Friday, July 25, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday–July 25, 2014

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2 Fridays in a row? Is that possible? I believe it is. Here we go!

1. It’s been a headache-y week for me, mostly because of the weather. I’m also fighting a cold that my darling daughter gave me. In any case, I’m having to work a little harder today to keep my mood from slipping. Here’s hoping tomorrow is a little easier on the head.

2. Tonight, we watched “Ragamuffin”, a movie based on the life of Rich Mullins. (Rich Mullins was a Christian musician who was killed in a car crash about 15 years ago. If you’re not familiar with him, look him up and listen to some of his music. It’s wonderful!!) The movie was very good, centering on a couple of main themes that permeated his life. Of course, the music was excellent. It’s on Charter On Demand right now for those of you who have Charter Cable.

3. There are advantages to having teenagers who have driver’s licenses. Wild Man went out tonight, so he stopped by the pharmacy to pick up my medications on his way. 

4. The kids went to Appleton today and Wild Man bought a djembe, which is a hand drum. He’s borrowed hand drums from church several times in the last year, so having his own will be convenient. My hopes of having a quiet house are slowly being dashed.

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5. We are down to just one cat, but she is trying her best to require the maintenance of three cats. She does not like to poop in a less-than-pristine cat box. We still keep three cat boxes, but once she uses one two or three times, she start to poop on the floor near the boxes. So, in an attempt to properly serve our cats, we are trying to clean the boxes every day. All hail, Queen Sophie!!

6. My daughter’s friend got me the cutest book from Goodwill the other day called Knit Your Own Cat. Yes, it’s a book about how to knit a stuffed animal cat that looks rather realistic. I wonder if knitting a cat from that book and adding catnip to the stuffing would be funny or cruel to Sophie. Or both!

7. As I’m thinking about Wild Man starting school in a month, I realize I know nothing about the whole school thing. I think I’m going to email another mom to ask how I know what kind of notebooks, etc. he needs. I’m being paranoid, I realize. But, what kid doesn’t need a psychotic mother stressing over his backpack, what to about lunch, and whether he’ll be able to take notes?!

7 Quick Takes this week is being hosted over at Svellerella, so check it out!! What have you been up to?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Reviews–July 23, 2014

It’s the middle of the day, so I have some time to review books. Since my last book reviews, I feel like I’ve started, but not finished a lot of books. There have just been a number of books that I couldn’t get interested in within 100 or so pages, so I stopped. I think that’s why I rate all the books I finish with As or Bs. If it was just a C or lower, I likely stopped before I got to the end.

Dallas, 1963 by Bill Minutaglio. (audio) This is another book about the Kennedy assassination, but this one focuses on the atmosphere in Dallas before the assassination. Many players are introduced and their motives exposed. The inner workings of the upper echelon of Dallas society are exposed and the rift between Dallas and the Kennedy administration are explored. It’s a fascinating book. A

The Spellmans Reunited by Lisa Lutz. I LOVE the Spellmans series of books. This family of private detectives is wonderfully dysfunctional, but in a loving way (if that’s possible). The reader, as usual, is dropped into the story in the middle of an impossible situation. As things play out, though, things work out. This book is a bit more serious with characters with significant illnesses and facing mortality. Actually, that’s one of it’s strengths. It’s also the last of the Spellman books, which makes me sad. It’s definitely worth a read. A+

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. The main character in this complex novel is a woman who is raised in 18th and 19th century Pennsylvania by her botanist parents. She becomes a botanist in her own right, specifically, a bryologist. However, she stays in the Northeastern US until her 40s, when she travels after a love affair. In the long run, she visits Tahiti and ends up living in the Netherlands and doing some significant writing and thinking. I loved this author’s writing style; the characters were deep and real; the plot was twisting and full of interest. Overall, a great book. A+

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead. This story of a ballerina in New York who leaves the ballet to marry her high school sweetheart, have a son, and move to the suburbs in California. But there’s so much more. It’s a story about the ballet, love, passion, honesty, and betrayal. And it’s a well-told story. A

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. A young orphaned Irish girl in the last 18th century in Virginia is brought into the house of a prosperous farmer as an indentured servant. She becomes an integral part of the slave society, but has to relearn a great deal when she grows up and becomes part of the well-to-do society. A good story about class, race, and the blurring of the lines even in plantation society. B+

