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Get Your Shit Together

Oh man has September been a ginormous asshole. If you’ve been following me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that between transitioning back to teaching in a real school, surviving a hurricane and its effects, and my natural state of having depression, the past four weeks have been a very tough struggle. The angry angel community stepped up though and with kind words, support – both financial and emotional, and encouragement, helped me get through to this lovely Friday evening. Things aren’t back to 100%, but they seem to be on the upswing.

I took stock of my reading plans today and realized that I had a HUGE backlog of advanced reader copies and books I have actually purchased for myself, so while I’m waiting for the 4 books that are on my holds list at the library I’m going to catch up on these. This weekend I’ll be reading:

Manhattan Beach

Out October 3rd, Jennifer Egan’s new book is touted as highly anticipated. Her last book published in 2010, A Visit From The Goon Squad, was loved by her readers and had rave reviews from my nemesis, The New York Times Book Review. It’s the story of a young woman who works on boats in the Navy during World War II and discovers why her father was murdered after the Great Depression. It seems to be a tale of struggle and self-discovery, which I am totally ready for. I haven’t read any of Egan’s work, but I had heard she was legit so I requested this from NetGalley and I got it!

Dogs at the Perimeter

I know literally nothing about this book, but the description on Edelweiss was compelling enough, and it was on enough “We’re Excited About…” lists for me to request it. Out October 3rd, and I’m starting it today! The story is told between Cambodia and Montreal, and I love reading books that take me someplace new or places that I have never been and tbh, places I may never go.

Wizard and Glass

I will also be starting the next Dark Tower book this weekend and no I don’t want to talk about it. Finishing this series is a matter of honor at this point and I am kind of cranky that this is something I have to do but I AM GOING TO DO THIS.

I plan to relax, drink coffee, and read these books this weekend and it’s going to be so amazing. I can’t wait to share them with you. 🙂 Have a fantastic weekend, angels, and thank you for being here.

 

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What We Lose

What We Lose

 

When I was in high school I would listen to music on my CD Walkman (I KNOW) and pretend like it was my theme music. I would imagine in my mind what it would accompany me doing, and how dramatic it would be for someone to watch me move through my life with a soundtrack.

So when I read Zinzi Clemmons’ What We Lose, it was like I was watching her life with a soundtrack, and it was exactly as awesome as I imagined it would be. She was her own Morgan Freeman, narrating her journey through the loss of her mother and the recovery from that loss. We see her navigating her romantic relationships, her familial relationships, her education, her career, her health – all from the play-by-play perspective as if you were watching it unfold live.

This is a memoir but it’s so much more than a memoir. I tried to explain it to someone and the best I could do was to say, ” remember in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Harry starts to realize that his dreams aren’t really dreams, that he’s seeing life through the eyes of the snake or Voldemort? This book is like that only you are seeing life through Zinzi Clemmons’ eyes as though you are her.

I cried through many parts of this book because I was Zinzi and her writing will convince you that you are grieving deeply, that you are loving deeply, that you are detached, that you are lost, and then found. This book is an immersive experience that is worthwhile, illuminating, and breathtaking. It is a short read, but it will live with you long afterwards. Go get you some.

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On Healthcare: Deadlines

This week I’ve been a little off on posting because I am not feeling well. I’m not sleeping good and something is happening in my belly that is either (1) gas/indigestion, (2) gall bladder issues, or (3) constipationish and while I know that’s TMI I hardly ever get sick or have issues so I have nothing to compare it to. I can’t be like “well it feels like that time I had xyz so I’ll do this to make it better!” It’s a new feeling and so I would need to go to the doctor to tell him my symptoms and have him give me directions.

The only problem is that I have been without healthcare since June 30th. Technically I have healthcare for legal purposes (the mandate) but I can’t start using the healthcare until October 1st because my school district, like most employers, put a weird waiting period on being able to get a broken leg set or getting a flu shot. I mean, I get it, it’s cost related. They don’t want an employee using the healthcare to get a bunch of stuff done and then quitting, or maybe being on the life insurance and dying, so they make us wait.

