People Who Knew Me

No matter the size of the audience, I think anyone that posts anything these days does a second peek back to see how it was perceived; to see how it was accepted or liked or if it proved relevant in the lives of others. And that’s just social media. Imagine publishing a novel. I suppose others aren’t privy to the process; the time, dedication, push and pull that is the publishing world. My own knowledge, limited, even as a sister to a published author. But witness, I have. The highs, the lows, the triumphs, the defeats. It’s such a ruthless industry. In any event, I mentioned it here before that my sister is now a published author. Her book has been out for coming up on a year and if you haven’t checked it out yet, you should. You can read the reviews and purchase it here.

A Book Release | People Who Knew Me

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My sister is having a reading tomorrow, at Laguna Beach Books, for anyone interested in attending. She’ll be doing a reading from her first novel “People Who Knew Me“, published by St. Martin’s Press, answering questions, and signing books. Oh ya, free wine, too. Event starts at 4pm. Would love to see any of you there!

People Who Knew Me

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I remember being on a camping trip when we were young, in a rented RV. I can’t recall a time that a trip with a rented RV went smoothly; meaning, I can’t recall a time that the RV didn’t break down.

It’s funny how you recall small moments from childhood, never big excursions or monumental events in their entirety but instead short little bursts. Glimpses, if you will. Like recalling the first house you lived in when you were arguably not even old enough to remember but somehow you have this hauntingly clear recollection from within its walls, almost more of a feeling than an actual memory.

That’s the first memory I have of my sister writing; we were on one of our summer trips, in one of those rented RVs, and I can remember flipping through her novels which – at that time – were nothing more than pieces of white paper stapled together down the center to give it a binding-like appearance. Because she was older, I idolized everything she did. And yet, I remember flipping through those early books and thinking it wasn’t even worth trying to compete; it was something so innate within her that I knew I never stood a chance. I was competitive on many fronts, always eager to fill the shoes only a big sister can, but writing and making books? I never touched that.

The books only got longer and more sophisticated. Writing, for her, was an evolutionary process. There were essays and short stories and novels; novels my parents would read – a pile of computer paper stacked on their nightstands that, to me, looked like it would take a lifetime to read. Maybe two. I oftentimes felt distant from her as I sat in my room and picked the nail polish off my toe nails in an effort to procrastinate writing a 5 page paper for school on a book I only read the Cliff Notes version of.

I remember one year for Christmas when other kids were asking for a new pair of Sketchers and she was asking for a fire proof safe to keep her work in.

Then came the rejections. Oh the rejections. I remember her telling me once that there was a writer that used to save the rejection letters and glue them to his wall as wallpaper; alluding to the fact that there were so many that an entire room or more would be covered. Over the years, I witnessed just how difficult it was to get published. That despite how much there is out there published independently and how much there is out there in form of blogs or websites that are also self-published, that seeking to strike a deal with an actual publisher boarders on being downright masochistic.

And after years of what I’ve decided to refer to as self-torture, it’s happened. My sister is having a book published. Let me rephrase that, her book has been published and can be found, today – at this very moment – at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble.

I always knew there would be relief and pride coming from her when this day came, but I never imagined sharing in the relief and pride to the degree that I am.

I have a copy of the book, the “Advance Uncorrected Proof” version and as I flipped each page, “Kim Hooper” lining the top of the left page and “People Who Knew Me” lining the top of the right, a flood of pride washed over me. Two hundred and ninety four pages later and those words, “Kim Hooper” and “People Who Knew Me”, and the pride associated with such, never wore off.

It’s with great pride and love that I introduce you to my sister’s first novel, “People Who Knew Me“. A synopsis:

Everything was fine fourteen years after she left New York.

Until suddenly, one day, it wasn’t.
Emily Morris got her happily-ever-after earlier than most. Married at a young age to a man she loved passionately, she was building the life she always wanted. But when enormous stress threatened her marriage, Emily made some rash decisions. That’s when she fell in love with someone else. That’s when she got pregnant.
Resolved to tell her husband of the affair and to leave him for the father of her child, Emily’s plans are thwarted when the world is suddenly split open on 9/11. It’s amid terrible tragedy that she finds her freedom, as she leaves New York City to start a new life. It’s not easy, but Emily—now Connie Prynne―forges a new happily-ever-after in California. But when a life-threatening diagnosis upends her life, she is forced to rethink her life for the good of her thirteen-year-old daughter.
A riveting debut in which a woman must confront her own past in order to secure the future of her daughter, Kim Hooper’s People Who Knew Me asks: “What would you do?”

You can find her book on Amazon (here) and read her blog (here).
Love you, Kim. So proud.

Van’s birth story, from a different perspective

A few months ago my sister and I had a conversation about having babies and Van’s (pseudo) home birth story came up. It’s come up before, but as time has passed, I’ve been more open to seeing it through someone else’s eyes. I still have my own opinions on the day, but I do think that should a third be in our future it would not be born at home. That’s partly because Willy has already downright insisted that it cannot be born at home; but it’s also because I partly agree. Been there, tried that. Twice.
Anyway, here’s Van’s big day, as told from the perspective of my sister, who was there to witness it.
My beef with home birth
Before my sister (the writer of this lovely blog, the stork herself) got pregnant with her first, Hooper, I didn’t really think much about home birth. I kind of associated it with yesteryear—women in log cabins on prairies and shit. I mean, why would sane people have babies at home when they can take a car ride to a hospital?
But, my sister explained it to me and, with her nurse background, she was rather convincing. I get it. Women want to be in the comfort of their own home. They want it to be peaceful. They don’t want machines and drugs and interventions pushed on them by a medical team that is concerned only with not getting sued, insurance coverage, and turning beds as fast as possible. Home birth sounds very romantic. That’s all fine and dandy, but keep in mind that I once thought it was romantic to be 23, eating beans out of a can for dinner with my broke-ass boyfriend.
With Hooper, my sister ended up in the hospital, against her wishes. She was overdue and they had to induce her. Then she couldn’t get the baby out, so they wheeled her to the OR. Using every stubborn ounce of strength in her body, she had the baby naturally in the OR room. The whole thing was rather touch-and-go, as they say. Willy couldn’t talk about it for weeks.
The second time, I was there. I didn’t think I would be. Her due date passed and my husband and I left on a 7-day backpacking trip in the Sierras, planned months in advance. We didn’t have cell coverage. I thought for sure we’d come back to hear she’d had the baby, but no. She was overdue again. The morning after we got back—I like to think Van was waiting for us—we got a very calm call saying she was in labor. They were deploying the big tub at home, the midwife was on her way. I was in tears driving up through Los Angeles traffic. I was convinced I’d miss the delivery because of all those a-holes on their way to work. Little did I know that births aren’t as fast and simple as they look on TV.
When I got there, she was just starting to push. She was in and out of the tub. She was on the floor. She was moaning, screaming. home birth pic 4
My dad and I tried our best to distract Hooper, who was obviously worried. He insisted on wearing his toy stethoscope.home birth pic 1
After what seemed like hours, the midwife started whispering to her assistant and we all started to wonder what was happening. Once again, my sister was having trouble getting the baby out. In hindsight, the difficulty probably had something to do with the crazy curve in her spine, which shifted all of her insides. She’d mentioned the scoliosis to her midwife, but didn’t really stress the severity of it (after all, she’d lived with it for years—was it that big of a deal? Um, yes, probably). I was terrified that she would get the head out and the body would be stuck. I’d heard horror stories. Willy was terrified that his wife was going to die. Sure, he thinks in extremes, but I understood his fear.home birth pic 2
The midwife made the decision to call the ambulance. A couple guys showed up, put her on a stretcher, and she was gone. We followed behind in a car—my mom, Willy, and me (my dad stayed back at the house with Hooper). The three of us were shaking, terrified.
When we got to the hospital, we rushed to her room. The screaming was intense. I had a moment of feeling bad for any other moms delivering. It sounded like a horror movie in there. Willy was by her side, my mom and I in the hallway. We were crying at that point—scared for my sister and scared for the baby. I told my mom to try to smile, for Ashley. It was my job to document the day.home birth pic 7
We heard a big POP—the doctor pushing on my sister’s belly—and then the baby wailing. We started crying more tears, of the relieved variety. We rushed in and saw the baby—he was a big 9-pounder—and quickly understood that things were okay. Willy asked the nurse how scary it was, on a scale from 1 to 10. She looked at us, with almost as much shock in her face as was in ours, and said, “That was a 9.”
My sister hates when people pose for the camera. She likes real emotion. But I think we were all afraid to show the real emotion in our faces that day. We wanted to be strong for her. So we smiled. After all, things turned out okay (even though I thought Van looked like Golem from Lord of the Rings).home birth pic 8home birth pic 9
My sister wants a third. I’ve told her that if they decide to have that baby, it better be in a hospital. I don’t care if her spine is fixed now. I don’t care that she would love to have the home birth she always wanted. She can go drug-free in a hospital, around professionals who can help her if anything goes awry. My good friend is married to an OBGYN and he says, “Look, most births go totally great. But when something goes wrong, it goes really wrong.” I’m sure lots of mothers have beautiful stories of their births, but for me, as a loved one, my sister’s births were scary. When I got home the day Van was born, I climbed in bed with my husband and I sobbed. I didn’t feel back to normal for days.
I wouldn’t say I’d discourage anyone from doing a home birth. I think it depends on your medical history and all that. I would say to know the risks, and consider the emotional impact on the people around you on that special day. And, make sure to educate those people about what to expect. My sister didn’t seem disturbed by what was going on and that was probably because she had watched lots of gory videos and had talks with her midwife and knew what the hell was happening. I wasn’t prepared, period. I was very fooled by the easy births you see in movies. Even in real life, most women have epidurals and drugs so there is no screaming (seriously, the screaming was the worst part). I watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians occasionally (#sorrynotsorry) and there was an episode when Kourtney Kardashian gives birth. The room was, like, silent. Her family was in there chatting with her. Chatting. She may as well have been getting a pedicure. So, yeah, maybe don’t go into a birth scenario with the Kardashians as your reference point. And if you have romantic notions about home birth, just think it through. Consider all the things you previously thought were romantic that really aren’t—like eating beans out of cans with your broke-ass boyfriend.

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Plastic Surgery

A while ago, I shared my thoughts and a link to the Nu Project over on the Ma Books. It prompted many further discussions between my sister and I in regards to woman, our bodies, and my post partum body. Then my sister turned me on to something NPR put out about Brazilian woman and plastic surgery and we couldn’t stop talking about; so-much-so that I asked if she’d share her thoughts on it here because I think it’s an interesting topic and I’d love to hear the thoughts of others as well. 
This is Erileide Barbosa Da Rocha. She’s 29, Brazilian. After giving birth, she was bothered by her “flaccid stomach” and got a tummy tuck. In her words: 
“I put on an item of clothing, looked in the mirror and it was horrible… I cried because I couldn’t get what I wanted. So for me, I think my surgery was necessary. For my own good, for my self-esteem. Beauty, for me, is fundamental. It’s the door. It’s the entry to many things…I intend to do more surgery. Because women are never satisfied. Women always want perfection.” 
And then there’s Maria Da Gloria De Sousa, age 46, who got breast implants, butt implants, a tummy tuck, and liposuction (multiple procedures). In her words: 
“Plastic surgery starts to become an addiction. You’re born perfect, but then you have children, and you know what having children does. And then suddenly comes the rebirth: plastic surgery. You can be beautiful, even more beautiful than you were before.”
And Mariza Chaves—age 33. Displeased with the extra skin left behind after pregnancy weight gain, she got a tummy tuck, thigh liposuction, breast implants, and a torso lift (yes, apparently there is such a thing). In her words:
“Beauty is feeling good about yourself. I wasn’t satisfied with my abdomen. When I saw it [after surgery], I felt like the most beautiful woman in the world. I feel privileged.
NPR talked to seven Brazilian women about cosmetic surgery and what beauty means to them. Their words shocked me. And it makes me sad to know that these views aren’t just confined to Brazil.
Most of the women’s body complaints were directly tied to having children. As Janet Da Silva Timal De Araujo, age 47, says, “Us women, we’re born with the desire to be a mother. But we’re also born with the desire to be beautiful.”
If you believe these words, you think the two can’t co-exist—motherhood, beauty. 
If you believe these words, you think it’s not enough that your body created a human; it must also look “perfect” (whatever the f—k that means).
I, for one, do not believe these words.
I guess it’s easy for me to say. I don’t have kids. I haven’t been through the body changes that come with having kids. I’ve seen my sister go through them though and I think she’s more beautiful than ever.
I would be angry—yes, angry—if my sister got any kind of plastic surgery. Why? Well, for one, I think it sends a strange message to her kids. Yes, they’re boys, so you might think it doesn’t matter as much, but it does. In my opinion (which you asked for because you’ve read this far), plastic surgery communicates, “I don’t like ____ about myself and that’s okay because I can change it completely!” If one of her boys gets made fun of at school for one reason or another and she says, “Oh honey, you’re fine just the way you are,” she’s a hypocrite. Her words carry more weight if she lives by them herself.
Now, if she has a girl in the future, I would be bothered even more. Because, let’s face it, society is brutal to little girls. Most of them are already aware of the “benefits” of being thin and attractive. Most of them already tie their self-esteem to how they look. They might not know what fake boobs are when they’re young, but when they’re teenagers, they’ll know. They’ll see their mom as someone who once didn’t like the size of her chest. They’ll see their own bodies as malleable.
If I had my way, the body wouldn’t be malleable. Not with surgery, at least. I mean, SURGERY? That’s serious business. That’s not a new pair of shoes or a fresh haircut. All of us fall victim to the little boost those things give us. We’re talking about SURGERY. Anesthesia. Incisions. Recovery time. Permanent alteration. 
The women interviewed by NPR expressed a sense of empowerment with their choices. That doesn’t really make me feel any better. That makes me think that our society is messed up. Women should be empowered by a promotion at work, not by a tummy tuck. Maybe it’s good if women walk around with more confidence—whatever the reason. But I’d be more hopeful for the future of female progress if the reason was related to their brain instead of their newly achieved thigh gap.  
There’s a bigger picture here, too, involving all women. Unfortunately, women are notorious for being catty, in competition with each other. Off the field (or the court or whatever), men don’t really have that mean spiritedness with each other. Men have more of a “let’s have a beer and chill” camaraderie. It would be nice if women had that, if we could support each other, if we could promote things like self-love, if we could stop obsessing about our faces and bodies and turn our attention to more pressing matters. From my perspective, that fight-the-power sisterhood effort is threatened each time a woman signs the elective surgery waiver for whatever “enhancement” she’s getting. Whenever I see a woman who has done something to her face or her body (because you can always tell), I sigh and think, “Ugh, we lost another one.”
Sheryl Crow sang, “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.” And in that vein, pro-plastic-surgery people will say, “You can’t argue with what makes someone happy.” Well, actually, I can. There are people who abuse drugs or starve themselves or otherwise harm themselves, saying it makes them “happy.” I can argue with that—and you probably would too. At the crux of it, I think women who get plastic surgery are misusing the word “happy.” Going under the knife to address a source of insecurity may bring a relief that resembles happiness, but I can’t believe that would last. If anything, plastic surgery just perpetuates the idea that you “need fixing.” As Erileide said, “Women are never satisfied. Women always want perfection.” Whatever the f—k that means.

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Americans In Bed

Fact: Over 70% of online daters believe in “love at first sight.” Fact: America has one of the highest marriage rates in the western world, but half of marriages end in divorce.
So, what’s going wrong? Do we go into love with unrealistic expectations? 
“Americans in Bed” is an HBO documentary that tries to answer those questions by looking at one of the arguably-most-important parts of marriage—sex.
The documentary lets us visit with different couples—old couples, young couples, gay couples, straight couples, faithful couples, unfaithful couples—in bed. Yes, they’re actually in bed when they’re interviewed.
Helen and Red started dating when she was just 16 and have been married 71 years. While he laments, “Time does things to us,” she counters and says, “He still makes me feel young.” These two are legit, the real deal. And their sex life? Well, here’s a glimpse:
Helen: “We’ve had plenty of sex. Did I ever say no to you?”
Red: “Never. You never had a headache.”
Helen: “I never had a headache. Never had a back ache. I was always available. I’ve never refused him sex, ever. I had a very good lover and he taught me all I know. If there’s more to know, I’ll never know.”
Much of what they say about their sex life is past tense, but I didn’t get the sense they love each other any less. In fact, she said, “He cannot die until I die. I don’t want to be left on this Earth alone.” Yeah, I’d say they’re pretty solid.
Deanne and Guy are younger than Helen and Red, by about twenty or thirty years. She admits, “Our sex life is nil. We don’t have sex. It’s not available, so you just move on with your life.” See, he takes certain prescription medications that, as he says, “take him out of the picture in that regard.” She’s quick to say she has a vibrator. She’s just as quick to laugh. Do they seem happy? Yes. He sums it up: “We like to fight the world off together.”
Joe and Patty are in their forties, dealing with the usual distractions of having a family. They talk about how it was so exciting in the beginning and now they have to figure out a time and place to do the deed. Joe adds, “I gotta get you drunk now.” As Joe says, “they have three kids up our butt” and a bed-sharing dog he calls a “cock blocker.” Patty says:
“In my thirties, I was a lot more wild. Now it’s more of a chore… It’s not like, if we don’t have sex today, we’re gonna break up. We both know we’re busy, the privacy is an issue, or whatever…Sometimes, it’s a mutual ‘let’s forget it this week.’”
They laugh a lot, but get serious when they talk about the future, how they can’t wait until it’s just the two of them again. As Joe says, “It’s not about the sex… It’s about affection.”
But then there are other couples whose relationship seems to revolve around sex—and you have to wonder what will happen to them when they’re older and things no longer…work.
Leon and Blanca claim to have sex every morning and every night, and sometimes midday—so, yeah, that’s 2 to 3 times a day. As of the filming date, they had broken up and gotten back together 26 times. The main issue? Leon considers himself polyamorous. As he says, “Monogamy is painful to me.” Blanca is clearly not 100% on board with his ways, but she stays with him. It’s…interesting. 
Randy and Julie seem proud of the fact that they can call their relationship “hot.” Julie says, “I think sex is the most important thing in a relationship.” She prioritizes the chemistry over the nuances of life—the boring stuff like sharing a bathroom together and paying bills together. They seem passionate…but also combative. They admit they need to work on communication and how they fight. Quite honestly, they seemed to have the most tension of any of the couples.
There are five other couples. Fatima and Kevin are working through the betrayal of him cheating on her. Antonio and Roberta have had similar trust issues over their years together. Linda and Margie are lesbians who seem like truly affectionate partners in this life. George and Farid are gay guys who waited to have sex for a while, had a “terrible” first time, stayed together anyway, and are parents now. Yasmin and Mohamed, in accordance with Islamic tradition, did not even hold hands until after their wedding, and maintain that waiting made everything more special. They were the sweetest couple, in my opinion.
So what did I learn? Well, every person, every couple, is totally unique. I think people talk about sex a lot (I’m thinking of my girlfriends and I at Happy Hour) in attempts to ascertain what’s “normal.” How often should we have sex with our partners? What kind of sex should we have? Are there certain rules we should live by? Are you noticing a common word here? Should, should, should.
“Americans in Bed” shows that there is no should when it comes to sex. What makes one couple happy may horrify another. What one couple considers a rule breaker may be a way of life for another couple. The real issue is: Are you happy with your sex life the way it is—however it is? If not, why? Can you meet your partner in the proverbial middle so you’re both content?
I’m of the belief that sex is not the most important of a relationship. At all. There are plenty of life things that matter more. That said, I think it’s important to see sex similarly to your partner. Someone who wants sex twice a day, for example, probably won’t work with someone who wants sex once a month. Someone who has a foot fetish probably won’t work with someone who insists on wearing socks during intimacy. You get what I’m saying. But, if a couple wants to stay together for the long haul, there has to be some acceptance of things changing over time. We can’t be necking in the backseat like teenagers for forty years. Or, maybe we can. I feel like Helen and Red just might.
This post is written by: Kim Hooper | Writer