Readerly Rambles: My August TBR and Choose my next book!

readerly ramblesI was feeling a bit overwhelmed with book choices and all the readalongs thrumming through the blogosphere. I decided it would be helpful if I organized my TBR by categories. Below you’ll see what I’ll be pulling from this month.

Young Adult: I’m already halfway done with Cassandra Clare’s second book in Mortal Instruments series, City of Ashes. I should finish this in the next day or two.

Contemporary: I’ve been striving to read more fiction published in the last five years. I’m finally going to read Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests (I know I’ve said that a dozen times, but this time I mean it).

Graphic Novel: Walk volumes 1 and 2 by John Lewis (this is the university’s first year read)

Non-Fiction: Ann Patchett’s collection of essays, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Series: This year I’m focusing on The Forsyte Chronicles by John Galsworthy. I’ll be reading The Silver Spoon next.

Short Story Collection: I will continue with the Victorian Fairy Tales Collections and adding a re-re-re-read of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.

Virago: I am woefully behind in my Virago challenge. I’ll be reading Letty Fox: Her Luck by Christina Stead to inch my way towards catching up.

Wildcard: I have a hankering for some historical fiction, so let’s throw The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks into the pile.

Last but not least, I really want to read a classic next. I’m stuck and cannot decided what to do. Pick my book for me and I will read it next. Which one should it be?

  1. Emma by Jane Austen (my least favorite Austen, but I read it over 10 years ago! I do have a lovely Penguin edition and I’ve had this book on the nightstand for months)
  2. The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson (I keep meaning to read this and I have no idea why I never actually pick it up. Also on the nightstand).
  3. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (::whispers:: “I’ve never read Steinbeck”)
  4. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (devoured The Return of the Native in the winter of 2012 before Persy Jane was born. I haven’t picked out another Hardy novel and he is so spectacular)
  5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (I could re-read a favorite!)
  6. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope (remember when I was going to read all the Barsetshire novels last year? Yeah… I need to get back on that).

So what will it be? Help me decide. I”m throwing this on social media too and whichever book gets the most votes by noon on Wednesday will be the one I read next. Thanks ahead of time for the help!

Goodbye July, Hello August

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July was a great month. Here are some highlights:

  • July was a month of big decisions. I didn’t get the job in Portland, I opted out of applying for a different position at the university, and I have some renewed focus and energy at work. We didn’t move out of state (obviously), we didn’t move to a rental home in the boondocks, and we’re settled and happy with staying in our apartment. Money was tight, but I managed to pay off a major medical bill and a small credit card.
  • Persy Jane had almost an entire week of high fever and no sleep. I was a bit desperate on day three of no sleep, but the cuddles I got more than made up for it.
  • We hung out with people we love. Dinner with great friends twice and a birthday party at their house (bonus: Sam got in the bounce house). Coffee with my dear friend Catherine. Plans in the works for several great activities in the fall. Lunch with some of my favorite ladies at work. My knitting knerds kept me laughing.
  • Lots of quiet time. I found several patches of quiet for introverting. My new “church” on Sundays is the coffee shop. I get to see friends here and there, but mostly I spend the afternoon writing and reading.
  • Reading was great this month. I read Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, a great parenting book called All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior, devoured the 800 page The Children’s Book by A S Byatt, started the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare and read the first book of SAGA by Brian K. Vaughn.
  • Knitting: I managed some washcloths, but I need to get my butt in gear and finish them all by the end of August.
  • We were so fashionable this July. Atticus got his mohawk, Persy Jane and Hope had a trim, and I had my hair dyed blue and I adore it.
  • My absolute favorite part of the month was the week of vacation I took last week! I spent the time with the kids in daycare and I just lazed in my pjs reading and playing candy crush. It was awesome.
  • I think my favorite part of vacation was spending lots of time with Hope. We did some cleaning and she was a big help, but we also went out to lunch one day and spent plenty of time binge-watching Vampire Diaries.

August….

August will be a month of new beginnings! Sam starts a new semester and the kids all move up (Hope to 10th, Atticus to PreK, Persy Jane to the 2-year-old room). On to new beginnings!

Adulting: An Update

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there was no appropriate gif for this post, so look at this cutie pie house again

Last week I wrote about several life-changing decisions swirling around in my head. Sam and I had just made the decision to stay in our apartment and not move to a rental home, but I had yet to hear from the job in Portland. Yesterday I got the email that I did not get the job. There was an overwhelming response to the job and I was not a candidate for the position.

