My Audiobook Club- June/July

It’s been a busy couple of months for me, as I am selling my house down in Connecticut that I have been living in since 1995. So the last 7 or 8 weeks I have been submersed in packing and unpacking, repacking and organizing. Although I have continued to listen to my audiobooks while doing all of this. Again I find audiobooks to be such a refreshing change from watching television and since there is no vision to concern myself with- I am free to move about and focus my eyes on other things while my ears are able to continue listening contently.

There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.

A couple of months ago, I became aware that my 87 year old father had recommended that one of my niece’s read Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I had this book in my audio library to read and was curious as to why my father would so strongly recommend this book. Narrated by Cassandra Campbell for 12 hours and 12 minutes, Delia Owens transports you to another world, the worlds collide of Chase Andrews of Barkley Cove, North Carolina and young Kya Clark, who lives in the marshlands and dubbed the “Marsh Girl” by locals.

She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.

I really enjoyed this book. I was sucked into Kya’s world instantly. This is the first novel for Delia Owens. It’s easy to see the influence that her career as a zoologist has on her writing. The descriptions of the natural surrounding of the marsh in landscape and animal immerses the listener even deeper into Kya’s world.

Female fireflies draw in strange males with dishonest signals and eat them; mantis females devour their own mates. Female insects, Kya thought, know how to deal with their lovers.

I kept thinking about my Dad reading the book while I was listening. It’s not the type of book I would have thought my father would be drawn to. Most of the book I knew he liked, at least while I was growing up, were either historical or spy thrillers. I asked my Dad after finishing the book why he read the book and recommended it. He said that some people at the office (back when they were all allowed to be at the office together) had recommended the book to him and he was very touched by the story.

I always have a tough time coming off a book that has a good a story as Where The Crawdads Sing. I decided to switch genres and listened another book my father recommended. The Splendid and The Vile by Erik Larsen is an interesting portrait of Winston Churchill, his family and London during the Blitz.

If we can’t be safe, let us at least be comfortable.

Larsen’s book sounds more like a novel when listening to it than a history book. I was transported to that time in history and felt through Larsen’s descriptions that I was right there with Churchill, his family, close friends, advisors and political advisors and rivals. All quotes and accounts have been previously documented in journals, original archival documents, and declassified intelligence reports – some released only recently.

Never was there such a contrast of natural splendor and human vileness.

I enjoyed this book and learned so much for Churchill, his family and that brief but important moment in history.

The book I am currently listening to was a recommendation from my niece. She had told her mother (my sister) about it who told me. She said that if you enjoyed Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, you should definitely check out The Guest List by Lucy Foley. I’ve only started the 9 hour and 54 minute story but so far I am intrigued. This is the 20th book I have listened to so far this year – already surpassing the 16 that I listened to last year.

Reward: Skewered Lettuce

We’ve had quite a productive week in the hen house, despite the rocky start. Up until this week we had been having 3 eggs per day for the last week or so. Then we had a four egger, but one was dropped from the roost and cracked on the poop board. The other was jelly. This was a surprise to discover but I had read about eggs that have no shell and feel somewhat like Jello.

I knew that Lucy was the last to start laying eggs because I had put a trail camera in the hen house n the nests so that I confirm what I suspected. What I saw was Gertrude, Ethel and Khaleesi all laying their eggs in the nest between the hours of 7am and 11am. Lucy on the other hand, kept walking around, looking in the nests, getting in the nests, getting on top of the nests, getting off the nests, walking around and then finally settling on the roost and dropping another one from there.

I reached out to others on a Beginner’s Backyard Chickens group on Facebook to see if anyone else had a chicken dropping eggs from the roost, but never for any answers, just a few thumbs up for the photos I guess. Luckily our little Lucy figured things out and for the last three days we have been getting four eggs in the nests everyday.

As a reward for having a four-egg day and since it arrived in the mail from Amazon, I skewered a head of iceberg lettuce and hung it up in the chicken coop for the girls. They LOVED it! I watched the four of them peck at the hanging lettuce. At first when they pecked at it, it swang and swayed causing a couple of them having to duck.

When I returned, there was nothing left was the core. I was astonished that they were able to eat as much as they did cleaning the core like I have never seen. There wasn’t a scrap around to be found.

Lucy’s pinkish egg on the front left and Gertrude’s Jumbo sized eggs on the front right

Gertrude’s eggs have gotten quite large in the last few days. JUMBO size, for sure. There is a big difference between the eggs from the hens that have been laying for a while versus Lucy’s eggs which are much smaller. I thank the girls for the beautiful eggs every day. I am so happy that we have the chickens. We have been enjoying the eggs all sorts of ways – fried, scrambled and I’ll have poached soon, that is once I learn how to do a decent Hollandaise sauce.

Meditation

For the last five years or so, we have been trying to get in the habit of mediating. We’d be on a roll for a while and then something would interrupt our flow and we wouldn’t mediate, then we’d try again but never been able to make it stick.

This year has been different, in more ways than one. We’ve been meditating on a fairly regular basis this year. The quarantine kicked it into high gear, and we are on a regular roll. I found mediating particularly helpful in early March when the shit was hitting the fan for our family in more ways than the lockdown and COVID19. Our family was dealing with some personal stuff which highlighted to me how life continued despite the quarantine. I found that there were more moments where I started to feel panicky, the anxiety levels were entering uncharted territory. Mark and I weren’t able to be together for three weeks (one week away, two weeks in quarantine) – away from me and the kids. He’d been out in the Petri dish, we had to be cautious.

It was during this time that I clung to my meditation sessions although I had altered when I did them. Mark and I always start our day out with mediation but during that time we were separated I needed to mediate at night when I was alone in our bed. I never have trouble sleeping – it drives Mark insane since I can fall asleep in the midsentence while talking to him in bed at night. He needs to read and unwind. My head hits the pillow and I’m out cold. By 8pm. I wake anytime between 4am and 5am usually though.

But in mid-March when everything was so uncertain, I needed help falling asleep as my mind would race with all sorts of thoughts. I turned to my mediation app which I knew had nighttime, help you fall asleep mediations. I need guidance to help settle my mind.

The app we use, Insight Timer has all sorts of meditations that you can easily filter the length of time, whether you want background music or not, whether you prefer a male or a female voice, the benefits you seek, etc…They also offer courses and after over a year of using the app, we have decided to give a try. Later this morning we will do Day 8 of our 10-day course, each day has been building upon the next; teaching us how to body scan and different visualization techniques. It also keeps track of how much we’ve mediated and rewards us with milestones that help encourage you on your progress. Since using the app, I’ve meditated for a total of 2.5k minutes and reached 7 milestones. One of which is 128 days with at least one session and another being that I have meditated 23 consecutive days. I believe that is a record for me. As I said doing it everyday in the beginning was the challenge as we worked towards working it into our routine.

Since Mark has been out of quarantine, we have gone back to our usual morning sessions. My daughter would join us in the mornings when she was here – sometimes coming downstairs to sit with us in the family room while we meditated, other times simply joining in from her bedroom upstairs as she would sometimes wake up to our sessions. I’d love to get my son more involved as I know it would be a good habit for him to get into. He was usually sound asleep when we meditated. We have found our sweet spot to be around 7am before 8am when the phone starts to ring and we start off our work day. We work from home, so we have control over the schedule but have found it best to get things started earlier than latter here in the homestead.

Life is always about having to deal with unknowns, they just aren’t usually on the intensity level that they have been recently. Life will always throw you curve balls and you just try to deal with them a pitch at a time. The mediation sessions have helped me deal with each pitch, by helping me to take a step back, take a deep breath and calm my mind and my body which has allowed me to take on the challenges of life a little more effectively.

Looking for the Silver Lining

What is the one thing in life that you are most excited about right now? Why?

That is Fandango’s Provocative Question for the day. Interesting that I read this right question right now since I’ve been a little sad today so it’s a good time to be looking for things to get excited about.

I have much to be excited about as I look around. I have my garden which I planted alongside my daughter who I got to spend time with for ten weeks during quarantine. Sorry for the reason, but so thankful for the time with her. The garden should provide plenty of healthy, fresh produce for me and my family if we have a good season. I need it too since having my two adult children live under the same roof again depleted our rations of canned tomato sauce and salsa a little more than twice as much if it had been just Mark and I. But it made me smile each and every time they opened a jar of our homegrown goodness and raved about how good it taste.

I’m excited to work in the garden and be outside with the sun shining and even if it’s not. After a number of months being cooped up inside because the weather was too miserable to enjoy being outside for any given time, I’m not too picky about when is a good time to spend out in the garden. Just as long as there aren’t too many bugs and it’s not too hot. My garden has fantastic sunlight so I have to pick and choose my hours which tend to be early in the morning and after 5pm.

I’m excited about the new chickens we have now! Khaleesi, Gertrude, Ethel and Lucy have joined our homestead. It’s always a thrill to walk into the hen house and see the daily deposit of freshly laid eggs. Which in turn has made us excited about breakfast and any recipe that has eggs in it. I get excited now to do the weeding since the hens love the dandelions and eat them right up, it no longer feels like weeding and more like harvesting. I know human enjoy eating dandelion leaves in salads and making tea or wine but until now they were just weeds. So I’m excited about that – it goes for all weeds pretty much too. Plus the chickens are so much fun to watch they make me excited to just come out to the yard and sit and watch.

Finally I am excited about the flowers which are beginning to bloom and I know will blooming throughout the summer and into the fall. I have a short season up here on the mountain, so I am grateful for the time we are given and excited to see it all unfold.

