Saturday, December 31, 2022

What I Read: 2022

 You can see my previous wrap-ups here: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017

My goal this year was 65 books. I finished #75 (Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, which I tried to read earlier this year and abandoned, then devoured this time) just under the wire on New Year's Eve. It was a good year for books! As I was looking back, it was hard not to put all 75 on this list. I didn't have any that I wouldn't recommend. But no one wants to read a wrap-up that goes on forever so I narrowed it down to my absolute must includes. 

I am declaring this "The Year of the Audiobook" I never really liked audiobooks until after my dad died and I realized that part of my trauma response was that I don't do great on long drives listening to music. I commute about 30 minutes each way, so I'm able to get a lot of listening in (and even more once I thought to speed it up to 1.75x) And while you may recall that I declared that I do not enjoy non-fiction or memoirs, it turns out that I LOVE them as audiobooks! So that's been fun to dive into. 

Top Audio Books: Audio books get measured not only on the story, but also the talent of the narrator. I have quit several because the voice of the reader was grating or annoying. These books, on the other hand, were such a delight to listen to. 

The Parasol Protectorate series is the exact opposite of that. It was such a delight to listen to that I even tried to find the contact information of the voice actress so I could send her a note of gratitude. There are five books in this series and I loved every one of them. Plus the premise is so fun; steampunk + vampires and werewolves + a protagonist who is full of moxie and feminist ideals and who loves to eat. 

Taste: My Life through Food by Stanley Tucci. Turns out that while I do not love reading a memoir, I do love listening to the author read their own story (for the most part. There were a couple this year that I did not love). Stanley Tucci talks about food and family and community in such a lovely way. I'm grateful that I found this via the Libby app because I 100% would not have picked it up in hard copy. 

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American Who Loves to Walk Outside. I originally tried to read this one on paper and couldn't get into it. In audio format though? I loved it so much. I would listen to Nick Offerman read IKEA assembly instructions. This book blended his voice with his unique take on environmental matters including history, conservation, and travelogues. 

Non-Fiction Books that challenged my assertion that I don't love non-fiction because I couldn't stop talking about them: 

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law. Did you know that there are squads of people in India whose job it is to address rogue elephants? Or that elephants will sometimes kill people just for fun? Or that rich people mitigate the monkeys in Delhi with bigger monkeys, even though using guard monkeys is against the law? I got bored during the bear chapter because it seemed so straightforward, but then I learned all about why deer freeze in headlights and how they investigate animal attacks and a whole bunch of other fascinating things about animals all over the world. I'd never ready any Mary Roach and this was an awesome intro into her research

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries from a Secret World. OMG. That's a long title. I listened to this one and the narrator has the most delightful English accent. It's also full of fascinating information. Like did you know that aspen trees quiver so that their leaves can absorb sunlight on both sides? Or that there are trees that can attract certain insects in order to combat parasites (but they only call in the cavalry if needed)? 

You can't say I don't have a type, and my book choices are no exception. This year there were a lot of vampires, historical fiction, and curiously, Peter Pan re-writes. 

Historical fiction books I loved: 

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle. I loved this one so much and it made me wish I could join a quilting circle. Or that quilting circles existed. It also made me feel a little weird about having my wedding dress sitting in my closet in it's ridiculous "Archival Box" 

The Huntress. WWII female pilots in Russia. SO GOOD. 

The Lost Apothocary. Sisterhood, lost souls, and just the right amount of vengeance and murder. 

The Rose Code. I do love a book about WWII code breaking women. Enough said. 

Peter Pan re-writes:

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook. This was SO GOOD. I love when a well known story gets flipped on it's head. Darling Girl. This one was fun because it focused on Wendy and her descendants. Fair warning though, it gets a little darker than I originally anticipated. 

Fail-safe books to recommend to people. 

Lessons in Chemistry. I loved this book and wished that Elizabeth Zott was a real person. 

The Ex Hex. Super cute. Witches and romance. The second one was good too, albeit steamier. 

