Wednesday, September 2, 2020

TGUH Monthly Recap - August 2020



At the beginning of 2020, I thought this summer would be one of travel.  I began booking and planning a Florida vacation for June, right after the end of the school year.  We were waiting for confirmation on a date for a family wedding in Virginia and we had hoped to combine that with a quick trip to DC.  Rich and I had also been invited to a wedding in St. Lucia and, before the world fell apart, we were trying to figure out a way to attend because it looked absolutely amazing.  (I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have been able to go because - children.)  I also wanted to get over to Kentucky with the girls to visit family.

None of the above happened but we realize how lucky we are to live so close to the ocean.  That has given us a much needed escape this summer.  The girls have asked if we can go to Disney next year, and I just don't know.  I don't know when I'm going to feel comfortable getting on a plane or visiting a theme park, and, honestly, Disney the way that it is now just doesn't seem like fun.



School Update

Last week, we finally received more detailed information regarding the start of school.  Teachers will return this week as planned, but students won't be back until the middle of September.  The first three and a half weeks will be all virtual learning and then we will switch to a hybrid model.  Students will be at school two days a week (either Monday and Thursday, or Tuesday and Friday.)  Everyone will be learning online on Wednesdays.

Unlike what we experienced in the spring, the online portion of school will be actual school.  (By the way, I am in no way trashing our school system.  No one ever expected schools to shut down and they had to follow orders from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  The main concern was that there are kids out there who would not have the resources available at home in order to move forward with school, so teachers were supposed to keep the kids connected and engaged.  For most of the spring, school wasn't really school.) Now, attendance is mandatory and students will be receiving letter grades.


While there are normally three different teams for each grade at the middle school, that all had to be reconfigured.  There is a new team now for students who signed up to exclusively learn remote (they will not be returning to the building when we switch to hybrid), and an additional team due to reduction of class sizes.  Letters with team assignments are going to be mailed a week before school starts, so there are still some details open right now.  Supposedly, students will be in a smaller group and stay with those kids for all classes.  I think two of the girls may be together because they both take French and are placed in the same math level.  It would be nice if they could all be together but I know that definitely can't happen.

We're going into this with an open mind.  There's nothing we can do to change the way things are so we are accepting of the changes.  



New Minivan

When the girls were born, I was driving a Volvo sedan and Rich had a Volvo station wagon.  I was adamant that I was never going to drive a minivan and we looked into different options but at the end of the day, a minivan is what worked best for us.  I balked at the price of pre-owned minivans with 30,000+ miles, and a dealership near us had a new bare bones/zero upgrades model for not much more than the loaded used ones.  So that's what we got and I drove that sucker for 13 years.

We'd been talking about and planning to replace it for a couple of years now.  It had reached the point where it was going to need some work put into it.  A part had to be replaced over the winter and we knew more repairs were forthcoming.  It was also starting to guzzle gas.  Rich began looking in February and then everything shut down.  We decided to stay with a minivan because it works for us right now, and I really don't care what I'm driving.  I didn't even test drive the new one before we bought it.  Rich basically looked online at inventory of Siennas and Odysseys and we found a good deal on a 2020 Odyssey so we went with that one.  I would have driven the Sienna for longer, but I (or basically Rich) didn't want to deal with any issues, especially on a road trip.

Ankle Update

When I registered the girls for dance classes for the upcoming year, I did not sign myself up for adult tap.  Dance did not go so well for me last year.  All I had to do was land a certain way, and pain would shoot through my ankle.  I'd think I was having a good week and then it would act up.  I had to take it easy during certain warm-ups and there was a part in the dance we were learning that I was never going to be able to do properly because that second Maxie Ford was painful every single time.

So I'm going to take a year off from dance and see what happens.  My ankle is doing much better now.  Back in January, I realized that not exercising for many months had actually not really helped and the muscles needed to support my ankle were now weak.  I began wearing a supportive brace and very slowly walking and then running very short distances at a turtle's pace.  My ankle still clicks but I'm not experiencing pain like before.  The knee I dislocated many, many years ago has been bothering me now instead.  Sometimes getting older is not just fun.