It can be difficult to get excited about the future when we are dealing with so many unknowns. But it’s in times like these where you need to take a deep breath, take a step back and look for the good things, they don’t have to be big things, just small positives. It’s easy to see the negative, especially when you are looking for it. When you are looking for it – that it all you will see. It’s harder to look for the positives, the good things – not matter how big or small they may be. But once you start to look for the positives, I thik they become easier to see.

My Audiobook Club – April/May

Human Touch: A Story in Real Time
by Mitch Albom
Narrated by Mitch Albom (4 hours, 39 minutes)

The first of the books I listened to was Mitch Albom’s Human Touch: A Story in Real Time. The book was published episodically over the last two months. The story chronicles the lives of four families living on a cul-de-sac in Michigan during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In the beginning, I found myself having a difficult time listening to my books during the quarantine. There were so many distractions I found it difficult to focus and it would take something special to catch my interest and keep it. I chose to listen to Human Touch primarily because I have enjoyed many of Mitch Albom’s books: The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Tuesdays With Morrie, and The Time Keeper. The fact that the chapters were being written in real time and published weekly, I found appealing and intriguing. Once I was listening, I found that I enjoyed this format and would look forward to upcoming installments which were no longer than 35 minutes or less with the exception of the final one (55 minutes).

The 8 episodes totaling 4 hours and 39 minutes were narrated by author Mitch Albom, so it’s not a terribly long story. Albom peaks into the lives of four families struggling through the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan. At first, I was hesitant to start listening to a story about the virus; afterall, wasn’t I trying to escape listening to things that could be upsetting or triggering at this time? I found myself taking a little comfort in hearing the stories of others and how they were coping at this time.

All in all, Albom once again creates characters that you come to care about and can empathize with. The topic of the pandemic is a sensitize one and since the virus is still a threat and states are reopening, so wrapping up the story in a neat bowed package isn’t really possible in my opinion. Overall, I’d give this audiobook about 3.5 stars.

The House of Mirth
by Edith Wharton
Narrated by Eleanor Bron (12 hours, 35 minutes)

This is the first book I’ve ever read/listened to of Edith Wharton. I choose to listen to this story since it had been recommended by one of my Master Class teachers as an example of baroque literature. Baroque literature has lots of metaphors, symbols, hyperbole and multiple layers of meaning. A common theme in baroque literature is that characters’ struggle to find deep meaning in their existence.

The House of Mirth focuses on Lily Bart’s plight to find a place for herself in New York’s elite society in the 19th century. I didn’t like Lily Bart throughout most of the novel – I don’t think if we ever met I would have been friends with her. She reminded me of some people I have come across in my life. I found the novel beautifully and masterfully written. By the end of the novel I found myself so invested in Lily’s struggle and was genuinely touched by this heartfelt story. I’d give this one 4 stars overall for story and narrator, Eleanor Bron seemed to be the perfect choice.

Cesar Millan’s Lessons from the Pack
by Melissa Jo Peltier & Cesar Millan
Narrated by Angelo Di Loreto, Cesar Millan (5 hours, 29 minutes)

I love dogs and I love reading or listening to dog stories. I am in the process of writing my own book of dog stories, so I naturally I wanted to listen to the Dog Whisperer’s stories.

Millan intersperses the lessons he’s learned personally with stories from his past along with tidbits under the headings of From the Celebrity Files, From the Science Files etc..the information given in these sections demonstrates the enormous impact dogs have had on mankind in general. I highly recommend this book for any dog or animal enthusiast. 4 stars

The Making of A Miracle: The Untold Story of the Captain of the 1980 Gold Medal-Winning U.S.Olympic Hockey Team
by Mike Eruzione with Neal E. Boudette (7 hrs, 8 mins)

I was a freshman in high school when the miracle happened. I remember watching the games and falling for goalie, Jim Craig, whose I plastered all over the inside of my locker from the New York Post, Daily News and New York Times coverage of the So I was automatically excited when I saw this memoir. I am also a fan of a good sports story and this was and still is an incredible story told by the captain, Mike Eruzione.

I enjoyed listening to Eruzione tell about his humble beginnings and the fun stories about his family. When he mentioned parts of Boston where I too spent many years, it brought back fond memories. Eruzione, a Boston University alum (Wheelock’77) talks about his journey to BU which is not where he originally started and how a twist of fate changed his course. I also went to BU College of Communications (COM’87) as did the co-author Neal E. Boudette (COM’84).

It’s so interesting to hear his perspective and the behind the scenes stories about Herb Brooks and the rest of the team. It was like walking down memory lane, hearing the familiar names of the young men which made America believe in miracles. If you are looking for a good sports story, you don’t have to be a hockey fan to enjoy listening to Eruzione who is funny and whose riveting replays bring alive the plays and games of those 1980 Olympic hockey underdogs. 4 stars.