With all of the recent media reports about powerful dirtbag men assaulting and harassing women, and all of the outrage over it, a common criticism is that men only think of women as appendages to men, not as whole persons in their own right. So when a man says, “As a father of a daughter, I’m appalled [at dirtbag X’s behavior],” he is not being woke, as it were, to injustice toward women. He only cares about women if they remind him of his daughter, or his wife, or his sister, or his mother; he doesn’t view women as truly human as men.

I understand why this formulation–“If woman X were my daughter/sister/etc., I (as a man) wouldn’t want someone to treat her that way; therefore, treating women that way is wrong”–bothers some people. Men often use the women in their lives to prove a point about women in general, not acknowledging that their daughters/wives/whoever are individuals and don’t necessarily represent women in general. (I see this a lot in Mormonism. “My wife is a very strong woman, and she doesn’t want the priesthood.”) But the problem isn’t men thinking of the women in their lives who are personally important to them and concluding that women in general deserve respect, but men thinking of the women in their lives as the exception: “My women are important. Other women are not.”

I get why it troubles people, men thinking in terms of their women versus other men’s women, even if the conclusion is that all women should be treated with respect. Women are persons in their own right and should be treated with the respect due to any human, regardless of any men they might be related to. But I’m not convinced that all men who reference their daughters/wives/etc. really think in terms of “my women/their women”–not when their conclusion is that all women deserve respect. If all that mattered were the woman’s relationship with some man, the degree to which she deserved respect would depend a great deal on how much deference that man required. But I believe most men who think of their daughters when pondering the treatment of women in general actually are relating to their daughters as people, not some form of (their) property.

Imagine Donald Trump saying, “As the father of a daughter, I’m outraged.” He wouldn’t. His own daughter is the exception. He has said he’d date his daughter if she weren’t his daughter (and I think we can safely take “date” as a euphemism). She’s a person to him only because she’s his; she’s not a reminder to him that women are people.

Maybe it’s not as morally evolved to have to think of one’s daughters and wives before thinking of women in general as people. But it’s much better to have men who bother taking this extra step–“my daughter is a person and she’s a woman; therefore, women are people”–than men who never get to the place where they can empathize with women at all. And I’m not convinced that it is less evolved. Our relationships are a huge part of our humanity. It’s not just men who find their personal relationships helpful for increasing their empathy generally. As a woman, having sons has definitely helped me relate better to men and have more empathy for men in general. It’s not that women who don’t have sons can’t have empathy for men, but for me, this helped. I don’t think that makes me morally inferior. I think it means I’ve evolved as an individual.

As I said to a friend, when the subject is abuse or discrimination against the disabled, I sometimes reference my children with autism. I don’t do it because my autistic children aren’t persons in their own right; it’s only to express why this issue is personal for me. It’s not that I wouldn’t be outraged by such stories if I didn’t have a personal connection. (I mean, I know I was outraged by child abuse before I had children.) The point of mentioning my children is not to appeal to my own authority as a parent, just to express a personal stake in the story. We all have relationships of some kind, and unless we’re sociopaths, our relationships are important to us. So while referencing one’s father(of-daughter)hood can be problematic in some cases, it is not inherently problematic. What matters is the conclusions one draws from that experience.

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Most people are surprised to learn that I’m not a natural redhead. (“Most people” = pretty much everyone who didn’t know me before I started dying my hair.) This is most likely down to the fact that I have a redhead’s complexion. Also, most people are surprised to learn that I have a soul.

At one point in my natural-hair life–and I have pictures to prove it–my hair, in the right light, had a sort of coppery sheen to it. So maybe there’s natural redheadedness somewhere in my DNA. (My father had a red mustache, back when he had a mustache. I have never grown a mustache. I can’t tell if either of these factoids is relevant or just an interesting aside.) But that was before I started greying in earnest and back when my natural hair was sometimes exposed to sunlight and also before I became old. Now everything that grows out of my head is grey or mouse brown, but mostly grey.

I’ve been coloring my hair continuously for the last 10 years. Originally I used permanent hair color, but a few years ago I switched to demi-permanent because it is supposed to be less damaging and better for curly hair. My hairstylist sister is a big demi-permanent booster. Unfortunately, you can only go darker than your natural color with demi-permanent, and going darker has, I think, added almost (but not quite) as many years to my face as growing grey did. And dark red looks browner than light red, especially since reds tend to brown as they fade anyway, so I am actually surprised that people still consider me a redhead, natural or otherwise, since my hair looks very un-red to me most of the time.

Also, since my natural hair is mostly grey–especially at the front of my head–the red color looks exceptionally brassy and punk-rockish (a little bit purple) for the first week or so after a touch-up. I didn’t mind this so much initially, but in the last couple of years it’s started to feel undignified. So a few months ago I started doing what you’re supposed to do when applying red color to grey hair, which is dye it brown first. This is a huge pain in the neck, in case you were wondering why I was so willing to live with brassy-purply hair for so many years. I hate doing it. I hated coloring my hair before, when it was only one step. Now that it’s two, it is practically unbearable. Also, as you can imagine, dying the roots brown first also makes the finished hair…extra dark and extra brown and even more un-red. Which defeats the whole purpose, IMO. All of the purposes.

Also, I’m supposed to touch up my roots every 6-8 weeks, but my roots start showing around week 4. Grey roots are slightly less obvious with demi-permanent color because there isn’t this bright line where new hair meets old, but by the time I’ve stretched out the color six weeks, my grey roots are very, very obvious. So while the two-stepping and extra-browning have made me seriously consider returning to permanent hair color, hair damage be damned, the obvious-roots problem remains an issue.

So I am now seriously considering going back to the brassy-purply hair. It is, after all, a temporary effect (before it fades into something normal-looking), and at least it is lighter than the brown-red-but-mostly-brown hair. Also, one step, not two. I am only at four weeks right now, so I have a couple weeks to decide (in case you couldn’t do the math yourself). Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be in a financial position where I wouldn’t feel guilty spending the money to get my hair professionally colored. Probably I should get a job. But probably I should get a job anyway. And now I’m on a topic that depresses me even more than getting old does.

I would really like nothing more than to stop coloring my hair altogether because it is such a pain in the neck–except that the thing I do like more than not coloring my hair is not looking like my husband’s mother. My husband finally looks like he’s in striking distance of my age–mid-thirties at the youngest–and I’m not keen to race ahead of him again in that department. Also, I already look old and haggard with my unnatural hair. I don’t want to think of how old and haggard I would look with the hair that made me look old and haggard at 36.

