Sunday, January 23, 2022

Life: It Goes On - January 23

Happy Sunday! Well, it's a happy Sunday unless you're a Green Bay Packers fan (which so many in my family are); then it's a blue Sunday. "Our" teams are dropping like flies now. But still we'll watch on because we love football so much. 

Even so, I've got great plans for what we'll be watching as the football season winds down. Time to get to some of the shows that everyone raves about that we've never started, to see some of the movies that have been available for months that we've yet to watch. And reading - now that I seem to have broken out of my reading slump, I'm hoping to do more reading. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I've been racing through The Radium Girls, listening at 150% speed. It's almost 16 hours long but should have been 12 hours at best. I need to finish it this afternoon before it expires and then I'm on to Anthony Doerr's Cloud Cuckoo Land

 We watched another episode of The Crown. Friday evening we watched The Prom, starring Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and James Corden along with a lot of other well-known names, many of whom surprised with their great voices. I enjoyed it. 

Read: I finished Joan Didion's Let Me Tell You What I Mean. I'm still working on Thrity Umrigar's latest, Honor, and also started Katherine Reay's London House. I've had so many book become available from the library all at once that I'm having to really keep track of what's due when so I get things read. Good thing I broke out of that reading slump!

Made: Monday I made chicken broth and chicken noodle soup. We've been using the rest of the chicken all week - chicken salad, chicken enchiladas. This week we started using My Fitness Pal to track our food intake so I think we'll be eating a lot of chicken for the foreseeable future and my cooking is certainly going to change in the coming weeks. No yummy desserts - just sugar-free pudding for us!

Enjoyed: My brother is staying with my dad for a couple of weeks and brought my dad in for the afternoon/evening yesterday. We enjoyed having them although my dad would probably rather have watched the football game by himself!

This Week I’m:  

Planning: I'm hoping to get back to 30 Bags In 30 Days this week, even though I have done a terrible job with it and won't come near to 30 bags in the end. But it's a good incentive to push The Big Guy to go through his things. He's never opposed to getting rid of things, but just doesn't get around to it on his own. So I've been bringing things down to the family room so he can sort and watch t.v. and I can encourage him. He did hats this week and was actually surprised to realize how many he had and how few of them he actually wears.

Thinking About:
How winter might just be a frame of mind. While I'm dreaming of what I'll do outside when it's warm, my Alaskan kids are bundling up and enjoying all of the beauty and activities that Anchorage has to offer in January. They are loving it winter this year. 

Feeling: Slow. I've caught a cold How? I'm masked most of the time when I'm out of the house and I'm hardly ever out of the house!. I have dental work scheduled for tomorrow and I'm not sure how I'm going to breathe through that with my nose congested.  

Looking forward to: Hopefully going to a movie this week. I'm figuring that if we go during the week, the theater should be pretty empty and pretty safe. 

Question of the week: Have you been to the theater lately? Do you have any movies to recommend? 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Notes On Grief
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
67 Pages
Published May 2021 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary:  
Notes on Grief is an exquisite work of meditation, remembrance, and hope, written in the wake of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's beloved father’s death in the summer of 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the world, and kept Adichie and her family members separated from one another, her father succumbed unexpectedly to complications of kidney failure.

Expanding on her original New Yorker piece, Adichie shares how this loss shook her to her core. She writes about being one of the millions of people grieving this year; about the familial and cultural dimensions of grief and also about the loneliness and anger that are unavoidable in it. With signature precision of language, and glittering, devastating detail on the page—and never without touches of rich, honest humor—Adichie weaves together her own experience of her father’s death with threads of his life story, from his remarkable survival during the Biafran war, through a long career as a statistics professor, into the days of the pandemic in which he’d stay connected with his children and grandchildren over video chat from the family home in Abba, Nigeria.

My Thoughts:
Since my mom died 11 months ago, I've done a lot of thinking about grief as I've done a lot of grieving. 

For these past months I've said time and again that people all grieve differently. And that's true. There is no right or wrong way to grief. The five stages of grief weren't even intended to be for those of us left grieving but instead for those facing their own imminent death. 

But when I find myself gravitating to books about grief, what I find myself looking for are the ways in which grief is universal, for the ways in which other's grief mirrors my own. 

Adichie lost her beloved father in 2020, just after the world shut down because of Covid. Like my family, hers couldn't mourn her parent in the ways that were traditional because of pandemic restrictions. But her family also wasn't able to be together to grief - Adichie was living in the U.S. , another sibling was in England - and in order to hold the traditional ceremony, they were forced to wait months before they could bury her father. Her life growing up in Africa had been much different than had mine. Her initial reaction to the news of her father's unexpected grief was to collapse in uncontrollable sobbing. Mine was to hold that in, lest it overtake me.  

But both of us suddenly found ourselves at a loss, without the person around whom the family had orbited, and unable to imagine how to go on.
""Never" has come to stay. "Never" feels so unfairly punitive. For the rest of my life, I will live with my hands outstretched for things that are no longer there." 
We will no longer hear their voice at the other end of a telephone call. We will be hit with loss in the most unexpected ways and at the most unexpected times. And the grief will go on much longer than we could have imagined. It was not the first time either of us had grieved. But it was the first time either of us had lost a parent and a parent, I've found, is another level of grief I had not experienced before. And I find myself needing to know that, even though we do all grieve differently, there are other people out there who understand the way I feel.
"I am writing about my father in the past tense, and I cannot believe I am writing about my father in the past tense." 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Lessons In Chemistry
by Bonnie Garmus
400 Pages
Published April 2022 by Doubleday Books

Publisher's Summary: 
Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s, and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans, the lonely, brilliant, Nobel Prize-nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with - of all things - her mind. True chemistry results.

But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later, Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother but the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show, Supper at Six. Elizabeth’s unusual approach to cooking (“combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride”) proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn’t just teaching women to cook. She’s daring them to change the status quo.

My Thoughts: 
It's not often I pick up a book that has a cover that looks like this one - these always scream "light and frothy" to me and I'm not really one to enjoy light and frothy in a book. Except for right now, when I'm feeling the need to read things that maybe aren't so heavy as so much as what I read which is why I picked this book for my first read of 2022. 

I was so right and also so wrong about this book. 

It was just the right book for me right now. But it wasn't altogether light or frothy. 

It's funny, very funny. There's a dog whose thoughts we can hear, a small child who is beyond precocious, and a kitchen that is transformed into a laboratory. But Garmus also touches on sexual assault, religion, marriage, education, race, greed, parenthood, misogyny, and death. That cover, though, tells you that, in the end, good will prevail. 

It seems that I'm drawn to characters that are tough for the other characters in the book to like (Olive Kitteridge, Margery Benson (Miss Benson's Beetle), Eleanor Oliphant) and Elizabeth Zott is no exception. Here is a woman who could have used her beauty but preferred to use her brain; plus, her social skills leave more than a little to be desired. Her insistence on being taken seriously because of her brain makes men uncomfortable; her looks and insistence on not settling into the usual female roles makes women distrust her. But she's had a terrible childhood, has grown up in an era where women are not valued, loses the love of her life, and finds raising a newborn overwhelming. 

Enter a cast of characters who will get her through single parenthood and finding a way to put food on the table (here by literally putting food on the table!). So many fun characters who are so much more than filler. 

Are there stereotypes? Yes. Is there a dog who knows almost 1000 words and whose thoughts we hear? Yes. Is there a four-year-old who is reading Norman Mailer? Yes. Are there an astonishing number of coincidences? Also, yes. I didn't care. I was 100 percent willing to suspend credulity and forgive stereotypes. I so wanted these characters to find happiness and for Elizabeth to be given the chance and the respect that she deserved. And while I may have mentioned that good will prevail, it doesn't necessarily mean that this book has the kind of happy ending you may be expecting. But it does have exactly the right ending. Which made for a perfect beginning of 2022 for me. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Life: It Goes On - January 16

Happy Sunday from sunny Omaha! It may be cold but, even with snow outside, I can pretend it's warmer. Plus, the sun is helping keep me more productive! No, that does not mean I've been working hard on that 30 Bags In 30 Days project (more like 4!) but I've been doing some deep cleaning and that always feels so good!

The Big Guy was going to the home improvement store yesterday so I asked him to pick up a new lamp shade for a lamp that has been wearing a shade that is a bit too small for years. As I was saying to him that I keep forgetting to pick a new one up every time I go to the store it occurred to me that I have hardly been in a store in almost two years. I can probably count on my fingers the number of times I've been in a store since CoVid arrived. Although it does mean that when you order a 2022 calendar, you may well have one arrive that runs from July 2021 through June 2022. Why, Target? Why? 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: Radium Girls by Kate Moore and My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson. I had started My Monticello on Netgalley but it expired before I got finished. I'm sort of happy because I'm getting to listen to the title story and the reader is wonderful. 

Watched: Lots of football (of course!), some HGTV, some Food Network, and we finally started the latest season of The Crown

Read: Guys, I'm reading again! I finished Lessons In Chemistry and now I'm switching between Joan Didion's Let Me Tell You What I Mean, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Notes On Grief, and Thrity Umrigar's Honor

Made: Totally drawing a blank on what we ate this week, other than pork chops. BG did bring home a rotisserie chicken from Costco the other day so we've been using that for a couple of meals.  

Seriously, doesn't everything
look better with sunlight
pouring in the window?
 I haven't left the house since I came home from work early on Friday; and if I didn't have to go pick up groceries this afternoon, I wouldn't leave today. This does mean I've heard, more than once, "are you going to get dressed today?" The answer is, as it is on so many weekend days, "maybe."

This Week I’m:  

Planning: On working with BG to get some more of his clothes sorted out. The other night I brought down all of his undershirts and winnowed those down to 20. Yes, 20. More than twice that many are now in the rag bin. Did he think I might not do laundry for a couple of months or what? Next up, hats. This one could get ugly. 

Thinking About: Even as I work upstairs on the 30 Bags project, I'm planning ahead for the 40 Bags In 40 Days that starts with Lent. There's a very good chance that my entire focus of that will be on our basement, which I somehow never seem to get to every time I do 40 Bags. 

Feeling: Nervous. I have a root canal tomorrow and I hate them. But my tooth has been bothering me for almost a month so I'm eager to be done with that pain. 

Looking forward to: We're hoping to have some company next weekend, weather permitting. 

Question of the week: In Stanley Tucci's book, Taste, he said that he doesn't like California in part because of the constant sunshine; he prefers the weather in London. You all know I'm a huge fan of sunshine and warm weather. What about you? Which do you prefer?