Waiting for Dr. Sterner

While Sara was doing Defense Part II with the members of her committee, friends and family wandered over to the building on campus with the performing arts hall, and waited at a coffee shop.

The building was gorgeous, and lovingly renovated.

It was a long wait (I think there was also some paperwork processing in there) and I had time to catch up with Sara’s family members, which was nice as I hadn’t seen them in a very long time.

Behold! Dr. Sara Sterner (alas, not the best photo of her)

Also pictured: Shawn (to the left) and Sara’s brother-in-law, sister-in-law, mother-in-law and niece.

Three of Sara’s professors had traveled to Minneapolis to be present for the defense, so photos were taken.

After photos, some catching up, and Sara’s stepmom Barbie snuck around for a different angle.

The Defense

Sara booked the biggest room available for her defense and it was full! She had a lot of friends and family visit. When I sat down, I introduced myself to the woman sitting next to me. She turned out to be a fellow PhD candidate. Her observation: “I go to these things all the time and usually there’s like four people watching.”

Sara’s adviser introduced Sara and the defense. He had a special message from Hogwarts and also pointed out that a royal baby waited to be born until Sara was ready to defend.

Sara explained the work she had done on a post-intentional phenomenological exploration of reading whitely. There were handouts.

At the end we got to ask questions.

Once the public defense was done Sara stayed behind for another hour of questions. After that, her committee voted though we weren’t there for that part.

Getting to the defense

My first full day in Minneapolis was also the day of Sara’s defense. I decided to use the Nice Ride bikes to get myself to campus.

On the same street where I was saying was this gorgeous apartment building.

My neighborhood had a lot of churches in it, including two across the street from one another.

About four blocks from my house were the bikes.

I checked one out and was on my way. Look at the great bike infrastructure they have! I rode bike lanes the entire way to campus.

This bridge took me over the freeway.

Here I have a great view of the Mighty Mississippi.

I got to campus quite easily using the Google Maps directions. From that point, I had a bit of trouble finding a docking station. The campus is large. I ended up docking at the Student Union because I knew where that was and vaguly in which direction it was located and then power-walked over to the defense.

Thank goodness I’d visited campus on previous trips.

Where am I staying in Minneapolis?

I booked a room in an AirB&B for my lodging. It was not far from the football stadium and very close to many transportation options.

The picture of the house on the website cleverly cropped out those crumbling steps, which were all I could see as I stood on the sidewalk. Had I made a mistake?

My room is the second floor window on the left.

But no! Indoors, it was lovely. Here’s the sitting room with a bit of the dining room.

The kitchen still had its butler’s pantry which included pull-out bins for flour and sugar.

The more modern kitchen.

Here’s my bedroom, which was quite large.

And included a big walk-in closet with a window to outside.

The view from my window.

There was a lot of original hardware that was just gorgeous. This is my bedroom door looking out into the stairwell.

Look at that vent!

My favorite feature of the house was the servant’s staircase. Here’s where the servants walk up.

And here’s is where the family walks up. You can see how you can close a door to shut off the kitchen area.

But the funny thing about the two staircases was, both staircases traveled to the same landing.

Here I am, packed for my first full day!

Minneapolis Day 1: Bike ride to Lake Nokomis

Sara K, whom you might know from her regular comments on this blog, is almost Dr. Sara K. She’s spent the last few years working toward a PhD, and I’m in Minneapolis to see her defense.

After navigating myself from the airport to my AirBnB, (thanks light rail!) I used the app on my phone to find a Nice Ride. Those would be the bike share bikes in the Twin Cities.

There was a bank of bikes not far from my place, and I rode about 25 minutes to Lake Nokomis, where I locked up my bike at another station. Easy as pie!

One thing I enjoyed about Lake Nokomis, was that they had seperate paths for walkers and bikes. The path in the foreground is for walkers; the one in the back is for bikes. Very smart, Minneapolis!

While it was full-on warm spring in Portland, it was still early spring in the North Star State. I would call what I experienced mid-to-late-March weather.

A variety of Sara’s relatives (and Sara herself, plus Shawn) arrived and we ate and chatted.

Shawn and Sara gave me a ride back to my place, which was also nice, as I was not wearing a mid-to-late March coat and I was a bit chilled when the sun was going down.

What a great start to my trip!

Anniversary dinner at Navarre

It’s our seventeenth anniversary and to celebrate, we had a delicious meal at Navarre. The restaurant was deserted, as it was a glorious warm spring day and everyone else was probably hiking or some other outdoorsy Portland thing.