I’ve already written about how jaw surgery and orthodontia changed my face for (I think) the worse. I don’t regret either, because I’m very happy to be able to breathe and also to keep my teeth, hopefully into my (actual) golden years. But I’m a little too vain to be grateful for things like breath and teeth all the time. I sometimes think I could accept this new face more if I could just have the hair color I deserve.

It was a mere five weeks ago that Las Vegas had the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the United States. And two days ago 26 churchgoers, including children and babies, were murdered by one man with a gun. As Twitter and Facebook pointed out, it is now always “too soon” to talk gun control after a mass shooting because another one is just around the corner.

Of course, no one actually observes a decent mourning period after a mass shooting or any other tragedy, but it’s not because people are too political. It’s because their attention spans are too short. Ideally, we could take a day or two to grieve the dead before we started talking about possible measures to prevent future tragedies. For one thing, it usually takes at least a couple of days to get all of the relevant facts. For another thing, decisions made in the heat of the moment tend toward foolishness. (Think of the anti-terrorism measures taken in the wake of 9/11 and ask yourself how many of them seem like great ideas sixteen years later.) However, Twitter and Facebook are quite right that no one can afford to wait a day or two before putting in their two cents on gun control or whatever because in a day or two we’ll all be talking about something else.

Just by way of illustration–yesterday I saw a bunch of tweets about how useless praying is when it’s gun control we need…along with a bunch of other tweets about how Donald Trump is such an uncultured swine that he doesn’t know how to feed koi properly. Obviously, humans are capable of keeping more than one news story in their consciousness at the same time. Lots of important stuff happens every day. However, Donald Trump dumping a bunch of fish food in a koi pond is not one of them. Even on a slow news day, this story probably should not take up any of our consciousness. For one thing, it turned out that Trump was only doing what Prime Minister Abe had done moments before. For another thing, so the crap what? Twenty-six Americans have been murdered in their church, and there’s still a civil war in Syria, but I’m supposed to care that Donald Trump fed fish, correctly or incorrectly? Is this really page one material? Isn’t a Kardashian pregnant or something?

Yes, there’s also the whole Mueller investigation, but that’s so last week. We’ve all moved on. Five weeks ago 58 people were murdered and 546 injured in Las Vegas, but by the time the next mass shooting happened, we had all moved on. We’d all moved on weeks ago.

Anger is a legitimate response to grief. I understand why people react to a tragedy by expressing anger and frustration. It’s normal to seek someone or something to blame. It’s instinctive. It helps us feel safe. If something could have been prevented, that means we can prevent it from happening again. Of course, not all terrible things can be prevented. We know this intellectually, but it doesn’t stop us from trying–nor should it, really. I mean, I hope not. But we don’t take enough time to figure out why or how something happened, in order to effect actual change. We take enough time to express our outrage at the lack of action–because there’s no time to waste on mere grief without taking action–and then Trump says something stupid, and oh look, a squirrel. Does anyone know what’s happening with bump stocks these days? Have we banned those yet? We definitely haven’t figured out exactly what happened in Vegas (too soon for “what happens in Vegas” jokes), but we do know bump stocks were involved, so what’s the deal there? Does anyone still care, or are bump stocks so October? It’s all about “domestic violence loopholes” now. Until the next mass shooting, of course.

The sad part is that this terrible thing–twenty-six dead at the hands of a guy who was court-martialed for assaulting his wife and fracturing his infant son’s skull (and did a whopping one-year sentence for it)–actually could have been prevented, and under existing law, too. It was already illegal for him to buy a gun, but the Air Force didn’t enter his domestic violence conviction into the data base. Enforcing existing laws isn’t as sexy as making new laws, of course, but it would be an excellent place to start. The very best place, actually, since we don’t even have to get past the evil NRA lobby to do it. But we’ve been failing to enforce gun laws since before Columbine. I’m not holding my breath that anything will change. Not when it’s so much easier to complain that we’ll never have common-sense gun control because ‘Murica. But we’ll always have Donald Trump’s fish-feeding fiasco, in one form or another.

 

 

 

Time for a music break. I was just thinking the other day–maybe it was yesterday–you know, it doesn’t matter because I was also thinking it today, which is why I’m writing it right now–about cover songs that are even better than the original song. Or maybe they aren’t necessarily better, but I just like them better than the originals, for whatever reason.

The song I was listening to the other day was Aretha Franklin’s cover of “Eleanor Rigby,” which I do like better than the Beatles’ version, which is still a great record, but I prefer to hear Aretha Franklin sing it. Have a listen and tell me what you think.

Then there’s David Bowie’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City.” When I first started buying MP3’s, I couldn’t get a digital version of Bowie singing it, so I bought the Springsteen version, which I had not had previously. And Springsteen’s version is fine–I mean, it’s his song–and it’s really not very different from Bowie’s version, but I think Bowie sings it better, no offense, Bruce.

Before I came fully to terms with my middle-agedness, I only had two Barry Manilow songs on my iPod, and one of them was his cover of Paul Davis’s “I Go Crazy.” I’ve always liked the Paul Davis version. I still like it. I don’t even remember how I came to know about the Barry Manilow version, but I think I just randomly found it, listened to it, and…I don’t know. I don’t know why it’s so good. The differences are subtle, but they make such a difference. Plus, I think I have a strange emotional connection to Barry Manilow that I just can’t explain. He’s like an old friend.

I like Talking Heads quite a lot, but one of their songs I never cared much for was “Burning Down the House,” until I heard Tom Jones sing it. Because who can resist this? You’d have to be dead inside.

Donna Summer’s Cats without Claws was one of my favorite albums back in the ’80s, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks, her version of “There Goes My Baby” is better than the Drifters’ version, don’t @ me.

What are your favorite cover songs?

A while back I told my husband that what I missed most about the Obama administration was how I could go for days at a time without the President ever entering into my consciousness. I didn’t care for Pres. Obama as a politician—I mean, he wasn’t my cuppa, but at least he wasn’t in my face literally all the time. Of course, he would be less in my face if I were less on Twitter. But even outside of Twitter, he’s very much everywhere, it seems. For one thing, he always has to be the center of attention, so he’s always doing something to draw said attention to himself. For another thing, people who hate him can’t stop talking about him. I mean, right, here I am, talking about him. I get it. But I don’t want to. I’m doing this under duress!

