Summer Reading

For several years, pre-Pandemic, I have participated in summer reading challenges hosted by the Jones Library. Usually you are supposed to read, at least, three books, and write a review of one. Once you turn that information in, you get a gift card to a local retail or dining institution.

In the past, the library also had a bingo game connected to the theme for the year’s summer reading challenge. Playing that meant you read three more books, for a total of six,  and had a better chance of winning a more elaborate prize.

Obviously, last year, the library didn’t do anything for summer reading or anything else. This year, they are doing an Adult Summer Reading Program; the theme is Tails  & Tales. It started yesterday and continues until August 27th.

I went today and picked up the material for the Jones Library program and a few of the books they suggest are entrancing. One,  a nonfiction book, The Trainable Cat A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat, by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis is particularly appealing because, eventually, we are going to get a new cat to replace Bella, our cat who we had for eighteen years. Early this summer we had to put her down.  If possible, I would like to get a short haired cat who we keep indoors and we don’t have to declaw. Maybe the book would help us have a cat who doesn’t starch.

My plan for my own summer reading is to finish five books; six if I add the cat book. The books are Maggie Doherty, The Equivalents which I want to read because it is about the early years of the Bunting Institute , a program of continuing education for women at Radcliffe College. The chapter of my book that I am currently working deals with similar programs developed at various academic institutions in the post World War Two period.

For my Jane Austen book club meeting in August I am reading Zadie Smith’s, White Teeth. Also Austen themed, I will be reading, The Heiress by Mollie Greeley. I read her book, The Clergyman’s Wife which is one of my favorite Jane Austen retellings. I wrote a review of it which you can read here.

One of the people in my year long manuscript class suggested I read Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidya Hartman. She thinks it will be a good model for how to structure my  book.

The final book I plan on completing before August 27th is Octavia Butler’s, Parable of the Talents. I just finished reading her Parable of the Sower and it was a great book; very dark but very prescient. Written in the 1990s, the novel starts in 2022, a year from now. It tackles issues of race, climate change, loss of our democracy and  concepts of God and organized religion. These are all issues we are currently grappling with. I highly recommend it.

To complete all of these books by the end of August, I will have to read about 36 or 37 pages  a day. I think that is very doable. If I add in the cat book, it will raise my daily reading page count to about 43 pages a day which I still fell is doable. I will keep you posted about my progress.

I will not have a blog post next week. I will resume my regular schedule on July 16th. Have a nice two weeks.

 

Old Age

I recently completed the sixth chapter of my manuscript, The Real Housewives of Academe. “Civil Obedience” deals with activism in the 1950s and 60s and faculty wives who fought for social justice.

One of the people I discuss is Sarah Patton Boyle. She became an early white supporter of civil rights in her hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

After spending fifteen years as an active participant in the movement, she retired, got divorced, and moved, at the age of sixty, to Arlington, Virginia, to start her life over.

Below is an excerpt about Boyle from the first draft of my chapter, “Civil Obedience”

In 1983 at the age of 77, Sarah-Patton Boyle published her third book, The Desert Blooms: A personal adventure in growing old creatively. The Desert Blooms is a memoir about a more private and personal chapter of her life.[1] It detailed her journey from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville where she had been a faculty wife for many years to Arlington, Virginia at the age of 60.

Patty had decided to move because much of her life had changed. “My children were far away, intent on finding mates and creating careers. The Southern civil rights revolution of the 1950s, which had riveted my attention and drained my energies for fifteen years, had changed direction and was moving swiftly away from my area of competence and commitment.”[2]

Although Patty was leaving the life she had known and moving by herself to a completely new place, she “lacked the sense to be frightened. … Nothing could be worse than the ordeals I had already weathered, I thought.  Hadn’t I even survived my husband’s announcement that when the last of our children left home, he would too? “[3]

Patty had enjoyed being a housewife and mother while she was doing it but “my unlived life had beckoned often and the thought had occurred to me now and then that nothing held me back but a ball and chain. So now that liberty was thrust unsought upon me, I resolved to focus, not on what I had lost, but on what I would gain.”[4]

Religion was very important to Patty so she looked for a church to belong to in her new city. She found a church that she initially felt comfortable in, forming a relationship with the minister and his wife. The minister sought to change the church and believed that Patty would assist him in this work. “Knowing I had opposed the old guard on civil rights in the 1950s, he thought I would oppose it in this case, too.” Patty was not as on board with changing the church as the minister initially believed. ”His sudden silences, I now know, resulted from doubt that he was right.”

