Mar 24, 2015

Digging Into the Past

Keeping track of the past is important. This was highlighted to me more than ever when my mom sent over an envelope of old family pictures. Inside are snapshots of her mom, my grandmother, extended family, friends. Most of the pictures are from a time long before I was alive.

One recurring image was of this guy who was clearly having a great time. On the back of each photograph, in my grandmother’s hand, it said “Eddie.” This, it turns out, was my Grandma's brother.

Eddie. Why don’t I know about Eddie?

I called my mom and we’re in the early stages of planning a trip to visit my Great Aunt Ceil to learn more about her brother, Eddie. The Eddie who is running around with friends having great laughs. The Eddie is the star of every image he’s in. The Eddie who clearly you’d want to hang out with.

One of my friends, Mike, does a great job of taking pictures at parties and sending printed copies to everyone. I aspire to that type of recording of memories. I want someday for someone to be able to look through images and say, “This Kate… she looks like someone I’d like to know.”

If stuff stays stored on cameras, photo sharing sites and social media, it may be lost forever. Paper shouldn’t last that long, but it can. It can be an artifact of your life. Proof of your existence.

Great Uncle EddieGreat Uncle Eddie

Great Uncle Eddie

Great Uncle Eddie and Friends

Great Uncle Eddie and Friends

This post was inspired by Dead Wake by Erik Larson, a thrilling account of Lusitania’s last voyage across the Atlantic Ocean and the U-boat that attacked it. Join From Left to Write on March 26th as we discuss Dead Wake. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Going Back in Time: Tragedies in Novels

My Weeks in Books

I’ve been reading some heavy stuff lately. First there was lynching, then wartime naval attacks and finally family feuds resulting in murders, suicides and rapes.

And yet… the books were pretty good.

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

I am acutely aware that a lot of people in the United States have giant hole in their knowledge of our country. I hear it when they talk aghast of atrocities happening in other countries but seem confused when you relate foreign events or more local current events to our own recent past. The history of race relations in the U.S. is an important story to tell and one often told badly.

In Stella by Starlight, Sharon M. Draper does a good job of presenting the segregated South in a way children can understand. Targeting kids ages 9 to 13 (and adults in their mid-30s…), she talks about the challenges black communities faced in general and the very real dangers they faced because of racism and the Ku Klux Klan. What’s amazing about Stella by Starlight is that Draper tells a story that gives so much, without going into any gory details. She gives the main character, Stella, a great voice by showing her both as the narrator but also as an author of some sections, helping to bring forth important parts of our history.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

I'm not typically drawn to non-fiction books. I read a handful a year and am usually happy that I have, but my preferences always lean to fiction. Erik Larson, who also wrote Devil in the White City, which I loved, has a special talent of making something I think is pretty darn boring fascinating. At book club I was trying to describe Dead Wake and kept saying, "I mean, nothing is really happening. But it's so good." And it was. I was reading it at the gym, where normally an exciting plot pushes me through a workout, and I was enthralled by the minutia Larson compiled about the Lusitania. I've found myself referencing the book in conversation.

This book is good. Read it.

Juliet by Anne Fortier

I'm not actually done with Juliet by Anne Fortier just yet, but I will be by the end of today. The book is a sort of retelling of Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet. Or, rather, many retellings of that classic story. Jumping back and forth between a present-day Romeo and Guiletta and the original classics, Fortier explains the history of the love story and how the rivalry between families (the Montagues and Capuletsin Shakespear's version and the Tolomeis and the Salembenis in this book).

The first two thirds of the book had enough mystery and intrigue that I was really hooked. The latter part of the book appears to be turning into a straight-up romance novel and I'm losing steam. (Right as it gets steamy!) But I do enjoy hearing how classic stories have different versions told throughout history.

Mar 20, 2015

It's Official. Spring Has Arrived.

After too long spent indoors, Spring has arrived.
Today is the first day of Spring. It doesn't quite feel like it yet. I'm wearing a wool sweater to keep warm. Outside it is grey and murky. But there are signs that Mother Nature has called time out on Winter and hailed the arrival of Spring.

Where only weeks ago I was using my snowblower to keep up with the many, many inches of snow in Cincinnati, now we're experiencing sporadic warm days where people go running without shirts, children run at playground and pick-up games of soccer form at parks.

