Reactive Reading
stargazer
6of8
9 more days until the end of the world -- or not -- depending on your political persuasion. I voted today, so as far as I am concerned it should be over tonight, or at least the number of emails soliciting money for the campaign in my inbox should drop dramatically, but that is probably not how it is going to work.

Spoiler alert -- I am a female. I am single. I am well-educated. I voted for Hillary.

Admittedly I was not her most enthusiastic supporter when the general election season started, but I have become more and more pro-Hillary as time went on, and that is, of course, in part due to being anti-headless horseman of the zombie apocalypse Trump. This has been a sucky election season, and without John Oliver and especially Samantha Bee I would have been well-nigh suicidal trying to get through the layers of excrement that have been slathered on us this year. The thing that pisses me off the most though is the effect on my reading.

It took me a while to figure it out, actually, because I can usually read just about anything just about any time and anywhere. There are times, of course, when I think that I am not in the mood for a specific book, but I usually don't have trouble finding one that I can get into. This month has either been uber-mindless (books of quotations about the love of books) fluff that I forgot as soon as I read each sentence or something else. I picked up different lighter mysteries by my favorite authors and put them down again within a paragraph or so, uninterested in spending time with the (male) detective. I did get in to one mystery -- part of the Goldy Culinary series by Diane Mott Davidson. But then I was finding that books had to have a certain amount of gravitas to hold my interest. This month I have read: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (a memoir of a hard upbringing written by an incredibly strong woman); I am Malala by Malala Yousafsai (the young woman who was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for a woman's right to an education, lived through it, and then won the Nobel Peace Prize); So Many Books, So Little Time (memoir of a year of reading a book a week by a woman who also talks about what it taught her about life and dealing with other people); Weekends at Bellevue (female psychiatrist who manned the Bellevue ER on weekends for 9 years and how what she learned dealing with the mentally ill made her a better person); Book of a Thousand Days (a retelling of a fairytale featuring a strong and independent young woman in a Mongolia-type area who sets out to make a difference in her world by doing her part to help others); and Reading Lolita in Tehran (memoir of a literature professor who educates a select group of young women using Western novels in the Islamic Republic of Iran and how they deal with an autocratic and repressive regime that believes women are not just inferior but irrelevant -- and find everything they do both subversive/corrupt and sexual). Definite pattern there.

While I am certainly not complaining about having read any of these books, all of which I quite enjoyed and would recommend, I was not pleased when I recognized the pattern. Reading is my escape and is, in many ways, the most personal thing I do. I was angry to realize that the _________________ (insert John Oliver's latest term and graphic here) which this election has become had to a large extent hijacked what I had the patience and the stomach to read and what would hold my interest. I have a tough job and I like to be able to read more escapist fluff at least every other book, but I couldn't cope with the male protagonists and their worldview. I have been having Donald Trump's worldview of racism, sexism, xenophobia, classless classism, and tasteless, brainless indiscriminate hatred and narcissism forcefed to me for months now. I have less patience with the males I work with, even the ones I don't think are secret Billy Bush-types, and I don't want to spend my free time identifying with a male protagonist. But more than that, what I really want is not to care, and not to have to bring that sort of baggage to my reading.

It is my sincerest wish that November 9th will mark the end of that phase as far as my reading goes, even though the odds of that going away in the national psyche are too small to calculate. I want my life back!
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Reflective Perspective
stargazer
6of8
Change is an interesting thing and we all fear change and resist it to some extent, even when we are restless for a change or think it will be a change for the better. I've got some changes going on around me and I am a little unsettled.

One year ago today I lost my sweet baby girl, Minerva, to cancer. She had been in more pain than I realized and I knew it was the right thing, but I still cried for hours when she passed in my arms and just the thought of her still makes me tear up. I now have two felines running around the house that give me love and make me laugh, but they haven't filled the hole she left behind. I am missing my Mouse today.

