babblings…I’m feeling…

*lucky. So much Charley lovin’ going on in this house. After all the pain and loss this summer, I can’t begin to explain how blessed we feel to have Charley join our family. This dog. Oh my, this dog. He has the sweetest, most gentle essence about him. He is the best medicine I can imagine. And every day starts a bit brighter because of Charley. He awakes so happy and high on life that you just can’t help but feel better about life yourself. He is an absolute love. And I can’t even put into words how much of an understatement that is.

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*insightful. Ha! Yeah, that may be overstating it. But I have had a few things dawn on me recently. I’ve been in perhaps my most all-encompassing painful fibro flare to date. There is a weird balancing act that goes on with me and fibro, between refusing to give into it and yet accepting that I have to respect it. One thing that has dawned on me is that this seems to be the place I need for my mental wranglings. It’s just not something I feel comfortable talking to other people about directly. I’ve noticed that when people ask me how I’m feeling, I tend to sidestep. And another thing I’ve noticed is that I am so often apologizing because of fibro. Because of the things I just can’t seem to get done when in the grips of a bad flare up. Apologizing to people I love and care about for letting them down in myriad ways–from not returning emails and letters to not cooking the supper someone was really excited about.. Thing is, I’m blessed with the kindest, most understanding family and friends on earth–and they always find my apologies unnecessary. And I think it’s time I learn to let go of some of the guilt that comes with this chronic invisible illness.

*incredulous. Gray turned 15 yesterday! I am grateful every day that I get to be a part of this amazing kid’s life. Again with the understatement.

*weirded out. By the fact that I just can’t seem to make myself read lately. Since Dewey’s Read-a-thon a week and a half ago, the only reading I’ve done has been for homeschooling. Nothing that was just for fun. What I read for read-a-thon was awesome though! Loved all three books I read: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley (though I think I’m in the minority of people who actually liked his Lost at Sea better), March Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (can’t wait for final book of this trilogy), and Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens (reminded me of how much I adore awesome middle grade fiction; seriously, I was smitten). Just remembering how much enjoyment I got from those books, makes me think that today is the day I need to pick up a new book–like maybe Hark! A Vagrant, before I have to return it to the library.

*numb. Over The Walking Dead. Not numb as in “I don’t care,” but numb as in “I care too much, and I’m not sure how much more I can take.” This season has been nothing short of brutal thus far.

*panicked. But amazingly calm about the panic. Which of course is completely contradictory. There’s no way I’m going to get all the gifts made for Christmas. It’s just not going to happen. *sigh* And still I don’t stop trying. I worked on Chris’ gift much of the last two days, and can’t believe how little progress two days looks like. On a side note, I binged on the entire first season of How to Get Away with Murder during those two days. I do believe Annalise Keating may be the. most. intriguing. character I’ve ever seen on a television show.

 

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in the reading room this past week…

Seasons of Reading’s Fright Fall Read-a-thon took place this past week. I completed the solo requirement of reading a spooky/mysterious/thriller sort of book. Beyond that, I’m not sure if my week should be considered a success or not. The amount of time I spent reading didn’t suck, it just didn’t involve as much “fun reading” as I had hoped it would. This also means I’m not as far along on Andi’s #15in31 (only 2 of 15 so far!) as I might like. No worries–so not stressing about it. So, what have I been reading this week?

*The one book I did finish was Along Came a Spider by James Patterson. The first of the Alex Cross books. And a book I’ve read before, oh at least 20 years ago. There was a time I thoroughly loved this series, but after the first ten or twelve I just grew bored and eventually quit reading them altogether. At our recent library sale, I picked up the first several in the series again, figuring they would be the perfect sort of reads for flare ups when my brain just refused to work. And it was the fact that I’m experiencing one of those times that led me to read this book now. If I’m being honest, I think that I sort of hoped that I wouldn’t like it this time around. Like I was hoping I’d “matured” or something. Ha! Yeah, I know how stupid that sounds. Whatever. Fact of the matter is that I did enjoy it, whether I wanted to or not. 😉  I didn’t remember a lot about the book, but the two things I did remember were pretty important. But even that didn’t stop me from enjoying it. Anyway, as far as thriller-type books go, I still think the early Alex Cross books are great. Of course, I don’t read this type of book all that often anymore, so I can’t compare to what’s out there in the genre today. This counts as book 6 for RIP.

*In the “school reading” category, I conquered a few more chapters of our astronomy textbook. Reading this is work for me. Not in the sense that I hate it, but in the sense that it is a struggle. I have to read some sections three or four times. And even then, all I come away with are the basic concepts. I’ve sort of given up on the math involved. That’s okay, we’re doing an integrated sciences course of which astronomy is only a small part, and yet we’re reading nearly an entire college level astronomy textbook…so I’m going to be forgiving of us both if we don’t walk away remembering, or even understanding, every little detail.

*Also in the “school reading” category, I’ve read several chapters of Reigns of Terror by Patricia Marchak. In the intro, she suggested reading Part II before Part I. Part II contains chapters for each of the 20th genocides/politicides/crimes against humanity that she focuses on, explaining the historical context, what happened during the genocide, and the external influences at play; Part I is where she gives her arguments about the preconditions and similarities that are present among nations where these violent crimes against humanity occur. So I understand why she suggests reading Part II first, but I don’t understand why she didn’t just place it first in the book. I’m a few pages short of finishing Part II, and as such have not yet gotten to the meat of her arguments and can’t yet judge how I feel about the book as a whole As important as I think it is that we’re doing this course on genocide, crimes against humanity, and human rights, I have to admit it is mentally and emotionally overwhelming.

