2018 Year in Review: Books

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Every time I put on the Rent soundtrack, one of the ways I consistently answer the question “how do you measure a year?” is “In books I read!”  Naturally, there are plenty of others, but books are a marvelously quantifiable answer.

Fiction:

Two Dark Reigns – Kendare Blake

Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

Kingdom of the Blind – Louise Penny

Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld

Sisterland – Curtis Sittenfeld

Rapid Falls – Amber Cowie

Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey – Alison Weir

Three Wishes – Liane Moriarty

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror – (Daniel) Mallory Ortberg

Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake

One Dark Throne – Kendare Blake

The Young Queens – Kendare Blake

Origin – Dan Brown

The Family Next Door – Sally Hepworth

The Long Drop – Denise Mina

Small Great Things – Jodie Picoult

Nonfiction:

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start Up – John Carreyrou

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder – Caroline Fraser

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa – Adam Hochschild

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things – Jenny Lawson

Year of No Clutter: A Memoir – Eve Schaub

Between the World and Me: Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter – Margareta Magnusson

Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men – Harold Schechter

Siblings Without Rivalry: How To Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too – Adele Faber

In Bloom: Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence – Kayla Aimee

Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark – Addie Zierman

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandburg

Life in a Medieval City – Frances Gies

The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock – Lucy Worsley

Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith – Barbara Brown Taylor

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – Mindy Kaling

The Blood of Emmett Till – Timothy B. Tyson

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again – Rachel Held Evans

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson

Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings – Alison Weir

Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America – Alissa Quart

The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster – Sarah Krasnostein

You’ve Been So Lucky Already – Alethea Black

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI – David Grann

Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century – Peter Graham

Dead Mountain: The Untold Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident – Donnie Eicher

Infreakinfertility: How to Survive When Getting Pregnant Gets Hard – Melanie Dale

The Cross and the Lynching Tree – James H. Cone

When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith – Addie Zierman

Unf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess – Rachel Hoffman

The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game – Mary Pilon

More Than Halfway Through, and Still Reading:

The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down: Colin Woodard

World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made: Irving Howe

Reread:

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End – Atul Gawande

Ready For Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood – Kate Hopper

Juniper: The Girl Who was Born Too Soon – Kelley Benham French, Thomas French

I’m looking forward to reviewing a few of the highlights on the list and looking forward to more books in 2019!

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

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December Updates

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  • I’m working on reestablishing my exercise routine. I hadn’t fully realized how much the lack of movement was affecting my physical strength as well as my mental health.  It’s meant getting much more creative than previously, but I’m really trying to get in 3-4 30 minute sessions of moving (whether that’s walking/jogging outdoors, indoor running, using the mini trampoline, circuit training at home, or actually going to the gym) per week.  Hopefully as my strength improves, I can increase those to 45 minutes or do a 30 minute + a later 15-20 minute session.
  • Speaking of movement and mental health, I’ve long had a personal rule that for the first half of my run, I would think about all the things that were frustrating, angering, or otherwise hacking me off but then for the second half, work on considering more meditative or thankful thoughts (yes, this led to some pretty long runs during infertility since I wasn’t ready to be calm until 2.5-3 miles in!). I’m doing that again and have noticed that I’m less stressed at other times – I know I’m going to have some specific time devoted to worrying/anger/frustration and that helps me to be more functional at other times.
  • We’re decorated for Christmas! I bought a “tree collar” this year – mine’s a wicker thing that covers the base of the tree and a little way up to the bottom branches – that hides the weights I use to prevent the tree from getting accidentally tipped over better than the tree skirt.  It’s amazing, honestly, after years of carving out space that didn’t really exist in our apartments for the tree to have places to put decorations now.
  • Tree Collar
  • Above is tree collar, I can’t seem to get a picture of mine without all kinds of stuff around it :), below are some of my actual decorations
  • I made myself a dress!!!! Not the one I initially started on, but a different one.  The sleeves are slightly wrinkled (ugh) but really, for my first time I set in sleeves and did all of it, I’m pretty proud of how things came out!
  • The original dress is on its way back, however. My aunt saved my rear end after I cut it too small and was able to put in gussets to make up the difference.  I get to hem it. I’m so fortunate to have so many wonderful aunts.
  • I also made myself an infinity scarf with the left-over fabric from a skirt. I gather that animal prints are in this season and I am…not normally an animal print wearer.  However, it’s a nice, lightweight seersucker with zebra stripes and perfect for an easy scarf to add a touch of flair to an outfit.
  • The kids are doing well and growing fast. E is 3 going on 13 😉.  The other day, we finished off a paper towel roll, she held out the cardboard tube and goes “we need to recycle this.”  I told her: “Yeah, but look!  There are so many cool things we can do with this!  We could make a trumpet!” (made trumpeting noises with it).  E stared at me, very unimpressed, and goes “Are you done?  We need to recycle this.”  Ha, and here I thought I had a few years before I became embarrassing to her 😊!
  • The cold is really starting to set in, and I am very thankful for a garage! First time in 13+ years we’ve had one during the winter and it is marvelous.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more, please check out Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

Meant To Be

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As one of those getting-rarer people who married their high-school sweetheart, people sometimes ask me if I knew he was “the one”.

