Book Review: Today Will Be Different

When I picked up Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple, I was hoping that it would be a lighthearted novel about the struggles of being an overworked career woman raising a family and trying to maintain her sanity while struggling with anxiety and depression.  That would have been a good book.

Today Will Be Different

That is not what this book is.

This is a novel about Eleanor Flood, a career woman turned stay-at-home-mom, who is so self-absorbed and flaky that she becomes instantly overwhelmed by the slightest demands on her time and energy.  She is paranoid that her world is falling apart, to the point that she creates a self-fulfilling prophecy which vomits her problems all over everyone around her.

This woman is a dumpster fire.  She can’t keep it together long enough to drop her kid off at school and meet a friend for lunch.  She can’t even give her son a normal name…

Unfortunately, she is such a mess that she makes women look bad – seriously, do people buy into this as a good way to manage your life?  It evokes images of the Victorian era and the early- to mid-1900s, when women were institutionalized and subjected to treatments like electro-shock therapy and lobotomy, because they had “hysteria.”  This character is a caricature of the way doctors described women back in the day…

It would be one thing if the novel seemed like it was intended to be an over the top farce, but I didn’t get the impression that it was.  Sadly then, I can only assume that the author intended this to be only a mild exaggeration of a woman trying to manage a life while struggling with anxiety and depression.  What a disservice to women everywhere…

I have read good reviews of Semple’s other novel, but I would skip this one.

1 star.

Book Review: Barracoon

Recently I read Barracoon: The Story of the last “Black Cargo”, by Zora Neale Hurston.  What a fascinating concept!  A young Zora Neale Hurston, working as an anthropologist in the South, meets and interviews Cudjoe Lewis, a man who was considered to be the last living African man who was transported to the United States in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  Kossola, as he was named in Africa, was brought to the U.S. illegally in 1861, long after importing slaves had been made illegal.

Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo"

Lewis was freed in 1865 when the Union Army came through and freed the slaves at the end of the Civil War.  He became a sharecropper, married and had a family, and lived through the harsh periods of Reconstruction and the Jim Crow days of the south.  By the time Hurston came along in 1927, armed with a pad of paper and gifts to cajole him into speaking with her, Lewis was an old man.

He told her stories about his life in Africa, his childhood growing up and the conflicts associated with the tribe.  He told her the story about how he was captured by warriors from a neighboring tribe, and sold into slavery.  He told about his trans-Atlantic passage.  He told her about being split up from most of the people that he had been transported over with.  It was interesting to hear his stories, and Hurston attempted to remain true to his manner of speaking, using a curious vernacular dialect of English that came from learning English as an adult and not having received any formal education.

Hurston’s manuscript failed to find a publisher in the late 1920s, in part because of the vernacular in which in was written, and probably because people were not ready to face both the reality of a period that was still fresh in people’s minds, as well as the fact that it implicated Africans for playing a role in the enslavement of people from neighboring tribes.  The book was published posthumously in 2018.

My gripe with the book was that I wanted more.  The stories felt pieced together and didn’t always logically connect.  It was like just getting a window of certain moments in his life, before someone stepped in front of you and blocked the view.  I wanted to hear more about his experience as a slave.  I wanted to hear how he made the transition to freedom in an unknown culture after his emancipation.  What hardships did he face?  This was our last opportunity to hear from someone who lived it, and I feel like it fell short.  The book presented his story as being much too simple.  Perhaps that is the reality of interviewing someone who has had such a long hard life, but I still wanted more.

3 stars.

Circus Trip 2018: Indiana Military Museum

Day 28, Sunday, August 12, 2018

Vincennes, Indiana

Sunday morning was my last day in Vincennes.  Although I loved the town, I needed to keep moving east!  I did want to visit one last place before I headed out; the Indiana Military Museum.

This museum is obviously a labor of love for a military collector.  They had thousands of artifacts displayed, packed in a series of display cases and floor space.  They had weapons, vehicles, uniforms and other military artifacts.  They also had crossover items, including needlepoint and sewing made by the spouse of veterans, military movie memorabilia and an assortment of eclectic items that once belonged to Indiana Veterans.

The highlight of the museum was Sergeant Carey, a Veteran volunteer who showed me around.  He served from 1957 to 1963, then rejoined 20 years later and served for another 13 years.  He took so much pride in his volunteer assignment, and truly enjoyed pointing out some of his favorite pieces.

The photographs of New York City and the Twin Towers taken by astronauts orbiting the earth on the morning of 9/11 made me emotional.  Watching the smoke swirl up into the sky from space was heartbreaking.  There was a cargo dump truck that is one of only three known in the world.  They even have a glass eye from the late 1800s!

An antique glass eye

Outside the museum, there are a number of planes, helicopters and tanks on display.

I enjoyed wandering among the exhibits and seeing pieces of military history up close.  I could have spent much more time there, but I needed to get back on the road!

The Spins

Your body has a way of deciding that it has had enough.  My everyday world is jam packed, and I don’t really have time to be sick.  Sometimes I think adrenaline carries me through some of my busiest weeks.

I truly believe that sometimes a break in the jam packed routine lets my body finally take over and succumb to whatever illness is trying to take hold.  So, since I have a few days off for the Thanksgiving holiday, I of course, woke up this morning with a sinus infection.

There’s nothing like some severe vertigo and all day dizziness to force you to slow down to a crawl and rest.  I have spent my day watching a few movies and falling asleep on the couch.  Good thing I wasn’t planning to do any Black Friday shopping!

I did manage to snap a few photos of my Mount Shasta view.

Happy Thanksgiving

I’m ready for a quiet Thanksgiving, reflecting on what I’m thankful for.  I made the long drive yesterday, so my keys are resting in my pocket, and my blue Honda, Viaje, is parked outside, having done his duty once again to transport me safely.

