Sunday Coffee – Y’all, this has become ridiculous by now.

Oy. So I dropped off a cliff this week. I didn’t mean to disappear from the blog but wow it was a crazy week. It didn’t help that last weekend was insane between trying to replace the dishwasher and taking care of a suddenly-upset mama cat! That meant that I spent the early part of the week trying to catch up on my normal weekend stuff. Then I got new foster kittens who were sick and needed meds, which of course adds an additional load. (Not complaining – I chose them because apparently few foster parents are willing to take on sick babies – just meant some extra work.) Then my grandmother passed away this week, which was an entire complicated mess of feelings. (My mom has not once bothered to reach out to me since her little blow up in August. She didn’t bother to come see Laurence before he went off to college in Canada, and I can only guess that one of my siblings has told her that Ambrose has gotten married.) And then, at the end of the week, we discovered that the foster kittens weren’t just sick, but sick with a potentially deadly calicivirus, so we have to be on the look out for sudden fading kitten syndrome.

(Amarillo, Abiline, and Austin)

So yeah, it was a bad week, and then to make it worse, I tried out like five different books and they all weren’t for me, so I haven’t even been able to read. Boo! It’s always sad when you have a string of books you’re excited for and then discover they’re not going to work for you. (Whether that’s the book or your own mood!) Hopefully, the upcoming week will be better both in life and in books.

You know what I wish for? I want the weather to turn. It has been relentlessly hot here. Every time there’s a teaser in the forecast where it’ll only get up to 92 degrees and it may actually drop to 68 degrees in the wee hours of the morning, those teases go away as we get closer to the date. It was mostly in the high 90s this week, and though the mornings are now in the low 70s instead of the high 70s, that comes with a wave of extreme humidity that no one loves. By this point in the year, we usually have at least one brief cool front that gives us a hint of what will come, but I guess with it being ridiculously hot from April onwards this year, it should be no surprise that September is still miserable. There is a predicted brief front this week – lows in the low 60s and a few days where the high is only 89, but I’m not holding my breath yet. Fingers crossed, though!

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Sunday Coffee – Unexpected

Man oh man. So our weekend imploded. None of it is catastrophic levels of explosion or anything, just very unexpected. To start with, I went to unload the dishwasher yesterday morning to find it overflowing with water inside, not drained at all. We’ve had soooo many problems with this dishwasher, which we got in November 2020, that at first we thought the filter had gotten clogged again despite us rinsing every dish that goes in til it shines beforehand. But no. For the second time in less than two years, the internal pump had died. The first time – a month after we got the dishwasher – it was under warranty and we were able to get the part fixed for free. This time, it would’ve cost more than a new dishwasher to get the part and have someone come out to fix everything. And considering that particular dishwasher, which supposedly was a high-end, energy-efficient, super quiet blah blah blah appliance, had been a nightmare since day 1, we decided to just replace it.

So that was our Saturday – picking out, buying, replacing the dishwasher, which led to the discovery that our garbage disposal (which was probably as old as the 1997-house) was also starting to go. Rather than wait until this also broke down, we just went ahead and replaced it at the same time.

All that is enough for one weekend, but it gets better!

So far, fostering cats and kittens has been a mixed experience, especially fostering cats. The kittens have never had any real problems that we couldn’t handle. However, y’all will recall that we had one mother cat get extremely territorial and aggressive after spotting our household cats outside her room. She was semi-feral, so we didn’t put much weight on that. Sunflower didn’t mind our other cats, nor did Lilo, who was a mother cat. But all through this week, we’ve noticed a worrying trend in Panini.

Panini is a great mother who is very attentive to and protective of her babies. They’re all in their own room, but of course there’s a crack under the door, so the cats can sniff each other, plus they can see each other whenever we open the door to go in/out of the foster room. At first, this seemed to be okay. Panini didn’t like seeing the other cats, and she’d back up and sometimes hiss if she saw them. As her babies have started to get more mobile, though, it’s like her strong protective instincts have kicked in. She’s started to become terrified. We started putting a towel at the base of the door to prevent her from seeing the cats under the crack, but even the towel started terrifying her. Twice last night, she began to yowl and run around the room, knocking into walls, just absolutely freaking out. It wasn’t aggressive, just terror, the poor baby.

