Monday, June 18, 2018

Life: It Goes On - June 18

It's Monday, not Sunday, and that will tell you everything you need to know about my weekend in a nutshell. It was a busy one but I've also been battling headaches, which is something I haven't had to contend with in a while (thanks, unsettled weather!).

We bought a new car this weekend (actually, an SUV but I'm not ever sure if that rightfully falls in the category of truck or car). The Big Guy did most of the work over the phone and the internet, we ran over lunch on Friday to pick out the exact vehicle we wanted, and still on Saturday it took hours to actually do the paperwork, turn in the old vehicle, and get the new one. Why do they have to make it so painful?!

Last Week I:

Listened To: Special Topics In Calamity Physics - I'm about a third of the way done. But now that I no longer have a CD player in my vehicle, I'm stymied as to how I will finish it. Very bummed that I will not be able to support my local library by buying books on CD from the book sale anymore. Unless I can figure out some way to move them to a digital format.

Watched: I can't actually remember what we watched. A couple of nights we actually did leave the tv off except for the news and we spent hours on the patio a couple of other nights. All good; it means I read more than I have been reading.

Read: The Last Ballad for an TLC Book Tour review this week. Ermagawd, Wiley Cash has done it again, made me love his characters and broken my heart.

Made: Lot of eat-on-the-patio foods plus cheesy hash browns, roasted broccoli tossed with Italian dressing, and homemade ice cream with homemade chocolate syrup for Father's Day.

Enjoyed: Father's Day at the College World Series with two of my kids and The Big Guy. The game we attended started three hours late, thanks to a rain delay in the first game. Imagine 14,000 people just milling around the stadium for that long with no idea when the next game was going to start, in 90+ degree temps and high humidity. Then imagine all of those people trying to get into the stadium at once when they finally started letting us in. Let's just say the fun did not start until we actually finally got to our seats!

This Week I’m: 

Planning: Just to stay on top of things this week. I've got several things planned during the week so no major projects on the horizon.

Thinking About: Trips to Missouri (I've got a great-nephew due in the next few weeks I'll be wanting to meet!), to Wisconsin (to see my sister), and to Minnesota (to see Mini-me and Ms. S's new place). Now the trick is to find times for all of those trips that work for everyone.

Feeling: Sloggish. Yeah, I know that's not a word but best sums it up. Today's headache has me struggling just to get simply tasks done. At least it's not keeping me from reading!

Looking forward to: Book club tomorrow night, dinner with a friend on Wednesday, and seeing the great progress my dad has made between yesterday and Thursday when I see him again.

Question of the week: I've got some chicken breasts cooking right now but haven't yet decided what we'll use them for. What's your go-to recipe for using chicken breasts?

Heading Out To Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

Heading Out To Wonderful by Robert Goolrick
Read by Norman Dietz
Published June 2012 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Source: my audiobook copy purchased at my library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
In 1948, a mysterious and charismatic man arrives in a small Virginia town carrying two suitcases - one contains his worldly possessions, the other is full of money. He soon inserts himself into the town's daily life, taking a job in the local butcher shop and befriending the owner and his wife and their son. But the passion that develops between the man and the wife of the town's wealthiest citizen sets in motion a series of events that not only upset the quiet town but threaten to destroy both him and the woman.

My Thoughts:
If I had kept track of my favorite reads of the year in 2009, Goolrick's A Reliable Wife (my review) would have been on it. Goolrick had the capability to make the bitter cold of rural Wisconsin cool a torrid Nebraska summer day and convince me to care about some very unlikable characters. When Heading Out To Wonderful was released, I didn't hesitate to pick up a copy. But when I began reading less than glowing reviews, I found Wonderful getting pushed aside again and again in favor of other books. Eventually it was the victim of a book cull.

Still, when I found an audiobook copy for $2 at my library book sale, I decided to give it a try. After all, not all of the reviews had been bad, including this fantastic review from Jill at Rhapsody In Books Weblog. If Jill likes a book, there's a good chance I'm going to like it, too. I'm glad I didn't give up on this one but even happier that I waited to "read" it until I could listen to it. Norman Dietz's reading is marvelous. His mellifluous voice reading me very much of listening to Garrison Keillor telling a story and perfectly suited the setting of the book.

In Heading Out To Wonderful, Goolrick lulls readers with the quiet, peaceful setting of small-town Virginia, the kind of town "where no crime had ever been committed,"  just after the second World War. The people of Brownsburg "believed in God and The Book." There is a real sense of community in Brownsburg. Still, it's not all as wonderful as it seems on the surface when Charlie Beale arrives in town. Surprisingly, the town quickly grows to love Charlie, a man who is kind and giving to everyone. So when word gets out that Charlie has taken up with the wife of the richest man in town, a man no one likes, they are happy for him. Until the scandal takes a new turn.

I liked the way Goolrick slowly built up the tension (you just know that this is not going to end well), the way that he called out racism and the hypocrisy of organized religions, and the way we got the back story on so many of the important characters. And that ending completely stunned me.

But, like A Reliable Wife, Heading Out To Wonderful, has its flaws.

We never get Charlie's back story. Where did he come from, why is he working so hard to find a permanent home, and where did all of that money come from? And, if the young boy that Charlie becomes so attached to is actually telling the story looking back 60 years, how does he know everything that happened in people's history or the things he was never privy to? As to that later point, it wasn't one that bothered me throughout because I was so into the book as I was listening.

Like Reliable Wife, there are also passages in this book where Goolrick drags things out too long, particularly when he's talking about Charlie's feelings about the woman with whom he's having the affair and their relationship. The beauty of listening to a book, when it comes to places like this in a book, is that I can sort of just tune out until things pick up again.

Would it make a good book club choice? Yes. There is certainly a lot to discuss, including religion, racism, small town ethics, adultery, parenting, the class divisions. It's not a perfect book; but, especially on audio, it's worth reading.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Eats, Shoots and Leave: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
Published 2004 by Avery
Source: bought this one through Better World Books

Publisher's Summary:
We all know the basics of punctuation. Or do we? A look at most neighborhood signage tells a different story. Through sloppy usage and low standards on the internet, in email, and now text messages, we have made proper punctuation an endangered species. In Eats, Shoots & Leaves, former editor Lynne Truss dares to say, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are. This is a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled. From the invention of the question mark in the time of Charlemagne to George Orwell shunning the semicolon, this lively history makes a powerful case for the preservation of a system of printing conventions that is much too subtle to be mucked about with.

My Thoughts:
Huzzah! I finally finished this book after it languished on my nightstand for months and months. And why is that? I have no idea. I mean, I don't know that it's a book you would want to try to push straight through. It is, after all, a book about grammar and punctuation. On the other hand, it certainly deserved to be read faster than a couple of pages every few days and I absolutely would have remembered more of what I learned if I hadn't stretched it out so long.

Here's what I did learn:

  • There are more punctuation rules than I was even aware of there being.
  • Punctuation has been evolving since people began writing words.
  • There is a difference between how Brits punctuate and how Americans punctuate and it's not always the Brits who are the bigger sticklers. 
  • Authors have very vocal opinions about punctuation in their books. So do editors. These opinions can often lead to conflict. 
  • Punctuation can be humorous. 
As to that last point,  this book is filled with humor. Which, I suppose, you might gather from the title and the cover; but which, nevertheless, was a pleasant surprise. Truss gets that she's a stickler when it comes to punctuation, even calling herself and those like her "punctuation vigilantes." In talking about the name of a British pop music group named Hear'Say, Truss says:
"And so it came to pass that Hear'Say's poor, oddly placed little apostrophe was replicated everywhere and no one gave a moment's thought to its sufferings. No one saw the pity of its position, hanging there in eternal meaninglessness, silently signaling to those with eye to see, "I'm a legitimate punctuation mark, get me out of here."
More on apostrophes:
"Now, there are no laws against imprisoning apostrophes and making them look daft. Cruelty to punctuation is quite unlegislated: you can get away with pulling the legs off semicolons; shrivelling question marks on the garden path under a powerful magnifying glass; you name it."
This one's a keeper. It will go on the shelf with my other reference books and may even (gasp!) be highlighted. And when I pull it off the shelf to check on a rule of punctuation, I may even reread passages just for amusement. I'll bet you never thought you'd hear anyone say that!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Dream Like A Champion: Wins, Losses, and Leadership the Nebraska Volleyball Way by John Cook

Dream Like A Champion: Wins, Losses, and Leadership the Nebraska Volleyball Way by John Cook with Brandon Vogel
Published 2017 by University of Nebraska Press
Source: borrowed from my parents to whom it was loaned by a friend

Publisher's Summary:

Since becoming the Nebraska women’s volleyball coach in 2000, John Cook has led the team to four national championships, seven NCAA semifinal appearances, and the nation’s top winning percentage in women’s volleyball. In Dream Like a Champion Cook shares the coaching and leadership philosophy that has enabled him to become one of the game’s winningest coaches.

Growing up in San Diego, Cook acquired his coaching philosophy from his experiences first as a football coach, then as a student of the sport of volleyball on the beaches of Southern California. After a stint as an assistant volleyball coach at Nebraska, he returned to Nebraska as head coach in 2000 and won the national championship in his first season. Even with a bar set so high, Cook saw at Nebraska’s tradition-rich program the potential for even greater growth and success. He decided to focus on higher expectations, training, motivation, goal setting, and other ways to build the strongest teams possible.

In Dream Like a Champion Cook shares the philosophy behind Nebraska’s culture of success and reveals how he’s had to learn, evolve, and be coached himself, even in his fifth decade as a coach. With openness and candor he delivers insights about his methods and passes along lessons that can be used by leaders in any field. Cook also shares behind-the-scenes anecdotes about Nebraska volleyball moments and players—and how he coaches and teaches his players about life beyond the court.

