graphic nonfiction

Book Review: Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu, translated by Montana Kane

Yet another example of how I shouldn’t be allowed unfettered access to the library when I already have books at home. But how could I resist? Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu (First Second, 2018), translated by Montana Kane, was just sitting there, begging me to take it home, and I was like, “It’s graphic nonfiction! It won’t take me long to read at all! It’ll be fiiiiiiiinnnnne.” And it was. : )

In short chapters, Ms. Bagieu tells the story of a woman from history- sometimes ancient, sometimes modern- who stepped outside of the lines society drew for her and created her own reality. Some you’ve likely heard of- Temple Grandin, Nellie Bly, Betty Davis, Hedy Lamarr- and others likely not- Naziq al-Abid, Frances Glessner Lee, Delia Akeley, Giorgina Reid. Each has a spark of something a little extra that allowed them to stand up against the restrictions society placed against women in their time and that inspired them to be a little more than what the world told them to be. The charming illustrations are perfect for Ms. Bagieu’s slightly snarky sense of storytelling; overall, this is a fabulous book of women’s history.

I learned a lot from this book; even at 41, there’s still so much I don’t know, and I was absolutely fascinated with every story in this book. That’s not to say I loved all the people portrayed; some were a little disturbing (but, as the author says, plenty of men act in similar ways and they’ve gotten away with it for centuries, which was, happily, something I also thought about when I was I reading this particular historical figure’s story. I love when my brain actually thinks intelligent things and not just things like, “Wait, why did I get up and walk into the kitchen again???”), but wow, there were just so many fascinating women portrayed in this book that I had never heard of. I would love to read anything else Pénélope Bagieu has written, because I enjoyed everything about the experience of reading this book.

It’s too late for the 2021 holidays, but this would make a fabulous gift for any young feminist (and that’s male or female!), even if they’re not much of a reader. The graphic nonfiction format makes it a quick read, but the format will also hold the attention of even the most reluctant non-reader, and the humor sprinkled throughout the stories keep the feel light. Pick up a copy for that niece that’s hard to buy for, or your feminist co-worker’s son. They’ll love it.

Visit Pénélope Bagieu’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

nonfiction

Book Review: American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption by Gabrielle Glaser

I’ve always been fascinated by adoption; a lot of the books I read when I was younger featured characters who had been adopted or spoke about adoption in some way (looking back, it’s likely that adoption was finally becoming more normalized in the culture at that time and that this was likely the start of representation for people touched by adoption in kid lit). I’ve continued reading about it as an adult, delving into a lot of memoirs that focus on the different sides of adoption and the many emotions behind it. I was shocked when I read The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption by Barbara Bisantz Raymond, and depressed and full of rage after reading The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe V. Wade by Ann Fessler. Those two book are why I knew immediately that I wanted to read American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption by Gabrielle Glaser (Viking, 2021) the second I learned about it.

Margaret Erle was an average Jewish Baby Boomer teenager, in love with her boyfriend George in the early 1960s. When Margaret became unexpectedly pregnant, however, she fell prey to the societal shame of the time, shame that told her she was a sexual deviant, that she wasn’t capable of raising a child, that girls who had sex before marriage were the scourge of the earth and their babies deserved better than to be raised by them. Despite she and George wanting to get married, Margaret was sent to a home for unwed mothers to wait out her pregnancy. When she gave birth, her baby was taken from her and placed into foster care. Margaret never lost hope that she and George could get him back, but when the agency told her that if she didn’t sign papers relinquishing her son for adoption, they would send her to prison (a threat that, thanks to the wayward girl laws at the time, they could have legally followed through with. But hey, who needs feminism, right???), and Margaret knew she was out of luck.

Despite the agency’s demand that she forget this ever happened, Margaret unsurprisingly never forgot her son, never stopped looking for him or wondering where he was…or worrying if he was okay. Not when she and George got married just a few months after the baby’s birth. Not when she gave birth to her son’s full siblings. Not when they grew to adults and she became a grandmother. And thanks to a series of both fortunate and unfortunate events, her son eventually began looking for her, too.

Interspersed with the story of Margaret and her son are the history of those homes for unwed girls in the United States, where young girls who fell pregnant outside of marriage were sent so that they didn’t bring shame to their families and instead were forced into a lifetime of depression, rage, and trauma. The homes ranged from adequate to treating the young women like chattel slaves. Their babies were a product in high demand; the mothers were given all the respect of a wrapper stuck to one’s shoe.

