Thursday, July 11, 2019

We'll See the Bright and Hollow Sky. We'll See the Stars That Shine So Bright.

It's time for another traveling through books post. This time it's for the month of June.

I read seven books last month. Since I'm in Summer reading mode, I tried not to read anything too intense. I like to save those Russian type novels for January and February.

1.) The first book trip I went on was "American War" by Omar Akkad. It is a futuristic story about the second US civil war that is to be fought over the US government trying to outlaw fossil fueled vehicles. That seemed pretty believable to me, actually. It was dark and sad and violent, but I liked the story. I just don't think I want to travel to the South during the second coming of the civil war again anytime soon.

2.) The second book trip I went on was "The Pisces", by Melissa Broder. It was bizarre. It was uncomfortable and hard to read at some points as well, but it made me glad that I am in my 50's in 2019, and not in my twenties.  The whole idea of Tinder makes me a little sick. Anyway, the point of this book was to make people uncomfortable, so it succeeded there. It was mostly about a  young woman's very unhealthy need to fill her life with love/romance/ a man. Also, there is a merman in it and he's not Ethel. It did take me to Venice Beach again, and I did like that.

3.) "There There" by Tommy Orange took me to a Pow Wow in Oakland, California. I loved this book. I loved all of the back stories and the characters and how the ending was a little ambiguous.

4.) My next trip was a short story collection called "Florida", by Lauren Groff". Guess where it took me? You got it - Florida. I liked some of the stories more than others, but they were creepy and weird and suspenseful and great Summer reading.

5.) Next I went to Hawaii with Sarah Vowell and "Unfamiliar Fishes". This was a non-fiction account of the colonization of Hawaii. It was very interesting and of course, sad. I hope to go to Hawaii for real one of these days too.

6.) My sixth book trip was charming and sweet. I'm sure I read "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame as a kid, but I don't remember it. I'm glad I read it again, because it was a sweet little trip to the woods with quirky animals and their zany adventures.

7.) My last journey of the month was one of my favorites. "Anything is Possible", by Elizabeth Strout was very well written and gave different perspectives of people from a small town in Illinois. It was thoughtful and very realistic.

This month I am going on a real, live, trip, so I may not take as many book vacations. I think it's a good trade.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

All My Bags Are Packed. I'm Ready to Go.

Well, kids. This time next week will be my 54th birthday and we will be in Moab, Utah for it. I can't wait. Coadster is going for part of our trip with us, and poor Stinky has to work, so she and her husband will housesit and take care of our cats and garden.

I've always wanted to go to Southern Utah and check it all out. I'll just miss the cats and my garden. The poppies will probably be all done blooming by the time we get back.

Plus, I won't be there to pick off and kill all of the Japanese beetles that want to infest my garden.

I will try to write a few more times on here before we go and I also might try to blog from our trip, but I'm not promising anything. If any of you all have suggestions for hikes or things we can't miss while we're there, please let us know.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Party People - All Around Me, Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot.

Okay. I'm going to write about my weekend, because I haven't done that for a while and it was one of my favorite weekends of the year.

The last weekend of every June is Trek Fest - a celebration of all things nerdy. Supposedly, Captain Jame T. Kirk will be born in Riverside, Iowa in the future, but why wait to celebrate until then? Instead we can make a weekend of demolition derby, parades, music, and speakers.

The best part for us, is that our friends Seaghan and Kathy throw a big party every year that starts with the parade on Saturday morning.

We always ride to to Riverside with our friends. It's a nice 17 mile ride there, which is mostly flat with a few rolling hills at the end. We ride the same 17 miles back too, but some of our friends get car rides back to town.

This year they had horses and goats to play with at the party. So much so's the better.

Also this year, my brother came to visit for the weekend. He did OOBRAI with us a couple of years ago, so he knows most of the people who were there and then met a few more. It was great to have him around. He was also a good sport about wearing weird headresses.

We stayed at the party for lunch and to hang out for a bit. John's ex-wife was back visiting from Oslo, Norway, and it was great to see her.

I think I forgot to mention this, but it was hot, hot, hot. Some of us got a little heat strokey on the ride back, so we rode slowly and stopped in the shade for a  bit.