Historically, I’ve reserved the word hate for politicians like Hugo Chavez and Kim Jong-Il. Really, truly horrible people. I don’t say that I hate U.S. politicians. As bad as some of them are, they’re not murderers or dictators or murdering dictators. I am personally indifferent to most politicians, even the ones I disagree with. Nancy Pelosi, I am indifferent to you. Same with Chuck Schumer. When I do dislike an American politician, it’s not really for their policy positions but more because I find them annoying. I disliked John Edwards because he was smarmy. (Although now that he is out of public life, my dislike has waned. I don’t dislike a man so much when he is down.) I disliked Harry Reid because he seemed like a jerk. I disliked Barbara Boxer because she was an idiot. (She’s probably still an idiot, but I don’t think about her much anymore. She’s still in the Senate, yeah? Just not much in the news anymore, I guess. Trump takes up all the space.)

Trump is in a different category than any of these other U.S. politicians I have actively disliked. It’s really not enough to say I actively dislike him. I kind of hate him. And yet, he’s not a murderer or a dictator. Obviously, he’d like to be a dictator, but lots of people would like to be dictators. He isn’t one because he can’t be one. If he could be, he would, but as I said, so would a lot of people. The point is, he’s still not a murderer. He doesn’t have rape and torture rooms for his enemies. I mean, we really need to keep things in perspective here. But he’s not a good person. In point of fact, he’s a bad person. Should he be roomies with Hitler in hell? Probably not. But he’s still a bad person. He’s a bully. He’s spent years using his power and influence to enrich himself at the expense of others, people who can’t defend themselves. He stokes racial hatred because it gets him attention. He might actually be a racist. He was still calling for the executions of the Central Park Five after they were exonerated. But that may be less because he’s a racist and more because he doesn’t care what’s true or false. He cares only about his ego. He enjoys humiliating people and exerting power over them. He seems to have no control over his emotions, at least none that he chooses to exercise. He’s not above anything. He just does want he wants because he can.

This sort of person can’t be a good leader. He can’t be a leader at all. Leadership is not in his wheelhouse. He’s a provocateur and a demagogue. He’s in this for himself, and not in a cool, lone-wolf, Han Solo way. More like a Jabba the Hutt way, only Jabba was a better businessman.

It was apparent from the beginning that he was unsuited to be President. I honestly don’t understand what his initial supporters were thinking, except that he was a celebrity and Americans do love celebrities. He had a certain magnetism, I guess. I mean, he had the ability to command people’s attention. I imagine that his early thought the same thing as the people who were initially skeptical but eventually endorsed him thought: they thought they could use him. They thought they could use him because they thought they could (somehow) control him. They were fools. If they couldn’t “reign him in” while he was merely a candidate, what made them think they could pull his strings when he was commander-in-chief? “This dude’s out of control, but once he has the nuclear codes, surely he’ll settle down.”

I confess it still baffles me. Maybe it was so obvious to me because it wasn’t my career and life’s work on the line. I don’t know. But whatever was clouding their judgment, the fact remains: Republican politicians fell in line behind Trump because they wouldn’t have been able to continue in the party otherwise. Paul Ryan couldn’t have remained Speaker of the House while opposing his party’s nominee. No one who opposed Trump could hope to get money for re-election. It wasn’t a problem of cowardice but of pride; they thought America couldn’t spare them. What they didn’t foresee was that Trump would prevent them from succeeding at the very jobs they’d sacrificed their dignity and integrity to keep. As I said, they thought they could use him. They didn’t think it would be the other way around. But it was, and it is.

Of course, Trump doesn’t deserve all the blame for the Republican party’s implosion. Trump wouldn’t have won the nomination if the Republicans had made serious efforts in the last, say, twenty years to build a diverse coalition based on common interests. They relied entirely too much on their advantage in various culture war battles and their advantage with white voters. They made no serious efforts to address the concerns of minority voters. This is not to say that no Republican ever tried to court minority votes. Of course, individual Republicans did, but not enough of them, and it was never a party priority, despite the country’s obviously shifting demographics. Well, Democrats over-relied on their advantage with minority voters; as 2016 amply demonstrated, the white vote is still plenty strong. Do Democrats deserve some blame for stoking racial tensions? Sure. But Republicans placed the blame for minority alienation entirely on Democratic/progressive rhetoric and took no responsibility for their failure to sell their policies to all Americans. They also failed to acknowledge where their policies hurt some Americans. (And they crapped all over the Fourth Amendment, but in fairness, everyone was doing that.)

So yeah, the Republicans screwed up, and here’s Trump. Of course, Trump couldn’t have won if the Democrats hadn’t also screwed up. But I’m not here to tell the Democrats what they did wrong. I don’t share the Democrats’ agenda. That’s why I quit being a Democrat. Well, as it turns out, I don’t share the Republicans’ agenda either, which is why I quit being a Republican. I’ve never been a political purist. I’m prepared to compromise on quite a lot. But I don’t share the Democratic vision for America’s future. And I don’t think the Republicans even have a vision for the future. I don’t think they themselves know what they’re trying to do, except maybe to cut taxes—and cutting taxes without cutting spending (which they clearly have no intention of doing) is just fiscally irresponsible. You had one job, Republicans! If you’re not even going to avoid flushing the economy down the toilet, what are you good for?

But back to Trump. Yes, I’m very angry about Trump. I can’t decide who I’m most angry at, though. I’m not angry at Trump himself. As horrible as he is, he’s never pretended to be otherwise. I feel a tremendous personal animus toward him because of what he is, but I’m not angry at him. He does what he gets paid to do. I’m angry at the media for propping him up, but I’m angry at Americans in general for worshiping celebrity in the first place. I’m angry at Democrats and progressives for keeping their outrage at 11 for every single freaking thing Trump does, as though every new thing is just as bad as the last thing and just as bad as the next thing, and the sky is always falling—which it may very well do, but how will we be able to tell that the sky is actually falling when it has been allegedly, continually falling since Trump took office? I mean, I know I said I didn’t want to give you advice, but save something for Act 2, good Lord. But maybe I’m most angry at these Republicans who keep defending Trump and putting party over principle every time, literally no matter how insane it gets. Technically, I’ve washed my hands of you all, but I keep waiting for you to hit rock bottom, and the bottom just keeps moving.