Uh, no.  I met and started dating Arthur when I was 15.  That was entirely too young to seriously think of marriage.  I was a lot more worried about getting to a final round in speech team competition and trying to control the frizz of naturally curly hair than finding a marriage partner.

More than a few people who knew us back then, however, have told us that they knew we were going to end up together.  One of the speech coaches, also the yearbook adviser, put this photo/caption in the yearbook from my freshman year of high school:

Altered Speech Photo

This is at a speech team party, during an improv game.  My glasses and the frizz are, uh, fierce.  Please excuse my editing skills!

Now, around 21 years after our first meeting, it’s an interesting artifact to pull out every now and again :).

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more, please check out Stirrup Queens.  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

Fabric Arts

I was in my late 20s before I had the courage to truly start enjoying fashion.  For many years, I spent a good deal of time veering between trying to fit in with what everyone else was wearing, being comfortable, and also trying to stay within the confines of “modesty culture”.  The result was pitiful attempts at trendy while also being too baggy and sticking to a bunch of silhouettes I didn’t really like but I had read were “flattering” to my body type.

Then infertility hit when I was about 30 and eventually, I started my tradition of dressing up when I go to the RE.  I mean, it’s weird, but if I’m going to get bad news, I prefer to do it when I’m wearing something I feel amazing in.  Being confident in how I’m dressed also translated into feeling more confident speaking up as well.

(Not that I’m recommending this for all infertility patients – I mean, you do you.  This just happens to be my particular quirk.)

As I’ve gotten a bit older, I’ve also finally managed to (mostly) ditch the body shame and realize that I can wear whatever I want in my life outside of work – if someone doesn’t like it or thinks it’s silly or unflattering, they can, uh, look elsewhere.  I love paging through magazines and ignoring stuff I don’t like while trying to incorporate the stuff I do into my wardrobe.  Getting dressed is fun these days.

I’ve also gotten into doing some adjustments to my clothing.  I recently added a lace ruffle to the bottom of a shirt that was too short for me (I am incredibly long waisted) and smocked the back of a cardigan that was too big.  I added belt loops to some skirts that just really needed accessorized with belts.

2018-08-28 15.51.33Lace ruffle makes it long enough to wear as more of a tunic style top, which is what I wanted.

I had seen a dress about a year or two ago that I really liked, but that was produced by a small-batch retailer and appropriately retailed for about $125 if I remember correctly.  It looked simple and though I coveted it to wear with boots and/or leggings, I just couldn’t justify spending that kind of money.  But with fall here, I kept thinking about that dress.

The relative success of my minor alteration projects made me dangerously overconfident when I went to Jo.Ann Fab.rics the other day to pick up some other things and walked out with a sewing pattern billed “easy” and some flannel for a dress that would look similar to the one I liked.  I got home, opened the pattern, and immediately went “uhhhhhh, whahhhht?”

Apparently garment sewing and patterns have a language all their own.

I’ve watched some videos now on how to read a pattern, how to cut out a pattern, and have washed/dried my fabric.  I’ve also sent out an SOS to my aunt who is amazing at textile/clothing arts and an advanced seamstress.  It really *is* a simple pattern, but I’m not sure if I’m going to wind up with something resembling this:

National PicnicThe National Picnic dress I liked

Or if I’m going to wind up with this:

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Goofing around with the fabric wound toga-style around me

Or, ahem, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” 😉.

Wish me luck.

Lucky Thirteen

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“Well,” I told Arthur back in January.  “It’s official.  We’ve been us for 20 years.  Can you believe we started dating that long ago?”

He nodded.  We were thick in the midst of house things, redecorating, and moving.  It felt like that statement should be more climactic somehow, but, well, we’d just bought a house.

So it goes.  Another year, another mile marker.  Thirteen years ago today, we held the official launch party formalizing our partnership and starting our family.

Arthur let me sleep in an hour and a half this morning and that’s the kind of gesture that feels somehow more romantic than the “traditional” sorts of gifts for a day like today.  I’ll put away the dishes and then go a bit extra to do the laundry that is typically his responsibility and tonight we’ll go to dinner and despite our best efforts, wind up talking about the nuts and bolts of running a life together.

As far as creative and collaborative endeavors go, I think it’s a success so far, that we still wake up and wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

DIY

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About two weeks ago, I looked into the living room and decided I didn’t like the brick fireplace very much.  My room is starting to come together, first with a light, sky blue paint for the walls, then a salsa red couch, a painting that my maternal grandmother bought years ago and I inherited and re-framed, as well as the rugs and throw pillows.  It’s a north-facing room and I love the way the colors pull the limited outdoor light into the space.

