One Year Later

It’s been just over a year since the cow. I’m still working through post concussion symptoms (PCS) (now with a neuro-optometrist and vision therapist), but I can easily look back and see how far I’ve come. There are many things that I still can’t do (drive for more than 30 min) or don’t want to do (read a magazine) because of my symptoms. But most days I’m able to look ahead with hope and be content with where I am. Most days. 

Some days I still wake in a funk, realize that there really is a pandemic, that my brain still isn’t back to normal and that whatever day it is is going to be just about like the day before. And that sameness of days has been the ugly silver lining of Covid-19 for me. Stores with aisles of items that shout out in colors and words as you walk by are horrible for post concussion brains. Groups of friends all talking and laughing are terribly difficult to navigate. Long car trips make me sick and it’s easier to take my afternoon nap in my own home than elsewhere. I, like the rest of the world, am sick to death of this virus and everything that goes with it, but there is no denying that it has made navigating PCS somewhat easier these last months. I don’t have to feel the blame of canceled vacations fall solely on my shoulders as I would have, we can blame it on the virus. I no longer feel like I’m avoiding friends and parties, blame it on the virus. It’s not just that I can’t go to the store because it will exhaust me, it’s better to order online now anyway. On it goes and the mental burden of PCS becomes easier to bear. The one thing that remains a constant nagging source of regret and frustration is writing.

I used to have this well of words and phrases bubbling over inside me. Paragraphs oozing together in my brain before I could even sit down and write them out. The well is still there but it no longer bubbles over. I can feel the words way down there, but the bucket leaks and the rope is frayed, the crank needs grease and the effort to haul the words to the top and keep them there is immense. Even then, sometimes all that makes it to the surface is half a phrase that flits away the minute I take my eye off it. And so I don’t blog, and I don’t write. 

One day I’ll be able to patch my bucket, replace the rope and grease the mechanisms and it will work smoothly again. One day the words will rise back to the top. I’ll go back to writing stories and I’ll go back to regular blogging. It’s frustrating but it’s going to be okay. Until then my regret is that during this completely insane time of a world pandemic and all that comes with it, I haven’t been writing about it. My memory has always been more like a sieve than a steel trap. I love looking back at years of blog posts and finding one that makes me laugh because I genuinely forgot not only the subject of the post but writing the post itself. PCS has turned my memory into a butterfly net with a hole in it being wielded by a toddler who recently ate an entire bag of M&M’s. I worry that I will forget this year and all that came with it. And maybe that’s a little bit okay. I’m not sure I really want to remember all the details of virtual schooling and days spent hiding in my room like a vampire to keep symptoms at bay.  

But there are things, like the Fourth of July parade the Clara organized for the neighborhood around our family cabin when the giant parade we normally attend was canceled, that I don’t want to lose. It was a wild success and I’ve lost the words of the day already, but I’ve sprinkled the pictures in this post of reflections so that maybe one day, looking back, it jogs a memory that manged to snag on that torn butterfly net along the way.

Edit: I sat down and wrote this just after the year anniversary of the accident -that was well over a month ago. But slow progress is still progress so I’ll take it.

 I have manged to be much more regularly active on my Instagram account behindthewillows come say hello if you are an Instagram user!  

The Opium Smuggler by Celine Jeanjean

If you’ve followed my book reading advice over the last years you have already read The Viper and the Urchin series. If you need another reminder of that recommendation the series starts here: The Bloodless Assassin.  Quick, go read those books.

On that?

Great, now that you are caught up The Opium Smuggler takes a step back from the series and gives the backstory for Adelma, everyone’s favorite heavy-drinking, ax-wielding smuggler.

If I were to be at all critical of this story it would be to say that it seems that the messages, and even a bit of a moral, is laid out with a heavy hand. And I did feel that way for a bit and then I realized that this book is about Adelma. The woman who does anything she pleases, as she pleases, with two axes to back up her decisions, all while drinking men under the table and running her own smuggling ship. Adelma knows no way of approaching a situation other than head on. There is no subtlety about her (unless she’s sneaking something through customs), no pretense.  So why should I be surprised when the same is true of her finding her way earlier in life? So, if this book approaches those life lessons with the heavy hands used to brawl and work, I forgive it. This is Adelma’s story and it wouldn’t ring true any other way. 

Would I recommend it? While this book could be read as a stand alone, I think it would be best to read it in conjunction with the rest of the series. However if you have read any of The Viper and The Urchin book and have met Adelma, you will absolutely want to know how she started her smuggling journey and her relationship with Radish!

Art & Soul by Claire Huston

The main character of this book, Becky, is of those people that has their finger on the pulse of the world around them. One that can plan and deftly manipulate situations around them, pick up on subtle nuances that others miss and act before anyone else realizes there may even be a problem. A master mind.

In my past readings I have found master minds to be either criminal in nature or Holmesian. Never have I found a master mind to be a single parent, working as a life coach and when those jobs run dry working in the background at the fanciest weddings to make sure everything runs smoothly. But Becky makes it work. In fact she makes everything work.

But, alas, like all masterminds, sleuth, criminal and otherwise, she has her own blind spot. And, as I’m sure you could guess from the title and cover alone, it’s her personal love life. And that is what makes the book a sweet romance that is just a little different than any other I have I read.

Would I recommend it? Also she eats a lot of cake.

(That means yes!)

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

First Day of Virtual School

As I write this I can confirm that we have officially survived the first day of virtual school. I am happy to report that things went smoothly and even our sometimes temperamental internet behaved. All in all, I would say it was better than we feared.

