Monday, September 12, 2016

you have to start small, like oak trees.

I love a good road trip, always have. One of the main reasons I love them is because you have time to think. We've been so busy for the past few months that I got behind on my thinking. So when the opportunity came to drive to Seattle last week to retrieve PellMel, I jumped at the chance. Really, she could have driven herself, but I wanted to do it. Two of my dearest friends live in Seattle, for one thing, and there's all that time in the car.

It was a lot of fun. PellMel and I had a great time bopping around downtown Seattle, we had some great food, we had lots of fun with our friends Laurel and Kami. But also, thankfully, I had lots of time to think.

And you know what I realized? Almost like a voice said it in my head: I am done blogging.

I think I've known it for awhile, but I'm a stubborn person, and I didn't want to be a quitter. This blog has never really taken off, and I didn't want to give up on it.

My previous, more successful blog was fairly anonymous, but this one is not. And one of the things that happens when you tell people you have a blog is that you start getting feedback. Most people are completely uninterested--in fact, they look slightly panicked when you tell them you have a blog, because you might expect them to actually read the thing. And then there are the few, my beloved readers--you--who are supportive, and make it all worthwhile.

But there is also a third group, whose voices sometimes sound loudest in my head, who react with criticism or disdain, or who are so stunned and surprised that it's a little insulting, or who can't understand why I think anyone would want to read something I'd written. Or the woman who said with great warmth and kindness, "I remember when I used to have time to do things like that." She didn't pat me on the head, so there's that.

And those responses made me stubborn. Even though I've wanted to quit several times over the past few months, I didn't want to prove the negative people right. I didn't want this blog to fail. So I kept going.

Finally, when I had the time to think these past few days, I realized that I can't let the naysayers make my decision for me. If I'm done, I'm done. Maybe after more than a dozen years of blogging (my first post was in December of 2003), it's time to move on.

So *hiccup* this might be my last real post (see postscript below). It's possible this is a temporary decision, but at the moment, I'm pretty sure it will be permanent. I had three or four posts planned for the next couple of weeks, but once the idea of stopping took hold, it seemed kind of pointless to continue. 

I am forever grateful to those of you who have followed along. Hugs and love and happy trails.

p.s. There may be one more post after this one--when I have time to put it together-- with links to the posts from this blog that I think are worth reading, sort of like an index, but it won't have anything new. So if you're subscribed, you can safely unsubscribe without missing anything.

p.p.s. the post title is from the end of The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. It seemed better to end by looking forward.

Friday, September 2, 2016

7ToF: the bird has flown the coop

1. I was a sobbing mess while we were packing up MadMax's stuff. It was ridiculous. Even for a devoted mom, it was excessive. I managed to do it mostly in private and not in front of poor Max, but still. I put the T in INTJ, you know. I hate emotional messiness. Ugh.

2. But you know what? The actual drop-off wasn't that bad-- I mean, in terms of me holding it together. There's so much excitement, and the school he chose did a great job of making 3,000+ freshmen and their families feel welcomed and cared for. Once he gets things figured out he's going to be fine. And I'm positive that he's going to miss his dog more than he misses us.

3. Now that we're back home, I think I'm having an easier time adjusting than Dean is. Dean and MadMax share many of the same interests, so he lost one of his best buds. On the other hand, I'm discovering that having MadMax out of the house means that there's considerably less laundry, and "his" bathroom (the only bathroom on the main floor of our house) stays clean. Not that I cleaned it all that often, mind you, but I don't have to walk in there after an adult has used it and realize that I let an unarmed, unwarned innocent go into an oversized petri dish. I think I'm already through the worst of it. Plus, we text just about every day and he's already called once. We'll be fine.

4. Random observation of the week: Chickens don't like bell peppers. Who knew?

5. I don't think I have any male readers at the moment so let's talk shopping. Is there anything worse than bra shopping? (as I type that, I realize that yes, there is, and it's swimsuit shopping. But bra shopping is still pretty bad.) With all my weight gain and loss and gain and loss over the past few years, my bras have been through the wringer. I've had bra expanders and gotten rid of them and adjusted them up and down. My bras--all of which were at least six years old, and some more like eight--were in tatters. But still I resisted, because UGH.

6. Then I saw a flyer from our local dept store about their annual INTIMATES sale, and practically on impulse I found myself pulling into their parking lot. I'm not gonna lie, it was still awful. There is no amount of intimate engineering, shall we say, that is going to make me look good nekkid, and there's no avoiding looking at yourself in the mirror while you're trying on bras. I tried on at least half a dozen before I found one I liked. But I persevered, and I ended up with three. Finally bra makers must be actually listening to what women want, because once I waded through the ones I didn't like to get to the ones I did, these are the most comfortable bras I've ever worn. If you haven't bought new bras recently, give it a go.