This is an amazing book, highly emotional and disturbing in what our country did (and what a disturbing amount of people want to go back to). It bears a lot of resemblance to The Girls Who Went Away, but with one family (as it is) at the forefront, with history being the background. The Girls Who Went Away is more history, with various interviewees scattered around to illustrate the damage the history caused. Both are utterly incredible books; I can’t recommend either highly enough.

American Baby is the story of an unnecessary tragedy, of pain that never had to happen and a family that never needed to be separated. While the agency responsible for separating Margaret from her son no longer exists, but there are still homes like this, and while the coercion may not be entirely the same, I’m looking at the website for the home for pregnant girls in my hometown, and…they seem like they heavily push adoption. And adoption can be a great thing, but it’s not without its own trauma for both birthmother and child, and shouldn’t be something entered into lightly (and I’m deeply uncomfortable with the forced-religious aspect of this particular home. “Girls MUST go to church and participate in weekly Bible study.” Sigh) Anyway, beware of places like these and vet them before giving them your money. There’s no need to support places that give adoption a bad name and further the trauma that mothers and children already endure.

Visit Gabrielle Glaser’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

graphic memoir · nonfiction

Book Review: When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teens by Ken Krimstein

I should never be trusted in the library alone.

I ran my son over there this week; he had lost his wallet earlier this year and hadn’t yet replaced his library card, plus there was a book he wanted to check out, so we stopped in. “I don’t need anything,” I told him. “Don’t let me look at books. I have two library books to read right now, plus two from NetGalley waiting for me. I don’t need to bring home another book.”

Friends, I brought home another book.

But how could I not??? I’d heard of When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teens by Ken Krimstein (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021). I hadn’t added it to my TBR, but it remained lodged in my brain, and as soon as I saw it standing on top of a shelf in the New Books section, I gasped and grabbed it (and then mentally yelled at myself, and then yelled at myself for yelling at myself). And then I checked it out and took it home, being sure to keep my eyes off all the other tempting books before we left the library.

I didn’t realize until I was at home that Mr. Krimstein is the same author of The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt, which I read and enjoyed right before the beginning of the pandemic (I’m going to assume the stress of that time erased his name from my brain, because I’ve thought of that book often since reading it). Always nice to spend more time with an author I’d previously enjoyed!

Just before Poland was invaded, writing competitions were held for Yiddish-speaking young adults in eastern Europe. Because of the invasion, the winners were never announced, and the manuscripts were hidden away from the book-burning bonfires of the Nazis. They were discovered again in 2017, painting a vivid picture of what life was like for young people standing on the edge of likely destruction.

As the competitions required anonymity, only one of the author’s identities has been discovered (and fortunately, she survived), lending the book a haunting feel when you read with the hindsight and clarity of knowing what was to come for these optimistic teenagers. The illustrations add to this feel, and the overall book is at once tragic and wistful, optimistic and with an overarching sense of doom. It’s a miracle that these writings survived at all; that they’ve been illustrated and published is an amazing testament to our strength and our ongoing fascination with this subject and our determination to not let these voices be silenced.

Because of the nature of this book- it’s graphic nonfiction- it’s a quick read, but the wonder and the unanswered questions will stay with you.

Visit Ken Krimstein’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

nonfiction

Book Review: Children Under Fire: An American Crisis by John Woodrow Cox

Boy, what a timely read. If you’re a parent in the US, you likely heard of Friday’s security threat to schools around the country, which stemmed from a TikTok video. While there were no specific schools named, every parent I know of received emails from their school systems reassuring them that schools were taking this seriously, ramping up security, and urging them to talk to their kids about speaking up if they heard anything. What a nightmare. This happened just after I’d finished reading Children Under Fire: An American Crisis by John Woodrow Cox (Ecco, 2021), so you can imagine how I was shaking my head at all of it.

