Tuesday, December 11, 2018

What's Going On

I've been having fibroid issues, at which many Women of a Certain Age will nod knowingly. Basically, my uterus is a bit crowded for what should be a low-traffic area at this point in my life. Friday I was supposed to have a procedure to investigate and improve things, but it didn't quite go as planned and I have to go back and have it done under general anesthesia. This rather blows, but on the bright side, the nurse taking care of me was Gina from Brooklyn 99. I mean, she probably wasn't really, except she was, if you know what I mean. Except nice. Really, really nice. And there was fentanyl.

Last Monday I was at work at my Monday school and the vice principal came in and told me that the other library technician had had a family emergency and he wanted to know how many of her shifts I could cover. Not to make her family emergency all about me, but this, again, rather blew. I'm loving work, but my whole plan to Get Christmas Shit done after being away for a week in November and going to Zarah's for the last week-end (FABULOUS time, don't regret either thing a bit) revolved around continuing to work very little. Also, I have very bad feet and never thought I could do this job full-time. Also, fibroid issues.

My first instinct is always to say yes to everything and save the day as much as humanly possible. Probably fortunately, this wasn't really possible in this case since one of her shifts I was at my Wednesday school and Friday was my surgery thing. So I did as much as I could, and it was kind of cool, and it caused me a lot of pain, and then on Sunday I found out she was coming back this week and there was much rejoicing in the kingdom. So this week I'm working very little again, dealing with some minor pain and bleeding fallout from the procedure, and Getting Christmas Shit done.

The new procedure many of the kindergarten children have decided on is that they line up to leave the library and then as they're saying good-bye and thank-you they also hold up they're book and yell "WHAT'S THIS SAY?" and I read as many titles as fast as I can as they walk by, and it's hilarious and very rewarding.

I didn't do Christmas cards last year - there were too many other things to do, and it was part of my "do what you can and let the rest go with as much equanimity as possible". But I missed it, so this year I'm doing them again. I got most of them in Monday morning, which is probably still late for some areas, but it made me happy anyway. I've run out of my Shutterfly return address labels so I'm using the free ones sent to me by charities, which I always complain about and now I'm going to have to make grumpy donations in return.

As usual, I feel slightly dizzy with all the money we've spent on Christmas, even though every year we DO scale back a bit. And trying to achieve at least a respectable match for charitable donating makes me even dizzier, but it's worse if I don't. I've gotten better at not feeling resentful for all the work that goes into Christmas - refer back to "do what you can and let the rest go" - but I really feel deeply for people that work full-time and are trying to make a magical Christmas for their families. I don't see how that's possible without at least some resentment. It's a conundrum.

Right now thought, there are fluffy snowflakes falling from the sky, I'm about to bake gingerbread scones while listening to Christmas music, my painkillers have kicked in, and Lucy is sleeping peacefully on a rug beside me. At least she was until this very second, when she started digging around and making weird snorting sounds. Sigh. So magical.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

For Steph, Who Asked What It Was Like

What's it like to have a kid in college? Far away, not-living-at-home college (that's the only kind I know so far)?

I can only describe my own experience, obviously. First of all, it has not been a constant, daily pining ache, which the comments on a recent Facebook article indicate that it is for many mothers. I'm torn between feeling like I'm a less attached or devoted mother for this reason, or that those other mothers maybe need a hobby. There's also the fact that he had a very busy school and sports schedule the last few years he was at home, so maybe those mothers were used to seeing their kids more on a daily basis.

Mostly it feels like he's just away for a baseball tournament. Often I just forget that he's not actually downstairs in his man-cave. Our usual schedule was that he would come home from school and sit on the arm of the couch while I made him a snack and we would talk about a variety of things, and then he would go off to workout or practice, or down to the basement to do homework. We rarely had dinner as a family because it didn't fit into the schedule - admittedly, when we did I wished we could do it more often because the conversation would often go off on weird and entertaining tangents. What I miss most of all is the random moments in the evening when everyone would end up in the kitchen/family room area for a few minutes, and Lucy was happy to have her pack all together and it was a good feeling. The corollary, though, is that we all go down to visit him now and he and Eve are actually really happy to see each other and talk about all the stuff that's happened while they were apart, and we have a short, intense time together that is basically like twenty family dinners at once, and it's very nice.

Every now and then I'm in the kitchen and doing something innocuous like reaching to turn on the faucet and I suddenly miss him acutely and have to stop and take a breath. It is a strange, bittersweet feeling to think that him living here full-time is over forever. When he was home last week, I went down to say goodnight and we hugged, and for a brief moment I wished fiercely, painfully for him to be little again, that I was about to bury my face in the neck of a two-year-old before picking him up to carry him to bed. But it passed. This is the proper order of things. We know that. Bittersweetness is the very lowest price we can hope to pay for the joy of having children, right?

There's also the considerable trade-off of the happiness and pride of seeing him succeed at something he really wants, apart from us. I really thought he might have more trouble settling in and being on his own, which would undoubtedly have made this harder. We also have texting, which makes it much easier to still feel connected than it was for my parents.

Also, to be perfectly honest, having him not live here makes some things quite a bit easier. I don't have to worry about having my car home on time for him to go to work out three times a week plus practice. I don't have to buy as many groceries. I don't have to cook as much meat - when Matt was in Asia for October Eve and I could survive the week on one batch of curried chicken and a quiche. Again, this is something that has the potential to be sad (and a little guilt-provoking), but sometimes it's just... easier.

Finally, there's the fact that he's been home twice for five days to a week, and he only left three months ago. After Christmas, all his breaks are taken up by baseball travel. We'll go down to visit and watch him play, but he won't be home for a full five months. So, I guess, ask me again at the end of May?

So there you go. Nothing earth-shattering or terribly profound. My son moved away, and I'm sad and happy. Next year when Steph's son Noah goes away I'm hoping it will be somewhere close to Elmira so we can meet and talk about being sad and happy over tea and some kind of vegetarian snack.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Posters Were Five Dollars Each

Second day at the new school went much better than the first day. I have kindergarten classes! Two of them! It's been a while since I had to look over the desk and down to find the beaming little face. They're just as likely to hand you their shoe as their book, but they're so damned cute and enthusiastic that it doesn't really matter. One class has an Addison and an Edison, a Darien and a Darren, and a Jana and a Jenna, so not confusing at all. It's kind of funny how you develop a very close relationship with a very small segment of a school's population when you work one shift a week. When the first class came in, I explained that I was new and told them to correct me if I got any of the library procedures wrong. Then I outlined what I thought should happen, and the teacher at the back said "sounds like you got it down pat", but what I heard was "sounds like a goddamned plan", and I had to stop and process for a minute. As the class was winding down, I whispered to her what I had thought she said and now we're best friends.

Last week was the book fair (HI NICOLE). This is the first year I got paid to do book fair, after many, many, many years of doing book fair. I also went in on my day off to help, though, because even though it's a giant pain in the ass, I really love the book fair. It usually runs on the Thursday evening because parents come in to do parent teacher interviews and you can rake in the dough if you open for parents. The library tech couldn't stay late on Thursday so the principal and vice principal came to help me - this is not a regular occurrence. The principal is a funny, chill guy (former gym teacher). He would try to make the kids do math to figure out how much change he owed them. I feel sorry for anyone who has to do math under pressure so when he told them it was a life skill they would need out in the world, I helpfully told them "just get a phone". He found me delightful.