We are nearing the end of the U.S. government's federal fiscal year, which means I have been working stupid crazy hours trying to meet an impossible quota just to keep a job that makes me miserable half the time because of how demanding it is. It is a noble mission -- serving veterans -- and it pays the bills. But it has done a number on my physical health, which is saying something for a desk job, and on my mental health. The working conditions of the job have changed sufficiently in the seven years that I have been there that a workable quota has become virtually unachievable. In fact, the powers that be have been hearing for at least 3 years that it is nigh impossible, but this year, as we reached 85%+ digital cases vs paper cases, even the people most attached to the quota system had to face the obvious. After all, it appeared that about 3/4 of the attorneys would not be able to meet the bare minimum (and by bare minimum, I mean 100% of goal, which is what is required not to be marked "unsatisfactory" on your performance review -- and you have to be about 120% to be considered for "bonus"). So they lowered the requirement by 10%. I achieved that goal on Friday, after putting in about 4 weeks of 60+ hours minimum.

They have unveiled a new system for the next fiscal year which appears to be more humane, although it is a work in progress. For starters, I will be able to say I have completed work on a case when I complete work on a case -- not when the person who comes after me and is receiving the work products of 6-10 people in addition to holding hearings gets around to reviewing the work and deciding it was good enough. And there will not be a numerical quota, only a time frame in which each work product should be completed, graded for complexity and size of file. But, as I said, it is a work in progress, so it still makes me nervous about how I will be able to fulfill what is expected of me.

And then there is the biggie that is hanging over my head -- surgery on October 14th. The switch at work from paper files to digital files has changed the job from 25% of the time on the computer during the writing of cases and checking of email to 99% of the time spent on computer reading documents all day long and then writing. My strabismus, which was never surgically corrected as a child because it was mild, has been aggravated by the extra demands placed on my eyes. I got fancy prism lens glasses ($1000) and had some relief, but my eyes are still not working correctly. In a few weeks I will have surgery that will shorten the muscles on the inside of my left eye to make it focus on the same thing as my right eye. If it works the way it is supposed to, all will be for the best in the best of all possible worlds. But . . . Reading is my life. It's how I make my living, but I am not worried about that. It's my life. I have been alternating between reading nonstop in case I can never read again (minuscule chance) and then not reading because if I read like I will not be able to then maybe I will alter the universe and I won't be able to, but if I am confident that all will go well, then all will go well. Magical thinking + indecision + hedging your bets = INSANITY. My friends have all offered to provide whatever assistance I need and my sister-in-law will come and stay with me for a week after surgery. But I know I will not be able to read for any length of time for a few days even if all goes perfectly. And if something goes wrong . . . Anyone good at reading aloud to cranky people?

Keeping Busy
stargazer
6of8
Well, I have been negligent in posting regularly. I will try to do better.

My trip to Europe was amazing! I fell in love with Rome, which surprised me. I am not a city girl, but the Eternal City is pure magic. I will definitely be making another trip there. In fact, having been to Rome with day trips to Pompeii/Naples and to Florence, I look forward to seeing a lot more of Italy. It was really a special place. I cannot say that I was as enamored of Athens, although I loved the historic sites and the Greek Bookcrossers were wonderful. Santorini was an amazing place and I recommend it highly. That was the first time in a long time that the focus of my time in a vacation spot was relaxation. I need to do more of that.

In May, I traveled with James and Annalis and the kids to Nashville to do some site seeing and attend Tayea's graduation from high school. We had a great time and I got to pet a baby kangaroo.

Other adventures have included work and more work. Attempts to correct eye problems are ongoing and will probably mean surgery in October or November. Had a root canal. And I added another member to the family. Errol is a 2 year old blue cream tabby (solid grey) who needed a new home when the lady who recently adopted him had to move back to Antigua on very short notice. He weighs in at a modest 16 pounds and has a tendency to throw that weight around. Molly is learning to tolerate him and we are both trying to teach him some manners. These developments and work will keep me very busy until the end of September.

