The Devil's Highway : A Review

In this work of grave beauty and searing power - one of the most widely praised pieces of investigative reporting to appear in recent years - we follow twenty-six men who in May 2001 attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadly region known as the Devil's Highway, a desert so harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it, a place that for hundreds of years has stolen men's souls and swallowed their blood. Only twelve of the men made it out.

I will preface this review by saying that prior to picking up this book I did not have any strong feelings about illegal immigration. It was one of those hot-button political issues I never paid a lot of attention too because I didn't feel like it directly effected me in any way. I still don't know where I would stand politically on the issues, but I am pretty sure it would be something like - let's make it easier to be legal.

This book was graphic, gruesome, and eye-opening in so many ways. Generally non-fiction books tend to bore me. I prefer to escape reality, but the reality that Urrea presented was so far from anything I know it seemed like fiction. A fictional horror story.

Urrea's writing style made it so easy to follow along in the ghostly footsteps of those twenty-six men along their terrifying journey. It started out so simple - men wanting to come to Los Estados Unidos to make a little money to better their lives - most of them planning to return to Mexico after a few months work. The guides got lost. They ran out of water.

The book shows us different perspectives; the men in the dessert, the guide, the Border Patrol, the Coyotes (men herders), and even the men after death. So much extravagance to fly the men home, send them in caskets, and prepare their bodies - something like $80,000 when all was said and done. What if that money had been put into these men's villages in the first place? Would they ever have left?

In the very end of the book, Urrea breaks down the numbers. So many who are opposed to illegal immigration are so due to the cost of supporting these non-tax-paying illegals who take our jobs, right?
Well, with the numbers presented in this book- that argument is blown to bits. According to Urrea's data, the USA actually MAKES money on the illegals.
Over a lifetime it would cost the USA $55,000 per illegal, but if there were 4.5 million illegals in the USA they would actually generate $220 billion towards gross domestic product.
You have to read the book to see the graceful and somewhat cheeky way he breaks it down. It's amazing.

All in all, a fantastic non-fiction read. 5/5

Insights into Alzhiemer's Disease

I started blogging tonight with the intention of doing a book review on The Devil's Highway, but that will have to wait. I have too many thoughts in my head about my past week and all of the amazing things I have learned. 

The last three days for me have been incredibly busy. I have spent my days at Navy Pier in Chicago for an educational work conference for people working in long-term care and related fields. I have sat through 9 educational sessions over the past three days and I have to say, I have walked away inspired and excited about developments in my field (Dementia Care). Today I was privileged to sit through two of the best sessions of my experience. 

My first session this morning was all about taking the dis-ease out of Alzheimer's disease. We talked about the physiological symptoms of the disease and then the emotional, social, and spiritual "symptoms" of the disease, which make up the dis-ease (un-ease, discomfort). The speaker made 4 main points about the differences between the two spheres and then showed a video that I cannot wait to get my paws on. It was phenomenal. (Scroll to the bottom for a clip)

The Four Distinctions from Memory Bridge:

1. Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a disconnetion between neurons in the brain (caused by plaques and tangles). The dis-ease is a disconnection between people.

2. AD occurs in the brain. The dis-ease occurs in the body- both individual and communal (i.e. family-body, etc.)

3. AD is physically painless (but the most feared disease). The dis-ease of it is profoundly painful (isolation, fear of loss of self, estrangement, etc)

4. AD cannot be cured. Dis-ease can be ended.

I strongly believe that it all stems from education. The more people understand the disease and how it will effect their loved one, the better they will be able to cope with it and have a more peaceful experience.

My second session today was a panel of people with Early-Onset AD (diagnosed before the age of 65). The individuals are a part of a support group through Rush University. They were incredibly candid, honest, and open about the effects of the disease, coping with it, grieving their futures. It was amazing to listen too and an incredibly profound experience for me. I actually knew a couple that was on the panel because they have a loved one at my facility. I was in tears by the end of their presentation. It was amazing and I feel so honored to have been there.  Here are some of the quote I jotted down from this session:

Regarding feelings about the diagnosis:
Bob "I decided to live with as much grace... at the highest capacity I can, for as long as I can."
Tom " I don't want to sit around and mope and feel sorry for myself. That does happen, but I want to have a purpose"

For why he speaks on AD:
Tom "It is better to give than to receive. That has always been my philosophy. I am a recovering alcoholic and I still run support groups for AA. It doesn't matter to them that I have this and I haven't messed that up yet"

About the future:

Tom: "I know what's coming. I don't know when, but I know what the outcome will be. I want to do the best I can and be the least burden on my caregivers and family"
Bob: "One day, it won't wait for me.

Advice for caregivers:
Tom: "Good Luck!" (haha) "I would honor what you are doing for me. Stay positive, seeing a smiling face will give me hope"
Barbara: "Distinguish people as individuals. Keep communication- even non-verbal. Smile"
Bob: "I pray for you. It takes a special-type of person to care for those individuals and I just think, What a job, and it takes such special people to do this type of care."

