Thursday, July 31, 2014

Please Vote for Shedd Aquarium as Best in North America!!!

Hi Everyone,

If you have read some of my posts in the last 5 months, you know that I am a diver in the Amazon Rising Exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, which opened on May 30. 1930. Okay, I will admit it is not a glamorous job by any means because I scrub the tanks. Sometimes, I even get to catch turtles. The cool part, though, is I am up close and personal to so many amazing (and large) animals including a tank full of piranhas! I remind myself every time I dive to spend a moment looking around, watching the animals move peacefully, trying to be thankful for where I am, and what I am seeing. I don’t touch them, but they touch me. Some are all up in my business, particularly the turtles.

So the reason for this post is USA Today is conducting a “Reader’s Choice” poll for all sorts of things with one being BEST AQUARIUM IN NORTH AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!

Please consider voting for Shedd Aquarium! It is an incredible museum! Check out the website. Explore. And when you come to Chicago, hit me up! I would be happy to walk you through my favorite exhibits (Amazon Rising (of course), The Caribbean Reef, The Wild Reef, Seahorses, and the Beluga Whale tank).

To vote, just follow this link:

Tanks (as we divers say) bunches!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Should Be Packing. I Don't Feel Like Packing: Books

I am a night owl, and lately I’ve been getting up early too. This means I am tired all the time. Sometimes being tired all the time also means I may be crabby. But here, I’m meant to be talking about books.

Waking up this morning, early, I planned to get further in the packing process of our house. [We accepted a nice offer last week and the family requested a quick close so their children can be somewhat settle before school starts. We have exactly two weeks from today to get the heck out of dodge. We’re fine with this, with the small exception that we have yet to find somewhere to go (with all of our stuff). Hopefully, this will be remedied today when we go apartment hunting in the city.] However, what I really felt like doing was heading to yoga. I vowed that after yoga I would begin packing.

On the way home from yoga, I ran into a neighbor who was sweeping her driveway. I like this neighbor, and I may never see her again after the move, or not for a long time because you never know what will happen over the course of time. I stopped to chat. It felt so nice to take the time to just talk and catch up. I told her about the move, and that I should be packing instead of chatting. “It’ll get done,” she said.

When I got home, I hung up my yoga mat to air out and planned to get further in the packing process. However, what I really felt like doing was writing and talking about books, both of which I haven’t done in a very long time because I’ve been busy selling this house and contemplating packing. After I finish writing and talking about books, I plan to get further in the packing process.

What have I recently finished?

The Vacationers by Emma Straub. I expected more from Straub, and I’m not entirely sure why, but I just did! Here is my short review on Goodreads:

[I just changed this review to 3-stars. It was okay, and I liked it more than I didn't. I think it was me; I've been crabby lately.]

It has been a while since I've been annoyed, dulled, and disappointed by a book. It took an un-Godly amount of time to finish. I felt the writing trite. The storyline never really went anywhere, and then tried desperately, it seemed, to tie up too many loose ends too tightly. It didn't work for me. So disappointed this book didn't live up to my expectations, or the hype. I suppose I'm not an Emma Straub fan after all.

What am I currently reading?

I am listening to Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. At this point, about three quarters of the way through, I am anticipating that I’ll give this book 5-stars. It may be that the narrator is fantastic. She is Nigerian so she gives this book all the nuances only someone who is narrating a book about Nigerian people can do. Plus, she nails the British inflections as well (and, boy, do I love me some British accents!). This story is about race, and about romance, and about struggling. I am loving it and will be recommending the heck out of it as well.

I am reading a short story collection called Can’t and Won’t: Stories by Lydia Davis. Short story collections are always difficult to describe. This is one has some of the most unusual writing I have ever read. I am not entirely sure how I feel about it at this point. Some stories, I like very much. Others are confusing.

Lastly, I am reading To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. I won this in February as a “first read” from Goodreads. Just now getting to it. This writing is very, very good, and clever, and funny. The perspective of the protagonist is unlike any I have ever read (or can remember reading). More to come on this one!

What will I read next?

I will let you know after I vacate these premises!!!

What are you reading? I am always interested in suggestions and perspectives!

Thanks to Should Be Reading for letting us drop off our book lists at her premises. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Books, Baby!!!! It Is Wednesday, After All...

Not too much in my world of books has changed dramatically since last week because the holiday weekend was extremely full. Fun. But crazy F-U-L-L.

What am I currently reading?

I am still reading Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis. I am very much enjoying this very different collection of short stories.

I began Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is what Goodreads has to say about the book:

            “A story of love and race centered around a young man and woman from Nigeria who face difficult choices and challenges in the countries they come to call home.”

I am not far in, but it is funny, and sweet, and incredibly readable to this point. It’s one of those books you can let lazily wash over you. So enjoyable!

What did I recently finish?

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. All I can say is WOW!!! It is a powerful book. It is, at times, difficult to read due to subject matter. It is not pretty. That said, I was glued to it every single free moment I had from cover to cover. The writing is sparse. I liked that. It is dark, dark, dark. I liked that, too.  Here is the Goodreads link:

What will I read next?

I think I will next read The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez or All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I haven’t read historical fiction in a long time. Or I could finish up The Vacationers by Emma Straub, which I lent out after 100 pages, but now it’s back.

As always, so many books, too little time.

Thanks to Should Be Reading for allowing us to hook up with other book lovers!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

People Who Spoil All the Fun: Yeah Write

Ever looked forward to an adventure, something really cool and fun, then someone has to spoil your carefree feeling and excitement by mentioning the pitfalls, and scary parts, of actually doing it? Yeah, me, too.

I work at the aquarium in Chicago as a volunteer diver (all 86 divers are volunteers except for the dolphin and Beluga whale trainers, who may or may not be divers. They are probably just trainers, which is so cool.). While doing pre-dive preparations yesterday, the Aquarist of the Amazon Rising exhibit, asked me for a favor. He’s never before probably because I’m low man on the proverbial totem pole. Yep, a peon!

“Have you noticed the difference between the turtle shells?”

(I love turtles!)

“Yes.” (which really meant I sort of noticed.)

“Will you grab one of the two bigger ones (approximately 2.5' long, 18"wide) with the curved shell? I need to do a procedure. Doesn’t matter which one. See it halfway under that stump.”

I stuck my head underwater.

“Yes, I see it.”

[I was so excited because I have many years of experience catching turtles at the lake with my kids.  We’d mark their shells with red nail polish, put them in a homemade turtle terrarium (read tub), and feed them fishy food and bugs for a few days, if they didn’t crawl out sooner, or failed to survive evening (bloody) raccoon raids. (Imagine explaining to young ones why it is suddenly important to keep the terrarium inside at night, without, of course, any mention of the covert task of massacre clean up, but including a tall tale about turtles needing to be with their mommies, too.)]

“The little ones are friendly. These big guys will bite.”

“Did you have to tell me that?”

“They’re more aggressive. Don’t get your face or hands anywhere near their mouths. (I WON’T) They have very long, sharp claws, too, that can slice skin wide open. You have gloves on. You should be fine. Just be careful. Here’s the net.”

Well, that spoiled the whole freaking turtle catching adventure because now I was nervous, tentative, a little scared, which is not how I wanted to feel when trying to exude bravery and secure the turtle. Plus they aren’t the only creatures in these tanks. There are three giant Arapaimas the size of 300-pound men, 5-foot long, butt-ugly catfish, and Stingrays with barbs scattering underfoot.

I swear that turtle knew I was coming because when I got back in the water, it was long gone. I had to go looking while wading amongst every other animal in my way. Did you know it’s possible to break into a full-on, fearful sweat underwater? I found that sneaky thing wedged into a corner, adjacent to the sand-colored stingray sucking face with the glass. Her head and claws (temporarily) drawn into her shell.

She fought me some as I gingerly carried her up for her procedure. I did it. I was sweaty and scared, but I did it.

On my way home, I thought a lot about the ways other people sometimes, purposely, spoil our excitement about adventures, and things we look forward to doing. I don’t believe he was purposely trying to do so, or ruin anything, even though I do believe he was testing me (Did I mention he’s the same guy who, a few weeks back, purposely sprinkled turtle food above my unknowing head, and I couldn’t figure out why the turtles wouldn’t leave me alone?). I don’t always understand when it happens at other times, with other people. I also wonder why I let them.

(2nd Try!!!) My Beach (Lake) Read Stack For The Next Eight Weeks

Moments to myself, and for reading, have been few and far between lately. I brought a stack of books to the lake yesterday with the hope that reading time will be plenty, and I can leisurely make my way though them all.

What am I currently reading?

I am thick, thick, thick into An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. Have you heard of it? It has received some major buzz by many of the literary sites (like Book Riot, which I love, by the way. Their articles are interesting, insightful, and fun (if you like to read about books as obsessively, or incessantly, as I do)). This is what Goodreads has to say about it:

"Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents."

This book sucks you in right from the very first page. It won’t take long to finish this one!

I have also recently started a book of short stories called Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis. It has one of the more interesting covers I have ever seen. Too early to tell, as I’ve barely cracked it open.

What have I recently finished?

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia (accent over the “i”) Marquez (accent over the “a”). I loved it. It is a beautifully written story of unrequited love. Oh, it made my heart hurt! The only resistance I had to the book was keeping track of all the names! They are so similar!!! Give it a whirl.

What will I read next?

Remember I told you about a stack? Also, add Cutting for Stone to it, too! AND The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman (which I won a "first reads" from Goodreads!). There are three short story collections in this pile. I am most looking forward to The Book of Unknown Americans, and No One Belongs Here More Than You. But as always, this is subject to change because the Amazon drone knows my lake address, too!!!

Happy to link this back up over at Should Be Reading