Samantha’s Harvest 5K, 10 June 2018

What: 5K

Where: Reading, Massachusetts (course map)

Who: Me and the Bairn (his first race outside of the womb!) and a ton of Shammies

Benefited: Samantha’s Harvest

Time: 38:09

Splits:
-Mile 1: 11:08
-Mile 2: 12:44
-Mile 3: 13:18
-Mile 3.1: 1:15

Background:

I’d been wanting to run this race for a few years. It’s one that always has a big Shammie representation, it’s in a town I hadn’t run in before (see my race maps which badly need updating!), and it benefits a great charity. Unfortunately, it almost always falls on the same day as the Worcester Firefighters 6K… until 2018, that is! (Dang, this recap is waaayyyy overdue.)

Pre-race:

Drew had a soccer game at the same time as the race, so I didn’t have my usual personal cheering squad. Feeling like part of an especially sporty family, I loaded the Bairn and the jogging stroller into the car and set off for Reading High School. By the time we got there, there was already a sizeable Shammie crowd; I don’t often show up at races alone, so it was nice to be met with so many familiar faces! Bib pickup was super easy, and the Bairn and I milled around and socialized a bit before gun time. (Warmup? What warmup?) After a quick Shammies group photo:

samsharvest

Shammies representing

all the runners were led off the high school campus to a cul-de-sac, where the race started.

The race:

The Bairn and I brought up the rear as the gun went off, and Shammie E kept us company for the first half-mile or so, until I just couldn’t keep up anymore. (Those of you who’ve read this blog before may remember Shammie E, who kept Fetus Bairn (is that too weird of a name?) and I company at the Beach 2 Beacon 10K!) This was my first time ever pushing the jogging stroller while running, and I wasn’t even really in 5K, non-stroller-pushing shape to begin with, so I was content to run as slowly as I needed and take walk breaks whenever. I didn’t want to hold E back, so we waved goodbye as she sped off.

The road guards for this race were mostly high school students, and they did a great job (for the most part). There was one confusing intersection where the Bairn and I took off up a hill, because one road guard gestured in that direction as his friend was texting someone, and then the friend looked up and yelled at us that we were going the wrong way. Eh, it wasn’t like I was gunning for a PR or anything, right? I was only mildly annoyed because the hill was so frikkin’ steep!

Honestly, I don’t remember too much else about the race, which I guess is unsurprising as it’s now almost 9 months later and I’ve got a bad case of Toddler Brain (like Pregnancy Brain, except it’s accompanied by a ball of energy who throws tantrums at the drop of a hat). I do remember being excited to see the high school track, where the finish line was, and hearing a random Shammie yell “Yay, go Shammie!!” at me.

When I saw 38:something on the clock as I crossed the finish, I had a teeny pang of disappointment as my competitive-with-myself part of my brain was upset I hadn’t miraculously PR’d. Mostly, though, I was chuffed that I finished in under 40 minutes, considering I was doing my first-ever stroller run on an unfamiliar course when it was kind of hot!

Post-race:

I freed the Bairn from his stroller and let him wander around a little. He mostly wanted to escape the fenced-in track area to explore the open fields, but I was trying to chug water and focus on making my face less red. Several people complimented his “crawl walk run” shirt, which he wore special for race day.

46EA779A-E943-4AC0-B52F-01AC938766FF

A partial view of the Bairn’s race day shirt. You can also see his blurry wee hand as he spins the stroller wheel

Post-race activities seemed pretty low-key. Awards were given to overall and age group winners (the Shammies cleaned up nearly every category), then people just kind of dispersed. I may have been so distracted by Bairn wrangling that I didn’t hear any announcements, but that’s just as well. I did notice some Shammies enjoying post-race beverages in the parking lot, which would have been fun to join in if I hadn’t been a) lugging a Bairn and b) driving said Bairn home.

Once home, I did luxuriate for a while in the shady part of our backyard while the Bairn played with his water table:

watertable

It was a cool experience running with the Bairn (even cooler than running with him in-utero, because we got to chat and I could see him sitting up and taking everything in), and something I’d love to do more. I did manage one more stroller run last summer, but it was *such* a crazy hot summer that I opted for slow stroller walks with iced coffee way more often. Here’s hoping the snow and ice melts soon so we can hit the pavement together again!

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Friday Rambles: End of September Edition

Okay, but how is it almost October already?! Has this year gone faster than usual? I know people say having kids makes the years speed by, but it’s not just me experiencing this hyper-time, right?