7. I bought the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking (by Susan Cain) not long after it came out, just to be supportive since I am a pretty major introvert. But I never got around to reading it because I thought I knew everything I need to know about being an introvert. But then I heard the author speak on a podcast (more about that nother time), and decided I should actually read what she had to say. I am loving it. I don't always agree with her, but overall it has been one helpful insight after another. I'm probably the last introvert to read this book, but if you are and you haven't, you definitely should. Great book, fascinating stuff.

SO now that I've done FIVE "seven things" posts in a row, I will try to do something else next time. But probably not next week since I'm going to Seattle. Woot! Road trip!! If you've heard a terrific audiobook recently, let me know!

Friday, August 19, 2016

7ToF: Summer reading report 2016, plus one

1. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Serra Manning. This British chick lit novel is just about the perfect beach read. Neve has spent the three years since the love of her life left for a job in the US losing weight, exercising, and getting her life in order. But she hasn't figured out how to be in a relationship yet, so she figures maybe she better practice before her prince Charming returns. The practicing ends up being better than what she thought was the real thing, no surprise there. I loved, loved, loved this book for 99% of it. It's funny and well-written and Neve is great. But I hated the ending more than I can say. Neve has lost well over a hundred pounds, and she's down to a size 14. She's happy and healthy and even her worst enemy tells her she looks great. So you think part of her epiphany at the end is going to be that she's awesome just the way she is. But nope, in a teary tantrum on the last few pages, she insists that by God she is going to lose that last bit of weight and get down to some mythical size that she doesn't need. I was so disappointed it almost ruined the book for me, but since you've been warned, you can just enjoy the first 99% and ignore the ending. Great read. Even with the disappointing ending, this is still a don't-miss summer read.

2. Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming, third in the Clare Fergusson-Russ VanAlstyne series. The first book in this series (In the Bleak Midwinter) was a bit flawed, but intriguing enough that I kept picking up later books in the series when I would see them on sale or in used book stores. Then I finally got around to reading the second one, and it was remarkably disappointing. Clare, a former army helicopter pilot turned Episcopal priest, breaks a confidence in a spectacularly public way, and also she was turning into one of those annoying characters who is always right. If I hadn't already bought the other books, I probably would never have read another. I finally picked up the third one this summer and was suitably surprised. A man walks out of his house and doesn't return. Figuring out the details turns up a mystery that's gone unsolved for decades. It's a bit tricky keeping track of the dates-- the story is told in flashbacks-- but interesting mystery and Clare turns out to be not quite so irritatingly perfect in this one.

3. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty. This book has over 17,000 ratings on Amazon, and I kept hearing about it. But even though I bought it a couple of years ago when the Kindle version was on sale, I never managed to get around to reading it until a couple of weeks ago. It's a curious book. Her writing style made me nuts-- frenetic, is the only way I can think to describe it, like a voluble, nervous, chatty acquaintance who can't stop talking ninety-to-nothing when you run into her at a coffee shop. There are three storylines: uptight but happily married Cecilia, who discovers that her husband has a secret (hence, you know, the title of the book); Tess, whose husband falls in love with her cousin and best friend; and Rachel, whose daughter was murdered years ago and who is haunted by the unsolved mystery of her death. However much I disliked her writing style, Moriarty is a great storyteller, and handles the complicated inter-weaving of the three stories with ease. Difficult to put down. I'm not sure I'd say I like it, but there are a number of intriguing moral dilemmas raised. I kept thinking about it for days after I put it down. Worth reading. Would be a great book club book with lots to discuss.

4. Remember I told you awhile ago that I'm usually reading a literary fiction, a genre fiction, and a non-fiction at any one time? My non-fiction book for this summer was The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. It took me several months to finish it, because the science was fairly dense, but I felt like I should understand it, so I would wade through the details. I finally started skimming over the complicated science stuff and enjoyed it much more after that. I do get the basic idea, and Dean explained a couple of other things I was mystified by, so even though I don't get every nuance of all the iterations of things they tried before they found something that worked, I think I got the message. What intrigued me was all the non-science stuff-- the stories of the interactions of the scientists and the rivalries and the history of how it all unfolded with the looming war in Europe. Well worth reading, and probably most of you would do better with the science parts than I did.