*Back on the “purely for pleasure” front, I started reading Umineko: When They Cry, Episode 3: Banquet of the Golden Witch, Volume 1 by Ryukishi07. Annie convinced me to read these so she had someone to talk to in person about them. 🙂  Annie actually hasn’t even read the mangas yet, but she’s read the visual novel a few times. Anyway, it’s a massive (page-wise) series. There are 8 episodes, each broken down into volumes for the manga. Episodes 1, 2, and 3 each consist of 2 volumes, though I believe the later Episodes will each have more volumes. And each volume thus far has clocked in at about 500-700 pages. It is such an intriguing ride! Influenced by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. But very much it’s own story. It is mind-twisting for sure. It plays with logic throughout. Being slightly more than halfway through the first volume of Episode 3, I can say unflinchingly that I have no frickin’ clue what is going on. 😛 But I am enjoying it immensely. The characters are flawed, but there is a depth to their individual stories that helps up understand where many of them are coming from. Battler Ushiromiya is our protagonist, and at this point I find him both likable and a twit simultaneously. He’s 18-years-old, a bit sexist, and obsessed with big breasts. However, I was talking with Annie the other day, and she assured me that he actually grows a lot throughout the series. For all it’s fun with logic and mystery-solving, it is a violent, gruesome series. Duh–we’re talking multiple murders here. But really, it goes far beyond the cozy sort of mystery that I would classify Christie’s stories as.

*And finally, I started a new audiobook. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. I needed a new audiobook while I waited for Symbiont to become available, and this was the first one that popped up during my browsing that caught my eye. I had no clue what it was about, but have enjoyed Holly Black before (and really need to read Doll Bones !!!), so I figured “why not?” LOL–I said a few weeks ago how vampire books just weren’t my thing, and here we are with a third book in two months that have vampires! I’m guessing I’m about a third of the way through it, and am definitely enjoying it. I wouldn’t call it overwhelming love though. I have this feeling that I’m really just now getting to the meat of the story, and that I may just fall in love yet. Or it might totally fall apart on me. Eager to find out which, if either, will be the case.

in the reading room: a very slow start…

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Every year I get all freakin’ excited about RIP, thinking about how I’m going to read all the books and all the stories, how I’m just going to roll around and revel in everything spooky and creepy and mysterious. And then every year, reality bites me in the ass, and I have to face the fact that this time of year leaves me little time for reveling in much of anything beyond homeschooling. And well, reveling is not really the word I’d use for that.

So this week, all I managed to read, aside from a handful of chapters in an astronomy textbook and several essays on genocide, was Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoet. Yes, oh yes, this book is RIP-worthy! I rather like the description on the back as an “unsettling and gorgeous anti-fairy tale.” Most definitely unsettling, and yet most definitely gorgeous. The sweet, almost cutesy, style of art combined with the creepiness of the story gives the book a very disquieting feel.

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IMG_7284And the story is certainly creepy. Sort of a Lord of the Flies vibe, though the story is quite unique and has a fantastical, fairy tale flair. There are so many disturbing little details that add to the brutality of the unfolding tale.

I said that the art helped create the unsettling feeling of the book as a whole, but at the same time, I think the art somehow helped me from finding it unbearably depressing. A contradiction, I know. There was a quirkiness to it that also helped. And overall, I pretty much loved it to pieces.

(Book one down for Peril the First.)

in the reading room: books read, RIP X, a readathon, and our fall family bingo cards

Seeing how this covers the last two and a half-ish weeks, one might think there ought to be more to report as far as books read. Well, one would be wrong. One tends to think she accomplishes more than she actually does, apparently. 😛

children of green*Finished up The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston. A short children’s book written in the 1950s. For the most part, it was charming and enjoyable. Cool old castle, a pretty awesome great-grandmother, and friendly, spirited ghosts–what’s not to love, right? But actually there was one thing that wasn’t at all lovable–a dose of horrid antiziganism. Eva warned of this when I mentioned that I was about to start reading it, and she sure wasn’t kidding. While in general, I try to avoid spoilers, problematic issues like that are one thing I appreciate knowing ahead of time. I think when I’m blindsided by some sort of ugliness like that, I then find I can’t focus on any good a book has to offer, but when I’m forewarned, I’m better able to appreciate the good despite the problems. I’m not sure if that makes any sense outside my own head.

bitter brew*Next up was A Bitter Brew: Faith, Power, and Poison in a Small New England Town by Christine Ellen Young. We made up a family summer reading bingo game to play this summer, complete with rewards. I had one last item–“read a book that involves a crime”–to complete my entire card. I’ve sort of been in the mood for a true crime read lately, so that worked out nicely. But I started and abandoned two other true crime books before settling into this one. I remembered vaguely the incident this book chronicles, the arsenic in the coffee at a church in Maine, but didn’t know a lot about it. After reading the book, I now feel that in some ways I know too much about it, and in some ways I don’t really know much at all. It was just horrendously sad in about a thousand different ways. But oh my goodness, am I glad I was not a part of that church community–they seemed to just thrive on drama. Exactly the kind of thing I try to avoid at all costs. If it hadn’t been over a third of the way through the book before the author started delving into the relationships and power struggles and such, I’m not sure I would have continued. To be honest, I’m sort of wondering if maybe true crime just isn’t for me anymore. Or maybe it was just my mood–being in a flare up, I may just have needed more peaceful or comforting or fun sort of reads. Actually, that’s probably it.

*While Rich and I were off on our glorious four-day getaway to a “cabin” in the woods, I read the first volume of four different comic series. Two I pretty much fell head-over-heels in love with and two that I was left feeling ambivalent about. I’ve really struggled in the past about whether to continue with a series when I’m not completely in love with it. It would be one thing if I hated it, or even disliked it. But it’s those ones that I sort of like, but don’t really love that cause me decision-stress. Well, I’ve made an executive decision–if I don’t love it, I won’t continue. There are just too many awesome books left to read in this world and too few years of life to even make a dent. I do realize that a the second or third volume might turn a “meh” experience into a “wow” experience with a series, but really there’s that potential with any book. I’m happy to have set myself this policy, as frankly, decision-making is not my strong suit.