True Biz. This book was so, so well done. I've been trying to convince all my kids to read it. It was a great story with realistic characters, and interspersed was a lot of history related to the Deaf community that I had no awareness of before. I hope this makes it onto diversity booklists

Books that I kind of obnoxiously insist that people read

The House in the Cerulean Sea. This is maybe the best book I've ever read. It's definitely in the top ten. It's just delightful and I've already given away several copies. I love to hear which of the kids is someone's favorite. 

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires. I kind of fell down a vampire rabbit hole for a minute and this book was so fun. I loved that it took a long time to figure out whether the vampire was going to be a metaphorical or actual antagonist. After I finished this one I read My Best Friend's Exorcism too. Both are good but I liked Book Club better. 

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina. This one had a real Encanto vibe to it, and I love magical realism something fierce. Definitely lives up to the hype. 

I set my goal for 2023 at 70 books. I'm currently listening to Nevernight and trying to pick my next "read with my eyeballs" book from my embarrassingly robust backlog of Book of the Month picks. 



Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Christmas Photodump and my awesome presents



 Christmas this year was all the things I love. It was quiet and cozy and low-key and while parts of it were sad, the kids keep declaring it "the best Christmas yet!"

Going to see the lights on Christmas Eve is becoming a tradition. I got ONE picture of all of us, and Eli has this pose in every single version
But he also was a good sport for this so...
Averson and I took the furs out for a spin earlier in the week



Finding matching PJs gets harder with big kids, but they were THRILLED with these! 

Averson got her bow and arrow set! (And helpfully, a second so someone could shoot with her) 

Her Christmas list included "Anything Hades related" and "Anything Cebirus [Cerberus] related." So my brother 3D printed and painted her a pretty intense version of Hades riding Cerberus



I bought these months ago and C gave me such a hard time, but I stand by the decision 100%


Happy Tween! 



This was another of Averson's homemade gifts. I finished it just in time (like, maybe at 10:00 on Christmas Eve) She named him Herbert

One of Eli's favorite gifts. A portable tea kettle and loose leaf teas. Also featured is one of Syd's favorites, a milk frother. Our coffee/tea station is getting a little out of hand

C and I gave each other the same ridiculous gift! I opened it and for a second thought he'd regifted it to me. Also, I originally thought the Warmies would be a silly little filler gift by OMG. They are delightful. 



And my brother made me into an action figure!!!

Her #1 ask was for a weighted blanket. It's a lot heavier than I expected and she loves it. She spent the rest of the day cozily pinned to various surfaces

Eli was such a happy elf this year. It was so fun


One of my favorite gifts! I've wanted a spoon carving set forever but it's absolutely one of those ridiculous things you keep looking at and never buy. So now I'm a spoon carver

C's perfect spot for the present opening chaos. 

My brother and sister-in-law are ridiculously adorable

Another fail-safe gift? The Comfy. Everyone loves a Comfy


The day after Christmas my brother and his wife headed out and we all went to the archery range to try out the bows. It was such a good time and fun to have all five of us together. Between the bows, the carving set, and the unpictured shacket situation, there was a real vibe going on for Christmas this year and I kind of love it. Last night C and I sat at the kitchen table, me carving my spoon and him putting tips on arrows and it all was wonderful but also I saw a picture of a cousin's Christmas and their grandpa wore overalls and I may have thought to myself "I should get C a pair of those!"  

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Flinging

I feel like this needs a postscript: He's totally fine! He was laughing too hard to get up but he did not break his back :) 


Back in the 80s, with no tv reception and loving 30 minutes outside of town, entertainment looked very different than what my kids are used to. One of our favorite activities was when my mom would “fling” us onto the couch. It’s a very lo-fi game but it’s SO FUN. My mom would lay on her back and we’d sit on her feet. Then she’d launch us into the air and we’d land on the couch. We’d circle around taking turns until inevitably one of us overshot and hit the wall. Then she’d declare the game over until the next round. 

I thought of it today when Sydney was trying to teach herself to backflip. I can’t believe it took me so long! Once I flung Eli and he understood the concept, he took over. We haven’t laughed so hard in a long time, and no one ended with an ER trip!

