What I’m Reading — August 2020

I like to share what books I finished last month and what I’m reading now. I also love to hear what others are reading. Share your own book recommendations in the comments or friend me on Goodreads!

Finished in July

I read several novels in July, none of which I loved. So, it was a disappointing month, book-wise. I thought I wanted some fluffy, non-challenging stories, but not all fluff is appealing to me.

Here are a few titles worth mentioning:

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine. This steampunk/alternate history/fantasy series starts off with a strong premise: Imagine the Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, but instead grew into a global power that controlled all access to information. This book was fun, fast-paced, and original. But…

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine. Unfortunately, this second book in the series fell flat for me. The characters did a lot of running around, but nobody was getting anywhere. I finally lost interest and had to put the novel down even though I was only 50 pages from the end. I doubt I will pick up the third title in this series.

Gone with the Whisker by Laurie Cass. This is book 8 in a cosy mystery series about bookmobile librarian Minnie Hamilton and her cat, Eddie. Although I have enjoyed the other books in the series, the appearance of Minnie’s whiny teenaged niece, Katrina, threatened to sink this novel. But, I most likely will pick up book 9 because the residents of Chilson, Michigan have grown on me.

The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber. This is the first in the wildly popular Blossom Street series by Macomber. She is such a popular novelist that I have been wanting to read one of her books for a long time. In this story, Lydia Hoffman opens a yarn shop on the titular street located in Seattle. And, it tells the stories of the eclectic group of women who sign up for her first knitting class. I finished it, but I did not love it.

The Shape of Ideas by Grant Snider. This collection of illustrations about the creative life was easily the best book I read in July. I have enjoyed Snider’s Incidental Comics for many years, and this collection did not disappoint. I plan to pick up his most recent collection, I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf, soon.

Reading Now

The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein. New age self-help guide. Although the advice is overly simplistic at times, the subtitle — “transform fear into faith” — describes the kind of comfort reading I’ve been needing in these pandemic times.


Links in this post go to The Book Cellar, one of my favorite Chicago bookstores. Indie bookshops have been hit hard by the pandemic closures this year. Try to support your favorite indie shops.

What are you reading right now? I’d love to get your recommendations in the comments!

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Survivor

In April 2018 I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. I was a few weeks shy of my forty-third birthday. For a while I thought I could continue to live my life and post here as if nothing unusual was happening.

I made it through the initial doctor visits. I went through all the scans–the CT scan, the MRI, the PET scan–all those lovely machines they put you in so they can tell you how bad the situation is.

I somehow convinced myself that I was going to be one of those cancer patients you hear about who just sort of breeze through treatment and never take a day off and everything is fine, just fine, thanks.

But, that’s not what happened. Three weeks into radiation and oral chemo, and I was in tears from the pain every night. By the end of radiation and chemo, I thought I had experienced the worst. Then I had surgery.

The great news was that the tumor was gone. There was no evidence of cancer in the parts they removed or the lymph nodes they tested. Thank you, God!

But, I ended up spending nearly six weeks in hospital after my surgery because my system did not want to get started again. “You have an ileus,” the doctors unhelpfully explained. I couldn’t eat. I lost weight.

After being discharged and then back to the ER and discharged again and back to the ER over and over, they put me on TPN which meant I was getting liquid nutrition through a tube going into my arm. I had to carry a backpack with a giant bag of liquid in it around with me everywhere. It was both a literal and emotional weight on my shoulders. Our refrigerator was full of these bags. They were delivered once a week by a home health service. I had a nurse who visited the house, too.

I also had a temporary ostomy that was giving me a lot of trouble. The ostomy was placed to allow my body to heal from both surgery and the radiation. But, I was getting constant blockages and having a difficult time staying hydrated. Most of my ER visits were for blockages or dehydration and low potassium.

I got off of TPN in time to start chemotherapy. The real chemo. The hard chemo. I had the port placed. I threw up during the very first session.

My oncologist wanted me to do the full chemo treatment because of my original diagnosis. Even though the tumor was gone by surgery, chemo was the insurance policy to ensure the best long-term outcome. We didn’t want it coming back.

But if I thought radiation and then surgery were the hardest things I had ever done, they were nothing compared to chemo. I lost my appetite. I experienced nausea. I was bone weary all of the time. I couldn’t concentrate. I had a tingling numbness in my hands and feet. My hair thinned. I lost more weight.

The side effects took months to wear off. I finished treatment in May 2019, and it was around Thanksgiving that I noticed that the pins and needles feeling in my feet was finally gone.

In January 2020 I finally had the surgery to reverse my temporary ostomy.

Post-reversal surgery has come with its own set of challenges as my body adjusts to its “new normal.” I no longer have all the parts I did before. I am finding new ways to adapt.

But, I am eating again. I am at a healthy weight again. I have energy again. I am feeling more like myself again.

I am so grateful for my family and friends and co-workers and everyone who sent a card or cooked a meal or visited me in the hospital or called to say hello or took me to an appointment over the past two years. And, there were so, so many who did. Too many to name.