This was the week I was going to dive in to my pre-potential-marathon training plan. … Yep. Angry sinuses + sick and teething baby + suddenly feeling first-trimester exhausted again = nope. Maybe tonight??

I am in the middle of far too many books right now. My Goodreads “currently reading” list can be viewed down on the right-hand sidebar of my blog’s homepage. There are 6 right now. 3 I’m actively reading, 3 are ones I pick up and pick at when I can. But with hardly any time for reading these days, even 3 active books is overwhelming. 


For my above problem, I blame Banned Books Week (in a loving, supportive way!) I mark BBW every year by trying to read as many of the top 10 banned books as I can, or by reading at least one book that has been banned/challenged. Using my Kindle has been the only way I’ve finished any books since the Bairn arrived (he naps on me a lot, and the Kindle can be wrangled with one hand) and all the top 10 ebooks were checked out from my library. I grabbed an older one, and then of course a bunch of holds came in at once. Cue a book flood so overwhelming that apparently I can’t stop writing about it 🤓

We’re finally having some fall weather! Last week was mid-80s and muggy and gross. I love warm weather, but I’m done with mugginess. Plus I want to dress the Bairn in his adorable flannel-shirt-and-overalls outfit and plop him in among some pumpkins for a photo op, and the weather hasn’t been cooperating. So I’m excited for that!

The Bairn woke up inconsolable on Monday, after a miserable weekend of snot and coughing on top of teething, so Drew and I stayed home with him. We set out into the heat and humidity to give our stir-crazy wee one a change of scenery, and despite the mugginess it was lovely. 



How’s the weather where you are? Autumnal yet?

Do you have fun plans for the weekend? Or for October?

Do you have a favorite banned book?

Analyzing my Run: The 4-Miler

…or, How I Lost the Mental Bandwidth to Write This Post, and So Turned It Into a Post of Random Thoughts Instead

Right, so. I was planning to ramble on a bit about my 4-mile run that happened last Sunday, kind of like how I rambled for ages about my 3-mile run, but I didn’t really have a lot to say about it. I did 3:1 run-walk intervals:

4miler4milerpace…and felt like my head was going to explode from redness even though it was relatively cool (I realized, when I looked at my phone during during my cool-down walk, that the humidity was at 85% so that might explain it!). That’s really all I remember, so that’s all I’ll say about that. On to the randomness!

1. After my 4-miler, in a fit of nostalgia, I was reading part of an old favorite YA series by Louise Rennison (may she rest in peace). A passage from book 5, Away Laughing on a Fast Camel, spoke to me after my very red run I had just completed, and I thought it would be fun to share.

To set the scene: the main character (Georgia) is going for a run in an effort to impress her Italian crush, Masimo. She doesn’t usually run, and was planning to build up her fitness a bit before “casually” finding out where Masimo runs and “bumping into him” there, but things didn’t really go as planned:

Can heads explode? Because I think mine is going to.
There is some other fool out running. I can hear pounding along behind me but I haven’t got the strength to look round. When I get home I am going to get in the fridge I am so hot and red.
“Ciao, Georgia.”
Ohmygiddygodspajamas, Masimo!!!
Noooooooooooooooo.
He caught up with me and was running alongside me. I just kept running and turned and gave him what I hoped was an attractive smile. Attractive if you like a smiling tomato in a jogging outfit. He looked sooo cool, and not even sweating. Also he seemed to be able to breathe. And talk.
He said, “You know, I didn’t get your phone number. Would it be possible for you to me for to tell?”
I gave him another smile. It might be the last living thing I did. Then I saw the hill path and my brain was so starved of oxygen it had no control over any part of my body. My legs started stumbling down the hill path. They were just merrily careering down the path, carrying my head and body along with them.

I know that feeling well – my legs careering along carrying the rest of me with them! Plus the sensational redness and “tomato in a jogging outfit” situation. Oh yes.

2. I joined the Shammies for Tuesday night track again, and this time decided to try a gentle speed workout of my own, using my GRG intervals. Figuring that the 3:1s on Sunday were okay, I thought the prescribed 2:1s would be relatively easy. Nope! I rode the struggle bus pretty hard and couldn’t figure out why shorter intervals were so much harder. Then I realized it was 82* (~28* C) and sunny and humid, whereas Sunday had been upper 50s (~14* C) and cloudy. That’ll do it.

3. Wednesday was National/Global Running Day, and in celebration of the fact that I could actually take part this year, I joined Runners’ World’s World’s Biggest RUNch, for one sunny mile along the river:

IMG_6788The run started out feeling great! Knowing I was just doing a mile, I ran at a comfortable pace without trying to slow down to something more sustainable. For a while, it looked like I might get close to my fastest mile to date – 8:42… except there were streets to cross and tourists to dodge; my fastest mile was run on an empty track.

