Reading Challenge

For reasons I cannot disclose because my Geek Card has been threatened, I’m reading. A lot.
In fact, before April, I’m to read 160 young adult books, all published within only this year.
If you divide 160 by the alarmingly small number of months between today and then, that’s a whole lotta readin’. Weekly average: like what, 4 or 5? I’m no mathematician; that’s why I’ve been self-actualized enough to jump ship on numbers and swim toward words, which aren’t mean to me. Numbers are evil.
And 160 seems like a real villain.
Challenge accepted; books are stacked in two piles, one being “To Read” and the oh-so-much-smaller-one dubbed “Read!” And yes, the exclamation point is imperative.
Because oh my, I’m earning it, people. Earning that exclamation point.
I love reading, don’t get me wrong, but the innocent duress I feel when I’m turning pages is suffocating. There’s always that bigger pile, looming, daring me to take one from the stack.
I didn’t realize how much YA novels have in common, either, until I saddled myself with a load of them.
I LIKE YA, don’t get me wrong. I really do. But suddenly new releases in the Adult category that I never would have given the time of day are appealing to me. Only because they can’t have me; that’s why they chant. And I don’t want them, not really.
Ours is a freaky relationship.
Anyway, now that you know the whip goading me on, I’ll be sharing in book chat form, so that you, too, might read one or two of these and share your opinion with me.
I need the chat, the back and forth, the sharing. Because I’m knee deep in this rabbit hole and it feels lonely. And the sides are caving in. And I have no food…aw, who am I kidding?
Me? Without food??
Bah. Never gonna happen.

Zentner’s “Days”

I’ve been writing a lot lately, therefore I’ve also been reading a lot lately. My characters sit in my head and chat until I absolutely must write down what they are saying or face a York Peppermint Patty binge, a shield from their words that, while delicious, does not actually fend off the need to write.
Therefore, I write. Until I can’t.
Then I read.
Reading comes in waves, one I’ve crested and I’ll ride until I can’t.
One or twice a year, I tend to eschew reading for Netflix binging, but only on occasion, and books always bring me home.
A librarian at a meeting last week told me to read “Goodbye Days,” by Jeff Zentner, because…well, just because. She was effusive in her praise, all the “because” I really needed.
She shared the basic premise: 3 boys are killed in an auto accident, seemingly because a 4th boy, their best friend, texted the driver at an inopportune time.
So what did I do? Hello, Target Book Section.
And after putting the milk in the fridge and assuring myself my Bubs was content with his video games, I opened the novel, releasing its New Book Smell to dive right in.
This story is timely, gut-wrenching, and beautifully told. I couldn’t put it down except, oh, when I had to. Two words: Nana Betsy. Oh, who wouldn’t want a Nana Betsy in the their life? After I realized her part of the story was finished, and that she was in fact moving to another state…well, I took a moment to fully ingest her wonder. Such a great character.
But persist I did, and many times, I read, re-read. I even wrote a few quotes to share with my book club next month. Such beautiful imagery and heart breaking truths.
The main voice is a boy — boys can be crude, and weird, and fascinating. Then weird again. And everything they did or said, in their weird-boy-ways, rang true. I could see it all.
I finished the book. I’m asking you to start it. And then come back here, so we can chat.
P.S. The voices in my head have added Nana Betsy to the mix. But borrowing characters form other books is a no-no, so…I’ll just enjoy their conversations.

Lost Peanut Butter Equals No Joy

In my zeal for joy, thanks to the Tidying Up book by Marie Kondo, I moved the peanut butter.
Well, why on earth would one move a staple good like peanut butter?
Because the location in which it lived was joy-less. Poor placement. Too low to reach, thus no convenience. Plus, I believe mice live in that cabinet, which leads to a different joy-less story.
With vim and vigor, I moved my beloved jug o’ Jiffy to a more practical spot, a higher locale, an ingenious place: the pantry. I know! Who knew that’s what pantries were for? I thought the picture of food etched into the frosted glass of the pantry door was a “suggested usage” kind of graphic, not a “We’ve already thought this through; food in this pantry equals joy.”
So thoughtful of them. It only took five years to follow through on their idea.
Anyway, I overhauled the kitchen a couple of weeks ago. I was the Tasmanian Devil of Clean: I gave pans to Goodwill, I retired old dish towels, I discovered far too many gadgets in the “What do you think this is?” drawer and decided there was no joy in not knowing, so out they went, all the tchotchke of indeterminate origin or purpose. Out!
Once I was finished, the room felt lighter, less weighted. It seemed roomier, certainly tidier and less cluttered.
I breathed in clean air — because I had to clean. I was in there, in the kitchen; might as well clean it, too.
I’ve said it a hundred times: “The kitchen is where I keep my purse and keys.”
Verification of that mantra arrived last night, when at close-enough-to-midnight I thought, “A tiny smackerel of Peanut Butter would cure the rumbly in my tumbly.”
I set sail from the bedroom to the kitchen, flew right past my purse and keys, and opened the Peanut Butter Cabinet, only to discover and thus remember that, oh, yeah, the PB doesn’t live there anymore.
It took literally moments for me to connect the dots and find the jar in the Now It’s Food Pantry.
So I felt stupid. And the kitchen seemed even more foreign. And I felt no joy.
I’m at a crossroads: move the peanut butter? or use the kitchen and actually cook, learn about the stove, dice something?
Yeah. I didn’t think it was a huge decision either.
Guess where the peanut butter resides today?
Joy is back.

Ah, May Day: the First of Mowing Season

So for a second year in a row, I decided against hiring a flock of goats to bring the house’s frontal expanse into order.
(Mostly because there’s no fence to hold them in; how do I know they wouldn’t literally find a greener pasture across the street, thus abandoning me for the friendly cow family luring the stupid Caprine family over for fresher grub? Then all the rental money would be gone…my grass would still be thigh-high, and suddenly my willy-nilly, ineffective lawn-eating team would end a year later with a new breed of cow-goat baby. Things just get out of hand when I try to incorporate livestock in my prairie world.)
It would have been so much simpler, yet my ineptitude with the ranching ability leaves me breathless. As it would a flock of goats. Thus, I’m considering myself a humanitarian by not involving fauna in my lawn fight.
Because it IS a fight. The grass grows, the mower blows — in the euphemistic way, I’m sad to proclaim — and still I must either cut the stuff…or move…and I hate packing.
OF COURSE the John Deere is ineffective. Because EVERY SPRING it has turned up its wheels and snubbed its hoodless, non-headlight-lit, battered face — really, it’s an ugly beast, even for a ten-year-old, lived-through-a-tornado mower — and pretended to be dead. The annual death ritual of this machine is more reliable than that rodent Phil “predicting” spring.
(Sorry, that sounded a bit cynical. It’s been a hard day.)
After futile attempts at resuscitation, including the infusion of three heavy gallons of gasoline, I had to concede that the Greene had “bit it” and borrow a mower yet again — fourth year in a row? fifth? — from my favorite dad-in-law, who is ever at  my rescue.
Thank God for generosity and kindness and knowing that girls can do anything, as long as you show them — yearly — how to reverse the trajectory in order to avoid ditches and hills that make me queasy and still not kill the mower.
Those are the essentials.
Fortunately, I had all three of those things.
And for two days, with Sam’s ears a-floppin’ and his claws a-diggin’ trenches into my legs for purchase, we mowed the afternoon hours away. Sure, we swore, we got a tiny bit stuck — no one saw; there were no witnesses — and we bogged down a few times, because the prairie endured torrential April rains that brought May weeds, the kind that grow in protective clumps that require scything and baling, but the lawn tractor would have to do — who needed a dumb ol’ goat? — because Sam looked so cute.
That’s right, I blame my aged, tiny, sweetest-ever dog for the continual backing up, moving forward, backing up, moving forward action required to bring the grass down, severing the stems to a minimal height amongst mounds of shorn trimmings.
How can one scythe, though necessity begs for it, when one has a pooch upon her lap?
She can’t.
Thus, we mowed. Sam’s ears flapped, I swore only a little, and we enjoyed the full throttle action that only Dad’s mower has, as the dead John Deere has no horse, no power, and no speed even if it’s upright and breathing. I really should bury the thing, but man, that sounds like so much work.
As an extra “Atta-Girl” Bonus today, I also gardened. I planted the remains of several unknown vegetable species that once stood proudly within my baby greenhouse, but now look severed somehow, as nine baby chicks found their wings, flew to heights I did not know they could reach, and ate every green leaf of every plant they flapped into.
And then the snake came, for the second time this year.
To sum up:
Lawn: 1, Sam and I, zero; except in the cuteness factor, because in the ability to look adorable, we totally dominated over the lawn. (In fact, the yard looks like a verdant 3-acre expanse of Super Cuts flooring; hundreds of clumps of rolling bits of clippings moving with the winds; unsightly, true, but no longer attached to the parent plant, which is all that matters right this moment.)
Chickens: 9. The odds weren’t ever in my favor. (Geek literary reference there, sorry.) Yeah, they won, but someday I might have leafy greens again, given enough Miracle Gro, and by golly, as soon as I recognize something, I’m pulling out the Labeler and going to town with defining nomenclature: Tomatoes, Brussel Sprouts; Bell Pepper (though frankly, they kind of all look alike at the beginning to me; might have to wait for actual food before I label anything properly)
Snakes: 2. BUT. I did NOT lose to the snakes. It so serendipitous-ly, serpentine-ly, happened that at the exact moment I was through with my current task, a snake slithered by on his way to den for the evening. Twice. And both times, after the initial appearance, it so happened that within fractions of a second later, I needed to make for the inside of the house as though I were on fire and only the interior side of the front door could save me.  All serendipity; the fates at work. Planets aligning, and all that crap.
Goats: However many it would take to shear. But I did consider that if I had the goats do the initial job, I could get a miniature donkey for summer maintenance. (They’re so cute!) But it was a brief, rambling thought that didn’t last long once I remembered I have a Killer Scout the Moose Dog that takes down any living thing deemed valuable to me. (Sad but alas, ’tis true.)
Heroes: 1. Total Dad Hero today. Plus I housed the mighty machine within the bowels of the garage because of even more impending rain. AND filled it with gas. Go, me. Good daughter.
Back Fat: 1…hundred pounds…of new rolls I didn’t remember from last season’s lawn season. Brownies were tasty this winter; now the tractor will have to wiggle them off. It’s a movable Tan ‘N Tone, isn’t it, this riding mower?

So maybe I didn’t score well, but the lawn is cut, the neighbors might concede that it looks better and thus not be ashamed to share a fence any longer, and hey, I still have my cute pup.
I win.