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?


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!

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)

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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It is beyond astonishing to me that the Readers Imbibing Peril reading event is in its 17th year!! Things have changed a lot since the early days, but despite that, this is still one of the reading events that I most look forward to each year. I’ve of course already begun to read my spooky reads (who cares if that technically breaks the rules!), and I have a long list that may or may not have anything to do with what I’ll actually read over the next two months:

  • The Clackity by Lora Senf (yup, already read it…)
  • The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager (finished yesterday)
  • Miss Moriarty, I Presume by Sherry Thomas (in progress)
  • The It Girl by Ruth Ware
  • Suddenly Psychic by Elizabeth Hunter
  • A Turn of the Tide by Kelley Armstrong
  • The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
  • Bindle Punk Bruja by Desideria Mesa
  • Small Angels by Lauren Owen
  • Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

Several of these have been on my list for months or longer, just waiting until RIP season. Not that I haven’t read a half-dozen RIP-worthy books this year already, but it’s nice to have a bit of a backlog to dive into in September and October!

Y’all, I’m so excited for this – definitely check out that top link above to see details of the event and links out to others’ book lists for ideas. Let’s all make Year 17 of RIP wonderful!

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The Clackity, by Lora Senf

Blight Harbor is one of the most haunted cities in America, but the only truly scary things about it are the abandoned slaughterhouse, and the memory of a serial killer whose victims were never found. At least, those are the only scary things until Evie’s aunt goes missing, and Evie has to embark on an otherworldly – and potentially deadly – quest to save her, striking a bargain with the shadowy Clackity in the process.

This was a delicious little ghost story mixed with some adventure and coming-of-age elements. I don’t often read middle-grade books because the writing style doesn’t appeal to me, but this one was just perfect. The quest Evie goes on was difficult without being impossible. She learns important things along the way, including how to trust herself, but not every problem and heartache can be solved. I liked the careful balance between relying on your support system for help, and digging deep into your own resources to help yourself. Either of those on their own can be too much, but this allowed for both.

The imagery all throughout the novel was creepy and spectacular. I would have loved to read this when I was a child/preteen. And I’m happy to say that this is a full and complete story, while leaving open hints about what the characters might do in a new story, if the author should wish to give Evie more adventures in the future.

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Sunday Coffee – Judging Books By Their Covers

They say not to do it, right? But we all do. There are who marketing and design teams dedicated to getting book covers right for a target audience. Slap an old painting and a script font on Wuthering Heights, and you’ve got a perfectly acceptable and common version of a classic novel. Give it a cloth cover with curling metal vines, and you have a special edition. But put a Twilight-esque cover of a bloody rose and gothic script, complete with tagline “love never dies,” and suddenly you’re marketing this same classic novel to a YA audience that never would have picked up either of those previous versions. (No, I did not make that up. Google it.)

Now of course, covers only give us initial impressions. They’re meant to draw us in, to get us to read the contents inside. When a cover doesn’t do well – or when it’s aimed at a different target audience – we’re less likely to pick the book up. Target audiences change over time, as well as preferences in aesthetics. Consequently, book covers get updated all the time as well, if the market warrants it.

I bring this up because of a particular book that came to my notice recently: The Killings at Badger’s Drift by Caroline Graham. This mystery was original published in 1987, and has been made into a TV series since 1997. Tbh, I’d never heard of the show until recently, maybe the last year or two, when suddenly it seems to be everywhere. I couldn’t say if there’s been an increase in popularity, or if it’s just come to my attention so I’ve noticed it more. I’ve never seen the show, but it didn’t surprise me when I saw The Killings of Badger’s Drift show up on an Audible sale. Nor did it surprise me that this particular cover mentioned the TV show.

Because I wasn’t sold on the audio version, I checked if the book was available through the library, and it was – with an entirely different kind of cover. Whereas the one above is exactly the kind of cover that would draw me in, the old cover has an entirely different vibe. The old one reminds me of elderly ladies and British tea parties and dull dullness, whereas the new one evokes a bit of spooky whimsy and sharp death and good fun. If I’d only seen the old cover, I wouldn’t have picked up the book at all without further recommendation from readers I trust. As it is, I picked up the book based on the new cover alone.

[Notably, I didn’t end up reading this book. I read the prologue, which read far more like the second cover than the first. Then I was so irritated by the “hide the secret from the reader” trope (you never find out what the narrator of the prologue saw that freaked her out) that I returned the book to the library. Likely I would have read further if 1) the writing style was super 80s, which isn’t my favorite, and 2) I read a few spoilers that made me uninterested in continuing.]

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Destruction, Destruction…

Oy. Well, the land-clearing outside my fence has continued since my last post. The photo collage shows the picture I took a couple days ago vs one I took yesterday. As you can see, they cut the big tree down. I was hoping they’d leave that one up. Not only was it 40-50 feet tall, well-established, healthy, and beautiful, but a whole flock of mourning doves lived there. In fact, all last night, I watched mourning doves fly in and circle, trying to find their former perches. It was just so sad as they got confused and wobbled their way to nearby trees, then took off to circle and search again. Anyway, it’s frustrating and annoying, to see this happening to the trees that didn’t really need felling, but the situation goes beyond that.

Who in their right mind, when cutting down a tree with a chainsaw, pushes said tree toward a path that will cause property damage? WTF?

So when I heard the chainsaw going outside my house yesterday, I went back to my room to get photos/video, and I’m glad I did, because I witnessed everything that happened. I watched the guy with the chainsaw step up to look around before he pushed the tree. I saw him choose the direction to push, so that the trunk would be parallel with the fence line, rather than out into the field where there’d be no possibility of damage. I took a photo of the big tree the very second it began falling, and by the time I switched my phone to video, the tree had already hit our fence.

Now, our fence wasn’t in the greatest shape to begin with, but it was all upright, with a working gate. We had one plank removed to allow the feral cats to go in and out, but that was deliberate. The tree knocked three planks free completely, ripped out an entire panel, and knocked some posts askew so that the gate will no longer open. Not to mention, a tree branch smashed half a panel away, a bunch of branches were torn off two trees in our yard, and two of our new plumbago bushes got squashed.

I had to go out and get the man’s attention, which then led to me talking to two other men (who treated me alternatively like a – sorry for the use of the word – Karen for asking for their company name, and a stupid little woman who couldn’t possibly understand that my fence wasn’t REALLY damaged and all they had to do was put some nails in). Long story short, it’s an ongoing mess. Thankfully, our outdoor camera caught the entire thing on video, planks blowing out at the smash, branch ripping away part of the wood, etc. As I type this, some guys from the company are out at the fence trying to see if they can get away with cheap repairs instead of replacing the parts that they destroyed. They clearly don’t want to take responsibility and they think that since our fence was in poor condition before the tree fell on it, they shouldn’t have to. Um, no. That’s not how that works. It’s not like we’re asking them to to replace the half of the fence that the tree didn’t fall onto, and that’s the side that was in really bad repair.

This morning, the doves are still circling and trying to find their tree. I was up super early because the lack of tree-line meant I got a lot more sun around the edges of my curtains from the now-empty sky. Not to mention the much louder noises of traffic that I can now hear from the highway – noises that used to be almost nonexistent. Lord Grey is missing his breakfast because the workers are investigating the fence issue, and last night he actually took refuge in our yard because the woods outside it – his former kingdom – had been destroyed. The whole situation is just so sad and unnecessary.

So why are they doing this? We don’t know, but after talking with multiple workers from the land-clearing agency (who, the boss claimed, didn’t know who hired them, just “some guy named Cody.” Sure, dude…), we’re under the impression that the electrical union, who owns the land, is clearing it to sell because it’s more valuable now that it sits between a neighborhood and an apartment complex. I don’t know where it’ll go from there. But honestly, it’s just another nail in the coffin of “gotta move away from here.”

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Construction, Destruction

Yesterday, Laurence and I returned home from an appointment to discover that there was some kind of construction going on behind our house. The above picture shows what things looked like in April 2021. There’s a dense tree patch right behind the fence, followed by woodsy scrubland. That used to go all the way to the highway, which was quite some distance, but early in 2022, some construction began. An apartment complex was going up, which meant a lot of the woods and scrubland were being bulldozed to the ground.

I discussed this a little back in March. It’s when I started seeing all the cats in our yard, and began to try to TNR and provide a safe space for displaced feral colonies. In the end, most of those cats must have found food sources elsewhere, because only one, Lord Grey, adopted our yard and the woods behind our yard as his home base. We feed him twice a day, and provide water 24/7 for him and all the other animals who stop by overnight (foxes, raccoons, possums, skunks, and armadillos). The birds and squirrels also share the cat food during the day, whatever pellets Lord Grey leaves behind, and the system has been mutually beneficial for everyone.

