A Good Book on a Bad Day

I had both a very good weekend and a very tough one. Saturday was wonderful. Sunday was hard

Saturday I met a friend at B&N and spent hours shopping and chatting with her. That night, she and another friend came over and we all had pizza and hung out with Tara (the cat) during a thunderstorm and watched some baseball. Sunday, I slept poorly and felt drained. When I got up, I did so out of obligation to Tara, who doesn’t know when it’s the weekend and who I knew would be hungry. Very quickly, my beloved cat got overexcited and scratched me. I went inside for a few minutes to clean the scratch and eat something and reset my attitude, then went back out with her for over an hour. I didn’t want to. I felt so weighed down already, but it wasn’t her fault and I needed to play with her very intentionally. About an hour later, while she tried to keep me from going back inside, she hurt me again. This time I was done. I felt the house of cards in my brain collapse and I chose to collapse with it.

I changed clothes and got back in bed, where Tyler was just waking up. I started crying, and he stayed with me and talked with me, but I was done with the entire day. I stayed in bed or in our big armchair the rest of the day. I didn’t go anywhere I’d intended. I didn’t do anything I’d intended. Living inside my own head felt awful. So I wrapped up in blankets and read, and let my brain and body recover. My phone was upsetting me, so I left it in the bedroom and didn’t look at it from noon until 8:30. Any emergencies could come through Tyler. I let Tyler feed me whatever he came up with and I let him handle all the necessary chores and entertaining Tara. I didn’t avoid her, and I knew she didn’t mean to hurt me—she’s learning. I fed her both of her remaining meals and spent some time with her in the evening when I was feeling better. It was just a bad mental health day. Made even worse because the day before had been so good.

Looking back at my calendar, I see the warning signs. I haven’t had a weekend “off” like this one since June, and I spent it packing for a work trip and packing our apartment. I haven’t truly had a day at home to just stay in and rest since May. A good friend said some hurtful things that took some of the joy out of getting Tara. One of my very good friends is moving away, and Friday was her last day at work. Tyler had to go on a work trip at the beginning of the week, requiring me to single parent the kitten. I’m also living in a new house, with unpacked boxes in every room. My office and desk are still a dumping ground for misc items that don’t have a home yet. 

But let me tell you about the book I read Sunday. Evvie Drake Starts Over is about two people putting their lives back together after all their plans and hopes disintegrated. It’s so soothing, with a steady but lingering pace, and a slow burn romance set behind the main action. It was absolutely the perfect book for me to read on a cloudy mental health day, and it’s the perfect book for a cloudy day spent inside. I’ve already passed it on to a friend.

Yesterday was much better. I had lunch with some friends and someone in my life got really great news. The overcast days make me dream of fall and pies and Tyler’s and my first anniversary. I really needed a day of utter rest, and now that my brain is better, I’m glad I had it. 

3 Actions to Help the Amazon Rainforest

If you just recently learned about the massive wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest, or if you’re learning about it from me right now, the situation is both dire and seemingly far away. This affects the very air we breathe and the overall temperature of the planet (trees store CO2; when they burn or die, that CO2 is released into the atmosphere). The fires were intentionally set by cattle ranchers and soy farmers. The Brazilian president accused non-governmental organizations (NGOs, charities basically) of setting the fires, then denied he said so. So what can we do about it? Here are 3 action items!

1. Learn and Share

For a wider context, this book about human-caused climate disruption includes a chapter on the forests, particularly the Amazon rainforest: The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail.

This article also includes a detailed list of action items, including organizations to which you can donate, petitions you can sign, and other products to avoid if you want to do more for the Amazon rainforest than what I’ve suggested.

Also, these wildfires have been raging for three weeks, but there’s been very little media coverage, even in Brazil, until a few days ago when the excessive smoke turned Sao Paulo as dark as night at 3:30 in the afternoon. Tell your friends and family what you’re learning.

2. Boycott Beef

This is probably the easiest and most impactful thing we can all do.

Cattle ranchers and soy farmers are the main people accused of setting the fires, and have been primarily responsible for illegally clearcutting the rainforest in the past. Soy, beef, coffee, and paper products are significant exports for Brazil, and all contribute to deforestation at the best of times, but I’m focusing on beef because it’s such a prevalent food in my diet. There are 3 main Brazilian beef companies. Look at each of their websites for lists of brands they supply. 