When news articles discuss school shootings in the United States (because where else does this happen with such regularity?), they tend to focus on the casualties (which includes both deaths and those wounded) and the survivors. The survivors are the lucky ones, but having survived doesn’t mean having escaped without harm. John Woodrow Cox has written an excellent book that documents the trauma of two young victims of America’s fascination with guns. Neither were shot, but both were harmed in life-changing ways. Ava’s elementary school in Townville, South Carolina, was attacked a fourteen-year-old shooter; her best friend, six-year-old Jacob, was shot and died three days later. Ava developed C-PTSD and was unable to return to school even two years later. She rarely left the house, was heavily medicated, and had to wear headphones everywhere she went because loud noises took her back to the shooting and Jacob’s death and furthered her trauma. She struck up a pen-pal- and later video chat-based relationship with Tyshaun, a child living in Washington, DC, whose father had died after being shot. His trauma affected everything about his life as well, including his behavior and performance at school. Life for the two children suddenly became nothing they could trust, and the two developed a close bond based on the dual nightmares they suffered.

Interspersed with Ava and Tyshaun’s stories are stories from the teachers and family members affected by the violence (including Ava’s younger brother, who was feeling the brunt of so much of their parents’ attention and resources going to his big sister), statistics and data, and how we got here to a place where we’re entirely dismissive about our regular sacrifice of human lives, including babies, on the altar of the Second Amendment. (And if you don’t think we’re casual about it, let me know everything you remembered about the Townville, SC school shooting in the comments before reading this. This is an issue I care deeply about and follow closely, and it’s just at the point where I can’t even remember or keep straight all the incidents of murder at our country’s schools.)

Mr. Cox’s writing flows like a novel, but the story he writes is one of horror and despair, so while it’s an easy read in terms of style, the picture he paints makes it tough to get through. Many times, I had to pause and look out the window, and take a deep breath because of the information he shared. But truly, this is one of the best books I’ve read this year. What we’re doing to our children even by having them practice lockdowns traumatizes them and keeps them living in a constant state of anxiety that they’re going to die at one of the places they should be safest- the place where they’re mandated to be 180 days out of the year. This is going to have ramifications for generations, and we’re creating a society of traumatized children who will grow into traumatized adults. This isn’t healthy, and John Woodrow Cox proves over and over again how badly American society needs to take a hard look at itself and stop being so disgustingly selfish.

If you’re American, you need to pick up this book when you have the mental space for it, and join the fight to stop allowing our society forcing our kids bear the cost of the Second Amendment. Our future depends on it.

Visit John Woodrow Cox’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

memoir

Book Review: Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos by Natacha Du Pont de Bie

I think Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos by Natacha Du Pont de Bie (Hodder & Stoughton, 2005) originally ended up on my TBR as part of a reading challenge that fell to the wayside when the pandemic hit, but I was still looking forward to reading it. No matter how hard we try, we all have gaps in our education and knowledge, and I realized that I knew almost nothing about Laos, other than…it was a country in Asia? (Southeast Asia, to be exact, which I thought, but wasn’t entirely certain of.) So this was definitely something I needed to read!

Natacha Du Pont de Bie is a lifelong foodie, and around the turn of the millennium, she became interested in Laotian cuisine and decided to take off to Laos, travel around the country, and do her best to eat like a native. While her travels occasionally led to unsafe situations (heads up for a brief attempted sexual assault; she fights him off), the vast majority of her time was spent getting to know the warm, generous, welcoming people of Laos, their beautiful green country, and their fascinating food.

She had barely stepped off the plane before she was sitting in a restaurant eating raw water buffalo. She learned that various forms of salad are served with most meals in Laos, that most families grow their own vegetables or at least their own herbs, and fish is eaten in some form at almost every meal. She ate frogs (not just the legs!), drank turkey blood, and finally, finally, after ages of searching, was able to consume ant egg soup (apparently, ant eggs taste kind of nutty). Along the way, she learned about the politics and history of this one-party Communist nation and experienced its natural beauty.

What a neat book! I had known almost nothing about Laos, and I knew even less about the food eaten there (more noodles than I thought. If pressed, I would’ve thought that rice would have been more common, but it turns out a lot of people can’t afford rice. So many people in Laos live in fairly dire poverty and there’s almost no infrastructure at all- almost no roads, and most of the country didn’t have electricity when Natacha was there. I can’t speak to conditions nowadays, almost twenty years later). Accidents, including plane crashes and bombs and landmines from what Americans refer to as the Vietnam war finally detonating, were common, and Natacha had a few near-misses. Western policy has badly affected and still continues to affect living conditions in Laos, something I had read about briefly before, but was deeply sobering to read about again and in more detail.

