Category Archives: The Sunday Salon/Currently

currently … in a funk

That’s a photo from a Pirates game we were at in 2013 — a lifetime ago, really. I’m kind of bummed this weekend because The Husband and I had an actual, honest-to-God date planned down at PNC Park where the Pirates are, as I type this, playing the Yankees in a rare series. We like the Pirates just fine; however, The Husband is a Yankees fan and it’s not often he gets to see them. This weekend’s games here in the ‘Burgh would have been the perfect opportunity and I encouraged him to get tickets as a belated birthday gift for himself. Unfortunately, The Husband hurt his foot on Friday — we suspect a sprained ankle (he’s getting it checked out on Tuesday) — so he sold the tickets on StubHub and here we are, watching from the living room on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.

I was looking forward to the game, so not being able to go has added to my general bummed out mood lately. We’re dealing with a family situation that’s incredibly sad and difficult, one that falls in the “not entirely my story to tell” category of blogging, so that’s weighing heavily on our minds. We were in Philly last weekend for Easter because of this. It’s a hard time and being so far away from everyone right now makes us feel even more helpless. My attention span is nonexistent.

Reading … I’m in a bit of a reading funk. I brought Anne Lamott’s new book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy with me to Philly last weekend, thinking it might provide some comfort. I really wanted to like it but found it kind of rambling and scattered. That’s been the case for me with a few of her books lately. I’ve also abandoned two potential review books. I can’t seem to get into anything new.

This week wasn’t a complete loss in the books department. I finished The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes, a novel that draws heavily on the true story of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. In 1936, Stalin attended a performance of his opera and … well, he didn’t like it. Which does not bode well for Shostakovich, whose life is placed in danger. It’s a compelling story, one that feels especially relevant in these times. At times I felt a bit lost (I think the narrative assumes the reader has more knowledge of music and Russian history than I do) but I found it fascinating and disconcerting at the same time.

I also read Jennifer Jackson Berry’s new poetry collection, The Feeder, which is … emotionally intense. These are raw, personal, soul-bearing poems dealing with infertility and loss and sex and pleasure. I’m a fan of Berry’s work and this collection is one that stays with you.

Watching … Still in the middle of the first season of “Grace and Frankie.” Such a stellar cast in this show, which I am enjoying. I really want to see “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Maybe we’ll watch that tonight.

Loving … My new laptop. My hard drive died a few weeks ago and while it can be replaced (and we were able to save all my data), the laptop is four years old. The Girl really needs a laptop for homework so I decided to get a new one and repair my old one for her. Also, I’m loving this weather. It’s finally nice enough to sit outside at lunch with a book and on the deck after work.

Running … Slowly but surely, I’m starting to get back into some semblance of a running routine. There’s a great little walking path at my mom’s so I was able to get in a 1.25 mile-long walk on Sunday, with a little running tacked onto the end. We also did a walk on Friday evening too.

AnticipatingDewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is next weekend (April 29). I love this event, which happens every spring and fall, and I try to participate as much as I can.  I’m really hoping my reading rut will have ended by then.

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Currently … Listening, Attending, Anticipating, Celebrating

Our daffodils bloomed this week. Or maybe it was last Saturday, I’m not sure. And even though they arrive on a different date each year–sometimes varying by several weeks, depending on the vagaries of Pittsburgh’s weather–they always seem calibrated to appear at the exact moment when I need an emotional pick me up.  Despite this particular bloom pictured above from the front yard, they’re looking a little droopier than usual this year. Maybe the late season snow of a few weeks ago is to blame, I don’t know.

Listening….
As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent most of this week being obsessed with S-Town, the new podcast by the team behind Serial and This American Life. It’s only seven episodes of about an hour each, give or take, so you can easily listen to the whole thing during your commute plus some time at your desk or as you work out or however you listen to podcasts. And if you don’t listen to podcasts, this is a great one to start with. I’m so in awe at the reporting and sheer craft of storytelling with this one.  If you’re not listening, you need to start. Now.

Attending … 
You wouldn’t know it from my not-so-great cell phone photo, but I had second row seats on Thursday night as J.D. Vance was in Pittsburgh to give a lecture about his best-selling book Hillbilly Elegy. I’ll have more to say in a separate post but I enjoyed his talk more than the book. I mean, I thought it was fine as a memoir but as the touchstone for the cultural commentary that it has been anointed as … I’m not sure. It’s certainly a book that has struck a nerve, good and bad.

Anticipating … 
After going through a One Direction phase that lasted four long years (and cost a fortune in tickets for three separate concerts and related 1D merchandise), The Girl has seen the light and discovered the music of my youth. We’re talking Michael Jackson, Prince, and Bon Jovi, in particular.

