I’m currently reading my friend Lara Lacombe‘s fourth book — Killer Exposure. It’s so dang good, probably my favorite she’s written thus far. I love it, but it is destroying my sleep schedule because I “one more chapter” it all the way to way-too-late every single night. Thank goodness I’m almost done.
Lara writes exclusively romantic suspense, so it may surprise you to know that while chatting with my sister-in-law this weekend, a line from the book sprang to mind.
You see, Sister Doctor has now graduated from medical school and is officially an MD, which I guess means we can upgrade her to Dr. Sister. Yayyyy!! In honor of this big occasion, we threw a big Stankowski-style party… you know… like we do.
Dr. Sister tends to be on the humble side, which is the nice way of saying she absolutely cannot take a compliment without qualifying it, deflecting credit, downplaying it, or when all that fails, just getting super awkward.
Humility is an excellent thing and all, but when you excel as mightily as Dr. Sister has, too much can be a problem. Like yesterday, for example… she just didn’t seem to be able to thank us enough. Everything was “too much” and she seemed almost stressed out by all the attention and congratulations and such. Poor thing.
That’s when the line from Lara Lacombe’s Killer Exposure came to mind… when the (hunky) hero gets all intense and says to the (all-too-relatable) heroine: YOU ARE NOT AN OBLIGATION. (Oh man, Owen and Hannah…)
And after thinking that over last night, that’s exactly what I think yesterday’s (beautiful, curly-haired) heroine (me) should have said to (the overly humble) Dr. Sister: YOU ARE NOT AN OBLIGATION. We did not have to have a party. We wanted to have a party. We wanted to celebrate what you have accomplished, to recognize your achievements, to give your friends and family a chance to tell you how crazy proud we are and how unbelievably happy we are that you’ll be staying nearby. Not a hafta. A wanna.
We’re all a little like all-too-relatable Hannah and Dr. Sister on her big day, though, aren’t we? It’s hard not to let the insecurity that plagues us all play on the second track when other people are doing or saying nice things, isn’t it? Almost like our accomplishments, our big moments, are in some way a burden to other people. Why is that? Because think about it — think about those moments when you are super happy for or proud of a friend or a family member. It’s not an inconvenience to you — the happiness, the pride — it’s genuine. So why do we assume the worst of others? (Dr. Sister, I am not saying this to try to make you apologize for being overly humble, do you hear me? I’m merely using you as an illustrative example. Stop over-analyzing.)
I love the golden rule, the idea of treating other people as you want to be treated. But I think it’s wrong to some extent. I think a better rule is to treat everyone, ourselves included, as we would treat our best friend. That’s what works for me, anyway. Even my therapist says to me, and I am not kidding right now, “What would you say to Melissa if she were in your shoes?” The answer is always, of course, “I love you and you’re perfect and beautiful no matter what you do!!”
For example, when I got my PhD, after all was said and done, I felt pretty crappy. Looking back on it now four years later, I can see that really, the day was quite lovely. I looked like a million bucks in my fancy dress and sky high shoes, I rocked my public defense, I survived the private defense, I earned my doctorate, my labmates threw me an amazing party, and my friends and family were all there to support me despite having to listen to me drone on about mouse vaginas for an hour (literally). All I could focus on, though, was how much I sucked because one person told me I sucked. And I cried and cried and cried…. Again, literally.
What would I have said to Melissa? I would have said: Are you freaking kidding me?! You were perfect and beautiful and have so much to be proud of!!
So much nicer.
So, Dr. Sister, and all you other doubters, myself included, accept the compliment, let yourself be celebrated, appreciate the kind words and the hugs and the gifts and the parties in your honor, and always assume that it comes from a want, a desire to show you love… you, my darling, whoever you are, are not an obligation!!
So let’s just take this one more moment to celebrate Dr. Sister, MD, in all her glory! It’s been a long journey, and Dr. Sister has absolutely taken the long way — not because she had to, ever, but because she is so determined to 1) do things right and 2) get every possible valuable experience she can out of her training. It’s amazing. She’s amazing. And the University of Wisconsin is brilliant for choosing to keep her on for her general surgery residency. So much hard work to celebrate!! Seven more years to surgeon-dom!!
One of the items that’s been on my to do list for quite a while now is a quarterly book club review. This is a review of the books we’ve read for my actual in person, physical book club in the last three months… I thought you might want to know about them! Especially because all three were G-O-O-D good! And, for some reason, people often ask me to recommend books. It’s like they know I (really) like reading or something 😉
(Also, I just finished The Master of Ballantrae last night for our Under the Covers virtual book club, but I’ll tell you all about that one another time.)
