The Sunday Salon: September 28

The Sunday Salon

It’s 6:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, and this is the first extended opportunity I’ve had to relax this weekend. The Girl had an event at school on Friday night, so immediately after arriving home from work, I was driving her to school (which is 20 minutes away). Then two hours later, back in the car, picking her up.

On Saturday, The Girl had a SibShop session and I went into work for a few hours; I’m on deadline with two reports due Tuesday and I needed extra time to get caught up. Then, she came back to work with me.  We had lunch outside in the spectacular late-September weather that was this weekend in Pittsburgh and then I took a break and started Roxane Gay’s AMAZING essay collection Bad Feminist. 

Bad Feminist


I’m only two essays and 15 pages into this, but I am loving this collection. All the hype? So well-deserved so far. Roxane Gay is keynoting at a writing conference I’m attending on October 18, which made me especially interested to read her work.

This was/is my selection for A Most Diverse Universe, but clearly, since that ended yesterday, I’m not going to finish this in time to get anything substantial written in the near future.

The Sparrow

Needless to say, very little reading has been happening this weekend – or this past week, for that matter. If possible, I’d really like to finish The Sparrow tonight (I’m participating in The Sparrow Read-along that Trish is hosting and I have another 150 pages to go).

Still listening to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver on audio.  I admit, this is starting to feel a little long at this point (chapter 15), especially with the stomach-turning descriptions of raising (and especially, butchering) the chickens and turkeys that this vegetarian couldn’t fast-forward through fast enough. Ugh.

Yeah, all right, I’ll shut up now. I’m sounding cranky. I need this weekend to be a little longer.

Another five days should do it.

seeing the hard battle

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (55)

Photo taken at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh, PA Photo Credit:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

~ most often attributed to Plato, but also several other people

The  absolute truth of that statement is among the many things I learned during The Husband’s thyroid cancer. I mean, I’d like to think that my life experiences up until September 2012 would have been sufficient preparation for fully understanding this concept – which I certainly did – but there’s something about someone you love having a life-changing illness that gives you a new perspective on everything you thought you knew.

It also sheds new light on others in your life and the hard battles they’re fighting. One of the lingering effects for me has been to try and be more present in recognizing these struggles in others. I’m trying to be better at reaching out, at doing what I can to help.

I’d never heard of myositis until our cousin was diagnosed with this condition – and I still don’t know (or understand) everything about it. And you know, I don’t have to. I just have to care enough to give a damn. So when we were talking on Facebook recently after she posted that September 21 was Myositis Awareness Day, I said that the least I could do is write a blog post as a recognition of how this has impacted her life and how it has changed so dramatically, as an appreciation and awareness of what she lives with every day.

Sometimes it’s not understanding that we’re looking for, especially when we don’t understand that which is too difficult for our comprehension.

Sometimes it’s enough to say, I see the hard battle you’re fighting. And I’m with you.

For more information about myositis, visit The Myositis Association here.





The Sunday Salon: Food for Thought

The Sunday Salon

I’ve been awake since 3:50 a.m., and all I have to show for the past six hours is: a) a few sentences written on an essay I may or may not submit for possible publication (it’s due today); b) several perusals of Facebook; c) reading The Boy’s latest evaluation from school in preparation for a new IEP; and d) this post.

Yay, me.

Planning to do a few de-cluttering/re-organizing/cleaning projects around the house today. It’s looking like we’re in for a rainy day, perhaps even with some thunderstorms, making it the perfect day for such chores. My approach to housework is that I ignore things up to a certain point and then deal with them when I can’t handle the mess any longer.

On the agenda today is the pantry, which could use a bit of re-organization because things have just been thrown in there half-assed, I’m buying duplicates of stuff, I’m spending too much time looking for basic ingredients … the whole thing is out of control. And the family room/den/office area is way overdue for some attention, bigtime.

Animal Vegetable Miracle

Speaking of food, my current audio book is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver. My first reaction was that this didn’t seem any different from other books and blogs promoting eating locally-grown, in-season food  - and then I remembered that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was published in 2007, before concepts like farm-to-table and eating what’s currently available were household words.  Seven years later, it’s still relevant and worth reading because there are still people who don’t understand this.

Case in point: yesterday at ALDI, I was in the checkout line and the ever-so-pleasant cashier asked the customer ahead of me if she found everything she needed.