Then when we got closer to town, we stopped at Sand Lake and REALLY cooled off.

It was heavenly, until the zombie apocalypse happened behind me.

Just when we didn't think the day could get any better, we were accosted by adorable puppies, who just wanted some love.

We ended our ride at Big Grove for food and beer and shenanigans.

We got home and chilled out for bit,  and then walked to Heyn's ice cream for milkshakes. We then headed home and watched "Raising Arizona", while all trying to not to fall asleep. It was a nice end to a perfect day.

As it always seems to be with life, nothing is either all good or all bad. On Sunday we were supposed to ride 50 miles there and back to get lunch in Kalona. Unfortunately for me, I had a migraine and couldn't do the ride. Instead, I stayed home and read a deliciously cheesy novel on my back porch with some fat orange cat accompaniment.

My brother had some heat strokey issues on the ride on Sunday, so he came back pretty fried.

Fortunately for him, he had something to look forward to. Stinky brought her brand new puppy over for us to meet. His name is Javy and he's a Baussie (a Boston Terrier/miniature Australian shepard mix). He is the sweetest boy.

He and his older brother Jaxson are working through their new siblingship issues as well.

I hope you all have a lovely holiday tomorrow and that there are puppies involved. Puppies make everything better.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

It Seems Like Everywhere I Go, the More I See, the Less I Know.

Our new pig, Lubricante is a lush.

Today I'm just posting photos of flowers coming up in my garden and of course, my favorite purchase of the this month. Meet our new metal sculpture pig. I'm calling him Lubricante, since that was written on him. I'm assuming he must have been made from some kind of  lubricant container.

I planted Hollyhocks last year but they never bloomed. Apparently, the deer love them, because they kept eating the tops off of them. The ladies from "Project Green" told me about plant skyyd. You spray it on your plants that deer love on a day when you know it won't rain for at least 24 hours (tricky to find that day this year). It smells horrible - like a five day old period. Yes, that gross. I'm sure it's why the deer don't like it. It smells like a brutal death. Anyway, it works wonders and I was able to have holly hocks this year. So, bring on the brutal death scent!

One thing I read about holly hocks is back in the day before indoor plumbing, it was considered indiscreet for a lady to ask where the outhouse was. Since holly hocks are so tall and easy to see, people would plant a bunch of them by the outhouse, and ladies would just look for them to find out where to take care of their business. Handy.

My cone flowers are  starting to bloom now too...And to take over the entire world. If you know anyone who wants any native to Iowa prairie plants, let me know. I have soooo many to spare.

I love these guys. I plant them every year, because they're so fun. They're called Gazania Big Kiss White Flame. Hell, I'd buy it just for the name.

This lovely orange flower is called a Pot Marigold (duuuude) or a Calendula. It is supposedly edible (double duuuude), medicinal and helps with pest control. I got this plant from my friend, Kathy. I grow seedlings and always have more than I can use, so I offer up some to friends who garden. I'm not asking for anything in return, I just like to share stuff with people, but some of my friends feel the need to trade me for something. Kathy gave me some of her seedlings: red kale, pot marigold and a night blooming tobacco plant. All of which have turned out to be pretty cool. The night blooming tobacco has yet to bloom, but I can't wait until it does.

Okay. So, that was a look at some of my recently blooming flowers. I'll put in another installment for the later Summer blooming flowers. I can't wait for them!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Here it is the Groove Slightly Transformed. Just a Bit of a Break from the Norm.

Since I haven't written in forever and it's almost the end of June already, I thought I might get all crazy and write my traveling through books post for the month of May. Got it? Okay.

I read eight books in the month of May.

1.) The first book I traveled with was Jane Austen's "Persuasion". What a great trip it was. I always thought that "Pride and Prejudice" was going to be my favorite Jane Austen novel, but I think now I love "Persuasion" even more. It was another lovely trip to England in Jane Austen's world.

2.) "A Horse Walks into a Bar", by David Grossman was my second trip of the month and it wasn't all that great. The premise was that a comedian invites an old acquaintance to his stand-up act in Israel. The novel takes place during his act, which was an interesting concept, but it seemed to go on and on and on and on...So, it just dragged a little for me. I did like reading a novel that took place in Israel. I haven't gone on very many book journeys there before.