I knew we did not have the time or money to redo the masonry and I’m not a huge fan in most instances of opaque-painted brick (I’ve seen a few examples where it goes right but wasn’t comfortable with the high probability that it would go wrong).  Enter whitewashing: it lightens the brick but leaves the variation and texture intact.  I spent a lot of time browsing DIY and decor blogs and sites, figured out a general plan, and tried to figure out a time to complete the project.

Then, one day, I randomly decided to go ahead and prep the area with tape and tarps.  I’d planned to just do a test strip, but about two hours later, sent Arthur a text message with this picture:

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I may have gotten a wee bit carried away.

So that evening, I finished the brick and painted the first coats on the mantel.  By the end, what had originally looked like this:

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Instead looked like this:

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I’m still figuring out how to arrange everything on the mantel and such, but it really does brighten the room considerably.

It’s weirdly therapeutic to create a space for myself after so many years living in apartments and rentals.  It’s also a huge change to start and finish a project where I have a fair amount of control over the outcome.  I hadn’t realized how much the randomness of infertility treatments and the NICU (and the corresponding lack of control) had messed with my mind over the years.

Taking joy in creation is a wonderful new feeling.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  To read more or participate yourself, head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

 

Home Improvement

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Well, I certainly didn’t plan to abruptly disappear into cyberspace, but holy heck, that’s what happened.  The short version: we closed on the house and commenced on a huge round of cleaning, painting, flooring, packing, and moving starting in early January.  Having never owned property before, I did not realize that all of this is really a much bigger undertaking that I had thought.

In two months, we have:

  • Replaced almost all of the upstairs flooring (it was ancient carpet, the previous owners had two large dogs and two cats, and we have allergies) and had professionals put in nice, water-resistant laminate
  • Painted three of the bedrooms ourselves to a nice, neutral warm cream color
  • Repainted a bunch of trim/doors in the upstairs ourselves
  • Had the kitchen and living room professionally painted as there were a lot of nooks and crannies that were going to be tough to do well ourselves (both were gray to begin with, which I know is really trendy right now, but it felt depressing to me – so now the kitchen is a very pale creamy yellow and the living room is a light sky blue)
  • Bought area rugs for bedrooms and the living room
  • New sofa and benches for the living room.
  • Installed various curtain rods
  • Packed up our old place
  • Hired and supervised movers for all the heavy furniture (we considered having friends/family help us, but we have a sleeper sofa that is horribly heavy plus a washer and dryer, and decided the risk of one of us throwing out a back was too high)
  • Replaced the dining area chandelier
  • Unpacked most of the bedrooms
  • Bought a guest bed

I love all of it, though!  It’s the first place we’ve lived that actually has felt like mine/ours.  There are a few less “fun” things to get done, such as hiring a handyman to get a little bit of the wooden siding on the front repaired now that the weather allows for it, but we’re making headway on that as well.

These days, we’re in the tough sort of “in-between” phase where we’re living in the new house but still cleaning out bits and pieces from our old apartment (our lease is up at the end of March).  We’re also unpacking and having a lot of those “wait, where is (fill in the blank)?!” moments.

Other than the moving/house, I’ve been reading Sheryl Sandburg’s Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.  I have mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand, she has some really good advice about coping with life’s truly horrible moments and shares a lot of her personal story that I found moving and relatable.  On the other hand, it’s also very rah-rah, you can move through this, and kid/parenting heavy.  I found a lot of the advice about coping with an unexpected death like my brother’s good, but I know if I’d read this during my fertility struggles or when I was in the hospital expecting to lose my older daughter any day, I would have found a lot of it really frustrating.  I guess like most advice books, I’m taking what applies to me and leaving the rest.

I’m also finishing up Eve Schaub’s book Year of No Clutter and thoroughly enjoying it so far (though, be warned, near the end there is a chapter on sorting out her daughters’ baby things).  Schaub writes about her “Hell Room” – the largest room in her house that is so cluttered and full of stuff that she can barely get into it and so just closes the door.  As someone who firmly falls on the ‘packrat’ side of the clutter/decluttering continuum, even though I have not reached the point Schaub has, I still can relate to quite a few of the feelings Schaub discusses about dealing with “stuff”.  Schaub’s story about keeping a mummified dead mouse (!) because she wrote about it and now feels attached to it, however, was definitely not one of those moments (I hate, loathe, despise, and otherwise cannot stand dead critters in my living space).  When she talked about craft projects that she saves and never gets to but can’t bear to throw out however…well, my mind went guiltily to my fabric drawer, stuffed with un-finished sewing projects.  Given that we’re in the stage of trying to figure out what to keep and what to toss, though, reading the book has been a bit of a companion in the stress of trying to deal with the “but I might NEED IT SOMEDAY!” moments.

This post is part of Microblog Mondays – if you want to read more posts from other bloggers, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.