Monthly Archives: April 2015

Book Review: I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan

I’m about write a review of a book narrated by Satan. Incidentally, Satan appears to have taken up residence in my THROAT for the time being. Moving down into my chest. Woe. Is. Me.

More importantly: woe is my husband who ended up sleeping in the spare room last night because I could not stop the coughing. Couldn’t stop. Satan!

But enough about viral-style satan… and on to the literary version.

Remember once upon a time when I told you about the 1,001 book challenge? It’s still happening just… differently. Not exactly as anticipated, but awesome nevertheless. It kind of morphed over time and I really enjoy the Between the Covers Facebook group it turned into because it gives me a place to talk about really interesting books with really interesting people that I might never have read or spoken to, respectively, in the absence of random internet-based connections.

Most recently, we read I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan. And wowza.

I hated it so much. So so so much. For almost the whole book. But only almost.

Because in the end, I loved it. And I’m so so so glad that I not only started it, but especially that I finished it. Because wow.

So, first, why I hated it.

Basically, it boils down to the fact that Satan, who narrates the vast majority of the book while inhabiting the body of mere mortal Declan Gunn, is an arrogant a-hole.

I know, it’s not terribly surprising– Satan as an a-hole. Yet for some reason, I expected Satan as the narrator to try to make himself at least somewhat likable. I mean, doesn’t everyone want people to like them, to want to listen? Even Satan?

Apparently not. And Satan the narrator was pompous and annoying and condescending and awful in every way. No better way to say it: an arrogant a-hole. I hated him so much… and I really had a hard time reading the musings of someone I hated so very much. For quite I while, I just wanted him to get to the dang point so it could be over.

However, as I endured, looking up big, fancy, literary words that I suspected were placed in the text largely to make me feel like an idiot, some intriguing themes started to jump out at me, to capture my attention, and to make me hate reading the book a little less…

The notion of not recognizing how painful a pain really is until you’ve left it.

Thoughts about the way our very human senses allow us to perceive the very human world we live in with just the slightest hint of something else… something beyond.

And then, most strikingly, most excitingly and beautifully, forgiveness.

Oh my gosh. The idea of forgiveness is what redeemed the book for me. Absolutely and completely. It was powerful enough for me to go from hate to love in mere pages and I’m generally not super good at changing my mind… so that’s something.

As I said, the premise of the book is that God offers Satan the opportunity to inhabit a mortal being for a month, as a trial run to the big redemptive offer of living out life as a human in exchange for reentry into heaven. Satan ends up inhabiting the body of a man named Declan Gunn following Declan’s suicide attempt (or success, perhaps?) and in Declan’s body, Satan uses his mortal fingers to type out a manuscript (amongst use of other body parts in rather Satan-ly ways). Satan as Declan is, as I said, a complete and total a-hole. Other a-holes love him. He has a following and friends and success. Everyone is awful. But unable to shake all of Declan’s humanity, Satan finds himself continually fixated on Declan’s former lover. The woman who broke Declan’s heart. Broke Declan himself. Shattered him. And just to spite Declan while he can, because he’s Satan, Satan decides to go do the very worst thing he can think of — forgive her. As Declan. And he does.

And then: FEELINGS.

SO MANY FEELINGS. So many feelings that all the drugs and all the alcohol could not make them go away. Feelings of every sort– good and bad and ugly and… human. Forgiveness, even in spite, came with soooooo many feeeeeelings. More than he could bare. More than he could understand. Or comprehend. Or allow. Too much.

After this powerful demonstration, Satan had the choice to go on living out Declan Gunn’s life to it’s natural end with the promise of that very same thing from God waiting on the other side — forgiveness, grace. Or, he could return to hell. And, believe it or not, from Satan’s perspective, I can see some advantages to hell… a freedom, if you will, that didn’t exist for him otherwise. I won’t spoil the end for you, but I would not have seen it coming. And just as a bit of icing on the cake, the former angel (now human, long story) Raphael took a turn narrating a bit of the book. And the tone was completely different, suggesting to me that the arrogance, the a-hole-ish-ness at the beginning was really just Glen Duncan’s way of portraying Satan, making him completely and wholly unlikable, and that’s just impressive.