3.) The third trip I took was through a suggestion from my brother. It was a non-fiction book about a woman who grew up with fundamentalist Mormon parents who didn't really educate her and were super messed-up and abusive. "Educated" by TaraWestover was really engaging. She basically educated herself in spite of how her parents raised her. Her parents are now saying that the book is untrue, but of course they don't want people to think they're abusive. My aunt once said that if any of us wrote a book about her like "Mommy Dearest" she would be furious. That's how you know when people are abusive. It wouldn't even occur to me to worry about my kids writing a book about me saying I was abusive. I might have to worry about them writing a book about how spacey I am or how loud and embarrassing I can be, though...

4.) I went to my favorite places on my fourth book adventure - San Francisco in the 1980's in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City # 5, "Significant Others". It mostly took place closer to the Russian River at a womyn's music festival and old rich guy lodge retreat. It was full of wacky hijinks and perfect for light, Summer reading.

5.) My fifth book trip in May was "What We Lose", by Zinzi Clemmons. It was an artistic look at a woman dealing with her South African mother's death and how she herself fit into the world. It was sad and beautiful all at the same time.

6.) "Washington Black" by Esi Edugyan was one of my favorite journeys this month. It took place in the early/mid 1800's on Barbados. It was the story about a slave who's master lends him out to his brother and after a series of unfortunate events, the master's brother and the slave flee in a hot air balloon kind of thingy. Washington Black ends up traveling all over and his artistic skills and deep intelligence helps him rise above his circumstances. This kind of adventure novel is my favorite type of Summer reading.

7.) I decided to read the last of the original "Tales of the City" books by Armistead Maupin. "Sure of You" took place in San Francisco and Greece in 1988. I wanted to finish the original 6 books in the series before the Netflix series came out. I did really enjoy all of the books. I guess there are three more books written later that I will try to get to as well.

8.) I finished May by reading "A Spool of Blue Thread" by Anne Tyler. Strangely enough, I've never read anything by her before and I really enjoyed it. It took place in Baltimore during the course of a few generations of a family. It was not big drama, but I liked its quiet pace and the look at the things  children never find out about their parents.

I've been much better about choosing more appropriate books for Summer reading this year. I hope you all are finding great adventures in books as well.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Where is My Mind? Way Out in the Water. See it Swimmin'.

My, but it's been a while since I've written on the old blog. We're insanely busy at work and we've had a ton of shit going on at home too.

Sooooo, I'm going to try to write two, count 'em, two race reports today. We'll see how far I get.

The first race report will be about the Pigman Triathlon. The week before the event, I was dealing with a little anxiety. I haven't had many problems before, but the last year or so, I've noticed a mild anxious episode or two. I'm just going to go ahead and blame it on perimenopause, because that's handy. Anyway, I was feeling anxious for about a week before the race and I woke up that Sunday with a mild migraine. Double whammy.

I decided to try and do the triathlon anyway to make up for last year. As you'll recall, I had a bad cold last year and the water was really choppy and also, I gained quite a bit of weight over the Winter so my wet suit was too tight and there wasn't much room for my lungs to expand. I couldn't breathe very well during the open water swim and panic ensued.  I ended up giving up and climbing onto the boat, ending my triathlon before it had really started. I didn't want to do that again this year.

I worked with John and a woman named Lanney on open water swimming a few days before the triathlon. I also bought a new, larger wet suit top. Of course, the morning I woke up at 4 am the day of the triathlon I had a little migraine. It wasn't horrible, but I forgot to bring Advil with me and when I went to take a couple before the start of the race, I realized it wasn't there and lost it. I told John that I just needed a minute and I sat in the car and had my little meltdown. After that, I pulled myself back together'ish and got ready for my race.