It struck me again while reading this how lovely it is for someone like me to read travel memoirs. Laos, with its lack of infrastructure, is likely someplace I could never go, what with my terrible back and my occasional difficulty getting around. I could never hike the trails Natacha hiked or visit the sites she did. Traveling for more than six hours on terrain that gave her problems and caused her pain would do me in. It’s not a chance I could take. So I very much appreciate being able to armchair travel via accounts like this one. It’s not quite the same, but it’s the next best thing for me. It’s nice to tag along, even in literary fashion.

Visit Natacha Du Pont de Bie’s website here.

nonfiction

Book Review: Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting by Danya Ruttenberg

Parenting is serious business. Serious hard business. I had a pretty easy time with my son, but my daughter was something else (I often say that if she had arrived first, there would have been no others!). She has upended everything I thought I knew about parenting and sent me scrambling for alternative solutions, behavioral tools, and means to save my sanity. Ever since finishing Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion by Danya Ruttenberg, I had her Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting (Flatiron Books, 2016) on my TBR. What a title, right??? It wasn’t available at my library, and with the pandemic slowing down interlibrary loans (and making libraries leery of loaning things out for so long, until we realized that surface transmission wasn’t as likely as we had first suspected), I had shied away from using that service for so long (mostly because I didn’t want to clog things up for other people who truly *needed* books. I just wanted them!). But this was one I wanted to get to, and it arrived last week and I dove into it.

Kids. You love them; you want to scream without stopping because of them. Actively parenting is difficult work, both physically and emotionally, and this isn’t something that’s recognized as often as it should be. Not only that, but we lose so much of our identity when we become caretakers- especially full-time caretakers- to small children. And the world’s faith traditions, most often begun by people (*coughs* men) who weren’t providing the daily care- the butt wiping, nose wiping, food preparing, laundry washing, toy retrieving, bathing, nursing, bedtime-type of full-time care- have left those caregivers out of the mix. How do you participate in several-times-daily prayer rituals when your child is demanding food or attention now? How do you focus on the message of spirituality and connection with the Divine at religious services when your children are bickering in the seats next to you and the baby just blew out its diaper…again?

But what if we could find our spirituality in all of that? What if it were possible- not all the time, not even most of the time- to find God and to make that connection, in the love it takes to care for our children? Danya Ruttenberg has penned a book that will speak to the heart of every parent of young children who are deep in the mire of the messiness of daily childcare but who are feeling as though they’re losing their grip on their sense of self and who are looking for something bigger than just another bowl of strained peas upturned on the floor and onto the dog. While the book is written through a Jewish lens, its message transcends any single religion and will resonate with parents who are struggling to remember who they were before these tiny tyrants upended their lives. You’ll read her stories and the stories she shares from her friends and think, “It’s not just me who feels this way??? Thank goodness!” Parenting is exhausting, but if we can occasionally connect to something more sacred inside of it, those times will carry us through the rest…even when our child throws our cell phone into the toilet when we’re showering strained peas off the dog. Again.

This is truly the book I wished I had when my daughter was born. She was ten children crammed into one, and every child was misbehaving in a different direction. I spent a lot of time crying and yelling and not knowing what to do (a lot of that likely because I didn’t get more than three straight hours of sleep for a year and a half; that does a horrible number on your brain, lemme tell you). This is a really beautiful book that talks about finding God in the sticky hugs and kisses, the sleepy snuggles, even in changing a dirty diaper as an act of love. And Rabbi Ruttenberg knows we’re not going to make that connection every single time- it’s not possible. But to everything there is a season, and sometimes we’re in that season where tying tiny shoelaces and zipping tiny coats can be an act of connection with wonder and awe, with something so much bigger than we are, to say thank you to whatever forces in the universe sent this exact child to us. Interrupted prayer time will return, if that’s something we need; sometimes reading I Wish That I Had Duck Feet six times in a row to a squiggly child with a runny nose can count as prayer, too.

Truly a lovely book. I wish I’d read it before, when my daughter was making messes faster than I could clean them up, but it definitely helped my perspective now, too.

Visit Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

graphic memoir

Book Review: Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

In my reading about censorship recently, I discovered that one of the books getting parents in a panic and calling for book burnings is the graphic memoir Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe (Oni Press, 2019). I had a friend, may his memory be a blessing, that identified as genderqueer, and so this title, beyond its status as a challenged book, immediately called out to me for that. And lo and behold, my beloved local library, who never shies away from filling its shelves with controversial books, had a copy. To my happiness, it was checked out (high five to whoever was reading it; I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!), so I put it on hold and it came in about a week and a half later.