I can’t help wondering what would happen if a bunch of us got together and decided to ignore Pres. Trump for, I dunno, a week. I mean, just pretend he didn’t exist. If everyone just agreed to unfollow him on Twitter and just not pay attention to anything he said and go about our business as though he were an actual toddler throwing a tantrum, not just a grown man acting like one. I wonder if he’d spontaneously combust. I can’t help thinking it would be worth a try. Not that things would be so much better once he was gone. All the problems that led to Trump’s ascendency would still exist. But it would be so very satisfying, just on a personal level.

I don’t know. I’m asking because the limited data I’ve collected over several years of doing other people’s laundry suggest that I may possess a rare ability.

And no, I’m not complaining about doing the laundry. Doing laundry is one of my few legitimate skills. (It might even be marketable in some contexts.) I’d just like to appreciate the full extent of my talents.

If anyone still reads this blog, and I doubt anyone does, you might have been wondering where I’ve been. Well, no, probably not. If you still read this blog, you’re probably related to me or something, and you know exactly where I’ve been. One of the places I’ve been lately is Twitter. “Why?” you might ask. Or probably more like, “In God’s name, why?” I don’t know, really. I don’t have a good excuse. I might have a couple of feeble explanations.

I opened a Twitter account ages ago, but I never used it very much because a) I’m really bad at restricting myself to 140 characters, and b) since it is basically an information firehose, I found it a little overwhelming (and frankly, annoying). I started using it regularly during the 2016 presidential campaign because a) I had a lot of political feels that were finding their way onto my Facebook (honestly, officer, I don’t know how those got there!), which I think is generally a bad idea, but b) I still had a lot of political feels that needed to go someplace, and I figured Twitter would at least restrict me to brief (if entirely too frequent) expressions of said feels.

Why did I not just go back to blogging? Well, I did write some political posts during the campaign (if you were here, you would have seen them), but I found myself getting so apoplectic that I couldn’t write very much that was coherent or lucid or worth reading. (So why did I still think I needed to say anything? Good question, gentle readers. I’ll have to ponder on that some more before I attempt to answer.) So I stuck with retweeting crap on Twitter and the occasional pithy “SIGH” or “WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL?” As you can imagine, it had its reward.

But you can see how 140 characters just isn’t enough for me, right? Not even one of the new, beta 280-character accounts would be sufficient to hold all of my profound and totally smart musings.

So this is the context in which I have returned to this space for the gritty reboot of “I Am the Giraffe,” and by “gritty reboot” I mean that it’s probably going to suck–but, as another middle-aged woman with an unfortunate career trajectory once said, what difference, at this point, does it make?

What really inspired me to dust off the old WordPress login page is this Twitter hashtag #WhyIWrite. I stopped taking myself seriously as a writer a couple years ago. I know. It’s funny because I stopped being a serious writer long before that, but you know the old saying, the unserious writer is always the last to know. But this hashtag gave me some more unpleasant feels, of the non-political variety, because I do miss writing. And the real question for me is not “Why do I write?” but “Why don’t I write?”

I started blogging when my kids were still very young. I think Princess Zurg was six. Mister Bubby was three. Elvis was one. Girlfriend had not yet been thought of, except in the abstract sense of me thinking I might eventually have four children total (but certainly not more than four). I should have been too busy to write, but I found time to write blog posts, almost every day, for a very long time. I don’t remember spending tons of time writing individual blog posts. Which is not to say I wrote short blog posts, but that I basically just typed whatever I was thinking. There was not a lot of editing. Quelle surprise, I know. I don’t remember neglecting the children to accomplish this, and yet I find it so much more difficult to sit down and write a blog post anymore. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. Or maybe three. I dunno, let’s see what happens.

  1. I didn’t have time to do anything more than type whatever I was thinking. I didn’t have time to work on any of the writing projects I meant to work on when I had more time. When I started having more time to spend on writing projects I’d been neglecting, I felt guilty for spending time on blogging instead of the writing I’d claimed I really wanted to do, which brings me to my next point.
  2. Writer’s block is a real thing. It’s not a tragedy or something, but it’s a real psychological problem. My psychological problem is that I don’t know what’s going to happen next, and I’m afraid that whatever I put on the page (virtual or otherwise) is going to suck, and I just can’t face that. Which means that a) I’m a coward, and b) I’m the worst sort of coward because I’m deathly afraid of something that isn’t a life or death situation, which I suspect is because c) I’m actually incredibly lazy. It’s one thing to think you’ve come to terms with your character flaws because you have no trouble saying, “Yeah, haha, I’m a terrible human being,” because you know intellectually you’re a terrible human being, but until you’ve actually emotionally faced the reality of your deepest character flaw, you haven’t come to terms with anything. So long story short, I didn’t want to write blog posts because I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) write what I really wanted to write, but I was not ready to admit that figurative ship had sailed and would not be returning to port, so I wrote nothing. Because humans are dumb and make bad decisions, and so am/do I.
  3. This is secondary to my last point (can point #3 be secondary? well, it is), but I had a lot of inspiration when my kids were little. They did say the darnedest things, after all. Now they’re 19, 17, 14, and (very close to) 12, and while they still say (and do) the darnedest things, I’m more circumspect about writing about them because I feel they deserve their privacy. I mean, I don’t have a problem telling you about the funny thing my kid said the other day. (They do still say funny things.) But there’s a lot of other stuff that takes up space in the parenting neighborhood of my brain that just isn’t the general public’s business. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it. Oh, man, you have no idea how much I’d like to talk about it. But I shouldn’t because it would be wrong. I’ve gone through a rather long period of parenting that has been emotionally exhausting, and writing about it might help–i.e., it might help me, but I don’t think it would help me more than it would hurt my child. So yeah, if this were Facebook, that would be some next-level Vaguebooking. This is blogging, so I guess it’s vagueblogging, but whatever. The point is it’s hard to muster energy to write about the funny thing my kid said the other day when I’m kind of obsessed with the stuff I can’t write about. (See above, laziness.)

But you know what? I’m tired of not writing. I’m tired of Twitter. Will I still go on Twitter? Of course I will. Like a dog to its vomit. I’m only human. But I’m not doing anything else. Well, laundry. I’m doing laundry. I’m doing the dishes too. Occasionally I even sweep the floor. (And I do mean occasionally. I thought about doing it today, but I’m here instead. Maybe tomorrow.) I run errands. I practice my clogging. I feel like I shouldn’t eat unless I’ve exercised that day. Does not exercising keep me from eating? Absolutely not. But I feel guilty the whole time I’m doing it, and that takes at least 30 percent of the pleasure out of it. But I digress. Where was I? (You haven’t missed this about me, have you?) Oh, yes. I’m not doing anything else. And I’m not apt to do anything better with my time. It would be rad of me to start volunteering and giving back to the community and crap, but I’m not yet that person. (I haven’t given up on the idea that I might be that person someday, but I’m at peace with the fact that I’m not yet that person. Which means I’ll probably never be that person, but I’m not admitting that yet. One deep character flaw confrontation at a time, kids!)