I had to write back to the animal rescue that I foster for to ask if I could bring the family back in, for Panini’s sake. I don’t want her to hurt herself. And Jason and I have decided that we can’t foster adult cats any longer – it’s too unpredictable, with our seven permanent cats in the house. Kittens are very flexible and curious. They don’t mind the smell of other cats so much. It’ll be much safer and less stressful for all if we stick to this. I will say, though, that I’m going to miss watching the Bistro Babies grow up, though. They’re so adorable and I’m absolutely in love with Schnitzel especially (he reminds me a lot of Hulud). It’s a wrench to give them up. But we’ve gotta do what’s best for Mom.

Keep your fingers crossed that we have no other disasters this weekend. Heh.

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The Ink Black Heart, by Robert Galbraith (audio)

When cartoonist Edie Ledwell is murdered, Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott are hired to find the identity of Anomie, the anonymous fan who has spent years torturing Ledwell online.

Yes, the author of this book is horrible, and in this particular book, she’s made a feeble attempt to whine about her own fandom turning against her online. She can claim otherwise and pretend that the book isn’t about her, but frankly, she used that excuse up with the last book, so no one is buying that bs. I debated whether or not to read this book, because she’s just so gross, and chose to do so under the same guidelines as I’ve chosen to read other authors. Many authors – especially of classics – are problematic, and yet I haven’t stopped reading their books. With modern authors, I’ve made it a policy not to begin reading new-to-me authors who are squicky. If I’ve already read and loved books by an author and then they turn squicky, I evaluate individually. In this case, because I loved the Strike series long before Rowling showed her true colors, I’ve decided to continue.

So. Ignoring the problematic author, I want to start by saying that this book was sooooo much better than the last volume in the series, which was written slapdash and meandering and scattered. The Ink Black Heart is longer, but feels half the size, because all the different parts come together well and the pacing is spot on. It’s clear that Strike and Ellacott are entirely out of their depths trying to figure this one out, and their progress is slow and painful at times, without ever reading slow and painful, if that makes sense.

The difficulty they’re running into, of course, is that they’re trying to track down an anonymous person online who has done a masterful job at hiding their identity from any kind of computer tracing. Anonymity is a major theme of the book, and honestly, the thing I liked best about it. Because despite Rowling having a whine about her fandom picking apart her beloved HP world and turning on her personally, the things she discusses in this book are the real problems of anonymous social media: internet trolls, and radical fanatics popping up in seedy corners everywhere. It goes into alt-right hate campaigns, white supremacist groups, the incel community, and violence against women, people of color, the disabled, Jewish folks, and anyone LGBTQIA+. There’s also a look at people who feed on social causes to win clout for themselves, exaggerating claims and capitalizing on folks’ knee-jerk reactions to -isms.

This last bit is where Rowling trips up a little. Because yeah, there are definitely folks out there who build themselves up online by exaggerating their illnesses, or claiming that their ideas were stolen by others, or picking apart popular media to the point of absurdity. Most people with invisible illnesses aren’t pretending, though, and they spend a lot of energy fending off the people who believe they are (including doctors!). Most people who spot problematic issues in popular media aren’t pointing thing out to attack the creator, but to bring awareness to biases we may not even realize exist. How do we learn and get better if we don’t examine these things?

