Posts Tagged ‘NaBloPoMo’

Ever since my parents left this past weekend, I’ve been feeling a little low. It was so good to have them here. We spent many hours together each day, drinking wine or taking walks or watching Jeopardy or playing games or reading near each other. My parents spent so much time with my daughter, doing sewing projects and baking projects and house repair projects and taking her to activities and listening to her practice her instruments. They took us out to dinner and watched Carla so my husband and I could take a mini vacation. They fixed things and helped tremendously with Thanksgiving dinner. And now they are gone and the next time we plan to get together is in March. I miss them. I hate saying goodbye. 

But there is a distinct possibility that our goodbyes will be fewer and farther between. I am so reluctant to post about this because I am afraid I will jinx it… but things are moving forward, and it looks like my parents may be moving to our state. Like, thirty minutes away from us. I am suppressing an excited squeal just at the thought of it!!! It is so exciting!!!! All the exclamation points!!!!!

I am looking forward to this for many reasons – not the least of which is that I will breathe a little easier once they are no longer spending 100% of their time in the remote northwestern forest surrounded by literal wolves and lions and bears, a ninety-minute drive from the nearest emergency room. But I am also just so excited that we will live near other! Within a reasonable driving distance! We could just decide, out of the blue, to get together for dinner!!!

Ever since I left home for grad school, I have been separated from my family by no fewer than 1,500 miles. Currently, we live 1,900 miles away from my parents. Previously, it was 2,200 miles. (My brother, for comparison, lives 2,400 miles away from our parents and 4,000 miles away from me.) Planes fly to cities near my parents’ house, but there are no direct flights to these cities and then you have to drive 90 minutes to get to their house. Visiting one another requires long hours of travel and lots of expense. When my husband’s family lived in Europe, it took less time to get to their house than it took to get to my house in the United States, from our college, which is also in the United States. This is a lot of boring numbers to say WE LIVE FAR AWAY.

You are starting to understand my excitement, yes?

I am also excited, of course, for Carla. She will have grandparents nearby! They will be able to attend her sporting events and music performances! When she has an urge to make a pumpkin pie with a real pumpkin, she could just… join my mother in her kitchen and make one like they did this Thanksgiving! Maybe my parents will babysit occasionally, or even have Carla over to spend the night! I don’t know; we haven’t worked out the expectations yet. But it’s all really wonderful. I feel sort of breathless with the possibilities.

I grew up seeing my grandparents very infrequently. My parents moved away from their (separate) home states once they got married, to a very rural town in the northwest. Their siblings, too, scattered to farflung states across the country. If I was lucky, I saw my grandparents once a year. Maybe an aunt and a cousin or two every couple of years. (Although admittedly, my memory sucks. I can remember specific occasions with family, but not the dates or frequency with any sort of reliability. Maybe we saw them every year; I don’t know.) 

All this means that I have NO IDEA how to exist in the same place with my family. And I don’t want to overwhelm my parents with “CAN WEs” and “WHY DON’T YOUs” and “I CAN’T WAIT TOs” when they are probably going to want to settle in and make their own friends and establish their own routines. But obviously I want to be part of their routines!!!! 

* Deep, calming breath. * Okay. Clearly, I need to chill out. I am just so over the moon about them being close to me. 

Here’s where you weigh in: If you live (or have lived) near family, I want to know how and when and how often you interact with your family members.

First of all: Which family lives nearby, and how near are they? Is it your family of origin, or your partner’s? 

How often do you see each other? And what do you do? Are there regular get-togethers, or one-off interactions? Do you have Sunday dinners each week? Do your parents take the kids every Friday? Do you go out for coffee with your sisters every first Wednesday? 

What do you do for holidays? Do you all get together, or do you split things up? 

Do you have a “come over any time, let yourself in the front door” type of relationship? (I… do not think I could do that. And I don’t think my parents could, either. But I think my in-laws would be that kind of people.) Do you get antsy if you go an entire day/week/month without seeing your family members? 

I am most curious if anyone has been in my specific situation: where you went from No Family to Family Nearby. What kinds of adjustments did you undergo?

If you could re-design your family interactions, knowing now what you didn’t know at the outset, what would you change?

Possibly because I grew up in a small family – just me and my brother, and we are six years apart in age – and spent so little time with our extended family, I find bigger/more tight-knit/more physically-near families to be so fascinating. Like my friend whose brothers all get together weekly on Zoom for a family chat. Or my friend who goes to her in-laws’ house every single Friday for dinner. Or the friend whose sister married her husband’s best friend. Or the sisters in Bad Sisterswho are so up in each others’ lives they plan a murder together. What do I know – maybe that is a totally normal level of familial intimacy. 

I want to know all about your experiences – and hey, even if you don’t live near family and never have, I want you to weigh in on what your ideal Family Interaction Situation would be.

Guess what? It is the final day of NaBloPoMo! I made it! Thirty posts in thirty days. Congrats to everyone who participated and thank you to San for hosting! Thanks so much for sticking with me, this month and beyond. To find a list of other NaBloPoMo bloggers, visit San’s blog here.

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This week, I am chipping away at some of the creative, thought-provoking questions readers have been asking. This round of lovely questions is all about blogging. 

