Category Archives: In the News

Sunday Salon/Currently … Stable Genius with a Big Button

 

“Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it’s cold as hell
And there’s no one there to raise them if you didn’t
And all this science, I don’t understand
It’s just my job, five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man …” 
~ “Rocket Man” performed by Elton John, written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

A mere seven days into a brand new year and — in what will undoubtedly be a common refrain for many of the 358 to come (should we be so lucky to see them) — this has been quite the week. We’ve had the Stable Genius boasting about the size and potency of his, um, nuclear button. There was a bombshell of a book release with a title that could be most Americans’ motto for this administration. (You know I got myself on the Fire and Fury holds list at the library — #180 out of #542, baby! I like my chances for the audio, for which I’m #37.)

Not to mention the weather has been downright frigid this week, with temperatures more suitable to Mars. All right, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration for the sake of pithy blog fodder, but I think we can come together and agree that it’s goddamned fucking cold. Last night we got down to -14 and that’s the actual temperature, not the RealFeel (of which it was -20 on Friday.)

But here’s a little something that made me feel all warm and toasty. I woke up to find this from The Girl (who had a snow day) as I sat down to have my coffee at 5:30 am.

She’s a keeper, that one. She’s 16, so this is a proud teenage parenting moment for the win. (And yes, for the love of God and keeping the peace, please let it be known that she did spell out AWESOME. My phone camera cut it off and I’m too lazy to retake the photo.)

Reading
I had all good intentions of reading Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan as my First Book of the Year, but decided I needed to get crackin’ on a review book, considering the review itself was due January 6. I’ll tell you more when it’s released in March. This week I’ll be reading another review book, so I don’t have much to talk about right now reading-wise.  Sorry.  I am reading a back issue of The New Yorker (10/23/2017) which includes this profile of our creepy-and-dangerous-as-fuck Vice President.

Blogging/Writing … 
Still hoping to finish my Best Books of 2017 post and a few other recaps of the year. Hopefully that will happen before, say, the Fourth of July.

I wrote a review for the aforementioned review book and submitted it within 29 minutes of the deadline. A great start to 2018. I’m working on another author piece, due tomorrow, so I need to spend some time with that today.

Oh, I almost forgot the biggest Blogging/Writing news. In what might be a regular occurrence or one time thing, The Husband made a return to blogging with this post (“Heaven and Hell Prepare For Massive Influx of Billions“)  It’s hilarious, but I may be biased. Anyway, consider giving it a look and showing him some blogger love.

Listening …

My current audiobook is It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell, a compelling memoir about Mitchell’s tumultuous childhood and how that affected her relationship to food. Mitchell writes candidly about her father’s alcoholism and destructive behavior, her mother working four jobs and preparing elaborate feasts for family gatherings (Mitchell’s descriptions of the food are mouth-watering), and how her traumatic formative years led to her weighing 300 pounds at age 20.

Many of the Goodreads reviews seem to be more complimentary to the first part of the book, but for now I’m finding this to be engaging yet heartbreaking. It seems odd to draw comparisons to The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls but I think this would appeal to those who connected with that book.

Podcasts of the Week …
Being back to work after a long (12 days!) break means I’m back to podcast listening during my commute. (I alternate between audiobooks and podcasts, depending on my mood.)  For 2018, I want to get back to doing my Podcasts of the Week feature, either as part of these Salon posts or in a separate discussion, because I listen to so much great stuff that I want to a) remember and have a reference point of sorts and b) share it with you.

One that stood out this week was Ezra Klein’s discussion with Jon Favreau of Pod Save America. Both The Ezra Klein Show and Pod Save America are two of my favorites so this was a must-listen.  Others I enjoyed this week:

Getting Things Done: Tips for a Year-End Review (1/1/2018)
The Bob Cesca Show: Fire and Fury (1/4/2018)
The Readers: Farewell 2017 … Here’s to 2018 (12/30/2017)

Watching … 
To my delight, The Girl is on a quest to watch all the great ’80s movies. I am more than happy to oblige. This week her selection was “The Breakfast Club” and now she’s obsessed with all things Ally Sheedy, circa 1985.

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, hope you’re keeping warm this Sunday.