Grace is something I really like thinking about. I talk about it all the time. But never like this. Never ever like this. It really was spectacular, this description. Coming from the most arrogant a-hole of all.

In this new format of what was the 1001 Book Challenge, we’re basically a disparate group of people from all over the country taking turns picking books, reading them, and then having a bitty little Facebook-based discussion, always with the option to participate or not. And dang, though this was not a book I would have chosen on my own, not in a million years, I sure am glad I got to read it… and I am very grateful to this little group for that! Highly recommend if you’re interested in something very different!

The Barren-ess

Well, well, well…

Did you know that this was a thing?!

National Infertility Awareness Week
National Infertility Awareness Week

I had no idea… and I am. So… awareness!

And one in EIGHT couples? Wowza. Friends, I hope that for many of you I’m swaying the odds in your favor. Goodness knows I know many more than 8 other couples though. Dang.

Recently, I passed what I’ve long considered “the point of no return” — I started taking birth control.

Seems counter-intuitive , doesn’t it? But apparently, birth control is a necessary step in the IVF process. No more wishing, hoping, praying, imagining that this month will be the month that a spontaneous pregnancy catches us by surprise. We’re committed. Past the point of no return, if you will, on the way to IVF.

Early, early last Monday morning we headed down to Madison for the uterine mapping process. I’ll spare you the details, but it was not exactly a fun time. One step closer. Now that I’m on the pill though, I’m happy to just check, check, check these things off my list and get to the real business at hand. Egg collection, fertilization, implantation, and then, God-willing, a legit pregnancy. Cross my fingers, hold my breath, say my prayers, beg all the powers that be…

Honestly though, stumbling across this infertility awareness business, recognizing that I’m just another 1 in 8, makes me feel a whole lot less bad for myself. It’s a lot easier to be over-dramatic and woe-is-me-ish when I’m preoccupied with the utter uniqueness of my situation, which is really not all that unique at all. Tough, yes, but not unique. Barren, but not a barren-ess… nor the barren-est.

Misery really does love company, I suppose. But misery loves joy too. And support and friendship and happy news. Misery can even not be so miserable all the time because the notion of whether or not I’m going to have a family this way or that one is really only one small part of the life that I am living… which also happens to include blogging and smiles and products for curly hair and a floppy-pawed pup and buzz-cutted man, etc, etc, etc (please don’t tell Grammarist i just listed et ceteras, it’s so super wrong). Yes, sometimes procedures and tests and waits, anxiety and pain and grief, but even lives not marked by infertility include all those very same things. I’m just one of the eight in which infertility happens to be a major source.

Ain’t no thing. Except sometimes when it’s a thing. And in this week, I guess we should maybe chat about that thing on account of it being a week dedicated to the awareness of infertility.

So: some people are infertile. Some people like me.

Some people also have cancer or webbed toes or choose to adopt despite not being infertile at all. You never know. Different strokes. I guess the best way to go about it all is to remember what my fortune cookie said that one time: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting their battle too.

Fortune Cookie

Regardless of the appropriate etiquette and practiced responses we’re supposed to be referring to (those links are specific to infertility, of course, not webbed toes)– I think with a little kindness about it all, remembering that there is a battle going on, one we might know nothing about, we can’t really go wrong.

Even my own attitude seems to swing somewhat wildly… some days, like today, I feel relatively non-nonchalant, infertility is just another thing. Other days, infertility feels like The Only Thing. With respect to etiquette and responses and such, I certainly can’t expect you, my husband, my dog, my mom, or anybody else to try to gauge that. It’s simply not fair. I can hope for kindness, though, and so can you. And while you obviously don’t need one more thing to be aware of (infertility! autism! breast cancer! colony collapse, drought, pandas, and webbed toes! so many Things!) it can’t hurt to remember that the radar of others’ isn’t necessarily tuned to the same channel as our own and, as such, discrepancies regarding awareness do exist. Because our radar spheres have overlapped in this moment (and I know that all of these metaphors are super non-coherent, scientifically speaking, so yeah) here I am, bringing infertility onto your screen.

Blip! You’re welcome.

Not really though. More like I’m welcome. Because it’s my self-serving blog, not yours.


