Sunday, May 29, 2016

Stanley and the End of an Era

So, S has been having a lot of respiratory problems this past year. We've started him on Zyrtec again for the seasonal allergies, and he's been taking Singulair for a while now as well. The pediatric pulmonologist prescribed this vibrating vest that he wears twice a day to help clear out all the congestion. We were also told to get rid of the cats, as it was making his problems worse. Shim was Bill's cat, and we were never all that close, but I've had Stan for 11 years.  He'd seen me through divorce, remarriage, children, and he was my Cubs game napping pal.  We were a team.

First Bill and I tried to place them with some of our friends who have cats--but it seems like everyone is either strictly a one-cat household, or they've got 3 or 4 cats. We then moved on to the no-kill shelters, which are all at maximum capacity. Luckily, one of the professors at work volunteers at Pet Refuge, and when she found out that I had gotten Stan from there, I was told that they would take them both.  I drove out to what I thought was their new location, and had to park far away. I dragged the two carriers in the building, only to discover it is a gun shop/shooting range. As I'm loading the cats back in the car, I can hear bullets banging against the building's siding and I think to myself--so this is how it's going to end, getting hit by a stray bullet because I mistook a shooting range for the cat shelter. Before I could get back in the car, the man from the gun shop asked if he could see the cats--he thought Shim was too big and Stan was too old, so off I went to the actual shelter.

When I got home, I told Bill that we are never getting another pet, not a goldfish, not an allergen-proofed dog, nothing. Surrendering your pets, even if it is for a good reason, sucks. They scan your license, have you sign a form stating you will never try to see the pets again, and you have to explain to some pretty intense people that you are only doing this for your son's health. When it was time to say goodbye, the professor from work took me back and gave me a quick tour of where they will be living while they await adoption, and then took me upstairs to the quarantine area where they'll be for the next two weeks. Shim was pretty pissed, and the woman who was so intense downstairs while I was doing paperwork actually rather kindly noted that "she's a tortie and they're like that." Stan, as he always does, had settled in quite happily and was making new friends among the volunteers. I sat there and sobbed for a few minutes, and he let me pet him, but if he knew it was goodbye, he didn't seem too concerned about it. I imagine he'll live out his days as the Mayor of Pet Refuge, and while it makes me sad, at least we were able to place him somewhere where he'll be well looked after and be able to live out his days naturally.

When you decide to get a pet, you are making a commitment, a promise to look after another living being through good times and bad. Stan in many ways symbolized my old life--one that was good in many ways, but one that is very different from my life now.  My life now is also good in many, many ways, but it is different, and when you have a child, especially a child with complex health issues, you are also making a promise to look after another living being through good times and bad. When you have kids, even when they are healthy, it completely changes everything. I think I did not quite grasp that before S was born. I figured he'd go to daycare at IUSB and life would plug along as normal. For a long time I've struggled with how the reality of caring for S has completely upended my old life. I love him more than anything in the world (well except for Bill & C of course), but I have also spent many years mourning my old life. It has been getting better, as I find that there are still pieces of my old life that can be woven into the new reality of my wonderful family, but the realization that I would not be able to honor the commitment I made to Stan, a commitment I made in what feels like a lifetime ago, has been difficult to accept. S is doing better already though, so that makes it all worth it. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Movie Review: The Nice Guys

On Friday afternoon I was able to get away and catch The Nice Guys The latest film from Shane Black, who made Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, one of my favorite movies. This one was not quite as great as that film, but it was a lot of fun. Both Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling were quite funny, and the soundtrack was great. I read somewhere that the film came off like a pilot for a detective series, and that is true, and I would definitely watch such a series. The theatre I saw it in has recently remodeled, so all the seats are barcaloungers and you can order Starbucks. Quite nice. Still plugging away with the creative writing course and the boys are doing well. Went a wedding for one of Bill's students yesterday. They had a mariachi band as part of the mass and it was awesome. I want every mass I go to for the rest of my life to feature a mariachi band--that's not to be, but one can dream.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Book Expo and Weekly Update

Last Wednesday afternoon I took the train up to Chicago. It was the first time I'd been to downtown Chicago (not the airport or McCormick's Place) in five years. Strangely enough, so much of it looked the same from when I used to come up all the time. The only real difference I noticed was that the Borders had been replaced by some big clothing store. 