So, here I am. I’ve made it through to the other side of my cancer story, and I’ve lived to tell the tale. My life will never be the same. There’s no going back to the “old me.” But, I am a survivor now.

And, hey, I’ve started stitching again, too! If you’ve made it this far, expect some stitching posts again…

Happy to be back! :)

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WIP Update and Friday Finds for 6/29/18

I did not do a lot of stitching this week, but here is my progress on the cross-stitch pattern “Fear Not” by Little House Needleworks:

fear-not-lhn-progress

If you compare it to last week’s post, you’ll see that I finished stitching the little fence that runs along the bottom of the grassy hill. Next I plan to tackle the rest of the border on the right and then start stitching the rest of the verse which appears in the bottom half of the project.

Friday Finds

And, here are a few things I thought were worth sharing this week:

Video of the Week

Yes, you’ve probably already watched this, but if not, it is a must-see. Grab some tissues before pressing play. Also, Fr. James Martin has some great thoughts about the whole encounter, too.

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Current WIP, Friday Finds, and More!

The spring semester ended on May 12 with final grades due May 15. Teaching two sections of Art Appreciation while also working a full-time librarian job really kicked my butt, but I’m so glad I did it. I LOVED teaching the class, and I can’t wait to do it again in the fall. I am also teaching Art History I in the fall, and I have already put a draft of my syllabus together and have started working on course materials for that class.

I have so many ideas about what to do! I am trying to incorporate active learning activities into the course, which is completely different from the way I learned art history in college, which was the then-typical “art in the dark” lecture classes. But, now I am developing in-class discussions, writing assignments, group activities, and more. So, I am keeping busy this summer.

But, I am also making sure I get plenty of downtime, and I have been stitching this “Fear Not” pattern from Little House Needleworks:

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I was gifted this pattern a year or so ago along with all of the variegated threads by a very kind lady I met through Instagram.

Here is my progress so far:

Fear Not cross-stitch pattern by Little House Needleworks

It has been a nice, low-stress stitch. I’ve been working on it while I binge-watch Supernatural on Netflix. I’ve started with the first season. We’ll see how far I get.

I haven’t done a “Friday Finds” in a awhile, so here are a few things worth sharing this week:

 

Video of the Week

This brought a smile to my face.

 

Have a great weekend, and happy stitching!

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Friday Finds–04/13/18

Feeling under the weather today. Stayed home from work and spent half the day napping. Last night I put together the final PDF of my first new cross-stitch pattern in many months. It’s the first of a series, and I can’t wait to share it.

Spring is coming slowly. Today was warm, but now the temperature is dropping, the rain is moving in, and parts of the Chicago area may see snow this weekend, although it likely won’t stick. In the meantime, the daylilies are starting to come up, but the tulips have been re-frozen so many times, I don’t know if we’ll see any flowers.

But, let’s get down to business. Friday Finds is my weekly round-up of book, art, embroidery, and textile news from around the web.

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Here are this week’s links:

 

Video of the Week

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. We need to support the arts in our schools.

 

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Friday Finds–04/06/18

Friday Finds is my weekly round-up of needlework, art, and book news from around the web.

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Here are this week’s links:

Other things: I’ve been a busy little bee behind the scenes the past couple weeks. I am working on new cross-stitch patterns for my Etsy shop! I have a whole series planned. One is done and four more are sketched out. Stay tuned!

Video of the Week

It’s been along time since I featured any animated short films, so enjoy “Defective Detective.”

 

 

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Weekend Links — 03/24/18

I made it through another week and spent the entire day today prepping for my classes for next week. But, I got done what I needed to get done. Maybe I can give myself a break tomorrow and do something crafty and fun for a change. I played around with some small projects this past week, which I will share soon.

In the meantime, here is this week’s round-up of needlework, art, and book news from around the web:

 

Video of the Week

I’m crazy about sandhill cranes. I love them. Right now they are migrating back north, and every time I hear them flying overhead (they are very noisy), I run out of the house and scan the sky until I spot them. Here’s a short video about the Great Migration that takes place out in Nebraska.

 

 

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Friday Finds

I’m back this week with another Friday Finds, my weekly round-up of needlework, art, and book news from around the web.

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I’ve been going through a stressful period recently, which has taken a toll on my health and my personal time for stitching or anything else, but I’m trying to pull myself out of this funk and reclaim my time. So, here we go…

Here are this week’s links:

 

Video of the Week

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Weekend Links — 03/03/18

Every week I post a round-up of needlework, art, and book news from around the web.

Here are this week’s links:

 

Video of the Week

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, March is the month for luck, so here is a classic “lucky” song.

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Friday Finds — 2/23/18

Friday Finds is my weekly round-up of needlework, art, and book news from around the web.

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Here are this week’s links:

 

Video of the Week

I don’t know what this says about my sense of humor, but I own all three Trip films with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, and I cannot get tired of watching them. Here’s a clip from the most recent The Trip to Spain.

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