Life-isms

{End of January}

Reading:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is about a bizarre future society where the roles of women are pretty disturbing. In a lot of ways it pivots back to antiquated treatment and attitudes toward women, but some are still ongoing in certain cultures. Anyway, not a light read, but an important one.

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. I heard about this one on the What Should I Read Next podcast when it was recommended by an Aussie listener. Apparently this book is a pretty big deal in Australia, but it’s not really one most Americans know. It’s a mystery about three women who disappeared from a picnic outing without a trace, and I guess there was some debate as to whether it’s a true story. It’s a speedy read, and I really enjoyed it–a great combination of eerie and charming.

Watching:

I’ve been watching a lot more tv than usual what with the baby, so here’s a quick rundown. 

Freaks and Geeks. This series hails from 1999, and holds up so well. There are a lot of familiar faces (my favorite was a brief appearance from a tiny Shia LaBeouf) and so many funny moments.

Audrie and Daisy. A documentary about several teen girls who were sexually assaulted and then the social medias helped things get of of control. It’s about as cheery as it sounds. But a good one.

13th. A documentary about the evolution of slavery after the 13th amendment, particularly in relation to imprisonment. Again, cheery. But important. 

Bletchley Circle. A series set in early 1950’s England about a group of women who were formerly code breakers in WWII and now solve crimes. I like that, for the most part, they aren’t particularly gorgeous, brave, or outgoing like some female leads tend to be. They’re pretty normal women with pretty normal lives now that the war is over; they just happen to be pretty smart. But they have to be pretty modest even about that to not raise questions about their work in the war. Anyway, I like this show. 

The Crown. I’m only a couple episodes in on this one, but wow. It’s pretty to look at.

Listening to:

Again, more than usual.

Presidential. I’m a little sad this is already said and done because I’d have loved to follow along in real time, but I heard about it a year too late. Starting last January the Washington Post did an episode each week on every U.S. president from Washington to Trump. I’m only a few episodes in, but I’ve heard that it really brings to light how the nation has survived dud presidents in the past, and we can do it again in the future.

Twice Removed. This one makes me so happy. A family history podcast! It’s a pretty new one, so there aren’t a lot of episodes yet, but thumbs up. They have a guest and walk them through the more interesting parts of their family tree and end by introducing them to a living “mystery relative” that’s somehow relevant to some part of the episode. In the first episode I listened to the guest was Dan Savage, who I really dislike, but I really enjoyed the episode regardless. 

Sword and Scale. This is true crime, and I’ve really liked every episode I’ve listened to. But it’s a little dark and probably not everybody’s cup of tea.

Prime audiobooks from Audible channels. Audible channels became a perk of Amazon Prime a while ago, but I didn’t think I cared. But I just learned that I do care because they actually have some really good titles to stream–several from my to-read list that normally have lengthy wait-lists at the library. Right now I’m listening to Columbine by Dave Cullen, but only when I’m riding the exercise bike. It’s giving me a really good incentive to exercise.

Thinking about:

I read an article a while back exploring the phenomenon that occurred with BuzzFeed’s article on the family from Fixer Upper. I didn’t read that article from BuzzFeed (it circulated on my socials, but I avoid anything that looks like clickbait), but I gather that the Gaines family was attacked for belonging to a religion that doesn’t support gay marriage, and it was insinuated that they’d never take on a gay couple on their show, but that’s discrimination and so maybe they shouldn’t be on tv, etc. Anyway, the article I did read (written by a gay guy, incidentally) brought up some really good points about the issue of diversity:

“A 2016 survey from Pew Research Center shows public support of same-sex marriage is at an all-time high of 55 percent — and it is steadily growing. But the same polls tell us that nearly 4 out of 10 Americans — no small number! — are not on board with it. The minds at BuzzFeed are not naive: They know that the Gaineses and HGTV are going to have to come out with a public statement on same-sex marriage. They also know that if the statement is not 100 percent supportive of same-sex marriage, the network will be pressured to drop them.

“Think about that for a moment. Is the suggestion here that 40 percent of Americans are unemployable because of their religious convictions on marriage? That the companies that employ them deserve to be boycotted until they yield to the other side of the debate — a side, we should note, that is only slightly larger than the one being shouted down?

“Or maybe the suggestion is that, because they are public figures, they need to be held to a higher standard, one that does not allow them room for moral and religious convictions? But that doesn’t make sense, either.

“BuzzFeed is probably at the forefront of discussions surrounding diversity in entertainment. But do their reporters think diversity refers only to skin color? Does ideological diversity count for nothing, especially when it is representative of, again, a sizable chunk of the American public?”

It’s a great privilege to be free to have convictions, and I think we make more progress toward peace when we spend more time seeking to understand and empathize with other people’s (diverse!) convictions instead of focusing on why we are right and they are wrong.