I think I’ve mentioned all three of the books we’ve read so far at some point, simply because when I read I get very wrapped up in the fictional world I’m enjoying and it’s hard (really, really hard) for me not to let it creep out into my real life. (Take, for example, my new Hermione-style time turner to keep me from sitting in front of the computer for big, long, extended periods of time.) But here are my real, true, comprehensive reviews of the first three books we read… all in one place.
So, without further ado, let me tell you about Murderers and Nerdy Girls Work Late by Lisa Boero, Deadly Contact by Lara Lacombe, and Mary: Mrs. A Lincoln by Janice Cooke Newman.
Murderers and Nerdy Girls Work Late by Lisa Boero
(Dang… that picture is big. I just noticed the goosebumps on the legs– that’s hilarious to me!)
I told you quite a bit about this book before here, so I’ll spare you the big spiel about prosopagnosia. Instead, let me tell you about why this book was such a good read!
Honestly, the thing that struck me first was the title. I mean, nerdy girls. That’s my love language. Nerdy is a word that truly describes me to a T and I try pretty hard to embrace it, as opposed to shying away and trying to insist that I’m cool (I swear!) because I’m not. I’m a nerd. And that’s ok. (You had me at nerdy, Lisa. You had me at nerdy.)
Nerdy Girls is a totally self-written, self-published, and self-promoted masterpiece. I’m so impressed by the circumstances in which Lisa wrote the book. And besides all that, it’s GOOD! Really good! I think everyone in our book club agreed that the ending was a little too brief… like all of the sudden everything was clear, the murderer was captured, the hero and heroine were in love, and it was the end. But besides that, truly a good read. Especially because of the prosopagnosia piece. (Clearly, I lied when I told you I’d spare you that spiel because here it comes).
Like women in real life, women in books are insecure for all sorts of different reasons, but it seems most often to be related to physical (I’m not thin enough!) or emotional (you don’t think I’m thin enough!) insecurities… this was the first time I considered the notion of a neurological insecurity, and I thought that was really interesting. To be honest, the way that the main character Liz copes with her neurological condition is actually very similar to the way I’d say I cope with depression in public. You know the motions, you know the drill, so even if you don’t really feel it, you can smile when you need to, chuckle when you ought, and make it through day after day after day out in the world without anyone ever being the wiser. It was a fascinating thing for me to think about!
When I went and heard Lisa Boero speak at the Marshfield Public Library, she mentioned that she had five more books in the nerdy girl series on the way. (Exciting!) Apparently though, all of the books feature Liz’s prosopagnosia-based story. That’s super cool, I really liked Liz, but how fascinating would it be to have all sorts of different “nerdy” girls with different neurological and/or psychiatric issues as the heroines?! I thought it would be really cool! (Note that I’m using the word cool here in a way you may be unaccustomed to it being used… you know what I mean.) I said so to Lisa during the Q&A (I got so brave for a minute) and she seemed intrigued by the idea… although I’m sure she’d have to quit her day job to research other disorders since prosopagnosia is the only one she’s got! Regardless, if you see that series come out sometime in the future, you can totally credit me!!
Deadly Contact by Lara Lacombe
OMG! I loved this book. I absolutely devoured it.
I remember the day I read it very distinctly because my in-laws were over and my sister-in-law came over with her copy, thinking she might read a bit. I had just finished something else and can’t stand when my SIL thinks she reads faster than me (because she doesn’t) so I picked up my copy too, thinking I’d get a little ways in once everyone left. Except I couldn’t… stop…
I have no idea how late I was up reading, but it was seriously late. I woke up the next morning and started reading again in bed (good thing it was Saturday– that may have been difficult to explain to the boss), eventually moved my behind out to the couch, and didn’t stop until mid-afternoon when I was completely done and left quite satisfied with the ending.
It was just that good! Not only that, but I actually know know the author… like she’s a personal friend of mine. She’s an absolutely brilliant and meticulous scientist, she mentored me in my first ever grad school rotation, and the last thing I would have ever guessed would be that she happened to dabble in romantic suspense on the side. And that she’s really, really good at it! How the? What?
So not only is it brilliantly written, truly romantic, and exceptionally suspenseful, but all the freaking SCIENCE is correct, too! For instance, near the end of the book, she was describing the vial of yellow-ish opaque liquid that Kelly was going to have to deliver to the bad guy and I thought to myself, “Lara, you know better– if it were liquid and not on ice, all the bacteria would be dead, and the bad guy would be tipped off immediately.” And then that’s what Kelly said to the guys in the FBI… because she’s like Lara, and she knows her science.
