Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. Today is the last day of our first heat wave (supposedly). We've been up at 100 for a few days now, and I while I know other places in the country have it far worse, it's still pretty disgusting. I must say how thankful I am for our attic fan (or whole house fan), that cools off our upstairs once it gets cool at night for pennies, compared to the AC.

2. I love my life, most of the time, but I can't sometimes help wishing I had become an OBGYN so I could join up with Doctor's Without Borders and go help women deliver babies and learn about prenatal care in developing nations. I really, really feel called to do that, but I can't because talking about themes and motifs and everything else I am trained to do probably would not be helpful as they're trying to push something the size of a football through a hole the size of a grape (or something like that).

3. Am I the only person distrusting of Airbnbs? I love the price and the idea of all the variety, but it just seems strange to me.

4. I've had this fear that the preschool Sawyer is set to start at soon somehow lost his paperwork and didn't save his spot (it's hard to find a good, secular preschool where we live), so I finally put on my big-girl pants and called and we're good to go (I had signed up in February, so it's been awhile). They also invited me to come pick up some of the calendars for the next month so he can go on field trips or participate in family night, which I thought was nice. He is SO excited to go and give his love of the teachers and kids at gymnastics I think he's going to do well.

5. I made the above cake for an early birthday for my mom, who has been visiting. I love The Milk Bar's style of cake making so much- sure it's a little bit of a pain, but it's so forgiving and you don't have to worry about a crumb coat. 

6. I got back on the Goodreads train! I spent an entire nap time last week putting in all the books I have record of since starting my blog many years ago and the ones I haven't gotten around to yet. I'm not putting a widget on the blog, since I don't want to screw up the design I didn't make, but I'm going to attempt to put one in below so that anyone can follow me if they want (who knows if it will work).

 Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion

7. I am reading Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen right now and am really enjoying it. It's about a doctor in the deserts of Israel who kills an African refugee and must then pay the price in an unexpected way once the man's widow arrives at his doorstep. 

Lemme Tell You a Story (4)

My perfect compromise to not joining SnapChat but still having fun with the idea- Instastories. Every month or so I pop a few of mine up here to lighten the mood:

TED Talks to Watch

Have fifteen or twenty minutes to spare while drinking your coffee in the morning or while folding laundry? I highly suggest these fascinating TED Talks (links are in the titles and I have embedded the videos, but we all know what a b-word blogger can be, so they might not work, especially on mobile platforms):

I try to read up on this topic, since dementia is something that is currently impacting my family, and there were a few things in this talk that I still learned (this is the author of Still Alice). For example, learning things in depth is the best way to stay cognizant, even if afflicted with the condition. The more neuro pathways you can create about a topic the more likely you will retain memory as you start losing connections. Also, just in case you need a refresher, maintaing cardiovascular health (exercise! stop eating red meat!) and getting sleep is also really important. 

This is definitely one of the most controversial talks I have watched, as it is the discussion of a rape between the rapist and victim. When Thordis Elva was only fourteen Tom Stranger, her older boyfriend, raped her one night after they were both intoxicated. He returned to his home country while she dealt with the psychological aftermath for over a decade, finally reaching out to him in order to catalyze a long healing process. Their story is obviously very unique and personal (they have also written a book), and many are angered by it because Stranger was never held legally accountable. I too want to get on my feminist, human-rights soapbox, but I also must remind myself to take a step back and remember that I have never been in this position and should probably listen, be empathetic (towards her), and not judge (it's hard!). 

Here's another talk where empathy is incredibly necessary. As parents, we all want to say that our sons or daughters would never be capable of a horrific attack as the world witnessed in Columbine. Sue Klebold is here to keep us in check, reminding everyone that she was unaware that her son was suffering until it was much, much too late. While as a parent and educator I do in fact disagree, or at least question, some of the things she says, I do wholeheartedly agree with the fact that mental health awareness is one of the most important things we can do for our society. We can't assume that teens are just angsty or that people are "fine" just because they say so. 

Megan Phelps-Roper grew up as a member of the extremist church Westboro Baptist, priding herself in protesting and judging others. As she got older, she took to Twitter and a few who were respectful, firm, and informed took to engaging her in debate. Eventually, her views softened and she decided to leave the church with her sister, with the help of a social media friend. They traveled the country and met people of different backgrounds and faith and learned that people who were, say, gay, or Jewish were actually not from satan and should be treated kindly. Phelps-Roper talks a lot about engaging in productive dialogue with others, which can be applicable to any sort of disagreements. 

Nonfiction Nagging: The Stranger in the Woods

I just finished The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel and feel a little... conflicted.