I missed Bill and the boys, but it was quite fun to hit Trader Joe's (where I bought a disturbing amount of chocolate and chocolate covered almonds, oh, and a bag of coffee so I wouldn't look weird) and then eat dinner on my own while enjoying a book.  It was raining and late, so I abandoned the idea of finding a new and exciting vegetarian restaurant in the city and just ate at the Grand Lux Cafe near the hotel. It was great. I realized that some things are total tourist traps for a reason. They did not care that I was in my yoga pants, they gave me a great window table where I could peek out from my Kindle every few minutes and enjoy the busy street scene below, the service was great, and they did have a really good sesame tofu and vegetable stir fry.

I downloaded the Jolly Coroner from NetGalley, and it is okay so far. It is one of those books that is just not grabbing me--it is almost like there are too many adjectives around every single character. I keep waiting for the descriptions to end and for the story to begin. Hopefully it will pick up soon. Either way, I'll post a review here.

The next day was Book Expo. It is usually in New York, so it is quite a treat that it is here. I saw on the program that Mo Willems was doing a signing, so I got in early to make sure I'd make the cut in the line. He was very gracious. He high fived everyone who was waiting in line before the signing, and then he agreed to have his picture taken with everyone who came through to get a book signed. When it was my turn I wanted to bore him with how much Stephen loves him and how much we listen to his audio books, and how we read The Duckling Gets a Cookie every night at bedtime and how I've created a "Pigeon" icon on Stephen's speech device that he can select when he wants to have me read to him, but, I did not want to hold up the line, so I kept it short--my son and I love your stories, especially on Audible, with Edwina being a favorite. He agreed that the soundtrack for that one is especially cool. And the photo is below.  I can die happy now.

The rest of the day was great also. I went to a few of the conference sessions and got some good ideas for work (I won't bore you with that here) then did a tour through the rest of the exhibit hall. Picked up a free book about the Decker-Slaney/Budd mishap at the 1984 Olympics, and when the author found out that I jog, he gave me a coupon for 20 percent off running shoes from Zola Budd's sponsor. I normally get my jogging shoes from Target, so I'll likely send the coupon to Chris and Sarah, but still, not every day you go to a book show and get into a conversation about running. My other favorite booth was for a book called Someday a Bird Will Poop on You. They were not giving away free copies, but I am going to take a closer look at their website--Stephen and CK might like this one for Christmas.

Anyways, it has been a good week. More soon!

Sunday, May 08, 2016

The Great Chocolate Chip Muffin Hunt

Happy Mother's Day! It has been a pretty good one here. Got up for a jog and came home to two beautiful hanging plants from Bill and the boys. Later we went to brunch, where C proceeded to eat chicken strips like a maniac and insist on going back on the golf course to see the carts. Now Bill is watching the boys and I am trying to relax outside of the house. I don't know why I find that so difficult, but I do. Sitting here in the Martin's cafe with a bottled water and the latest Augusten Burroughs. I keep thinking I should be doing something more "Mother's Day-ish" like get my nails done or go to the movies, but nothing playing interested me and really, when I fantasize about time away from the boys, I am thinking about doing one of 3 things: jogging and listening to music, writing, or reading. So, here I am. I just started a nonfiction creative writing course from the open university (it's free, self-paced). I just finished the first exercise. Maybe it will help me come up with more interesting blog posts. About the title of this post--C is currently obsessed with Entemann's chocolate chip mini-muffins. He must not be the only toddler with this addiction, because lately we have a hard time finding them anywhere. I figured I'd pick up a couple of boxes while I was out this afternoon. Five stores later, I buy the last two boxes at Kroger. The funny thing is--everywhere I went, Kroger, Martin's, Target, they all had a lifetime supply of the snicker doodle mini-muffin. Someone should let the area grocery supplier know that snicker doodle is not capturing the imagination of the SB eating public. So I managed to post twice in one week! Here's to more frequent (and more interesting) posts.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Sweet Dreams are Made of this: A Life in Music by Dave Stewart, 321 pages

Dave Stewart had led a pretty remarkable life. He has created some outstanding songs, both as a songwriter and as a producer, and he comes across in this memoir as a guy who is easy to get along with and always up for a bit of fun. It is also pretty apparent that he wrote this work without the aid of a ghostwriter. I think it would have been a stronger work if he had. There were so many insane stories in this book--his time working on the score for Showgirls, an accidental vacation at a Yugoslavian nudist colony while he was still dating Annie Lennox, and the stories behind the composition and recording of Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More," to just name a few. In each instance, however, he either is way too brief, or ends the anecdote a few paragraphs later than he should have. The his re-telling of the Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty saga surrounding "Don't Come Around Here No More," brings this to mind:
Even with that complaint, I did enjoy this book quite a bit. If you're a music fan, even if you're not a Eurythmics fan, you will find a lot to like in this book, as it seems Stewart has worked with just about everybody in not just pop and rock music, but country and soul as well. I found myself hunting down songs on youtube regularly while reading.