Rowling’s bitterness at being called out on the fatphobia, antisemitism, ethnocentrism, and (so many other) inherent problems in the Harry Potter series becomes really clear, though, when she mimics the same call-outs for Edie Ledwell’s cartoon, The Ink Black Heart. There’s one character that speaks sense about it all, saying that Ledwell may not have meant for her cartoon to depict these things, but “we all need to examine our unconscious biases, right?” Bravo to that character! He’s exactly right! Except then, it turns out he’s one of the vilest kinds of human beings out there, undermining (if not entirely negating) the good things he says. Because any potential true criticism of the author must be brought down a peg or two, yeah?

By the end of the book, here’s how I felt: First, Rowling is a giant piece of sh1t who needs to sit back and do some really deep soul searching and personal education. Her biases and whining and poor-me attitude definitely peek through from time to time in The Ink Black Heart. On the other hand, 95% of the book could be read as if from an entirely different author, one not inserting themselves into the narrative. It was a fascinating, repellant, and alarming look at the way hate groups, conspiracy theorists, and extremists are using the internet as echo chambers to bolster their beliefs and create strength in numbers. As someone who personally fears the current rise of neo-n@zis, incels, and christian extremists, and who lives in a country that is a hotbed of these folks, the novel reads like warning bells. I can absolutely understand why people are skipping it, either due to the author or simply not wanting to read more about this kind of thing than we already see in the daily news. I, however, really enjoyed the book.

Performance: I love Robert Glenister, who reads these audiobooks, and thought he did a great job with it as usual. However, I don’t recommend this one on audio, or at least, not solely on audio. Many of the chapters are written as chats within a specific online game, and can happen up to three simultaneously. Glenister, of course, has to read them one by one, not simultaneously, and there are broad hints revealed in how these conversations intertwine that you simply can’t get on audio. Additionally, twitter feeds, tumblr posts, and youtube comments are often written out in sequence, and Glenister has to read every word, including the @ addresses in twitter replies and such. When you scroll through twitter, you learn to take in only the info you need, rather than every single character written down, so hearing it all spoken out got a bit confusing – a lot of extraneous info. I found that looking over a hard copy made the book much easier to understand during all of the social media portions.

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The It Girl, by Ruth Ware

Ten years after April’s murder, her killer dies in prison, still proclaiming his innocence. Hannah, April’s then-roommate and friend, is left uneasy. It was her evidence that put John Neville away, after all, and if he wasn’t really guilty, then she’s responsible for his false imprisonment – plus, it would mean April’s real killer is still out there.

I’m going to split this review into what I did and didn’t like, starting with the negatives.

The not-so-good: Once again, this thriller was filled with a lot of tired tropes, mostly around April herself. April is the quintessential it girl, as the title suggests. She’s wealthy, talented, smart, charming, and utterly repugnant. I don’t understand characters like this, or more accurately, I don’t understand what about them draws other people to them. In real life, everyone would have hated this girl. She’s mean, ruthless, unapologetic, backstabbing, self-serving, and whiny. There’s not a single redeeming quality about her. “Rich” and “pretty” and “smart” aren’t redeeming qualities. And yeah, people flock to those sorts of folks in real life, but only to get what they can from them, or to bask in reflected glory. No one actually thinks that they’re friends.

But in fiction – especially thrillers – this happens all the time. No matter how often people are dumped on by the it girl, they keep claiming that she’s such a good person with a good heart. Same here. Hannah doesn’t even seem to like April, yet continues to claim that they’re best friends even ten years after April’s death. It’s ridiculous.

Beyond that, the whodunnit portion was extremely predictable, the police were incompetent to a point of disbelief in their investigation, and the killer’s supposed motives were less than compelling. Thriller/mystery-wise, this wasn’t very good.

The good part: Having said all that, I actually think I’m swayed into liking the book more than disliking it because the thriller/mystery portion was almost superfluous. This felt more like a book about a specific important issue, with the plot built up around said issue in order to address it in a non-threatening way. Maybe it wasn’t intentional, but my take on The It Girl was that it was a good about power dynamics between men and women, and the way women are gaslit by society. It’s a statement on not-all-men and on rape culture and the way women are dismissed when they report threats. Not to mention the way that they dismiss threats themselves because they’ve been taught that their instincts can’t be trusted.