I’m thankful for family and friends who love me and whom I love with all my heart.

I’m thankful for a healthy work environment.

I’m thankful that I’m generally healthy and have no risk factors for my upcoming surgery.

I’m thankful for all the delicious food and wine I have to eat and drink.

I’m thankful for the snow storm that was over by the time I had to drive through where it had been!

I hope all of you enjoy your Thanksgiving, if you celebrate.  Hold your loved ones close and appreciate the blessings of the season.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Circus Trip 2018: Vincennes State Historic Site

Day 27, Saturday, August 11, 2018

Vincennes, Indiana

Just steps away from Grouseland is the Vincennes State Historic Site.  The site preserves a few original buildings from the early 1800s, as well as a few replica structures.

The Visitor’s Center for the site is in an 1830s cabin.

The original Indiana Territorial government building (the red building above) was where the bicameral legislature met.  One part of the legislature met downstairs and the other met upstairs.  It isn’t fancy but it served their purpose!  Fourteen men were elected to the houses of the territorial government and made decisions to be implemented across the territory, which was an enormous area of land!  The building served as the government building from 1800 to 1813.

The Elihu Stout Print Shop is a replica building that housed the printing press, used to print the news that was coming in from the East Coast.  The Indiana Gazette began publication in 1804, using a Ramage printing press.  It often took a month or more for information to make it as far west as the Indiana Territory, so people were eager to hear what was going on in the rest of the nation.

The Jefferson Academy building is a replica built to look like the first school of higher learning in Indiana; it is the predecessor of Vincennes University.  The school began teaching students in 1801!  The school taught only boys at the time, when people largely considered girls’ learning to be exclusively in the home.  It is interesting to think about how children learned at the time, with very few supplies, and none of the technology that we have today.

Jefferson Academy

Desks at Jefferson Academy

The site also contains an old frame house, where Maurice Thompson, author of Alice of Old Vincennes, was born.  It’s likely you haven’t heard of the book; it was written in 1900 and is a novel about the Revolutionary War and an orphan named Alice Roussillon.  Fun Fact!  It was the second best selling book of 1900, and it is still in print and available on Amazon, if you are interested in checking it out.

Old Frame House at Vincennes SHP

I also got to visit the Old French House, built circa 1806.  It is basically just that; an Old French style house.  It was built by a French fur trapper, in the French architectural style of the day – posts on sill.  It has a unique feature in how the framing was done, the upright posts sat on a horizontal beam (the sill) at the base of the structure, instead of the posts being sunk into the ground.  This apparently ensured that it stood the test of time better than a lot of other 200-plus-year-old buildings.  The Old French House also has an antique box bed (known as a lit clos in French).  It is an enclosed bed!  Back in the days before central heating, being able to close yourself up in a box bed meant that you would stay warmer; plus it provided some privacy when many homes only had one or two rooms and the whole family slept in the same room.

The buildings on the site are open only on a tour, and there was only one guide the day I was there, so you might have to wait outside while the tour guide is conducting the tour for others.  Don’t get discouraged – it is worth waiting!  The Old French House isn’t always open, and is a few blocks down the street, so I felt pretty lucky to get the tour of it.  I enjoyed chatting with the guide about some of the area’s history while we walked down there.

It was neat to see these historic buildings, even if some of them were replicas.  We just don’t have many buildings this old on the West Coast!

Arizona Getaway, March 2019

Day 1, Thursday, March 14, 2019

Tucson, Arizona

I had few weeks in March between when I got my job offer and when I would start working.  Mom and I were still pretty shell-shocked after dad’s death and I casually mentioned that maybe it would be good to get out of town for a few days.  I found a relatively inexpensive direct flight to Tucson, and to my surprise, Mom agreed.

Mom had a few places she wanted to see, and I had a few places I wanted to see, so a weekend trip was born.  On the first day, we had an early flight, so we could make the most of our day.

Mom was interested in checking out some rock shops and bead shops, so after we arrived and got our rental car, we set off to find them.  But lunch first.  We ate at a Mexican restaurant called La Parilla a Suiza that I googled nearby the first rock shop. They say their cuisine is from the Mexico City region and it was good!  The only drawback was the air-conditioning was way too high, and it was freezing in there!

The first rock shop, called Norcross Madagascar, was one Mom had heard about in a beading group she belongs to.  They sell wholesale mostly, but also welcome retail customers.  At first we weren’t sure we were in the right place, because it certainly didn’t appear as if they did any retail traffic.  However, the ladies who showed us around the shop were so warm and friendly.  They explained the properties of various stones, and what healing properties they were known for.  Their specimens range from giant to small and they had things that fit every budget, even if you were just buying single items.  They sold carved animals, hearts, cabochons and huge specimen pieces too.  I enjoyed wandering the rooms of polished rocks and display items and found several things that came home with me.

Mom found quite a few things too, including one carnelian orb that she bought.  Carnelian is believed to help people move through feelings of depression, worry and grief.  This one did something more.  We placed it on the table several times, on different sides of the round orb, and each time it wobbled back and forth instead of simply rolling to one side like you would expect from a ball.  I have no idea what it means, but it was oddly comforting.  Maybe it was a message from Dad.

After that we went to Bead Holiday, a traditional bead shop.  I’m not into beading like my mom is, but I did get a few pairs of beads that she made into earrings for me.  I have such a sweet mom!

We checked out the historic downtown area and spent some time at Old Town Artisans.  This block of shops and a few restaurants was once the stables section of El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson, the fort constructed beginning in 1775.  It was fun wandering around in the maze of shops, filled with a combination of tourist souvenir items, antiques and items created by local craftspeople.  We shared some nachos for dinner; another delicious meal!

Our early morning flight made for an early evening after we got checked into the hotel.  It was a good first day!