So…the four series I started, two of which I will happily be continuing with:

Rat Queens, Volume One: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch was one of the most fun comics I’ve read recently. I seriously loved it with a passion! How could one not fall in love with the Rat Queens themselves, Betty and Violet and Dee and Hannah?!! They’re funny and irreverent and badass. And maybe what I love best about them is the way they care about one another. The art–awesome. I wish so badly that I had volume two already.

Sex Criminals, Volume One: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. I expected to love this, I really did. I mean I love Fraction’s Hawkeye; I love the unique concept of the story; I love sex. But I don’t know…it just didn’t wow me. Too high expectations? Maybe. I don’t know, but something about it fell a little flat for me. Which really makes me sad.

Shutter, Volume One: Wanderlost by Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca. This was another huge win for me. A robot cat who bakes cookies, a reluctant hitman salamander who drives an apple car reminiscent of Richard Scarry, a slightly scary nanny who goes by the name “General,” previously unknown siblings…come on, what’s not to love?!! Plus an awesome friendship (which we’d better get back to!), a transgender character, dinosaurs, mystery. Yeah, I’m smitten.

Low, Volume One: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini. As with Sex Criminals, it’s not that I disliked it. And again I like the premise of the story. But it just failed to really grab me. And while I adore the cover of this one, there was something about the coloring of the comic itself that just didn’t appeal to me. I actually think it’s appropriate, but nonetheless it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I really do see potential in this series, but I’m sticking with my decision.

*****

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(fabulously gorgeous art by Abigail Larson)

RIP X is underway! Absolutely one of my favorite reading events of the year! But I must confess, when I first saw the announcement, I sort of felt like I’d been punched in the gut. It just completely threw me to find that Carl wasn’t hosting it this year. Don’t get me wrong–I have no doubt whatsoever that Heather and Andi will do a wonderful job! They are both completely beyond awesome, and I adore them to pieces! What threw me didn’t have to do with the fact that they were hosting it, it was that Carl wasn’t. To me so much of what I associate with RIP (and Once Upon a Time, and the Sci-Fi Experience) is Carl. So maybe it’s just that I’m not good with change or maybe it’s just a nostalgia thing, but it just caught me off guard.

Like I said, I know that Andi and Heather will make RIP X fabulous, and frankly, Carl pours so much work and heart into his events that he more than deserves a break! So now that it’s sunk in, and even more so after an email from Carl, I’m ready to revel in all things creepy and gruesome and mysterious once again.

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I will be aiming to complete Peril the First (which requires four spooky/mysterious/creepy/horrific/you-get-the-idea books). Though I can’t really say what those four (or more) books will be. These are my pools (a comics pile and a pile of novels), but who knows if I’ll even stick with them.

Not shown: I’ve been rereading Salem’s Lot (Stephen King), Rich and I are currently listening to the audiobook of The Passage (Justin Cronin), and my current non-fiction book, Spillover (David Quammen), fits RIP qualifications too (at least I think so).

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I also hope to participate in the Peril of the Short Story. Though if history repeats itself, I will likely read appropriate stories, but then fail to write about them because I just find it so frickin’ hard to do. I pulled a pile of appropriate collections off the shelves to dip into.

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Not shown: A collection of Sherlock Holmes stories that my dear friend Pat sent me, and that I’d set aside just waiting for RIP. And then RIP comes, and I completely forget to put it in the stack. One is also scatter-brained.

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And finally, there is the Peril on the Screen. I’ve no idea what I may watch though. And again, as with short stories, I really have no idea how to talk about movies/TV. But hey, that doesn’t stop me from talking about books, does it? 😛

*****

DDoS ReadathonHeather and Andi are adding yet more fun to my life by hosting the brand-new, Dog Days of Summer Readathon. Just a laid back weekend of reading, which sounds perfect. Even if I have to spend the bulk of my time reading for school.

 

 

*****

Next up, we’ve begun our Fall Family Bingo game. We did this over the summer (with all different categories), largely as a way to keep the boys reading over the summer. Shocking all of us, Max was the first to complete a row during our summer game, though Rich and I were the only ones to fill our entire card. It was a hit, so we’ve decided to do another round, running from September 2nd (the boys’ first day of school) thru December 24th.

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*****

And lastly in this week’s reading room, I only brought one new (to me) book into the house, Sula by Toni Morrison.

this past week…week three

the week’s mood:

Sadness. Lots and lots of sadness. But also the love and comfort of friends.

in the reading room:

*First book finished this week was The Devotion of Subject X by Keigo Higashino. Annie had read it, and on finishing it, she pretty much shoved it into my hands because she wanted someone to discuss it with. 🙂  And I’m glad she did–it’s been a long time since I’ve read this sort of cat-and-mouse type of mystery. The two battling wits were not your typical criminal and typical detective, but instead a brilliant mathematician and a brilliant physicist. (No glazing of eyes ensued, as actual mathematics and physics were not really a part of this book. 😛 ) But as much as I enjoyed this book (and I truly did enjoy it!), it wasn’t perfect. I could have lived without the sexism…and gee, surprise surprise, it totally would have made for an even more interesting story without it. Here’s one of the most blatant examples:

Kusanagi had already accepted that even if Yasuko was involved with Togashi’s murder, she couldn’t have done it alone. She would have needed a male accomplice–or perhaps it would be better to call him the actual killer, whoever he was.

And I also wish there had been at least a bit of commentary on the event that starts the whole book rolling. The story itself starts with Yasuko killing her abusive ex-husband, who unexpectedly pops back into her life, tries to extort money from her, and starts beating on her daughter. What follows is the fascinating tale of attempted cover-up and the unraveling of the threads of this cover up. But what is never even mentioned is the depressing reality of a world that puts women in this situation to start with.