Anyway, I’m really going to go write that book review of I, Lucifer now. I keep thinking about it, obviously my mind wants to talk talk talk about it. See you then!

Crazy — ha ha, whatevs, or uh oh.

I get lots and lots of sleep. So so so much sleep. Not because I go to bed early or because I turn off all electronics an hour before bed or have a great bedtime ritual or anything. Nope. None of those good things.

I get a ton of sleep for one reason only… because I am terrible at waking up. Terrible!

My favorite place... bed.
My favorite place… bed.

Always have been, probably always will be. It’s ridiculous. Ask my husband. He hates it. It’s not even a snooze problem. It’s a shut-the-alarm-off-and-go-completely-back-to-sleep-without-even-realizing-the-alarm-ever-sounded problem. (Or wake-up-imagining-I-overslept-at-3:18-am-and-immediately-jump-panicking-into-the-shower-only-to-emerge-squeaky-clean-and-painfully-exhaustingly-ridiculously-early problem, granted that occurs less often these days.)

Over the past month or so, believe it or not, my inability to wake up has gotten even worse, but not for the normal (non-)reason. This time, it’s because even though I’m sleeping (for hours and hours and hours, as I said above), I’m still exhausted. Exhausted from some seriously vivid dreams. Mundane, but vivid.

So ridiculously vivid that I’m legitimately unsure at times if something is a real memory… or if it was just a dream. I literally cannot tell. And it’s freaking me out.

My depression is no secret, of course. We’ve talked about it before. Sometimes I feel down, really really down, and talking about it often makes me feel embarrassed, but it’s part of me and I do myself and others a disservice if I fail to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, except for humorous embellishment, so help me God. So I should probably mention this little bump in the road as well.

Melissa-- light

True story: a friend who recently discovered my blog says I have to come down off my pedestal now. Fair enough. 🙂

I have dealt with depression, off and on (except I think we know that it’s always really “on” in some capacity or another) since I was relatively young. As part of treatment, I have been on a number of different anti-depressant medications. The tricky thing about antidepressants is that they 1) take a while to work, 2) work differently for every individual, and 3) there’s no great way to know a) which one is going to work or b) what the exact side-effect profile, if any, is going to look like for you personally.

Oy– the uncertainty! It’s pretty traumatic, especially for someone who suffers from delusions of obtainable perfection. (Self-diagnosis.)

Most recently, I switched medications after a side-effect of the one (in me, specifically, of course) proved itself to be dramatic weight gain. And when I say dramatic, I mean it. Like 10-pounds-in-a-single-week dramatic. I could see that, I could feel that, but so could my prescriber. So after giving it some time (and a lot of pounds) we switched to something else. It’s been smooth sailing for a good six months or so. Maybe closer to a year. And then all of the sudden…

The dreams.

For the most part, I can deal with side-effects in a rational manner. I’ve dealt with dry mouth and weight gain, jitters and minor insomnia. Little things that I can see, attribute to the medication, and say, “but it’s worth it because the depression is at bay.”

Oh so worth it.

I tried to do the same thing for the dreams.

It’s just a dream. So you’re a little tired, have some tea. No big deal, you’re still getting lots and lots of sleep, as per usual.

Until I couldn’t. Because I’m too afraid of crazy. And this feeling? This feeling is crazy. Not ha ha, you craaaazy. Or you think I’m crazy? Whatevs. More along the lines of crap, this might be legitimately crazy. The uh oh one.

To not be able to tell what’s real… that’s too much.

So I went to see my prescriber one early morning this week. I got out of bed, quicker than usual, because she’s just the best, best, best. So good at simultaneously laughing at my jokes (because humor is generally how I deal and acknowledging that I’m funny is basically the best compliment a person can give me) while also taking me and my reports of the symptoms that are concerning me seriously. More clinicians could learn from the brilliant Celeste, I think. (Plus, she has an excellent name. Kudos to her parents.)

We’ve got a plan of action and a plan for ongoing communication about the symptoms. I’m tired, the dreams probably won’t go away immediately, but I do feel a sense of relief just knowing that the crazy (the scary kind) can be controlled, prevented, addressed, whatever. Thank goodness.


