Friday, October 11, 2019

Back in the Saddle

Well hello, hello.

There are so many excellent quotes in The Great Gatsby, & Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall is certainly one of them. I think of it every year when there is finally a break in the heat. Living in Louisiana as I do that moment usually doesn't come until October; it finally arrived this past week, & it revived me enough that, well, here I am.

I apologize for my abrupt departure back in August. There was nothing particularly noteworthy happening in my life at that time other than general weariness & a vague sense of discontentment. In the past I have blogged right through weariness & discontentment, & those blogs are often blogs I later regret writing & splashing online for the whole world to read. With that in mind I thought maybe I ought to step away for a bit. I was bracing myself for the chaotic shift from a summer schedule to a school schedule. I also hate heat. I hate heat so much; it impacts my disposition probably more than it should, & by late August I am so over it. It was honestly not until we finally were blessed with some cooler temps this past week that I felt like sitting & writing. 

I am not the sprightly thirty year old who began writing this blog nearly a decade ago. In fact, next week I will turn thirty-nine. I know, I know. I cannot believe it either. Between my advancing age, my increasingly easily distracted brain, & my kids' increasingly busy schedules, I think maybe I'll aim to blog once a month or quarterly. I like the record the blog provides. I am far from ready to walk away from it for good, but I spend a lot of time driving around town right now, & it's hard to sit & type while you're driving; the cops discourage it. 

School is obviously well underway now for the kids. Reagan is handling third grade like a boss, & Henry is enjoying Kindergarten. He is fascinated by numbers right now as he learns to spell out many of them. In fact, he asks nearly everyone he meets how old they are. He likes to draw stick figures representing everyone in our family, & above their heads he writes their current age. Maybe it's a numbers phase; maybe he'll actually love numbers & math, in which case we'll probably have to test his DNA to make sure he's mine.

Here are a few pictures from the beginning of the school year:

 My Papaw turned ninety-three on September 21, & that of course merited a cake.

We visited the endocrinologist in Jackson at the end of September, & Reagan's A1C was a SEVEN (that's good, by the way, if you've long forgotten my explanation of an A1C).

Reagan's holding up seven fingers in that photo above, if you can't tell. We took this while eating lunch right after we received the exciting A1C news. Also, the fingers of her right hand had marker on them; I realize they may look alarming in this photo. Also, I haven't highlighted my hair in quite some time, & I likely won't anytime soon. I realize it's looking darker & darker these days, & I guess I've decided to sit back & wait for the gray to advance & see how I like that. 

Henry continues to grow & grow & eat & eat. We spend a good bit of time together waiting on Reagan to finish various activities, & we of course often document this time with the camera. 

I remain a faithful member of my book club, of course. We read Educated by Tara Westover in the month of August, & our September book was A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman. I don't *highly* recommend either of these books. They are decent reads that make you think, but I was not over the moon for either of them . . . & as you well know by now I shall explain why. 

Educated is a memoir written by a woman who was raised by parents who are, well, kind of insane. My biggest gripe with Educated is that Ms. Westover is not, I don't believe, far enough removed from the traumatic events detailed in her book to be writing about them & sharing her thoughts with the whole world. Her father & one of her brothers, both arguably abusive men, are still alive, & she's published a book that lambasts them. Maybe they deserve the public scorn, I don't know. I just feel like writing & publishing this book was not the best move for her emotionally, & it has obviously caused enormous division in her family (though they were clearly dysfunctional before the publication of the book). 

A Man Called Ove is an interesting read. It's well written, & you will laugh out loud at times. I hesitate to recommend it because it's just incredibly sad. It's described in some places as a "feel-good story," but overall it left me feeling pretty sad. This is the book's blurb from Amazon:

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.
Anyway, it's a fairly quick read, & while I don't recommend you race to read it you might want to add it to your TBR pile (that's to be read).

Now, admittedly my thoughts regarding the above-mentioned books are certainly colored by the fact that I've continued my Outlander journey while also diligently reading my book club books. When I left you in August I told you all I wanted to do was read, & that was true then, & it's still true now. 

For a decade or more I put off reading the Outlander series because I knew it would consume me. I was right. I have read the first two novels, Outlander & Dragonfly in Amber. I've now begun book three, Voyager, & I am, the Lord willing, taking a trip to Scotland next year. 

Yes, yes. See? When I said it would consume me, I meant it would consume me. 

What happened is this: At the end of each school year my alma mater regularly takes a group overseas on an educational trip. Next year's planned trip is to Scotland. One morning as I was perusing Facebook & sipping my coffee I noticed my sister had alerted me to a post advertising three available spots on the Scotland trip. My sister currently shares my Scotland fascination as she's also reading the Outlander series for the first time. In fact, at least once a week now she shares this gif in a text message with me & our mother:

For a few days we joked about the three of us going to Scotland. It didn't seem like something that would actually be a possibility given that my sister & I have four young kids between us. I mentioned it to Trey, & he was like, "You should go." I sat & thought about that for a bit. The idea of leaving Reagan always terrifies me a little. The idea of being an ocean away from her is admittedly an unpleasant thought. 

The thing is, until Reagan is much older & I feel confident she can fully care for herself Trey & I won't be traveling overseas, at least not together. The only way I can leave her is if she's with Trey, & with his encouragement I decided I was going to take this opportunity & go to Scotland. I had decided I would tag along with the school group even if my mom & sister couldn't go, but as it turns out they CAN go & WE ARE ALL VERY EXCITED.

Many years ago my sister had a softball tournament in Michigan. One night when we were bored a group of us drove across the border into Canada. I think we ate dinner there & then headed back to America. That, reader, is the extent of my international travel thus far. This school trip to Scotland just popped up, quite literally, on Facebook one day, & truly traveling with a group as we'll be doing is the only way my sister & mother & I could travel internationally without our husbands & feel safe & confident we'd make it home okay. 

I am in the middle of dealing with getting a passport, but beyond that there aren't many details to which I must attend. I have actually already secured travel-size bottles of my MaryKay face wash & day/night creams. Last summer I crossed a major personal travel hurdle, namely flying with both kids & all of the necessities that must travel with Reagan. Once you've traveled with kids, particularly one with medical needs that necessitate a lot of planning & extra packing, well, traveling alone, even to Scotland, seems rather simple in comparison. I won't be alone, of course, but I will be the only person for whom I am responsible. I am excited about that aspect of the trip in addition to finding Jamie seeing the beautiful country of Scotland. 

The night I sat down at the computer & officially signed up for the trip I hit the submit button & just started crying. I was very tired, for one, but I cried because I was happy & also because I worry about Reagan. She is very mature, & between her & Trey I feel like they can handle things. I am just not a person who up & decides to go to Scotland, or at least I wasn't until a few weeks ago. I guess as you get closer to forty you wake up one day & realize it's now or never. 

I'd have never, ever, ever considered the trip were it not for my immersion in the wonders of Scotland via Outlander, & so there again resonates the theme of my life, my constant mantra: You should probably read more. 

A handful of people have asked me to compare Outlander to other books/series I love. I cannot do that yet. I haven't even read half the books in this series. I am in the middle of it; the hysteria is high. Is it my favorite series ever? I don't know. It's likely to end up at the top of the list. Do I love it as much as I love The Bronze Horseman series? I don't know. How does Jamie compare to Alexander (of Bronze Horseman fame)? I admit, that's an interesting question, & I have some thoughts on the matter I may address at a later time. A friend of mine from college pressed me to read Outlander, & I am so thankful she did. She, having read all the Outlander books, was reading The Bronze Horseman on my recommendation, & as she read Tatiana & Alexander's story she thought to herself that if I love those two I would certainly love Jamie & Claire. And I do. I do. 

Last but certainly not least, since last I blogged the LSU football team, on the arm of their quarterback, Mr. Joe Burrow, has jumped out to a promising start. Their offense is so inspiring that my mother & I up & decided we'd buy tickets to tomorrow's game. We're voting in the morning, & then we're heading down to Baton Rouge. I guess once you've decided to go to Scotland a day-trip to Baton Rouge seems so easy.

Needless to say, I am excited. I vibrate a little thinking about it. We're going to tailgate with some wonderful people my parents have known since my dad went through law school at LSU, & I am hoping to hug the necks of a few of my former students I rarely see these days. I know they'll be in a dignified & sober state & eager to discuss life with their former high school English teacher.

Next week, the Lord willing, I'll turn thirty-nine, & Trey & I will celebrate our tenth anniversary on the seventeenth. I clearly remember writing this on our fifth anniversary. I turned twenty-nine in 2009, & two days later I married Trey. This last decade has definitely been the most consequential of my life thus far. The shift from being a single working gal with one dog to a married mom of two dogs & two busy kids, one of whom has a chronic illness, is quite a shift. I do love that I've chronicled this past decade on this blog. Some of you expressed regret in August when I fled the blog, & I appreciate that. I've no idea why you read, but I am glad you find something worth your time in my words.

My little family's schedule is busy & at times erratic, & that doesn't lend itself to a regular, weekly blog. Admittedly my desire to continue reading the many incredibly long books in the Outlander series also doesn't lend itself to my writing a regular, weekly blog. I don't know what the future will look like in terms of this blog (or in general), but I am not done with it. I can only read so many books & experience so many of life's highs (& lows) before I sit to write about it all. It feels fantastic to be back in the saddle this morning, which of course is a metaphor, one that is on my mind because Jamie & Claire & their Scottish cohorts are constantly riding horses.

For now I'll sign off with this:



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