Saturday, April 13, 2024

My Brain On Books XXXVI





I am reading for The Office of Letters and Lights the folks who bring us NaNoWriMo today as I love what they are doing for literacy with their Young Writer's Programs and because I've participated in NaNo every year since 2004.  I have been blessed to have it in my life and would like to give something back if only kudos and link love.  I'm putting this plug at the top in hopes some who stop by will check out their site and see all the great things they do to foster love of reading and writing and story in kids. 

This post will be organized like a blog inside a blog with recent updates stacked atop previous ones. I may be posting some updates on Twitter @Joystory and the Joystory fb fanpage. But this is where I do anything more than a line or two.  Including mini-challenges that don't require a separate post..   

Be sure and see my tribute poem to Dewey and the Thon she birthed at the bottom of this post

Meet My Reading Buddies:
Grace and Jolly
They are my sleep buddies and live on my bed but today they join me on my beanbag reading nest

2:22 AM - Sunday - Second Finish!  Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

I let the Kindle robot read to me for several hours at 2.5x speed while I crocheted.  I had to finish this novel this weekend as it is a Libby library book and due on Tuesday.  Now i'm free to move on to the one I listed as 'most looking forward to' on the opening survey.  But I think I'm ready to read with my eyes again even tho due to vision issues it slows me down to 3/4 normal speaking speed. 2.5x normal speaking speed is still less than half the speed I could read at my prime in my twenties.

Anyway I'm going off on a tangent.  Must be tired.  I don't mean to make it sound like I had to force myself to read this as when it was still on hold with the library it was one I 'most looked forward to' and it lived up to my expectations.  It was an incredibly moving story about immigrants and their dreams of becoming Americans and Americans and their dreams of become more.  It explores the income gap, family dynamics, racial biases, greed, love, integrity, friendship, loyalty and much more.  That list sounds dry but in Mbue's hands there is an intricately woven story that shows how each of our individual lives impact the lives and the dreams of everyone who crosses our path in this life.  Our choices have ripple effects on the choices of everyone whom we interact with.  We all have a common humanity no matter our race, religion, nationality or class.  And empathy is more valuable than any possession.

Bare bones of the plot: Jende has just brought his wife and son over from Cameroon, Africa while his application for asylum is still pending.  He gets a job as chauffer for a top executive at Leman Brothers.  He drives not only the exec but his wife and two sons to their various activities and in this way the author imparts clues to the coming collapse of the economy as Obama is elected president.  Then his wife gets a job with the family as nanny/housekeeper while the family resides at their summer estate.  As the two families lives become intertwined they impact each other in startling ways, changing some of their outlooks while causing others to become even more entrenched.  Biases and wounds rooted in the past intrude on their ability to make rational choices sometimes leading to wounding behavior to self or others; even those they care about the most.

It is a worthy debut novel.  Astonishing in its story power.

2:22 PM - First Finish! The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams by Daniel Nayeri

A Joyful romp along the Silk Road in the tenth century AD.  Featuring a young orphan boy rescued by a merchant whose marketing hustle has garnered him as many enemies as friends.  This would be fun to read to a child 6 and up and anyone 12 and up would enjoy reading it themselves.  It is an adventure with a message about the meaning of life and the importance of love above all else.  It demonstrates that life is a journey that cannot be made alone and it's success is measured by the help and caring exchanged between fellow travelers and wealth is not in the things you collect but in the love imparted between individuals as their lives intersect.  And that what you give without expectation of return is more valuable than all the riches of the all the world's kingdoms.

9:44 AM - Intro Meme This thon snuck up on me.  I expected it to be next weekend so I'm jumping in late.  Actually I've been reading since 10AM shortly after I discovered the email announcing the hour 4 sprints.  I needed to be more awake to do this post task.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Kelso Washington USA.  Across the Cowlitz river from Longview where I grew up and had been living with my elderly mother between January 2013 and late July 2021.  I moved into my 400 square foot efficiency unit in late July 2021.  This  post was a photo essay of my new space.