The best thing about blogging, back in the old days, was just putting stuff out there, knowing that anyone on earth could see it and also knowing that probably no one would. I don’t know what was so great about it, except that I kind of miss it. As my readership grew, blogging became more rewarding in many ways, but also more stressful. It’s always more stressful when people expect things of you.

 

Warning: I spent an inordinate amount of time reading Anne Perry books in this sextile as well. But let’s get on with it, shall we?

Exhume by Danielle Girard
I think I got this book free from Kindle First, which is good because I didn’t end up finishing it. Ordinarily I don’t bother reviewing books I haven’t finished reading, but I just have to tell you about this one because, well, here’s my Goodreads review:

I had a hard time buying the premise of this book, which is that an overachieving third-year med student went on a date with an older man who then raped her, and so of course she somehow got roped into marrying him because I guess rapists are just that controlling; anyway, she’s in this abusive marriage for several years before she finally escapes, moves across the country to finish medical school and eventually becomes a coroner, all the while her ex (to whom she’s technically still married) is stalking her. Okay. I don’t think so, but okay, let’s say that happened. So as coroner, she’s called to a crime scene where she finds a corpse that looks just like her and blah blah reasons, it looks like her ex might be trying to send her a message or something (…with murder!) and she’s in danger. Fine. Meanwhile, in her home town, unbeknownst to her, old ladies start getting murdered for mysterious reasons.

There are a lot of characters in this book, and the story gets narrated from several points of view, including (eventually) the ex, who is apparently posing as an incarcerated convict so he can lure a prison-groupie type into doing criminal activity on his behalf. Or something. I don’t know, that part was a little confusing. Meanwhile again, the coroner-in-danger randomly meets up with a police officer she knows casually and they have an impromptu dinner date. The next thing she knows, said police officer is incriminated by some crime scene evidence and the *next* thing she knows, she wakes up one morning with him next to her in bed; they’ve both been drugged and he’s been stabbed in the chest. Because she’s a doctor, she manages to a) stop him from dying and b) draw blood from both of them to be tested before the paramedics arrive and she passes out again.

The NEXT thing she knows, she’s waking up in the hospital, realizing that she must be the primary suspect in this dude’s stabbing, and so she decides to leave town. Because despite the fact that the lead detective is her friend and willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, considering that she’s the coroner and obviously being stalked and crap, running away like she’s totally guilty is the only reasonable thing for her to do at this point. I have by no means given away the whole story. This is about half the story, and this is where I gave up because this woman is so stupid, I’d like to make up my own ending to the story where she ends up being killed. No stars/DNF

The Shifting Tide by Anne Perry
Monk #14. A shipping magnate hires Monk to investigate the theft of some ivory off his ship. This puts Monk undercover on the riverfront, not his usual haunts. Meanwhile, said shipping magnate has dropped off a very ill woman at Hester’s clinic. Why doesn’t the shipping magnate want to involve the River Police, and who is this woman? His secrets will lead to a crisis of epic proportions! (Just trust me on this.) It was interesting to see Monk in a new setting, where he’s a bit out of his depth. This book also introduces some new characters. 4/5 stars

Dark Assassin by Anne Perry
Monk #15. Monk’s first big case for the River Police is a double drowning that may have been an accident or a suicide or murder or all of the above. What he does know is that one of the drown-ees was convinced that her father, an apparent suicide, was murdered because of what he knew about the company that was making the new sewer system for the city. This is an opportunity for Perry to dazzle us with disgusting factoids about nineteenth century hygiene, but this felt to me like a River Police Re-mix of an earlier Monk book. Perhaps I’ve read too many because I can’t remember which one specifically. I found the ending unsatisfying, but the journey was not bad. 3/5 stars

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly
This story opens with Karen and her 10-year-old daughter picking up Rex from a 10-year stint in prison for murder. And that’s where the fun begins. Actually, most of the story is told in flashback when Karen was a uni student hanging out with Rex and his flamboyant sister, Biba. Something really messed up happened, and Rex went to prison for it, but was Rex really guilty? If not, who was? What is the Deep, Dark Secret Karen is keeping from Rex and from her daughter? From everyone, actually? This book has a twist ending, and it’s been long enough that I can’t remember if I saw it coming or not. I mean, there were a couple of twists, actually, and I may have seen one of them coming, but I definitely did not see the other one coming, so despite the fact that no one in this book is particularly likeable—with the possible exception of Rex, who I at least felt sorry for—the story held my interest up until the end. Because I am a sucker for Deep, Dark Secrets, but you know my philosophy on Deep, Dark Secrets as literary devices: the longer you hold off revealing it, the Deeper and Darker it must be to avoid making your reader feel cheated. I did not feel cheated. 4/5 stars

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
I picked up this book because it was on a best-of/recommended YA novel list, and as many times as lists of this type have disappointed, you’d think I’d be warier. But this was truly an exceptional YA novel. The main character, Alex, is a murderer. (Not a spoiler.) She killed the guy who murdered her sister and got away with it. Similarly, Alex got away with his murder, but now Alex knows the violence she is capable of and that she can’t trust herself with other people, not even the ones who want to be her friends. Obviously, the subject matter isn’t for everyone’s taste, but I found this story fascinating, and much more morally complex than your average YA novel gets. It was also reasonably disturbing. Content warning: sexual assault, teen sexual activity, and moderately graphic violence. 4.5/5 stars

Playing for the Ashes by Elizabeth George
Lynley #7. Inspector Lynley and Sergeant Havers investigate the murder of a famous cricket player. Was it his ex-wife? His lover? The woman he lives with who’s old enough to be his mother but might actually also be his lover? It’s a very confusing situation. The book switches between the story of the cops’ investigation–which involves leaking information to the press in an effort to smoke out the killer–and a narrative written by the estranged daughter of one of the suspects, and her story gradually sheds light on the case. Includes an ending fraught with moral ambiguity! Content warning: Some fairly graphic sexual stuff, gross enough for me to remember, but isolated to one part of the book. 4/5 stars

