January 2017 Reading Recap

The first reading recap of 2017 is here! Yay!

Not a bad start to the year, either. I read 8 books this month, though about half of them have been easy re-reads. I’m still glad to be off to a strong start and to give myself a little padding for later in the year when I inevitably slack off, haha. I am 15% done with my annual challenge of reading 52 books in a year!

Feel free to friend me on Goodreads to see all the books I’ve read and to follow my progress!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed – 3/5 stars

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailAt 26, Cheryl is at a quarter-life crisis. Her mother just died, she recently got a divorce, and she has no money and no plans. On a whim, she decides to hike the Pacific Coast Trail, a trail 2,650 miles long that spans from Mexico to Canada. Cheryl has no experience or knowledge of backpacking or hiking or climbing mountains, but she goes.

I really had a hard time determining whether I liked this book or not. I loved Cheryl’s sheer will and tenacity to go on this crazy adventure even though she’s clearly out of her league, and I really enjoyed learning all the basics of hiking alongside her. It was amazing to see her put everything she needs to survive in one large backpack (and have to carry it!), how she purified her water, how she slept at night and protected her food. All the aspects of the book that pertained to her hike fascinated me because I don’t have hardly any prior knowledge. I’m a newb, too.

The part I had trouble with was her. I understand it’s necessary to include the background of her life which led up to her decision of why she wanted to hike the trail in the first place, but she was so annoying. She made poor life decisions for no apparent reason at all, and then she complained and wondered how she got into those situations in the first place. It was also a little mind-boggling how very little she prepared for the trip. She didn’t research any farther than her nearest REI store and when she got into these horrible life-and-death situations – like where she didn’t bring enough water on a stretch of the trail because she didn’t want to carry it and almost died of dehydration- I just wanted to yell, “What did you expect???” So while I admired her tenacity and spontaneity, she was also incredibly stupid.

I didn’t really come away from this book with a completely new outlook on life, but it was an interesting read. I think it’s worth reading, but I didn’t live up to all the hype.

Little House on the Prairie (Books #1-4) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House in the Big Woods – 5/5 stars | Little House on the Prairie – 5/5 stars | Farmer Boy – 4/5 stars  | On the Banks of Plum Creek – 4/5 stars

2612801These are some of my favorite childhood books. I have a paperback copy of the whole series that are well-worn because I have read them so many times. I still have some books at my mom’s house that I went over to pick up and I found these in that pile. I hadn’t read them in a long time and when I was flipping through, I remembered how much I enjoyed them and wanted to read them again.

I enjoyed them just as much on this read-through as I did when I was younger. Life back in the 1800s is so vastly different than today, so it’s always interesting to read how they did everything by hand and to view it all through Laura’s childlike wonder. Everything is new and exciting, and while they’re written for children, they’re just as enjoyable for adults. There are actually a few things that I’ve caught that I didn’t fully understand when I was younger.

77769For example, Laura’s father tells her and her sister not to slide down the haystack he’s worked to put together. So when he finds the hay scattered all over, no longer in a stack, he asks her if she slid down it again. She answers no, she didn’t slide down it, but she did roll down it. He turns around and she sees his back quivering. I realize now that it’s because he is laughing at her logic, but doesn’t want her to know

My least favorite of these four I read this month are Farmer Boy and Little House on Plum Creek. While I still enjoyed them, they just aren’t my favorites in regards to the story line. I’ve always loved Little House in the Big Woods, the first book in the series, as everything is just normal every day life before they decide to hitch everything up and move west. I’ve got the first four down in the series, now five more to go!

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiogrophy by Neil Patrick Harris – 4/5 stars

20170296NPH’s autobiography is everything you think it might be: funny, witty, cleverly unique, and entertaining. He styles his autobiography after choose your own ending books, where you can flip to different pages for different endings and storylines. Some were humorous, like the fictitious chapters about fantastical ways that he dies, and some were more realistic chapters about how certain aspects of his life might have played out differently had he made different decisions.

All the hilarity aside, I think NPH did a great job giving an overview of his life, including his struggles and how they shaped the person that he is today. I’ve enjoyed a lot of his work so it was fun to learn more about him and his life. The book is pretty short, so it’s a quick and easy read that I would recommend to any one who is a fan.

Happy reading, everyone! Have you read any good books this year?

 

Remembering Grandma Gray

I got the call Tuesday morning that my grandma died. I knew immediately when I saw my mom’s name pop up on my caller ID. My mom usually never calls me while I’m at work and my grandma hadn’t been doing well the past week or so.

It didn’t really hit me right away. I was sad, but I didn’t immediately burst into tears. She had lived a long life (she was 90!) and she had been in a lot pain the last couple months with various illnesses, and now she was finally with my grandpa again. I went back to my desk and my coworker asked if I was alright, and I was.

My grandma, as well as the rest of my dad’s side of the family, lives in western Pennsylvania, which is about an 11-12 hour drive. My parents and my sister drove up on Wednesday, but I didn’t head up until Thursday with my other two brothers and Andrew since we had to work. The drive itself was pretty uneventful, which is always a good thing. It was a bit long, but it wasn’t anything I’m not used to since our family has always taken long road-trips to Florida and Pennsylvania.

All of my dad’s family met up at my grandma’s house for dinner on Thursday night. It was so good to see all my aunts and uncles and cousins, some of which hadn’t seen in a long time. We found a bunch of old photo albums and pictures of my grandma’s and we had such a good time going through them and reminiscing. There were pictures of my grandma at all different ages, and we found some of me and my siblings, as well as a ton of my dad! We laughed at everyone’s outfits and hair and it was just so good to be there with everyone at that time when we were all hurting to share those memories together.

The funeral home held a private viewing for the family first. They really did my grandma well; she looked absolutely beautiful.  As she got older and as she got sicker, she looked less like herself, but this looked like my grandma.

I cried then. And I held my dad and he held me. And we both cried together.

My grandparents lived on a pretty big piece of land, so going to Pennsylvania was always a bit of an adventure for us. We were used to houses right next to each other in suburban neighborhoods, and all the space was luxurious .The front of their house looks down a steep bank and out to the river. Down there, they had a garden, the stables for their horses, and the honeybees that my grandpa raised. Their backyard extended out into the forest for a couple of acres. We never explored the forest very well since they’ve spotted bears before, but the rest of their land was our playground.

I remember my grandpa would pull us around on this rickety little homemade wagon that he would pull with his tractor. We would bounce around and giggle as he pulled us all over the house and down the path to the stables by the creek.

Me sitting on my grandpap’s lap with my sister riding in the wagon on the back. Wish I had found some of me and my grandma!

My grandpa had two horses; one named Raindrop who was a white mare with black spots all over, and Chip who was a smooth brown color. Raindrop was always my favorite. He would let us ride them as long as he or my aunt was leading them around on the reins. They were good horses, and we always enjoyed petting them and riding them when we could. You don’t see horses too often in the suburbs, so they were really exciting for us.

Whenever we would travel up for a week in the summer or over Christmas break, my grandma would always bake us all of our favorite cookies and candies: peanut brittle for me and my brother, a pumpkin roll for my sister, mint chocolates for my other brother, chocolate gobs for my mom, and everything in between for my dad. She would make everything from scratch, even the buns we would have for sandwiches for lunch. In the mornings she would make homemade cinnamon rolls, and we would help her shuck corn for dinner that evening. Everything was always delicious, but my family especially loved the corn that they grew in the garden.

Some of my favorite Christmases were at my grandma’s. One of my favorite toys as a kid – that my mom saved and still has now for future grandchildren– was a Barbie house that they gave me. The wall swiveled to make the room either a kitchen or a bedroom and the bed folded up and down. The boombox next to the bed had a button you could press and it would play music, and the phone in the kitchen you could make ring. I thought it was the coolest thing and I played with it all the time.

As cool as that Barbie house was, my favorite gift from my grandma is a sock monkey that she made by hand. This was so special to me because she made it from real socks, and it looked like she could have bought it straight from a store. I played with it a lot, so it’s a little beaten up today, but I still have it proudly sitting on my bookshelf. She also made me and my siblings stuffed bears and knit clothes for our dolls, as well as baby blankets and scarves.

She never forgot to send a card or a call on your birthday, and she had everyone’s birthday memorized in the family – and our family is huge! She had nine siblings (including my grandpa’s), six children (plus spouses), eight grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and countless nieces and nephews. But she never forgot anyone.

That was just the type of person she was.

I have so many wonderful memories of my grandma, so it was hard to say goodbye. Her absence made me miss my grandpa’s absence even more. Losing her makes me feel like I’ve lost him again. My memories of my grandma are intertwined with memories of my grandpa, and vice versa.

This weekend was hard, but with all hurt there is healing, and the knowledge that she is in a better place with my grandpa once again comforts all of us. But we sure will miss her.

© Copyright Rebecca Smith | 2011-2019