Tuesday, March 29, 2016

February/March books

Rest assured I am keeping up with my "pages read" extravaganza. It's just that I found myself resisting reading in February, until it occurred to me that THAT was because I didn't like my book very much.

So I quit reading it. And that made all the difference.

Because I gave up buying stuff for Lent, my book choices were limited to what came up on my eLibrary account and what I already have in my ebook collection.

It was like I was a pioneer or something.


Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles Book 1) by Colin Meloy (565 pages)
Ah, I began this book with such hope. I've heard from several people that this book series is a winner. Well, it's set in Portland -- our neighbors to the west -- and Colin is the lead singer of The Decemberists.

I LOVE The Decemberists!

But I just couldn't get into this book. It was fine. It was even fun in some spots. But it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Because I love coffee.

And I still love you, Colin Meloy.

P.S. Johanna is reading this book and she likes it just fine. She has to ask me what words mean a lot, but I think that's a good thing. Expands her vocabulary.

Under Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles Book 2) by Colin Meloy
I'm not going to even put a page count here because this is the book I quit about a quarter of the way through. I just didn't want to read it.

I guess this begs the question of why I even attempted it if I didn't enjoy the first one, and the answer is easy: It was available on eLibrary and I figured it was the quickest way to get something new to read on my Kindle.

Ah, well.

Life After Life: A Novel by Kate Atkinson (512 pages)
Now here's a book I've already read a few times, and one that I keep coming back to because I like it so much. It's about Ursula, who keeps dying and then coming back for a do-over. She lives the same life, but it's never the same.

I don't know, I think that's fascinating. So I'll probably read it again.

Regarding Ducks and Universes by Neve Maslakovic (344 pages)
This is one of the very first books I bought for my Kindle back in 2010. My device was brand spankin' new, and this book was on sale for 99 cents. I hadn't learned yet that there are reasons cheap books are cheap, but let me tell you this: I got a hell of a deal, because this books is amazing.

So it was fun to have an excuse to read it again. It's all about quantum physics... without being about quantum physics. Felix in Universe A is feeling pretty good about himself until he realizes there's another Felix in Universe B. It's a complicated idea, but Maslakovic doesn't make it seem complicated at all.

Yes, go read it. You're welcome.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (339 pages)
So this book... I don't even know where to begin. This is another of my favorites from my own personal (nonexistent because it's digital) collection. The writing style -- or how Eli Sisters "speaks" -- verses what Eli and Charlie are doing is just... it's hilarious. These two are assassins. They should not be sympathetic characters. Well, Charlie really isn't, but Eli is. It's dark and grim and just funny as hell. I don't know what this says about me personally, but I totally recommend this one.

Fangirl: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell (445 pages)
It's no secret I'm a big Rainbow Rowell fan -- this is the third book I've read of hers in as many months -- so maybe you can imagine my joy when this one came up on eLibrary. I literally dropped what I was doing and just started reading right then and there.

This book was good, although I'm not sure it was as good as some of the other books of hers that I've read (Eleanor and Park? That one is perfect). Cath is in college. She writes fanfic and has a very popular website. But she's struggling. It's her first year of college. Her twin sister Wren isn't really talking to her. She's worried about her bipolar dad.

But she's endearing, and she acts totally like an 18-year-old would, and it was nice to see that she was eventually able to get her shit together.

If I keep my Kindle in wifi mode, I'll have enough time to read it again before I have to return it. ;)

February/March pages read: 2,205
Plus January:1,062
Equals: 3,267

Huh. I would honestly have guessed I was higher than that. Who cares, really, I just think it's kind of interesting.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter, Internet friends!

So... my sweet little grandma went to the emergency room yesterday morning, and we've since learned that she's got congestive heart failure and AFIB. When my Mom called to tell me the news and announce they were headed to Longview, I decided to go along, too. It was a hard, frustrating day (all we did was wait, and then wait some more), but the good news is that she is where she's supposed to be now and is getting care.

Grandma was sure she was going to be sent home -- so what if she can't walk? -- and was mildly surprised when she heard she was being admitted to the hospital. But she rallied, and even decided maybe it was okay because now they could figure out what was wrong with her heart.

My thoughts are with her today. I don't know if this is the beginning of the end or what is going to happen. I'm trying to be very zen about the whole ordeal.

Not really the post I'd planned to write, but anyway, now you sort of know why I've been MIA.

I do sincerely, however, wish you all a very happy Easter. Go eat some chocolate. I certainly am!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Lenten update update

So remember how I checked in about the half-way mark to let you know how I was doing with my Lenten fast, which is basically that I have given up processed foods and shopping, and I was blithely all, oh, yeah, I'm doing great!?

The mighty have fallen, internet friends.

I am struggling. I want chips. I want chocolate. Actually, during my weekly grocery trip yesterday, I bought a chocolate bar -- milk chocolate, I'm not even bothering to pretend I'm in it for the supposed health benefits -- and I'm not even sorry. I ate about half at lunch and it was delicious. If there's any left over by dinnertime, meaning no one else in the family has sniffed it out, I will finish it.

I also bought a dress yesterday -- my first purchase since this whole thing started 40-ish days ago. One of Abby's cute little friends held a "prom dress project," where all dresses were $10, and I found what must have been a little back dress from some old lady's closet, because this thing is actually made in America, which you can never find anymore, and a brand that I'm pretty sure doesn't exist in 2016. Anyway, that alone might not have been enough to tempt me, but all proceeds go to a local women's shelter, so it was buy this dress and help or not buy this dress and not help.

Um, I guess I could have just donated the $10 and stayed true to my fast, but... I didn't.

It is a pretty great dress.

So that's the new state of the union. Lent is hard. I wanted it to be hard, so I have no one to blame but myself, but damn!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Project 333: Winter 2016 edition

Since my last post was such a downer, I'm making it up to you by writing about something way less stressful -- my winter Project 333 capsule wardrobe. (If you're not familiar with Courtney Carver and Project 333, start here.) And so what if the spring edition starts in three weeks? (Meaning: Wow, I really put this post off, didn't I?) Better late than never. I guess.

As I pondered writing about P333 this morning, I briefly considered just tossing everything out of the closet and starting fresh -- and early -- with that spring rotation. But this is what it looks like outside my little Oregon window this morning:

Rain and 38ยบ. I can't feel too bad about it because we were
in drought all last summer, but it does drag on my soul.

Hardly inspirational for putting together a wardrobe containing short sleeves. Which is to say: I'm embracing my winter wardrobe for a little while longer.

I've gotten rather good at getting rid of anything I resist wearing in my capsule -- that's just Hint No. 1 that something isn't right -- but for some reason, I've been holding onto this cardigan that Abby decided to let go of earlier this year:

If anyone I know in real life wants this, let me know...

It's actually really comfortable, AND it's got pockets! I wore it to work once just to see if I'd like it. I liked it. So I put it back into my wardrobe, where it has hung untouched since then.

Out, vile jelly! Where is thy lustre now?

(King Lear. Anyone? No?)

Well, aside from that little failure, which has now been rectified, here's what I've been wearing this season:

Grey (5)
Santa Clara U long-sleeve t-shirt
Stripped sweater with holes
Baseball-style t-shirt

Black (12)
Short-sleeve t-shirt
Sweatshirt dress
Long-sleeve t-shirt
Turtleneck sweater (a favorite)
Jeans (really good purchase, as it turned out)
Patterned leggings
Boots *
Ankel boots *

Look! It's my favorite beige jacket last summer
in Cannery Row! That shirt is not in my winter
lineup, but it will be coming out this spring.

Beige (5 minus 1)
Jacket **
Abby's sweater (bye!)
Black and beige patterned skirt
Orange floral patterned bohemian-style blouse

Purple (2)
Purple and orange patterned tank top

Green (1)
Patterned leggings (they kind of make me feel like the Jolly Green Giant)

Ah, well. At least that giant is jolly.

Teal (1)
Bohemian-style blouse

Light blue (1)
Turtleneck sweater (same style as my black one)

Dark blue (6)
Patterned skirt
Long-sleeve t-shirt
3/4-sleeved with embroidered flowers
Denim jacket
Denim jeans

Well, anyway, that's been the state of the union this winter. It's a solid little wardrobe, and I have been pretty pleased with it. Not that I'm not dreaming of wearing that above-pictured short-sleeve orange shirt. ;) But this wardrobe has gotten me through all sorts of situations, from work to a funeral reception to weekends. What more could I ask for?

If you're thinking of trying your own project but don't know where to start, here are my suggestions (hard won after three or four years of this now):

  • Don't be afraid! That's the main thing. Look, this is a three month project. It's not forever. (Unless you want it to be. Like me.)
  • Start with your favorite clothing. Pick 33 items (or 44, or whatever seems like a challenge) and then put the rest away, out of sight.
  • Notice what's happening with your wardrobe. Are you resisting wearing anything? Do you wish you'd have added something else? Swap things out. Which brings us to: 
  • If you have to make edits every month -- or every week -- go for it. Look at it as a fact-finding mission or a science experiment. There's no right or wrong here.

P.S. You don't have to count exercise clothing or "lounge wear" that doesn't get worn outside the house. You actually don't have to count anything you don't want to count. I didn't count shoes or scarves for a very long time.

See you in a few weeks with my spring P333... assuming I can get my act together. :)

*Both of these will need to be replaced by next season because of general wear and tear, which bums me out because I really like them.

