December 19, 2017

Recently Read...

A quick wrap-up of the remaining books I've read this year...

Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen.
One of my favorites. If you have any appreciation for Bruce Springsteen, you should read this book. His talent for storytelling, which makes him such a beautiful songwriter, also comes through in his writing here. I love reading autobiographies, and I especially love learning more about musicians. It makes listening to their music even more rich.

Anthropology of an American Girl, by Hilary Thayer Hamann.
I'm a little torn on this one. For about the first third of the book, I thought it was over-written - more metaphors and fancy phrases than was necessary to advance the story or develop the characters. I almost gave up on it several times. But there were enough compelling moments that kept me going, and then I made the turn and became invested in the main character. It was easy to recognize some of the characters around her, some of the events that happened to her, and her teenage, angst-ridden view of the world. It wasn't a traditional story, with a satisfying payoff at the end. Rather, it felt like a maturation - a reflection of what teenage girls go through on their way towards growing up.

The Mountain Between Us, by Charles Martin.
Fast-paced and satisfying story. There were times that it felt like a made-for-TV movie. It was not at all realistic, and yet I looked forward to seeing what happened next. Ultimately, it was surprising, and I liked it overall.

Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat, by Patricia Williams.
I loved this book. You know I'm a sucker for a good memoir. I'm not sure how this one ended up on my nightstand, but I'm so happy it did. This book will give you a new perspective, and a small appreciation of what it was like to grow up in urban Atlanta in the 1980s. It's difficult to read at times, but it's also well-written and accessible and impossible to put down. The most impressive aspect of the book is the author's ownership of her life. She makes no excuses, there is no judgment or wishing things had happened differently...she is simply sharing her story. She tells it like it was, and she also happens to be pretty damn funny, so it's incredibly powerful to read. Highly recommend.

Turtles All The Way Down, by John Green.
The most impressive feature in this book is Green's portrayal of anxiety. The reader gets so far into the main character's head that it can be downright uncomfortable to read, which is, of course, the point. It is realistic and eye-opening, and I have a whole new appreciation and empathy for those who suffer from mental illness, OCD, and/or anxiety disorders. The story was okay. Mostly it was interesting to see the main character, Aza, in relationships with other people: her best friend, her childhood friend/love interest, her mom. And I appreciated the realistic ending. But the narrative overall wasn't the draw. I'd recommend it, though.

Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan.
I wanted to love this book. I loved A Visit from the Good Squad, and I had seen such glowing reviews about this one. Expectations can be tough to manage sometimes, though. I liked it, don't get me wrong, but I didn't love it. It was well-written, and well-researched; but it was slow, and it felt very disconnected. I did like the historical perspective, and I'd still recommend it. I just wish I had fallen in love with it like I expected to.

December 18, 2017

In the Bleak Midwinter...

Here we are, in the darkest week of the year. We wake up in the dark, we get home in the dark. The cold air sneaks under our old front door, and the humidifiers barely make a difference in the dry air. I thank the people long ago who decided that Christmas should be celebrated near the Winter Solstice. Having fun to look forward to during this bleak time is greatly appreciated. 

Each December, my focus is on slowing down time so that I can fully enjoy the season. I'm doing pretty well so far this year. Online shopping makes that part easy - I've been done for weeks. I made a couple batches of cookie dough a couple weeks ago, and I split and froze it, so we can keep the cookie train rolling all month. I wrap a couple presents here and there while watching TV in the evening. I even managed to get holiday cards out! I hadn't planned to, but the boys decided it was a tradition they weren't ready to give up. I decided not to send homemade gifts to the family this year, and lifting that pressure off myself feels right. Maybe I'll do it in February - we can all use a pick-me-up in February. 

The boys have been spending time making gifts and cards for family members, which is so lovely, especially when unprompted. They are so proud of their creations. 

It's cold. I'm not a huge fan of being cold, but we got our first proper snowstorm at the beginning of the month, and the snow has stuck around. Snow adds to the magic of the season. The boys play outside every day, sledding until way past dark. 

December is full of family birthdays that help mark the time. I am an aunt again! (For what could be the last time?) My sister-in-law gave birth to a boy, and I can't wait to meet him. His big sister turned four yesterday. My Aaron turned eleven last week. School and other activities give structure to our days and force us out, even when the couch is calling. Chorus concerts, basketball games, piano recitals... I smile and clap and beam with pride. I adore watching my boys play. 

One week until Christmas. Next weekend will be full - basketball, The Last Jedi, Boston Pops, Elf and Home Alone, Kevin's lobster mac and cheese, presents on Christmas Eve. Full...but quiet. Just the four of us. I miss the noise and chaos that comes with family visits, but I can appreciate the quiet holidays too. 

We'll get a dose of family chaos on Christmas Day, when we go visit our new baby nephew (and his family). And then we'll head north to hit the slopes. The forecast looks frigid, but we are all excited to get to the mountains. 

As we enter this busy holiday time, my goal is to stay present in these moments. I'm ready. 

December 11, 2017

Recently Read

Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit.
I read this with our company's Women's Leadership Network. It made some good points, but overall I found it too heavy-handed.

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi.
I loved this book. It is an amazingly ambitious and interesting story that spans generations, starting with two sisters in Ghana. The book follows their descendants in Africa and in America and tells their stories. Each character is fully developed, and it's incredible how much history the author is able to cover. Seven generations and fourteen main characters in all. From eighteenth-century Ghana to the present day. Horrific and terribly sad in parts, it's beautifully told and important. Couldn't recommend enough.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
"The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
This book is going to stay on my nightstand for a good, long time. Actually, it probably belongs downstairs, somewhere I will read it during the day, because you need to be fully alert to take it in. Tyson is a wonderful writer, and he's very accessible; but he's also very intelligent and writing about incredibly complex topics. So although this is a small book, it still manages to cover a lot, and a lot of it went right over my head. I need to come back to it, and take more of it in small doses. That said, it's fascinating, and I thoroughly enjoyed trying to understand.

December 8, 2017

My Favorite Music of 2017

Well, I may not be blogging much, but I still listen to a lot of music. I love reading the end of year "best of" lists and finding new artists that I missed during the year. This week, I'm checking out Ray Davies and Caroline Spence, among others.

As usual, I also took a look back through the music I've loved during 2017. Any year that Jason Isbell comes out with new music is a good one. Margo Price has been on repeat as well, as both of those albums perfectly complement the current political and cultural climate. In looking through this list, I realize I could probably listen to more upbeat music from time to time. Although... Hiss Golden Messenger is beautiful, and Nikki Lane makes me turn it up and sing real loud. I love listening to Josh Ritter for many reasons, but also because I picture him smiling as he sings. Trombone Shorty - there's an upbeat artist. Listen to him and try not to dance. So maybe I'm okay.

Here's my list for 2017:

Jason Isbell - The Nashville Sound
Hiss Golden Messenger - Hallellujah Anyhow
Margo Price - All American Made
John Moreland - Big Bad Luv

The National - Sleep Well Beast
JD McPherson - Undivided Heart and Soul
The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding
Hurray for the Riff Raff - The Navigator

Chris Stapleton - From a Room, Volumes 1 & 2
Nikki Lane - Highway Queen
Noah Gundersen - White Noise
The Lone Bellow - Walk Into a Storm

Josh Ritter - Gathering
Aimee Mann - Mental Illness
Sera Cahoone - From Where I Started
Trombone Shorty - Parking Lot Symphony

Ryan Adams - Prisoner
Tift Merritt - Stitch of the World
Laura Marling - Semper Femina
Lilly Hiatt - Trinity Lane


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