Book Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Oooof, this was one hell of a book.  I highly recommend it, even if…actually, especially if memoirs aren’t normally your thing.

Description from Goodreads:The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family.

The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.”

Description from Amazon {which I’m including because it’s so different from Goodreads}: “Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children. In the beginning, they lived like nomads, moving among Southwest desert towns, camping in the mountains. […] Cooking a meal that would be consumed in fifteen minutes had no appeal when she [Rose Mary – the mother] could make a painting that might last forever.  Later, when the money ran out, or the romance of the wandering life faded, the Walls retreated to the dismal West Virginia mining town — and the family — Rex Walls had done everything he could to escape.

What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms.”

My take:  I don’t even know where to start.  This book is a memoir, but it reads like a novel.  I missed my stop multiple times on the train because of this one.  That also happened with The Circle.  I either need to pay more attention, stop reading on the train, or read less interesting books.

This read like fiction and every once in awhile I’d remember that it all really, truly happened to the author and would feel sick to my stomach over everything she went through.  Burned herself cooking hot dogs at the age of 3.  Lived in a house with no plumbing from middle school through high school.  Subjected to nefarious advances so that her dad could swindle some loser out of his pocket change.  It was disgusting, heart-wrenching, infuriating and painful to read.  It was also interesting, compelling, and fascinating.

I consider myself to have a pretty fucked up, dysfunctional family, and some off-kilter parents.  This book helps you realize, it could be worse.  In that way, it’s almost an uplifting, self-help book.  Showing you how bad some people have it can make you feel a hell of a lot better about your own situation.  Now, I just need to figure out a way to get my sisters to read it without my mom realizing that it’s also about a drunk parent who does things at the expense of their own children.


New York Christmas Recap

This year, I get 3 Christmases!  Actually, every year I get 3 Christmases haha.  The first one was last week, on actual Christmas, with the future-in-laws.  I realized that I never do weekend recaps, but I love reading them when other bloggers do, so I should at least do travel recaps.

We were on Long Island from Thursday through Monday…with the dog.  They also have a dog named Casey who is about the same age and SUPER hyper.  He’s a lab, boxer, Australian shepherd mix.  Super cute and gangly, but relentless and jumpy, too.  He wanted to play fight the whole time and Reba wouldn’t engage until she got really fed up and would snap back.  Luckily the weather was nice and they have a fenced in backyard, so we let them duke it out (no, they weren’t really fighting or baring teeth or anything) outside.

Inside, there are approximately 15 picture frames and knick knacks covering every surface, so…yeah, not puppy play friendly.  It’s also not exactly guest friendly.  We sleep on a pull out couch in the living room.  Between his parents going to bed late and his brother getting up for work at 4am, this was 5 days in a row of very little sleep, which made for a very cranky Briana.  We’re considering a hotel next time.

Onto the holidays.  

In the morning we all opened gifts, which they do very differently than I do.  First they dole out all the gifts, so that everyone has a pile.  Then they go around, in no particular order and open one at a time.  FH tries to delay his turn the whole time so that he’s the last person to open a gift.  I have no idea why…I always wanted to open my gifts as soon as possible.  My favorite was a really soft, warm, plaid flannel shirt from Bass.  So in love.

Christmas dinner is spent with family on his mom’s side in Queens.  At my house, my grandmother cooks the main dishes and my aunt and dad make most of the sides and desserts.  At his family’s house, his aunt cooks EVERYTHING, except for like, 2 appetizers.  It’s unbelievable.  This year it was beef wellington, scalloped potatoes, french onion green beans, pecan sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, corn, carrots…I know I’m missing something.  Basically, it was like a 5-star, 10-course feast.  My house is also very quick about the holidays.  We all live on the same street, so we can come and go as we please.  We stay for dinner for an hour or two, visit later for dessert, but that’s mostly it.  His family is together for 10+ hours.  This year, though, since the dogs were crated back at the house (and Reba’s not used to being crated at all), we left after about 8 hours.

The dogs did not sleep well, if at all, that night.

The next day, his dad’s family came over for presents and food.  A little Christmas party.  With no pre-planning, we exchanged beer from local breweries (respectively) with his cousin, received some gifts off our wedding registry, and introduced everyone to our dog.  Who, by the way, was a fucking angel.  Seriously, it was nice to have her be the “good” dog for once, and not spitting out an endless stream of apologies.

Sunday was the Patriots @ Jets game.  They play each other twice a year, usually go 1-1, and somehow, 3 years in a row, I find myself in New York with a bunch of fucking Jets fans the time the Pats lose.  UGH.

That, in a nutshell (if you can call this a nutshell) was Christmas #1.  Friday I fly out to Texas for Christmas #2.  Look forward to the recap next week!

My Education in Addiction – Part 1

FYI For most of you who are here to read make up reviews and running updates, this is a pretty serious post.  It’s taken me 2 years to start trying to write it, and it’s going to take more than 1 post to unpack all the baggage.  This is my personal experience with having an addict in my family.  It is not meant to give advice or preach or help.  It’s just meant to share how I felt when someone in my family went through this struggle.  More posts to come.


