Magan: We’re Not Talking About Books Q&A

Estelle and I are swapping questions and getting into the nitty gritty details… Welcome to our “We’re Not Talking About Books Q&A.” Today I’m answering Estelle’s questions and soon she’ll be answering mine. I haven’t even read her questions yet. I’m just copying and pasting them and writing whatever first comes to mind. Are you scared? I kind of am. But let’s get started, shall we?

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I feel like you had a good traveling year. What was your favorite trip? Where do you want to try to go next year (a trip with the little one or maybe a romantical trip for two)?

I did! This year feels like such a blur because so, so many things happened, but we got to go on a few trips! First was our trip to DC in February, where we reunited for a little more than 24 hours. That was such a whirlwind trip; it went so fast and we tried to squeeze so many things in, but I loved that there were little moments like you and I taking the time to meet up with Sasha of Sash and Em for dinner. In May we went to Colorado with my family. It was our first trip as parents so that was a wee bit stressful for me and I’m positive we overpacked. I think I took enough diapers for an army. That trip and our August trip to Florida with Dustyn’s family were both very meaningful (and necessary) because this whole foster care process has been so stressful. If I didn’t highlight my hair, I’m certain you’d find a bunch of gray hairs on my head. Those trips really gave us time to escape reality, be a little family, and not focus on all the normal craziness we face on a daily basis.

non-bookish end of year reflections with magan

(Left) Magan (l) and Estelle (r) outside the Newseum in D.C.;
(Right) Magan + Her Husband, Dustyn, on the beach in Cape San Blas, FL

As for next year, we have zero trips planned right now. That seems kind of sad to admit, but there are still so many what-ifs in our lives with our foster daughter and we have Baby Blasig making an appearance in February of next year. I would love to plan a getaway trip with Dustyn at some point, but it would probably be mid-to-late 2014 to who knows where. It won’t even matter, I’m sure. Our 10-year anniversary is in July so hopefully we’ll do something memorable to celebrate!

It might just be because I’m your friend but when I think of you this past year, I feel like (if it’s possible) you’ve become more selfless and have really come into your own as a mom. You’re my first close friend who is a mom so maybe I’m just noticing it more? I don’t know! But I feel like it’s the coolest thing and I’m in total awe of all you do. Is there a change you feel in yourself after the past few months?

Oh, man. Were you intending to make me cry, Estelle? Geez, Louise. *grabs tissues* I definitely feel like I’ve changed a lot this year, but I can’t really pinpoint how I have or even begin to put that into words. I think my priorities have shifted so much. There’s definitely been so much less “me me me” (especially when it comes to spending money and shopping). I feel like almost every time we’ve had a court hearing, we’ve anticipated losing our foster daughter and that’s really taught me the value of time and how precious it can be. I’ve also had to be more gracious and accepting of a lot of situations I never thought I would be faced with. I don’t think I’ve particularly done anything TO change, but my heart and focus have been changed because of her. She’s just taught me so, so much. Especially how to be more patient. I’ve never, ever been a patient person and that’s one thing I’ve been told I am over and over again this year. (I’ve always secretly giggled at that because usually my insides are so anxious.) All of the changes I feel and am experiencing right now, I hope they last and are more than just temporary. You and I have talked a lot about, and I’m holding onto a card forever that you wrote me, about how because of our foster daughter, a lot of good has occurred. My pregnancy might never have happened. I might have stayed so selfishly me-focused, and my eyes certainly wouldn’t have been opened to the entire foster care world.

What do you want more of in 2014 that you didn’t get this year?

It’s funny you mention this because I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately. I’m never one to make big resolutions at the beginning of a new year, but I am hoping to change my perspective on a few things. Growing up, we never really had a ton of people over to our house besides grandparents. Now isn’t the time or place to discuss why that is, but recently a friend said to me, “I think it’s been a year since I’ve been to your house.” That really, really hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m finding that I love to have people over, but constantly feel self-conscious about the state our house is in (especially now that we have a little person who leaves toys stranded every three feet). One of my biggest hopes is to let those fears reside and to really be more inviting and allow more people into our lives. We do a lot of dinners out or hang out at friends’ houses, but I want to bring that sense of community into our home and not keep people at arm’s length. This answer is probably so much deeper than you were hoping for, but it’s just what’s been on my mind lately.

