Year-End Book Review

309 books read - GOAL MET (goal was 300, so met and surpassed)!  Full disclosure, this would not have happened without the picture books I "read" for MPOW's Mock Caldecott.   For lists and review links, go herehere and here (the totals on the review blog won't match these because I don't add the books I read for professional review or award committees).

And here's the 2015 reading analysis (2014 numbers in parens):
  • number of books read in 2015:  309 (304) 
  • best month: December/46 (tie between March and August/38)
  • worst month: April/13 (April/9)
  • average read per month: 25.75 (25.33) 
  • adult fiction as percentage of total: 17 (18) 
  • children's/YA fiction as percentage of total: 55 (58)
  • Advance Readers Copies: 191 (202) 
  • e-books: 5 (0)
  • books read that were published this year: 249 (233)
  • books that will be published in the coming year: 22 (25) 
  • five star reviews (aka "Must Read"): 30 (20) 
  • one star reviews (aka "DNF"): 15 (17) 
Even better, Mt. Bookpile is at 214, definitely heading in the right direction (last year I vowed to get it below 225)! The problem next year is that not everything can be listed/reviewed for professional reasons, so it may not appear that I'm meeting goal... somehow, I'll have to figure out a way to survive the disappointment. So I'll say "50" as my public reading goal, and 300 as my personal goal.  We'll see how that goes.

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Whoops! In all the move-related stuff, I managed to skip the third quarter of the year so this round-up covers half a year's reading, not three months.  That's why there's "only" 147 books on it!  Those books without review links are either those I professionally reviewed or those I read for a book award.

  • You Don't Have To Like Me, Alida Nugent
Children's/Young Adult


It's not funny

I've always had a problem with people who casually use the words Nazi and fascist.  It wasn't funny when a popular character on tv was known as the Soup Nazi.  It's not funny when candidates and politicians compare others to fascists or say they're a mini-Hitler.  Those words refer to specific ideologies and a desire to dominate the world by wiping out "lesser" peoples.

And yet...

This summer I read Timur Verme's brilliant satire, Look Who's Back.  There are those who are really uncomfortable with this book, and I get that.  As I said in my review:
I fully understand the uproar over this book and the dismay of many at its popularity. Here's why I gave it such a high rating: having grown up in a survivor community, one that stressed all the times during the long history of the Jews when they were exiled or nearly wiped out of existence, the mantra of "never again" was repeated over and over. Yet at this remove, how someone like a Hitler could rise and start his movement again seems unlikely. Hence The Third Wave. And now this book.

Hitler's arguments about the Volk, self-reliance and how to solve many modern problems seem reasonable. Couple that with his charisma and lack of self-doubt... I never met Bill Clinton, but I've heard his charisma is extraordinary. Imagine if he felt as Hitler did.

So the high rating is less pro-Hitler and more pro-we need to watch out of those who spout these types of solutions, because it could happen again. Oh wait: it has. Rwanda. Bosnia. Sunni/Shia. Hmmm....
The problem is that the solutions are so reasonable.  We have a horrible disparity between the rich and poor, jobs are leaving the country and businesses are suffering.  What could be more reasonable than to Make American Great Again by getting rid of those thieves, murderers and rapists who are responsible for this - and while we're at it, let's get rid of anyone who really doesn't belong here because they didn't come through traditional immigration channels?  It's only reasonable.   And we're under attack by people who don't share our religion, who want to harm our country.  It's war, right? So it's it reasonable to prevent all of "them" from being here in the Homeland?  Let's just deport them. It's only reasonable.  Right?

That there's a major candidate, a bit of a buffoon who makes these outrageous statements and virtually no one in the mainstream media is calling this what it is isn't funny.  That people agree with these ideas and suggestions isn't funny.

You know what they way about people who haven't learned from history, right? 

I suspect we're already doomed.