No matter the news – big or small, good or bad – my dad’s emails are never more than a few sentences, always without proper capitalization, always nonchalant. Two years ago this September I received the following from him:

hey sweetie
how is the new place and grad school going?
Have some bad news…… I had to have [your brother] committed to a drug addiction facility. He is addicted to heroin and has been using for a year. He didn’t want me to tell you but I know had to. He went in on Tuesday and will be there for at least 2 weeks up 30 days.
I know you have a lot on your plate right now there is nothing you can do, he cant have visitors. I talked to him yesterday, he knows he needs to be there.
On a lighter note …..GO PATS!!!!!
Love you

Yep, how’s school, your brother is a heroin addict, go pats.  I rode the bus to work with FH only 3 times that year, which means that on any given work day, there is a 1.1% chance that I am on the bus with him.  Usually I leave much before him, but I was either running late or he had to be in early.  The day I received that email happened to be one of the days we were together in the morning.  I honestly don’t know what I would have done if it had been one of the other 98% of days I go to work by myself.  I immediately went into shock, handed him my phone, so he could read the email, and we got off at the next stop.

We sat in an Au Bon Pain for about 20 minutes without buying anything.  I was sobbing while intermittently asking, “Heroin?!  Who does heroin?!?!  I don’t even know anything about heroin.”

The sobbing continued off and on all day.  This was chick-flick, ugly, movie crying.

I called my dad in the afternoon to get the details.  They had started to notice stuff missing a few months prior.  Then my brother was driving around with random appliances in his car that he was “selling for friends.”  Then my grandmother’s jewelry was missing.  We have no idea how much disappeared.

He was living with his junkie girlfriend and her junkie mother.  She was just a “recreational” user, not “addicted.”  He, however, couldn’t make it a few hours.  He spent half his time at the pawn shop.  The other half with his dealer or in bed.

My dad had put him into a detox facility and my brother checked himself out.  My dad picked him up, and the gf was with him.  They were going to beat this together.  My brother wanted to go to an outpatient day program.  Right after he went downstairs to his room to “just go and nap real quick…real quick.”  Yeah, right, asshole – was essentially my dad’s response.

In Massachusetts there is a section (35, to be exact) of the law code that allows you to involuntarily commit an adult to a rehab facility if there’s a bed (or jail if there is not) if they are a danger to themselves (click here for more info on that law).  This law is a blessing.  There was no other way to get my brother away from the stuff.  There are some stipulations, though.  If you go to court to section someone, the police leave with you to go pick that person up.  If you can’t find them, you have to go back to court the next day.  They also won’t cross state borders.  Since my brother’s mother lives in New Hampshire, and my brother was known to disappear, my dad had to act fast, even though his ex-wife did not agree with him.  This is her 21-year-old baby, after all.

My dad had to face his irate, sick, angry, shaking child in court who was going through hell and back.  If you don’t know what heroin withdrawals look like, you can youtube it.  Or just take my word for it, it’s horrific.  People die, not from the chemical withdrawal, but from dehydration from the sweating and vomiting.

My dad got my brother committed.  Luckily there was a bed in a rehab facility.  My brother called my dad a few days later to thank him…

…And to let him know that there was a syringe on the kitchen counter behind the knife block full of heroin.  My dad followed his instructions to bend the needle in half to prevent anyone from using it in the future.

And thus began my education in heroin addiction.


Just in case somebody got to this post who is struggling with addiction, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a good resource to find treatment.


Thanksgiving Outsider

Thanksgiving has always been tied with Halloween for my favorite holiday.  On Halloween, I get to be a different person.  On Thanksgiving, I get to do my favorite things: drink, eat, and watch football with my dad.  I’ve had some serious boyfriends over the years, and have never compromised Thanksgiving, because nothing is better than trying to keep up with my dad doing shots on Thanksgiving Eve.  And nothing is worse than getting up to help him stuff olive cream cheese into celery sticks while holding back vomit and seeing double.  It’s a tradition!

This year, however, I will be heading to Long Island to spend Thanksgiving with the bf and his family.  Last year he stayed up here with my family and I went down there for Christmas.  I’m not religious and there aren’t young children in my family, so Christmas has lost some of it’s je ne sais quoi and I didn’t mind spending it elsewhere (I just had to google that phonetically to get the right spelling…I typed in gen eh say qua and google found it.  it’s so smart!).  I’m also used to traveling for Christmas, as my mom and dad alternated years.  Thanksgiving, though.  Thanksgiving I’m always home.

So, I am facing this Thanksgiving with some trepidation.  No one can make stuffing like my grandmother.  And I’m really worried they won’t have peas (they’re my favorite!) or that they’ll have whole berry cranberry sauce (blech – it’s supposed to look exactly like the aluminum can).  I definitely can’t get as drunk as years past. Or swear in my usual fashion.

Staying in someone else’s home is challenging to my normal schedule.  It’ll be weird to sit in the middle of their living room to do my PT exercises, or set up camp in the bf’s childhood bedroom to do some homework.  I always struggle with how long I can reasonably stay in the bathroom to get ready, because there isn’t a good mirror in any other room and I don’t want to seem high maintenance.

I’ve been torn about whether or not to bring something.  On one hand I’m a guest and I should bring something.  On the other hand, it’s been my experience at family dinners like this that everybody already has a role and there’s usually too much of everything.  Oh yeah, I also don’t have time, so that settles that.

All that being said, I am excited to see new traditions and new foods (I hear there are spinach balls I have to try, and try to laugh at the word balls) and experience a very family-friendly Thanksgiving.  Getting to share the holidays with the person I love most is what I’m most looking forward to. We leave tomorrow, early in the AM.  Wish me luck!