Due to the full staff and the lack of other customers, our food came fast. While we ate dinner we traded off asking questions of our favorite memories. Examples: favorite vacation we’ve taken/ favorite wedding we’ve attended/ favorite thing about our house, etc. It turned out to be a pretty fun game.

We forgot to take a picture in the restaurant, so here we are by the car.

I float for the first time

Call me float-curious. Floating, the practice of paying money to lie in a dark in a tank of water with a bunch of Epsom salts was very intriguing to me.

Not enough to pay money, but I was interested.

Enter friend Kelly, who gets free floats as a part of her volunteer gig. She gifted me one, so I signed up.

Float On has a very cool waiting room. The walls are covered with this stretchy fabric that was mesmerizing. Plus, look at all those stretchy fabric things on the ceiling! And there was tea.

And look at this great mural in the bathroom!

Here’s my room. You are looking at the shower and the door to the tank.

From the other direction, the door to the hallway, a complementary robe (that I didn’t need to use) and on the right, the filtering system for the tank.

I was given an orientation, I showered, got into the tank and closed the door.

And then 90 minutes passed.

At first, I thought I needed to be inert in the water, but eventually I realized that I could move around if I wanted. After I started some slow movement of my limbs, I enjoyed floating more.

And yet.

I’m a person who regularly experiences insomnia, so I’m quite familiar with the feeling of being awake in a dark room, alone with my thoughts.

I also am a swimmer with a goodly amount of body fat, so floating is also a thing that happens to me on a regular basis.

When I started thinking of things I would rather spend money on than floating that would also relax me (massage, acupuncture, a nap—which is free) I concluded that floating was not for me.

And I’m so glad I got to figure that out for free.

If you are float curious, I recommend Float On. It was a great operation.

Messages on the bus ride home

I interpreted the very direct message on the power pole to be referring to suicide, of which there seems to be an unreasonable amount of going on right now. But today I can see that it can also refer to just getting to exist in this world. Our homeless population probably feels like we don’t think they get to live.

I loved thinking of the number of flyers and signs that had been posted to this pole over the years.

Books read in April 2019

The thing about getting behind on your blog posts? It sometimes feels like it’s been a lifetime since you’ve read this book. If you had asked me today (June 28) when I read To Night Owl, From Dogfish, I would have said, “last year sometime, maybe?”

But apparently, I read it in April. It was great! So was Serious Moonlight, Love to Everyone, Kiss Number 8, and Let ‘er Buck!

Middle Grade

To Night Owl, From Dogfish
Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
Read for Librarian Book Group

Being a fan of epistolary fiction, I was all over these two girls’ back and forth emails as they first plotted against their fathers’ plan to send them to camp together so they could get to know each other.

Aside from Avery and Bett, who shine through their correspondence, we meet and get to know a lot of other people in their orbits. This book includes the fun of correspondence and the fun of summer camp. It may be my favorite book so far in 2019.

The Backstagers
James Tynion & Rian Sygh
Read for Family Book Group

The final selection of the Family Book Group year (and my tenure as the person leading the group) was this little graphic novel comic book about the people who work backstage during plays.

As established in previous reviews, graphic novels aren’t my medium and this very comic-book style of graphic novel is especially not my medium, so there was that barrier. Despite the barrier, I really enjoyed the characters and the magical backstage. In doing preparatory work for our Family Book Group meeting, I read interviews with the creators that had me liking the book even more. While I won’t be reading volumes 2 and 3, I’m really glad this series exists.

It was well received by both the kids and the adults in the Family Book Group.

Young Adult

Bloom
Kevin Panetta, Savanna Ganucheau
Read for Librarian Book Group

A graphic novel with good illustrations and a color scheme that screams pleasant beach environment. I also enjoyed seeing the variety of delicious baked goods that were featured as a part of the story.

What I didn’t love was the main character Ari, who was kind of a jerk, although appropriate enough for his age and stage in life.

Serious Moonlight
Jenn Bennett

What is it about Jenn Bennett that makes me want to start reading her books from the beginning right after I finish the last page? She’s got great characters, for one. And her conundrums are spot on, and never manufactured drama.

In this book, Birdie is an overly sheltered (home schooled by her religious grandmother from the age of 10 when her mother abruptly died) girl from Bainbridge Island who is starting her first job as a night clerk at at Seattle hotel. She’s a mystery enthusiast, hoping her new job will bring some sort of a case her way.