A photo of me posting this post – so meta

From JoyMarieCooks of Vegan Husband, Omnivore Wife:

How did you decide to blog and what’s been (a) the best thing (b) the most surprising thing and (c) the worst thing about blogging?

The first blogs I ever read were wedding planning blogs, way back in 2007. It must have been from Wedding Bee that I found the first personal blogs I started reading, although I can’t really remember which blogs they were. Almost none of those blogs I read from the beginning exist today. But what struck me was that they were so friendly, so conversational, and that they mostly seemed to be about women like me, who were newly engaged or married and who just wanted to chat about their experiences. 

When my husband and I moved to a brand new city in a brand new state so he could begin his medical residency, I started this blog. I can’t remember my exact reasoning, only that I’d been thinking about it for a long time. Since I worked remotely, and had just moved to a place where I knew almost no one, I thought it would be a good way to process my thoughts about wifehood and moving and being married to a doctor.

The most surprising thing about blogging is how important it has become to me. It’s a potent combination of diary and slumber party, maybe? I can be honest here in a way I feel I can’t be elsewhere – I can talk about the minutiae of day-to-day life without watching anyone’s eyes glaze over, I feel like I can be chatty with friends with no worries about whether people are gossiping about me behind my back. (Although maybe they are; who knows.) There was a time when life felt too busy and stressful to blog regularly, and I missed it and I am so glad that it is a regular feature of my life again. 

The worst thing about blogging is that the friendships don’t translate into real life. I can’t call you up and say, “Hey, I’m bringing over cookies and wine!” or invite you over to watch reruns of Schitt’s Creek. I want to do that. Although I admit I’m a little afraid, too – what if you don’t like Real Life Suzanne? (I am mainly the same as Blog Suzanne, just less wordy and much more awkward.) So even as this community uplifts me and makes me feel included and supported and part of something, it can also be a little lonely. 

From Ally of The Spectacled Bean:

As a longtime blogger thinking about your approach to personal blogging, which is more important to you: writing your own posts then replying to all the comments you’ve received– OR reading other bloggers’ posts and leaving comments for them? That is, do you see your role primarily as a creator or a coach?

This is SUCH a thought-provoking question. I’ve been considering it for a long time. Starting at the end of the question, I have literally never thought of myself in terms of either a creator or a coach. I suppose if I were to put a label on myself, and what I do here, I would call myself a community member. My blog isn’t geared toward anything in particular; it’s just me, posting about my silly little life, trying to engage with other people. The writing part is valuable for me, because it allows me to work through my own thoughts, allows me to empty my brain. But the engagement is even more valuable, because it enables me to feel like I belong to something big and warm and friendly. Maybe most bloggers are more intentional about their goals as a blogger, or their designs for content, and that’s great. But for me, it’s more of a conversation.

That said, I don’t think I have a specific philosophy about commenting. I try to read all the blogs I can, and comment on them as frequently as possible. Sometimes I try to respond to comments on my posts, but I don’t respond to all of them; perhaps to my detriment, I don’t know. I like it when other bloggers respond to my comments, but I don’t mind it when they don’t. And sometimes it doesn’t feel “right” to respond, or sometimes I don’t have time, or I can’t find the right way to say what I want to say. I do, however, read every single comment anyone posts, and appreciate the time and energy required both to read my lengthy droning and to share your thoughts. 

From Stephany of Stephany Writes

What made you decide to make (and keep!) your blog completely anonymous?

At first, I think the decision was made out of embarrassment? Or maybe shyness is a more accurate term? I wanted to write things, maybe personal things, and I didn’t want anyone to know it was ME writing them. (That’s so dumb, because I feel like the people reading this do know me. Maybe even know me better, in some ways, than people who don’t read this blog.) Then it became a matter of me wanting to write about things that I wouldn’t necessarily want connected back to my husband – like, do his patients need to read a post about how cute I think he looks in scrubs? No, they do not. 

While the latter is still true, I also think that the anonymity is for my sake. My mom read my blog for awhile (and still may; I don’t know and prefer not to!) and when I thought about her reading my posts, my writing felt stilted, like I was being watched. I’ve had a couple of real-life/pre-blogging friends read this blog, and that was okay, but it still felt a little uncomfortable. Like has your spouse/parent/sibling ever looked over your shoulder while you were writing an email or a text? A perfectly ordinary, non-controversial, non-scandalous email or text? I hate that; it makes me very self-conscious. Knowing people I know in the offline world read my blog is kind of like that feeling.

At one point, I got word that someone who knew my husband read this blog… maybe she still does, I don’t know. But THAT was super awkward, because I felt like everything I said reflected on him. Now I didn’t have to just worry that my mom was wondering HOW I’d gotten through college using quite so many exclamation points, but I had to worry that my husband’s colleagues were thinking he was married to a weird overly enthusiastic dolt. It sucks, but my writing does reflect on him, in a way. I think that’s part of the reason that I don’t like to discuss politics or Big Subjects – because I don’t want anyone misconstruing my poorly-constructed thoughts as his. (The other part is that the world is FULL of intelligent – and not – discourse on Big Subjects that we can choose to read. Plus, that’s not what I want to write about, so I don’t write about it.) Also, I do write a lot about my experiences parenting here… and I don’t want Carla to be googleable because of that. 