The thing that was most interesting to me in this instance is that I’ve frequently felt crazy in the first two ways I described. The ha ha way– I mean, this hair, right? It certainly has an air of crazy about it (that’s the frizz). And even the, oh, right, you think I’m crazy– whatevs, kind. I have tummy troubles and a weird case of hand eczema that I believe to be associated with gluten. Doctors don’t believe me. They think I’m crazy. Whatevs.

But being called crazy, even by a medical professional (implied only, granted I haven’t actually read my chart), frustrating as it may be, is not, in fact, scary like this is scary. That’s what this kind of crazy felt like.

And paradoxically, that actually makes me feel kind of proud. Because it means that I am trusting my body. Trusting my own symptoms and my own intuition to know when something is real, regardless of whether it is recognized.

I know that there is something wrong with my gastrointestinal system. I can work with it sometimes, but not all the time. A diagnosis of we-don’t-know-you-must-be-crazy (anyone know the ICD-9 code for that???) is not helpful, exactly, but I can live with it. I can work with it. I can continue to trust my body and keep trying to calm it down however I can. Likewise, with the eczema on my hands and feet, I see a link with gluten and flares. Yes, there are other things too– stress and hot weather and travel all seem to play a role, but not if I stay away from gluten. So I stay away from gluten, and the doctor says I’m crazy for it, but that’s ok.

Not this time though. This time, crazy is not ha ha. It’s not whatevs. It’s scary. And I trusted myself to know that I needed to seek professional medical help. I have a good relationship with Celeste, I trust her and get the sense that she trusts me to report accurately. She worked with me, with my crazy, to make a plan. I can get on board with that too.

Annoying as it may be (because in my dreams last night, I simply could not understand how my math professor was working out the problems and I was never going to pass– a new story every night), I am encouraged by my ability to trust myself, even in my crazy, to be able to distinguish just what type of crazy it was. When the push for help is not only meaningful, but necessary. And I’m grateful that Celeste seems to get that too.


It’s almost Easter. But before the bunny, a face-chewing jungle cat.

I’ve written approximately (well, exactly, actually) three unpublished end-of-lent-hello-easter-thanks-be-to-joan-for-all-the-fodder-for-reflection posts. This is the fourth and this is the one that’s actually going to get published and it’s going to be nothing like those other three. Because they were all full to the brim with words, but lacking in genuine-ness.

Delete. Delete. Delete.

We all deserve better than that.

Better than vague-eries. Something more down-to-earth, personal, relate-able.

So let’s start with this morning.

This morning I got my face chewed off. (Metaphorically, of course, I life in Wisconsin where cud-chewing cows far outnumber face-chewing jungle cats.) Right away. First thing. Hello office, what’s the message on today’s page-a-day calendar… BAM.

My attacker, which is an over-dramatic way of saying it to be sure, got POed at the end of the day yesterday, but said nothing, and had all evening, all night, and all of the early morning to whip that anger up into quite the frenzy and went all out first thing. Instant headache.

And over nothing, actually. A case of mistaken identity, in fact. But on account of all the whipping and the frenzying, there was still a lot of yelling and complaining and negativity. And not just to me. Also about me to others. It’s too much! My shoulders are basically attached to my ears. My head won’t stop pounding. And I let it get me all kinds of whipped up too.

So in my next meeting, when I had the chance to vent to someone I thought likely to be understanding, I did. And he said, “speak life! Have you heard that song?”

I had not.

So he pulled it up on his phone. So great: Toby Mac – Speak Life

A snippit of the Speak Life lyrics-- UTT-type material, eh? {source}
A snippit of the Speak Life lyrics– UTT-type material, eh? {source}

The message was exactly what I needed to hear. And then we discussed how we both wished my attacker (over-dramatic, again and as usual) could be happier. Calmer. More at peace.

More able to speak life, whatever that would take.

It was kind of nice.


Before Lent even began, I read a book published by the creator of the Church Health Center in Memphis, TN. I loved the book so much, and I’ve told you about it before. What I haven’t really talked about yet, although I’ve embraced it in its entirety, is the Church Health Center’s focus on the seven virtues described by Paul in Colossians 3:12-14.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, wholly and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”


Quite frankly, striving toward any one of those qualities hardly leaves room for allowing frenzied anger to become like a Dole Whip at Disneyland (like you don’t know what I’m talking about) and the notion of “speaking life” speaks to that whole heartedly.