Regardless of whether John Neville killed April, he was a big ol’ creepo. His behavior was very much not okay, and yet it’s dismissed as harmless, old-fashioned, or even helpful. For example, at one point he takes a package up to Hannah’s dorm room and enters the room when no one is home, without permission. He claims that he was simply being helpful because the package didn’t fit in her mailbox, but he literally broke into her room when she wasn’t home. Then got mad at her and called her ungrateful when she was upset that he did this. This sort of behavior, which begins with escorting Hannah to places on campus even when she doesn’t want him to, and escalates from there, so obviously crosses a line when viewed from a distance. However, Hannah keeps second-guessing herself about the thing Neville says and does, and his motives. She won’t report him, and the one time she tries, her fears are almost outright dismissed by administrators.

Of course, John Neville isn’t the only flavor of creepo in this book. On the flip side, you also have the advisor who holds exclusive parties for “select students” aka mostly pretty women with only enough guys to claim this isn’t what he’s doing. Everyone finds Neville a bit weird and creepy, but most find the advisor smart, charming, affable, and harmless. I can’t imagine just how many undergrads he managed to sleep with over his years.

Those are the things that made this book for me, those dynamics, those thematic elements. Reading for thriller alone? Not worth it. Reading for some depth, and this has plenty to find.

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Sunday Coffee – The Cutest Menu Items

Meet Panini and her three little boys, Kimchi (orange), Gazpacho (black), and Schnitzel (brown tabby). It’s been a few weeks since we had fosters. Lilo and Stitch went back to the shelter in mid-August, and both have since been adopted (yay!). The rest of August was spent taking our permanent cats to the vet for their annual checkup, in addition to getting Laurence ready for his move to Canada.

Once Laurence had moved out, Jason and I set to making some changes in the house. Basic things – offloading some furniture that was no longer needed, rearranging rooms and such. The longterm plan is to convert the boys’ old bedroom into a combo foster room, office, and makeshift bedroom for when Laurence comes back in the summers. For now, the extra furniture (that we don’t need but can’t get rid of until bulky item pickup in late September) is set into one corner of the room, and otherwise, we’ve arranged it into a passable room for foster kitties.

And here we are! Mama Panini is super sweet and very lonely. She loves constant cuddles (to the point where we need to leave the room when the babies are hungry, because she’s more interested in pets than feeding, ha!). She’ll probably calm down after a bit, but for now she’s almost aggressively affectionate. The babies are absolutely adorable. Schnitzel loves belly rubs. Kimchi is very active and strong and loud. Gazpacho doesn’t like his sleep to be disturbed, and I caught him with a blep twice in his first day with us. They were a week old on Friday, when they came home to us, so their eyes are still closed and they’re more worm-like than kitten-like, and so adorable. They’ll be with us for seven weeks or so, until they’re old enough and weigh enough to be neutered and put up for adoption. Since they’re going to have constant human contact that whole time, from such a young age, they’re going to be extremely sweet just like bottle babies.

Oh it makes me so happy to have fosters in the house again! If you need me, I’ll be off petting babies!

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Miss Moriarty, I Presume? by Sherry Thomas (audio)

As this is the sixth book in the Lady Sherlock series, I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail. We’ve reached the point in the Sherlock series (if I understand the original Sherlock) where Holmes has come to Moriarty’s attention, and must find a way to turn away that scrutiny. It was a well-plotted story, if a little predictable in places (assuming you know the bare bones of original Sherlock), but I admit that I struggled with it. This is entirely my own fault. Somewhere around the 3rd or 4th book, I seem to have read a volume without retaining any of the details. Even though I know what happened, and remember the rehash of what happened in subsequent books, it still feels as if I missed an entire book and I’m trying to catch up on who’s who every time I start a new volume. It takes half the book just to bring myself back up to speed each time I read a new book. And that doesn’t make for particularly pleasant reading. On the other hand, these aren’t really books I’d enjoy rereading, so I haven’t gone back. In any case, other than my own faulty memory, the book was well done. I just wouldn’t recommend starting the series anywhere other than with the first book!