Execution Dock by Anne Perry
Monk #16. Monk and the River Police catch the ringleader of a child prostitution/pornography ring and arrest him for the murder of a young boy. Oliver Rathbone’s father-in-law asks him to defend the accused at trial; he won’t say why, but Oliver feels obligated to trust him, for his (Oliver’s) wife’s sake. What happens thereafter is a freaking mess, which is about as much detail as I can give you without giving the whole plot away. Suffice it to say, Monk has to work overtime—with the help of Hester and his new Riverside homies—to make sure justice is done. Content warning: child sexual abuse, not graphic but nonetheless disturbing. 5/5 stars

Acceptable Loss by Anne Perry
Monk #17. This book builds on the events of Execution Dock. Another scumbag is murdered on the river; he turns out to have been involved with the same child pornography business, the head of which is still at large. Monk wants this business killed for good, but in order to kill the head of the snake, he must first find out who killed the scumbag and why. Another page-turning police procedural and courtroom drama involving blackmail and corruption and unfortunate relatives. Same CW as before. 5/5 stars

A Sunless Sea by Anne Perry
Monk #18. Opens with the discovery of a brutal murder. (Quelle surprise.) The victim is a poor woman with no apparent connections—except for the gentleman who visited her in her humble rooms once a month, and he committed suicide a month earlier. Suspicion rests on the man’s widow, who has no alibi, and Monk is forced to arrest her, though he believes her claims of innocence. So who killed and mutilated the poor dead woman, if not the jealous wife? This book focuses more on Rathbone than usual, but it’s pretty interesting, so I didn’t mind. Involves some plot threads from Acceptable Loss. 4/5 stars

Blind Justice by Anne Perry
Monk #19. Hester works to get a minster/con-man prosecuted for fraud. Oliver Rathbone, now a judge, presides over the case. The minister appears to be guilty and his case isn’t looking good, until the defense produces a witness who undermines the charge. But Rathbone has information no one else has, which puts him in a moral/ethical dilemma. There’s a gaping plot hole in this book that Perry never fills in. I think she became bored with the character of Margaret around book #16 and decided to turn her into a villain, but the transformation was never believable for me. The other villains in this story–the minister and his henchman–were enigmas. I kept hoping it would all make sense in the end, but…no. Rathbone’s struggles with right/wrong and law/justice, however, were very real and interesting. 3/5 stars

Blood on the Water by Anne Perry
Monk #20. Opens with a horrible explosion on a pleasure boat that kills almost 200 people. Monk begins the investigation, but in short order the government hands over the case to the Metropolitan Police, for reasons that make no sense to anyone. A man is arrested and sentenced to death, but then there are questions about his guilt. Monk is put back on the case, but by now it’s been several months and the trail is cold. This book had a slow beginning, and despite the scale of the tragedy that opens the story, I found it difficult to become invested in the outcome. Lots of government corruption and whatnot, but it all seemed a lot less consequential for the characters than usual. At least there was no Margaret in this one. 3/5 stars

Corridors of the Night by Anne Perry
Monk #21. Hester is working at a hospital where a talented doctor and his brilliant scientist brother are doing experimental treatments. Unfortunately, she learns that they are secretly imprisoning poor children so they can use their blood! (These are the days before blood transfusions were a thing, so this is quite extraordinary for several reasons.) The first half of this story is very exciting and involves Monk and some other regulars doing badass stuff. The second half is the trial, and it’s kind of annoying. Two quibbles: 1) At one point the defense attorney pushes Hester into admitting that something that actually happened didn’t happen; another witness had already testified to it, and moreover, we read it happening just a few pages ago. It made no difference to the outcome, but it also made no sense that she would say that. 2) An important character who appeared in Books #19 and #20 as Rufus Brancaster has another important role in this book, but for some reason Perry changes his name to Ardal Juster. (???) Not sure if Ardal is an improvement over Rufus or not, but that’s not the point. Obviously, Perry writes a lot of books and can be forgiven for forgetting a character’s name, but isn’t this what editors are for? And where the crap did “Ardal Justice” come from, anyway? That said, it’s still a good story. 4/5 stars

In the Presence of the Enemy by Elizabeth George
Lynley #8. Tabloid editor Dennis Luxford is being blackmailed by someone who has kidnapped his 10-year-old daughter and threatened to kill her if he doesn’t print the “true story” about his oldest child. Complicating matters is that Luxford is only the girl’s biological father; he’s never met the girl and hasn’t had any contact with the mother, now a high-profile junior minister in the government, in a decade. The mother thinks this is all an elaborate plot on Dennis’s part so he can print the sordid story of their long-ago affair. She forbids him to involve the police because that will mean revealing her secret, so Dennis asks forensic specialist Sebastian St. James (who in turn involves his wife, Deborah, and his assistant, Lady Helen) to figure out who the kidnapper is. Bad things ensue. This is an exciting story because the stakes are high—children in danger and whatnot—and there’s the continuing drama of Lynley’s benighted relationship with Lady Helen, plus some good stuff with Sergeant Havers. But the way the child characters were used seemed vaguely exploitive to me; they felt expendable, which isn’t how you want to see children in a murder/kidnapping situation. 3.5/5 stars

Romance

Not a lot of time for romance this sextile—too much William Monk! But here’s what I read.

Irresistible by Mary Balogh
This is Book #3 in the Four Horsemen trilogy. I liked it much better than Book #2, even if it wasn’t quite up to the level I’ve come to expect from Balogh. (These are earlier Balogh works that have recently been re-released.) Sophia Armitage is an old friend the Four Horsemen knew in their army days; she followed the drum with her husband, who has been dead a couple years now. Nathaniel Gascoigne is in London to find a husband for his niece and short-term love affair for himself. Sophie agrees to help him with both of these things, wink wink nudge nudge. But things always get complicated when friends start sleeping together, especially when one of the friends is being blackmailed and is afraid to tell anyone about it. There is a subplot involving the Fourth Horseman, Eden, and his lady love, the tension with whom has been building since at least Book #2. (I haven’t read Book #1.) Two quibbles: 1) I really thought Eden deserved his own book and 2) this book felt like it should have ended earlier than it did. (I suppose it went on so long in part to provide more time for the Eden subplot resolution, but…come on. Whose idea was it to have a Four Horsemen Trilogy, anyway? That doesn’t even make sense.) Content warning: friends have explicit benefits, wink wink nudge nudge. 3.5/5 stars

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Another contemporary romance I talked myself into reading, but this time I had no regrets. Lucy and Joshua work at the same publishing company. Technically, they have the same job, as their company is the product of a recent merger and they are assistants to their respective co-equal bosses. (It’s hard to explain succinctly.) So there’s a deep rivalry going on here; also, they are complete opposites and just don’t get along. Actually, they hate each other. That’s what they say, anyway. And also what they act like. That’s what everyone thinks because a) they say it and b) they act like it. But you know where this is headed, right? Yes, they are secretly in love—so secretly that not even they know it yet. Elements of the plot are pure science fiction, but I found this book very smart and funny. I may be feeling overgenerous with the stars because when I read it, I was sick in bed and it was a great escape under those circumstances; plus, the heroine wasn’t neurotic, and in a contemporary romance, a non-neurotic heroine is always worth an extra star, IMO. Content warning: Some non-graphic sex. 4.5/5 stars

 

 

 

I keep saying I won’t do this to myself, but I keep doing it, and I can’t seem to stop.

