Life-isms

{Mid August}

Reading:

The Marvels by Brian Selznick. It’s children’s fiction. It’s 665 pages long. The cover is beautiful. The first 390 pages are a story told only in pictures. The next 150 pages are mysterious and magical. The last 100 pages were from clear left field. I didn’t understand the actual ending. This had so so so much potential to be amazing. And it was amazing for 530 pages! 80% of the entire, monstrous book! (Although it takes only 2 hours or so to get through the first 400 pages, and after that the font and margins are big and pages are thick, so it’s a deceptively quick read.) But the resolution was alienating to me. The concluding subject matter that randomly appears at the end wasn’t particularly kid-friendly or even relevant to most kids (this is probably a spoiler, but also kind of the deal-breaker because it’s a kids book, but there is a past same-sex romantic relationship pivotal to the story, which led to both parties getting some major health issues that were especially prominent and scary in the 1990’s. It’s subtle and nothing terribly inappropriate for kids, but just an irrelevant issue for most). It’s loosely based on a true story, which I do appreciate, and it contains real social issues, which I also appreciate. But because it’s children’s fiction covering a complicated, sensitive adult issue, it lacked the depth to make me feel any feels. And if it doesn’t mean much to me as an adult, it probably won’t mean much to a kid either. It was really disappointing.

Also rereading the first Harry Potter book because I felt like doing some comfort reading.

Listening to:

Revisionist History. I already talked about this one, and the content is still great… but he did a 3-part mini-series within his 10-part series that has nothing to do with his overarching theme of “reinterpret[ing] something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.” He randomly drops the history facade altogether and talks about very current issues with colleges and college enrollment. He doesn’t even try to make it go with the history theme. It’s still really good and interesting content, but it irks me a little. If you’re only devoting 10 episodes to a topic, you’ve got to stick to the topic! You might slip in one random episode, but to devote over a quarter of your total episodes to something off-topic? I get the feeling this 3-parter was what he originally pitched to his podcast people, and they said, “Nobody does a 3-part series; bulk it up. How about history instead? You like history, right Malcolm?” And he says, “Yes, but I keep my original idea.” And they say, “But how will you tie that into history?” And he says, “I won’t. I’m Malcolm Gladwell. I write best-selling books and give great TED Talks. I do whatever I want.” And they said, “Yes, sir.”

Working on:

My deck situation. We have a fairly nice deck, but it’s not shaded, so it gets freaking hot in the evening. We don’t spend much time out there. But this summer we snagged a deck umbrella for a great deal at At Home (I want to say originally  $40, on sale for $25) and pulled our camping chairs out of the shed, and now sometimes we actually go out there. A few weeks ago we found an outdoor dining table at the DI for $20 that was in pretty good shape. I took it apart, scrubbed it down, touched up some rusty parts with spray paint, and now it looks practically new. Unfortunately I left the glass tabletop on my lawn all day while things were unassembled, and it fried (steamed, more accurately) a perfect dead rectangle in my grass. It looks green near the roots, so hopefully it grows out in a week or two. Fingers crossed.

Standard
Life-isms

{End of July}

Reading:

These Is My Words by Nancy Turner. I’ve had this book for years, but never really felt like picking it up. Probably because the title is kind of awful. But it was Pioneer Day weekend and I felt like reading something vaguely pioneer-y, and I’ve heard such good things about it, so I decided to get over the title and start. This book is so depressing. Sad, sad, sad. It’s the fictional journal of a girl living in the harsh Arizona territory from when she’s a teenager in 1881 to when she’s a middle-aged wife and mom in 1901. And although there is a lot of sad, there is so much strength. She’s smart, (but fairly uneducated), resourceful, and just plucky. It doesn’t take long for you to just love this girl. And although I shouldn’t have waited so long to read it, I think being a young mom made me sympathize more with the young motherhood part of her life. A stylistically interesting thing the author did was start out with bad grammar, spelling, etc, and then gradually over the next 20 years improve it as she becomes more educated.

