TBR List Declutter, Issue 50

Tangent: Gettysburg Address

“‘But in a larger sense,'” I read, “‘we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground.'”

In our history studies we’d gotten back around to the Gettysburg Address.

“‘The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.'”

My children had gotten used to me blubbering through the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution, but the lull in between tricked them into thinking I’d learned to control my emotions better.

“‘The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.'” I made it through that sentence, barely, but I had to stop to compose myself before I could continue.

“‘It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here—‘”

“Mom, stop.” My son was using the Mom Voice on me, sternly telling me to stop so that I wouldn’t cry.

“No,” I said. “I’m okay. I’m not sad. I’m just full of emotion.”

He went across the room and got me a tissue. Then he let me continue.

“‘…to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.””

I interrupted myself this time.

“What do you think he means here?” I asked, wiping at my eyes.

“That they need to continue the war because the work hasn’t been finished yet,” my son said.

“True. That’s probably one thing he meant. But I think there might be more to it than just continuing to fight the war. What was the war trying to do?”

He thought for a bit. “Stop slavery?”

“Yes, it was to stop slavery, and to keep the country together without slavery. He says, ‘The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here.’ Did the world forget what he said at Gettysburg that day?”

“No.”

“No, because if it did, you wouldn’t be learning about it now,” I smiled at him, and he smiled back.

“Maybe Abraham Lincoln wasn’t talking just to the people in front of him. Whether he knew he was or not, maybe he was talking to all of us, even those of us who wouldn’t be born for another century. Maybe he was reminding us that the work to uphold the ideals that the United States was founded upon continues on and on. We don’t have slavery today, not the way it was in 1860, but you can’t just end slavery and say, ‘Well. Glad that’s over,’ and expect things to be all better. There’s still inequality, there are still people suffering because of the ripples from slavery.”

“You mean the Civil Rights Movement,” he said with confidence.

“Yes, the Civil Rights Movement, and even more work that we’re still doing even today. It’s still not done. Even the people who wrote the Constitution didn’t live up to the words they wrote, but they gave us a framework that they hoped would create a better kind of government, one that would allow us to build a country where we could always get closer to that ideal. We never quite get it right, at least not completely. The best we can do is work towards what we hope we can be.”

“Okay,” he said. He’s eight years old and had had about all the lecturing he could sit through.

“Okay,” I said. “Just one more thing. Lincoln says what we need to work for to honor those who died at Gettysburg. Listen: ‘We here highly resolve…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.'”

And then he ran off to play. As an eight-year-old should.

Visual Interest:

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-28,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Books:

Titles 711-730:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 49

Tangent: TBR Tough Love

Since we moved to California, I’ve not been reading much. Even accounting for months of transition and determining where everything from our old house should go in our new house, I’m not reading as much as I usually do.

I’m not sure why that is, but I have four hypotheses:

  1. Overuse of my smartphone. I held out against getting a smartphone for a long time because I knew—I knew—that I would get attached to it. And now, despite my best intentions, it’s in my hand more often than I’d like it to be. It’s my camera, it’s my alarm clock, it’s where I store our library card bar codes and grocery store loyalty cards, it’s my GPS, and it’s my interval timer for workouts. And it’s sometimes a phone. It’s all of this, and it’s a constant source of distraction, a possible source of pleasant diversion in my pocket at all times. I place limits, but I’m a grown-up and after years and years of pushing against limits, it’s very tough to get myself to accept self-imposed limits. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
  2. Constant sunshine and near-constantly moderate temperatures. The incredible weather here in Southern California is still a novelty to me, and no book so far has compared with the enjoyment of just being outside as much as I can be. I’ve missed two readathons so far this year because of the beautiful weather. And yes, I can read outside, but it’s not as comfortable and I keep getting distracted by hummingbirds (and my phone; see hypothesis 1).
  3. Early bedtime. Finally, finally, I’ve been able to keep a reasonable bedtime. But sleeping more means reading less.
  4. Reading aloud to my children. We’ve begun using the Build Your Library homeschool curriculum, and part of this is a list of books that I read aloud to both of my children. This is indeed reading, but it’s also much, much slower reading than I can do silently. This can be a wonderful thing as it slows me down enough to catch nuances I miss during faster readings. There was so much more to Fahrenheit 451 and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler than I realized before reading them aloud. But taking more time on each book means fewer books read overall.

