Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: June 2021

Welcome to July! June here started off dry, like drought-style dry, and now we’re all peering out between the raindrop for the Ark…It’s rained and rained and rained and rained. Even in normal years, this would have me going a little nuts, but being stuck in the house with a kiddo too young to be vaccinated? OY. Not to mention, my pain hasn’t gotten any better this month. I’ve had some really nasty days, and sitting is painful again (SERIOUSLY. SITTING. WTF). But I’m taking measures to work on this, and I had some really great things happen this month as well, which I’ll talk about below.

It’s also been a pretty good month for reading! As I expected throughout the winter, I’ve been doing a lot of reading out on my swing- uh, not during the rain, unfortunately, but when it’s dry out, it makes for a lovely reading spot. A pillow, a sheet thrown over the canopy to block out any stray retina-burning sunlight, a cup of lemonade, and I’m set for as long as my daughter is otherwise occupied and content for me to read. It’s amazing, and I’m already sad that the summer won’t last forever. I love reading on my swing.

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

Books I Read in June 2021

1. The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar

2. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

3. Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

4. 999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Macadam

5. How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

6. A Better Man: A (Mostly) Serious Letter to My Son by Michael Ian Black

7. Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis by Ada Calhoun

8. The Book of V by Anna Solomon

9. Hand Made: The Modern Woman’s Guide to Made-from-Scratch Living by Melissa K. Norris

10. In the House of the Serpent Handler: A Story of Faith and Fleeting Fame in the Age of Social Media by Julia C. Duin

11. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. God Was Not in the Fire: The Search for a Spiritual Judaism by Daniel Gordis (no review)

13. Aleph Isn’t Tough: An Introduction to Hebrew for Adults by Linda Motzkin (my second time through this book; I needed the review)

14. Well Met by Jen DeLuca

15. Well Played by Jen DeLuca

16. Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell

17. Hidden Heretics: Jewish Doubt in the Digital Age by Ayala Fader

18. Shunned: How I Lost My Religion and Found Myself by Linda A. Curtis

(My apologies; WordPress is not allowing me to link to those last books. I’ve had a heck of a time getting this post up at ALL.)

That’s some pretty decent reading! Seven fiction, eleven nonfiction. Sixteen from my TBR; two rereads (both of which were from my own shelves). Aleph Isn’t Tough is an amazing book if you’re wanting to learn to read Hebrew, for whatever reason. I had originally gone through it the first time right before the pandemic hit, before I had started attending virtual services at my synagogue. It worked well, though I was a bit iffy on a few of the letters and vowels introduced at the very end of the book, so I wanted to go through it again, after I formally converted and have over a years’ worth of learning various prayers and parts of the Shabbat service. MUCH better (and faster!) this time around! I could read everything from the beginning (instead of just picking out bits like the text instructs you to), I recognized the vast majority of prayers and passages and could even sing some of them as I read them, it was a lot more fun this time around!

Reading Challenge Updates

No reading challenges going on here right now.

State of the Goodreads TBR

So. 177 last month, and after reading SIXTEEN BOOKS from my TBR, it now stands at…171 books?!?!? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE??? *lolsob* Can people just STOP writing such interesting books so I can tame this beast for a little bit? PLEASE????

Books I Acquired in June 2021

A quick trip to the thrift store yielded a super comfy long black skirt, and two books for me: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, which, while not on my TBR, I’ve wanted to read for a while, and Judaism (Great Religions of Modern Man #6) by Arthur Hertzberg. They’re now sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to get to them. 😊

Bookish Things I Did in June 2021

I do have one bookish thing I did- but I’ll discuss that below. 😉

Current Podcast Love

I’m still just listening to BBC Radio on my phone as I fall asleep. I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep up with podcasts for a bit; my tablet is…nine years old now? Old enough that it’s not downloading app updates, so a lot of my apps are unusable anymore. And as for my phone, it’s also five years old, and its memory is so small that the very small handful of apps I have on there (most of which I NEED to run my daily life) are causing the memory to run out, so I can’t get anything new there either. ☹

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

On hold until life goes back to normal.

Real Life Stuff

SO.

In some ways, this month was same old, same old. Nasty chronic pain (but I’m trying to desensitize my brain and overworked central nervous system by kind of pushing my boundaries a little bit. Exposure therapy of a sorts). Our family is still isolated like it’s March of 2020. Lots of 90+ degree days that made being outside in any context fairly disgusting and miserable even if you were adequately hydrated. (Is there such a thing when it’s that hot? My middle-aged body says no…) And then…

For one, I started doing volunteer work for The Vashti Initiative. This is an organization that helps provide survivors of religious abuse with support and the resources and information necessary to build a life outside of their former communities. (SUPER right up my alley!) Right now, I’m helping to compile lists of resources for my state, including things like food pantries (what I’m working on currently), organizations that assist with mental health and the needs of survivors of abuse, things like that. (If you’re part of a religious or civic organization that runs a food pantry, be VERY CLEAR on your website about your phone number, address, and hours where people can get food from you- first off, HAVE a website. PLEASE. Throw up a free Facebook account. A Blogger or WordPress site. ANYTHING. I am BEGGING you. Make it easy for people to find you. And for God’s sake, don’t talk down to the people who need your services. These are human beings, and they deserve food without judgment or feeling like they’re a project to you. I’ve looked at over 250 pantry sites at this point and I’ve been appalled a LOT of the time.) I’m super, super happy to be helping Vashti out, and if you’re looking for a great place to volunteer, especially right now (and/or because your body sucks and moving around and lifting things is difficult!), Vashti is all virtual! 😊 I’ve long thought that there was a massive need for this kind of service, and I knew I wanted to help as soon as I learned about this place.

And then this happened

Two thousand days of Norwegian. 😊 It’s a fun language, and it comes in handy more often than you might expect. Part of that is because I make opportunities to use it, but I’ve also run into it unexpectedly out in the wild- the occasional news article someone else posts, on TV, IKEA (which is technically Swedish, but there’s about 80%-ish overlap between Norwegian and Swedish- same for Danish. It all just looks like it’s spelled wrong to me, because the spelling between the languages varies wildly, and the pronunciations are different, but I can read both of them enough to get by), even an overheard conversation at a Scandinavian festival between a man and his mother a few years ago (he was asking about the food she was eating). Plus Norwegian has some fun pop music, and heck, announcing you’re at least somewhat proficient in Norwegian is definitely a conversation starter!

And…

Thirdly…

*drumroll, please*

I got my writing published!!!

It’s nothing huge, but the online Jewish feminist magazine Alma accepted and published a piece I wrote, which they titled The Best Books for Exploring Conversion to Judaism. (Hey, write what you know, amirite?) It originally started off as more of an essay, and I rewrote and reformatted it upon request to focus more heavily on conversion, and voilà! Publication. I’ve never been published before, so this was a pretty big deal- I just wanted to write about some books that I loved and that had influenced me, and I was so pleased that this worked out. And then…

This happened.

And this happened.

And this happened.

I never, ever expected the authors of these books I loved so very much to see this article, much less thank me for it. (In fact, I had one sleepless night before the article came out, worrying that I was wrong about everything and people would basically storm my social media with metaphorical torches and pitchforks. Anxiety is fun…) I cried, y’all. I’ve been a homemaker for most of my adult life, where 99.9% of the response to my completing something is that there’s more work for me to do, or someone complains, or a kid blows out a diaper or breaks something or has to be driven somewhere (all the while, more work piles up at home, because the cat is likely barfing on something while I’m out, and then someone else is upset because I wasn’t there to work on something else…). Having people say, “Hey, thanks, this thing you did was great!” just…it felt really, really good. 😊

So that was my June. Filled with the regular downs (CAN YOU NOT, PANDEMIC?!?!??), and some really great ups, and a lot of awesome books.

I have a virtual library program about Muslims at the end of July, but that’s literally all that’s on my calendar right now! Crossing my fingers for another month of great reading.

Stay safe, friends. There’s a lot of yuck going around right now- nasty weather (we’ve had tornados rip through my area, though not my town), intense heat, wildfires, the scary Delta variants that worry me greatly, political and civil unrest around the world… Be the good neighbor you want to see in the world. It won’t get any better unless we all work together for it.

Sending all of you love, and wishing you a beautiful July.

Monthly roundup

Monthly roundup: May 2021

Finally June! My swing is out, warmer weather is here (we’ve had some 90-degree days here, followed by a few in the 50’s- I have no explanation for Illinois weather…), and virtual first grade is DONE DONE DONE!!!!!!!! I’m sure I don’t have to tell all of you how exhausting this year has been. We’ve had some rough school years around here in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward so much to summer break. I seriously need a good long streak of weeks without having to listen to the iPad blaring away all day long. (I am infinitely grateful to our school district for offering virtual learning all year long and I adore my daughter’s teacher, but I’m just plain worn out.) Bring on the long days of summer reading!!!

