I feel like I've lived 5 lifetimes this month. I left San Francisco and arrived in the Twin Cities! Now it's Transition Central all over again. I'm practicing self-care, spending time with good friends, and looking forward to when everything has fallen into place. In the meantime: the fall foliage is feeling highly appropriate.
Read and Reading
I do not often engage in my language geek tendencies but based on how I swooned my way through When In French (Collins), I should do so more often. Collins's book is part memoir and part ode to the intricacies of language. She delves into the history and meaning, the particular dance of learning another language, and how we use words to both build and divide. Many of the stories she shares, whether personal or research, could have been expanded into long-form essays at the very least for how fascinating they are and they will stick with me for some time. It is lyrical and lovely. It also made me want to get over to Europe asap. (Disclosure: I won a copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway but it did not influence my opinion.)
I am a HUGE fan of Tana French's work. I generally can't put her books down once I start so it was a huge surprise that I had to take regular breaks from The Trespasser. I'll explain: Antoinette was one of the prickliest characters I've encountered in some time. I understood why she acted the way she did and would probably be the same way myself in her shoes but as a reader, it was exhausting. French writes complex, gritty characters but this was the first time I found the main character to be unlikable. It may have felt like a departure for French and yet I couldn't stop thinking about Antoinette's character and the choice to depict her this way. She was convincing and she grew on me but yes, regular breaks were necessary. The mystery itself was satisfying, though it lacked the usual punch (such as In The Woods and The Likeness, my favorites by French.) I loved Antoinette and Stephen's working relationship and how their understanding of each other grew over the course of the novel. I especially loved the depiction of workplace harassment/discrimination and Antoinette's specific challenges being the only female on the Murder Squad. I would love to see that topic explored more often in fiction. Overall, I thought this was a great addition to the Murder Squad series and wish it would be such a long wait until the next one.
A few friends on Twitter were recently raving about L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle and my ears immediately perked up. How had I missed out on this LMM novel for grown-ups? Admittedly, I haven't read all of her work but the Anne books played a key role in my childhood so I was eager to check this one out. Within the first page, I was feeling all kinds of spinsterly solidarity with Valancy who was 29 without any marital prospect. She lived a rather bleak life, however, so I was ready for her to get some gumption. And boy did she! I loved seeing her literally come to life and the more empowered she became, the more risks she took, from telling her mother no to actually taking a caretaking job at a time when this was quite scandalous. The character growth was tremendous. I also loved watching her relationship with Barney bloom. It was bittersweet to see her love him and accept that he would never love her. LMM took the story in interesting directions and the ending gave me so many happy feelings.
I tried audiobooks in the past (10ish years ago) and they could never hold my attention. But with my recent move, I decided I should give it another shot. My library hold came in the day before I left Lincoln so I listened to contemporary romance Beneath This Mask (March) the last day of the trip. I was completely spellbound and will surely give audiobooks a chance on future road trips. The narrators did a great job and the story itself was fantastic. The theme of masks was compelling for both Charlie and Simon. They are hiding different things and I was curious to see whether they'd be able to really trust each other with their true selves. March was able to present the issue of PTSD and its treatment in a nuanced and respectful way. I also appreciated the way she depicted Charlie's legal troubles related to her family. More than that, Charlie and Simon were such intriguing characters and they were an explosive force together. Charlie is such a badass and I loved hearing about her tattoos and what they meant to her. I also loved the supporting characters and how Charlie created her own family in NOLA. Great character growth and snappy writing left me feeling sad when the book ended because I wanted it to keep going forever. Luckily, this is a standalone in a series so I'm sure I'll get updates on this couple as I read the rest.
I recently asked a friend if she'd read anything by Sarah MacLean, to which she replied yes. Then she exclaimed in shock, "I thought you didn't like historicals!" It's true: I'm not much for historical fiction but Sarah MacLean has totally converted me with her historical romance. Regarding her Scandal & Scoundrel series, I love how she takes inspiration from present celebrity culture, the writing is smart and crisp, and the plot moves in such unpredictable directions. Plus, her heroines are feisty and her heroes are my kind of dreamy. A Scot In The Dark was pure fun but also unexpectedly moving.
Dirty (Scott) had the perfect amount of wit and angst! From the moment Lydia and Vaughan first encountered each other, I couldn't put it down. Despite their inauspicious beginning, I loved how they got to truly get to know one another and how they were then able to be there for each other through tricky circumstances. I especially loved how Lydia began to form a community and attachment, after never experiencing it before. The female friendships were fantastic! And of course, I loved Lydia and Vaughan's romance, how they took a chance on each other and the ups and downs that followed. I had a goofy grin on my face by the time I was through. Looking forward to the rest of the series!
Currently reading: The Complete Enneagram (Chestnut), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Alexander), She Reads Truth (Williams and Myers), RoseBlood (Howard)
(I read 29 books this month.)
HamilDoc was so great! I say this as someone who has not listened to the cast album from start to finish. Enough friends listen to it around me and I've heard enough podcast discussions of the show to appreciate what Lin-Manuel Miranda has created. The documentary was such interesting look behind-the-scenes.
I hate to say it but I'm getting bored with Once Upon A Time. I may be dropping it from regular rotation. Sometimes you just need the characters to finally have a happily ever after, you know?
This Is Us remains compelling TV. I'm curious to see where these initial storylines are going to go but if I start crying more than I laugh, I'm going to turn my back on it quick.
Listen to the What I'm Into playlist.
I went to a Jenny and Tyler show at Art House North. I saw them play a few times when I lived in Nashville so it was a nice taste of my former home.
My friend Megan Tietz from Sorta Awesome went to Lebanon with World Vision and created a 3 part series about her experience. A Refuge For Refugees is well worth listening to. Megan did an incredible job, whether giving us insights on Lebanese history or introducing us to Syrian children who are refugees in Lebanon.
Start Up is back! I'm loving all the insights into Gimlet Media and found Shadowed Qualities to be an especially brave episode.
Things I Love:
- I dogsat for friends. Buddy is pretty low-key and it worked out well, though their trip was cut short before I could indulge in any Hallmark movies. Alas.
- Micha and I got breakfast sandwiches at Devil's Teeth and then walked down to the ocean. This was one of my favorite things to in SF and it was so weird to think how the next time we did it, I'd be there as a visitor, not a resident.
- I finished up my last few days at work and it didn't feel real. Partially because I'm working remotely for them while they try to find my replacement. But also because I love my coworkers. I've never worked with a better team. I didn't want to think about leaving them.
- Micha and Cara put together a Going Away Party for me. We had trouble figuring out a date that would work best for everyone but in the end, I'm glad it was the night before I left town. We had soup dumplings (drooling right now just thinking about it) and I laughed so much my stomach hurt. I looked around the room at the friends gathered there and felt impossibly lucky. Plus, Micha, A, and B made some amazing signs for the party!
- On my last day in the office, we had donuts and cruffins from Mr. Holmes and my director serenaded me at staff meeting. Then my team took me out for pho at lunch. It was such a good send off.
- Micha and the kids helped me load up my car and then we had to say goodbye, which was not fun at all. I kept telling Chris and Micha that I was just going on vacation and would see them next week. (This vacation is lasting a long time, I guess.) Living with their family was one of the best parts of the past year and a half. I tear up just thinking about it.
- I got to Bronwyn's house a little later than planned but she had dinner ready for me. It was nice getting to know her and her husband a little better and I was so grateful they put me up in their guest room for the night.
- The next day I was in the car for 10 1/2 hours, which gave me the chance to catch up on the following podcasts: Overdue, Smart Podcasts, Trashy Books, The Babysitter's Club Club, Sorta Awesome, The Popcast, Reply All, and probably a couple of others. It was a long drive but the scenery was incredible and when I finally arrived, it was to a houseful of dear friends.
- #CampSomewheres is one of the highlights of my year. I purposefully planned my move around our annual retreat. Whether we were eating lunch at Sundance, hiking to a waterfall, or sitting on the back deck, my heart was full.We laughed, cried, and talked about things big and small and it was perfect. We've walked alongside each other through life's ups and downs and I cannot imagine my life apart from these friendships. To sit with them and recount this past year and what's ahead and hear and see their excitement over my move to Minneapolis meant everything.
- I bought the coziest long cardigan from Sundance. I have worn it quite a bit already!
- From Provo, I drove to Cheyenne and stayed at a hotel for the night. I caught up on Real Housewives, ordered room service, and went to bed early.
- Next I headed to Lincoln, Nebraska to stay with Deidra Riggs. I stayed with Deidra when I moved out to SF so it was a nice full circle to stay with her again. She and Michelle took me out for Indian food and I stuffed myself silly. It was so good to catch up with them!
- I stayed an extra day in Lincoln so I could hang out some more with Deidra. We had a delectable lunch at bread & cup and got some work done at Starbucks. That night she and her husband took me out for pizza at Yia Yia's and there was the perfect amount of toppings on my slice of The Greek. I was impressed. Then we stopped at the independent bookstore Indigo Bridge Books and I wanted to move in. It was so fun to get a better feel for Lincoln and more importantly, to talk about everything under the sun with Deidra.
- The next day I drove to the Twin Cities and just like that, I became a resident of Minnesota. I stayed with Kelly for the first few days and her kitten Hermione greeted me at the door and I decided henceforth, I should always be greeted by kittens.
- A couple of days later, our friend Kristen was in town so we got together for breakfast at Edelweiss Bakery along with Kelly, Allison, and Chris Ann. I had one of the best pains au chocolat of my life. Then we walked a few doors down to Chris Ann's store LoveFeast Shop. It was absolutely darling! I'm so proud of her.
- Kelly took me to an apple orchard so I could get cider donuts and a caramel apple. This is the real reason I moved here. It's been 6 years since I've had cider donuts and that is 6 years too long.
- I'm presently living in my friend Annie's guest room for the next month. It is such a treat to hang out with her and her sweet dog Foxy. There's such comfort in being around a kindred spirit during times of upheaval. Plus, it's nice being able to commiserate with someone in the trenches, as it were. Single lady power!
- I am pleased to report Five Watt has an excellent tea selection, thanks to a networking "coffee" I had there one morning.
- My friend Sarah came to town and it was so nice seeing a familiar SF face! We met up for drinks at Butcher and the Boar. I highly recommend the Hennepin Avenue Manhattan.
- I Skyped with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece and she is absolutely the cutest. She's saying a lot more words now- or at least more versions of words- and it is darling.
- The fall foliage! I am loving all the changing leaves. I missed this so much last year.
- I worked at my friend Allison's house one day and it was so fun to get to know her family, especially her kids who all stole my heart. Her 3 year old told me I was magic so pretty much I will do whatever she says from here on out.
- My friend Emily was in town for work so we grabbed dinner at The Lowbrow, which turned out to be a great place. They even had fried pickles!
- Kelly took me to breakfast at French Meadow Cafe and I am completely enamored with that place. They have Rishi tea, vegan baked goods (for when I'm good about dairy-free), and I've never had such crispy, tasty hashbrowns in a breakfast burrito before. Kelly made my morning by wanting to talk about the Enneagram and the conversation flowed from there. I loved how completely normal it was for us to have breakfast together.
In the Blogosphere:
You can find the best of what I've been reading at Storify.
(If you want to follow me on Instagram, my user name is leighkramer.)
On The Blog:
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What have you been into this month?
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