Genre: nonfiction Good Plane or Waiting Around in Line Reading: Yes Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie/Obnoxious People on Plane: Yes Hey, I guess this is Different: Stewart is best friends with Paul Allen (known in our family for owning the Portland Trailblazers, but I suppose most people know him as a computer billionaire). Can read when depressed and/or when winter: Definitely

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Trying Again!

So much for posting regularly! As usual, life got busy. Typing this now as I have 10 minutes before I give S his meds. I always want to wait until I have time to write something interesting or funny, but that time never seems to come. S has started a new therapy that is helping with his congestion quite a bit. C is growing so fast. He's a handful, but it is fun to watch how much he is learning each day. Bill and I have been trying to eat better and work out more this year. It has been motivating to do this together. It has been almost on year since I stopped eating meat. At first, I really missed bacon and beef stroganoff, but I found this really great mushroom stroganoff recipe and I think I've turned the corner where I can't ever imagine going back. Well, not terribly exciting, but it's a start. I'll try to get back to it more often. The photo above is of S & I the other day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hello Again!

Well, it has been a few years, hasn't it? A lot has happened since I posted that review of Fordlandia six years ago. I got divorced, remarried, and have had two awesome little boys, one of whom has cerebral palsy. I have a great husband and two wonderful step-kids. I do still have Stan the cat, but that is pretty much all the remains of what my life was like back in 2009. Life has gotten very full. I spent a couple of years trying to be perfect at home and perfect at work and it nearly killed me. I had clumps of my hair coming out in the shower, I got shingles, I was having panic attacks at 3 in the morning. I was pretty much a mess. I've had to readjust my expectations and priorities. I've had to let some things go. I've had to figure out that what my kids need most is to have a happy mother (note: this does not mean selfish asshole mother), it just means, when I am with them, I need to be with them, and not be worrying about twenty other things that may or may not happen. I do better at this some days than others, but it is getting better. I've also been trying to make my way back to things I used to do, reading, writing, jogging, etc. I thought, hey, I still have this blog, why not pop up there every once in a while for fun? I wrote a review of Beautiful Ruins for my ex-husband's book blog last summer, and have often thought it would be fun to bring this blog back, no one reads it but me, but the exercise of writing it is comforting. It will be different than before, not just book reviews, but some thoughts on kids, vegetarian cooking, jogging with "a soft j" like Ron Burgundy, and my attempts to have a garden survive the summer.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fordlandia by Greg Grandin, 416 pages

A book I'd love to talk about with my Dad (timber industry) and people from Michigan who grew up w/the auto industry. Fordlandia is the story of Henry Ford's attempt in the first of half of the 20th century to build an American-style company town in Brazil in order to produce rubber. In addition to the tales of the struggles and misfires of the managers and workers of Fordlandia, the book also provides an interesting examination of Henry Ford in his later years. The epilogue very nicely brings it all back to what is happening in the global industry today.

Genre: nonfiction
Good Plane or Waiting Around in Line Reading: Yes
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie/Obnoxious People on Plane: Mostly
Hey, I guess this is Different: I don't really know that much about Ford, so not sure why I was surprised, but the connection between him and the Tennessee Valley Authority was interesting. Also thought the Diego Rivera Detroit Murals section was interesting. Great thing about nonfiction--always new stuff to learn.
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: not recommended--wait until spring

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon, 306 pages

In a series of essays, Chabon discusses fatherhood, marriage, divorce (from perspective of child and adult), Dr. Who, and the disturbing moment when you realize they are playing 80s music on oldies radio (sad in two ways--after all, where does the 1950s music then get shipped to?). These essays are enjoyable and as I read them I found myself wanting to get a copy for all the men in my life, particularly my brother. At the same time, I definitely need to go back and read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (I know, I should turn in my book nerd membership card for not having gotten to that one yet) because it seems like it must be an amazing book.

Genre: nonfiction, of the amusing navel-gazing family/life essay variety (but in a good way)
Good Plane or Waiting Around in Line Reading: Yes
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie/Obnoxious People on Plane: Yes
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: Yes, mostly--"The Heartbreak Kid" and particulary, "The Hand on My Shoulder" are kind of sad.
Will Make You Seem Smart, Hip, or Sensitive at Parties: Who am I kidding? I've never known what will make someone cool at parties... this bit of criteria will probably be retired, unless it is something about the book I feel annoyed about.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Note: first part of blog entry also appeared on my Goodreads profile.