I am amazed by how incredibly okay I am with the entire job situation.

Partly it is because I knew that it was a long shot and I was mostly applying because I knew I’d regret not at least trying.

Mostly it is because I have a lot of good stuff happening this autumn that I would be sad to miss. Several friends are having babies. I get to go to a super cool library conference in Texas and visit with Andi while I’m there. There are several concerts I’m going to including Purity Ring and Of Monsters and Men. I may even try to see Sufjan Stevens if I can swing it. I have my knitting group I would miss like crazy. Sam can continue working on his degree in Art Education, Hope will be at the same high school, Atticus will start Pre-K with a group of dear friends and already familiar teachers and Persy Jane will stay at the same really fabulous daycare. I think my work freaked out a bit by my applying to another job. Freaked out is the wrong word; they recognized that I’m bored with repetitiveness and I have permission to do some cool new projects.

I’m cool where I am right now and, better yet, I know where I’m headed. Library school is certainly in the plans after Sam finishes his degree in 2017. I also plan on doing things like write a CV and actually keep track of all the stuff I do.

I still wish I was moving to a more liberal, environmentally conscious, vibrant arts community in a place with actual seasons, but I am okay with not moving for now.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

gosetaLast weekend I finished Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. If you’ve been living under a rock and missed THE literary event of the year, let me summarize. Go Set a Watchman was written by Lee prior to To Kill A Mockingbird and involves the characters in TKAM, but twenty years after the events of TKAM (written before, but set after, got it?). Lee shelved Go Set a Watchman, but pulled out a some scenes and characters for To Kill a Mockingbird. Now Go Set a Watchman is published.

First let’s talk about the writing. This is no To Kill a Mockingbird. I thought the book started strong and really shone when Lee was writing about Jean Louise’s – aka Scout’s – childhood. Towards the last 50 pages the book feels rushed and ends too neatly. It suffers a bit from what I like to call John Galtism. You know, that chapter in Atlas Shrugged when Ayn Rand goes on at great length with a philosophical speech. That happens, lots of explaining and lecturing instead of “showing” the reader. The rest of the writing is pretty spectacular and lovely, but certainly uneven. Let’s say 3 stars, maybe 3.5 stars for writing.

Here is where reviewing this book gets super tricky for me. I know that despite the grim outcomes of To Kill A Mockingbird we have have Atticus as a very clear good guy (still problematic in regards to race). Of course all of this goes out the window in Go Set a Watchman. Atticus is more than problematic and Scout Jean Louise is the moral compass. She is visiting from New York and finds the post-Brown vs. Board of Education South frightening in its racism and longing for segregation. Although not as pronounced as the racial tension, Go Set a Watchman also address sexism and class discrimination and there are some great points illustrating intersectionality in the book (Hank feels more pressure to conform the town’s wishes because he is from “trash” and Scout has more control of her life because she is a higher class… a lower class woman would be expected to conform). Segregation and racial tensions are the primary subject and this Southern reader felt like she was getting punched in the gut throughout most of the book. Without spiraling this review into a laundry list of how uncannily relevant and timely this book is let me say that the confederate flag debate and Charleston shooting alone made this a painful read. Scout is appalled that “good” people… people she loves… have deep seated prejudices and are completely unaware of their own hateful ignorance. I wish I could have read Go Set a Watchman and walked away thinking I read an okay book that expressed some antiquated opinions of a time long passed. That didn’t happen. 5 stars for emotional wallop and relevance.

I’m both glad I read it and really wished I hadn’t read it.

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 14 July 2015

Finished: 19 July 2015

Pages: 278

Challenges: —

Owned/Borrowed/Library: owned
Stars: 4 stars. 3 for writing, 5 for timeliness and emotional wallop

Works in Progress: Autumn Meal Organization

Yes, you read that correctly. Here it is late July with “official” Autumn well over a month away. 41 days until pumpkin spice latte season (September 1st) and 64 days until the Autumnal Equinox on September 23rd. I’m stewing in the muggy oppressiveness of a Georgia July and thinking of butternut bisque and slow cooker chili. In part this is because,

fucksummerIn addition to the cooler, darker months being superior (in my humble opinion) I have back to school on the brain. Now, I was homeschooled for most of my life and we did a sort of “year round” school. I have no idea why I associate fresh crayons and new classes with falling leaves and crisp air. In case you didn’t know Georgia has a ridiculously early back to school date. Hope starts her first day of the 10th grade ON AUGUST 5TH. Atticus will begin Pre-K on AUGUST 10TH. The kids should still be catching lightening bugs, eating ice cream, and going to bed late. Instead we are commencing school shopping and schedule wrangling. Sam starts his college classes the last full week of August, but school mode really kicks in at my library. I have several huge projects going on and people start trickling back on campus. All this school time leads to autumn in my brain hence the dreaming of autumn dishes.