Books I Read

Jaws by Peter Benchley - I'd given thought to reading this for many years.  I've seen the movie more times than I can count and had heard that the book was slightly different with subplots.  Gah.  In a way, I wish I hadn't read it.  This was written in the early '70s so I can see why the sexist commentary is included.  People are still freaking sexist today in 2020.  But I just couldn't deal with the racist remarks.  It really did ruin it for me.

Benchley went above and beyond in researching sharks and that shows in the book.  It's a shame that the cons outweigh the pros, in my opinion.  Also, in a way, it felt like he had this great idea for a book, but it sort of fell flat.  I usually think books are better than their movie adaptations, but in this case, I prefer the movie.

Devolution by Max Brooks   - I actually do not know how this ended up in my library holds, as it doesn't seem like a book I would want to read.  I figured there must have been a reason why I placed a hold on it so I read it and I do not recommend, unless you are really into Bigfoot.  I give the author an A for effort but this was a slightly unrealistic account (via diary entries) of a small community who is attacked by Sasquatch after being cut off from communication after an eruption of Mount Rainier.  If I was working around the clock to keep myself and others alive, I don't think I'd have time to sit down and write a 30 page journal entry.  Maybe that's just me though.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki - A journal written by a teenager in Japan who is bullied by her classmates washes up on a remote island on the other side of the Pacific.  The book goes back and forth between journal entries and the life of the woman who finds the diary.  I really liked this one, even though I wish it had a different ending.  Check it out.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - Wow! This was such an amazing book.  A Baptist minister takes his wife and four daughters to Africa (the Belgian Congo to be exact) in 1959 for mission work.  The story is told through his wife and daughters and I have to say that the author really gave each character her own voice.  One of the things I disliked about Daisy Jones & The Six was how each character "sounded" exactly the same to the reader.  In The Poisonwood Bible, it's easy to distinguish the characters' voices.  This is fiction but there are historical references and I learned an incredible amount.  While I highly recommend, note that this is a longer book and the author does go into quite a bit a detail.  Also, it took a few pages for me to get into this book.

Posts in July

Antiquing, storms and nature hikes

July's Monthly Recap

Coming up in September  

Looks like we'll be back into a routine between school and dance.  The school day runs from 7:30 to 2:00 so some people in our home will be up at the crack of dawn.  I will not be one of them.

Here are some of my favorite sunset photos from August:





Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Antiquing, storms and nature hikes

I love antiques and could spend an entire day browsing through antique shops.  Put me, my mom and my grandmother together and it's all over with.  Last week, we ended up with a rainy day on the Cape with high surf warnings so we decided to drive over to Eastham to explore.

Our first stop was Buddha Bob's in Eastham.  It's a small store (with an outdoor section) that sells buddhas, crystals and antiques.

There's so much that could be done with that sideboard

I was there for the antiques, which I have no room for, so it was basically window shopping.

A beautiful headboard I don't need.

There was a break in the rain so it was off to Coast Guard Beach (part of the Cape Cod National Seashore) to check out the surf.  When we were last here earlier in the summer, we noticed that the bottom portion of the pathway leading to the beach had become extremely steep due to erosion.  That path is now closed.  We checked it out from the beach and there has been so much erosion, it was basically impossible to have a path there now.

Just a little chilly.


We saw several seals close to shore so I pretty much thought this guy was crazy.

Case in point . . .


It's funny how they pop up and check you out.







We've been making more of an effort to get outside and exercise as a family this summer.  One overcast afternoon we went "hiking" on two different paths in Brewster.  The changing landscapes and salt marshes made it interesting.  Google Brewster walking trail guide for more information.  There are nature walking/hiking trails all over Cape Cod.





I can't believe there's less than a week left in August!  This summer seems both long and short at the same time, if that makes any sense at all.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

TGUH Monthly Recap - July 2020

To quote Adele:  Hello, it's me.

I thought I'd give monthly recap blogging a try.

I know I've been MIA.  Life can become complicated and when I stopped blogging (a hobby, not an income-producing endeavor) I realized how much time I was devoting to something that sometimes just wasn't fun.  Thank you to everyone who has reached out to say hello and check in.  I truly do appreciate it and it reminds me of the old days when blogging felt more like a community instead of a competition.

If you're on Instagram, I am fairly active over there.  I'm easy to find - thegreatumbrellaheist.


So here's what July looked like for us:

The New Normal

Some restrictions in Massachusetts were lifted and the girls were able to return to dance at the studio for their summer competition class, which ran once a week for four weeks. There are many, many changes at the studio though.  Kids are pretty adaptable and they quickly adjusted to what has become the new normal.

Class size is limited, they have to wear masks (yes, you can take a breathing break if necessary), no dance bags allowed, everything needs to be labeled, hand sanitizer, hand washing, no parents congregating in the lobby, really no parents in the lobby.  No complaints - we all understand the necessity of the new rules.

Cape Cod

We've been spending quite a bit of time at our cottage on Cape Cod.  Rich and I took those last cooler/rainy weekends in May and June to tackle painting projects.  There's still a lot to do but we've been focusing on enjoying beach time for now.  July was an extremely hot and humid month for us.  I believe Boston recorded nine days with temps over 90 degrees for the month.


This bedroom is covered in wood paneling.  We painted the whole room, which takes three coats of primer and two coats of paint.  I also painted a bunch of furniture.


I'll have to do a before and after post some day, but these beds look soooo much better painted a modern color.

Back in April and May, everyone thought the summer season was going to be a bust.  Short-term rentals were not allowed (hotels, houses, condos) and it really was concerning for those who make the majority of their income during the summer.  Thankfully, that situation has completely turned around.  Rentals are booked solid, hotel rooms are going for $$$ and the real estate market is booming.

Coast Guard Beach



Of course this means beaches have been more crowded than I would prefer.  The heat waves have played a role in that as well.  We've figured out where/when to go in order to avoid people.  Towns have reduced beach parking lot capacity in order to combat the number of people on the beach but there are always ways around that.  You can walk, get dropped off, take an uber.



Yummy lobster roll from Sesuit Harbor Cafe.

Because we canceled our June vacation to Florida, we spent most of the end of June at the cottage.  July was mostly long weekends as life began picking up again.  Rich is working about 50% at home.  I've been trying to help out my parents as much as possible.  My dad was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia last fall and he requires 24 hour care.  My mom had aides coming in helping prior to the lockdown in March, but it just wasn't safe for them to assist so she had to stop that.  I had grand plans of going over and helping her but that first week of shutdowns was a bit of a mess with sickness in our home and I didn't want to spread anything to anyone. But we're in a different place now and I can go over and assist (while wearing a mask, just in case.)

I love beach roses.

And so many pretty hydrangeas.









Books I Read

I just finished reading book number 49 of 2020 this afternoon.  Lots of reading going on in 2020.  Here's a rundown of what I read in July:

The One by John Marrs - What if you could be matched with a perfect partner through a simple DNA test?  This fiction novel follows five different people who've been matched and what happens to their lives when they decide to contact their matched mates.  I thought the idea here was unique and while the book was a quick read, it was also very predictable.  I'd definitely throw this one in the beach read category.  

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid - I HIGHLY recommend this one.  After I finished reading it, I was describing it to Rich and the girls, and they were all like, "Wow, there's a lot going on there."  Which is why I cannot understand the reviewers who say they wish this could have had more to it. Perhaps those readers missed the underlying themes.  I'm not going to go into the details because I could seriously write an entire post on this book but the author hits upon racism and social class from many different angles.  Read it!

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong - This is fiction but it reads like a memoir.  It's written by a poet, very beautiful but haunting.  The book reads as a letter written from a son to his mother.  The underlying themes of race, social class, masculinity and sexuality are all present and leave the reader thinking.  While I really liked this one, there were some graphic sex scenes.  I can understand why and how they tie into the book but reader beware.    
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides - I'm a little late to the party here but I thought this was a decent beach read.  If you like trendy suspense novels and you haven't read this one, check it out.

Coming up in August

Well, hopefully we find out exactly what's going to happen with school.  Those decisions need to be finalized, approved and communicated to students and parents, so we're in a holding pattern right now.  We plan to spend much more time down on the Cape.  There's still a lot of summer left here.



Thanks for reading!