SPRING!!!
stargazer
6of8
Tonight on the walk back from the trai. In the dusk of evening, I saw two of the wild bunnies that live in the neighborhood. That and the cherry blossoms overhead (and dead magnolia petals underfoot) are proof that it is SPRING!

And in the spring, a middle-aged spinster's thoughts turn to travel and getting out of town and the winter rut I have been in. Next month I will be attending the BookCrossing International Anniversary Convention, which this year is being held in Athens Greece. So, along with my fantastic niece Cori, who attended 3 other conventions with me (Dublin 2012, Gothenburg Sweden 2013, and Oxford 2015) I am off to see old friends, friends I have never met, and strangers who will become friends. We will talk books and trade books and release books in the wild and hopefully even find some time to read. We will also be seeing the sites of Athens, of course, which will delight Cori, who is a big Greek mythology buff. And my best friend from law school, Sandra, is a huge fan of Greek and Roman history, and has always wanted to go to Greece, so she announced that she is coming along. Fine. Then she decided to bring her dad. 77 years old with limited English (he is Korean) and he will probably have the best time of all. He is definitely in better shape physically than we are, and he trained as an architect 50 years ago in Korea. Should be interesting.

When I return from that trip, I will have a day to recuperate. Then it is off to Cincinnati for a baby shower. I plan to leave Saturday and return Sunday, but haven't decided yet whether to fly or drive.

The 3rd week of May my (step)niece graduates from high school in Tennessee. My brother and his wife (mother of Tayea) and the kids are driving out from New Jersey and plan to spend a few days in Nashville. My house is kind of on the way, and I have never been to Tennessee or to Nashville and I love country music. I'm going along.

Hopefully this will be a nice shift from claims files and office politics and high-strung cats and sinus infections. If not, it won't be for lack of trying.

February -- Good News and Bad News
stargazer
6of8
Well, it appears that it is time for me to re-group and re-consider many of the plans I was making for the next couple of years. I applied to Marymount University's Mental Health Counseling program and I interviewed 10 days ago. Yesterday, I received a "thanks but no thanks" letter in the mail.

I don't normally think of myself as vain, but I do normally think of myself as intelligent. Right now "stunned" is probably the best word. It has been a very long time since I found something I really wanted and went after it and failed. Some people would tell you that I am unused to rejection because I don't take a ton of risks, which is true, but I very seldom find something worth taking a risk for. Perhaps I have been too lucky and too many of the great things in my life (particularly my amazing friends) have just happened as if by magic. So, while I am trying to be philosophical ("it wasn't meant to be"), I am also wondering in what area I was not good enough. (The reasons for their decisions are private and proprietary and will not be discussed with the candidate.) I also find it strange that something that felt like such a perfect fit at just the right time just fizzled without a real reason. Julie Andrews' voice is telling me, that the Reverend Mother always says where God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window. --- Please do alert me if you notice the open window.

On a more positive note for my mental health, the creature sharing my condo has started to almost resemble a real cat. I have been allowed to pet her about once a day -- sometimes for up to 3 whole minutes -- and she has invited me to play with her mousey a few times. She is finally feeling at home enough to sit on the sofa or hop onto the bed for up to 30 seconds and is sitting in the spot I made her by the patio door and watching the birds. Two months of a ghost under the bed and suddenly an almost cat has appeared. Give it another year or so and she might even sit next to me or sleep on the bed instead of under it.

January 2016
stargazer
6of8
Well, here it is the end of January and I have not done much about improving my record of posting entries. However, I am pleased to report that I have been busy on other things. With respect to my reading based goals, I have read 20 inches of books out the 64 I need to read, 15 of 26 letters of the alphabet in book titles, 2 out of 6 biographies, books set in 8 different countries on 5 different continents for the 6-6-6 challenge, and 2 audiobooks. Plus, I have created a chart for keeping track of these goals, which was another of my goals. Given the weather lately (cold and/or snowy), I postponed the trip to Midlothian and have not made a lot of progress on other goals. But staying indoors has helped me get more reading done.

