In Which the World is Upside Down

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Covid-19: Cute but Deadly

It’s been two years since I last wrote a blog entry. And, I can’t say I know why I stopped.

  • The kids have gotten a bit bigger… and a lot busier.
  • Emme has matured and somehow by the grace of God managed to earn her Canine Good Citizen certification.
  • Work has become more demanding, but maybe more rewarding, too.
  • My reading has actually picked up as I’ve needed – more than ever before – a reliable place to escape.
  • My parents have gotten older. Which is more heartbreaking than people tell you.
  • The church has changed in small and not-so-small ways. And, for no reason in particular, I’ve struggled to find my faith footing.
  • I met Anne Bogel… and then actually ended up on her podcast – which was wild!
  • I started a book club with my sisters and it’s become this huge, important part of my life! God bless sisters everywhere.
  • I joined #bookstagram. (Weird.)
  • I found little bits of myself and lost other bits and had big feelings about both.

At certain points, I thought about blogging. But, I could never commit. In my mind, it felt like such a hard thing to do, growing more difficult as time passed. My brain is really adept at making things harder than they need to be.

But, now the world is upside down and I’ve just had this nagging regret that I’ve done nothing to document it. (I don’t even write columns for my little local magazine anymore.) It just feels so weird that I just have a few journal entries to say… hey, hello, we were here during the COVID-19 crisis.

So, here I am saying – we are here. We are living this.

We’re on week two of the kids being home from school. Granted, the first week was technically Spring Break but we didn’t get to go anywhere or do anything. We are on day… I don’t even know… of being quarantined. Other than making little trips to the store and the library for as long as it stays open (I mean, I’m not a barbarian!), we stay indoors. The kids haven’t gone anywhere. I’ve kept them completely indoors.

My office is closed and I had my first video chat meeting today. So progressive! I’m scared about the future of my job. Both our jobs, actually. I don’t know how anyone in the world has job security with the world as it is… unless they work in a grocery store, hospital or manufacture hand sanitizer, toilet paper or N95 respirator masks. The stock market has tanked. I’m not financially sophisticated enough to know what that means except it’s bad.

What a time to have a faith crisis – AM I RIGHT?!

But, here we are. Real and raw.

I do my fair share of complaining about the kids. It is not easy being a full-time mom and a part-time employee and a wife and just a regular person with moods and hormones and anxiety and burdens right now. But, the kids honestly haven’t been too awful. We’re managing under the circumstances. And, at least I’m not lonely or bored. I’m never bored in this house.

I don’t know what the world will look like tomorrow. I hope it’s a little bit better than it is today. I don’t think this can last forever. But, the real question is what our new normal will be when this is over.

 

Book Review: Love Walked In

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I love when a book moves from your TBR list to your TBLF (to be loved forever) list.

Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos just became one of my favorite books.

The story is told from two female characters – Cornelia and Clare.

Cornelia is a messy, complicated woman who’s trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life, and who (if anyone) she’ll spend her life with. She’s looking for BIG romance and someone who will understand her passions and quirks. But, thus far, she’s been unlucky in relationships.

Clare is a precocious, 11-year-old girl who lives alone with her mom. Her life becomes precarious when her mother begins displaying very erratic behavior that gets worse over time. Without another parent to depend on, Clare desperately tries to keep their lives together amid the terror of her mother’s spiraling choices.

Then a man walks into a coffee shop and everything changes for both of them. Forever.

What I loved about this book is that it offers so many samplings of love. There’s:

  • Unrequited love
  • Forbidden love
  • Passionate love
  • Familial love
  • Friendship
  • Sacrificial love
  • Love for community
  • Love between neighbors
  • Love between generations
  • Love in the midst of death

Truly – every version of love plays a role in this evolving, touching story.

De Los Santos masterfully addresses important topics without getting bogged down in seriousness or misery. Somehow the narrative remains light and the characters shine as complicated, imperfect, but totally lovable people.

I also appreciated that, while the ending was tidy, it wasn’t squeaky-clean. There was room for imagination.

This will not be my last book from this author or this series.

I’m a fan.

Easter Books with Surprising Themes

I’m all about reading books to my children that encourage them to open their eyes and see what’s around them, empower others and withhold judgement. And, my very favorite books are the ones that manage to do all those things subtly. They have great illustrations, fascinating stories, but they still manage to sneak in a positive message.

We’ve been reading Easter/Spring books these days and much to my surprise, we read two that had very empowering messages about women. What an interesting trend! I thought I’d share:

P. Zonka Lays an Egg by Julie Paschkis

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This book isn’t overtly about Easter and it isn’t overtly about women either… but I think it still does a good job of promoting both. My kids showed some interest in it at the library, likely because the cover illustration is so bold and eye-catching. I was happy that the story was pretty great too!