I’m sure you’re needing a break too, wherever you are. I haven’t put in too much thought about my summer reading; I don’t know that I’ll have any kind of a plan for it at all. I’ve been doing a better job of reading stuff from my own shelves, so that’ll probably be a higher priority for me. Other than that, I’ll just wing it. 😉

Let’s get this recap started, shall we???

What I Read in May 2021

1. The New Jew: An Unexpected Conversion by Sally Srok Friedes (no review)

2. Browsing Nature’s Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs by Eric and Wendy Brown

3. Chaos on CatNet (CatNet #2) by Naomi Kritzer

4. What’s Your Pronoun?: Beyond He and She by Dennis Baron

5. Fog Magic by Julia L. Sauer (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

6. Mad Scenes and Exit Arias: The Death of the New York City Opera and the Future of Opera in America by Heidi Waleson

7. Gateway to the Moon by Mary Morris (no review; I thought I had one for this! Super weird. It was a really good book!)

8. The Bible Doesn’t Say That: 40 Biblical Mistranslations, Misconceptions, and Other Misunderstandings by Joel M. Hoffman

9. Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish by Abigail Pogrebin

10. The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

11. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

13. TREYF: My Life as an Orthodox Outlaw by Elissa Altman

14. The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man by Abraham Joshua Heschel (no review)

15. Here and There: Leaving Hasidism, Keeping My Family by Chaya Deitsch

16. All About Sam by Lois Lowry (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

17. Case Closed: Holocaust Survivors in Postwar America by Beth B. Cohen

18. It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell (review to come)

19. Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson (review to come)

Phew! Pretty decent month. Lots of reading to my daughter- four of these were read out loud to her. Eleven of these books came from my TBR; four of the adult titles came from my own shelves! (The kid titles that I read out loud quite often come from our shelves here at the house, but I never count those, since we usually keep them. The fiction that I read from my own shelves usually gets passed along.) I won’t have quite as many read-aloud kid books next month; my daughter and I have embarked upon her first journey through Anne of Green Gables, so that’ll take some time to get through. I’m hopeful that she’ll love it as much as I did when I was young.

Reading Challenge Updates

I finished my parenting group’s reading challenge, and now I’m just trying to read some of the books from my own shelf. Four this month!

State of the Goodreads TBR

Last month, I was at 176, this month it’s at…177! I told you, it just never seems to move from around this number, dangit! Even after reading ELEVEN BOOKS OFF THE LIST!!! *hysterical sobbing*

Books I Acquired in May of 2021

I actually have books to list here this month!

I hit up the used bookstore for the first time in over a year and bought myself some Mother’s Day gifts (someone should do it! It’s been a year plus of serious intensive mothering…). Included in this stash is The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man by Abraham Joshua Heschel, Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish by Abigail Pogrebin, and Bet is for B’reishit by Linda Motzkin. I had worked my way through her Aleph Isn’t Tough just before the pandemic hit- an interlibrary loan copy that I had requested in order to see if I wanted to purchase my own copy. I did, and I used an Amazon gift card this month to purchase both Aleph Isn’t Tough and Aleph Isn’t Enough (I’ve worked my way through this last one before, but I’m going to go through it again as a refresher before moving on to the other two). Now all I need is Tav is for Torah and I’ll have the full set! I can read Hebrew, but I’m slow and I’d like to improve, so I’m going to work my way through these books. Excellent month for obtaining books!

Bookish Things I Did in May 2021

Another excellent month in this category. My library was part of a group of libraries that virtually hosted author Alex Kotlowitz. He’s best known for his classic, There Are No Children Here, and I read and loved his An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago. It was wonderful and thought-provoking to listen to him speak of his experiences writing these books, and how things have changed, and how they haven’t.

AND…my synagogue virtually hosted author Marra B. Gad, author of The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl, which is just such a powerful book. She spoke of her experiences with racism in Jewish spaces, and of how much better we need to do. It’s painful to hear of how much hurt she’s suffered, and it was an excellent reminder of the importance of standing up and saying something when those around us make racist comments (and of checking in on your Black and brown friends when these things happen. Make sure they know you’ve got their back and give them the listening space they need to vent their feelings when these things happen. It’s so important). She is a massively intelligent and thoughtful woman, and I deeply appreciated the ability to learn from her.

Nothing scheduled in June, but that’s okay. It’s nice to have a month off!

Current Podcast Love

I’m a little podcast-burned-out, to be honest. My brain is just kind of tired, and I’ve been needing a break, so lately I’ve just been turning on BBC News World Service radio at night as I fall asleep. There’s something so soothing about listening to hushed British accented-voices that knocks me right out!

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

On hold until life goes back to normal!

Real Life Stuff

Finally, summer break!

I have big plans to keep my daughter learning, so we’ll do a little bit of schoolwork during the week. I’ll definitely have her read and do some math and writing most days, and we’ll do a lot of reading together. It’ll probably be a little more intense than if things were normal, but I want to keep her brain growing and primed for whatever this school year looks like. We’re not sending her until she can be vaccinated; if this means I have to homeschool for a few months, so be it, so I’d rather make sure she’s not losing any learning over the summer.

Speaking of vaccines, I’m now fully vaccinated! My son and I got shot #2 mid-month. He was fine; I had about 24 hours of feeling like feverish, achy, chilled garbage, and then I got up the next morning and was totally fine. It wasn’t even bad enough to keep my husband home from work; I was still able to supervise my kiddo’s distance learning, I just felt gross while doing it and went to bed when he got home. No biggie. We’re still maintaining a ton of caution due to my daughter, though, so really, not much has changed. ☹

I may have something good to report in a bit, but I’m sitting on that for a while longer until everything is confirmed. 😉

Other than that, not really that much going on here! I’m just deeply grateful for summer break and already dreading the return of school in August! I’m sure I’ll be ready for it then, but right now, I just want a whole lot of quiet lazy days filled with great reading.

Wherever you are, whatever your plans are, I hope you’re finding some peace. I’m glad to be fully vaccinated, but I’m deeply uncomfortable with how unequal the vaccine rollouts have been worldwide. We’re all in this together and I’m so upset about the rise in cases in India, Vietnam, Malaysia, various places in South America… I think I’ve signed a few petitions trying to get more vaccine equity around the world, because it’s so necessary. Everyone deserves a chance to protect themselves from this. If you’re not yet vaccinated or you live in a country where it’s been difficult or impossible to get access to a vaccine, my heart is with you. Be safe and hang in there.

Whatever the weather is where you’re at, whatever season you’re heading into, I hope your June is filled with wonderful reading. Keep working for a better world, folks. It’s up to us.

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: April 2021

May Day! May Day! (Quite literally.) It’s May 1st, and the promise of warmer weather is slowing coming to fruition. We’ve had some really nice days here lately and have finally been able to spend some time outside, including multiple picnics with family members. I haven’t moved my swing outside yet- we’ve still had some cool days, so I’m not taking it out of the garage until it’s consistently warm and I can spend my days out there reading, but that day is coming!

This has been a really special month for me, for a lot of reasons, and I’ll get into why in the personal section down below. Reading has also been pretty good for me this month in terms of quality (not numbers, but such is life), and I expect it’ll just keep getting better as my quiet time expands over the summer. Lots of good things right now. 😊

Let’s get this recap started, shall we?

What I Read in April 2021

1. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

2. Why Be Jewish?: A Testament by Edgar M. Bronfman (no review)

3. Pippi in the South Seas by Astrid Lindgren (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

4. Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

5. Once Upon a Bad Boy by Melonie Johnson

6. Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft, and the Quest for Justice by Melissa Müller and Monika Tatzkow

7. What They Saved: Portraits of a Jewish Past by Nancy K. Miller (these four reviews can be read in this catch-up post here)

8. It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories, edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman

9. Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era by Jerry Miller

10. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

11. Frightful’s Mountain by Jean Craighead George (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. Down to Earth by Rhonda Hetzel

Not a great month in terms of sheer numbers, but I enjoyed most of what I read! Eight of these books came from my TBR. One came off my own shelf. I’m finding it really hard to balance TBR reading with own-shelf reading, but at least I’m trying, right???

I was glad to be done with the Pippi books; I didn’t love them as much as an adult as I did as a kid, which is interesting. The Ramona books held up so well for me (especially since my daughter is definitely a Ramona Quimby!), but as a grown-up, I mostly found Pippi exhausting and *ducks* kind of irritating. I enjoyed but didn’t love the second and third books in the My Side of the Mountain trilogy; they really lacked the charm of the first book. I did walk away with a new respect for peregrine falcons and other birds of prey, so that’s pretty awesome. 😊

Reading Challenge Updates

I’m almost done with my parenting group reading challenge! One more book to go, and I’m waiting for that book to arrive via interlibrary loan.

Only one book read off my own shelves. Still working on this…

State of the Goodreads TBR

Last month, I clocked at 175. This month…176! This seems to hover around the same area no matter what I do. So frustrating, seeing as though I had it down to the 70’s pre-pandemic. Sigh.