Hidden Girl by Shiyma Hall. This autobiography is about a girl who was born in Egypt but sold into slavery by her parents. Her captors brought her to the US when she was 8 years old, and she was rescued by US social services a couple of years later. The book tells the story from her early life in Egypt to her adulthood in the US. Compelling. A

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. Yes, I read this because of the HBO series, although I haven’t seen the HBO series. This is the story of a town trying to deal with the aftermath of a global “rapture-like event” in which apparently random people just disappear. The fact that those who disappear were not particularly religious or particularly good makes it different from the “Rapture” of pretrib evangelicalism – and very disorienting to the characters. The plot is basically a year or so in the life of different characters in this town, so it wasn’t a very strong plot with a definite climax. Otherwise, I thought it was a good read. There were lots of significant conflicts and things to think about. A good read. A

JesusLand: a memoir by Julia Scheeres. The author and her brother were raised in a strict Christian home (not particularly Evangelical from what I can tell, probably more Reformed) and were the youngest of a number of children. Actually, Julia was the youngest of the biological children and her brother was her age, but an adopted African-American. Their upbringing was strict and bordering on abusive for Julia and clearly abusive for her brother. When they were in 11th grade, they were both sent to Escuela Caribe, a Christian boarding school for “troubled teens” in the Dominican Republic, where they stayed until they were 18. The story is primarily of their time in this school, which was also emotionally and physically abusive. The memoir is well-written and interesting. A- (Note – There is a documentary out that I’ll be reviewing in an upcoming post called “Kidnapped for Christ” about Escuela Caribe which I found out about a month after I read this book.)

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. The disappearance (and, it turns out, death) of the oldest daughter in a family is the event that starts out this book about the seemingly well-adjusted family in a small city. In fact, the family is anything but stable. Underneath the shiny veneer, each family member has it’s own set of emotions and turmoil that can’t be disclosed or discussed with others. And when Lydia dies, they find out how little they really know about each other. This is an exquisitely written book about family dysfunction that I highly recommend. A+

Ruby: a novel by Cynthia Bond. I just don’t even know where to start in describing this book. The story is wound around Ruby, a black girl from East Texas who could pass for white, who grows up “in a white lady’s house” and then moves to New York as soon as she can only to come back to Texas when her cousin dies. But, her hometown in East Texas has gone on like nothing has changed  while Ruby has been gone. And, when Ruby gets back, she starts the acting crazy just like her mother did. But, is she crazy or is it the gris gris from all those years ago? The story is told in bits and pieces, fits and starts, but it eventually pulls itself together into a coherent whole. It’s about black and white, North and South, mental illness and magic, power and seduction. And it’s worth reading. A

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerwin. (audio) OK, everyone on the planet practically has seen at least part of the HBO series “Orange is the New Black”. I eventually watched part of one episode, but I decided that I really didn’t want to watch such graphic sex, so I gave up on it. But, from the little I watched, I could see it didn’t have that much resemblance to the book I read. This memoir of a young woman who committed a drug crime, got caught, and then had to wait 10 years to serve a 15 month (I think) sentence in a federal detention facility is well-written and very  thoughtful. What stood out to me were the scenes that humanized the women in the federal penal system. It’s so easy to think of them just “getting what they deserve” (and often they are), but they are also people who are trying to live life however they can behind bars. I was also very impressed by her observations about the effectiveness of our justice system. Many of those behind bars are apparently there because of minimum sentencing laws when more thoughtful sentencing might produce more restorative justice. In any case, it’s a good book that I highly recommend. A+

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (audio) I had no idea what to expect from this book, but I found it worth listening to. This is a story about two brothers and a sister and the sister’s son. The sister’s son gets into some trouble when he throws a pig’s head into a local mosque which is complicated by the fact that the Muslims in town are almost all refugees from Somalia which makes the townspeople very nervous anyway. The brothers, both lawyers, come from New York, back to their hometown in Maine to help. From there, things get more complicated and all the family dysfunction starts to show.  By the end, things may not be rosy, but wounds are starting to heal. A

So, what have you been reading or listening to recently?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This Post Was Supposed To Be Reviews

. . .  but, I never got around to writing them today, mostly because I had a bit of a migraine (which is a migraine that actually responds to medications) with the accompanying brain fog. So, what did I do? I surfed the internet, listened to a book, and knit. Which is just fine. But, no book reviews till another day. And since I haven’t reviewed books in several months, there are a lot to do. For my three or four faithful readers.

