Tuesday, July 18, 2017

tennis balls

Just like last summer, Rachel excitedly signed up for summer classes at a nearby community college. This summer she's taking a public speaking course and beginning Spanish.  In January she learned that she couldn't get into the International Baccalaureate program unless she tested into Spanish II as a junior.  So she's been seeing a tutor weekly since early spring, and to beef up her chances, she also decided to take college Spanish this summer.

And she's doing so well in both classes!  She's been acing her Spanish tests and really investing her energy and time into the speeches she's been assigned.  While we were away on our float trip, we brainstormed the topic for her last speech, which is a tribute speech.  When she threw out the idea of tennis balls I wasn't really sure what she meant, but decided to hear her out. Well then we floated and who talks about homework during a float trip?  

While I was in my office today I heard a lot of chaos going on downstairs, which didn't really sound like speech writing.  But when I went downstairs and saw this I immediately scolded myself for doubting her.

Rachel is writing about Ella's kind of tennis balls, and one aspect is what kind of ball is most appealing.  The tennis balls are lined up according to desirability, and lead to a very tired (and possibly confused) golden retriever.

Monday, July 17, 2017

waterlogged with happiness

Rachel, Robert, the dogs, and I just returned from a fabulous mini trip that included floating down the Niangua river and visiting with my Dad and his girlfriend, Lisa. 

Naturally we did a little thrift shopping, where I found treasure - a stamp set with both the words of animals and the animals themselves. It's missing a few pieces, but is so perfect for journaling.

Rose and Ella were sorta accepted by two of Dad and Lisa's four cats:

Everyone got their cat fix (and then some). It's pretty obvious Jake (cat) only has eyes for Lisa.

There was so much peace to be found on the river, and we're just plum waterlogged with happiness:

On the way home Rachel conked out, but Ella was happy to provide a soft place to land:

Because we used a disposable water camera, the bulk of our pictures still need to be developed.  So here's to good-ol'-fashioned waiting for pictures.  If there are any keepers I will share them with you as soon they're developed!

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Undoing Project

At first I cursed all the sticky tabs I would need to carefully remove from this book.  And then a coworker pointed out the cover.

And the irony was just so beautiful I couldn't help but love each terrible sticky tab.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

ready to teach my bike a lesson

Robert has been building shelves in the garage (nothing has fallen yet!) and also fancy bike hangy things.  

And Rose and Ella and I have been... Well, we've been taking it easy.  

With my hip problem on one side and a bum knee on the other, I took several days off, but am hoping that I can outwalk a couple geriatric golden retrievers here in a few days. And maybe try to stay on my bike this time.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

when the library opens after a holiday and the lights are flipped on...

Walking into work after a holiday always gives me some anxiety.  Especially during the seconds prior to flipping on the lights as I wonder just how big the pile of returned materials is. 

Today wasn't too scary.  Sure, the library was missed on a rainy 4th of July, but the book drop didn't reflect that so much as today did.

We were completely slammed.

Piles and piles of books kept the book drops constantly full. Lots of assistance was needed. Tutoring resumed. And everyone needed books right now.

At one point we ran out of carts so I decided to shelve a cart of children's books.  I thought, what could be more fun than losing my hearing, skirt, and sanity?

I know what you're thinking.  Any one of those things sounds entirely like too much fun.

Imagine tootling around on a little stool with wheels, shelving books.  Now pretend like you are doing this in a gumball machine.  Except the gumballs are tiny toddling humans with grabby little fingers and shrieking mouths.  Now attempt to stand up, drag your stool with wheels through the melee to get to another section, and a few of the grabby hands clutch your skirt.  Repeat repeat repeat.  When I finally finished and made it to the elevator a child asked for books on animals just as sweet as can be.  Who can refuse that?  So off we go to look for animals. Just as I'm attempting another elevator escape a tutor pushes a bouquet of unsharpened colored pencils into my hands to be sharpened (pencil sharpener is in the office out of reach of grabby hands).