(Let’s pause for a moment while the heavens part and angelic music plays — notably by two of those three, who could be playing a celestial jam.)

I am, obviously, delighted about The Girl’s new appreciation for ’80s tunes –mainly because all said merchandise and music is already available in the basement, free of charge and accessible via convenient mixtapes and CDs. Have at it, kid.

Anyway, many months ago, she heard that Bon Jovi was touring and would be stopping in Pittsburgh. She begged to go and I was unconvinced. I should have known better, given this girl’s history when it comes to music. When she finds someone she likes, she is a fan for life. Finally, I relented over Christmas dinner.  If she worked on improving her algebra and biology grades and went to after-school tutoring if she needed extra help, I would consider getting Bon Jovi tickets.  Soon, I was getting texts from her updating me on every grade.  Like every day. And there was not a day I did not hear about Bon Jovi.

And you know, this girl worked her ass off. These are not her strongest subjects, not by a long shot, but she raised her algebra grade from a 75 to an 80 (the highest ever) and biology from a 77 to an 85. So, we’re going. And she is beside herself and absolutely delirious. She has been talking about nothing but this concert for months.

To tell you the truth, I’m just as excited as she as. I love Bon Jovi and have since the beginning. Saw them in concert when I was The Girl’s age. I think it was back in ’85 or ’86 when they played The Spectrum in Philadelphia, maybe for the Slippery When Wet Tour. It could have also been in ’89, but I seem to think it was earlier. Anyway, The Girl finds this to be the epitome of cool. And since The Girl is 15 and a half and I am still regarded as a cool mom who The Girl enjoys hanging out with,  I’ll take it.

Celebrating …
This is my birthday week and I’m thrilled that Jon and I are both still rockin’ on. Usually I try and take my birthday off from work but because of the Philly trip last month and another somewhat unplanned Philly visit over Easter, I don’t want to burn too many vacation days this early in the year. So, tomorrow will be a typical, normal work day — hopefully without too much stress. Maybe I’ll even take my full lunch hour and leave work on time. I bought myself a flourless chocolate cake from Trader Joe’s. My daughter wants to hang with me at a Bon Jovi concert. There are worse ways to welcome in 48.

“Welcome to wherever you are
This is your life, you made it this far
Welcome, you got to believe
That right here, right now
You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be
Welcome to wherever you are….”
~ Bon Jovi, “Welcome to Wherever You Are”

 

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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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Currently…Hibernation Sunday

Currently
It’s a day for staying indoors, given that it is all of 11 degrees outside as I write. Such is January in Pittsburgh. I skipped church because of the weather and a morning migraine that has, thankfully, subsided. We de-Christmased the house earlier, then I spent most of the day on the couch with a cup of rooibos tea with the Steelers-Miami game on as background (whooooo hoooo, Steelers!) while I caught up on some blog reading and perused Pinterest for some meal planning ideas. You know, the usual lazy Sunday.

The upcoming week will be busier than usual because I’m immersed in a big project at work. This will likely require a few later evenings, on top of several hours of work yesterday during a rare Saturday in the office to try and get ahead of the game.  I took today as a break from the work project which will wrap up this coming Friday the 13th … hopefully a luckier day than the date portends). The intensity is a short-term thing, but this has been in the works for a year, so it will be good to have some semblance of completion.

Reading …
I need to spend some time this evening with a new short story collection which I’m reviewing. (That deadline is Friday, too.) This one will be my first book of 2017, not to be confused with Sheila from Book Journey’s annual First Book of the Year project. I had all good intentions of participating in that but had to temporarily set aside my choice (The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes) to focus on the review book.

Watching…
I spent a good chunk of my two-week Christmas break binge-watching “This Is Us” and am completely hooked on this show. I don’t watch much TV to begin with and I certainly didn’t need a new obsession, but here it is.  I have two more episodes to watch, which I plan to do right after hitting publish on this. Perfect timing for the season premiere this Tuesday.

Blogging … 
I’m planning to participate in the Winter 2017 Mini-Bloggiesta, scheduled for Jan 14-15.  If you’re new to Bloggiesta, it is described as “a blogging marathon revolving around ticking off those items on your to-do list and improving your blog while in the good company of other awesome bloggers doing the same thing.”

The timing is great because I’ll have a four-day weekend, thanks to the MLK holiday and a vacation day that needs to be used this month. To-do’s for this Bloggiesta include updating my Book Review page (and revising some others) and writing some posts. If you missed it last week, I shared my selections for the Best Fiction books of 2016 (meaning, those I read in 2016, not necessarily ones published during the past year). Even though the window of time for 2016 wrap up posts has pretty much closed, I still want to finish my Best Nonfiction post. I read a lot of stellar nonfiction last year that I’d really like to share with all of you.