The Art of Racing in the Rain The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Meet Enzo.

Lover of crap TV, loyal friend of Denny, Eve, and Zoe; and a keen observer of human nature, one whom no one hides their true selves from because no one thinks he actually understands what it is going on.

While tales of anthropomorphism are nothing new—stretching from Aesop’s Fables to The Heart of a Dog to Animal Farm and beyond—Enzo really is something special—thanks to his laid back style and sense of humor.

A heartfelt family story for people who usually hate heartfelt family stories and stories about pets—I heartily recommend that you take a couple of hours to meet Enzo.

Now for the iPreferreading portion of the entry.

Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: pet story, family fiction
Location: Seattle, Washington, and one of my fave childhood vacation spots--Winthrop, Washington (oh, bubble gum ice cream--so exotic)
Cliches: Story narrated by dog (although Stein pulls it off), evil in-laws/grandparents
Good Plane or Waiting Around in Line Reading: Yes
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes
Good Enough Plane Reading to Distract You From Kids or Jerks on Plane: Yes
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: No. This is a great book, but as anyone who has read any pet fiction knows, there usually is some kind of Charlotte's Web/Where the Red Fern Grows action by the end.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin, 240 pages

Shubin was one of the scientists who discovered Tiktaalik, a 375-million-year-old fish in the Arctic that became famous for being the missing link between fish and humans. Throughout Your Inner Fish, Shubin explains the evolutionary process that led from Tiktaalik to you and me.

Your Inner Fish is a book for people who are normally intimidated by science writing. His clear prose, sense of humor, and excellent use of illustrations throughout the text make this book not only an informative and accessible book for the readers who do not normally read about science, but an entertaining one as well.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Science
Location: University of Chicago, the Arctic
Good Plane or Waiting Around in Line Reading: Yes, Shubin keeps his prose concise, so interruptions won't get you confused.
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes, unless it is a plane movie with both Chris Cooper and Pierce Brosnan, it would be tough to find a book that could compete with that.
Good Enough Plane Reading to Distract You From Kids or Jerks on Plane: Yes!
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: Yes

Monday, April 28, 2008

The House of Widows, Askold Melnyczuk, 255 pages

James Pak witnesses his father's suicide and then travels throughout Europe to discover why his father did it. Melnyczuk shifts time periods and narrators throughout so you have to really concentrate on the text in order to determine if the chapter in question is set in 1989, 1949, 1969, 2004, or 1936 (and let's not get into whether you are in New England, Oxford, Austria, or near Chernobyl or which narrator it is). While hard to get into at first, the book grows on you, but the main narrator, James, is rather uninteresting. When the book switches back to him for the final few chapters, it gets boring, and the ending is a disappointment. Intersting, but not satisfying.

Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: Historical fiction/Family Trauma Fiction
Location: New England, Oxford, Austria, Russia
Cliches: Son with troubled relationship with father, who became depressed alcoholic after mysterious tragedy, Heathcliff Syndrome, One Night Stand = Love of Lifetime
Good Plane and/or waiting in line Reading: No, you really need to concentrate on text to be able to keep up--and some sections require rereading
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes, as long as there are no kids or jerks distracting you.
Good Enough Plane Reading to Distract You From Kids or Jerks on Plane: No
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: No

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Farm Sanctuary, By Gene Baur--286 pages

It has been way to long...Here's to hoping I can be better about posting!

Baur details his career as a animal rights advocate--specifically as an advocate for farm animals. His stories of downed animals (animals in stockyards who are so ill they cannot stand, but are carted off to be slaughtered for food anyways) are particularly heartbreaking, and the book definitely puts one off eating meat. Baur's writing style leaves a little to be desired, as the book is informative, but boring. Some sections just read as a list of "I did this, then I did that, oh, and I met this celebrity." The best part of the work are the several profiles of rescued animals which are incorporated throughout the book.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Advocacy, agriculture.
Location: Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Watkins Glen, New York, and Orland California.
Good Plane and/or waiting in line Reading: Yes--chapters are short and can easily pick up where left off.
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Sadly, no.
Good Enough Plane Reading to Distract You From Kids or Jerks on Plane: no.
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: No. Although it would be a good book to read when getting ready to start a diet, as it puts you off meat and dairy.
If you like, try this better book: Fat Land by Greg Crister. While Crister's book is more about the food industry as a whole, both books deal with the issue of mass production of food, and Crister's writing style is much more inviting and engaging.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Do You Like Books? Do You Like People?