After sharpening the colored pencils I am finally in the elevator with my cart, breathing a sigh of relief, and here comes a lady with twin toddlers and a stroller with twin babies.  Out of the elevator I go, and after another ten minutes of questions I officially climb my way out of the gumball machine.

The real question is, will I shelve another cart of children's books tomorrow if we're still backed up? Oh heck, why not.  

Saturday, July 1, 2017

June Favorites

June was a pretty good month for reading. Nothing really let me down or made me roll my eyes.  I do, however, have an interesting conundrum regarding my June favorites.  One of the books simply doesn't exist yet so to speak.  A favorite coworker of mine came back from one her meetings clutching a book and looking absolutely tickled about something.  She was giddy because she had nabbed an advance reading copy of Caroline by Sarah Miller. And not only that, she informed me I could read it first since she was in the middle of a series.  Why so much giddiness about this book? Well this coworker and I happen to be mega Little House on the Prairie fans.  If it has anything to do with LHOTP or Laura Ingalls Wilder, you name it, we've read it.

Caroline, which comes out in September, is a beautifully written, fictionalized account of Caroline, Laura's Ma, during their Kansas journey. I thoroughly enjoyed Caroline and couldn't put it down.  I even took walks with it in the hopes of finding a bench perfect for reading.  And I had so much success that I ended up doing a lot of bench-hopping instead of walking.  I am currently writing the review but will wait until the book becomes available to post it. Until then, I leave you with its beautiful cover and one of my favorite lines, which happens while Caroline tries to comfort Laura and Mary during a thunderstorm. "She had not arms enough to shelter them both at once.  Laura was still so little, but Mary was plainly smothering in her own fear.  It did not seem fair that each could have only half of her, nor that her heart should favor one side of her chest."

Five-Stars Trails - The Ozarks : 43 Spectacular Hikes in Arkansas and Missouri

I love this book so much I'm buying it. The trails are rated by accessibility, difficulty and also solitude, which is truly a wonderful idea.  I've hiked a few of these trails and think the information in this book is spot on. I cannot wait to try out the rest of the trails in this book!

And because I have it ready (and the book exists), here's the full review for my final June favorite.

Stir by Jessica Fechtor

​I'll admit I wasn't sure about a memoir that alternated between recipes and recovery from an aneurysm​, but Stir must have won me over because I not only felt the unique disappointment that only happens when finishing a good book, I also can't stop talking about it. Jessica Fechtor's recovery from a brain aneurysm while running on a treadmill is memoir-worthy without the wonderful observations, recipes, and memories. That's why Stir is a multi-layer cake of a memoir, a cake so fluffy with life and beauty, not even an aneurysm can sour it.

Each chapter is comprised of both an intimate essay portraying Jessica's life before, during, and after her aneurysm and a recipe correlating with that part of her life. Prior to her aneurysm, Jessica was ambitious - teaching, cooking, working towards her doctorate in Jewish Literature, and running every day. Stir is a little bit of that old life, mixed with both a long recovery and her new life, which is equal parts grasping for her old life while giving cooking more attention than she had prior to her illness. The recipes range from cholent with kugel to a simple tomato soup, and celebrate her family and roots while revitalizing classics with intriguing modifications. Jessica utilizes leftovers in a lot of her recipes, which really jives with my own style. I cannot wait to have leftover greens and rice so I can try her crispy rice and eggs recipe. Another recipe, a kale and pomegranate salad, calls for pomegranate molasses, which is something I have never heard of. As a huge molasses fan, I immediately set out to find a bottle of it before I even finished Stir.  

Though I love the recipes and applaud Jessica's bravery during her long recovery, I enjoyed her observations the most. The last bit of mustard in a grey poupon jar helps "emulsify the oil and vinegar into a uniform dressing," and gives "a jar at the end of its life . . . one more job to do."  And ". . . when you put freshly baked bread and a lump of softened butter on the table, you are taking good care of your people, no matter the rest of the meal." Jessica struggles through a handful of surgeries that cause a variety of issues. One surgery leaves her with a chunk of skull missing and Doctor's orders to wear a helmet until the chunk can be replaced. She also loses sight in one of her eyes and has a temporary loss of smell. Her ability to embrace each of these hurdles while simultaneously searching for ways overcome them is a lesson in both mind over matter and resilience. At one point Jessica realizes that, prior to her aneurysm, she thought she was being considerate by helping out while visiting friends for dinner. By doing so, however, she prevented others the pleasure of hosting. During her recovery she "allows herself to be hosted." She also questions that if silence describes the opposite of noise, what is the opposite of scent? Observations like these make Stir a page-turner.

I enjoyed Jessica's outlook on life, her plentiful and unique descriptions, and applaud her determination through her long recovery. With each new setback Jessica patiently and determinedly familiarizes herself with the new changes in her body and mind. She not only adjusts to the changes, she refuses to let them get in her way for very long, especially not in the kitchen.  

Friday, June 23, 2017


At the library today a patron asked if she could extend her checkout dates for a stack of audiobooks.  I gave her what we call a vacation checkout, which basically means you get to pick your checkout date as long as no one is waiting for the items.  While I was checking her out she told me how much she enjoys listening to audiobooks while driving to see her children, who are scattered throughout the country.  She mentioned that the child she was visiting this time around lived in Colorado and that, "there's nothing like listening to Fleetwood Mac while driving through western Kansas, but for the rest of the trip audiobooks are a must." 

I smiled at this, thinking about all of the intriguing, soothing, and familiar rituals every person has, and what a wonderful book this could be.  Rituals of Ordinary Folk is what I would title it, and I would begin with the ritual of listening to Fleetwood Mac while driving through western Kansas. Now, who wants to write it?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

rescuing kittens from the Feds

Robert received an Apple watch for his birthday courtesy of his grandma.  We've been drooling over them since the first one came out but couldn't justify the expense of two.  We really loved our Jawbones, but they eventually wore out.  Fitness is the biggest reason we've been so excited about Apple watches.  They encourage healthiness and monitor your heart rate.

After Robert got a watch for his birthday we decided to do something crazy and buy one for me so that we can compete encourage each other. After watching him have so much fun with his for a few days I was ecstatic when mine arrived. Naturally the first day I wore mine was after 10+ days of major exercise - mostly tennis, bicycling and walking.  But also physical therapy for some bursitis and nerve issues in my right hip area. I needed a rest day, which I usually give myself every couple weeks.  Well there is no rest day with an Apple watch.  Or with PT for that matter.  So I did my PT and a long walk with Robert and was very pleased with the watch and ready to try it out at tennis.  

The very next day I crashed my bike.  Or rather, my bike threw me off and crashed me.  It was a very complicated scenario, and I honestly have no regrets.  Sometimes you've just got to be thankful that it was pavement instead of a car.  I came out of it fine, but tore up my left knee and got some road burn on my left arm.  I also hurt like heck everywhere, which shouldn't surprise me because I'm not 7 anymore.  

So sadly I haven't been able to close my rings on the Apple watch. Each day you've got three rings to close:

1. standing for five minutes per hour for 12 hours (this one is a piece of cake, apparently even when you're injured)
2. getting your heart rate up to a healthy high for 30 min
3. overall movement (this one is tough as heck. Steps don't seem to matter much, as I've gotten over 10,000 steps a day and met only 50% of my movement goal)

It couldn't have been a worse time to receive an Apple watch (yes, you can tell what a great life I have by my complaints), and quite frankly I've been a little glum. It certainly doesn't help that Robert has turned into Richard Simmons and is closing his rings like it's the easiest thing in the world (way to go Robert).  But it's smart to wait for the goose egg on my knee to disappear and pretty much everything to scab over.  I wanted a rest day, right? How about four of them?  

Thankfully everyone at work has been really sweet and not asking a lot of questions about my mummy appearance.  Today a few patrons asked me what happened and I thought long and hard about coming up with a grand story involving an alien invasion thwarted by a gal and her bike, but I simply said I had a bike wipeout and smiled through the demeaning "well God bless your soul" that was thrown around a couple times.  The best interaction happened at the end of the day when an elderly lady came in and made a beeline to where I was standing.  

