Friday, October 11, 2019

Back to School/Life Lately


Gosh, I feel like we got off to a rough start this school year.  There was the whole locker incident and then Anna was diagnosed with another UT infection.  It's been a month of back and forth with the doctor's office trying to make sure the infection is gone.  Thanks, spina bifida.  And then there's everything that's been going on with my dad.  (He was supposed to come home today, but that was changed to "sometime next week.")  And the cold virus that was going around school less than a week in that knocked me on my butt.

Back to the locker incident.  The school was not able to determine what happened.  I suspect reviewing hours upon hours of video footage fell lower and lower on the priority scale as time moved on.  And I get it.  I once held a real job and I understand how that works.  The school did assist with replacing some of the "lost" items though.

I feel the need to paint a better picture of the school's population.  There's speculation that a child in need stole the items.  I still do not believe this is the case for a couple of reasons.  There is only a small percentage of kids who need financial assistance.  Based on demographics, I'd say that's approximately 10%.  In addition, the school and community both provide backpacks and school supplies to those who need these items.  Now, I understand there may be a kid who still needs stuff despite all this, but how many kids could that be?  AND what's the chance that this kid was able to get into Anna's locker (she now insists that she had secured the lock) and clean it out without anyone noticing?  I still think it was someone in her homeroom who saw her combo when she was practicing and dumped everything in an empty locker not in their hall.  I did have one specific boy in mind but the girls told me he's lazy and they couldn't see him pulling off a heist of that caliber.

As the principal told me and I agree, with the number of unattended personal items in the school, there are very few thefts.  There is a huge "lost and found" table full of jackets and other items that is constantly cram packed.  So much so that the schools will announce at least once a year that if items aren't picked up, they will be donated.  Last year, I was surprised to see kids running out of the school within seconds of the last bell.  The girls told me that some kids pack up their backpacks and leave them sitting outside their lockers, or leave their lockers unlocked or slightly open for a quick getaway.   There's so much opportunity for items to be swiped, but they're not.

So the girls are holding their own with grades and such.  Some nights, they have quite a bit of homework and other nights, not so much.  I feel like this is when real teen stuff starts creeping up on parents but thus far, we haven't had any issues, aside from tween attitude.  There was the night I went upstairs and I knew no one had been vaping, but there was this weird smell, so I asked if anyone had been smoking anything.  The girls were horrified I would even ask the question because they would never do that.  Turns out it was the cardboard from a delivery box.  It must have gotten wet (or something), but it  didn't smell like wet cardboard.  (My kids still ask for permission to watch television (even though I tell them they don't need to) and to have a snack when it's not a typical time to have a snack so right now, I have zero concerns when it comes to smoking and drinking.)

Last commentary on school. There's already been quite a bit of teamwork type classwork this year and I am not a fan.  Neither are the girls.  I understand and agree with some of it but not the ones that are graded and your grade is partially dependent on a team member who is not of your choosing.  I've been telling the girls for years now it's to prepare them for the workplace, where there is always at least one deadbeat.  

Dance is still the big activity.  The girls were moved up to the next competition team and they gladly accepted the challenge.  They did sign up for fall running club because it doesn't interfere with dance.  I feel like they have a good mix of busy time without being over-scheduled.

Speaking of running, I'm on week 6 of "resting."  Even though I haven't been running, I've still had moments when I step on that ankle (usually getting out of bed) and there's pain.  Based upon what I read during my tendinitis research, it sounds like what I thought was "cracking" may actually be the tendons slipping in and out of place.  Awesome.  I've come this far so I think I'm going to give it a few more weeks of rest (aside from my weekly tap class where I stupidly stand there during jump shuffles) before I attempt to run again.  And this time, I won't make the mistake of jumping into 3 miles every other day.  When it was still 75+ degrees out, I told myself I would ride my bike when the temperature dropped.  Nope, not happening.  So basically I've been in sloth mode.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

What I Read in August and September

I was only able to read three books in August so I decided to combine my book review for August and September.  I typically read about 50 books per year but at the rate I'm going at right now, "about" is where I'm going to end up for 2019.  And that's perfectly fine.  Book reading isn't a contest.

Florida is a collection of short stories, all of which have the state of Florida as the common theme.  Sometimes the story takes place in Florida, sometimes a character is from Florida.  Lauren Groff is definitely a talented writer and while I usually do not seek out short stories, I enjoyed reading these.  Some definitely were stronger than others, but overall a satisfying read.

Heartland is a memoir of working class poverty in America.  The author's mother came from a line of teen mothers, while her father was a fifth generation wheat farmer.  The book focuses mainly on the author's childhood in Kansas along with the history of her parents, grandparents and great grandparents.

I really wanted to love this.  I feel there was so much potential here for a fantastic book, but unfortunately, the author missed it.  There was a lot of repetition with several story lines being told more than once, but other important parts of Smarsh's life were skimmed over and described in short paragraphs.  For me, there was too much focus on certain parts of her life and family history, and not enough detail from later in her life (teen years to present.)  This was definitely an interesting book to read but I can see why it didn't receive the same hype as Hillbilly Elegy.    

Rich and I discuss, here and there, bringing the girls out west and visiting a National Park.  I came across this book right after we'd had one of these discussions and thought it would be interesting to read.  It was, but it was very morbid.  As the title suggests, this book is about how people have died in Yellowstone National Park.  I do have to say I learned quite a bit about Yellowstone - the stories with bears freaked me out the most - but unless you have a huge fascination with Yellowstone, this isn't necessarily a book I would recommend.  Also, some parts dragged on for me.  I would have maybe enjoyed a shorter book that highlighted the dangers along with some history, versus detailed accounts of so many deaths.

Disappearing Earth was the best book I read over these past two months.  Two young sisters disappear from a peninsula located in the far northeastern part of Russia.  As time and the book continues, the reader is introduced to different characters, who are all tied together at the end.  What's amazing here is that the author focuses on the heartache and abuse of women - the divorced, single mom who has to leave her children alone during the day so she can work, the young woman who can never leave her super controlling boyfriend, the mom who is left to care for her children alone while her husband is out at sea for months at a time, the mom who wants to return to work after having a baby but cannot.

I have this odd fascination with Russia and given the choice, I'd read a book set in Russia over other countries.  The author spent time in that part of Russia so her descriptions of the area are detailed and make the book even better, in my opinion.  I like the ending too.  So if you're looking for new fiction, check this one out.

I admit I read this book because everyone's been talking about it and I was curious.  It seemed like it could be interesting but before I read it, I knew that most people either loved it or hated it.  Normal People follows the relationship between Connell and Marianne from high school through college.

I was not a fan.  At all.

There are a million people out there in relationships I do not and will not ever understand, but in this case, the author has the opportunity to explain that relationship but whatever she was trying to get across just didn't work for me.  I understand relationships can be extremely complex but there was a lot missing here.  I could not relate to most of the characters, especially the main two, and I really just didn't like any of the characters.  Here and there, the author describes Connell and Marianne, but it always seemed like she was contradicting herself, or not explaining how/why a character had changed.  Long story short - I thought character development here was terrible.  In addition, and somewhat of a pet peeve, the book just ended.  As in, I turned the page expecting a new chapter and found that the book had ended.  As a reader, it made me feel like the author didn't know how to end it.

Fourth of July Creek is set in 1980 in a remote area of Montana.  Pete Snow, a social worker, attempts to assist families in need and abused children.  There is one family in particular who is hiding in the wilderness and as Snow tries to get close to them, he has to deal with the disintegration of his own family.  I thought this book was pretty good.  It's different from other books out there and kept my interest.

Away Off Shore tells the early history of Nantucket through its people.  While I thought this was good, especially for nonfiction history, it's not necessarily a book I would recommend for everyone.  If you are really into American history or you're from New England or you have a connection to Nantucket, you'd probably find this interesting.  It could be because my timing reading this wasn't the best - I had to pick up and put down quite a bit - but some chapters dragged on for me.  So reader beware, a good book, but definitely not for everyone.

For links to all my book reviews and lists, click here.

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

An Early Fall


We've been conditioned (brain-washed) into believing that Labor Day marks the complete end of summer.  For us, it certainly feels like we should be ushering in fall as school typically begins right after Labor Day and technically, summer break has ended.  But the summer weather is still very much alive in September.  Usually.  We had a good stretch of cooler weather roll through here shortly after school began and I was not ready for it.  It was hot again the next week because this is New England.  Perhaps the extremely chilly spring we had makes it feel like we didn't have enough summer weather because I am definitely not ready for what's coming our way.


Admittedly, I'm a bit of a grump when it comes to apple picking.  Perhaps because now that the girls are older, it takes approximately 15 minutes to pick a peck of apples.  And we don't need 50 apples so that's it.  (I know I can make apple sauce and apple butter and apple crisp and apple pie, but I don't want to.)



We apple pick every year with friends of ours.  At this point, it's been so many years, the girls view it as a must-do tradition.


The leaves of the trees in front of our house began to turn color at the very end of August.  I've been watching them change this past month.  The nights are cooler, jackets are needed in the morning.  The earth continues to revolve.  Life moves forward.  This month, I've wanted it to slow down.




I want to thank everyone who reached out to me with kind comments regarding my dad's condition.  And for all of you who have loved ones living with dementia/Alzheimer's, my heart goes out to you because it truly is devastating to witness.  My dad was moved to a rehabilitation center earlier in the week and is doing better.  The goal right now is to get him back on his feet so he can return home.

Monday, September 23, 2019


My mind has been in a weird place this past month or so.  My dad is still in the hospital.  He has dementia, which we knew, but it has now been classified as a specific type of dementia.  There's some other stuff going on and really he's at one of the best hospitals in the country but as we all know, there's only so much doctors can do, especially when it comes to Alzheimer's and dementia patients.  What has been sad/scary/frustrating is his sudden decline and movement through the disease.  In the past six weeks, he has seemingly moved ahead in terms of years.

So obviously, I haven't been posting anything because there's been a lot going on here at home and my mind has been elsewhere.  I'm currently fighting off a cold, which was nothing but the sniffles to the girls, but wiped me out completely.  This makes me somewhat useless with respect to caring for and visiting my dad as the last thing he (or anyone else at the hospital) needs is this.

I drove into Boston twice last week to sit with my dad and dealing with traffic was an absolute nightmare.  Keep in mind that I need to get back in time to pick the girls up from school, which ends before 2:00, and on some days, like Friday, there is already outbound traffic at noon.  I live 35 miles from the hospital and it took me just over two hours to drive in on Monday, and I completely avoided the Expressway.  We are dealing with an outdated infrastructure.  The roadways aren't capable of handling all the cars, the subway system and commuter rails need major improvements and regularly fail, which leads commuters to turn to their own vehicles, which in turn, clogs up the already overcrowded roadways.      

Last month, I discovered that the tax role I had retired/resigned from three and a half years ago was open.  Again.  A piece of me wanted to reclaim what had been mine.  To take it back.  Because even with all the office politics and sleep deprivation and general bullshit, I was pretty good at what I did.  I'm not always the best at this stay-at-home mom stuff.  I don't enjoy cooking and cleaning and there are days I long for someone to hand me a tax return (my dad would say I'm crazy) but now is not the time for that.  Now is the time for me to be with my family.  (Plus, Rich reminded me of the less than ideal commute, and that greatly helped.)

Life is not easy.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Last of Summer + Biking the CC Rail Trail


I had planned to post this last week, but last week did not go as planned.


The weather has turned.  Fall is in the air.  For most of the summer, Allie has been saying she can't wait for winter and the colder weather.  We had to run to the store the other night and it was pretty chilly out.  As we were briskly walking across the parking lot, Allie said, "I'm debating over whether or not I really want it to be cold out."


We have not been back down to the cottage since school started.  We had originally planned to go this past weekend, but with everything going on with my dad (he's in the hospital), it didn't make sense for me to not be around to help out my parents.


These photos are from our mini-vacation before the beginning of school.  It's funny, because typically the ocean warms up over the summer months but we could feel a chill in the water that weekend.






Last year, Emily and I biked 17 miles of the Cape Cod Rail Trail.  It was something that we talked about doing again this summer and we managed to squeeze it in over Labor Day weekend.  I decided to cut the ride short this year because she still doesn't have a good bike for this type of cycling.  I rode behind her to let her set the pace and I could see her pumping her legs far more than I had to.  I also had to keep slowing down, because her bike wouldn't coast as easily as mine.  Even though my bike is bigger, Rich, who is the one loading and unloading from the bike rack, pointed out that it is much lighter than hers.



Just like last year, we stopped at this pond/lake for a break.


We started in Dennis and ended at Nickerson State Park this time around - a bit over 10 miles in total.  This is a good place to take a break as there are bathrooms, picnic tables and benches.  There's also a parking lot, which made it easy for Rich to pick us up and get the bikes back on the van.



(Emily's making that face because Allie bombed our photos.)

I'd like to get in a much longer ride so I've come up with a plan for Rich to drop me off at Marconi and then pick me up in Dennis.  I think that's about 19 miles of the trail.  That's probably going to have to wait until next spring though.