Friday, May 29, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians, May 29, 2020

I persuaded my library to buy this for me to read after hearing glowing reviews about it from Romancelandia and then I bought a copy for myself and then 2 more for friends. It was my favorite book of 2016. If it's not the perfect contemporary romance, it's close. Maybe I should read it again.

Media Matters

I've been trying to clean up my Currently Reading section on Goodreads because earlier in the week it was like 15 books. Now it's 11. I was trying to listen to the audio book of Good Omens but I gave up after realizing the television series was (gasp!) better than the book. I skimmed through The Tale of Despereaux last night to be done with it. I gave it 2 stars instead of 1 because it introduced new vocabulary well. Really not my thing. I finally finished Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh, who is my current favorite author, but I was not in love with the book. When I asked for comments about it on one of my Romancelandia FB groups, I was assured the rest of the series was up to her usual standard of excellence. And Rock star romances aren't a trope I go out of my way to read. What I really need to finish next is Ethan of Athos, the next Vorkosiverse book, even though I'm not loving the set up. But I also recently started The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and it's gorgeous. I enjoyed The Iliad when I read it in college, but this is a whole new world. And the prose is so beautiful. I have also started craving hockey themed romances, which is not a world I really follow, in life or romantic tropes. Maybe because it's so hot outside, my mind thinks the books will cool me off. Whatever. I read all of Pippa Grant last year, including her hockey romances, and she writes excellent books. I'm looking at Sarina Bowen and Avery Flynn's series presently.

Last week, we watched Star Trek: Picard and agreed it was the best television we've seen in a long time. We haven't agreed on what to watch next because I needed something fluffier than Expanse series 3 and Marshall doesn't want to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender, (now on Netflix) which neither of us have ever seen. We watched the first 2 episodes and he fell asleep. I guess I'll be watching that alone, along with Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Maybe we'll go back to The Witcher. He highly recommends Tales From the Loop (also on Netflix) which I only watched half of because of how much it made me cry. It's very good, though.

Family Dynamics

Yesterday, Marshall and I Zoomed with someone who may be a new family counselor for us. Miranda continues to be singular and stymies most people who try to help her, including us. We've decided to do daily checklists for everyone in the house (took a shower, put on clean clothes) and start posting the weekly calendar again (even though it's mostly empty) on the fridge for everyone to see just so we all know what day it is. There isn't a lot of structure to our lives and we need to add an artificial one to help our brains from permanently turning into laptop screens.

Alex has also started talking with a psychiatrist from The Autism Center at the Nemours Hospital in Wilmington, DE, (which is only an hour away by car) about his eating issues and after meeting with her 10 days ago via Nemours' proprietary teledoc system, we were going to start reintroducing foods he used to like. A few days ago, I had despaired because nothing I said convinced him to eat pancakes again. And then a few days ago, he wanted a new book and I said he had to earn it by trying pancakes 4 days in a row. 2 down, 2 to go.

I have to go cook that pancake now.

Palate cleanser

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians: May 20

I wouldn't recommend starting your reading of Sherry Thomas' books with this book because I always recommend reading authors in order of the publication of their books, if possible. And if you read this one first, you'd be reading her best work first. (Well, I haven't read everything she's published; I haven't yet read her YA series or her last few books. I will, eventually.) I still think this book is tremendous and it will make you cry. I've read it or 5 times and even though I know what's coming, each plot point still leaves me breathless. Very angsty. Not fluffy. Not a cinnamon roll hero.

Harder Things

I haven't blogged in 3 weeks. There hasn't been a lot of happy news to share. Quarantine goes on, although we tried dinner in my parents' backyard on Saturday (physically distanced and since the children don't eat barbecued ribs, they ate before we left) it wasn't terribly successful. Both kids flipped out when told to get ready or get in the car. It had been 2 months since they'd gone anywhere but our backyard and the change didn't go over well. Autism in a plague year sucks.