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Life-isms

{End of November}

Reading:

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. I grabbed this when I saw it at a thrift store because it’s been on my to-read list for a while and the wait list at the library always seems to be pretty long. And it’s kind of a long book, so that makes the wait even longer. The plot bounces back and forth between WWII era and the present, and I think the two perspectives build well on each other. It’s hard to describe this book without spoilers (and you definitely don’t want it spoiled), but it’s an adult daughter trying to figure out her dying, dementia-ridden mother’s past, especially during the war years. Discovering your family’s heritage is a theme I always appreciate, so I really enjoyed it, but it felt a little longish–it was pushing 500 pages. But I’ve had less time to read lately, so maybe it was just my life timing that made it feel overly-long. 

Watching:

Stranger Things. It’s been a thing for forever (ok, maybe only since this spring), but we only do Netflix occasionally since we already do Amazon Prime and Sling and really don’t need all three at once. So we wait around for a good occasion to get Netflix for just a month. And an upcoming baby paired with winter seemed like a good time to mix up our options. I’m really liking Stranger Things (it’s sort of X Files meets Twin Peaks meets E.T.) but it sort of gives me anxiety. But once again, I think it’s more of a life-timing issue than a content issue. I mean, I’m getting ready for a newborn and Christmas simultaneously. Elevated anxiety levels are to be expected.

Listening to:

Hidden Brain podcast. I’d heard much about this podcast, but hadn’t really had the time to start listening. And then my beloved How to do Everything randomly came to an end, so I had a good excuse to start Hidden Brain from the beginning. It’s really good–shortish, entertaining, and smart with real-world applications.

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Life-isms

{End of October}

I’m a week late… it’s been an insane couple of weeks. I decided to do book 2 Suzuki training while I still only have one child–even though I’m taking a break from teaching for a while (between church callings, a toddler, and a newborn, I just literally have no time). I had to do 8 hours of observations of other teachers, and the due date snuck up on me. And that isn’t even code for “I procrastinated it.” The due date was several weeks sooner than I was expecting, so I ended up cramming all 8 hours in a two-week span. Fortunately, most of my students have already switched to other teachers so I have a tiny bit more expendable time, but still it was a herculean task to coordinate other teachers’ schedules with my limited schedule (considering I have a toddler to find a babysitter for). But it’s done now. Largely in part due to my mom randomly asking if she could come watch the small child. Heaven sent. And now I only have a billion other things to accomplish before the younger child comes. Oh, and there’s normal Christmas stuff to deal with as well. I’m considering adding “give up” to my to do list just in case. Anyway, here’s the brief rundown…

Reading:

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart. It’s the prequel to The Mysterious Benedict Society series (which I haven’t read yet), and I enjoyed it. It’s a kid chapter book, and it was a fun and smart read.

Listening to:

In the Dark podcast. It’s along the same lines as Serial season 1, but with a little less speculation and amateur sleuthing. But with good reason–this cold case was finally solved a week before the series was set to premier. They switched everything up to reflect this huge development remarkably well; it’s all so well told. It’s about the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling and the social and legal repercussions of his case.

Watching:

Spotlight on VidAngel. This movie is the true story of the Boston Globe’s investigation into the child sexual abuse cover-up scandal in the Catholic church. So very interesting (and sad). This movie is rated R, but with a few VidAngel filters it was pretty tame. I chose to keep the descriptions of sexual assault un-filtered (because that’s the whole point of the movie), and I didn’t think it was terribly disturbing–but I’ve heard many, many similar stories from various child welfare classes and in Good-Touch/Bad-Touch training, so maybe I’m not the best judge of that. I thought the descriptions were portrayed really respectfully (and sparingly), and they gave the message that there are safe places where victims can talk about horrendous things they’ve been through, which I think is important.

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Life-isms

{Mid October}

Reading:

Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier. Based on the cover of the copy I got from my library, you’d guess this was a trashy paperback romance. Not so! It’s a spooky, mysterious modern Gothic. And it has (tasteful) romance, but I wouldn’t really call it a romance novel. There are a lot of parallels with Jane Eyre (a complicated, wealthy husband with a very hushed past, etc), but it definitely has its own spin. The narrator (who remains unnamed) is so likable and also a familiar flavor of insecure. My heart hurt for her during some of the things she felt and experienced.

I also finally (after 8 months) finished Don Quixote! I mostly listened to the audiobook checked out from the library, which meant sometimes I had to be on a waiting list for a while between checkouts. But even then it was 40 hours long! I wouldn’t read it again, but I can see why it’s important. It’s so very meta. Ironic, clever, funny, mocking, contradictory… you name it. Really pretty masterful. But if you read it, read the Spark notes.

Listening to:

One Last Thing Before I Go, Act 1: Really Long Distance by This American Life. I generally make a practice of avoiding tear-jerky things. Motherhood messed with my emotions and I just don’t want to feel the feels. But this story makes you love your fellow humans.