Annie is currently reading the next in the Detective Galileo series (Detective Galileo refers to the physicist, whose friendship with a police detective brings him into contact with the unsolved crimes). Or I should say the next that has been translated into English (I believe Higashino is a prolific writer, and I’ve no idea if these books are being translated in order). She seems to be enjoying it a great deal, and is excited that in this one the police detective has a new partner–a woman. Obviously, the addition of a lady detective doesn’t mean the book will have any fewer sexist undertones, but one can hope. I’d really like to read it when Annie finishes. (Update: Annie said she thought that as she read the second book it better re sexism, but then she got to the end and was proven wrong. 😦 )

*Next up was Crimes Against Humanity by Adam Jones. I read this book for homeschooling, though I’ve actually owned it for a few years. I found it to be an excellent introductory book. The author uses the legal definitions as a starting point for each chapter, but he did it in a clear way that was quite accessible. (I can’t claim that to be the case with every essay and article I’ve read so far in preparing our genocide/human rights course.) For each chapter, he discusses examples, usually starting with a well-known one but then talking about at least one example that isn’t quite as well-known. There were things in this book that were extremely hard to read, but that was to be expected. But one thing I really loved about this book was that with each chapter he talked about people who were fighting to change things. So while it was a book about the ugliest sides of humanity, it was still a book filled with hope. Another thing I very much appreciated was how the author didn’t pull any punches when it came to the Western world, particularly the U.S. Inequality–racial, gender, economic–seamlessly worked its way into many of the chapters of this book. A quote from near the end of the book:

In a significant sense, most readers of this book have a stake in systems of structural inequality and discrimination. Most must transcend their allegiances as comparatively privileged members of the global order, if they are to play a role in undermining the injustices that pervade it.

It’s a short book (under 200 pages), but I thought it was an excellent introduction.

*Read an article in Outside magazine, which I talked a wee bit about under the projects section.

*We had one of our wonderful weekend read-a-thons. Once Ana and Chris mentioned that they’d likely be reading mostly comics, I totally couldn’t resist following their lead. First one I knocked out was Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, which everyone has been raving, raving, raving about. And now I get why! It was so completely charming and funny and just plain wonderful. Serious, serious love.

*Next was A Bride’s Story, volume 6 by Kaoru Mori. While the storyline sometimes makes me a bit uncomfortable, I can’t help but love this series. Learning about the central Asian cultures of the 1800s and falling in love with many of the characters are both big pluses. But I admit that more than anything, I’m deeply in love the art. Kaoru Mori is just the most incredible artist, and the pages of her books are filled with so much exquisite detail. I can’t imagine that they are anything less than a complete labor of love.

*Next I did a little catching up on Marvel Unlimited–I had three issues (#10-12) of Ms. Marvel (adored!), an issue (#21) of Hawkeye (lukewarm), and 4 issues (#8-11) of Inhuman (very much enjoyed!).

*Then on to a reread of the Wandering Son Volume 3 by Shimura Takako. It had been a while since I’d read this, so I thought it best if I reread it before moving onto Volume 4. It is still just as sweet as ever. So lovely that a series featuring transgendered characters doesn’t have to focus solely on the fact they are transgendered. Instead they get to be people first, get to be individuals, just as it should always be.

*Next up was The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 2: Fandemonium by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. This series…hmm…what to say about this series. It’s wicked fun. It’s clever and intelligent. It keeps you on your toes. I know a lot of it goes right over my head, and yet there’s enough there for me to grasp that I can still love it. But it does make me envious of those who are quite schooled in their mythologies, because it most certainly must be even more delightfully fun for those readers.

*Then I read Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me by Sarah Leavitt. Wow. This was such a beautiful memoir. Truly beautiful, and all the more so for its sometimes brutal and unflattering honesty. One of those books that just ripped my heart out and made my brain go to places it never wanted to imagine.

*And the last book finished was Skip•Beat! volume 9 by Yoshiki Nakamura. Not my favorite volume thus far, but not my least favorite either. I loved how this one ended and am eager to see how this new storyline progresses. And despite my best efforts not to, I’m really starting to ship Kyoko and Ren.

on the screen:

*Rich and I watched the intro Project Runway episode for the season, and the first challenge episode (“Mad Dash Mayhem”). Little too early to have many opinions about whose work I really like and whose I don’t. But I can say I really did love Ashley’s winning look and was happy that she won. 🙂

*Not sure how we got so distracted from Once Upon a Time and The Wire, but we’ve been watching more “comfort” type shows lately. Which this week meant two episodes from the first season of Columbo (“Murder by the Book” and “Death Lends a Hand”) on Wednesday evening. Not only is it just sort of a light comfort sort of show, but we’re so loving the huge flashbacks back to our beloved 70s–the clothes, the funky soundtrack music (which so often reminds of the music in Helter Skelter), the hairdos–yep, we’re totally having fun with this.

*Thursday night we got back to The Wire with episode 3 of the second season (“Hot Shots”).

in the craft room:

*Not a lot happening. Six more granny squares. And some progress on my current cross-stitch project.

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in the kitchen:

*Pretty much a dud of a week as far as the kitchen goes. Life has been so screwy, and we’ve largely just been winging it.

in the garden:

*I really ought to bag this category. The deer were back, and mowed what little progress the beans and peppers had made since their last chow down. We did pick a tiny pile of jalapenos, but in general, all I want to do every time I look at the garden is cry.

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in the home improvement realm:

*I finally finished painting the trim in Max’s room! WooHoo. Because of the weird texture of the panels that make up his walls, there was quite a bit of seepage under the tape, so I still need to go and touch that up with a foam brush. And we bought him a simple little desk that he liked from Staples, but we’re waiting until I’m finished with that touching up before we build it. (Figure it will be easier to build in his room than carry it up the narrow stairway, but as his room is so extremely small, it would be in my way trying to finish up the painting if we built it now.)

in the homeschooling realm:

*Read Crimes Against Humanity by Adam Jones. Finished up plans and prep for week two of our genocide/human rights course.