PS – Kate Reading is a great narrator as always!

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The House Across the Lake, by Riley Sager

After her husband’s death, Casey’s life falls apart. Her mother sends her to their family vacation home on a remote Vermont lake, to keep her away from the paparazzi and hopefully dry out. But Casey has no interest in drying out. She’ll drink her days into a stupor one after another, trying to forget, trying not to relive all those memories, trying not to feel. And along with bourbon comes another distraction – the drama of her neighbors across the lake, their fights brought into painful clarity by a pair of high-powered binoculars.

I’m struggling with my thoughts about this book. I was warned beforehand that something about it was off, though to explain more (the person warning me said) would be to give away the surprises of the book. So I went in wary, especially as I’ve had mixed experiences with Sager’s books in the past. And at first, I’ll give him this: He took three very tired thriller tropes (a wealthy secluded lake setting; a female narrator that no one trusts because she drinks too much; and blatant spying on neighbors, leading to witnessing Something Bad) and made them all feel rather fresh. I quite liked the book for a good chunk. The mystery was intriguing, and I felt like there was more nuance in the interplay of characters within those tropes.

Mild spoilers to follow.

Continue reading

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Top Ten Books I Had to Own in Print

I knew it had been awhile since I last posted for Top Ten Tuesday, but I hadn’t realized it had been since Feb 2019!! I thought it was the pandemic that moved my posts away from these lists, but apparently I got lazy about it even before then. Heh. In any case, I really liked today’s topic, which is technically “Top Ten Books I Loved So Much I Had to Get a Copy for My Personal Library,” but customizable to your unique situation. I decided to set up my list as the top ten books/series that I had to own in print even though I first listened (and also own) on audio. In most of these cases, I’ve never even read the physical books, but I still loved the stories – both audio and book – enough to buy hard copies for my library. Which is saying a lot, because I keep my library minimal, maybe 100-150 books altogether, culling all the time.

In no particular order:

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: This was a multi-read, probably listened to four or five times in a row, and definitely deserves its place on my shelf.

Howl’s Moving Castle: Tried reading in print multiple times and never made it far, so the audio really brought this one to life and it became a fave!

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: Ditto everything I said about Howl.

the Lockwood & Co series: Ironically, I didn’t even particularly enjoy the narrator for the later books, but I’ve still always listened while also collecting the physical editions…

the Dublin Murder Squad series: At first, I wasn’t planning to get these books in print, but I kept finding the first at used book sales, and I loved having it around so much that I ended up collecting the rest at HPB over time.

the Divine Cities trilogy: It helps that I met the author and bought the first book for signature at his event, long after listening to the series.

Good Omens: Because why wouldn’t you own Good Omens in every possible format?

Gentlemen and Players: This is another of those that I’ll never read in print – and I re-listen most years – but it makes me so happy to see it every time I look at my library.

the Raven Boys series: I think technically, I may have read the fourth book in print before the audio, simply because I was dying to know what happened, but I still mostly listen to audio on revisiting

The Host: The audio narrator (Kate Reading) is my favorite and she made this book for me, so I’ll always revisit on audio, but still, there it is on my shelf.

Honorable Mention – the Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy: Technically, this is an 11th entry, and I don’t include it in my top ten because an audio edition of the third book was never made. Unfortunate, because the narrator (Amy Sheils) is incredible. So I only own a physical copy of the third book, while owning both audio and print of the first two.

