me one or two days. I saw some really cute ideas on Melissa's (an old roommate) blog that I would like to try . . . we'll just have to see if I can find some inexpensive supplies . . . I especially want to make the cloth sandwich baggies, the crayon case, and the shopping bag.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Book Reviews

So one activity I have been up to enjoying while in between being asleep and/or puking my guts out for the last few months has been reading. It was kind of nice to catch up on all the books that I had bought over the last few years and never had the time to read. I am reaching a dangerous zone though . . . I have only one or two more books before I will be wanting to hit the bookstores . . .

I first read Toni Morrison's work in my post-modern American lit class a couple of summers ago when we read Jazz. I expected to be impressed with her work, which I was, and had been meaning to read more of her work but hadn't until I picked up this book. This was a slight departure for her because she takes on a masculine viewpoint for the majority of the work. The title is bit misleading--it references not the Judeo-Christian biblical Solomon and his love poetry that has been debatable in the Canon for centuries--but a colloquial children's song recited by youngsters in the deep south. I once heard Morrison described as a historical revisionist, not in the sense you may be familiar with where crazy people believe there was no Holocaust etc, but the term applies to her in the sense that where history has been written by the "winners," she has attempted to open up a past that has been largely without a voice. The novel opens up in 1930's Michigan, and spans into the 1960's. The heart of this novel is a journey of self-discovery for a man who is emotionally isolated, disconnected--both from the people that ought to be the most important to him, as well as his cultural and familial history. The book takes on issues of race and justice, as well as socio-economic struggles for blacks both with and without money. In this novel her characters are disturbed, searching individuals--and most of the time the main character, Milkman dead, is not a likeable fellow. But what makes this work great is her storytelling ability (I was reminded a lot of the tradition of Zora Neale Hurston) and the power of a cultural and family past over a person and their destiny. I recommend this book to anyone who has read/enjoyed Toni Morrison in the past, or that is interested in African-American literature. It is a tragedy, so don't approach this book with expectations of anything lighthearted or a simple "fun read." It is complicated, at times disturbing, but worth it.

This book I came away from with very mixed feelings. In a nutshell: Nabokov is without a doubt one of the most talented writers I have ever encountered. But after reading his work and some articles written by him about his work and purpose for writing, I have some significant issues with him. I read this book because it is on all the lists for the greatest works of the twentieth century, and I was further interested after having read Azar Nafisi's book, Reading Lolita in Tehran (which is not all about Lolita, they cover many major works including Pride and Prejudice. I highly recommend Nafisi's book by the way). Most people are familiar with the basic concept of Lolita so I won't get into many of the disturbing details of the plot--basically it is about a man who is obsessed with young girls and who kidnaps a young girl of about 14. She does escape by the way. Anyway, I would not recommend this book to many people. If you are a serious student of literature and have been trained to read books like this, then go ahead. Nabokov is without question a masterful writer. I simply disagree with his purpose for writing. I quote, "I am neither a reader nor a writer of didactic fiction, and despite John Ray's assertion, Lolita has no moral in tow. For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art . . . is the norm" (Nabokov 314). I also do not like "didactic" fiction, but I feel that Nabokov confuses such fiction for any narrative with a moral center. This disturbing subject I believe he took on simply as an exercise in art--to see if he could pull of something that no one else has. I am more of a proponent of William Faulkner's view on literature, which he elaborates on in his famous Nobel Prize winning acceptance speech. Here is a link-- I highly recommend reading it

After reading Lolita which I found to be a rather depressing work, I needed something of a pick-me-up. I had read Erdrich's novel, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse so I knew and enjoyed her writing style. I was not disappointed in this novel at all. Erdrich possesses such a charming prose style that is simply put GREAT storytelling. She is a Native American author and so she draws on fascinating lore and folk tales that had me completely enraptured. Her characters span across many of her novels--there is a family tree you can follow between many of her different works. I recognized many of the characters from the book of hers that I had read previously, but the subject matter wasn't tired or contrived. She manages to tell a fresh and interesting story of love, forgiveness, revenge, and ultimately a story of finding identity. It is a relatively short novel, only about 200 pages, and one I highly recommend. I warn you though, her novels are rather addictive. I am now going to have to read the rest of her works . . . again Randy had better keep me away from the bookstore . . .

This next book I probably would never have picked up except that it was sent to me by this book club that I used to have a membership in. This was a very early effort by Capote (most famous for his novella "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and his groundbreaking work In Cold Blood) so it isn't as polished as some of his other works. I knew going into this book that Capote was a very interesting character himself, but this work surprised me--especially the ending. In any case, it was a very short read--I think I read it in an evening--and I probably won't pick it up again. Granted, it isn't really my niche in literature (white, male, privileged) but aside from that the style and the character development just didn't really do it for me. I am interested in reading In Cold Blood in the future, but aside from this and the other short works I've read by him in the past, I think my Capote limit in literature has been met. If anyone out there disagrees with me, feel free to offer reading suggestions and I will take you up on it.

This book I read because 1. It had been sent to me by the aforementioned book club, so it was on my shelf and 2. I was slightly curious to see what all the fuss was about. I had heard one scathing review by one of my literature professors, Zina Peterson (who happens to be Hugh Nibley's daughter, and pretty much just as brilliant) who gave us a fifteen minute impromptu lecture about the time this novel was big about why she and her father thought this book was complete nonsense, badly researched, etc. So while most of the world has read this book by now and I know it is completely old news, I picked it up anyway. Plus when you don't feel well enough to go to the library, the phonebook starts to look entertaining. In any case, I agree for the most part with my lit professor. It isn't great literature, it is at most entertaining on the level of a great many "best-sellers" of the action/intrigue variety that get made into major motion pictures. The most interesting parts to me were the symbology explanations and the codes, although coming from the theological and ontological background that I have, I tend to arrive at rather different conclusions than the author puts forth. I have always been fascinated by how what I view as eternal truth or pure religion has been mangled and transformed over the years, and found its way into various belief systems and epistemologies. It is interesting for me to see how what I view as truth has been interpreted by other people and other faiths very differently. In any case, as long as you go into this book with a firm grasp that this is indeed fiction, (Mr. Brown in his introductory notes would have you believe that this work is closer to life than fiction) I wouldn't mind recommending it as an easy summer read. But on the other hand, there is so much GREAT fiction out there, why waste your time on the mediocre? Unless of course you are in bed sick, counting the ceiling tiles . . .

And last but not least, I read Baldwin's famous novel, Go Tell it On The Mountain which was really unexpected and interesting to me. I'm not sure I know what I expected going into this book, other than a vague perception that it might be somehow akin to Native Son or Invisible Man. Instead, I found myself thrown into a pentecostal revival that reminded me so much of my experiences on my mission with the black folk in the Galveston projects. This book is all about religious fervor, self-discovery, faith, intermixed with race and social issues. Baldwin's writing style is very engaging, colorful, and full of life. It sweeps you up with the characters, good and bad alike, and shifts perspectives back and forth to offer rounded viewpoints of who these people are, and how they became the way they are. The ending left me a little hanging, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. This novel is a powerful window into the black experience of mid-twentieth century Harlem, and I would recommend pairing this read with Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun."