Posted in in the reading room, list-mania, these days

these days…

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*Panicking a bit over how fast the new school year is approaching, and how ill-prepared I am for the start of a new homeschool year. And btw, how the hell can he be in 11th grade?!!

 

*Reading, or I should say rereading, The Gunslinger. It’s been so long (30+ years) since I first read it. I read the first three in The Dark Tower series as they came out, but then gave up. Not because I didn’t like the books themselves, but because I hated the long wait between each. I have to admit though, that I’m having a hard time getting into The Gunslinger this time around. Not quite sure if it’s the book itself or just a matter of having so much else on my mind these days. Going to try to stick with it a bit longer though, and hopefully get through a couple more of them before the film comes out in February. There are aren’t many people I’d brave an actual movie theater to see, but Idris Elba is definitely one of the few. (Edited: I decided to just bag it. I’m too old to spend my time on books that aren’t doing it for me.)

Also rereading Economix by Michael Goodwin. Because this is the year we tackle economics as a course for Gray’s homeschooling, and this book is just so very excellent that I decided to use it as our introduction to the subject. But as I am trying to make a few handouts and assignments to go along with it, and because it is just so damn chock-full to the gills with important information, it’s taking me longer to get through this reread than I would have imagined.

Reading The City of Mirrors (the final book in Justin Cronin’s trilogy) aloud with Rich. But it’s very slow going. There are still two people ahead of us on the holds list for the audio book at the library, but maybe when we get it, we’ll be able to make better progress. To be honest, I’m not sure if I like where it feels like this book is headed. But it’s way too soon to judge, I suppose.

 

*Despising fibro, and IBS, and endometriosis. But bad stretches are eventually replaced by good stretches…so hooray for that!

 

*Missing friends. Both near and far. Note to self: Have Eva over very soon.

 

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*Worrying about Max starting high school. I know I shouldn’t be. But I am.  A lot.

 

*Rejoicing for my dear mother-in-law. As this is public, and not my story to share, I can’t really explain. But suffice it to say that I am just so deeply, profoundly happy for the turn of events that has happened in my extended family over the last few weeks.

 

*Stressing over jury duty. Go to a completely unfamiliar place, be with lots of people you don’t know, have to talk and possibly even vocally disagree with other people…yeah, it’s a dream-come-true for someone with severe social anxiety. /sarcasm  Now if only I could end the nausea and shaking with a simple /.

 

*Baking a chocolate zucchini cake later this morning. And canning another batch of rhubarb jam. Thank you garden!

 

*Planning what to make as gifts for Christmas. But not making much progress on said plans. It’s already feeling like a burden instead of a joy…and that makes me sadder than I can say. Must make this the year I cut down on the overwhelming preparations! (And yes, I say that every year.)

 

*Needing to focus more on the good. Because really my life is full of so much good.

 

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Posted in Uncategorized

one more go at this…

It seems to me hard to believe (and yet at the same time really not that hard at all) that I’ve been playing around at this blogging thing for more than a decade now. And over that time I’ve found myself in this same situation probably a dozen times or more. The “do I really want to do this anymore?” situation. But I gotta say it feels different this time. In the past, when I’ve contemplated walking away, there was always a piece of me that rebelled. A piece of me that just couldn’t let go. Even when I was 90% sure it was the right thing to do. But this time…I don’t know. I think that maybe I’d really and truly be okay with the decision to just give this up. I’m going to give it a few weeks…try writing here again…try writing in the way I would feel more comfortable writing if I do decide to stick it out. And see what happens. If I still feel this way in a few weeks, I think I can say goodbye to my blogging days with a true feeling of peace.

What do I mean by “the way I would feel more comfortable writing”? I’d be quite the happy, not-so-little, camper if I knew how to answer that one. It has to do with just being me. I do not lead an exciting life. I have no special talents. I am an anxiety-ridden mess who much of the time is afraid to speak even to the people I love most. None of these things make me unworthy as a human being. But each of those things does give me pause when it comes to taking up space on the internet. I have always blogged for myself. And while I’ve made the best friends through blogging and obviously wouldn’t change that for the world, to this day I sometimes find the idea that other people can read what I write a little unsettling.

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But I love life. And I get excited about so many things. Too many things. I have no one thing to write about. I’ll never be a book blogger, or a mommy blogger, or a homeschool blogger, or a garden blogger, or a crafty blogger…. I like to record my life, as unexciting as it may be to the outside world. But I could record it in my pen and paper journals or I could record it here changing the setting to private–and I really think I could be happy with either of those options. But first, I’m going to give this one last shot. Maybe in an effort to tease out whether I could really walk away without having any regrets.

Posted in Uncategorized

a hodgepodge of tidbits…

I stumbled across this cartoon called 8 Things You Were Probably Taught about Autism. I wish everyone would read it. I would add a couple things to it. Autistic people lack empathy–WRONG! Autistic people don’t have a sense of humor–WRONG!

*****

Been working on school prep for next school year. Got a book that I *thought* would work as a sort of base book for art. We never use just one book. I like to use several books for any given subject, but often appreciate having an overview book that gives me a sort of chronology for approaching the class. Well, this is NOT the book I want! If my arms weren’t suffering this current fibro flare, I might have thrown this book (Art: A New History by Paul Johnson) across the library.:/ I read the intro, and was made a bit wary by a few of the things he said, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and read the first chapter. Well, he lost me entirely (and led me to call him a few choice names) on the first page of that first chapter. He was talking about how body art and adornment was possibly the first form of art, and goes on to say:

Unfortunately, by its very nature, body art has disappeared. We do not know its salient characteristics or how it evolved. It is little help to study peoples who still practice it, as in Borneo, because these examples of Homo sapiens who have remained locked in the Stone Age self-evidently lack the dynamism which enabled primitive man, using his art-creating capacities, to break out of his predicament.

*angry bewildered sigh* So yeah, I still don’t have a good introductory art history book for us to use. Might anyone have any suggestions? Especially one that isn’t solely focused on Western art. I would be so very appreciative.

*****

For so long, mid-July has seemed soooooo far away. Ever since I learned months ago that Ana was coming to visit, I’ve been in this dual state of overwhelming happiness (and I do mean overwhelming, as in bursting out in happy tears and literally shaking with excitement at random moments) and denial (as in, “it’s just too good to actually be true”). The original plan was for Chris to come as well, but with everything going on his life, especially with his Dad, that end of things sort of fell through. But then, after his Dad’s death, his Mom did a little pushing and made Chris see how this trip would be so wonderful for him. I think it will be wonderful, for all of us. And with all the unbelievable shit that both Chris and Ana have been dealing with the last several weeks, they deserve exciting adventures. And we all, everyone in this whole world, deserve the love of friends. Thinking about the three of being together makes me tear up every single time (yep, like now). My denial, my stupid lack of faith in the idea that such enormous dreams really can come true, has departed. In less than a week now, Chris will be arriving. And one week from today, Rich, Gray, Chris, and I will be heading off on an adventure to the Big Apple. And that adventure that will culminate, in a week and a couple days from now, in meeting up with Ana at the Strand. After which we will all drive back here to spend a few days hanging out. Including some time with Eva. Possibly including a trip to Niagara Falls. There are times in life when I feel blessed beyond anything I could ever possibly deserve…this is one of those times.

And then, because I’m apparently really spoiled, right after Chris and Ana leave, Karen (my absolute best friend in high school) is coming to visit! In the most amazing coincidence, 5 years after we graduated from high school, we ended up living just 5 miles from one another, in the complete opposite corner of the state where we grew up. But after a few years of spending most of our time together (we even worked 2 different jobs together in those years), we moved when Rich went back to school. We saw each other a handful of times in the years following, but then as sadly happens, we drifted apart for a while. We’ve been in contact again over the last few years, but we haven’t seen each other in 20 years. 20 years! She’s never met Annie or Gray or Max. The last time we saw one another, her youngest was a wee infant, just weeks old. She was in my wedding, I was in hers. No one in all my life has ever made me laugh the way she does. And if ever I need a role model for getting through tough times, I need look no farther than Karen–strongest woman I’ve ever known, hands down.

*****

My reading has been slow this summer but ever so enjoyable! Well, I’m not sure if I’d call my reread of Frankenstein enjoyable. Ha! No, seriously, I actually enjoyed it ever so much more than the first time I read it. But aside from that, I’ve been reading the Gaither Sisters trilogy. I’m on the last book right now. This makes me sad, because I don’t think I could ever get enough of Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern. But I’m eager to read everything else I can get my hands on by Rita Williams-Garcia. I’ve also started the second Marti McAlister book (Slow Burn) by Eleanor Taylor Bland. And thus far am loving it as much as I loved the first. These books are mysteries, of the police procedural variety. (I don’t believe I’ve ever read another mystery series by woman of color, and would very much love any suggestions for other authors I might try.)  In some ways, I guess some might feel these early books in the series a little dated, as they were written in the early 1990s. You know, no cell phones. But I’ve been sort of enjoying that fact. Marti is such a wonderful character. And I love the focus on social issues that has shown through in these first two books. Sadly, Eleanor Taylor Bland died a few years ago. But I’m grateful that there’s about another dozen books left for me to read in the series.

*****

I suppose I should stop my blathering on now. I have much work to do…due to the yucky weather and yucky invisible illnesses, I haven’t been getting a lot of prep done for my impending weeks of heavenly bliss. I know that neither Chris nor Ana nor Karen will give a crap if my house is not clean and I choose to play our meals and whatnot by ear…but still you know that nagging, annoying voice of guilt…yeah.

Posted in good stuff, list-mania

as summer flies by…

I’ve given up on my summer list. In any official, keeping track sort of way. Which is not surprising in the least–I love making lists like this, but tend to get bogged down, not so much in the doing (though that sometimes too) but in the recording of progress. I was going strong on this summer wish list, but then was overwhelmed with a week full of emotion that left little time for anything aside from on the one hand worrying/crying/feeling utterly helpless and on the other hand throwing myself completely into homeschool work to distract myself. It’s not that anything was wrong in my own personal life, but two of the people I love most in this entire world, two of  my chosen family,  had probably the most emotionally draining weeks of their lives. For very different reasons and in very different ways. And I felt so very powerless to help. And as much as that feeling sucks, as much as it ate away at me for days, it was nothing compared to what my two friends were/are experiencing in their lives.

It is a completely nonsensical response to purposefully avoid the good things in life because of the bad things. I’m not saying that it’s stupid of me to take the time to try to deal with all these feelings of heartache I have for two of the people I cherish most in my life. But that it is foolish to avoid happiness because of sorrow. They really can coexist. It in no way means that I don’t love my friends, don’t hurt for my friends, don’t want to help my friends in any way possible if go sit outside and watch the fireflies while sipping a frozen margarita. Perhaps I shall do just that this evening. And maybe this coming weekend will be a good time to spend a few hours reading in a blanket fort in the yard. My heart continues to ache, my mind continues to reel. But is it ever a bad time to be grateful for the good things?

It’s been a while since I’ve made myself a “good stuff” list. As counterintuitive as it may feel, I think that maybe it’s just what I need. So for the next couple days, I’m just going to leave this tab open and record the things that make me smile, make me feel hopeful, remind me of the exquisite beauty in this world.

*Rhubarb. We’d never tried growing rhubarb before we moved to this house, and I’m sure we never would have if this spectacular plant hadn’t already been here. My grandma always grew rhubarb when I was a kid, but for some reason, my mom never did…so it just wasn’t much on my radar. But oh my, this plant. This glorious plant just keeps giving in abundance year after year. I’ve lost count of how many tarts I’ve made this season. I’ve thus far frozen 7 pints for this winter. And today I am making my second batch of rhubarb jam. Nature giving in abundance. And I am grateful for its gifts.

 

*I just finished a book that touched my heart, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. (Thank you to Ana for getting me to buy this book and to Bina for reminding me that I really needed to read it.) It’s not unusual for a book to touch my heart, but it will always be one of those things that is special enough for me to be exceedingly grateful. So what is it about this book in particular? Well, you know how some people look down on kids’ lit–this is one of those books I’d like to strongly recommend they read. Because I don’t know that I’ve ever met a book that did a better job at showing the validity of multiple truths. And while that may be my favorite thing about this book, it is by no means the only thing. I adored the relationship between Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern. While I never had a sister of my own, their relationship just felt so authentic.  And I loved to pieces the way we very slowly got to know Cecile/Nzila better, at pretty much the pace that Delphine herself got to know her mother. I know, I know, I know…I’m such a crier…I could probably have filled the Great Salt Lake with the number of tears I’ve shed reading books (okay, so that’s a slight exaggeration)…and the last few pages of this book, yep, tears. The very best kind, which I don’t know how to describe it other than to say that they’re born of an amazing mixture of emotions. This is as huggable a book as ever there was. (This makes book 9 for #20booksofsummer.)

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*We finally put up an outdoor clothesline! It was one of the few things I missed from our old house. But it wasn’t an enormous priority (there are sooooo many things that have needed/still need done around here), as we have a super awesome clothesline system in the basement so I’ve been able to hang the laundry there. But oh my gosh, hanging clothes outside for the first time in four years…so smile-worthy.

*The riot of daisies in our flower garden right now! This picture just doesn’t come close to doing it justice–there are just hundreds and hundreds of daisies blooming right now. And I cannot help but smile every time I go out front.

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*Going to be and reading for a bit (the sequel to One Crazy Summer!) before turning out the light, then watching the fireflies and listening to all the insects singing as I drifted off to sleep.

—-Okay, the thing about starting this draft and not posting it promptly the same day is that there’s just been sooooooo much good stuff. I couldn’t possibly list it all here. But some of it will get it’s own posts soon. The two friends whom I continue to hurt for, well, it won’t be long until they’re both here. I’ll be hugging them in person instead of virtually.

Posted in in the garden, in the kitchen, in the reading room

three weeks already gone by…

I’m not sure if it’s a consequence of making this list/ keeping track of my progress, but oh my how fast this summer seems to be flying by…

Okay, what have I completed this past week?

6. Read at least 20 books. (#20booksofsummer)

20booksfinalI finished 7 books this week! For a total thus far of 8. Yeah, not nearly as impressive as it sounds considering that the total includes 4 comics/manga and a short poetry collection that I started before this week. It was, however, a very gratifying weeks between the covers!

IMG_8671The first book I read this week was Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova. This was an impulse grab at the library a few weeks back. I’d never heard of the book before, but I’d read both her Nightschool and her Dramacon series and enjoyed them quite a lot. It was a good impulse, because I really loved this comic! This one is aimed at a middle grade audience, so I know it won’t appeal to everyone…but what can I say, I have a soft spot in my heart for middle grade lit. Anyway, it is sweet, but not in a syrup-y way. What it has that adds up to wonderful: extremely lovable but flawed characters, art, science, diverse characters, learning to deal with and grow from one’s own mistakes, and an emphasis on friendship.

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Next, I read A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. And I have a question–why has no one ever told me to read this play before?!! Well, in case no one has ever told you to read it and you’ve never discovered it on your own, let me suggest you go read it. It was so. damn. good. Written and set in 1950s Chicago, it is really a story about dreams. And a story about racism. And a story about feeling trapped by circumstances. Reading this some 50 years after it was written, it’s hard not to notice how things have changed since then, both in terms of race and gender. And yet it is ever so depressing to acknowledge how very many things haven’t really changed at all.

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And then there were three more volumes (19, 20, and 21) of Skip•Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura. I will forever and always blame/thank Memory for bringing my attention to Skip•Beat with her unwavering enthusiasm. I really did mean to space these three volumes out a bit more, but…just. couldn’t. do. it. One after the other, they went down. There was a bit of an unexpected (and dare I say, somewhat far-fetched) addition to the storyline started in volume 18 (or maybe 17?). I admit that I rolled my eyes a little bit, but then found myself so sucked in again that I didn’t even care. Uhm, and in fact, even rather liked how it played out. Kyoko continues to charm and delight me. Yay for more Moko! Another admission: there were a few happy tears for Maria. What can I say, this series just makes me happy.🙂

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I also finished my reread of Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons. While not my favorite of her collections that I’ve read, there were several poems that really got to me. It’s her relationship with the natural world that first drew me to her poetry years ago, but it didn’t take long for me to appreciate the way she speaks of our relationships with one another as humans as well.

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And late last night, I finished up Dead Time, the first in Eleanor Taylor Bland’s Marti MacAlister series. I’m 99.5% sure that it was Eva that brought Eleanor Taylor Bland to my attention, so thank you, my dear! What can I say, I loved this book! (So much so that upon finishing I immediately went and put a hold on the second book.) I liked Marti MacAlister right from the start, and only continued to like her more and more as the book went on. A black woman cop, a single mom for the past year and a half since her husband was killed, a somewhat recent transplant from Chicago to the smaller city of Lincoln Prairie. Vik, her partner is a somewhat gruff man, who tries hard to deny that his city has changed from the city of his boyhood. He also holds some pretty sexist notions when it comes to the role of lady cops, but Marti doesn’t take his crap. I used to read tons of suspense/psychological thrillers and still enjoy them occasionally, and I also occasionally enjoy a nice cozy mystery. Dead Time falls sort of in that sweet spot somewhere in between. I sort of suck at finishing series (okay, there’s no “sort of” about it), not because I don’t enjoy series but just because of the whole there’s-too-many-damn-books-I-want-to-read-before-I-die thing. Still…if I enjoy each of the books as much as I did this one, there’s a chance I might actually finish the series. I hope I didn’t just jinx myself.😉

(I feel like I should apologize for my cheesy book photos, but I’m not gonna. It’s my blog so I can do what I want, right? After I took that picture last week of Small Gods with our garden turtle, I challenged myself to keep it up–to try to take a picture of each book I read for #20booksofsummer with something that reminded me of the book. I have already failed though, as I just couldn’t come up with an idea for the Skip•Beat! books. But I’m going to keep trying anyway.)

9. Write and send off the last of Gray’s 10th grade progress reports.

Got to scratch this one off last evening, and I cannot express how freakin’ good it feels to put another year of homeschooling behind us!

10. Send LOI for next year’s homeschooling.

An easy one, but I’ll take it.

16.  Continue harvesting the rhubarb: freeze more/bake more tarts/try making rhubarb jam.

Yep, crossing off another piece of this one. I froze three more pints during this past week. Harvested and chopped some for tarts yesterday, but didn’t have sour cream. So they will wait until this week.

27. Eat at Sticky Lips.

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This is where Rich picked to go for Father’s Day, so another one crossed off the list.

28. Eat at Beale Street Cafe.

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Rich and I went on a working date Friday morning, and then out to lunch.

33. Go to Central Library.

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That working date I just mentioned, it was at Central Library. I went to look at some books I’m considering using for homeschool next year, and it was a fairly successful trip. But even better, I just love hanging out there.

39. Bring in flowers from outside every week.

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This week it was simple daisies. But wildflowers are always my favorites.

46. Drink ice tea. Every day.

Yep, still going strong. Can’t imagine a summer day without it.

52. Read at least one essay, one short story, one poem, and one fairy tale each week. Read as many outside as possible.

And I’m still keeping up with this one too. I really enjoyed this week’s essay (still working my way through Barbara Kingsolver’s High Tide in Tuscon collection). It was titled “In Case You Ever Want to Go Home Again,” and while every essay I’ve ever read of hers is of a personal nature, for some reason this one seemed even more so. Maybe it was because it was a glimpse at a part of her life I’ve never seen before. It was really about writing. Writing fiction in particular. But she talked about her school years and lack of friends, about her hometown and leaving it, and finally about coming home. I cannot put my finger on what exactly it was about this essay, but I enjoyed it immensely. And I love this line with a passion:

In the final accounting, a hundred different truths are likely to reside at any given address.

I’m also still working my way through Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s The Thing Around Your Neck. This week I read the story “Ghosts.” It takes place years after the Biafran War, and in many ways the story is about its aftermath. I wouldn’t call the story depressing, so much as melancholy. In that “if only…” sort of way. But even using the word melancholy seems wrong. It’s a story about surviving, and making choices, and living with those choices. And it’s a story of coming to terms with the “what is.” This story in particular has very much made me want to read her Half of a Yellow Sun.

This week’s fairy tale was “Hansel and Gretel.” Despite another wicked stepmother, “Hansel and Gretel” is a tale I tend to love, both in its original and its retellings. (Side note: My favorite retelling ever of this tale is Catherynne Valente’s “A Delicate Architecture.”) The art this time was by Monique Felix, and I thought it was gorgeous.

And as mentioned earlier, I finished up Twelve Moons, so again lots of poems this week. One of my favorites from this week is “Beaver Moon–The Suicide of a Friend.” There was a truth in this poem that just pierced my heart. It’s ending brings tears, every single time I read it:

That night, you turn in your bed

to watch the moon rise, and once more

see what a small coin it is

against the darkness, and how everything else

is a mystery, and you know

nothing at all except

the moonlight is beautiful–

white rivers running together

along the bare boughs of the trees–

and somewhere, for someone, life

is becoming moment by moment

unbearable.

 

 

 

Posted in in the garden, in the reading room, list-mania

another week of summer gone…

Again, I don’t feel like I kicked major butt on my “summer to-do list,” but there is still that fact that I haven’t yet fully reached that summer state-of-mind because we’re still hustling to finish up the current school year. Still a week plus maybe a little to go…and then freedom! Or at least a lot more freedom than is available in making choices with my time while the school year is in session.🙂

6. Read at least 20 books. (#20booksofsummer).

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Running a bit behind, it would seem,  in that I just finished my first book. And obviously I can’t cross this off the list, as I’m only 1/20 of the way there. But again, I’m not really worried yet. My first book of the summer–oh my, huge tally in the win column! I pretty much knew it would be. Ana never steers me wrong. Never. And it is Terry Pratchett for goodness sake. But still, that “knowing” that I’m going to love a book can sometimes lead to overblown expectations, and then I end up feeling a wee bit of disappointment even when I do really love the book. Not sure if anyone else ever feels that way or not. Anyway, I need not have feared in the slightest. Because Small Gods, yeah, just yeah. *swoon*

 

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I feel like there are perhaps a hundred different reasons I could give for loving Small Gods, ranging from Pratchett’s incomparable satiric wit to his incredible ability to portray what it is to be human, but I’m just going to record a bit that struck me so hard that I had to pause and set the book down. (I apologize if anyone is reading this, especially if they have not read the book, because I know this particular passage lacks its power without knowing and understanding the characters involved in this conversation.)

“Why do you even bother with him? He’s had thousands of people killed!”

“Yes, but perhaps he thought you wanted it.”

“I never said I wanted that.”

“You didn’t care,” said Brutha.

“But I–”

“Shut up!”

Om’s mouth opened in astonishment.

“You could have helped people,” said Brutha. “But all you did was stamp around and roar and try to make people afraid. Like…like a man hitting a donkey with a stick. But people like Vorbis made the stick so good, that’s all the donkey ends up believing in.”

“That could use some work, as a parable,” said Om sourly.

“This is real life I’m talking about!”

“It’s not my fault if people misuse the–”

“It is! It has to be! If you muck up people’s minds just because you want them to believe in you, what they do is all your fault!”

This book. What can I say…it is brilliant, funny, deeply thoughtful, and incredibly insightful.

(And being a book from my Happiness Project, it also counts toward my 100x100by100, at #96. Read 100 books from my Happiness Project. It is one of the rare two-for-the-price-of-one-books from my happiness project, put on my list both by Ana and by Rich.🙂 Yep, how cool is that.)

#15. Finish getting the garden in: build cucumber trellis and build pumpkin and/or melon mounds.

Woohoo! Something actually crossed right off the list! And damn, does it feel good to have the garden in…

#36. Finish watching the first 7 seasons of Columbo with Rich.

Not a cross off, but we did finish up season 2. Go us!

39. Bring in fresh flowers from outside every week.

IMG_8655Two for two now. This week it was the very first peony of the season. Peonies used to be one of those take-it-or-leave-it flowers for me. Until I found out how very much Chris loves them. Since then, my appreciation for peonies has skyrocketed, and I can’t see a peony without thinking of him. And well, that makes every peony on the planet a very special treasure.🙂

46. Drink iced tea. Every day.

This one is just too easy.🙂

47. Make at least one scrapbook layout/Project Life layout/memory-keeping project a week.

And this one was not.😉 I have already blown this one. And I can’t even say I’m that sorry. I considered forcing myself to whip out a layout last evening, but I just wasn’t in the mood. And the point of my summer list, aside from getting some things done that truly need to get done, was to have fun, to enjoy summer to its fullest. And hey, 52/53 is better than 98%, and that’s still a pretty good grade if I reach it, right?

52. Read at least one essay, one short story, one poem, and one fairy tale each week. Read as many outside as possible.

Still working my way through a reread of Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons, and read several more poems this week. Two of them, “Two Horses” and “Harvest Moon–The Mockingbird Sings in the Night” completely captured my heart and demanded reading after reading after reading. One melancholy, one celebratory, both insanely wonderful.

This week’s essay, titled “Making Peace,” and again from Barbara Kingsolver’s High Tide in Tucson, was more of a hit than last week’s. It was largely about humankind’s ideas about the ownership of land. So much of what she said struck home, and these are definitely issues I have pondered before. I  struggle with my feelings of entitlement over my garden’s produce and get frustrated as all get out at the wildlife, who of course see it as fair game.😉

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie continues to assure her place in my list of favorite short story authors. I’m guessing she’ll do the same when it comes to novels when I finally get around to reading any of them. This week’s story, “A Private Experience” from The Thing Around Your Neck, was a story of a fleeting connection between two women from different worlds who in escaping from a violent riot are thrown together for a day and night. It’s beautiful, though not particularly happy (both women lose someone in the horrible violence). Yet it is the kind of story that continually fills me with hope, a story in which two people find connection.

And this week’s fairy tale, oh my goodness, what a delight! A tame version of “Cinderella,” no cutting off of toes and whatnot. But what made it so special was the art by Roberto Innocenti. While the story itself was not updated, the art completely made me believe it was taking place in the 1920s. I wouldn’t have believe this could have worked had you told me so beforehand, but it did. Perfectly, charmingly. I had fully intended on getting rid of this book when I finished reading it, but I’m seriously having second thoughts.🙂 (This counts towards my 100x100by100, #5. Read 100 fairy tales.)

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Posted in stuff that matters, tidbits and babblings

I choose love.

To be quite honest, I haven’t known what to do with the seemingly ceaseless waves of emotions that have been pounding me over the past couple of days. I have not known what to do or what to say. I have felt at times like I couldn’t breathe. I have felt especially lacking in my ability to process the hatred we’re seeing every day. And I cannot for the life of me understand how we in this country are allowing this hate to become legitimized by the far-right–being full of hate is no longer something one has to keep hidden unless among select company but instead is now something that can be worn with pride in public. The massacre in Orlando–the haters are taking full advantage. They’ve found a way to take the tragedy of people they hate anyway, the lgbtq community and Latinos, and use it to foment yet more hate for Muslims. Can’t help but get the feeling that they sort of view what happened as a win-win-win for themselves. I know that hate is nothing new in this country, just ask any person of color or lgbt person or non-Christian or…

It’s just that shocking, completely heart-breaking events like these batter at the hope we build for a more loving, more just world. I know we all need to fight against losing hope. It is both easier, and harder (because fear can be overpowering), to do that when I think about people like my beautiful, brilliant, loving, ridiculously witty lesbian daughter and my generous, compassionate, give-of-himself-till-he-drops gay bestest friend. But aside from clinging to hope, what can an inarticulate, introverted person who suffers from social anxiety do? I wish I had a voice that could make a difference. I don’t, but I’m so incredibly blessed to have found voices that have not only helped me grow as a person but have continued to build my hope in the future of this world. Voices like Ana’s and Bina’s and Eva’s and Natasha’s and Chris’s…and honestly so many more. Before I discovered book bloggers, my reading was so very narrow in scope, but now my reading is so very rich and wonderful and fulfilling. And all it took to so vastly enrich my life was the effort to seek out diverse authors and diverse stories.

I know I’m rambling. And maybe this isn’t the place where I should be trying to process my thoughts and feelings. But it is the most public place I have of declaring: I choose love over hate. Always. Always. Always.

 

Posted in in the garden, in the kitchen, in the reading room

keeping myself accountable on that summer list…

In my last post, I made a list of things I wanted to do this summer. I’m pretending that summer runs from June 1st through September 6th. (School starts on Sept. 7th, so that’s where that weird date came from.) Of course this school year has a couple weeks yet to go, so I’m “cheating” with this beginning date. Anyway, that works out to 14 weeks to get all this work and all this playing done. And unless I get bored with it (which let’s face it, is likely–I’m not really known for my stick-to-it-ness when it comes to blogging), I’m going to update my progress weekly.

15. Finish getting the garden in: build cucumber trellis and build pumpkin and/or melon mounds.

***Okay not a complete cross-off, but a partial one. We did get the cucumber trellis built and the cucumbers planted.

16. Continue harvesting the rhubarb: freeze more/bake more tarts/try making rhubarb jam.

***Another partial cross-off. I tried my hand at making rhubarb jam yesterday. I found an extremely easy recipe, and the cooler weather cooperated nicely (for nothing makes an already sweltering, un-air-conditioned kitchen quite so miserable as an afternoon of water bath canning), and thus I ended up with 6 half-pints plus of oh-so-delicious jam. I’d never had rhubarb jam before so I really didn’t know what to expect. It comes out with a consistency like apple butter, and it retains its wonderful sour tartness.

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17. Build trellis for blackberries.

***Yay! Crossed off the list! Of course, we’ve only been meaning to do this for the past three summers, so perhaps I really shouldn’t be patting myself on the back here.😉

Hmm…with both the blackberry and the cucumber trellis, it looks like I’m taking credit for accomplishing things I really had nothing to do with. But I swear this isn’t true–I did help. Honest.🙂

39. Bring in flowers from outside every week.

***Can’t actually cross it off as I have to keep this up for the whole summer, but I can say that I have not yet blown it!

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46. Drink iced tea. Every day.

***Another of those that can’t actually be crossed off until the end of summer. But again, I have not yet blown it. Honestly, I cannot imagine blowing this one.

47. Make at least one scrapbook layout/Project Life layout/memory-keeping project a week.

***Hmmm…I hadn’t realized I’d done so many of these every week/every day sort of things. This one scares me a bit. It’s going to be a challenge for me. But I would be so happy if I did get to cross this one off come end of summer. Week 1 of 14 was a success at least. I finally finished up my Week-in-the-Life album. I’ll just post the title page, as I doubt anyone wants to see all pages. (I did post pictures of Day 1 when I finished it.) Should anyone be acutely observant, they would notice that my dates do not add up to a full week, but instead only six days. This would be because this project just totally burned me out, and I gave myself permission to stop a day short. (This also counts towards Category #81: Make 100 mini book projects of my 100x100by100 project.)

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52. Read at least one essay, one short story, one poem, and one fairy tale each week. Read as many outside as possible.

***Sheesh–another of these ones. But again, I came through on week one.

For my short story I read “The Lake” by Tananarive Due from her collection Ghost Stummer: Stories. I didn’t even realize she had a short story collection until Bina mentioned reading it. I immediately put a hold on it at the library, but didn’t give it the time it deserved. I squeezed in the first story before having to return it, and after reading it, I wasn’t even sorry about having to return it–because I MUST BUY THIS BOOK. Seriously, that first story totally sold me! So creepy, in an almost but not quite completely subtle way. Felt sort of southern gothic. And ever so perfect for summer. (This story also works for my 100x100by100: Category #2–Read 100 short stories by authors of color.)

I decided to reread Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons, and read several of the poems this week. So many of her poems speak to me, which is why she shall always be a favorite of mine. But the one I’m choosing to count for my 100x100by100 (Category #6–Read 100 poems that speak to me) is titled “Entering the Kingdom.” I wish I had the vocabulary, the knowledge, the talent to talk about poetry and capture in words the way any particular poem speaks to me, but I just don’t enjoy the struggle of trying to find those words, so again, I’m just going to quote a portion of the poem.

The dream of my life

Is to lie down by a slow river

And stare at the light in the trees–

To learn something by being nothing

A little while but the rich

Lens of attention.

My fairy tale for the week was “Beauty and the Beast” from The Illustrated Treasury of Fairy Tales. Each of the tales chosen for this collection is illustrated by a different artist, and that’s what led me to choose this particular collection to start with this summer. Flipping through the book, I can already say that I adore some of the art, and well, some not so much. But I enjoyed the art by Etienne Delessert every bit as much as I enjoyed reading the story, and well, that was quite a bit. (Counts toward my 100x100by100, Category 5: Read 100 fairy tales.)

And last, and in this case yes, least, was an essay. I read “Creation Stories” by Barbara Kingsolver from her collection High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never. I’ve yet to read any of Kingsolver’s fiction–though I’ve done a fairly good job of collecting it😉 –but in general I tend to enjoy her essays very much. But this one was a miss for me. I sort of hate judging personal essays because well, they’re personal. But something about this essay just felt slightly forced, and a bit disjointed. I’m not the slightest bit worried though; I’m confident that I’ll enjoy, or relate to, or be moved by, or all of the above, many of the essays yet to come in this collection.

So 1/14 of summer gone (already it’s going too fast!) but only 1 out of 53 things crossed off my list. It’s not as depressing as it sounds though, as I’ve worked/played myself through parts of a lot more (some which weren’t even mentioned here). And there’s also the fact that we’re still finishing up the school year, and the end of any quarter (and especially the last one) is always hectic. So I definitely am not downhearted about my progress, or lack thereof, yet. Lots more glorious summer to come!

Posted in list-mania, tidbits and babblings

53 things I want to do in my 53rd summer…

I normally don’t let myself get excited about summer until the school year is out (and that doesn’t happen for another 2 1/2 weeks). But this year I can’t help myself–I’m in the summer frame of mind and want to celebrate all the fun that summer brings! Decided to make myself a list of things I want to fit into this summer. Because lists are glorious things!