Of course before the day started, we had to take the traditional first day of school photos even if it wasn’t a traditional school day. While other mothers manage to post smiling faces with cute signs delineating grade on their children’s first day, I feel that our girls’ pictures often tell a broader story. Here is my interpretation of this morning’s quick photo shoot…

Clara: School at home means I don’t really have to pay attention- or wear pants!

Jane: New things are terrible, also I can’t find my pants.

Ivy: Seriously? Just pull up your pants like this, it’s almost time for me to log on.

Clara: I don’t want to do this so I’m not wearing pants, also I’m still in my pjs under this sweatshirt so pppbbbbttt.

Jane: I can’t do new terrible things without my pants.

Ivy: If I smile like this can I go log on now?

Clara: Fooled you I have shorts on!

Jane: I can’t smile because new things are terrible, also I still don’t have my favorite pants.

Ivy: *through gritted teeth * I’ve been smiling forever can I go now?

Clara: Just kidding. I don’t have pants!

Jane: I can’t believe this is really happening without my pants.

Ivy: I’m done.

I may never have a picture of them all smiling at the same time but I’ll not be short of memories looking back at photos like these!

In A Pickle by Cindy Dorminy

Every time I tell someone about a romance novel I think of my favorite Janet Evanovich quote.

“Romance novels are birthday cake and life is often peanut butter and jelly. I think everyone should have lots of delicious romance novels lying around for those times when the peanut butter of life gets stuck to the roof of your mouth.”

– Janet Evanovich 

I don’t know about you but someone’s been putting the peanut butter on my life sandwich with an awful heavy hand lately. I have been in need of birthday cake.

As it turns out not only am I a decent baker but now I’ve taught the children and nightly dessert is pretty much a thing now. But as wonderful as a steady diet of chocolate chip cookies made with hard boiled eggs (it really is a thing and they are delicious!), molasses cookies, cakes, cobblers and ice cream sundays is, what me and my nutrition needed was a break from the news and some birthday cake for the soul.

The same small town I fell in love with while reading In A Jam is back. The residents are funny and sassy, the heroine is tiny while her man is huge and muscly. Old love rekindles and things get a bit steamy (but never in a raunchy way). Town gossips and meddlers do their thing and, spoiler alert, it has a happy ending. Which is good because it just wouldn’t be birthday cake without a happy ending, would it?

Would I recommended it? Who doesn’t need a bit of cake for the soul these days?

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!

The Little Red Hen and the Swimming Pool

A Mostly True Story

One day the Little Red Hen set out to set up a swimming pool for her family.

Who will help me level the ground so the pool does not tilt to the side and collapse said the Little Red Hen.

“NOT I!” chorused her family.

So the Little Red Hen set to work with her little red tractor.

The next day her children said, “Momma Hen, Momma Hen! When can we go swimming?” And the Little Red Hen said, “After we set up the pool. I’m not done leveling the ground who would like to help me?”

“NOT I!” chorused her family.

So the Little Red Hen set to work with her little red tractor and her big brown shovel.

The next day her children said “Momma Hen, Momma Hen! When can we go swimming?” And the Little Red Hen said, “After we set up the pool. I’m still not done leveling the ground, who would like to help me?”

“NOT I!” chorused her family.

So the Little Red Hen set to work with her little red tractor, her big brown shovel and her shiny silver level.

That day was very hot. The Little Red Hen sweated as she drove her little red tractor, she she started saying very bad words as she used her big brown shovel and the light from the bright sun hurt her eyes as it bounced off her big silver level.

Suddenly The Little Red hen stomped away from her almost level circle of ground and found her family in the shade.

“All right guys. You remember what happened with the bread right?” squawked the Little Red Hen.

“Yes.” said her family warily.

“Well I’m just letting you know that I am going to enjoy my pool ALL BY MYSELF” said the Little Red Hen and she went to get a cool drink of water before returning to work.

When she came back to pick up her big brown shovel she found her chicks waiting to help. Some of her chicks moved rocks, some brought cool drinks some shoveled and raked and soon the ground was level.

Then the chicks and her rooster helped pull all the pieces of the pool out of the deep dark basement and soon with all the help the pool was filling with water.

When it was finally time to get into the pool all the chicks yelled “Hooray” and splashed and laughed and splashed and chased each other in circles and splashed some more.

And the Little Red Hen, trying to enjoy the cool of the pool closed her eyes against the splashing water and thought, “maybe I shouldn’t have reminded them about the bread.”

Moral of the Story: Be careful what you wish for. Or. Family time is great, until it isn’t.

Pushing Boundaries

It’s not that John dislikes the poultry so much as that he doesn’t love the poultry like I do.

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Being a wonderful tolerant and handsome husband, as well as my number one blog post editor, he doesn’t do more than put up a manly bit of bluster when bird numbers expand and varieties increase.

Mostly he sits back and watches the madness and kindly takes care of them when I am unable. There are a few hard lines I won’t cross when it comes to adding birds (I didn’t even really consider bringing home a peacock and I’d never bring home a four legged creatures without a serious consult). He has alluded to other lines I’m confident are just… guidelines… wishes… attempts to not let the females in his life run rampant with animal husbandry.

And the females in his life know that boundaries are made to be pushed.

Which is how we ended up with three silkie chickens.

Because John is a fantastically tolerant man he rolled his eyes when he saw that they brought us joy and when the rooster grew a crazy comb he announced that his name should be changed from “Fluffy” as Jane called him or “Spike” as I called him to “Magma”.

And because we know you can only push boundaries so far…

Meet our Silkie rooster, Magma.