So this is my eighth thon in my own home, counting the Reverse Thons in August 2021 & 2023.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Non-Fiction: The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

Fiction: The Cemetery of Untold Stories by Julia Alvarez

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Jalapeno Poppers

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

  • Widowed September 2020  It still smarts at unexpected moments.  But at least it is usually only several times a month now instead of constantly.  
  • Living alone for the first time ever.  nearing the 3rd anniversary of move in day.
  • Legally blind with RP aka tunnel vision.  Have only a sliver of vision left in center of right eye.  The rest is shadows and shimmers.
  • Have struggled with mood disorder of Anxiety and Depression since grade school
  • Diagnosed with high functioning autism in 2015.  In my 50s!
  • Have a caregiver who comes in five days a week to help with chores and errands I can't do alone. But she dislocated her wrist last week and is off duty for two weeks so I'm now learning just how much I am grateful for her help.
  • I proved during this move that I have more volume in fiber art supplies than in clothes by at least thee times.
  • I probably have double the volume of clothes in tree-books but since I still haven't got them all moved over I can't be sure.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

This is my 36th thon so there aren't many variations I haven't tried. 

Right off the bat I'm starting several hours late as I forgot to check on the official thon day at the first of the month as I usually do and was guestimating next weekend.

But if the weather permits I would like to venture outside and sit on the bench about 40 feet from my front door and/or the Gazebo which is across the courtyard.  My caregiver helped me practice for months to make those two walks with just my cane and I finally 'graduated' in late August.  So now I'm not such a shut-in that I can't take three steps after letting go of the door handle or porch post without panicking.

Doing anything but especially reading or writing for a full 24 hours used to be my superpower but not so much anymore.  Now that I'm in my mid sixties the price I pay for that self abuse is significant as all my systems are less forgiving. 

Also hope to do a better job than in the past of staying hydrated and getting up to move regularly.

Ode to Dewey
by Joy Renee
We Miss You Dewey


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Fears, Frailty, Falls and Fractures


Mom Summer 2023
age 91

Dropping in for a quick note to explain why I disappeared for a week just as it began to seem I'd established a nice rhythm.  One that had held in spite of my falling on my tailbone on my birthday two weeks ago.  Even in spite of the fear that colored several days after the scare Mom gave the family complaining of chest pain the night before my birthday.

But then Mom ended up in ER last Monday having fallen because she'd fractured and dislocated her ankle.  And then fell.  But because of her grip on the bar her fall was in slow motion and no further harm was done--no bruises, breaks, scrapes or sprains.  But it was hours before we could be sure of that.  In fact I think it was nearly a full day before the tests and scans had reassured us and the doctors.

She spent four days in ER and I visited her there twice last week.  And a third time in the nursing home they moved her to for follow-up physical therapy and occupational therapy and monitoring of the (hopefully) healing bones in her left ankle. 

They opted to do no surgery as they believe her too frail.  It was her hip surgery after breaking her hip in 2008 that led to a clot induced stroke and the aphasia she's had ever since.  The known risks outweigh the possible benefits and since she has been bedridden since having COVID two years ago this month her muscles have atrophied. 

She hasn't walked since then but had still been able to stand briefly during the transfer from the bed to a chair and back again.  Now she will not be able to do even that much and the doctors have told us she needs to use a Hoyer lift.  And to accommodate the space that needs my brother and sister have been rearranging rooms at home.  They are moving her bed into the living room.

I visited her at the nursing home again yesterday.  I wasn't able to do so today as I had a preexisting appointment.  The same is true for tomorrow. But I mean to visit at least once more this week.  This event has forced me to see we're on borrowed time with Mom.  She will be 92 on January 3rd.  Suddenly all the difficulties with my energy, appointments, caregiver availability etc that have made getting over to see Mom even once a month for most of this year too challenging, seem frivolous.  I've had a priority reset.

Meanwhile I'm also scrambling to get my NaNoWriMo words...  But I won't say any more on that today.  Words on writing are for my Wednesday post.  And maybe the news will be better by then.

But I will say this much: due to the upheavals and associated anxieties I had to choose between posting and NaNo this past week.  Obviously I didn't choose posting.


