February was a strange, strange month. On the one hand, my birthday (which was good), yet on the other hand, many different family dramas (not so good). Other oddities include getting robbed, the roof leaking, a mysterious flat tire, and lots of great PT (what’s different?). My list of books for the month included some behemoths – two over 700 pages long. It took me longer than expected to get through my list because I also got an Early Review book from LibraryThing and I decided to read a few “off-list” titles. February was also a month of personal challenges (yay for physical therapy and the return to running for real). I can’t forget to mention that!
- Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution by Diane McWhorter ~ in honor of National Civil Rights month. This was a nice blend of didactic and personal.
- Big Year: a Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik ~ in honor of February being a bird feeding month (as apposed to watching). Funny, funny, funny.
- Night Soldiers by Alan Furst ~ in honor of Furst’s birth month. This was really heavy, but I actually got into it.
- Belly of Paris by Emile Zola ~ in honor of Charles Dickens (writing style is similar). Word to the wise – don’t read this when you are hungry. The food descriptions are amazing!
For the Early Review Program with LibraryThing I finally received and read My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe. I’m still waiting for a second Early Review book from LibraryThing.
- Runner’s World The Complete Book of Running: Everything You Need To Run For Weight Loss, Fitness and Competition by Amby Burfoot. I picked this up because someone had given me a gift certificate for B&N and I wanted to get something I would keep for a very long time.
- It Must Be..(a Grand Canyon Trip : Drawings and Thoughts From a Winter’s Trip From Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek (December 19, 2010 – January 2, 2011).. by Scott P. Barnes ~ this was such a surreal read for me! I’ve always wanted to see this author’s name in print.
January 2010 was all wrong. I put many other activities ahead of reading. Knitting- mom’s blanket was falling apart so I took some time to fix that (as well as add new trim). I also started a new blanket of blue and white. Haven’t figured out why I’m making this one at all. I think it will go to the island because we certainly don’t need another blanket! Working out – been walking & running on the treadmill withe some regularity, as well as weight training and a little yoga. Cooking – been getting back to making real meals which need more time…Bad television – I’ve become addicted to the addict shows: Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, Hoarders, and Intervention. I seem to identify with the misfits a little too well.
So, having said all that – reading wasn’t my highest priority. Behold the (ahem*) ‘finished’ list:
- High Five by Janet Evanovitch ~ in honor of female mystery month (whatever that means).
- The Semi-Attached Couple by Emily Eden (*) ~ in honor of the book lust of others (again, whatever that means).
- The Hole in the Universe: How Scientists Peered over the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything by K.C. Cole (*) ~ in honor of January being the “start-over/clean slate” month.
- Echo House by Ward Just ~ in honor of Ward Just’s birth month.
- In Search of Robinson Crusoe by Timothy Severin (*) ~ in honor of National Geographic month.
- Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin ~ in honor of Mr. Franklin’s birth month.
- Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Goethe ~ in honor of letter writing month.
- The Little Friend by Donna Tartt ~ a behemoth of a book with an unsatisfying end.
For LibraryThing and the Early Review Program I finished Nothing Right, a collection of short stories by Antonya Nelson. If you are looking for quick snapshots of dysfunctional family life, this is the book for you!
* Sad to say, I didn’t get into these books enough to finish them. I did my 50 page rule and called it quits.
Where in the world do I begin with December 2009? What a freakin’ crazy month! I only ran 4.49 miles for the entire month (ha!), but have a sneaking suspicion my knees are thanking me for the time off. Weather wise we had a few snow storms, but nothing too dramatic. I wrote more reports and conducted more reviews and put in more work hours than I care to admit. But, best of all, most memorable of all was the trip home to Monhegan. I haven’t even begun to write about that (which is strange because it changed my life). With everything going on, books were low on the list:
- Tiepolo’s Hound by Derek Wolcott ~ interesting but not my favorite.
- Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyle ~ memorable and moving, definitely one of my favorites.
- Wonderboys by Michael Chabon ~ can’t wait to see the movie! I only have one question, “is the snake in the trunk?”
- Soloist by Mark Salzman ~ amazing, amazing book. I’m a fan of Mark Salzman now.
- The Walls Came Tumbling Down by Babs Deal ~ gossipy and girly, this was a fun one.