“Yes, but you don’t have any strawberries,” she stated.

The ALDI cashier replied, “Right. They’re all done for the summer.”

The customer looked dumbfounded at this. First of all, if you want strawberries at the end of September, you shouldn’t be shopping at ALDI. Go a few miles up the road to the chain supermarket and spend $6 for eight ounces of strawberries that were trucked in from 3,000 miles away.

(I’ll give the customer the benefit of the doubt: maybe she was making a special dessert or something. But, still. If that’s the case, that’s not the week to go to ALDI.)

What’s interesting is reading this not far removed from finishing Flight Behavior. I knew much of that novel was borne from Kingsolver’s own experience on her family’s farm, but Animal, Vegetable, Miracle really shows the genesis of that story.

The Sparrow

I’m still making progress with The Sparrow and am almost to the halfway pointI’m participating in The Sparrow Readalong and summed up most of my thoughts thus far in the mid-point post. It’s still keeping my interest, but at page 160 I’m getting a bit antsy to find out what the hell happens. I have a sense of what’s to come, but enough foreshadowing and whatnot already: let’s get on with it.

Same with this Sunday. On with it already.

Mid-Flight into The Sparrow Readalong #SparrowRAL


I first heard about The Sparrow from my friend Florinda, who proclaims it to be among her favorite books.  Yet, even when I bought it at a book sale for $2, I resisted reading it because … well, I don’t know, exactly.  I was under the impression this would be more science-fiction-oh-look-there’s-a-little-robot-alien-thing-with-antenna-who-speaks-in-jibberish-and-is-taking-me-in-his-spacecraft-to-another-planet than is to my liking (which is to say, not my liking at all).

When Trish from Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity announced a readalong of The Sparrow, I thought this would be a great chance to finally read this novel.  So far, I’m more into this book than I expected – although not as far along as I would like. Today’s our midway check-in and I’m only on page 75. Still, here are some initial thoughts:

1. How is The Sparrow matching up with your expectations going into the book? Are you surprised by anything?

It’s not as sci-fi as I thought. I mean, yes, right from the beginning you know that travel to another planet is involved. But these are regular, everyday people going into space. They could be you or me. A few of my neighbors could pass for Anne and George.

Also, this was published in 1996. Seeing a chapter dated “Cleveland, Ohio: August 2014 - May 2015″ was a little jarring, to say the least. I mean, when you’re reading a science fiction type book set in the future and there’s a chapter dated in the present day and time, that kind of makes you sit up and think, HOLY SHIT, THIS IS TAKING PLACE RIGHT NOW. You gotta admit that’s a bit disconcerting. Not to mention that 1996 feels like it was LAST WEEK. Maybe it’s me but I guess that’s a natural reaction.

Even if, you know, it’s a NOVEL.

But still.

If I’m lucky enough to still be around in 2059 (and if I am, somebody better be throwing me a hell of a kick-ass 90th birthday party) I’ll probably feel the same about those parts, too.

2. Do you feel the switching back and forth between past and present to be effective?

Yes. It doesn’t bother me when authors do this. It does make me more inclined to want to read this in longer sittings, which isn’t always possible. (Did I mention I’m only on page 75?)  And I have had to go back to previous sections to refresh my memory, but that’s the case with other books that employ this technique, too.

I will say that the “[a]s many as thirty or as few as ten years later” (pg. 21) and “Seventeen years or a single year later” (pg. 22) is confusing and makes me want a timeline.

Or a drink.

3. Which characters do you want to hug and squeeze? Any you’d like to strangle?

As of page 75, I feel most sympathetic to Emilio.  (Hugging and squeezing him probably isn’t the best idea, though.)  He’s so broken, in so many ways.

For whatever reason, I’m not trusting John Candotti yet and I’m definitely suspicious of that Voelker guy.

4. Any other thoughts? #copoutquestion

Favorite line so far: “He had discovered the outermost limit of faith and, in doing so, had located the exact boundary of despair. It was at that moment that he learned, truly, to fear God.” (pg. 21)

There are books that seem to come along for us to be read at the right time, regardless of how many years they were published. I’m thinking The Sparrow might be that kind of book for me.

It’s not too late to join us in The Sparrow Readalong.  Visit Trish’s blog for additional mid-point posts and to sign up. 

