The Week That Belonged to Adam and Emma and Bob

Remember way back when our ire was focused on the pea-brained idea from the White House to replace food stamps by sending recipients a box of food?

That was last Tuesday.

Seems like an eternity ago, doesn’t it?

Since then, a few other matters have rightfully earned our collective outrage and attention. Yet another horrific school shooting occurred on Wednesday,  a Valentine’s Day massacre that was followed by the angry and determined passion from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, especially Emma Gonzalaz.

Friday brought the much-awaited and welcome news that 13 Russians have been indicted, complete with the detailed, sophisticated ways they stole our democracy right before our eyes. As someone said, their operation was infinitely more organized than the bumbling Drumpf campaign. Well, obviously. At this point, if you still believe and support this complicit, morally bankrupt Puppet-in-Chief, I’m going to assume you’re either a Russian bot or have had your brain (and soul) replaced by one.

And in the middle of all this ugliness, as a merciful salve to our souls, enter the beauty and Olympian confidence of Adam Rippon, someone who doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind, celebrating who he is, and giving hope to a generation of young LGBTQ people. The Girl and I have been captivated by him and, like many, transformed into instant Adam fans.

These weeks pass by in quadruple axel speed. Blogging feels futile; as soon as I can collect my apoplectic thoughts on any single event, the next wave knocks me asunder. Like everyone else, I’m exhausted and overwhelmed.

Take something as simple and inconsequential as these weekly posts, for example. They often take an inordinate amount of time to write. (I started this on Sunday. I’m finishing it on Tuesday morning, at 5:19 a.m.) That never used to be the case. Yet I feel the need to do what I can to capture and comment on these unprecedented, most-definitely-not-normal times. There are some who are doing Sisyphean  work of documenting every single one of these injustices, the eroding of rights, the trampling of our lives. I don’t know how they do it; it’s relentless.


Some other reflections from this past week:

Reading … a review book. Of course. It’s about “the women in the 20th century “who made an art out of having an opinion” so needless to say I’m all about this.

Listening … mostly to podcasts in the car, mostly The Rachel Maddow Show. I love watching her at night but it’s not conducive to a good night’s sleep. Much better to listen en route to work in the morning.

Writing … I need to spend some time this evening working on a book review. The Girl has a youth group meeting at church so I’ll be hunkered down at Starbucks trying to make some progress on that.

Watching … the Olympics, after initially not caring about them at all. Nice move by NBC to hire him Adam Rippon as a commentator to keep viewers like me who may have tuned out after the men’s skating and who will listen to anything he has to say.

Cooking … Some dietary changes are afoot in this house. The Teenagers are not happy about this. Last night we had a delicious Instant Pot Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato and tonight was an original creation, It was supposed to be a stir fry of sorts but I realized I didn’t have all the vegetables I wanted for that, so it became Brown Rice with Carrots and Chicken* in a ginger turmeric sauce. (*Chicken = Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Grilled Strips) It’s not the prettiest looking thing but it was tasty.


Planning … on going to yoga at least once this week. Hopefully tonight. We’ll see how the day goes; I’ve been awake since 3 a.m.

Anticipating … 70 degree temperatures today! I’ll take it, if only just for one day.


A Rollercoaster of a Week

What a week, you guys. I’m pretty sure The Husband and I are not the only people still in a state of disbelief that the Philadelphia Eagles really did win the Super Bowl! As proof that it wasn’t a dream and that after 57 years we aren’t losers anymore, there’s the photo I captured from my TV.

And later in the week there was a parade with Jason Kelce dressed as a Mummer, and countless examples of why Philly has more heart that we’re given credit for. People bringing the remains of their loved ones to the parade and strangers toasting the deceased with beers — I mean, it just doesn’t get any more Philly than that. Hopefully, this week showed the crazy, full-of-heart city I love in a new light to more people. My social media feeds have been amazing, one delightful explosion of joy and celebration and love after another. It’s an incredible feeling.

As the title of this post suggests, though, it was a roller-coaster of a week. The Husband and I watched some of the parade during one of his doctors’ appointments. Thank God for cell phones and live video technology. We also had a scare with our cat Mrs. Douglas. She had been drinking an excessive amount of water for a few days — as well as peeing excessively — so we called our wonderful vet to get her checked out. We all suspected diabetes. We spent four hours at the vet on Tuesday night, waiting for lab results and, ironically, for her to pee so they could test her urine. Fortunately, everything seems to point to your regular, run-of-the-mill UTI. An antibiotic shot and $400 later, she is doing fine. But, yeah, way too much time spent in waiting rooms this week.