In other news, in furtherance of the goal I achieved last go-round (have a plan for leaving VA), I have applied to graduate school. After much searching I found a mental health-related program that (a) would lead to licensure/a job instead of more school; (b) allowed for part-time work if necessary; (c) was close enough to allow me to continue working my current job and pay my mortgage; and (d) felt like a good fit for me personally. I only just submitted the application -- to Marymount University in Virginia, for their M.A,. in Licensed Clinical Mental Health -- so no word yet on whether they are willing to admit me. But I am happy nonetheless. And, to get myself in the study habit, I have committed to taking the Maryland Bar Exam for Out-of-State Licensed Attorneys with a friend and colleague, because if nothing else, it will expand my legal career options if grad school doesn't work out.

My newly adopted cat continues to be fractious if I even think of touching her, but is spending at least 1/4 of the time somewhere other than under my bed, which I am taking as a positive sign. Molly spent her first nearly 6 years being treated as, at best, animate furniture, with limited (see also nearly zero) interaction with people. Had I realized the extent of her issues I might not have agreed to take her on, but she is mine now. I am hoping to find a suitable fur sibling for her that will help her to accept that I am not inclined to eat her or beat her or whatever other evil intentions she suspects me of harboring.
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Off to a decent start
stargazer
6of8
Well, despite missing making an entry in December, I think I am off to a good start with my second 101 list.

I bought a new dining room table and chairs at the Habitat for Humanity Restore at their Black Friday 50% off sale. I'm more than halfway done with my alphabet reading list and I am 1/4 done with the 666 challenge. I have been eating vegetables even. I feel good about how this list is going.

Ack! End of November!
stargazer
6of8
So the goal was to make an entry every month -- but somehow today is the last day of November already.  Not sure how that happened.  I seem to have misplaced a few days here or there.  When I have a minute, I will commence a search.

In the meantime, since we have all (hopefully) just survived Thanksgiving, I will include a brief list of things I am thankful for in light of recent events:

1. Minerva -- she was the best kitty ever and I miss her so much.  Soon I will get a new friend or two to live with me, but no one could ever take her place.  She was my snuggle-bunny.
2. Family -- even dreaded little brothers have their uses -- some day they grow up to have familiies of their own and wives you like and will put their shoulder out carrying your new dining room table and never say a word.
3. Friends -- I have been in a real funk since Minerva was diagnosed in July and the only thing getting me through it all has been my friends who are constantly trying to patch up the cracks in my psyche as they form.
4. Eyesight -- I have been having severe problems with my eyes recently, but the latest eye specialist thinks it will be fixable with a trial of a special film and then some new glasses.  Since I read for work and for pleasure, and my other big hobby is photography, my eyes are pretty important.  I like them and want them to keep working.
5. My home -- I was able to host family for Thanksgiving and it gives me a warm and comfy place to come home to.  Plus, it has teal walls.


Those are currently my top 5.  Other things like books and chocolate are coming in close to the top, but I have just enough things I need to accomplish in the next hour that I cannot take the time to discuss them.

Happy end of November and beginning of December!

Turning Over a New Leaf
stargazer
6of8
Let's hope there's nothing creepy or crawly underneath it!

My new 101 things in 1001 days list includes "make an LJ entry at least once a month."  This is going to be my first attempt. I figure the best way to get started is to post a copy of my new list, to help keep me honest.  (No comments, please, on the fact that the list did not accomplish that last time.  This is a NEW leaf.  Also, no comments about "honest" lawyers.)

1. Read 5 "classics" I never got around to
2. Institute and follow a 1-1-1 Mt. TBR reading policy (found/TBR/unregistered)
3. Finish 2 series that I have been reading (only books already in my possession)
4. Read all FOUND books received prior to 04/01/2015
5. Complete a 6-6-6 reading project for duration of list period (6 books from 6 different countries in each of the 6 inhabitated continents)
6. Read my height in books
7. Ear-read at least 6 audiobooks
8. Read 5 books from Mt. TBR selected by friends
9. Read 26 new-to-me books, 1 for each letter of the alphabet
10. Read 6 biographies

11. Swim at least twice a month when complex pool is open
12. Climb an indoor rock wall
13. Engage in at least 1 physcial activity per month
14. Reorganize/rearrange guest bedroom to be more inviting
15. Sort at least 3 boxes per year of list period
16. Do additional snarfing and exploration in as-yet-unknown parts of Baltimore
17. Create a functional outdoor space on the balcony

18. Take a photo of the same place every month for 1 year and make a calendar
19. Take 3 concrete steps to learning more about using my DSLR camera
20. Do a photo shoot with the DSLR and a tripod, working with technical stuff
21. Photograph a tide pool
22. Tie that darn quilt
23. Finish the seaside quilt -- display or donate
24. Refinish the Bear Lake Medicine Chest
25. Do a 4 seasons photo project

26. Visit Appomattox Courthouse
27. Visit Chincoteague/Assateague
28. Visit Greece
29. Visit Nashville TN
30. Visit a state I've never been to
31. Visit Eastern Canada
32. Visit Longwood Gardens in PA
33. Travel somewhere different (Caribbean, South America, Africa, Asia)

34. List 25 things I actually like about myself
35. Visit the gynecologist and get a mammogram at least once in the list period
36. Attend church at least twice a month for 6 consecutive months
37. Visit the dentist once a year
38. Reduce Diet Dr. Pepper intake to 2 cans max/day for at least 2 months
39. Increase H2) intake to at least 1 bottle/day for at least 3 months
40. Make a conscious effort to consume vegetables at least twice a week
41. Visit a museum at least 6 times each year
42. List the top 50 moments/experiences of my life
43. Go a full month without buying anything but necessities
44. Keep a "My Day in 6 Words" journal (5 out of 7 days/week) for 1 month
45. Have the car washed and vacuumed once a year
46. Learn 100 new words and add them to my active vocabulary
47. Attend at least 1 live play or concert each year
48. Do at least one all day CLE each year

49. Log all the snarfs from 2015
50. Establish an Ancestry.com account and start work on the Jordan/Thompson side
51. Write at least one LiveJournal entry every month
52. Get a functional printer/scanner for the computer (repair or replace current model)
53. Create and maintain a Kalahari List for work and home
54. Create a digital compilation of personal "Instant Replay" songs
55.Post 5 online reviews of good service received
56. Finish Minerva's book
57. Learn 25 new things using Wikipedia random articles
58. Join Linked In pro for job search purposes
59. Try to read and understand the HTML for Dummies book
60. Find 5 ideas from Instructables (or similar site) that I want to try

61. Pay off the car
62. Make a sound decision about whether to merge the retirement and/or DCP/TSP accounts
63. Do a $50 pay-it-forward
64. Leave a 100% tip (on meal costing more than $10)
65. Save $1/day for travel account
66. Buy a curio cabinet or other kitsch display furniture
67. Invest in improved window treatments for at least 2 rooms in the condo
68. Replace the dining room table and chair set

69. Send a message in a bottle
70. Get a henna tattoo on hands or feet
71. Watch a meteor shower
72. Do a reverse scavenger hunt for a special occasion
73. Release a copy of The Heart of Midlothian in the heart of Midlothian VA
74. Take a fall foliage trip every year
75. Take a spring flower excursion every year
76. See Frank Lloyd Wright's Pope-Leighey House
77. See the Northern Lights