Working on:

Staining a stupid bed frame. Yeah. I’m fairly significantly pregnant and staining something. My husband and I had a miscommunication about which bed frame belonged in which room, and he took great pains in setting the already painted one up in the wrong room. And I didn’t want to put the ugly bed frame in Little Boy’s freshly painted bedroom (another situation where one small project inadvertently led to a much bigger project). And I had some leftover Polyshades from my bathroom vanity I redid a year ago… so that’s what I went with. Fortunately it’s a 2-in-1 stain and poly and you only have to sand the gloss off the existing finish, not strip it completely. So it’s not much different than paint. But geez. Not a fun job for the girl who struggles to get socks on her own feet. But it’s mostly done now. Apart from a few nooks my foam brush couldn’t reach. Jury’s out whether I’ll actually do that in the next year.

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Life-isms

{End of September}

Reading:

Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson. After reading Station Eleven, I was in the mood for something Shakespeare-related (Shakespeare plays make several cameos in that book), so I grabbed this one from the library. It sounds like it should be dry, but it’s Bill Bryson. He makes things pretty entertaining. In reality, it was an entire book about how little we know about Shakespeare, which sounds terrible. But it was actually super interesting. For example, just about anyone could recognize a portrayal of Shakespeare, but nobody actually knows what he looked like. The main paintings our mental image of him is based on are either poorly drawn or possibly not even of him. Crazy. 

Watching:

Protect Runway season 15. It’s back! This is the only show I follow fairly closely. That being said, I’m already behind.

Listening to:

What’s the deal with Stradivarius violins? by Stuff You Should Know. This was fascinating to me. But I also play the violin, so it figures.

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Life-isms

{Mid September}

Reading:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. All I knew about this book beforehand was that it was about a group traveling around in a post-apocalyptic scenario, so I was expecting it to be an action-packed thriller. And it was a page-turner, but not in the way I was expecting. It’s much more about the seperate characters’ stories and their (often unknown to them) connections to each other before and after everything changed. It’s a little bone-chilling  (which is to be expected since the story is centered around the fall of a civilization) but unexpectedly poignant and lovely.

Listening to:

Playing God by Radiolab with the Stuff You Should Know episode How Triage Works recommended (by me) as a prerequisite. Triage, especially in disaster situations, is such a complex moral dilemma. And it’s something I hadn’t even considered until these two episodes.

Watching:

The Busy World of Richard Scarry. I realized that my child would love Richard Scarry books, so we’ve been slowly going through Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever! And then I saw that a bunch of seasons of the TV show are on Amazon Prime, and now he looooooves that show. It wins out over Bob the Builder pretty often, which is high praise. It’s nostalgic for me because we had a Richard Scarry VHS tape of several episodes when I was growing up.

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Life-isms

{End of August}

Reading:

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie. This was her very first book (and the first in her Poirot series) and I can feel it a little bit. Still really good, but I didn’t like it as much as some of her subsequent work I’ve read. Mostly because the narrator (Hastings) is kind of obnoxious. I think he’s meant to be sort of like Watson, where Poirot is like Sherlock–sort of a bumbling little helper constantly trying to figure out what’s going on–but Doyle manages to carry off the character in an endearing way, whereas it doesn’t quite hit the right note with Hastings. But Hastings aside, it was a fun read. I’m tempted to make a goal of reading all of Agatha Christie’s work, but there are 80ish books, so I’m not sure I’m ready for that commitment yet.

Listening to:

This American Life’s “Are We There Yet” and “Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee.” Both episodes talk about refugees living in various camps in Greece, and it’s really interesting to hear their various perspectives. The part where they talk to the one (one!) lady in charge of taking the Skype calls for thousands of refugees trying to get asylum each day especially stuck out to me. She can only help a tiny portion of the people waiting to be helped, but is still so polite to each person and just keeps at it though it seems like her work will never ever be done.

Happy about:

KT Tape. Also called kinesio tape (KT Tape is just a brand–you find it at Target, etc.). Earlier this month I took my achievement day girls to a day camp (a cub scout camp near us hosts groups of girls on certain days), and the next day I was so sore from all the walking and standing. And for the next week my lower back and hips were so out of whack that I could barely walk. When I was pregnant the first time around I never really got uncomfortable until the last month or so, but then here I was only halfway through and completely miserable. A friend said her doctor suggested kinesio tape for her pregnancy aches and pains, so I found some  (the non-fancy kind is about $12 from Target), watched a bunch of videos, and stuck some to my back and one side of my hip, and it actually worked! You don’t really notice it or feel it while you’re wearing it, but it somehow magically works. I wore it 4ish days, and I think I kept it on a day too long because I got a bit of a rash in a few spots, but I was on vacation and didn’t want it to start hurting again (plus it was still sticking just fine). But it’s continued to feel pretty good even after taking it off, so it was well worth the minor itching.

Enduring:

Potty training. We started at the beginning of July and (pretty literally) day 4 went about as well as day 40 (and not in a good way). But then we hit day 53 last week and completely unexpectedly it clicked. We had a great week and only had a couple little accidents. And then yesterday went off like the past week had never happened. And after cleaning up an accident that I’ll never be able to unsmell (second major one of the day) I thought I was going to lose my mind. But we watched some Bob Ross (Bob the Painter, as he calls him) together and felt a little better. Those potty accidents? They’re happy little trees now. Or something like that.

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