October weekend mix (plus September books and dental fun)

The leaves are definitely starting to change around here. I love fall color, and one of the upsides of the season is that even driving around in the car becomes this beautiful experience.

That’s good because I spent a fair amount of time in the car over the past few days. On Thursday, I drove to Princeton to give a reading at Labyrinth Books on Nassau Street as part of the She Roars conference. I got to meet the authors of Code Girls, Flight Season, and Mary B. Although I wasn’t there long, it was really fun to be in town.

On Friday, we celebrated my daughter’s 7th birthday. She wore a tutu to school. She got a birthday crown at school. And my husband, my mother-in-law, and I could all come in to her class at 2:45 p.m. to celebrate. So that was pretty exciting. I read The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair, and the teacher read the cards that everyone wrote. Then my husband took our daughter to go buy a hermit crab. So we now have a tank and a new family member possibly named Luna (although this name changes frequently; Luna herself is too busy burrowing to care).

We had fondue for the birthday dinner, opened family presents, and then drove to Fairmont Park to go to The Glow. This is a display of thousands of carved pumpkins. It was pretty similar to last year, though the addition of a Super Bowl champions display, and a graveyard with all the New England Patriots players’ names on the stones, was a nice local crowd-pleasing touch.

Saturday I woke up early to meet Jane at 6:30 a.m. and run 8 miles on a local trail. We started in the dark. It is not getting light until 7 a.m. these days. While I don’t like the prospect of dusk at 5 p.m. (which is the inevitable result of the Daylight Savings shift) it will be nice to have light in the morning. One morning this week I had gotten up to run outside but it didn’t really feel safe enough to run until 6:40 a.m., which cuts into the kid-getting-ready time. (We don’t have sidewalks in our neighborhood, maybe if I had head-to-toe reflective gear — I welcome suggestions from people who run in the dark.)

We got in our 8 miles (and change) by 8 a.m., at which point I zoomed back home, said hello to everyone and showered, and zipped out to drive back over to Princeton, arriving by 9:45 to meet my fellow panelists for another She Roars-related event: a panel on combining work and family. There were four of us from the classes of 2000 and 2001 and between us we had 17 children. Adding in the moderator (a rock star engineering professor) got us to 21. So it was fun to hear everyone’s stories of managing their (large) families and their careers.

I got home around 2:00 p.m., which bought me approximately an hour of downtime before we loaded up the cars to go to my daughter’s birthday party at this indoor bouncy-house place called Bounce U. This felt slightly more contained than the Go Kart-arcade-Laser Tag craziness of my 9-year-old son’s party last week. So I felt a lot more relaxed.

Then it was home to open presents and watch the Texas A&M game. Well, some of it. I put the 3-year-old to bed, and watched for a bit, but I was tired, and it went into overtime, so I had to learn of the victory the next morning.

Sunday was very, very chill…for me. I sang with the chamber choir in church, and while I was there, my husband and mother-in-law elected to take the kids to NYC. So they were gone all day. I did a lot of work, but I also may have napped for 90 minutes….

One non-fun weekend experience: in my hour of downtime on Saturday, I bit down on a snack and suddenly felt something hard and sharp in my mouth: half of one of my molars. Apparently it broke off from an old filling. I’m posting this in late morning because I spent the morning at the dentist’s office getting that tooth reconstructed. Since that half of my mouth was numb, my dentist offered to take out my other silver filling on that side and replace it with a tooth colored one. I guess the upside is that my mouth is now much more cosmetically attractive than it was yesterday! As I near my 40th birthday, I’ll take these little bonuses…

Addendum: Books read in September 2018

Amid all the List of 100 Dreams fun last week, I realized I forgot to post my list of books read in September. Possibly just as well; it wasn’t a prolific month. I think I’m still recovering from Middlemarch in July and Infinite Jest in August.

Fed Up, by Gemma Hartley

This book, based on Hartley’s massively popular Harper’s Bazaar piece on emotional labor, will be out on November 13. Hartley has agreed to be a podcast guest, so I’ll write more about this title when that episode airs.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I’d seen this book on tables in book stores for years, and finally decided to pick it up. I was a bit…underwhelmed by it. (Note: Spoiler alerts coming up!) Yes, it was quirky and a quick read. I read the whole thing (200-plus pages) in one day. For being part of the seemingly endless genre of WWII books, it was unique, told in letters, featuring two spunky heroines, and covered the relatively uncovered topic of the occupation of the British channel islands. That said, given that the action occurs in the first half of 1946, I felt like the characters wrote and acted with a detachment that seemed unlikely given how recently the Germans had shipped out. Indeed, at the start of the novel, the society was still hoping that their ringleader would come home from the camps. The fact that her betrayer was still there, living on the island, and isn’t mentioned until late in the book, is just weird. Plus, the ending is too pat. Of course there will be marriage. And adoption! I guess my take is that it’s an immediately appealing, fun book that then leaves a meh aftertaste.

Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata

A strange young woman named Keiko gets a job at a convenience store in Tokyo. Nearly two decades later, she’s still there, perfectly happy, and wondering why the rest of the world finds this lack of career and life ambition unacceptable. This book is quirky, and moves fast (and is short) and though I can’t say I loved it, I did enjoy the satire of Japanese convenience store culture.

