Fishes and Kisses

Ow, quit it.

A review of “Maud Martha”

by Gwendolyn Brooks

The first sentence in this book is just a little list of the fun and pretty things that a little girl likes, and the first thing on the list is candy buttons. Then before you know it, you’re immersed in the grind of hand-to-mouth existence, the dreariness of urban living without respite, and the yearning for experiences that are not in the world’s plans for this little girl. That’s how the whole book goes – it reads so easily and feels so light, but feelings and understandings sneak up on you the whole time. Somehow, Brooks squeezes moment after moment of real human intensity into less than 200 pages without making the story dense or heavy. She conveys the complex and subtle truth of one person, Maud Martha Brown, from childhood to motherhood. Maud Martha grapples with issues of race, between white and Black people as well as within the Black community, with gender relations, family systems, and class issues, but you never feel that you’re reading a treatise, or that the character is a device for conveying the author’s ideas. Instead, you feel that you’re right there with Maud Martha, watching all these things and more as her life moves among them. Brooks is sharp, in all senses of that word; Maud Martha is almost as perceptive as her author but much more forgiving. The result is an honest but gentle book about Chicago and its innumerable convoluted foibles, but also about one single straightforward person.

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Things to finish (6):

Things to make specific progress on (10):

  • Read 43 books about my city Read 3 more. Didn’t happen.
  • Explore 43 new places in my city Add 6. I’ve explored several more places, but with this challenge I intended to post about at least 6 of them. I didn’t do that part.
  • Get the medical care I need Get this MRI bullshit figured the hell out! Also, begin bodywork/massage therapy. Partial – got the MRI stuff resolved, and started investigating massage therapists, but haven’t got anything definitive yet.
  • Stick to my FlyLady routines like glue. Build an evening routine which I can live with, and stick to it. Gave up.
  • Volunteer Post about most recent experience; decide whether to start a new volunteership or take a break. Didn’t post or make a decision about this, but I decided I don’t need to post about it.
  • Not have a headache. Get a follow up CT scan and discuss with doc.Done! This is my favorite!
  • Have a better relationship with my brother Get through the current horrific family crisis without causing any further damage to an already strained relationship.Done. Sigh.
  • Find alternatives to Google products. At least post about the alternatives I’m already using. This was yet another posting goal, which I had waaaaay to many of, and didn’t do any of.
  • Get strong Keep riding the bike as late in the year as possible.
  • Be a better friend Remain close to caught up on returning emails and phone messages.Got better about calling/writing back . . . but began to question whether that’s really what constitutes being a good friend.

Ongoing things to do (3):

Final tally:
Accomplished 3 Things, and 4 specific steps, and maintained 1 ongoing Thing.
Partially accomplished 1 specific step.
Didn’t accomplish 1 Thing and 4 specific steps, and didn’t maintain 2 ongoing Things.
Gave up on 3 Things

3 of the 4 specific steps which I didn’t accomplish, and 1 of the Things which I gave up on, had to do with specific posts which I wanted to create. I think the moral of the story is that those aren’t good goals for me. I’m clearly not really motivated by them.

In the end, I got 8 out of the 19 things on my challenge list done, which isn’t so great. But I think it was made up for by what I’ve learned about how to set goals for myself, so I’m ok with it. Now . . . on to the next challenge!

A review of Soul Vegetarian: Everyone needs soul food!

Even vegetarians – but it can be hard for it to get! Luckily there’s Soul Vegetarian, which is in a terribly inconvenient location for me, but available for greens-n-sweet-potatos emergencies.

I went there a while ago, but here’s what I remember: the people were really nice, the portions were very generous, the food was a bit on the salty side for me but otherwise tasty and very filling, and everything was super-healthy without being super-boring and tasteless. I hope to make it back sometime.

A review of Bleeding Heart Bakery: The 1st certified organic bakery in the country!