I feel pretty good, especially for November. I increased my antidepressant dosage back in September when I was having major extended lows, and I'm pretty much feeling the projected full effect right on schedule. I'm having a sort of different manifestation of anxiety, in that I feel like a thousand things are going on when really there are not that many things are going on (partly because my memory and focus are so iffy - thanks perimenopause - that if there are more than two things, I'm likely to lose track of at least one). But I'm happy. The kids are doing well, I'm really happy to have a little bit of work, my sister is coming for Christmas, and hanging out with my hilarious friends is really fun. If civilization wasn't crumbling around us, things would be damned near perfect.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Settling the Heck Down

So I fell off the NaBloPoMo wagon. Hard. In what would have been my tenth straight year. Part of me feels really bad about that, like it's a sign that I've given up on the only type of writing I've ever achieved something approximating success at, like I had a chance to keep something really meaningful going and I blew it. The other part of me thinks, Hmm, what else have I never done in any of those other nine Novembers?: Driven to New York and back regularly to visit my killing-it-at-college son; started a second job; hung out in Cabo for a week reconnecting with my long-suffering husband, drinking really excellent tequila, sexy-dancing with a nurse and a PR VP, riding a camel and being to all reports being a hands-down fabulous show wife; I've run out of things and I feel like there should be at least one more, but you get the gist.

So, as I said one year, sometimes you do it well and sometimes you just do it. As it turns out, sometimes you don't actually do it like you meant to. That's okay. There's still a decent stretch of November left for me to decide if I want to do this or if I'm doing it out of some weird superstitious compulsion that isn't actually healthy.

First day at my new job yesterday. It wasn't awesome. I took a Benadryl the night before which usually ensures that I sleep peacefully until 7:30. Instead I woke up at four, laid awake for a couple hours, then had a few really unpleasant dreams that should have had a violence and sex warning (although for once I looked nice with my hair in a ponytail), and woke up feeling drained and weird. I got to school and there was no login information for the library software system for me (it's entirely possible that this was my mistake, and in the future I'll know to email support before I actually go in). The library was set up for the book fair, and there was some confusion as to whether classes would actually be coming in, which was panic-inducing because, like I said, no login information, and then anti-climactic when no classes came in and I spent my first day just putting "Order Me" stickers on last copies for the book fair. I felt odd and out-of-place and sad.

On my drive home, I gave my head a shake. The few staff members I did meet (resource teachers whose offices are off the library) were lovely and welcoming. The school is a six-minute drive from my house. Because I have this job and not one at the public library, I work a few hours a week for a wage that will allow me to pay for some stuff like Bluesfest tickets and Christmas presents and vacations and tuition. And I have summers off.

I'm off today. I just made my home-from-college son an egg salad sandwich while we talked about Omega-3 acids, fish oils, subsidized housing, the flu shot, climate change, and Tupperware lids. Life is good, and I am settling the fuck down.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Desserts, Just and Less So

So I got the job. Either they liked me more than it seemed they did or I was the only applicant - which is fine, I'm not proud. To answer Steph's question (HI STEPH) it is to supplement my current gig, which is only one day a week at one school. This is on Mondays at a different school which is very close to my house; my ten-minute drive on Wednesdays is now my long commute. It's all kind of funny because years ago when I started my diploma, people were saying there was a projected library tech shortage for right now, and I would roll my eyes and say "yeah, okay, we'll see" and now postings are showing up fairly regularly on the job board. It's not a huge deal and it's not a large amount of money, but I do regularly feel very happy about the fact that I'm actually getting paid to do a job I went to school for because at one point in my life it seemed unlikely that that would ever happen. I suppose it's barely possible that having a classroom of seven-year-olds bellowing thank-you in French at the end of library time might get old some day, but I kind of doubt it.

I feel like I should write more, but I'm tired and my feet hurt and I really need to do laundry because none of my good bras are clean from the trip and my boobs were in full revolt by the end of work today. Oh, but this morning was the awards ceremony at Eve's high school. It was originally supposed to be last week so we were going to miss it, and then they re-scheduled, so we were really happy we could go. Since she was in grade nine last year, her group was first, starting at 9 a.m. We figured this would work out great, since Matt had to get to work to organize Bring Your Kid to Work Day because he's the most senior member in his group, and I would have lots of time to get Lucy to my parents and get to work after the ceremony. So we were going to be those parents, take a picture of our kid walking across the stage and then bolt for the doors. And her last name starts with an A.

Then as I'm sitting there waiting for the thing to start, my phone pings with the chimes of divine retribution and Eve texts: "Take a picture of M. getting her Honour Roll medal, because she didn't tell her mom and she's going to get murdered." Want to guess what her best friend's last name is? IT'S ZOUZOULAS.

I still made it to work on time. Barely. Served me right.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Day 13

I had another job interview this morning. It's another small position close by, but the resemblance to the last interview process sort of ended there. I sent in my application from Mexico from my husband's computer with a small degree of difficulty. The principal called me last night. Instead of just asking me to come in, she grilled me to a pretty high degree about stuff I thought was already in my cover letter and résumé. Then she said "are you applying to other positions?" and I thought oh! She's afraid I don't really want a one-day position or that I won't stay for long. I did my best to reassure her that I lack ambition and am very happy to work very little for the long term.

The last interview was a joyous happy frolic. I immediately loved the principal and v.p., we had a bunch of coincidental things in common, our purposes dovetailed nicely in that they were desperate for a library tech and I was one. The interview today was the usual drill - they give me a list of questions, fifteen minutes to jot down notes and then the principal and vice principal take turns reading me the questions and I answer. I don't love this process at the best of times - it's weirdly formal and stilted and I don't do well with that. Today was even worse because the questions were - how do I put this? - too grand. I'm fine talking about my education and training and how I deal with kids, parents and teachers, but when terms like 'vision' and 'initiative' and 'describe an example where you went to extraordinary measures to save the world' just make me want to roll my eyes and say "can we just cut the bullshit and be real?" Somebody was just talking on one of my Facebook groups about how she's excellent at her job but lacks polish. I feel the same - I'm not good at formal. I don't do well with situations where I feel like I have to be fake, and even though it seems like it shouldn't be a big deal to have to force it for a good reason, it is. It is a big deal. It makes me want to die. Oh well. It's good experience. I have a job already this time. It's fine.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Best-Laid Plans and All That

Wi-fi was spotty and Blogger refused to work any harder than I was in Mexico. I'm a tiny bit sad that my nine-year streak was wrecked. On the other hand, this trip was, despite an epically, comically, historically bad flight home (tiny plane with no leg room to begin with, man in front of me reclined his seat until my tray table was jammed into my boobs, family behind us with four kids, one of whom kicked my seat for four hours like it was his job, another of whom was the literal Screaming Baby, only three bathrooms in the back of the plane, which was blocked off with the service cart for most of the flight) such an incredible gift. I have apologized to my husband extensively for doing everything I could not to have to go (although not for mocking the Circle of Excellence thing, I still think that's hilarious).