I decided the best way to keep me from panicking was to just go slow in the swim. I wouldn't let myself worry about how much faster everyone else was going or if they were all passing me. I just did the slow and steady thing and just kept swimming. I was exhausted when I finally made it out of the water and felt like I had a little asthma. It felt like there was water in my lungs when I breathed. So, I walked up the hill instead of running like most of the other women I was competing against. I'm usually strongest on the bike, and I got to pass a lot of people, who were way ahead of me in the swim. The run was slower again for me. That's the area where I really feel the extra weight I'm carrying. It try not to worry about it. I'm in my 50's, I'm probably not going to all of the sudden lose a bunch of weight in any healthy way, so I go more slowly in my amateur old lady category race. I'm sure it won't kill me.

Since I was the oldest in my category, you'd be surprised that I actually got third. Part of that is that there are a few really strong women in the next age group, so next year when I move up, my results won't be so great, but that's okay. I finally won a pig after all these years! I'll take it. The biggest thing for me, is that I fought my anxiety/insecurity demons and won this time. That was the biggest prize for me.

The next race we did was three days after the triathlon. It was the second installment of our Time Trial series. I've been working hard at Time Trialing this year. Last month, I was 5 seconds faster than my fastest time the year before. My goal was to be under 30 minutes and I went 29.44. So, this time my goal was to be under 29 minutes. Since the month before, I didn't go as hard as I should've, and I had been pretty good at training, I didn't think that would be too hard.

I made a point to try and focus as hard as I could for the full ten miles, which is hard for me. I also tried to use everything I had left to go up the last hill. It turns out, I finished in 28.30 minutes. I beat my best time by a minute and 14 seconds. I also beat my other goal of averaging 21 mph. I know that there are plenty of people who wouldn't think that time was all that fast, but that's okay. I am always trying to do better than I've done before, no matter how fast anyone else can go.

Once again, I'll keep trying to write on here more...So many things to work on.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Talkin' About That Little Lady.

Hey! Whoa! It's almost the end of April, and I still haven't done my traveling through books post for April. Ready? Here it goes:

I read seven books in April.

1.) The first book I read was "A Gambler's Anatomy", by Jonathan Lethem. It was entertaining enough and took me to Berlin, Singapore and Berkeley. It was about a guy who played backgammon professionally and had to have a procedure to remove a tumor that supposedly took away his psychic abilities. There's a whole bunch of other stuff that happens and some weird double dealing. It wasn't always the best trip, but it kept me intrigued.

2.) Next I read "Possession" by A. S. Byatt. I loved this book. It took me to England in the late 80's, but also during the Victorian era. It is about a literary scholar who discovers a letter in an old book. The letter gives him new information about his favorite poet and leads him on a chase to dig up more information to confirm his suspicions. It is a love story, and detective novel,complete with seances. It was a very looong journey, but definitely worth the trip.

I then read "My Absolute Darling" by Gabriel Talent. I was interested to read it because it took place in Mendocino County California, a little South of where I used to live in the mid-eighties. It was a hard trip to take. It dealt with the physical and sexual abuse of a young girl by her father. I had some problems with the writing too, but it is the author's first novel, so I'll give him a break on that.

4.) Book number four in April was "Swing Time" by Zadie Smith. It started in 1982 in London and it was about two girls who meet in a dance class. They are both from low income homes, but their family situations are completely different. It is about what happens to them as they get older. It took me to London, Africa and New York City. I think I would have liked it better had the main character had some real hobbies or friends as an adult.

5.) The fifth book I read was Henry James' "Portrait of a Lady". I had never read it before. I know some people find it boring and depressing, but I really liked it. It was about a self-possessed woman who came into some money, and was deceived into marrying a horrible man who wanted her for her fortune. It took me to England and France and Italy and I got to meet all kinds of interesting people through it.

6.) To follow "Portrait of a Lady", I read "Mrs Osmond", by John Banville. It was not, like you might think, about Donnie and Marie's mom, but rather a sequel to"Portrait of a Lady" written in 2017. It took place where the original novel left off. I liked that it answered questions, since Henry James left so many things up in the air. It was kind of dumb of me to read it right after "P O A L", because it went back and told the back story for most people reading it after having read "Portrait of a Lady" a long time ago, or not at all.

7.) My final book trip in April was "The Power" by Naomi Alderman. It took place all over the world, but in the future. A future where women suddenly had the power to shock or electrocute people. I really liked it. It was a look at power and how it corrupts, no matter what your gender.

