Friday, September 23, 2016

Racism surrounds us still...

One of my down south book BF's recommended we read Ta-Nehisi Coates' new book, Between the world and me, together. I requested it from the library and once I had it in my hand I just couldn't put it down. Sorry V and A; but the good thing is we have much to talk about...

Ta-Nehisi Coates shares with us stories from his life, growing up and as an adult, sharing his experience of being black in America.  He frames it in a personal way as if we are a part of an intimate conversation between him and his son. 

As I read Coates' words I was reminded of Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Both books gave me insight into what it means to be a non-white person in this country that on one hand is so great (filled with freedoms many other countries don't have) but also filled with racist problems where not all of our people feel those basic freedoms.  

While I can't compare stories I do remember in the late 80's while I worked retail in a variety of beautiful malls in Minneapolis/St Paul and suburbs. Friends that might visit me in the store dressed like musicians of the 80's while I was working were often followed into the store by mall security or mall managers. In one of these instances it was boutique mall in Victoria Crossing area of St Paul and the manager came into the store on the heals of my friend Randy.  She clearly stated in front of my friend that "she wanted to make sure I was okay." I remember feeling so indignant like of course I'm okay and I said something to that effect. Randy looked at her and said something like "I know it might surprise you but we're friends." After she walked he kidded me about how I should think about getting different friends that would be "mall-acceptable." I remember several other instances with him and other friends and yet I felt like Mpls/St Paul was more cosmopolitan than most communities and that race problems we experienced must be few and far between but we also never spoke about it much. Now I think I must have only viewed a small portion of what they dealt with on a daily basis. 

To be in an altercation today as a black person with police must be scary and could be deadly. I do know there are many good officers as well. Why does it keep happening? It seems to be getting worse and we need to find a way to make it better together. I appreciate Coates' book for allowing us an insider view of the real struggle. This should be required reading, it made me think more about white privilege, and how this shouldn't exist anymore.  We are still far away from the world Dr. King imagined we could have as humans. 

In the famous words of Dr. King we must band together:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." 

I want to read more of Ta-Nehisi's words and my husband listened to me I guess because the other night he handed me his copy of The Atlantic with an article about O.J. Simpson. I read that, agreed with his thoughts and am ready for more.  We all need our eyes opened to bring about change; it might be a case though of preaching to the choir. 

Bring it on V and A, what are we going to read next...?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sex Object by Jessica Valenti

I felt compelled to order this from the public library a few weeks ago because of a Litsy post. I've heard Jessica's name and her first book, Full Frontal Feminism, before and just hadn't picked it up to read.

Sex Object; A memoir took me by surprise. I don't know why as the title is fairly explicit I just didn't fully understand that I'd be reading about Jessica's sexual escapades and yet I feel calmer having relived some of my own sexaul past through her experiences. For years I felt like there must be something wrong with me; did I have a sign taped to my back that said "abuse me/pick me"?

I've suffered through my own bits of harassment, stalkers, and leering overstimulated "manly" men (creeps). Jessica's story brought that message home; every woman has her own scary tales. Her story assured me that I was not the only one. Even sharing creeper tales with friends I always felt like I won hands down.  That we even have to share stories about this is ridiculous.

Not only do we deal with men's expectations of us but we shoulder a lot of that ourselves. Many of us never feel smart enough, sexy enough, pretty enough. Expectations on whether or not we are pretty both from our own selves and the men that surround us is a universal problem and I hear from my own daughter, which truthfully, is so hard to bear. It's like I went through this already and raised you to BE yourself, to share your opinion, to speak and you still complain that you don't look right, your hair isn't right, you feel awkward.

I feel like I made it through my own swamp of insecurities to get to a place where I have a job that I feel secure in, a husband who loves me no matter what, and children who are beginning to see that I am smarter than they thought.  It's also easier to be a feminist in my own head and heart, in my own home, about my own body.  Jessica's journey has been one of sounding the alarm and putting herself out there loudly speaking about gender and women's issue for most of her adult life. That's impressive to me. And she's been crucified through social media posts about her opinions, what she has to say. It must mean even the haters are listening.

