January 2018 Reading List

Now that Mom is gone and radiation is done, I’m back to my books! Oh, books, how I’ve missed thee!

As a treat for myself, –’cause I love to organize my books, ya know– I’m going to try to chronicle my books for 2018. If I do it, then maybe I can piece together my 2017 reading list from my library history.

JANUARY (so far…I guess I’ll just come in and edit each entry as I read more books…)

1) Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande -NON-FICTION – Started this in December but then my loan expired and I had to get on the waitlist for it. Grr. A really straightforward discussion about end-of-life care for the elderly and those with terminal illnesses. I’ve told many people over the years about the documentary “How to Die in Oregon” which centers around assisted suicide. It’s a beautiful and moving film. I remain baffled at how Oregon remains the only US state with legal assisted suicide. Anyway, this book only *briefly* touches on assisted suicide and is all about assisted *living. How can we improve the quality of life for people who are at the end of life? The doctor talks very frankly about death and dying in ways I’ve grown used to during this whole sickness saga. There is no cure-all solution offered. We’re all gonna die eventually so, sometimes rather than following the lead of pharmaceutical and healthcare system to “fight” a disease at all costs (both literal and figurative) for futile cases, families and doctors can learn how to better manage the quality of life with the knowledge that the definition of “quality” is different for each of us. I learned a lot from this, so thanks to whomever here on FB recommended it to me. I can’t remember!

2) Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg (FICTION) – My sister-in-law posted something about this some time ago. I hadn’t heard of it or Flagg, or so I thought. Duh! That’s the woman who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes! AND she was on Match Game. Get outta town. So I checked it out. It was cute, grabbed my attention right away, and I thought it was gonna get a little preachy when it started talking Bible stuff but, not only did it not, it had some twists and turns that were just…what?! I did NOT see that coming. I enjoyed it (and LOVE Fried Green Tomatoes enough that I put Flagg’s book The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion on hold to enjoy in spring or summer maybe.

3) The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (MEMOIR) – I’d never heard of her before she was on SNL. I actually didn’t see the episode but wondered how I hadn’t heard of her given the pretty big platform of SNL. I should get with the program. So when I saw her book while browsing my library app, I snagged it. Oh my god, she is *ridiculous* and I loved it. Jaw dropping, head shaking and guffawing mixed with some “Mmm hmmm!” and “Preach it!” Holy smokes she had it rough growing up, too. So throw in a few “Bless your hearts”. I’m also gonna grab a copy or two to sell at QED. Funny, honest and bold.

4) Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham (NON-FICTION) – Only two chapters in and I’m already, “What the heck are you doing with your life?!” ETA: Sigh. I love him. I found myself getting choked up as the end neared and then full on sobbed after his death, his funeral, etc. What an incredibly brilliant and beautiful man. Ahhh, why did he have to be a slave owner and have children with one of his slaves? Fuck. I spent time afterward, reading up on his views on religion and his book, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” (a book literally ripped from the pages of the Bible. All the good stuff that Jesus taught minus all the myth and magic) and found out it’s currently on display at the Smithsonian until mid-June. I hope to see it before it’s put away again.

5) Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar – a slim little gem recommended by Lauren Hope Krass that I finished in a jiffy. I am going to go through it again, this time doing the little exercises throughout. I generally already know or subscribe to many of his concepts, but it was nice to hear them again. Especially now after my cancer bout has me feeling down and asking the Universe, “What is the point?” I just looked it up to confirm his name and see that it was published in 2007 and there is now a book of his called Even Happier. Maybe I’ll check that out instead of re-reading this one.
6) Stinker Lets Loose! by Mike Sacks – The concept — the novelization of a long lost 70s trucker genre comedy film– is comedy gold and goddamned brilliant. It captures that weird window of time when movies like Smoky and the Bandit and Every Which Way but Loose were big hits. It’s so unpoliticially correct and delightfully ridiculous. I’m jealous I didn’t think of this and am so excited to see all the buzz Mike is getting via the live reads and such. It’s absurd and smart all at once and has so many tiny, perfect, rich details that reading it is like mining for comedy diamonds.
 