Miranda's given up on school and I'm done trying to persuade her to do anything schoolish. So she's learning to do her own laundry and other helpful things when I think of them. Alex will still do a few things and pretend to be in school for a few moments each day. We're still hopeful that he will have his regular 6 week summer school session, even if I have to drive him to Atco and back every day (about 35 minutes one way, 15 miles cross country. Although, if there's no traffic I might save 5 minutes by going down 73. But I digress.) I wonder if it would be best for Miranda to just repeat 7th grade, since, academically, the year has mostly been a loss. I guess that depends on if there is school in September. If there isn't, it doesn't really matter.

It's hard to look forward in a plague year. Two months at home has made us all absolutely nuts or deeply depressed or both, but there is no end in sight. There is no cure, no vaccine and no real treatment for Covid19 and the virus is invisible in the wild. Alex's school can probably do the distancing necessary because it's small and private but part of its population is medically fragile. Miranda attends a middle school with all the other middle school students in the town. Classes are crowded, hallways are crowded and teenagers aren't great at keeping to no touching rules. Marshall's employer is going to start to allow people back in the building in June but never to full capacity. He expects to be working some days in the office and some days home, on a rotating basis. Herd immunity needs to be greater than 60% to be helpful, according to this article, and we aren't even close to that. Many more thousands of people are going to die before we get there, no matter what we do. And it's going to take years. As I said, it's real cheery around here lately.

I haven't been reading a whole lot. I've started a few books and finished even fewer. My favorite was another from my mother in law's shelf that I kept to read, a collection of the first three Jacqueline Kirby books by Elizabeth Peters. They were excellent; unfortunately, there's only one more in the series. I listened to Neil Gaiman read his collection of Norse Mythology and it was interesting but, as he says, incomplete. I finished my reread of Lucy Parker's London Celebrities books so now I can start the new one, when I get enough motivation to do so. I'm amazed I haven't yet fallen into a reread of the Guild Hunter or PsyChangeling series by Nalini Singh but I think that's mostly because I don't own all the paperback copies yet. I'm continuing to collect them. I miss my library but the only way to disinfect books is to leave them in an empty room for a week. I'll keep using their online options, thank you.

Marshall and I finished watching both seasons 1 and 2 of The Expanse and then I needed to take a break and watch fluffier things, so we finished The Mandalorian. I've also gone back to Star Wars: The Clone Wars, restarting at season 2, so I can finish the series. I gave up somewhere is season 4 last time, when it got really dark. We haven't decided what we're going to watch next. We started Picard but then he wants me to read the book that precedes the series, which I haven't yet. There's always The Witcher (stopped after episode 4) or Jessica Jones (somewhere in season one) or Daredevil (early in season 2) or Luke Cage (I think we finished season 1). I'm not sure Iron Fist is worth finishing; we were like halfway through season 1. I do want to watch The Defenders and I hate not watching things in order. But when a show gets darker and scarier, I am reluctant to continue. Do I frustrate my husband when I do this? Absolutely. Do we process visual media differently? Yup. Things stay with me for hours or days. He is better able to shrug them off. And no, we don't like sitcoms or reality television that isn't Mike Rowe and most crime procedurals like NCIS or CSI get boring or piss me off or both. Maybe I should start watching She-Ra.

Palate Cleanser: Presto never stops being funny

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians, April 29

If you've never read Georgette Heyer, you should. Faro's Daughter is a very funny, sometimes mad-cap Georgian romance first published in 1941. Our heroine is not quite respectable and when a lordling falls in love with her, his family makes great efforts to distance them, most of which backfire. She is the most intelligent person on the page, save the hero, and watching her make good decisions while the waves of crazy crest around her is delightful. Of course, there is a happy ending.

My current favorite thing to listen to is the soundtrack from the movie Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. First, it's an amazing film in every sense and you don't need to know anything about Spider-Man to watch it. Somehow, when we watched it again a few weeks ago, I was reminded how much I liked the music. And it's available on Hoopla. I just have to renew it weekly on my library card. This is what I was doing with the Frozen II soundtrack a month ago. Slightly different genre of music. Slightly

Hard Things

(I wrote, in my head, an excellent blog post when I was in the shower last night. If someone could create a device to record all the amazing and useful things I think of while I'm in the shower, I would be eternally grateful. In the meantime, I will try to recreate my thoughts.)

