It’s been 4 months since I last wrote on this blog. I have not read your blogs either. Let me explain. Last July my mom in Madrid got complications after a colon surgery, and I traveled to be with her for 15 days. She’s doing much better. When I came back, my daughters currently in 6th and 8th grade, after all their life being taught at home by me and other teachers here and there, joined two different schools. August and September flew by. My husband and I undertook some deep cleaning of the house, and some low cost renovations. We painted downstairs: living room, dinning, and kitchen. And he also sanded and painted the kitchen cabinets. I got lots and lots, and lots of trash bags, and bags with items I sold at a garage sale or that I donated. I spend many hours for many days, organizing, throwing, and disposing of stuff we had not clean or cleared in depth for the 14 years I’ve been home with the girls.
Pictures are best.
Living room before above, and after (although it has undergone even more changes), below.
Kitchen before, and not quite finished below.
Dinning area before, and almost as it is right now below.
My shelf of favorites above, and with our new addition, Missy, below.
Library/office below after the changes of furniture. It looks even better after more decluttering.
I love how I only have a shelf downstairs, with my most loved titles, and the rest of the books are in my game room, now more a library/office, and I still have a couple of shelves in bedroom. Books give me warmth, I feel embraced by them behind my computer desk and by my bed.
After that, I got my paperwork dusted off, an I have started to substitute a few times. We even have daughter #1’s birthday for the year under our belt. Next week, it’s daughter #2’s turn. I started to substitute in October, and here you have me, beginning of November, with Thanksgiving luring round the corner. And my lovely in-laws will be visiting us from Malta, Europe, the week of Thanksgiving until early January.
This is a new and exciting season for us at home. My husband decided to join a weight loss center last August, for health reasons, and he’s lost 45 or more pounds. But the best news is that his health has changed for the best. He feels better than ever. He’s not just lost weight, he’s learned how to eat.
The girls are learning the school ways, and doing well. Objectively, I still consider homeschooling (if done as we envisioned it, with a sound view of what true education is), the best option. For us, right now, school has been a true blessing.
The youngest is attending a classical charter school, and while all schools are very heavy on grades, tests, projects, and anything quantifiable, her school has a strong sense of community, a higher aim at not just academics but character, and many of the teachers share a true education view and philosophy.
The oldest is at the public junior high, and now that I’m substituting, I get to see what they do and how they do it. There’s again many cons. The day is busy, time passes fast, yet there’s not a great rendering of the time. The aim is too basic, the atmosphere is not intimate, cohesive, or very meaningful. There’s no abundance of living books, and there’s too many smart phones. Yet there’s always good things going on for her, along with that beast called adolescence.
To me, what to do in regards to their education, is a matter of how those pros and cons play on your family situation at the time. I could go on and on with my opinions on education, and my particular experience. Actually, once upon a time I wrote a short essay on our homeschooling experience, and I’m considering to write another one to share about this season of life. Maybe in the summer.
And finally, to the matter this blog has been about for the past years, the glorious books. Right now, -and I don’t know how-, I’m down to 61 books read this year. Since I last blogged, these are the titles I’ve read:
The Inverted World, Christopher Priest ★★★★
This was a book I read because I saw it at a blog and it sounded the right book at the time. Science fiction that combines moral and philosophical questions is pleasing to me. I did not get some of what’s called ‘hard physics’, but I still followed and savored the plot, and the many questions that came to my mind. It’ll do a great movie, I believe.
Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage, by Dani Shapiro ★★★★
I don’t know if I mentioned this book before. Shapiro’s life has not much in common with mine. Or maybe it does in that we both are mothers and wives. She writes an easy to read and compelling patchwork of memories, feelings and thoughts. It was another good and different read this year.
Corazón tan blanco, Julián Marías, ★★★✫
I anticipated this book for a long time. I wanted to love this author, but I only liked him. The beginning of the book is powerful. All through the book, one feels compelled to continue. But as the book progresses, it looses fizz. In just a book, some of his expressions start to be noticeably repetitive. His idiosyncrasy was a bit flat for my taste, a bit cliche. The book has a good take off, but it never soared for me. However, it was not without some stellar moments. It has some merit in the whole scale of my reads.
Meditaciones del Quijote, Ortega y Gasset (re-read 3x) ★★★★★
When a friend of mine picked this title from the library, I joined reading it one more time. It’s truly short, an essay, and I just adore it. I get so much from each paragraph and chapter, every single time I read it, I enjoy and admire the elegance of his writings. I once heard him described as a philosopher of daily topics. Ortega was curious about many minor themes that cross the path of the major questions of humanity.
The Gods Themselves, Asimov ★★★★
This was a very original si-fi book. I do like Asimov, though I have only read a few of his si-fi books, and a few of his non fiction ones too.
A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis ★★★
A bit of a departure, I guess. A more personal book and very different to his highly theoretic and academic The Problem of Pain.
Death of a Nationalist, by Rebecca Pawel ★★★
Just OK. I enjoyed reading it, though, because it takes place in Madrid after the Civil War (1936-1939). Some of the streets I’ve also trotted. It had a personal connection for me.
Love Defined, by Kristen Clark ★★★
Fast read, self help. Read it because my oldest read it for a meaningful young ladies retreat. They discussed parts of the book and more. Good discussions prompter.
She’s Got the Wrong Guy: Why Smart Women Settle, by Deepak Reju ★★★★
Went ahead and read this other one recommended by one of the ladies in charge of the retreat, who presented the young girls with some lessons. This was better than Love Defined, it presented the audience with scenarios of why some guys were not the desirable match for some girls.
Letter from McCarty’s Farm, by Ellen Kort ★★★★
Poetry that my friend Sherry gave me. Wonderful book. Sherry knew the poet. I thank Sherry for the gift of poetry in my life. Before her, I wasn’t in the habit of reading poetry, now I can’t live without doing so.
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck ★★★★✫
Kathy. Wow. The most despicable woman, -possibly person- in literature. She’s so well described, -as the other characters-, that you feel you lived in their place, and met all these people. I understand why some can’t keep reading. Kathy gave my friend Lisa nightmares, -not a joke. I could finish it, and I’m glad. What an amazing epic story. I love Lee, the ‘Chinese’ man. Proud of reading this title which seemed intimidating, but that was not so in terms of difficulty.
Chains (Seeds of America, #1), by Anderson, Laurie Halse ★★★
Well written historical fiction. Read it because my daughter was asked to read it for school.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, by Erik Larson ★★★★
Larson is genius in this book that pin pongs between two narratives, that of Daniel Burnham, and the other architects in charge of the Chicago Fair, and the other, H.H. Holmes, the serial killer who would go down in history as one who committed heinous murders.
El artista del mundo flotante, Ishiguro, ★★★★★ (re-read)
I read this book this time in Spanish. In awe. I just have no words to express all the fibers Ishiguro touches with his impeccable and peculiar writing style.
The Pilot’s Wife, Anita Shreve ★★✫
Book club gravel. Fast plot fast food style. A few of recyclable things in it that made me think.
My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult ★★★
More inane book club blubber.
Staying Alive, edited by Neil Attley ★★★★★
It took me two years to savor the poetry contained in this book. I recommend. The editor grouping of the poems, his intro to each category, and his final concise and potent history of poetry made me able to enjoy the poems and to grow in my reading poetry abilities. It makes immersing yourself into poetry less intimidating and very enjoyable. Thanks, Sherry, for gifting me the book!
Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri, ★★★★✫
Surprisingly good. I’ve come to not expect much from contemporary writers, but Lahiri proved me wrong. I’m so happy to see there’s writers these days that can produce quality literature. I’m doubly impressed because this was a short story collection. I believe that she’s achieved something important, for short stories are difficult to write. The whole of them elevate each and every one. There’s a tight and cohesive sense to this short and pleasant book. Her writing is effortless, pleasant to read. She captures the fantastic in the ordinary, and the ordinary of the fantastic like no other. I’m looking forward to more.