The smartphone thing I still want to work on, but there is nothing at all bad about spending more time outdoors or getting adequate sleep or sharing books with my children. There’s actually a lot to recommend all of these practices. I guess I just need to work on readjusting my priorities to accommodate all of the good stuff. And on adjusting my self-identification as a “reader.”

Recognizing this new reality, I’m going to tighten my TBR belt a little. Issue 48 was weak for scrapping titles. This issue, I’m going to put on my game face, adjust my bra straps, get a cup of coffee and maybe a little snack, and get tough on these titles.

Visual Interest:

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Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Books:

Titles 691-710:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 48

Tangent: Missing, After Seven Months in California

Things I miss about Massachusetts:

  • Picking fruit throughout the summer and fall.
  • Snow sparkles.
  • Animal tracks in the snow.
  • The clean, sharp feeling of breathing in really cold air.
  • The first three times shoveling snow each winter.
  • Hiking through deciduous forests.
  • Our twice-monthly ecology classes at the wildlife sanctuary.
  • Being able to identify lots and lots of animals and plants.
  • Being only a seven-hour flight from Europe rather than twelve.
  • Our friends.

Things I don’t miss about Massachusetts:

  • Ticks.
  • Mosquitos.
  • Wearing thermal undergarments for six months of the year.
  • Driving everywhere.
  • Sharing the road with people who are very, very angry.
  • Finishing shoveling snow only to have the plow come by and push a two-foot-high wall of icy slush across the bottom of the driveway.
  • Humidity.

Visual Interest:

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Late afternoon in Cain, Parque Nacional de los Picos de Europa, Spain

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Books:

Titles 671-690:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 47

Tangent: Duplicity, or Junior High: You Can Check Out, but You Can Never Leave

The other day I hosted an event at my house. One of those who attended brought a friend who was visiting from out of town. They were the first to arrive, so after we made our introductions, I sat down with them to chat. Watching this person’s body language, (turning away from me and towards the other person), vocal volume and direction, and conversational content (inside jokes with the other person), it soon became clear that, although the out-of-town friend seemed willing to include me, this person didn’t want me to be part of the conversation.

This confused me, and I pondered the situation after I’d politely excused myself to try to find something to do in the kitchen. This person is someone I see at least weekly, and at those meetings, we speak comfortably to one another. We joke and share stories, and I think of this person as a friend. Perhaps not a “bosom friend” as Anne Shirley would say, but a friend I’d invite to my house for snacks and conversation. It didn’t make sense to me that this person would want to talk with me while our children played at the park, but not when sitting in front of me in my living room.

Along these same lines, there have been a couple of occasions with another not-bosom friend here in which I mentioned or asked about something this person had posted on Facebook, and they mumbled and turned away. Their reaction was so confusing to me that I went back to Facebook when I got home and made sure that I’d friended the right person. I guess I can’t be entirely sure, but they looked alike, and they had the same name and the same children, so I feel fairly confident this was the same person. So why would they act in a manner that suggested I had the wrong person?

It’s like these two individuals are entirely different people in different contexts. My spouse relates it to a need to appear “cool,” and maybe it’s as simple as that. If being cool is the most important thing, then it makes sense to act differently depending on whom you’re with and what you think they would see as cool.

And now I read over that paragraph and the word “cool” seems so 1980’s, so junior-high that I just feel blah about the whole situation. If this really is the case, making friends here may well be more difficult than I’d anticipated. Because not only am I not cool (or at least not intentionally cool, which, of course, makes me cool), I am deeply suspicious of “cool.” I did enough trying to fit in and especially trying to fit in with the cooler kids during my school years to know that when I try to chameleon my way through social situations, I behave in ways that don’t make me proud of myself.

So I’ve adopted a “what you see is what you get” way of being.

I do my best to listen more than I talk and when I do talk, both to say what I mean and to mean what I say. I try to be who I am in every situation, which I hope is kind or at least not unnecessarily rude, tactless, or offensive, because often when I’m being myself, it’s honest, but it’s not pretty.