WHEN ARE WE HANGING OUT AGAIN? (Yes I screamed that.)

As soon as possible. Sadly I’m now in the not-safe-to-fly part of my pregnancy, but soon you’ll have a little Blasig to meet! And I really do want to visit NYC again soon. I feel like no matter how many times I go there, I’ll always find something new to see and experience.

Do you think we will get more Zac Efron next year? Because… I’m seriously disappointed in his life choices and lack of movies in my theater. What are we going to do with him?

I sincerely hope so. And hopefully our clean-cut Zac will return and there will be no more press releases about his rehab stays. (Has anyone else been as deeply disappointed with him as we have?) We haven’t seen nearly as many movies this year as we have in the past, and I’m sure Dustyn is oh-so-thankful for less of Zac’s smoldering physique, but come on! WE NEED MORE ZAC!

Can you share one of your favorite pics from the year?

Of course I can! This photo is from our Florida vacation where I seriously wished I had carried my camera everywhere we went. This is an iPhone photo of a boat floating by right by where we stopped to eat that evening. I don’t remember the food or what I ordered. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I do remember the peacefulness of this moment and how absolutely beautiful the sky was.

magan's favorite travel photo from 2013

The most fun moment you had this year?

Goodness gracious. I know this may sound like a cop-out answer, but honestly, every moment you and I had together was so awesome. I wish that could happen way more often than it does. Talking/texting/chatting just isn’t enough. Aside from our gushy friendship, I loved finding out that we were expecting our first baby and telling our grandparents all about it at a surprise lunch. We had them all arrive at the same restaurant together. I made little boxes with scratch off tickets that told them we were expecting (which shocked them because everyone suspected maybe we had big foster daughter news to share). I also included one of our ultrasound photographs in frames for them and personal notes to each one of them about how excited we are for them to meet Baby Irmagerd. I also gained a new appreciation for my job this year that gave me a different perspective on why I love being a photographer; the bride from my last wedding of the year sent me an email on behalf of one of their groomsmen who wanted to know if my assistant that day was single. That’s pretty priceless!

And the best buy of 2013? (I’m sure there were many of them.)

You’re catching me on a day when I’ve just splurged on something super fun for myself. I bought the new Urban Decay Naked 3 palette, and ohemgee is it beautiful. (For those who aren’t aware, Estelle and I are make-up junkies, too.) When I was excitedly doing my make-up this morning, I couldn’t even begin to pick out which colors to use first. They’re all so beautiful! If you are a make-up-aholic, you need this in your life.

With just a few days left until Christmas, what’s a stand out memory from the holiday that you have?

Growing up, my maternal grandparents would always come over to our house to help us put up the Christmas tree. It was never planned and happened spur-of-the-moment, but I remember them always being there. This year, with baby girl in our house, Dustyn and I put the tree up pretty early so she’d have a long while to experience the lights and ornaments. We were initially having the problem of her going to the tree and taking (i.e.: yanking) all the bottom ornaments off. One day my grandma and mom came to Austin to hang out with us. We made a trip to Michael’s and my grandma mentioned wanting to get baby girl her own Christmas ornament. Baby girl chose a sparkly snowman with silly arms and legs. When we got back to our house, grandma unwrapped the ornament and let baby girl put it on the tree. Every single morning, one of the first things she does is run to our tree, find her snowman, and bend down to give him a kiss. I swear it’s the cutest thing in the entire world; she sporadically checks on him throughout the day, too. These two memories are so special because it’s essentially the meshing of my childhood with hers and having my grandma be so integral to both.

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Stay tuned for Estelle’s answers to my questions!
Tell us your answers to any of the above questions…
We always want to get to know you guys better, too!