I would love to hear Jessica speak. The book, told in a chaotic, back and forth method, relays her past and present. It's told in un-chronological order yet the last two chapters sort of sum up where she's at today, happily married and the mother of a precocious daughter.

I think to be secure in ourselves is to be complacent and it's really about just finding some bit of peace every day. You-made-it through-another-day feeling whole.  I'm glad to have had a chance to think about my own past/present as I read through Jessica's.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Groovy Girl turns 14

{G.G. and her brother}
Seriously no way. It just can't be possible that my baby born 3' 4 " is now my height and can wear my shoes if she likes them.

{G.G.and her big sis Kalila}
She is a blessing and a miracle. She is lovely and wonderful. She is also disorganized, somewhat spastic, and slightly irresponsible. Yet she keeps track of her contacts~still a mystery to me. Those are all characteristics of hers that are just part of what makes her who she is. Her college roommate will have to help her find her phone, she will probably be the girl turning cartwheels across the quad, happy that she still wears her Nike Pros underneath her dresses and I know she will find someone out there who loves her for all those quirky attributes.

What I dislike are people who make those qualities a negative for her. She had some amazing teachers in elementary school and one of them in particular clarified to me how some kids are just like that; creative, forgetful, absent-minded yet delightful.  Not a negative. I used to feel like I had to apologize a bit for her ability to stray. Her teacher's words to me after Groovy Girl had lost a school project was simply one of reassurance and I've tried to stick with that method.  She is who she is and I am grateful for her kind smile every day.

Happy 14th birthday Groovy Girl~you are an amazing child/young woman/daughter.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Weekly Recipes 15; I love September!

It's my second favorite month. School starts, the weather is amazing. I love what we've always called "Indian Summer"; warm weather with a September breeze.

I'm in my second week of school and it's been a very smooth transition. Groovy Girl is settling into her freshman year; top dog in her junior high. She's already busy with football cheer and soon dance will begin. Then we'll be a whirlwind of crazy.

{G.G. 2nd from the L.}
Today there was a little football activity happening at our kitchen table with my two favorite men. Husband and son were busy drafting their fantasy football teams and I loved listening to them banter back and forth together and with the other online football friends.  Knowing this annual event was taking place and that the 21-year-old headed to our house to draft with his dad like old times I offered to make them brunch. I know, my gifts abound...

At Early Girl in Asheville this summer my husband ordered grit cakes; it was like biscuits and gravy but with cakes made from grits. I took that as my inspiration for today's menu. I googled, looking at a variety of different recipes, and settled on one from Epicurious. It was Shrimp and Grit Cakes though and my handsome husband is allergic to shellfish.  I did have a lovely piece of good farm-raised steak from a local meat locker so I transformed the recipe just a bit.  The grit cakes were so very easy to make and delicious! I need to host a brunch for friends just so I can make this again.

I sliced the steak into bite-sized pieces and created the same sauce the recipe calls for except I didn't add the flour.  I also had three ears of sweet corn calling my name from the vegetable drawer and I cut the kernels from the cob and added that and it blended like it belonged.  On a small plate I plated two grit cakes with the steak, juices, and corn/pepper mix on top and a handful of blue chips tucked on the side. A little Parmesan over the top and it was ready to be eaten! As usual I failed to take a photo before they dug in. The plates looked award-winning and the they were licked clean so I guess I did good.

The recipe made enough that I have leftovers that we can eat for breakfast tomorrow. Tonight I will be whisked away for an anniversary dinner out on the town. Dressing up + no dishes to do = win/win

I'm working on finishing Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam. I have about 6 short fiction books to read for Iowa Children's Choice that I need to finish before my final ratings.

Have a great l-o-n-g weekend.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summer Reading Recap

{image: the Red Fairy Project}
I am filled with gratitude that I have summers to catch up on some extra reading. As a librarian I spend my school day surrounded by books, ordering books, previewing, books, talking about books and yet I don't always have a lot of spare time to read.