This is the story of a a man named Christopher Knight, who lived in the wilderness of Maine, reportedly, for twenty-seven years. He claims to have never used fire for fear of being caught, and fed himself by burglarizing empty cabins and camps (and also stealing propane for his stove). Everyone in the area spoke of his presence, but had never really seen him or could confirm his existence. One night, he was caught, and Michael Finkel was captivated by his story and decided to pursue the truth. He met with Knight many times when he was in jail, corresponded through letters, and then also meeting with him upon his release, once he was living with his family. Knight relished in his freedom, silence, and time to reflect and read while he lived outdoors. He is blatantly honest in all regards, especially when discussing his dislike of associating with others- he partakes in no social formalities. Various psychologists speculate he has some form of Autism or a personality disorder, but Knight brushes these diagnoses off a typical desire to label others. 

Many hesitate to believe his story, especially those victims of his theft. People are also very skeptical about his desire to survive in the frigid winters of the area, where temperatures can get to far below zero (especially when he refused to have a fire). But, there are many that did accept his story and credit his ingenuity and resourcefulness. People from all over the country have offered him land, jobs, and companionship, all of which he has declined. 

Finkel mixes in some historical accounts of other hermits, as well as a dose of psychology. Finkel certainly seems to be quite the fan (see title), being a man who enjoys nature and solitude himself. Interesting to note about the author is his past issues with reporting; about fifteen years ago a major publication cut ties with him after he compiled a series of interviews from different people into one voice. He was shunned for awhile but then slowly made his way back to the journalism scene. I did appreciate him mentioning this earlier in the text, but also doing due-diligence at the end by mentioning his two fact-checkers and his reporting methodology. Nonetheless, while Finkel maybe was a bit of a fanboy, and maybe a little bit of a thorn in Knight's side, I think his interest came from a place of good and admiration. 

At one point in the narrative there is a discussion about how long one can go without human contact. Finkel includes information about solitary confinement and past accounts of sailors who have spent great lengths of time at sea. He himself has only gone a few days. Me? I really had to think about this, and I'm guessing perhaps no more than a day, back when we lived in our apartment and my husband was gone overnight during a summer when I was home? Maybe? How long would I like to go? I often fantasize about going away for a few days to spend some time reading, writing, hiking, and sleeping in a cabin up in the High Sierras (but one with electricity and good water pressure), but I really think I'd start getting a bit too lonely after, say three days? It would be an interesting experiment if I ever have the luxury of conducting it. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. You know it's summer when the Peach Tart gets made on repeat. It seriously only takes fifteen minutes to make and it's delicious. 

2. I have been loving the band The Head and the Heart lately. It was perfect for driving.

3. Listening the The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, was also good listening material, once I got into it. I loathe starting new audiobooks because it takes me at least twenty minutes to get used to the narrator's voice, decide if I'm interested, etc... Fiction is even harder. Nonetheless, I was right in it being a book that I might not necessarily read but that would work out well on audio. 

4. I finished my latest cross stitching project, a sugar skull-esque Stormtrooper that took about three months to do. I know it's lazy, but I really like monochromatic patterns, or ones with big blocks of colors. Changing thread is such a pain when you're sitting on the couch (for once). My current plan is to just save all my favorite projects and then when I have ten or twelve to do a sort of gallery wall in our guest bedroom. So far, I have three, so at this rate it will take me about three more years. (I'm okay with that).

5. My MRI came back fine, which means that the problem is most likely  in the joint/bone, since it's not soft tissue, and I was referred to an orthopedist. Yesterday I told my husband I was going to "yoga the shit out of it" until my appointment, even thought I know it won't help that. 

6. I have been reading The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel and it's fascinating how someone can live for twenty-seven years alone (it's the true story of the "last" hermit). I have very conflicting feeling regarding solitude, as in sometimes it's all I want and others it's the last thing, so his desire to be so removed is truly interesting. 

7. The other day while I was finishing up the Stormtrooper while Sawyer was napping I watched like six TED Talks- post to come (I'm really just including this to motivate myself to do it).

8. My downstairs bathroom has been free of the diaper genie for quite some time, but the little potty is also gone now. This makes me so happy. 

9. Sawyer is really starting to get a handle on pronouns THANK GOD. He generally referred to himself in third person, which sure, is cute, but to an English teacher a little... not cute. I've been trying to gently point out uses of "me," "I," and "you" and it's finally paying off. 

10. I had an epiphany the other night (in the shower, of course) about the book I'd like to write but have been struggling with a little bit. I'm going to completely overhaul the narrator into someone that I think I can come at from a more organic angle. Now to prioritize writing more! 

11. Fun things are on the horizon- my mom comes for a few days, I'm going to a Roxane Gay reading with a friend, we have tickets for a local baseball game's fireworks show the Sunday before the 4th, and I need to pick dates for a trip to the Getty Museum, the beach, and a children's museum not far from us. The weather is unfortunately heating up, but that means the pool is going to be bearable super soon.