So, this online schooling thing is not going well. Somehow, I thought I could be everything Miranda needed. (No, this is not a logical conclusion but I had early Covid enthusiasm that has obviously waned when it crashed into reality.) When she is at school, she has 9 teachers, a case manager, and a guidance counselor to help her and she was still barely passing her classes. Now, at home, with just me and her lukewarm attitude towards completing assignments, we are floundering. And I don't even know how far behind we are because I still have logged into Powerschool and counted, but we haven't even touched math in almost a month. I know she's doing work in most of the other classes.

Last weekend I had a serious, extended panicked mood about her schooling, so much that I was avoiding all the emails and phone calls from teachers and case managers for both kids. You know what, asking for help is hard. I hate to do it. And this is about me, not her.

I had to come to grips with the fact Miranda is not a straight A student years ago. She is not Sarah 2.0 (and for the record, I didn't have straight A's until they stopped grading me in handwriting and PE). Miranda is her own person and her AD/HD especially makes exams and essays a serious trial, so much so that we may have alternate grading in place for her in future. Which is perfectly acceptable according to her IEP; we just have to keep making those changes. She has no difficultly learning in her favorite subjects of history and language arts, she just needs help expressing it. Other subjects are more difficult but her teachers are the most reasonable, helpful people you could imagine. They don't want her to fail. And her case manager is amazingly compassionate. But I had to say I was failing and couldn't keep up. And that's hard.

Since then, I have been honest with her case manager and social studies teachers. I haven't figured out what to do with math yet, but I don't feel so hopeless now that I've admitted I'm not coping well. I can't manage both kids' schooling and the house and my own stuff and food and laundry, etc. And you know what? It's not possible for one person to do all that. It's not a reasonable request of any one person. And I wasn't doing it alone before. Miranda had her staff, Alex had his staff, Marshall was able to go in to the office and have the support of his co workers instead of trying to figure out everything from a desk in Miranda's bedroom. I had people I paid to clean my house once a month and I wasn't afraid to go to the grocery store. Not to mention my library! I was at the library twice a week to pick up or drop off books. And my mother and I shared a lot of the errands that we could that are much more difficult now. And I could go to church on Sunday morning and Wednesday morning and feel the support of my spiritual community.

Without all these necessary supports, I cannot expect myself to function well, much less at optimum. It's not reasonable. Ben Aaronovitch, an author I follow in Twitter, wrote last weekend that he had started coughing and was overwhelmed by such a sense of existential dread, the kind he hasn't felt since the end of the Cold War. And that's a great description. We don't know what's coming, how bad the virus will be, if we've already had the virus (Alex has a new fever as of yesterday because, of course), how much worse the US political world will get as people keep dying of Covid19 and the poorest of the world pay the debts of those of us who have more. I have more: a house, health care, access to testing and enough money to survive a hospitalization. Many people I know don't. And if you spend ten minutes on Google news, you'll find millions of others who don't either.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

To quote a favorite Nalini Singh book, save the ones you can right now. If helping yourself is all you can do, do that. If you can help others, do that. Your local food pantry. Your favorite non profit. Your church. Your friend's church. Your parents, your family that isn't necessarily blood related. Try not to fall into thinking that your life or your way of life is more important than anyone else's. Jesus came to save all people. All of us.

My current favorite song from Spiderverse:

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians, April 26

In the spring of 1993, before my high school graduation, before I would start my university education at Seattle Pacific University in the fall, I read Dorothy L. Sayers Gaudy Night. Not only does it contain a fascinating mystery, complete the courtship between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, but it explores the argument of the ivory tower v. real life. That is, can a person immerse themselves in the world of learning and teaching, in the academy, and live only for learning and teaching.