Friday, November 9, 2018


Let’s be honest. We all knew blogging from Mexico would be a stretch. I thought at least I’d post a photo a day or something. But I suck at typing on my phone and, well.... tequila. I’ll make it up to you when I get home. 

Here’s some pictures of a cool statue. 


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Not at All Confusing 

Korean Street Tacos. In Denver. En route to Mexico. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Day 5

We're going to Mexico on a reward trip for my husband for being in a "Circle of Excellence" at work (will I mock him for something that nets me a free trip somewhere warm in November? Yes, yes I will. I'm not proud of it, but there it is). There's a website with numerous pictures of the beautiful resort, a detailed itinerary of all the fun things we get to do, and pictures of all the trip winners and their spouses.

So naturally I'm spending all my time obsessively poring over the pictures of the wives, who are all better-looking than me.


Sunday, November 4, 2018

That Feeling When

it's been raining for days and days and everything feels heavy and soggy and life is okay but distinctly Novemberish and then the week-end comes and there are plans but you really just want to hibernate and try to stay dry but you haul your ass onto the treadmill and out to the park and next door to your fabulous neighbour's birthday party because it's always a tremendous risk moving into a house where you plan to live for years and years and not knowing who you're going to be living beside, and finding out that they're amazing people whose kids will become friends with your kids and who will let you crash their new year's eve party when your kid has a stupid hockey game on new year's eve and who will lend you sugar or tomato sauce or a margarita when you need one is purest good luck to be treasured.

And you drink and laugh and stay up way too late and feel happy that your friend has other awesome friends. Then you come home and go to sleep and get up and your other friend has decided to smoke a turkey just for fun and the rain has stopped and you go and laugh and eat and don't drink because, well, limits, and the light is warm and the kitchen is full and you look around and realize that you are blessed beyond measure with everything anyone needs or wants for a full and happy life.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Day 3

I've been lacking exercise lately. I'm not beating myself up because things have been busy and I have been not feeling my best, so that's fine. Last night I had plans to walk on the treadmill but instead I cocooned on the couch and watched a really good British mini-series, so that was also fine.

Today I slept in and decided to get on the treadmill before showering. Usually I do five minutes slow warm-up and then try to go pretty fast for half an hour. Today I just stayed pretty slow and walked longer than usual and felt really good - my shoulder and feet and hips have all been cranky lately, and they all felt fine.

Lucy hates it when I'm on the treadmill - she sits at the closed basement door and whines the whole time. So I usually take her out at least for a short walk when I come up, even though I am sweaty and gross and my hair is tragic. It's been raining for what feels like all of recorded history here, but as I took her out it cleared a bit and the sun shone a bit and we met a sweet Dachshund wearing a sweater and it was all very lovely.

Then we entered the path between two houses that goes from the park into the little subdivision that brings us home and the wind picked up and I got smacked in the head really hard by a leaf. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Newbery Post: Crispin the Cross of Lead and Walk Two Moons

Yes, it's another entry in my slow-and-irregular Newbery Medal series - I hope no one was holding their breath. 

Last year when I was subbing in various libraries around the city, I would scan the shelves for Newbery books and read them at breaks. I found these two at Mutchmor Elementary School.

Crispin, the Cross of Lead by Avi (Newbery Medal Winner 2003): Synopsis from Goodreads:
"Asta's Son" is all he's ever been called. The lack of a name is appropriate, because he and his mother are but poor peasants in 14th century medieval England. But this thirteen-year-old boy who thought he had little to lose soon finds himself with even less - no home, no family, or possessions. Accused of a crime he did not commit, he may be killed on sight, by anyone. If he wishes to remain alive, he must flee his tiny village. All the boy takes with him is a newly revealed name - Crispin - and his mother's cross of lead.

This was probably one of the best examples of a book targeted at the exact audience meant for the Newbery Medal books - middle-grade readers. There's not a whole lot of nuance, but for younger readers there is pathos, excitement, adventure, a suitably sympathetic and entertaining adult figure, and a big payoff of a plot reveal. There's enough history that you could write a paper on it and pull out a few impressive details about the period, as well as some good "compare your life to Crispin's" type of deal. 

So yeah, I wasn't blown away by this, but I think as a third-or-fourth-grader it would have held my interest. There were five Honor books that year (runners-up, essentially) and the only one I've read is Surviving the Applewhites. It's more contemporary and I probably liked it slightly more, but there's nothing wrong with getting kids to ingest a little historical knowledge with their fiction.

Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech (Newbery Medal Winner 1995): Synopsis from Goodreads: "How about a story? Spin us a yarn."
Instantly, Phoebe Winterbottom came to mind. "I could tell you an extensively strange story," I warned.
"Oh, good!" Gram said. "Delicious!"
And that is how I happened to tell them about Phoebe, her disappearing mother, and the lunatic.

As Sal entertains her grandparents with Phoebe's outrageous story, her own story begins to unfold — the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother.

In her own award-winning style, Sharon Creech intricately weaves together two tales, one funny, one bittersweet, to create a heartwarming, compelling, and utterly moving story of love, loss, and the complexity of human emotion.

I really liked this one, pretty much from the beginning. It was not at all what I was expecting. As with many of the Newbery books, I'd been aware of the title for years, and I always assumed it was about an indigenous girl quite far in the past. Instead it's contemporary, about a girl named Salamanca tree whose mother has some Indigenous blood, and truthfully the borrowing/mashing up/mutilating of Indigenous themes has not aged well and is quite painful at times. There is something right about the expression "Never judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins", though (I think I read that the author found it in a fortune cookie). Sal's voice is strong and affecting and the dynamic between the two grandparents is really lovely. The author doesn't shy away from themes of loss and deep sadness, which I always think shows respect for young readers, who can often handle more than adults think they can. This was just a really great story - I cried at the end. Oh, but I have to mention that the teacher, Mr. Birkway, who is supposed to be a pivotal adult figure? He assigns journal writing to the class and then reads out embarrassing journal entries that are supposed to be private. It's all supposed to be in the name of revelation and empathy and shit, but if he did that to me, or my daughter? Heads would ROLL, people. Ahem. 

I also read a book called Firegirl by Tony Abbott from this library (the cover called out to me) and it was excellent. A girl disfigured by burn scars joins the middle-school class of Tom, the narrator, and predictably causes a stir. The author pitches the story just right, and I felt viscerally Tom's fear, discomfort, sympathy and torment as he tries to navigate reassessing his relationship with a selfish and opportunistic 'best friend' and being a friend to Jessica, facing customary fears about being accepted. It's not quite Wonder, but while I always appreciate a young readers' book that works on a lot of levels, there's something to be said for a book that addresses ten-to-twelve-year olds exactly where they are. 

Geez, book review posts are exhausting. On the other hand, I'm going to my awesome neighbour's birthday party tomorrow so expect a blurry picture of a margarita glass at best. Happy week-end. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

How Much Can No Blo?