I would say that at this point, it’s a very loose approximation of anonymity. But that’s okay. I like the facade. 

Thank you all so much for your questions! If you have any other questions you’d like me to answer, about blogging or anything else, feel free to fill out my Ask Me Anything form.

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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For the past few years, I’ve been downloading the free reading calendars from Everyday Reading. I follow Janssen’s directions for printing a large “blueprint” size via Staples, and print one out each summer and each December and hang it on my kitchen wall.

At this point, I think I am doing it mainly for me rather than for Carla… but… at least right now that’s okay. 

(All About Me Aside: While I definitely encourage holiday reading each year to increase the magic quotient for Carla, I also do it for me. Last year, for the first time ever, I tried to read some adult Christmas books. I made a list based on recommendations from people I trust and adore… and then my experiment was a huge flop. I am not going to list them here because a) I’m pretty sure I mentioned them before, even though I can’t find it and b) I know all too sharply the feeling of betrayal and failure that accompanies recommending a book and having a friend/family member dislike/dismiss it. In this case, not liking these much-loved books made ME feel like the failure, I can assure you. Anyway. I want to try again this year, but I am recalibrating slightly by trying to find books that Carla and I can enjoy together.) 

Anyway: I am contemplating the December reading calendar and realizing that we may have finally outgrown our holiday book collection.

It’s not like I’m throwing them away or anything. I love our classic selection that includes things like Bear Stays Up for Christmas and Latke the Lucky Dog and beautifully illustrated versions of books like Oskar and the Eight Blessings and The Night Before Christmas. (I try, I really do, to inject some sort of religious element into this season, so we do talk about the story of Jesus’s birth and we discuss the miracle of the oil. We have a few books that lean more toward the religious, like Room for a Little One and Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah, but most of our books are more secular in nature.)

All images below from amazon except where noted.

(Another Mainly About Me Aside: Hanukkah is not a major Jewish holiday, but since it overlaps with the Christmas season, I like to give it some prominence in our winter celebrations mainly to feel like we aren’t implying that one side of Carla’s heritage is more important than the other. This may matter to no one but me, but I am just making it up as I go along here.)

Onto the Book Search!

A few years ago I ordered one of my favorite Christmas chapter books – The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson – and read it to Carla. I don’t think she really enjoyed it as much as I did (although perhaps it will be more resonant this year). But what I want is more books like that. Good stories that evoke the spirit of the season and warm the heart. I don’t care if they are religious or secular, about Hanukkah or Christmas or any of the winter holidays we don’t personally celebrate but would be interested in exploring. My only stipulation is that I am trying to veer away from picture books this year. We have plenty, and I don’t know if they will appeal to my nine-and-a-half-year-old anymore. (Sob.)

During my search, it seems to me that there is quite a dearth of this very specific kind of books for Carla’s age range. But we shall persevere.

I got, as gifts, two books that might work: A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings by Charles Dickens and A Little House Christmas Treasury by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I started reading the latter to Carla last year and I think it might be the right kind of thing. 

There is a collection by Louisa May Alcott I may need to own: Christmas Stories: 32 Classic Stories & Poems for the Young & Old.

Carla and I are going to see one of her friends in a performance of The Nutcracker. Maybe we should see if our library has a copy of Nutcracked by Susan Adrian to get in the proper frame of mind? (I personally think the entire Nutcrackerstory is… how can I put this tactfully… I can’t think of a way; suffice it to say that it doesn’t resonate with me particularly well but I do enjoy the music.) 

Matt Haig’s A Boy Called Christmas seems to pop up on “best Christmas books for tweens” lists. But I don’t know if it would appeal to Carla. On the other hand, if she does like it, there are two others in the series we could read. I’m adding it to the library holds list.

Carla is LOVING James Patterson’s Katt and Dogg books, so obviously Dog Diaries: Happy Howlidays: A Middle School Story is on the list.

I initially passed over this book because it strikes me as ridiculous, but… it gets good ratings and Carla does really love dinosaurs. So I am putting a hold on The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher as well. 

I completely forgot that The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis was a holiday book! I think I may have it knocking around in a dusty bookcase somewhere along with the rest of the series.

The Naughty List by Michael Fry (NOT to be confused with On the Naughty List, which looks like quite the steamy Christmas anthology) looks cute… although I am already growing weary of the “child travels to North Pole to correct a mistake, hijinks ensue” story line.

Reluctantly, I have ordered The Christmas Pig from the library (reluctant because I continue to feel morally uncomfortable about supporting the author). 

Perhaps The Last Holiday Concert would be a good one; I love Andrew Clements. 

How about a nice holiday mystery story? Pinky Bloom and the Case of the Magical Menorah by Judy Press looks very cute.

Oooh! A Nancy Drew Christmas by the pseudonymous Carolyn Keene sounds right up my alley. Not quite sure if Carla would enjoy it – she’s not as obsessed with mysteries as I am. But this story features a ski resort in one of our favorite states, so maybe that would win her over! Putting that one on hold for sure.