In other countries like Canada or England, I could just go to the doctor. I would have paid my taxes in April, and some part of those taxes I paid (or pay bi-weekly out of my paycheck like federal or state taxes in pieces) would have paid for my citizen healthcare. My belly hurts so much I can’t stand up? I go see a doctor. But I live in America, so I have 3.5 more days to wait through before I can go see if something is wrong.

Now, I’m knocking on wood through all of this because I don’t want anything to happen. Honestly a part of me just wants to take the next two days off because I don’t feel good and also because the less I’m out and about, the less chance there is that something will happen.

What I don’t understand about people is why this doesn’t matter to anyone. I get that we all want to get ours and go home, but don’t you want to make sure that the people around you at the grocery store and around your kids at school are healthy and have access to care so they don’t spread the plague to you? In this world of individualism, can’t we be selfish about ourselves enough to care about the environment around us at the very least, and care about the health and safety of those in our immediate community at best? WHY DO WE HAVE TO EXPLAIN THAT WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE? 

I already know why. That was a rhetorical question. I’ll just be over here, curled into a ball, waiting for the wave of pain to pass and wondering if eating something is worth the pain that comes after it.

 

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Obligation

I have lived most of my life making decisions based on real or imagined obligations. I behave a certain way in order to be successful at my job, in relationships, to make friends, to get degrees, etc. One of the most obligation-laden relationships in my life in the past have been my parents.

I don’t want to go into the pre-college years, but what I will say is that any help they offer always has strings attached. Once I flew home for Christmas and the number of times I heard “we bought your ticket so…*insert thing I’m expected to do here*”  on top of the fact that I had to borrow cars while I was there made me feel extra trapped.

One of the “helpful” things my parents did was to cosign on personal student loans that I took to get through my undergraduate coursework. Now that I’m old and tired I know that:

  1. I should have only taken enough courses that would have fit under the federal student loan program.
  2. I never should have entered into ANY kind of contract with my parents.

But I was 18-22 years old and I had no way of knowing these truths. I didn’t have the tools I needed to make these decisions. Adults around me needed to help me reach these conclusions, and those adults were just as clueless as I was. This can’t be better illustrated than to revisit what my mom told me way back when:

“We will never help with these loans. You will have to pay them. Our only help we are offering is to cosign these loans for you. You wouldn’t be able to get these loans without us. So you will get these loans but we will never help with them.”

The truth behind this is that they couldn’t help with them, but again I was 18-22 years old with no fucking clue how loans work and what the future might bring.

As I’ve moved through the last 12 years I have hit many bumps in the road which have hindered my ability to make these payments. Each time my parents have actually mailed me the letters they receive from the loan servicer, they call me to let me know they are receiving calls, or lately they have texted me with small “reminders.” Again, they are not offering financial help with paying the loan, because 15 years ago they said they would never help, they are just “helping” by reminding me to pay it.

This all came to a head last week, when after losing my job this summer, scraping by, surviving a hurricane, and not having power for an entire week I received a text from my mom that I needed to pay the loans, that she was getting calls.

I. Lost. My. Shit.

  1. I have received no calls/texts from them after the hurricane hit to see how we were. This text was the first one since she texted me the Wednesday before to remind me that I might want to text my sister (who I haven’t talked to in like 8 years) to congratulate her on her wedding.  I gently reminded her that my sister is a stranger to me and we were currently trying not to die of heat exhaustion so it wasn’t super high on my priority list.
  2. I am 34 years old and I know what bills are due when. I have told them on multiple occasions that I do not need extra bill collectors, I need parents. So unless they are going to help, I don’t need the stress of being hassled by them on top of being hassled by the bill collectors too. I have explained several times that if they are getting calls, I am also getting calls and don’t need a reminder.

I basically told her that there wasn’t anything I could do and she needed to stop acting like a bill collector and either help or leave me alone. So then I get the usual guilt trip in several texts that say stuff like “you wouldn’t have the education you got without us cosigning” and “this is the thanks we get for helping so many years ago” and “you don’t even think about how this affects ME because I can’t get loans for things I need.”

Another list.

  1. Yes I would, I just would have gotten it slower and not taken so many classes per semester to keep costs down. If someone in my life had been there to give me guidance, I could have done a lot of things differently and not needed your signature on a loan paper. But here we are.
  2. Thank you for signing your name and then wiping your hands of all other help. I have been struggling to get myself through real life for the past 12 years and I have had to learn some very difficult lessons through trial and error because I have no safety net. So maybe, since I’m doing everything myself, you could lay the fuck off when I make a mistake or when something bad happens.
  3. I know how this affects you because (a) I understand how cosigning works now because I’ve watched enough Judge Judy to win a civil court case and (b) YOU TELL ME EVERY FUCKING TIME. I’m not a gerbil, I have a working long-term memory. I do not avoid making payments to fuck up your life. I don’t make payments on things because I don’t have any money to make the payments. Help, or stfu and leave me alone.
  4. Guilt doesn’t pay bills. You can attempt to make me feel as bad as you want but it’s not going to make money rain from the sky. It’s not going to turn back time and get my old job back. It’s not going to make me earn more money now. So you can help, or you can get out of my face, because either way the bill is going to get paid when I have the money to pay it. It always has.

The idea of obligation is less weighty when there is nothing at stake. I haven’t seen my parents for more than 2 hours in the past 3 years. They offer no help financially and gifts come at birthday and Christmas in increments of $25-100 (1). The interaction I have with them is neutral to negative depending on the topic. I have no doubt they both voted for Trump.

So when my mom says “I’m soooooo angry because you’re late on this bill, pay it or else you ungrateful swine!” I’m like…or else what? You’ll disown me? You’ll stop calling me once every two months? You’ll never visit again? You’ve already been doing those things to me for years. You can’t take my education away and you’re already basically nonexistent in my life except when I’m late on this student loan. I don’t care anymore that this affects you; my being late on the payment has nothing to do with you.

So make sure that the relationships that are important to you come with obligations you are willing to uphold and stick to, and be wary of obligations that hold you to relationships that are toxic or harmful. And if, like me, you find yourself in a situation where there is a false obligation, let it go and concentrate on your obligations to yourself.

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The Cracked Spine (A Scottish Bookshop Mystery #1)

The Cracked Spine

The first in Paige Shelton’s Scottish Bookshop Mystery series starts off so well. Delaney from Kansas answers an ad for a bookshop curator in Edinburgh, Scotland and starts her life anew across the pond. She finds a small cottage to rent courtesy of the taxi driver she meets upon her arrival, and makes friends with her new boss Edwin and the other two employees Rosie and Hamlet.

The first 100 pages of this book are absolutely enchanting and mysterious. Edwin is very rich and participates in clandestine auctions with other interested parties in the area that are also rich to bid on very rare merchandise. One such piece, a Shakespearean Folio, came into Edwin’s possession and he placed it in the care of his druggie, not-to-be-trusted sister for some reason and she ends up murdered and the Folio (capital F) goes missing. I am 100% on board with all of this for the first 1/3 of the book. But then Delaney, in her first 3 days in Scotland, decides she’s going to investigate the murder.

I mean, I basically slept my entire second day in London because of jet lag, but this chick from Kansas is navigating public transportation and making friends with cab drivers within 72 hours of touching down at the airport? I mean, okay Paige Shelton, I’ll suspend disbelief for this I guess.

What makes me kind of cranky though is that the next 100 pages are her going to the same three locations, talking to the same 3-4 people about the murder, with no noticeable forward progress. Isn’t she supposed to be doing a job at this bookshop? What is her job? She’s been in the bookshop but she hasn’t really done anything there by page 210 out of 279. So when I reached this point I was (1) bored and (2) not invested in the story or the characters.

And then suddenly the hot guy that works at the pub up the street from the bookshop invites her to dinner so he can show her how awesome Scottish whiskey is and we’re getting this weird “maybe we can make this a romance too?” 70% into the book and we’re asked to buy into this possible romance that Delaney is okay exploring 5 DAYS AFTER ARRIVING IN SCOTLAND FROM AMERICA. And we still don’t know what’s up with Jenny’s murder, and we’re not sure what Delaney’s job really is at the bookshop.

I won’t give the ending away, but if you decide to pick up this series due to the Scottish charm don’t be surprised by the instinct to simply set the book aside. It’s really slow despite having all the ingredients for an exciting, new life, murder mystery story. I need to really decide if I’m going to pick up book 2 after this one, or if I move on to something else. Walk, don’t run to this one.

(Honestly I would rather you go read the Tannie Maria mystery books. I’ve included their reviews below.)

Recipes for Love and Murder (Tannie Maria Mystery #1)

The Satanic Mechanic (Tannie Maria Mystery #2)

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On Podcasts: Car Talk

Car Talk

http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510208/car-talk

Hosted by Tom and Ray Magliozzi from “our fair city” Cambridge, Massachusetts, Car Talk is a long-time favorite of NPR listeners. It’s one of the two programs I enjoy listening to on Saturday, the other being Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. The radio show was on from 1977 through 2012, when they retired, I think due to one of the brothers having a strong onset of Alzheimer’s. The show was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2014, and after Tom died in 2014 Ray hosted a one time special episode in his honor.

If you’d like to read more about the history of the show, I checked the Wikipedia and it looks pretty accurate. You should check it out, because the hosts are really interesting (they both have degrees from MIT!).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car_Talk

I listen to this podcast because the accents help me remember the golden days when I used to have a Downeast accent (a strange combo of Boston and New York) and brings back memories of living in the northeast. I like hearing about car solutions and even though we live in an age now where things like driving a standard or doing your own car maintenance is becoming either obsolete or impossible, it’s nice to hear how you might fix something or at the very least know that something is wrong.

There are jokes and puzzles and conversation – it’s a very New England podcast. It feels like you’re just sitting around the table having a beer and a convo about cars (cahs). To me it’s comfort food. I encourage you to check it out. Read about its history, read about the hosts, and then check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

 

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Genuine Fraud (New Release 9/5/17)

genuine fraud

we were liars

Lockhart loves a twist. When I read her last book, We Were Liars (review linked above), it had a Sixth Sense-esque twist at the end, a Fight Club type turn of events that makes you feel surprised and insulted all at the same time. Another book that did this type of turn of events strategy was I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid (link), which produced a similar reaction in me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good twist, but a twist that relies on, say, it was a dream all along!!!! Kind of pisses me off. Seems lazy, or underestimating my intelligence. Either way, I decided to give Lockhart’s newest novel Genuine Fraud a go to see if things stayed consistent with her earlier work.

There is the main character Juliette Williams (Jule) who is with her best friend Imogen Sokoloff (Immie) traveling. Immie is the daughter of very rich parents, and has something like $8 million in a trust fund that she now has access to as an adult. The story is told in backwards motion, from Jule running away from police in Mexico, back to when she and Imogen first meet. The story reveals itself the further back we go, from Mexico to London to Martha’s Vineyard to Puerto Rico, we peel back the layers of this friendship to see what’s really happened to Imogen, who has disappeared at the start of the story.

This book had a lot of potential. Between the identity theft, the superhero undertones (see: Unbreakable or Kick Ass), and the psychological thriller aspect, this novel could have been 100 pages longer and swam into much deeper waters. As it is we get a compelling timeline that is obvious about what is happening (at least if, like me, you are on constant alert for fuckery in plotlines) and when you get to the end you’re like, “of course, what else would have happened?”

It’s a good book, and if you read it you will enjoy it, but it’s a book you probably don’t want to own. Borrow it from your local library, or buy it with the intent to regift, because once you’ve read it, it loses all the charm that other books might hold in the re-reading. Once you finish, all the magic is gone, and you’re left understanding the mystery. To be quite frank, the mystery becomes obvious about halfway through and you can predict what happens next, which is a step down from We Were Liars. Walk, don’t run, but definitely go enjoy the short romp that Lockhart provides in Genuine Fraud.