Books I Acquired in April 2021

A brief trip to the thrift store yielded The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and a book of poetry by Robert Frost. I’ve wanted to read The Woman in White for years, ever since a friend recommended it. It’ll probably have to wait until whenever my daughter goes back to school, though, since it’s a pretty big book. Robert Frost has long been my favorite poet. I’ve been trying to read a few poems per day, but that doesn’t always happen. In terms of my daughter’s behavior, it’s been a rough month (insert cringe emoji here).

Bookish Things I Did in April 2021

I was able to attend a virtual presentation that featured Qasim Rashid, a human rights lawyer and author (and purveyor of excellent dad jokes on Twitter!). He was super inspiring and I really enjoyed getting to hear him speak. I was also able to attend a virtual author chat with Brandy Colbert, author of Little & Lion and Pointe. She’s a fabulous author and an absolutely lovely person, and I really enjoyed hearing her thought processes and what went into writing some of her books. She’s got some really interesting books coming up, too, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for that.

Current Podcast Love

It’s been a month of switching podcasts! I listened to some Judaism Unbound, of course; I’ll get back to this soon, as there are some guests on upcoming episodes that I really want to hear. And then I needed something that I didn’t have to think too much about, because when you’re in a lot of pain, all your brain goes toward processing that, and there’s very little left over. So I switched to Stuff You Should Know and have been enjoying Chuck and Josh informing their listeners on all sorts of topics, from dying of fright to hypoallergenic cats to Niagara Falls to lobotomies. I really enjoy the variety of subjects and all the research they put into each episode (which are short, so they’re not overwhelming!).

I’ve also fallen in love with Gotta Grow Up Sometime, a podcast about the short-lived, early 90s early teen soap opera Swans Crossing. The show itself, which featured a young Sarah Michelle Gellar and Mira Sorvino (among other actors and actresses), was over-the-top dramatic and campy, but at age twelve, I utterly adored it, and it’s fun to look at it with adult eyes. The podcast is full-on snark and joyful hilarity, but to be honest, it only makes me love the show more. I’ve been watching a few episodes here and there while I knit (it’s available on TubiTv).

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

On hold until life goes back to normal.

Real Life Stuff

What a month!

It started off still being in a fair amount of pain from my latest flare with my back (which is still ongoing, btw, though not as acute as it was in the beginning). We had an outdoor, masked cookout with family where I spent the majority of the time lying down on a picnic blanket because I couldn’t yet sit upright full-time, though I *did* manage about 50 minutes of sitting time, which felt pretty huge! This was followed by an MRI the next week, which showed that what’s left of my L5S1 disc is herniated, again, and I have less disc and less disc space there since my last MRI in 2018. Fun times.

My son and I were able to get our first Covid-19 vaccines! So many people we know had to travel ridiculously far in the early days of the vaccine distribution, but things are a little better now, and we were able to get our vaccines less than five miles from our house! The pharmacist was super nice and seemed really excited about all the people he’s been able to make happy lately, which I absolutely love. Neither of us had any side effects from our first doses, and we go back mid-May for our next doses. It’ll be a while before life really goes back to normal for us, since my daughter is too young to be vaccinated, but it’s a relief knowing we’re that much closer to being safer.

Speaking of which, my beautiful, snarky, exhausting, wonderful daughter turned 7! Her second birthday in lockdown, which is sad, but I’m happy we have the opportunity to keep her protected. We were able to have family over multiple days for masked-when-necessary, distanced picnics, and she and her cousin masked up and played in the yard for hours, so honestly, her birthday was pretty great. 😊

And now, for my biggest, happiest news…

Following years (decades, really!) of deep contemplation and longing and learning, and over a year of study with multiple rabbis, my conversion to Judaism is complete. I sat for my beit din (rabbinical court) with some amazing people who made me feel welcome and accepted and celebrated, and then it was off to the mikveh, the ritual immersion bath, which is required to complete conversion. The mikveh experience was deeply emotional and beautiful, and I’m brought to tears every time I think about it. I’ve been randomly bursting into tears and grinning like the Cheshire cat ever since. This was truly one of the best days of my life, and I’m looking forward to getting more involved at my synagogue as I’m able. Afterwards, I came home and threw my overnight rise challah into the oven, because Shabbat.

So April was an interesting month, culminating in something truly life-changing and long-awaited for me, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I hope your April was just as lovely, that your books were plentiful and compelling, and that wherever you are, you’re healthy and staying safe. Much love to my readers in India; my heart has been breaking hearing the stories of the devastation Covid is wreaking on your beautiful country. Be safe, my friends.

Onward to May! Happy reading, friends! Enjoy the beautiful May weather, and may your life be filled with sunshine and flowers, good books, love, peace, and the pursuit of justice.

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: March 2021

And now it’s April! Last year’s March dragged on for approximately 4389294230432 years, but this year, it seemed more normal. Bit of a tough month for us, and I didn’t get nearly the amount of reading done that I wish I could have, but such is life (I feel like I say this a lot these days…). The month at least ended with my daughter’s spring break, so we got a little bit of relaxation in there (don’t get me wrong, I very much appreciate the tiny bit of normalcy that her school schedule, even though it’s virtual, gives us- routine is good!- but a break is good now and then, especially after this month). Warmer-ish temperatures are here (though we still have chances for snow! A few years ago, it snowed for ten hours straight the day before my daughter’s outdoor April birthday party. And then the next day it was 65. Oh, Midwest…), and with them comes the promise of several months’ worth of outdoor reading. I’m so very much looking forward to that!

Let’s get this recap started, shall we?

What I Read in March 2021

1. Marriageology: The Art and Science of Staying Together by Belinda Luscombe (no review)

2. Paddington Takes to TV by Michael Bond (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

3. The Organ Thieves: The Shocking of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South by Chip Jones

4. Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches From the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz

5. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

6. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

7. The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket by Benjamin Lorr

8. Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation by Sharon Astyk

9. Jew[ish] by Matt Greene (no review)

10. Miriam’s Kitchen by Elizabeth Ehrlich

11. On the Far Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. Man Seeks God: My Flirtations With the Divine by Eric Weiner (review to come)

13. Pippi Goes on Board by Astrid Lindgren (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

In terms of numbers, this wasn’t a great month, but I’ll get to the why of that in a bit. But in terms of quality, I’m happy. Eight of these books came off my TBR, including five of them from my interlibrary loan list (so happy I’m able to get books through there again!). I didn’t get to any off of my own shelves, but that’s just how it goes sometimes and I’ll try again in April. One of these books counted towards my parenting group reading challenge.

I’m enjoying reading the My Side of the Mountain series with my daughter. I never read past the first one as a kid (which I reread a TON of times; what kid doesn’t want to run off to the woods and live in a hollowed-out tree???), and the first one is still the best by far, but the others are still fun reads. She’s wanting to take a break between books #2 and 3 to return to the Pippi Longstocking books, though, which is fine!

Reading Challenge Updates

I have three books left for my parenting group reading challenge- and really, one of them, I could fill in with a few of the books I’ve already read (it’s a prompt to read something you’re passionate about, and I read a lot on topics I’m passionate about!), but we’ll see. The only one I’m not sure what I’ll read is to read from a genre you never read. I’m thinking maybe short stories? I think I’ve read two books of short stories as an adult (one I loved, one I didn’t; it’s not a genre I normally care for), so I’m very much open to suggestions here!

State of the Goodreads TBR

Last month, I clocked in at 179; this month, it’s…175! I may just hover in this general area until the pandemic is over and the house gets quieter.

Books I Acquired in March 2021

Two this month. I stopped by the dollar store to pick up a set of nail clippers for my husband, and they had hardcover copies of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I loved that book, and though I don’t keep a lot of fiction books, I decided that for a dollar, I would absolutely love to have my own copy of it. I also grabbed a copy of Little Women from a Little Free Library to eventually read out loud to my daughter.

Bookish Things I Did in March 2021

Uh…nothing? Which is probably a good thing, as stressful as this month was. In April, I may have the chance to virtually attend a talk by Qasim Rashid, who is awesome, so I’m looking forward to that.

Current Podcast Love

I’m taking a bit of a break from Judaism Unbound and listening to Crime Junkie. I don’t normally listen to true crime stuff, but I switched one night when I had a wretched migraine and needed something that I didn’t much have to think about. I’ll probably switch back in a bit, but Crime Junkie definitely features some interesting and tragic stories. It also highlights exactly how much society doesn’t care about people from lower classes, and women in particular. If you’re female and you’ve ever suffered from addiction, that absolutely lessens the chances that law enforcement will want to search for you if you ever go missing. It’s utterly horrifying.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

On hold until life goes back to normal!

Real Life Stuff

So.

I usually start this section off with a picture, but I’m not going to this month, because it’s still too hard for me to look through my pictures.