What else? That’s probably enough. I have a bunch of things I need/want to catch up on and make some headway on for the week ahead (book review stuff, grocery shopping and prepping some meals, etc.). so should probably wrap this up before the day gets any further away from me.

Hope your Sunday is going well and that you have a great week.

Sunday Salon/Currently … Fly Eagles Fly!

We are, as regular blog readers know, unabashed Philadelphia Eagles fans here in this house (making us anomalies here in the ‘Burgh, especially when one considers our steadfast loyalty to that other Philadelphia team, the one that is the hockey rival) so it goes without saying that our Birds being in today’s Super Bowl is quite the momentous occasion.

It has been nice to see some of my Pittsburgh friends rooting for my Birds. Very much appreciated. After all, we were one team once upon a time. (Hence the reason — well, one of them anyway — that I cheer for the Steagles whenever the two play each other. And don’t get me wrong … I really am quite fond of the Steelers. It’s just that I’ll never lose that hometown loyalty. You can take the girl out of Philly ….)

That said, our celebration is rather on the low-key side. The Boy was complaining about congestion, headache, and a sore throat last Sunday and although he quickly recovered, I came down with it on Wednesday evening (minus the sore throat) followed by The Husband on Thursday. The Girl had similar symptoms on Friday. The Husband and I have had the worst of it and while it doesn’t seem to be the flu, we’re pretty miserable. We’ve been inhaling copious amounts of soup, tea, Dayquil, essential oils, you name it. This winter has been brutal; I can’t remember having been this sick so often.

A typical Super Bowl year usually has me participating in Jenn’s annual The Big Game’s On Read-a-thon but, as we’ve already covered, this isn’t your typical Super Bowl. My attention is otherwise diverted. I should be reading a review book.  (When am I not reading a review book?) With being sick this week, I didn’t make much progress with any books.

Still listening to Fire and Fury as my audiobook.

This week while I was sick I wanted something to watch that was fairly short and that I didn’t have to think too hard about. We’ll Meet Again, the new PBS series with Ann Curry was a perfect choice. It’s a six part series of stories about people whose lives intersected during pivotal points in history and who reconnect years later.

For This Is Us fans, tonight is a BIG night. I’ve decided that if the Eagles win, there’s no way in hell I’m watching what promises to be an emotional episode. Regardless of how Jack dies, it’s only going to get me depressed and upset. I mean, it’s not like he’s NOT going to die. Now, if the unthinkable happens to the Eagles, I might watch. Or I may go directly to bed. Both options run the risk of seeing an abundance of spoilers tomorrow but I’ll take that chance.

I have a Philly themed Super Bowl menu planned for tonight’s dinner:

Hoagies from Jersey Mike’s, which is as close to authentically Philadelphian as I can get here in Western Pennsylvania. I picked them specifically because they offer gluten free rolls — and it has been an eternity since I’ve had a real hoagie on an actual roll.  In addition, we’ll feast on soft pretzels (I found gluten free ones at Giant Eagle); Tastykakes (Krimpets, as a way for The Husband to share the game with his dad, who loves Krimpets) and, of course, a gluten free version of Philadelphia Butter Cake.

If you look closely, it would appear that none other than THE EAGLES LOGO IS IN MY CAKE!

You see it too, yes?

(More likely it’s just the cold medicine that’s making me hallucinate.)

GO EAGLES!!!!!!!!!!  


Sunday Salon/Currently … In a Fog

It’s a foggy Sunday morning, as seen from our living room window. That’s a color photo, believe it or not, no fancy filters here. I’ve been up since 5 a.m., for no particular reason besides going to bed exceptionally early last night and sleeping in very late on Saturday. Maybe I’ve exhausted my sleep quota for the weekend — as if that’s possible. So far, my Sunday has consisted of reading the papers (Post-Gazette, Inquirer, and NYT) and a bunch of blogs. The grocery store is in my future and possibly a yoga class.

The Boy has a slight sore throat, he says, along with some congestion. I’m hoping its the typical winter crud and not the flu. This year’s flu season scares me and has me on high alert more so than usual; when I was 15, my never-took-a-sick-day-in-his-life father died at age 44 following a brief bout with the flu so these recent deaths (especially the children) are freaking me the fuck out.