- The Lost Steps by Alejo Carpentier ~ last book of the month…
From my list I didn’t get to Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling. It should have been on my November list, not December. Woops!
Something of interest – I didn’t read any nonfiction this month. Hmmmm…
September 2009 was…Back to school. I spent the first part of the month concentrating on hiring for the library and avoiding tragedy. Kisa and I took a much needed vacation – first to Fenway park (go Red Sox!) and then to Baltimore for a little getaway. September is the month I will always mourn my father, but now I add Mary Barney to the list of tears. As I have always said, everything bad happens in September. This year was no different. As you can tell, I buried myself in books.
The Escape was:
- The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka ~ I had completely forgotten how disturbing this book was!
- The Reivers by William Faulkner ~ a southern classic that almost had me beat.
- A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby ~ funny tale about a first-time expedition
- Out of the Blue: the Story of September 11, 2001 From Jihad to Ground Zero by Richard Bernstein and the staff of The New York Times ~ an unsettling journalistic account of what really happened on 9/11/01.
- The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough ~ a nonfiction about what happens when mother nature meets bad human design.
- Off Balance: the Real World of Ballet by Suzanne Gordon ~ a nonfiction about the ugly side of dance.
- Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler ~ magical book about three very broken people (in honor of real character month).
- A Student of Weather by Elizabeth Hay ~ Hay’s first novel – one I couldn’t put down it was that good! This was on the September list as “the best time to visit Canada.”
- Native Son by Richard Wright ~incredibly depressing. I’m almost sorry I read it this month.
- The View From Pompey’s Head by Hamilton Basso ~ a last minute pick-me-up, read in honor of Basso’s birth month (but also doubled as a “southern” read).
For LibraryThing and the Early Review program: Day of the Assassins by Johnny O’Brien. Geared towards teenage boys, this was a fun, fast read.
For fun, I read a quick book called Women Who Run by Shanti Sosienski . Since our flight to Baltimore was only 40-some-odd minutes I didn’t want to bring a lengthy read. This was perfect.
Sosienski, Shanti. Women Who Run. Emeryville: Seal Press, 2006.
This wasn’t on any “to read” list but it turned out to be just as important as any list book. I took Women Who Run with me to Baltimore which turned out to be the greatest strategy for the shortest flight I have ever been on. Less than an hour air time (each way) afforded me the luxury of quick chapter reads. I could start and stop without feeling disconnected. Since each chapter is “stand alone” and completely unrelated to the next one I could bounce around from story to story. I didn’t have to read them in order (and I didn’t). 16 different women (counting the author) have shared 16 different running stories. How they started running, when they felt they could officially call themselves runners, their biggest triumphs and their hardest-to-swallow defeats. These women recount the relationships they gained from running as well as the ones they lost; how running saved their lives and even, on some occasions, their souls. There are stories about how mothers juggle family life and how career women stay driven and how the lines blur when family and business are a part of their lives. There are stories of women driven by competition while others are driven by something more personal, something more spiritual. There are stories of women who society labels as “unlikely” runners yet run, they do. There are so many different stories I am willing to bet every reader will find a little of herself in one of them.
For the sake of sanity I have to recap the entire summer. Summer as we think of it in terms of the calendar, not the temperature. June. July. August.
June can only be thought of as a dark and hellish tunnel. In that case, July was the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. As a result, August was not only getting out of the dark and hellish tunnel but moving as far, far away from it as possible. August was an amazing month!
August was music (loved the Avett Brothers and had a great time at Phish). August was homehome with my best boys. August was also a group of good, good books:
- The Moviegoer by Percy Walker ~ interesting story about a man watching life go by rather than living it.
- Turbulent Souls: a Catholic Son’s Return to his Jewish Family by Stephen J. Dubner ~ this was fascinating.
- The Professor and the Madman: a Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester ~ another fascinating nonfiction with great illustrations.
- The Mutual Friend by Frederick Busch ~ a novel about Charles Dickens that I couldn’t really get into.
- Those Tremendous Mountains: the Story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by David Freeman Hawke ~ another nonfiction, this time about the Lewis and Clark Expedition (like the title says).
- Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Expery ~ all about war-time aviation.
For the Early Review Program:
- Sandman Slim: a Novel by Richard Kadrey ~ absolutely crazy good book.
- Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives ~ an amazing travel book! Really beautiful!