Year end review/reflection

Review suggested by Laurie Hoff

The rules: The themes for this year’s review are flexibility, surprises, and positivity. Take a look back through your planner and/ or journal from this past year and ask yourself these questions:
  • What happened this year that was unexpected? (Good and not so good.)  MFPOW imploded, with nearly half the faculty and more than a few others leaving for other pastures; I started to look myself and found a new position.  It may have been me, it may have been other issues surrounding the whole "this place is doomed" motif, but my assistant and I ended things badly, barely speaking by the end of the year.  I did try to be professional about things but that's difficult when basic pleasantries are met with monosyllabic responses.  Apparently things are calmer this year (they did have to beg her to come back after I left; she'd resigned and had actually left before school ended).
  • How did you handle these unexpected situations? I tried to keep my disappointment and anger to myself, not just all "stiff upper lip" but really leaving the ill feelings at home, focusing instead on the students.  It did lead to serious weight gain and sleepless nights, so clearly things weren't going well.
  • Could you have handled them better? Yes.  Speaking with others about this, trying to get someone to act as mediator (not my supervisor, who I suspect instigated some of this) and getting help other than eating my way through it.
  • What did you learn about how to handle unexpected situations? Don't suffer in silence - find allies and confidants, and don't allow my health to suffer because of work.
Now that you’ve thought about unexpected things that happened, think about what else happened this year:
  • What were some good things that happened this year? (It’s okay if they were also on your Unexpected Things list too.) Finding a new job; losing some of the weight I gained; getting appointed to a committee I really wanted to serve on; moving with less stress than last time.
  • What were some things that initially seemed not good, but turned into or resulted in something good? (Think hard, and feel free to reframe events that you previously thought of as negative. What good came from them?) Dealing with a disastrous work situation, with both a horrific supervisor and supervisee, gave me the courage to get out of MPOW; I'm trying to be more sensitive to my current staff and recognize problems before they become really stressful for everyone involved.  Ultimately, I think this will make me a better boss!
So as you think about how flexible you were (or weren’t) in 2015, what lessons can you learn to help you have a more flexible mindset in 2016?

I wasn't that flexible, I just kept doing what I'd been - which very well may have contributed to the problem.  Knowing that ignoring someone else's unprofessional behavior in hopes that leading by example doesn't work, it won't necessarily be easier to try to make changes in what I'm doing but at least I'll have that intention.


J.J. Abrams owes me $10 and three hours of my life

(a rant with some possible spoilers)

A long time ago, in a SmallTown a couple of states away, my father insisted that I see this amazing (really!  A.Mazing!!) movie he'd seen.  He'd even see it again, just so that I could enjoy it.  Spoiler alert: I didn't.  But I went on to college and many of my friends wanted to see the sequels to this movie so I went along with them... less amazed, but whatevs (as those young'uns today say).

Then Thing One insisted I come see the New! Improved! versions.  Yawn.  Those light sabres didn't impress me the first time around and just because they glowed brighter this time out didn't mean I needed to spend money to see it. Finally, there were new movies, prequels to the original.  Poor Orphan Ani, all dark side and cranky with it.  More of my life gone.

Being a good Quew, it's only right to observe (Quakers don't celebrate, they observe - see? there goes Christmas... /bad joke) Christmas with a movie and Chinese food.  And apparently there was only one movie to see this year, the start of a New Trilogy.  But, you know, with old faces.  I wasn't thrilled but whatevs.  Tickets were bought, an hour of my life was wasted in the theatre watching poorly lit trivia questions, ads and trailers for tv shows and DVD releases.  Then, finally, lights down and...

One way I judge shows is by how long it takes for me to look at my watch.  Today? 14 minutes.

If you haven't seen the Force Awakens, you may want to stop reading.  But if you've seen Star Wars (the original; I refuse to call it "A New Hope" - no retronyms, thank you very much) you actually have seen this one.  It's more of an hommage to the original, with cameos by all the important players (including Darth's mask) than an actually new movie.  This did come with extra creepiness, as Han Solo makes googly eyes at a girl young enough to be (and I suspect will turn out to be) his daughter.  I mean, even the Death Star returned, a little bloated after a nearly 40 year absence but back.

The director of the next episode could offer me a piece of the action and I'd still stay away in droves.  Luckily for everyone involved, they'll still break box office records (but could someone please, please give me a tickets sold:tickets sold comparison, rather than $:$?  because I know I didn't pay this much to see the first one waaaay back in the 70s) without my paltry ticket missing.

YMMV.  I know my father's will.


Easing into the new year

Some of these are "leftover" from 2014, but good advice and thought provoking questions are still good advice and thought provoking questions no matter when they appear, right?

First of all, consider performing a personal audit as a way to reflect and plan for the year to come.  Another way to is to Release, Revisit and Renew.  Maybe use some of these tools to discover more about yourself (or to reaffirm what you, deep down, already know).

Then, choose one thing (just one) to simplify your life.  Since I'm already doing a number of these, perhaps 2016 is my year to really journal, not just bullet journal.  Five minutes feels like a good start.

More to come over the next few days...


Lazy thoughts

And with this we inaugurate what will be a monthly post, keeping this blog somewhat aliveThe idea and categories are from this blog.

I'm reading as many YA books as I can in preparation for my adult book award committee work that will start in January.  And at MPOW we have a Mock Caldecott committee going, so I've been reading more children's books than usual (while the Real Committee has a charge that goes up to Age 12, we're focusing only on books that might appeal to third graders).  It'd be nice to think I could clear off all of the Mt. Bookpile books from 2015, but that's not likely - plus I did buy some "reward read" mysteries over Thanksgiving Break that I'm going to parcel out during the coming year.

