Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: May 2022

Here we are! Welcome to JUNE!!!!!!!!!!

It feels like a slightly better month for reading than last month. Maybe it just feels that way because it’s nicer outside, because I can read outside on my swing (most days, anyway!), or maybe it just feels that way because we’re taking some time off of school to get things ready for the fall. Either way, it feels as though I’ve gotten some good quality reading done. Don’t worry, I’m still a few books behind in terms of reviews. I don’t know that THAT will ever change.

I’m hoping to make some decent progress on my TBR this summer. So far, it’s going pretty well. I’m still foolishly yearning for the days where I had that beast beaten down into the 70’s, and while I don’t think I’m in any danger of getting anywhere near that, what with the 237482374932 hours of homeschooling I do per day of homeschooling during the school year, it’s nice to have a goal, right?

Anyway, let’s get this recap started, shall we???

Books I Read in May 2022

1. One People, Two Worlds: A Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues that Divide Them by Ammiel Hirsch and Yaakov Yosef Reinmen (no review)

2. Chosen: A Memoir of Stolen Boyhood by Stephen Mills

3. The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer

4. The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree: How I Fought to Save Myself, My Sister, and Thousands of Girls Worldwide by Nice Leng’ete

5. The Kissing Bug by Daisy Hernàndez

6. Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew by Michael W. Twitty (review to come)

7. Why’d They Wear That?: Fashion as a Mirror of History by Sarah Albee (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

8. Tiny House: Live Small, Dream Big by Brent Heavener (no review)

9. Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn (no review)

10. The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee Williams

11. Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. A Beginner’s Guide to Paradise by Alex Sheshunoff (review to come)

13. Lennon by David Foenkinos (no review)

14. And Now I Spill the Family Secrets: An Illustrated Memoir by Margaret Kimball (no review)

15. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (no review)

16. The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan (review to come)

17. Dude Making a Difference: Bamboo Bikes, Dumpster Dives, and Other Extreme Adventures Across America by Rob Greenfield (review to come)

18. Frindle by Andrew Clements (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

Not a terrible month. I squeezed a few graphic novels in there, which got my numbers up, but I was visiting the library with my son and he was over in that section, so I grabbed a few (since I’m almost never in that part of the library and I always forget about the GN’s!). They were a nice break between other things from my TBR. We’ll see what things look like after next month…

Nine of these books came from my TBR.

State of the Goodreads TBR

Last month, we left off at 150; this month, we’re tap-dancing in at 146! I read a whole bunch, ditched a few from the TBR, and here we are, comfortably in the 140’s. Now how long will it take me to move to the 130’s? : D

Books I Acquired in May 2022

I actually got a few new books this month!

We stopped by the used book store one day when we were out and about, and I wound up with A Day Apart: Shabbat at Home by Noam Sachs Zion and Shawn Fields-Meyer, and God Was In This Place and I, I Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning by Lawrence Kushner.

Then, I checked in on a Little Free Library a few blocks down from our house (the owner also has a really sweet German Shepherd) and found Through the Narrow Gate: A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery by Karen Armstrong, so I’m also looking forward to reading that!

But there’s a book sale coming up midway through June…

Bookish Things I Did in May 2022

In the very beginning of the month, I attended a virtual book talk with Riva Lehrer, author of Golem Girl, and she’s fabulous. And even beyond the talk about the book, which was great, it was nice to be in a space full of and made for Jewish women. I actually kind of gave a little sigh of relief when our collective voices rose up in the chat box. It felt like home.

Current Podcast Love

It’s been a bit of a back and forth month. First, I listened to a lot of Crimes of the Centuries, which details historical true crime cases. This was super interesting and really well-narrated. Then my brain wanted something different, so I’ve been listening to Tedx Shorts, short little chunks of Ted talks. Interesting and varied enough to keep my interest while I’m awake, but not super music or loud. I’m digging this!

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

Taking a little bit of a break from this for a bit, but I’m still working my way through The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music History by Michael Miller.

Real Life Stuff

Phew. What a month.

My son moved back in! He’s going to be going back to school in the fall, so this is the best place for him to be for that! It’s nice having him home; he’s been walking with me a lot and helping me cook, so I appreciate that.

We finished our year homeschooling! We’re taking a MUCH-needed break for a bit while I regroup and start to plan out school in the fall. We’re still going to be keeping our daughter at home for a while; I’ve got to figure out what we’re doing with Language Arts, and I know I’m going to structure our weeks a little differently, in order to give us time for music and art.

MIGRAINES.

UGH. All of Memorial Day weekend was spent with migraines – Saturday, Sunday, AND Monday. Which landed me in the neurologist’s office Tuesday morning, which in turn will land me in an MRI tube next week. Yayyyyy… They’re not expecting to find anything, just ruling it out so we know. But for the first time in my life, and probably the fifth or sixth doctor that’s prescribed it, my insurance has finally covered Zofran (an anti-nausea drug, as in, “Here, Stephanie, please take this Zofran so that you stop throwing up your migraine medication!” Don’t let your doctor try asking for these meds to keep you from vomiting yourself into the hospital when you’re pregnant, though. THAT would just be ridiculous and a frivolous waste of time and resources!).

But that’s about all that’s new around here. This month is going to be spent reading and planning for this fall’s homeschool. I have a stack of books to page through and figure out what we’re going to do. Other than that, I’ve got stacks of books that are just begging to be read, and long, empty days. My backyard swing is calling my name!

Wishing you all a wonderful June! Stay safe and healthy!!!

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: April 2022

What a whirlwind of a month. Between life and homeschooling, my poor reading time has definitely shrunk. Combine that with my getting to a chunk of my TBR that I don’t feel hugely compelled to write reviews for here, and I’ve been more absent than usual this month. My apologies! We’re definitely in a transition period and I’m still trying to figure things out. I’m working on it, I promise!

Not a bad month at all, just busy. Passover came and went (life without leavened grains is just sad, y’all. But I’m always grateful for how much avoiding chametz for eight days helps me appreciate the struggles of those with conditions like celiac and food allergies), and we had a few really awesome weather days – including several days where I was able to read outside! My swing isn’t out yet, but possibly at the end of this month. Bring on those long, hot summer days!

Let’s get this way-too-short recap started, shall we?

Books I Read in April 2022

1. Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women, and Queer Christians Are Reclaiming Evangelicalism by Deborah Jian Lee (no review; read for my volunteer job)

2. Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage With Life by Stuart Shanker (no review)

3. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

4. Everything You Need to Know About Asian-American History by Lan Cao, Himilce Novas, and Rosemary Silva (no review; read for my personal Read Harder project)

5. This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith

6. Golem Girl: A Memoir by Riva Lehrer

7. The Lost Arts of Hearth and Home: The Happy Luddite’s Guide to Domestic Self-Sufficiency by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger Henderson (no review)

8. How Good Do We Have to Be?: A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness by Harold Kushner (no review)

9. Lovesong: Becoming a Jew by Julius Lester (no review)

10. Follow My Leader by James B. Garfield (read out loud to my daughter; no review)

Slow month overall for reading, but that’s just the homeschooling life sometimes. I usually don’t review a lot of the more spiritual Jewish books, nor do I review the things I read out loud to my daughter, and that kind of makes up the bulk of what I read this month! I also read through parts, though not all, of two books on foraging, which took up a good portion of my reading time in the beginning of the month. That also explains my low numbers.

Five of these books came from my TBR.

State of the Goodreads TBR

Last month, we ended up at 154; this month, we’re actually down to…151! This is definitely a good thing. I think it’s more that I’ve had less time on the computer to find new books than it is that I’ve been reading enough to get the number to go down on its own, but hey, less is less!

Books I Acquired in April 2022

None!

Bookish Things I Did in April 2022

I was lucky enough to be able to virtually attend a talk given by Dr. Eboo Patel, author of Acts of Faith. He’s an incredible speaker, and I could’ve listened to him for hours. If you’re at all interested in how religious diversity works in the US, or in religious literacy in general, try to catch one of his talks if you can.

Current Podcast Love

Bleh. Still mostly just listening to BBC World Service. I halfheartedly tried to find something new to listen to a few times this month, but nothing stuck. Such is life. I did listen to the first one-and-a-half episodes of Stark Raving Dad, by a homeschooling dad from New Zealand who writes some interesting things about homeschooling, while I was biking one day, and I’m enjoying that so far.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

Woohoo, I finished Everything You Need to Know About Asian-American History, which I ended up really enjoying. It covered most groups of Asians that have made their way to the US, and gave accounts of their history here in the US, including the very, very racist ways they’ve been treated throughout their time here. Eye-opening and informative. I’ve moved on to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music History by Michael Miller, which I borrowed from my son’s shelves (and which I found when I was doing various workouts in his room. He’s currently living with his best friend, so I use his room for some privacy in my workouts). Enjoying this one so far!

Real Life Stuff

It feels like it’s been a busier-than-normal month. My daughter turned eight, I have her seeing a counselor now so we can work on her need to argue with me about everything, and the whole house could use a giant clean-up, but I can barely keep up with the day-to-day cleaning (my husband and daughter make messes faster than I can get to them, and I’m the only one doing any kind of housework). There are days when we homeschool from 8:30 am until lunch, I gulp down my lunch and get started on dinner prep and cleaning the kitchen, then it’s back to homeschooling until 3-ish, sometimes later, and then it’s more work on dinner and what chores I need to do for the day (and two days a week, I put in a few hours for my volunteer job). Add in some exercise and a shower after dinner, and it’s pretty much bedtime after that. I’m seriously struggling to get anything done beyond the very basics right now.

We’ll relax our schedule a bit over the summer; we won’t start nearly as early, and I’m only making my daughter do math two days a week, just enough to keep her brain on track and ready to start again in mid-August. That’ll at least give me time to do a more thorough daily cleaning, and I’ll 100% have more time to read in the afternoons- on my swing! It’s still in the garage now, since it’s still mostly just in the 50’s on our warmer days (oh, Midwest…), but hopefully it’ll be out and ready for swinging by the end of the month.

And now it’s May! We can sign up for summer reading tomorrow, which we will! On Thursday, I’m attending a virtual book talk with Riva Lehrer, author of Golem Girl which I just reviewed in April. And that’s really all I have on the schedule for this month, which is good. I have enough to do already!

Stay safe out there, folks. The wastewater data (and Walgreens testing numbers) say that COVID cases are going up again. I miss the days when we believed this could be eradicated completely. Five cases at my daughter’s former school this week…that we know of. Sigh.

Wishing you a warm, lovely, safe May, full of lots of time to read!

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: March 2022

It’s me, the slowest reader in the world!!!

Okay, maybe not the slowest, but it sure feels like it. Now that I’m homeschooling my daughter, I get like an hour per night to read. Pretty much every moment of my life is dedicated to homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, and exercising. That’s IT.

Why yes, I am very tired, thank you!

I wouldn’t change things – I’m actually really enjoying teaching her, we’re having a lot of fun! – but I wouldn’t mind adding another hour or ten in the day so I could do things other than adult responsibilities. I’m very much looking forward to this summer, where we’ll have more of a relaxed schedule, and I can spend plenty of time out on my backyard swing, reading the days away.

Are you ready to see how little I’ve managed to read this past month?

Let’s get this sad, sad recap rolling!

Books I Read in March 2022

1. The Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America’s Wildlands by Jon Billman

2. How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith

3. Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang

4. Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living by Kris Bordessa

5. Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes

6. Outsmart Waste: The Modern Idea of Garbage and How to Think Our Way Out of It by Tom Szaky (review to come)

7. Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb (no review; read out loud to my daughter at bedtime)

8. The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan (review to come)

9. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon (no review)

10. The Third Daughter by Talia Carner (review to come)

11. Unmask Alice: LSD, Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the World’s Most Notorious Diaries by Rick Emerson (NetGalley book; review to come in June)

That’s IT. It’s better than zero, but someone who’s read 19+ books in a month, reading so few feels…anemic. Sad. I’ve read a ton of children’s nonfiction that I haven’t listed here – maybe I should? The stacks we’re bringing home from the library are so enormous that I struggle to carry them. Maybe I’ll make a section on what we’ve read for homeschool next month. Hmm…

Nine of these books came from my TBR, at least!

State of the Goodreads TBR

Okay, so last month, we ended up with 156 books waiting patiently for me to get to them. Currently, we’re at…154! I joined a fabulous homeschooling group on Facebook for secular homeschoolers, and there was a really great thread on there one day about helping your kids become better learners and more focused, and they had some *great* book suggestions (I have one of the books in my library bag right now!). I’m definitely okay with my TBR growing so that my daughter can grow. : )

Books I Acquired in March 2022

None! We even stopped by the used bookstore one day and while my husband and daughter left with books, there was nothing I needed. : )

Bookish Things I Did in March 2022

The only thing I did that might fit into this category was to pick up a spring break activity bag for my daughter at the library! They made up activity bags for kids with STEAM-type activities, so we’re going to be diving in to some of those. I so appreciate living in an area with such great libraries!

Current Podcast Love

I’ve been mostly listening to BBC World Service at night. With the situation in Ukraine being so tense and frightening, I do my best to keep up to date with what’s going on. I don’t have all that much time to hang out on the computer these days, so those few minutes I listen before falling asleep do a lot to keep me informed.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

I finished A Room with a View by E.M. Forster this month! It’s something I’d actually read part of as a young teenager, and then I never finished, so I’m glad to have finally tackled it in full. It’s actually part of a three-books-in-one book for me; the book also contains Howards End and Maurice, so I’ll eventually get to those as well, just so I can have completed the whole book. Currently, I’m reading Everything You Need to Know About Asian-American History by Lan Cao, Himilce Novas, and Rosemary Silva. I’m very much enjoying it and finding the knowledge I’m gaining super useful for some of the history my daughter has been covering. This was a good choice to pull off my shelves!

Real Life Stuff

What a month!

I feel a bit like I’m on a hamster wheel that just won’t stop, and I’m getting flung around in circles. We get up at 7 and eat breakfast and get dressed; tidy up from 8-8:30; start school at 8:30; have lunch at 11; I start dinner at 11:45; back to schoolwork at 12:30; and we’re usually done with school around 3. (I have a really literary approach to homeschooling, so we do a LOT of reading together, which is why we’re not like the, “We get all our homeschooling done in two hours!” families. I envy them! My kiddo also isn’t very self-motivated yet, so I need to be involved with everything.) And then it’s errands and cooking and cleaning, and dinner, and exercise, and shower, and then every other night it’s my turn to do bedtime, and then I read, and then it’s bedtime.

Lather, rinse, repeat. This is quite literally what every weekday looks like; I write all my book reviews on weekends because there’s quite literally no other time.

I very much need more hours in the day.

I had yet another migraine this month as well, which makes three so far this year already (it may be four). I had an appointment with a neurologist, who prescribed me a different kind of rescue meds – which insurance promptly denied, so I guess I’ll just keep losing days of my life? It’s cool; I don’t need relief from (literally) blinding head pain that makes me vomit. I’m glad the insurance knows so much better what I need, in a medical sense!

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, I promise. This week has been spring break for my daughter, and we both really needed this lazy, relaxing week! I’m trying some new exercise stuff – HASFit on Youtube – and while I loathe exercising, I’m actually having fun with these two. Warmer weather is around the corner, and not this month, but probably at the very end of next month, I’ll be able to pull my swing out of the garage and spend long, lazy days reading outdoors again. And the organization that I volunteer with is scheduling more regular meetings, including a book club, so I’m looking forward to learning more with them. (So when you see me listing selections like this month’s, which is a book about Jesus, that’s why! This Jewish girl is happy to read whatever if it means she has a better understanding of the people she’s lending a hand to.)

So that’s where I am this month. What’s on the agenda for April? I’m virtually attending a discussion with Dr. Eboo Patel, author of Acts of Faith and creator of the Interfaith Youth Core, who is appearing as part of our parent education group’s author talks. I’m going to my synagogue to help pack Boredom Buster bags for kids served by our local rotating shelter program. Passover is coming, and my daughter turns 8 at the end of the month! We’re still not ready to do a big party yet, but we’ve got some fun activities planned for her. Going to be a busy month, but it’s a good busy.

Stay safe out there, friends! The pandemic isn’t over, though I know we all want it to be. I have multiple friends with COVID right now, and our friends’ 3-year-old has it as well. I’m still N95-ing everywhere I go; I’d *really* rather not get this in any form, mild or otherwise.

Happy April reading!

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: January 2022

Happy February!

PHEW. What a month. Started off quite well, ended up not-so-great (not THAT, fortunately, and nothing major), but definitely not as much reading as I would have liked, especially since I had to take multiple days off. HATE when that happens, but such is life. It’s been cold, cold, cold here, and we’ve gotten a lot of snow (though not as much as some of you in the East. We have some more snow on the way tonight, though, so we’ll see!). I’m working my way through all the ebooks on my TBR, so I’m hopeful for more reading this month.

Let’s get this recap started, shall we?

Books I Read in January 2021

1. Gory Details: Adventures from the Dark Side of Science by Erika Engelhaupt

2. Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods by Amelia Pang

3. Rad Girls Can: Stories of Bold, Brave, and Brilliant Young Women by Kate Schatz

4. The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis

5. 100 Side Hustles: Ideas for Making Extra Money by Chris Guillebeau

6. Miss Jacobson’s Journey by Carola Dunn

7. Rookie Move (Brooklyn Bruisers #1) by Sarina Bowen

8. Wonder Women of Science: How Twelve Geniuses are Rocking Science, Technology, and the World by Tiera Fletcher (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

9. The Book of Separation by Tova Mirvis

10. Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back by Mark O’Connell

11. This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth by Noa Tishby (no review)

13. Invisible City (Rebekah Roberts #1) by Julia Dahl (review to come)

14. Playing with Matches by Suri Rosen (review to come)

Not fabulous in terms of numbers, but in terms of quality, this has truly been a phenomenal month. Several of these books will end up on my best-of-the-year list, I already know. Lower numbers this month because I spent the last week down with a migraine that wouldn’t die and spent the days huddled under a blanket. I highly prefer reading.

Ten of these books came from my TBR, hurray!

Reading Challenge Updates

Not currently participating in any reading challenges.

State of the Goodreads TBR

Last month, we ended at 162, this month, we’re sliding under the door with…158! Getting there. : )

Books I Acquired in January 2022

None! Hurray!

Bookish Things I Did in January 2022

None. Been a quiet month for that.

Current Podcast Love

Still listening to Ologies with Alie Ward, who is funny and brilliant and so enjoyable to listen to. I learn so much from this podcast and can’t recommend it highly enough.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

I’m slightly over halfway through American Literary Almanac, edited by Karen L. Rood. It’s not the most fascinating book I’ve ever read, but I enjoy the bits of literary trivia on (mostly male) American authors. I picked this book mostly because I was tired of seeing it hang out on my shelf unread, so I’ll be glad to finish it- hopefully in February. I had to take a week off due to the Migraine from Hell, but I started up back with my daily 30 minutes of reading yesterday!

Real Life Stuff

It’s been like an entire year in a single month this month, hasn’t it? Exhausting.

We started out the month keeping our daughter home for the first week back to school. I just couldn’t fathom the idea of sending her back into the petri dish that is an elementary school, with case numbers absolutely exploding everywhere, with kids poorly wearing cloth masks. NOPE. And sure enough, her school had a massive number of cases that first week, as did basically everywhere in the area. I reluctantly sent her back the second week, but I wasn’t happy about it.

She ended up out two days this past week because on Monday night, I started having some weird symptoms and came down with a migraine on Tuesday at 1 am. (My doctor says it’s not normal to be woken up with a migraine, though it’s happened to me before, unfortunately.) Migraines, for me, are a full-body experience. I get chills and sweats, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, etc. It’s almost like the flu with a deadly headache- but this time, I also had a fever. Highest it went up to was 101.9, so you can see why I was concerned, right? I kept my daughter out of school (because if the house had COVID, it was likely that she’d brought home an asymptomatic case) and we went off for PCR tests- negative, thankfully, and I skipped off to the doctor, who put me on preventative meds and gave me a referral to Neurology. Doc also said I may have picked up a virus that triggered the migraine (although I’m not sure where, as I quite literally go nowhere- the places I have to go to, I’m in and out as quickly as possible and I avoid everyone, and I N95-mask everywhere and sanitize my hands after touching anything, but this would definitely explain the fever, and the fact that it took me so long to feel better). I see a neurologist in March, he specializes in headaches, so that’ll be…something. Likely not fun, but I’d definitely like to have fewer migraines. They’ve increased in frequency; I’m wondering if my body is trying to start a menopause party and this is one of the symptoms. Who knows. Bodies are stupid.

I’m doing *much* better now, thankfully, and we’re in waiting for a nasty snowstorm tonight that will start out as rain and then dump anywhere from a few inches to a bunch of snow on us. Plenty of time to stay inside and read!

For February, I’m continuing my assault on my list of ebooks; I’ve had some of them sitting there too long and I’m picking them off one by one. Other than that, the only thing on the schedule so far is a doctor appointment with the physiatrist I see for my back (which is its normal level of crummy- a good thing! No new flares, I’ll take it!), so hopefully the headaches will stay away and I’ll be able to spend my month with a pile of excellent reading.

Happy February, friends! Stay warm, stay safe, stay healthy. We’ve made it this far; we can go a little further, together.

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: December 2021

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

(Uh. We hope. *fingers crossed*)

Farewell, 2021. Begone with your demon sibling 2020, and may the way forward be only blue skies and smooth sailing.

A girl can dream, right???

December is over and January is here, and all our Goodreads challenges have settled back again at zero. I hope your December was full of health, happiness, safe gatherings, and plenty of good reads. We had a wonderful, relaxing vacation from school, spent at home reading, taking walks, taking NAPS (so many naps), and spending a lot of quality time together. It was much-needed and very appreciated!

Let’s get this roundup started, shall we?

Books I Read in December 2021

1. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

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

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

4. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

5. God Is in the Crowd: A Model for Post-Diaspora Judaism by Tal Keinan (no review)

6. Have You Seen Hyacinth Macaw? by Patricia Reilly Giff (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

7. Children Under Fire: An American Crisis by John Woodrow Cox

8. When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teenagers by Ken Krimstein

9. The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

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

11. Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

12. Challenging Pregnancy: A Journey through the Politics and Science of Healthcare in America by Genevieve Grabman (review to come)

13. Knocked Down: A High-Risk Memoir by Aileen Weintrab (review to come)

14. The Joy of Sects: A Spirited Guide to the World’s Religious Traditions by Peter Occhiogrosso (no review)

15. Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration by Reuben Jonathan Miller (review to come)

Slightly better numbers this month! I’ve got a lot of projects going on at home, so I still don’t have as much time for reading as I would really like. And that’s not likely to change for a while; I have a whole list of New Years’ resolutions I’m wanting to tackle, but at least some of them are reading-related! I’m definitely wanting to better manage my time and not spend so much time scrolling online (but it’s just so interesting…)

Only five of these were from my TBR this month, yikes!

Reading Challenge Updates

Not currently participating in any reading challenges. I seriously considered whether I was going to do one this year, but I think I’m not quite ready to commit to one yet. I’m enjoying making my way through my TBR, and while I love the way reading challenges introduce me to new authors and styles and subjects, I’m not wanting to commit to one more thing and ignoring my TBR. I *may* pick one up at some point in the year if it feels right. We’ll see.

State of the Goodreads TBR

We left off last month at 156; all those Best-of-the-Year booklists descended upon my house, and…uh…we’re up to 162. Hmph. But I have a plan! I swear!

Books I Acquired in December 2021

None!

Bookish Things I Did in December 2021

Nothing truly book-related, but I was able to attend a virtual gathering put on by the Union for Reform Judaism, where the subject of books came up and I recommended a bunch of books to the group I was in, does that count?

Current Podcast Love

Still listening to Ologies with Alie Ward! Super fun, educational, and fascinating all at the same time. Truly cannot recommend this one highly enough.

When I nap, however, I usually put on a true crime podcast, and I usually go with Crime Junkie. I like their storytelling style.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

I did it! I finished The Joy of Sects by Peter Occhiogrosso!!! I’m so proud of myself for finally getting it together and figuring out a reading schedule that worked for me.

After I finished, I went downstairs and peered at my basement bookshelves for a bit. I finally decided that my next Read Harder book will be American Literary Almanac: From 1608 to the Present, edited by Karen L. Rood. This has been sitting on my shelves for over a decade, so it’s time to spend my time on it. 15 pages in already!

Real Life Stuff

So here we are, 2022. ’21 was a tough year, but it also brought with it a lot of gifts. I completed my conversion to Judaism (something I’d dreamed of since I was young), I picked up a new hobby (art), I began working on my grandma’s cross-stitch again (getting closer and closer to finishing!), and of course, I read a lot of great books (and some meh ones, but it happens!). Overall, it wasn’t the worst year for me. Challenging, of course, but I made it through mostly in one piece.

School starts up again on Tuesday. To say that I’m not thrilled about this would be about the biggest understatement I’ve ever made. I have no idea how they’re going to consistently keep the schools open the next two months with the way that Omicron spreads like wildfire. I was planning on letting her stay for lunch after winter break, but that’s been cancelled, and I’ll be picking her up for lunch every day still. Pain in the butt, but I’ll do anything I can to lessen her exposure.

Not much in the plans for January. I’m sure at some point, we’ll visit with my mom. She’s been sick, so she wasn’t able to come up for any kind of holiday celebration. Her rapid test was negative, but everything she said makes it sound like COVID (and given Omicron’s ability to evade tests, I’m guessing she had a breakthrough case. Not surprising, because her husband remains unvaccinated *eyeroll*). She’s on the mend, but felt terrible for quite a while. I need to schedule some doctor appointments; nothing serious, just check-ups and follow-ups. And I have a virtual school board meeting to attend later on in the month. That’s about it!

I do have plenty of goals I’ll be working through in the New Year. I blogged about those the other day at my other blog (nothing fancy, it just keeps track of all the things I do every day. I enjoy being accountable for my time). I’m going to be doing a monthly update post on those every month, so follow along if you’re interested (or you just really want to know how many times a week I load the dishwasher…)

Hang in there, folks. Living through history is tough, but we’re tougher, right? We can change and adapt and learn to live in challenging circumstances if we lean on each other and take care of each other. Nothing about this is ideal, but we can do our best to survive, stay healthy, and maybe even thrive a little.

May 2022 bring you excellent reading, love, good health (physical AND mental!), personal growth, friendship, oases of calm amidst the ongoing storm, confidence that we’re strong enough to face whatever comes our way, and peace. Love to you, my friends.

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. : )

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: October 2021

October flew by as well! I’m starting to think we’re either in some kind of bizarre time warp, or I just don’t understand how time works anymore.

It’s been a good month in terms of quality of reading, but I’ve been reading a lot of really emotionally intense things. I’m working down my Goodreads TBR list of what’s available at my local library, and it’s a lot of harder books, subjects I’ve put off or have been waiting until things are slightly less crazy in life to get to. Well…I don’t know when or if things are ever going to truly settle down, so I’ve been diving in. It’s been a rough month in a number of ways, but the reading has helped a lot. I hope you’re hanging in there as well, and that you had a happy Halloween, if it’s something you celebrate! Welcome to November. I’m grateful for books, my library, and for you. 🙂

Let’s get this recap started, shall we?

Books I Read in October 2021

1. The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

2. Men Who Hate Women – From Incels to Pickup Artists: The Truth About Extreme Misogyny and How It Affects Us All by Laura Bates

3. Grace Will Lead Us Home: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness by Jennifer Berry Hawes

4. The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

5. A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

6. Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood by Mark Oppenheimer

7. In the Land of Believers: An Outsider’s Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church by Gina Welch

8. Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero by Saadia Faruqi

9. The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism (no review)

10. Broke In America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending U.S. Poverty by Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox

11. How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS by David France (review to come)

12. Free: Two Years, Six Lives, and the Long Journey Home by Lauren Kessler (review to come)

So, bit of a slow month overall, but amazing in terms of quality, and not easy in terms of the emotional impact of these books. Undocumented immigrants, violent misogyny, racial hatred that led to murder, a middle grade historical fiction, the psychological effect of a mass school shooting, antisemitism that led to murder, undercover writing about Evangelical Christianity, Islamophobia, more racial hatred, extreme poverty. Once again, phew! I do have more fiction on my TBR, I promise! I WILL get to it eventually! I just enjoy nonfiction a lot, even the tough stuff. I enjoy learning about the world from someone else’s perspective and feeling like I’m using my brain (the opportunity for that doesn’t happen often these days, so I’m grasping for any chance I can get!).

My daughter and I are reading Anne of Avonlea. I don’t know that she enjoys this one as much as she did Anne of Green Gables, simply because it’s harder for her to relate to a more grown-up Anne, but I’m enjoying it! Not sure what’s next on our list.

Nine of these books came from my TBR.

Reading Challenge Updates

Not current participating in any reading challenges.

State of the Goodreads TBR

Last month, we left off at 156 books on said TBR; this month, we’re down to 150! Imagine, there once was a time when it was down to 78…It’s nice to have goals, right???

Books I Acquired in October 2021

None!

Bookish Things I Did in October 2021

I was browsing an online calendar for virtual Jewish events at the end of September when I came across two events that I immediately wanted to attend. The first was an appearance by Mark Oppenheimer, author, journalist, and co-host of the Unorthodox podcast, to discuss his latest book, Squirrel Hill. I hadn’t read the book yet, but as luck would have it, it came in at my library that night. The interview with Mark was wonderful and illustrated his emotional ties to both the Jewish community as a whole and his ancestral neighborhood of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh. The second event I attended happened several days later; author Dara Horn was promoting her latest book, People Love Dead Jews, which I had already read. She discussed her book and debated a few topics with another speaker; she’s wildly intelligent and I really enjoyed being able to hear her speak.

These online author presentations are one of the few gifts we’ve been given from this awful pandemic, and it’s something I hope continues long into the future.

Current Podcast Love

Still listening to and enjoying the Ologies podcast! It’s endless fun, and a fun way to learn as I’m falling asleep, or when I wake up in the middle of the night. Alie Ward is a fabulous interviewer, and even subjects I have no interest in, she makes me go, “Huh, maybe this is interesting after all…” Highly recommended!

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

Uh, yeah. No progress on that this month. I’ll talk about why below.

Real Life Stuff

Oof, what a month.

Depression and anxiety hit me HARD last month. Like, really, really hard, and it only continued to get worse this month. My heart was racing, I couldn’t focus, my stomach noped out of eating pretty much anything because it felt like it was full of pre-performance butterflies at all times…things were bad, friends. Like, finally bad enough for me to break down and call to get a same-day doctor appointment with a doctor who I’ve seen before but who is not my regular provider. Crying to someone you barely know while wearing a mask really sucks, you know? He was kind and sympathetic and agreed that I was entirely emotionally tapped out from *gestures broadly at everything* and prescribed me a low dose of antidepressants to get me over this hump. And fortunately, they kicked in after about a week and a half…

…just in time for my back to go out again! (I can’t win.) I had been doing great since my caudal injections last month, until I bent over to buckle my daughter in her car seat and something on my left side spasmed mightily, leaving me in heaps of pain, struggling to walk and once again feeling like my pelvis is trying to electrocute me when I’m in a sitting position- only this time, because of the antidepressant, I couldn’t take the gabapentin to control that like I would have before. My physiatrist’s office responded to my message on Monday; they were able to fit me in for an emergency appointment the next day, where we scheduled more caudal injections. She said if I keep flaring after this set of injections, she wants to redo my MRI and consult with the surgeon about maybe going in there and shaving off the herniated part of what’s left of my L5S1 disc. Not my ideal situation, but it would be nice to, you know, move normally again and not be in SO much pain all the time, so we’ll see. Round 2 of injections happens tomorrow, so think good thoughts for me! 🙂  (On the way out the door, my doctor saw my copy of How to Survive a Plague by David France and remarked, “Oh, that’s a really good book!” She’s got excellent taste in books, y’all!)

That’s about it! I’m crossing everything that my daughter will be able to get vaccinated this month; our local Walgreens said they were preparing to vaccinate kids in the next week or two, so here’s hoping! May your November be filled with love, warmth, light, and beautiful colors, no matter where you’re at in the world. Be safe, friends.

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: September 2021

I legit do not understand where September went.

I suppose that after March 2020, any month seems fast, but this one blazed by like lightning. The month just started, and now it’s October? What??? The temperatures took a drop here, then popped back up; we’re in that yo-yo season, where it could be either 50 or in the high 80’s, and most days it starts off chilly enough to need a light jacket but ends up toasty by mid-afternoon. There’s really no telling around here. We’ve trick-or-treated in shorts, and we’ve trick-or-treated during snow storms, so who knows where we’ll be by the end of the month! (Or even what we’ll be doing. As it stands, I *think* we’re going to attempt trick-or-treating- masked, of course- but with the pandemic still changing so rapidly, who knows. I will say, our county- which boasts the highest vaccination rate in the state- is faring pretty decently in terms of numbers, and- KNOCK ON WOOD- there have been zero cases in my daughter’s entire school district this week.)

It’s been a pretty good month for reading in terms of both quantity and quality, though so much of what I’ve been reading has been super heavy in terms of content and emotional toll. I’m down to 45 books on my TBR being available at my local library, and a lot of those are ones I’ve kind of put off because of their intensity, so here we are! My goal is to try to finish this list up, then read off my own shelves in between waiting for interlibrary loan books. We’ll see how quickly I get there!

Anyway, let’s get this recap started, shall we???

Books I Read in September 2021

1. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

2. Fixation: How to Have Stuff Without Breaking the Planet by Sandra Goldmark

3. A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears) by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

4. Someday Angeline by Louis Sachar (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

5. Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Worst Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham

6. My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past by Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair; translated by Carolin Sommer

7. Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession by Sarah Weinman

8. Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

9. The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control by Steve Hassan

10. People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present by Dara Horn

11. Paddington Goes to Town by Michael Bond (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel

13. Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Talia Lavin

14. The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt

15. Flying Couch: A Graphic Memoir by Amy Kurzweil

16. Love at First by Kate Clayborn (review to come)

17. They Went Left by Monica Hesse (review to come)

18. Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of World War II by Svetlana Alexievich (review to come)

19. I, Houdini by Lynne Reid Banks (no review, read out loud to my daughter)

Phew, that’s a LOT of heavy reading this month. We have: therapy, the potential destruction of the planet, politics, nuclear disaster, Nazis, murder, more politics, more Nazis, religion, white supremacy, infrastructure, post-Holocaust family trauma, a romance novel, a post-Holocaust novel, and Russian children during World War II.

I need to add some fluff to my TBR more regularly, don’t I??? Cripes.

My daughter and I had some fun reading this month. She’s loved everything we’ve read together, especially Bunnicula. We’re missing the next book in the series, but we own the two after that, so once I grab a copy of the second book from the library, we’ll start in on that. I brought up a huge stack of books from the basement shelves the other day and have been letting her choose which one we start each time we finish, so that’s been nice. We just finished I, Houdini by Lynne Reid Banks, about an escape artist hamster, which is cute but dated in a few spots (and I had to gently censor a few bits about hamster mating that she’s not quite ready to hear about, and one completely WTF line about forced mating that I truly hope has been edited out in current versions). Not sure what she’ll pick next, but it’s always fun to read out loud to her. 🙂

A good month for reading from my TBR! Fifteen of these came from my TBR list of books available at my local library. All the books I read to my daughter came from our own shelves.

Reading Challenge Updates

Not currently participating in any reading challenges.

State of the Goodreads TBR

Last month, we left off at 164 books; this month, we’re clocking in at…156! The elevator is going down. Slowly, but still going down!

Books I Acquired in September 2021

I stopped at the thrift store to check for a water bottle for my daughter (we had a great metal one with a flip-straw top, which she needs for school, so she can put the straw under her mask to drink. “This one will last forever!” I thought. She dropped it on its head and shattered the plastic flip-straw, because of course she did), and along with getting her some clothing, I also picked up a three-books-in-one book: A Room with a View; Howards End; and Maurice, all by E.M. Forster. I’d read parts of A Room with a View years ago, but didn’t get around to finishing it, and I always wished I had. Now I can. 🙂

Bookish Things I Did in September 2021

I was able to virtually attend presentations by both Wes Moore (author of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates) and Lori Gottlieb, whose Maybe You Should Talk to Someone I read this month. Both were inspiring, insightful speakers who gave me a lot to think about. I’m deeply grateful to what I refer to as our local parent education group (but students are always present at these presentations as well and are often assigned these books as in-class reading) for continuing to host such dynamic authors and educators.

Current Podcast Love

I listened to a lot of the Leaving Eden podcast at the beginning of the month when I was cleaning and organizing, but I felt like I needed something new to listen to at night while I’m falling asleep. I have a lot of rules for my nighttime podcast: it can’t be too loud, it can’t be too linear (I need each episode to have different content, not building on the last episode, so that when I wake up in the middle of the night, there aren’t any spoilers), no music, or not much, and it can’t be too scary (I’ve discovered that a lot of true crime podcasts give me nightmares). I searched around a bit and then came across a podcast I remember my friend Sandy recommending at one point: the Ologies podcast! In each episode, host Alie Ward interviews some sort of -ologist: a paleontologist, a cosmetologist, a hematologist, a mythologist. It’s FASCINATING. Alie is delightful and fun, and her guests are all so interesting. Even if the subject isn’t necessarily something I’d explore on my own, Alie asks great questions and makes everything so interesting. It’s completely stress-free learning, and I love it so much. 🙂

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

I’m still trying to get into the flow of this. My current goal is to read through The Joy of Sects: A Spirited Guide to the World’s Religious Traditions by Peter Occhiogrosso by reading a small amount each day. I take my daughter out of school for lunch each day (to cut down on her need to be maskless in school, and thus cut down my anxiety), which breaks my day in half. The morning is full of cooking and often cleaning (although I’ve kind of slacked off on this lately; I’m tired of cleaning for people who very much don’t care if they live like pigs in a hovel and who immediately trash any effort I make); my husband is home at 2 pm most days, and it’s hard to focus on any harder reading when he’s home and talking. Plus I’m also doing some of my volunteer work during this time, so everything’s still a little up in the air in terms of schedule. Pre-pandemic, I would do my cooking and cleaning, then settle down to read my Read Harder challenge book, but the lunch break usually means I have to stop my reading short, which breaks my focus. Still trying to figure this one out.

Real Life Stuff

To be completely honest, I’m struggling a lot right now. We’re, what, nineteen months into this pandemic now? With my daughter at school, I spend most of the day alone…which would normally be great, but I’m emotionally empty and starved at this point, and I’m struggling with feeling anything other than burned out and depressed. I have so many things I would like to do, but I’m overwhelmed at the idea of actually doing any of them, and it feels impossible to get started on anything. I’ve struggled keeping up with my blog posts at times and even struggled getting them posted after I’ve written them (though this has gotten better this past week!). I don’t necessarily want to take a break from blogging, because this is one of the few things keeping me on track, and writing about what I read helps to cement the books in my brain, which I love. I’m just…tired. I feel like an empty shell.

I don’t want to complain too much, because I know so many of us are struggling. These restrictions are tough, and living through history really sucks when we’re called to do difficult things in order to stay safe. Rationing sucked during World War II. Doing without pretty much everything stank during the Great Depression. Traversing the US in a covered wagon was likely not a great time, nor was it a great time when settlers showed up to steal the Native Americans’ land. This pandemic is just another tough part of history; comparatively, we have it pretty good, but mentally, it’s exhausting. I’ve been coping by reading a whole, whole lot. Soon, my swing will have to be put away in the garage for the winter and I’m pretty sad about that. My son is still living with his best friend, so I may use his room as my winter reading nook if he stays there, a quiet place I can go to escape the noise of my husband and daughter running around and shrieking like banshees (I wish I were exaggerating; they quite literally chase each other back and forth in front of my reading chair, shrieking and screaming. My sister-in-law was over once while this was happening and shot me a stricken look and said, “Is it like this all the time here? I would go nuts…” to which I just nodded).

I don’t mean to be such a Debbie Downer here, but I guess every update can’t be sunshine and rainbows; sometimes it’s just rain, but there wouldn’t be any flowers without that rain, so let’s hope for better next month, eh? I hope this is a month we can all be glad that we live in a world where there are Octobers (thanks, Anne Shirley!).

Keep your chin up, friends. We’ll get through this, and there are always books on the crummy days. 🙂

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: August 2021

AUGUST, AMIRITE???

This has been a MONTH. Not a horrible one, just busier than I’ve been used to for a long time. Back to school and all its surrounding chaos (AND STRESS) has been kicking my butt, and with the little bit of extra free time, I’ve been using all that to work on house projects that you can’t necessarily get done when your kiddo is home all year doing remote learning. So there hasn’t been much free time to blog or even to read; reading is done in little snatches here and there, but that’s okay. Sometimes life is like that, right?

I’m working hard at getting all my projects completed so that I can have more time to read and update my posts, but in the meantime, bear with me! I’m doing my best. 😊

So let’s get this monthly roundup started, shall we?

Books I Read in August 2021

1. Majesty (American Royals #2) by Katharine McGee

2. The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America by Carol Anderson

3. The Family Next Door: The Heartbreaking Imprisonment of the Thirteen Turpin Siblings and Their Extraordinary Rescue by John Glatt

4. Flunk. Start.: Reclaiming My Decade Lost in Scientology by Sands Hall

5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

6. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

7. Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have by Tatiana Schlossberg

8. This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation by Alan Lew (the unreviewed books I read for myself were discussed in this catch-up post)

9. Emily’s Runaway Imagination by Beverly Cleary (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

And that’s it! Like I said, not a fantastic month for reading (but other things got done, so I’m pleased). It’s been so long that I’ve had the house to myself that I’m almost not sure how to handle it when I’m home alone, but I’ve been settling down to work almost every school day and organizing everything. Soon, I’ll be able to curl up in a nice, clean, organized house and read the day away. Hopefully.

Little Women wasn’t as fun of a read this time around as it was the last time I read it, when I was 15. I really loathed Professor Bhaer (just let Jo write whatever she wanted to write and back off!), though I did appreciate that Amy and Laurie were fairly well-matched. From the Mixed-Up Files was just as fun this time around as it’s ever been, and my daughter really loved it as well.

Six of these came from my TBR!

Reading Challenge Updates

Not currently participating in any reading challenges.

State of the Goodreads TBR

SO. 164 books last month, and with this month not being great at doing many bookish things, I’m still right there at 164. Which is actually okay! I’m glad it didn’t explode in this month of so little reading!

Books I Acquired in August 2021

You know, I don’t think I got any new books this month. Which is fine, because I really, really need to read some books from my own shelves!

Bookish Things I Did in August 2021

I actually did something seriously bookish things month! I mentioned last month that I had a meeting with the new rabbi at my synagogue, and that I was really excited about that. I met her, she’s lovely, we had a great chat, and she mentioned that the synagogue library was being reorganized and the books needed to be reshelved. Long story made short, I found myself masked up and helping to reshelve box after box of wonderful Jewish books in the synagogue library last week! It was hot, sweaty, dusty work (and I was thankful for a good day with my back!), but we tackled it all and got everything back on the shelves! It’s nice feeling useful like that, and I appreciated the chance to socialize with the two women working with me (especially since I’ve barely been out of the house for the last year and a half!!!!) and check out the synagogue’s books. 😊

Current Podcast Love

At night, I’m just listening to BBC World Service Radio, but during the day, as I organize and clean, I’m listening to Leaving Eden Podcast, about leaving and deconstruction from the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. Fascinating stuff; Sadie is so open about everything she’s been through and the hard work and self-examination it’s taken to move past the indoctrination she received about who she is/should be and what the world is about, and Gavriel is surprisingly insightful for as young as he is (which isn’t THAT young, but I definitely wasn’t that insightful when I was his age). It’s a really interesting podcast.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

This will start back up again soon! When my house projects are done, I’m planning on picking up something to read during the schoolday, something I need quiet time with no interruptions so I can focus. Looking forward to doing this again!

Real Life Stuff

What a month!

The beginning of August was, I’m not going to lie, really, really stressful. My daughter, who is seven and in the second grade, was at home, learning remotely, all last year. This year, there IS no remote learning, so it was either send her back to school in person, or homeschool her, and she is NOT a good candidate for homeschooling- though I would have done it if I felt it was my only option. Her district mandated wearing masks really before it became any kind of a drama (I wouldn’t have even hesitated a second to pull her out if they hadn’t), but not all districts around us did. Thankfully, the governor stepped in and basically WTF’ed the ones who didn’t and mandated it- I’m so grateful. That still left the school’s lunch policy, however, and I was an absolute wreck thinking of my kiddo being unmasked in a cafeteria with other kids, with the Delta variant having such a higher viral load and being so much more contagious. Like, we’re talking serious, serious wreck. I was ready to pull her out just over that.

I ended up emailing her principal, who outlined the school’s lunch policy for me, and who also let me know that parents are allowed to check their students out every day for lunch. I cried. I wept with complete and utter relief. So every day, I heat up lunch and truck over to the school, where I sign my happy-to-see-me kiddo out, and we have a picnic by the pond behind the school. It’s a nice break in both of our days. She eats quickly enough that she’s able to head back for the post-lunch recess, which also makes her really happy, since she’s finally able to hang out with her friends for the first time since kindergarten, and I feel better knowing she’s getting less exposure. Win-win all around, and so far the school year is off to a good start. My county has the highest vaccination rate in the state, so things aren’t as scary as they could be. I feel for those of you who have children in schools that aren’t masking, where the community isn’t highly vaccinated and whose members aren’t taking this seriously. I’ve been watching the consequences of this in my old county in Tennessee, where a teacher died of Covid this past week, and it’s infuriating.

And now that my daughter is at school all day, I’ve been systematically tearing the house apart. I’ve almost got the kitchen done (still need to clean the fridge), and I have a few things left to do in the living room, but that’s not bad at all since I was able to do a few of the bigger projects over the summer. Next up is my closet, which hasn’t been organized since before the pandemic, and the bathroom, which basically just needs a good hose-down. And then my poor laundry room. That’ll be a project, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s all slow-going, since I have to get dinner pulled together in there, as well as my lunch trip to the school and any errands that have to happen during the day (groceries, runs across town to pick up school forms from the doctor, etc), but I’m definitely making good progress, and I’m happy about it!

What’s next in September? Another year of virtual High Holidays, which…isn’t ideal, but we do what we have to, and I’ll be tuning in to my synagogue’s services from home. I’ll also be attending virtual presentations by authors Wes Moore and Lori Gottlieb, both of which I’m very much looking forward to (and both offered by the local parent education group, for which I’m very grateful!). It looks like another busy month, so who knows who much reading I’ll get done, but we’ll see. It’s all good work.

Hang in there, friends. It’s rough out there again and who knows when it’ll get better again. So much death and suffering. Do your part to safely ride this terrible wave out; my heart breaks for our healthcare workers who see so many terrible things each day, things that could have likely been prevented. Our society is going to be suffering from the ramifications of all of this for years…

Wishing you all a peaceful, healthy September. Be well, my friends.

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: July 2021

August is here! My birthday month!

Whew, July was a hot one. Way too many days over 90 for my taste, but I still spent plenty of time on my backyard porch swing, sweating and frantically gulping cups of sugar-free lemonade in order to stay hydrated as I flicked through the pages of my kindle. Icy cold days will be here before we know it, so I’m soaking up all the gross, sweaty outdoor warmth that I can before I no longer have the option.

It’s been a great month for reading! After reorganizing my paper TBR, I decided to start tackling some of the ebooks that have been lingering on there forever, and I’ve been happily downloading library book after library book. A huge portion of my library’s budget has gone to updating their ebook collection since the pandemic started, and I’m grateful for it and for all the many ways they serve our community (new library building coming in a little over a year! I’m so excited! Be prepared to hear a lot more about this from me in the future).

Okay, let’s get this monthly recap going, shall we?

Books I Read in July 2021

1. Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong- and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini

2. Antisemitism: Here and Now by Deborah E. Lipstadt

3. Choosing Judaism: 36 Stories by Bradley Caro Cook and Diana Phillips

4. The Guest Book by Sarah Blake

5. Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

6. Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz

7. We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman

8. My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq by Ariel Sabar

9. This Side of Home by Renée Watson

10. Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky

11. The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (no review)

12. You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

13. Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein

14. Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Live as TV’s Most Influential Guru Advises by Robyn Okrant (review to come)

I didn’t review The Secret Chord because I’m still thinking about it. The style is different from Geraldine Brooks’s other books; I still enjoyed it, and it’s incredible, but I’m not actually sure how to sum it up. My daughter and I are STILL plowing through Little Women; it’s a long book and the chapters are long, so it’s a slow read for us (we’re just at the part where Jo is coming back from her time as a governess, where she meets Professor Bhaer), so that’s why I haven’t logged any read-alouds with her.

Thirteen of these books came from my TBR! None from my own shelves this month, which I need to work on. Since I’m starting to read down what’s available at my library, I may continue to do that and then read my own shelves as I wait for interlibrary loan holds. We’ll see. 😉

Reading Challenge Updates

No current challenges going on.

State of the Goodreads TBR

I’m finally starting to make headway on this thing! Last month, my want-to-read list clocked in at 171 books; this month, I’m down to 164 books! That actually feels pretty amazing to me. I haven’t been below the 170s in AGES, so I’m really happy with this!

Books I Acquired in July 2021

WOOHOO, I WENT TO A BOOK SALE!!!

A women’s group that funds scholarships for other women is back to having their massive book sales. Thursday through Saturday, the books are sold individually, but on Sunday, the books go for $10 per paper grocery bag, so you know I’m in. My son and I masked up and came away with two bags of books. Mine are pictured below.

Books to read aloud to my daughter:

Books to learn from:

Books to kick back and dive into:

And Jewish books!!!

And more Jewish books from when I stopped by the used bookstore:

So hooooooooooooo boy, are my shelves groaning this month! This was the first book sale they’ve held since the pandemic started, and I was very glad to see it (though not super thrilled with most of the people being unmasked- LOOKING ESPECIALLY HARD AT YOU, GROSS LADY COUGHING ALL OVER THE PLACE. ARE WE SERIOUSLY GOING BACK TO THAT????????????).

Bookish Things I Did in July 2021

Just the book sale and the stop by the used bookstore, pretty much. That was awesome. 😊

Current Podcast Love

Listening to Gotta Grow Up Sometime! while I bike (indoors; outside is too gross, and I can only do 20 minutes at a time right now, since more flares up my SI joints), and catching up on episodes of Unorthodox at night.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

On hold until things go back to normal (whenever THAT is…). I am trying to read a little bit of several Jewish books per day, though.

Real Life Stuff

Emotionally, this has been a really tough month. My son was struggling with our pandemic isolation and ended up moving out to stay with his best friend until vaccines are available for kids my daughter’s age. It was the best option out of a trashbag of awful options. He’s doing better and still being careful, but I miss him like crazy. Not having him here really sucks.

School is creeping closer. The plan has been for my daughter to return to in-person learning this year, but the Delta variant is making me very, very nervous, and now I’m not so sure. Couple that with the fact that we have school districts near us- ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICTS, WHERE KIDS CAN’T GET VACCINATED- making masks optional, and I’m mired in anxiety. Obviously, breakthrough cases can happen, and if a teacher has young kids in a masks-optional environment, even she or he may pose a risk to my kiddo, despite being vaccinated (and that’s if they’re vaccinated! Unvaccinated, they’re an even bigger risk). I’m extremely unhappy about all of this and really unsure about sending my daughter into a school building. While our district has mandated masks for everyone, I’m still extremely apprehensive, and I cannot believe there are parents fighting so hard for schools to take zero precautions. I’m so furious that this is even a debate and that there are parents out there so willing to chance their kids getting long Covid, and so heinously heartless that they don’t care if their kid gets mine sick with a virus that could have lifelong consequences (and that could result in massive medical bills that could ruin our family). What has this society become??? I’m so fucking appalled. I can’t imagine you’re any happier with all of this. I’m predicting that, despite their best efforts, a lot of schools are going to end up going virtual again. It’s not going to be a great year.

Despite all of this, there are good things on the horizon for me. My birthday is coming up and we’ll be able to go kayaking on a local lake, as is our tradition (cancelled last year, since the kayak rentals were closed). My synagogue has a new rabbi; she contacted me to meet up with me, and she graciously agreed to meet with me outside at a local park, since my family isn’t doing anything indoors yet, so that’ll happen soon as well and I’m really looking forward to that. I see a new physiatrist in a few weeks for my garbage back- things have settled down a lot, but I’m still fluctuating right on the edge between MOSTLY OKAY and the danger zone leading into REALLY BAD. I’m having a lot of trouble with my right SI joint and right hip feeling like they’re electrocuting me at random times, which…is about as pleasant as you might think. Fun times. Hopefully the new doc will help; she gets great reviews and patients say she’s a really good listener, so I’m crossing my fingers.

Stay safe out there, friends. Things are getting bad again and I’m worried.