5. Let It Breathe by Tawna Fenske. Something else I told you awhile back-- I couldn't remember the last time I'd read a really good romance novel. Fenske's latest is. Really good, I mean. Reese and Clay were part of a trio of best friends in college, until Reese married (and then divorced) the third guy, and Clay went off to sober up. They've got some past issues to work through, and some current complications, but overall this was just the right mix of fun, funny, and serious. Great beach or plane read. The only false note for me was that I found her supposedly-perfect parents to be nauseating and irritating rather than enviable. But that's only a minor part of the story, this one is definitely worth reading.

6. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. Something about the cover of this one caught my eye at the library and I grabbed it. But I almost put it down after the first three pages. Oh, no, I thought. I'm not reading another foodie novel where ever-more perfect taste is exhibited in inflated language about food and every chapter has a recipe. But by the end of the first chapter, something had hooked me and I kept going. Kitchens is really a series of short stories, all revolving around Eva Thorvald, a pure soul and gifted chef. Only one story has Eva as the main character, she is just another character of varying importance in the others. There is a touch of magical realism (an unborn child communicates with his mother via text messages, for example), a lot of beautifully worded sentences, occasional sharp bursts of humor, and an interesting mix of criticism-of/homage-to foodie culture. Eva has become a little too perfect by the end, and one of the stories (the one about Pat) didn't really find its heart until two thirds of the way through, but other than that, there's not a false note anywhere. Loved it. Highly recommended.

7. So I could make this a perfect seven, but even though I read another half dozen books this summer, none of them seem worth reporting here. So I will tell you we went to see the new Star Trek movie last night. We are long time Star Trek fans-- we bonded over watching ST reruns in the dorm TV room back in the 80s-- and we have loved the new movies with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Carl Urban as Kirk, Spock, and Bones. This one was fun and had some great moments--and it more than accomplished its purpose of distracting us from a hot, grumpy August night. At one point we were laughing so hard that we were probably irritating the heck out of our neighbors. But the thing is, I'm not sure we were meant to be laughing. This one isn't nearly up to the standards of the first two. If you're a Trek fan, you're long used to the uneven quality of the different iterations, so no problem there. I wouldn't have missed it for the world, and we'll probably get it when it comes out on DVD and watch it again, but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed-- a disappointment that was very nearly redeemed by several classic ST moments.

That's it. Have a great weekend. The great college drop-off is next week and I have a few other things going on, so I probably won't post again until after Labor Day, but you never know.

Friday, August 12, 2016

7ToF: Two in a row, but there's lots to catch up on

1. I really did mean to post this earlier in the week, but I'm in my biannual Olympics coma and only the bare basics are getting done around here. and oh my word: they cry, I cry. Ally at the end of her floor routine, Simone when she finally got her winning score, Michael Phelps during the national anthem for his TWENTY-SIXTH medal, I feel like I've spent the last several days wiping away tears.

2. You know how the women gymnasts used to be these cute, pony-tailed little things bopping around the events? I loved to watch them, but they were mainly just cute. Not any more. Did you see them? They were incredible! Those are some formidable athletes. They do things that make my jaw drop. Wow. Even the jaded boys at my house have been impressed.

3. The other reason I didn't get this post done earlier is that I tweaked my neck, and that means migraines. I was doing so much better-- I filled my monthly Maxalt prescription in January, and then didn't fill it again until right before we left on our trip in June-- which (was) astonishingly, amazingly wonderful. Now I've had six migraines in the last ten days. Thank God for excellent pharmaceuticals. (It's better already.)

4. Remember I told you how miraculous it was that we had seven free-range chickens and a fox living practically next door? Yeah. Well, we now have six chickens and the miracle is over. If it hadn't been for our brave neighbor who came over and intervened, we'd be down a lot more than one chicken. The remaining ladies are already back to free-ranging. They seemed content to be shut in the coop for a day or two, but after that, they quite emphatically wanted to roam free again. It's been about a month and we're still holding at six chickens. We'll see.

5. Favorite website of the week:  If you haven't been to Reuseit yet, it has everything you can think of that is reusable-- shopping bags, lunch boxes, dust cloths, paper towel replacements, water bottles, bento boxes, everything. I've mainly used it for their tan canvas shopping bags, which hold about as much as four of those plastic grocery store bags and last forever. I've had my original set for years now and I just keep buying more. Also love Baggu bags, which roll up small enough to keep in my purse, and come in great designs.

6. The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Debate: are you a chocolate chocolate chip cookie lover? or a cookie chocolate chip cookie lover? (or neither, I suppose, but if that's the case you can go on to the next Thing.) Some people think that the cookie part of a chocolate chip cookie is just there to convey as much chocolate as possible to your mouth. I personally like lots of cookie and not so much chocolate. I think I'm in the minority, because most current recipes are designed around getting more chips and bigger chips into your cookie, but I quickly get to chocolate overload in a cookie. I've started making mine with mini- chips so they don't overwhelm the dough, but that's not quite right either. I suppose I'll have to take one for the team and continue to experiment until I get the perfect recipe. And then I will let you know.

See, these are the things I can lose sleep over. And you wondered why I haven't been posting.

7. We had VBS at our church this week, so I (don't laugh) signed up to help with crafts. Which is like those Lindsey Vonn commercials where a winter Olympian is trying to do the summer sports. I am not crafty. But no one else had volunteered, and I can organize and buy things at Michael's, so I figured it would work out. And it did. Oh my Lord, we had the greatest group of kids. They took our half-assed craft ideas and ran with them. Yesterday we had a competition to see which group of kids could create the longest paper chain-- you know, those loops of paper connected together, like pre-schoolers make at Christmas (it was loosely connected to that day's story). I thought they were going to be bored to death, but they were ALL IN. One of the leaders was counting down the time at the end and you would have thought they were racing to build the ark before the rain started. It was so much fun. The winning chain was about 40 feet long.

7a. Excellent lyric from new Miranda Lambert song: If you need me, I'll be where my reputation don't precede me.... Hmmmm, maybe you have to hear the song. That didn't translate so well.

7b. And I haven't even told you about going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter yet!! The downside of not posting all summer is that there's too much to tell you. Bottom line: if you love Harry Potter, you really should go sometime, it was fabulous and butter beer (non-alcoholic) is just as good as you hoped it would be. This could be an entire post, but I'm not sure if anyone's interested. Let me know. One thing: we bought the "front of the line pass" so we could cut to the front of the line, which was obscenely expensive and --I'm telling you-- not worth the money. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.) If you get your ticket online, you can enter the park an hour early, and since HP is only a small part of the park, you can be done and out of there before it gets crowded. Before 11 a.m., there were no lines longer than about 15 minutes. I loved it, but I did not love the crowds in the afternoon. Go early and leave early.

And there's more. But this is already far too long and I suspect you have other things to do than sit and read my drivel. Eventually I will get caught up (summer reading report next week) and then I do have some interesting things to discuss. That part might not start until after we get MadMax off and we are officially empty nesters. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

7ToF: Except it's Tuesday.

1. One of the reasons I went on a blogging break this summer is because I knew it would be crazy. It turned out to be even more crazy than I was expecting. After all the craziness around MadMax's graduation, I ended up being out of town for four of the next five weeks. That's the most I've been away from home ever. Some of it, most of it, was really fun, but it was such a relief to be back home again.

2. The extra week away was to stay with my mom while she had unexpected surgery. She had a mammogram in the spring which showed a suspicious lump, which ended up being early stages of cancer. Her outlook is good, but all of us who love her would be grateful if you sent a get-healthy blessing her way.

3. I'm typing this on my new laptop. Six years later, I finally decided it was time to move on, and I love love love this new one. It has a solid state drive (SSD) instead of a traditional hard drive, and it is fast and quiet.

4. Preparations to get MadMax off to college continue. I'm intermittently misty-eyed over some sweet memento and thrilled about the new stage of life we're moving into (empty nesters! wow!). I am continuing said preparations entirely without MadMax's help. What color bedspread do you want, I ask him. He looks at me blankly. Can't I just take my old one? So far he seems to consider his college adventure to be about fishing and hunting on the weekends, and maybe he'll be able to sneak out occasionally during the week. We have to remind him that he will need to study.

5. He broke up with his girlfriend of four years this week, which was heartbreaking for both of them. It's so hard to see your kids hurting, which includes her because she's been part of our family since they were in eighth grade. But they've been moving in different directions the past year or two and it will be good for both of them to try dating some other people. But, ouch. Ouch.

6. Reader Laurel and her wife Kami are biking from Mexico to Canada this summer. They started at the Mexico border back in June, and they're just about to finish up, probably later this week. Apologies for the late notice, but if you want to read about their trip, Laurel has been blogging and posting spectacular pictures here.

7. I'm officially declaring the end of my midlife crisis. I see now why there are so few people blogging about this stage of life, because who wants to read it? I had my few months of wallowing in my disappointment over all the things I'll never do, but I've had several sharp wake-up moments in the past few weeks that have done their work. I have two healthy kids and a spouse who not only still loves me 32 years later but puts up with all my crap. I live in a spectacularly beautiful place, and I am one lucky woman. Moving on. Thanks for putting up with me.

One thing I realized this summer is that I'm not a big fan of blogging to a schedule. So I'm going to stop doing it. I end up posting things I don't care about because the post I do care about isn't ready yet, and then I get distracted and never finish the first one, etc. It always astonishes me that anybody reads my drivel at all, so you're all a miracle to me.

Happy August. Hope you're having a great summer.

Friday, June 10, 2016

7ToF: in which I restrain myself from using very bad words.

I started this week's Seven-Things-on-Friday days ago because I knew I would be busy getting ready for vacation. Instead of making it quicker to write, though, I ended up spending at least three times as much time on it as I normally would. Then I accidentally freaking DELETED IT. I am saying ALL THE BAD WORDS.

Even after I googled how to recover a deleted blog post and tried a dozen different things, I couldn't get it back. I spent so much time on it that I'm sick of it and I have no desire to re-write it. So here is the abridged version.

1. We are going on vacation for two weeks, leaving on Saturday: two Souths (Carolina and Dakota) for back-to-back family reunions.

2. I'm feeling guilty again about having too much crap after seeing a TV ad this week about how charities don't want your stuff, they want your cash. Since I'm still clearing clutter, what the heck am I going to do with all this stuff?

3. So I'm having a hard time justifying buying a new comforter, even though our current one is ten years old and I'm sick of it, because I don't know what to do with the old one.

4. But I'm overcoming that guilt and buying one anyway because I'm not all that virtuous and I wants one.

5. Continuing my rampant consumer theme, I went on a (noble) quest to find good beer mugs. ha. I'm buying microbrews in cans now (we can't recycle glass locally), but I don't want to drink it from a can. So here is a picture of our new beer mugs, which I got at TJMaxx. Dishwasher safe, sturdy, and with a handle.

Check me out, stylin' a photo. Don't laugh.
6. I have a household hint. I may be a rotten housekeeper, but I'm good at finding things that work like a charm and save me a lot of work. To remove coffee and tea stains from ceramic mugs, put a tablespoon or so of baking soda in a mug, add a bit of water to make a paste, scrub around with your fingers. It's like magic. I'm so smugly pleased with myself I almost posted a before and after picture.

7. Originally I had planned to re-post some stuff from my old blog while we're gone, but at the moment, I'm so done with the whole blogging schtick that I'm taking a break instead. I guess accidentally deleting all that work struck a nerve. I'll probably be back at the end of the summer, but who knows.

And there you go. I'll be over being pissed (probably) by the time you read this. The good news is that it's WAY shorter than the original. Have a great weekend and a great summer.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

We partied like it's 2016

Well, we survived and MadMax is now officially a high school graduate. Enormous graduation party, beloved house guests and RV guests, graduation ceremony, three and a half hour shift at the all-night senior party (that ended with me home and unable to sleep at 3 a.m.), and finally sending PellMel and house/RV guests off this morning.

Now I've proceeded to the collapsed-on-the-couch-like-a-truck-ran-over-me part of the weekend (I'm writing this on Sunday). Emotional rollercoaster times twelve. Expect no coherent thoughts in this post.

When MadMax was two, we moved across town to a neighborhood full of kids. They rode the school bus together, hunted for Easter eggs, decorated their bikes for fourth of July parades, fought and made up, grew apart and back together and apart again.

We moved out of the neighborhood (but still close by) a couple of years ago, and another family moved across town, but we're still friends. So when a bunch of them were all graduating the same weekend, we decided to band together and throw one big graduation party Friday night.

You probably know me well enough to know that parties are not my thing. But sometimes you have to do it, and when you're splitting up the work (and the expenses) between six different families, really it's not so bad.

We had it here since we have access to the biggest stretch of flat area for a crowd. My cousin was keeping a head count, and at one point we had 85 people here. Since there was quite a bit of coming and going, probably at least 100 people stopped by.

The amazing thing is, it was fun. The weather was spectacular, the food was great, there were kids from grade school through college tearing all over the yard, chasing frisbees and soccer balls and each other. After all the worrying I'd done, it was the most amazing thing.

Then there was their graduation ceremony, which was a bit too long-- have you ever been to one that wasn't? -- but otherwise joyously celebratory. I told you that MadMax was co-valedictorian, which is true, but because of the way they calculate GPA at their school, there were about a dozen valedictorians, so he didn't have to give a speech (much to his relief, he sadly inherited his mother's aversion to public speaking).

In the afternoon we went to another dear friend's party, then took my cousin and her husband up to Glacier NP for ice cream and a stroll along Lake MacDonald. Then I did my shift at the all-night community-wide senior party and came home and tried to get some sleep. Then this morning, PellMel drove off to get back to her studies, and my cousin and her spouse drove off to California, and I collapsed on the couch.

Where I may stay for days.

The Party. This was early on before it got crowded.

a bunch of amazing seniors

MadMax and PellMel