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Festive-ish



After last weekend's hydrological event, I've decided to be done with my holiday decorations. I've been pulling things out bit by bit when I had a little time, but honestly, it all felt a bit overwhelming and I think this year has been notable for my significantly reduced tolerance for being overwhelmed. It's funny, because I've been trading pictures with my sister, a self-proclaimed Grinch, whose house now looks like Buddy the Elf came through in a manic state. I'm pretty sure she has lights up in her bathrooms even. I thought I was feeling bad about what seemed like half-assing it, but actually, it feels kind of perfect. I'm resisting the urge to purge what's left in the Christmas bins (sometimes out loud) but this feels like enough.  

My absolute favorite. Santa pictures is on the list for Holiday Festivities That Will Not Be Skipped.

My mother's electric poinsetta. My grandma made these for her kids long before I was born and I have coveted this insane fire hazard for my entire life. I was very fair about a lot of things but I'm not ashamed to say that I secreted it out of the house after she died. The base is concrete, the wiring is exposed, and the pipe cleaner leaves were probably purchased at an actual tobacco shop for actual pipes. I don't leave it plugged in (because I value my home and would prefer not to burn it down) but I do light it up on occasion to revel in all it's glory. 

C bought me the ridiculous Dolly Parton Advent Calendar from Williams Sonoma. And the actual non-electric poinsetta is from the plant-of-the-month club he signed me up for for my birthday. He's kind of killing the thoughtful gifts this year. 

This year's craft. So easy and it was a nice entrance to the holidays. 


And these guys. They bring me a lot of joy. I forgot to put them away when I put away the half-assed Halloween decorations. So now they're my festive Christmas yoga skeletons. 

 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Sunday


 Weekend mornings drinking coffee while my house sleeps will forever be one of my favorite things. On this particular morning I’ve also cranked out some Christmas shopping and started a delightful new book. 

It’s so stormy here. Apparently we’re having a “hydrological event” which I opine is a dumb phrase to use if you’re trying to warn the general public about a shit-ton of wind and water. But alas, no one asked me. So for future reference if you’re warned of a hydrologic event, it means the highways will be flooded and you shouldn’t bother putting up outdoor holiday decorations unless you like having to go find them later. And if you hydroplane while singing La-di-da-di word for word your teenager will be as impressed as teenagers get by their nerdy middle-aged moms. You’re welcome! 

In other Sunday news, new job (which I still love so so much but OMG I’m working a lot of hours) gave me a signing bonus (!!!) so we’re FINALLY considering replacing the blue (or gray, or green) carpet!!! I’m so stupid excited even though it means strangers are seeing my kids’ rooms and the corners where I stash all the things because while I have acres of blue carpet, I do not have storage space. But soon! Soon all my stuff will sit upon carpet and flooring that is younger than I am and it will be glorious!!


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Little bits of happy

I am so, so ridiculously behind on posting and I have so many things to say, but in the meantime, here is a smattering of things that are just making me happy right now
A new Christmas suit to replace the old Christmas suit my giant teenager outgrew. He enthusiastically purchased this and even picked a new colorway

A mantle full of Santa pictures. I think if I play my cards right I can transition right from kids to grandkids and my goal is to eventually have 50 years of pictures. I'm at 16 so far and they bring me so much ridiculous joy

Sydney's face when Eli stole a roll from her on Thanksgiving

And the fact that she just randomly wears tiaras sometimes

This is how C does his homework every weekend

This outfit. My pants are tighter than is optimal but it's SUCH a cute outfit. 

Not pictured but I want to remember it: Averson has started occasionally tucking me in instead of the other way around and it's the sweetest thing ever. Big kids are the best. She kisses my forehead and everything. 

 

Friday, November 4, 2022

Square peg in a square hole

Guys? I love my new job. Like, I love it an awful, awful lot. I keep waiting to have a day where I feel like maybe I made a mistake, or maybe I didn't think it through all the way. But I'm a month in and I've had some very long days, and I am still giddy every night when I get home. We made some sacrifices to make this change and it's a HUGE change from what I'm used to. But OMG. It's so great. 