I went to the BHB’s newest branch, the one in the old Bulldog Bakery at Belmont and Damen. (43T won’t let me add a new branch to this location). The aesthetic is very diy/crafty (craft-iy?) from the rubber-stamped bird labels for the goodies to the pink and pistachio T-shirts saying, “Never mind the Preservatives . . . Here’s the Bleeding Heart Bakery!” They have truffles, peanut brittle (they make their own!), cake, quiche, muffins, cookies, creme de pots, and all the other usual suspects, plus the standard coffee and other beverages (curiously, not organic). they also have these towels, this chocolate, and other local/handmade/organic/vegan/otherwise virtuous wares for sale. Also, you are encouraged to watch the chefs and bakers at work through a big plexiglass window.

As for the experience of eating there, it was pricey – sometimes frightfully so. $12 for a loaf of bread? $6 for a small creme de pot? Yep, but consider this: the creme de pot is perfectly delectable, and it’s topped with fresh vanilla bean whipped cream, mango fans, and pomegranate seeds, all organic. Also consider that BHB is a registered nonprofit, that it’s involved in some program which helps low-income people train for successful culinary careers (at least, that’s what I’ve heard on the radio, but I can’t find any information about this online), and that their staff are super-cool.

Unfortunately, the quality wasn’t consistent. Hubby’s quiche was exceptional, but he reported that his dessert was “like regular icing on a stale cake.” A sampled pound cake was heavenly; a ginger snap was super-gingery but very dry. At BHB’s prices, I don’t want to try stuff that may not turn out to be excellent, so this is going to be a once-in-a-while place for me.

Update 10.22.07

I feel like I’ve slowed down a bit. . . .

Things to finish (2 out of 6 done):

Things to make specific progress on (7 out of 10 begun):

Ongoing things to do (3 out of 3 going well):

Totals: 12 out of 19 are done or progressing!

This week’s project: goad hubby into getting internet access at home like he practiced, so I can post from home, because a lot of my goals involve posting about things and I can’t do it all from work!

First update

OK, I’m changing my end date to December 21, since that’s the official first day of winter. I think it’s going well. . . .

Things to finish (2 out of 6 done):

Things to make specific progress on (6 out of 10 begun):

  • Read 43 books about my city Read 3 more. Working on one right now.
  • Explore 43 new places in my city Add 6. I think I’ve already got there, just need to post them.
  • Get the medical care I need Get this MRI bullshit figured the hell out! Also, begin bodywork/massage therapy. Made new neuro appointment; tried a massage therapist but she was so-so, so I’m still looking.
  • Stick to my FlyLady routines like glue Build an evening routine which I can live with, and stick to it. Doing the routine most evenings and it’s helping a lot!
  • Volunteer Post about most recent experience; decide whether to start a new volunteership or take a break.
  • Not have a headache. Get a follow up CT scan and discuss with doc.
  • Have a better relationship with my brother Get through the current horrific family crisis without causing any further damage to an already strained relationship. Had an exhausting but important visit, and had some really good talks with my brother. Still tentative, but it feels like we’re both reaching out for the first time in . . . well, ever.
  • Find alternatives to Google products. At least post about the alternatives I’m already using.
  • Get strong Keep riding the bike as late in the year as possible. Rode yesterday! Hopefully will ride some more this week.
  • Be a better friend Remain close to caught up on returning emails and phone messages.

Ongoing things to do (1.5 out of 3 going well):

Next steps . . . post about Chicago books and places; try to break through whatever block is keeping me from feeling creative at all, so I can get back to journaling and deal with the altered book project.

My fall challenge goals!

Here is what I’m aiming for by December 15. I’m trying to be more realistic than I was with my summer challenge.

Things to finish (6):

Things to make specific progress on (10):

Ongoing things to do (3):

That’s 19 things total, compared to 26 from the summer, and only 6 to fully finish, as compared to 12 before (and really one of the 6 is already done). I think this is really do-able! Here I go!