 

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This Is How We Read (#AMonthOfFaves)

December tends to be a reflective month for many people, myself included. This year, I’m going to try and keep my blogging momentum going (thank you, #NaBloPoMo and Nonfiction November!)  by participating in the 4th annual #AMonthofFaves hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge. It’s a fun way to recap the year that was. Yes, a significant chunk of 2017 deserves to be drop-kicked to the curb, but despite such, there was some good stuff worth remembering. We’ll be posting about them each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of December — or, you know, anytime.

Today’s #AMonthofFaves is about our year in reading, a topic I usually wait until the first week in January to talk about for various reasons. I’m of the belief that it’s entirely possible for one to read one’s favorite book of the year on December 31. Consider this, then, a prologue of sorts to my annual year-end reading recap.

To date I’ve read 45 books, exceeding my 2016 total by two, a nice accomplishment. My goal is at least 50 — definitely doable. December is usually a plentiful reading month for me, given that I often have an abundance of vacation days to use up (which, thankfully, is the case this year).  More than half (27) were review books. Fiction consisted of 20 books; 21 were nonfiction. Only 9 were memoirs (would have thought that would have been higher); 3 were poetry collections and (in what might be a first) I read only one short story collection. The majority of my reading was print books, with 11 on audio.

Hints about my favorite book: it’s fiction, it was a book I reviewed for Shelf Awareness, I’ve never read the author before and I’ve written about it in previous posts. Oh — and this will give it away, for sure — it has the worst cover. I hate it. Seriously, the cover is awful, which is a goddamn shame because I haven’t seen this book discussed too much and I can’t help but think that’s one of the reasons why. It should be at the top of everyone’s best books list.

One thing that stands out to me is how much the current political and cultural climate has affected my reading this year — Ta-Nahisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power, Hillary Clinton’s What Happened, Rebecca Solnit’s The Mother of All Questions as well as Hope in the Dark are just a few titles that helped me keep some semblance of perspective and calm during what has been a tumultuous, emotional and unprecedented year. And assuming the slim possibility that the POSOTUS doesn’t get us all killed with his apparent lust for war and his obvious lovefest with Russia, “resistance reading” is likely to be a predominant theme of mine for as long as this regime is in power — so much so that I’m even contemplating hosting a “Reading the Resistance” challenge for 2018.

Here’s my first potential member, my cat Douglas, reading You’re More Powerful Than You Think by Eric Liu and writing to her elected representatives from the comfort of one of my typical reading spots, an old (broken in places) chair that used to belong to my grandparents.

 

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One Year Later: Still Seeing Red, Still Resisting

I admit, I had zero intention of voting yesterday.

None whatsoever.

I had no inkling who was running or for what office. No clue about a ballot question about property taxes and school funding and what it all meant to my dwindling financial bottom line. Retaining judges? Hello, has anyone even heard of these people?

After the disaster of last November, I was convinced my small vote wouldn’t make one bit of difference, that turnout would be pitiful and, really, what did any of this matter anyway, given the bully in the White House tweeting his way to obliterating all of us from the face of the Earth?

And what’s worse is that despite playing a political analyst, pundit and prognosticator every day on Facebook, I. Just. Didn’t. Fucking. Care. And I knew how hypocritical that made me.

Until Facebook’s always-a-double-kick-to-the-heart On This Day feature reminded me that yes, indeed, I really did take the above photo a year ago, on November 7, 2016.

It really happened.

As if I could forget.  As if I – or anyone else – could forget anything about that bizarre, unimaginable week.

I wrote about seeing Hillary Clinton 48 hours before the election in this post (“Seeing Red”). I’ll always remember the glorious, bright blue sky and crisp fall day when she spoke at a final rally on the University of Pittsburgh campus and then crossed the street to say hi to the crowd where I stood.

She looked stunning, confident, resplendent in her red pantsuit.  We cheered wildly, equally confident that we were meeting our next President of the United States.

We were so close.

Election Night 2016 will likely be forever seared on my heart. As long as I live, I will never forget holding my then almost-14 year old daughter, both of us sobbing , my telling her I was profoundly sorry that this is the world she would be growing up in.

That no matter who was in the White House, I wanted her to know that I would always, always love and protect her and her brother.

That despite what people in positions of so-called power said, I will always accept both of you and work like hell to make sure both of my children have every opportunity to reach their dreams, no matter who is President, no matter who tries to make you feel less than.

That I wished so much this had been different.  That I was so very, very sorry.

My daughter still talks about what we refer to as “Mom’s election night concession speech.” As much as it is seared in my memory, I think it’s one of those moments that will be part of hers forever, too. (Which was my intent, so, #winning.)