Do you keep physical books around when technically you only read virtual copies (audio or ebook) of them?

topten

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

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Sunday Coffee – A Day in the Life of–

I’ve written a couple of these “day in the life of” posts before, snapshots of my life at different times and in different circumstances. This one will be drastically different. Not only was I suddenly an empty-nester and living alone for a week as Jason took Laurence up to college in Canada, but my health is in a place where I’ve lost almost all mobility. Have you heard the term “spoonie” before? That’s where I’m at, on the painful side of major inflammatory flare-up and suffering from at least two autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis and sjögren’s syndrome) as well as a few Unknowns. So here’s what my day looked like on the first of September, in a body that hates me and with no one around to help when I’m literally in too much pain to move.

Morning: Woke up at around 7:15, so at least it wasn’t an insomnia night! Checked in with Jason and Laurence, who were two hours ahead of me, and then went out to feed the seven cats. Cats fed, I pulled out food for our feral cat outdoors and picked my way across the uneven, overgrown yard, trying not to trip or twist an ankle. I can’t really bend over or squat easily right now, so I made my laborious way into a half-squat to scoop food into his bowl, then filled the water bowl as well. That done, I returned to the house, made coffee, and took a rest break while I looked over the overnight camera feed.

As it was the first day of the month, I had some paperwork to do in my planner and journals, and I sat down at my computer to work on some blog stuff too. Then it was time for breakfast – Greek yogurt with strawberries and honey – while I listened to my audiobook. Before returning to my room, I threw some overdue laundry in the washer. Then it was time to take my meds and get ready for the day. I put on workout clothes and did a 20-min light yoga video that honestly felt like it was going to kill me, heh. All of that, with the breaks in between, took me until 11:30.

Midday: After yoga, I swapped the laundry into the dryer and put the second load on, then warmed up my leftover veggie risotto for lunch. The new med I’d started the day before had my stomach a bit uncomfortable, so I ate half my food while watching an old SVU rerun. Jojo came to cuddle for the second half of the show, after my food was gone – he’s been very cuddly lately! Then I made some phone call errands while I waited for the laundry to finish, and mindlessly scrolled through social media. When the laundry was done, I swapped that out, then took a shower. It’s unbelievable to me just how painful and difficult it is to do something as basic as take a shower, dry off, and change into clothes afterwards. This small act really brings home just how much my life has changed in the last year! By the time I finished, it was 1:30.

Afternoon: I spent the afternoon alternating chores with rest breaks, mostly because I was kinda pissed at how much the shower took out of me. Chores included: bringing in the recycling bin from the curb. Folding the laundry as I listened to my audiobook. Picking up the living room. Unloading the dishwasher. Checking the mail. (Again, I would never before have believed that walking four houses down the street to get the mail would be nearly impossible and require a rest because it hurt my back so much!) Boiling eggs for snacks. Feeding the feral cat his afternoon food, complete with unsteady trek across the yard again. Sweeping the kitchen and dining room. There’s so much more that I needed to do – more cleaning in the living room, which also desperately needed vacuuming, overdue scrubbing of the bathrooms, picking up my room, etc etc. But even the small things I did were WAY too much, and by the time evening rolled around, I was completely spent. That’s what happens when you push yourself too hard because you’re angry at your body for its limitations.

(toy left on top of the mailboxes)

Evening: Because I’d entirely run out of spoons by evening, I made a very simple dinner, cooking up some chicken (while sitting in a kitchen chair) to have alongside a salad and one of the last biscuits left from the weekend. I listened to more of my audiobook, and managed to load the last few dishes into the dishwasher to run. Hand-dishes were set aside for the next day. Right as I finished that up, I got a sad call from my dad with news that my aunt and godmother, who has mostly been estranged from the family for the last ~25 years, was in hospice care, in a coma from liver failure. (Her story is so sad. She had breast cancer in her 30s, and the treatment that put her into remission destroyed her thyroid, and then 30 years of subsequent thyroid meds destroyed her liver.) I’ve only seen her twice since I left for college in 1997, at my grandparents’ funerals in 2007 and 2018. Even though she didn’t know who I was in 2018 (her liver and cognitive function was already mostly gone), I’m glad I got to hug her and say that I loved her that last time that I saw her.