My tea "collection", almost all purchased at Un Amour des Thes.  What teas? The wonderfully smoky Caravane Russe. An Assam Second Flush. Hojicha Brancha Grille and a Vert Menhe Nanah. Then from Camellia Sinensis, a Macao Scenery that may just be my new favorite.  Many happy cuppas already had, and many more to come.

About work and my staff.  We're short-staffed, about to get shorter thanks to a mid-year departure.  And not everyone is stepping up, taking on more so that we're less stressed and behind.  I'm also thinking about staffing for next year, whether the team I now have is really ready to change the program and move ahead, or if we'll be needing to find new people who can do the necessary work. Some of that is out of my control, while other bits will need real tact and massaging. 

Fewer structured pieces.  I'm losing weight, so replacing them right now seems like a bad idea but as I shrink I'm starting to think about what my color palate and ideal wardrobe will be this time next year.  I'm also thinking about how what I wear to work has changed over the years: at my first school, pants were frowned on for women, while here, jeans are just fine (and don't get me started on bare legs! I'm still not comfortable with that, but it's less of an issue in the winter when woolen tights make my life much better).

Progress with my decluttering (see above re: wardrobe changes) and organizing. There's a nearly full box ready to head to Boomerangs and that's becoming a monthly trek.  I'm also making connections here in my new city and new POW. Life feels pretty full right now!

Winter.  Not last year's record-breaking snow, but it's 60 right now and it's the middle of December.  That's just not right.  Because in December, I have warm apple cider and apple cider donuts cravings and, well... they're just not the same if it's not nearly 30 and I can see my breath.  


I had no idea!

Croup is still a thing.

I knew whooping cough was making a comeback, but croup apparently never went away.  


Severe and terrifying?

A number of years ago, Thing Two said I was "severe and terrifying," a phrase that has, off and on, bothered me.  Then, a couple of weeks ago and again yesterday, a friend mentioned my book reviews and how they tended toward the critical.  Now, that's not saying the exact same thing but still...

Here's the problem: I don't do well with people who can't be bothered to try (several of Thing One's family never seem to have learned basic English grammar and their FB posts and emails make me cringe; a cousin who lives in near squalor).  People who apparently only get their news from NPR or Fox or Rachel Maddow or The Daily Show bother me because I hate siloed thinking - at a minimum, read or listen to one thing that doesn't exactly agree with you.  If your ideas and beliefs are so shaky that you can't hear the other side, that's a huge problem.  And I don't do well with books that are - to my mind - flawed.

Many years ago I had to read Ethan Frome which, up until the end, was a decent book. But that ending!  Really, suicide by toboggan?  (oops! spoiler alert)  Living in upstate NY, we knew that was impossible and implausible, however romantic the notion was.  A former colleague, to whom I'd complained about this years later, said that books only work if you can buy into the world and clearly, there was a break in that world for me.

Having a teacher try to convince me (and others in my class) that this wasn't a problem probably did get my back up.  And, obviously, that's stayed with me over the years.  So when I see a book that doesn't - for me, always and only for me! - set that world clearly, or when a character isn't as whole as they could be (or does something that seems implausible), I do tend towards the critical.  Perhaps a little severely so.  Recently this friend and I disagreed about a book that had one very obvious flaw if you really knew the world in which it was set (I happened to).  Was my review severe?  I'd like to think not, I'd prefer to think of it as realistic.

This tends to carry over into other areas, like when I see colleagues not pulling their weight or finding things burdensome when at other schools, it's far worse.  Over the past few years I've tried, really tried, to not be that critical in person, to let my irritation rest and to find a more zen approach to work.
As the new year approaches, a new year with several challenges personally and professionally, let's see how well that works.



Two thoughts on this rainy morning:

1. The past 10 years since I moved from NYC I've lived in small buildings where my bedroom was under the roof.  Rainy days were announced by the pitterpat of raindrops on said roof, and in summer I could also hear the rain hitting the trees outside (assuming open windows).  Now I'm living in a lower floor apartment in a city, so why does the rain sound so much louder?

2. Last night's debate.  It sounded a lot like Trump said (based on his financial history and success) that the US would declare bankruptcy.  Because debt.

Both make me want to just curl up in bed all day and not come out.


Maybe it's me?

Over the weekend a student mused about the existential question, "who am I?" - he was talking about things like college essays, not some teenage identity crisis. I've been thinking about the same thing because, well, some things have been happening that make me wonder if I'm some sort of jinx or should be paid to stay away from work.

Ok, so, you all know that one library I worked with burned down and another had a leak, right?  Well, actually it was three of five libraries that have had leak issues (two roof leaks - one of those roofs was supposedly solid concrete! - and one burst pipe) and one did burn down.  And all while I was working there. 