*Read chapters 2 and 3 of A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, listened to the second lecture from the Great Courses series we’re using, read the first chapter of American Slavery: 1619-1877 by Peter Kolchin, typed up an essay assignment, and finished up plans (but still have two more chapters to read for prep) for week two of our history course.

in the land of parenthood:

*Poor Annie. This is her last week of work at the library and her first week of work at Tim Hortons. And this has landed her with over 40 hours of work spread across every single day this week. But so far she’s largely enjoying her new job, despite having to get used to being on her feet for eight hours a day and despite having to clean bathrooms and despite just having so very much to learn. I’m curious to see what her schedule will be like come fall–she has a pretty heft class load including two different science labs, so I hope she doesn’t end up too overwhelmed. We’re going to tell her that if they end up giving her too many hours, she just needs to quit. The last things she needs is to crash again, and school is far more important than her job at this point. She was really sad to leave the library, mostly because of the people, but also because she’s learned what a sweet job it really was.

fellow inhabitants:

*Aldo, you will remain forever in my heart. But dammit–I want you on my shoulder purring away. This has been a cruel, cruel summer.

on the project front:

*A small, but decent amount of progress:

The Devotion of Suspect X counted towards #38 (Read 50 books borrowed from someone else) of my 50×50. (37/50)

Crimes Against Humanity counted towards #37 (Read 50 books I never heard of before buying/borrowing from the library) of my 50×50. (32/50)

–We checked out the Mendon Public Library on Wednesday, which counts towards #214 (Visit every branch of the Monroe Country Library System) of our Million and One. It’s a smaller branch, but a very pleasant one.

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–Read an article in Outside magazine titled “Up on Cove Mountain” by Earl Swift, which counts towards #46 (Read an article from 50 different magazines) of my 50×50. It was about a couple killed on Appalachian Trail in September of 1990. They were through-hikers who’d started at the northern end in June, and were murdered in Pennsylvania near Harrisburg. Even 25 years after their tragic murders, it was disquieting reading this. Rich and I were not through-hikers, but instead just spent our honeymoon hiking a small piece of the AT a bit north of where Molly LaRue and Geoff Hood were killed. We didn’t meet them, but the timing is such that we easily could have–we were in the same area at the same time. Such a tremendously sad story. (10/50)

–We checked #100 (Eat at a barbecue joint) off our Million and One. Really this should have been checked off already as we’ve been to Sticky Lips a handful of times since we started this list, but I never remembered to count it before.

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–I finally got a few books (August Moon, The Waiting Place, and Smoke/Ashes) mailed off to Chris that I’ve been meaning to send for months now. These count for #9 (Pass along 50 books) of my 50×50. (14-16/50)

–I bought and mailed off the cutest little onesie from Etsy for N’s gorgeous babe. This counts towards #21 (Buy 50 Etsy or other handmade gifts) of my 50×50. (12/50)

Tangles counts towards #42 (Read 50 memoirs, etc.) of my 50×50 (22/50) and also towards my 104×4 personal reading challenge for the disease category (2/4).

Wandering Son counted towards my 104×4 reading challenge for the transgender category. (1/4)

happenings with friends:

*My mom called Tuesday with the news that an old friend of mine had died. It wasn’t unexpected. She had battled breast cancer many years ago and seemingly beat it. But the cancer came back. We were very close back in our middle school/high school days, though we each had a different set of friends we hung out with. We spent countless nights at one another’s houses, and joked that we were twins (she was born the day before me). My mom did craft fairs in those days, and we would make things for her to sell. We were roommates our freshman year of college, and would have remained so had I not transferred to another school. She married her forever sweetheart, my brother’s best friend all through our childhood years. My brother and I were both in their wedding. Her dad was the minister that presided at my wedding. I hadn’t been in touch with her for several years. Never a falling out, just a growing apart. We grew to have very different worldviews. But she was always a woman who carried so much love in her heart, and so much joy in her everydays.

*So worried and upset for Chris. So hate the limbo of waiting that he and his family are going through, especially since the answers at the end of this waiting might be really tough. It’s just so hard when people you love are hurting.

*On a bright note, this was the weekend of our readathon, which has become somewhat of a summer tradition for Chris and Ana and Rich and me. Just a time to hang out (through email), chat, and read, read, read. Three of my absolute favorite people in all the world.

out and about:

*Thursday we left early to take Annie to her penultimate day of work at the library. We hit the thrift store so she could look for some black pants and black shoes, which she needs for her new job. Found both. And then we took her to Cracker Barrel to celebrate her new job–she absolutely loves that place. And then Rich and I hung out working at the library.

*Before summer started, Rich and I decided that we were going to make it a Friday morning tradition for the summer to go to Central Library, and then to lunch and for coffee. But well, it just doesn’t pay to plan. Something seemed to get in the way every week…until this week! We hit Central where we both checked out more books than we can possibly read in the time allotted, and then we hit Sticky Lips for lunch, and finally stopped at Starbucks on the way home.

appreciating the natural world:

*Wednesday night we laid a tarp and some sleeping pads out and stretched out to watch the Perseid meteor shower. All of the kids joined us for at least part of the time we were out there. My goal was to see nine meteors (because, you know, nine). And nine meteors I did see, five of which I would call spectacular, and the other four smaller but awesome nonetheless.

the weather report:

*Temperature-wise, the week started off gloriously. Wednesday the high was only in the 60s. 🙂 And Monday brought some massive downpours. But by week’s end, the temps were back in the mid to upper 80s. I know this is everyday weather for many in the summer, but not having to deal with that kind of heat and humidity most of the time is one of the beauties of living where we do.

in sickness and in health:

*A not so great week. Actually the bulk of the week was just fine. But by Friday evening, not so much. A somewhere between moderate and severe fibro flare up (sadly brought on by myself–but I was having so much fun playing four-square with the boys that I just didn’t stop when I should have). The worst endometriosis pain in months. IBS rudely acting up. And even a rosacea flare up that bothered my eyes. Here’s hoping for much improvement in the coming week so I’m feeling great for our anniversary getaway.

this past week…week one

In the reading room:

*On Tuesday, I finished up Horizon, the last book in The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold. If I ever had to describe this series to myself, I’m not sure anything I could have said would have convinced me that I’d love it so much. It’s so very, very different than anything I’ve ever read. And to be brutally honest, I have to wonder if I would have even enjoyed this story if it was written by anyone other than Bujold. The way she told this story was perfection. With each volume, I became more in awe of the way she drew me in. I don’t think anything could have stopped me from listening to the entire series (yep, audiobook), especially by the time I’d gotten through the first two. I was so very invested in the characters–yes Fawn and Dag, but also Remo and Barr and Berry and well, lots of others. Considering that the series (apart from the epilogue in the final volume) takes place in the course of a year, it’s almost amazing the growth she was able to show in her characters. But never once did it feel unbelievable. The world she’d built was fascinating, feeling much like an alternate version of the Great Lakes (which of course is an area near and dear to my heart) and eastern North America to me (though I’ve no idea if that’s what she’d intended). The fantastical aspects felt fresh and original to me (though admittedly, my experience with fantasy literature is fairly limited). And she made me laugh right out loud. Her humor is an easy sort of humor, never forced and never in-your-face. Totally charming, really. And while it is a story of clashing cultures needing to find a way get along, and all the ignorance and stubbornness and frustration and fear and sometimes downright hatred that comes along with that, it is also a story of hope. *heavy sigh* My only regret is that it’s now over, and I really, really want more.

*Tuesday night, I finished Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer. What a powerful book. On the surface, it’s a crime thriller sort of book. But the real story was in all the layers underneath. This is the second book this month (the first being An Unbroken Agony by Randall Robinson, a non-fiction book about Haiti) that left me floored with the overwhelming injustice that thrives on this planet. Both books led me to a deeper understanding of what it feels like to live with the reality of racism. Both books left me feeling helpless and so profoundly sad. Feeling helpless and profoundly sad are obviously not feelings I enjoy, but I don’t want to choose to allow my white privilege to shield me from the truths that so many people cannot hide from because it is the reality they live with day in and day out. This book is fiction, and yet I feel it is brimming with oceans of truth. While there were many passages that made my heart hurt, there is one line that I think will stick with me forever: “Only white people got to be individuals.” This is the first of Alexie’s books that I’ve read, and sheesh, I can’t believe I waited so long. People have long been telling me how great an author he is (though this is probably the book I’ve heard least about), and they most certainly were right.

*Wednesday didn’t see a lot of reading on my part. But I did read “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne for homeschool prep. I really do love his writing. And I enjoyed this story, but it didn’t knock “Rappaccini’s Daughter” out of its favorite-story-by-Hawthorne position. Read another two short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne on Saturday, “The Minister’s Black Veil” and “The Birthmark,” which was a reread.

*Finished up Revival, Volume 5: Gathering of Waters on Friday morning. Definitely still hooked on the series. Love all the intertwined storylines. Volume 4 had an episode in it that made me wonder if the series wasn’t heading off in a “too disturbing and gross” direction for me, but I was relieved of that feeling with this volume. (Not that there isn’t still plenty of disturbing and gross, of course. 😛 ) And I’m trying to give the author the benefit of the doubt, but I admit I’m starting to wonder the explanation behind Revival Day. This bit with the fish and Weimar and the water has me worried that we’re going to end up with some easy cop-out answer to it all. But as I said, for now I’ll stay hopeful, because up to now it has been a cleverly written story and I’m just going to hope that it stays that way.

*Sunday afternoon, I read two essays from Genocide: A Reader for homeschool.

on the screen:

*So many shows in the mix right now. Rich and I watched episode 18 of the first season of Once Upon a Time (“The Stable Boy”). I’ve seen the first season of this show before, but it’s new for Rich. This is one of my favorite episodes of the first season–I loved learning the backstory of the Queen’s hatred of Snow. It’s not that I dislike Snow/Mary Margaret or Emma, but I just find Regina so intriguing. Friday night, we watched the next episode, “The Return,” this one dealing more with Rumpelstiltskin’s/Gold’s backstory. I realize I know nothing about acting, but I personally think Robert Carlyle (and yes, I had to look that up, because I just don’t pay much attention to actor’s names) is simply amazing in his role(s).

*Next up this week, we watched the first episode of season 2 of The Wire (“Ebb Tide”). This is a rewatch for both of us. We previously watched the first three seasons of this show back before it was available streaming. (It was so hard to keep up momentum watching when we had to get the discs through Netflix, especially as I so often needed to get movies/shows for homeschooling.) I don’t like this season quite as much as the first. Or maybe I should say that I didn’t the first time around, as I suppose I could feel quite differently this time.

Later in the week, we watched the next episode, “Collateral Damage.” The line that gave the episode its title made me smile. But the whole reason behind it all just makes me sad. I do get why police officers can’t allow themselves to feel too deeply personal about victims; it would undoubtedly be too crushing to one’s own well-being. But somehow it seems there ought to be a middle ground between the pain of caring too deeply and complete callous disregard. Fourteen women died…and no one wanted to be “saddled” with investigating what had happened, no one cared that these women were people. There is so much about this show that just plain hurts the heart. But that is part of the reason that it is so good–it’s putting the realities of our world right in our faces. And all the realities aren’t ugly ones; there are glimmers of hope in the minds and actions of individuals.

*Max and I have been watching Breaking Bad. He is obsessed with the show, and has seen it all a few times already. I had previously watched the first season and just wasn’t feeling it. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is I didn’t like about it. But when Max asked me to give it another chance and watch it with him, how could I say “no”? We’re in the second season now, and I do think I’m maybe enjoying it more. Tuesday we watched episode 4, “Down.” I loved the way Skyler is standing up for herself and refusing to take Walt’s bullshit anymore. And as much as I really do like Jesse, and as hard as it was to watch him become homeless, I had to respect what his parents did in making him leave his aunt’s house.