Anyway. After that, I spoke to Jason and Laurence before they headed off to bed, and then took care of the cats for the night. Food. Cleaning out and refilling their water fountain. Dragging a chair into the laundry room to sit while I scoop the many, many litter boxes. Then I had to summon my last few ounces of energy to take the trash out before I could head inside, lock all the doors, turn off the lights, and sequester myself in my room. The cats aren’t allowed in at night, heh. I got ready for bed, then crashed onto my mattress for some more mindless phone scrolling as my body unfurled. Around 10pm, I was finally drowsy enough to drift to sleep.

*****
So why write this all out? In the past, my Day in the Life posts were from spring break of 2016 and quarantined life in fall 2020. In both posts, I was in very good health, doing easy yoga warmups before heavy strength training, taking long leisurely walks around the neighborhood, alternating chores with things I enjoyed doing rather than with rest breaks. I think it’s important to document the bad times as well as the good, though, and since I don’t know what the rest of my life will look like – if we’ll find the right combo of medications to decrease this pain/inflammation, or if I’ll ever be able to do something as simple as walk around the block again – and I wanted to write out exactly how it is when I have limited spoons but still have to keep going long after they’ve been used up.

*****
Note: On Sept 2nd, the day after this documented one, my aunt passed away in the morning, and my body crashed so hard from overuse that I ended up sleeping all afternoon. (Pic is from when I woke up several hours later, with cats all over me, even though I normally kick them out – and close my blinds – to sleep.) I was actually lucky to get home before I crashed, because I went to the library to pick up some holds, and on the way home, I realized my brain had gone into that half-asleep state where everything feels drunk and surreal. I had to focus very hard on making the two-mile trip home safely, and I barely made it to my bed before passing out. It really was like being drunk, except without having had any alcohol. I’m still learning how to navigate the spoonie world, where I actually cannot push my body into the negative-spoons point and expect to bounce back the next day. This is not something I’m good at.

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August 2022 in Review

And just like that, they’re gone.

Guys, I’m officially an empty-nester. A new phase of life has begun, and it all happened so fast after the slow, slow, SLOW drain of the last few pandemic years. I knew it would go quickly, considering my kids were so close together in age, but then the pandemic hit, and it took longer than expected for Morrigan to leave the nest, and then Ambrose stuck around until he was nearly 20, only to leave mere months before Laurence went off to college. Of course there will be returns home for breaks, etc, especially for my youngest who is just starting school, but for the most part, it’ll just be Jason and me at home.

Reading and Watching
August was the first month in awhile where I felt a lot more like reading, and I finished six books. I don’t see this ending for awhile, especially with RIP officially starting!

(favorite: Dawnshard)

On screen, Laurence and I re-watched our way through Downton Abbey, and one night Jason I put on a movie that we’d heard such good things about, only we ended up loathing it. A Star is Born. How did that win so much acclaim?? It’s nothing but a load of walking red flags, glorifying mental illness and a gaslit woman’s pointless sacrifices. Gag me. Toward the end of the month, I tried to watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbings Missouri with Laurence, but after four horribly gory moments, I decided the movie wasn’t for me. Well done, from the half hour I saw, just not a movie for me!

House
We got a few things done this month – removed the cat wall (though we still need to repair and repaint the walls), and built the pathway from our deck into the yard. Then, of course, there is all the construction going on outside our fence, which continues to be an issue (though at least they did fix the fence now!). For the most part, though, our month was busy with non-house stuff so this was minimal in August.