OK, I’m off to finish watching “This Is Us” with a case of Kleenex at the ready. Hope your Sunday is going well and that you have a great week.

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Sunday Salon/Currently … The Year Spins on Unheeding

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“Time, always almost ready 
to happen, leans over our shoulders reading 
the headlines for something not there. “Republicans 
Control Congress” — the year spins on unheeding.”

Those lines from William Stafford’s “Reading the Big Weather” certainly seem apt for this particular moment in time, as this dreadful year of unprecedented (or, rather, unpresidented) moments spins unheeding down to its near conclusion. A glimpse at the news shows that there certainly has been no shortage of unheeded things.

Of course my first interpretation of this correlates to the election and tomorrow’s convening of the Electoral College.  Save for a Christmas miracle and the ghost of Hamilton,  they’ll likely vote to put the most unqualified, thin-skinned, egotistical, racist, sexist, narcissistic, hateful liar and abuser ever imaginable in charge of our country. It doesn’t need to be said that I fervently hope that Santa and Alexander are in cahoots, because nothing else can save us from our apparent doom, it seems. It is all so discouraging and depressing.

As I write this, though, what to my wondering eyes did appear but word via Facebook of a true Christmas miracle here in Pittsburgh. I’ve been following for some time now Caitlin O’Hara’s need for new lungs. Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis on her 2nd birthday, Caitlin’s mom (novelist Maryanne O’Hara) has been chronicling their wait for a double-lung transplant after Caitlin, now 33, was officially listed as a candidate in April 2014.  Because she wasn’t eligible to receive a lung transplant at a hospital near her Boston home, Caitlin and her mother moved here to Pittsburgh to be closer to UPMC, which thankfully agreed to accept Caitlin as a transplant candidate, despite her high-risk status.

Last week, as Caitlin remained on life support, one of her surgeons declared her “the sickest person in the United States” awaiting a lung transplant. The situation was truly tenuous and fragile — and today, word comes of a donor and that the surgery has been completed

(A sad update:  I’m heartbroken to share that Caitlin passed away on Wednesday, December 21, three days after receiving her new lungs. She fought tremendously to live but was so very sick. I never met her but I feel as if I know her so well from her mother’s posts and Caitlin’s own writings. My deepest condolences to her family and friends who loved her so much.) 

Arctic temperatures have frozen Pittsburgh all this week and this weekend’s weather was just downright bizarre with snow and ice storms in the morning, then nearly 50 degrees. Late last night, there were rumbles of thunder. But, of course, Mr. Tweeter-in-Chief doesn’t believe in the likes of big weather (to bring this back to Stafford’s poetry) so, you know, nothing to see here.

a-scripture-of-leavesThis week in books I only managed to finish A Scripture of Leaves, William Stafford’s collection of poetry that was first published in 1990.  In the immediate shock post-election, I remember someone or someplace mentioning Stafford’s work and when I saw this slim, unassuming volume in the library, I picked it up, not knowing much about him but later learning that he was a pacifist and conscientious objector. Those themes show in his work with these poems set in nature and exploring themes of religion, social justice and the environment.

As the year winds down, I have an abundance of use-it-or-lose-it vacation time. Tomorrow at noon begins my official 13 days of Christmas vacation from work—save for one project that will need some paying attention to during this break. I have a pile of books at the ready, several blog posts waiting to be written along with some blog maintenance, a smattering of decluttering around the house, and a handful of appointments to keep both the cars and psyches in working order. Some (okay, all) the Christmas shopping still awaits along with some time with friends and family in Philly.

Mercury goes retrograde tomorrow. And so we spin on.

Mornings we see our breath, Weeds
sturdy for winter are waiting down
by the tracks. Birds, high and silent
pass almost invisible over town.

Time, always almost ready
to happen, leans over our shoulders reading
the headlines for something not there. “Republicans
Control Congress”—the year spins on unheeding.

The moon drops back toward the sun, a sickle
gone faint in the dawn: there is a weather
of things that happen too faint for headlines,
but tremendous, like willows touching the river.

This earth we are riding keeps trying to tell us
something with its continuous scripture of leaves.  

“Reading the Big Weather” by William Stafford

 

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sunday salon/currently … need a little christmas now

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christmas-tree-2016

Our tree went up this afternoon, and you can see it there, above, tucked between the sofa and the old half-broken chair where I write this (and every other blog post) in our mismatched and oddly-configured living quarters.  I’m hoping the presence of the tree raises my spirits a bit and gets me more into a proper Christmas mindset, whatever and wherever that might be.  I’m just not feeling it this season.

It’s everything and not just one thing — there’s the election aftermath, of course, with its accompanying stew of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and anger I feel on a daily, constant basis. I know — and I don’t really care — that I’m one of Those People whom others are frustrated with for what appears to be an inability to move on and accept this new reality. Believe me, I wish I could find some peace with this. I wish I could be all optimistic and hopeful but I can’t. I wish I didn’t give a damn.

I’m finding it hard to focus, which makes reading a bit of a challenge. I didn’t finish anything this week. However, November was a pretty decent reading month with six books read.

shut-up-and-runthe-rain-in-portugalmothering-sunday

springtime-a-ghost-storyborn-to-runhouse-of-silence

I’m at 40 books read for the year, which is my lowest total since 2008 (when I read a measly 28 books!) and the year I started blogging.  I’ll be happy if I reach 45 books. We’ll see.

Not much else to say today.  Hope all is well in your world and that you have a good week.

 

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Sunday Salon/Currently … Thankfully Reading, Christmas Music, and #turnonthelight

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We’re back from a quick (less than 48 hours!) trip to Philadelphia, where we spent Thanksgiving with both sides of our family. If you read yesterday’s post recapping that visit, you know this holiday had special meaning this year.

It’s also been an extended break from work for me; I’m off from work through Tuesday, thanks to an abundance of vacation days needing to be used before year’s end with still more time off at the end of the year. Nothing is planned for today except church and grocery shopping. Tomorrow’s fun includes a follow up visit to the vet — our cat had dental surgery two weeks ago and all of her teeth needed to be removed, except for two.  She’s made a remarkable recovery and is doing well so hopefully this will be an uneventful check up.

Thankfully Reading
ThankfullyReading2014Because of the Philly trip, I didn’t have a chance to participate as much in Jenn’s Bookshelves annual Thankfully Reading Weekend event as I would have liked. This is one of my favorite bookish happenings because it’s a no-rules, whatever works for you kind of thing. Since I’m jumping in late (officially signing up with this post as Thankfully Reading concludes) I’m extending my participation into Monday.

Here’s what I read this week:

born-to-runspringtime-a-ghost-storyhouse-of-silence

As a Springsteen fan, I was pretty sure I would like Born to Run — and oh my, did I ever. At its conclusion, Bruce (I feel I can call him Bruce) writes that he hasn’t revealed everything about himself in this memoir, but you definitely come away from this feeling like you know him and his music in a whole new way. A must-read for Bruce fans and one that will be on my Best of 2016 list (in just a few short weeks!).

Springtime: A Ghost Story is a bit of an odd novella by Michelle de Kretser, an Australian novelist who was born in Sri Lanka. Frances is a 28 year old woman living in Sydney with her partner Charlie. She sees a ghost while walking her dog and … that’s about it. I liked the concept of a ghost story in springtime, but this felt more like an unfinished short story.

Last night I finished House of Silence, a debut historical fiction/mystery/romance novel by Sarah Barthels. This is a review book, so I can’t say much more until after its December 27 publication date.

I’m not sure what I’ll read next. I have several books in progress and another review book on the docket so probably one of those.

One thing I’ve been reading more of is The New York Times. I decided that something I can do in this post-election world is to support quality journalism by subscribing to the NYT. (We also subscribe to our local paper.)  They had a deal last week where a subscription was $10 per month. For that price, I can forego a few breakfast bowls or afternoon coffees at work.

Need a Little Christmas Now … 
Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, The Husband puts on Christmas music and listens to nothing else until January 2. (The two exceptions are November 29 and December 8 when he plays George Harrison and John Lennon nonstop, respectively, in honor of those two greats.) The Christmas music, though, usually drives me crazy. I can handle it in small doses.  Not this year. I’ve downloaded a bunch of new tunes from Spotify and am cranking up the holly right along with him.

#turnonthelight …
Our friends Jason and Rachel have launched The Holiday Lights Project  #turnonthelight to bring more kindness and joy into the lives of those around us.  They’re doing this in a big but quiet way, as is their style. They’re the folks who, while having breakfast at IHOP, pick up the tab for everyone in THE WHOLE RESTAURANT, not just the table next to them.  They load up gift cards with hundreds of dollars and hand it to a cashier, instructing them to pay for everyone’s coffee until it runs out. And they do this year-round.  (I know, because we’ve been the recipients of Jason and Rachel’s generosity many times.)

Obviously, we all don’t have the financial means to do this.  We certainly don’t. But we can all do what we can, even in a small way. (For example: since we weren’t going to be home for Thanksgiving, I donated some pumpkin pie filling and canned vegetables I’d purchased to the food pantry at church.) Jason’s post gives some inspiration for how we can all fight darkness with a little light, regardless of our status and station in life.

I hope your Sunday and the week ahead is filled with more light and less darkness. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to take this opportunity to say how grateful I am for all my blog readers. Whether you’re a newcomer to the blog or someone who has been reading for the past eight years, I’m very appreciative for you and your friendship. Thanks for being here! 

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