Patty had relied heavily on religion to get her through the difficult years of her involvement with the civil rights movement. “During the black revolution, when I had /battled on the minority side of what was the nation’s hottest issue, a stream of threats and insults had descended on me that only my faith had enabled me to survive. Traditional Christianity had been for me no candy bar but the staff of life.”[6]

Patty’s disappointment in her new church, the minister and his wife led her to feel old in a way that she had never experienced before. “It was now several months since I had recognized that I was old. But shocked as I had been at first, I had not felt old. Now I did. It wasn’t a feeling of accumulated years so much as one of having outlived my power to achieve anything – a feeling of not having any life ahead of me but only behind me, of having passed from anticipation into merely marking time.”[7]

[1] Jennifer Rittenhouse, “Speaking of race : Sarah Patton Boyle and the “T.J. Sellers course for backward southern whites” in Martha Hodes, ed.  Sex, love, race : crossing boundaries in North American history, New York : New York University Press, c1999, p. 493.

[2] Desert, p. 19

[3] Desert, 20

[4] Desert, 22

[5] Desert, 56.

[6] Desert, p, 99-100

[7] Desert, p. 104.

© Copyright 2020 Do Not Reproduce without the Author’s Permission.

 

 

 

 

 

Over 400 Served

I have been so busy that a milestone passed and I didn’t even acknowledge it. Apparently my April 4 post, “Busy Week” was my 400th. When I publish this post, I will have 407 WordPress posts. Adding in the 38 post I did before I was using WordPress, the grand total is 445.

I started blogging to promote Brewing Battles but it has taken on a life of its own. When I made the commitment, a few years ago, to post weekly, my pace picked up. Keeping that commitment has been difficulty sometimes, but now that I see what I have  amassed, I am glad I have kept doing it.

My top post, all time, is Methylated Spirits. The home page is a not close second. Except for views of the home page, which is always my most recent post and my Twitter feed, none of the top ten posts are from this year. Poppins on the Roof, which was my most read post for a while, is now number 30 on the all time list.

The past seven days, I had 156 views and the top posts were still Methylated Spirits and the Home Page. Other popular post were from the last year, including The Mysteries of Udolpho.

It has taken me 14 years to write  445 posts. Since I now try to post weekly, the next 400 should take only 8 years. I will try to do that.

 

Ideas

One of the assignments for this month from my Pioneer Valley Writer’s Workshop Year Long class, was to read three essays to look at the craft tools used in presenting ideas.

First, I read “The Futurist Manifesto by Flippo Tommaso Marinetti. For the class assignment, we were not supposed to say whether we like a piece or not but rather, look at the craft elements used in the writing and determine if they would be valuable for our own writing.  However, this is is my blog, so I will  say that I hated this essay. The language  was over wrought, hyperbolic and flowery. I would not want to write in that style. The piece felt dated with racist and misogynistic elements and I had a strong suspicion that the author was a fascist. When I Googled him, I found out I was right.

Our teacher implied that Verlyn Klinkenborg’s, “Our Vanishing Light”, had  lyrical tone, and visual and sensory imagery.  The writing was okay but it seemed a fairly standard journalistic article. Written in 2008, it might have been startling then but felt like nothing new thirteen years later.

In “Sick Women Theory”, Johanna Hedva uses her personal story to make her point. I thought that was a good strategy or tool to use. By personalizing her ideas, it made thinking about those ideas more accessible. Hedva weaves her story of chronic illness into a compelling critique of western medicine. She explores how disability interacts with political participation, seeking a redefinition of both public and private.  I found her writing the most compelling of the three essays and I enjoyed reading it.

Overdue Quarterly Report

I had planned to give some updates on how 2021 is going in April, but, if you read my last post, you know life intervened. We have just returned from spending two more weeks in Florida caring for my aunt. She  has been at home for eleven days and is making a lot of progress.

After the initial visit when she had first fallen we were home for six days. I prioritized writing, skating including off-ice work with my coach, Kiara,  and a meeting of my Jane Austen book club. I was able to finish the chapter I had been writing on for almost a year, which felt good. 

Once we  went back to  Florida, I tried to maintain some semblance of my “real” life and continue to have my book on faculty wives as my priority. I attended Nerissa’s writing group twice  and participated in the monthly meeting of the Pioneer Valley Writers’ year long class for  creative non-fiction. Because of this focus, I was able to get some writing done.