Growing up the child of laid-back hippy-ish parents, Maia Kobabe, assigned female at birth and who uses the pronouns e/em/eir, never had gender restrictions placed on em, but e still felt like e didn’t fit into any of the gender boxes e knew of. Not only that, eir sexuality defied classification at the time; bisexual kind of fit, but e knew e didn’t have the interest in sexual activity eir classmates and friends had. Curiosity, maybe; desire to participate in sexual activity, ugh, not really.

What Maia did have, though, was a loving, accepting family, and the ability and freedom to discover who e was on eir own, the freedom to search for materials that contained the language e needed to be able to describe emself. Gender Queer is a beautifully illustrated graphic memoir of a young adult’s discomfort with eir body and gender presentation and the struggle to define emself in a society that insists everyone fits into tidy boxes with no spare bits or overlapping edges.

This is an incredibly brave memoir that needs to be on library shelves everywhere. Maia does an amazing job of conveying, in both words and illustration, the discomfort e felt with eir body especially as it matured into that of an adult female, something that never matched up with what e felt e truly was. There are kids out there who need books like this, who are feeling the way Maia felt and who don’t understand what this means and who don’t have anyone to talk to about it. Those are the kids who need to pluck this book off the shelf so they can hear that their experiences are valid, that they’re just as worthy of life and love as people whose identities match what they were assigned at birth, and that it’s okay to question who you are, what box you’re suppose to fit in (maybe not any box! Make your own box! That’s a perfectly valid option too!), why things are the way they are. They need to read Maia’s story and understand that they have a story worth sharing when they feel comfortable, and that there’s a place in this world for them, too.

It’s easy to see why people get uncomfortable with this book; there are frank discussions of gender, sex, sexual orientation, sexuality, pronoun use, gender dysphoria, menstrual periods, and more. But again, as I said in my review of Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts), these are things kids have questions about. If you’re sending them the message that they can’t talk to you or that their questions aren’t valid or are shameful, they’re going to go searching elsewhere for that information. Their friends might not have the correct, medically accurate information; the information they get from their friends might lead them to a dangerous place, whether in terms of physical health or emotional health. Where would you prefer them getting their information? Would you prefer a child who contemplates or commits suicide because the information they received damages their sense of self? Because unfortunately, we’ve created a society in which that is far too often the alternative for kids whose families don’t work to understand them and make them feel loved and accepted.

Gender Queer is a truly important book, one that teenagers and young adults should have access to. Even if they’re not actively questioning their gender, reading Maia’s story might help them understand what their friends and classmates are going through who are questioning or who have realized they don’t quite fit their assigned gender roles. And a little more understanding goes a long way.

What a brave, brave, important book.

Visit Maia Kobabe’s website here.

Follow em on Instagram here.

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: November 2021

Holy low amounts of reading this month, Batman!

Some months are like that. I’ve been working on some house projects and trying to get things in better shape around here, which has eaten up a lot of my time. Plus, I’ve finally gotten into a kind of an everyday schedule, which has done wonders for my mental health, but has left me with less time to read. That’s okay. It happens. Not every month can be bookishly perfect.

But it hasn’t been a bad month at all. November is always one of my favorites. The weather is getting colder, and the trees here were absolutely stunning this year. I’m back to actually getting dressed most days- in actual people clothes, as we jokingly call it- and that makes me feel more productive. We’ve had a few snow flurries, but no accumulation yet…but I’m sure it’s coming! And Hanukkah has started, and if you’ve never had a latke, you’re absolutely missing out. Crispy fried oniony potatoey deliciousness. Seriously the world’s most perfect food. I wait all year for these and they never disappoint.

But books!

Let’s get this roundup started, shall we?

Books I Read in November 2021

1. Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words by Annika Sharma

2. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

3. Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America by Eyal Press

4. Princess in Disguise by E.D. Baker (no review; read out loud to my daughter)-

5. The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live by Danielle Dreilinger

6. All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

7. White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color by Ruby Hamad

8. Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by Lev AC Rosen

9. Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson

10. The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert

11. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

The nonfiction I read were heavy books that took me a long time to get through- some books just take more time to process than others- so that definitely accounts for my lower numbers this month. All-of-a-Kind Family was a reread; my daughter didn’t remember it from the last time we read it, so we wandered through it again. It’s a sweet, charming read, and she enjoyed it a lot. Princess in Disguise, however, was just…not good. The Little Prince is one of my favorite books, though the translation we read, I’ve always felt, is clunky. There’s a more recent one and eventually I’d like to check that out.

Seven of these books came from my TBR.

Reading Challenge Updates

Not currently participating in any reading challenges, but my library has a winter reading bingo that starts up on December 1st! I may try to wrangle some of my TBR picks into that, we’ll see.

State of the Goodreads TBR

Last month, the total rang in at 156; this month, we’re sliding in at…156. Those end-of-year book lists are starting to creep in. I’m in trouble!

Books I Acquired in November 2021

None!

Bookish Things I Did in November 2021

I virtually attended my library’s monthly board meeting! The sound quality was pretty terrible, but I could mostly follow along, and it was actually pretty interesting. I was cheered to learn that my library is in such great financial shape, and they showed drone photos of the new library building’s progress, which was, of course, extremely exciting!!! I plan on attending these as often as I can, so I can stay in the loop.

Current Podcast Love

Still making my way through Ologies with Alie Ward. Cannot recommend this highly enough; Alie is so bright and energetic and such a fabulous interviewer that even episodes that don’t seem like they would interest me much turn out to be fascinating.

I had an unfortunate experience with a migraine Thanksgiving night, and migraines require true crime podcasts (I have no idea why, but it’s the only thing I want to listen to when I’m down like that. So weird). During that time, it was back to Crime Junkie.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

It’s on! I’ve *finally* made progress with this and gotten into a good routine here.

So, the book I picked up for this challenge at the beginning of my daughter’s school year was The Joy of Sects: A Spirited Guide to the World’s Religious Traditions by Peter Occhiogrosso. It’s a sizeable book that’s been sitting on my shelf for a few years, and one I’ve wanted to read for a very long time. Pre-pandemic, I’d usually read a set chunk of my Read Harder book- 30 pages, 50 pages, whatever worked for me at the time with the book I was working through. That technique wasn’t working for this, however, and after trying several things and failing, I decided to start with how I was working on cleaning projects: by setting a timer. So every day after lunch and Pilates (if my back isn’t too garbage to do Pilates), I sit down with The Joy of Sects and set the timer for 30 minutes, and I read until the timer beeps. I’m currently 275 pages into this book, and I’m pretty proud of that!

Real Life Stuff

My daughter has now had both vaccines (she’ll be considered fully vaccinated December 10th!), and I had my booster shot! WOOHOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No side effects for either of us, neither of us has grown a tail (disappointing!), and our internet is still the same speed as it always was. (And if I’m microchipped, well, I apologize for my boring life to whoever is tracking me, and am relieved that they’ll have an easier time finding me if I ever go missing. All those true crime podcasts, man…)

She had her first playdate since the pandemic started; a friend from school came over for a few hours and they had a wonderful time. And we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my mother-in-law, her boyfriend, my sister-in-law, and my nephew. Everyone there was vaccinated (the kids had each had one at the time), and most of the adults had received their booster (daughter and I went the next day). It was lovely, though a bit strange, as we were all still feeling a little weird being unmasked and anywhere close to people we don’t live with! We’ll still be keeping very safe, but we feel a little better knowing the kids are on their way to being better protected.

We also attended an outdoor Hanukkah gathering, which was a lot of fun. Music, donuts, candle lighting, and a walk through some outdoor lights made for a great evening! It was nice to have somewhere to go and something to do, after so long of…just…not, you know?

I’ve also started blogging again at my old blogspot blog, Stephanie Gets It Done. If you’re interested in what my (fairly boring!) daily life looks like, you can check it out. I’ve got a lot of projects in mind for the new year and I felt the need to be more accountable for my time. Starting to blog there again helped me to kind of organize my thoughts and my time and pull me out of the life-is-somewhat-normal-again-now-what kind of panic I’d been feeling earlier this year. It’s what helped me get back into more of a regular daily routine, which is incredibly helpful.

Other than that, it’s been a nice quiet month! We’re pretty low-key about this time of year, so there’s not a lot of hustle and bustle. I’m looking forward to the colder months, of snuggling up on my chair with my crocheted afghan and plowing through some good reading.

I wish you all love, light, and peace as we move into this last month of 2022! May your reading be merry and bright. : )