I should probably explain why food pops into my brain rather than decor or, I don’t know, crafty stuff. For some reason I lose all desire to cook and plan meals in the summer. May hits and I throw in the towel. You would think my slightly reduced work schedule (36 instead of 40 hours) would mean more time cooking, but that is the last thing I want to do. We live on spaghetti, rotisserie chicken*, and simple dishes like grilled cheese and pancakes for dinner. The kids freaking love it (most of the time). I get my kitchen mojo back around August. I really enjoy cooking and baking, but only from August to April. I’m a strange bird.

Anyhoo, back to the organization part. I’ve set a goal to cut down our food budget or at least steward it a bit better. I’ve learned that “stocking up” doesn’t really work for us. For one we are in an apartment without a pantry and with a small refrigerator. Secondly stocking up on certain things like chips, cereal, snacks, etc… simply leads to my family consuming more of said item. To illustrate my point I’d like to remind you all that Sam is Hagrid-sized and eats his breakfast cereal in a mixing bowl. When the cereal is gone Sam and the kids will go for fruit or yogurt (yogurt is rationed, though). If there is more cereal they just keep eating. Once-Month-Cooking runs into the same issue of “where the hell do I put everything”? I believe a compromise is in order and I think I’ve figured out a solution although I may not get my stuff together enough to do The Plan until September.

Autumn Food Plan

The Budget

We are trying to get away from using the debit card for many of our purchases. It is just too easy to overspend. Cash also seems to slip out of our grasp. I’ve determined an honest grocery budget by analyzing several months of receipts.  We spend an average of $125 dollars a week on groceries and about $20 to $30 a week on non-food items (toilet paper, diapers, health and beauty products, cleaning supplies, cat food). Instead of worrying about the budget from week to week, I am going to put the entirety of our food budget on a Kroger giftcard. This will allow us to “see” how our budget dwindles and we can make adjustments. It also allows us our awesome fuel points right up front and that will help with gas expenses. For August our budget will be $750 (however August is a lean month due to back to school shopping… I will most likely start this in September).

The Meal Plan

Next week I’m going to focus on thumbing through cookbooks and updating meal plan cards with Autumn favorites. The weekly rotation looks like this:

Monday: Easy meal (my night to work)

Tuesday: Poultry or Fish

Wednesday: Pasta or grains

Thursday: Pork or Beef

Friday: Casserole or bake

Saturday: Soup / Curry / Chili / Stew (don’t worry, if it is hot out it will be a salad and veggie plate)

Sunday: Slow cooker meal

Twice a Month Cooking / Twice a Month Baking

I cannot manage once a month cooking, but I think I could do every other week. What about baking? I’d love to have a time to make baking mixes, bread starters, muffins, granola, etc…. Trying to attempt this every weekend would be a nightmare. Instead I will be setting Monday mornings aside to do alternating meal and baking prep. I will also alternate the focus of my shopping each week. One week may be a bit pricey for meal prep, but the next week I’ll be focusing on baking and other kitchen projects and will focus on staples.

Here is how it will shake out:

Week 1: Shop 08/01, prep 6 to 8 meals on Monday 08/03

Week 2: Shop 08/08, bake or make 3 to 5 other items (muffins, pancake mix, granola, kitchen pickles, and a bread starter)

Week 3: Crazy work weekend so shop Friday 08/14, prep 6 to 8 meals on Monday O8/17

Week 4: Shop 08/22, bake or make 3 to 5 other items (muffins, hamburger buns, granola bars, salad dressing, loaf bread)

Week 5: Another work weekend, shop Friday 08/28 and prep 6 to 8 meals on Monday 08/31

I’m excited about spending my Mondays in the kitchen and I know, honestly, that I will probably start some of these projects on Sunday evening.

There we have it. I’ll let you all know how this shakes out. Honestly, it may be September before my plans come to fruition, but that’s okay. The planning and listing relaxes me (I told you I am strange).

*Yup, no longer vegetarian. I went over 2 years and then caved.