I started to flag a bit halfway through, and waited longer than I needed to at my final street crossing to have a nice break. I was excited to see what my pace looked like when I got back to my desk and synced Simon, but it turns out Simon had a bit of a problem with my extended wait at the crosswalk… though I had been standing still, he apparently thought I was flying at a 2:11 pace. Yeah… no. Nice try though, Simon.

2114. The last time I was at Target, I splurged on an on-sale espresso machine. There’s a cafe on campus that sells the BEST iced caramel lattes and I’m so addicted. However, they cost almost $5, and my bank account has been hurting a little thanks to my daily caffeine treat. So I figured I’d try making my own iced lattes at home.

A few internet recipes and some improvising of my own later, plus a fun new plastic cup to parade my beverage around in, and I’ve got myself a daily iced vanilla coconut latte. It’s nowhere near as delicious as the one from the campus cafe, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper! And it’s still got caffeine, so it works.

5. I have MAJOR book ADD right now. I am literally in the middle of 6 books right now, and I can’t seem to really get into any of them. I hate when this happens.

And it doesn’t help that, when Drew and I were killing time between dinner and my haircut appointment Wednesday night, we popped into one of my favorite bookstores and discovered their bargain section. We spent maybe 20 minutes in there, and I walked out with a pile of 5 books. I have a problem.

Yay Friday! Who’s racing this weekend? Any other fun plans afoot?

What are you reading right now? Do you ever get a touch of book ADD?

Tell me something random!

 

Bookish Side of Life: August

Welcome to the third and final installment of the Bookish Side of Life, a summer reading challenge organized by Kelsey at The Blonder Side of Life. The goal of the challenge is to put books before technology and spend some quality time reading! (Check out my posts from June and July.)

I’m chuffed that I was able to meet (and beat!) my goal of 10 books this summer – wahoo!

Bookish Side of LifeBooks Started in August:
-Catch Me If You Can, by Frank W. Abagnale
Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving

Books Finished in August:
–Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, by Mary Norris
-Catch Me If You Can, by Frank W. Abagnale
Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving

Goal Complete So Far:
12 / 10

Thoughts on Books Read: (italicized book blurbs from Goodreads)

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, by Mary Norris
2015, 228 pages

commaMary Norris has spent more than three decades in The New Yorker’s copy department, maintaining its celebrated high standards. Now she brings her vast experience, good cheer, and finely sharpened pencils to help the rest of us in a boisterous language book as full of life as it is of practical advice.

Between You & Me features Norris’s laugh-out-loud descriptions of some of the most common and vexing problems in spelling, punctuation, and usage—comma faults, danglers, “who” vs. “whom,” “that” vs. “which,” compound words, gender-neutral language—and her clear explanations of how to handle them. Down-to-earth and always open-minded, she draws on examples from Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as from The Honeymooners, The Simpsons, David Foster Wallace, and Gillian Flynn. She takes us to see a copy of Noah Webster’s groundbreaking Blue-Back Speller, on a quest to find out who put the hyphen in Moby-Dick, on a pilgrimage to the world’s only pencil-sharpener museum, and inside the hallowed halls of The New Yorker and her work with such celebrated writers as Pauline Kael, Philip Roth, and George Saunders.

Readers—and writers—will find in Norris neither a scold nor a softie but a wise and witty new friend in love with language and alive to the glories of its use in America, even in the age of autocorrect and spell-check. As Norris writes, “The dictionary is a wonderful thing, but you can’t let it push you around.”

I’m a nerd. A proud nerd, but a nerd nonetheless. I love books that deal with grammar. Eats, Shoots and Leaves is one of my all-time favorite books. When I heard about Between You & Me I put a hold on it immediately and was super excited to read it. Alas, it wasn’t as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be. Despite what the Goodreads description says, I did not laugh out loud at any point, and Norris isn’t entirely “always open-minded.”

That said, parts were interesting. The book is part memoir, part semi-serious guide to usage, which I appreciated. I worked for 2 years as a copy editor and no one ever explained the difference between en-dashes and em-dashes, but Norris did. So that’s cool. The author seems like a cool enough lady, but if we ever meet we may have to have a chat about her attitude toward the Oxford comma.