This summer's reading log has far more adult choices thanks to the new app Litsy on my phone. Do you Litsy?  Mostly adult books are discussed and shared and many sound unbelievable good. Thankful I've learned to cross check with my public library to request and check out. So now I'm addicted to Litsy and love getting recommendations for more reading. Find me @Peaceful_Reader.

I do still love Goodreads because it's a great place to keep track of all my reading + my reading journal (I must have a paper copy in case the Internet goes down).

Here are stats so far for this summer and for the year to date.

Number of books: summer = 22 / y-t-d = 41
Pages read: summer = 8,000 (nice round number) / y-t-d = 12,850

I read 8 adult fiction titles, 4 YA books, and 9 elementary fiction books + 1 graphic novel

All of the elementary books I read including the graphic novel were for our Iowa Children's Choice Awards.  I have about 7 more books to read this week/weekend before I score them all and send in my ratings.

My absolute favorite book this summer is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.  I'm happy that I read it and I share the love for it with every adult reader that I know. If you haven't please do. It is pain + joy wrapped together which is just what life is. Jude will forever stay with you.

Other favorites were: Mac Barnett's The Terrible Two (funny), Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (great storytelling), Ruta Septys' Salt to the Sea (amazing historical fiction), The Guest Room by Bohjalian (fiction yet brings the horrible truth of modern day slavery to us), Speed of Light by J.M. Kelly (unique twists) and always Alice Hoffman-her books are magical.

In order I read:

  1. The Doctor's Wife by Elizabeth Brundage
  2. H2O by Virginia Bergin
  3. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova
  4. Speed of Light by J.M. Kelly
  5. The Marvels by Brian Selznick
  6. Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
  7. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy
  8. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
  9. Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics by Chris G.
  10. The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett
  11. One Second After by William R. Forstchen
  12. A little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  13. Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
  14. New Kid by Tim Green
  15. Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
  16. Audacity Jones by Kirby Larson
  17. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
  18. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  19. The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
  20. The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
  21. Jungle of Bones by Ben Mikaelsen
  22. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamiesen
I have two more books I am set to finish this week; Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam and Odd, Weird and Little by Patrick Jennings.  What did you read this summer?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Back-to-Back adult novels

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (2016): 

Four Plumb siblings: Leo, Jack, Beatrice, and Melody fight over "The Nest", a small fortune left to them by their late father. Repercussions abound as the fortune never recovers after Leo makes a huge error in judgement and borrows money without sibling knowledge or consent. Each Plumb family member deals with this is a variety of ways and the fallout after is monumental.

I can relate to this story without the large inheritance. It seems my three brothers and I can't get along for 10 minutes anymore so this story hit close to home.  This story is better writing than ours with a very unique cast of characters.  Read this one if you like someone else's family drama.

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian (2016): 

This tale revolves around a bachelor party gone extremely wrong from the get-go yet there is so much more to this story. Good guy big brother Richard Chapman agrees to host his brother Philip's bachelor party without understanding that Philip's friend Spencer has hired a service providing the entertainment. Richard's wife and daughter are off spending the night in Manhattan with his mother-in-law. Philip's friends have Richard's beautiful house to themselves and are immersed in full enjoyment when the party comes to a crashing halt.

Bohjalian built a truly interesting tale around a timely topic and shows us the harsh reality of the sex slave trade. I enjoyed the alternating point-of-view as Alexandra's character will move you.

Happy reading!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Weekly Recipes 14

I love to cook in the summertime. The fresh flavors, the amazing produce, the tomatoes plucked right from the vines in my backyard, the craft cocktails to cool you's all perfect.

(this into that)

I've made a few spectacular meals the last few weeks that you might like. I've cooked meals and I've done some canning.  My mother brought me 3 large boxes of tomatoes from her farm and I turned those rosy reds into about 24 jars of salsa.  She also brought me two buckets of fresh-scented basil that I churned into pistou (pesto w/out nuts).  I will love pulling that fresh green sauce out in the winter to enjoy with crackers or over pasta; bringing summer rushing right back. 