I apologize heartily for saying that blogging was dead, particularly because Swistle is still busy KILLING it. I think it's safe to say that NaBloPoMo is kind of dead, at least in its original incarnation, since BlogHer doesn't seem to be running it anymore. This matters not a whit to me, since when I started doing it I was just copying a fellow blogger and didn't even really KNOW what the deal was, I just thought it was a cool (and terrifying and horrible and stupid) idea. I've done it every year since, even when I think I'm not going to, even when I've been a completely slothful waste of space leading up to it, and I am nothing if not a creature of (usually bad) habit. It also brings something hopeful to November, that damp stale dishrag of a month, so here we go.

Please be advised that my habitual disclaimer stands: there will be a post every day. Not a good post. Not a long post. Just a post. I will pontificate on the minutest of minutiae. I will post about things that I should have posted about six months ago and in all fairness should have lost my chance to post about. I will pimp out my children and friends ruthlessly (not really ruthlessly. There will be a modicum of ruth. Damn, it would be really cool if I had a friend named Ruth).

Let's talk about Halloween. Where are you in the Halloween arc? I am mostly out of it regarding my children. Angus is away (we texted him and asked what he was going as and he said "a Canadian"). Eve dressed up for our friends' annual Halloween party and for school, made her costumes and slayed it, but just went over to a friend's house for the evening and handed out candy. Halloween used to really stress me out when I had to figure out who my kids were going trick-or-treating with and if I had to go and feel like a schmuck walking along not-too-close not-too-far, often in the rain or snow. Matt was often away so I had to figure out how to deal with trick-or-treating and handing out candy here. It was just a big logistics nightmare. Last night he was home and did most of the handing out, just calling me to the door if there were particularly cute costumes. It was kind of nice. I felt like maybe I SHOULD miss the kids going out, but didn't really.

She still carves the pumpkins.

Doll from Coraline

Moth and lamp. (I know, I know, properly speaking the expression is "like a moth to a flame" but apparently there's a meme right now and it had to be a lamp. I thought it was a pretty good repurposing of her old purple fairy wings).

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

My Terrible, Horrible, Not-that-bad, Still-Kind-of-Good Day at Work

So this was a few weeks ago - my third shift, I think. To backtrack a bit, I had gone in to talk to the office administrator after my first shift and she had told me a place I could park where you're technically not supposed to park (by the dumpsters) because I'm out by 2:30. The second week I drove in and saw the spot I thought she meant, but it really looked like you shouldn't park there, so I parked on the street again and DOUBLE-CHECKED with her that it was the spot she meant. So today, I parked there.

I went into the library. Did I mention that the learn-to-play-ukulele club meets in the library at the recess that is just before my shift? So the environment is less-than-serene at the best of times? But today when I went to log in to the computer, it was stuck in an update. This means I can't check books in or out or look up whether anyone has books out. Did I mention that my first classes are all of the autism unit? Where routine is, shall we say, key?

So, okay. I will roll with it. The younger two classes come in and fortunately the teachers have a record of who brought their book back, so I just write down everybody's name and the bar code of the book they take - the autism classes are small, so it's not overwhelming. This all goes swimmingly. Then the older two classes come in. In the middle of the same routine, an announcement goes out that a black SUV is parked in front of the dumpsters and needs to be moved.

That was me. In front of the dumpsters. Where the office manager told me TWICE to park (I thought). So I tell the teachers I'll be right back and go out and the maintenance guy is standing there looking annoyed and I apologize profusely and say that I was told to park by the dumpsters, and he points to the back of the lot and says "she probably meant THOSE dumpsters", and honestly, as my friend Hannah says, how many dumpsters does it take to run a school ANYWAY?

So I rush back to the library, only to discover that the morning librarian has left and locked me out of the back room, where my purse is, with my key. Fortunately I realized I could beg to borrow one of the teachers' keys instead of having to go to the office and further humiliate myself (yes, I did go home and order a lanyard forthwith).

THEN, during the next class, another secretary asked over the speaker if "The Librarian" was there. I gaped for a minute until the teacher said (to me) "she can hear you" and (to her) "yes, she is". The secretary said there was a call for me on line 2. I went to to the phone. There were no buttons with line numbers. I stood there for a minute waiting for further instructions until the secretary came in and told me I had to come take the call in the office.

THEN, during the NEXT class, I have to throw down with some grade 3 chick over Amulet books. The other librarian who has been at the school for twenty years, has a shelf of more mature books and graphic novels that are only accessible to grade four and up. Did I mention that I have one class that's a grade three-four split? I had more or less determined to stick to the policy, but I haven't gotten entirely comfortable with just saying "because I said so". So one grade three girl tells me she's allowed to read Amulet books (graphic novel series) but she only has them at her dad's, so she'd like to borrow one to read at her mom's. So I say yes, like an idiot, partly because I'm wishy-washy and partly because I know what it's like to be a kid who reads above your perceived reading level - my dad used to have to come approve my books at the local library. Then this other grade three girl gets up in my face because if R. gets to take one then she should too. And I argue (again, like an idiot) that her parents have said she's allowed to read them and she has them at home. And the girl says "well if she has them at home, why does she need to borrow one?" (okay, solid point), so I blurt out (like an idiot, probably violating some kind of confidentiality rules), "only at her dad's!" And the girl says "oh, okay" and skips away happily.

Then there was another incident where a boy checked out an Amulet book, flipped through it and then brought it back in high dudgeon and insisted that I check it back in because of the naked blue man. So I said "oh, okay."

The good news is, ten to twenty years ago this would have sent me screaming from the building, never to be heard from again. Now? Meh. A lot of things went wrong and I handled them with varying degrees of skill, the lowest level being Very Low Indeed. Won't be the last time. I made stupid mistakes doing this kind of work for years as a volunteer. This time I made stupid mistakes and got paid.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Inarticulate Grunt of Exasperation

Why do I keep not blogging? Why? I don't want to stop blogging. I don't care that blogging is dead. I think of things to blog about daily. Then I go to bed and remember that I didn't blog. Then I  think that I'll just write a new post without mentioning the hitherto lack of blogging, but I can't seem to help myself there either. Also, as soon as I started writing this I realized the other problem - I have forgotten to upload pictures relevant to things I meant to post about, but if I go upload the pictures now, well we all know what will happen, right?

So I got a tiny little job. A tiny little job that is perfect for me in location, description and mostly duration (I could probably stand a few more hours, but whatever). For the past years while I've been home with the kids (and, increasingly, without them), I marveled at people with depression or difficult life events who said they liked having to go to work because it distracted them from their problems. I thought if I was having a bad stretch that having to go to work would make things worse.

And now I totally get it. Again, the hours I have to work are few, but whether I'm having a bad week or not, I LOVE going to work. I love doing the work. It makes me feel normal and productive and, wonder of wonders, it distracts me from my problems, real-world or head-type. Even the day where absolutely everything - EVERYTHING - went wrong (actually, I'll type that up and schedule it for tomorrow, for your collective amusement), I was glad to have been there.

Angus is settling in amazingly well at college. Well, okay, not amazingly well, but maybe a tiny bit surprisingly well. I thought he might be a little more homesick. I'm really glad he isn't. Matt and Eve and I went down with my parents for Family Week-end, which was on Canadian Thanksgiving, to watch an exhibition scrimmage game which was basically the team split into Freshmen/Sophomores and Upperclassmen. He was obviously on the younger half of the team, and they lost every game but not always by much, and he played really well.