  1. Meet and hang out with Ana!!!😀😀😀
  2. Go to the Strand with Ana.😀
  3. Take Ana to Niagara Falls.😀
  4. Take Ana to Mount Hope Cemetery.😀
  5. Explore more of NYC with Rich and Gray.
  6. Read at least 20 books. (#20booksofsummer)
  7. Build a blanket fort out in the yard and spend the day reading in it.
  8. Check out at least 5 new walking/hiking trails.
  9. Write and send off the last of Gray’s 10th grade progress reports.
  10. Send LOI for next year’s homeschooling.
  11. Write and send IHIP for next year’s homeschooling.
  12. Get all homeschool prep for September+ done.
  13. Drink frozen margaritas. Plural.🙂
  14. Go blueberry picking: restock the frozen blueberry section of our deep freezer/restock the pantry with blueberry jam.
  15. Finish getting the garden in: build cucumber trellis and build pumpkin and/or melon mounds.
  16. Continue harvesting the rhubarb: freeze more/bake more tarts/try making rhubarb jam.
  17. Build trellis for blackberries.
  18. Go raspberry picking: freeze a few pints/make and can jam.
  19. Make and can oodles and oodles of pickles.
  20. Can oodles and oodles of sliced jalapeños.
  21. Can oodles and oodles of tomatoes.
  22. Make and can oodles and oodles of salsa.
  23. Freeze shredded zucchini and chopped jalapeños.
  24. Pickle and can beets and turnips.
  25. Walk the entire Genesee Riverway Trail in bits and pieces.
  26. Eat at Sinbads.
  27. Eat at Sticky Lips.
  28. Eat at the Beale Street Cafe.
  29. Make Long Island Iced Teas.
  30. Shangri-La beneath the summer moon.
  31. Go back to Ithaca.
  32. Visit a library branch we haven’t been to yet.
  33. Go to Central Library.
  34. Have the septic tank pumped.😉
  35. Build our little patio.
  36. Finish watching the first 7 seasons of Columbo with Rich. (We’re currently on season 2.)
  37. Finish Chris’s slightly moderately ridiculously overdue Christmas present.😉
  38. Finish “ugly blanket.”
  39. Bring in flowers from outside every week.
  40. Finish listening to The Twelve with Rich.
  41. Go wilderness camping.
  42. Ride bikes.
  43. Eat watermelon. And fresh corn on the cob.
  44. Get frozen yogurt.
  45. Reorganize my craft/gift/storage area in the basement.
  46. Drink iced tea. Every day.
  47. Make at least one scrapbook layout/Project Life layout/memory-keeping project a week.
  48. Get 10 Christmas gifts made.
  49. Visit a state park.
  50. Send loads of postcards.
  51. Get at least 2 1/2 more 6-block-wide strips added to quilt top.
  52. Read at least one essay, one short story, one poem, and one fairy tale each week. Read as many outside as possible.
  53. Drink 10 different beers, 5 different mixed drinks, and 3 different wines.

Yep, that has the makings for a fun, happy, and productive summer. What are you most looking forward this season?

Posted in in the reading room

more on summer reading…

20booksfinalAll those books that I said I wish I could read this summer in yesterday’s post… Well, thanks to Cathy and her 20 Books of Summer Challenge which runs from today through Sept. 5th, I’ve found a way to make myself a little more accountable for actually getting some of that reading done. I struggled last night, because I really wanted to sign up for this but at the same time knew I could never make myself stick to a strict list of 20 books. (With homeschooling I have way too much prescribed reading as it is.) But I was inspired by Amanda’s approach of making herself a pool of books to choose from. She went with 30, which seems reasonable. I may make my pool larger, which probably isn’t reasonable.😉

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  • Small Gods by Terry Pratchett (This one is pretty much a definite. I actually read the first 25 or 30 pages of this a few weeks ago, then got buried in school reading and set it aside. So I will be starting this one over to enjoy in its entirety.)
  • “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power (This one is pretty much a definite too, as it’s our final read for this year’s genocide/human rights course. It might be cheating to include this book since I’ve already started it, but I still have just over 400 pages to go in it so I’m counting it whether it’s technically cheating or not. Yeah, I’m such a rebel–ha!)
  • One Crazy Summer, P.S. be eleven, and Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia (Because Ana *never* steers me wrong. Added bonus, Bina recommended them too.)
  • Hannibal Rising (and if I enjoy it, the rest of the Hannibal Lecter books) by Thomas Harris (Mostly I’d just like to read these so I can get them off my shelves, but am looking forward to giving them a go.)
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket (The first six would be rereads.)
  • Duma Key or Insomnia or Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Because Stephen King and summer just go together.)
  • Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai and/or When Nights Were Cold by Susanna Jones (Because Eva brought them over the other day thinking I might enjoy them, and I’ve reason to doubt her, so I ought to get them read so I can return them.)
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons or Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell or Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster or Saplings by Noel Streatfeild (Because I’ve sort of been craving a classic lately. I know, I know–who is this talking, and what the hell did you do with Debi?!!)
  • Change Comes to Dinner: How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers, and Other Innovators are Revolutionizing How America Eats by Katherine Gustafson or Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World by Paul Hawken (Because hope and the goodness of humanity are always welcome in as much abundance as possible.)
  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (Because I happen to have it out from the library right now. Not to mention that it’s just high time I read it.)
  • Beloved or Love or A Mercy or Song of Solomon or Sula by Toni Morrison (Because seriously Debra Anne, speaking of high time! How the hell do you justify never having read Toni Morrison?!! Yeah, no excuse.)
  • Seedtime: On the History, Husbandry, Politics, and Promise of Seeds by Scott Chaskey (Because summer and gardening and food…)
  • Skip•Beat! Volume 19 (and onward) by Yoshiki Nakamura (These just make me happy.)
  • Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova (Another I happen to have out from the library right now.)
  • Bitch Planet Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro (Because it’s going to be awesome.)
  • Watchmen or From Hell or V for Vendetta by Alan Moore et al. (Filling major gaps in my comics reading.)
  • Cricket Never Does: A Collection of Haiku and Tanka by Myra Cohn Livingston (For something a bit different.)
  • Cat & Mouse by James Patterson (For a time when I just want something fast and compelling and mindless.)
  • Life on Earth by David Attenborough or The Top 10 Myths about Evolution by Cameron M. Smith and Charles Sullivan or The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert or In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America by Laurie Edwards (Just a few more non-fiction titles I’ve been wanting read.)
  • The as yet unknown books that I will be reading for next year’s school prep.

Okay that’s 20 bullet points, but among them are numerous options so here’s hoping I can actually follow through…