**My jacket, which is going on Year 6, has some unexplained blueish stains on one of the elbows. The blue is rather faint, so I've decided not to worry about it. But this also bums me out. This jacket is my friend.

Friday, March 11, 2016

One step closer to the edge

** I talk about a recent anxiety attack in this post, and that may be a trigger for those of you out there who are also suffering from anxiety. Sorry about that. I'm just trying to get it out.

It's been a rough week for my anxiety -- I kind of know why, it's hormonal, period kind of stuff -- but knowing why doesn't make it any easier. I've been practicing a mental exercise of sorts the last few weeks when the panic starts to surge, and that seems to help ... most of the time.

So it's a little alarming when it doesn't.

Anyway, I see my anxiety as an ill-behaved ferret. This thing likes to knock stuff off the table and cause as much havoc as possible. I'm almost fond of the dumb thing, I'm so used to it.

Looks cute, right?

Well, it's NOT.

The exercise: When AF ("anxiety ferret") pokes her head out to play, I'm all, hey there, I see you. My acupuncturist suggested that -- because there isn't always a reason for an anxiety attack, and just acknowledging that it exists, without trying to figure out why, can be helpful in stopping the rampage.

And that generally is all it takes.

But when AF starts a ruckus, I imagine calmly step over her. I used to do that when my kids were in that insane 3-year-old stage and they'd throw a fit. Step over those flailing little bodies, like, hey, I know you're upset, but I am not dealing with you when you're like this.

My acupuncturist was kind of pleased with me when we discussed my anxiety at my last appointment, just that I was able to make this connection and put it into place so quickly -- it had only been two weeks since we'd talked about it -- and honestly, I was feeling kind of proud of myself, too. I enjoy a good coping strategy. Especially when it seems to work so well.

After a perfectly lovely weekend, filled with naps and books and absolutely no stress, I headed back into the world on Monday, ready to face the week, cheered further by the reflexology appointment I had scheduled for 2 p.m.

I love reflexology! It's all the benefits of a massage without having to get undressed. ;)

My stomach had been acting up all morning -- yay fertility (I guess) -- and I was hoping that it would settle down by the time my appointment rolled around, but it didn't. I even took half of an Imodium Multi-symptom (those things are gold), and that sort of helped ... but not really.

So there I am, talking to my darling reflexologist and just trying to enjoy my foot massage, when AF peeks out with that stupid little head of hers.

And I'm like, hey there, not right now, please, this is my monthly treat and you are NOT going to ruin it.

And AF was like, you can't tell me what to do!

I actually thought about just getting up off that table, putting on my shoes and getting the hell out of there. It was torture to have to fight the panic while pretending nothing was wrong. AF didn't care if I acknowledged her; she didn't care if I stepped over her as she started throwing her fit. I breathed deeply. I went through my usual litany of, I am in no physical danger, I have control of my body, I have control of my mind. I clenched my teeth and bit my tongue and just concentrated on NOT GETTING UP OFF THAT TABLE.

And I didn't. But, as I said, it was torture.

And that totally bums me out. I've been getting reflexology monthly since the fall, and it has been so good for my general health. Just because it IS so relaxing. I get to lay on a heating pad with a cozy blanket for an hour and it's totally selfish and accomplishes nothing!

So basically it's just awesome.

Having an attack there, in what is usually a safe place, is discouraging. It means that next month I'm going to be thinking about it when my appointment rolls around, and then trying NOT to think about it when I'm back on the table.

And it also means I'm not really doing as well as I thought I was.

Well, whatever. Needs must and so on. (Life After Life? Anyone?)

The end? I'm not really sure how to end this, except with a sigh of relief that the week is over and I can start fresh tomorrow.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lent update: The half-way mark


Today is the 26th day of Lent (I know because we get daily Lenten Reflection emails from Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire -- we love that guy), and, as we're a little over the half-way point, this seems like as good a time as any to come clean about how I'm doing with my Lenten fast.

If I may be so bold as to quote myself from my February 12 post:
Much like in years' past, I'm giving up processed foods, but this year I'm going for extra holy, so I'm also adding another element to this whole ordeal: I'm giving up buying anything, too. I don't actually buy that much, 'cause minimalism, yo, but I do rather enjoy coffees and the occasional lunch (and dinner) out on the town. It's just too easy to walk down the street and pick up a sandwich. I see these two things as extensions of each other: If I'm not eating processed food, that means most restaurant eating is out, and if I'm not buying anything, that means, like, no food treats at the grocery store.
Ah, the optimism in which we begin any life-changing event! ;)

Actually, I'm proud to say that I'm doing pretty good with this. Eric said last night that he thought it would be the no-processed foods that would be the hard part (and I've kind of just decided that anything pre-packaged, with the exception of milk, cheese, and, like flour and sugar and whatnots, counts as processed), but that's actually the easiest for me to handle. I think it's because I'm used to NOT eating things anyway -- people bring things like cupcakes with bright pink frosting or packaged cookies to work all the time, and it's not a big deal for me to just smile and nod and not even be tempted.