One of the meal's that I had fun planning was a vegan meal for my son's girlfriend, Heather, who is vegan. On One Green Planet I found a delicious recipe for Stir Fried Brussels Sprouts with Ginger and Curry leaves.  I love all those ingredients and luckily I knew Heather like brussels sprouts from a previous meal around our table. I was excited that I even had curry leaves on hand from other Thai meals. I love it when a rare ingredient like that is actually inside my cupboard already.  The stir-fry was good and pretty easy to put together. I would add more sauce next time, more tomato to keep it altogether.

Groovy Girl and I experimented to make an interesting vegan dessert: donuts!  Never made donuts before-why not give them a try right before a celebratory meal!  Yes, yes that's just what we did and for first-timers it turned out great.  Next time we will spray the nonstick pan first.  It was a fun recipe to try and they enjoyed eating them even though our second batch stuck mostly in the pan. Thankfully Tristan just poured almond milk over and ate them like cereal or in our family, just like chocolate cake. Here is our donut recipe and the sugar glaze we used for some while others we just sprinkled with a cinnamon mixture.  Groovy Girl loved helping me with this meal, especially the donuts, and I think I love that she may move into being a talented sous chef for me.

I had book club last week and we discussed Alice Hoffman's The Museum of Extraordinary Things, which we loved. I had a large amount of bell-shaped yellow tomatoes from our garden and I used them to make these little mozzarella bites. I laid my tiny skewers on a bed of fresh greens and very peppery arugula and then drizzled a balsamic/olive oil mixture over the top. Getting to book club on time is always a major feat for me so no photo exists.  And we ate them all.  Love that.

Besides cooking I've finished my summer with voracious reading; I finished The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney and Chris Bohjalian's The Guest Room; both excellent reads.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Where does the summer go?

At this time of the month I begin to wonder what I did all summer? Where did the time go? In just one week I will be back in school.  I haven't blogged nearly enough over the summer. I didn't finish writing any of the 3-4 stories I'm invested in finishing.  I didn't get enough closets cleaned out.  It's like panic mode.  I'm not done with my summer homework...

On the other hand I've taken an awesome vacation to Asheville, NC where we floated down the French Broad River, ate at many wonderful places, listened to bluegrass at Isis, toured the Biltmore, and tried many of the local breweries. We accomplished a lot in the short time we were there.

I've cleaned out clutter-what feels like a constant life job-and helped Groovy Girl and Best Friend host a garage sale.  I've helped a friend out by nannying her three children while she works this summer so I've been able to take them to the water park, the beach, and the library just to name a few fun days. I have spent some mornings writing but it is few and far between. How do I set up a practice of writing on a real regular basis? This question has plagued me for years.  I don't even get enough blogging done.

I've just gotten back into a good rhythm of doing some yoga in the morning and when school begins again I need to be ready to seriously get up out of BED and continue this yoga practice to stay with what I've built this summer.

I've read a ton which has been an amazing journey. Many summers I just try to keep up with books for school and this year I was introduced to the app @Litsy (thanks to @Librarydady) which has raised my reading to a new level. @Litsy gives me many adult titles to look for and order from our public library. I picked up a few from my own piles at home also and one of them was A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which is my favorite book this year now. I recommend it to anyone who loves good fiction and isn't concerned about 720 pages. It flies by.

It's been a good summer. I may never have a summer where I write every day. I have several stories that are important to me though so I'm going to have to find a way.  I did take time to play this summer. I've enjoyed time with Groovy Girl -a ninth grader this year. I did spend time in my beloved orange hammock.  I've spent time exploring nature, eating good summer food, picking tomatoes out of my garden, had frosty summertime drinks on the patio, and basked in the glory that is summer, my favorite season.

And in one week I need to be ready for school.

(Photos: Looking in at Lake Lure, Groovy Girl and me, The Biltmore, Prescott kiddos and me, former student Julia and I, Crosby walking)