——

Catch Me If You Can, by Frank W. Abagnale
2003, 293 pages

cmiycFrank W. Abagnale, alias Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams, and Robert Monjo, was one of the most daring con men, forgers, imposters, and escape artists in history. In his brief but notorious criminal career, Abagnale donned a pilot’s uniform and copiloted a Pan Am jet, masqueraded as the supervising resident of a hospital, practiced law without a license, passed himself off as a college sociology professor, and cashed over $2.5 million in forged checks, all before he was twenty-one. Known by the police of twenty-six foreign countries and all fifty states as “The Skywayman,” Abagnale lived a sumptuous life on the lam-until the law caught up with him. Now recognized as the nation’s leading authority on financial foul play, Abagnale is a charming rogue whose hilarious, stranger-than-fiction international escapades, and ingenious escapes-including one from an airplane-make Catch Me If You Can an irresistible tale of deceit.

Catch Me If You Can was the Shammies’ book club book chosen for our August meeting. I had never seen the movie, and was intrigued by the story… until I read it. Intriguing though it was, it ticked me off to read about a guy who traveled the world lying and committing fraud to get ahead and thinking it was a perfectly fine thing to do.

That said, it was fascinating to read about how he pulled off all his stunts, and, though I may not approve of his reasons for doing such research, I was pleased to hear how often he visited libraries to learn about the various professions he was faking his way through. I have to say it was also pretty impressive that he pulled it all off before his 21st birthday. Kind of crazy.

——

Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving
2014, 273 pages

wuwFor twenty-five years, Debby Irving sensed inexplicable racial tensions in her personal and professional relationships. As a colleague and neighbor, she worried about offending people she dearly wanted to befriend. As an arts administrator, she didn’t understand why her diversity efforts lacked traction. As a teacher, she found her best efforts to reach out to students and families of color left her wondering what she was missing. Then, in 2009, one “aha!” moment launched an adventure of discovery and insight that drastically shifted her worldview and upended her life plan. In Waking Up White, Irving tells her often cringe-worthy story with such openness that readers will turn every page rooting for her-and ultimately for all of us.

After the church shooting in Charleston, SC back in June, my “big” boss (boss’s boss’s boss) sent out an email to everyone with some suggestions in case people wanted to do something – places to make donations, resources about anti-racism, etc. One of her suggestions was this book. My work library had one copy that I knew would be changing hands among staff for months to come, so I put a hold on it at my public library. Even then, it took weeks for me to finally get my hands on a copy, and then almost a whole month for me to digest it.

It was eye-opening for sure. Irving wrote about discovering things that I, too, had never known about, like how so many WW2 vets were denied perks of the GI bill just because of their skin color, and how real estate agents forced segregation in neighborhoods through blockbusting. Each chapter of Irving’s personal stories ended with a short exercise to help the reader look at her own perceptions. The book definitely made me think, and reexamine the way I look at things, and I’m glad I read it.

——

What did you read in August?

Ever read a book that made you totally reexamine how you look at the world?

What’s your favorite book you’ve read so far this year?

Bookish Side of Life: July

Welcome to the second installment of the Bookish Side of Life, a summer reading challenge organized by Kelsey at The Blonder Side of Life. The goal of the challenge is to put books before technology and spend some quality time reading! (You can read the first installment from June here.)

The Blonder Side of Life

Books Started in July:
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, by Hilary Mantel
Adoption, by Christopher Stone
Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, by Mary Norris

Books Finished in July:
–Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal, by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, by Hilary Mantel
Sitting in Bars With Cake: Lessons and Recipes from One Year of Trying to Bake My Way to a Boyfriend, by Audrey Shulman
Adoption, by Christopher Stone
Woburn: Hidden Tales of a Tannery Town, by Marie Coady
Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, by Stephen Puleo

Goal Complete So Far:
9 / 10

Thoughts on Books Read: (italicized book blurbs from Goodreads)

Black Mass: Whitey Bulger, the FBI, and a Devil’s Deal, by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill
2012, 441 pages

blackmassJohn Connolly and James “Whitey” Bulger grew up together on the streets of South Boston. Decades later, in the mid 1970’s, they would meet again. By then, Connolly was a major figure in the FBI’s Boston office and Whitey had become godfather of the Irish Mob. What happened next — a dirty deal to bring down the Italian mob in exchange for protection for Bulger — would spiral out of control, leading to murders, drug dealing, racketeering indictments, and, ultimately, the biggest informant scandal in the history of the FBI.

Compellingly told by two Boston Globe reporters who were on the case from the beginning, Black Mass is at once a riveting crime story, a cautionary tale about the abuse of power, and a penetrating look at Boston and its Irish population.