In my front yard, there are little flowers fighting their way up from the cold ground, and they give me hope.

Wonder Boy and I have decided that this upcoming Summer will be the "Summer of Fun." This means that we need to complete any projects we want to get done while it is still Spring. Because once it's Summer, we're not working. We're only having fun. And so we're making lists and calling contractors and making repairs to our house and yard all in the anticipation of this "Summer of Fun."

In the meantime, I need to make sure I am appreciating the good weather we do have.

Today I hung wind chimes off my front porch. The bright beads and beautiful Terra Cotta are in sharp contrast with the grey of the sky. But they're hopeful. They're screaming, "Hey! It's about to be warm!"
Wind chimes make the porch feel more like Spring, even if it is cold outside.

I love the colors of these Nouvea Wind Chimes.

The Nouvea Wind Chime fits in perfectly next to my about-to-bloom magnolia tree.

What I love just as much as this little ornament that reminds me of Spring are the flowers shouting at me. The buds forming on my Magnolia tree.
The tiny crocus is the first sign that Spring has arrived.
I still have a while until my garden comes into full bloom, but until then, and long after, I'll be enjoying my Nouvea Wind Chime from It's well-made, beautiful and will remind me every time I leave my front door, even when it's cold and grey outside, that Spring really is here.

This post is sponsored by Home 'n Yard. I received the Nouvea Wind Chime as a free sample, but all opinions shared here are my own. If you're looking for your own symbols of Spring to put in your yard or around your home, check  Home 'n Yard. They have a great variety of products, including some very cute bird-shaped birdhouses!

Mar 11, 2015

It’s What’s On The Inside That Counts, but Sometimes the Outside Needs Some Work

I mentioned a while back that I’m feeling almost back to my pre-surgery self, excepting a few areas: occasional pangs of pain, losing some weight gained before surgery and on bed rest, regaining My core strength, dealing with hair loss and addressing my skin, which is irritated and breaking out more than normal. It’s funny how much can be affected by a seemingly unrelated organ. While all of these complaints are minor, they’re still complaints.

I’m actively addressing what I can. I’m regularly hitting the gym and slowly getting stronger, My nephrologist let me know that my thyroid should be a little out of whack for the next several months. He and I are monitoring it, but I assume that it’s to blame for the hair loss.

My skin is the one that I’ve struggled with the most. I know it’s not serious and mostly just vanity, but I’m in my mid-30s. I don’t want to be back on the skin regimens I used in high school!

My specific complaints are:
  • Persistent dry patches that turn painful and leave dark spots
  • General acne (likely not helped by my trying to treat the dry patches)
  • Some spots along my hairline that could be dryness or could be acne
  • Signs of aging that I used to be able to address with creams, but I’d had to discontinue the creams because of the dry patches
This is all coupled with the fact that I have really sensitive skin and will break out in hives if I use the wrong product!

I regretfully had my annual appointment with my dermatologist about 2 weeks before my hysterectomy, so I’ve been trying to come up with home remedies. I’ve spent a lot of time on Google. Do you know what you don’t want to do image searches on? Skin conditions. Yikes! The closest match I could find for the spots I was seeing, based both on definition and images, was Seborrheic Dermatitis. That label would cover both the dry spots on my skin and the spots on my hairline. I’ve found some shampoo and conditioner that is helping and that two different kinds of skin cream that seem to be slowly doing the trick.

Now that I’ve got things moving in the right direction, I’ve been trying out skin creams again. I’ve had great luck with Imbue Naturals 20% Vitamin C Serum. I’ve used it for the past several weeks and can see the difference. My skin feels tighter and, where I’m not dealing with other issues, looks great. So often when I try out a new product, it causes me to break out in hives. I haven’t had an issue with that at all! The directions indicate that you should follow use with moisturizer and that's definitely the case. The serum leaves my skin a little dry but it's easily addressed with lotion.

I still have my list of complaints, but now that I’m working on addressing them, they don’t seem so bad. I look in the mirror and see skin that is a little clearer and a lot brighter and that thrills me. I’m starting to get back into my regular clothing sizes and wear things that are a little more fitted. It’s a work in progress but at least I can see the progress.

This post was sponsored by Imbue Naturals. I received free sample of this product to review. All views shared are my own.