Now that we're heading into Summer, I am much looser about my reading restrictions. I'll read whatever sounds entertaining or whatever I'm in the mood for. I am all ready for it to warm up, so I can lie in my hammock and get lost in a great story...Hopefully, sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Here Comes the Rain Again. Falling on My Head Like a Memory. Falling on My Head Like a New Emotion.

Oh, kids. I remember how the month of May used to be when my girls were younger - basically, a sh*t show. It seemed like everything happened that month - the last choir and orchestra concerts, track meets, soccer games, all the end of the year parties and I had no time or money with which to do it all and stress, and stress, and stress.

I always thought that when my kids got older, that would all calm down, and it did...A little. Now, it's all self-imposed stuff that I occupy my time/stress myself out with.

All that above is supposed to be my excuse for not blogging very prolifically lately. Also, sorry about that.

 What has kept me so busy, you ask? Oh, all kinds of crap. Mostly, I have been spending a sh*tload of time bitching about the weather. Again, you ask? Still, I respond.

It has been rainy and cold almost every day for the last few little whiles. Today the high is in the mid-fifties and it's raining again. Hopefully, it's supposed to start warming up tomorrow and we'll see if it continues to rain like it's been doing.

The last two weeks we've also been keeping busy trying to do good deeds when we can. John and I volunteered to bike pace a running race for low income/at risk kids as part of a program to help them channel their energy toward more positive things like running and working together as a community. This is the second year we've volunteered and we hope to get the chance again. It is a wonderful program.

A couple of Sundays ago was Mother's Day. It was cold and rainy that day as well, but not so bad that John and I couldn't get in a nice 66 mile bike ride to Cedar Rapids and back.

In the evening, we met the girls and Stinky's husband for dinner at Pagliais Pizza. If you'll remember, last year I cooked a meal for us and the kids and neither of my daughters offered to help with the cooking or the clean-up. That disappointed me, so this year, I decided to avoid the disappointment and just go to a restaurant and not have to worry about it. Mission accomplished. I made it through a Mother's Day with almost no disappointments. Score!

I guess the thing all this cool and rainy weather is good for, are my salad greens. I have tons of spinach and leaf lettuce and mixed greens. It's a good problem to have, I'm just trying to think of new and different kinds of salads to make. Wish me luck!

This past weekend was...Wait for it...Cold and rainy again. On Saturday we found a window between rain storms and rode our bikes to Amish country and back. It was a lovely ride.

We also found an opportunity for our weekly good deed. As we were riding back to town, we noticed a turtle starting to cross the street. We stopped our bikes, rode back and waited for a break in the traffic in order to carry her/him across. Look how beautiful she/he was!

I read on the internet (they would print it if it weren't true, right?) that you shouldn't move a turtle back the way it came, since it will just go right back into the street it was originally trying to cross. Instead, you should take it where it was headed. So, I made sure to deposit her/him in a nice grassy spot with a lovely view of the lake. Good luck, pretty, little, turtle. I hope you have a nice long life.

On Sunday it didn't seem to stop raining or sprinkling, so I gave myself a goal of finally planting every last seed, root, bulb, seedling or whatever, I had to plant.

After much digging, weeding, some volunteer tree removal and lot's of sweat (EW!), I finally finished up planting my gardens. I'm a little worried about my tomatoes and Mexican Torch Sunflowers, since they are not handling all of this cold and rain very well, but I guess all I can do is wait and see how they do.

So, I'm hoping to be better about blogging and if we're lucky, the weather will improve so I won't have the excuse of whining instead of writing. Of course, there are always the cats to whine about, so I can't promise anything...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

She's Got a Smile It's Seems to Me. Reminds Me of Childhood Memories.

I'd like to wish Coadster the Roadster a wonderful 27th birthday. She's definitely had her ups and downs in her twenties, but this has been a good year for her. She started teaching at her alma mater, she's working on her master's degree, coaching track, and slinging beer and burgers in all her spare time. She is so sweet and conscientious and she has been working hard on finding ways to live well with her depression and anxiety issues.