Then there's the Head problem.  Three of the five Heads I've worked with have had either grave loss and time off this year, or have taken time off for health/family reasons.  Three of five.  Luckily(?) I wasn't working at those schools at the time, but I kinda gotta think that the others might be a little nervous.  If they knew, of course.  Because I'm sure not telling them!

Thing is that I really do like my job.  I've liked my previous jobs.  I've liked most of the Heads I've worked with.  I've liked that schools I've worked in.  So what is it about me?


Shock and Sorrow

I'm in the middle of my current Big Life Change and trying to take care of my aging, arthritic back and knees, managing The Herd's stress and preparing for the next phase.  So my focus isn't really on what's going on "out there" beyond what used to be amusement over The Donald and is now a sincere conviction that he's deliberately sabotaging his campaign so he's "forced" to run as an independent.  There is one other thing that's caught my attention: reaction to a book that was nominated for an award that, well... you judge.

It's not just that the author has completely missed the point of the story of Esther, or that she's created a relationship that simply would never have happened in real life.  Getting entered for the award isn't a problem either - many books get published and many books get submitted for various awards.  The bigger problem for me is that the committee for this award didn't read the book and think, "wait - what??" That the book was published isn't the problem, it's the official imprimatur of the award committee that's the problem.

What brought this to my attention was this blog post.  Which was followed by this one.

Unlike Jennifer, I was born a Jew and raised in a Jewish family.  The congregation we belonged to in SmallTown had a number of Holocaust survivors and they ensured that we understood what they went through.  They spoke, we saw film reels, we read Holocaust literature (Night in seventh grade stands out) and were never allowed to forget. Our sense of Jewish history was:
  • the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
  • the Egyptian exile
  • the Assyrian exile
  • the Babylonian exile
  • Masada
  • the Diaspora
  • pogroms
  • the Holocaust
Jennifer worries about her daughter finding out how difficult it can be to be a Jew in this world.  I understand that, having been raised with very little but that.  My father, who grew up in a very warm, vibrant Jewish community in the Bronx eventually caught on and was concerned that the joys of being Jewish were not being taught.  He was right.  My education consisted of the old joke


Only, it wasn't a joke.

My decision to become a Quaker has nothing to do with any of that - honest - and I'm one of only two people in my very large extended family who has left the Jewish faith.  But here's the thing: it was my choice.  Freely made over a period of years, not under any duress.  And in no way did my decision "redeem" me. You know, unlike the heroine of For Such A Time.

Until recently I didn't know that I had family who perished in the Holocaust.  I'd always thought that they "luckily" came to America (or gone to Panama) in the late 1800s/early 1900s (if you consider it lucky to escape pogroms).  A few years ago, my uncle told me that his grandfather sent money home to his parents and siblings for decades, until World War II when it became clear that there was no one left.

What's the point of this post?  It's that within a few weeks the High Holidays will commence, a time when Jews worldwide will gather to pray, atone, celebrate and participate in a religion that has been around for 5776 years (or, for those Christians out there, 3761 years longer than the Christian faith).  That this book is out there, that the author doesn't understand how wrong she was (seriously: she used Holocaust Remembrance Day as an opportunity for a giveaway!), that the publisher, the RWA and the award committee don't get what pain they've caused is incomprehensible to me.

It should be incomprehensible to everyone.


Grumble Millennials Grumble

Yes, I'm an old fogey and getting older by the minute.  The past week just proves it.

Saturday I attempted to dine at Sonic.  "Attempted" means that I pulled my car into the bay, thought about the menu and planned my meal, and pressed the Big Red Button.  Ten minutes later, Jeremy asked me to wait a minute.  Five minutes after that, my Big Red Button turned off and I pressed it again.  It turned off, I re-re-pressed it.  The car in the next bay got their meal, and Thing One asked if Jeremy was even still working there.  The waitress said she'd talk with him.  Five minutes after that, another waitress appeared... with another car's meal.  We left.  No one working in that Sonic was over 25.

Sunday, while shopping, I attempted asking a question about a product.  The young'un in charge of that area was so involved with her texting that I gave up.

At a recent workshop, one of the self-described Millennial stated that she did not feel that corporate hierarchy was rigid, that she would frequently go talk to her boss' boss without fear (or notifying her boss).  That's all well and good, but there are sometimes reasons why one should follow the chain.  (Aside: this is often also the attitude of those who grew up defying The Man during the 60s).

I don't mind younger people, honestly.  I do mind that there is a certain level of politeness and consideration that seems to be lacking, that they seem uncomfortable dealing with others in any manner than online (or at some remove).  Is it too much to ask that people in the service industry, you know, serve?  Or that when you're sitting at a table with younger colleagues (and by younger, read "young enough to be your children") they make polite conversation or - at the very least - they acknowledge your existence?

Or am I just too old?


