The Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence Westwood

One might classify this book as an Ancient Chinese murder mystery, complete with a mysterious love interest, and, technically, it is. Because the story does take place in ancient China (as in the year 1085 ancient) set in a remote border town of China near where the “barbarians” are still causing trouble.  And indeed the finding of a murderer is central to the plot line. And there is a handsome female of certain interest. However in reading it I would say it was much more about the new town’s magistrate finding his way through the moral and practical pit falls of guiding a city rather than the solving of a mystery.

“So officials grew to believe clerks were obstructive, and clerks grew to believe that officials were mostly tyrannical and impractical. That anything was ever achieved in China at all was a miracle.”

And while it was not what I would call action packed, the characters (even the minor ones) were excellently portrayed. They always called each other by their full names (a mouthful if your full name is Trainee Legal Secretary Li) but they all exuded their unique personalities with not a bit of wry humor sprinkled throughout so well, I couldn’t fault them a bit for it.

“I have never heard such nonsense! Every man needs a wife. How else is he to make good decisions?”

Would I recommend it? I would say this book is for the deep thinker and the history buff rather than one looking for a murder mystery and a love story but if that sounds like your cup of tea, check it out!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

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Family Planning

When you are having babies people are very concerned about timing. Do you want to have them all in diapers at once or one at a time? Should siblings be old enough to help with the baby or better to just pack the car seats in in the back of the car like cordwood? Will they play together better if they are 2 years apart or 4 years apart? So many questions. So many debates.

But you know what no one ever considers?

Do you know what the big oversight in child spacing consideration is?

Middle school.

I just realized I’ll have a middle school girl in my house for eight straight years.

Eight. Straight. Years. Of. Middle. School.

Please send Bourbon and dark chocolate, we are going to need a lot of it.

Now, hold on before you feel the need to tell me how wonderful my eldest is. I know she’s a great kid, she has spent the past few years turning into a lovely, even keeled, responsible child. But now she is a middle schooler.   And she is just the stereotypical, grunting, lack of eye contact, hormonal, moody kid that you expect a middle schooler to be and, because we’ve been doing our parenting job tolerably well, she’s mostly just like that at home.

Ahhhh! The sweet, sweet rewards of parenting!

The look Ivy would give me if she knew about this post.
Never tell!

We have “discussions” about why wearing ear buds while talking to people is rude. There are tears and pouting that pass like summer storms and are replaced with a girl that exudes rainbows and sunshine only to have her fall to pieces later in the day/hour/minute. We have a continual one sided discussion about how words are an important part of conversation right before she chats at me non-stop for an hour. I know I can look at this as an excellent opportunity to practice my own patience and understanding. I can use these times to work on my compassion, even on a busy day, and to practice forgiveness, even at the drop of a hat. This is a personal growth opportunity presented to me on a silver platter.

And I try. I really do.  But see, here is the thing.

It’s not that fun.

It’s really hard.

And I fear for the future.

It’s all well and good to say practicing patience, compassion, understanding and forgiveness is good for you. But when the every day reality of life gives you opportunities for self improvement, whether you want them or not, it feels a lot more brutal and a lot less fortuitous than it sounds.  These great growth opportunities where one can practice all these skills are presented to you every single day. And not just once a day either.  Opportunities abound on days that you are sick and days you are tired and days where you already did a good job of being kind and understanding to the kid that screamed at you all morning and you really don’t have it in you to try it again.  It was one of those days that I accidentally did the math in my head and realized that I will have a middle school girl living in my house for the next seven years, eight years total. I’m not actually sure I can afford to consume that much dark chocolate and bourbon.

So, if you are in the baby having years consider this a warning! Think ahead, plan for middle school.  And when your baby has a meltdown in the grocery line and the mother of a young lady gives you a sympathetic, “Solidarity mama, you can do it!”  look, check her cart. If it’s got a stash of dark chocolate and bourbon, give her that look right back, she’s gonna need it too!