Salutations Nov-Dec 2018

Breathe… breathe again… Does it seem as though you need reminders to just breathe? Feels that way to me. From mid-November to January 1, I felt a need to catch up with myself. I look at people who have every right to feel more harried than I – women with kids and jobs and pets, for instance – and wonder how they do it. I really have a cushy life with a schedule that’s largely self-determined. And still…breathe…breathe again.

img_1752Was your life was a blur this holiday season? Seems like mine was. A few parties, getting the house decorated, shopping, yada-yada-yada.  Again, it’s not like we’re social butterflies or that we’re the ones having to clean our house to entertain. But there was a little baking, wrapping, and consistent ‘what’s on the schedule’ conversation to compete with the end of the semester grading that accompanies my holiday season. And all that was fun too. (Not the grading so much, but getting it over with did generate a huge sense of freedom!)

And then the holidays themselves – a few items to create in Santa’s workshop, img_4753-1.jpgmore wrapping, menu re-creation from last Christmas, a self-imposed holiday epistle and card to create… You know. All the things that make the holidays special. And all self-imposed. Neither my partner nor our few guests nor any of the recipients of wrapped treasures would find their lives blighted by things I did not do. But I would. I love a little fuss and feathers to make the season bright, the unearthing of special ornaments and the memories they engender, the cookies, the scents of balsam and pine, the tiny bursts of light amid the long December nights.

I even love the aftermath when the hoopla winds down and I can…breathe! The tree’s still up, the lights still glow, and I have a stack of books just waiting for me to crack their spines. My guy, generous though he is, was absent when the gifting gene was handed out. He never has a clue. But does he fulfill? You bet he does! That stack of books, bottles of red wine, chocolate…I’m set for a long winter’s hibernation!

I’m on my way to my 2019 Goodreads goal of reading 50 books with two under my belt already in January. I did not meet my 2018 goal – also 50 books – or at least not officially. I only recorded 41, but my bet is that I forgot to include at least enough to push me over that top. I’d far rather read than record! Meanwhile, here’s what I have been reading – all that while I complained about being too busy!

closeWhat do girls learn from what they’re told? In this tale, we see the generational effects of intelligence vs. beauty comparisons among siblings. Come on people! Why can’t women be both smart and beautiful?  The characters in this story were – but never quite believed it – because they were told otherwise.

 

Kate Atkinson tells a whopping good tale of what is, was, or might have been in the life ofatkinson one family. Again and again, she shows how small shifts in one’s present reality can cause seismic changes in one’s future. I bemoaned the fate of Ursula Todd…until an alternate reality brought an entirely different outlook on her life…and then I bemoaned her fate again, and yet again. Atkinson hooked me and I’ll be thinking about those seismic changes for some time to come.

mazzeoI wasn’t thrilled to read another version of Irena Sendler’s story since I so liked Life if a Jar by Jack Mayer. The things I’ll do for my book clubs. But Mazzeo did give me a much different view of Warsaw – the size and scope of the city, the ghetto, and the bureaucracy that Sendler and her many colleagues were able to use in their quest to save Jews. All amid increasing and appalling risks. The story is so powerful I should not have balked to read more about it.

kinselaAfter wallowing through German-occupied Warsaw, I took a delightful break with Sophie Kinsella and found yet another good lesson amid the humor. We can’t know what it’s like to walk around inside another person’s skin. What might look perfect from the outside may be much murkier and desperate to the owner of that skin. This was a fun and insightful read as I’ve come to expect from Kinsella.

bernhardSpeaking of desperate, Susan Bernhard caused me to wallow again – in poverty, abuse and neglect, racism, and all the hopelessness that goes along with all of the above. I despaired that our hero would survive let alone thrive, but glimmers of smarts, resourcefulness, and a hand up from caring others gave me hope.

green

 

It’s always fun to see women emerging from what they’ve been told to be. Are we seeing a theme here? The Sunshine Sisters is another such tale. This one felt different from other books I’ve read by Jane Green. The mother – and often the sisters – were pretty unlikable through much of the book. But I could tell there might be a transformation eventually, and that kept me going. In the end, I’d have enjoyed hanging out with them all. Okay, maybe not the mother. But the chef sister and the baker? I’d let them feed me.

And once again I have a nagging doubt in my reading/recording ratio. But that will do for now. And in January I already look forward to sharing the two I finished this week. They were corkers! Stay tuned… And happy, happy new year!

 

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