Reading …
January hasn’t even ended and I already have the first book for my Best of 2018 list. (I know I still have to finish the post about my favorites from 2017.) It’s a review book and I usually try and refrain from talking much about them until my review appears but I can’t help myself with this one. It’s Educated by Tara Westover and is one of the best memoirs I’ve read. She was raised in a deeply religious, survivalist family in the Idaho mountains and didn’t attend school until she was 17. It’s drawn comparisons to The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and deservedly so. Incredibly gripping writing and just an astonishing story. I’m recommending it to everyone. Publication date is February 20. 

Listening …
As much as I loved Educated, this week also saw my first DNF (did not finish) book of 2018: Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes and Cads by Shannon McKenna Schmidt. It seemed like a fun audiobook on the surface but quickly became overly salacious and tawdry.

In keeping with the salacious and tawdry theme, I’m currently listening to the audiobook version of Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff. (I’d add a photo but I’d rather not have that asshole’s face on my blog — and I’m not referring to Mr. Wolff.)  At the chapter six mark, I haven’t read any shockers that a) haven’t already been reported and b) most reasonable people didn’t already know or suspect.

Here are two podcast recommendations for your listening pleasure this week:

Caroline Donahue’s interview on The Secret Library Podcast with Chloe Benjamin, author of The Immortalists, another new book that I loved.

Katie Couric’s interview with Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent for The New York Times and who has been covering the White House’s current occupant for many years.

Only thing I watched this week was This Is Us — and that was plenty, thank you. And there’s no way I’ll be able to handle the Super Bowl next week (EAGLES, BABY!!!!!!!!!) and an episode of This Is Us. No way. No how. Except everyone will be posting spoilers, so I don’t know what I’m going to do. This show is crushing my heart.

Did I mention the Eagles are in the Super Bowl?  We are beyond excited in this house. Yes, even though we live in Pittsburgh, we still root for all of our Philly teams. I’m starting to think of a Philly-themed menu for next Sunday … perhaps hoagies, soft pretzels, water (pronounced “wooder”) ice and Tastykakes.

Talking with Mira T. Lee, author of Everything Here Is Beautiful

Everything Here is Beautiful is the story of two sisters, Lucia and Miranda, and how mental illness impacts their relationship throughout their lives. While their bond is at the heart of this novel, Mira T. Lee’s debut takes a 360 degree view of the effects that caring for a loved one with mental illness has on other close family members, like spouses and children. Finally, her decision to set Everything Here is Beautiful within the immigrant community allows people of all cultures to identify with others by seeing themselves in a narrative that too often focuses predominantly on a white, middle-class demographic.

The result is a novel that is getting significant well-deserved buzz this season. I read this in the waning days of 2017 as an advanced copy from the publisher and was thrilled to have an opportunity to talk with Mira T. Lee for a Shelf Awareness piece.

You can read my full interview with Mira T. Lee here.

Everything Here Is Beautiful
Mira T. Lee
Pamela Dorman Books
368 pages

2018 TBR Pile Challenge

This appears to be the year that — following a few years’ hiatus — I jump back into the crazy world of reading challenges. Like many avid readers, my TBR (to be read) pile of books is out of control. Goodreads shows that I currently own 641 books, but I know it’s more than that because a) I’m not very diligent about adding my ARCs (advanced reader’s copies) or Kindle books and b) I’ve never done a complete inventory of all my books.

Clearly, a TBR challenge is in order. Fortunately, Roof Beam Reader has brought back The Official TBR Pile Challenge after a two year hiatus. There are several other TBR-related challenges but what most appeals to me about this one is that you’re not limited to reading only your own books for a certain period of time. That’s not feasible for me. I like that this is spread out over the course of a year.

Today’s the last day to sign up with a list of 12 books (plus two alternates) from your TBR that you intend to read in 2018. Each of these books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2017 or later.

In addition to the challenge’s criteria, I tried to select books that I’ve been “saving to read for a rainy day” because given the state of the world, it would probably behoove me to get to them sooner rather than later. I also wanted mostly women writers. Finally, I wanted some overlap with The Classics Challenge.