"Can I help you?" I asked.  
"Whatever happened to you?" 
And before I could answer: 
"Did you fall down?"  
I hesitated. This was it, my last chance to do this right.  
"Well you know the FBI, right?" 
She stared at me blankly.  
"Well I was trying to rescue a kitten while being chased by the..."  
"And you fell down," she pantomimed falling down as she interrupted my tall tale.  

Any hope of ever becoming a storyteller was dashed in that moment.  I stumbled away trailing gauze and a plume of whatever hope looks like when it pops.

Thankfully I still had my humor intact because I went to the break room, made myself a cup of the hard stuff (green tea) and laughed about all these problems I'm so lucky to have.    

Tomorrow I will close all my rings.  Robert's going to wish he never messed with someone who rescues kittens while being chased by the FBI.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

fountain flopping

You know the humidity has officially set in when Rose and Ella's idea of a walk is to find a fountain to flop in.   

Monday, June 12, 2017

the Arnold Schwarzenegger of bibliophiles

Every year a very special library in my neck of the woods has an EPIC book sale.  I start training for it days in advance.  I work out my elbows so that they're extra pointy and can politely yet firmly push others away from books that could potentially change my life.

Weeks prior to the sale whenever I carry books at the library I add an extra dozen or so to my stack so I can build up my strength to lug every book my heart desires, and then some.

Hours before the sale I only eat foods that give me titanic amounts of energy.  And I usually take the day off so I can clear my mind of everything and have the zen focus necessary to spot only exemplary titles.

It's the Wimbledon of book sales and I always treat it as such.  

This year my weeks of grueling training paid off.  I found a lot of memoirs, mostly women kicking heiny and people saying f&#$ it and heading out to the country.  

As I started pawing through the children's books I was a little disappointed.  I saw only one box of paperbacks (which are cheap and perfect for my little free library).  Only one box?!?  I was devastated.  I had high hopes to stock up on several months worth of children's books for my little free library.

I made my way through the table and moved on to the next.  And that's when I saw it.  Just ahead was an entire table devoted to paperbacks.  Boxes and boxes to flip through.  I checked my elbows - pointy and ready. Check.  I unloaded my latest haul on Robert, who was standing patiently by.  Empty hands check.

I dove into those boxes with the the ferocity of a thousand bibliophiles (I was pretty much the Arnold Schwarzenegger of bibliophiles).

As I happily sorted through the boxes two volunteers took interest in my search and asked if they could help.  I told them I had three criteria - popularity, perfection, and stickers.  They nodded knowingly and pulled out more boxes from beneath the table.

After awhile they began asking questions about my criteria, and that's when I explained that I had a little free library that couldn't keep up with the demand of its young demographic.  I also explained that I wanted kids to have books that felt new, and if they wanted to put their name on a book it would be the first name the book saw.  The volunteers nodded knowingly again, and after an hour of digging we were like old friends.  I walked away with my best haul of children's books to date, enough to fill my little free library for months.  And so many stickers.  

Today, I barely made it home from tennis before I sat down and carefully went through every book again, relishing stories that have lifted my heart for years and new stories that the volunteers urged me to read.

Whether your buddy is Clifford, Fancy Nancy, Skippyjon Jones or Thomas, there's always a place to find them, a place where you can come and go as you please.  A place you can share with others. A place to call your own. 

And if you're like me, and you have many pals, you can jump between these worlds and take whoever you like with you.  What would Fancy Nancy say if she saw the boa constrictor eating the wash?  Can the Giving Tree be visited by The Magic School Bus? Would Eeyore have a change of attitude if he tagged along with Skippyjon Jones for a few adventures?

I think about these different worlds as I organize my constantly-changing collection of books and sprinkle the little free libraries in my neighborhood with stories.

And I know that all my grueling  training is worth it whenever I see someone tearing down the street with a little-free-library book in their hands.