78. Host or attend a project day at least 4 times/year
79. Go on an outing with KateKintail (her choice)
80. Go on an outing with Ixion (her choice)
81. Go on an outing with Melydia (her choice)
82. Go on an outing with Sandra (her choice)
83. Visit Jon and Suzette in Austin TX
84. Send post cards to 10 people with 10 things I like about them
85. Send 2 spontaneous care packages each year
86. On my birthday every year, send flowers to someone who needs them
87. Visit James and Anni and kids at least twice a year

88. Create a list for tracking my goals (esp. multiple time/multiple year goals)
89. Create a new 101/1001 list for Round 3
90. Learn the ranks for Army and Navy (with insignia)
91. Identify 100 things that makek me happy -- with no more than 50 of those being food
92. Donate $2 for every unfinished project and $1 for every one started but not completed
93. Frame and display 5 more pieces of artwork
94. Choose and create one more photo canvas for display
95. Watch all of Star Trek Voyager, in order
96. Make 15 location-themed releases
97. Participate in 2 Release Challenges (other than Becky's Hugs Challenge)
98. Try 5 new-to-me (non-chain) restaurants in the area
99. Visit 5 sites in DC that I haven't been to yet
100. Snarf Manassas Battlefield with the girls
101. Visit 5 new-to-me DMV book stores (new or used)
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Slowly Headed for 101
stargazer
6of8

Well, KateKintail reminded us this weekend that we are soon coming up on 1/3 of the way through our 1001 days, and it is time to take stock of where I am on accomplishing those 101 things.

Most recently I have crossed off a few goals, like

#61. Get a mammogram -- did that on 10/15 and results were normal.  Phew!
#36. Take lunch to work at least once a week for 6 weeks -- It has now been 13 weeks and still going strong on that one.
#82. Photo/snarf 16th Street buildings and churches -- accomplished that earlier this month and photos from the event can be seen on my Flickr page.
#89. Take a yoga class (at least 6 weeks worth) -- completed tonight.  I took a lovely 6 week course on Yoga for Mood Management.  Had so much fun I have signed up for 6 weeks of Yoga for Round Bodies.
#99. Help Melydia with one of her goals -- completed this month.  She says I can count driving her to the Stuart-Mosby Civil War Museum in Centreville and visiting it with her, and since this goal is all about her (and counting the excursion was her idea), I will let her be the expert.  Had a lot of fun and will post some photos to Flickr shortly.
#8. Read a poem a day for a month -- September 2013.  That was nice.  I actually read several poems every day and quite enjoyed it -- some of the poems were ones I loved, some were new to me, and I read a whole book of Elizabeth Bishop's poetry.

I also made some progress on a few new goals, such as

#37. Take a hot air balloon ride.  I bought a gift certificate for one through Living Social which will save me $100.  I need to use it before November of 2014, which will give me a little time.  Currently I am in the "premium" or "extra charge" weight class, but I have been working on slimming down.  If I can lose another 20 pounds (or more) by spring I will be just fine.
#43. Read 5 Shakespeare plays I have never read.  I read Antony and Cleopatra last month, so 1/5 completed.
#49. Take sunrise photos at World War II and Lincoln Memorials.  I went in early one Saturday and got some great sunrise shots at the Lincoln Memorial, which can be seen on my Flickr page.  Have been meaning to go back and shoot some at World War II, but the whole Government Shutdown Showdown kind of put a damper on that one.
#57. Match favorite poems and photos.  During my reading of a poem a day, I selected my favorite poems and made notes of what photos to pair them with.  I want to make a scrapbook of sorts with the finished results.
#81. Host an event at my apartment.  Have invited the Fearsome Threesome (Ixion, Melydia, and KateKintail) to my place on 11/16 for a Project Palooza which will likely also include #75 Make a Good Faith Attempt at NaNoWriMo.

Can't say I am one third of the way there, but feeling a little better as I am gradually getting some more crossed off the list.


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