Before that spring, I had expected to spend my life as a teacher and a writer. After reading Gaudy Night, I realized I would never be an excellent writer. And soon, after some attempts at teaching at SPU, I realized I was a lousy teacher. All my future plans kinda died.

I did finish my degree at SPU in English literature, got married, then moved to NJ in part to pursue graduate school, or at least that was the plan. It never happened. I even took the GRE one spring. 2001? Maybe? Life didn't go that way, I didn't go that way.

Since I haven't blogged in more than a week, you can tell it's been tough going around here. My body is not cooperating by staying well and pain free. Nonetheless, I was able to walk a little more than 7 miles, which is more than the previous week and the week before that, so, progress.

Some post cards of notice from this last week

Turkish armor

Greek art

Cambridge, UK

Grand Canyon, USA

My book choices have been all over the place: contemporary romance, post-apocalyptic romance--it's not a genre I usually like but I make exceptions for Ruby Dixon--and young adult urban fantasy, which I read mostly to find books my daughter will read because she's still in a zombie fiction phase. Marshall and I made decided to spend more time together watching things I've been promising to watch with him. I do best with only one episode per evening so after finishing the latest series of Doctor Who last week (which we barely liked), we watched Good Omens this week (which we did like, all heresy aside), we watched the last 2 episodes of Steven Moffat's Sherlock, and then last night, Ford v. Ferrari, which he likes and I tolerated. Christian Bale and Matt Damon were excellent but everything else was slow and annoying. And it failed the Bechdel-Wallace test. I mean, even Train to Busan, a Korean zombie movie, passes that test. Funnily enough, The Last Jedi passes that test but I don't think Rise of Skywalker does. We liked the former more than the latter. Does it mean that in order to be a good movie it has to pass the test? Not always, but good movies often do.

Movies from 2019 that I liked and saw (some) in the actual movie theatre:

  • Captain Marvel (um, yeah!).
  • Shazam! (maybe?).
  • Avengers: Endgame (probably but only because Gamora and Nebula had a conversation).
  • Late Night which I wanted to see but didn't but certainly passes.
  • We saw the new Godzilla and it passes only because of mother-daughter conversations; that doesn't make it a good film.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (maybe?)
  • I still want to see Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw but I don't expect it to ever pass.
  • Frozen II, which I liked and does pass.
  • Knives Out passes.
  • Still want to see Jumanji: The Next Level even though I don't expect it to pass.
  • Spies in Disguise was very fun and it does pass.
And I need to go eat lunch. Here's your palate cleanser:

I wish I'd had this when I needed to learn geography.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians, April 17

I discovered Percy Jackson by reading a New York Times review of book 5 of Percy's first series, The Last Olympian, which was published in 2009. I read lots of book reviews, by professionals and regular readers. One reason why I love Goodreads so much is that it aggregates reviews from many readers and gives you the opportunity to read about a book from someone who loved it as well as someone who didn't. Some of my favorite reviews are 1 and 2 star ones. Anyway, if you like Greek mythology and good young adult fiction, I highly recommend Percy Jackson. I, myself have yet to read Rick Riordan's ten most recent books. They're on my list, I promise.

Today's interesting postcard is from my parents' trip to Greece and Turkey in the fall of 2015, when it was still fairly safe to travel there. They joined a group exploring many of the sites of early Christianity.

Mental Health Review: So Miranda and I have continued to talk to our counselor weekly. Thankfully, we have the resources to keep talking to her (and our HMO reimburses 50%) because I need someone to help me interpret Miranda and talk through alternatives when how I've been parenting her isn't working. Mostly, we are struggling with her school work because, 1) there's so much of it, and 2) I am figuring out how to adjust it to a reasonable level. It hasn't helped that we've been sick for much of the last two weeks (although, the kids are pretty much over their fever and headaches and I'm feeling better today that I have in 2 weeks, so maybe we're done with whatever it was) so I haven't had the energy to chase her down on all of the assignments and neither, honestly, has she.