I don’t wear makeup, I don’t shave, I don’t wear Spanks, I get my hair cut once a year, and it’s been almost a decade since my last professional “mani-pedi” and even then I only got clear polish. Not that you can’t be honest and do these things, just that if I did them, I wouldn’t be honest. On me, those things are an act, and since I want to engage with the world from a place of honesty and openness, I avoid doing them.

As a result, I am not good at cultivating an image. I try to write the way I talk, and I try to be the same person on social media I am in real life. And most of my friends are—or seem to be—the same way.

Is this a California thing? My spouse certainly thinks so, and much of the evidence I’ve gathered seems to point in that direction, but there’s other evidence that doesn’t support that hypothesis but rather suggests that while a particular culture might support more duplicity or chameleon-like behavior, it exists everywhere. And besides, the two people I mentioned above aren’t from California, and for all intents and purposes, I am.

Is it a “stages of life” thing? Is mid-life a reflection of middle school?

And because I’m the common element in these situations, I can’t ignore the possibility that it’s me. Maybe my insistence on talking with people who don’t want to talk with me forces them to be rude and/or evasive to get me to leave them alone. That’s not a pleasant possibility, but it’s a possibility.

Whatever it is, I’m going to keep on doing my best to be who I am—and hopefully the best of who I am—in all situations, both when people are looking and when they’re not.

Visual Interest:

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Moreton Bay Fig Tree, Balboa Park, San Diego, California

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Books:

Titles 651-670:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 46

Tangent: Music Theory

At the park the other day, my son called to me from the swings.

“Hey, Mom! What song is this? NAH-na-NAH-na-NAH-na-na-na-NAH!”

“I think that’s ‘Für Elise,'” I said.

“Oh, right! I always get that one mixed up with ‘Iron Man,'” he said, referring to the song by Black Sabbath.

“You always get ‘Für Elise’ mixed up with ‘Iron Man’?” I asked, confused.

“Yes,” he said. “They sound the same.”

After more questioning, a little brow-furrowing, and then consulting his sister on some music theory, we figured out the culprit: minor seconds.

My spouse asserts that ours is the only house in the U.S. where the similarity between these two songs has ever been or, indeed, could ever be noticed. I’m skeptical about that claim, but either way I’m indebted to my son for linking Beethoven and Ozzy Osbourne like this for me.

And now you are, too.

I’ve shared the songs at the end of this post so you can hear for yourself.

 

Visual Interest:

Maker:S,Date:2017-11-28,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

My son’s favorite musicians (by “Iron Man” he means Black Sabbath). Photo included with his permission.

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Books:

Titles 631-650:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 45

Tangent: TBR Envy

The other day I clicked on the profile of a Goodreads reviewer whose reviews I see with some frequency and discovered that they have more than 3,000 books on their “read” shelf, but nothing at all on their “to-read” shelf.

What an alien concept to me.

Does this person have no TBR at all, or do they have one somewhere besides Goodreads?

Either way, the idea of an empty “to-read” shelf on Goodreads is very appealing. Well, technically I have twelve “to-read” shelves and one “want to read” shelf, so in my case, thirteen empty to-read shelves would be appealing.

Along with the thirteen to-read shelves, I also keep a spreadsheet TBR, and I have a LibraryThing account, which is kind of like Goodreads except that it’s not as pretty or easy to use and using it doesn’t help line Jeff Bezos’ pockets.

But what if I took the TBR offline entirely? I could keep it in my bullet journal. Migrating it to a new book every six months might encourage me to keep the list to a manageable size. Or maybe it would just encourage me to try a travel journal style bujo.

I already have a separate Cavalcade of Classics journal. Right now it’s just for notes and quotes from the books as I read them, but I could easily add a TBR at the beginning of the notebook rather than tracking the titles online.

But then I wouldn’t have the satisfaction of moving titles on Goodreads from “to-read” to “read.”

Pros and cons.

A TBR change might be worth mulling, if only for the exercise of exploring my assumptions about how to organize books/titles. And as an excuse to ask reviewers about their empty TBR shelves.

My question for you: How do you manage your TBR?