I mentioned last month that Reba, my girl cat, wasn’t doing well, and, as expected, she left us this month to go wherever the best cats end up. She’d been showing signs of feline dementia for quite a long time, and over the past six weeks, she declined rapidly. Making the decision to let her go was awful, but it was the right one, though I miss her terribly. It was a hard, hard month in that aspect. We still have Piglet, my tuxedo boy, but he’s not all that young, either, though he seems to be in okay health. I’ve been snuggling him a lot the past week.

All the stress of watching her decline and worrying about her led me to have several migraines and some lesser-but-still-nasty-and-debilitating headaches, which was awful. A few nights, I was in bed by 9 pm, feeling like someone shot me in the head. My body really doesn’t handle stress well! I’m currently experiencing a nasty flare of nerve pain due to my back issues; it’s next to impossible to get anything done because the only comfortable position is lying down. I got new meds for this yesterday, so I’m crossing everything that they help. If not, back to the doctor with me on Monday.

Stressing over the cat took up a lot of time and energy this month; I feel like that was the majority of what went on around here. I had my last Zoom Judaism class; now it’s on to writing an essay about my spiritual journey. “It can be any length,” the rabbi said, and I wondered, though I refrained from asking, if there was a length that would be too long. I get kind of wordy sometimes. *nervous laughter* That said, Chag Pesach Sameach to everyone celebrating! 😊

What’s next in April? My daughter’s #2 pandemic birthday; she’ll be 7, and we’ll do our best to make the day special for her when she still can’t have friends or family help her celebrate- though we may try to see family for an outdoor, distanced, masked walk and/or picnic, depending on what the weather dictates. I have my first mammogram on the 15th– FUN TIMES!!! Three days before that, vaccines for all becomes a thing in my state; I’ll wait until after my mammogram to start trying for shots for my son and me (husband got his first dose yesterday!!!), because the shots can cause lymph node swelling that may interfere with proper imaging, so I’m begrudgingly waiting those extra days! My parents, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law are all fully vaccinated, so that’s at least a relief.

Two more months of virtual school left for my daughter before summer break (and then I’m sure I’ll miss the routine of virtual school!). We can do this!!! We’ve started some plants for our garden already; not sure when we’ll be able to put those out, but we’ll at least be able to start clearing the garden out a bit this month.

Hang in there, friends. Enjoy some good books, hug your pets, and keep looking forward and working for brighter days. Do your part to end the pandemic and fight for justice for all, so that we all end up together, whole, on the other side of this. May your April be warm, peaceful, and full of the promise of better things to come.

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: February 2021

It’s March…again. Did last year’s March ever really leave, though? Isn’t this really just March II: The Marchening? It’s all been one hideously long March, hasn’t it? What a weird, weird year it’s been.

February went by in a massive snowstorm here. It snowed, and then it snowed some more, and then it snowed a little more and it just kept snowing! (See below for a picture of a waist-high snowdrift in my backyard!) I was also plagued with migraines and a flare-up of my back, so while we were all cozy and tucked in at home, I was also tucked in with a whole heap of pain. Not the greatest month, but I’m still here, and still reading, albeit slowly. Migraines don’t make for the best of reading conditions, and some of the books I read this month slowed me way down, but that happens. Hopefully your February was a little smoother than mine!

Let’s get this recap started, shall we?

What I Read in February 2021

1. The Pauper and the Prince by Mark Twain (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

2. The Boyfriend Project by Farah Rochon

3. A Girl Named Anna by Lizzy Barber

4. The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton (no review; read for book club)

5. Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

6. The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn

7. The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

8. Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook, Ko Hyung-Ju, and Ryan Estrada

9. Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

10. Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez (review to come)

11. The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden by Ivette Soler (no review)

12. Paddington at Large by Michael Bond (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

13. Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey (review to come)

Slowish month, but that’s okay, I had a lot of challenges. The Lost took up quite a bit of time- eight days, I think, which is a significant portion of a short month! I didn’t review The Revisioners; it’s outside of the scope of my normal reading and more literary than I usually tend towards, so I didn’t feel as though I totally understood it as well as I needed to in order to write a competent review. And I didn’t review The Edible Front Yard; I was more just looking for some gardening inspiration. My daughter and I got through a ton of books together this month, though! 😊

Reading Challenge Updates

Banned Book Club and The Prince and the Pauper were for my parenting group reading challenge! Four left for this challenge. The only books I read from my own shelves this month were the ones I read to my daughter; I’ll try better to get to my own books a little more in March!

State of the Goodreads TBR

Last month, I clocked in at 187 books; this month, I’m down to 179!!! I’m pretty excited about that. Six of my books this month came from my TBR. I took a few off, including one I started from the library but that just ended up being so terribly written that I couldn’t bring myself to continue. It happens!

Books I Acquired in February 2021

I won a prize package from the Writing Slices blog, which included a copy of Cash Flow for Creators by Michael W. Lucas (and a bunch of other cool stuff! Thanks, Alex!!!). I think that was it for the month; we’re still not going out anywhere, and it’s been too cold and snowy to visit any of the nearby Little Free Libraries.

Bookish Things I Did in February 2021

It was a pretty good month, bookish-event-ly speaking! I attended a Zoom presentation by Talia Lavin, author of Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy (which I haven’t read yet, but it’s on my TBR). SUPER fascinating presentation about an extremely disturbing topic. I also attended a Zoom presentation by author Jodi Eichler-Levine, author of Painted Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis: How Jews Craft Resilience and Create Community. It really made me miss crafting seriously (which I haven’t had time for this past year!), and it made me think about possibly getting together some sort of crafting group when all of this is over. I attended an online interview of Tara Westover, author of Educated, presented by our local parent education group. The quality wasn’t great, unfortunately; the sound and video weren’t synced up, which made it a little hard to follow along, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. I signed up to attend my library’s virtual Own Voices book club Zoom, where we would discuss The Revisioners, but I hadn’t realized that that date fell on Purim, so I opted to skip the meeting and virtually attend Purim services instead. I tried, though! And I did read the book! And, while not entirely book-related (though I did add one book to my TBR mentioned during the second presentation), I did attend two virtual tours of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel (phew. Even virtually, it’s heavy. I held it together during the first presentation until we got to the Children’s Memorial, and then I lost it).

Current Podcast Love

Still moseying through Judaism Unbound with Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg. I’m behind in Leaving Eden with Gavriel Ha’Cohen and Sadie Carpenter; between migraines and my back being messed up, I haven’t had any good exercise time lately, so no time on the bike to listen to this awesome podcast. Hoping for better in March!

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

On hold until life goes back to normal!

Real Life Stuff

Phew! What a month. Snow, snow, more snow, lots of Zoom presentations, a little bit of reading, a WHOLE lot of pain (boooooooooooooooooo). I’m not sure if my back is acting up because I’ve spent so much time not moving due to migraines, or because of the constant weather fluctuations around here (we’ve recently gone from temperatures in the single digits to some days in the 40s and 50s, which is normally a huge problem for my pain levels), or because my back just feels like being a jerk, but I’m hurting pretty badly right now. But it was the migraines that sent me back to the doctor a few days ago. I had one last month, and then another one this month that just. wouldn’t. die. I hate it when my back hurts, but I actually prefer that over migraines. Migraines just ruin every single thing about the entire day and leave me feeling crummy for several days afterwards. The migraines probably aren’t helped by my stress levels; my girl cat’s sensitive stomach has been acting up. She’s old and probably doesn’t have a ton of time left, so I’m doing everything I can to keep her happy and comfortable, but it’s still hard.

Still no vaccines on the horizon for us, but both my parents have received their first shot, and I was able to help my mother-in-law secure an appointment! She got her first shot a few days ago as well. That made me super excited. 😊  The more people protected, the better! Next comes shot #2 for all of them; it seems like that’s the tough one with the higher instance of side effects, so I’m crossing my fingers they’ll breeze on through.

What’s on the calendar for me in March? Two more presentations from Yad Vashem, what should be my final study session with my rabbi, a doctor appointment for my son. Hopefully less snow and some above-freezing temperatures for us. I’m SO ready to put my swing out on the back patio and spend my days reading there. That probably won’t happen until late May; the weather around here can be seriously temperamental until very late spring (we’ve even had some stupidly chilly Junes!), but I can at least pull my folding chairs out onto the front porch and read on the warmer days, and heck, I’ll take that. Digging in the garden probably won’t start happening until April, but a girl can dream, right?

We’ve circled back around and made an entire year of this pandemic, folks. Be gentle with yourselves; it’s not easy to think of all that we’ve lost over this past year. But keep looking forward; this will end one day, we’ll get through this, and really, there’s so much to look forward to. Hang in there, my friends.

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: January 2021

Happy February! One month of 2021 down, eleven more to go!