What I like about The Donald

I've been watching the news and listening to The Donald (Trump, in case anyone's wondering) go on about war heroes and illegal immigrants and bad trade agreements.  It's great theatre, isn't it? And that hair... wow.

At first, he was a joke.  Then a dangerous joke.  Now? I'm not so sure what he is, except that without explaining anything about his real policies, he's sucking up everyone else's political airtime.  It's genius, when you think about it: say a bunch of crazy, off-the-cuff things that sound even more outrageous when you try to explain what you meant ("I like people who weren't captured" - what does that even mean?!) and sit back and enjoy the coverage.  Forget coming up with anything concrete about how you would do anything, or what your ideas are, just do that.

But that's only part of why I like The Donald.  He's so unabashedly himself, no political advisers carefully crafting the message in sight.  And the wealth!  Remember waaaay back when, when President George H.W. Bush was accused of being out of touch because he didn't know the price of milk?  That's not a question The Donald will be answering, because we all know he has no idea.  Mitt Romney, and before him, Ross Perot, tried to play the just folks card, too.  It didn't work.

We all know he's not "one of us", just plain folks trying to make a living.  Let's face it, he's the embodiment of the American Dream, the one where Daddy gives you a large starting-out gift ($10 million, in this case), not the one where you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, a la any of Horatio Alger's heroes.  The Donald has been a reality tv show since well before the genre started, with the wives and the gilded lifestyle and the knowledge that no one (no one!) does it bigger, better and with less plausible hair than he does.

Do I think he's a viable candidate?  No.  Can anyone, even those who are "liking" him in the polls, really see him being statesman-like?  He's far more likely to tell a foreign dignitary "you're fired" than to work out a deal.  Or see him as Consoler in Chief, speaking words of wisdom and comfort after some tragic event? And as much as we might want someone who speaks their mind, he's a little too much for us.

But as pure theatre, I'm enjoying The Donald Show. 


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

A very good quarter, reading-wise. I even got to read some from Mt. Bookpile, not just ARCs and new stuff. According to my self-imposed goal, I ended the quarter two books ahead of schedule. That's great because the next month will be filled with travel and Big Life Changes so I'll end up behind.


Children's/Young Adult 





Speculative Fiction


By the numbers

WOOT! When I first started tracking Mt. Bookpile on GoodReads, it was 341 books high (that was in July, 2007).  As of today, Mt.B has shrunk to a mere 241 books - which to the untrained eye appears to be about 12.5 books a year.  However, to the trained eye, it's amazing I've even gotten that far down, and should only take about another 20 years to completely demolish it.

For some (Things One through Three, for example), 12.5 books a year would be amazing.  For me?  Well... Turns out that since then, I've gotten 1921 books (not including library books I've borrowed).  And I've read 2060 books, an average of 257.5 books a year.  So basically, if I don't get another book again, I've got enough to cover me for a while before I start re-reading.  Some of those books will take considerable longer than others, like the Trollope set I have, or books like Wrought With Steadfast Will and Vanished Kingdoms.  So maybe two years of reading, give or take.

On Thursday I head to ALA's Annual Conference.  What are the odds I don't return with books?

About a year later I started the Killin' Time Reading blog, which now has 1671 reviews.  The discrepancy in numbers is that I don't review books on the blog that I've been asked to review professionally or that I read for a book award.  YA books outweigh the Adult books for obvious reasons, with what I've taken to calling "YA Speculative Fiction" the overall winner.

I wonder what all this will look like in another eight years.  Check back then, ok?


I just have to rant

The network TLC has gotten a lot of bad press thanks to the presence of child molesters on two shows (ok, one wasn't on the show but he was around the show and dating the mother of a child he molested).  They did the semi-responsible thing and pulled the shows from production; the responsible thing would to have also offered additional counseling to the victims, and to have come out with a strongly worded statement about how disgusting the behavior of these men was.  Even worse, the parents and sisters of the most recent example are defending him.  It just makes my skin crawl.

Years ago, in high school and college, there were teachers/professors we knew were more friendly than they should be, that there were some who had inappropriate relationships with students.  True or not, things were different then and we didn't get as upset about the abuse of position and trust and all that as we do now.  I'm not defending, just sayin'.  I had a friend who was raped, which was a very different thing than a professor having a fling with a student.

Most schools, if not all, have training in two things: how to avoid/be aware of sexual harassment, and what it means to be a mandated reporter.  That means if we see something, we have to say something. Optimally, it means that if you see something or are uncomfortable about something, you can talk to one of the people at school who are empowered to investigate the event (obviously, you can always go to the police or CPS/DCF if it's that serious).  Twice I've seen schools fail this duty.