This was the book selected for the July meeting of my non-running club book club, where we tend to read books that are due to become movies in the near future. Despite the whole Whitey situation being in the news a lot when I was growing up, I knew relatively little about it all, so I was interested in what I’d learn from this book.

And boy, did I learn a lot. This book was intense. Both in terms of the descriptions of crimes committed by Whitey’s gang (Stevie Flemmi was messed up), and in terms of the writing itself. It was obvious that the authors were journalists who had been working on this story for decades and were thoroughly entrenched, because there was almost too much information. No, you know what? There was too much information. The book was nearly 450 pages, and much of it was details that I didn’t really care about. But that’s me. If I were a Bulger/mob/Southie aficionado then I probably would have loved it. As it was, it was a bit of a slog with a few interesting parts thrown in here and there.

The movie, on the other hand, should be good.

——

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, by Hilary Mantel
2014, 256 pages

mantelIn The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Mantel’s trademark gifts of penetrating characterization, unsparing eye, and rascally intelligence are once again fully on display.

Her classic wicked humor in each story—which range from a ghost story to a vampire story to near-memoir to mini-sagas of family and social fracture—brilliantly unsettles the reader in that unmistakably Mantel way.

Mantel brutally and acutely writes about gender, marriage, class, family, and sex, cutting to the core of human experience. Unpredictable, diverse, and even shockingly unexpected, each story grabs you by the throat within a couple of sentences. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher displays a magnificent writer at the peak of her powers.

After the intense slog of Black Mass, I needed some fiction, something a little lighter. Nearly all the books I had started in June while I had Book A.D.D. were nonfiction, so I turned my sights to the book that had recently come on hold in the library for me, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. I’m not typically a fan of short stories, but the description – and, I admit, the title – intrigued me.

Alas, I was disappointed. For one thing, my dislike for short story collections that aren’t related in any way rang true for this book. I’d just get the hang of one of the stories and it would end, and I’d have to start a new one. On top of that, though the stories were fiction, there wasn’t much light about them… they were dark, and not only made me think but also made me wrestle with my thoughts. Definitely not what I needed after Black Mass. And then on top of that, I found Mantel’s writing style a little annoying, a little too flowery and symbol-heavy for what I was in the mood for. It wasn’t terrible, but I didn’t really enjoy it. Let’s just say I’m glad it was a quick read!

——

Sitting in Bars With Cake: Lessons and Recipes from One Year of Trying to Bake My Way to a Boyfriend, by Audrey Shulman
2015, 208 pages

Sitting in Bars with Cake_Case_r2.inddIt’s hard to meet people in a big city, let alone any city. And after living in LA for several years as a single lady, Audrey Shulman turned to baking. But rather than eating her cakes solo over the sink, she brought them to bars, luring guys with a heady dose of butter and sugar.
Sitting in Bars with Cake recounts Audrey’s year spent baking, bar-hopping, and offering slices of cake to men in the hope of finding her boyfriend (or, at the very least, a date). With 35 inventive recipes based on her interactions with guys from all walks of life, from a Sticky Maple Kiss Cake to a Bitter Chocolate Dump Cake, this charming book pairs each cake with a short essay and tongue-in-cheek lesson about picking up boys in bars.

I have two confessions about this book. First, I started reading it in June, but didn’t want to list it in my last Bookish Side of Life post because I was embarrassed to admit I was reading it. NEVER be embarrassed by what you read!! I spent too many years being a snob about books and, maybe it was the whole becoming-a-librarian thing, now I’m in a place where I’ve realized reading anything is awesome. Don’t let the book snobs grind you down!

And my second confession: I feel guilty about having read this book, all book-snobbery aside. You see, readers, the author of this book is dating a guy that my best friend has had a crush on for years. My friend found out recently that not only is this guy dating someone, but he’s also dating someone who spent a year trying to bait random guys with cake, wrote a blog about it, and got a book deal from it. (My friend is also a really good writer with dreams of publishing novels someday, so that made the news even more painful.)

