Hump day!

It’s my virtual Friday. I have a conference tomorrow, which is almost like not being at work, and then a vacation day Friday. Of course I feel sort of bowled over by the amount of work I have today, but it’s all good, right? (nod to my CIO – that’s his catchphrase and he’s proving to me that hearing something enough times makes it feel true even if it doesn’t actually become true).

Today is the first day I made a smoothie in my brand-new smoothie maker. We went and bought one of these at Walmart last night, despite my shuddery dislike of all things Walmart. I was tired, and Target is all the way on the other end of town, okay? So I made up my typical smoothie, or the current typical one anyway. If you’re curious, it’s been a scoop of vanilla protein powder, a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a cup of low fat vanilla Greek yogurt, and a cup of frozen fruit (current selection is the cherry-berry-blend from Giant). Well. The new cups are just not that big. And I made a bit of a mess, because my how-much-more-will-it-hold eye is quite inaccurate. Tomorrow I think I’ll try it with 1/2 cup of yogurt.

While I was drinking my still very delicious if rather messy breakfast, I discovered two quite interesting things on Facebook. I don’t spend a ton of time on there anymore, I sort of check in once a week or so. I treat it like I treat Twitter, basically. Jump on if I have something to share, but mostly try to consume chunks when I don’t have enough time to get into my current book but have too much time for something like daydreaming. So anyway!

The first very interesting thing was a message from an old friend with whom I had a falling out almost four years ago. I think maybe we have been un-friends longer now than we were friends, but that has no effect at all on how much I’ve missed her. She’s a pretty awesome person in general, and she really hurt me there at the end, and then this out of the blue missive. I started replying but realized I couldn’t just reel something off like it was nothing because it is so much more to me than nothing. I asked Wayne what he thought about it and he suggested I sit on it. Sitting I am. Hopefully I will compose something worthy of what we shared but not too weird and pushy and not too push-over-y, and compose it soon, because if nothing else she deserves my answer.

The second thing was less shattering but still interesting. My sister, who seems to be a different person now than she was a year or two ago (not my story, not sharing it), posted an update that said she’s glad she doesn’t look like all she’s been through. Wow, did that resonate. And it set my brain scurrying off on a list of what I’ve been through, and what I’ve done to others, because I am far from blameless in my personal drama. Are any of us, really? But still. My mind took me in a curious direction, and brought a few thoughts to the fore. For example:

  • I told someone recently that I write every day, and didn’t realize when I said it that I was lying. I stopped writing every day some time ago, but did it for so long that it still feels like it’s part of me. I felt a twang of guilt for this unintentional lie, and then I got out one of the journals Wayne gave me for our first (paper!) anniversary and I wrote and it felt good.
  • I thought about the fact that I now spend more time with non-readers than I do with readers (the former friend was a reader). Part of what attracted me to Husband One and Husband Two was that they read some, more than most men do. Wayne is not a reader. I don’t think he’s read the book I wrote, and I’m his wife. He reads news articles and sometimes he reads my blog posts, but he’s not anything like the type of reader I am. And you know what? He’s making me think that being a reader is really not as important as I thought it was. Readers hurt me, and he does not. Thanks for tossing yet another long-held belief on its head, dear and darling husband.

Thinking big thoughts in the morning is sort of fun, you know? I bet, though, that the “it’s all good” guy, and my actual boss, would prefer me to do work rather than think, so to work it is.

Happy VF, everyone!

Reviews, of books, of course!

Not reviewing doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. Rather, I don’t feel the need to share everything. Some things I don’t finish (because life’s too short to read something I don’t l0ve), some things I don’t feel like sharing, and of course there are lots of times when I just plain forget. That last one is probably truest when it comes to the lack of reviews in the near-recent past. To make up for it, here’s three seemingly unrelated reviews….

Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg

  • Crime fiction
  • Library hardcover
  • PopSugar Challenge Category:  None

First a disclaimer: I am not normally a reader of crime fiction; I read this book because of Tod Goldberg. I’m a huge fan of Literary Disco, a podcast about books, sort of, and Tod is one of the three co-hosts (the others are Julia Pistell and Rider Strong). I am late to the scene of Literary Discoland, and started at the beginning. I’ve been listening to at least two episodes a week for months and some days I feel like the hosts have taken up residence in my head. I dream about them, I hear their voices in my head when I read. Of course, none of that has a thing to do with Gangsterland…

I was blown away by this book. It’s funny, but not the kind of laugh out loud and have to explain yourself to random people around you funny. I’d say it’s more clever-funny. Just the idea of hiding a hitman from a Chicago crime family in Las Vegas by having him pretend to be a rabbi is cleverly funny. I loved the little details, like that Sal (our main character and hitman), thinks of himself as David as he gets more and more into his new role, but when he makes a call to do some business, he’s Sal again. I liked how he gradually learned that the words he had read to prep to be David had sort of dug themselves into him, and he has started believing them. I loved the in-your-face attitudes of the other family members, the gay informer, the blinged-out funeral director. I loved this book.

I know it seems like I’m all over the place when it comes to reading, and will pretty much recommend books in any genre, but usually I think of books as if you liked this, you’ll like that sort of thing. I have read very little that fits in with Gangsterland so I have no clue how to compare it. But if you like a well-written, clever, sad, funny book that talks about love and finding yourself and losing yourself, you should read this book. And if you want to experience as I did, you should listen to a couple episodes of Literary Disco first so the narrator in your head will be Tod Goldberg. It made the experience that much better for me.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

  • Self-Help
  • Library e-book
  • PopSugar Challenge Category:  A book that made you cry

I’m not sure I agree with the genre on this one, either. There should be a single word that describes writing that is lyrical with being music, poetic but not poetry, heart-wrenching, life-affirming, gorgeous, beautiful, fulfilling, and brutally honest. I’m sure it can’t be its own genre, though, because only this book would fit into it.

This book is a collection of advice columns written by Cheryl Strayed under the pseudonym Sugar for The Rumpus. On a totally unrelated side note, The Rumpus is blocked at work. Considering the guys who determine what’s blocked and what isn’t, I have to assume they think “rumpus” = “rump,” a conclusion that would annoy my grandmother who actually had a rumpus room that had absolutely nothing to do with read ends. Anyway! Cheryl Strayed, in a nutshell, writes like I only wish I could. She’s got some sort of magical thrall-like control over words and no matter how negative the subject she’s talking about (rape, incest, alcoholism, etc) her words are still achingly beautiful.

I’m planning to produce a top ten this year, and this book is definitely on it. Considering how many really good books I’m reading, that’s a big old compliment from one lowly reader, especially one who prefers fiction. I feel like Cheryl Strayed gave me a gift of my own, personal, tiny beautiful things: all those tears she made me cry.

A Slipping-Down Life by Anne Tyler

  • Modern Literature/Coming of Age
  • Library e-book
  • PopSugar Challenge Category: A book that came out the year you were born

This is a book I could put into two categories: it’s Anne Tyler’s first book and it was published in 1969 (and now you know how old I am!). I’m sticking with the second one.

I accidentally skimmed a couple Goodreads reviews before I read this book, something I try not to do. I would rather go into a book fresh and not spoiled by other people’s opinions. It seemed like people didn’t love this as much as Anne Tyler’s other books. I do not agree.

The story is a little odd, or maybe the main character is, I’m not really sure which. Evie Decker is a junior in high school in the late 60’s. She lives with her father (her mother died in childbirth) in an aging neighborhood in Baltimore. Her father is a teacher in the school that she attends. She has one friend who is described as hugely fat (although later in the book we discover her actual weight, and it’s not all that bad). She develops this weird sort of star-struck crush on Drumstrings Casey, who plays his guitar music at a local bar. And then things go straight to hell.