On a Personal Note: Reflecting on Foster Care

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

I recently stayed up entirely too late finishing How to Love by Katie Cotugno. Estelle mailed it to me and on a highlighter pink post-it note, said it had to be my next read. How was I to turn down such a request?

Estelle’s already reviewed How to Love here on the blog so I’m not going to dive into all the nitty gritty details, but I’m feeling like I just need to explore a few particulars that sort of parallel Reena’s and my life right now. Reena is 18 years old. She’s a young mom to a little girl that she wasn’t planning to have. Her baby girl, Hannah, is the best, most unexpected surprise of her life. Reena’s plans have been completely derailed; she was going to move on and do bigger things with her life. Travel the world. But now she’s tied down to her hometown, needing the support of her family and attending community college.

You are all aware that this year I’ve become a mom to a foster daughter. I’ve never been a mom before and while I’m 28 and not 18, becoming a mom seems like it happened in such a whirlwind. The night we got the placement phone call, I was five minutes away from the restaurant where I was supposed to meet up with my book blogging friends for dinner. I was at an intersection when Dustyn called and said, “Sweetie, we’re getting a baby girl. She’s seven months old.” I had no idea what to do. If I drove straight, I would be at Dustyn’s work in two minutes. If I turned right, I’d be sitting at a table sipping margaritas and discussing books. I immediately hung up the phone with him and drove straight. I shakily called my friend Jennifer and said, “I won’t be making it tonight. We’re getting a baby girl.” I had no idea what to do. I wanted to laugh and cry. I think I did both. I was afraid to drive because my whole body seemed to be electrified with this scary anticipation and anxiety.

Chalk and Baby FeetFast forward almost eight months and my life has completely and significantly changed. Dinners are a lot more difficult to schedule now. We live a much more routine life. I feel like I have a more regular bed time than I ever have in my life. I can’t sleep in to save my soul because my body has an internal alarm clock that naturally goes off every single day. I don’t have nearly as much time to read books that are of my choosing and often read the same children’s books over and over to the point of having them memorized. But those are all things that most people accept (and expect) when they make the leap into parenthood. I definitely wouldn’t change a thing and don’t regret a single moment.

But perhaps the single-most interesting element is the fact that due to circumstances lately (that I can’t fully disclose for our foster daughter’s privacy), I feel like I’m sharing custody of this child. I’m having to learn what it is to let go and not be so uptight and stuck in my ways. I am having to let go of a lot of personal feelings I have with her biological family to embrace and love them in ways I didn’t even know I was capable of. I am getting to know people I never anticipated meeting and I’m having my eyes completely opened in amazing ways. Months ago when we found out we were expecting our own baby, I recall agonizing over our housing situation and what we might do if we got to adopt our foster daughter and have Baby Blasig. The question that kept me up at night was, “What are we going to do about a guest bedroom?” In my defense, our parents are here weekly and often spend the night with us. We love having guests and I was extremely worried about the comfort and safety of all parties hypothetically involved.

But these days… that question makes me blush with embarrassment. Having now been to our foster daughter’s biological home, I thank my lucky stars every single time I’m there. I feel extremely grateful and overwhelmingly blessed. I feel so selfish for ever thinking that we needed to have more. We can be a cozy family and despite what arrangements we may have, I feel our families would still make it work. How in the world do you think they’ll stay away from our foster daughter and Baby Blasig? There’s no way!

Baby Legs and Shadows

I digress.

Some of my favorite stand-out moments are when Sawyer (Hannah’s father) re-enters Reena’s life. He didn’t know Reena was pregnant and was absent for two years, only to make a surprise return one random day. Once he finds out he’s Hannah’s father, he awkwardly tries to weasel his way back into Reena’s life (maybe for reasons more than just his daughter…) by participating in activities with Hannah. They go to the park and push Hannah on the swings. They go for long drives. He takes Hannah when Reena’s at a loss for who else to turn to. Reena and Sawyer? They have some major baggage and a ton of history they need to work through. But when it comes to Hannah, all those feelings are pushed aside for her sake.