There is a mystery for her to solve, but there’s also Daniel, the guy she met at the Moonlight Diner.

Bennett excels at the tentativeness of first love, and also witty repartee and amusing situations. There was even a gasp or two by me as the story unfolded.

Slight quibbles: I found it hard to believe that someone who grew up for 18 years in Seattle and the Seattle metro area would not have been well-acquainted with sushi, especially with that freewheeling Aunt Mona in her life. And even if she wasn’t familiar with sushi, the fact that Birdie didn’t know that Japanese culture is a shoes-off culture struck me as very weird. Plus, with all that June Gloom, would those apricots would have ripened as early as they did?

We Set the Dark on Fire
Tehlor Kay Mejia
Read for Librarian Book Group

When I set down a book mid-read for a different book, it’s not a great sign. When I read that new book twice in a row, it’s a very bad sign.

Nothing really worked for me with this book. The pacing was off. It took until mid-book for things to really get going and I was 10 pages out from the ending wondering how in the heck things were going to wrap up.

I never really believed the world. You can put a rambling myth at the beginning of a story, but that doesn’t mean I will believe it.

Things developed in ways that were not at all surprising and I could tell the parts in the book where I was supposed to feel tense, but my feelings never moved past boredom.

Love to Everyone
Hilary McKay
Read for Librarian Book Group

This book has the best first page I’ve read in a very long time. It’s the kind of first page so good at drawing me in that I was moved to post it on Instagram. It’s the kind of dreamy writing that immediately reminded me of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, a favorite book from my childhood.

From that first page, it’s a book chock full of details of the pre-World War I time period and characters so vivid I wouldn’t be surprised if they stopped by for tea.

It does not have the standard sort of plot that I’ve grown used to, rather it follows Clarry from her early childhood to her early adulthood. That left me feeling the book dragged through the middle. However, the other very good things propped me up and the book overall left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

P.S. I have just discovered that the British title of this book is The Skylarks’ War. Man, those Brits get all the good stuff. That’s a much better title!

Kiss Number 8
Coleen A.F. Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw
Read for Librarian Book Group

This book does a great job capturing the adolescent rage I think we all felt during our adolescence. And I felt the frustration right along with Amanda because the lack of clarity provided by her parents was maddening.

That lack of clarity adds a nice layer of mystery. There are also friendship expectations and identity stuff. Also, it’s set in 2004, so there might be some nostalgia details baked in for readers of a certain age.

In short, great story, great drawings, really great book.

Young nonfition

Titanosaur
Jose Luis Carballido
Read for Librarian Book Group

I was unclear about a few details (What year was this? Was the gaucho on the first page also the landowner?) and that was distracting. However, it’s a pretty cool dinosaur book. I liked the combination of illustrations and photos from the dig.

Let ‘er Buck
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson & Gordon C. James
Read for Librarian Book Group

I loved this picture book of history of George Fletcher who did not win the 1911 Pendelton Roundup even though he probably would have, had he not been a black man.

This book not only has an excellent voice for its subject matter, but also has incredible illustrations, all of which I would be glad to have on the walls of my imaginary high desert cabin.

There’s also great back matter that is frank about how hard it was to verify information, plus a selected bibliography.

Borrowing Bunnies: A Surprising True Tale of Fostering Rabbits
Cynthia Lord, John Bald and Hazel Mitchell
Read for Librarian Book Group

I’m not a person who is interested in rabbits as pets, but boy did I like this book, which combines photographs and illustrations to teach us both about the specific bunnies that Cynthia Lord was fostering and also about pet rabbit information in general.

There’s a good afterward discussing things to think about before you adopt a bunny.

Song of the Month April 2019: Blood Red Coupe Deville

Oh my goodness, do I love this song. It was one of those where I heard it in the car and did my best to remember enough of the lines to google it. It helped that “blood red coupe deville” happened to be the title.

This song hits all those blues/soul/rock notes that were imprinted on me from an early age. And it’s got some great lyrics to sing along to:

And I wonder what they’ll say about me after my final drive
Rollin’ in my Blood Red Coupe Deville
They say that I lived too fast, that I died too free
That I got lost in alcohol but found in the reverie

Apparently Hadden Sayers is a native Texan and is “as comfortable on a massive festival stage with a Stratocaster in his hands as he is strumming an acoustic guitar in your living room.”

He’s touring this summer and you can find the dates and locations on his website.

Thanks to whatever the blues show is called on KINK on Sunday night. I would have missed this song, otherwise.