Anne Tyler paints an interesting picture of a case of mild crazy that can result from living as a very sheltered and very shy girl. She also describes everything so well that I could very well imagine myself in Evie’s dusty house, sitting at a crowded table in the roadhouse, in the tar-papered shack outside of town. I felt for Evie, maybe even understood her just a bit, although I promise I would never do the things she did. But at the end, the causes behind her actions didn’t matter. I simply wanted her to succeed. And I was pretty pleased the Anne Tyler did not wrap the ending all up in a pretty little package and hand it to us. She left us hanging, and gave me some space to think about how it could go.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s on the heavier side, definitely not a beach read, but it is totally worth reading. It’s not a love story, it’s more of a life story. A slipping-down life story. 🙂

If you’re still with me…

I said these three books are seemingly unrelated, but there’s actually a common thread for me. All of them were read because I learned about them on a podcast. The very lovely Tracie and Barb of 2KnitLitChicks did an episode on Anne Tyler that led me to start reading her books, and as a relatively new Marylander I am a bit ashamed that some Cali chicks had to point me to the magic that is Ms. Tyler. Cheryl Strayed is an oft-cited author on Literary Disco – she’s one of their go-to authors when they’re trying to explain the right way to do non-fiction. And, of course, Tod Goldberg is a very obvious podcast tie-in. Podcasts = awesome, mkay?

Unwound

4-ish, Sunday afternoon, end of a three day weekend. The house is clean, the shopping done. My clothes are laid out for tomorrow. Between now and when I go to bed all I have to do is make my lunch and ask Wayne (a.k.a. my human alarm clock) to get me up early enough to spend some time at the gym before work. It’s been a weekend, for sure.

I am finding myself in a place where I am not doing anywhere hear as much as I normally do. Mostly, I’m sleeping a lot and reading a ton. But I’m not getting much knitting done, I haven’t exercised since Thursday, I haven’t tracked my food, I’ve been eating like I’m carrying sextuplets and they’re all destined to become sumo wrestlers. There have been times in my life where this combination of things represented a real problem, a need to get my meds adjusted or the beginning of a slow roll downward into one of those nasty depressions. But I feel okay, actually I feel pretty good. I’ve made the decision not to worry.

Some things that have happened this weekend:

  • I watched 5 Flights Up, loved it, cried so much I couldn’t knit.
  • I watched If I Stay with the Squirrel. I started out bashing how it wasn’t 100% accurate (I read the book not too long ago). But then… I loved it and cried so much I couldn’t knit. Seeing a theme here?
  • I watched the 2013 Carrie with the hubs & the Squirrel. I may have gotten a little snippety at all the questions – I was the only one in the room who had read the book and seen the original movie. It was okay and I’m glad I watched it. I didn’t cry. I got about 20 rows of the grandbaby’s blanket knitted.
  • I fixed my Goodreads account so it has my name on it and not Wayne’s (long story short, he got my Kindle for me as a birthday gift and it was pre-configured on his Amazon account…)
  • I finished Gangsterland, read Empire Falls, read Water for Elephants, worked on A History of Loneliness, started The Things They Carried. All of it amazing. It’s been a rather good reading week all in all.
  • I had a dream about a way to take feelings from one person and give them to another and started writing a story (book?) about it.

Tomorrow it’s back to the real world, the world of counting calories and eating salad, of sweating like a pig and not eating Edie’s Butterfinger, a world of the job that still feels new (and is still kicking my ass) and apps to build and meetings to attend and drama-attitudes-etc. Tomorrow is shoes that aren’t flip flops and no afternoon nap and answering emails. Tomorrow it’s being that other Karen, the one who isn’t told “That’s okay hon, just get your read on, I can take care of this myself.” Love that man.

Speaking of loving him, Tuesday is our first anniversary. I’ve purchased a suitable gift, one made of paper, that I really hope he loves. We both took the day off. We have a half-made plan to ride our bikes to Cambridge and split an order of seafood nachos at Jimmie & Sooks, then ride back. It would be about a 70 mile ride round trip so we would totally swing a second meal out – maybe Plaza? All I know for sure is that we’ll spend the whole day together, just like we did last year. I’m really looking forward to it. 🙂