I love my office! 


 I even love this cozy little curb that I sat on to take a fairly boring HR course

During one of my fourteen interviews, I asked what they would put on their Mary Poppins list for someone for this position. I wanted to get a feel for their goals for the person taking over, and also for how they thought about building a team. It didn't do anything to help my Pollyanna with a sailor's mouth brand, but I do think it's a good question. 

I don't think I realized how unexpectedly wonderful it would feel to find a job that was offered to me for precisely the qualities that made me a little bit odd at other jobs. In the prison, my "aggressive optimism" and tendency to look for the best in people was often perceived as na├»ve, even a decade in. During my first week my new boss told me it was the primary reason they wanted me to join the team. I love to supervise and problem solve, and being creative makes those things fun. Now that I'm working in a private, for profit company, I can be as creative and innovative as I want. It's a good thing! 

And the clients. It's all the things I love. They're spicy teenagers and young adults. The clinical pictures are fascinating and they've got these great, spicy personalities. And it's EXPECTED that I will adore them for all of that. Last week we had a new kid admit who tried to run (really walk quickly) away. I walked with her, and then sat on the side of the road while she cried. Then we hiked back. That's my job. I get to love and care about my staff and these kids and their families. That's my JOB! I get paid for it! 

The other thing that I was missing was variety. If I had to keep sitting in my chair for eight hours, I was going to do something terrible. This job is perfectly chaotic, just like prison, but without riots. We've had trapped wildlife, runaways, power outages, fights, lockdowns because strangers showed up unannounced. I've always said that I loved a job where you leave saying "What the fuck happened today?" and this is that and so much more. 

AND, to top it all off. I get lunch every day. And the fridge is stocked with snacks and sparkling waters and even a little secret stash of diet soda. It's magical and I'm so, so happy. I'm sure that at some point I'll get annoyed or disillusioned or tired, but I don't want to forget how awesome this first month felt. 

 

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Halloween 2022

We had the best Halloween! I was sort of underwhelmed with the holiday and have avoided a lot of the regular festivities but when it came down to it, we had an amazing weekend. 

C asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and while I usually don't do much, this year I wanted to do the Halloween tour at Alcatraz. I've never been and it seemed like a fun thing to do with almost people-sized kids. C bought the tickets forever ago, but then a couple weeks before Halloween the parks department cancelled the special Halloween tours. They offered us an evening tour instead, which kind of worked out perfect. We left in the afternoon and then coming back we got to see the sunset over the bridge and Alcatraz lit up at night. And then Pier 39 at night. Where you can pay a drug dealer a stupid amount of money to put a temporary tattoo on your looks-older-than-12-year-old daughter. 
MOTY


And then we had an awesome Halloween! With kids who apparently are still not too old. And a teenager who asked me to craft his costume! I learned gauze papermache and who MF Doom is. And how to fix a mask I spent a week on at 6:00 am on Halloween because the dumbass hellbeast grabbed it and ripped it into three pieces. (It was almost her last act on Earth). 

MF Doom, Hades, and Harley Quinn

Birthday Donuts!

Back to Alcatraz

I busted out the jumpsuit and bought myself my very first pair of Docs, and had the most perfect Rosie costume ever. Which I got to wear to work because I work in a wonderland. And I posed next to my mom's old radio because off course I did. The only thing I wish I'd done different was my hair but after 45 minutes of trying to make pin curls I gave up. 

Back to San Francisco and the worlds best clam chowder in a bread bowl at Boudin. 

May or may not have crossed a "Do Not Cross" sign...

I wish I could have spent more time learning about the occupation of Alcatraz or the 19 Hopi men who were originally incarcerated there protesting the Indian Boarding Schools. I've spent a lot of time since reading up on the occupation and it's fascinating!

So pretty and so spooky!

MF Doom. Happy Teenager.

Who is also not great at following rules or posted warnings but is quite good at pull-ups

We're on a boat!


Dork. He did such a great job of marking my birthday though. And I didn't get a picture but he even got me an ice cream cake!