Sunday, November 19, 2023

Rocking in the Hot Seat -- Sunday Serenity


Rocking Chair with Long Heating Pad

This is where I've spent most of my hours not in bed since last Tuesday afternoon when the fallout from my fall on my tailbone early Monday morning began to grip my back from tailbone to neck.  I read, wrote, watched videos, crocheted, ate, and occasionally slept sitting here with my back feeling as tho it was sunbathing.

Heat for me is soporific.  Which means sleepy as well as serene.  But also means lazy.  That list above may have sounded productive but in practice it was always snatches of activity soon filled with the static of crossing eyes then hypnogogic images then sleep but also in snatches.  Naps of twenty, thirty or ninety minutes.

This has untethered me from time so that I forgot to do my Friday Fiber post and did not remember until I was prepping the photo for this one.  I have the photo for the update on the Post Virus shawl so maybe I'll go ahead and put that post up retroactive as a record of my progress.  This new iteration of my blog is so far mostly a personal journal with an 'audience' in the single digits on most days and I'm not sure how many of those are just bots.  So I can't see why it matters.

I was already in bed for about three hours earlier and hoped it was for the night so I would have missed this post as well.  But I got woke up and then couldn't get back to sleep and thought that my best chance of doing so was to sit with the heating pad again and that's when I remembered my Sunday post so I got the pic before sitting down.

Well the heating pad is working it's magic.  


Friday, November 17, 2023

Post Viral Shawl Update -- Fiber Friday


Second Post Section 4/6 Complete

Can't afford to spend much time on this.  Need sleep.  So just a few comments.

I'm pleased with the progress.  Most especially pleased that there has been much less frogging since the struggle with the first post section a week ago.  Some combo of sleep and upping the magnification of my reading glasses seems to have solved that.

But I laid it against the first shawl which it needs to match so that I can make a poncho out of the two of them and there is a hint of 'shrinkage' in this one.  I think if I had been using the wrong hook size from the beginning there would be more than a hint of shrinkage so I suspect it is the tension.  To rectify this tho I'm going to switch from the 3.5m to 4.0m hook for the duration of this post stitch section and possibly all further post stitch sections.  Unless I learn to loosen up on those sections as I gain confidence that I'm not having to frog so much of them.


Wednesday, November 15, 2023

NaNoWriMo Workstation -- Wednesday Writing

The Full 8ft Long L

A couple weeks ago I traded my wheeled office chair for a rocking chair.  I thought I would be able to manage without the wheels but after one weekend of trying to manage with a stationary chair I realized it wasn't going to work with my work style.  It worked fine for those times when I was focused on one task at one desk station.  Especially for long sessions on one of the laptops either writing, online research or exploring and reading my story files.  But when I needed to spread out physical papers for editing or sorting I needed the wheels zip between the couch and the larger desktops at the far end.

The solution was the little wheeled stool like you see in doctor offices.  I had a very productive weekend after it arrived.  If I hadn't fallen off it at 6am Sunday morning as I was wrapping up my all night session I'd still be ecstatic about it.  I'm not about to give it up but I will have to be more mindful while using it.

What happened was that one of the times I approached the couch by walking it forward I didn't get quite close enough to reach the item I want to move to the far end so I stood up but that motion caused the stool to scoot back an inch or so and so when I sat back down I sat on the edge and tilted it onto one wheel and it shot backwards five or six feet across the room as I landed hard on my tailbone.

The Serious Writing Section

That was not a wonderful start to my 66th birthday.  

The fallout has been moderate tensing of the muscles at several locations along my spine.  The two worst at the rib cage and neck and right shoulder.  I've been spending a lot of time in the rocker with a heating pad.  But so far this is minor compared to three or four previous impacts on my tailbone going back to age 11 when I fell off a horse; age 16 when I fell from the top of a doorway after walking up one doorpost with my back pressed against the other; and at age 30 something while playing with children on a slide.  Those were the three times that gave me severe whiplash as well as bruised tailbone.  The worst one was the slide.  I'm pretty sure based on the extreme headache and vomiting I developed hours later that there was a concussion as well.  I did not know before that that you can get a concussion by falling on your butt.