- Finished reading Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni ~ part political, part personal, this was great.
- My First 100 Marathons: 2,620 Miles with an Obsessed Runner by Jeff Horowitz ~ funny and informative, too!
- Running and Being by George Sheehan ~ funny and sarcastic and informative all at once!
Sheehan, George. Running and Being: the Total Experience.New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978.
I didn’t know what to think of this book when it came across my desk. Everyone knows George Sheehan is a renowned expert on distance running. Everyone also knows he isn’t exactly the friendliest of runners. What I didn’t know was how funny he would be in Running and Being. Part philosophy, part psychology, part memoir, and all about running, Running and Being was above all else, entertaining. Amidst the advice about pace, hills, racing, losing, injuries, and accomplishments there is humor, sarcasm and wit. Even the illustrations are funny.
Here are two examples of nonrunning humor: “I was born with the dread that someone would punch me in the nose or, even worse, put his arm around me” (p 26), and “I never smoked. Buying something and then setting it on fire is incomprehensible” (p 47). Crack me up.
Despite Sheehan’s “keep away” attitude I found his advice to be warm, solid and comforting. If words could actually be all those things. I consider his expertise on the subject of putting one foot in front of another to be priceless.
This is not a Book Lust challenge book – just something I picked up because it’s reputation preceded it.
July ’09 was yesterday, but it was also a really fun month (despite the pool letting go). First there was meeting a friend for dinner and asking her to come work for me! Then there was Rebecca Correia’s Iron Horse show. Of course I rallied the troups (all 12 of us!) and we had a great time. I really need to blog about the three-way Kisa had with the girls and who can forget the Wicked Wally?
How could I forget Boston? The trip into the city was amazing because the company couldn’t have been more perfect. They caught the mandarin fish! I have a few pictures from the day of my way, but I’m dying to see theirs!
July was also the return to running. I am proud to say I logged 35.21 miles in July.
- The Skull Mantra by Eliott Pattison ~ this one stayed with me for awhile. I think it should be a movie.
- The Stillmeadow Raod by Gladys Taber ~ cute.
- Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx ~ ugly.
- The Enemy by Lee Child ~ fascinating. Can’t wait to read the others!
- Morningside Heights by cheryl Mendelson ~ middle class society in Manhattan.
- The Light That Failed by Rudyard Kipling ~ a little tough to get into at first.
- The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne ~ back to a classic!
For the fun of it:
- Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman
I was supposed to read a couple of Early Review books but only one arrived in July. I will have to review it in August (I’m reading it now).
For lack of something better to say, here’s something I never posted.
I don’t want to count today’s run for anything except a cemetery visit. After kisa and I got the driveway, porches and walkways cleared of snow it seemed ridiculous to hop on an indoor treadmill. The sun was shining a brilliant blue. Not a cloud in sight. Birds darted among the bushes. 18 degrees felt like 800 after shoveling. Perfect for a graveyard run. Or so I thought.
Here are the things I have forgotten about since my last ‘coil run’ (I’m talking about the coils runners wear over their shoes to avoid slipping on ice – love them!):
- coils “roll” on pavement
- coils slip in fluffy snow
- coils are perfect on icy ice
So, I tried to look for patches of ice to run on the entire time. It seems strange to say that, but it was true. The metal coils worked best when they could dig into the surface and hang on. Snow packed in between the coils and pavement just made the coils roll like springs. Running in snow was like running in very fine, very loose sand. My ankles grew sore and my calves tightened. Hell on the thighs, too.
I had completely forgotten what it was like to run outside in below freezing temps. Tears freeze halfway down the face despite feeling hot everywhere else. Snot starts to lodge itself like ice chunks. In the beginning, speaking of snot, I had a snot bubble that refused to pop. With every breath it grew and shrank like a giant bullfrog throat (crazy image, right? It’s true). It made me giggle until it started to freeze in my nose. Giggling turned to gross in a matter of seconds.
Running outside in the snow affords me the luxury in running in someone else’s footsteps for a while. Someone wearing coils like mine on shoes twice as big. For a while I could match his or her stride footstep for footstep and I fell into an easy rhythm. Then the packed snow ended and I lost my imaginary running mate. It was time for me to turn towards the cemetery.