Without further ado, here are my dozen (plus two) for the Official 2018 Challenge:

  1. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2007)
  2. The Answer to Your Question by Paulette Bates Alden (2013)
  3. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)
  4. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins (2009)
  5. A Big Storm Knocked It Over by Laurie Colwin (1993)
  6. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (1989)
  7. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr (1995)
  8. Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter by Beth Kephart (2000)
  9. Ghosts in the Garden: Reflections on Endings, Beginnings and the Unearthing of Self by Beth Kephart (2005)
  10. Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (1952)
  11. Above Us Only Sky: Essays by Marion Winik (2005)
  12. Orlando by Virginia Woolf (1928)

In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution by Susan Brownmiller
Unearned Pleasures and Other Stories by Ursula Hegi

There are also mini-challenges and periodic Checkpoints. The first one is today and asks which of these books have been on our TBR shelves the longest. I’m honestly not sure but I do know that four of these were purchased at a book sale in 2011 (as documented here) that boasted having 50,000 books available for sale.

I’ll update this post as I (hopefully) read and review all of these. In the meantime, check out what others are reading for the Official 2018 TBR Challenge here.

Sunday Salon/Currently: Climbing My Family Tree

Maybe it was President Shithole’s hateful, racist remarks this week about people from other countries. Maybe it was a desire to spend less time on Facebook and more time with other interests.  Maybe I was seeking a distraction from a new development in a situation that’s been weighing heavily on my mind for awhile. Whatever the reason (probably some combination of all the above, plus a snowed-in day), I spent the majority of Saturday hunkered down in a genealogical rabbit hole.

Pittsburgh’s library system has a robust collection of free genealogy databases and subscriptions (including to!), all accessible with one’s library card. I’ve known this for years but never explored any of these resources — all free, mind you, and the ones that are only accessible in the library happen to be located a mere two floors above my office. We had a major ice and snow storm Friday night into Saturday morning, making the beginning of this three-day weekend a lazy one of cancelled appointments and events. (I really feel bad for The Girl; she was really looking forward to a church youth group sleepover last night. I just wasn’t comfortable driving in this weather. She understood that and made the best of it by staying up late anyway and watching a Bowie documentary on HBO.)

I went on a genealogy binge a few months before the kids were born but never really did too much with it. Wait, that’s not true; I was able to reconnect The Husband’s grandmother with some of her long-lost cousins. That was nice. But wrangling newborn twins didn’t leave much free time for pursuits like climbing the family tree (most days I was just trying not to climb the walls!).

So yesterday I spent some time with my paternal great-grandparents Anton Middleman and Frederika Krause Middleman (also known as Freda and/or Frieda). All I really know about them was that they owned a cigar and candy store on Tioga Street in Philadelphia and that they were immigrants from Germany. It looks like they came to America together in 1889 and got married in 1892. They had six kids, the youngest being my grandfather, Edward.

I also looked into my maternal great-grandparents. According to the 1940 Census, my great-grandmother Mary Schiffler is listed as being the head of her household, which included seven children ranging from age 8 to age 21. This I knew. The Boy reminded me that today would have been my maternal grandfather’s 100th birthday. I miss them.

Currently …
Woke up with a wicked tension headache today which ends my headache-free streak for 2018. It has been two weeks since my last headache. I think that’s close to a record. Right now I have all my go-to remedies underway: hot shower; ginger and turmeric tea with honey; essential oils; Excedrin Tension.

Reading/Listening … 
I finished listening to It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell this week. At 20 years old, Mitchell weighed nearly 300 pounds and knew she had to begin addressing her life-long struggles with food, its connection to her relationship with her parents and her sense of self. It Was Me All Along is the story of that journey. I thought this memoir was heartfelt and honest, especially in recounting the emotional, difficult aspects of her childhood. Mitchell does an excellent job of narrating the audio version.

Celebrating …
Our Eagles won! The Steelers on the other hand … well, that’s a disappointment. (My football loyalties are complicated. I’m first and foremost an Eagles fan, but I can’t help but root for the Steelers too.)

Sweating … 
I finally went back to yoga for the first time in 2018 (and the first time since October). Thursday was a stressful day and I just needed some way to release some tension and work some shit out. This was my 3rd yoga class ever — and a hot yoga class at that.  (Hot yoga is IN.FREAKIN.TENSE.) It was hard. Really hard. I spent nearly half the class just laying on my mat. What I really love about this studio is its emphasis on being a non-judgmental, accepting place, especially for newbies like me.

Hope you have a great week!