In the beginning, we worried that this construction would rip out all the green space, but it seemed to stop and leave a generous strip between the new apartment buildings and my neighborhood. For half a year, we haven’t worried. Then we came home yesterday to find some kind of bulldozer and claw machine ripping down the trees right behind ours and our neighbors’ fences.

(this morning’s view)

Thankfully, they didn’t (yet) rip out the very tall tree that all the mourning doves roost in. They stopped and went around that tree and the cedar that’s between it and our fence. I don’t think their machine could get through. But later in the day, a man came by with a chainsaw to cut more things down and drag out larger limbs and trunks. Again, he seemed to stop right before the big tangle of trees on the west side of the fence, but the crew will be back. In fact, I already hear chainsaw noise in the distance this morning – and by the time I finished writing this post, they were directly behind my fence, severing more trees and limbs. Who knows what the view from my deck will look like tonight, or tomorrow, or next week? I’m not sure what the goal of this is – to cut everything down and expand the buildings all the way to our fence-lines? To thin out the green space only? To manicure the green space into something to they can market to potential renters?

One positive note. We didn’t know if little Lord Grey would be back, now that his habitat has been largely cut down, but he did return for food this morning. I can’t say for sure if he’ll keep returning, given that this seems to be an ongoing process. But I hope so. We’ll keep putting food out for him for as long as he stays around here!

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Sunday Coffee – Emotional Damage

Yesterday morning, my mom sent a video to my sisters and me to tell us that our grandma was going into hospice care.

She followed that up by telling us we were shitty kids that didn’t care about any of our grandparents so obviously the news wouldn’t matter to us.

This is not an uncommon tactic my mom uses for “dealing” with her grief. But it took me until January this year – until I was almost 43 years old – to realize just how inappropriate and manipulative this behavior is.

It was the proverbial straw for me. I called her out on her behavior. Her response, late last night, was to deny all responsibility for her words. If I was offended or upset, she said, that was on me, not her. Again, not an uncommon response from my mother.

All of that makes the perfectly normal and healthy grief for a dying family member so much more complicated, and so much worse.

It’s ironic. All I’ve ever wanted was to be part of a large, happy family. I never realized that that was because my own family was abusive and dysfunctional. So there’s that.

Now, all I can think is fuck that. Fuck them. I’m done. And I can’t wait to move away from here.

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Two Short Nonfiction Books

I read both of these over the weekend – two short little nonfiction books that I’ve decided to mini-review because I don’t have much to say about either of them.

Community Cats – Anne Beall

Subtitled: A Journey Into the World of Feral Cats

I thought this was a book about community cats and their behavior, a subject that I’m very interested in. Instead, it turned out to be more a collection of stories from various colony caretakers in Chicago. Beall herself is a colony caretaker, and her personal journey into the world of community cats is what inspired this book. It talks about some of the organizations that help feral cats in that area, but mostly there are short looks at the different ways people become caretakers and how they appreciate their feral cats. There’s some discussion of TNR practices, too, but nothing that I didn’t already know. In the last third of the very short book, there’s a sudden dive into statistics that read like an appendix or supplemental information, rather than being part of the book. The whole thing was rather disorganized and meandering. I know that Beall and the other workers, caretakers, and advocates she discusses are all wonderful people who have done such great work for cats. I appreciate all of them so much. But as a book, I didn’t get much out of this, unfortunately. I couldn’t tell you if that’s because I already knew the stuff Beall discussed, since I do know a lot about feral cats, or if it was a flaw of the book. I’ll just say that I think there are better resources out there if you want to learn about community cats.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning – Margareta Magnusson

Subtitled: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter
Read by: Juliet Stevenson

The idea behind death cleaning is to rid yourself of possessions as your life advances, in order to make things easier on whoever must deal with your stuff after your death. This can be done by giving things away, organizing them, marking them for specific places to go after you die, etc. In a lot of ways – right down to beginning your cleaning with clothes – this reminded me a lot of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, except more nostalgic and less organized. I did appreciate the nod to personal history and its importance, which made a nice change from Kondo’s “chuck everything” attitude. On the other hand, the book was filled with casual sexism (invite men over to go through your husband’s tools, they love that!) and elder-snobbery (can young people even use a pen these days? why does no one write thank you letters anymore? back in my day…). In the end, I didn’t feel like I learned anything of much use, mostly because what I could have learned, I’d already done so from Kondo (and subsequent regrets of tidying too hard in the wake of Kondo).

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