I am really glad I signed up for the PVWW class. Each month we get accountability buddies. It has been great to have different people read my work and to read their work as well. I had hoped the structure of the class would be enough to get me writing on a regular basis. So far, despite the disruption to my regular routine, it has worked.

When 2021 started I needed to lose three more pounds to get to my goal of 140 pounds. Last week I achieved it.  It feels like a big accomplishment and I am very grateful to Noom for helping me get to that weight. The program is probably not for everyone but I found it a very constructive experience.

As far as  tweeting and blogging, I obviously had a dip in posts over the last four weeks. So far, I have posted sixteen times in 2021. I hope, beginning with this post, I will now be on a regularly schedule.  I tweeted  twenty-seven times in April and only one time, so far, this month. I plan to resume tweeting daily.

Going forward, I will still need to do things for and with my aunt. We will probably go back to Florida the end of June. Because of that, I need to stay focused and continue to prioritize writing and skating. I am streamlining my life; putting some things on hold so I can make real progress on my book while continuing to care for my aunt.

 

Cancer, Revisited

Earlier this week,  I attended the first annual Kay Johnson Memorial Lecture. Kay was a Hampshire faculty member who died in 2019. I knew her really well because our sons were best friends from birth to the age of 5.

Kay died from metastatic breast cancer. In honor of Kay, I am reposting a piece from 2009.  At that time, my Uncle Norm had a diagnosis of lung cancer. He died a few weeks later. 12 years later, we have still not made enough progress in the fight against cancer. Hopefully once President Biden gets COVID and the economy under control, he can turn his attention to defeating cancer.

Cancer  12/16/2009

As part of my research for my new book, I have been reading short stories from various eras of Harper’s Magazine. One written in 1949, “The Lady Walks,” by Jean Powell, deals with a faculty wife who has breast cancer. Although my original interest in the story was because of the faculty wife character, Ravita, as a nurse I found the description of the cancer treatment clinic she goes to unsettling. The description did not seem that different from clinics I have worked at various times in the past fifteen years.

After reading the story, I have concluded that things have not changed as much as we might think or like in the area of treatment of cancer. Today I participated in a Cancer Care teleconference, “The Latest Developments Reported at the 32nd Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.”  It was very interesting; there are new drugs that might prevent bone loss in cancer patients as well possibly prevent the re-ocurrence of cancer.  However, treatment for certain kinds of breast cancer is a five-year process, which seems extraordinary long.

Around Thanksgiving, I read a story in the New York Times about a recreational lounge for cancer patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, a hospital in New York City. One of the patients is Seun Adebiyi, a young Nigerian immigrant and a Yale Law School graduate. He has lymphoblastic lymphoma and stem-cell leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. He is also trying to be the first Nigerian to compete in the Winter Olympics in skeleton. His goal is 2014. I have participated in a bone marrow drive but I have never received a call to donate.

I have had friends who have died from ovarian cancer and relatives who have experienced lung cancer. Although we may not have made as much progress in the last sixty years as we would have liked, let us hope that we can make significant progress against cancer in the coming days.

 

Busy Week

This past week I was very busy. As I wrote last week, Saturday was the first night of Passover. We had  a great time with my sons and daughter-in-law. Next year I hope we can have even more family attend our seder.

Passover is one of my favorite holidays ,but eating just matzah for a week is tough. The change in diet gave me some minor health issues, primarily the stomach kind. Regularity begets regularity, if you get what I mean.

Because at the end of last week, I was getting ready for Passover, I fell behind on some routine tasks, such as mail, email (the bane of my existence) and bills. This week I had to play catch up.

As a result, I spent most of the week not actually writing anything. I did finish reading and taking notes on two books that had to go back to the library.  Although I didn’t write much, I had writing experiences due to the two groups I am involved with.

This was week was the first meeting of a new ten week session from Nerissa Nields’ Writing It Up in the Garden. I switched from her group that meets Wednesday evenings back to the group I was in last year, Tuesday midday. I like the people and I got good feedback on some pages I read from the chapter I am currently working on.

One of the people in the group read something about ALS, which was hard for me to listen to. I have known several people, including my brother Fred, who have died from that terrible disease and my first cousin, Lowell, is living with it.

