July in the Bay Area is strange because it doesn't feel like summer. It stays cool (50s and 60s) and foggy for the most part and just about everyone goes away. I've found myself hibernating as if it were winter, as a result. But I did have some literal rays of sunshine thanks to a trip back home and a few glimmers of what might be next for me.
Read and Reading
Murakami has been on my To Read list for ages and I'm happy he lived up to his reputation in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage. This was such a lovely, nuanced look at identity, friendship, and loss. I'm quite drawn to characters who begin to take control of their lives, whether by examining the past, working on self-growth, or literally taking action to move forward. Watching Tsukuru confront past pain and make connections with how it had stunted him was a gift, as was the hopeful if unresolved ending.
What if the Fairy Godmother wasn't the hero but a villain? But let's go one step further. What if the Godmother was just a cog in the machine and the true villain is Story itself? With this premise, Ash & Bramble takes its readers on one hell of a ride. The Godmother has the power to take everyone's memories but our heroine has some unexpected power of her own...she just has to fight Story long enough to remember how to use it before she's typecast as Cinderella forever. I loved seeing how Story itself becomes both a power-hungry character and a plot device, especially as the other characters tried to resist the plots laid out for them and choose their own path forward. The author's creativity was pure delight. (I got an advance copy of book 2 Rose & Thorn- review coming in October.)
Everyone is right: do NOT read Before The Fall (Hawley) on a plane. But once you're between travels, by all means pick this one up. I loved how Hawley built the story, starting with a plane crash and then introducing us to the survivors and the deceased, while interspersing the present day investigation. The role of media in tragedy and what an unruly beast it can be was quite fascinating. My heart rate was elevated whenever I read a scene involving a Fox News-like newscaster, similar to how I react when someone is spreading outright fear and misinformation. I haven't read anything by Hawley before but he's got my attention now.
Rich And Pretty (Alam) is a bittersweet portrayal of two friends who are brought together out of obligation and nostalgia, instead of the closeness and inseparableness that used to mark their friendship. This is what happens when hard things remain unspoken, when we do not allow our loved ones to be who they are becoming.
Blink (my first Malcolm Gladwell!) is an engaging look at how we make decisions, both bad and good. I think it should be required reading for all first responders, especially police. While Gladwell doesn't like the term "intuition," I walked away feeling affirmed as an intuitive person.
If you're looking for a great contemporary romance, I highly recommend the Girls Night Out books by Victoria Dahl. Start with Looking For Trouble.
Currently reading: The Complete Enneagram (Chestnut), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), To Bless The Space Between Us (O'Donohue), Assimilate Or Go Home (Mayfield), Necessary Trouble (Jaffe), The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery (Cron and Stabile)
(I read 35 books this month. Travel + no tv + sickness = lots of reading time)
Good As Hell by Lizzo is EVERYTHING. I've had it on repeat this past week.
I've been loving this Life Is A Romantic Comedy playlist.
Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.
I don't listen to audiobooks but I really enjoyed learning more about that world when Adam Verner appeared on What Should I Read Next?
The Lively Show Episode #152: When You Want All Of The "Answers" Right Now was just what I needed to hear.
Stolen Valor on Reply All was about military imposters, something I didn't realize was as big of a thing- at least not the way some people are handling it.
Invisibilia's The Problem With The Solution is exactly why I love this show. What if we did approach mental health differently in the US?
Things I Love:
- I headed back to my Chicago suburb hometown for our family reunion and the 4th of July for the first time in 4 years. I cannot tell you how giddy I was on the plane!
- I've heard good things about eShakti for a while but I finally bit the bullet and ordered this navy fit-and-flare dress (with pockets!), which I debuted at the parade. It fits like a dream! I went ahead and ordered another dress, which is just as good. I love them for offering custom options and hemming the dress to one's height. If you want to try it out, this link will give you $30 off your first purchase.
- My hometown's 4th of July parade is AMAZING. Of course, I'm biased as a townie but we've always had the Who's Who of Illinois politicians walk in it and even Bob Dole walked it the year he was running for president. But the real reason I love it is the creativity of the floats and the chance to cheer loudly for all of my favorite businesses and organizations and honor the veterans and POWs who come through. I view patriotism differently as an adult but this parade is where it all started.
- I watched the parade with my best friend and her family, which was such a treat and the best way to kick off the week. Afterward, we headed back to their house to grill and chill with their friends.
- I got to see my friend Ellie (the one who wrote Chase Away Cancer, as reviewed here!) We sat in a park with Starbucks while her kids ran around and it was too short as always but it is such a treat to spend time with her. It seems like every other time I come home, life interferes with seeing each other so I do not take it for granted.
- I caught up with Shelly over lunch at Egglectic. Our schedules haven't aligned in ages and we only got to say hi at FFW so I'm glad it worked out for us to have a proper catch up. She's a gem!
