Monday, November 29, 2021

On My Bookshelf: November

November has been busy! Between student events, getting my shots, and trying to keep the house together, I feel like I'm constantly running. There isn't a day when I can just sit home and chill...but after a year/plus of quarantine, I don't mind it one bit.

This month's reading centered heavily around my students. I find myself constantly at the bookstore now, scanning the shelves for something they might like. They're ferocious readers, snatching books out of my hands as quick as I bring them in my room. I have to watch out for my fingers!

So enjoy this list. There's a few on here that I highly recommend! 

1. Mexican Gothic
By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

For someone who loves suspense, horror, and all horrible things in general, I am surprisingly not often reading books in those genres. This one kept popping up in my recommended list, so much so that I finally broke down and bought it. I was not disappointed! It follows the true gothic style of writing that made gloomy castles and droopy Victorian parlors all the rage.

The story follows Noemí Taboada, a rich young Mexican woman who is tasked with checking in on her sick cousin in the mountains with her husband's family. She finds a creepy, creaky old Victorian mansion and so many secrets. It's a slow burn, and you don't know just how horrible everything is until it sneaks up right on you. I couldn't put this one down, and if you're a fan of horror or suspense, I would 100% expect you to read this!

By Samira Ahmed

This book settled deep in the pit of my stomach. I found it on sale at Books A Million, and without thinking I snapped it up. YA novels on sale are the best thing ever; you can pay $3 for something the students will absolutely love. I read this one in a single day, it was so good.

Layla is seventeen and living in a version of the United States that is in the middle of a crisis. Muslims are targeted after a terrorist attack, and the government responds in a very similar way to the internment of Japanese-American citizens during WWII, as well as victims of the Holocaust. It was chilling to see the similarities laid bare on the page. She and her family are sent to an internment camp, and the story is horrific. But there was a part of me that kept thinking...what if...could it...what would I do? And a book that makes you question yourself is one that you should read.

By Kayden Phoenix and Amanda Julina Gonzalez 

I'm always looking for graphic novels to add to my ever-growing collection. In keeping with Hispanic Heritage Month reading only a few weeks before, I settled on this book. The illustrations are colorful, the dialogue easy to follow and digest. Now it was the subject matter that required processing.

The story follows Jalisco, a young woman whose mother is kidnapped. She is taken in by a group of women who work to end the kidnappings and murders, and she joins them in their efforts. Despite the bright graphics, there's sinister undertones of the stories. It's an adult story told from a young woman's perspective. It's simultaneously brave and heartbreaking. I liked it, though I don't know if I need to read it again anytime soon. 

By Kirsty McKay

Full disclosure on this one; I bought it because I liked the cover. It's a little sweet, creepy, and definitely something I knew my students would like. The story follows Cate, a student on an exclusive island boarding school for gifted students. Every year they participate in a game where students are "killed" by pranks, and the winner becomes a notorious legend. At first the pranks are simple and follow the rules. Eventually things take a dangerous turn, and despite police involvement, they continue the game.

The premise of this book is fantastic, and I love how the author has created the point of view of the main character. There's hints and clues dropped along the way, but really it kept me guessing until the end. It's hard to keep me from guessing the end of a book, or at least predicting, and this one did just that. I'll be losing this one to a very eager teenage reader soon!

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Cold is Here!

 Finally, FINALLY, we have frost. That first bite in the air, the lingering cold in our chest when you take a deep breath...Michigan at her finest. 

This year we're trying to plan homemade gifts, and I'm currently in planning mode. I always love a good Christmas ornament, preferable with year and some customization. Of course I'll destroy every surface of our kitchen with some goopy concoction I'll throw together. Hopefully it will turn out well enough to give away as presents. Hopefully!

We still have a few things to do before real winter can hit. We need to button up the boat safely, take in all the lawn furniture, and clean out our dog run. I'd like to put up the Christmas decorations earlier this year if I can. We're lucky our cats don't turn into little assassins when we set up the tree.