Basically, it’s about this chicken P. Zonka. All the other chickens in the coop take a lot of pride in the eggs they lay. But, P. Zonka doesn’t lay any eggs, so they make fun of her. Instead of paying attention to the snickering crowd, P. Zonka explores nature and revels in the beauty around her. When P. Zonka finally decides that she’s going to give all this egg-laying business a shot, she not only lays an egg, but she lays a pisanki, a polish-style Easter egg. P. Zonka’s pisanki is filled with all the things she loves and admires about nature.

The illustrations of this book are a quick study in Polish art. And, let me tell you — it’s gorgeous! My kids were drinking in the bright, intricate designs on each page. But, I love the message. You don’t have to be like everyone else. And, sometimes blooming in your own time is worth the wait. 

You do you, P. Zonka!

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward

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I love a vintage book. And, this one just put out a 75th anniversary edition, so that tells you something about its staying power! Vintage books typically have more text than my kids are used to in a picture book, so we used this book as a bedtime read-aloud in lieu of a chapter book.

This book explains that there are five Easter bunnies that deliver all the candy and eggs to the little children. These are the swiftest, wisest, kindest bunnies of the entire bunny kingdom. As they grow old, they’re replaced with new bunnies that are equally swift, wise and kind.

A common little girl bunny wants to grow up to be one of those Easter bunnies. But, everyone laughs at her. She’s not beautiful and white. She’s not particularly strong. She’s not rich. She’s just a simple, brown country bunny. This little girl grows up into a mom of 21 (gulp! gasp!) bunnies. Instead of giving up on her dream, she trains each of them to do a particular task around the house and they become very self sufficient.

When it’s time to select a new Easter bunny, this intrepid mama applies for the position. As it turns out, her experience as a mom and her spirited personality makes her the perfect candidate. Then, she goes on a bit of an Easter adventure, which reveals even more about her character and charm.

It really is such a sweet tale, with equally lovely illustrations.

This little country cottontail rabbit was persisting before persisting was cool. Don’t count out moms, y’all! 

Break that Easter bunny glass ceiling, little Cottontail!

Thrilling, Simply Thrilling

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So, last night I went to the library with my hubby. On our way back home, I told him I HAD to tell him about the book I just finished. He indulged me… because he’s a gentleman. And, though I know he doesn’t really care, I described the plot of this book from the moment we left the library, all the way back home and for several minutes sitting in the dark in our garage. I just HAD to tell someone what happened. Even if that someone wasn’t totally interested and was just trying to be a good listener. 😉

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn has everything I love about thriller novels.

  • Great writing
  • Several unexpected plot twists
  • Unreliable, yet lovable narrator
  • Fast-paced prose
  • A sense that anything could happen
  • Climatic chapters that you.just.can’t.put.down.

The beginning of the book was a bit slow. The main character (not a spoiler) is an agoraphobic who sits in her house all day and watches the comings and goings of the people around her. It does get a bit tedious at the start and you might even begin to feel a little claustrophobic… or at least I did.

Like, please, Anna. Just go outside already! Go do something!

But, at the same time, the author keeps you in this microcosm where you’re forced to be interested in the same things that the main character is interested in.

I don’t want to give any details away, but there’s a definite moment in the book where things take a turn. From that point on, I really, really couldn’t put it down.

I stayed up way past my bedtime and then promptly had a terrible nightmare wherein I was somehow enmeshed in the happenings of this book. Seriously spooky!

But, I woke up the next morning feel energized and so very glad that I read something so thrilling. It gave me a little zip and something really interesting to think about. It will stay with me for awhile. And, I’ve already recommended it like crazy!

Morbid Curiosities and Other Itches that Hurt to Scratch

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In 24 hours, I inhaled (no pun intended) Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty.

There are three reasons why I devoured this book so quickly.

  1. It is HIGHLY readable.
  2. There is never a dull moment.
  3. I needed it to be over. Quick.

Cringe-worthy would be putting it lightly.

The better description would be that my stomach was in a vice grip of fascination and disgust for every page of this book.

Then, why read it? And, better yet, why finish it?

So, this book falls in the category of books that come to my TBR list magically. I don’t know why or how I decide I want to read them. But, something about them strikes my fancy and I feel compelled to dive in. I still don’t know what sounded so interesting about a book about death and dying, except that I know virtually nothing about cremation — or any other death science — and it feels like something a well-rounded person should know at least a little bit about.

I appreciated Doughty’s humor, which helped the book along. At times, it felt crude, but I reminded myself that you’d have to have a sense of humor to survive in this line of work… This book also made me so grateful for the people who work in this field. It’s a dirty job (literally), but someone has to do it (literally). And, I’m grateful for the people who step up to the plate. If it means they have to disengage their emotions or crack a few jokes to get through their {horrendous} day, then so be it.

I’m also glad to have read this book because it made me think about death. It’s not a comfortable thought to linger on, but the reality is that we’re all dying. Anything we can do now to help us face that time with dignity and peace is a good thing… right?

If you have a bit of a morbid curiosity about an uncommon line of work and have a cast iron stomach, then this might be the book for you.

But, this is definitely heavy subject matter and it might sit like a dead weight (pun sorta intended) on your heart until you finish it.