Once was when a potential candidate came and was teaching a computer science class, cracking jokes about testosterone in the room and generally putting down women.  He continued to do this in other interviews, and one teacher brought the matter to the attention of the appropriate person at the school.  The response? It didn't matter.  Readers, they hired him.  Over the objections of several female faculty based on sexist comments, and several others based on incompetence.

And now there's a teacher who has sent somewhat inappropriate texts and other communications (like posting online) to a student.  The student has told a few adults and was promised something would happen.  One adult lied and said this had been reported to the authorities.  This isn't the first time this person has responded in a questionable manner, and the problem is I really do like them so it's difficult to not say WTF????  Another teacher, one who knows the student far better and has direct knowledge of the communications, reported to the outside authorities, but apparently all this doesn't rise to the level of criminal activity.

Ok, I get that, and I'm not upset about that.  Sleezy and poor judgement aren't criminal.  But that the school doesn't seem to be doing anything else bothers me.  Of course, something could be being done, for example mandated training in appropriate relationships/communications with students.  Or ensuring that this teacher isn't alone with students until everyone is sure that there's no danger to the students.  Or something else.  And you know what?  It's not my business to know what's going on behind the scenes.

What's upsetting is that the teacher who did report and the student are left with the impression that this is not a safe space.  And that's inexcusable.


Meeting Musings

Today was a bittersweet Meeting, as we gathered not just for worship but also to say farewell to our outgoing Clerk, who is leaving for a new life in Santa Fe.

The weather was gorgeous, so many of us opted to sit outside; there were three who sat inside the Meeting House.  Because our Meeting is so small, whomever is the Greeter is also in charge of starting Meeting, bringing worship to a close and for bringing the snacks for our post-Meeting gathering (lighting the stoves and trying to warm the building are wintertime tasks).  Usually that person leaves with about 5-10 minutes to go, heats up the tea water, and then comes back to let us know that it is the rise of Meeting.

Today, our Greeter left to start the water, and the rest of us kept our silence.  Suddenly, coming out of the Meeting House, came an electronic chime.  Then, eerily, Siri's voice saying, "I'm sorry.  I do not understand the question."

Needless to say, that broke up Meeting as we all chuckled about the coincidence and the aptness of the comment.  And some of us wondered, what does Apple know that we Quakers don't?


We must be related!

As an adoptee, there are times when you look at who your family is and try to find things that look familiar: someone's nose, for example, or your affinity for math, or your allergy to pinecones.  When we find something like that in my family, my mother is apt to exclaim, "We must be related!"

It may have come up earlier in this blog, but I cannot sing.  Well, that's not exactly true.  I can vocalize on some sort of melody, and sometimes even hit the notes that the other person is singing.  But usually I'm off, either by a painful lot or by a niggling tone or two.  My neighbors must have loved me, because I do like to sing... I just shouldn't.  Ever.  In public.  Or private.

Thing One is a very patient person, and over the past nearly 28 years has put up with a lot.  Including my unique brand of song stylings.  I have a rather large knowledge of lyrics and frequently enjoy inserting them into the conversation when we're watching tv.  Last week he mentioned that I seem to have only one tune with innumerable lyrics.  Now, that's not exactly true, there are more tunes.  It's just that the tune I hear in my head is never the one that comes out my mouth (when I'm singing a cappella) and usually isn't even close to what the original singer/composer intended.

Apparently my mother's mother used to play a game with her children where she'd hum a tune and make them guess the song.  In her mind she'd be humming, say, "Strangers in the Night" and yet somehow it never made it past her lips to anything recognizable.

I've never met the woman, as she died when my mother was 13 (or, as I like to think of it, when I was -12).  Despite that, we must be related!

And if Thing One (or any other Thing) is reading: I'm still gonna sing.  Bring earplugs.



Every five years, for the past 35, I've been getting together with my high school classmates (not all 105 of them, but as many as 30 at a time).  It's called Reunion, and this weekend is my 35th.  Gulp.

For the past few times, we've gotten together in one big sharing circle and talked about where our lives are, what we're proud of and unsure about.  So I've been thinking about what's going on now, what was going on five years ago, and how I feel about all that.

Overall, I have to say, life is pretty good.  Yes, there's the acedia to deal with, and no, my job isn't giving me the satisfaction and warm fuzzies I'd like to have.  My health is better than it was in my 40s, but my parent's health is on a downward slope.  Financially, things are not great thanks to the albatross is the House I Own But Don't Live In (that better change by this time next year!) but they're far from dire.  My friendships are good, solid friendships; my culture vulturing has lessened but that's ok as I can't do late nights as much as I'd like.  Reading? Well... as of right now I'm 3 books behind on my 2015 goal (a couple of good weekends should take care of that).  But overall?  Can't really complain.

Go me!


Send in the trolls...