I'm remembering that this time last year...that I didn't remember much of everything. I had that nasty COVID brain fog for months on end. I don't remember what I did or ate for Thanksgiving, and it felt like I woke up from a dream in February. While I still feel some effects, I'm back to my old self in a number of ways. At least I'll be able to taste the food more!

As COVID still rages, I'm wondering what that will mean for the next season. I know that reenacting will not be the same for me. I can't remain the same; there are people who literally threatened me harm, lurking at events behind petticoats and smiles. There are people who completely said/did terrible things during the pandemic, and I don't think I can stomach being in the same room with them. There are a lot of things wrong with reenacting, and something needs to change.

So with that, I'm not thinking about making my next outfit. Instead I'm planning on my next "life move," and what that looks like for my hobbies and free time.

We'll see. At least I have the distraction of the holidays to keep thinking...


Monday, November 15, 2021

The Edmund Fitzgerald 46th Anniversary

Anyone who lives in Michigan has at least some interaction with lakes. It seems like there's a marina or boat around every corner. I grew up knowing the lakes in all their glory, even though I was quite decidedly afraid of water. Living in a lakeside town meant understanding the colors of the sky and the churn of the waves. Most of my friends growing up had boat licenses too, though I tended to admire the lakes from shore.

The biggest of our "big" lakes is Lake Superior (I've spent more time on Huron and Michigan). It is the farthest north, deepest, and coldest. There are so many shipwrecks around the lakes, and Lake Superior holds perhaps the most famous vessel underneath her waves. (Click here to see a map of shipwrecks).

The Edmund Fitzgerald

Built in Detroit in 1957, she was the biggest ship on the lakes at the time. On the day of her launch a man watching from the pier had a heart attack and died. Other than that ominous start, she sailed safely throughout her nearly 20 year career on the lakes, shipping iron ore across the great watery expanse.

Then came that fateful November storm. The choppy waters turn monstrous, too dangerous to even observe from a pier or dock. As someone who personally avoids water whenever possible, November always gave me a good reason to continue doing so. It's as if Mother Nature gives a resounding "NO" to anyone looking to traverse her lakes.

But the Edmund Fitzgerald had a schedule, and this would be the last run of the season. She left port from Wisconsin on November 9th, 1975. Captain McSorely did not anticipate a terrible trip, especially since a nearby storm was predicted to go south. The trip started out well enough on Lake Superior.

That calm would not last. Eventually the waters would grow so rough that the captain would request a nearby ship, the Anderson, to stay close. They pushed through the waves and wind but kept up radio communication. Eventually the Fitzgerald lost radar and was going blind into dangerous waters. Yet they still persevered. 

After 7pm the Anderson sent one last communication on the radio, asking how they were doing with their "problems." McSorely said;

"We are holding our own." 

Then the storm converged into a white mess of snow and water. When the weather cleared, the Anderson, who had been within sight distance, only saw the clear expanse of Lake Superior water. The Fitzgerald was no more. Search parties later discovered only small pieces of the ship; battered and broken they were torn apart as she sank. 

Only a few days later they located the Fitzgerald in two pieces at the bottom of Lake Superior. For decades, dive teams and submersibles would explore the wreckage but did not discover the exact reason she sank. A rogue wave? Flooding in the cargo hold? Shoaling? To this day there is evidence to support different theories, but never an exact reason. As for the bodies, they were discovered later, though families have chosen not to disturb the gravesite any further, and now it is not possible to dive again.

Gordon Lightfoot's song also made the wreck a popular part of Michigan legend and lore.

So here we are, 46 years later, and I'm running an afterschool group, one appropriately named "Monsters, Mysteries, and Myths." Our meetings lands on November 10th, and so my students MUST learn about the Big Fitz. I found a recipe for cookies that former cook on the Fitzgerald shared and brought in a guest speaker, Dr. David Schwab. He is an oceanographer and mathematician who studied the sinking, as well as developed a computer system to help predict waves on the Great Lakes. My kids were just so enveloped in the whole thing, and I learned a bit about how it all came together. Click here if you want to see some videos he's been in about oceanography. I'm grateful that he took time to speak to us, even though he's retired!

In the end, there's a certain about of solemnity surrounding any lost ship in the lakes. They say that Lake Superior doesn't give up her dead, and even today none have come to the surface. It's odd to think that the beautiful waves I observe safely from the shore are just above the surface of a mass grave. Over 33,000 people were lost in the Great Lakes, and unfortunately that number will grow as long as there are people and boats, storms and large waves. 

The lakes are a beautiful sort of dangerous, like all great and terrible things.



Tuesday, November 9, 2021

A (Bloody) Halloween

I remember Halloween as a kid; I always wanted to be a zombie bride or monster princess or something like that. I wanted to wear a dress AND terrorize the earth with a terrible curse. Is that too much for a girl to ask? As I've gotten older, my tastes have evolved, but only a little.

This year I settled on "Ancient Goddess Who Has Received Sacrifice." I bought a pretty crème-colored dress on Amazon that is adorned with stars and moons. I could have used another outfit in my wardrobe, but I REALLY like how it turned out. I needed something magical, and at the very least I can use it again for other costumes.

Next was my tiara. I needed something spikey and regal, so I headed to Michael's and picked up these crystal beads. The wire wrapping technique wasn't too difficult, though I definitely need more practice if I want to do it again. I attached the stones to a think piece of gold wire, then attached that to a thick black headband. The end result blended in well with my hair and glinted different colors in the light.

Finally, I had to decorate my (willing) victim. I bought a plain white shirt and used different types and colors of paint along the front to simulate the blood. In my CSI fervor I also did tried interesting forms of spatter; large drops, sprays, and even a few pools. As an added bonus I put my left handprint on the side, as if I'd reached into his chest to claim my prize. It was a very Indiana Jones scene, at least how I imagined it in my head. 

With the appropriate touches of blood on our faces, the costumes were complete! Considering the fact that I've already "captured" his heart already, is it too much of a stretch for me to consume it? (Ha ha!)

While the whole thing was a very quick endeavor, with only a few hours of prep for the completed work, it reminded me of my many transferable skills. I've worked with wire wrapping beads, face painting, and even have experience from teaching forensics blood spray. I'm impressed with the final product!

Who knows what I can make next with that set of skills? 


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Youmacon 2021

 It wasn't until relatively recently that we started watching anime in our household. Growing up I absolutely loved Sailor Moon and Pokemon, but really didn't make the connection to the anime community as a whole. With the pandemic and my lengthy recovery, we watched new things. Anime has slowly become my favorite genre of art!

Youmacon is a yearly anime conference in Detroit. It was virtual last year, so this year was the first back in-person. There were a million costumes, some I even recognized. I went with a cottagecore vibe to my outfit, though I was lazy about it because I knew we'd be doing a lot of walking. 

I took a class on furoshiki, which is the Japanese tradition of wrapping gifts and items with cloth. I didn't realize that I'd kept a Burnley and Trowbridge cloth in my bag until I realized that I needed it. It was an hour well-spent, and now I'm definitely considering using this technique for my presents this year. Perhaps even stamping fabric with paint? We'll see what I have time for...

There was so much to do/see/buy, that seven hours later we were still wandering around. I think next year we'll attend later in the day, after at least a few cups of coffee! Of course, I had to buy a few things too, and I'm finding more and more that I like the Kawaii style. Books are always necessary, no matter how many already line/overflow our shelves at home!

It took a whole day of lounging around the house to recover from all of the walking! I'm glad to see events like these make a comeback after the past year we've had. Maybe I'll convince Dom to take me to a conference out of state sometime?


On My Bookshelf: December

December has been a really rough month. Between what happened in Oxford (not far from where I live...) and just the general pandemic issues,...