Obviously we hit the bookstore to outfit the squad in team colours. Eve got a sweatshirt and fuzzy Elmira socks with actual little Soaring Eagles on them. She insisted on posing for a picture with her clothes on holding Matt's mug and sending it to Angus because "he will LOVE it, he will feel SO SUPPORTED."

I'm sure this brought a tear to his eye.

The next week-end he had a break so I drove down to get him and bring him home for a few days. We had a nice drive with some conversation and music discussion - we were playing music off my phone, which has every song downloaded by anyone on our family account ever, on shuffle. This means it's entirely possible to hear Billy Joel, Jay-Z, The Wiggles, Hannah Montana and Yo-Yo Ma within any given half hour. We each had veto power over whatever played next, but we could also ask each other to listen if we thought the song was worthwhile. It was fun. I still maintain that The Wiggles are nothing without Greg.
It was nice and a little weird having him home for a few days. Matt's in Asia for most of October, so Eve and I had settled into a nice little girly groove. I had to cook more stuff. There were Angus clothes in the wash. I had to see Venom (it wasn't that bad).

The kids spending quality time together.

They hated this. Hated it.

Then I drove him back. Didn't even get to use my well-rehearsed "no sir, I have never tried marijuana ever" answer, which is, I don't know, maybe a little insulting? I did declare my Red Velvet Oreos. 

There. That wasn't that hard. Why do I keep not doing it? Sigh. It's the Circle of Blog Life. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Short and... Short

I went to bed exhausted and had vivid dreams about the kids being small again (and Matt wearing pink shorts, for some reason), and right now I don't feel like being rational and adult and phlegmatic about the whole thing - I feel like life has played a giant mean prank on me - here, have these tiny people, they're awesome and funny and will make you see whole new worlds, but they're also a giant pain in the ass so you won't be all that sad to see them go. NICE ONE, LIFE.

I've been trying really hard to live in the moment, realize that tomorrow is not promised, embrace the chaos - all your standard clichés. Being at this age where celebrities die and I'm surprised at how old they are and how young they still seem, seeing my parents getting older, feeling more and more mortal - I know how fast things can go if you don't pay attention. The thing is, they go fast even if you DO pay attention. And it's hard to know exactly HOW you're supposed to embrace the moment. I keep looking up from my book, seeing Lucy disappearing into Eve's room and trying to capture that moment - Eve still living here, Lucy still being alive, being halfway through this book instead of through five more - and then what do I do with it? I'm perimenopausal, I can't remember why I walked into this room, how am I going to keep all these moments? And then the moment you've captured the moment, you're into the next moment. It makes me start to feel panicky and weird. And panicky and weird is my default, I don't need to be piling on addition panic and weirdness.

Also, my allergies are turbo-charged and tyrannical right now. Wednesday as I was trying to get ready for my new job, about which I am ecstatic and excited, my right eye was watering so much it was like trying to stick a contact lens on a waterfall. I went through half a box of kleenex before stepping out the door. Is it possible to be mindful and grateful while also being unbelievably snotful? Well, yes - but it's a little less poetic.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Sometimes the Universe is a Dick. Occasionally She is Kind.

So my blog post last year on this day was complaining that I was overwhelmed about starting to look for a job and Angus was getting screwed around by the guidance office at school.

This week Eve is getting screwed around by the guidance office at school but today I had a job interview for a job - a very small job, a microscopic job, like a job that can barely be seen by the naked eye, but still, a job - and by the time I got home and texted by reference they had already called her, and then before lunch they called me and offered it to me.

I told Eve I was sorry if I sucked up all the luck this week.

I was determined not to get my hopes up, not because I thought I wasn't qualified, but because the job is so absurdly, stupidly perfect for me at this point in my life that it just seemed impossible that I would actually get it. (I don't mean by this that it pays a whole lot or anything, you get that, right? I mean it's close by, and a few hours in the middle of the week so I can manage it even when my brain is broken, and at a really lovely school where I love all the people I've met so far). I still don't really believe it.

So Eve's situation is that she got both of her easy electives first semester, making her semesters wildly unbalanced. A few of her friends were in the same situation, so guidance told them to make appointments and then we they got to their appointment they were all told that everything was full and nothing could be done. This was doubly disappointing for Eve because she has cooking with Chef V. this semester, and Chef C., who she had last year and adored, is teaching cooking next semester and said he would make room in his class for her, so she would have had better balance and the preferred teacher. It's frustrating, because obviously it's hard to balance a billion courses between a billion students and have everyone be satisfied, but in our experience the school seems to be exceptionally bad at it.

She's handling it really well, though. She made her own guidance appointment, talked to all the teachers, and when she found out it wasn't possible she started looking for positives in leaving the situation the way it is. Also, Chef V. is the 'mean chef', but by the end of the first day she said they were already 'kind of buddies' because she got 'Angus points'.

Matt and I are in an extremely petty battle of seeing who can hold off from texting Angus for the longest, and making fun of each other when we cave. The first day I said I wasn't going to text him at all he texted me first, which made Matt very bitter. Yesterday I said "did you text him?" and Matt said "yes, but I had to get him to--" and I yelled "IT DOESN'T MATTER, YOU FAIL".

And now I'm experiencing extreme adrenaline withdrawal from an early interview and a celebratory happy hour with my parents, and I might need a nap.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Roller Coaster of Emotions

A couple of weeks ago, two friends and I took our younger kids to Canada's Wonderland. We went down to Toronto on Monday, went to Ripley's Aquarium (it was magical, would go back in a heartbeat), walked around, had dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory, spent the night in a weird hotel in Richmond Hill, and hit CW early on Tuesday. A rainy, rainy Tuesday. Like, the forecast started out rainy and got rainier, with multiple chances for thunderstorms. But we were committed, and, like Eve's friend Rachel said, hey, no lines.

So we marched into the (totally empty) park (every person at every checkpoint kept saying "you know there are no refunds, right?")  got sorted with lockers and rain ponchos, marched up to the Leviathan, filed on immediately (because no lines) and started chugging up the long, long, high hill. This was my thought process: "Hang on. I just got on. I wasn't sure I was going to get on. I'm just here because Eve wanted to come. Do I even like roller coasters? Did I ever like roller coasters? Did I just go on them to impress my boyfriend? Am I just doing this to impress my daughter? Or Collette? Perhaps I could have thought about this BEFORE I SAT DOWN IN THE FRONT ROW OF THE BIGGEST FREAKING ROLLER COASTER IN THE PARK?" Regrets, people. I had so many regrets.

So all summer we were preparing for Angus to move to Elmira New York for college. We washed stuff, we ordered stuff, we packed stuff. We went to all the summer action movies (that new Mission Impossible movie was way better than I expected). We went camping with all our friends and had a really great time. We went out for dinner with my parents. We assembled an assload of paperwork.