Getting angry and whining about it to someone else hardly embodies compassion. Certainly not kindness or humility. And gentleness and patience? Absolutely not. Least of all forgiveness and love. Speaking life does.

And most importantly, in this Easter season, and especially today on Good Friday as we reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus, we would do well to remember that these virtues are exactly what his life stood for. (Yes, yes, yes… I say “we” like I’m being all wise, but honestly, you and I both know that I am the one who would do well to remember this fact… yes? It’s really not that wise, it’s 100% selfish, but there you have it. Anyway.) These are the characteristics that he embodied (love especially, the binding agent) and that he asks us to, at the very least, work real hard toward embodying ourselves.

No matter our spiritual tradition, or lack thereof, I think it’s fair to say that these are virtues we all admire, regardless of our color or creed, religion, philosophy, nationality, shoe size, or handedness. (Fun fact: in chemistry, S- and R- isomers are based on the Latin words sinister and rectus meaning left and right, respectively, because left handedness was considered evil and scary and sinister. Hence, the inclusion of handedness in this list here for all my readers trapped in the 1300s. Fascinating, right?) As such, I think it’s also fair to say that when it really boils down to it, we all want the same thing. Goodness and love, kindness, patience, forgiveness, gentleness and compassion. Light.

And interestingly, at the beginning of the Gospel according to John (because I skipped ahead to the New Testament for an Easter interlude), John describes God as bringer of life and life as the light of mankind. (Math math math… commutative property… if a = b and b = c, then a = c.) So, if God = life and life = the light of mankind, then God = the light of mankind. God is light, God is good.

And that leads me to my second favorite thing to think about when I think about my spiritual life… the notion that God is good. Always. No matter what. (Totally stolen from the brilliant Jeannett at Life Rearranged, which I love so much, but she seems like the type who probably wouldn’t mind and, in fact, would be likely to deny that her seemingly simple phrase completely changed my life. It did though. For seriously.) Like our common ground based on the seven virtues. I think this notion of God being good is also true no matter what, where “no matter what” can equal anything — color, creed, religion, philosophy, nationality, shoe size, or handedness. Always, in fact.

So those are the things I remind myself of every single day. Try to, anyway. I’d love for it to be a bitty little tattoo on my inner wrist, but given Seth’s opposition to me inking anything on my body anywhere and his exceptional willingness to put up with a lot of other crap, I have settled for bracelets:

Mantra Bands on top (you can get them here) and an Etsy purchase below (here).
Mantra Bands on top (you can get them here) and an Etsy purchase below (here).

I’m missing a couple virtues still, but I’m working on it. I’ll find the rest. One glance down and I’ll remember:


One glance down, every day and all the time, I will remember what Good Friday was about, and more importantly, what Easter Sunday really means. I will remember that I have goals, goals beyond those of the workplace or the home or the physical world in general– goals related to my spiritual well-being, goals related to the kind of person that I want to be. One who embodies compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love. Always.

And in those moments, when I am reminded, I can practice. Alas, I am human, so in this case practice will undoubtedly never make perfect, but it can make me better and I think that’s worth trying for. As far as I can tell, a lot of us are trying.

So when I got angry, angry, angry this morning, someone else whose giving it his best shot reminded me of those virtues. And maybe I’ll get a chance to return the favor. Or maybe not, maybe I’ll get a chance to pay it forward instead. Honestly, compassion, forgiveness, love… that stuff feels a lot better.

And as the Lenten season ends and I stop reflecting on the other-worldly and come more soundly back to earth in the hilarious (because seriously, I’m hilarious, right?) space I occupied on Fat Tuesday and before, I plan to tell you about what Satan thinks of forgiveness. Because I just finished reading his (Satan’s) book about it. And it was le fascinating.

In other words, book review of I, Lucifer coming up very shortly.

In the meantime, Lord give me strength not to destroy my insides with Cadbury eggs!

Happy Easter, my friends!!