I can't wait for sushi dinner with her and the family tonight. Most importantly, I can't wait to see how much Coadster grows as she gets closer to her 30's.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Man Oh Man, You're MY Best Friend. I'll Shout it to the Nothingness. There Ain't Nothing That I Need.

Well, the weather for most of this week sucked a$$, but last weekend was amazing. I was smart enough to take Monday off, so I had three whole days before the weather took a turn for the worse.

How did I know it was going to be such an amazing weekend? Because one of the first things that happened when I got off work on Friday was that I found a morel mushroom in my front yard while I was cleaning out one of the flower beds. So, now I have proof that it pays to wait until WAY too long to mow your yard for the first time in the Spring.

If I could have arranged a perfect three day weekend for myself that included most of my favorite things, last weekend would have been it.

I started Saturday with a trip to the Farmer's Market. I got all kinds of goodies. Since we only had one morel mushroom and I had never had them before, I bought some oyster mushrooms. I also got John some black walnuts. He loves them and they are hard to get at a regular store. I bought some herbs to plant in the garden and I bought a 6 pack of Mennonite made cinnamon rolls. I kept one for myself and gave the rest to the kids.

Speaking of gardens, my friend Carrie went to Marengo because she found someone selling these cool, old tractor parts for $10/piece. She asked if anyone else wanted one and I said, sign me up. I love the way it looks in our garden...And I can always use it as a very heavy Ninja Star when anyone pisses me off.

I spent much of the morning in the garden. As I always say, having a front yard garden is a super social thing. I cleaned beds and planted things I bought at Earl May and my neighbors stopped by to ask me what I was planning and talk to me about their dogs and one of my neighbors stopped by and said another neighbor was having a plant sale down the street and that I should go with them. So, I did. I got a thyme plant for $3 and got to meet the woman having the sale and check out her amazing backyard, chock full of all kinds of flowers and plants.

I ran home from the sale to make a quick lunch before our friends came over so we could all go on a bike ride.

We pedaled about 50 miles to Sutliff Bridge and back. It was such a beautiful day for it.

On the way home, we stopped at Big Grove in Solon and John and I split a small shrimp and asparagus pizza and salad.

I feel asleep pretty damn early that night. I was exhausted.

On Sunday I woke up and went for a 3.5 mile run. Since I wasn't in a huge hurry to go fast, I decided to do a little plogging - picking up trash while I jogged.

This time I found a plastic bag from Walgreens and a face mask. It gave me an idea to create a story around the garbage I pick up. A Walgreens bag and a face mask? It could be an environmental short story, or some kind of medical drama...

After the run, I ran around town dropping off seedlings for my friends. One of my friends traded me for more of her seedlings - red kale, some kind of funky marigold and night blooming tobacco (I've never heard of it before, so we'll see what it grows up to be).

I dropped some stuff off to one of John's ex-girlfriends and she traded me for a loaf of fresh baked sourdough bread. I really do just give out seedlings and stuff because I like to share. I don't expect anything back at all, but it is really nice of people to do trades. It feels so sweet and old timey.

On Monday morning I went for a nice five mile run. The temperature was perfect and all the flowering trees looked and smelled so damn good.

I got home from my run and hung some laundry on the line, made myself some tea and peanut butter and honey toast, then sat on the porch and read a little of my book before I started working on the garden.

Originally, I was going to go for a bike ride in the afternoon of my Monday vacation day, but after I spent most of the morning digging new garden plots, planting seeds and plants and roots, I realized that I had way more work to go, so I decided to skip the ride and and spend the rest of the day working in the yard. I figure it was still a work-out, just not training for specific sport.

I was so happy after playing outside in the dirt all day. I was going to make veggie lasagna for dinner, but we went to Shakespeare's for dinner instead. It was nice not have to cook after working in the yard.

Sooooo, I got to do all of my favorite things in three days - I rode bikes, hung out with my kids and friends, got a couple of runs in, worked in the garden, and ate really good food. It still amazes me that I have such a great life. There were so many hard years for me when I was younger. Being older for me means I finally know what I need to do to be happy, I have a partner in crime to play with, I am still able to do those things, and I actually do them. What would a perfect weekend be for you all? Do you love to play outside or inside? What makes you happy? I hope you are all able to do the things you love.