- Mom and I went thrifting at her favorite place. She found some great stuff but I walked out with only one shirt. That I've proceeded to wear a few times since I've been back. I love it.
- Erin, Annie, and I had dinner at Graham Elliot Bistro. We sat on their back patio and the weather was just cool enough for this to be perfect. The food was amazing, as was the conversation. Erin and I drove back with the music blasting and it was almost like we were 16 again.
- In sadder news, a day or two before I flew home, my great-uncle died. He's my grandpa's last surviving sibling and was almost 98 years old. I was glad that it worked out for me to go to his funeral and be there for my grandpa and for my uncle's family. He was in the Army during WWII so an honor guard was at the cemetery, which is always moving.
- Next I went to be with my friend Megan and her family for a night. I love spending time with them. I can never believe how big the kids are getting...even when I just saw them a few months before. Plus, Megan and Al are some of the best hosts I know and I always feel spoiled by their care.
- Donna, Jill, and I convened at Front Street for dinner. I will love that place always and forever. It was good to catch up over salsa and burritos.
- At last, my brother, sister-in-law, and sweet baby niece arrived! She wasn't sure what to make of me at first since I wasn't a floating head on a computer screen but I eventually won her over.
- I don't keep social media on my phone other than Instagram so it took a day or two to learn about the horrible killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Once I found out, I was heartened to see people who have otherwise been silent about Black Lives Matter speaking up and speaking out. Then the next day I woke up to the news about the cops who were killed in Dallas. But it's not an either/or situation. These are trying times but I have to believe the more of us who speak out, the sooner systemic racism will be dismantled. I have to trust love will win.
- PORTILLO'S HOT DOG AND FRIES.
- We went out to the farm to set up for the family reunion two nights before, by which I mean I chatted with various relatives while other people put the tent together. Then I went down to the creek with my cousins and talked about anything and everything and it was as magical as it always is. I breathe easier out there, I sometimes think.
- My "twin" Laura and I cozied up at SereneTeaz. I got my usual Irish Morning and then we proceeded to solve the world's problems. Like we do.
- My parents had my other grandpa over for dinner. We made kabobs, which was fun, and sat outside. You never know what the weather will be like in early July but it rained and cooled things off for us.
- The reunion was as lovely as ever! We took over the family farm, a lower turn out than usual but 140ish people is no joke. It was great catching up with a bunch of my second cousins who I haven't seen since the last time I was home for the reunion. And I, of course, loved all the extra time with my cousins and aunts and uncles and Grandpa.
- This is my baby love, taken one year apart. I told my brother I want us to take the same picture every summer, for as long as our parents own the house.
- Back in SF, I enjoyed the sunsets and a break from the humidity, though I missed the fireflies.
- Laura and I managed to actually snag a table inside Andytown Coffee. That's never happened for me before! I was all about their fresh ginger tea that afternoon.
- I got another delivery from Blue Apron and had Julie over for one of the meals. I like cooking and improvising in the kitchen but it's also nice to have someone send you the exact ingredients you need in the right proportion. I haven't been able to entertain much since moving to SF so it felt extra nice to cook for a friend.
- I'd never heard of #24in48 before this year but since I've been laying low this month, I thought I'd see how much I could read in one 48 hour period. I didn't keep strict track of my time so my estimate is around 18 hours. If I hadn't had to work Sunday morning!
- My friend Jessica was in town for work so we met up for breakfast at Brenda's French Soul Food. The food was as incredible as the conversation. I'm so glad we've been able to keep in touch since I moved away.
- Watching Hillary Clinton accept the nomination for president. So many goosebumps and I kept tearing up! What a historic moment. She's not a perfect candidate but her speech for the DNC gave me hope.
- One last sad news: I closed out the month with kidney stones. This was a painful bummer on many levels, not only because I missed out on hosting book club. But in the good news department, I immediately knew what was happening (as opposed to last time, when I thought I had food poisoning for the first three days. Oy.) I also had a number of local friends reach out with offers to help, which is heartening for this single lady.
- I haven't sang Ezra The Cat's praises lately but he has been a very loyal nurse cat and the best snuggler I know.
In the Blogosphere:
You can find the best of what I've been reading at Storify.
This creek (pronounced "crick") is my favorite place at the family farm. Tonight I sat there with two of my favorite cousins, our feet dangling off the footbridge, and we talked about everything under the sun. The same thing we've been doing for decades now. We cracked up over inside jokes one minute and the next, talked about the ups and downs of life. I don't know what I'd do without all of them.
(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)
On The Blog:
On the Leigh Kramer FB page, we rejoiced over the return of Gilmore Girls come November and Sherlock in 2017. Hurray!
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What I'm Into Link Up Guidelines:
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What have you been into this month?
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