It’s still May, technically, so it’s not too out of date to talk about March and April, right? Dude, whatever, it’s my blog, and if you’re still reading, it must be because I can do no wrong in your sight. (I don’t actually think that’s why you’re reading.)

Highbrow

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes (translated by Jamie Bulloch)
This book caught my eye because I’d seen the film based on it streaming on Netflix. Not the whole film, just some of it. My husband is fond of playing random things on Netflix when it’s late at night and one really ought to go to bed, but is this actually a comedy about Hitler? How can you not check that out? Yes, it’s a comedy about Hitler. Well, it’s a satire, technically (albeit a funny one). The setup is that Hitler didn’t really die in his bunker, but that’s the last thing he remembers, being in the bunker, but somehow he’s woken up and it’s present-day Germany. He is very confused, not to mention disappointed to learn what has become of his beloved Deutschland. On the other hand, he’s very impressed with the new technology, and particularly with the new media. A new career in showbiz falls into his lap when people assume he’s an actor doing some high-concept comedy routine with his insistence that he really is Der Führer. A spot on TV leads to an internet sensation. People are outraged and appalled; a few think he makes a great deal of sense. Everyone is paying attention, though, which is precisely what Hitler wants. Did I enable Hitler by enjoying this book? That’s what I wonder. 4/5 stars

The Round House by Louise Erdrich
This coming of age novel centers on thirteen-year-old Joe, a Native American boy living on a reservation in South Dakota. After his mother is raped, she is so traumatized that she won’t speak of what happened or tell who the guilty party is, not even to her husband, a tribal court judge. Joe determines to find the rapist himself, with some help from his three friends, so he can be brought to justice. The story is not about finding out who committed the crime but how his mother’s trauma affects his family and how Joe’s quest to protect his mother changes him forever. Like most novels about reservation life, it’s depressing AF. Just kidding. Actually, for a sad story (sorry, SPOILER ALERT), it is not as depressing as it should be. It makes for a good book club discussion. 4/5 stars

The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington
I actually don’t know if this book counts as “highbrow” or not. It’s a love story, and for all I know, it’s a pretentious woman’s Nicholas Sparks novel, but it’s about religion as much as it’s about love. Rebecca has just let her mother-in-law apartment (downstairs) to Michael, who has just left the priesthood after spending 20 years in a monastery. Michael has had a crisis of faith but is still a believer. Rebecca is (naturally) a lapsed Catholic. You might say they are both bitter about God, but that would be oversimplifying the case; you might say their respective relationships with the divine are complicated. Anyway, they become friends, and then they fall in love, and then things get really complicated for everyone. I quite enjoyed this book, and I understand there’s a sequel, but I’m undecided as to whether or not I want to read it. I kind of liked the ending as it was. 4.5/5 stars

Non-fiction

First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies by Katie Andersen Brower
The subtitle sort of says it all. I applaud the author’s decision to organize the book thematically rather than chronologically, which can be so tedious. It covers the various first ladies’ relationships to their husbands, to their children, to the press, to the nation, etc. Very interesting and humanizing, no political axes to grind; I liked all of the First Ladies better after reading this. Includes an afterword speculating on what type of First Lady Melania Trump might be, which only made me think, “Poor Hillary.” 4/5 stars

Divided We Stand: The Battle over Women’s Rights and Family Values That Polarized American Politics by Marjorie J. Spruill
I have mixed feelings about this meticulously researched book. It is exhaustive; in fact, I can’t imagine the author could have left anything out. It’s not my cup of tea, style-wise; it managed to be interesting and tedious, often at the same time. It covers mostly the period between 1972-1980. The final chapter gives a broad overview of the last 30+ years and comes off more partisan, but by then I was so glad to be almost done that I couldn’t be bothered to care. I did think it was worth reading, as it explains how the ERA-era (ha, see what I did there) women’s movement spurred the culture wars that changed both major political parties and led to the current polarization. Lessons learned: Phyllis Schlafly was an impressive woman and also a real piece of work. Betty Friedan was a little less impressive, but equally a real piece of work. I think it would have been a fantastic long article; full-length book wore out its welcome (for me). Your mileage may vary, depending on your tolerance for minutiae.

TL;DR version: The ERA started out as a mainstream, bipartisan issue; it was this close to passing until feminists got together in a big conference and started championing more controversial issues, such as abortion rights, lesbian rights, and government-funded childcare. In their quest to represent the interests of all women, they inadvertently prompted a backlash from conservative women, who feared a loss of American culture’s traditional religious values as well as the loss of traditional protections for women. (See, even the TL;DR version is long.) 3.5/5 stars

Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration–And How to Achieve Real Reform by John Pfaff
As some of you may know, criminal justice reform is an issue close to my heart. Why? I don’t know. Probably because I’m an anti-government wackjob. This is one of the books I would make everyone in America read if I could make everyone in America read five books. (I’m afraid I can’t pick just one.) This goes double if you’ve read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, which was an important book in terms of bringing people’s attention to the racial disparities in sentencing (and prosecution), but which side-stepped the issue of violent crime in favor of what Pfaff calls “The Standard Story,” which is that the dramatic increase in incarceration was a direct result of the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs led directly to an increase in federal prisoners, but federal prisoners are a small percentage of the overall prison population, which is composed primarily of people who have been convicted of violent crimes.

Pfaff’s alternative to The Standard Story is that mass incarceration coincided with a massive increase in prosecutions, which coincided not with the substantial increase in violent crime of the ’60s and ’70s but actually took off just as the violent crime rate was decreasing. Prosecutors enjoy almost unlimited discretion with very little oversight or transparency; until this changes, meaningful reform will be impossible. Also, Americans need to decide what trade-offs they are willing to make for marginal decreases in crime. This is a very readable book (not as much math as Mark A.R. Kleinman’s When Brute Force Fails , another great book on this subject) and mostly non-partisan (which makes sense because putting too many people in jail is a bipartisan pastime).  5/5 stars

Hey, how have you all been?