Something each of us in this building is struggling with is how scary it is to be staying together here all the time and understanding that the world outside is where the virus is rampant. Seriously scary. That stress lies on top of everything we think, all the words we snap at each other and every time we get annoyed by all the boxes of Mimi's stuff still in the front room. (Half of the boxes are her current papers that we still need available to manage her estate, which won't close completely until we sell her house, and the others are things of hers we wanted to keep but don't yet have a place for. I probably really need to clean the linen closet. A clean shelf in there would help. But I digress....)

The kids can't go to school, where they are used to the routine, where they see people they like, and where they probably have better uses for their time. And where they have far better teachers than me. Marshall can't go to work in his office in Camden, with all of his co workers where it's easier to work because there are many fewer distractions and if he has a question, he can lean over the divider and ask his colleague. And he can talk about technology to people who actually care instead of his long-suffering wife (😇) who can often follow what he's saying but this latest project has her really confused. And I have to manage everyone all of the time in addition to doing all my own work. Sure, I prefer waking up about 7:30 am (my body has decided it really doesn't like sleeping longer than this, much to my dismay) instead of 5:40 am but the no peace and quiet thing except at midnight when everyone else is sleeping (which, since my body doesn't sleep in anymore, is not healthy) is wearing on me.

And this is just the tone of the house with no outside interference. Marshall and I don't read a lot of the news, but we check it several times a day. And, I've discovered, Miranda's reading it too. So, add the political squabbling and virus updates to our emotional thermometer. And while Alex doesn't follow the news himself, he picks up the household's prevailing emotional attitude and reacts to it, whatever it is.

To sum up:
We're stressed because

  1. No body ever leaves
  2. We still have to do all our own crap, but without the appropriate help.
  3. Everyone eats every single meal here, requiring food and dishes.
  4. Many of my destressing activities went up in smoke (watching tennis or Premier League futbol) or are quarantined elsewhere (parents and friends).
  5. Marshall and I both have more things to do than energy to do them.
  6. The kids are frying their brains on screens because it's hard to get them to do other things. Neither is a self motivated student.
  7. I'm tired and it's time for dinner. 
Here's your palate cleanser (this is Alex's other favorite)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians, April 16

(This is book 4 in the series and I NEVER advocate reading a book out of order, so if you want to read this one, please read books 1-3 first. Still, it's my favorite of the series and left me sobbing uncontrollably at one point. Jeanne Birdsall writes so tenderly about the difficulties of growing up and discovering your parents aren't perfect and can, occasionally, make mistakes. In fact, you yourself might make mistakes along the way as well. I loved these books.)

Post card of the day:

This is part of a group of postcards I bought for MaryLee when Marshall and I were in Cambridge, England, in 2002. As she was a photographer, I thought she'd appreciate seeing the deep contrasts in the photos. I found them again when I went through her personal papers and am now using them for their original purpose.

Angry Birds update: I am resisting sewing up a seam on Bomb this afternoon. But I should probably just do it. I don't know where my black thread is. I have dark brown. I don't expect anyone will be able to tell the difference.

I don't have a lot of focus today. Miranda refused to tell me how much of a particular assignment she's completed (which probably means none) which she's told me she has been working on for weeks so she is technology free for the rest of the day. On the other hand, Alex had tons of energy this morning which means he's finally feeling better. I feel the same; just groggier. I stayed up late reading.

Last night, I discovered a new to me author, Katharine Ashe, and now I want to go read all of her books. I was being a good girl last night, finishing a book on my currently reading list (At the Billionaire's Wedding, a collection of short stories, including "The Day It Rained Books," by Ashe) that I started in February of 2019. I originally started the book because I was making my way through all of Maya Rodale's published works. But, obviously, something shiny walked by. Ashe's story is the third in the collection and by far the best. She takes the Cinderella trope and makes it into something beautiful. And I don't even like Billionaire stories, for the most part (Pippa Grant seems to do them well), but this story had me in tears.