What a strange, strange month- but are there any other kinds these days? It started off with frightening political stuff and has ended…kind of calmly,  or what passes for calm these days.  We had our first major snowfall here a few days ago, sending all the kids in my daughter’s class to virtual learning for the day. This was followed by another storm system, blanketing our town with almost a foot of snow on top of what was already there! There’s little I love more than watching the snow fall; it’s so peaceful, though I worried like crazy about my husband driving home from the city in that mess during the first system. It sure is pretty, though.

As far as reading goes, although my numbers weren’t anything crazy, I’m extremely proud of the books I’ve read this month, and I’ll get into the why of that. But suffice it to say, January hasn’t been too bad around here. We’re all healthy, I’ve taken up a new hobby (if you can call it that…), and we’re managing. That’s all we can ask for these days, I think!

Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?

What I Read in January 2021

1. Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

2. Bad Habits by Flynn Meaney (review to come)

3. My Basmati Bar Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

4. Dear Martin by Nic Stone

5. Julie’s Wolf Pack by Jean Craighead George (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

6. Stamped From the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

7. Such a Perfect Wife by Kate White

8. What We Will Become: A Mother, a Son, and a Journey of Transformation by Mimi Lemay

9. Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness by Alisa Roth

10 How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish, edited by Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert

11. An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz

12. Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett

13. Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein

14. Citizen 865: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America by Debbie Cenziper (review to come)

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I’m SUPER happy with the quality of the books I’ve completed this month. While my numbers aren’t impressive, the amount of pages I’ve read are pretty great- two of the books I read were over five hundred pages, which is amazing for me lately. I’ve shied away from the longer, more comprehensive books this past year because my brain just couldn’t handle it, but this month, I dove right in. Seven fiction, seven nonfiction. I really love nonfiction but read so much fiction last year because I just couldn’t focus on serious things (and there’s nothing wrong with fiction at all! I just really, really love nonfiction and it hurts when I can’t focus on it), but I think I’ve evened out a little and can handle it better. Plus I’m only doing the reading challenge with my parenting group (12 books; I’ve completed six of them so far), so I’m able to read more from my TBR and my own shelves. I feel really great about the quality of the books I’ve read this month and that makes me really happy.

Reading Challenge Updates

Only my parenting group challenge to worry about, which is honestly a relief. I love reading challenges for how they push me and expand my reading world, but I really needed a break this year. Six of the books I’ve read this month- Grown, My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, Stamped From the Beginning, An American Summer, Hollywood Park, and Turtle Boy were from this challenge AND from my TBR. That’s a win on all fronts!!! The only prompt here for which I’m not sure what I’ll read is the one that prompts you to read a book from a genre you never read. I’m thinking maybe a book of short stories, since I generally steer clear of those. If anyone has any suggestions here, I’m all ears! (Or, uh, eyes? Since I’m reading this? Not sure how that saying works when it comes to text…)

State of the Goodreads TBR

187 last month- down to 181 this month! I’ve been reading from my TBR and my own shelves, so hopefully this will start dropping faster! (If I can keep from piling the books onto it, that is!) Ten of this month’s books came from my TBR.

Books I Acquired in January 2021

None! I’m staying out of the stores thanks to the new variants of Covid, and I don’t usually order books online unless they’re something I need (and it’s too cold to walk to any of the Little Free Libraries near me!).

Bookish Things I Did in January 2021

The library had a presentation by some local musicians on the music of the Vietnam War, so I attended that virtually. Super fun!

Our library is open again for browsing, but I’ve stuck to just requesting and picking up instead of going in. A librarian friend of mine pointed out that libraries’ air filtration systems really aren’t meant to handle a virus like this, so if I can be one fewer person to add to the system’s stress, then so be it. I may go in early one day and grab some books for my daughter, but ONLY if there aren’t many people in there- but we’ll see. So far, she’s making do with what I’m able to order and pick up. 😊

Current Podcast Love

More of the same this month. Still making my way through Judaism Unbound with Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg. And while I bike, I’m listening to the Leaving Eden podcast with Gavriel Ha’Cohen and Sadie Carpenter. I cannot recommend this one highly enough. It’s about Sadie’s experiences leaving the Independent Fundamental Baptist cult (similar to the Duggar Family’s ATI group, but different). Sadie and Gavriel are both extremely intelligent, thoughtful, and fun; they balance the heavier issues with lighter episodes that keep me laughing out loud as I work out. I really enjoy this one a lot.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

On hold until life goes back to normal. I did read two books from my own shelves this month, though! Progress!

Real Life Stuff

(The red decals are to keep birds from flying into the window. Doesn’t always work, sigh. This is from the first big snowfall. There’s actually MORE snow on the ground now!)

Not a bad month, with the exception of the drama of January 6th. I skipped reading that day and my son and I stayed glued to the news and our devices. Not something I ever thought I would see in my lifetime, and I hope to never see it again, though I’m not holding my breath in this political climate.

I’ve been trying to focus more on reading these days instead of doom scrolling, and it’s working well so far. My daughter’s managing the second half of first grade just fine; my son’s new classes haven’t started up yet, so he’s mostly just hanging out and working on other projects (and spending a lot of time online, of course- what else is there to do?).

In December, I realized how much SITTING I’ve been doing and decided that needed to change. I started doing yoga every day, then started adding in some cardio as well- usually riding my exercise bike that I keep in a corner of the bedroom or doing a workout video on YouTube if the living room is free (it usually isn’t). A friend started up a group for the YouTube Channel Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day Breath program and I started participating in that- it’s a daily video, anywhere from 16-35 minutes of yoga, and after I finish that I get on my bike for 30 minutes. At night I do a 10-15 minute ab/lower body workout, and I’m happy to say that after five weeks, I started actually enjoying the workouts instead of just swearing all the way through them, haha! I just want to be healthy and still have my clothes fit when all of this is over (a new wardrobe would be expensive and I’m really not wanting to do that! Plus I LOATHE trying on clothes, ugh). The best part is that my right hip has stopped hurting so much. There used to be something in there that hurt all. the. time. Even my physical therapist couldn’t figure out what it really was or why, and none of the exercises she gave me ever helped, and whatever it was has been hurting for about five years. I got into pigeon pose the other day during yoga, which usually feels really good on that sore part of my hip, and I realized…it doesn’t hurt anymore. Not like it did. My lower back still hurts (especially today, sob), and my SI joints are still painful, but hey, ONE LESS THING!!!!!!!!!!

Still no vaccines on the horizon for us, so I’m just happy to hole up with my books and my workout videos and podcasts and waiting until it’s our turn!

What’s coming in February? I’ll have my Zoom Judaism classes, and then something I’ve been looking forward to since last year- Tara Westover, author of Educated, is making a virtual appearance thanks to our school district’s parent education group. She was supposed to be here in person but obviously that can’t happen, but I’m so excited to have this opportunity to hear her speak, and that she’s still doing this! That’s definitely something to look forward to. 😊 I have two other authors I *may* be able to hear speak virtually; check back in next month to see! 🙂

Stay warm and healthy this February, friends! Keep up the masking and social distancing; better days are ahead of us but only if we get there in one piece. Keep standing up for justice for all and staying true to who you are. And read on! May your February be filled with excellent reads and the love of excellent people. Be well, my friends.

Monthly roundup

Monthly roundup: December 2020

Fare thee well, 2020, and may the door hit you twice on the way out. Let’s cross our fingers that 2021 will be a better year than…you know…whatever that mess was. *glances nervously behind me*

December started out to be about the slowest reading and blogging month I’ve had yet. Having far too much to do resulted in so little time to read- with a bit of a reprieve at the end. Yay, winter break! Not having much reading time grates on me, but there’s nothing to be done about it. I can’t create more time, and I can’t delegate any of the tasks I need to do, and I can’t create more quiet space for myself in the times where I’d like to read but can’t focus because it’s too loud in the house. (Even as I write this, I have 2348348932479832 things I need to get done today, including multiple errands that will take me out of the house, and the television is on across the room. Story of my life these days! At least no one is screaming.) Seriously, these vaccines cannot roll out fast enough, and I’d like to order one child-safe version so my daughter can go back to school in person for at least SOME of second grade next school year!

But if that’s my biggest complaint, I’m doing pretty great. A dear friend has had Covid and seems to have fallen into the long hauler category, and I’m worried about her, as well as her family member who isn’t doing well. So many others are struggling and suffering for so many reasons, and my frustrations pale in comparison.

Anyway. Let’s get this monthly roundup- small as it is!- started, shall we?