Time and time again, I see something in the news (or on the web) and have thoughts that run seemingly countercurrent to what prevailing opinion is - sometimes it's my belief/values that are different, sometimes by virtue of age and having seen it before, sometimes because who has the energy to get that worked up over something.  And each time I think, "I'm going to blog this!"

But then I think of the trolls.  I'm sure there are those who would defend my position and thoughts, but the trolls would also be there.  And who needs trolls?  It used to be that you could relatively safely share your opinion and people would either read and agree or read and disagree or read, disagree and stop reading in a huff.  But now it's like everyone feels entitled to comment, and not just on the opinions but on the person.  They're entitled to issue death threats, or make comments about rape, or my looks, or my intelligence, or simply be so nasty that Mean Girls look like Mother Theresa.  I read stories (or hear about books like So You've Been Publicly Shamed) and wonder what the hell is wrong with our society when this is normal.

Who needs that?  I'm too damn old to be dealing with childish interactions, but I'd be forced to.

One such troll, several years ago, forced me to turn on comment moderation.  Doesn't help that I knew who it was, that I could ask them to stop.  It could happen again, right?  And from someone I don't know.

That's part of the reason blogging has been so light, while my head has been filled with thoughts about so many things going on.  Maybe the thing to do is to take this private, so I could comment, knowing that those of you who chose to follow and interact would be respectful - even while disagreeing.  Maybe...


Things that go snort in the night

As a rule, I'm a very light sleeper.  My father's snoring, heard through the double wall of closets, could keep me up.  Thing One and Thing Two snore horribly, leading to separate bedrooms and sleepless nights.  My sister reported that at times, when we shared a room/bed, she'd check to see if I was still alive because I was so quiet and still.

For a very long time I've known that if I'm lying on my back, I make distressing noises.  Imagine my chagrin to learn that - only at times when my sinuses are stuffed - those distressing noises can come when I'm on my side.  Last month, while on vacation (in my favorite city) not only did I make those noises but... I kid you not... yelped.  I woke myself up, but also woke up poor Thing One.  Yelping.  In my sleep.  Five times.

This morning, during my post-Herd feeding snooze, I heard snorting.  It wasn't coming from my Big Boy...

No wonder I need a nap.  And earplugs.


Notes from Mt. Bookpile

No foolin' - 77 books read this quarter.  Apparently I'm keeping up with my 2015 goal, but there may be a Big Life Change later this year so who knows what will actually happen.  You know where to go for reviews, right?

Children's/Young Adult


Losing the will...

No, not entirely, but I have spent the past week wondering Why Me???

 We've been out on Spring Break since the 11th (yes, it's a nice, long break) and the first week was great. I got to spend time in my favorite city, saw some F/friends, and then WHAM. It hit. Three days of 100+ fever. Laryngitis. Cough. Sleepless nights due to cough. Fuzziheadedness due to lack of sleep.

My entire second week of Break, felled by flu.  Couldn't visit with friends.  Couldn't concentrate.

And now, tomorrow I face the reality that is work.  Back to dealing with students and projects and people.  Hoping that I'm healthy enough to make it through the day.  Hoping that I don't relapse.

And really being cranky that my break was truncated by this stupid cold.  It's almost enough to make me wish we hadn't had break at all.



The fog lifts slowly

Aravis and CamPhilosophy Mom are back to blogging and, well, it's spurred me to attempt anew.  Unlike Aravis, there's been no major work stress preventing me from finding the time, but I suspect Philosophy Mom will recognize what I've been going through.  Late last year I read a book by Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me, and while it didn't deliver in the way I'd hoped it would, I did recognize the symptoms: acedia.

It's not quite depression.  It's definitely not sloth.  There's a tinge of "why bother" and a whole lot of "who cares?"  And as for those wondering if SAD is a possibility, well, that wouldn't explain this starting in June.

Who knows why it started.  It just feels like the school year ended and a fog came down.  It stayed down during a wonderful vacation, visits from friends, some great culture culturing, many good books read (and some not-so-good books given up on) and other things happening that generally fall into the "life's not bad" category.  But it's real, and it's there.  The only thing that has consistently reached through that is cuddling with The Herd (in as much as The Herd allows for cuddling).

The thing is, there are things I've felt passionately about.  There are times when, as I drifted off to sleep or drove somewhere, I had something I wanted to share with my devoted readership.  But... obviously, it never happened.  Somewhere between thought and action, things got derailed.

I can't - or perhaps won't is the better word - promise to be or do or blog better in the future.  But I will try.  And right now, that's difficult enough.

Thanks for sticking with me, and for understanding.


Mark your calendars!

Ok, so we missed National Popcorn Day and Valentine's Day, but Pancake Day is right around the corner... (sorry for size of infographic; couldn't make it smaller!)