"If you like books and people, then librarianship may be the career for you"--just check out this career film series classic from 1947:

From the Prelinger Archives

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Cubs Nation by Gene Wojciechowski--417 pages

Wojciechowski covers a different aspect of the Cubs organization over every game of the season--interviewing players, broadcasters, Dusty Baker, various coaches, and more interestingly--the fans and people who make their living indirectly through the Cubs--musicians who play outside Wrigley for change, beer vendors, and many, many others. The book works best when the author covers these folks, rather than the manager, broadcasters, and players--who have all been covered elsewhere ad nauseum. Recommended.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Sports
Location: Chicago
Good Plane and/or waiting in line Reading: Yes--the short chapters make it easy to start and stop as needed.
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes
Good Enough Plane Reading to Distract You From Kids or Jerks on Plane: Yes, in most sections
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: No--it will only make you more desperate for baseball season to begin.
If you like, try this better book: The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty by Buster Olney. I'm not a Yankees fan, but this book is excellent--one of the best baseball books I've ever read. Olney makes things I thought I'd read about before fresh.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (240 pages)

I read this book to see if it would work for the One Book, One Campus project I am working on. It is an interesting book, with Ehrenreich going undercover in various jobs--waitressing, a dietary aide in a nursing home, a maid, a Wal-Mart clerk, and seeing if she could live on the wages.

The book brings home how difficult it is to live on $5-6 an hour (especially in terms of housing). Ehrenreich can get a little preachy and repetitive at times (yes, we know that you're a PhD, thanks for reminding us, again), and the whole scene at the Maine tent revival just seems like a pointless indulgence, it adds nothing to the narrative and just makes her come across as petty.

One really great thing about the book is that she is honest about her shortcomings--when she cheats on the budget she's set for herself, on flaws in her personality, especially the section where she's working at Wal-Mart and notices how the person she's becoming, the "Barb" on her nametag, is much different than the "Barbara" she is in real life. It is not a perfect book, it starts off strong and starts to lag in spots, put it is a perfect book for a book club discussion because the conversations about it could go in so many different directions.

A perfect tie-in for any book group would be to read this book, then watch Sullivan's Travels.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Current Events/Social Issues
Location: Key West, Florida; Portland, Maine, and Twin Cities, Minnesota
Cliches: Muckraking journalist goes undercover--living the life of the underprivileged to expose the system's flaws.
Hey, I Guess this is Different: The whole section about the drug tests for her jobs at Wal-Mart and Menards and her travails in trying to pass them--it is a pretty funny section.
Good Plane and/or waiting in line Reading: Yes
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes
Will Make You Seem Smart, Hip, or Sensitive at Parties: Yes, but be careful, might also make you seem sanctimonious.
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: Yes--will make you appreciate what you have
If you like, try this better book: Downsize This! by Michael Moore (Moore before he became an annoying caricature)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin (228 pages)

The first of the Rebus' novels has the detective on the trail of a serial killer that targets young children. Rankin's plot has a few too many coincidences, but its a first novel, so no big sin. The villian is a cliche not worthy of an A-Team rerun, but the atmosphere Rankin creates keeps you from putting the book down unfinished.

While more fun in later novels, Rebus is interesting enough in this book to bring you back for more. Rankin's real strengths in this novel are his descriptions of Edinburgh and the supporting character narratives--Rebus' brother Michael, Jack Morton, Gill Templar, and Jim Stevens--all are interesting, and while the novel is a bit uneven, there are spots when writing from these characters point of view the book shines (particularly the last few sentences of the epilogue, which spur the imagination on to the possibilities of a better novel never written). Not the best of the Rebus' books, but a decent, quick, read.
Genre: Mystery
Subgenre: Police Procedural
Location: Scotland
Cliches: Detective with alcohol issues, detective known mainly or solely by his last name, divorced, awkward relations with child, pesky/immoral journalist on trail of story and/or detective, detective has trauma in past (of the caused amnesia variety), family issues, serial killer with link to detective, serial killer targeting kids, detective has partner with drinking problem, detective sleeping with a colleague, detective is one night stand type--but sensitive, detective is big reader of the classics, detective listens to jazz and/or classical music.
Hey, I Guess this is Different: Late father and brother both made living as hypnotists.
Good Plane and/or waiting in line Reading: Yes
Good Enough Reading to Keep You Distracted From Plane Movie: Yes
Will Make You Seem Smart, Hip, or Sensitive at Parties: Probably Not
Can read when depressed and/or when winter: Yes
If you like, try this better book: Happy Birthday, Turk! by Jakob Arjouni.