What I Read in December 2020

1. The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism by Katherine Stewart

2. Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles

3. The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw by Mark Crilley

4. What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

5. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

6. Dandelion Hunter: Foraging the Urban Wilderness by Rebecca Lerner

7. The Land of Truth: Talmud Tales, Timeless Teachings by Jeffrey L. Rubenstein (no review)

8. Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—And Doesn’t by Stephen R. Prothero

9. Chicago History for Kids: Triumphs and Tragedies of the Windy City, Includes 21 Activities by Owen J. Hurd (no review)

10. Julie by Jean Craighead George (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

11. Meet You Under the Stars by Traci Borum

12. Looking Back: A Book of Memories by Lois Lowry (no review)

13. Come Back to Me by Mila Gray

14. The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy (review to come)

I enjoyed most of what I read this month, so that’s great! The last three books came from my own shelves. Go me! Religious Literacy took me a long time to get through, solely because it was information-dense, which makes it more difficult for me to focus on (same for The Land of Truth). The Drawing Lesson made a MASSIVE difference in my drawings- I felt like it taught me so, so much, and I’ve been hearing the author in my head as I’ve been drawing with my daughter (you can see my latest drawings on my Instagram; there’s definitely been improvement!). What the Night Sings is still ringing in my head as well; it’s such a powerful, devastating, beautiful book, and I’m so glad I read it.

Now. Julie of the Wolves. Some of you probably remember this as a childhood classic. Maybe you even had to read it for school. (I never enjoyed books about nature when I was young, so I avoided it, and it never ended up on any of our lists at school.) I have a large book with all three books from the series crammed into one, and so I’m reading it to my daughter, and it hasn’t held up particularly well. My brilliant friend Sandy noted this in a better way than I ever could. Be sure to click on the review by Martha Stackhouse; she picks apart this book in an authoritative way and you shouldn’t miss that. Julie of the Wolves and the subsequent books in the series highlight the absolute necessity of the Own Voices movement, and my daughter and I are having plenty of conversations about the inaccuracies in the book and who gets to tell what stories as I read to her. She’s a huge fan of PBS’s Molly of Denali (highly recommended, especially the episode titled ‘Grandpa’s Drum.’ Get the tissues ready; I cry every time we watch this one). Huge thanks to Sandy for making me aware of the issues with these books before I started reading them to my daughter.

Reading Challenge Updates

I did manage to complete the 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge earlier this year, a massive feat in this dumpster fire of a year, and I’m pretty proud of that. Here’s my final list:

Tada! I had to switch up some of the books I’d originally planned to read, simply because my access to other libraries was curtailed due to the pandemic. A bummer, but again, as far as problems go, not the worst to have. I’m just proud of being able to finish this one at all!

What’s next in terms of challenges for 2021? The only formal challenge I’ll be participating in this year is a challenge my longtime online parenting group is putting on. Twelve books, one book for every month (but they don’t have to be read in order and we can get through them at our own pace!), and the suggestions are fairly simple. I’m super excited about this! All my other reading will pingpong back and forth from my Goodreads TBR to my own shelves. I’m going to try to read one book from my own shelves for every book I read from the library, but we’ll see how that goes.

Something else I do throughout the year is keep track of where my books are set on my living room map of the world, by placing a marker on each country in which a book I read is set or about (each country gets only one peg, though I sometimes read multiple books set there). Here’s a (crummy) picture of how my map ended up this year:

I’m happy with all the books I read set in Asia and especially southern Asia; that was new for me this year. Europe is almost always featured heavily, but I definitely need to pick up the pace on South America and Africa! (I don’t necessarily try to vary the locations where my books are set; this is just how it ends up.) Who knows how things will go this year, with my reading looking different than other years due to being restricted to only one library.

State of the Goodreads TBR

From 176 last month to 187 this month! Those end-of-the-year book lists are killer!

Books I Acquired in December 2020

I don’t *think* I acquired any new books this month… I never receive books as holiday gifts, solely because I read so much that no one wants to take the chance of getting me a book I’ve already read, which is pretty smart!

Bookish Things I Did in December 2020

I’ve been able to attend several webinars via Zoom that clued me in to a few books I want to read, one on continuing Holocaust education and another on the future of Judaism now that it’s been forced to make a large digital leap (more on this below!). I so appreciate these opportunities to learn different things and, of course, find more great books to read!

Current Podcast Love

I’m still slowly making my way through Judaism Unbound with Dan Libenson and Lex Rofeberg. That second Zoom webinar I attended featured Dan Libenson as the main presenter, and it was fantastic to see and hear him in a different format than I usually do! He even referred to a few different episodes of the podcast, which I had actually listened to, which was kind of funny, because out of the several hundred people logged into this webinar, I was one of the few who was there due to the podcast (most of the rest were attending because of their association with the organization putting the webinar on). Dan and Lex are absolutely brilliant and sometimes I have a hard time keeping up with them because they’re so incredibly intelligent, but I learn a lot from this podcast and am really enjoying it.

I’ve also started exercising regularly, and on the days I use my exercise bike in the bedroom, I’ve been listening to the Leaving Eden podcast with Gavriel Ha’Cohen and Sadie Carpenter, about Sadie’s rejection of her IFB church upbringing (similar to, but with some differences from the Duggar family’s ATI cult group). It’s funny and heartbreaking and dark and intriguing as heck, and I cannot recommend this one highly enough if you’re interested in cults and niche religious movements.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

On hold until life goes back to normal.

Real Life Stuff

What a busy month! Lots of various holiday preparation and activities around here; studying for my Judaism class (which continues to be awesome and I love it so much). Lots of cleaning and organizing around the house. Lots of cooking (latkes!) and baking (cookies!) as usual. I was able to see my parents- masked, distanced, and standing apart on the front porch- briefly. I cut my daughter’s hair from almost waist-length to shoulder-length, and it’s so cute! (Both kids are rockin’ the mom cut right now!) I’ve started exercising recently in the hopes that at least *some* of my clothing will still fit when the pandemic is over and also in the hopes that my body will stop looking like a semi-melted candle. (A girl can dream, right?) My kids are enjoying this break from school and the exhaustion that is virtual learning- and so am I. It’s hard to be constantly monitoring my daughter’s behavior AND academic performance while also trying to get my own stuff done. COME ON, VACCINES FOR KIDS!!!!!!!!!!

What’s next for 2021? WHO KNOWS??????????? It’s hard to make any predictions about anything right now. I’ve made my peace with the fact that my daughter will be at home for all of first grade; it’s the safest thing for everyone right now, but I’m cautiously hopeful that she’ll see at least some of second grade in person. My husband and son and I will be jumping at the chance to get the vaccine when it’s offered to us (whenever that is!), as will the vast majority of our close family members. I’ve already had quite a few healthcare worker friends receive theirs and I’m beyond thrilled for them!!! There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how distant.

This will be a year of changes for me, in terms of conversion to Judaism (although the timeline on that depends on the pandemic, and that’s fine- pikuach nefesh, the preservation of human life, reigns supreme here and I’m happy to bide my time so that everything is done only when safe for everyone involved) and hopefully being able to get involved at my synagogue in-person. I’m seriously looking forward to that!

In terms of reading, I’m assuming this will be a slow year for the most part, and that’s okay. Nothing to be done about that. I’ll still set my Goodreads goal at 100 books like I do every year, and I *should* be able to meet that, but I highly doubt I’ll get anywhere near the 200-some books I read last year. I’ll consider it a massive win if I even get to 130, simply because I’m just so pressed for time. I wasn’t thrilled with a lot of my reading this year, and I realized that’s because in years when I’m happy with my reading, I skew heavily towards nonfiction, and this year I read way more fiction, solely because it’s easier for my brain to process (and that’s not a slam at people who solely read fiction. I love fiction; I just also really, really love learning new things and I like to put my brain to work! It makes up for all the rest of my life being about taking care of my kids and scrubbing the kitchen counter!).

This is a year of taking it one day at a time, I think. With so much up in the air, everything so uncertain, I’m just going to enjoy the days as they come, read and learn as much as I can, and keep on doing everything I can to keep life as even as possible for my family. I think that’s probably the most we can hope for until things settle down- and hopefully they will (although my heart is still shaken by the suicide bomber that blew up 2nd Street in Nashville. I lived in Metro Nashville for a year and moved out to the suburb we lived in for four, but I’ve walked that street many times, and it hurts to see photos of the devastation. America, what are you letting yourself become???).

I’m wishing you all a safe, healthy 2021. May your year be filled with good health, as much normalcy as we can create, and the beauty of fabulous books to carry us through the ups and downs. Be well, my friends.

Monthly roundup

Monthly roundup: November 2020

It’s December already! Although, technically, I think it’s actually still March, right??? What a weird year.

Slow but steady month around here, folks- nothing new. My stomach is still recovering from the stress it went through with the elections earlier this month. Our Covid numbers are horrible where I am. 11-12,000 cases per day, 150-200 deaths each day. My daughter’s school decided to go virtual for the week after Thanksgiving; I’m thinking they’re hoping that anyone that’s going to be symptomatic will be by the time the kids go back. I wish they’d go all virtual until after winter break; I think that would be the smarter, safer move for everyone, especially since yesterday’s return to virtual school involved stories from all the students about where they traveled to to spend Thanksgiving and with whom they spent it (one girl is *still* out of state and will be all week). It’s all such a nightmare.

But we’re doing okay and staying healthy at the Not-At-the-Library-Because-They’ve-Returned-to-Curbside-Pickup-Only household! I’m not getting much reading time in; I can’t read during the day because I also have to pay attention to my daughter’s classes so I can keep her on track and reinforce what she’s learning, and then we do extra stuff when she’s released from her virtual learning sessions. But I’m making my way through my last stash of library books and then I’ll move on to reading some from my own shelves, because I promised I’d be better about that this year, and I will. 😊

Let’s get this recap started, shall we?

What I Read in November 2020

1. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

2. Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter

3. The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

4. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

5. Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen

6. Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen

7. The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright

8. The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

9. An Introduction to Judaism by Nicholas de Lange (no review)

Quiet month around here! Five of these were from my TBR; two were read-alouds (don’t bother with The Frog Princess; the writing was so awkward and the dialogue so stilted that it made for a kind of terrible read-aloud); one was an impulse grab. An Introduction to Judaism was a short book but a slow read; the author is at Cambridge and writes in such an academic style (and in a way that shows he is way, way smarter than I could ever dream of being!) that getting through this took all month, especially with my limited reading time. Six fiction; three nonfiction.

Reading Challenge Updates

Nothing from my own shelves this month (other than the two read-alouds, but that’s solely because I’ve been anticipating another library shut down, so I grabbed a STACK of books), but I’ll do my best to get back to those next!

State of the Goodreads TBR

173 last month; 176 this month! Not too much creep, so that makes me happy! We’ll see what this looks like next month, haha! All those ‘Best Books of 2020’ and ‘Most Anticipated Books of 2021’ lists should be making their way to the internet soon. Craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaapppp…

Books I Acquired in November 2020

Um…none? I don’t think?

Bookish Things I Did in November 2020

So, not entirely bookish, but at the beginning of the month, I virtually attended a seminar on the future of Holocaust education in the US, which was both sobering and super interesting, and I added a book or two to my TBR from this (one of which I have checked out from the library right now!).

Current Podcast Love

Still listening to Judaism Unbound, and I’ve added in Stuff Jews Should Know, which is super fun and informative. 😊 The iTunes podcast player keeps shutting it down and telling me some episodes are temporarily unavailable, which is annoying and wakes me up at night, so I’ll only be able to listen to this one at certain times.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

On hold until life goes back to normal, although I’m trying to keep a Judaism-themed book going at all times (I have one on stories from the Talmud next), which also factors into my other reading time, so this kind of counts? Maybe?

Real Life Stuff

Just another month of quarantine life around here! We just did virtual parent-teacher conferences for my daughter; she’s doing really well in everything (especially reading!), so I’m very happy with her progress- not that I doubted it, because I’m literally RIGHT BEHIND HER at all times during school, haha! Her math has improved as well; I really love the curriculum the school uses, as I feel it teaches math in such a logical way. She has such a better grasp on math than I did at her age, which makes me incredibly happy. She’s also started picking up chapter books and reading them on her own, which is a HUGE deal. She’s currently enjoying the Bad Kitty series; I get such joy out of watching her read and giggle.

My son has taken up cooking as a hobby, so I hang out with him in the kitchen and help out when he needs advice (I also chop onions for him; he reacts pretty badly to them!). He’s made some seriously amazing food so far, including a baked ziti that was restaurant-quality and better than anything I’ve cooked in the last eight months. I highly approve of this new hobby!

My husband and I have been watching The Path on Hulu at night, and since it’s about what basically amounts to a Scientology-like cult, you know I’m in. I’ve been knitting hats for a mobile homeless shelter (for whenever things go back to normal) while we watch (at least most nights! Some nights I’m too tired), so I’m at least trying to make the best of that time.

Thanksgiving was quiet here. I made a turkey-flavored seitan with white bean mushroom gravy, my son helped make not-crab cakes (made with black-eyed peas; he also made crab cakes for the rest of the family) and a red pepper tomato mayo sauce, cheese potatoes, green beans, and rolls. We had a store-bought cheesecake for dessert. Everything was SUPER delicious! I’ve spent half of my adult life living out of state from the rest of my family, so Thanksgiving with just the four of us was really nothing new. We did meet up with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law for a masked, distanced outdoor walk afterwards, but that was the extent of our gathering. No virus-sharing for us!

That’s about it for us, it was a quiet month. Hang in there, friends. We’ve got Hanukkah and Christmas coming up, still distanced- except for the people who won’t, and that’s going to overwhelm our healthcare system. The small hospital where I was born is at capacity with HALF of their patients in there because of Covid. Don’t be one of those people; wear your mask, keep your distance, celebrate virtually so we can all be here to celebrate in person next year. And, as always, fight for justice and equality wherever you go; elevate the voices that get pushed out of the way; lift as you climb. Society doesn’t function to the best of its ability unless we’re all able to participate equally.  

Happy reading, friends! May your December be full of warmth, light, love, and amazing books.

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: October 2020

Goodness. What a month. Have you ever had a month where you get so little reading done, it’s laughable? That was this month. It’s just been one thing after another. Nothing major, just pandemic-life business. Daughter’s virtual school blends into daughter’s home school which fades into Zoom class which turns into errands and then dinner and then daughter’s bedtime and then husband wants to watch something on TV. And there goes my entire day! We’ve had a LOT of days like this, with errands, chores, online meetings, and household tasks (like overhauling my daughters room, AGAIN; three hours of life I’ll never get back, AGAIN) that have just sucked away my reading time. It’s not been a great reading month for me.

Things are crazy all over, though; my state is doing terribly in regards to case numbers and people are screaming like toddlers about their rights to cough all over nursing home residents (“They’re old! They were going to die anyway! Disabled people can just stay home! It’s my RIGHT to eat in a restaurant!!!”), and I just don’t understand anything anymore. I can’t imagine November is going to be any calmer, but I’m glad I have plenty of books to get lost in when I have time for them, because boy, the real world stinks right now.

Let’s focus on recapping October, shall we?

What I Read in October 2020

1. Being Jewish: The Spiritual and Cultural Practice of Judaism Today by Ari Goldman (no review)

2. Pointe by Brandy Colbert

3. The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

4. Home Sweet Anywhere: How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life, and Saw the World by Lynne Martin

5. Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

6. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

7. This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick

8. Year of the Rabbit by Tian Veasna (no review)

9. Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul by Naomi Levy (no review)

Seriously about the worst month of reading, numbers-wise, that I’ve had since my daughter was a non-sleeping infant/toddler! But if we look behind the numbers, The Librarian of Auschwitz was emotionally taxing and took me a bit to work through. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is information-dense and isn’t a quick read at all. This Is Where You Belong was a great read but a bit bittersweet, since literally none of its suggestions can be implemented right now, and then there’s the constant doomscrolling I’ve been engaged in, and the fact that my husband wants to watch TV with me every night and the fact that I have a hard time reading when all of first grade is taking place about five and a half feet in front of me (and I spend probably a good three+ hours a day engaging with my daughter with either classwork for her virtual schooling or doing extra school stuff that her school just isn’t able to do virtually, due to time constraints). It’s been a month, seriously. Home Sweet Anywhere and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle came from my own shelves, so I’m happy with that progress! There’s actually SPACE on my shelf by the TV!

Reading Challenge Updates

In the Read From My Own Shelves challenge, I’m down two books (and took another one off, because two pages in, I realized this was absolutely not the book for me). These books will head off to a Little Free Library near me as soon as I can remember to grab them before I head out the door on a walk!

State of the Goodreads TBR

170 last month, 173 this month. Four of the books I read this month came off of my TBR. Slow month for everything!

Books I Acquired in October 2020

Hmmm. I grabbed a bunch of books for my daughter on a quick trip to the thrift store, including a copy of Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, which I’m reading out loud to her now. I’ll give her this stack of books for the holidays; she’s started to pick up chapter books on her own, without being prompted (a HUGE deal; she’s a good reader but hasn’t seemed hugely motivated to read unprompted in the past, so I’m extremely excited about this!!!), so hopefully these will be a welcome gift. I didn’t find anything for myself on that trip, but that’s okay, because I won an ARC of Katie Henry’s This Will Be Funny Someday on Twitter! I adore her, so I’m looking forward to reading this. 😊

Bookish Things I Did in October 2020

Do things even exist anymore???

Current Podcast Love

Still making my way through Judaism Unbound. I lay awake through all of the interview with author Eric Weiner the other night and ended up adding the book he was promoting to my TBR. 😊

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

On hold until life goes back to normal.

Real Life Stuff

Whew. Just an entirely crazy month. So far my daughter’s school *seems* to be doing okay (that we know of…) but there have been multiple cases of Covid in other local schools, and a few neighboring districts have returned to virtual learning due to an explosion of cases (including the high school I attended). We’ve chosen for my daughter to remain at home; I no longer harbor any optimism that she’ll attend in-person school this year. My son’s freshman year of college will remain at home as well, and he’s considering changing his major to marketing from music education, because he sees more of a future in that. I’m sad for him; he loved helping behind the scenes with high school choir so much.

My daughter has specials on Wednesday: art, music, and gym class. She was really self-conscious about doing art by herself, so I’ve joined her, doing some sort of drawing along with her every Wednesday. I’m not exactly the greatest artist, and I haven’t done any kind of art at all since I was about sixteen (and that was something I made for work; prior to that, I’d quit drawing around age 12). I’ve been posting my art creations on Instagram as part of what I’ve titled #ShittyArtWednesday (along with another set of doodles I did to keep my heart rate from exploding due to rage during the final debate), so if you’re interested in viewing some not-at-all-professional art, check out my Instagram.

That’s really about it! We’ve already had several days of snow; no accumulation, but the long, cold days of winter (let’s face it, winter lasts from late October to late May here) have begun. My anxiety has been out of control this month, but it’s increasingly more and more difficult to tell if it’s anxiety or fear about legit things. Mostly I’m just sad about the state of everything.

Hang in there, folks. I don’t think November will be any easier, especially since it’s not safe to gather for American Thanksgiving, but people will anyway, and healthcare workers like my friends Jen W. and Jen T. and Jen B. and Alicia S. will all be working themselves to the bone and coming away with PTSD because of it. Think of them before you gather; things are getting desperate and they don’t need you on their wards, because an unfortunate amount of people leave there only to be stashed in portable morgues, and the rest leave with permanent organ damage and health challenges science doesn’t yet understand. Be safe, please.

Keep up the fight for justice, friends. So many people are hurting right now; kindness matters, but remember, kindness doesn’t mean suffering hatred and bigotry with a smile on your face. Sometimes the kindest thing of all is to stand up and speak out, loudly. Black Lives Matter. Love is love. Women’s rights and trans rights are human rights. No human being should go to bed hungry, not if they’re out of work, not if they’re here without papers, not if they’re disabled, not if they’re addicted to drugs. Far too many people have lost their humanity and forgotten all of this. Cruelty isn’t attractive, y’all.

May your November be peaceful.

Monthly roundup · reading life

Monthly Roundup: September 2020

Month 438247392838924389792 of the pandemic, folks, with cases on the rise in the US because no one cares anymore, and human lives and suffering mean nothing! It’s utter insanity here. People in my own town are screaming to reopen the schools (while schools a few counties away have had to shut down because their students keep testing positive for Covid-19, and my son’s former high school had to quarantine the entire cross country team because someone went to a meet while awaiting the results of a Covid test that turned out to be positive, but apparently we are incapable of learning anything from anyone and no one will be happy until everyone has permanent lung damage), people are gathering in large groups and breathing and coughing all over each other, and no. one. cares. It’s crazy-making to watch, and I’ve basically been coping by reading every moment I’m not cooking, cleaning, or acting as my six year-old’s office assistant. (Shout-out to all you teachers teaching virtually; you are AMAZING and I love you all.)

I hope you’re all managing to stay sane while the world melts down around us. September seems to have gone by in a flash for me, but time means nothing these days, so maybe it dragged on as long as March seemed to. Who knows? *crazy laughter* Anyway, let’s talk books instead of pandemic.

Ready to recap?

What I Read in September 2020

  1. Living a Life That Matters by Harold S. Kushner (no review)
  2. Nazi Wives: The Women at the Top of Hitler’s Germany by James Wyllie (review to come)
  3. Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger by Louis Sachar (no review, read out loud to my daughter)
  4. Lighting the Flames by Sarah Wendell
  5. Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder
  6. Like No Other by Una LaMarche
  7. In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton
  8. Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  9. Overcoming Life’s Disappointments by Harold S. Kushner (no review)
  10. There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom by Louis Sachar (no review; read out loud to my daughter)
  11. Overground Railroad: The Green Book & Roots of Black Travel in America by Candacy A. Taylor
  12. The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure by Rachel Friedman
  13. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (no review, though I mentioned it here)
  14. Plum Fantastic (Sugar Plum Ballerinas #1) by Whoopi Goldberg and Deborah Underwood (no review, read out loud to my daughter)
  15. Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness by Nathanael Johnson
  16. Broken Faith: Inside the Word of Faith Fellowship, One of America’s Most Dangerous Cults by Mitch Weiss and Holbrook Mohr
  17. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker (review to come)

Not bad for a month of reading. Two of these were from my own shelves, as per my new reading goal of reading my own books. Eight of them came off of my TBR. Three were read-alouds to my daughter; we loved the Louis Sachars, but neither of us really enjoyed the Sugar Plum Ballerinas book (A+ for diverse characters, though!). Ten non-fiction, seven fiction. That’s a pretty good mix.

Reading Challenge Updates

I finished the 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge (go me!), so my newest challenge is to read off of my own shelves. I started the challenge late in the month; so far, I only have two read off of my by-the-TV shelf. That’ll increase in October. Watch this space next month for updates! 😊

State of the Goodreads TBR

Like I said, because I’ll be focusing on my own shelves for a bit (and most of the stuff on my TBR comes from the library), this won’t be decreasing at any real rate anytime soon, and that’s something I’m okay with. Last month I had 158 books on here; this month I’m up to 170. The last two library books I have checked out are from my TBR, though, and after I finish those, I’ll read four from my own shelf!

Books I Acquired in September 2020

None!

Bookish Things I Did in September 2020

Nothing but reading on my swing on the back porch every afternoon (and on my chair in the evenings!), but sadly, those days will be coming to an end soon, since the temperatures will be dropping this week. I’m going to miss those hours of quiet outdoor reading…

Current Podcast Love

I’ve been mainly listening to Judaism Unbound, but I find their voices so soothing that it puts me to sleep almost immediately! Hard to get much listening done that way!

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

On hold until life goes back to normal, whenever that is…

Real Life Stuff

I swear, I wish I had time to keep a journal, because it’s hard to remember what happens when all the days kind of look the same…

My son is doing well with virtual college. My daughter is into the swing of things with virtual first grade learning, and I’m basically acting as her personal assistant, signing her in and out of meetings, keeping an ear out for what she’s doing so I can help her with her schoolwork later on, monitoring her behavior to make sure she stays focused (NOT an easy task!), along with getting my regular housework and cooking done and trying to keep up with this blog. It’s not exactly simple, but we’ve adjusted well and my daughter is doing just fine (perfect score on her reading assessment the other day!!!). Her school is attempting to go back to a hybrid model in the middle of October; she’ll remain entirely virtual because I’m not interested in taking chances with her health, our health, or her teachers health. I feel for the families who are struggling with all of this and feel they have no other choice but to send their kiddos, whether because of the difficulties of virtual learning or due to work or both. Nothing about any of this is optimal for anyone.

Her school district is being really awesome and is participating in a program that hands out food (no income restrictions) to its students; if people don’t participate, they lose funding, so twice a week, we schlep over to the school for a bag of breakfasts and lunches for my daughter. It’s amazing of them; the food is surprisingly healthy and my daughter, who spent all of last year pining for school lunches, is in love (it also takes some of the stress off of me, since I don’t have to figure out what to make her for lunch anymore, and she’s got a pile of healthy snacks she can grab so I don’t have to get up- which sounds like laziness, but it’s really just a benefit for my back, which has been kind of terrible lately. I’m still walking and getting exercise, but getting up and down can be acutely painful, so this helps). They’re doing this all this year, and I’m extremely grateful.

Our other big excitement this month: we got a bird feeder! It sits right outside our living room window and I can watch it from my reading chair. We mostly get house sparrows and song sparrows, but we’ve also had a crow of some sort (it stops by so rarely that I haven’t been able to narrow it down more), a cardinal, some sort of what I think is a warbler, a blue jay, and a few hummingbirds at the hummingbird feeder. It’s so fun and relaxing to watch them, though they eat like hogs and are constantly bickering and pecking at each other. I’m looking forward to seeing if the birds we get change or increase in number during the cooler weather.

What’s up in October? Who knows! Our village hasn’t made any decisions about Halloween; I’m not sure how comfortable I feel about taking my daughter out anyway. If everyone wore masks, that would be one thing, but I don’t trust that people will do that (other than in stores where it’s mandated). Either way, we’ve reassured my kiddo that there will be plenty of candy, and we’ll make some special food and watch some kid-appropriate spooky movies. We won’t let her miss out on the fun stuff. 😉

Hang in there, folks. Nothing’s going to get any easier until we work to make it that way, so try not to lose hope; fight with fire for justice and equality for everyone, and keep masking and social distancing, because otherwise, we’re never, ever going to get through this, and people will continue to die and suffer permanent organ damage. There’s been far too much of this already, and it doesn’t have to be like this. ☹

L’shanah tovah, g’mar chatimah tovah, and may you all have a peaceful October filled with amazing reads.

How was your September???