So, what has been going on? Well, my mood is better. I think just writing about my depression issues has been good. But, I’ve also been exercising (except for today because of the migraine). A friend texted yesterday and wanted to take a walk. I tried to beg off since it was a million degrees outside and I hadn’t had lunch or showered and it was 1:30 and Rosie Girl and I were supposed to go shopping at 4pm. My friend was persistent, though, so I had lunch (scrambled eggs with spinach, Triscuits, and grape juice – very healthy) and met her for a walk. And we walked for about 35 minutes. While it was like 89 degrees outside! I thought I moved up North to get away from crazy hot temperatures like that!! We tried to find the shadiest streets to walk on to make it a bit easier. But it was still hot.

And I’m eating better. At least better than I was at camp where there was too much junk food and too much soda easily available. See the aforementioned scrambled eggs and spinach. PWM cooked tilapia and onions with a side dish of fresh green beans tonight for dinner. Summer time is good for fresh veggies around here because we belong to a CSA. Every Monday we get a bag of fresh veggies and a box of eggs. Rosie Girl is going to make some Zuppa Toscana (a la The Olive Garden) now that we’ve got some kale. We haven’t gotten beets yet, or at least not many, but those are a good excuse for me to bake brownies. None of us are very fond of beets, but I bake them and puree them and put them in brownie batter.

My parents and my mother-in-law gave me money for my birthday, so Rosie Girl and I went shopping yesterday!! On our way to camp a couple of weeks ago, I had stopped at Kohl’s and picked up some blue jeans and tan jeans. I only tried on the blue ones (shame on me!), but the tan ones were the same size. When we got to camp, I found that the tan ones were almost two sizes too big! I had a migraine on the way home, so we didn’t stop to exchange them at the time. So, Rosie Girl and I started at Kohl’s so I could exchange my tan jeans. I also picked up a pair of black jeans (because my current ones are too big). I tried the black ones on!! I also found three cute tops.

Then, we went to Shopko to pick up some makeup. Rosie Girl actually picked out my eye makeup for me – 3 eyeliners and one package of 8 shades of eye shadow. I picked up some other stuff I needed. Rosie Girl is educating me on how to wear eye makeup properly instead of the haphazard “just get something on your eyes” method that I’ve been using since I was 13. And, then, since we love ice cream and it was a million degrees outside, we stopped at Dairy Queen before coming home. It was a lovely day!

It is supposed to cool off tomorrow which my head has been telling me in the form of a migraine. I’ve been fortunate that today’s migraine has been mild. I hope it’s also short-lived. Even though I spent far too much time surfing the net today, I did get a fair bit of knitting done. I finished knitting the neckline on my long-sleeved V-neck CustomFit sweater. Now all I need to do is to weave in the ends and it’s ready to display in the shop. I cast-on and started the back of Rosie Girl’s CustomFit sweater vest (which will be a shop model first).

But, right now, I need to get off the computer so I can read for a few minutes before bed. I’ve got a couple of short loan books that not only need to get back to the library, but are also really good. Now that I’ve got some quiet time, I’d better use it to my advantage and read!!

So, what’s up in your world?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Another Round on the Depression Train . . .

It’s happening again. I’m feeling the hands pulling me down into depression while I’m trying so hard to stay up into normalcy. This isn’t new. Depression is part of the whole “chronic illness” thing.

I get depressed because of how the chronic migraine illness has affected my life and how that makes me sad. But, I’m also depressed because chronic illness, especially chronic pain, affects the neurotransmitters in the brain. So, pretty much everyone with chronic illness ends up with depression and finds that life is better on anti-depressants.

This go-round with depression is because of a couple of things. First of all, we decreased the dose of one of my anti-depressants because my mood had been so stable. That was about three months ago. I really don’t want to have to increase that dose again because I’ve lost ten pounds and I had a little less fatigue immediately after the dose decrease.

Sending Wild Man to school is another obvious “loss” from the chronic migraines. There are lots and lots  of reasons the Wild Man is better off at school this year than being homeschooled, but I have an overwhelming (probably irrational) feeling that the migraines are THE reason we aren’t homeschooling anymore.

I’m feeling more and more angry about how the migraines have taken over my life. And I don’t see things changing anytime soon. I have an M.D. to put behind my name, but no way to use it right now. Even if the migraines went away today, I have too many cognitive side effects from my medications to try to do anything as mentally taxing as practicing medicine. I won’t be homeschooling Wild Man this year because it’s too hard to keep up with all my headaches.