The Book Review I Can’t and Won’t Write

Can't and Won't

Can’t and Won’t: Stories by Lydia Davis
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

289 pages

I can’t write a typical review of this collection of short stories.

You probably won’t believe me when I say that most of the stories are only a few sentences or paragraphs long.

I appreciate the quirkiness and experimental form, language, and voice that Lydia Davis brought to these stories (especially when this review took me as long to write as some with hundreds more words) but in the end I can’t say that I loved these stories.

Still, I won’t let my first Lydia Davis book be my last.






The Sunday Salon: Bookin’ It Through Fall

The Sunday Salon

We’re kickin’ off the first official day of football season, which in this house is akin to a national holiday.  NFL GameDay Morning started us off promptly at 9 a.m., and we’re watching the Steelers-Browns with the sound muted while listening to the Eagles-Jaguars game on SiriusXM. I’m bedecked in my black and yellow; The Husband is in his Eagles’ jersey. Here in the ‘Burgh, it’s a gorgeous Sunday weather-wise and the start of football season also marks, for me, the unofficial beginning of fall. I love this season.

Maybe it’s just me, but fall always seems to herald the best book events – both in-person and reading challenges in in the book blogging world. I swore off challenges almost three years ago now, but every once in awhile I can’t resist joining one or two … or three. Here are just a few bookish events, challenges, and readalongs that I hope you’ll join me in participating in:

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2014  shortlist will be announced this Tuesday, September 9 and I’m eagerly anticipating which of the 13 books move forward. I’d love to see History of the Rain by Niall Williams make it to this next round and win the whole thing, because I loved it so much. ‘Course, it’s the only one of the Booker longlist mentions that I’ve read, so that makes it my personal favorite.

Orfeo by Richard Powers is in my TBR pile beside the bed and I’d hoped to have gotten to that – and several others – by this point too, but that hasn’t happened. This longlist looks really good this year.


The Sparrow Readalong
Throughout September, Trish of Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is hosting a readalong of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.  I’ve had this on my Goodreads “to-read” list forever and on my actual bookshelf for several years. I’m looking forward to participating in this.

RIP 2014

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX
If it’s September, it’s time for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, one of the best reading challenges in the blogosphere. And I say that as someone who isn’t usually a devotee of the mystery, suspense, horror, thriller, gothic, dark fantasy, supernatural types of reads that R.I.P. focuses on. I love this challenge hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings (his introduction to this annual challenge, now in it’s 9th (!!!) year, is always a fun read in and of itself).



There are several R.I.P. IX levels and I’m planning to participate at Peril the Second (Read two books of any length that you believe fit within the R.I.P. categories) and Peril of the Short Story (which is self-explanatory … to read short stories that fit the categories). 

A More Diverse Universe 2014

A More Diverse Universe
Between September 14-27, Aarti from BookLust is hosting A More Diverse Universe to encourage reading at least one book written by a person of color.  Aarti writes, “None of us lives in a monochromatic world, and yet the fact that terrifying hate crimes still occur makes it clear that we do not fully understand or trust each other.  And maybe part of the reason is because the media we consume does not accurately reflect the diversity of our society.  And books are such a massive part of the media we consume that we should demand and fight for those that do represent minorities and those that do present the world from a different perspective than the one we are used to.  So please – participate.  You may just discover a character or an author or a setting or a story that will completely change your life.”

This is not hard to do. Aarti makes this easy, giving links to book suggestions right on the #Diversiverse introductory sign-up post.

How about you? Are you looking forward to or participating in any of these events this September? If so, what are you reading?




READIN’AT: Submit a Book Title, Ya Jagoff!


One of my favorite Pittsburgh blogs is the hilarious Ya Jagoff!, which documents with pitch-perfect humor and wit the irreverent behavior (often parking and driving-related) of Yinzers. If you’re not reading Ya Jagoff!, you’re definitely missing aht on one of the best things about da ‘Burgh.

As has been the road traveled by many successful blogs, a Ya Jagoff! book is in the works (and scheduled to be published in time for holiday gift-giving). Slight problem, though: in typical Ya Jagoff! style, this book needs a name.

Submit your title suggestion here before September 7, which is when the Ya Jagoff! powers-that-be will make their selection. If your title is chosen, you will get 2 comp copies of the book and 2 t-shirts.