Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Monday of the Year

January 2017


Sunday Jan 14 2024

Today Pastor said that January is the Monday of all the months of the year.  And in the same breath she said January is full of possibility, and to prove it, distributed “star words” to all us in the congregation.

I have ample evidence that January acts as the Monday of the year.  Getting back into my work schedule has been more difficult than usual this year.  I now work with colleagues half my age, and they know stuff, such as Python, and biofuels markets, and how to make cool charts, that I have proved incapable of learning.  I am reminded of my shortcomings in that regard every work day.

Further January Mondayness occurred just today (which is Sunday), when I banged my knee HARD when going up the attic fold-out stairs to put away the Xmas decorations.  I am fine, but I had to say owie owie owie for several minutes.  I’m lucky I didn’t fall off the attic stairs from the sudden pain.

January Mondayness may also show up in these decidedly “first-world” problems:  The masking tape I had to use for closing up the boxes was awful, despite being brand name tape.  I have not been able to buy a decent roll of masking tape in the past 20 years.  Why did I have to use lousy masking tape?  Because the freezer tape, which should be a star word because it works so stellarly,  has been missing for the past 2 weeks.  And UPS was closed today at the time I was able to go there, so I couldn’t mail the space heater to Younger Daughter (who now lives in even colder climes).

January behaves as a Monday, in that all the organizations I keep stats for expect a reckoning of the stats for the past year.  All the numbers are due in January.  It is overwhelming.

The giving of “star words”  is a fun and possibly misguided church practice  of picking at random a word that is supposed to guide you for the entire calendar year.  Like the star guided the Magi to the no-longer-a-baby Jesus, you know?  I like this custom because I receive a glittery star to hang somewhere in my house.  I tend to like shiny things and words, so star words should be right up my alley.  

I acknowledge with gratitude that someone takes the time to painstakingly glue about a hundred meaningful words onto glitter stars, AND attach a loop for hanging the star. At the same time I admit that in past years I have mostly ignored the star word I picked from the bowl.  

This year my star word is “Listen”.  This is further proof that January is the Monday of months.  

I used to think of myself as a very good listener - I genuinely wanted to hear what people had to say, and was interested in learning about people.  But my skill in this area went out the window in around 2017.  Receiving the star word ‘listen’ is like a slap in the face saying to me, what happened to you, anyway?

I am relieved that my star word is not “CleanUpYourDesk”.

Maybe I could relearn how to listen.  What to listen TO is important, and the choices are nearly endless.   

Pastor is right.  January is full of possibility.

Monday Morning Quiz, 2015

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Keep a song in your pocket

The Common Household Husband
captains the boat

In the first church sermon I heard in the new year, the preacher said, carry a song in your pocket for the coming year.  That preacher is right - I’m going to need a song, and maybe more than one, this year.   

Three years ago, during the uncertain early months of the pandemic, I must have been looking for a song, because I recently found a document with strange first lines of hymns, mostly gloomy.  Some of them now seem particularly appropriate for the throes of 2020.  According to my notes, I found these in 2020 while searching on hymnary.org for all hymns with the meter  It escapes me now why that meter was important for 2020.

* * * * * * *

First lines of hymns for the covid era

A holy air is breathing round (much needed during a pandemic)

And are we wretches yet alive? (seems a fitting mood for a pandemic.)

Far from the world, O Lord, I flee (good for covid-19 stay-at-home times)

How sweet and silent is the place (describes all large, empty arenas during the height of the pandemic)

Actually a fairly pleasant hymn

How vast must their advantage be (for politicians who cast doubt on the virus, but get the covid vaccine before essential workers do.)

Lo, the destroying angel flies (reminds me of certain episodes of Doctor Who.  Utterly terrifying.  But also reminds me of airborne viruses. When I did a google search for this hymn title I got a bunch of advice about deadly mushrooms. Destroying angel indeed.)

Lord, from the ill and froward man (that is the person that the murky, diseased droplets of virus come from)

My thoughts on awful subjects roll (I hear you, hymn writer.  I ruminate too.)

Not from the dust affliction grows (yes, we have learned that it comes from airborne droplets.)

When languor and disease invade (a hymn for the covid era, for sure.)

When sickness shakes the languid frame (an accurate description of symptoms.)

* * * * * * *

It’s hard to imagine that hymns which start like this would spark religious fervor.   

The song I am keeping in my pocket for this month is The Queen of Connemara.  It's a song

about a boat, earning a living, beauty, facing danger, and the love of family.

I was first introduced to this song in this version, which has a fun jig at the end.  But the

version I love the best is the one that Younger Daughter and I sing at our own piano,

a good clip faster than Cherish The Ladies’ version, at the top of our lungs.