I’m tired. I’m finding it hard to be happy. I’d sleep all day if I could.

But, being a planner, I have a plan. Get up every morning. Do yoga, even if just a little bit. Eat real food. Get a shower. Get dressed. Walk. Meditate. Read books. Knit. Go places with friends. See my counselor. (Of course, all plans are off when the headaches get above an 8.)

I just don’t know if I can do this plan. PWM is being so helpful. He’s making sure there’s plenty of healthy food that I actually like. He’s encouraging without being obnoxious.

Like all depressive phases, I’ll get through this one. If what I’ve planned so far doesn’t work, I’ll talk to my doctor about meds. And I’ve never been suicidal. Just wanted to sleep for days on end.

That’s the most optimistic that this post gets. I never truly despair because I’m walking with Jesus, but Jesus is pretty quiet right now. You could pray for me. That would be good. I would like this to be done with as quickly as possible. Which is why I’m going to try as hard as I can to get my butt on the treadmill tomorrow morning. God help me.

Friday, July 18, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday–July 18, 2014

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Yes, I’m finally posting a 7 Quick Takes post again. And it’s only an hour until midnight! BTW, don’t hold your breath next week for another one next week; we’ll just have to see how things play out.

1. I have a smart phone!! Actually, the whole family how has smart phones. We had been overpaying for our phone service, so the overage gave us the money up front to pay for the phones (although I think the kids had to pay extra to get the newest phone). And since we had been overpaying all along, we’re now paying less than we were for coverage for all of us. I’ve migrated all of the stuff from my ipod to the phone. We got them right before camp which was great. One device to rule them all!! (But, I’m still learning to use all the toys!)

2. This summer has been really bad for migraines and headaches in general. I don’t know what to make of it. I know that the first few days after camp would be bad because I had too much soda and processed food at camp. Now that I’m home, I’m trying to eat better. I’m trying to exercise, but the headache is making that hard to do as well. I’m just in a bad cycle. Every day that I’m not too headache-y, I’m trying to exercise and eat well and not get too stressed out to try to stretch out the number of good days I can get.

3. I’ve loved having Rosie Girl home this summer. She’s been busy working, but she and Wild Man play video games when she’s home. She’s also suggested books for read-alouds in the evenings. Last night, a couple of Wild Man’s friends came over to play video games and watch a movie. When Rosie Girl got home from work, the whole group played some card games and then watched more movies and videos until Rosie Girl took them home. I like that my kids get along and that they have nice friends who like to hang out around here.

4. One of my headache issues right now is that I have strained my trapezius muscle. The upside is that I get neck massages from the hubby. The downside is that it is making the right side of my head hurt more than usual. I tried taking 1/2 a tizanidine tablet yesterday (2mg) which certainly helped with relaxation and pain, but it also made me take a 2 hour nap. So, I think I’ll try a 1mg tablet when I need it during the day. (Note. I usually use it at bedtime.)

5. Being 47 years old feels remarkable like being 46 years old.

6. Having received some money for my birthday, I’m planning on going clothes shopping! I’m not sure when, because Rosie Girl wants to join me, but sometime in the next week or two. (Wild Man and I stopped at Kohl’s on our way to camp for me to pick up some jeans. I also got a dress and a top. Wild Man was not happy because we had “only come for one pair of jeans.” I don’t think he’ll want to accompany me on my shopping trip!)

7. Rosie Girl went out busking today for a little while. She only made $1, but was happy with it. She played ocarina and tin whistle. But, while she was in town, she got guitar strings, so she can try again later next week with her guitar.

How was your week? Check our Conversion Diary to see what others are up to!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Family Camp 2014

Last week was our week away from home at Fort Wilderness. We had a great time, as always. This year, one of Rosie Girl’s friends came with us. She’s a real “horse person”, so she and Rosie Girl did lots of horseback riding. Since Rosie Girl only rides when she’s up at Fort, she was pretty sore for a couple of days. They also enjoyed plenty of gourmet coffee and card games in between horse rides.