What an amazing experience.
Here is a clip from 'There is a Bridge' - just to give you a taste.

Weekend Update!

Hi folks -
I know my posts of late of been a bit morose. I am not big fan of the month of March for a lot of personal reasons, but I am very excited and upbeat today because it is officially SPRING!

It is raining outside and thundering and I am loving every second of it! We even turned off the heat and have the window open, letting in the crisp, fresh air! I had a pretty fantastic weekend too (completely ruined the diet, but hey - I will start again tomorrow) and thought I would share -

Friday Night: Nothing too crazy, hung out w/ the 'rents and Brandon watched some basketball with his dad. Panera and a low key night.

Saturday: Started off bright and early at the dog park w/ the girls! It was the perfect day for it!!! We spent about an hour there and then the girls were pooped. We came home and they crashed. :) Sophers snuggled up with me while I finished reading a book. I am currently in the middle of The Devil's Highway, and it is pretty heavy, so I picked up a quick, smutty, brain candy book which while I thoroughly it, will not be reviewing :)

In the afternoon I went to the mall and power-shopped. I was there for an hour and hit up 5 stores. I got a pretty new dress from Charlotte Russe. 2 pair of cute flats for summertime from Payless. A cute dress for work from Macy's (only $15 since I had a leftover $15 gift card from Christmas). I got a plethora of new undergarments from Victoria's Secret at a great deal thanks to a $10 off coupon, a Free Panty coupon, and a $10 off any bra coupon! Score! I also got some goodies from Bath and Body works, since my friend AlliFerg told me about the free tote and lotion they were giving away from 1pm- 5pm on Saturday only! I love the scent of the lotion I got for free (Country Girl- I think) and the new Peach Bellini foaming hand soap. I was looking for a new body splash scent for summer, and ended up getting Orange Sapphire, but I gave it to my mom-in-law today because I was not a fan of it on me this morning. Too strong, not enough orange . The tote is... plastic. lol It is a clear plastic thing w/ a floral print. Eh- it was free. I will probably use it as a gift bag for someone.
Then, when I got home, I took the dogs for a mile-long walk.

Saturday evening consisted of grabbing a delicious, yet rushed dinner @ Cabana Charley's - an island themed restaurant by our apartment - with Brandon's brother and his girlfriend. Then, we rushed over to the movie theatre to meet up with the parents for the movie The Adjustment Bureau. The movie was OK - the previews led me to believe it would be all action-packed, but it was more thought provoking than action-y. 

Sunday: We headed to church this morning, made a quick Target run for some necessities and a new pillow for me - trying out memory foam for the neck and headache issues. We spent the rest of the day lounging at the parent's house, watched Bambi, and Brandon got us some new iPhones! When we got home, we took the dogs for another mile-walk during sunset. They are off sleeping somewhere now. I suppose I will need to finish up some laundry and dishes before heading into another busy week.

I hope everyone else had some fun-filled weekends and some down-time! I really feel rejuvenated and hope I can carry this with me throughout the week!

God of My Days

We sang this song on Sunday and it has been in my head the past couple days. I am in love with the message in this song.
You are Lord of my Laughter and Soveriegn in Sorrow - what a beautiful message that God is with us in times of joy and in our darkest times of grief.

A Perfect Storm

This past week has been a really, really terrible week, all culminating (for me) to today. Every year this is a hard day for me. 14 years ago today, my sweet mother lost her 7 year battle with cancer. I have struggled with her loss more as I have grown into a woman than I did when I was a young girl. I think now, I see more of the friendship I could have had with mother that I am so terribly angry I have missed out on. She did leave me with so much to aspire too - she was the strongest woman I have ever met.
Our senior pictures 
Only this year, the week leading up to this day, has been so much worse. First, and least importantly, the weather. Spring feels so far from reach and it is incredibly dreary - to put it eloquently - March sucks.
There is world-wide unrest and tragedy all over the news - riots in Egypt, Libya, and this devastating earthquake in Japan. 
Then, last week, I had to go to the funeral of a vibrant, charismatic 24 year old man - a husband of one of my friends. There is just so much wrong about that. 
What made it a Perfect Storm for me today - was church service. It is rare that the anniversary of my mom's death falls on a Sunday. I was not expecting to be overly emotional - usually I am not (really.). But due to some things I have been struggling with in my personal life and the combination of this past week's events, I just broke down.
Our Pastor was preaching on insecurities. I was nearly in tears during the skit they did prior to the sermon. They did a skit of God chiseling insecurities and imperfections out of a man. The first flaws 'God' mentioned were anger and pride, which are the two things I struggle with the most. It was all downhill from there. Matthew taught about where insecurities come from, where they originate.

