Consuming the TBR List

In this year of ambition, I’ve been posting far less and working far more. I’m preparing to query a novel that I’ve overhauled, rewritten, and revised eleventy bajillion times. I’ve also been reading.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow took about six weeks of reading between tucking kids into bed and falling asleep while nursing separated ribs. Don’t worry! I did not break my nose with the book falling on me. After that, I consumed every book like candy. I binged and read more words more quickly than usual.

I’m sixteen books in for the year and deep in the last half of the last book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have one more book in my possession that are TBR (to be read), but after that…I need to sell my manuscript so I can go buy more books from my WTR (want to read) list. Meanwhile, to the library! Did you know you can get diversely written, illustrated, and cast books there for FREE for a little while? True story. And then you know just which ones to buy / add to your wish list for other people to buy for you.

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A breakdown of this shelf of recent reads:

  • All but the LOtR trilogy and Trials of Apollo were recent Christmas gifts, which is why they were next on my TBR pile.
  • three were re-reads: Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • one made me feel good about the world and gave me the best night’s sleep: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
  • three I immediately pressed into the hands of others: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (made me feel innocent and hopeful), The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (because everyone has a personal legend), and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (the best demonstration of third person omniscient point of view I’ve read in a long time)
  • one I disliked on a narrative level (read here: the writing style and I are not friends): Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • five dealt with difficult subject matter, some being both delicious and biting but nutritious, like the very best sour gummy vitamin; others being less of all three things (left to right on the shelf but not in order of preference): The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • one was a pure candy read following the big biography: Trials of Apollo: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan
  • one sat on its shelf taunting me while I consumed Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow and digested it while reading Trials of Apollo, because I made a stupid vow to myself not to read it until I finished the biography because, apparently, I am most unkind to myself: Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
  • one (not pictured) was on my TBR pile and I began it but sensed it might be too dark for my mental state at the time, so I set it aside, but the conceit remains fascinating: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Next up is Kindred by Olivia E. Butler!

A note about Book Camp 2018:

Next week we will host Book Camp 2018 at our house with our three boys and my two nieces. It’s my favorite time of year. We missed 2017 due to the move (ugh), but we’re back on track. This year we will study adaptations, using Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton the musical, and Hamilton: The Revolution as our primary examples and baking as our experiments and applications. Over the course of the week, each of us will adapt some poem or story from the public domain into a new format. I am super pumped! [Do people say pumped anymore? These tweens/teens will tell me next week. I’ll report back.]

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Salisbury / Hsieh Book Camp 2016: Craft

Ambition: Don’t Get the Flu

Y’all. I’ve had some sort of respiratory ailment since late November. Complete with separated ribs before Christmas and a cough that won’t quit. It’s not the flu. Not pneumonia. I’ve been to my doctor and stayed in contact electronically with her. We adjust course and keep going.

I haven’t moved as far or as fast on my theme as I have wanted. I just don’t feel great. Or even decent on some days. But today, still with plenty of snot and coughing up stuff – today was a good day. I even roughed out thumbnails on a picture book.

But my main ambition so far this year has been to get healthy. To stay healthy. To not contract the flu or some specific and ugly infection.

I had done pretty well staying off the news until someone a few weeks ago innocently asked me how crazy the flu was. It has become my new obsession. Not in a good way. I refresh the stories. What is the data? What are the tragedies? How do I keep a tragedy at great distance? Can I even if I try?

Meanwhile, I’m pushing my family to their limits on my germ mitigation programme.

Let me back up. I’ve often described myself as not a survivalist. As the character in a horror film who sees the badness coming and sits down to receive it rather than, well, do anything else. Now, for the first time I really feel like a survivalist. I want to survive. It’s a new feeling. And not a terrible one.

But comes the anxiety. Not being a survivalist allowed my anxiety to focus on other things. Now, here we are.

Intellectually, I know that we can do everything we can do and it still may not be enough. Emotionally, I know that if I don’t try, nothing will ever be enough.

So here’s how I’m managing my flu anxieties:

  1. I read about the 1918 so-called Spanish flu. Why? Perspective. For those suffering this year, there is no comfort. For those waiting, watching, hoping – it can be a useful thing to differentiate between that calamity one hundred years ago and the severity of today’s flu.
  2. I read things written by doctors or researchers. I tend to find these articles and papers more balanced and practical. [Note: You are currently reading something NOT written by a doctor or researcher.]
  3. We maintain our ordinary supplements regimen. Since 2012, everyone in our household has taken a vitamin and probiotic daily. This year, we added vitamin D3 daily. It’s a bit like a superstition. One I’m okay with.
  4. We try to wash bedding, backpacks, and coats/jackets once a week. I say try because life doesn’t always cooperate.
  5. Our afterschool routine has adjusted with time.
    • All school year, the kids are to wash hands and use nasal saline spray as soon as they come in from school every day.
    • A few weeks ago, the kids started showering immediately after school/sports – before homework, before snack. School clothes straight in the dirties.
    • Last week, the kids started dropping all their gear and their shoes at the door before showering. I Lysol their shoes (tops and bottoms), book bags, and horn case. I use a Clorox wipe on personal items: phones, glasses, ear buds, keys.
  6. One chore in our house is to wipe down knobs/handles/remotes/switches. Each boy does it once a week. It is what it seems. They use Clorox wipes and clean each commonly touched fixture as well as remotes and controllers.
  7. We drink water. The kids are expected to drink a bottle of water while at school, one glass before school, and at least one glass after school. We treat dehydration as our enemy in league with the germs.
  8. Broth. So much broth. All the broth. I make it in rolling batches: beef, chicken, lamb, pork. Frozen in pint jars, broth becomes an easy addition almost every day. I cook rice in it, make soup with it, add it to sauces, cook green beans or blend potatoes with it. Sometimes, just heat and sip. Honestly, I started with broth because my three preteen boys are forever hungry, and broth was a good way to boost some nutrition. In cold and flu season, broth has the added benefits of letting you breathe in steam and maybe (in reality or my placebo-affected imagination) helps reduce inflammation.
  9. We also got flu shots in October. We teach and preach hand washing and keeping hands to selves / off faces, inner elbow coughs, and elbow bumps to replace high fives.
  10. We pray. For our health. For everybody else’s. For the research being done to advance flu prevention and its tangle of devastating consequences. For those who grieve. Those who strive. And the grace to believe we’ve done our best and so are most people.

If there was a to-do list to prevent the flu, guaranteed, I’d do it. In the past, that would have included withdrawing from life in the name of protectionism. Now, it’s more of an approach-with-caution situation. Meanwhile, eager to aspire to something more than survival.

Best wishes to you and yours!