My Thoughts:
When John Cook took over the University of Nebraska volleyball program, we knew he was going to be a good coach. But we also imagined that this program, which had only in the past few years become a great program, was going to take a hit. I mean, you just don't get two coaches in a row that can build championship teams. Except Nebraska volleyball did. Under Cook, Nebraska has been the Big 12 champion 12 times, the Big 10 champion 4 times, and national champions 4 times. This man knows how to coach.

In this book, he shares a lot about the way he coaches and the tools he uses. He is quick to give credit to others who have helped him along the way, people whose advice he has sought, and the coaches who have assisted him over the years. He has high praise for the University, which has thrown its full support behind the team, and the people of Nebraska who have become, maybe not even arguably, the greatest volleyball fans in the country.

Cook spends a lot of time talking about how important culture is to a sports program. When he took over the volleyball program at the University of Wisconsin, it was a program that had a long way to rise. There he developed a mindset among that girls that had them playing with a chip on their shoulders, wanting to prove something. It was just what they needed; in just a few years, Cook had the program playing in the Final Four. At Nebraska, he came into a program that already had an established culture; but, Cook soon put his own imprint on the culture. It shows in the way you can always tell how hard Cook's teams work and how much of a "team" they really are.

I really enjoyed the stories Cook shared about some of the players he's coached with Nebraska, names I vividly remember, young women I remember watching play. Watching on television that is; home games have been sold out since 2001, even after the team moved to an arena that held twice as many fans. It was also nice to learn how much Cook and his family love living in Nebraska and appreciate that things about this state that so many people don't know about.

I had some minor issues with some editing problems (because I can't just read a book and enjoy it without putting on my school marm cap) but, otherwise, I enjoyed this book a lot. Would I have enjoyed it as much if it weren't about the coach of a team I love? Maybe not quite as much; but, if you're person that wants to learn coaching from one of the best, there's a lot to enjoy and learn here.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Life: It Goes On - June 10

Oh my good lord, I hope it's not as hot where you are as it is here! I am avoiding the great outdoors as much as I possibly can the past few days except when the evenings are finally cool enough to spend some time on the patio. Or when we are at an outdoor wedding, as we were last evening. There was not a person there who was not sweating and/or waving a paper plate fan. About this time every year, I start to think "winter's not so bad; at least you can always add on more layers." Slap me if you hear me say that! I can never get warm in winter and I hate the short days!

Last Week I:

Listened To: I finished Heading Out To Wonderful (review next week) and started Special Topics In Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. Like her book Night Film (my review), I suspect Pessl has loaded this book up with bonus materials: footnotes, images, etc. But I'm listening, not looking, and I'm starting to feel like I'm missing out on some of what makes the book interesting.

Watched: I finished season one of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, we watched an episode of Westworld (we may finally finish season one so we can move into the current season), and we watched a fair amount of the NBA finals. We don't watch a lot of NBA basketball so I don't know what fans think of having the same two teams play in the finals four years in a row; but I can't help but think it's not helping the game.

Read: I made quick work of a book about the Nebraska volleyball program, written by the coach, which I enjoyed (review this week) and I'm now reading Wiley Cash's latest, The Last Ballad. Having read Cash's first two books and the setting of this book, I have a feeling my heart will be broken before it's finished. I also finally finished Eats, Shoots and Leaves off my nightstand (review this week)!

Made: Not much. Pasta, salads, chicken salad made from a roasted chicken The Big Guy picked up at Costco. This week it's been all about quick food and as little use of the oven as possible.

The backdrop of the arch is hundreds of paper cranes and
they were also found in bowls on the tables and larger
cranes were given as favors. So neat!
Enjoyed: Watching a dear friend of the family get married. His parents live across the street from my parents and we consider them all family. The wedding was in his parents' back yard and their patio is big enough to have room for tables for dinner and a dance floor. It was great fun, even if we had to keep hugs to a minimum!

Also, bringing my dad home from the rehab facility on Thursday, two weeks after he had major back surgery. He is so happy to be home at last!

This Week I’m: 

Planning: BG bought a chain saw yesterday and will be cutting down a big pine tree in our back yard this week. It's going to leave a big area that will need to be filled in so I'm planning on what plants will be moved or brought to fill that area in, the possibility of making it a bird friendly zone, and, since we will be burying our kitty there (he loved to spend hours lounging under that tree where he could see all that was going on in the yard), some way to memorialize him there. Yep, I'm definitely much more affected by this cat's passing that I could possibly have expected to be.

Thinking About: How much yard work I should be doing and how much I don't want to go outside to do it.

Feeling: Sad to have missed a party with friends last night and a baby shower for my niece this morning but the wedding was scheduled first and had to be a priority.

Looking forward to: Dinner with a former coworker one evening and lunch with my best friend from my teen years on another day.

Question of the week: Do you have a bird bath in your yard? If so, is it more of a pain than it's worth, what with the constantly needing to keep it filled and the birds pooping all around it?