Monthly Archives: May 2017

Reading Materials: May 2017

23. All the Missing Girls, Megan Miranda. (Library) This has been hanging out on my to-read list, and I finally got it from the library. I enjoyed the story a great deal, however (you knew there was a however, right?)…. The book uses a distracting format – the story is told over two weeks, but instead of going from Day 1 to Day 15, we go from Day 15 to Day 1. This is an interesting device, but ultimately I’m not sure it adds enough to be worthwhile. I enjoyed the story, though, and would like to re-read it in the right order to see how it holds up.

24. Life After Life, Kate Atkinson. (Library) WHAT a good book. It dealt with terribly depressing subjects, yet rarely felt gloomy or maudlin. The main character, Ursula Todd, dies and is reborn many times over the course of the book. The author manages to re-tell the same story, over and over, and make it feel fresh with each telling.

25. The Bad Seed, William March. (Library, Book Club Selection) I was looking forward to reading this book as a history lesson – this novel was written in 1954 – but I found myself just as captivated as I would be with a modern thriller. There were definitely moments where it showed its age, but those were brief. I am very glad I got a chance to read this.

26. The Quick, Lauren Owen. (Library) Solidly enjoyable, if a bit slow at first. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I didn’t hate it, either. It felt a bit loose, or out of focus. It was hard to know who the protagonist of the novel was supposed to be. Spoiler alert: it’s a vampire book, but a subtle one.

27. Margaret the First, Danielle Dutton. (Library) I’m going to be honest here: I don’t remember putting this book on hold, so when I got an e-mail notifying me it was ready to be picked up, I thought What the heck, let’s give it a try. This was foolish. I’d never heard of Margaret Cavendish before this, and quite frankly, learned little of interest about her life. It is as though Margaret herself – known for her eccentricities and social awkwardness – wrote this as an autobiography. It is rambling and, at times, incoherent. I think the audience for this novel is devotees of Margaret Cavendish, people who already see her as an important and unique figure in history, who already know her story. As someone just trying to get a feel for her, or learn about her, this book was a flop.

2017 Totals
Fiction: 23
Non-Fiction: 4

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Momcat.

When I was a kid, my mom’s favorite coffee mug featured a cat with a kitten in its pouch.

In retrospect, it was kind of weird.

But it was her mug, she used it all the time, and I remember how upset we all were the day it broke. My mom might have briefly considered shedding a single tear – which is as close to crying as my mom gets.

I thought it was a one-off, irreplaceable. But fast-forward 30 or so years, and thanks to the magic of the internet, I learned that the cat with the pouch was a Thing.

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And thanks to the magic of eBay, I learned I could replace my mom’s favorite mug. Shazam!

I ordered it right before Easter, and on that Saturday a mug-sized package arrived at my doorstep.

I opened the box, sat down on my steps, and cried. The package did not contain my Momcat mug. It was instead from hospice, and it contained medications we need to have on hand to keep my mom comfortable.

Some time between her MRI on December 20 and her MRI on April 3, mom’s glioblastoma returned with a vengeance, in multiple locations throughout her brain. She was offered chemotherapy as a palliative care measure, but the risks outweighed the benefits. We decided to begin hospice services.

So that’s what I’ve been up to for the last month and a half. And what I’ll be up to for the next few months. I joke that my life has been canceled until further notice, but the truth is that my life has constricted, focused around one goal – to give my mother as many good days as possible as her life comes to a close.

It is hard.

It is a privilege.

We’ve stocked up on Chocolate Trinity Ice Cream from Publix (her favorite), a friend let me borrow all five seasons of Designing Women, and Jason is watching the NBA playoffs with her. Her neighbors from Jacksonville brought over her bird feeder, which she monitors closely. She does not report any pain.

The mug did arrive eventually, and she adores it.

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The Sweet Smell of…..Rejection

Several weeks ago, a friend forwarded me a story contest announcement from Midtown Reader, our completely delightful local bookstore. The limit was 600 words, a short short story.

Many would enter; six would be chosen.

I entered. I was not chosen.

I’m not surprised, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting a little. I used to write for a living, and I wasn’t terrible at it.

Anyway. Here’s the story I wrote.

“My glass is empty,” Violet whispered, peering at the underside of her champagne flute, “again.”

I grinned at her as the sweat finally coalesced on my spine and began to travel in rivulets towards my waist. It was 10:00 in the morning but already sweltering, in the way that only New Orleans swelters. Violet and I were seated outdoors, taking full advantage of bottomless mimosas and double breakfast meats, planning the second day of our first adult vacation.

The waiter appeared with refills. I squinted up at him. “If you were us, would you go on a paddlewheel boat ride or to the Zoo?”

“Oh, definitely the Zoo. It’s just up the streetcar line from here.”

“Zoo it is!” Violet raised her glass. “Can we get drinks to go?”

“Of course you can, chere.”

“Cheers to you, sir!”

* * *

Thirty minutes later, we wandered through the Zoo entrance after downing our alarmingly large traveling drinks. I was sweating in earnest now.

“What was that?” Violet tilted her head. “Did you hear that?”

I listened, but didn’t hear anything un…. There.

“What the heck was that?” I asked, looking around. It was a guttural, primal sound, and it pierced the din of the zoo crowd like a spear. By the looks on the faces around me, other people heard it too. There it is again. It sounded almost, but not quite, like…

MOMMY IS THAT A LION?” A towheaded child whispered. “DID THE LION GET OUT OF ITS CAGE?”

Violet turned to me, her eyes and mouth perfect Os of surprise and delight, as the low bellowing roar once again snaked its way to our ears. “Do you think the lion got out? Is it menacing people right now? We have to find out! Let’s go!”

Violet and the kid managed to set off a whispering campaign that rippled through the sultry air. By the time the rumors had traveled 50 feet, there was definitely a lion loose in the zoo, it was hungry, and every sweaty tourist was on their way to find it.

Violet spotted something.

“Is that a bar? IN A ZOO?” She began giggling. “A bar and a lion? This is the best day of my life.”

Re-supplied with beer, we trailed the crowd in the direction of the noises, which seemed to be getting stronger and closer together, like contractions. I paused at a misting station, holding my beer out of the spray.

“What are you doing?” Violet asked.

“I figure if I cover myself in water, then I’m just wet, not sweaty. Right?”

“Yes? But come on! I think the lion is mad!”

“Should we maybe consider moving away from the noise that sounds like a threatened lion?”

“Uh…. Nope. Cheers!” We clinked plastic cups and strolled on.

We rounded a bend and saw the enclosure from which the strange sounds were emanating.

It was not the lion enclosure.

A mother, obviously upset, was hustling her small daughter away from the fence. She reached back to grab her husband, who was transfixed by whatever was going on in the pen. Several other parents were trying in vain to cover their children’s eyes.

I reached the fence and froze. It took me a moment to process what I was seeing, during which time the 600-pound Galapagos tortoise, with a final bellow, completed his sexual conquest of the female beneath him.

The ensuing silence was broken when Violet snorted, beer sloshing to the rim of her cup as she raised it high.

“CHEERS TO YOU, SIR!”

 

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Won’t you be my neighbor?

A house up the street from me just went on the market a couple of weeks ago, and I am desperate for someone to buy it and make it amazing on the cheap.

This is a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with 1,542 square feet of living space, plus a big garage. It’s on a big corner lot.

Got it? Got it. Now, I have notes.

(All photos from Realtor.com)

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I love brick houses. But this brick? Is not my favorite. I’d paint it cream or light gray, or maybe lime wash it to make the color more even.

Step a little closer.

e40361c627649cb18d4a8c95861e5c0el-m3xd-w1020_h770_q80The window on the left has one shutter, and the window by the door has zero. The remaining shutters look good, so I’d probably just get three new brown shutters.

If the new shutter runs into that exterior light next to the front door, I’d move it to hang from the porch ceiling. If it doesn’t, I’d replace that light with something more awesome, and put a second one on the other side of the door.

I am not offended by the scrolly iron column (“scrolly” is a highly technical term), but if you didn’t like it you could encase it in wood stained to match the shutters. I’d also paint  the front door and re-think the landscaping in front of the porch.

Exterior

Let’s step inside.

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This room is fine, but suffers from too much large furniture and too little imagination. Smaller-scale furniture, a rug, bigger art, and new curtains would make a world of difference. On the plus side, the floor looks fine and some enterprising soul already installed crown molding.

Plus, look at these neat columns that break up the space between the living room and dining area:

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I wish someone had carried the wood flooring through to the back of the house, but if that’s not in your budget, you can live with relatively inoffensive tile and start saving your dollars to replace it later.

On to the dining area!

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Why is there a ceiling fan in this space? I’d replace it with a pendant or chandelier. I’d also replace the sliding doors with French doors (although that’s pricey). I feel that the table is too big for the space and blocks the flow of traffic to the back door. This is only a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house, and I can’t imagine the buyer needing seating for six on a regular basis.

A round table with optional leaf would be more appropriate:

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Pivot to the kitchen:

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It’s not a terrible starting point. Honest.

Next to the fridge, under the window, I’d try to find a way to add more storage in the form of a built-in buffet:

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Now, to the kitchen proper.

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Right off the bat, I notice that the upper and lower cabinet doors don’t match, the range is in a weird place (not emotionally, just physically), and the light fixture kind of blows. It’s hard to tell the condition of the countertops, but let’s assume they’re fine.

I’d replace that light fixture and add more lower cabinets on the right-hand wall, moving the range over so its door doesn’t fight with the dishwasher’s. I’d pull the upper cabinets off the range wall and hang chunky shelves on either side of the range, kind of like this:

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Finally, I’d paint the lower cabinets a dark color and the upper cabinets white. If the hardware on the upper cabinets is bad, I’d replace it.

If your kitchen budget is bigger, you can replace the counter tops and backsplash while you’re at it.

Then there’s this awkward space (the baker’s rack is next to the stove, for reference):

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This might be a good place to install a pegboard wall for shallow storage.

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The bedrooms all appear to be good-sized, and they all have hardwood floors. The two bathrooms are dated but appear clean and functional.

Off the master bedroom, there’s this office space, which could be a great retreat or work space.

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Paint, carpet, and better lighting would transform this room.

I have questions about the back patio.

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Such as, who put an air conditioning compressor right there? SURELY that can be moved. Otherwise, the patio is fine. Some seating, maybe a fan, and you’re golden.

And that’s it. Barring any major structural defects, it’s a perfect home for a couple or small family to make their own. Plus, the neighbors are tremendous, the schools are good, and the location is convenient.

(Note: I am not affiliated with, nor have I been compensated by, any realtor. This is what I do for fun. Sad, but true.)

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May Day

Then:

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Now:

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There is more – much more – to say, but I wanted to mark the occasion on a happy note.

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