Saturday, June 25, 2016

"but aren't all great quests folly?  el dorado and the fountain of youth and the search for intelligent life in the cosmos - we know what's out there.  it's what isn't that truly compels us.  technology may have shrunk the epic journey to a couple of short car rides and regional jet lags - four states and twelve hundred miles traversed in an afternoon - but true quests aren't measure in time or distance anyway, so much as in hope.  there are only two good outcomes for a quest like this, the hope of the serendipitous savant - sail for asia and stumble on america - and the hope of scarecrows and tin men: that you find out you had the thing you sought all along."
--from pg. 284 of  beautiful ruins, by jess walter

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

“I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.”
—Diane Ackerman

Sunday, June 5, 2016

thoughts on visiting prison for the third time

the third time around, they've made some improvements.  there is now a permanent shelter in the parking lot, to protect people who are waiting from the rain or the heat.  there is a metal box in the shelter that contains the form you have to fill out, so you can do that before you get inside the security building.  i wonder if someone had to pass out in the waiting line before they installed this shelter.  maybe not.

the line was short yesterday.  as i arrived they were letting the first 10 people in, and i found myself in a line with only 7 people (and 1 baby) in line in front of me, so i would be in the next group.  we waited 30 minutes, during which time i made friends with sadie the baby and tried to befriend the freckle-faced third grader in front of me (he had no interest).  it doesn't rain on us.  small victories.

inside, i got to see my friend before count, which i hadn't gotten inside early enough to do the previous two times. at 10am, the guards do a count of all the prisoners, which can apparently take half an hour or even 45 minutes.  during that time, no one can change locations within the prison, which means that no visitors can enter during count and if you're already in the visiting room but your prisoner hasn't come in yet, you have to wait out that time before they are allowed to come in.  so after arriving and getting in the line at 8:40, my friend entered the visiting room at 9:45.  this is lightening quick in prison terms.

over the next four hours i filled him up as best i could, with my $22 in quarters: two sausage, egg, and cheese biscuits.  one kit kat bar.  one bacon cheeseburger.  two juices, a root beer, and a coke.  we laughed and talked and people-watched.  sadie is the great niece of his former cellmate, so we marveled at the small-world aspect of me meeting them in line and then getting to see his friend meet the new baby in the visiting room.  on this day i marveled at the fact that there were probably 40 prisoners who got a visitor, out of a prison population at this facility of 1300.  1260 men did not get visited, and my friend on any given weekend is more likely to be one of those people than to be the one getting the visitor.  he has 23 months to go.

i wonder about who he will be when he leaves, about what our relationship will be like.

when i leave he says "i love you," and i say "i love you, too."  this is how we end every phone call (five or six of them a year), every email, and every visit.  we didn't say it before, but it seems imperative to say it now.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

may: 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 & 25

may is a super crazy month for me - i am the AP coordinator at my school, so two weeks are spent pulling those exams off, often with nights where i am at work until 6pm.  then it's all the senior events culminating in graduation.  then it's getting the underclassmen finished up.  i can't believe it, but on top of all of that i read 5 books and listened to 2 audiobooks.  when i gave up cable 18 months ago, i started reading more, and it's not uncommon for me to read for an hour at night these days.  it's much more fulfilling than tv most of the time (quality tv like game of thrones and bloodline isn't on all the time), and i fall asleep pretty quickly in front of tv, frankly.  oops.

this month i read:

behind the beautiful forevers, by katherine boo (this is my "new york times bestseller," and i listened to the audiobook.  this is nonfiction that reads (listens) like fiction and it frequently made me thankful for things like clean drinking water, free education through 12th grade, and a less corrupt government and legal system.  i can't begin to fathom the time and effort that went into the research to make this book, and you should absolutely read this book, which is set in a slum in mumbai.)

between the world and me, by ta-nehisi coates (i shifted some things around so i could make this my "national book award winner." he uses language beautifully to talk about things that are hard to talk about.  i think of myself as a progressive person who tries to understand and support the cause of people of color, and this opened up my eyes in a few important ways.  coates said things in a way that finally clicked for me.  mandatory reading for other white allies as we try to become better at that job.)

on such a full sea, by chang-rae lee (this is my "dystopian novel" and you can skip it; there are many better dystopian novels out there.)

ship breaker, by paolo bacigalupi (i listened to this one, too.  it was recommended to me by a student and it is young adult and dystopian and fits no categories in my challenge - we've reached that point where the "easy" categories are all filled up!  this is set on the gulf coast in a post-apocalyptic world and you don't need to run out and get this one, but i definitely enjoyed it.)