*Not up for another long show, Max and I then watched a quick episode of Parks and Recreation. He’s seen all the seasons that are on Netflix so far, but I’m just a newbie. We watched episode 5, “The Banquet.” And of course, it made me laugh. Doesn’t it always. Though I’m very glad to have spoken to a few people about how the show proceeds. Because at the moment I sort of have a like/not like relationship with the character of Leslie. I mean it’s sort of hard not to like her, but at the same time I can’t help but think, “Why do you have make her be such an airhead all the time?!!” But I’ve been reassured that this gets much better.

*In an effort to survive the heat, Rich and I spent Wednesday afternoon and evening binging on NCIS. Six episodes in all, episodes 15-20 of season one (“Enigma,” “Bete Noire,” “The Truth is Out There,” “Unsealed,” “Dead Man Talking,” and “Missing). I really enjoy this show, and it’s become a relaxing way for Rich and I to spend a lazy afternoon. But it is definitely not without it’s problematic moments. For example, I was quite annoyed with the transphobic elements in “Dead Man Talking.” I used to often watch this show on TV in its early seasons, and while I don’t really remember individual episodes, I do remember one story arc that has its start in “Bete Noire.” Tears to come in the future.. Saturday night, we watched the next two episodes (“Split Decisions” and “A Weak Link”), and then Sunday night the next three (“Reveille,” “See No Evil,” and “The Good Wives Club”).

*Thursday morning, Gray asked me to watch a Criminal Minds with him. We watched episode 14 of season 9 (“200”), the episode where we really get to see what J.J. was up to with the State Department. Rather a disturbing storyline. But then what isn’t disturbing about this show, right?

*I remembered that I’d better get on with watching Rosemary & Thyme, as it’s going to be taken off Netflix in mid-August. So after making myself feel productive by getting through a school lecture, I pulled it up and watched a few episodes while crocheting on the tee shirt rug. Episode 6 (“The Tree of Death”) from season 1 and episodes 1 and 2 (“The Memory of Water, Parts One and Two”) from season 2. Then Sunday, I snuck in the next two episodes (“Orpheus in the Undergrowth” and “They Understand Me in Paris”). I absolutely love this show. The mysteries can be sort of silly, but I love Laura and Rosemary so much that it makes up for a lot. It’s not often when you get to see middle-aged women be smart and funny and happy with who they are in a television show.

In the craft room:

*I’ve been so ridiculously lazy on the card-making front lately. But on Monday I finally made Sara’s birthday card (her birthday was Tuesday, so the word “belated” really should have been included somewhere). Alas, in my rush to then get everyone to sign it and get it off in Monday’s mail, I forgot to take a photo. Not that it was anything spectacular, but I actually rather liked it. I also made birthday cards for Ed and for Trish Monday–how can it be time to make August cards already?!! Slow down, Summer, I beg of you!

Then on Tuesday, I got Ruth’s birthday card made. Just two more August birthdays to go, unless I’m forgetting someone (which isn’t out of the question).

*I also finished this sweet little bunny on Monday. A gift for Gigi, Natasha’s beautiful new babe. Every time she posts a picture of her, I feel like my face might burst from smiling so much over her complete and total adorableness.

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*During that excessive amount of TV watching, I got down to work on a couple of Christmas gifts. One a rather large cross-stitch picture and the other a granny square afghan, for which I got 18 squares made this week.

In the kitchen:

*Very lackluster week in the kitchen due to the heat. We mostly ate leftovers, snacks, and went out to eat far more often than we should have. But Saturday I did manage to make up a menu plan for the next week, which is forecast to be cooler.

*Menu plan:

–Sunday: diner sandwiches, fries, pickles

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–Monday: grilled cheese on homemade bread, soup

–Tuesday is our anniversary so we’ll be going out

–Wednesday: spaghetti, homemade Italian herb bread, salad

–Thursday: slow cooker mac & cheese (new recipe), broccoli, homemade rolls, and cherry bars (another new recipe)

–Friday is up in the air, because Rich and kids may be leaving that afternoon to head to his mom’s for the weekend.

In the garden:

*As much frustration and heartache as the garden has brought this year–through disease and even more so wildlife–we watered it a few nights this week, because it’s been so hot and dry. Might as well try to save what little is coming back after the deer raid and relentless groundhog burrowings. Some of the beans plants have come back enough to actually be sporting a few pods at this point. And the zucchini and cucumbers are fighting their way back too, and are flowering. *fingers crossed* I mean, I know we won’t get the abundant haul we normally do, but hopefully we’ll still get something.

*After two years straight of failed tomato crops due to early blight, we decided to give the ground a year off and plant in pots. Of course, this meant starting far fewer seeds, and giving up on the idea of canning truckloads. But alas, some of these plants have gotten blight anyway. *heavy sad sigh* Still, we’re struggling through, trying to save what we can, and hoping that at least a some of the plants will get through unscathed. We’ve finally got our first little tomatoes. *more finger crossing*

*We’re also getting our first jalapenos, despite the deer eating down all 68 plants we had pretty drastically.

In the home improvement realm:

*Hooray for me! I forced myself to get the third coat on the walls Tuesday morning. The white paint looks so fresh and has done wonders brightening up the room.

*Friday morning, I figured I couldn’t put off painting the trim much longer, so up I headed with the orange paint. I’ve always been pretty good at having a steady hand for trim painting, but I was soon reminded that fibro has a way of changing things. After painting just a small portion, I knew I was just going to have to tape it all off. So Saturday afternoon, I got started on that. I didn’t have enough painter’s tape, so Rich stopped and got me some while he was out running errands. Sadly, he bought a cheap-ass brand, and it just wouldn’t stick. I ended up having to pull down what hadn’t just fallen off on its own, and Rich went and bought a new roll. I just wasn’t up for another attempt (it is SO HARD on my neck/shoulders/upper back) that evening, but I got back to it Sunday morning. Got about halfway done before Ed and Ruth called.

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In the homeschooling realm:

*I really, really, really need to buckle down over the next few weeks and get a bunch of work done. This week just didn’t see a lot of progress…

*While I’d done the bulk of the planning for the first week of geometry previously, I got around to putting the final tweaks on things and writing it out in my planning binder on Tuesday. I also finished typing up week one’s vocabulary list (most words came from the week’s short story readings, but there were also a few from the week’s readings in our genocide/human rights class and a few from the week’s history class).

*As mentioned above, I read “Young Goodman Brown” on Wednesday, and the next day I listened to the lecture, taking notes that I then typed up into a handout. Also typed up some discussion questions. On Saturday, I read another two Hawthorne stories, and an essay by Herman Melville about Hawthorne’s writing. But I’ve decided that I won’t be having Gray read the essay as I just don’t think he’d get much from it (other than annoyed at me for making him read it 😛 ).

*Also on Saturday, I typed up a vocab test for week one’s list. And got week two’s English plans finalized in my binder.

*Sunday afternoon, Rich and I headed to Starbucks for a couple hours to work. As noted above, I read two essays for our genocide/human rights course. I made up a notes guide for the first essay and a journal writing assignment to go along with the second.

In the land of parenthood:

*It’s official–Max is now as tall as I am. That makes all three of them.

*As much as Annie loves her job at the library, it’s just taken such a toll on all of us because of how far away it is since we moved. The one hour round-trip just isn’t worth it three days a week. Especially since Rich has to take her, and it’s just too expensive and environmentally unsound for him to come home during her shifts. So she decided to apply at Tim Hortons right down the road from us, and she interviewed last weekend. While the interview went well, the manager told her that they really needed someone who was available more hours, especially in the mornings. But then Saturday morning, Annie got a call that she had a job there working in the evenings if she wanted it. YAY!!! So the new job might not be as cool as her old one, but there will be a lot of benefits, including the fact that she’ll now be able to walk to work.

Fellow inhabitants:

*Oh my, how that not-quite-5-pound pile of bones and fur can put up a fight every day when we have to give her her pills. I hate stressing Aldo out like that, but all the medicines really do make a noticeable difference in how she feels. And luckily, she never holds a grudge.

*Every time I see Flapjack, I’m just amazed by how smitten I am with the little cutie pie! I never had any idea what incredible companions they could be. He is utterly perfect for Gray, and Gray takes such exquisite care of the fellow.

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On the project front:

*Didn’t really make a lot of progress. Indian Killer filled a slot in the “Native American/First Nations” on my 104×4.

*And our outing Friday afternoon let me fill in a few slots on my 50×50: 7/50 for item #6 (Hike/walk on 50 different trails), 22/50 for item #12 (Try 50 new restaurants), and 7/50 for item #49 (Photograph 50 different animals in the wild).

Happenings with friends:

*Rich and I got to spend Thursday evening with Eva. It had been too long since we’d all gotten together. It’s always a delight to walk into her apartment and get the loving, enthusiastic welcome that Thistle always provides. Oh how that sweet girl has my heart. As does Moth, the little sweetie pie. Seriously, I have no idea how Eva managed to get two such completely perfect companions, but I’m grateful we get to have them in our lives too. But of course, the best part of the night was getting to hang with Rich and Eva. We went to Sticky Lips of a late supper. Delicious food and awesome people…I’m a lucky girl, I tell you.

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*Sunday morning brought a truly lovely surprise–Ed and Ruth called us from the Sodus area and asked if we were going to be around in an hour. They had been in the Thousand Islands area and are now traveling along the Seaway Trail along the Lake Ontario. They only stayed for an hour or so, but it was quite the wonderful visit! I really wish we got to see them more often. My pathetic brain forgot to snap any pictures. 😦

Out and about:

*Rich and I took Annie to work Monday night. (We didn’t have pick her up because she was going home with Kirstin after work.) We hit then Big Lots to pick up a fan to help get us through this hot spell that is supposed to last through the week. Then we headed up to campus because Rich had an appointment to do advisement with a new student. Last stop was best–dinner at Monte Alban.

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*Fridays this summer have been days that Rich and I try to set aside for ourselves. Hasn’t always worked out, but we’ve managed most. This Friday we checked out Gosnell Big Woods Preserve (which was awesome and about which I made a post already), and then we tried Hooligans for the first time (yum–we both had the bayou burger, but of course, I had mine made with a veggie patty), and finally we hit B&N for coffee and relaxing.

Appreciating the natural world:

*I was sitting in the bedroom emailing Ana, facing the window but at a different angle than usual, and I spied a bird’s nest largely hidden in the grapevines cascading off the trees. While I’m sad that I hadn’t seen it sooner, as it’s surely been there a while, I’m delighted to have discovered it at all. With the naked eye, I can’t see much more than the vague shape of the nest and movement. Even with the binoculars, I can’t get a great look–mom did a great job concealing her nest. I was able to capture a not-so-great photo, and from that was able to confirm that it’s a robin’s nest.

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*I am also quite enamored with the morning glories growing out back.

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*Sunday brought another lovely surprise–I was just looking out our bedroom window and there in the yard right at the edge of where the grass meets the wild vegetation was a king rail! I didn’t know what kind of bird it was at first, but I got a wonderful look at the beautiful creature before running to yell down the stairs to tell Rich. Unfortunately, by the time I got back to the bedroom it was gone so I was unable to get a photo. I described it to Rich, and he said it might have been a rail as he’d heard them in the swamp from time to time. So I looked it up and sure enough, it was a rail. A king rail, to be specific.

*There were also a lot of butterflies about in the flower garden Sunday, including cabbage whites, sulphurs, a tiger swallow, and this viceroy.

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The weather report:

*Three words: Too. Fucking. Hot.

In sickness and in health:

*Painting is not at all kind to fibro. Duh. But I’m grateful to say that while the first coat threw me into a fairly short-lived flare, the second and third coats, while leaving me in more pain than normal, didn’t actually land me in flare ups. I’ve been careful to spread the painting out, and I think it’s paid off. So yay me! Unfortunately, taping off the trim has been a whole ‘nother story…