The whole situation was so intriguing that I had to get my hands on the book and see what it was all about. Plus it sounded like an entertaining premise at the very least. Well, I suppose it was. Kind of. I wasn’t as entertained as I’d expected to be. And the book was about 70% cookbook, whereas I assumed the recipes would be an added bonus, rather than the bulk of the book. The fact that I didn’t really like the book alleviates some of my guilt from reading it in the first place, as does the (totally unbiased) knowledge that my friend is a better writer than Shulman. #sorrynotsorry

——

Adoption, by Christopher Stone
2015, 254 pages (ebook)

book1Christine Sawyer has been missing for two months. The discovery of her mutilated body will propel Chief of Police Ron Kosciak into a race of life and death with an adversary so evil that even Hannibal Lector would tremble in fear. Frustrated by an increasing body count and no clues, Kosciak relies on every investigative procedure he knows, as well as his gut instincts, in an attempt to discover the killer’s identity. Will he be able to rescue the killer’s latest adoptee, or will she be added to the list of victims? Who will be safe? Who will die when the pieces to the puzzle begin falling into place?

 

Murder mysteries and thrillers aren’t my typical go-to books (last month’s The Girl on the Train aside), but this one intrigued me… partly because the book is set in Central Massachusetts (where I’m from) and I always love reading books that are set locally and include places I know well. I also felt compelled to read it because I know the author and it’s his first book.

In all honesty, knowing the author actually made it extremely difficult to read this book objectively. The editor pretty much failed at the one job he/she had, and if this had been written by someone I didn’t know, I might have abandoned it early on, unable to deal with the constant typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. I used to be a copy editor, so it’s pretty painful for me to encounter books like this!

Lack of editing aside, it was a pretty good, especially for a debut novel. The story was interesting, and kept me interested the whole time. It wasn’t quite the page-turner The Girl on the Train was, but it was certainly suspenseful! This book christened my new Kindle (a gift from my mother-in-law), and as a bonus the author gave me a signed copy, which is pretty cool!

——

Woburn: Hidden Tales of a Tannery Town, by Marie Coady
2008, 155 pages

book2Although it is only thirteen square miles in size, Woburn boasts a vast history, replete with curious episodes and colorful characters. The town was home to three women accused of witchcraft in the infamous Salem witch trials, and it was the choice camping ground of gypsy queen Marcia Mock in 1917. Discover the nefarious yeggmen who prowled the streets at the beginning of the twentieth century and the seven women known as the Robins, whose friendship inspired a chain letter that has survived for more than fifty years. Woburn: Hidden Tales of a Tannery Town explores the mysteries of Woburn’s landscape, including the deadly Horn Pond, whose waters swallowed more than fifty victims and were long believed to contain vengeful demons. Columnist Marie Coady reveals Woburn’s best-kept secrets with the vibrancy and wit of a true town sleuth.

I’m a sucker for those “Images of America” books… you know, the thin paperbacks in the “local” section of every Barnes & Noble that are full of old photographs? Well, in addition to being a self-proclaimed history nerd, I’m also a wicked nerd for local history, so I eat those books up. I have a small-but-growing collection of them about various Massachusetts towns (though I tend to hold out until I find them in used book stores, because they’re quite expensive!)

This book is similar to the Images of America books, except instead of being a book of random photographs with a few captions and a brief intro, this was a book of short historical anecdotes, supplemented with a few photos. (The archivist in me is happy about this… context!!) Like Images of America, there’s a series of books like this called American Chronicles. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more of these!

——

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, by Stephen Puleo
2004, 280 pages

book3Around noon on January 15, 1919, a group of firefighters was playing cards in Boston’s North End when they heard a tremendous crash. It was like roaring surf, one of them said later. Like a runaway two-horse team smashing through a fence, said another. A third firefighter jumped up from his chair to look out a window-“Oh my God!” he shouted to the other men, “Run!”

A 50-foot-tall steel tank filled with 2.3 million gallons of molasses had just collapsed on Boston’s waterfront, disgorging its contents as a 15-foot-high wave of molasses that at its outset traveled at 35 miles an hour. It demolished wooden homes, even the brick fire station. The number of dead wasn’t known for days. It would be years before a landmark court battle determined who was responsible for the disaster.

I guess July was the month for Boston(ish) history! First Black Mass, then the Woburn “American Chronicles” book, and then Dark Tide. What can I say? I’m truly a local history nerd.

This topic has fascinated me for years, especially after I lived in Boston’s North End neighborhood, where the flood happened. I always kind of snickered at the thought of a molasses flood; I pictured a puddle of molasses moving sooooo sloooowwwly while people ran comically slow, unable to outrun the sweet, sticky mess. Well, that’s not how it happened at all, and there wasn’t too much about it that was comical. The giant tank burst and a massive wave of molasses exploded, smothering everything in its path in a terrifyingly fast amount of time. In all, 21 people were killed, scores more were injured, and multiple buildings were instantly destroyed, including homes, a brick firehouse, and the city stables.

Dark Tide is a good narrative history, spanning from 1915 when the tank was built to 1927, when the victims and their families were finally paid after the most expensive civil case at that point in Massachusetts history. There were bits that got a bit dull, but for the most part it was a riveting tale from a fascinating time in Boston’s history.

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Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

What did you read in July?

Bookish Side of Life: June

I love books. I love reading books. So when I saw that Kelsey over at The Blonder Side of Life was setting up a book-related challenge for summer, well… I couldn’t resist.

The Blonder Side of Life

The challenge is this: three months of putting books before technology. Set a goal of books to read during the summer – June, July, and August – and at the end of each of those three months, a linkup happens with posts reviewing books, talking about the challenge, or whatever else our blogging hearts desire.

Not brave enough to see Kelsey’s goal of 20 books, I set my goal at 10. It seemed like enough of a challenge since I’ve been averaging about 2 books a month so far this year, so it would stretch me enough to be challenging, but not so much that I’d feel overwhelmed. And so, now that it’s the end of June, how am I doing so far?

Books Started in June:
Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane
Woburn: Hidden Tales of a Tannery Town, by Marie Coady
Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, by Stephen Puleo
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
The Boston Jazz Chronicles, by Richard Vacca
Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob, by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill

Books Finished in June:
Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane
Funny Girl, by Nick Hornby
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

Goal Complete So Far:
3 / 10

Thoughts on Books Read: (italicized book blurbs from Goodreads)

shutterislandShutter Island, by Dennis Lehane
2003, 325 pages

Summer, 1954.

U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels has come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Along with his partner, Chuck Aule, he sets out to find an escaped patient, a murderess named Rachel Solando, as a hurricane bears down upon them.

But nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems.

And neither is Teddy Daniels…

Shutter Island was the book selected for the June meeting of the Shamrock Book Club, the book club within my running club. We chose it because the members present were generally all fans of Lehane’s writing, the book is set locally (Boston Harbor islands), and all but two of us hadn’t already read it or seen the movie.

Unfortunately, I had already seen the movie so I knew how the story would turn out and the twist wasn’t a surprise, but Lehane is such a good writer that I still found it to be a page-turner and flew through it happily. The rest of book club seemed to enjoy it, and we had a good discussion about it as we sat around a fire pit and drank yummy beers:

bookclub

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funnygirl

 

Funny Girl, by Nick Hornby
2015, 452 pages

Set in 1960’s London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingĂ©nue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby’s latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.

 

For reasons I can’t entirely explain, I decided a few years back that I was going to read every single book Nick Hornby wrote. I had grand plans to review them all on my blog and make deep insights into his writing style… I think the former English major part of my brain was feeling neglected at that time or something. Anyway, I read his entire back catalog, and then decided I didn’t really want to complete what I had been calling The Hornby Project. So that was that.

Even though I abandoned my weird little pet project, and despite the fact that Hornby is a gooner, I still feel compelled to read his new releases. Funny Girl in particular piqued my interest, as it a) is set in England, b) involves a character from The North, c) is about a fascinating time in British comedy; having recently read John Cleese’s memoir So, Anyway… I was curious to read another take (though fictional) of comedy at that time.

I actually started Funny Girl in May, but was interrupted when Shutter Island came in for me at the library (and I had to read that first so it would be done in time for book club). I found it a little slow at first, but once Sophie stumbled into the world of TV comedy I thought it picked up a little. Definitely entertaining, even if it wasn’t quite the page-turner that Shutter Island was.

——

girltrainThe Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
2015, 336 pages

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

This book… so hot right now. I put a hold on it at the library soon after it was published in January of this year, and I only just got my hands on it on June 17. I don’t usually jump on the bestseller bandwagon for this reason… if a book is so in demand that there are tens of thousands of holds on it in my public library network, then I’ll usually wait until the furor dies down before I give it a go myself. Plus, I’ve been disappointed by some hot bestsellers in the past, and prefer to wait out the hype in an effort to start a book with a mental clean slate.

The Girl on the Train, however, struck me as one I really wanted to read. Maybe the train commuter aspect appealed to me (not entirely sure why it does, but books like Martin Harbottle’s Appreciation of Time always make it onto my to-read list), or maybe the fact that it takes place in England (I’m an admitted Anglophile), or maybe that description above just hooked me. Whatever the case, I wanted to read it!

Once I finally got my hands on it, I flew through it. It hooked me right away. Talk about a page-turner! It sucked me in even more than Shutter Island had, and I was almost totally absorbed in that one. When I finally got to the end, standing in a crowded busway waiting to complete my commute home, I felt cut adrift. I think the book had hooked me so well and had kept me hanging on, and so no matter how it ended it would have left me feeling almost stranded… if that makes sense. It wasn’t the feeling I get when I finish a really good book, like I’m saying goodbye to a good friend… it was more like the book had just dropped me and abandoned me back in reality. It was weird, and left me feeling like I didn’t love the book as much as I had while I was reading it. An odd feeling to be sure, but I’m still glad that I read it.

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What books did you read this month? Any you’d recommend?

Ever taken part in a reading challenge?

Friday’s Snow-Covered Brain Leaks

Happy Friday!

I was hoping by this point that I’d have either a celebratory “I’m back in physical therapy, yay!” post, or a “the orthopedist said X weeks of no running, boooo” post to share, along with an adventure-filled tale from my first appointment at the sports injury prevention clinic, but, well, all the snow happened:

Snow drift in one of our second-floor windows

Snow drift in one of our second-floor windows

Brandishing my empty packet of Honey Stinger chews before shoveling that mess behind me

Brandishing my empty packet of Honey Stinger chews before shoveling that mess behind me

I was supposed to see my orthopedist about my dodgy foot a month ago, but he called out sick, then went on vacation, and then Winter Storm Juno made him postpone me yet again. Supposedly I will have information about my foot in a week and a half, and by that point I feel like whatever it was will probably be mostly healed. Can’t hurt to check in anyway, I guess!

As for the sports injury prevention clinic, I chickened out of my appointment last weekend because of the “bad driving conditions” forecast in our little pre-Juno snowstorm. Turns out the roads were okay after all, and now I’m waiting 2.5 weeks until I can have my gait analyzed and learn how to run properly.  This is all certainly an exercise in patience for me!

So, in lieu of all those posts that got waylaid (sort of, not really) by Juno, here are some random brain leaks for your Friday reading pleasure.

-We got a few inches of snow last weekend, followed by just over 2 feet during Juno, and now we’re supposed to get another 4-8 inches tonight AND possibly even more on Monday. Seriously, winter… staahp already!

Flashback Friday! Me helping my dad shovel during a snowstorm in the days of yore

Flashback Friday! Me helping my dad shovel during a snowstorm in the days of yore.

-Speaking of snow, who needs the gym when you can spend several hours shoveling the sidewalks, digging out fire hydrants, and unearthing the car from massive snow drifts? I can’t move my arms very much and my shoulders and back are killing me, but at least I worked out, right?

-I keep getting emails about the B.A.A. 5K registration opening up next week, and part of me is tempted to do it again. However, running a 5K with 9,999 other people once was probably enough for me, and anyway, there’s a chance I might be volunteering that day, handing out Boston Marathon bib packets with my run club! New experiences FTW! The B.A.A. 10K, however, is quite tempting…..

-I’m having such book A.D.D. right now. Ever since the week of Thanksgiving, really… I just can’t settle in to a good book. There are plenty I want to read, and I’m in the middle of at least 4 right now, but nothing is really hooking me. I hate when this happens!

From this #librarianproblems post that is all too real

From this #librarianproblems post that is all too real

-Somewhat related to that reading A.D.D., I’m also suffering from a mighty bout of writer’s block (as evidenced by the sheer number of survey-type posts and general mailing-it-in rambles I’ve been putting on this blog lately… including this post). I owe my friend Jeremiah a post about something that happened more than 3 weeks ago. I am a horrible person. (I do have a draft, Big J, I promise!)

-Related to both those last two bullets, I have a few running-related books I’m meaning to write reviews of here… I just need to read them first. And then, you know, write the reviews. Maybe someday?

-I haven’t been back to the gym since my last treadmill adventure (chronicled here). Thank you to everyone who offered treadmill advice in the comments! I am definitely bringing music next time.

-I had a brief flash of motivation Monday night, as I fell asleep with the snow falling steadily outside… with a travel ban in place on Tuesday, it would be the perfect time to go for a snow run! I could run down the middle of the street with little to no hassle! I fell asleep with that lovely thought in my head, then woke up Tuesday with a fear of plows and an aversion to running in my very non-waterproof trail shoes. I opted for the couch. And shoveling. Close enough?

Hopefully I’ll have a post of substance to write soon. In the meantime, have a great weekend!

How was your week? Anyone racing this weekend?

Did you experience the wrath (or maybe lack thereof, depending on where you live) of Juno? Did you brave a snow run?

Do you ever get book A.D.D.? What do you do to beat it? Any book you’d recommend?