Running up to the spot I spotted a man not wearing a coat…or a hat…or gloves. In this cold I had reason to worry. Instantly my heart began to race and panic threatened. We made eye contact, said hello and separated. Him leaving the graveyard, me going deeper into it. Remembering I had my phone with me I relaxed as the man continued to move further away.
On the way out I couldn’t believe my eyes. Mr. NoCoat was coming back. Panic was also back, so on gut instinct I bolted across the road and down a side street. I swear I watch too much crime television. I’m paranoid. Nevertheless I hated seeing the same stranger twice. Getting away from him was the only thing on my mind as I cut across another street and up onto a very public sidewalk. There I felt safe enough to slow back down to a breathable, less heart attack inducing pace.
I never did find Rick and Irene’s graves. The snow was too crusty for me to brush away. I never did see NoCoat again. I can’t count this as a real run. Emotions got the better of me. This would have been a 3.25 30 minute run had it not been for digging in the snow and trying to outrun my fear.
I’ve given up trying to figure out what constitutes sanity. What makes someone more balanced than not. Isn’t it easier to just say everyone is just a little touched these days? In light of recent events I’m certainly feeling a little undone myself. I think I am relating to Matchbox 20 (or is it Twenty?) just a little too well, “I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired. I know right now you don’t care.”
Last night it was the grip of insanity and the insatiable urge to talk to someone until my heart bled dry. I did not. I dreamed my conversation away.
Today it was the sight of chicken turning my stomach inside out. Covering my plate to keep my dignity. Monsters in the mall. Voices jamming up my thought process.
This afternoon I had to fight the urge to break every pencil in sight. Break them just to say I could. Laughing like I’m losing it. Maybe it’s true. Maybe I am.
Last night I stared into the darkness trying to write words on the walls of my memory, hoping to remember them come daylight. I did not. Phrases slipped away, faded with the dawn, disappeared in the sunlight. Didn’t matter. Not worth much without what went with them. Reasons.
I thought about the bugs, real and imagined. I thought about the eggs that dared to dance across my plate. The quivering of confusion as a heart lay down to die.
I have gone back to running…again. The love affair that I can’t say no to. I simply cannot refuse you. They (all three) have been modest runs: 2.5mi, 2.54mi, 2.63mi – just long enough for me to curse and carry on like the crazy one that I am. It’s in those 25 minutes that I sort it all out. Get it all out. By the time I am finished with the run I am finished with the rant. I come off the treadmill a little weary and maybe, a little wiser. But, I’m still questioning the sanity.
Somehow I knew this would happen. I celebrated too early. Wished well too quick. Happiness not. I ended up being wrong. To push out my anger I turned to the tread. Not to walk. To hell with that. I turned to the tread to do what I do best; to do what I have sorely missed. I turned to the tread to run. Simply run. Screaming to ‘Paint It Black’ and angry sirsy songs and songs about Stupid Mouths I pushed my tired body and seething heart to pick up the pace and pick up my feet. I’m out of shape. I’m way out of touch with what it means to really movemovemove. It hurt. I hated. I should have had something to bite down on. Bear my teeth and draw blood. Instead I looked at a purple sticker and thought about the pain. A 12 minute mile soon became 11.5 and then 11. Still slow as molasses, but able to stick with it for three measly miles 35 minutes later.
So. So, it was only three miles but I stepped off the tread feeling vindicated, feeling somewhat stronger. I still have the hate and the hurt but the run has brought back the healing.
Project Hunger Walk One – No Laughing Matter.
Gone are the days I can hitch a ride without feeling selfstupid. I hate inconveniencing anyone. I hate relying on anyone. Carpooling with kisa is completely different. We both end up in the same place each night. When it’s all said and done he’s always going my way anyway.
This night was different. She needed me to get her to the gym and I needed her to drive me there. Worked out perfectly that we could work out together. Truth be told, I’m more out of practice than out of shape when it comes to being in a gym. Signing in, finding an empty locker, scanning the cardio equipment for something not in use and a little less than out of order and never mind finding two together.
She got the treadmill in front of me and I ignored the people to the right and left. Or tried to. What is it about treadmills so close together? Like bald tires on black ice my eyes kept sliding over to the chick chugging along beside me. She wasn’t running…yet. But, she was cruising. To avoid further jealousies I busied myself with starting my workout. At first glance I couldn’t figure out my machine. It’s like reading a book in French for hours and then trying to read German. Everything looks nothing short of hieroglyphics. My treadmill at home is completely different than the machine I was now trying to decipher. Sensing complete ridiculousness I pressed “quick on” and started moving.