So, yeah, last year’s ghosts were (and still are) looming large.

But seeing the picture of my all too brief encounter with Hillary show up on my Facebook feed (as I knew, of course, that it would) provided some kind of fuel to my flagging resistance that I didn’t realize or think I needed.

Hillary would want — no, she would insist — that I get my ass to the polls after my after-work appointment despite the dark and cold evening.

That if I was truly serious about everything I had been screaming into the online ether for the past 364 days and before, that this was what I had to do.

That voting was the way that, at least for today, I could still make my voice heard to protect the rights of my family and for others who are less fortunate than me.

Because — at least for today, I still possessed the right to vote.

So just as I did last year, I walked into the same township building, smiled at the same poll worker who was in the same spot from a year ago, and made small talk about the weather and the turnout.

“I hope you win something,” he said, referencing the slot-machine sound that played when he inserted the cartridge that sent my data to Russia made my vote count.

“Well, I certainly didn’t last year,” I snarked, receiving not even a half-smirk in response from anyone in our staunchly Republican town.

This is what resistance looks like, I thought, selecting a straight Democratic ticket and voting no on a referendum question. (And yes, I researched both issues on my lunch hour yesterday so I felt fairly well informed.)

This is still what democracy is.

This is why the fight still matters.

She may not have been on the ballot last night. But as I walked out of the same poll booth where I proudly voted for Hillary exactly a year ago, I knew that once again, I was #StillWithHer.

 

 

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the thing with feathers

It’s funny, isn’t it,  how sometimes the smallest things — like this gorgeous sky over Pittsburgh this morning — are able to lift your mood, even for just a few moments.

I was dropping The Girl off at a workshop this morning and the leader hadn’t yet arrived, so we were waiting in the parking lot. Normally, I would have reached for my phone to check Facebook — undoubtedly to be greeted by a fresh barrage of bullshit —  but something made me look up.

“Wow, check that out,” I said to The Girl. “It looks like a feather in the sky.”

She thought it resembled a surfboard. Feather, surfboard, whatever. The point is, I was filled with a momentary sense of wonder, delight, and hope — elusive emotions for me lately, if I’m being completely honest.

Maybe it’s the anniversary of when we realized how dramatically the world had changed and remembering how optimistic we were feeling this time last year, certain that we were on the verge of electing Hillary Clinton as the first woman President of the United States. My Facebook memories from a year ago are almost unbearable; like many people, I had been hoping that, despite a deeply divided electorate, that goodness would prevail and that the high road wasn’t the dead end it turned out to be and yes, that love would trump hate.

Obviously, a lot of us were wrong about that.

The last few weeks have seemed particularly exhausting. Resistance Fatigue was high; I felt powerless, worried, and resigned that nothing was going to make a difference. It didn’t matter if I called my despicable Senator Pat Toomey 100 times every day; he wasn’t suddenly going to do the right thing and do something already that actually benefitted the people he claims to represent. Quite the opposite.

(I will say that #MuellerMonday certainly helped put a spring in my step. As I frantically refreshed all my news sites this past Monday, I did so with hashtags like #BestMondayMorningSinceNov7. And it was, for a lot of people who have been feeling the way I have been.)

Emily Dickinson famously wrote that “hope is the thing with feathers.” I think the feather in the sky was a reminder that hope still exists, that there are still good things in a world gone so very wrong, if only we remember to look and not be distracted. Case in point: my plans while The Girl was at her workshop were to write (maybe prep some blog posts!) and read. Instead, several friends mobilized online to do what we could to help one of our mutual friends. Another friend posted a photo of a wallet she found on the street — and it turned out to belong to a colleague!

These are the little big things that will sustain us amid the many difficulties and challenges of this world.

These are the little big things that will keep us looking up.

 

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She Persisted: 13 Women Who Changed the World, by Chelsea Clinton

“Sometimes being a girl isn’t easy. At some point, someone will probably tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams are impossible. Don’t listen to them. These thirteen American women certainly did not take no for an answer. They persisted.” 

So begins She Persisted: 13 Women Who Changed the World, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, a picture book for readers of all ages.

