Archive for the ‘Hey! You over there! Entertain me!’ Category

Let’s go Red Sox (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)!

June 7, 2021

Is there anything better than seats on the first base line, in the early summer?

Hanging out with friends, good seats, frozen lemonades, sunglasses, goofy smiles, and that moment you learn you’re in the shade not the sun. Summer nights in the Woo!

I survived the Shorter Way Bridge!

June 4, 2021

Has anyone else developed a fear fascination with covered bridges since reading Joe Hill’s masterpiece N0S4A2? No? Just me? Huh.

While we were in Vermont, we got to explore the area around a covered bridge, one which perhaps wasn’t the Shorter Way Bridge that inspired the novel, but certainly created some vibes. We stopped to hike around the area, exploring streams, dammed up pools of water (where kids were happily splashing and playing as their parents kept watch), paths, shiny rocks, streaks of granite, pine trees, and (sadly) a lack of moose and bears.

But scary bridges? They had those in abundance! And by abundance, I perhaps mean just the one. Ahem.

It’s pretty, isn’t it? for all of its malevolent vibes. Everyone else thought it was quite lovely. That’s okay: I’m quite used to everyone thinking I’m bonkers. And to be honest, I’m quite grateful that it’s for “normal” things now. Nataly and I ran around having a blast looking for things that made our hearts happy – dandelion wishers to make the perfect slo-mo video, shiny rocks with bits of mica in them, pictures of the magic bridge that might help us discover lost things…

It was a fun trip! A tiny little excursion in the middle of the most relaxing, jam-packed three-day vacation ever.

And just to prove that the bridge isn’t even what I feared it might be, the superpowers to help Vic find “lost” things wasn’t working on Wednesday; I didn’t find my sanity or my girls.

So then that‘s alright now, isn’t it?

Look out, Vermont!

June 1, 2021

Guess who’s about to leave (at this godawful-early hour) on a road trip to Vermont?

I’m stoked! My cousin Jon invited me to go along with him and his wife, and then my Auntie Pam and Uncle Mike (Jon’s parents-ish) decided to come along – or were revealed to be coming along, your pick – and here we are at 6 a.m., having been up for two hours.

It was funny: you could see our adult-selves winning over our more basic-needs-selves last night when the grown-ups (Auntie Pam) asked us “kids” time we wanted to leave. The three of us locked eyes. It was a five-hour drive. We’re only there for three days and two nights. We have things we want to do. God-blame-it. Leave at 7 a.m. it is. And while I was originally planning on just staying last night at Jon & Nataly’s house, the cookout was earlier in the day and not at their house any more. So I’m being picked up along the way. Which is why I’m up this early.

But we do! have things to do. We’re stopping to drop off one of Uncle Mike’s paintings at a gallery. (My uncle is a bit of mid-to-really well-known plein-air artist; it’s pretty awesome.) Then we’re stopping at the Von Trapp family brewery… which may or may not be the name of it. But it is most definitely where I will be singing the Hills-Are-Alive songs. No, really. I have them all loaded on my phone, and even if I didn’t, I know them all by heart because that is my mum’s favorite movie in the whole wide world and the thing that brings me home quicker than any other memory.

While there, we have many, many walks and outings planned. My family loves a good ramble in the woods. Jon and I just aren’t allowed in the woods together unsupervised, a story which includes tent-sleeping, scary animals, and not telling grown-ups where you’re really sleeping for the night, but that’s a story for a different time. Speaking of, we just don’t learn our lessons, and Jon and I have some night-time excursions planned that everyone else noped their way out of. I just want to find wildlife!

It took me a minute to remember why, exactly. Other than, you know, seeing wildlife just being fun! and bringing out the little kids in us! My need to find an owl out in the wild, see a bat flying in the sky, see one of the bald eagles that have returned to the area, see a bear (in an environment in which I’m completely safe!) – it all started as a need for me to check things off my bucket list. Seeing a bald eagle was originally intended to be viewed in Alaska, but I adapt. Then others started getting added on. Oh! Moose! Mooses are definitely on my list.

What I didn’t know were on my list were wild turkeys. I was shocked beyond all measure when I started seeing them everywhere when I first moved to town. I was shocked the first few times; stopped to take pictures until about time #30; stopped batting an eye at time #50. You could see them crossing the road in a city neighborhood by the wildlife conservatory every day about 4:30 p.m. I’d find them in people’s yards other times. I know a lot of it is because I did so much driving around. But my turkey discoveries reached levels of disgust the other day. I complained to Corrie that I’d seen umpteen-million wild turkeys and not even one single stupid deer while I was home. All these woods, all these deer crossing signs, had I seen one deer? Nope.

And then yesterday a deer jumped in front of my brand new car. Course it did. Thankfully, I was on a side street driving about ten miles an hour and I’m still pretty jumpy about things in my periphery racing towards my car. The young doe stepped in front of my car, saw me, jumped, and skittered across the road, onto a lawn, and was gone before I could snap a picture.

But I still saw it! In real-time, not from behind-a-phone/camera. One adventure down!

Vermont should really look out! And if not all of Vermont, perhaps just the Ben & Jerry’s Factory. Because it is most definitely on the itinerary!

Hockey, Hattricks, and Hella-good Appetizers.

May 30, 2021

Yes, yes, yes – it was incredibly shocking when I posted about posting every day *again*, and then I do what? Miss posting the day after my pledge *again*.

Yesterday’s adventure involved going to my cousin’s house for dinner and the Bruins game. Which, can I just say, while I miss my girls exponentially more than anyone could possibly conceive, it’s really nice to be back home where I can be with my own people, people who I’ve known since we were born. Friends I’ve known since I was too young to even spell the word “friend.” My people. People who get just as excited about Boston sports, who understand why you hate the Canadiens, and who understand why you like the silly meme songs about Boston accents and our awesome sports teams.

But maybe the best part? My cousin who’s basically my ride-or-die, who I tell people is my brother more often than cousin, because he lived at my house forever (and we were together all the time even after that), he grew up from being a hooligan to being a master chef.

He made me Scottish Eggs that look like they could sell for $20 easy anywhere else! I may have moaned a little when I took my first bite. Seriously. That good!

For those who don’t know, Scottish Eggs are hard boiled eggs that are prepared, shelled (obviously), dried, and then wrapped in the middle of a thin layer of pork sausage. Then, covered in a thin layer of bread crumbs, and finally fried. I could tell you what was in the secret sauce, but I don’t remember. It was mayo and something a little surprising to me. You have to forgive me, though, because if you were eating something as divine as one of Jon’s Scottish Eggs, you’d forget the words going into your earholes, too.

After that, we watched the Bruins game, saw Pasternak achieve his hat trick, saw McAvoy completely kill it, and listened to my cousin laugh at me applying football knowledge to fill in the gaps of my hockey knowledge; not unlike how John Hammond used frog DNA to make dinosaurs, really.

Let’s just say that there were tutorials not just for Jon’s wife, who’s from Bolivia, but also for me, who is from Boston-ish.

It was a fun, wholesome evening, and I stayed out way too late. BUT! I also learned that not everything will implode if I come home late. Not a bad adventure at all.

Five for Friday.

February 26, 2021

Good morning highs, good morning lows, good morning elbows, and good morning hoes!

Yeah, I don’t know what that was either.

It seems that bits and tricks on Friday mornings are all I good for, so let’s launch and not think all those negative thoughts about why I can’t seem to summon inspiration, bravery, and grown-uppish-ness on all those other weekdays to just hammer one out. Shall we?

  1. It is a fact universally acknowledged that the morning you wake up without any of the head-and-chest congestion that left you miserable for days is the best morning in the history of modern times. No, no: it’s just a fact. The sun is shining (eh), the birds are chirping, and I almost don’t hate interacting with people today. Good times, my friends, good times.
  2. I’m feeling so good, in fact, that I’m not hating the weather. True, the world has righted itself and New England is no longer 60 degrees warmer than hell Texas. But [sprinkling anti-jinx dust around me for good measure], I’ve acclimated better than I thought. It’s been a balmy 30 degrees here most days, and most days I need to remind myself to take my jacket with me “just in case.” God, that was my Mum’s favorite sayings. Just in case! Just in case you get stranded by the side of the road! Just in case you make a left turn and end up in Canada instead of Uxbridge! Just in case the weather drops 40 degrees! …Okay, well, that last one might actually happen; it’s New England. No, no, it’s not the “If a jacket sits unworn in the middle of a forest, and no one wears it, is it still a jacket?” philosophical debate that has me glaring at the weather. It’s the havoc it’s wreaking on my skin and hair with winter’s insatiable thirst for moisture! I can’t lotion up my skin fast enough. My skin is responding very nicely, as long as I feed and water it and take it for long walks. It’s my hairrrrr. My stupid, beautiful, curly, winter-hating hairrrrr. One week after plopping myself down in these here wintry climes, my hair decided it was going to dandruff the frick out. I’ve tried Head and Shoulders. I’ve tried expensive boutique solutions. I’m on my hands and knees begging for your best solutions. Bring it! Because one day (soon-ish) I will feel like the time is right to start dating again and I’m not bringing this hair situation with me.
  3. Speaking of feeling better about myself, I think one of the first things I’m doing with my new salary and wage earnings is to splurge on a trainer. Because obviously ain’t no way I’m getting outta bed and working myself out. Wait – is that even grammar? Ahem. Erm. Well. Bodies! Yes, I would like to fit back into the buckets of clothes I spent buckets of monies to move up here. The first step is to actually do something about it. I’ve cut out the snacking. Now I need to cut in a healthy dose of cardio and strength training. I’ve done it before – after carrying my second beautiful baby to term, I worked off the 50lbs of pregnancy weight, and went down four more sizes just for “fun.” I can’t tell you how much confidence that gives me! The question is now: Do I do what worked then – “just” sticking to 20-minute work-out videos every week-day morning before work? Or do I get myself a trainer? A trainer would help out local businesses and give me extra incentive to Doooooo It! But the responsible thing during the pandemic would be to stay home. But! At home my father (who pays for everything. ergo rules everything) sleeps 7p-3a, and my brother (who takes care of the house and its occupants, ergo you don’t want to piss him off) sleeps 1a-10a. There isn’t a lot of time to seamlessly slip in a work-out routine. Nor can I just work out in my room with my earbuds in, because our house was built in 1898 and the floors are creaky as shit. So many excuses I could latch onto. For now, I’ll be happy to answer just one: What’s a good Denise Austin-esque general 30-minute work-out video that’s going to help me shed pounds?? Oodles of karma to the kind soul who comes up with the winner!
  4. Yeah, it’s a crazy schedule here at Casa de Padre, at least if you’re trying to be considerate since you’re rooming without paying a lot of board right now. If I don’t have interviews for a “forever job” that day, I try to spend at least an hour running errands or just driving around the city, re-orienting myself with landmarks and street names and where that one street over there comes out again? It makes my heart happy to see all these places of home and not be haunted by the fact that I have to leave to go to back Texas at the end of the week. Every single blessed afternoon, I get a feeling of coming home that I thought only existed in books and fleeting dreams. But at the end of those drives, when I’ve squeezed every adventure and back-road in that I could, and sung my way through half-a-dozen playlists at the top of my lungs, it’s back to Casa de Padre I go. Back to the job applications, the dinner dishes, small talk, and all. the. quiet.
  5. You know what quiet needs? BOOKS! A blessing and a curse, dear readers, a blessing and a curse. Any one who’s spoken to me for more than thirty minutes knows that I read quite a bit, and these days I do a lot of my reading online. Reading online is convenient; my ebook mountains are usually supplied by the growing e-library selection offered by the libraries I belong to across several states (book nerds unite!); and not only does that mean the books I want to read are available nearly instantaneously, but I don’t need to find a place to store them in my 8×10 cubby hole here at the house. Which brings me to my dilemma: there’s a book I want to read. [Audience gasps.] Deacon King Kong, by The waitlist at my libraries are all daunting – not that it stopped me from cheerfully adding my name. But the book is available, conveniently, at my local Barnes&Noble. Or I could pay the same amount and get the e-book. The e-book won’t have to be shoe-horned into some scrum of invaluable artifacts from my past life that just had to stay out of storage…but giving my money to Barnes&Noble would make my heart feel so much lighter. And I can’t help but add: so much nobler.(Sorry, sorry – I had to.) While I’ve read the sneak-peek of Deacon a few times, and I adore it, I’m nervous. I’m not usually a James McBride fan. I’m afraid the rest of the book will fade away and I’ll wonder why, exactly, I spent precious discretionary funds on this title, of all things. And normally it wouldn’t be no thing, I’d just wait it out on the waitlist. God knows I have 394530949 other books on my To Be Read list to tide me over. It’s just that Deacon is part of the March Madness insanity of the Tournament of Books. I have 4-ish days to get ‘er done if I’m going to care about spoilers. With a good book, it doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter. But can you imagine reading Gone Girl and knowing the twist? Still good; the execution was impeccable; but not the same as as yelling HOLY SHIT!! on a plane-load of people. Ahem.

So yeah, there you go! My five little points of madness, or of tiny little nothingness-es, or of whatever you’d like to consider them. Five little trampolines to bounce into the weekend. Because yes, Virginia, even in a land of loose structure, bound by a barely-there calendar, weekends are still the end-all, be-all, responsible for this giant smile on my face!

Five for Friday

December 4, 2020

Friday! Huzzah! Although, to be fair…

  1. I have a hard time remembering what day of the week it is. Not because I’m jobless (friendless, hopeless, helpless!)(No, put down the panic buttons – it’s just [just?!!!] Vizzini, the world’s greatest, most hapless Italian.), but because it’s so rare that I have a day off from all three jobs at once. So I wasn’t only wondering if it was a Friday, but also if it wasn’t a dream. [Bonus bullet: I doubted my spelling of Vizzini, mostly because of the Red Squiggles of Death, but also it looks odd having the double consonant at the beginning of the word, followed by a single consonant. So I looked it up, and good gosh god dang if I wasn’t right! Never doubt a Princess Bride fanatic when honor is on the line! Ahem.]

  2. My friends and I have undertaken a fun distraction for the month of December, in which we pick songs for each day, according to the rules. Like a scavenger hunt. So, December 1st was “A Song from Your Childhood” (Jelly Man Kelly, performed by James Taylor on Sesame Street); December 2nd was “An Underrated Song” (Pearl Jam’s Come Back, which I’ve been playing on repeat lately.  It just hits me in my feels! Pearl Jam will never be my favorite band, even though I wish I liked it better because one of my best friends is DIEHARD Pearl Jam); December 3rd was “A Song That Makes You Cry” (“Edelweiss” from Sound of Music, because I remember so clearly watching The Sound of Music with my Mum whenever it was on TV, and later when it was on VHS, so she could watch it in the living room while she ironed and sang and we made fun of her. Oh, Mum. I can’t even tell you how much I miss you and how much I wish you could listen to me and help me with the girls right now. See? Songs that make you cry, indeed.); December 4th was is “Song That Makes You Think of Summer”, which is an interesting prompt. I thought of sooooo many songs, most of them from mixes I made for when the girls and I traveled back to Massachusetts and New Hampshire for summer holidays; and the rest from when I was in high school and things were so much happier/simpler/amusingly sad in easily fixable ways. I ended up going with Rude!, by Magic! from one of those mixes. I just think the beat is quintessentially summery.

  3. I’m working on solving a creative problem with one of my favorite craft items. My highest demand item is my shatterproof globe ornament – a round, clear ornament that is filled with hand-selected lines from different books. I can’t even name them all – like, actually, literally can’t because I have more than 300 different books that I’ve used! But to give you an example, I’ve been working on a few Charlotte’s Web ornaments this week. I love Charlotte and Wilbur and Fern and Templeton and all of the other barnyard galoots! I love choosing each line to fit with the theme and feel of the ornament I’m working on, and I especially love picking out quotes for the specific ornament. My dilemma is that when I have one title that is sooo in demand, I run out of times I can clip the title from obvious and inventive places so that I can include it in the ornament. I’m trying a new technique where I type out the title on the closest color cardstock I can match, and in the samest (is-too a word) size font, and see if that will work. I hope so, because then I can also focus the quotes I use for each ornament! If you want to see other ornaments and book-ish crafts Bee and I offer, you can come visit us at Bee Crafty on Etsy (really, it’s called BeeCraftsShop on Etsy, because Bee Crafty was already taken. Le Sigh.) There’s a sale going on, just to tempt you. Ha!

  4. There was a surprise tornado here last week – or maybe the week before? – during one of those weird winter storms when the weather feels like spring/early-summer, and the two weather feels start arguing. I was at work – the work that requires me to actually be somewhere – and everyone kept commenting on our earpieces that it was raining, and then that it was really raining, and then that it was ohmygawd raining, to come see it. But we were slammed, so while I fully intended to go see it, I forgot all about it about 2.5 seconds after it was mentioned. Then I thought I heard thunder. And then the lights flickered for a second. But that was that. Until I checked my phone an hour later and saw that there had been a tornado warning! Not for where I was, or for where home was. But still! And then there were reports of storm damage. Bad storm damage. I looked at the pictures on the news, and checked on friends who lived almost directly in the path, but I was still surprised to hear that the Powers That Be announced it was an EF2 tornado. That was, until I was driving in the area where they said the damage was located. From the street, you can see the tornado’s path through the apartment complex, across the street, and through some fences and into the houses at the end of the street across the way. It’s insane! I couldn’t help but think of how you hear that the storm skips this house and that house, but hits this one; how narrow and despicably discrete the damage path really is. It’s mesmerizing.

  5. Amends time: I’m sorry my posts are so sporadic. I think of what I want to say all the time! But committing thoughts to paper…okay, well, that part has always been crazily easily for me. What’s difficult is committing myself to finding time to do it. Creating healthy habit. Forcing structure into my life. And if life would bless me with the right 9-5 (8-5? 7-5?) job, I promise it would be a lot easier. Manifesting greatness! – that’s been my 2021 motto that I decided started right after the election. We’re making things happen NOW! So that job should feel free to call me back on any one of my resumes I’ve submitted. Or a surprise Meant-For-You! job at any time from any direction. It would be just the chapter I need to finish off my book!

With that! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and enjoy yourselves thoroughly. Just remember to do it in a safe, COVID-anti-spreader type way. From separate homes. Not travelling. Not eating out. Just chillin’ from your Zoom-zone. Mmkay? Mmmkay.

Friday! Huzzah! Although, to be fair…

  1. I have a hard time remembering what day of the week it is. Not because I’m jobless (friendless, hopeless, helpless!)(No, put down the panic buttons – it’s just [just?!!!] Vizzini, the world’s greatest, most hapless Italian.), but because it’s so rare that I have a day off from all three jobs at once. So I wasn’t only wondering if it was a Friday, but also if it wasn’t a dream. [Bonus bullet: I doubted my spelling of Vizzini, mostly because of the Red Squiggles of Death, but also it looks odd having the double consonant at the beginning of the word, followed by a single consonant. So I looked it up, and good gosh god dang if I wasn’t right! Never doubt a Princess Bride fanatic when honor is on the line! Ahem.]
  2. My friends and I have undertaken a fun distraction for the month of December, in which we pick songs for each day, according to the rules. Like a scavenger hunt. So, December 1st was “A Song from Your Childhood” (Jelly Man Kelly, performed by James Taylor on Sesame Street); December 2nd was “An Underrated Song” (Pearl Jam’s Come Back, which I’ve been playing on repeat lately.  It just hits me in my feels! Pearl Jam will never be my favorite band, even though I wish I liked it better because one of my best friends is DIEHARD Pearl Jam); December 3rd was “A Song That Makes You Cry” (“Edelweiss” from Sound of Music, because I remember so clearly watching The Sound of Music with my Mum whenever it was on TV, and later when it was on VHS, so she could watch it in the living room while she ironed and sang and we made fun of her. Oh, Mum. I can’t even tell you how much I miss you and how much I wish you could listen to me and help me with the girls right now. See? Songs that make you cry, indeed.); December 4th was is “Song That Makes You Think of Summer”, which is an interesting prompt. I thought of sooooo many songs, most of them from mixes I made for when the girls and I traveled back to Massachusetts and New Hampshire for summer holidays; and the rest from when I was in high school and things were so much happier/simpler/amusingly sad in easily fixable ways. I ended up going with Rude!, by Magic! from one of those mixes. I just think the beat is quintessentially summery.
  3. I’m working on solving a creative problem with one of my favorite craft items. My highest demand item is my shatterproof globe ornament – a round, clear ornament that is filled with hand-selected lines from different books. I can’t even name them all – like, actually, literally can’t because I have more than 300 different books that I’ve used! But to give you an example, I’ve been working on a few Charlotte’s Web ornaments this week. I love Charlotte and Wilbur and Fern and Templeton and all of the other barnyard galoots! I love choosing each line to fit with the theme and feel of the ornament I’m working on, and I especially love picking out quotes for the specific ornament. My dilemma is that when I have one title that is sooo in demand, I run out of times I can clip the title from obvious and inventive places so that I can include it in the ornament. I’m trying a new technique wherry e I type out the title and

The one with elections, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and #NonFicNovember

November 5, 2020

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening – we no longer recognize time here at Casa de Katie, because I’m pretty sure it’s been Tuesday for almost 72 hours now.

But if it isn’t actually Tuesday the Third, then that means it’s Thursday. And on Thursdays, we review books we’ve read! And since I’ve been both blogging and reading when I haven’t been voting, let’s talk about books.

I’m not sure if #NonFicNov – or #NonFictioNovember in its longer form – is still a thing, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s still a thing in my heart. I never seem to wander past the New Releases section of my library, so designating a month for a concentrated effort in non-fiction is a good thing.

Since I’ve only read two books so far this week, I might dip back into recent reads for an extra review or two, but it’ll be recent, I swear. So let’s go…

Just the Funny Parts: And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys’ Club, by Nell Scovell (Dey Street Books, 2018, 320p). The thing is, right now I find Hollywood gossip very, very attractive. Or maybe I should say distractive. It’s helping me forget about the recession, and every job I interview for but lose out to someone else, and stress that’s piling up, and yes, even the election. Because I read it all on Tuesday afternoon when during what I call Project Being Patient: Day 1. Nell Scovell is obviously an incredibly talented writer, and she is aces at being funny. She’s so smooth with the transition, like all of a sudden you’re trying not to pee your pants and wondering where the hell that came from. She’s written for an untold number of hit shows on television – of which you’d all know most of the names – and sadly, she reports on the ugly underbelly that goes with all of the happy-funny stories. (Except for The Muppets. YES, she wrote for them, too!) I wanted to hear more of the “Funny Parts” – the account read like a warning for every aspiring Hollywood writer, and that’s fine. It’s an important story to be recounted out loud. I just wish Scovell had flipped tHhe title so I knew what I was getting when I sat down to distract myself, is all. (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death, by Maggie O’Farrell (Knopf Publishing, 2017, 304p). I just finished this book this afternoon. I had such high hopes for it, and really wanted to read it every time I saw it on my TBR…but kept forgetting to actively seek it out. On my mission this week to surround myself with non-fiction, I found this gem at the library. Yes, I said gem. The book is divided into, as promised, 17 stories. A childhood illness. An encounter with a murderer (I’m not kidding). Incredibly poignant and vulnerable stories about her daughter’s own journey – and Maggie O’Farrell’s as her mum. It was hard to put it down. I mean, it was so good that I forgot about the election while I was reading. That good. O’Farrell’s writing is like if Cheryl Strayed and Anne Fadiman had a little story baby.I highly encourage you to seek this collection out. It’s philosophizing mortality and the goodness of a sunny afternoon while just, you know, writing a quick thing you might tell you dinner partner – honest, compelling, but not gushy or emotional. Gah! Just go read it. (5 of 5 stars.)

Uncensored, by Zachary Wood (Dutton, 2018, 272p, read Oct. 2020). This review makes me feel a bit uneasy. Imma just just in. I’ve read a lot of books about race relations, racism, classism, the politics of social constructs, the politics of America, memories written by minorities living in America, and African American culture. I have a minor in African American Studies. I’m not by any means saying I’m an expert; I’m no where close. I’m just saying, I’ve read a lot. So when I say I am not a fan, it’s not because I think Zachary Wood doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or his experiences aren’t valid, or that he’s a poor writer. Although, okay, yes, a little bit the latter. I’m just saying I have a deep pool of other reading experiences to which I can compare my reading of Uncensored. Here are my problems with the book. First, Wood has an incredibly inflated opinion of himself. Every person he met, talked to, wrote about – he explicitly compared every single one to himself, and found them all wanting. Not once did he self-critique or offer up vulnerabilities or ways he might need to improve. Similarly, while Wood constantly pleaded for others to not judge him – which, okay, valid ask – he always judged others around him! It was so omnipresent, it was painful to witness. Secondly, the tone was depressing. There was no mechanism to elevate himself (well, in a constructive manner, not speaking of raising his status as others’ see him, which he was interested in). He was always woe-is-me. He survived a terrible childhood, his home life wasn’t great, they certainly were poorer than poor. But like, here’s a good example: while his family was financially destitute, Wood opted to not seek a job to earn money for himself or for his family for the stated reason that he wanted to read more. To explore academic pursuits. It’s great to have dreams, baby, but that’s a luxury. And if you don’t want to see it as such, you can’t paint it as an example of how bad life is, and how broke you are. I was left wondering: So what? Yes, Wood certainly deserved to have had a better childhood, a better educational system, a better sense of supportive community, and it’s amazing that he was able to graduate from college given his experiences. But his writing never focused on any one thing. I honestly don’t know if even Wood knows why he wrote the memoir, unless the chief goal was to have a book – any book – published. The “so what” feeling at the end of a book is not something you want a reader to be left with, not if there was any other purpose. (1 of 5 stars)

So there you go. I know I used to have more, but three reviews is a lot more than I’ve been publishing on Thursdays as of late, so I’m going to quit focusing on my failures, and instead be grateful that I’m reading, grateful that I’m writing, grateful that I’m creating – and sticking to – structure in my life. (And also that it kept me from staring at a map for even just a little bit.)

Read Harder 2019: Check-in Post.

May 30, 2019

On Thursdays, I write about books! If you guessed today is Thursday, well…I really hope you’re correct because I’m writing about books anyway.

I thought I’d do a check-in on my progress for the Read Harder 2019 challenge. For those playing along, you know the good people at BookRiot (Hello, Rachel – you’re lovely!) put together these challenges to encourage us to read outside our comfort zones. As such, if you need to tweak a prompt – go ahead and do it! If you’re not sure what it means, and want to interpret it a different way, or your way, or however which way – go ahead and do it! The world will not tilt off it’s access if you go a bit wobbly on one. I promise.

All right! Let’s dive in:

An epistolary novel or collection of letters: I was planning on reading Barack Obama’s Of Thee I Sing, a letter to his daughters. But then I tripped over a similar book, David Chariandy’s I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You, a letter to his daughter about parent-kid wishes for who and how they’ll be, but also about what it means to grow up different in today’s world. Chariandy gorgeously balances infusing hope, happy, and stardust in with the warnings, tips, and survival tactics. But the happy outlives the woe. Reach for the Better. 5 of 5 stars.

An alternate history novel. I chose Dread Nationby Justina Ireland. Fantasy, alternate realities, anything Kindred-esque and I’m a brick wall. Not my strength, you guys. Fortunately I have a little black book stuffed with books I’ve heard about here and there. And one of them was Dread Nation. It’s a book about a slightly apocalyptic world, walking dead, you know – white people end of the world crap. And where young people elect to go to  training centers in Washington, D.C. instead of university. They learn to fight, defend – basic survival tactics. Picture Hunger Games, but with dreads, and zombies. Ha, ha! It’s the first in a series if it’s your bag. It was a fun romp, difference in a sea of sameness, but still not for me. 3 of 5 stars.

A book by a woman and/or AOC that won a literary award in 2018. I think everyone here knows, but in case they don’t – all of the books for my challenge are written by an  AOC. About half of what I read is written by an AOC. It takes a little more effort to find the books because publishing companies suck, but it’s definitely doable. And enjoyable. This was a fun category because it felt like a freebie. Still, I chose My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite. MStSK was SUCH a fun book to peel back, layer by layer. There was the on-top discussion of sisters and hos-before-bros and what not. A YA blockbuster. Then you dig deeper and wonder if it’s not a toxic, dare I say symbiotic relationship. Soooo many things to discuss! But I don’t want to give any of it away. DM me when you’re ready to talk! 4 of 5 stars.

A humor book. I have to admit, dear readers – I have no plans for this category. Wait, wait, wait – that’s not quite true. I have a plan, I just don’t have a book. My plan is to go back through the Goodreads Awards selections for the past few years, and I’m sure to find one or two.

A book by a journalist about journalism. This one I thought would be a tricky. Tricky!, but enjoyable. Surprisingly, I found a book rather quickly. At the library, months ago, I stumbled across How I Resist: Activism and Hope for the Next Generation. And while Maureen Johnson, a white woman, is listed as primary author, the collection is co-authored by: Jacqueline Woodson,  Malinda Lo, Sabaa Tahir, and others. The essays are short, but powerful. Quick jabs of hope! Undercuts of joy! Their words implore us to write our way out of this prison! Vote our allies into office! USE YOUR VOICES! Yes!! 5 of 5 stars.

A book by an AOC set in or about space. I am straight-up stumped here. If you guys have any suggestions.

An #OwnVoices book set in Mexico or Central America. My choice, The House of Broken Angels, is narrated by Angel, the patriarch who grew up in Mexico, and moved his family from Mexico to Southern California. Angel is dying and he often thinks back to his Mexico, the place where he grew up. Yeah, it’s a bit of a stretch to fit it in this category. But I loved this book with all my heart. It’s a modern classic, and I’m still upset it didn’t win the Tournament of Books! 4 1/2 of 5 stars.

An #OwnVoices book set in Oceania. This book popped into my mind as soon as I heard the category. Isn’t it funny how some books just do that? America Is Not the Heart, by Elaine Castillo. Another Tournament of Books entry, another protagonist, Hero, who grew up some where else (this time in a very violent Philippines), and then she came to America, because she was running out of lives to shed, and everyone, EVERYONE said America was the answer. Guess what her #ownvoice said?  Plot was great, but the story – it was too structureless for me. I had to do all the heavy lifting and I just couldn’t right then. 2 of 5 stars, but that just might be me.

A book published prior to Jan. 1, 2019, written by and/or translated by a woman. Ohhhh. This book! Andres Barba’s Such Small Hands. Translated by Lisa Dillman (check), and published in 2017 (check,check). Although I “cheated” a little because the book is written by an AOC, so the fact that the translator isn’t, is okay. And really, really is okay. Because: The book is billed as Shirley Jackson meets Virgin Suicides – and it lives up to the hype! It’s short, just 105 pages, so you can knock it out in a sitting. But be prepared to be chewing it for quite. a. long. time. 4 of 5 stars.

A book of manga. I don’t imagine this will be difficult to find; it’s just not a category I’m racing to prioritize

A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character. This is a GREAT category, and I can’t wait to see the selections, but I’m still looking at the moment.

A book about someone who identifies as neurodiverse: Again, GREAT category! Slaying it with stretching readers minds! I haven’t worked on this one yet, but I am so looking forward to the adventures of finding something! What have you guys read?

A cozy mystery. I hopped across the globe and tried Journey Under the Midnight Sun, by Keigo Higashimo. To be honest – and I feel a little ashamed confessing this – because I was unused to this cultures naming schemes, I had to use note cards to keep track of who was who. I felt like when I was reading Russian literature in high school, or that summer I binged Downton Abbey. Once I got past that part, the story was a straight up mystery, just like you order them. I like ’em enough to read them when they come my way, but don’t keep up with the latest. So take my taste into account here: 3 of 5 stars.

A book about mythology or folklore. I was going to use Call Me Zebra because the protag – who we never learn the name of – creates her own mythology. She thinks she’s a god and tramples all over the world to prove it. But there’s also Marlon James’s The Night Woman, a POWERFUL novel that explores the suffering slavery imposed. But from that pain, or maybe because of it, Lilith has this power, a reckoning kind of power, and Lilith taps into this mantle of connection, the African-American experience from the first ship of slaves, straight through to the last. There’s collective memory, explored like this in Beloved. But Lilith got it. No one can take it. And she can’t shake it. Oof. 5 of 5 stars. Wow.

An historical romance by an AOC. If you’re fulfilling the challenges in list order (I’m not), this is a soft, squishy place to land after the brainful of the mythology challenge. And you know what? I’m stretching the rules here, too. I haven’t ready it yet, but right now I’m planning on reaching A Bollywood Affair, by Sonali Dev. She’s a great write, and what I love is that this Bollywood romance series, you can pick up any book and just GO! if you want to. There are so few authors who do that any more. I can’t wait to sink into this book. There are so few romance authors who write for smart people., ya know?

A business book. Oh, this one I have no idea who I’m about to read, or about what. I’ll go and find it – unless you want to throw one my way?

A novel written by a trans or non-binary author. I’m going to sink my teeth into the YA thriller, The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore, by Kim Fu. I don’t know much about them, but I did a bit of research when I was trying to pick something, and everything I find out is YAAAAAASSS!!! And the first chapter of the book flew by fast! I can’t wait for the rest!

A book written in prison. I’m up for some suggestions, but right now it’s looking like Prison Letters, by Nelson Mandella, might be the winner.

A comic by an LGBTQIA creator. You all know my reading proclivities, and comics really aren’t on there. But read them I shall! for that is the point of this adventure!

A children’s or middle grade (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009. I just recently had the pleasure of reading One Half from the East, by Nadia Hashimi. I’ve read several (if not all) of Hashimi’s work. It’s solid, but I was waiting for this – the emotions broil over in this story and you feeeeeeel the characters! The youngest girl, Obeyda, longs to be a boy so she can climb trees, play in the dirt, be outside the house even! So she becomes Obeyd: a bach posh. “She’s” allowed to be a “he” and have all the freedoms a boy would. Hashimi finally climbed up into her own, as well.   4 of 5 stars.

A self-published book. Getting your book notices isn’t easy sometimes. Just because a book is self-published – isn’t that assigned the same label and “expectations” we’re trying to undo? I read After Disasters by Viet Dinh, surprising no one who knows me. It’s a compelling story about five different stories, five differing protagonists trying to help after the disaster, but also trying to repair the hurts in their own lives. 3 of 5 stars.

A collection of poetry published since 2014. Poetry also isn’t really my thing. Just like short stories aren’t; you can tell me more! explore the back stories! Luckily for me, I happened across Lin-Manuel’s collection of G’mornin’! G’night!:Little Pep Talks for You and Me that was brilliantly illustrated by Jonny Sun. I felt like I was reading Shel Silverstein, but for “grown-ups” – whatever those are. 5 of 5 pepped up stars.

That’s it from me, twinkletoes! Send me recommendations and send me on grand adventures!

I don’t know whose serve it is, I’m laughing too hard.

May 23, 2019

Sometimes you have a LOT going on.

It’s the end of the year, high school is high schooling, and there’s DRAMA.

So, you do what you can. You teach kids how to question evidence. Write reports. Know when to bite their tongues, and when to speak up.

And sometimes you teach them that 8 p.m. on a Sunday night is a FANTASTIC time for a ping pong tournament on the kitchen table near glass windows and a low-hanging glass light fixture!

For real. Sometimes it do do be like that.

And so you make up rules and see how many times you can catch each other changing the rules, and you cheat just a little when you can get away with it, and generally just laugh too hard to stand up straight. Soooo, kind of like the rules of Uno, but with weapons in your hands.

[Don’t worry: Inhalers were on stand-by for the wheezers. {That be all of us. We’re a fun bunch.}]

Did you know you if you hit a ping pong ball just right in my kitchen, it zips between chairs, off the wall, through your hands, and between buckets high-speed style? It was a serious throw-back to that segment on Sesame Street when the pinball machine is yelling out “One-two-three-FOUR-FIVE-six-seven-eight-nine-ten-eleven-TWEL-ELL-ELL-ELL-ELL-ELVE!” Except maybe without the airplanes. Maybe.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say, is that when you do have a lot of things going on, what you need to do is stop, grab a paddle, and just. let. go. We could all use a little dab of that.

PingPong

Step forth, Worthy Opponent!

April 9, 2019

I have always loved board games. When we were little, Mum would play Mothers’ Helper, Chutes and Ladders, Hi Ho Cherry-o!, Trouble (though she never liked the noisy ones), Candyland – all the basic board games that teach little kids important lessons.

When we got a bit older, the lessons we learned from board games seemed to be more along the lines of how to sharpen our negotiating skills. Like, my sister would play Hotels, Price Is Right, and three rounds of Life if I’d play one game of Othello with her. (I haaaaated that game!)

Sometimes games were the main event that we gathered around: I remember massive rounds of Scat, Uno, or Spoons played with our entire extended family. One year there was very nearly a formal Ex-Communication that went down because Uncle Teddy snuck back into the camper to get another spoon, thwarting the “point” of the game. But who didn’t notice it was yellow instead of white?! Really.

Then games became something to do while we were watching tv and talking; something to keep our minds busy because who can just sit and watch TV by itself? My mind races and the rest of me gets fidgety. So when my sister Kim would visit, we’d play cards or Rummikub, or a massive marathon of Sorry (for which we may or may not have hash marks scored into the lid of the box). And sometimes we’d play Boggle.

Boggle was one of our favorites. So much so that we made up our own set of rules. Astonishingly (not really), our rules pretty much centered around one golden rule: If you can argue your case successfully, you get points for the word. Like “ho”, “ho-ho”, and “Ho Ho Ho!” are accepted, but “Hohohoho” is not. Thems the brakes, kiddo. Another rule: there are no timers. Timers are for silly out-of-the-box rules followers. Our way was once you stopped finding words and you gave up, the other player had a grace period, and then everyone compared lists.

I was trying to explain all of this to Gracie last night. She’s been asking to play games, more, as we sit and watch TV, and last night I sprang Boggle at her. She knew I played it with Kim (and therefore she felt grown-up) so she was game. [See what I did there?] Out came the box, the pens, and the pieces of paper, and off we went.

Gracie did really well! She found a lot of the smaller words I missed in my excitement at finding longer words and – of course – the dirty words. I thought she might win by serving me a death of a thousand paper cuts! But I pulled through. Gracie was sad – poor pitiful penguin! – but I’m hoping the addiction grabbed hold and she’ll feel the need to avenge her honor.

Your move, Gracie-guts! Your move.