1. Instability in the Home
2. A Significant Loss
3. A Rejection
Any time in life these can result in insecurities, but they have the biggest impart at a young age.  They cause people to buy into negative thoughts of being unlovable, unworthy, and that little voice constantly telling them they are no good.
It was a powerful sermon and as I looked around many people were crying. It made me mad - knowing that these people had all experienced these things in their lives, or even the trifecta of those awful experiences. It makes me sad because this is not how God imagined our lives- it was not His intention for his creations, his children who He loves, to experience this heart-wrenching pain. Not only a moment of pain, but a lasting pain that effects people long after the moment has passed.
It's heart-breaking. But you know what - we are made in God's image. We are his children and He loves us - imperfections and all.
I heard this song on my way home - and through my tears it made me hopeful.
Pink - Perfect
* there is kind of a graphic scene in this video for any sensitive viewers

Post- Christmas Mantle

I know this has been a long-time coming, but I only recently got it "just right". After the Christmas set-up:
So festive!
Well, since this was a new edition over Christmas, I hadn't really had anything lined up to go on a mantle so for quite awhile it looked pretty sparse. There was nothing up there but the candlesticks and some pine needles. Sorry no photos available of that depressing look. Then, as I continued to tweak, it looked like this for a little while:

I still was not thrilled with it. at. all. I was living with it though. Then, after I re-did the Warren Cupboard, a lot of the things that were on the mantle migrated over the the top of the cupboard. Then I was left with a bare mantle again. Well, here is the final product, which I am finally happy with. 

It is pretty much a Nana-philosophy that putting some tulle and lights on anything will make it look better, and she's right. I picked up the light green frame on the far left at Home Goods on clearance for $5 and the green bottle in the middle for $5. The frame in between the two Home Goods items was a Target Clearance item for $3.50 I think. I like it. What do you think?

Oscars Red Carpet!

Ah the Academy Awards. The grand daddy of awards shows.
Not gonna lie folks, I was a little disappointed.... no, not in the terrible hosts or lackluster broadcast, but in the fashion. Everyone did SO GOOD. It is so much more fun when the celebrities bomb. Alas, we do have a new category: Honorable Mention. Not everyone can be a best, but so many people looked REALLY good that I decided to add in this category for the Oscars.

I will begin with the Honorable Mentions:
Amy Adams - your hair is amazing, make-up was flawless, dress - smoking hot. Why did you ruin the whole thing with that stupid necklace?

Anne Hathaway- you actually looked great in all 8 dresses you wore, but I was embarrassed for you and your hosting skills.

Halle Barry - you may be one of the most gorgeous women on the planet. You look amazing, I just feel like your dress is a little confused...

Natalie Portman - for some reason I have this huge dislike of her, but she's preggo and adorbs in this dress. (at least there isn't a giant red rose on the front of it) 

 Alright, now here is a looooooooooooooooong list of Bests:

Reese Witherspoon. Hands down- Best Hair of the night. And you can't go wrong with classic black and white!  (I did wear this dress to my freshman homecoming though... well a much-less expensive version of it :))

Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardiem, Ok- the dress doesn't wow me, but they get my Cutest Couple award for the night. I also would like to point out that she gave birth a mere 4 weeks ago. Wowza. 

Sandra Bullock. Classic Hollywood Glamour.

Jennifer Lawrence. Best Dressed Newbie. She is smokin' hot in this dress!

Jennifer Hudson. Love the color, Love the dress, not so much the hair, but she rocked it.

Gwyneth Paltrow - she can do no wrong for me these days. I think people will be split love or hate on this dress. I, for one, LOVE. 

Hailey Steinfeld. Now, I am really disappointed in this picture. It is not doing this dress justice at all. She looked so cute, so glam, and so age-appropriate for a 14 year old. I loved it!

Helen Miren. This woman is a Grande Dame of Hollywood. So elegant.

Mandy Moore. This is another really terrible picture. This dress took my breath away when I watched the red carpet. Here it looks pretty dull. Go youtube a video of her on the carpet. It looked so great on TV!

Hilary Swank. Just love it. 

And, drum roll please........
ScarJo- No no.

Mila Kunis- now this doesn't look THAT bad here, but I was so concerned that there was going to be a wardrobe malfunction! Her girls are held in by little details of lace. LACE people!! She was jiggling around all over the place.

Now, I was going to leave Helena Bonham Carter off of my list of worst, because she does it on purpose. Then I found of picture of her doing this:


Cate Blanchett. Now, she looks stunning. I just wish the top half of the dress was not stiff and un-moveable. The circle it forms around her torso confuses me. I love it from the waist down, but can't support the top half.

Melissa Leo- probably the most interesting acceptance speech at the Oscars. First person to ever drop the F-bomb on stage... even Christian Bale poked fun at her for it. But this dress.... maybe I just dislike architectural dresses, but the lace and the mirror-ish material underneath were just not cute. There are so many other beautiful dresses out there she could have worn.
Nicole Kidman. EPIC FAIL. Hugely disappointed. What was she thinking????