Visual Interest:

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You can’t convince me that this sticker placement isn’t intentional.

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Books:

Titles 611-630:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 44

Tangent:

No tangent today. This post is all business. And I can’t think of a tangent that interests me enough to write about it. See “Visual Interest” for a tangential photo of a flowering yucca.

Visual Interest:

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Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Books:

Titles 591-610:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 43

Tangent: Attachment Parenting

My daughter is considering residential camps for this summer. She’s done day camps since she was five years old, but sleep-away camp is uncharted territory for us, and we’re all kind of feeling our way around with this one.

When we were expectant parents, my spouse and I made a conscious decision to embrace attachment parenting. There are a lot of different ideas attached to attachment parenting, but for us it meant ensuring that our daughter had a primary attachment figure in her life (I tacitly accepted the unspoken nomination to the position). Her father and I would both do our best to anticipate our daughter’s needs and either meet those needs or be there to support her if we couldn’t (or chose not to) meet them (i.e., it’s not our job to stop her from crying, but it is our job to be there with her while she does). As best we could, we viewed our family as a unit, an integrated whole greater than the sum of its disparate but complementary parts. The goal was and is balance, respect, and a base of support from which our daughter—and later our son, as well—can feel confident moving into adult life.

The data aren’t all in yet, but so far it seems to be working as advertised. When they were little-little kids, they would toddle away from me and do their own thing for a bit, but they always looked back to make sure I was there, always came back for that physical reassurance of my presence before venturing out again. As they’ve grown, it seems like our relationship has continued to be a variation on this theme. They test out their confidence, and I stay attentive to determine when they need a nudge, when they need reassurance, when they need a hug, and when they just need me to stay our of their way. I’m there to listen to their questions and sometimes to answer but mostly to ask questions back. And when they don’t need me, I’m still there, off-stage, but always ready.

Sleep-away camp feels like part of this progression, but it also seems different, more like a leap than a step. In my discomfort, I’m finding it necessary to be careful what I say. It’s important to me that I help my daughter identify her fears and find the answers she needs to feel comfortable—or comfortable enough—without projecting my own fears onto her. It’s important that I reflect back her feelings, not tell her my own. My experiences with sleeping away from home, whether positive or negative, are irrelevant to her experience. Moreover, my experience of her going to sleep-away camp for the first time is for me to work through, not something in which I should involve her. I am the one who supports; she is the one supported, and even then only to the degree that she needs/wants to be.

And there’s the dance: knowing when to step in and when to wait in the wings and watch her live out her experience. I hope I’m up to the challenge. I expect there’s much more of this sort of thing to come.

Visual Interest:

IMG_20180217_154746 (1)

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Books:

Titles 571-590:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 42

Tangent: Social Media Prune

The title of this tangent is inspired by (stolen from) a recent podcast by Katy Bowman (episode #101: Social Media is (Still) Shaping Your Body), but I’ve been thinking about making a change in how I engage with social media for a long time.

There are a few things driving this desire:

  1. Social media helps me keep in touch with friends and family, but I am unsatisfied by the nature of these relationships as they exist online. I want to find a deeper alternative.
  2. Social media doesn’t always bring out the best in me. I find my pulse racing just as I read comments, and I break into a sweat when I consider commenting myself. Assuming positive intent is one of my goals (yes, my Happiness Project goals are still alive in my today-life. I should probably blog about that sometime), but I tend to assume the worst intent when I read comments. It doesn’t help that I feel like I need to guard against being taken in by Russian bots.
  3. My phone is affecting me physically. There are a couple of little things—weird eyesight stuff, pain in my fingers—that get better when I move away from my phone. Social media isn’t the only thing I do on my phone, but it’s the least important (with the possible exception of some of the podcast listening I do). If I’m looking for a way to spend less time on my phone, scrapping the least important things i do on my phone would probably be a good start.

I don’t really have that many social media accounts. I got rid of Twitter several years ago, and I’m on LinkedIn and Nextdoor.com, but while they’re technically social media, they don’t demand the same level of maintenance that Facebook and Twitter do. I guess a blog is a form of social media, but it doesn’t feel like a problem to me. If it takes over, I take a break.