The Queen of Connemara Lyrics:

Verse 1:

Oh my boat can safely float in the teeth of wind and weather

And outrace the fastest hooker between Galway and Kinsale

Where the white foam of the ocean and the dark clouds roll together

There she rides, in her pride, like a seagull over the waves


Oh she's neat, oh she's sweet

She's a beauty in every line

The Queen of Connemara

She's that bounding barque of mine

Verse 2:

When she's loaded down with fish 'til the water lips the gunwale

Not a drop she'll take on board her that would drive a fly away

Like a ship she'll sail out gladly like a greyhound from his kennel

And she'll land her silver store the first at ould Kinvara quay

(Chorus 2x)

Verse 3:

There's a light shines out afar, and it keeps me from dismaying

When the sky is ink above us and the sea runs white with foam

In a cot in Connemara there's a wife and wee ones praying

To the One who walked the waters once, to send us safely home

(Chorus 2x)

The Queen of Connemara

She's that bounding barque of mine

Monday, January 1, 2024

Favorite books read in 2023

Mainly because of insomnia and time spent in hotels in July and August, this year I was able to finish reading 84 books, 49 fiction and 35 nonfiction.   That is a total of 23,801 pages.  

Don’t be too impressed.  Thirteen of those books were children’s/YA lit, which is worthwhile for adults to read but is much easier to get through. I read 6 volumes of graphic/comic books.  Beyond those, another 11 I would rank as light/cozy lit.  And 4 were re-reads.  That leaves 50 books not in those lighter categories.

And because I am paying a bit more attention to this now, 5 of the fiction books depicted characters who are disabled, 2 books depicted characters with chronic illness.  Plus 2 non-fiction books that directly addressed disability.

Here are the books I rated as excellent and my most enjoyable reads in 2023:

Excellent Fiction

The Beatryce Prophecy, by Kate DiCamillo with Sophie Blackall (Illustrator).  2021.  256 pages. Children’s lit.

Small Things Like These  by Claire Keegan.  187 pages.  Published 2018.

The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store, by James McBride.  400 pages.  Published 2023. 

I just finished it yesterday, but I think this will end up being one of my favorites, as was McBride’s The Good Lord Bird.  This might have been found in the category below (Excellent writing; difficult topic) but McBride manages to include enough humorous elements to keep the edge off. 

Excellent Nonfiction

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks and Other Astonishments, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil184 pages • first pub 2020

Lady Justice:  Women, the Law and the Battle to Save America, by Dahlia Lithwick.  Published 2022.  284 pages (text).  With endnotes 369 pages. 

The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet

by John Green.  293 pages • first pub 2021.

And some others I found quite enjoyable and/or thought-provoking (there were so many - I didn’t even include all of them here):

American Grunt: Ridiculous Stories of a Life Lived at $8.00 an Hour, by Kevin Cramer. 354 pages. Published 2023.

Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus, 2022,  386 pages.

Rolling Warrior:  The incredible, sometimes awkward true story of a rebel girl on wheels who helped spark a revolution, by Judith Heumann with Kristen Joiner.  Audiobook 4 hours, read by Allie Stroker,  Beacon Press Audio,   Published 2021.  215 pages in print form.

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb.  Published 2022. 338 pages.

How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water, by Angie Cruz.  Published 2022.  208 pages.

The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Gamache #3) by Louise Penny

311 pages. Published 2007

Jane and Prudence, by Barbara Pym.  222 pages. First published 1953.

March: Books One, Two, and Three, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, art by Nate Powell.  Graphic books.  Published 2013, 2015, 

Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson.  416 pages. Published 2022.  Children’s literature.

2023 Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award winner

The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz with Hatem Aly (Illustrator) 384 pages. Published 2016.  Children’s literature.

Excellent writing; difficult topic

These would have been up above, but the topic matter made them a bit more difficult for me to classify as fully enjoyable.  I'm a squeamish reader. These are well worth reading, all of them.

The Overstory, by Richard Powers.  2018.  502 pages.  Pulitzer Prize winner.

Apeirogon, by Colum McCann. Published 2020.  480 pages.

The Marriage Portrait, by Maggie O’Farrell.  2022.  333 pages

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi, 592 pages. Published 2016.

House on Endless Waters, by Emuna Elon, Translation to English by Emuna Elon. 2016.  309 pages.

The Watcher, by Italo Calvino.  First published in Italian with the title  La giornata d'uno scrutatore in 1963 in Italy. 

Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan. 448 pages.  Published 2017.

King Leopold’s Ghost, by Adam Hochschild.  376 pages (text thru page 323; the rest is end notes). Published 1998.

Some second readings

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich.  464 pages.  © 2020.  (Pulitzer prize winner).  

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo with K. G. Campbell (Illustrator)  240 pages. Published 2013.  Children’s literature.

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  176 pages. Published 2015.

Meet Me at the Museum, by Anne Youngson, Published 2018.

My top 5 genres, from thestorygraph.com

 My top five genres for 2023 were historical fiction, history (nonfiction), mystery, literary (??) and contemporary.