(pathway in progress)

Health/Fitness
I am a ball of pain. Every tendon, every bone. Migraines, possible bursitis, lymphedema in my foot, sciatica, swollen/painful tongue. My doc is sending me in for an MRI of my hips/lower back and referring me to a new set of specialists for physical therapy and the lymphedema. Meanwhile, I’m starting a new med that might hopefully give me some relief soon, and we’re double-checking some labs that point to very low levels of B12 and B9 (folate) in my system (could be the cause of the sore tongue, or that might be the sudden onset of thrush, which I also got diagnosed with this month!). In any case, it’s generally been hard to think about anything health-related (like exercise), as so much is moment-to-moment attempts not to feel like I’m about to die these days. I do hope they figure out what’s going on soon, because I’ll be honest, I’ve started to wonder if I have bone cancer, or swelling on my brainstem like my grandpa had, or some other disease that’s going to off me before they find it.

The Ferals
The best news of the month was that Tillie finally got adopted! We visited her early in the month –> , and we were so happy to see that the following weekend, she was adopted. She was the last kitten left from the litter of five born on 3/31 – Shai, Hulud, Tipsy (now Mojito), Penny, and Tillie. All five have been adopted, their mom has been TNRed, and all is well! We also turned in Lilo and Stitch mid-August for surgery and to go up for adoption. Stitch was adopted within a couple days, as we expected. Lilo showed up on the for-adoption page on the 27th, and hopefully will get adopted soon. We are foster-free until sometime mid-September. We needed a break, and took that time to get yearly vet appointments done on our permanent residents. We’ll also convert the now-empty boys’ bedroom into a foster room before we bring another litter home.

Favorite Photos
As always, these are photos taken by me and aren’t always the best photos, just my favorites for the month.

Top: One of many photos I love from Ambrose’s town day with us; I know I already have the larger version of this one above, but my heart melts at Tillie’s look of adoration as she sits in Jason’s arms; Angus’s whole personality wrapped up in one photo, ha!
Bottom: Rosé at sunset; portentous; much-needed rain

Highlights of August
Tucked into all the busyness this month were all these little bright spots:

  • the intersection of my interests in cats and spooky stuff to culminate in an ad from FB one day for “Tasty Human” Temptations cat treats, ha! –>
  • all the time spent with Ambrose
  • playing 5-Second Rule with the fam, always good for a laugh
  • checking out a newly-opened coffee shop with a friend
  • snuggling with Tillie, though I’d prefer her to be adopted already **and about a week later, she got adopted!!!!!!! Yay!!!!
  • dinnertime board games
  • sudden influx of rain!
  • finding out where Ambrose will be stationed after tech school (Osan Air Base in Korea!)
  • Junior Bake Off coming to Netflix (well, one of seven seasons at least (season 6))
  • the potential for student loan forgiveness, which (if it goes through) will cut the loans we’ve been paying on for 12-16 years to under $5k, a godsend! Our next payment has also been pushed out again until mid-June, so we can focus on other debts while this one is interest-free
  • the White House twitter feed calling out all the republican politicians complaining about loan forgiveness by announcing how much each of them received in PPP loan forgiveness (spoiler: it’s hella more than the $10-$20k student loan plan!)
  • new bat journal from Archer & Olive! –>
  • RIP being announced a few days early! I don’t know why this always makes me so happy but it really does!

Coming up in September
I mentioned in my last monthly review post, it’s now going to be time for Jason and I to learn to live together without kids, which will be very new to us. This month will also be a very big shift for me, personally. First, it’ll be the first time I haven’t been a stay-at-home mom since October 2005. Second, it’ll be the first actual return to quiet days that I’ve had since March 6, 2020 (pre-pandemic). Even this past year, while Laurence has been at in-person school, Ambrose was mostly home full time. Prior to the pandemic, the school year was set by a routine that gave me about six hours of time to myself each time, time to organize and clean and exercise and take care of family/house/myself. It’s been 2.5 years since I’ve had that time in more than brief snatches, and everything – house, family, organization, health, mental health, etc – has slowly deteriorated. Jason, I know, will be so glad to be back into the office routine (he focuses better in office), and I will also be so very happy to have time to regroup. Eventually, I will look into getting a job and such, but for now, I’ll be focusing on getting myself and my environment back to where we were pre-pandemic. I can’t wait!

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