Just because a pet food, for example, advertises being “made in the USA” doesn’t mean they don’t source their beef from Brazil (see Redbarn Pet Products). Likewise, just because a steak house has “Texas” in the name doesn’t mean they don’t buy Brazilian beef. The same can be said about where the beef in your hamburger and on your pizza was raised. This is a boycott, not a lifelong lifestyle change, so when conditions improve, I’ll happily order a ribeye again.

It’s easy to vilify the farmers and ranchers who set the fires, but keep in mind that most are extremely poor, and are setting fires because they are desperate to support themselves and their families. Donations to organizations assisting local communities help people from getting into those desperate circumstances.

3. Write to your elected officials.

Below is my letter to my senators and congressman, which I sent on my lunch break. Feel free to adapt it for your own purposes.

In light of the escalating wildfires in Brazil, I am writing to encourage you to support the State Department in putting pressure on Brazilian beef and soy industries, which have been accused of setting the fires and have long been responsible for illegal clearcutting of the rainforest. The region is so biodiverse, and we still know so little about what lies within it. We’ve already lost countless species to these fires, and we will never get them back. We don’t even know what we’re losing because deforestation and now these fires are wiping out huge areas of life so quickly. The wildfires are now so massive that dieback may set in, causing a feedback loop of death in response to death, killing parts of the rainforest where the fires haven’t reached. This dieback would turn the “world’s lungs” into arid land, perhaps even a desert. The world’s lungs will be dead. Plants and chemicals only found in the Amazon and used for medicines prevalent throughout the Western world will be gone forever. These wildfires threaten the very air we breathe. Even without dieback, massive amounts of carbon dioxide are being released into the atmosphere by the dying trees, further contributing to climate instability and extreme weather across the world, including wildfires in Alaska and hurricanes in the US’s Gulf and Atlantic shores. This is not a tragedy isolated to Brazil, in cause or impact. Please respond strongly and swiftly to help mitigate the devastation. 

Summer Reading, 2019 – Audiobooks

We have a house! And a new kitten! Let’s look at the kitten.

This is Tara. She’s a rescue from Animal Welfare, and she’s precious and spunky and we adore her. 

Between her and the house and moving and travel for work and my brother’s wedding, we’ve had a busy couple of months. While packing, unpacking, cleaning, and traveling, audiobooks have grown even more important to me. They’re the main way I’ve consumed books since June, and they make my now longer commute far more enjoyable. I’ve also recently discovered Audible’s collection of original content, including one-person plays. Here are my top reads of summer/moving season:

The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption by Dahr Jamail

A former war correspondent and seasoned traveler, Dahr Jamail brings us around the world with him to witness the ways human-caused climate disruption is changing our world forever. He climbs mountains, snorkels reefs, hikes the woods outside his own home. He interviews elders in Alaskan fishing villages, the city planner of Miami Beach, Denali park rangers, and scientists all over the world, focusing on how our planet is already too warm for ice—our glaciers, ice caps, and ice flows—to survive. It’s just taking a few decades to melt. And once it does, what will our world look like? How high will the ocean be? How will the rivers and forests be affected? What coral and fish and trees will survive? This is a bleak but realistic look at the unfolding crisis, inspiring me to do all I can to engage with nature, push my elected officials for more stringent environmental protections, and visit these iced places before their ice is gone for good. 

Wally Roux, Quantum Mechanic by Nick Carr (read by William Jackson Harper, aka Chidi from “The Good Place”)

After The End of Ice, I needed something lighter, and quick. I was interested in this Audible original, but when I saw the narrator, I was sold. And I’m so glad my love of Chidi led me here, because Wally Roux was delightful, exhibiting excellence in Sci-Fi, excellence in coming-of-age stories, and, of course, excellence in narration. I wanted to hand this wonderfully charming, realistically yearning book to all my coworkers, but of course it’s hard to do that with audiobooks. So if you have Audible, treat yourself to this delight, just under 4 hours long.

A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs by Ben Garrod

I loved dinosaurs as a kid. I still enjoy seeing new reports and news articles about dinosaurs and other ancient animals. So I thoroughly enjoyed the 3-hour Audible original about what we know, think we know, and get wrong about dinosaurs. (Spoiler alert: Jurassic Park lied to us.)

Other books I read and adored this summer: