Posted in Reading

How to Read the New York Times (the A.D.D. Edition)

Do you ever try to retrace the rabbit-trail…

…that somehow connected the thing you WERE doing with the thing you find yourself doing NOW?

If you’re like me, that rabbit trail may take several days to loop around to its starting point (assuming it even does). But if you’re one of those Focused People With Organized Heads who completes an entire task before taking up the next, you may not understand how it works. So let me illustrate with a simple example: Reading the newspaper.

And… We’re off!

I am reading the New York Times on my tablet, scanning today’s headlines to see what I “should” know—when I see an article on the sidebar about “What the Great Pandemic Novels Teach Us“—and I’m a reader and intrigued and stuck at home during a pandemic, so of course I have to check that out!

…and the article references Daniel DeFoe’s book, A Journal of the Plague Year. Which I’ve never heard of, despite having done a fair bit of research on Robinson Crusoe’s island (for a novel I’m stuck in the middle of writing) so of course I have to check that out! I open the Apple Book Store…

…to search for DeFoe’s book and find it (with notes! Yay, we like notes) for $2.99, so I charge it to my Apple account. But while I’m here…

…I just have to look through the “Special Offers & Free” section, because they cycle new things into that listing every couple of days, and you never know what awesome book-you-wanted-to-read might surface there for a couple bucks. See, just like this: here’s Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth, which I totally want to read because my mom got me watching the BBC series when she visited a couple months ago. So I buy that too.

…and then I just have to take a second to assign my two new purchases to categories I’ve made up in my iBooks (because yes, there’s a touch of OCD here too)…

…and I realize I don’t have a category for “Medical Practice, Midwifery” in my Book Buddy app (where I track and tag everything I read) so I pick up my phone (because I’m faster typing on that screen than the iPad) and open the Book Buddy app to add the category.

…and I realize that one of the books I’m currently reading (I’m midway through one on audiobook, because I can listen while I do stuff like clean the kitchen; and one actual paper book, which I can read during the daytime; and one on my iPad because I can read in bed without bothering my husband with a light on; and one other one on my iPad because I thought of it yesterday and started to read it) is not listed in the “Currently Reading” status on my Book Buddy.

…which makes me wonder if I’ve tagged it yet on GoodReads (where I also track what I’m reading, because it’s got that social aspect, and it’s keeping count of my reading goal for the year) so I go there and update that app as well.

…and when I close my GoodReads app, I can see that little red badge in the corner of my FaceBook app that tells me I’ve probably gotten some laughs or comments on my daily installment of the “Captain’s Log” in Social Lockdown—so of course I have to check that out!

…which reminds me that I haven’t done a post yet today, so I open my photos (I take photos of stuff ALL the time, even when I pretty much haven’t left the house for a month) to find a fresh one that I can wrap a wry comment or a silly story around. So I get that posted. (Are you curious? It was a photo of the newly resurrected Sports Page—and I mean PAGE, singular—in our local rural-Oregon paper. Three articles: WNBA draft, “Social Fish-tancing” for anglers, and QUAIL CALLING. Apparently that’s a thing. Which pretty well illustrates the reasons for discontinuing sports coverage in the first place.)

…and while I was sending that photo to FaceBook, the banner notification phased across my screen with an incoming email from my boss in Portland so I go open that…

…to discover that she might be misreading the break-down of employee hours I just sent her, so I trot into my home-office and sit at the computer where I can pull up the entire payroll spreadsheet and type out a clearer explanation of who’s doing what.

…and I close my spreadsheet and ask myself, “What was I doing, anyway?

Oh that’s right—I found the book of Call the Midwife, which made me kind of want to see another episode. So I put on my tennis shoes and get on the treadmill (which has a TV right in front of it for just this purpose—and this is when and where I watch the “chick flick” stuff my husband is not excited about) and watch another episode.

…and then I jump through the shower and put on some clean clothes (still no bra!—I’m working from home, baby!) which reminds me I should start some laundry (because I only own so many yoga pants—maybe I should look on Amazon for more) and the laundry is right next to the bathroom I meant to clean today, so I’ll get that done while I’m here, and I think I’ve earned myself a soda…

…which I pop open while I ask myself, “What was I doing, anyway?

Oh that’s right—there was that Plague book I wanted to read! So I pull it up on my iPad and start to read. [This is the one part of the narrative where I actually stay put for a few hours. I have turned OFF all the notifications (new emails, FaceBook comments, text messages) that could come up on this screen, BECAUSE I use it to read.]

I’ve started to highlight descriptions and sections of the book that feel applicable to today, to people’s responses to the Coronavirus pandemic. So I start to think that it would be interesting to juxtapose excerpts of DeFoe’s book (talking about the Plague) against photos and headlines and graphs from today’s news.

…so I sit down at my computer again and start a new blog post in WordPress, where I can play around with the concept—and I type a few excerpts from DeFoe into text blocks. Now I just need the right current graphics to put alongside.

…so I start Googling images for “Trump downplays virus” (to go with DeFoe’s observation that the initial presence of the Plague in London was kept from the “publick” as much as possible). I’m playing with possibilities (about a dozen tabs now open on my browser), and a few of the images feature tweets directly by Trump…

…and I figure I could go right to the source, so I pull up Twitter and start scrolling down Trump’s timeline. (And scrolling. And scrolling. And scrolling. And I stop to see how far back I’ve gotten, and it’s yesterday. Aw, hell.) I mess around with blog formatting (WordPress has a new interface I haven’t mastered) for about forty minutes until I’m tired of working with this text block, so I shift gears and begin working on an introduction to the post, writing to set the scene for 1665 London and the Plague…

…until I hit a lull in the word-flow, and I think about putting a contemporary illustration alongside the introduction, and it seems there was a painting from the Louvre that really fascinated me when we were there, when I was nine years old, maybe I even bought a postcard of it… I start Googling for a Plague painting in the Louvre, and I don’t find it, but I DO find one that I definitely had in postcard form—a whole desperate family on a raft, struggling and waving for help…

Wait a minute, I totally remember this painting as being about The Flood—you know, the Noah one—but its title is “Raft of the Medusa,” which isn’t Biblical at all, so now I have to go read up on what this painting is actually about (a scandalous French shipwreck caused by an incompetent ship’s captain, what?!) and I wonder where I got my original idea, and why I was so fascinated by this particular painting that I would recognize it so immediately today. (In other circumstances I might have hypothesized that my nine-year-old self was titillated by the penis in the foreground… But after two full days of walking through the Louvre, I’m pretty sure I was penised out.)

I’m staring at this painting on my computer screen with two dozen tabs lining its top, and I’m tired of fiddling with the Plague post, and I ask myself, “What was I doing, anyway?

Oh, yeah—I was reading the Times!

So—six hours later—I go back to my very first tab and begin again to scan the headlines.

And THAT, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how we read our news!

Posted in Family

Newton’s Law of… Summer

Wonder Woman 2017 filmMy 13-year-old daughter asked me last week if I’ve seen “Wonder Woman.” When I shook my head, she grasped my arm and leaned toward me earnestly. “It’s beautiful. You have to see it.” Accordingly, we made plans to see it together yesterday. She’s right—the movie is beautifully done, and though I’m more a “Pirates of the Caribbean” kind of girl, I enjoyed the artistic accomplishments of the film, as well as my artistic daughter’s appreciation of it.

The really precious time, though, was after the movie, when we came out from the chilly air-conditioned theater to sit on a padded bench in the sunshine. We both put up our sandaled feet (with matching turquoise toenails–we tend to share an aesthetic) on the table in front of us and leaned back into the cushions—she rested her head on my shoulder and we held hands while we listened to the music piped out over the “entertainment square” and chatted until her ride arrived.

I suppose a “silver lining” of not having custody is that we don’t have the usual parent-teen conflicts going on, and the time we do spend together is usually spent in meaningful conversation. Last week we talked about her art, her friendships, the social dynamics of junior high, her thoughts about eighth grade, her current reading, and some “woman things” that I can hardly believe I’m discussing with my little girl… (Well, she may a young one—but she IS a woman now…)

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my mom & my daughter with kayaks last summer

My mother has promised to take each of the kids on a special Spring Break trip during high school. My son Christian knew exactly what he wanted to do, so they went sea kayaking in Mexico last year. Elena Grace, though, hasn’t come up with a plan for her trip, so yesterday we were brainstorming some of the adventurous things she likes to do. Turns out zip-lining is high on her list, so I texted my mother to see how she feels about that. (She’s not wild about heights, but she’s plenty adventurous—she kayaks and river-rafts and fly-fishes and scuba dives and travels around the world, and she just bought herself an RV for further adventuring!) I got a text back from her with a thumbs-up.

Today the kids are heading north for the first of a couple summer adventures with “Grandy,” as they call my mom. This first one will be taking out a crab boat in the Washington coast’s Deception Pass, and later they’re staying in a Montana cabin and going kayaking. Elena Grace says she’s been looking forward to the trip, but at the same time hasn’t gotten up sufficient interest or energy to pack for it. (“Wait, you’re leaving tomorrow, aren’t you?” … “Well, yes…”)

She thought for a moment and then observed, “I’ve been really lazy this last month since school let out. I’m kind of enjoying it, and kind of feel guilty about it at the same time. I’m just hanging out with my phone or my friends, or going swimming some days. And I know I’ll have fun on the trip, but I’m not in that mode yet.”

imageAnother moment of thought, and she added: “You know that thing about how moving things keep moving, and things that aren’t moving stay still?”

Yup, that’s Newton’s First Law of Physics. “Inertia,” I supplied—and she seized on the word.

Exactly. I’m feeling inertia. I haven’t been in motion, so it’s hard to get in motion.”

It’s an apt observation, and true of more things in life than just summer vacation. (It’s probably why my husband brings me coffee in bed before I even get up—I have a serious inertia-issue before my caffeine kicks in!)

She texted late last night to say she still hadn’t gotten around to packing. “Inertia?” I asked. “Laundry!” she replied, with an emoticon-grimace. Ah well, she’ll get it done—she inherited her mother’s propensity for procrastination (along with the associated ability to get things done in a last-minute flurry). She’s my own little Wonder Woman.

Posted in Lists, Reading Reviews

Sucked In

sucked in
Substitute a book for the vacuum, that’s me.

Oh my gosh, where have I been since my last post?

Sucked In, that’s where.

I got sucked into reading the “Game of Thrones” series… I haven’t been able to put this thing down for some reason.  I bought it a couple years ago as a boxed set (if you can call e-books “boxed”), and only got around to opening it last month… And it’s a good thing it’s on my iPad, because otherwise the 4,000-or-so pages would really be weighing down my arms. I’m coming up on about 3500 pages and looking forward to the wrap-up, if for no other reason than being freed from its thrall…

But if you know these books, you’ve already caught my error: there are way more pages than that if you see this to the end. I’d assumed my boxed set was the whole series.

Last time I made this mistake? It was 1991. I was a high school senior mulling over my choices in the Fantasy section of a WaldenBooks store when a strange man popped up from nowhere, shoved a book at me, and practically hollered, “You HAVE to read this!!”

He was weird, but I bought the book (Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World). Read it, loved it, bought the second of the trilogy… Continue reading “Sucked In”

Posted in Idaho, Reading Reviews

Flood in the Desert

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Got a LOT of use out of my new winter boots!

Supposedly, I live in a “high desert” climate. Well, I do live in a high desert climate–but you sure wouldn’t know it this year. I just pulled up an article from January, stating that Boise had (already) seen more snow-so-far than any year since 1892, when they started keeping records. And we kept getting more snow—a lot of it—after that.

Now the temperatures have started warming up, and we’re all eyeing that snowpack warily. The water-management powers-that-be are letting immense amounts of water out of the reservoir just upriver from Boise, in anticipation of some massive runoff in the upcoming weeks. (If they don’t let it out now and the reservoir overfills, they say, they’ll lose any control they might have had over the river level.)

Boise’s “Green Belt” path that runs through town along the river (and along the edge of our RV park) is largely underwater already, and they’ll be raising the river more this week. At least we’re on wheels, we joke, eyeing the river-level. If the river reaches us, we hitch up and go!

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our Green Belt path disappearing into water…

Ah, life in the desert.

We bought our three-year hunting-and-fishing licenses a few weeks ago (our anniversary present to each other), but the nearby fishing dock is entirely underwater, and the river is running too fast for fly-fishing. We’d need nMoses right now to walk the Green Belt. Continue reading “Flood in the Desert”

Posted in Idaho

Listening in Silence

Placerville cabinI’ve just been pondering what defines a ghost town. On paper, you’d probably consider Placerville Idaho in that category—it’s down to thirty or so households from its 1860s gold-rush heyday of more than three thousand… Visitors can enjoy the sight of an old general store, saloon, and other mining-era buildings that now operate as summer-hour museums.

But I find myself unable to consider it a ghost town when you can still buy Alka-seltzer and Tostitos at the local store, and when the one remaining church still holds services every Sunday. (Well, truthfully there was only one truck at the church when we passed by, five minutes before services… But I guess there’s a service even if only the pastor shows.)

imageWhether or not it’s a ghost town, Placerville is small and isolated in the Idaho mountains—and right now, absolutely buried in snow. We thought we’d need to chain up in order to get in, but only ended up needing four-wheel drive. Jon’s family has a cabin up there, where his folks lived for a number of years before moving into Boise, and we just put it to use for a get-away weekend.

imageWe lost cell service an hour before we got to the cabin (that’s part of the get-away!) and started the weekend by lighting the fire his brothers had laid in the wood stove on their last visit. We pulled our food and overnight bag in from the road on our sleds, and melted snow on the stovetop to make coffee and wash dishes. We grilled steaks, read aloud together, hiked around the little town and through the snow to the old cemetery, sat on the covered porch swing and watched the incessant snow falling in the absolute silence around us,  we bedded down in front of the fire…

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Jon “sledding” our cooler down to the truck

We don’t live a terribly fast-paced or stressful life, but every life can use some get-away to silence. When it just registers as “white noise,” you don’t notice the constancy of traffic… until you’re away from it. When the sky above you in town still seems Idaho-blue, you don’t realize how polluted it is… until you’re breathing in the mountains. And when church commitments and AA meetings and family dinners and work schedules fill in your calendar, you don’t even realize you’re busy… until you’re away from it all, listening to your Marriage.

Posted in Family, travel

“Crazyass Passions” & Pencilled Notes

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my adventurous mom—a woman of “crazyass passions”

My mother isn’t one for writing-in-books, so I’m tickled that the book she just mailed me has a sentence underlined with a smiley-face.

I believe in crazyass passion.”

That’s the line she highlighted in Rinker Buck’s Oregon Trail travelogue, and that says plenty about my mother!

She’s a world traveler, kayaker, fly-fisher, river rafter, scuba diver (Nitrox-certified for deep diving),  and always game for a new adventure. She made a great deckhand on a sailing trip in Washington’s San Juan Islands ten years ago, she took my son on a week-long sea-kayaking trip in Mexico last year, she meets for mischief with girlfriends all over the world… and she always has her plane ticket already bought for the “next trip” somewhere. (I believe Panama and Poland are in the current queue…)

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sailing with my mom & my daughter, 2007

If I didn’t know her birth-year, I’d never guess she’s pushing 70, and I continue to wish I had half her energy. (I especially wish that on days when I’m trying to keep up with her at the mall!) I got my travel-bug from both parents, but I got my sense of adventure from her.

I got my bibliophilia from her too, though my penchant for marginalia is something I developed on my own.

Because I DO write in books, I’m accustomed to coming across my prior-self (in the form of penned commentaries) when I re-read my books. I’m not accustomed to coming across other people in my margins, though… So imagine my thrill of surprise today when I picked up my copy of Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island” and discovered an unexpected treasure of notes in both my mother’s hand AND my late father’s. (Pencilled, because apparently writing in a book in pen is a little TOO crazyass!) Continue reading ““Crazyass Passions” & Pencilled Notes”

Posted in Family, Lists

When You Wait till You’re Married (List#3)

marriage is a gift from God

In company with dinosaurs and dodos, we have to list the wait-till-you’re-married man as extinct, do we not? I honestly believed so, at least as it applies to this country and culture… but I’m here to report that the subspecies is not defunct. I met Jon last year. And I married him this February. And then we started our life of sleepovers. No, this post is not about Intimacy—or at least, not the type you’re thinking. (Hey, get your mind out of the gutter!)

Today’s Random List touches on a different sort of intimacy…  the familiarity and affection found in knowing someone else, down to their little habits and routines… Having previously followed a different order-of-operations in relationships (meaning I’d always lived with men before marriage), last February I felt both amused and awkward to find myself married to Jon and just figuring these things out… Continue reading “When You Wait till You’re Married (List#3)”