In Which the Heroine Makes Life Decisions with Aplomb

Last week was full. Not full of badness or drama, just FULL OF LIVING. I had breakfast with my mom, we hosted dinner with friends at our house, I read Go Set a Watchman, I had my hair dyed blue, I vanquished many Candy Crush Soda Saga levels, and I nursed Persy Jane through a wicked cold and fever. Work hummed along with the school Health Sciences department dominating interlibrary loan. Busy. Full. Good.

Those day-to-day things just scratch the surface of the bubbling uncertainty of this summer. Not any thing bad or dramatic, but I found that Sam and I had so many grown-up decisions to make. Big things that I feel I should have figured out ten years ago like “WHAT DO I WANT TO DO WITH MY LIFE?” AND “WHERE SHOULD I LIVE?” I realize I’m 35, but I constantly feel like someone is going to find out that I have no idea what I’m doing. Okay, I know what I’m doing, but I’m now mature enough to realize the weight of responsibility. Amanda the new mom at 19 is a vastly different person from Amanda mom of three and 35. When I make decisions about my career or where I live I impact the lives of four other people and a grumpy cat. ::hyperventilates into paper bag::

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Let’s talk grown-up decisions.

Earlier this year I applied for a different job at my university. I love the library, but I’ve worked my way up as high as I can go sans graduate degree and I have at least 30 years until retirement. An eventual career change or upgrade was going to happen in the next few years. The new job was as a staff writer in the university’s public relations office. Yay! Writing! I applied, had a “chat” with the VP of the office and wrote a test freelance article. The entire time I felt uncertainty bubbling up. I chalked it up to anxiety over doing something new when I am so comfortable at the library. I swallowed my fear and waited to hear back from the office.
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While I was waiting to hear back (university hiring can take a bit of time) I started thinking about what I loved most about working in a library. Libraries are so much more than books. My bibliophile self loves the shelves of books, but it is what libraries embrace that makes my heart thrill. Equality, pursuing knowledge, helpfulness, team-work, creativity, etc… all have their place in public and academic libraries. I love that I have loads of detail-oriented work, systems, and opportunities to organize and I get to help people, think creatively and write.

On a whim I Googled “library jobs in Portland” and discovered a dream library job in Portland, OR as a Library Internal Communications Specialist. A library job with no MLIS degree required and loads of writing. A dream job in a dream location. Reader, I applied. I almost didn’t apply. I ran through a list of reasons why I shouldn’t ranging from “I probably wouldn’t get the job” to “moving across country is scary.” Then I ran my “should I apply” question through the one filter that always leads me to the right answer: what would I want Hope to do? Raising a teenage daughter with strong feminist principles is eye-opening. I would tell Hope to apply for her dream job in her dream location. I would tell her that even if she didn’t get the job she could learn from the experience. Obviously, I had to apply.
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I haven’t heard back from Portland except for an email explaining that so many people applied it was taking longer to review applications. Do I think I’ll get the job? No. I am sure they are flooded with qualified applicants who already reside near and around the area. Do I think I would rock that job if I got it? ABSOLUTELY.

Applying for the job in Portland told me one very valuable thing: I certainly don’t need to leave libraries. I belong in the library world and all the learning, equality, and creativity it embraces. I removed my name from the applicant list for the writing job and decided to focus on libraries. This means that when Sam graduates in 2017 I will apply to graduate school. Deciding that Libraries is definitely my Hogwarts’ House also renewed my excitement for my current job. My supervisor is allowing me to take on some library communications work and outreach projects in addition to my usual interlibrary loan tasks because she knows that I’m itching to do and learn more. It is nice to be excited about coming into work and I realize now that seven years of all interlibrary loan was starting to get repetitive to say the least; throwing in new challenges and responsibilities has added pep to my step. I’m a library lady and that’s not going to change.

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There was another major decision made involving where we live. We almost rented a house 20 minutes from town, but when we actually sat down to talk about how much it would cost in time and money our in-town apartment won. Up until Friday we were sure we would move, but then we thought about it more.We used a good, old-fashioned pros and cons list and even whipped out a calculator. Even with the rent on the house being less expensive, we found we would be paying more. Figuring in extra gas and after school care would see us paying an extra $64 a week. This doesn’t even account for the higher energy bill for the bigger space and purchasing a washer and dryer. If I’m going to graduate school in a few years I’d like to pay off as much debt as possible. At the very least I want to pay off the van and cut our credit card debt in half. I’m at peace with our decision to stay at the apartment. Moving is definitely not in the cards for now…

… unless, of course, Portland calls.
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