That leaves my two biggest social media vehicles: Facebook and Instagram.

Instagram I’m not sure about, but Facebook is a constant struggle for me. I am almost certainly giving Facebook more than I’m getting from it, but there are still positives I’m afraid of losing by dropping Facebook entirely. For example, there is a local homeschool group that only exists on Facebook. Okay, it also exists in the real world, but all real-world activities are scheduled through the Facebook group, and I wouldn’t know about these if I weren’t on Facebook. And I have friends who have almost entirely replaced e-mail with Facebook messenger. If I scrap Facebook, I cut off myself—and my children—from these ways of communicating, something that’s particularly concerning as recent transplants. Will my children miss out on social opportunities because their mother can’t engage with social media in a healthy manner?

I don’t know how to reconcile my need for connection with my need to separate from social media. In the short-term, I’m planning a social media fast for either July or August (my spouse doesn’t believe I’ll actually do it. He might be right, but I’m still planning it). There are fewer homeschool activities planned for the summer months, so hopefully a summer break won’t cut my children and me off from too many opportunities to meet potential friends. Maybe a month or two off will help me reevaluate both what I give and what I get from social media and maybe even yield some insights about how to meet our needs for connection outside of the social media framework.

So, my question for you: How do you meet your needs for making and maintaining connections, particularly outside of social media?

Visual Interest:

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Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Books:

Titles 551-570:

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TBR List Declutter, Issue 41

Tangent: The Best Defense

My cat, Owen, turned eighteen this past February. He’s starting to look like a bit bony and a little scruffy, he sleeps even more than he used to, and sometimes I’m sure either his eyesight or his reasoning power aren’t what they once were. But he also plays enthusiastically with the laser pointer and wakes us up by racing up and down the hallway at 2:30am, sounding a lot like a tiny horse on our wood floors. He’s elderly, but he’s spry, and even veterinarians are surprised when I tell them Owen’s age.

At his age, Owen has had a lot of adventures. He’s lived in four different states and ten different houses, he’s traveled cross-country by car thrice, and he’s been both a sidekick and an only cat. San Diego, with its ample sunshine and mild temperatures must have seemed to him an ideal setting for a quiet retirement.

Until he met Fluff Face.

Fluff Face is a big Maine Coon that, from our perspective, belongs to one of our neighbors. From Fluff Face’s perspective, however, it’s the neighborhood that belongs to him.

For the first month we lived in this house, we saw Fluff Face lounging on driveways, skulking around bushes, strutting atop fences. My children tried a few times to befriend him, even giving him the name “Fluff Face,” but he preferred to keep to himself.

During the same time, Owen got into the habit of walking around our new house, yowling mournfully. It was an awful, deep-throated sound, different than the noises we’d heard from him before. He would yowl late at night or in the early morning, wandering through each room. He would also yowl while eating his canned food in the late afternoon. Most times I could call to him, “Owen, you’re okay, buddy!” and he would respond with a plaintive meow and then go lie down to sleep. We couldn’t figure it out. Was he in pain? Did he miss the old house? Had he just lost his marbles?

Then the other evening we heard a awful caterwauling coming from outside. I found Owen with his tail puffed out, staring through the glass patio doors into the darkness and making a kind of coughing sound. I turned on the patio light, and right on the other side of the glass sat Fluff Face, growling and hissing at Owen.

Owen’s wandering and strange behavior suddenly made a lot more sense. He was trying to defend his territory against this external threat. Thank goodness he’s long-neutered and did so by yowling rather than by spraying. Knock on wood, of course.

After that, we’ve let our formerly indoor-only cat out on supervised visits into our fenced backyard. We make sure neither Fluff Face nor rattlesnakes are out there beforehand, but then we let Owen mosey out so he can sniff every inch of the perimeter, sit on the cement edge of the flower bed staring regally into the middle distance, and then fall asleep in the sunshine.

It must be a good defense. Since Owen started going outside Fluff Face hasn’t been back. My spouse and I have also been squirting Fluff Face with vinegar water every time we see him in the yard, but I’m sure it’s Owen’s diligent defending that’s keeping our yard safe from Fluff Face.

Visual Interest:

 

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Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.

Books:

Titles 531-550:

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