The book was inspired by Senator Elizabeth Warren’s impassioned, vocal opposition to Senator Jeff Sessions’ confirmation for Attorney General in February 2017 — and the resulting backlash and instant meme from Senator Mitch McConnell’s response to her. (“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”)

For each of the 13 women highlighted in She Persisted, there’s a brief biography (“she persisted” is included in every description) and a poignant quote accompanied by soft, inviting illustrations. While some of the most famous names in history are included (Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Oprah Winfrey), there are others whose accomplishments might not be as well known (Clara Lemlich, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin). All represent diverse individuals who have made groundbreaking achievements and discoveries in fields such as medicine (Virginia Apgar), journalism (Nellie Bly), politics (Margaret Chase Smith), sports (Florence Griffith Joyner), education (Ruby Bridges), science (Sally Ride), the legal profession (Sonia Sotomayer) and more.

There are, of course, countless more women whose tenacity and dedication resulted in remarkable, life-changing contributions to our world — which is exactly the point of this book that celebrates “all women who persist every day.” For young people, She Persisted serves as both women’s history lesson as well as motivation for dreaming big dreams and staying determined when those ambitions seem difficult or are met with backlash from others.

For grown ups, it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come — especially when current events seem otherwise.

Click image below to purchase She Persisted for yourself or to encourage a young person to dream big and never give up. (As an Amazon Associate, I will receive a very small commission from your purchase to help to support this blog and its content.) 

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Book Review: Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

If the reviews on Goodreads and such are any indication, my dislike of this novel puts me solidly in the minority of Lucky Boy readers. It has a good premise, one that is timely and in sync with current events surrounding immigration issues, but I had more than a few issues with … well, a lot of things.

You can read more of my criticisms in my review published today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Always grateful for the opportunity to talk books within its pages.

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currently … sunday randomness

My computer time is somewhat limited this weekend, thanks to a faulty laptop power cord. Yesterday I went to the local big box electronics store in search of a replacement; despite the 12 year old salesman’s assurances, the cord didn’t fit and back to the store I went. Another didn’t work, and after calling an incompetent individual at some affiliate of the big box store, we had an unpleasant conversation about why said person needed every iota of data I own before even checking to see if they had the right cord. I finally resorted to ordering one from Amazon which, thanks to a free trial of Amazon Prime, should be here tomorrow and let’s all pray it works.

First world problems in a country that’s on a fast-track to becoming part of the third world, I know. No doubt my curtailed computer access (and a migraine today that had me in bed for part of the afternoon) is the universe’s way of giving me a much-needed commercial break from the 24/7 reality show hosted by President Shit-gibbon. I do think I need to incorporate shit-gibbon into my vocabulary more frequently, don’t you? Perhaps I can work it in next time I tweet the newly-secretary of education Cruella DeVos, which I did in response to her dumb-ass comment the other day about not being able to find any pencils.

Don’t even get me started on that incompetent bitch’s bought cabinet position. This week I let my spineless piece of shit Senator know how I felt in my latest voice mail message, one that probably landed me on some watch list, assuming anyone in his office actually listened to it, which is doubtful.

Ironically, we had an IEP meeting the day after Cruella DeVos was confirmed, during which I asked one of our team members (The Boy’s autistic support teacher) if he anticipated staying in that capacity for next school year. He said he would and I replied, “If not, we can bribe you. We’ve heard that works well in some educational circles,” which brought down the house.

It was a really good IEP meeting. Really good. This is a wonderful team, and the outcome of that meeting was a major highlight of the past week and a much-needed pick me up.

Like almost everyone else I’m still on speaking terms with, it has been difficult during the past three weeks (Jesus God, how the hell has this only been three fucking weeks?!) to stay sane while speaking out against the danger this regime represents. At times, it’s difficult to focus and I’m more distracted than usual because so much is happening so quickly and as someone who finds it really hard to tune out from the news (not so much in a fear of missing out (FOMO) regard but in an oh-fuck-some-serious-shit-just-happened regard), it’s not a healthy way to be.

I’m trying to find some balance, though. I like the suggestion of focusing on a few key areas. (As you may have guessed, mine are disability rights, women’s rights and LGBTQ issues.) Everyone’s spouting the mantra of self-care these days, suddenly discovering the benefits of eating healthy and getting more sleep and exercise. As if these became new concepts on November 9. The irony is all this yoga-ing and social media fasting will make us the healthiest doomed society ever.

(That’s not to say I’m not doing or don’t support any of those sorts of things. I am and I do.)

What I haven’t been doing is much reading.  So far this year I’ve read three books. Three. All were review books, as is the one I’m reading now, so I can’t really say much about them until the reviews are published.

How about you? What are you reading, watching, doing?

 

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