Sunday, September 25, 2022

Life: It Goes On - September 25

Happy (again, sunny!) Sunday! It's been a roller coaster of a weather week here (maybe for you, too?). Upper 90's Tuesday, sweater weather Wednesday, hot again Saturday, perfect today. That's September in the Midwest. It's convinced me to go all in on the fall decor. And by fall decor, I mean there are now pumpkins everywhere. The Big Guy hit up the pumpkin patch for me over his lunch hour the other day and came home with a big wheelbarrow full of pumpkins and gourds. Which seemed like more than we could possibly need. And so I bought nine more of various sizes today.

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I finished Julia Alvarez's Afterlife and played a mixed bag of music while getting ready in the morning. 

Watched: College football and Husker volleyball. 

Read: I finished Elizabeth Strout's latest, Lucy By The Sea and started both Denise Mina's Confidence and Jodi Picoult's Mad Honey

Made: Pioneer Woman's corn cakes with avocado salsa. So much work, and what a mess, but we enjoyed them as a meal. 

Enjoyed: Breakfast with TBG's brother and sister-in-law today at a place TBG has been wanting to try to years. Nothing fancy, perfectly good food; the company was terrific and we are loving having them in Lincoln full time now so that we can enjoy time with them on the spur of the moment. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: My blog feed has not been working for several weeks. I'm planning to either get that issue resolved this week or to try to find one that is more reliable. 

Thinking About:
My mom. I have so many questions as we come across things that raise questions no one can answer. Everything I touch in my parents' home brings memories of time with her. 

Feeling: Except for an unplanned trip back to Lincoln today, it's been a very, much needed, relaxing weekend. 

Looking forward to: Dinners on the patio this week. The forecast looks like I'm going to get a lot of time out there this week and I'm all about spending as much time out there as I can before the weather gets to cold to enjoy it. 

Quote of the week: “Happiness doesn’t have just one address.” -Anonymous

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Ancestor Trouble (A Reckoning and A Reconciliation) by Maud Newton

Ancestor Trouble (A Reckoning and A Reconciliation) by Maud Newton
400 pages 
Published March 2022 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary: 
Maud Newton’s ancestors have vexed and fascinated her since she was a girl. Her mother’s father, who came of age in Texas during the Great Depression, was said to have married thirteen times and been shot by one of his wives. Her mother’s grandfather killed a man with a hay hook and died in an institution. Mental illness and religious fanaticism percolated through Maud’s maternal lines back to an ancestor accused of being a witch in Puritan-era Massachusetts. Maud’s father, an aerospace engineer turned lawyer, was an educated man who extolled the virtues of slavery and obsessed over the “purity” of his family bloodline, which he traced back to the Revolutionary War. He tried in vain to control Maud’s mother, a whirlwind of charisma and passion given to feverish projects: thirty rescue cats, and a church in the family’s living room where she performed exorcisms. 

Her parents’ divorce, when it came, was a relief. Still, her position at the intersection of her family bloodlines inspired in Newton inspired an anxiety that she could not shake, a fear that she would replicate their damage. She saw similar anxieties in the lives of friends, in the works of writers and artists she admired. As obsessive in her own way as her parents, Newton researched her genealogy—her grandfather’s marriages, the accused witch, her ancestors’ roles in slavery and genocide—and sought family secrets through her DNA. But immersed in census archives and cousin matches, she yearned for deeper truths. Her journey took her into the realms of genetics, epigenetics, and the debates over intergenerational trauma. She mulled over modernity’s dismissal of ancestors along with psychoanalytic and spiritual traditions that center them. 

Searching, moving, and inspiring, Ancestor Trouble is one writer’s attempt to use genealogy—a once-niche hobby that has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry—to expose the secrets and contradictions of her own ancestors, and to argue for the transformational possibilities that reckoning with our ancestors offers all of us. 

My Thoughts: 
Had I shared with you recently that I've been thinking about taking a break from blogging and focusing that time instead to genealogy? A number of things have been driving me that direction and this books is one of them. I don't have nearly the colorful family history that Newton does (a friend once commented that my childhood was like something out of a sixties television program) but I'm yearning to learn more about the reality of our families, not just their names and dates of death. Newton, on the other hand, had some (well, a lot) of questions to be answered in her research, not the least of which was to understand why she is the person she is. 

Newton's father routinely severely punished her for things like getting a B+ (he is no longer a part of her life). Newton's mother did nothing when Newton told her mother that her stepfather had raped her. Her granny warned her to watch for signs of mental illness in herself (Granny's own sister had spent most of her life in a mental institution after having danced naked in the streets). How could she be the product of these people Newton came to wonder. 

As Newton begins to research her family history, she discovers that it's not simply enough to know about her ancestors. She needs to know the "why" of how she became the person she is because of who they were. This leads her to research epigenetics (I keep coming across that study since I read Jamie Ford's The Many Daughters of Afong Moy, which introduced me to the idea), neuroscience, genograms, and spiritual practices. Newton ties a piece of her own personal ancestry and life with her research into each of these subjects making them more understandable for the lay person. 

You know you've read a book that's important when it doesn't just inspire and educate you, but when reviews of it show up on NPR and in the New York Times (and I highly recommend looking up those reviews because they are certainly more eloquent about this book than I am). 

Newton asks a lot of questions, many of which can't be answered. But this book certainly has me asking questions and hoping to find answers of my own. Although, as Newton found out, we won't necessarily like the answers we find when we begin looking into our ancestors. 

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Life: It Goes On - September 18

Happy sunny Sunday! The leaves are, happily, no where near as golden here yet. I know so many of you are all about the arrival of fall in all of it's glorious color, and I'm not against that color at all. But this year, for some reason, I can't get past the idea that fall is nothing more than a season of things dying as winter approaches. Someone send me your best ideas for living in the season!

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I finished The Perfume Thief and have started Julia Alvarez' Afterlife. It's read by Alma Cuervo and she's excellent. 

Watched: The Big Guy has been out of the house a lot these past few days so I've had the television to myself. Since I've been listening to Hamilton in the mornings, when I'm getting ready for work, it was time for a rewatch of it, as well. I also watched a couple of episodes of Orange Is The New Black as I work to get through the series. I'm not loving this final season (and, also, Miss H is not here to watch it with me) so I've not been in a rush to watch it. 

Read: I'm still reading Elizabeth Strout's Lucy By The Sea. I must admit, as much as I like Lucy as a character, it's not the book for me right now so it's work to read it. I'm not really sure what is the book for me right now, as nothing seems to really grab me and pull me in. 

Made: With TBG out of the house so much lately, I've been cooking even less than normal this week. I did make a salad for a potluck dinner last night. An eight-year-old sat at dinner with me and I was so surprised to see her picking through the lettuce in that salad to try to find the purple onion! 

with Lori in Lincoln's Railyard
(yes, that's a whiskey/coke at 10 a.m. - 
don't judge!)
 We had ourselves quite the day yesterday, on the road to Lincoln at 7 am to get out ahead of game day traffic. We started at a work-related pregame party where we enjoyed a yummy breakfast. Then we met up with a friend (who I met through blogging and who know works for DYI MFA which any aspiring writer should check out) who had come up from Oklahoma for the game. We did the obligatory time in the Railyard with several hundred of our closest friends (well, they were close, anyway, once we had to squeeze under the awnings when the rain started). 

We finished our day at a potluck dinner with my dad's neighbors on the patio of neighbors who have become family over the past 46 years. Except being a little humid, it was a lovely evening highlighted by my dad singing his friends a farewell song and talking about the highlights of living in the neighborhood for 54 years. TBG and I were both so caught up talking to people that neither of us took one single picture!

This Week I’m:  

Planning: As this week will officially bring in fall, I'm planning on decorating for fall. Also, my neighbors have a dumpster in their driveway; we're hoping they'll invite us (as they have when they did this previously) to put somethings in it so I'm planning on getting rid of somethings in our basement so that things can be rearranged. 

Thinking About: We are now only about four weeks away from my dad's move so this week I will do one of my favorite things (I'm not even kidding when I say that). I've taken measurements of all of the furniture he's planning on taking and I'll cut out scale versions and plot it all out on a floor plan of each room of his apartment and think about how it will all fit best. 

Feeling: I slept nine hours last night and it was just what I needed. I have so much energy today and, now that I'm back to doing my physical therapy exercises my back is feeling so much better. 

Looking forward to: Book club this week. 

Quote of the week: “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.” – E.B. White

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The It Girl by Ruth Ware

The It Girl
by Ruth Ware
432 pages
Published July 2022 by Gallery/Scout Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review, through Netgalley

Publisher's Summary: 
April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford.

Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the year, April was dead.

Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.

My Thoughts: 
Kirkus Reviews: "...the mystery disappoints." 
The Wall Street Journal: "...may well be her best book yet." 

Guys, I'm sad to say that I fall closer to that first comment than the second. What I've come to expect from Ware is a book with a fish out of water heroine, a constant sense of danger, and a book that keeps me spellbound from maybe 100 pages in on to the ending. 

This one has the first. 

But, I'm sad to say, I didn't feel much of a sense of danger until nearly the end and the suspense only arrived, for me, about one hundred pages before that. And, in the end, the "why" of April's murder fell flat. 

I didn't care much for April or Hannah. Oh, heck, I didn't care much for any of the characters but that just called to mind Donna Tart's The Secret History which is the predecessor of all murders/college setting thrillers. Tart pulls that off better. 

And I'm really sort of over dual timeline stories. 

And yet...

I still raced through this book. Because Ware writes terrific settings and the question of who can you trust was compelling. Every one of Hannah's friends seemed to have some potential motivation for killing April and you couldn't be too quick to write any of them off. So, for me, not Ware's best work (that still remains The Turn of the Key) but it was worth the reading and just what I needed in a book when I read it.