Reena flawlessly accepts motherhood, despite how difficult it may be and how derailed her plans may have become. Cotugno beautifully describes her relationship with Hannah and difficult moments for her. One that gave me chills was when Hannah was between the ages of zero and six months and extremely colicky. Nothing would help her sleep more than a long drive. Recently Dustyn and I were reminiscing our very first frightening night with our foster daughter. She’d never before slept in a crib. She didn’t know who we were. We were so scared and nervous. We didn’t know her sounds or sleep/eating patterns. When it was time for bed, she wouldn’t go down. It just wasn’t happening. I recalled something my mom said she did with me when I couldn’t sleep: She’d load me up in the car and just drive. Without fail, I still fall asleep in the car (when I’m a passenger) thanks to all those long drives as a baby. That’s what we did that first night. We loaded her up in the car seat and just drove back and forth on the highway until she was coaxed to sleep. I sat in the backseat with her and cried over how beautiful she was. How scared and nervous and excited and overwhelmed I was. How I had absolutely no idea what the next day was going to be like. How I was out of my league and had no idea what to do.

The lesson, though, is that whether you’re like Hannah or more like me, parenthood is such a beautiful journey. Scary as all get out, but amazing. It all depends on our support systems to get us through, and sometimes we’re most surprised by the changes that can occur because of the children in our lives. And not to be totally corny, but in many, many ways, the children teach us, quite literally, how to love.

book cover for Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Magan: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

book cover for Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarryPushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Publication Date: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 384
Target audience: Mature young adult
Keywords: counseling, memory loss, foster care
Format read: ARC from NetGalley.

Summary: Echo and Noah are paired up when Mrs. Collins, their counselor, suggests Noah get a tutor to help improve his grades after his downhill slide due to his parent’s death.

 

Does this sounds like a disastrous combination to you:

a girl with repressed memories (Echo) + a good boy turned bad (Noah) + lots of counseling to “fix” them (Mrs. Collins)

I thought it was all kinds of right.

Echo used to be Miss Popularity but a secret event happened that caused her to become a recluse. She and her boyfriend, Jake, broke up and the majority of her friends have ditched her in favor of believing the rumors that circulate her mysterious absence from school after The Event. She’s a fractured girl with repressed memories of what actually happened that left her so badly scarred. She wears long sleeve shirts no matter the outdoor temperature. Her relationship with her father is strained and his remarriage to her pregnant ex-babysitter doesn’t help matters.

Noah is an all-star-athlete-turned-playboy. He lost his parents to a house fire and has bounced from foster home to foster home since then. His younger brothers aren’t allowed to live with him and he’s got limited interaction with them because he’s gotten into a few brawls at his foster homes. His good boy, all-star rapport is thrown out the window in favor of being a pot-smoking, sex machine who lives in the moment.

Echo wants to remember what happened. Noah wants to gain custody of his brothers. Both of them need the help of Mrs. Collins, the new school grief counselor, to work through their issues. She pairs below-average-Noah up with outstanding-student-Echo for tutoring. The two make a pact to help each other get the information they need from Mrs. Collins.

McGarry did a brilliant job of telling Echo and Noah’s story via their dual perspectives. She created two incredibly broken characters with a lot of baggage and very big issues and forced them together. Issues in young adult fiction can be a bit on the fluffy side, but I thoroughly enjoyed that McGarry took the plunge and didn’t take the easy way out with their journey. Echo and Noah were each other’s new beginnings – they were truthful and honest about their pasts – open about things that no one else knew. It only made sense that as they began to trust one another, they would fall in love (though not without a few bumps in the road).

To the reader, Echo and Noah’s pasts are somewhat vague. McGarry chose to use the first person perspective to allow us to experience Echo’s returning memories and all the details of Noah’s parent’s house fires along with them. Just as with counseling, there was a slow revelation of their complete history. I very much enjoyed the quiet progression because I couldn’t anticipate when the next big plot twist was going to happen.