Speaking of silly, it felt completely stupid not to run. It took everything I had not to crank up the speed to at least a casual jog, an offhand trot. Walking seemed…well…slow. So slow! Out of boredom I pretended I was walking in my grandparents’ day. Ten miles. In the snow. Uphill. Both ways. Then, slowly, I started to feel shinsplints. My ankles started to ache. I wasn’t making fun of not running anymore. This was actually going to take some work. Suddenly this walking thing was no laughing matter.
So, seriously: 2.2 miles/35 minutes. So it begins.
Every once in a while an opportunity comes along that seems almost too perfect to pass up. They are the moments that grab you by all the attention you have; so much so that you can’t look away.
I was on Face trying to save face. Normally, as my sister can tell you, I fly under the radar on FB. If she catches me “on” she considers it just that…catching me. Then she chats. Most of the time I don’t mind. It’s early morning and no one will notice. But, as a rule I don’t spend more than a minute looking at my own face. I say a few things to other faces and I’m outta there. But, back to the other night. I allowed myself to be “caught” by four different people (none of them being my sister, go figure)…for almost two hours.
When I was finally let go I came away committed. And with that commitment came the profound understanding that not only was I back on the TrainingForSomethingBig bandwagon, but that I was actually happy about it. And what’s more – I was looking forward to every little thing about it.
So, here’s the deal. We are walking for Project Bread. 20 miles. May 3, 2009. You read that right. Walking. 20 miles. I have kisa on the brain when I think about running anything more than five. I see his stern face and his No.Remember.Your.Knee look. It’s a look of concern. It’s a look of caring. But, it’s also an I’ll Kick Your Azz look. He was the one who had to put up with me directly after The Fall.
Duly noted. So we walk.
What is it about a new year that inspires so much ambition? Where does that fresh start attitude really come from? January is so many things to so many different people. For me it is simply all about the books:
- Death Comes to An Archbishop by Willa Cather in honor of New Mexico becoming a state in January
- Biggest Elvis by P.F. Kluge in honor of the King’s birthday and P.F. Kluge having a January birthday as well.
- Book of Puka-puka by Robert Dean Frisbie in honor of National Geographic month
- Devices and Desires by P.D. James in honor of January being mystery month
- Red Death by Walter Mosely in honor of Walter’s birthday being in January
- Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman in honor of Barbara’s birthday being in January
I haven’t decided on any “if there is time” books because I don’t think I’ll get through what I have chosen (Guns of August is over 500 pages long). Also, I don’t know if I was chosen for a LibraryThing Early Review book for January. I guess we’ll find out by the time I write “January Was…”
For Christmas I received only one book, Nourishing Wisdom by Marc David. A gift from my sister, I plan to read it over the next two to three months. It’s not all that long (185 pages) but I want to take my time with it.
For other resolutions it is running just a little more, maybe drinking coffee a little less. It’s eating a little more healthy, maybe seducing the vending machine a little less. It is writing there more often, maybe blogging here a little less. It is giving up crutches and leaning more on the ones who matter most. Like I said, it is so many different things. I want to thank Sarah and Gnash for their inspiration. Both have amazing ambitions and they have no idea how much I will be cheering them on throughout 2009.
December is one of the longest months in my opinion. But, it is also one of the most festive, thanks in part to the 25th & 31st. December is also the return of the Hot Chocolate Run, the return of the awesomely awesome Rebecca Correia (to the Iron Horse) and for reading books it is:
- Anatomy of Murder by Robert Traver in honor of John Jay becoming the first Chief Justice in this month (I’ll explain at review time).
- Quiet American by Graham Greene in honor of Ward Just’s birthday (I’ll explain that in a second).
- Dangerous Friend by Ward Just in honor of Ward Just’s birthday. I had always been told to read Quiet American with Dangerous Friend so that’s what I’m doing.
- Family Affair by Rex Stout in honor of his birthday.
And if there is time…
- I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson in honor of his birthday.
So, I’m celebrating author birthdays more than real life birthdays. What’s up with that? Not really sure I know myself….