Home Again

On Thursday afternoon we picked the kids up from school and drove up to Great Wolf Lodge for some water park fun in celebration of Livia’s birthday. We stayed overnight and all day Friday (yes, we kept the kids out of school–tsk, tsk!). I am glad to be home again, where it’s quiet and easier to sleep, but I also miss the park. There the pool area is warm (there’s even a hot tub), and we spent a lot of time together as a family. Here it is chilly, and we’re all on our individual computers, separated. I think I will have to plan another family trip soon.

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The Plaint of the Middle Class

Yesterday I had my annual work review. My boss told me she’s happy with my work, as always. She told me that she wanted to give me a bigger raise, but she was constrained by the numbers set by the higher-ups, as always. Afterward, I checked my first paycheck of the year to make sure the raise had been factored in, and to see how much more I was getting per paycheck, only to find that almost all of my raise had been eaten up by taxes and insurance, as always. And what little more I was getting wouldn’t even come close to paying for the increases in our cost of living, as always. And so, though I am now bringing home a salary that once would have thrilled me, it feels like less than I was making before. As always.

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Mystery Within a Mystery

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Grade: A+

I began this year of reading with Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. I gave it an A+ grade, because I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery within a mystery. The book begins with the frame story, giving us a glimpse of an editor who is about to delve into her bestselling mystery author’s latest work.

A bottle of wine. A family-sized packet of Nacho Cheese Flavoured Tortilla Chips and a jar of hot salsa dip. A packet of cigarettes on the side (I know, I know). The rain hammering against the windows. And a book. What could have been lovelier?

But the introduction takes a dark turn, because this protagonist already knows how her life has turned out.

I had no idea of the journey I was about to begin and, quite frankly, I wish I’d never allowed myself to get pulled on board. It was all down to that bastard Alan Conway.

Alan Conway is the fictional author whose book she (and we) are about to read, and of course, there will be many surprises along the way. I can’t say more without spoiling the plot. I recommend this book for readers who love mysteries, and particularly for fans of Agatha Christie, whose work is referenced often. I also recommend it for lovers of language and wordplay, the kind of readers who would admire this self-justifying run-on sentence:

You read and you read and you feel the pages slipping through your fingers until suddenly there are fewer in your right hand than there are in your left and you want to slow down but you still hurtle on towards a conclusion you can hardly bear to discover.

I will put Magpie Murders on the shelf with my collection of Agatha Christie novels. I feel even more nostalgic for Hercule Poirot after having read it, and I suspect I will be meeting again with him soon. In a world gone crazy, I need my favorite lovable, logical, and predictable fictional characters even more than usual, and Poirot is standing first in line to cheer me up.

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I might be a lot older and a little wiser and responsible for two children, but that doesn’t make getting out of bed in the morning any easier now than it was for me as a teenager. This week was brutal. If my alarm clock weren’t somehow 12 minutes fast (!!!), the kids would have missed the bus every day.

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Who Knew?

I just learned today that bobby pins are called “kirby grips” or “hair grips” in the UK and hair elastics are “bobbles.”

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2019 in Review

Come January, I usually try to sum up the previous year in blogging. One of the easiest ways is to link to a favorite or meaningful post from each month. That’s the approach I’m taking this year, and here it is.

January: In January I considered the idea that I owned too many books. It did me no good. I insisted that I’d order more books, and I did. I suspect I always will, because I love owning books, even after I’ve run out of room to store them.

We have to talk about our book problem. . . .

Talking to Myself 1/8/2019

February: In February, I considered an old dream. I’d always wanted to learn to speak French. I did, at a limited level, for a while, but that ability has faded with time. I think I’m OK with that, though I will always love the language and keep alive the possibility of relearning it someday, and I will cherish all the words still remaining to me.

. . . I was never fluent, and I’ve lost all claim to being conversant. However, I do think I could pull off a rather startling monologue. It would go something like this:
I am American.
Let the good times roll.
I love you, and also croissants. . . .

Parlez-vous francais? 2/17/2019

March: In March I gave some thought to strengthening my writing. Knowing that “concise text is good text” doesn’t make it any easier to delete your own beloved words (i.e., to “murder your darlings,” as it’s often been put). Word hoarding is a strong temptation. I can’t say I embraced a resolution to be a harsher editor for my blog, but I accepted the necessity of it for any text I ever hope to publish elsewhere.

I very much know how little “very” contributes to my writing, and yet I want to keep it, just like I want to keep every magazine and newspaper, and every piece of children’s homework, and all their art, and their cute little paper worms for which I have no use and no room to store, really (really—also not a big contributor). But I want them anyway. Like they say, the heart wants what it wants. . . .

Paper Worms 3/9/2019

April: In April I participated in a limerick contest and won a prize. It gave me an amazing feeling of satisfaction to have worked hard on a writing project and to have been rewarded for it. It was a huge confidence boost! I wrote about the experience (and about some of the individual limericks) in a series of posts in early April, starting with this one.

On Saturday my husband reminded me that there was a limerick contest that I had wanted to enter. The deadline was Sunday. So, as crazy as it may sound, I spent much of my weekend writing limericks. . . .

Weekend Rhymes 4/1/2019

May: My husband and I began to focus on getting our house in order, to great results.

While we were furniture shopping last week, we also bought a bunk bed for Marshall. We ought to have gotten him one long ago, when he was younger, but at least he is not yet too old to enjoy such things. . . .

Step 1 5/7/2019

June: I often write about the many ways the children contribute to the daily happenings here. Everything they bring to our lives enriches our experience, sometimes humorously.

. . . After a while, I heard Livia call to her brother. “Look how many bubbles I have, Marshall!”
“Whoa!” responded Marshall, after viewing the soapy marvel.
In my office, I was thinking to myself, “This can’t be good. . . .”

That’s a Lot of Bubbles! 6/20/2019

July: Life isn’t all sunshine and kittens, and it’s OK to talk about the negatives, as I did here in July.

I got out of bed this morning, and I fed the children their breakfast, and I packed up their lunches. That was 100 times more than I felt like doing, . . .

Victory 7/18/2019

August: Sometimes I write about the random, everyday things going on in my life. Those posts often feel lame at the time of writing, but I’m always grateful for them later, because each one is like a snapshot of my life at that particular time.

I am eating cantaloupe. It’s not my favorite fruit by any stretch of the imagination, but . . .

Random Summer Thoughts 8/4/2019

September: In the late summer and early fall I spent a lot of time walking, taking pictures, and identifying plants. It was a pleasant and educational way to spend that part of the year, and I wrote many posts about it, such as this one from September.

I enjoyed my recent walks so much that I wanted to document all the wildflowers that I saw. There were so many, I don’t know if I will be able to get to them all. It may help to group related plants together, and with that thought in mind, here are the four clovers that I found along the walking trail. . . .

Four Clovers 9/25/2019

October: The fall not only brings cooler weather, but often, deeper thoughts.

I learned a lot about plants as a child. I lived in a quiet suburb, down the road from a farm, and not far from the woods. . . .

While It Lasts 10/20/2019

November: Politics made their way into my blog more often in 2019 than I would have liked. I couldn’t escape the world of news and, honestly, I was afraid to turn my back on it, afraid of what might creep up on me while I wasn’t looking. That’s no way to live, and I wish for 2020 to be a less worrying year, with no need to write posts like this one.

Today was a big day in U.S. history, because it was the first day of public hearings in the impeachment of Donald Trump. I had to work today, but I was able to listen to parts of the broadcast because my husband was watching it on television downstairs. . . .

All That Matters 11/13/2019

December: In December I reiterated my belief that, if I want to help the world, I need to start with the things that are within my immediate sphere of control. I made progress in 2019, but I have more to do. There’s a battle coming, and we all need to gather our powers in whatever way we can.

Have you heard the old joke about the idealistic teenager who tells his mother that he wants to clean up the world and she replies, “Good! You can start with your room!”? . . .

Starting With My Room 12/31/2019

It was an interesting year, and I’m glad I wrote about it as often as I did. Writing more was a positive change, and I hope I can continue it in the new year. I wish all the writers of the world a Wonderful and Wordy 2020!

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Why People Put Up With So Much Garbage

. . . So it’s not that people simply become accustomed to a new situation. Instead, they actually change their thinking. It is as though they can’t bear to continue feeling angry, so they subconsciously look for ways to convince themselves that it will all be okay. Laurin [psychologist and associate professor at the University of British Columbia] doesn’t believe this is done deliberately. Instead, it’s a way of freeing up cognitive resources to get on with life. There simply isn’t time to be angry about everything.

The Surprising Reason People Change Their Minds (article by Claudia Hammond at bbc.com)
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Happy, Peppy, Perverse

HAPPIEST, you may be interested to know, anagrams into IT HAS PEP, a lively and fitting phrase. Perversely, it also anagrams into EPITAPHS.

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Fortunes and Omens

As part of our New Year’s celebration, we ate at a Chinese restaurant. My hubby and I got the same fortune in our fortune cookies. Matching fortunes was something I’d never seen before in all my years of indulging in Chinese cuisine. The fortune read, “Great things are made of little things.” I thought that was fitting for several reasons, not the least of which was that we were having a great night and had two very adorable “little things” contributing to the fun.

Our waiter had given us an extra cookie, so I opened it, and my second fortune was “Fear is just excitement in need of an attitude adjustment.” That was a fitting fortune, as well. In 2019, I started down a path of dealing with some of my issues, and for 2020 I hope to tackle a few more, including my anxiety. An “attitude adjustment” might be just the thing.

After dinner, we watched Wonder Woman, which we hadn’t seen yet. I liked it, but I have to say that it was a depressing movie, for the most part, and a real tear-jerker. But what hit me the hardest emotionally was when, during a war scene, Marshall said something about war. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it was probably something like, “I hope we don’t have any more wars.” And in that moment, I realized how perfectly poised we are for war, and I hoped with all my might that his words weren’t an omen. Things are bad enough. Please, no more war.

The superstitious and imaginative parts of my brain can’t help but tie together stray words and scenes and try to stitch them together into a larger picture, so it didn’t help when New Year’s Day I saw footage of Melania Trump saying that her New Year’s resolution was “Peace on the World.” Her misunderstanding of the difference between a resolution (active) and a wish (passive), plus the incorrect preposition had a strange effect on me: a premonition of the government attempting to force “peace” on us.

And as I sit here editing this post now so that I can finally publish it, there’s news that the Pentagon has launched an air strike against Iran, killing one of their generals. Shit. This doesn’t bode well for the future.

Cookie fortunes I like. Omens not so much. I am still hoping with all my might that there will be no more war.

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Keeping my bedroom tidy hasn’t been as difficult as I had worried it would be. With the exception of Christmas Day, I’ve made the bed every day since we moved back into the room. As tempted as I sometimes am to leave clothes lying around, I keep forcing myself to put them away or throw them in the hamper. I’ve even dusted and vacuumed the room several times.

My hubby also seems to be enjoying the clutter-free zone and is doing his part to keep it that way. On Christmas, when he saw that I hadn’t made the bed, he straightened up the comforters himself. On another day he said, “You know what’s ruining the Zen feeling for me? The credit card and receipt you left on the dresser.” I replied, “You’re right, and also the little pile of tools you left on your shelf.” Next day the credit card, receipt, and tools were gone. Neat!

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