In lieu of real blogging

50 Questions Meme, copied by Philosophy Mom from wellinghall 

1. What time did you get up this morning?
That's a two-part answer: I was up at 4:57am to feed The Herd, then went back to sleep until 7:11am, when I officially got up to start my day.

2. How do you like your steak?
Rare to medium rare.  Not quite mooing, but I'm a fan of seeing pink.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
The Imitation Game, part of the Christmas Day doubleheader

4. What is your favorite TV show?
Hmmm.... I've been watching C-SPAN's Q&A and its predecessor BookNotes the longest; I do love Masterpiece but there are some series I just can't get behind so it's not Number One.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Montreal.  Bien sur.

6. What did you have for breakfast?
Chinese Breakfast tea with milk, and oatmeal with raisins.  Aka "my winter usual"

7. What is your favorite cuisine?
Not sure I have one.  All cuisines have a variation on comfort food, so I'll just say "comfort food" and leave it there.

8. What foods do you dislike?
Pork.  Strong cheese (most blues, Gorgonzola, etc.). Sea urchin.  Eel.

9. Favorite Place to Eat?
I really don't have one, because it depends on where I am and who I'm with.

10. Favorite dressing?
I'll go with my current fave, a cucumber and shallot vinagrette.

11.What kind of vehicle do you drive?
StuTwo (or StuToo, depending on my mood), a Honda Fit.

12. What are your favorite clothes?
For work, right now (in winter), a loose fitting dress, tights and a turtleneck; for home, sweatpants and sweater.  When warmer weather arrives, loose tops/skirts for work and shorts/t-shirts at home.

13. Where would you visit, this weekend, if you had the chance?
See 5 above.

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?
Too small.

15. Where would you want to retire?
Asked and answered in number 5 and 13.

16. Favorite time of day?
When I'm not working, I like the hour or so I'm up between feeding The Herd and falling back asleep; when I am working, the time just before I fall asleep, sipping tea, reading and snuggling with The Herd.

17. Where were you born?
Boston MA

18. What is your favorite sport to watch?
I rarely see sports in person, so, F1 Racing (19 days until Albert Park!),  Most others have too many commercial breaks that stretch the competition out.

19. How many siblings?
One younger sister.

20. Favorite pastime/hobby?
Reading.  Napping.  Snuggling with The Herd.

21. Who are you most curious about their responses to this?
It really doesn't matter, no one else will do this!

22. Bird watcher?
The Herd are, but I don't think that counts.

23. Are you a morning person or a night person?
More of a mid-morning.  I need an hour or so on my own before I'm willing to interact with humans.

24. Do you have any pets?
The Herd.

25. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share?
Um, today Thing One de-iced our deck and stoop? It's only exciting because there's less of a chance of leaks inside when things refreeze tonight.

26. What did you want to be when you were little?
I wanted to own a bookstore.  No, I wasn't the most imaginative child.

27. What is your best childhood memory?
At the moment, I just can't think of one.  Maybe going to a tearoom on Boston Common with my dad, following a swan boat ride?

28. Are you a cat or dog person?
Cat, obviously.

29. Are you married?
Depends who you ask.

30. Always wear your seat belt?
When I'm driving, or in a private car, yes. Ok, most of the time.  I tend to not when driving the 100yds to work (don't ask).  Rarely in a taxi.

31. Been in a car accident?
Yes, but more of a fender-bender as I poked out of a parking space into a car driving above the parking lot speed limit.

32. Any pet peeves?
Don't get me started.  Might become a new post sometime (soon?).

33. Favorite Pizza Toppings?
Mushrooms.  Garlic.  Four cheese.  Not on the same pizza!

34. Favorite Flower?

35. Favorite ice cream?
Vanilla Swiss Almond.

36. Favorite fast food restaurant?
I'm going to go with Chipotle, but only because it's slightly healthier than the other options.

37. How many times did you fail your driver's test?

38. From whom did you get your last email?
My friend/mentor/woman-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up Marion.

39. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
None right now, but supposing I needed to buy all new furniture it'd be somewhere that sells Shaker style, and if I needed an entirely new wardrobe it'd probably be whatever department store had the best clothes in my size.

40. Do anything spontaneous lately?
What is "spontaneous"?

41. Like your job?
No comment.  That's a fraught question just now.

42. Broccoli?
Yes.  In all forms.

43. What was your favorite vacation?
2007 trip to Edinburgh, but probably because it came just after The Big Fire.

44. Last person you went out to dinner with?
Work friend Claudia.

45. What are you listening to right now?
The idiots asking questions on the E! Red Carpet.

46. What is your favorite color?
Anything in jewel tones.

47. How many tattoos do you have?

48. How many people will fill this out?
See above number 21.

49. What time did you finish this quiz?
7:12ish pm.

50. Coffee drinker?
No, tea is my tipple (or, as my favorite mug says, "Coffee is not my cup of tea")