The Research, Paper Sorting & Hardcopy Editing Section

Well I need to wrap this up so I can get back to work on my NaNo.

The big thing I accomplished last weekend was organizing the manuscript pages in my new Go Bag aka Trapper Keeper zippered 3 ring binder.  I now have all the stories in an order that makes sense to me with tabbed dividers between them that have pockets for the loose papers of all sizes that I'm finding tucked away in notebooks and folders.

I still don't have a wordcount registered at NaNo as I've been doing most of writing by hand and some of it scattered among the already existing application files.  For the latter I'm keeping the new words tagged.  For the paper pages I'm keeping them in the binder.  This weekend's big (non-writing) project will be to add up my word count and report it on my NaNo profile.

I know I'm way behind but somehow I'm feeling serene about it.  I'm really enjoying the return to the root story of the FOS storyworld and also a return to the process that I had before my first encounter with a computer in my early thirties.  I'm enjoying that and I think I'm going to be OK if I don't 'win' NaNo this year.  But I also believe that this year for the first time since 2004 I won't abandon my NaNo words after November 31.


Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Peace of Progress -- Sunday Serenity

A Piece in Resistance

This is an update on Friday's fiber art post about the frustration of a day of putting in and taking out four short rows so many times I lost count.  Well the next time I picked it up after the photo above, I discovered I needed to take out that row 4 of the post stitches yet again.  I'd started front posting on the row I was meant to back post on.  Sigh.  So demoralizing. 

I put it away and went to bed and the next time I picked it up on Saturday evening I frogged that row and put it back in without incident and then added the last two rows of post stitch with no frogging.  And then started the second virus stitch repeats and so far have gotten two full iterations of the virus stitch with zero frogging.

I wonder if it was sleep deprivation playing a roll in the mistakes.  Or was it because I switched my magnifying glasses from 1.75 to 2.50 on Saturday..

A Piece in Progress

Whatever it was, I'm grateful and was feeling peaceful as I set it aside to prepare for this post.

Now, tho, I mustn't sit here and revel in it as it is time to return to my story weaving project.  Can you believe we are almost at the halfway point for NaNo?  I'm way behind in word count and yet I'm peaceful about it.  What matters more is that I'm swimming in the story and loving it.  But more on that Wednesday.


Friday, November 10, 2023

Frolicking in the Frog Pond -- Friday Fiber Art


Post Virus Poncho 50.55% Finished

I finished the first Post Virus Shawl last spring and instead of wearing it, I set it aside because I decided I'd rather have a poncho.  So I started a second one with the same yarn and colorway.  But I barely got started before I set it aside to work on a time-sensitive project and never picked it up again until this past Monday.  Monday-Friday should have been time enough time for me to get at least a third of the way--even through the pink section and into the pale blue maybe.  But instead I've goofed so many times, I've had to put just about every stitch in more than once, many more than twice and some more than thrice.

It's been a veritable frog frolic.

It's super frustrating when the piece is still so small.  When I can put a whole row back in in under 20 minutes.  But eventually I'll get to the rows where it takes me an hour just to get from the top edge to the peak of the triangle.  Long before then taking out a whole row will be well beyond frustrating.  I know because that happened a bunch while making the first one.

And yet I started the second.  What was I thinking?

I wasn't thinking.  I was drooling over the image of myself wearing the finished poncho.

But this pattern, tho gorgeous, is very unforgiving.  As unforgiving as math on which it is based.  If only I could reliably catch my mistakes before I am on top of them about to put a stitch into a stitch that isn't there!

A year ago this week the first cake of that yarn arrived on my birthday and I promised myself that I would be wearing whatever I made from it in time for my next birthday.  That's a promise I will have broken as there is no way I can finish it in two days.  Not even if I made zero mistakes from this moment on.

Well, my eyes are rebelling so I'm going to leave you with the video tutorial which taught me how to make the Post Viral shawl.  It is the creation of Bag-O-Day Crochet and draws it's name from both the fact that it alternates sections of the virus stitch pattern with sections of post stitches and also because she created it in the months after the pandemic's grip had loosened.


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