home, by marilynn robinson (the second in her series that began with gilead, and if anything i enjoyed this book more than the first one.  it takes place over the same time frame, telling the same story from gilead, but from a different character's perspective.  it was like the curtain was being drawn back and the world of the first book was made twice as vivid.  robinson is a masterful writer, and she's written a third book, again telling the story from now a third character's perspective.  it will be part of my june reading!  again, this book doesn't fill any of the book challenge categories.)

in a dark, dark wood, by ruth ware (this is my "murder mystery" and it got a little creepy in the middle and i had to stop reading so i wouldn't be too afraid to fall asleep.  and then i checked the locks on my doors.  but i am a weenie so you shouldn't be afraid of this book.  it reminded me a bit of the girl on the train so if you enjoyed that one, check this one out!)

a man called ove, by fredrik backman (this is my "book translated to english" (it was written in swedish) and OMG I WAS SO CHARMED BY THIS BOOK.  curmudgeonly old guy becomes less curmudgeonly.  i cried at the end.  there is a cat involved, though that didn't bring on the tears.  read this book!)

reading challenge count = 23 of 41 books complete!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”
—Helen Keller

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I might have. ”
—Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, May 1, 2016

april: 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 & 18

i read so much in april!  woo hoo!  i'm almost halfway through my book challenge...though at this point all the easy-to-check-off categories are gone.  a satirical book?  a self-improvement book?  these are not at the top of my list to read.  we'll see how this challenge progresses...

crazy salad, by nora ephron (this is my "political memoir" and this is one that you can probably skip.  sorry, nora.  it's a serious of essays that nora ephron wrote in the 1970s about women, and while they are interesting, they are also pretty dated (lots of talk of consciousness-raising groups and such...several stories about richard nixon's daughter, who probably was more interesting to people of the 70s than she is to me today).  i have decided that i get to call this a political memoir because this book reminded me that to "be political" one just needs to have strong feelings about political issues (such as the women's movement, in this case) and act upon them.  one doesn't have to be a politician.  whew.  successfully avoided reading a book written by a politician, which i was not looking forward to.)

miss peregrine's home for peculiar children, by ransom riggs (this is my "book that's becoming a movie this year" and this is another one that was fine and all, but nothing fantastic.  i watched the preview for the movie and they appear to have dramatically altered the plot, which is probably going to work out just fine because the plot of the book didn't really captivate me.  fantastic premise, very cool historical photos interspersed with the text, but the plot doesn't really go anywhere and you can probably skip it and watch the movie instead.)

the red house, by mark haddon (this is my "book that takes place on an island" (island = great britain) and sorry to be a broken record: but this is skip-able.  i LOVED haddon's two previous books and was eagerly looking forward to reading this one...and then was disappointed.  there are eight narrators in this book - yes, eight - and each only gets a few paragraphs before we move on to the next one.  so it's a bit disjointed.  gets better over time, but i won't be re-reading this one.)

the longest night, by andria williams (this is my "book that is published in 2016" and, wait for it...i really liked it!  this was recommended to me by the skimm, an email newsletter i subscribe to, and they described it as a mix of serial and army wives.  loved serial; stuck with army wives as my guilty pleasure tv show for a couple seasons, so i definitely wanted to pick this up.  it's based on the true story of the only nuclear fatality in the united states, but told from the perspective of a fictional husband (military, works on the nuclear plant) and wife (1960s housewife).  in addition to the nuclear reactor storyline there's love and jealousy and intrigue.  i'd definitely recommend this!)

fangirl, by rainbow rowell (i switched some things around, so this is going to be my "YA bestseller" and oh, people.  you need to read this book.  i love rainbow rowell's writing (though the plot of carry on didn't really do it for me) and this might be her best book yet.  it's the story of twins who go off to the same college and drift apart...one parties, one writes fan fiction about a harry-potter-like series.  it has romance (duh, it's YA), poignant moments, believable and well developed characters.  thumbs up!  the only rowell book i haven't read now is attachments, and you better believe it's on my list.)

euphoria, by lily king (this is my "book about a culture you're unfamiliar with"; becky recommended it to me and i bought it in an airport bookstore before a flight - with a connection - back to houston.  an excellent purchase!  it's the story of a margaret mead-like character in papua new guinea with her husband in the 1930s doing anthropological observations of native people there...plus the story of another anthropologist doing similar work nearby.  it's not so much the story of their work as the story of the people themselves - the passion of the characters for the work they do plus the story of their complicated inner lives.  thumbs up!)