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, by Mary Norris

This book has been sitting in the book pile in my office for more than a year, but I had not yet gotten around to it. I finally picked it up this month. Norris has worked as a copy-editor for decades at the New Yorker, and this memoir covers both her time there and the grammar lessons she thinks everyone should learn. The inside scoop on The New Yorker life is interesting (though since I’d read John McPhee’s Draft No. 4, I felt like I had gotten something of a glimpse already). It is a lot more entertaining as a grammar book than any others out there.

I am feeling in a bit of a reading slump this October. We will see if I pull out of it. Last October I read War and Peace AND Battle Cry of Freedom, so it’s going to be hard to top that (at least from a page count perspective).

Photo: The Mona Lisa, carved on pumpkins

12 thoughts on “October weekend mix (plus September books and dental fun)

  1. For dark running: Noxgear and a good headlamp – preferably one with a blinking light in the back. I do all of my mid-week running at 5am and we are now at the time of year when we both start and end in the dark. We always wear headlamps (I use a rechargable Black Diamond brand one, which has a very bright blinking red light in the back and a bright beam in the front) and most of us also wear Noxgear (https://www.noxgear.com/tracer360). A lot of running gear and shoes have reflective elements, too, but I find that being ‘lit up like a Christmas tree’ (as my husband says) to be more satisfying because I can be seen whether or not headlights are shining on me.

    Personally, I’d be more concerned about running in the dark alone than running without lights/reflective gear, but that probably has to do with my geographical location (Baltimore area)…

    1. Laura’s mother feels the same way about her running alone. One never stops feeling concern about your children–even when your daughter is a mother of four of her own! So I am glad when someone else reminds her about the safety issue!

  2. I drive a short distance to meet friends to run in the morning. The benefits of this are having running buddies for safety but we also meet in the parking lot of a hospital so there are lights and some activity with nurses and patients arriving for early procedures, and even when the weather is terrible we can count on the hospital to clear their sidewalks!

  3. Karen beat me to it … definitely the Noxgear Tracer 360. It’s like a vest made from super thin tubes. Think glow in the dark bracelet. When I’m out running my neighborhood in the dark, I can see the moment when cars see me .. they immediately move further away. I’ll put in a plug that they’re also good at dusk, or for early mornings when it’s past daybreak but gloomy or foggy. For what it’s worth, I do often run alone in my neighborhood.

    1. @Catherine – you could have kept our kid average up! We talked about the importance of simply taking (or asking for) accommodations. Just because no one has done something before (like work from home while being pretty high up in the Federal Reserve, to take one example) doesn’t mean it can’t happen. We talked about the metaphor of glass balls vs. bouncing balls. Don’t drop what you’ve identified as important, but other stuff can go. We talked about how many people operate from an assumption that paid childcare is “bad” and must be minimized, but that can lead to problems, so best to think in terms of managing a team at work, and managing a team at home. Pay well (in both cases!) to get good people. We talked about how the little years are very hard (especially if you’re a first time mom) but it does get easier and you develop skills along the way. So a lot of the usual stuff, but I thought it was a very well managed panel.

  4. I will admit I run in the dark and I need to be better about visibility. My father in law (walks dog in our neighborhood) told Josh I was basically invisible the other morning! Oops. I’m actually much more fearful of a dog off leash than I am of a car in our little neighborhood . . .

    1. @SHU – I’ve encountered dogs off leash on park trails and that’s always a tense moment for me. I mean, dogs like to chase things that run, and while the owner usually catches up some amount of time later to report how friendly the dog is, I don’t know that upon encountering a strange, unleashed dog in the woods.

      And the cars…I don’t know why people drive as crazy as they do in a residential neighborhood. Slow down, people!

  5. I’m definitely more concerned about safety than visibility running in the dark early morning, and quite honestly I just don’t do it unless I have a friend to join me. I like the recs above, though, and will keep in mind, because even evening running is pitch black in the winter and I could see myself doing that one day.

    I remember really liking Guernsey when I read it (years ago). Schaffer died before finishing, so Burrows (family member, I think) took over & got it published (she’s mostly a children’s book author) which may be why the ending didn’t live up to the previous parts?

    Dental work sucks. I had a multi-step many week issue this summer and ugh. the worst.

  6. I’m jealous of your fall weather! In North Carolina it’s still about 90% humidity and 80 degrees. Ugh!! Please come soon, fall. I love colder weather biking and running, and can’t seem to get myself motivated when it’s hot. So I’m anxiously awaiting the change of season.

  7. I noticed in your list of 100 dreams that you were intrigued by the early humans, Denisovans etc., and now in this post you mention that you are in a book slump (yes, I’m reading out of order today) – well, I’ve been reading David Reich’s ‘Who we are and how we got here,’ which is about the use of ancient DNA to understand human population movements and mixing. He interweaves the genetic evidence with archaeological and anthopological evidence and theories, and it is compelling reading! I’d highly recommend it.

  8. I recently read a door stopper book I think you would really enjoy. “4321” by Paul Auster. It’s 866 pages. It’s four parallel story lines of one boy named Archie Ferguson, who lives in New Jersey and New York (and one of his story lines goes to Princeton!). It’s set during the 50’s and 60’s. It was a beautiful book!

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