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Wild Man indulged his need for competition in the archery and carpetball tournaments. He won first place for his age group in archery and third place in carpetball! And, of course, enjoyed his prizes – treats from the canteen. He also really enjoyed the teen Bible study for the week. It was taught by a young man who is in seminary and is a totally theology geek – but has a crazy afro and is psycho for coffee and tea. Wild Man just loves this guy’s passion. He taught about several men through church history who have followed Jesus in a big way and what happened in their lives. Some of them were Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, and Bonhoeffer (I probably missed some in there).

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I did a good bit of reading and some knitting. I’m working on a pair of socks that start on the sole of the foot. The pattern is in one of the more recent Interweave Knit magazines. Unfortunately, I had several days of bad migraine, so I missed going on Wrangler Breakfast with everyone else. Other than that, I don’t think I missed much. PWM did a good bit of archery and was in the tournament, but didn’t shoot as well as he would have liked this year.

Grandma (PWM’s mom) joined us again this year. She loves to make campfires, so we had a fire most nights except for the ones when it rained. She made some homemade firestarter (using wax and woodshavings from PWMs workshop) which got things going more easily this year.  Rosie Girl also taught her friend and Grandma how to spin wool with a drop spindle on one of the rainy days. Rosie Girl has gotten quite adept at spinning and Grandma and M were making quite a go of it.

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I made a new friend this year, one that I really hope not to see again. He was hopping up my leg when I met him. In fact, he was hopping up toward an inappropriate area and I finally had to pick him up because he didn’t respond to my verbal commands to leave me alone. “NO means NO, Froggy!!” So, I deposited him back in the woods with a strong admonition to leave human females alone and find himself a girl froggy to hang out with. I didn’t see him the rest of the week, so I assume he decided that trans-species romance was out of the question for him.

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We had a great week. If you are looking for a fun way to spend a week with your family, I highly recommend Fort Wildnerness! It’s fun in a Christian environment for the whole family in the beauty of God’s Northwoods!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Education Update–June 28, 2014

Big news around here. Wild Man is going to public school next year! Yep, as of the end of the summer, we are no longer a homeschooling family. (We’re technically homeschooling ‘til then because he needs to finish his Math and Biology credits.)

How did this happen? Wild Man asked about going to school in the spring which started us thinking that direction, but I was still pretty firmly set that homeschooling was the best option for everyone. As the spring semester wore on, though, Wild Man was spending lots and lots of time at school for Band and Choir class, but also for the spring musical and getting ready for solo and ensemble and Jazz Band. In fact, he was getting home in the late afternoon and having to do his homeschool work before bed. So, we started considering our options.

Wild Man is very involved in all of the performing arts activities at the local public school. Homeschooling has been very convenient in allowing him to work his academics around his performing arts and music ministry activities outside of the public school as well. We used to like homeschooling because it didn’t tie us to the school schedule, but we’re tied to the school schedule anyway because Wild Man takes Band and Choir at school.

Homeschooling has also been great for working with Wild Man’s dyslexia. When Wild Man was in middle school, we got to spend extra time on reading and language arts as he learned to read and learned to deal with his dyslexia. Now that he’s 16, Wild Man is compensating really well for his  dyslexia. In fact, this is a good time for him to start to interact with the educational system on his own. He took the ACT this  last spring with no preparation and got a 19, with his highest scores on Reading and English, so I think he’s ready to take on the high school.

I’m also ready for him to go to high school. I believe he would get a better education in many ways if we were still homeschooling, but between my migraines and his being so busy, his academics were becoming almost an afterthought. We had lost the joy of learning together and reading together because we were always trying to fit the Biology or Literature in by the end of the week.

PWM and Wild Man and I prayed a lot and thought a lot. We’ve been very fortunate that our school district allows him to participate almost fully in the music department while still being homeschooled. He’s gotten the best of both worlds for the last couple of years. Now it’s time for Wild Man to step completely into the public school world.

We went to the high school last week and got Wild Man all signed up for his new classes. He’ll be taking Jazz Band (before school), Band, Choir, Geometry, Chemistry, Wisconsin Studies/PE (each a semester), Web Design/Video Design (semester classes), English, Study Hall.

Pray for this new adventure for all of us!!  Pray that Wild Man will continue to be a leader in Band and Choir! Pray that his academics will continue to go as well at public school as they have gone at home! And pray that PWM and I will get used to our roles at parents of a public school student!

Have any of you made this transition? What is it like?

P. S. Don’t worry, we’re still going to read books together at night as a family. I don’t think you could actually stop us from doing that.