Now, how Lara knows her romance… that leaves much up to the imagination, but clearly she’s expert. Definitely an awesome read and another in the works for later this year, I believe– I will be anxiously awaiting it!
Mary: Mrs. A Lincoln by Janis Cooke Newman
Another book I absolutely loved. Although, with some caveats.
First, the book is really, really long. At 620 pages, it takes you through Mary Todd Lincoln’s life from beginning to end and spares little detail, I’m sure. I loved the completeness of it, but there are really only so many times you need to hear about how Lincoln’s great oration made Mary’s “bosom heave” before it becomes a bit much. I get it. He talks, she’s hot and bothered. It was the 1800s… what are you gonna do?
The other kind of crappy part is how confused I feel about Mary Todd Lincoln now. I thought I knew some things about her, but now I am plain confused. I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to read an actual biography now because I’m so disturbed by some of the things about Mary’s life that may or may not have been fictionalized. You see, the book is based on the historical facts of Mary’s and her family’s life, but it’s also historical fiction, which means it is, in fact, fiction. So… did Mary Lincoln really have an affair during Lincoln’s presidency? Were her tendency for hoarding and her attachment to things really as horrifying as they sound? Was Robert really that unloving toward his parents, his brothers, and his wife? Clearly, I’ve got some researching to do! It’s difficult sometimes for me to appreciate the good and bad about a historical subject. I get that people are complicated, and always have been, but it can be hard not to idolize people who did so much good in their lives and are now long gone… to remember that they weren’t perfect.
But besides all that… a truly awesome read. I’m completely fascinated by the Civil War era and this book really highlights some of the most important injustices suffered, especially by women, at the time. Not only that, but it really highlights how far psychology has come over the last nearly 200 year. We’re much better at not poisoning crazy people, or even accusing them and labeling them of being crazy, as we were back then. The “remedies” Mary took, and Lincoln too, were just disturbing!
Probably the most interesting thing to me in the whole book was that the worst offense ever uttered to Mary during her life was related to the notion that she, a woman, might have had some sense of ambition. Can you even imagine?!
This was definitely the most mixed of our books so far, in terms of reception. I really liked it and so did one other member of the book club… the other two struggled to finish and probably wouldn’t readily recommend it. So I’d say it’s a taste thing for this one. The nerdier you are, the more likely it is to be your cup of tea (sorry, Emily, but like I said above– I really don’t think of nerdiness as a bad thing and you are legitimately cool and pretty, even though you liked Mary like I did).
Next up we’re reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. Spoiler Alert: It’s really freaking good. Like so good I force people to read it by telling them they have to pick it as their next book club book. Abraham Verghese is an MD who wrote a beautiful, beautiful work of fiction and I’m super excited to read it again. I read it crazy fast the first time, wanting to know more, more, more… this time I can slow down a bit and really think about some of the things I might have thought of only briefly the first time around. I’m already really enjoying it. But more on that next quarter, yes?
Have you read anything good lately? Are we friends on GoodReads? We should be!
I suppose it’s not really fair to describe a big old hair cut and then not provide pictures. This is what I originally saw on Pinterest (after searching for square head and curly hair) and was completely inspired by:
Sandra Bullock, of course. Because who wouldn’t want to look like her? I can assure you I’m pretty darn close. See:
Ok, not exactly, but I’m pretty happy with it! Not to mention that I’m going to save a ton of money on conditioner! Cha-ching!
Unfortunately, I am firmly against gratuitous selfies. Especially because they tend to emphasize the fact that my one eye opens further than the other and that my enormous shoulders are uneven.
I generally prefer photos that either make people laugh, like this one… or that demonstrate my amazing skills, like this one.
So I decided to ask Seth, super duper nicely (ok, I kind of forced him!), to take pictures that would allow me to show you guys some cool things that I want to show off, including:
1) This wall! I painted this sweet wall in our basement to look like a football field. It is to scale (1/3 original size) and looks awesome. The life-size Rodgers fathead really completes it, don’t you think? Seth totally digs his man cave, and I’m pretty darn proud of it!
2) My pupster! Look at that sweet girl! Her name is Curly, for Curly Lambeau, founder of the Packers. She recently had knee surgery, which explains the shaved back leg (the bum knee) and the poodle cut up front (where her IV was). She loves when I carry her around like my baby. Or not. But I love it 🙂
4) My new bracelet that my friend Aimie’s daughter made for me! She’s eight and CRAZY talented with the loom– she picked pink and blue just for me! Such a sweet, sweet girl with an amazing mama! (Did I say amazing… I’m sorry, I meant to say awesome. She’s slated to be my next profile in awesome, after all! Get pumped!)
Yeah, we had a lot of fun taking these photos… what do you think of the new do?