Along similar appeals-to-me-but-perhaps-not-to-Carla lines is The Very Merry Murder Club collection of “wintery crime and mystery stories.” Alas, it is not available at my library.

Would The Girl Who Ruined Christmas by Cindy Callaghan be a good option, I wonder? I could see Carla being turned off by the title… or possibly intrigued. And… is it too tween-y?

I like the sound of Father Christmas’s Fake Beard by Terry Pratchett – a collection of humorous stories.

Or maybe one of the Enid Blyton collections? Christmas Tales or Christmas Stories. And don’t they look like they are illustrated by Quentin Blake? (Amazon doesn’t say and I didn’t do any additional digging.)

As long as we are looking at short stories, I am going to add The Power of Light: Eight Stories for Hanukkah by Isaac Bashevis Singer to the list. It’s kind of old (published in 1980, before I was born!), and may be for a slightly more mature audience (amazon confusingly lists it as having a “reading age” of 4 years and up and a “grade level” of 7 through 9), but if I can find it, it could be worth a try. (Alas, our library does not have it. Perhaps I can find a good used copy from amazon or ThriftBooks. I remember with great fondness Singer’s short story collection When Shlemiel Went to Warsawbut that one isn’t available either.

This collection of stories about the winter solstice – Return of the Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice – sounds really interesting. I love learning how people in countries other than mine celebrate winter.

Although it is yet another of the “child travels to the North Pole” genre, North Pole Patrol by J. C. Deelstra sounds like it has potential.

Okay, I know I said no picture books, but this illustrated version of O. Henry’s classic The Gift of the Magi looks stunning… and that’s a story I haven’t shared with Carla yet.

Eve Bunting’s One Candle also looks beautiful and the story sounds heartfelt.

Nostalgia for The Baby-Sitters Club books made me look twice at Ann M. Martin’s On Christmas Eve, but it sounds very heartwarming!

On an entirely different tone, Krampus and the Thief of Christmas by Eldritch Black sounds different and potentially interesting. Although I can’t tell if it is truly scary or not. Carla is not a huge fan of scary.

What am I missing? What are the Christmas/winter/winter holiday books you (and/or your kids) read every year? 

I have requested 8 books for Carla (and, honestly, for me) from the library and I have three books in my amazon cart. I also requested two Agatha Christies for myself: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas and Midwinter Murder: Fireside Tales from the Queen of Mystery, in the hopes that choosing books by an author I know and love will result in a higher Christmas-book enjoyment rate than I had last year. 

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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I have about a million words of partial and near-complete blog posts written (fact check: 7,066 words) and yet instead of finishing any of them I am going to write a few words of nonsense.  

Partly this is because I spent all day finishing Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I am in that peculiar funk of appreciation, marvel, and sadness that follows finishing a really good book. It was SO GOOD that I want to take you by the shoulders and force you to read it. However, this novel came out in 2015 so everyone has read it already but me, including my husband. It was a finalist for the National Book Award, for Pete’s sake, and there’s already a miniseries based on the novel. So I’m a little grumpy that it’s done and that I can’t force you to read it and that it’s unlikely you and I can even discuss it because you probably read it so long ago.

After our recent snowfall, we have had very unseasonably warm weather. My mom and I went for many walks this week, with nary a jacket. I took my walk without her. It was pleasant – the air was cool, the sun was warm, neighbors were out in shorts and T-shirts putting up Christmas décor (is this what it’s like to live in Florida?) and mowing their lawns. But it was also a little sad, because my parents left this morning so I was walking alone. 

(Also, while I do okay during the walking, my feet are in agony after I get home and sit for a few minutes.)

My father fixed our horribly broken and embarrassing gates while he was here, and undertook some other repairs, and my mother was such a huge help in the kitchen, approaching pie baking and sweet-potato mashing and gravy whisking with such efficient good nature. They are so good with Carla, playing games with her and coming up with sewing and repair projects for her to participate in. They stayed with her overnight so my husband and I could go on a mini-getaway, and the getaway was LOVELY and restorative and too quick. I am feeling so grateful for them and yet behind the gratitude is this shadow of panic, a shadow of despair because I am far too aware that they won’t always be around. There’s no reason to think they won’t continue to be with me for many, many years! And yet the specter of that dark future without them is lurking there in the background and sucking some of the color out of everything.

I am trying to ignore it.

I ate the last of the mashed potatoes this morning, which is good; the potatoes themselves were good, and it is good that they are gone. I am weary of Thanksgiving food, even though all I did was eat it on Thanksgiving and then have a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy for two consecutive breakfasts. I just don’t enjoy Thanksgiving food and am craving something with crisp colorful vegetables and SPICE. Not enough to make anything though; we are ordering pizza for dinner. 

We still have remnants of guests: far too much fancy cheese in the fridge, a few sips of eggnog, an unopened bottle of pomegranate juice. I bought a bottle of gingerbread cream liqueur on a whim a few weeks ago, and we each had a glass of that this week; it wasn’t really good enough for a second glass, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to throw it out yet. The pumpkin pie is long gone (it was delicious, although it made the roof of my mouth itch), and Carla ate the remainder of the cranberry sauce. My husband will continue to chip away at the stuffing and turkey remnants, and I think there’s a tiny bit of gravy left for him as well.