Also, A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie. This is the first in a mystery series I’m trying out after realizing Louise Penny isn’t my cup of tea. Her style was a little more Gilmore Girls-ian than I prefer. But Crombie promised to be a little more like Agatha Christie, and it’s not a bad comparison. Lots of characters in a somewhat isolated setting, complex back-stories and potential motivations for murder, with likable protagonists. Also, can I point out how dumb mystery series titles are? This is called A Share in Death because it takes place at a timeshare. But she couldn’t just call it Death at the Timeshare (which also sounds dumb) because Agatha Christie worked that angle so hard (and well, but now it’s cliche).

Anticipating:

The Olympics. It doesn’t matter what’s on, I get sucked in. I was a little worried about our Olympic television status because we just switched to a fiber Internet provider and dropped Comcast like it’s hot. And the cable void is filled pretty well between Amazon Prime video and Sling TV but we didn’t have the local channels. We had bunny ears, but not a great way to connect them to our tv, so we found an analog to digital box on Amazon for $30 and suddenly we’ve got local channels (we can record, too).

Thinking about:

Mowing the lawn. I grew up mowing the lawn. I grew up with my mom mowing the lawn. In farming families it’s decidedly a job for girls. And it’s actually a job I don’t mind doing. But where I live now it’s kind of scandalous for women to mow the lawn. I did it when my husband had shoulder surgery a few summers ago and people actually asked him why I was mowing the lawn. My poor husband was embarrassed and I was incredulous. I’ve mowed a (huge) lawn since I was maybe 11, and now I’m suddenly too dainty to mow my own (little) lawn? Stupid. Anyway, I don’t do it very often just for the sake of my husband’s pride. But a couple weekends ago my husband got what we shall tastefully call “the million dollar wound” so he’s been out of commission for a few weeks (but finally now almost back to normal). But the lawn needed to be mowed. And like I said, I have no problem with doing it. And even though I’m pregnant, I don’t think it’s particularly strenuous or dangerous. But I had to mow in the cover of nearly night so people wouldn’t give my husband a hard time. The funny thing is, I can be pushing 40 pounds of stroller up a steep hill by my house in the heat of day, and everyone smiles and waves. But I spend 30 minutes walking around my yard behind a motor-powered device in the shade, and heaven forbid.

Standard
Life-isms

{Mid July}

Reading:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I really enjoyed this and thought it had helpful insight. It took me forever to read it because it was one of those that had so many jewels I had to soak it in slowly. It talks about the phenomenon of the extrovert ideal in the US in particular, and how in different cultures introverted is the ideal. It talks about where our personalities come from and how they can change over time, strengths and weaknesses of both extroverts and introverts, and what it means to be highly sensitive. It gives practical advice for introverts who feel socially paralyzed and powerless, along with insight into raising and teaching introverted kids.

Also, Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood by Fay and Fay. I lucked out with a child who developed excellent language skills pretty early, so the twos haven’t been terrible at all. It might also help that I sat in on about 3 consecutive months of parenting classes as a social work intern. By the way, go take a patenting class. They aren’t just for people trying to regain custody of their kids. They really are helpful. If you live in Utah, Love and Logic classes are free. But my child is normal and goes tantrumy or whiney or ignorey pretty often. And we have a new friend joining us in December, so I read this book to try to preempt the terrible 3’s. It’s cheesy, ultimately pretty helpful. I’d recommend it. 

Watching:

Endeavour. Ok, I mentioned this last post, but now we’ve watched the first two episodes of the new season and they’re so good. The first episode is a twist on The Great Gatsby set in the 60’s and it’s amazing.

Playing:

Gordon Ramsay Dash. I’ve never watched any Gordon Ramsay shows, but I’m a sucker for these kind of process-intensive games, and apparently this one is a big deal. You assemble the orders quickly and accurately or he yells at you. I guess. I have the sound off. I turn the sound off on most games. But I read that he uses actual swears, so keep that in mind. But it’s fun. And pretty challenging.