Ugh, because there's nothing that tastes good enough to be worth an IBS attack.

But the not buying anything? That is tough, which I knew it would be and is why I added that little piece to my Lenten puzzle. It's not so much the fact that I can't get any books for my Kindle, or even buy an new ink pen for my journaling that's hard -- it's the simple stuff, like not buying my favorite veggie sandwich or walking to a coffee shop for an Americano.

And I haven't!

Okay, I did once. Last Thursday. I drove to Dutch Bros. and even as I was on my way I was like, well, I'm going to have to admit this on the blog, is this coffee really something I need? But then PMS was like, COFFFFFFFEEEEEEE, so that was pretty much that.

And it was delicious.

I've also mostly been taking Sundays off -- if you count the days from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, that makes 46, and Lent is only 40 -- although I'm not going too crazy. One decaf vanilla latte. I had a bowl of Cheddar Bunnies today and am eating a candy cane that was leftover from Christmas. I'm purposely still not buying ebooks or ink pens because that seems like it would be cheating. Actually I didn't even buy the chocolate bar I was eying yesterday during my grocery trip because that also seemed like cheating, Sunday or not. (I wasn't going to take any Sundays off, but then I read "'Cheating' on Sundays" by Meg Hunter-Kilmer, and I was like, mini-Easter! I can get behind that!)

But I tell you this, my friends: this weekend I not only made a double batch of banana muffins (used all seven over-ripe bananas banging around in my freezer!), but a batch of Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies. You try PMS-ing with carrots as your only comfort food. It's a miracle I didn't completely lose my mind...

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Patrons of the arts

Johanna creates what's close to her heart. Which is mostly just doughnuts.

Johanna is my little theater buddy, which is great because this means I can see any show I want and can use her as an excuse to go, because obviously as a mother I need to encourage her interests. She told me once that she likes plays even more than she likes movies. I think there's something about the live, unexpected element that really floats her boat. The only reason she's looking forward to middle school next year is that she can take drama as an elective.

So going to plays is no problem. Going to gallery openings and exhibits, that is a problem, mostly because it just doesn't occur to me to go.

This month I set out to change that. One of my goals this year is to take the girls to more artsy events, and lo and behold, I just happened to interview a teenager earlier this month about the show she curated as a school project, and I was like, hey! This is right up Johanna's alley! and made plans for the two of us to attend.

I kind of forgot that Johanna freezes up when she's in a new situation, especially if it involves a bunch of people she doesn't know. So she spent the whole 10 minutes we were at the show's extremely crowded opening clinging to my arm and starring blankly at me when I tried to talk about what we were seeing.

Oh, and then there was the series of paintings that featured boobs, and she just couldn't get over that. I told her we were looking at the human form as artists and not 11-year-olds, but it turns out we WERE looking at them as 11-year-olds. And apparently 11-year-olds think boobs are terrifying.

Another Johanna original: A study in color.

But then I got the great idea of going to another gallery for a show about pets that was in its final days. This was more her speed: No boobs, plus we were the only ones there. She was much more relaxed and even drew her own picture on the community mural wall.

On the way home, I tried to talk to her about what we'd seen, but it turns out that she didn't really care.

That was Friday night. On Sunday, the two of us, plus her best friend Annika, went to see "Taming of the Shrew" at the high school. I had taken photos of a dress rehearsal and had written a review earlier in the week, and while I knew Shakespeare was going to be a bit of a stretch for the kid, I figured that, if nothing else, the acting was great and the costumes were fantastic and she'd probably figure out what was going on from the action (with a bonus of supporting the school's drama program, which is hella poor).

We made it through the first act just fine, but by the second, both girls' attentions were waning. I kept whispering a translation of what was going on to Johanna, who would consistently tell me she already knew that. So that was fun. (Insert Johanna here asking, "Are you being sarcastic?) Mostly what the girls got out of the show was that speaking in English accents is super fun. They kept saying things like, I think thee is a loon, and no, I think thee is a loon, over and over and over again, all the way home.


Anyway, I guess the point of all of this is that we were patrons of the arts, all right, even if none of it turned out quite the way I had planned.

I mean, it never does, not with kids. And that's okay. At the very least, we got to hang out, and at best, maybe someday she'll actually think about that weekend and be inspired to try something new.

Or not. It's really cool either way.

P.S. Johanna is apparently taking commissions from her classmates for her artwork. Here's one of the most recent ones she's given away: