30 Days of #Readathon: favorite book.

September 21, 2017

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is celebrating 10 years of readathoning excellence this fall. To get the party off to a rip-roading start, Dewey’s fantastic hosts have decided to launch a “30 Days of Readathon” countdown. Each day has a theme; you get to decide how to tackle each theme. You can post blogs, snap pictures, record videos, host podcasts – hell, start an Instagram channel! The how is up to you. The what is books, obviously. Why? Because you’re deliciously insane, just like the rest of us!

Today’s topic is your favorite book. Can you guess mine? The artwork in my bedroom all centers around one book, and today just happens to be the author’s birthday.

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30 more days to go…!

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New kind of joy.

September 20, 2017

I have this tiny little joy that is sitting in my pocket. It’s cool to the touch and sparkly in the sunshine whenever I take it out to stare at it, to make sure it’s really there…which I have to admit is often. That’s what happens when you’ve had a time of it lately. Something good happens, and you find yourself staring it down. Baffled. Amazed. Joyful.

A lot of hard work has gone into this joyful, happy thing. Honey, don’t even let me hear you say the words “passive tense.” It’s not like kerplunk! Oh, heeeey! Happy fell from the sky and knocked me over the head! I put in a lot of time, looking for just the right spot to stand in. I worked hard on building the right type of lens. When the politics in this country got crazy, and I needed to grieve, I went down hard. I let myself feel my knees and hands prickle where I fell. I let the torpor of the next few months linger. Fighting it off too soon was only going to backfire.

And then, when it was time, I started dusting myself off.

I felt joy in reading again. I wasn’t just adding books to my To Read list; I was crossing off titles and penning reviews. I wrote thinkpieces and journaled and blogged and doodled crafts that ended badly. I sketched pieces that turned out okay, too. I wrote and I read, and I read and I wrote, and by the end of it, I felt like I was the Big Bad Wolf in reverse. Instead of tearing down the sticks and haystacks of everyone around me, I wrote and read myself back into existence.

To quote an old Latin teacher I had in high school, I was happy in my hut. I was happy in a hut of my own making, again.

My tiny little paper hut won’t stay standing without a lot of work. Joy takes a lot of time and energy. But my god it will be worth it, all of these new adventures. They’ll be the interesting parts of the memoirs. Because, hey did you hear – I’m writing again.

Rolling in RIP XII reads!

September 14, 2017

My RIP XII update is here! …because you know you’ve been waiting for it!

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While I set aside a few books I wanted to read, I’ve gone off list a little. I’ve knocked out a few books I intended to read, though, so the guilt hasn’t quite consumed me. What did I read? I’m so glad you asked!

Final Girls, by Riley Sager (Dutton, 2017, 342 pages, library eloan). Everyone has been talking about this book. Seriously – it’s pretty much all I’ve heard. And because it’s a mystery with a tricky ending, and because it’s written by a woman, of course they trot out “It’s the next Gone Girl!” endlessly. Guys – it’s not the next Gone Girl. So stop that right now. It was a mildly entertaining read, although the main character wasn’t very likeable (and not in a wonderfully complex way like – ha! – Gone Girl accomplished), and while I did enjoy picking up the story and reading to find out what the outcome was, it bugged that the writing was so cliche and obvious in so many areas that as an editor, I might have revisited. Some plot points made me roll my eyes. But here’s the thing – I kept picking it back up. The ending maybe made me wish I had just given it a pass, but I did read from cover to cover. So how do you rate a book like that? I’ll give it 3 of 5 stars. Because if I saw someone was reading it, I wouldn’t stop them. I might, however, advise everyone to borrow instead of buying.

Not a Sound, by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books, 2017, 296 pages, library loan). I’m not a huge fan of Gudenkauf; her plotlines are easy to trick apart early on, her female characters easily fit into uncomplicated boxes with predictable actions and mindsets (as do her male characters for the most part, but they do have more emotional range, perhaps because they have nothing to prove?), and, I don’t know, her books sometimes have this overly dramatic feel, kinda like a Jodi Piccoult. But usually they’re not that bad, and I know I can at least sit down and be diverted for a couple hours. Except, not this one. This one I couldn’t finish. The main character lost her hearing in an accident, and I thought having a disabled main character might be a chance to shine! And then Gudenkauf used her character’s disability as a plot device. One very clunkily handled. I couldn’t deal with so much eye-rolling over that and over all the usual awkwardness of how the characters act and don’t act. The predictability of it all – and seeing it go in bad, bad places – ruined it for me. And the murder that the character finds in the beginning? Totally unbelievable how our m.c. acted! So, nope. Couldn’t do it. Not even “letting” her be an alcoholic who wasn’t allowed to see her step-daughter (a gendered role reversal I was interested in) on top of everything else could draw me in to see how it played out. What a disappointment. 1 of 5 stars.

Vassa in the Night, by Sarah Porter (Tor Teen, 2016, 296 pages, hardcover). Gracie got this book through her book box subscription service – the one that I’ve been reading all the books from! And Vassa was okay. It had an interesting retelling of the Cinderella story, set in an alternative, fantasy-styled Brooklyn. Porter is a strong writer and the parts that I loved most were her rich descriptions and the way she was able to color a scene so vibrantly; I could see everything Porter described. The story was…well, I don’t think it was it so much as it was me; I’ve read so many of these types of books lately, I think I’m a little burned out. So really – my fault. I’d recommend if it’s your jam! 2 1/2 of 5.

A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow, 2015, 286 pages, ebook). This was a Deal of the Day a while back and I snagged it because I had started reading it so many times from the library and just couldn’t find time. RIP was a great excuse! I was excited to dive in because Stephen King had blurbed it, too, and how can you beat that?! It lives up to some extent – it reads like The Exorcism meets The Virgin Suicides directed by John Hughes. Scary, but not, but you can see the rotted everything there at the surface, bubbling over. And you try to contain it, but can’t. That’s the part that scares me the most – you have no control. Not over the ghosts in your head. Not if they’re that strong. But I wasn’t as carried away with the book as a whole as I was by the scary mind-full-ness of the thing. I wondered if King had blurbed it partly because William Morrow was who first launched his Dark Tower stories and I know he appreciates the firm. Whatever the case, I couldn’t give it more 3 of 5 stars.

So that’s all the books I’ve managed. I’m halfway through the second Dark Tower book (speak of the devil), and Thirteenth Tale, and I started It before I went to the movie. (Which was AMAZING, you guys! Like, pushing myself backwards through my chair, scream-laughing the entire time.)

And all that scary is why I’ve been reading so many romances and YA-drama books right before bedtime – so I can shake some of the scary from my brain!

But you shouldn’t. You should read more so you can give me good recs so we can keep the RIP party rollin’! Hit me up with your faves!

What you do when you don’t want today to be today.

September 11, 2017

I am going to have a lot of feels today. Sixteen years worth of feels. Also: I have friends and family who were in Irma’s path who sheltered in place and now aren’t checking in.

So.

I did things. I did lots of things yesterday to try to take my mind off of today.

I made last-minute fudge with my daughter because why the heck not?! Who cares that it’s twenty minutes til bedtime. We. wanted. fudge.

I was a little worried that Bee would expect to be able to have some tonight, but there was no way it would set in time. Her sister wandered through the kitchen when we were almost done, and was all “FUDGE?!!…?” and Bee was all “Yeah, but it won’t be ready til tomorrow.” So that took care of that. And then Gracie left and I gave Bee the pan and the spatula to lick clean. And we were happy and not thinking of today.

I rearranged letters in Target:

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Because I will go see this movie, even if I will have nightmares for weeks. It looks amazing, even if they weren’t completely faithful to the book. Somehow marquee letters makes IT seem a lot less nightmarish. And IT certainly distracts me, at least for a little bit, from thinking of today.

There was a mandatory clean-up of Miss Bee’s room, too. I made the mistake of looking in her room after she got home from her dad’s house. Then Bee took it to a new level and cleaned-out and re-organized her closet so it could be more like her friend N’s:

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A squishy, laughy (not so) little girl sitting on some pillows in her new closet fort? That definitely makes my heart swell and keeps me from thinking of today.

I tried to fill my night last night with happy things. I tried to remind myself that today would hurt, but the hurt would pass. I can both remember and be okay. Being okay does not betray those who died on 9/11, and those who responded. Because I know I’m going to think of reporters breaking down on-air because of the enormity of what happened. I know I will think of people jumping from high rises because actively killing yourself was better than staying and burning alive. I will think about the firefighters and other first responders – hell, ordinary people even – who went up the Towers, trying to help people.

No matter what I do, I’ll still think about it. I’ll remember.

I heard from my friend just now. The one hit by Irma. He and his are okay. The house isn’t, but they survived. Which is great because I also took this pic this morning:

And sunrises are kind of our thing.

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However you have to do it, I hope everyone can be okay today. Be well. Even today.

Five for Friday.

September 8, 2017

You know when you body is tired and doesn’t want to write, but the words are all jumpy and skittery under your skin, and so you do want to write at the same time? Me. Me right now. Thank the sweet heavens Five for Fridays have always felt like satisfying both of those needs.

1 Yeah, yeah, yeah – we lost. I’m sad, but you know – we were being a bit smarmy, which “bit” equals “all of the.” Maybe now that we don’t have “19-0” hanging over our heads, we can embrace the role of the underdog and get down to some real football. I have my Pats tee on today even though everyone is going to rub it in all day. Let ’em.

2 One of my favorite cousins is getting married this weekend and I have to miss it, even though I spent money I didn’t really have to get some tix. Kidney stones LOVE me. And flying doesn’t love kidney stones. Damnitcakes. I was going to have to whirl out of town after work, get in at midnight, wedding away the day (complete with drinking, wedding bingo, all the pranks [behind the aunties’ backs], and all manner of fun and no good), crash with my sisters at another cousin’s place, and then all pile together to go see IT in the theater before flying into town, just in time to go back to work. I know I could have it a lot worse than kidney stones but GOOD GRIEF. I’m thankful I always buy flight insurance, because I’ll get to keep the credit, and I know waiting on hold for hours because of Irma and everything could be worse if I was more tangled up in Irma, but still – not my favorite way to be spending the day.

3 Speaking of Irma, I am very glad it’s not targeting Houston or the Texas coast, but explain again why it couldn’t miraculously just dissipate? If it hits Miami head on – you guys, that will not be good. So, kidney stone or no kidney stone, I’ll be working for most of the weekend. I have packets of information already put together, I’ve created an email chock-a-block stuffed with links to real-time traffic, evacuation routes, shelter locations, and the like. Our phone banks are ready. And I’m while sleeping in this weekend and taking it easy might have been nice, the overtime will help. Also, let’s face it – disaster prep is one of my superpowers. I was going to be tracking the storm’s impact whether I was getting paid for it or not. I have friends and family on both coasts of Florida (Fort Myers and Orlando), throughout Georgia, and in Charleston, South Carolina. I can’t wish Irma to lean in one direction or another because my people get whacked either way. Unless the storm moves backwards! That wouldn’t be good news for the places that have already been devastated. God, why aren’t there any good answers here?!

4 I may or may not be hosting teen-a-palooza at my house this weekend. It’s my “off” weekend, so I was kind of thrown when Gracie asked if she could have some friends over. I reminded her she was at her dad’s house, but told her she could host a get-together or sleepover at my house, if she got permission from her dad. And if it was a sleepover, she needed to make sure he was okay with her missing church. I don’t know why she couldn’t just have everyone at her dad’s – she said it’s because his rules for cleaning the house when friends are over are too strict, but I think she wanted space from her sister and niece. Coming from a big, boisterous family myself, I get that. The love and the laughter and the warm fuzzies – that’s all great! But every once in awhile, you need a step back, away from the chaos. I get it. It’ll be quiet at my house, for sure. I just don’t have many snacks, unless they want to descend upon Target with me. Now that would make for some great pictures!

5 My reading has gotten back on track! Nothing hurts my heart so much as when I hit a reading slump. And while the books I’ve come across haven’t been homeruns, at least I’m still excited at the possibility at finding my Next Favorite Read every time I crack a spine. I’ve had several disappointing “scary” thriller reads for RIP XII, and a few disappointing rom-com type YA reads. Right now, I’m in the middle of Listen, Slowly, by Thanhha Lai, about a sarcastic and reluctant 13-year-old girl forced to accompany her grandmother back to Vietnam to make peace with the long-passed death of her grandfather. It’s good, but not a story I’m itching to fall back into when I’ve been away. I should finish it tonight, giving me another checkmark for my tally. My goal for the month is 30 books, and I’m already 9 in – that’s one ahead of schedule. There’s no way I’m going to hit my goal for the year, but I’m not feeling near as hopeless as I did this past spring when my reading motivation (and Trump depression) was at an all-time low. So there’s that to be thankful for!

With that, I hope you all have a nice, relaxing weekend. Do something good for the world if you can. And friends who are in the path of Irma – be safe. We’re all with you, even when we seem to be focusing on trivial little nothings, our thoughts, our worry, and our hearts are with you all the way. Be safe!

RIP, Katie.

September 6, 2017

No, I haven’t keeled over from the anxiety. At least…not yet. I’m trying to keep that from happening by investing in some bookish distractions. My book buddy, the lovely Andi, filled me in on RIP XII: Readers Imbibing Peril! Drown your real-life worries in scary stories; chase thrillers that follow you into your dreams; lose your mind in suspense so good it may or may not have you sneaking a page or two between clients. (Ahem.)

Sign-ups and more details can be found here:

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I won’t be able to devote myself entirely to scary stories – Bee, who will be forced to hold my hand when I can’t sleep, is bodyblocking the very idea. I’ll have to read something a little more soothing as I’m snuggled in bed. But the RIP-roaring Read-along lasts all through September and October, so I’m sure I’ll still be able to read quite a few.

After deciding to jump into the RIP XII pool, even though the party had already started, I started digging through my bookshelves, deciding what would go into my stacks. I wasn’t purposefully looking for scary reads when I went to the library, but you’d never know it from looking at my stack!

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My library stack has short stories; YA fantasy (uh, that one came in a subscription box); the new Jeff Vandermeer (if you haven’t read the Southern X trilogy, GET ON IT!!) that I was squeeing over when I saw I could have it; a few thrillers that could be boiler-plate, could be decent; and a Heather Gudenkauf, who isn’t my favorite, but keeps me reading until I figure out the whodunnit at the very end.

Then I started pulling out some books that I know would fit the theme very nicely, because I’ve already read them. Already read them…and wouldn’t mind reading them again. And YOU should probably read them, too.

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King’s Dark Tower is always on my To-Read list, but especially since my sister gave me the. coolest. DT map for my birthday. I challenge any Dark Tower fan to see it and not want to visit the ka-tet again. Thirteenth Tale is a favorite comfort read. It is back in theaters. The Last Policeman has been rattling around in my mind for awhile, so I knew I would have to re-read it soon. I just re-read Chaneysville earlier this year. Harry Quebert was a great read and I don’t remember the who and why of it, so it’ll be practically fresh! Ha.

And then there are the books I want to read, but don’t have. At least not at the moment. Tananarive Due is so high up my To Read list, it’s not even funny. I need to get my hands back on The Good House. Tiffany Jackson’s Allegedly is a bit of a different fit for the theme, but I think it counts and that’s all that matters. And I’ve heard good things about Ausma Zehenet Khan’s The Unquiet Dead.

So many books! So little time! And even littler time to worry about hurricanes, which is just what I wanted.

No rest for the weary.

September 5, 2017

Everyone who has so much as said hello to me – ever – knows I struggle with anxiety. It’s been a long week, week and a half. I suspected before Hurricane Harvey hit that it was probably going to stall and inundate southeastern Texas (or maybe I just worried that it would, like Tropical Storm Allison a dozen years ago), but I wasn’t sure if it was going to affect us much.

So I stocked up on batteries, flashlights, water, and non-perishables like chocolate and peanut butter. Oh! And wine. Lots of wine.

And then we got maybe a few hours’ worth of rain. I felt silly.

Then the “gas crisis” hit and I was glad I had filled up my tanks. Houston is big, big into oil and even though we get some of our fuel from Oklahoma, we definitely felt the pinch. Not only did gas prices jump from $2.10/gallon to $2.79/gallon overnight, but everyone panicked. Lines were 20 cars deep at their shortest, and two miles long in other places. And I’m not just talking at the popular places to fill up – I mean everywhere. The metroplex has gas stations about every block or so, and every single one was jam-packed. Traffic was snarled. I’m surprised people didn’t get shot! It was truly insane.

And so of course I worried about that, too. What if the panic didn’t sort itself out and there really was a shortage? I made plans to go at midnight and hope stations hadn’t run out (that was happening all over the place, too), which maybe wasn’t the safest idea, but I wasn’t really interested in waiting in a 90-minute line. Would we be able to make another grocery run if gas got low? Two miles is a long way to carry back bags of groceries. Would work be understanding about shifting coverage? Would we still get paid if we had to create an alternative schedule? Even if it didn’t, did I have the right to worry over such things when Houstonians had so much more to worry over? They had lines ten times worse for gas AND food AND water AND clothing AND basic necessities… What in the world was wrong with me?!

Of course since I poured my sweat and anxiety into worrying over the problem, the gas “crisis” sorted itself out in a couple days.

And now I have a new problem to worry over.

Hurricane Irma won’t go away. She worked herself into a Category 3 hurricane, practically overnight, a few days ago. Models had her flipping up the Atlantic side of Florida, but I kept my eye on her. Sure enough, Irma kept on barreling towards us. I’m thrilled for that side of Florida, truly, but Irma skirting between Miami and Cuba isn’t really high up on the list of things that will calm me down. 175 mph sustained winds headed towards Houston? SURE, WHY NOT?! Let’s play chicken! (Dear Weather Gods: that was sarcasm.)(And mild panic.) I know DFW is hours inland. So far inland that they evacuated the NICU babies from area-hospitals to my neighborhood before Hurricane Harvey. That was reassuring, believe it or not. And I know we have a cold front headed our way that is supposed to help shove Irma elsewhere. And it’s not like I want Irma to hit anyone – really, I’d like the whole thing to just go poof!

I just can’t with all this (self-created) stress and anxiety. There aren’t enough coloring books in the world to keep my blood pressure in the green this week.

So! Keep your fingers crossed that my selfish, ridiculous self makes it through this week in one piece, pretty please. And if you have any elephant tranquilizers, I’d be much obliged if you could send them my way. …Maybe priority mail. Heh.

In which we’re all holding our breath.

August 28, 2017

“Dannnnng.” It’s something people give me a lot of crap for saying. Apparently, it’s Southern; more southern than I am, anyways. But I’ve picked it up to let loose whenever I feel particularly without words for a situation.

Like all the rains down in Houston. Dannnnng, that is a lot of rain.

It’s my nightmare scenario. I grew up right around the time that Hurricane Andrew struck Miami; I remember people being stranded and left without shelter, food, or water for days and weeks. I remember moving to Texas as a young adult just before Hurricane Alison struck Houston. A friend’s daughter was in the children’s hospital waiting for life-saving heart surgery. They weren’t able to perform it because the city was under water – for days and weeks. But she was safe, literal stories above the high water mark. Having someone I knew close to the heart of the situation made more of a mark on me; it was why every time North Texas was “threatened” with a hurricane after that, I stocked up on bottled water and canned goods, peanut butter and bread.

Houston 2017 surpassed the Houston 2001 high water mark days ago. And the storm’s not even half over by most estimates.

I understand why the officials made the tough call not to evacuate. Houston is a largely, sprawling city with terrible infrastructure; traffic snarls on even a typical blustery day. The last time a hurricane threatened the city – Hurricane Rita – they tried to evacuate, mainly because Katrina was still fresh in everyone’s minds – and that turned into the biggest fiasco. Everyone was stuck on the streets, no one got anywhere, busses caught fire, and everyone still had to be rescued. It’s a tough call. Lose-lose.

Still gut-punches you every time you hear the “grown-ups” barely hold back the panic and desperation in their voices when they ask anyone with boats to call a special tip-line to help perform house-to-house welfare checks and evacuations.

You’re still drowning in waves of ice-cold is-this-even-real? incredulity every time you see emergency management oh-so-calmly instruct everyone to climb onto the roofs when – when – the water gets too high inside.

I wish I could find the shut-off valve and help the city dry out. Still, when I heard the storm was moving away, there was only a half-cheer in my throat, and it gurgled behind a bit of hysteria. The weathermen aren’t sure that the storm isn’t headed away from Houston and towards my part of North Texas.

Not exactly what I meant when I said I was willing to pitch in.

And so now I’m kinda terrified that we’ll be next, and part of me is wondering whether I should grab a giant pool floaty to tether to the roof. (The humor, it gets really dark when you’re trying to hold it all together.) Hopefully the rain tapers off as Harvey Danger falls apart and moves away.

We’ll be fine. And in the meantime, I swear to never take a sunshine-y day for granted again. Not even during the Texas summer drought-y months. I promise.

 

Five for Friday: the Blustery Harvey edition.

August 25, 2017

Good morning, all! I’m having a hard time focusing on anything other than this large, windy weather demon named Harvey that seems hell-bent on commandeering everyone’s attention. So let’s just focus on it, and maybe then it will blow itself out.

1. So it’s going to hurricane. Did someone forget to tell the Weather Gods that Kim already made it home? They don’t need to get up to any shenanigans! And yet. So if we have this big Weather Event baring down on the coast of Tejas, they should make the information useful. I know. Crazy idea. But since I’m not on the coast, and I don’t have to evacuate, could you be a little more specific about what the DFW metroplex might expect? What sorts of winds? How much rain? Do I need to take any precautions besides buy extra batteries?

2. Which I did. Yes, I was a bread and milk crazy last night. I bought things for sandwiches and a few cases of water. I bought canned fruit, and even remembered  to make sure I had a manual can opener. Mostly I just made sure I had fresh batteries for the flashlights and lanterns and weather radio. Oh, and a tank full of gas, just in case I have to head to Michigan!

3. The girls are at their dad’s and I’m a little sad. I wanted to experience the entire adventure with them! Alas.I guess I have to share. They’ll have a good time, though – their aunt is swinging up for the girls’ niece’s birthday party, so she won’t have to go out of her way to evacuate. (I tried offering to take my girlies so there would be enough sleeping spots, but that didn’t work, either.)

4. My biggest concern is if Harvey is going to stall like they keep warning, are we going to be closer to the 35 inches of rain, or 12 inches? I know I’m crazy inland, but if you’ve grown up around weather curses, you’ve learned not to dismiss them out of hand. Maybe I do need an inflatable raft! All I can think about is how Tropical Storm Alison hung out over Houston back in 2005 and caused so much trouble there. (Now, watch – it will barely mist and my girls will have canned fruit in their lunches for time out of mind!)

5. It’s all good. I have lots of house-cleany type things to keep me busy while I wait for Harvey Danger to decide what it wants to do. It’s all good!

So what about you guys? Any exciting hurricane-themed plans? Any you want to share?

Get it together, Mom.

August 22, 2017

Okay. It’s “only” Day 2.¬† I have lots of days to recover. And it could be worse. I realize there’s perspective. I just haven’t…found…it yet.

A good mom would remember to re-up Gracie’s lunch account balance.

A good mom would remember to create an account for Bee, in her new school district.

A good mom would have remembered to check on school lunch pack-ability at their other house before 9 p.m. But at least I offered to drop packed lunches off if it was needed?

It’s going to be a long, long year.