Anyway, so now Currently Reading (on Goodreads) is only 11 books which includes the Bible and my devotional but my official To Be Read pile is 781. For every book I read, I seem to add 3 more to my want to read list. I read about 225 books a year (Goodreads counts full length books, novellas and shorts each as a distinct work; if you want length reports, they do have a page counter) so if I continue in the fashion as I move forwards, I won't ever catch up.

Maybe I need a break from technology, too, the form of a paper book.

This is still my favorite Animaniacs sequence.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Quarantine Quotidians, April 15

(It's been fun choosing a book to head every post, which I only did the first day because then it explained by title but now I can pick a new one every day! I can't remember how many times I've read Silver Silence since it was published in 2017--half a dozen at least--but I never get tired of Russian bear Changelings. Russian bears! They are hilarious.)

Angry Birds toys I have repaired

Today Nico from Angry Birds Rio got his hat reattached, which I recall Alex detaching almost as soon as he came into the house, years ago, and a small seam in his butt sewn closed. Photographic evidence of the change was difficult to gather.

Strange postcard of the day

I myself have never visited Epcot Center and my mother only went for the first time last year, but this post card is old. I'm wondering if my paternal grandmother went, years ago, and brought postcards back. That's my best guess.

Road Trip!

So I had some bank deposits that had been sitting around for a while and then I needed to do one for my mother in law's estate but her bank is a 20 minute drive from our house so I'd been putting it off. I was feeling decent earlier so I decided to just drive down to her bank, and then hit our bank and McDonald's on the way home. (One of Alex's food groups is McDonald's French Fries, and right now we're trying to put even a tiny bit of body fat back on him because he's growing faster then his limited calorie intake can manage. And I got McFlurries for Marshall and Miranda. Because I'm nice.)

I felt okay on my drive down (I swear, I missed every single light down Hainesport-Mt. Laurel Road to Greentree) but I was dizzy by the time I got back. So I'm not perfectly well; still enough sick that going out is inadvisable unless I'm just going to sit in the car. Lemme tell you how that makes me feel:

Yeah. It sucks.

But a dear friend offered to do our Aldi shopping, so that's one less worry. Bless you, friend.

There's not a whole lot of other new news. Miranda is still pretending to do her homework. I have yet to log in to Google classroom. Alex has been assigned by his counselor to work through "cartoon interactive social story type activities" on the computer and watches the clock until his allotted time is done. Marshall continues to work too many hours to reasonably ask him to deal with any of his other stuff around the house. He watched The Ring last night, the American version, which he said was okay. I read another Barbara Freethy book in her Off the Grid series, which has an over arching mystery along with one to be solved in each book. I've read 4 with 3 more to go and I'm curious enough to finish them this week to find out whodunit in the larger story. I have suspicions but Freethy writes cleverer mysteries that most people give her credit for. She's not as popular or flashy as Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick (all the same person but publishing under different names for different genres) or Christina Dodd. Even the Queen, JD Robb aka Nora Roberts, with her towering in Death Series, often has obvious villians. (One of my accomplishments this year was finishing book 50 of the in Death series, the latest published. Most of the books I read last year were written either by Nalini Singh or JD Robb and I really have no regrets.)

What's funny is when I count my authors (I love Goodreads; it's like having an extra brain) and I realize how few male authors I read any more.

  • John Scalzi is still a favorite and I haven't yet, unlike my husband, finished reading all of his back list. 
  • Ben Aaronovitch has an excellent urban fantasy series that started with Rivers of London in 2011, but I still have to read the last few books. (We recommend the audio versions of any of the Peter Grant stories because Kobna Holdbrook-Smith makes you a Peter believer.) 
  • I suppose Ilona Andrews counts because they are actually a husband and wife writing team, Ilona and Gordon Andrews. (I recommend everything they write. Yes, everything.)
  • Before the Netflix series launched, I started reading The Witcher books by Andrzej Sapowski and am now halfway through the series. Honestly it's some of the best fantasy I've read in years. His world building is impressive. 
Except for the odd historian or graphic novelist, that's it for male authors in the last 3 years. I'm not sure if that says more about me or about them.

Now I really need to stop and scrounge something for dinner.