In addition to reading and walking and feeling glum, I’ve been doing laundry all day. We let it pile up over the week. Our bed is already freshly made; I saw my husband trudge upstairs with all of Carla’s clean bed linens, but I am not confident that he made her bed. I really need to strip the guest bed and launder all the linens, so it will be fresh when my mother-in-law arrives in a week. The clothing is still all in piles everywhere; this week will be full of – my favorite and yours – excessive folding.

Today was a nice day, I would say. The three of us interacting only occasionally, otherwise engaged in separate pursuits in our separate quiet areas of the house or neighborhood (Carla spent a fair amount of time in the backyard or out riding her bike). My husband and I each did some gift buying, and submitted our gift lists to his side of the family; my parents brought our gifts when they came for Thanksgiving. And I, being wildly on top of things for the first time ever, had already done all the shopping and was able to send them home with their gifts from us. 

We have tomorrow to (dis-)engage in similar activities, finish the laundry, tidy the basement. And then it’s back to normal, until my mother-in-law arrives. (She is fine; just coming for quarterly tests and scans.) I am really, really looking forward to normalcy. It has been too long since I’ve written anything other than a blog post.  I am eager to get back to a more moderate and less carb-heavy meal plan. Carla needs to be back in school.

It’s still November, and I have my husband’s gifts almost covered. I have already purchased a gift for each of my sisters-in-law. As I mentioned, my parents are taken care of. Our holiday cards arrived and are lovely, and just need to be addressed and mailed. 

All is well. And yet, I have that slumped over feeling of petulant lowness that sometimes follows a really nice vacation or a really nice visit or a lovely holiday. 

Hopefully it passes soon. Perhaps some pomegranate margaritas will help, what do you think?

What are you up to this weekend? Does anyone else have a bit of a holiday hangover?

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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We had a lovely Thanksgiving. The turkey was ready on time for the first time ever. I relinquished control and asked everyone for help and they obliged and — shock of shocks — things were a lot less stressful than they have been in the past.

We have played games and watched movies and taken walks around the neighborhood and put a good dent in the leftovers. I have spent a nice chunk of the day reading on the couch.

My parents have said their until-we-meet-agains, and we are all trying not to feel too tearful at their leaving. Now, my husband and Carla and I have the rest of the weekend to retreat to our silent corners and do the copious laundry that has piled up during the week.

I almost missed posting today, but I have made it just in the nick of time. If you celebrated Thanksgiving, I hope it was low-stress and lovely; if you didn’t participate, I hope your week ended on a high note.

Happy weekend, Internet friends.

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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Since it’s almost Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and time is in short supply for me and possibly for you, I only have a very short post today. It’s a guessing game, really. I am going to post a photo with no commentary (aside from this commentary, which is getting long, but, eh, you know what you’re in for when you visit this blog) and you guess the story behind the photo. And then there will be a little giveaway for people who participate. 

Here’s how the giveaway will work: You can guess until midnight Eastern Time Friday. At some point, probably in December, I will number all the guesses/comments chronologically and randomize them and choose one person, and then I will send that person a little giftie. A very little giftie, and I haven’t decided what it will be: maybe an assortment of little things from Michael’s or Target. Maybe something specific to the winner, if I have any ideas of what the winner might enjoy. Maybe something yummy, maybe something practical, I don’t know. A mystery giftie. I am going to limit the gift-sending to people who live in the U.S. and Canada, however; I’m sorry! I am not confident enough in my ability to mail something to/find an appropriate retailer in other countries. 

If you don’t want to guess, you can still enter the giveaway. Just leave a comment of any sort. And if you want to guess and/or comment, but don’t want to enter the giveaway – which I understand, because the giveaway award is extremely vague even in my own mind – just let me know in your comment. The only stipulation to entering is that you must be willing to share your address with me. 

Then, at some point in the (hopefully near) future, I will tell you the story behind the photo and choose a giveaway recipient. 

Okay. Here’s the photo. And here’s a hint: I took this photo the day before my parents arrived for Thanksgiving.

Happy guessing!

What’s the story behind this photo? (As always, please forgive my poor photography skills.)

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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I ran into a Person in My Circle TM The Queen of Mediocretia  the other day who told me how she’d gone to her twenty-five-year college reunion over the weekend. It had been so fun, she’d said, but – with a deep, dramatic sigh – she’d seen The Love of Her Life and that had been hard. 

This was a very interesting comment, for several reasons. The first of which is that she is married and has children. Whatever – no judgement; the only people who know what a marriage is like are the people inside that marriage. 

The other reason I found it interesting was that she said THE love of my life. As though this person was the one and only (and her husband was NOT the love of her life). 

Personally, I don’t believe that there is just ONE person in the universe for you. (Mini Tangent: Perhaps incongruously, I do believe in soul mates. However, I believe in multiple soul mates, and I don’t necessarily believe that a soul mate has to be your spouse, or that a spouse has to be your soul mate. I have a former coworker who I consider to be my soul mate, even though there was never anything romantic between us, and even though I haven’t talked to her in far too many months. One of my best friends is another soul mate. My husband is a soul mate, too. I guess my definition of soul mate would be someone who knows some aspect of your heart so deeply, it feels like you are two halves of a whole.) 

(I also have very strong feelings about how Hollywood/Disney/media-in-general portray love, and what it “should be” vs. what it IS. But that’s another topic for another day.)

Anyway, I think there are probably multiple people in the universe whom we could each call The Love of Our Lives.  

Before I met my husband, I was in love twice. This surprises me, when I look back on it, because I had more than two boyfriends before I met my husband. And I certainly thought I was in love with more than two of those boyfriends when I was with them. I guess from this perspective, now that I know what love really is (or what love is to me, I guess), it’s easy to see which relationships qualified and which didn’t. The two I’m thinking of qualify because, I suppose, I think I could have seen myself building a life with either of them. 

It’s interesting to think about how things might have turned out differently, had I pursued something more serious with either of those other loves. To be clear: I don’t pine for either of them, and honestly don’t even think of either of them very often, and I am quite pleased with how my life turned out, spouse-wise. (Also, I am quite pleased with how my life turned out, offspring-wise. If I’d married one of these other dudes, Carla wouldn’t exist and that is unthinkable.) But it is kind of a mind-pluck to think about what I would be doing, what life would be like, where I would be living, what my kids would be like had things gone a different way. 

I haven’t heard from the one since shortly after I joined Facebook in 2008 (I still have an account but do not use it) and I haven’t heard from the other since we ran into each other during a college reunion nearly twenty years ago. Each of them got married, to the women they dated right after me, and I think at least one of them has a couple of children. From what I remember, one was living out West, in Idaho or Utah or Colorado; the other lived in a big city. I’m not sure what their status is these days. I suppose I could try to Facebook one or both of them, to see where they are and what they’re doing, but I am too lazy.

Now it’s your turn to weigh in:

Have you ever been in love? How many times? What’s your position on soul mates, and the concept of “one true love”? Do you ever think about “what might have been,” or where you would be now if you had made a different choice? Do you keep in touch with any former loves or would-be soul mates? 

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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If you are new here, first of all, welcome!

Second of all, you may not be aware that I love to read. At the moment, I am in the middle of five books: The Chestnut Man by Soren SveistrupThe Wives by Taryn FischerThe Art of Screen Time by Anya KamenetzCultish by Amanda Montell, and Abel’s Island by William Steig

(I also have a book blog, which I post at far too infrequently.) 

While I am nowhere near as prolific a reader as many of the people reading this post, I tend to read around 75 books a year. Books are one of my favorite things, and one of my favorite topics. So I was delighted to get a few reading-specific questions when I first posted my Ask Me Anything form.

1) NGS asked, “What book do you recommend the most often?” and Stephany asked, “What books do you find yourself recommending over and over again?” 

Book recommendations completely depend on who’s asking and what they’re looking for. One of my all-time favorite books – and the one that popped immediately into my head – is The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. I thought it was written so well, the prose was so tight, the style so unique, the emotion so vivid… It is an example, for me, of a perfect book. But I can also acknowledge that it probably won’t appeal to everyone! The person who recommended it to me, for instance, read it and said, “I see why you loved this so much.” But it wasn’t his favorite book, it didn’t rock his reading world in the same ways it did mine. 

My favorite genre of books is mystery/thriller, and I think my top recommendations change with time. The Round House by Louise Erdrich was a beautiful, heartbreaking mystery that I absolutely adore. For a great mystery series, I don’t know that you can get any better than the Alphabet Mysteries by Sue Grafton, or the Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson, or Sophie Hannah’s Zailer and Waterhouse mysteries, or the Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French, or maybe Anthony Horowitz’s Hawthorne and Horowitz series

In thrillers, my favorites ebb and flow because there are so many fantastic novels being published every day. I adore A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne, because the writing quality is exquisite and the shape of the story is so unique and so well-fitted to the subject. The Push by Ashley Audrain had not only beautiful writing, but wonderful pacing.  Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris was a heart-pounder with one of the worst villains I’ve ever encountered. 

In historical fiction, of which I am admittedly not a connoisseur, I can’t imagine anything better than Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy. Although I did find Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone to be extremely engrossing, moving, and beautiful; it blends historical fiction with domestic suspense. 

When it comes to romance, which is another genre I generally eschew, I find myself recommending The Royal We and its sequel, The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. One of my all-time favorite books is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and that bridges speculative fiction and romance. Or, another all-time favorite, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – which spans romance and literary fiction, and is one of the most beautiful, tender books I’ve ever read. 

For literary fiction, the books that come to mind are The Namesake by Jhumpa LahiriA Little Life by Hanya YanagahiraThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

We haven’t even touched on speculative fiction, or short stories, or non-fiction! 

The horrible/wonderful truth of it is that there are SO MANY amazing books in the world, and none of us can ever read them all. But if you are looking for something specific, I probably have a recommendation for you.

2) NGS asked, “How do you fit in reading in your day?” If I read nothing else all day, I at least read before bed. One of the reasons I have multiple books going at a time is because I read via multiple methods. I usually have an audiobook, a print book (or several), and an ebook going all at once. When I dry my hair, which takes a good fifteen minutes, I read my Kindle. When I am in the car, or unloading groceries, or folding laundry, or going for a walk, I am listening to an audiobook. (Listening to audiobooks 100% counts as reading.) When I am waiting in the pickup line at school, or sitting outside one of Carla’s lessons or activities, I am reading. When I am eating lunch, I am reading. It adds up. 

3) NGS asked, “Is Carla a big reader? What does she read?” Carla is what I might call a burgeoning reader. She has enjoyed audiobooks for years, especially everything by Beverly Clearly and Judy Blume. (I think she has listened to Socks about a hundred times.) Before around third grade, she didn’t have a whole lot of interest in reading books for herself outside of the Gerald and Piggie books by Mo Willems. But last year, she got really into a series called Bad Kitty, which she tore through… and then she found another series called Notebook of Doom, and we had to go to the library weekly until she’d finished every book. 

Then, at the beginning of this year, I told her teacher that one of my goals for Carla is that she really love reading. Her teacher looked at me, very seriously, and said, “Oh, she will.” It seemed like mere days after fourth grade started that Carla had come home with a book – A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry – that she refused to put down. Suddenly, she was reading at meal times. She was rejecting my husband’s and my offers to read to her before bed in favor of reading to herself. She was gushing to me about the language style. She was dashing up to her room to get her book so she could take it to school. She was reading choice lines to me in the car. She was reading at recess.

It was like a switch had been flipped. Not only was she loving reading, but she was no longer intimidated by larger books with more words than pictures. She hasn’t found a book that has grabbed her quite like A Wolf Called Wander, but she is constantly in the middle of a book and she checks out huge piles of books from the library every time we go. It’s so gratifying to see her beginning to understand the magic of a really good book. (She is currently reading the newest Katharine Applegate book, Odder, which is a book in verse – a fact I did not know when I bought it for her. She is LOVING it.)

My husband and I still read to her every chance we get. He is currently reading her a book called The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch, although I don’t think either of them loves it a whole lot.  I am reading Abel’s Island to her, because it was one of my favorites as a kid. I have a whole stack of books from my childhood that I am “forcing” her to listen to; I usually read to her when she is eating dinner (which is almost always before my husband and I eat) and sometimes before bed. 

I could talk about books and reading all day. (Which is why I started the book blog… but apparently I don’t have enough time/wherewithal to make it a daily habit. Sigh. Maybe someday.) 

Are you a big reader? What are you reading now? What’s your favorite genre? What book do you find yourself recommending over and over?

(And if you have any questions for me, about reading or otherwise, feel free to fill out my Ask Me Anything form.)

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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We had our first snowfall of the season over the weekend! It started with some big, fat, gently falling snowflakes on Saturday and then by Sunday it was wet, heavy, drenching snow. While I miss the beauty of the fall — especially the gorgeous yellow tree in my backyard neighbor’s yard that leans over our hedges into our yard — the trees had long since lost their leaves anyway, so I am pretty pleased with this introduction to winter.

Since I am not doing Dinners This Week, this week (I did a double last week), I thought I would post some updates about random things.

  • The State of the Ceiling: The plaster expert is gone – after four days in my house instead of the originally-stated two – for good. (I am a little concerned for him, because he told me a lengthy story about how one of his other clients is sexually harassing him. It was a story that I listened to with a Very Serious face, and at the end, I told him, “I am so sorry you are being harassed.” at which point it became clear that he was telling the story in the hopes that I would think it was funny? “I guess I know what it’s like to be a woman now! Har har!” he said, and I nodded very seriously and said, “That must be an eye-opening perspective, although what an awful way to attain it.” He went back to work.) Despite his tendency to talk too much, and about subjects that made me slightly uncomfortable, he did a wonderful job on the ceiling. Here’s a little before and after for you. I’m sorry it isn’t more exciting.
Perhaps I could have made more of an effort to take these photos from the same angle.
  • Vaccines: My husband and Carla are now both boosted! (They each already got their flu shots several weeks ago.) Despite all plans to the contrary, I forgot Carla’s vaccine card at home. SIGH. What IS it with me doing that??? Her doctor gave me a little sticker to put on her card at home, so it worked out okay and I remain the only one in the universe in our family who has three vaccine cards. Carla had a very mild fever and some arm pain after her vaccine. My husband felt pretty crummy the day after his; the same thing I went through, with the skin sensitivity and the aching and the general yuckiness. No fever though. And now we are all boosted! (As are my parents, who are visiting us VERY SOON!!!! Hooray!)
  • The State of My Feet: I continue to struggle with plantar fasciitis. I got a third injection a few months ago that, like the other injections, did nothing. I continue to dabble with things that are supposed to help: wearing my brace, icing my feet, doing stretches, rolling a ball beneath my feet, trying to pick up a washcloth in the shower with my toes (they are incapable of doing this). I have purchased foot insoles and special socks. I bought a new pair of shoes. I have even tried just Powering Through, and walking even though my feet ache. Nothing is helping. No wonder; what I have trouble with is trying a variety of things that a variety of people have suggested, and doing it inconsistently and haphazardly. What I need is A Real Plan. I can follow A Plan! But I need a medical professional to tell me The Plan so I can initiate it. However, I don’t think I can go back to the podiatrist. He seems… overly invested in the injections. The person who referred me to him claims he is a miracle worker, and that he worked with her extensively to fix her own plantar fasciitis, but he hasn’t been quite as attentive to me. He just says, “Let’s try another shot.” I want him – or some other foot expert – to say, “This is what you do. Do these specific exercises in this order, daily for 15 minutes. Wear this brace every day for two hours. Buy this specific pair of shoes and wear this specific insert.” Not, “Oh, well, let’s check back in two weeks and maybe you need another injection.” Speaking of needles: a (different) friend who formerly had plantar fasciitis said that acupuncture had cured her, so I have an appointment with her acupuncturist later this month. My husband is being very supportive. I told him I am excited to try it, and he said he is excited for me. I said, “Do you think it will work?” and he said, “No.” Sigh. We’ll see.
  • Treadmill Desk: My husband bought me a treadmill desk for my birthday waaaaay back in February and I loved it. But then my plantar fasciitis kept getting worse and worse, and I stopped using it. I have every intention of getting back into the habit. Maybe when my feet are in less constant agony. (There will come a time when they are in less constant agony, yes?)
  • The State of My Skin: I read every single comment with great interest. So many great ideas, so much comforting commiseration. My best guess is that, as many readers suggested, the skin thing is a result of age and/or hormones. Which means I probably just need to tough it out. I have definitely had Skin Stuff before, usually precipitated by trying a new skincare product. But it didn’t seem to linger quite as lengthily as this most recent issue. Anyway, the action I took was to put all my faith in NGS’s comment. She said, “I have terrible eczema and I use Neutrogena wipes to clean my skin every night and don’t worry about the environmental cost because any time I’ve changed it, my skin has gone insane.” So I went back to my old, environmentally detrimental cleansing process. My skin has responded quite well. It is no longer unbearably itchy, and the only remaining problem area is a rough rectangular patch of redness between my eyebrows. This does not mean I am going to give up on trying to find a skincare routine that doesn’t involve disposable wipes. I am going to try again – looking to your comments for ideas. But for now, this has been helping to alleviate my misery.
  • Calcium: I still worry about Carla’s calcium intake, and the variety of foods she eats in general. Especially in this busy season of our lives, the majority of her diet seems to be chicken nuggets, peas, and rice, interspersed with tacos and the occasional filet of salmon. I know this isn’t the worst combination of foods, and she is still growing and thriving, but… I would like to expand her diet to include other things. She ate a bowl of snow for breakfast yesterday, but that’s not what I mean by “other things.” One of the issues, it seems, is that Carla doesn’t have a great grasp on which foods include which nutrients. Like… she’ll indicate that she thinks white rice has protein in it, or that eggs contain calcium. I’ve tried correcting her in the moment and talking to her more generally about which foods fit into which nutrient group (and I wrote some lists on our whiteboard of which foods, in which nutrient categories, would be good for breakfast), but it’s not sticking. It might be useful to find some book resources, but I’m having a hard time finding anything that doesn’t seem too young. I’ve ordered Are You What You Eat? from our library, and I might order Good Enough to Eat by Lizzy Rockwell from Amazon. We’ll see if they are useful. 
Why is it that I can never take a photo with the proper proportions so that it looks straight?!?!?!

Are there any topics I’ve raised in the past that you are burning for me to revisit? (LOL.) If there’s something I brought up awhile ago and you’re curious about the resolution, let me know in the comments or on my Ask Me Anything form and I will post about it.

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

Read Full Post »

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

I started drinking coffee when I was eight. My mom brought home these beautiful bowls from a trip she’d made to Paris, and said that children drank café-au-lait out of the bowls. Obviously, I wanted to do this, too. So she made me café-au-lait, which is mainly milk with a splash of coffee.

My next memory of coffee comes from my mother’s law office. Her office had a little kitchenette in the basement, outside the library. It’s two best features were an “Honor Box” of candy bars (which I dutifully fed dollars and coins into so that I could have Butterfingers when they were available and Fifth Avenue bars when they weren’t) and a coffee pot. I’d pour myself cups of coffee, doctor them up with sweetener and powdered milk, and drink them while I did my homework.

Once when I was in high school, my father and I drove to a Big West Coast City. It’s possible we were on our way to check out a university there; I remember the visit and hating the bustling, city-like school with all my heart. We stopped at a resort on a lake, about halfway between my hometown and BWCC, and had a fancy dinner. After dessert, on a whim, we ordered the coffee tray. My father does NOT drink coffee, but he and I were both delighted by all the accoutrements – marshmallows, sugar cubes, whipped cream, chocolate shavings. We mixed our coffees into sweet oblivion. 

That’s where my specific memories of coffee-drinking stall. I have flickers: gratefully seeking out the break room coffee machine when my eyes started to flutter during an especially tedious internship; sipping that first pumpkin spice latte of the fall; searching for just the right flavor of those tiny tubs of flavored creamer crammed into a bowl in a diner. 

But coffee just doesn’t do it for me anymore. Hasn’t for a decade or more (despite my best efforts). Now, I’m into tea. 

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