FEBRUARY
 
Queued up or on hold at the library:
 
The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
American Lion by Jon Meacham
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
 
#Kambri2018Booklist
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DIY Shower Steamers a/k/a Vapor Discs

Mom and I whipped together these wonderful little shower steamers to give to all my favorite special snowflakes for the holidays. Instructions below the photo gallery.

I love a good bath bomb, but I know lots of folks who don’t like baths and taking one seems more labor intensive. An alternate is to the bomb is this little vapor disc or shower steamer. As the fizzy disc dissolves in your steamy shower, it releases the wonderful aromas of an essential oil blend of your choosing. For the gifts I made, I chose a therapeutic blend for congestion and stuffy noses.

I make my steamers in batches of 12 at a time using the recipe below. To make fewer
I like to make these individually rather than a large batch of just one scent, that way I can use them for whatever use I want or give them away as personalized gifts. This is why the essential oil blends below, are to drop directly onto the dry/cooled shower steamer discs, rather than mix into the mix. I like to use silicon molds and mini muffin pans to make these in all sorts of shapes! Many blogs talk about using muffin liners, but you do not have to use them! If the mixture is not fully dried/hard, it will not come out of the pan or it will crumble out in pieces. All you have to do is allow the mixture to dry for a few more hours, and then turn the pan upside down over a cloth. Knock on the bottom of each of the muffin cups, to help release them from their cup.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup citric acid
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 3-5 Tbsp. filtered water (depends on humidity levels in your home)
  • essential oils (use whatever scents float your boat and blends for your needs.(2 per disc if you’re making a smaller batch or experimenting with blends)
  • I used a blend for congestion and stuffy noses:
    • 1 tsp eucalyptus essential oil
    • 1 tsp drops lavender essential oil (2 per disc)
    • 1 tsp drops peppermint essential oil (2 per disc)
    • 1 tsp drops rosemary essential oil (2 per disc)

DIRECTIONS

    1. In a bowl, combine baking soda, citric acid, and cornstarch mixing until no lumps are present and then add and mix in essential oils*.
    2. Add water to the bowl, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add your tablespoons until the mix sticks together and packs like a snowball. It will seem dry but packing it will be easy and possible. You can add powder if you worry it’s too wet. My mix took 4 tablespoons. Any more and it will make the fizz bubble up and you don’t want that.
    3. Once you have the snowball consistency, pack it down into the mold and compacting it into place.
    4. Leave the molds out until dry. They will come out of the pretty  easily. If they are still wet, they will not come out without coming apart.

* If you’re making a smaller batch or want to have a few different types you can add essential oil drops after they’re dried by directly dropping 2 drops of each oil on top of the steamers. If giving as a gift, store in a nifty jar, such as a mason jar.

TO USE: 

Adjust shower to desired temperature. Open pouch and place tablet on the floor of the shower away from the drain, where a steady stream of water will continually release comforting vapors from the tablet into the air.You can sprinkle a little bit on the steamer to get it started, but it will fizz away too quickly if you put it directly under the water stream. Sit in your steamy shower, breathing in the awesome aromatherapy benefits of the blend you chose to use!

 

QED Progress Report

Progress on QED: A Place to Show & Tell this week.

— I got the kitchen cabinets, granite from the backyard, an interior door and a cabinet island all removed. The huge exhaust fan is being removed, too.
— Stripped the windows of the old signage & cleaned of the sticky residue then covered the windows with craft paper.
— Requested estimates for replacing the big sign above the windows.
— Decided to replace the ugly, stained drop ceiling with these, most likely. Waiting for samples of white, sand & latte to make sure on the color.http://www.proceilingtiles.com/Stratford-Ceiling-Tile-Sand.html
— Got a 3-month liability insurance plan bought & paid for so people can come in and paint, work, help with no worries.
— Established a Con Edison account.
— Rounded up some tree stumps from the cabin to turn into little side tables.
— A million other things like pricing equipment & furniture, emailing possible vendors for food & beer, vacillating on design ideas.

Am woefully behind on emails because of the above & Christian’s Off-Broadway musical. Donations and ideas and help are ALL welcome & appreciated, but I might be late or remiss in getting back to you. ***Regular email is always the best way to reach me so I can more efficiently keep track.***

I’m most in need of help finding cool ideas for classes, teachers, performers, and the physical stuff like tables, chairs, glasses, anything you see at a bar or cafe I probably need. For example, I bought a paper towel dispenser for the bathroom for $5 at a reuse center, snagged bunch of mason jars & old wooden crates, a coffee maker for $5, two old picture frames that I turned into bulletin boards & a window pane that will become something TBD.

LaGuardia & Fruit

Through security and sitting at my gate in 13 minutes which included a pit stop at my driver’s house to see how the winter has delayed the blooming of his lemon, olive and orange trees and gardenias.

He broke his old record of 15 minutes. He also drove me a couple of years back when I mistakenly went to the airport a day earlier than my flight was scheduled. It was rush hour with construction and also included a drive by his house to see his fruit trees.

All along the way he assured me it would work out. That I would get to LGA early and on a flight even though I wasn’t booked to fly that day. He was right. I got to DFW and spent the day holding and feeding lemurs and sloths and and an albino wallaby and, of course, fell in love with Chester the capybara.

Cemeteries & Geocaching

God, I feel gross.

I took Griswold to Fosterdale Cemetery this afternoon. There’s a request from a woman on an ancestry forum trying to find her ancestor’s burial plot there and a Geocache happens to be hidden there, too. So, I thought it’d be a nice little adventure with purpose.
Fosterdale Cemetery founded circa 1873
The cemetery is a tiny little thing off Route 17B not far from Yasgur’s Farm and Bethel Woods where Woodstock took place. There are a lot of veterans buried here, and many flags decorating headstones were knocked over or the sticks broken from the fierce winds we had a few days back. I was sure to keep Griswold on the paths except for when I uprighted or repaired the flags. I wasn’t able to find the headstone for the ancestry researcher after two sweeps. Bummer.

I headed over to where the cache was stashed. The description said it was “far away” from grave sites. But my GPS said I was within a foot from it, and I was fairly close to a very elaborate memorial for a young man killed in a car accident on September 5, 2011. I thought I must have my coordinates wrong, because it felt just a little too close to a grave to hide a cache.

But there it was, buried under some gravel. I opened it, took out a trackable, logged my name and was re-burying it when I noticed a truck driving up. I took a seat on a downed tree and plopped Grizzy on my lap to wait and see where they were going.

To my horror the truck stopped a few feet from me, the driver got out and knelt down in front of the young man’s grave. When he stood, a male passenger got out and the two of them checked on the shrubs and trees that were planted around the marker (and the cache), cleaned the granite benches engraved “Forever 21”, straightened a cross and spotlight and smoothed out gravel.

I wanted to get up and walk away but I was frozen with absolute mortification. I had a baseball cap and big sunglasses on so the men couldn’t really see my face, and I didn’t make a peep.

Here I was having “fun” trekking around for some silly hidden treasure in the same place where they pour out their adoration, devotion and grief by meticulously caring for the dirt that covers this boy they love.

As they drove off, I started sobbing. Tears poured out of me like a waterfall. Niagara Falls on my face.

Before coming, I’d worried about taking Griswold to a cemetery out of respect for the dead. It turns out I was the one I should have worried about. Guh.

I, for one, will never, ever, ever Geocache in a cemetery again. Once home, I logged in to the Geocaching website. The cache was placed in 2010 before this young man died. I logged a note for the owner about what happened and that it was time to move the cache. I hope he does. And I hope Mr. Telesky is resting in peace, and I’m sorry I messed up what should have been a private moment.

Telesky Memorial

Deaf Book Club Skype Call

Rock House LibraryI’m at the Rock House and had a Skype call with a book club in Minnesota comprised of deaf women and mental health professionals working in the Deaf community. The whole thing took place in ASL.

Man, I love technology and so wish this convenience had been around for my parents and grandparents. How wonderful to simply click a button on my laptop and be visually connected with no need for a special service or interpreter.

We had a nice chat about my book, family, the Deaf community, and mental health issues before signing off so I could make a trip to the dump and walk with Griswold around the lake.

While they’re busy reading books to help them in their important (thankless?) careers as therapists and DV counselors, I’m busy reading, too. I read THE BEDWETTER by Sarah Silverman (enjoyed it) and just finished Tina Fey‘s BOSSYPANTS (really enjoyed it). Tonight I’m starting Sara Barron‘s latest book THE HARM IN ASKING then it’s GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR by Rachel Dratch.

I’m highbrow, what can I say?

Sugar is the Devil & I’m Possessed!

Time for an exorcism! Christian and I are five days into a two week detox from the devilish temptation of all things sweet. Happily, it hasn’t been too hard. This is much in part because eight years ago we adopted a pretty much sugar free, non/low-fat, whole grain life following the South Beach Diet. Christian lost 80 pounds and has kept it off for all these years.

I hesitated even mentioning the SBD because it seems like a fad. But really it’s just the normal way all of us should eat and live. The only “fad” part is Phase 1, the toughest part, which lasts two weeks. This PDF, South Beach Diet Food List, lays it out. Really, two weeks of a life is a blip. Buck up, buttercup.

This last year (or two?) he and I have gotten lazy. Him due to injuries and me due to visiting all the hotel bars and restaurants this great nation has to offer while on tour. I blame you, Wisconsin! If I were still exercising regularly, it wouldn’t be too much of an issue but travel + me = sloth. The promise of sleeping with blackout curtains in a strange bed and day drinking in a new city never motivates me to pack running shoes.

The fact that this detox is so much easier this time around tells me we’re not as addicted to bad food. Eight years ago there was a lot of cursing, raised voices and irrational anger. Back then we used to eat pizza and pasta made from white flour, full fat dairy and tons of sugar laden drinks and desserts.

So far, I’ve had zero cravings and one headache. Christian has craved a beer — normal, since his “office” has a bar and free drinks– and he’s had a few brain farts. For example, I asked him to grab a roll of paper towels. He froze. He started toward the hall closet then froze again. He couldn’t remember where we kept them. We keep them in the same place we’ve always kept them in this apartment we’ve lived in for NINE years.

Funny & scary what bad food does to our brains. Which brings me to my point: If you are looking to change your eating habits, I’d recommend following this plan. I’m not paid to say so, but Christian should seriously be their spokesperson. So call us, South Beach Diet marketing team!

Spring has Sprung!

Spring has finally sprung and Griswold is making sure I got the memo. The normally very non-morning boy stood over my face staring at me till I woke up yesterday morning. This is the first and only time in his life he’s ever done this.

When I had my 103-degree fever and slept for almost 72 hours straight, he lay with me, quiet and content the entire time. During a stay at the cabin last Christmas, I had tried and failed to convince him to wake up to go outside for three days in a row, so I made the bed around him and went on with my day till he decided to finally get up.  On the third day, I got his attention with a promise of a treat to which he merely poked his monkey face out from between two pillows (see photo).

The winter has been brutal. With the temperatures finally reaching into the low 60’s, Griswold must smell the trees, garbage and urine wafting through our open windows like a cartoon finger tempting him with pie. After a long week working on Christian’s new comedy special and producing his solo show, a long walk around Central Park is just what the doctor ordered for us both. And it was. Miles of walking with a nice break soaking up the sun at Bethesda Fountain had us both pooped.

This morning? He clawed at my leg, panted and whined, hopped in my lap only to hop back down and back again. He was acting like his skin was crawling, just itching to be outside! Are you kidding? Well, alrighty, let’s go out again. Today we walked all over Astoria Park, found a Geocache and I even ran a few laps around the track while he sat and watched. I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring, but it’s time for a trip to the cabin, I’d say.