Then suddenly, here it was. We packed the van. We drove across the border (fairly smooth process that my husband stressed about for two months. The guy at the next desk with his 'simple assault charge' was having a way worse time). We unpacked and carried a bunch of crap up to the third floor of a residence in incredibly sweaty weather. We bought a bunch of stuff at Target (which has so many more different flavours of Oreos than we do, it's SO not fair).

And then... wait. Now we leave him here? He just lives here now? He doesn't live with us? Am I okay with this? Is this what I agreed to? This is the natural order of things. Right. Fine. It's good. It's right. It sucks a little bit. It's a little bit frightening. It makes your stomach feel a little bit weird. But it's also exciting. And hey, we're on this ride now. Might as well throw our hands in the air and embrace it.

(Metaphorically, I mean. Not on the actual roller coaster. There I was clutching that bar for dear life the entire time. Those things are really, really scary.)

Monday, June 4, 2018

Words and Food and Going Away

Since I started my last post talking about Lynn, why break the streak? I deleted Twitter from my phone on the strong urging of my sweet and wise friend Hannah - she detected that it was both making me angry all the time and giving me another excuse to sit brooding instead of getting off my ass and doing something constructive. It was good - when I felt the need to check Twitter I would remember it wasn`t there, and I would literally force myself to stare into space until I got bored enough to get up and do something. Then Lynn mentioned this game that she saw someone playing on their phone on the bus that involves words and trivia and.... DAMN YOU LYNN.

So I just linked to Lynn`s blog, which naturally led me to read her latest post before coming back here because I am a champion procrastinator, and she mentioned that she made a meal and her family ate all of it. This is a huge deal because she has myriad food allergies and underweight children to deal with, so the exciting thing it reminded me of is much less exciting comparably, but whatever. I don`t have a huge problem feeding my kids - Eve has a texture issue and a lot of things she can`t eat without barfing, and she doesn`t like pork or beef, but she eats many vegetables (some I don`t even like) and you can do a lot with chicken or fish, so it`s cool. But she doesn`t like a lot of casserole type things where everything`s all mixed together, so when I make something in the crock pot I generally do something else for her. Not a big deal. BUT, the other day I made a quiche with spinach and red peppers in it and DUDE - EVERYONE ATE IT. A one-dish meal. With vegetables. Every. Single. Person.

This, of course, reminds me that it would have been good if I`d made this discovery a year ago or more, because there are only three months before all of us don`t live here anymore. Which is a strange feeling. I keep saying that it was always pretty much a given that my sister and I were going to go away for university. Both my parents went far far away from home when they started their schooling. It was a family tradition. I assumed my kids would go away. Then when he was sixteen and only a couple of years from probably going away, I realized how much it sucked.

But I`m okay so far. He was talking to some people from my book club last week and he said he feels ready to be away from home. So that`s good. Of course there are times when I still miss my little boy who ran around in superhero costumes and sat on the stairs fully suited up for three hours before every baseball game and could talk about the dynamics of Pokemon for forty minutes straight (okay, I don`t miss that part so much). But I had that. Now it`s time for this. I`m excited for him. I think.

Okay. None of that was what I meant to blog about today. Maybe that means I`ll blog again tomorrow. ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Still Here, Still a Zombie

I just commented on Lynn's blog, which reminded me that she commented on my last post and made me think I WILL keep posting Lynn, I WILL. And then I didn't.

I'm tired today. This is sort of sucky because I haven't done that much to be tired from. BUT I did go to a play Friday night, a birthday party Saturday night, a dentist appointment Monday morning, a physio appointment Tuesday afternoon and several errand-ish places with Pam yesterday. SO this means I'm tired from doing SOME stuff, whereas for the past several weeks before this one, I was exhausted from doing almost nothing. A tiny, barely-discernible, possibly-invisible-to-the-naked-eye amount of improvement has taken place.

Soooo, what has flitted through my mind recently that I thought I might blog about and then didn't? I worked a little bit. There was a pair of twins in one of the classes at a Glebe school whose names were so wondrously harmonious that I immediately wanted to write a series of books about their madcap adventures. Then the next day I found out that they had an older brother whose name was just as fabulous. I texted Hannah and Nicole, but I probably shouldn't reveal their names in their glorious entirety here, but guys, I REALLY WANT TO.

Matt agreed to give a talk about possible careers in science to some high school teachers on a professional development day. He paced around musing about what level to pitch the talk at, what things to include, and kept saying he felt like he was overthinking it. I said "hon, you sound just like me trying to pick a book for storytime".

I read a French book about octupuses for storytime. Did you know that octupuses have one brain in their head and SMALLER ONES IN EACH ARM? Is this one of those things that everyone knew and I didn't? I would erase it for fear of mockery, but if I can share this with even one person, it will have been worth it.

I revisited my intention to read all the Newbery award winners, realized how few I'd actually gotten to and how very many were left and felt a little discouraged. Then I found three or four on the shelves at one of my schools, borrowed them over the week-end and felt better. Zombie blog - no deadlines. I will review them soon. Probably.

Every few days I go on Twitter and try to go to bat a little for my Twitter friends who are gay or trans and take a lot of shit on social media - not because I really believe I'm going to change anyone's mind, but that whole thing about it being more important for the others who are listening, you know? This invariably results in a few troglodytes calling me unsavoury names. A couple of weeks ago when I objected to someone characterizing trans people as sick and perverted, he retorted "and you are a fat, ugly slob." Isn't that, like... I dunno, almost quaint? I mean, yeah, it's stupid that men especially think that the very worst thing you can call a woman is fat, and the fact that he would think that some Trump-supporting brain-dead red-neck asshole not finding me attractive would be upsetting to me is weird, but I was kind of like, hey, the 1970s called, they want their insult back. What's this weak sauce, man - you can't even bestir yourself to muster up a "bitch" or "cunt"? And then one of my very sweet friends reported him and he got suspended! For fat, ugly slob! I reported someone on Facebook for saying that women soldiers should be used as human shields for male ones and nothing! WHERE IS THE BALANCE?

I finished rereading this book today and it made me cry again. It is a very, very good book.

So. How are you?

Monday, April 2, 2018

Book Review (sort of): Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

So I guess it's true that as my depression goes, so goes my blog. Or maybe it's inversely proportional? Either way, here we are, or are not. In sort-of good news... no, not really, but I guess in sort-of illuminating news that means I won't chuck my antidepressant, my friend Dani (HI DANI) posted something on Facebook that gave me a thundering A-HA moment. Of course, I didn't save it so now I will go hunt-scroll on Facebook for an hour or so to find it. BRB. Oh, here it is.

In short, it talks about peri-menopausal symptoms that aren't widely known, including a pervasive brain fog and memory problems, because "fluctuations in estrogen and testosterone make it hard to concentrate, wreak havoc on your memory, and influence your mood." The thing is, I knew I wasn't concentrating well and my memory was scary bad, and when I read blog posts from a few years ago and compared them to recent ones, they almost seemed to have been written by someone else. I remembered the words flowing faster than I could type them, shaping some small incident into a hilarious anecdote (it's true, read back, I was HILARIOUS), and as I went about my day I was often reworking things into a blog post, not compulsively, not so I would always write it down, but because that was how my brain worked. And now, it wasn't. Working. 

I was worried that this was an effect of my antidepressant, because that seemed the only thing that could have that big an impact on what I thought was my personality. It seemed like changing how my brain worked was too big a price to pay for a stabilized mood, so I dropped my dosage. Then Eve got a mild virus and I stayed awake all night worried she was going to die in her sleep, so clearly that was not a workable solution. So then I just stopped blogging. Then I read this. 

So, it's not a solution, but it means I should keep taking my antidepressant, which is good because my kids don't need me waking them up every two hours every time they get a cold. It means I probably don't have early-onset dementia (probably). It maybe does mean that I should quit blogging, but I don't think I'm quite ready to do that. 

So I've been meaning to read Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere based on nothing sensible - I knew nothing about her or the book, but it kept popping up on lists and I liked the cover, and the title, and her name. But then Nicole (HI NICOLE) recommended Everything I Never Told You, which was also available as an express library e-book, so I read that first instead.

I really, really... thought it was a good book. I didn't exactly love reading it, because it's very, very sad and uncomfortable and sometimes infuriating. It reminded me in many ways of Home by Marilynne Robinson, in the way that it showed that people can love each other very much and try very hard to be kind and do the right things and it can all still go horribly wrong.

Two main things kept gnawing at my brain while reading this book. One was mainly about the book, and one was mainly about me. The one about me was how desperately grateful I should be to have been born now and not fifty or sixty years ago or more. In a world that didn't have antidepressants, machines for treating sleep apnea, orthotics, body positivity... good lord, I would be even more of a weird outcast than I am now. Shit, I don't even know how to say it without joking because it's frankly terrifying to contemplate. Without orthotics I would be in pain every day that I tried to stand or walk. Without my CPAP I would have gained even more weight unrelated to diet or exercise levels. If I had just grown up with my mother who sighed and looked crushed every time I couldn't fit into something she thought I should be able to fit into, and never found groups of people who talked about how that kind of thinking is actually bullshit, I would have felt like a fat failure. Without antidepressants...well, I guess that might have taken care of all of it, honestly. Okay, whew, enough of that, it's creeping me out.

The thing about the book is, Jesus Christ, we talk about communication so much that it's almost become a joke, but if one single person or married couple or sibling pair in this story had had one single honest conversation, how much misery could have been avoided? I'm not saying this judgingly; I understand very well all the reasons that people don't speak up, and it made perfect sense why the characters in this book felt like they couldn't be honest with each other. It's more just a fresh realization that communcation is actually very, very important.

I've been working on this post for weeks, and I feel like I haven't done with it what I wanted to do. But unless I wait for seven to ten years, chances are that's not going to happen, so I'm going to post it as is, because I guess just binge-watching Jessica Jones until my hormones settle the fuck down isn't really an option. If anyone needs me, I'll be here in the fog. Call my name, walk slowly and wave something in front of you.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My Kids Being Funny

I'm in sort of a weird place. I spent a few years raising kids and not worrying about getting a job. Then I spent a few years raising kids and working at a slow and meandering pace towards a diploma that would help me get a job. Then I spent a few months looking for a job. Now I have a job, but I'm not working much. So, like, when I'm not working, what's my job? You know?

It's fine. I've been on a very satisfying decluttering and purging tear, hung out with the kids a little during exams, and I'm keeping an eye out for steadier work. I've made it to the gym three weeks in a row, which all on its own is ample evidence that I'm doing better than I usually am in January. It's just all a little weird.

Eve Being Funny About Biscuits:

I was baking biscuits when Eve got home from school the other day, which made her very happy. She perched on the arm of the couch watching me cut out biscuits and place them on a cookie sheet saying "I'm so excited for biscuits!" and then I opened the oven and took out a sheet and she yelled "OMG, there were some in the oven already? WHAT A PLEASANT SURPRISE!"

Angus Being Funny About Bedrooms:

A few years ago we had the kids switch bedrooms because Angus's was twice the size and Eve spent more time in hers. Angus's small room had a queen loft bed, a single bed and a dresser underneath that, a book case and a little table that he mostly just piled shit on. It was close and cramped, but he really just slept and got dressed there. After a couple of years, he started sleeping in the spare bed downstairs so it was just a closet room. I'd been bugging Matt to get the loft bed out, but you know, life happens, things get put off, we are nothing if not champion procrastinators. Then a couple of weeks ago I found a friend who not only wanted the bed, but her husband wanted to come and take it apart so he would know better how to put it back together. Hello, Awesome! And the room looks SO much better now - we all keep going in and spinning around in circles on the empty floor, and there's so much more light, and Angus can actually stand all the way up and extend his arms while getting dressed.

So then Angus says "the only problem with you cleaning that room up is now I'm spending more time there." And I say "how is that a problem?" And he says "well, I'd committed to the basement before. Now I'm a citizen torn between two countries."

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Books 2017: Five Stars

So here's the thing. I don't typically write a lot about books I give five stars to (which denotes amazingness), because I'm busy being, you know, amazed. Also, I am heartily sick of my own reviewing voice at the moment. See everyone next year?

The Convulsion Factory by Brian Hodge. Synopsis from GoodreadsThematic collection of 12 stories based around the theme of urban decay.

In all honesty, I had another look at this last night and almost decided to leave it off this post. I actually did find it quite amazing, but there's a lot of taboo and fetish-y sex stuff, and I'm not sure exactly who I would wholeheartedly recommend it to. All of the stories are extremely dark, in a way that serves the theme rather than just for shock value; I also found a strong compassion, though, for the disenfranchised and anyone who feels lost, including sympathetic portrayals of the transgender community. There was a tender recognition of the yearning for human connection. 

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. Synopsis from Goodreads: 100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. 
How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come? 
In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come? 
Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power ... and our future.

"I do not love mankind". That was the first line of a book I loved - The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken. Yuval Noah Harari also does not love mankind, which added a really interesting flavour to the history here. Anyone with a high-level knowledge of human history might find this too glib, but for me it was a fascinating survey with some intriguing curve balls. It's fair to assume that this was so amazing to me because it's so far from anything I could ever write. 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Synopsis from Goodreads: In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives. Thoughtfully exploring personal and historical events, from his time at Howard University to the Civil War, the author poignantly asks and attempts to answer difficult questions that plague modern society. In this short memoir, the "Atlantic" writer explains that the tragic examples of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and those killed in South Carolina are the results of a systematically constructed and maintained assault to black people--a structure that includes slavery, mass incarceration, and police brutality as part of its foundation. From his passionate and deliberate breakdown of the concept of race itself to the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, Coates powerfully sums up the terrible history of the subjugation of black people in the United States. A timely work, this title will resonate with all teens--those who have experienced racism as well as those who have followed the recent news coverage on violence against people of color.

Not a comfortable read for a privileged person. Should probably be required reading for all of us, though.

This is the poem from which the title is taken:

Between the World and Me 
Richard Wright

And one morning while in the woods I stumbled
    suddenly upon the thing,
Stumbled upon it in a grassy clearing guarded by scaly
    oaks and elms
And the sooty details of the scene rose, thrusting
    themselves between the world and me....
There was a design of white bones slumbering forgottenly
    upon a cushion of ashes.
There was a charred stump of a sapling pointing a blunt
    finger accusingly at the sky.
There were torn tree limbs, tiny veins of burnt leaves, and
    a scorched coil of greasy hemp;
A vacant shoe, an empty tie, a ripped shirt, a lonely hat,
    and a pair of trousers stiff with black blood.
And upon the trampled grass were buttons, dead matches,
    butt-ends of cigars and cigarettes, peanut shells, a
    drained gin-flask, and a whore's lipstick;
Scattered traces of tar, restless arrays of feathers, and the
    lingering smell of gasoline.
And through the morning air the sun poured yellow
    surprise into the eye sockets of the stony skull....
And while I stood my mind was frozen within cold pity
    for the life that was gone.
The ground gripped my feet and my heart was circled by
    icy walls of fear--
The sun died in the sky; a night wind muttered in the
    grass and fumbled the leaves in the trees; the woods
    poured forth the hungry yelping of hounds; the
    darkness screamed with thirsty voices; and the witnesses rose and lived:
The dry bones stirred, rattled, lifted, melting themselves
    into my bones.
The grey ashes formed flesh firm and black, entering into
    my flesh.
The gin-flask passed from mouth to mouth, cigars and
    cigarettes glowed, the whore smeared lipstick red
    upon her lips,
And a thousand faces swirled around me, clamoring that
    my life be burned....
And then they had me, stripped me, battering my teeth
    into my throat till I swallowed my own blood.
My voice was drowned in the roar of their voices, and my
    black wet body slipped and rolled in their hands as
    they bound me to the sapling.
And my skin clung to the bubbling hot tar, falling from
    me in limp patches.
And the down and quills of the white feathers sank into
    my raw flesh, and I moaned in my agony.
Then my blood was cooled mercifully, cooled by a
    baptism of gasoline.
And in a blaze of red I leaped to the sky as pain rose like water, boiling my limbs
Panting, begging I clutched childlike, clutched to the hot
    sides of death.
Now I am dry bones and my face a stony skull staring in
    yellow surprise at the sun.... 

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. Synopsis from Goodreads: Unburdened by the material necessities of the more fortunate, the denizens of Cannery Row discover rewards unknown in more traditional society. Henry the painter sorts through junk lots for pieces of wood to incorporate into the boat he is building, while the girls from Dora Flood’s bordello venture out now and then to enjoy a bit of sunshine. Lee Chong stocks his grocery with almost anything a man could want, and Doc, a young marine biologist who ministers to sick puppies and unhappy souls, unexpectedly finds true love.
Cannery Row is just a few blocks long, but the story it harbors is suffused with warmth, understanding, and a great fund of human values.
First published in 1945, Cannery Row focuses on the acceptance of life as it is—both the exuberance of community and the loneliness of the individual. John Steinbeck draws on his memories of the real inhabitants of Monterey, California, and interweaves their stories in this world where only the fittest survive—creating what is at once one of his most humorous and poignant works. In Cannery Row, John Steinbeck returns to the setting of Tortilla Flat to create another evocative portrait of life as it is lived by those who unabashedly put the highest value on the intangibles—human warmth, camaraderie, and love.

Here is another thing. It's pretty rare for me to be poleaxed and ecstatic about a book that is termed a classic. I read them. I often admire them. But I don't worship them and adore them and reach for them in a crisis the way I do with books I really truly love, which are most often genre fiction. I don't know if that's a lack of sophistication on my part (as Eleanor Shellstrop says in The Good Place, "goodbye modern architecture that I was too trashy to appreciate") but whenever I read one of those pieces where a public figure names their ten favourite books, I always sneakily wonder if they padded it to make themselves sound smarter. There are exceptions, of course - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn springs immediately to mind. I'm pretty comfortable with my possibly low-brow literary appreciation at this point, but I keep reading the classics because even if they don't set my mind on fire, it's worth seeing what other people find worthy. Anyway. I read Cannery Row and was completely, almost shockingly, smitten. What a vivid and visceral sense of place and character. If I had one slight quibble, it might be the sense that poverty and squalor were perhaps ever-so-slightly romanticized, but what the hell do I know? I felt like I was walking down the street, feeling the sun and smelling the smells and hearing the voices of the people. I was helpless with laughter over the frog hunt. The earnestness of the flophouse philosophers planning the party for Doc was heartbreaking. I felt like this completely captured that place in that time. It was wonderful.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. Synopsis from Goodreads: Blending literature and memoir, Ann Patchett, author of State of  Wonder, Run, and Bel Canto, examines her deepest commitments—to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband—creating a resonant portrait of a life in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.
As she shares stories of the people, places, ideals, and art to which she has remained indelibly committed, Ann Patchett brings into focus the large experiences and small moments that have shaped her as a daughter, wife, and writer. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage takes us into the very real world of Ann Patchett’s life. Stretching from her childhood to the present day, from a disastrous early marriage to a later happy one, it covers a multitude of topics, including relationships with family and friends, and charts the hard work and joy of writing, and the unexpected thrill of opening a bookstore

I saw this as an ebook from the library so grabbed it because I generally read everything by Ann Patchett that I can get my hands on, and was stupidly halfway through the introduction before I realized that it WAS, in fact, a book of essays. ("Why is she banging on about non-fiction so much? Oh. Wait"). I actually read her non-fiction book Truth and Beauty about her friendship with the poet Lucy Grealy before I read her fiction, and I liked the non-fiction book but not nearly as much as I adore her fiction, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I never am with her - often I read the plot synopsis and it doesn't sound particularly captivating at all. Because with Ann Patchett, it's never what she's writing, but how she writes about it. It's dreamy without being imprecise. It's exuberant without being saccharine. It's romantic and yet clear-eyed. I loved this book - her wry, intelligent, compassionate voice comes through so clearly in everything. It's wide-ranging in subject and I read it over a few days, finishing it at 3:30 a.m. one insomnia-ridden night. I was sad when it was over. It's important to note, I think, that it contains the phrase "little old nun toes". You're welcome. 

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. Synopsis from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 
In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

It's almost boring at this point, how predictably, ludicrously wonderful every goddamned John Green book is. Oh, another teenager with an issue, rendered in wholly realistic, compassionate, convincing detail. More heartwarming relationships and a search/quest and coming of age stuff and superlatively witty banter that many people say is unrealistic because 'teenagers don't really talk like that'. Look, haters, I hang out with four fourteen-year-old girls on the regular. They talk like that. 

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. Synopsis from Goodreads: In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.
Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

I never thought I'd be five-starring a graphic novel, but oh, I don't even know how to articulate how much I loved this. I often feel like graphic novels cheat the reader on really fantastic writing - a picture, a few words, some in bold or a bigger font - but that is so emphatically not the case here. This is so funny, twisted, sad, sensitive, insightful, kind, bittersweet, gracious and wonderful. The way she finds resonance between her life and her father's, between literature and her family's circumstances, the way themes and phrases echo and reverberate is completely masterful, and then there's incredibly detailed and wonderful art that echoes it all. I laughed out loud. I cried real tears. I am now going to search out every single thing she has done and devour it.