Standard
Life-isms

{End of June}

Reading:

Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I just went on vacation and took two (very short) books with me plus another, thinking I’d run out of reading material, but no. One does not relax on trips that include children. And now I need about a week of sleep to recover. But Coraline was one of the books I took as a fun, easy read (Amazon says it’s reading level 8 and up, so I’m not sure if that’s age or grade level. Probably grade level). I haven’t seen the movie, so I wasn’t familiar with the plot. It’s a spooky little tale about a girl who needs to be brave even though things are pretty scary. I liked it.

Listening to:

Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History Podcast. You might know him from his books or TED Talks (I enjoyed this one), but he’s dabbling in a different media form, and it works well. He does an interesting mashup of recent history and not-so-recent history, and thinks about how history might be misunderstood in some aspects.

Watching:

Endeavour Season 3 on PBS. We haven’t actually started the new season yet, but we noticed upon the return of said vacation that it’s running on PBS (and is available to stream from the site), so I’m looking forward to that. Season 2 left on a huge cliff-hanger, so I’m excited. P.S., seasons 1 and 2 are on Amazon Prime, and I bet season 3 will end up there as well.

Digging:

Private Selection bottled sodas (from stores with Kroger products). We tried the huckleberry hibiscus cream soda first (super delicious), then the Bourbon cola (interesting, but not bad). We have yet to try the grapefruit cream soda and the Irish cream soda, but you’d better believe we’re going to.

Standard
Life-isms

{Mid June}

Reading:
11/22/63 by Stephen King. Stephen King is legendary for horror, and I’ve never ventured in that vein. But he does write other genres, and this is one of those. This book is firmly thriller fiction, but it’s seeped in actual history, specifically concerning the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The main character has the opportunity to go back in time to prevent the assassination (assuming it would also avert many bad things that resulted from the assassination, such as the lengthy involvement with Vietnam). So in general, it explores the effect single events can have on the future. I can tell King writes horror, though, because there’s an overlying creepy foreboding throughout the book. It’s a really hefty book (849 pages), but it was so exciting and interesting that I finished it in only 10 days. All in all, I really liked it. But it’s got some PG-13 content along with a good chunk of harsh language. For that reason I probably won’t watch the new Hulu series of the same name. The violent and racy stuff you can self-filter as you read, but TV is different.

Listening to:
Buried Bodies by RadioLab. This episode brings up some ethics I’d already been thinking about lately. I won’t tell too much about the episode, but essentially it’s about the obligation defense lawyers have to their client, even if the client has done horrible things. Between the Brock Turner case and the honor code investigations (and penalties) of rape victims at BYU, I’ve thought a lot about the phenomenon of victim-blaming in our society. You get defense lawyers like Turner’s whose job is to point out all the things the victim did wrong, and yeah, it’s awful, but it’s also his job and ethical obligation to try everything possible to keep the defendant out of prison, guilty or no. But then society sees this function of the law and feels the need to be equally critical of victims, but with far less information and far more power to make a victim’s life miserable.

The most disturbing thing I’ve seen thus far is a response on Twitter concerning a BYU rape victim being required to write an essay detailing what she did wrong that caused her rape. That in itself is so disturbing to me–rape isn’t a horrible enough natural consequence of drinking, drugs, etc. so it was necessary to make her write an essay confessing that she was in the wrong?! That doesn’t even make sense! “Gee, that rape was bad, but writing an essay was even worse, so I changed my lifestyle!” But no, the worst part was a response by some guy who was doubtlessly a BYU alum. I don’t remember the exact wording, but it basically said, “She wouldn’t have been raped if she’d been following the honor code, so she deserves the consequences of her actions. She can’t just get away with this.” This is terrifying. Drugs and alcohol don’t rape people. People rape people. I’m not sure where we go as a society until we figure out that one person’s stupid choices can’t force another person to commit a felony.

Standard
Life-isms

{End of May}

Reading:
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. I didn’t really know what to expect from this. From page one you know this is about old people, which usually wouldn’t be terribly interesting for me–it’s just not the life phase I connect with right now–but it’s funny and charming. I liked it. Various social issues are swirling around throughout the story, and it’s just enough that it’s thoughtful, but not so much that it overpowers the sweetness of the overarching story.

Watching:
Jane Eyre (the newish one with Michael Fassbender). I’m a late-comer to the Jane Eyre train. I only read it for the first time about a year ago, which is such a shame because it hits all the right notes for me. I checked out the movie from the library while my husband was out of town last week and watched it after I put the little boy to bed, and I sure did enjoy it, but I also sure did forget how spooky this story is. It might not be the best thing to view alone in the dark. But I did like it. They did some interesting things with the order of events and did flashbacks instead of going chronologically. It can be annoying when movies mess too much with the structure of classics, but in this case I thought it complimented the story well.

Thinking about:
Your Body is Not Your Masterpiece. The article itself is good (nothing mind-blowing), but that first line really resonated with me. “Your body is not your masterpiece — your life is.” I know a lot of people who on social media, at least, are constantly sending the message that their bodies are the masterpiece. It’s all about the nails, the healthy meals, the makeup, the exercise, the hair, etc. I realize they’re probably far more balanced in the other aspects of their lives (spiritual/emotional/intellectual/social) outside of social media, but their bodies are the only thing I hear about. Being healthy is important, but is it the masterpiece? Nope. The same applies to about any good thing in your life. Your job is not your masterpiece. Your hobby is not your masterpiece. Your home is not your masterpiece. Your education is not your masterpiece. Your kids are not your masterpiece. I would even say your spirituality is not your masterpiece. Your life as a whole–the culmination and balance of all these good things–is your masterpiece. So the take-home for me is reflecting on if I’m putting too much emphasis on any one part of my life, whether in real life or on social media. I do think temporary spurts of imbalances can be a healthy coping strategy, though. For example, for a while I spent way too much time doing family history, but it helped me through some new mom struggles. But I consciously decided to ease up on the family history obsession once those other struggles subsided. I had an imbalance of struggle, so I allowed myself an imbalance of something that gave me life. And I guess that in itself is balance. Anyway, balance is important.

Standard
Life-isms

{Mid May}

Reading:
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King. This is the first book in a fun spin-off of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock books. It’s the same Sherlock, but he’s older and it’s now the late nineteen-teens and he’s met a young woman who is basically his equal intellectually (unlike Watson) so he takes her on as an apprentice and much adventure ensues. Overall I think it’s well done. I think the author spends a little too much time assuring the reader that it was a father-daughter relationship, not a romantic one, but the length at which she dwells on this almost has the opposite effect. And it slows down the plot a lot. But this is nit-pickiness. Overall it was good, and I’ll read the next in the series. And really, it’s fairly squeaky clean, which is a bonus. I don’t remember any language and it doesn’t get graphic or gritty. It makes reference to drugs (like Doyle does) but doesn’t condone them. I don’t think it’s technically YA, but it’s teen-friendly.

Listening to:
Prom by This American Life. In particular, I was fascinated by act 4: Only One Thing Missing. It talks about the country’s best prom, and I kept thinking to myself that this must be satire. And it would be ingenious as a satire piece. But it’s real! It talks about a town’s televised prom festivities–that the whole town watches and enjoys. It’s like the Hunger Games minus the death.

Discovering:
Free magazines through my library. My library uses Overdrive, which I use all the time to check out e-books and audio books. And I’ve seen the “We have periodicals!” ad on there for a while, but I never really thought about looking into it. I don’t really do magazines, but we did get mental_floss for a year as a gift and really liked it, but couldn’t really justify renewing the subscription and spending more money on entertainment when we already have plenty. But then the other day I thought to look and see if mental_floss was on Overdrive and yes! And it’s a way better deal than I anticipated. You don’t just check the magazine out; it’s yours to keep forever! For free! It’s only current issues, so you have to check back manually to get the next issue, and there’s also a limited number of issues they give out. Also you have to go through the Nook app (free, but dang, my phone has only so much space). But still. It’s a really great way to grab light reading material for travelling, etc. for 100% free. I’m a fan.

Digging:
Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Mustard. I’m generally not huge on the mustard scene, but oh man, this is pretty close to Chick-fil-A sauce. So delicious.

Standard