The other writing  experience involved the year long Pioneer Valley Writers Workshop Creative Nonfiction Group that I am participating in. The first meeting was at the beginning of last month. One part of the program is having a different accountability buddy each month. I really enjoyed my first buddy, Jennifer. We have a lot in common and are working on similar topics. It was great to talk about my book to a fellow historian.

Although the week had hard parts and was busy, I did do some enjoyable things. Last week  was the World Figure Skating Championships. I couldn’t watch them in real time so, starting this past Monday, I watched repeats of all the events. It ended last night with the ice dancing. It was a pleasure to watch the superb skating of all the athletes. I love skating and, in fact, I am going skating today. The week is ending on a good note.

 

 

 

Writing

This coming weekend I am going to be involved in two activities that concern writing.  Both are from the Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop (PVWW). On Saturday, I  will be attending the workshop, Marketing Your Book Online! The presenter is Fungai Tichawangana.

I wanted to attend this session because, eventually, I will be done with my book and need to market it. I did almost all the marketing for Brewing Battles. That was almost fourteen years ago so I am sure things have changed.

The other event I am attending is on Sunday. It is the orientation for the year long manuscript group. As you may recall, I thought I was going to participate in that the last year, but I decided not to. This year’s group, which I will be part of, is nonfiction, non memoir. I think there will be people in the group who are writing things that are similar to what I am writing.

I am really hoping that the monthly meeting with the whole group as well as accountability buddies that you have during the month will  provide sufficient structure, motivation, and focus so that I can complete my manuscript. It is a big commitment, but I think it will be worth it.

2021 Goals and Resolutions

As I mentioned last week, my main goal for 2020 was to finish my book and I did not achieve that. Completion of the book remains my main goal for  2021. I have been working on the sixth chapter since the fall. When I finish that, I will have four left. I am really going to try to complete it this year.

My goals for 2020 did not include anything about losing weight but i did lose 20 pounds  last year. I know many people gained the COVID 15, but I am glad I went in the other direction. At the beginning of 2020 I tried intermittent fasting which I did for a while. The big change came in June when I joined Noom. Noom is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)  and uses artificial intelligence (AI) in its work with clients.

Although I did not count my calories every day, as the program suggests you do, I did watch my calories and weigh myself everyday.  The other part of Noom is reading articles, answering quizzes and interacting with both a group coach and an individual coach. I am not sure if either of these are real people. They may be bots. I have gained insights about my behavior, eating and otherwise, from Noom.

My resolution for 2021 is to lose the remaining three pounds I have to  lose to get to my original weight goal and to not gain the weight back. I have lost weight before but I have always gained it back. I hope that the lessons I have learned from Noom stay with me even when I am no longer paying for the program.

I plan to continue to tweet every day and post on this site every week. Between politics, the pandemic, beer, and other topics, I am fairly confident I will have plenty to say. Today will be the last Wednesday that I post a blog. I am going to return to Friday as the day I post.  I am hoping this will create a better writing schedule.

See you January 22nd.

Bye Bye 2020

As everyone knows, 2020 was a unique and often terrible year. Like most people, I was glad to see it go. I am very grateful that my family has been safe and not had Covid.

Looking back, my  main goal for 2020 was to finish my book. I didn’t achieve that but I did finish my fifth chapter. I am currently working on the sixth. For most of the year, I attended one of Nerissa Nields writing groups. The group was very helpful with finishing the  fifth chapter.

The best part of the year was my younger son’s wedding. I am so glad that I was able to attend the ceremony despite COVID. Many of my other plans were upended by the pandemic. I did not skate for  five months, we didn’t go to JazzFest in New Orleans,  and I last saw my older son in August at the wedding.

I haven’t really been anywhere since last February.  This could be one of the reasons that I blogged more frequently this year. There were 53 weeks in 2020 and I posted 51 times. I tweeted 594 times which is the same pace as last year.

Beside my writing, my other goal for 2020 was defeating Donald Trump. Along with thousands of other people, I achieved that. Defeating fascism feels really good.

It seems likely that both Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphel Warnock will become Senators. This will give Democrats  a slim margin. I have great hope that people will soon receive $2000 relief checks, unemployment benefits will be extended and there will be an effective and efficient distribution system for the COVID-19 vaccine.

As I am about to post this, insurrectionists have stormed and breached the U.S. Capitol. I will try to write about these events in another post. Let’s pray for a better year with our country being safe, strong and free.

Happy New Year!