I’ve been okay. I haven’t been doing much, really. I was sick for two whole weeks in April, and that sucked, but I’m better now. After I stopped being sick, I went to Europe for two whole weeks with my husband, because it’s our 20th anniversary this year, and we decided to go to foreign countries where I don’t hate the food. Ha ha, just kidding, Japan. (I don’t really hate your food, at least not all of it.) I will now say nice things about food in Japan: 1) Hiroshima-style okinomiyaki is the best. 2) The Japanese are much better than Americans at making salad. It’s true! 3) Japanese curry is delicious and I could eat it several times a week, probably, because I actually think I did do this while I was there. 4) The Japanese have much more interesting snack foods than we have. 5) You can get legit food at Japanese 7-Elevens. They make the American 7-Eleven dining experience look like…well, you already know what it looks like. 6) Japan sells a really good breakfast cereal I can’t remember the name of and I kind of miss it. (I can’t get it at the Asian market here. Sad face.) 7) The Japanese make pretty good sandwiches. 8) Japan sells better bread at their grocery stores than we sell here.

I’m still not a fan of miso, sushi, sashimi, seaweed, or the chewier sea creatures.

So should I tell you about my European vacation? It wasn’t super-European. I mean, we went to Paris for a few days, but then the rest of the time we were in London and Scotland, and I never know if the UK really “counts” as Europe. They seem to hold themselves apart a little. I don’t know. They don’t have the same money. But while I’m on the subject of money, can I just say (for the billionth time) that other countries’ money is so much prettier than U.S. money? Is there some reason we can’t use more color on our paper currency? I mean, come on. And when is Harriet Tubman going on the money, and are we really going to replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 because that seems like bullcrap, and even if they end up sharing, that also seems like bullcrap, and anyway, Andrew Jackson being on the money is bullcrap in the first place because what a jerk. But now I’m getting off topic.

Not that I was ever really on topic in the first place, but I’m going to try now.

Europe!

It was a super-long day of flying because first we had to go from Portland to Atlanta, and then we had the transatlantic flight to Paris, but I did not sleep at all on either of these flights. I did not have a big problem with jet lag. I never really knew what time it was the whole time I was over there. It was like being in another dimension or something. (I don’t actually know what it’s like to be in another dimension.)

In Paris I saw the Eiffel Tower (naturally), the Louvre, Montmartre, Notre Dame, and the Catacombs. The Catacombs were cool, but also kind of creepy. The bread in France is delicious. All of the food I ate in France was delicious. I did not eat anything non-delicious there. I also did not learn any new French, unfortunately, although I think my pronunciation may be slightly less awful now. (Slightly.) French cab drivers are a lot like Japanese cab drivers. It would be so easy to get hit by a cab or a bus in France. But I did not get hit by either, gentle readers. (But if I had, I understand the medical care is free over there, so maybe that’s why they’re so lackadaiscal about stuff like traffic laws.) This is not a slur on French cab drivers (or the Japanese cab drivers). IT’S JUST DIFFERENT, THAT’S ALL. Another thing about France (or Paris, anyway) is that all the women are thin. I saw maybe one overweight French woman while I was there, and honestly, I don’t even know that she was actually French. She could have just been speaking French and hailing from some other country. I’m a terrible French-speaker, so if she had an accent, how would I have known?

In London I saw Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theatre, the British Museum (which was cool, but would have been cooler if I hadn’t been to the Louvre three days before, so my advice, if you go to the British Museum, is to not see the Louvre first, or at least let the memory of the Louvre fade from your mind before embarking on a trip to any other museum), the Churchill War Rooms, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and Wicked at the Apollo Victoria. I had never seen Wicked before–indeed, I knew almost nothing of Wicked, except that I read the book it was based on, and I might have heard one of the songs once. I liked it a lot. Romeo and Juliet at the Globe was really good, too. I was told we should get groundling tickets, but I thought that sounded like the opposite of what I should do because I’m too old to stand for two hours, especially in the rain. (For the record, it did not rain the night we were there, but it could have, and I am not any more inclined toward gambling than I am toward standing.) We went to an evening service at Westminster Abbey, which made me want to become an Anglican, or at least an Episcopalian. (Thirty-five minutes, start to finish. I FIND YOUR IDEAS INTRIGUING AND WISH TO SUBSCRIBE TO YOUR NEWSLETTER.)

In Edinburgh we went on a ghost tour and ate a lot of pub food. We also rented a car and drove out to see some old castles. Well, my husband drove. You could not have paid me to drive. I was not, frankly, super excited about riding in a car driven by someone who is not used to driving on the other side of the road, and there were some harrowing moments on our automobile journeys, but no injuries or fatalities to people or vehicles, and taking public transit would have turned a 40 minute trip into a 2-hour trip, so all in all I would say it was worth it. THE CASTLES IN SCOTLAND ARE AWESOME. We saw Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh, of course, but that’s more of a museum. My favorite castle that we saw was Tantallon Castle in North Berwick. It’s on the coast, and it might be the most arresting scenery I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m going to share a picture with you.

 

 

 

 

That’s a view from the top. It’s pretty, but you know what? IT LOOKS LIKE CRAP COMPARED TO HOW BEAUTIFUL EVERYTHING WAS IN PERSON. So I’m afraid you’ll have to use your imagination.

Also while in Scotland, we toured St. Giles Cathedral, hiked up to Arthur’s Seat (it was super-windy and I forgot my ponytail, so my hair is like Bride of Frankenstein in all the pictures), and visited the Scottish Parliament. I had never thought about Scotland having a Parliament or not before this visit because I’m an ignorant American, but it’s only been around since 1999…which actually makes me feel even stupider for not being cognizant of its existence, but whatever. It’s a very weird-looking building from the outside, but quite nice inside. Actually, the building looks best from the aerial view; too bad most people won’t see it from that angle.

And then we flew home. In my opinion, two weeks was exactly the right amount of time to be gone. By the time we got home, I had actually started to miss the kids.

Well, that’s my vacation in a nutshell. If 1,300 words qualifies as a nutshell. I suppose for two weeks in Europe, that’s kind of a nutshell. And only one picture! That’s a nutshell indeed.

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