Noah and Echo’s relationship definitely kept me intrigued until we found out more details. In the simplest of terms: their relationship was steamy. Noah had a reputation for having one night stands and never settling down, but Echo falls for him anyway. Noah realizes he’s one of the few people Echo opens up to and the glimpses we have of how incredible and awesome and swoon-worthy he is made me want to shout for Echo to GO FOR IT. McGarry got real — Echo needed someone who would be tender and kind to her in all of the ways her family had neglected to be.

I could continue to go on and on with my love for this beautifully broken love story, but I’m going to stop in favor of you taking a moment to pre-order this book so you can fall in love with Echo and Noah too.

Goodreads | Amazon

paperback cover for geek girl by cindy c. bennett

Magan: Geek Girl by Cindy C. Bennett

paperback cover for geek girl by cindy c. bennett

Geek Girl by Cindy C. Bennett [website | twitter]
Publication Date
: December 8, 2011
Publisher: Cedar Fort
Pages: 318
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format read: eBook purchased from Amazon

Summary: Jen places a bet that she can turn geeky boy, Trevor, bad. The prize? Getting her lip re-pierced. The unexpected side-effect of spending so much time with such a great guy is that eventually… you begin to fall in love with him. Jen slowly transforms from goth-like, bad girl who has rotated through the foster care system to a girl searching for herself and falling in love with a boy she never expected to even like.

What an under-appreciated book this is. By a show of hands (or comments), who has heard of this book? It doesn’t have half the attention it deserves on Goodreads and oh, does that make me even happier to share it with you guys.

Jen dresses to stand out in a crowd – tight, black clothing, ruby red lips lined with black lip liner, dark hair with red chunky streaks. She’s a girl who is not easy to overlook. Imagine Trevor’s shock when she sets her eyes on him and starts popping up everywhere he is. Little does he know that he’s a bet. If Jen can pull him over to the dark side, her friends will pay to have her lip re-pierced (her current foster family made her remove the last piercing). I wonder if Jen would have made the bet if she had known in her (fake) pursuit of Trevor, she would spend so much time skipping parties with her friends so she could watch sci-fi movies with his geeky crowd, or that they would be spending every third Saturday hanging with semi-senile old people in a nursing home.

Jen gets sucked up in Trevor’s world. I don’t know what girl could resist this boy. He’s kind and funny and so honorable. For a boy who wore button-up shirts buttoned all the way to his throat, he was always so kind and polite to Jen despite her in your-face-appearance. He looked past her exterior and saw that maybe that wasn’t all there was to her. Their love was a slow progression; Jen felt so conflicted – how could she fall in love with a boy that she’d be leaving when she went to the next foster home? What would her friends say about her failing so miserably at the bet – wasn’t he supposed to be the one turning bad… not the other way around?

Most importantly, what happens when this good boy finds out why they started hanging out in the first place?

Trevor and Jen’s story is one about falling in love, making it through hard times, deception, and ignoring the haters who don’t believe in you. It’s about a couple, who by appearances, should not be together. Jen’s background is gritty and disappointing; there’s a lot about her past that has caused her to be standoffish and distanced. She has never allowed herself to fall in love before and has a hard time believing someone would actually want her. (I loved her background and life story just as much as her relationship with Trevor. The foster care aspect, what happened with her biological parents, and the current status of her life in the Grant’s home was incredibly thorough and gripping.) Forgiveness is a huge, huge theme throughout this book. I could continue listing so many highlights and strengths of Geek Girl, but I need to allow you to experience this on your own.

I suppose I’ll leave you with this. Sometimes I feel like I’m reading through a 318-page book and it’s gone too fast or details of the story were lacking. I completely, wholeheartedly feel like I know everything there was to know about Trevor and Jen. I loved falling in love with them and hoping against hope that their relationship would make it. I’m so, so glad I took the time to read Bennett’s Geek Girl because I don’t think I could have possibly enjoyed it more than I did.

Now, let’s start a trend on Goodreads and give Geek Girl the love it deserves. Read it, will ya?

Goodreads | Amazon