Friday, April 3, 2020


Hello friends!

Long time, no see. How's everyone hanging in during Coronavirus? I plan to post more to allow myself that creative outlet, regardless of whether anyone else reads the blog. But tonight I'm asking the question:

What would you be doing right now if not for Coronavirus?

I would be getting ready to sing a concert with the Columbus Symphony Chorus Chamber Choir. It would have been so good, y'all. The program was called Songs of Hope, Comfort, and Love, and here's just some of what we were to sing:

Maurice Duruflé Requiem
Stephen Paulus "The Road Home"
Eric Whitacre "Home"
Jean Berger "My True Love Hath My Heart"
Bernstein/Sondheim "Somewhere"

As an encore, we were planning to sing an arrangement of "You'll Never Walk Alone" from the musical Carousel. One of our chorus members took on the task of asking us to record ourselves singing, and then he synced it all together. A link to that is here.

So that's what I'd be doing #ifnotforcoronavirus.

Stay safe,

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Showin' My Books - January '20

I have a lot of books to talk about this month ... because I haven't written about books in several months. While I don't make resolutions, I am determined to get back to reading more this year.

But even though I haven't posted lately, when I DO post about books, I link up with Steph and Jana.

Life According to Steph

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris - The good: This is a short book that I devoured in about 24 hours (and I work full time and had a 2 1/2 hour chorus rehearsal during that time period). Also good: Grace's sister Millie (who has Down Syndrome and is the smartest character in this whole book). The bad: I know a lot of people found it unbelievable that Grace could have been so snowed by Jack, but I did not. However, when he finally did show his true colors, it was so over the top that it was almost laughable. The ugly: animal harm (not graphic, but also not good); and the thought that someone like Jack probably exists. 3 stars

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead - A very difficult book to read, but so well done. My heart broke for Elwood and for the knowledge that the Nickel School was based on an actual place. 4 stars

Becoming by Michelle Obama - I listened to this as read by Michelle Obama and I never wanted it to end. I miss the Obamas more than I thought possible. I loved every bit of this book. ALL. THE. STARS.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager - I think I liked Final Girls better than this one. I had a hard time suspending my disbelief, but I didn't have a hard time ripping through it. The main character is also super annoying. 3 stars

She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey - This was another audio book for me and I really liked it. I liked the way it was told. It's not read by the authors, although they each talk during the prologue and epilogue. It's also infuriating to hear about all of these incidents and to know that there are so many more that will never see the light of day. Fun fact: last week I won a trivia question because I had listened to this book. 4 stars

On the flip side, I've since been listening to Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow, read by the author. This may end up being a DNF, or I may finish it by reading it traditionally. There's something about the way Farrow reads it that bugs the shit out of me, especially when he's speaking dialogue and trying to sound like the person who's speaking. But I am interested in the subject matter and in comparing this book to She Said.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid - My first read of 2020 and it set a high bar. I loved this book and the way it was written. I flew through it, both desperate to know what happened and not wanting it to end. This is only my second TJR (I listened to Daisy Jones and the Six) but I can't wait to read more! 5 stars

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher - For a good chunk of this book I just kept hating the main character, thinking "how stupid ARE you?" And then everything got turned around and after I finished it I kept trying to piece it together. If I didn't have a ton of other books to read I might read it again to pick up on the clues. Really good psychological suspense! 4 stars

Currently reading: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Showin' My Books - October '19

I've been hit and miss with my book posts, but I couldn't miss the 5th anniversary of Show Us Your Books with Steph and Jana! I'm excited to find out what everyone else has been reading as well.

Life According to Steph

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane - I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads, but it's really more like 3 1/2 stars. The first 100 pages were kind of slow but then "the event" happened and I couldn't stop reading. I liked the multiple points of view which, for the most part, didn't overlap but kept the story moving over 30+ years.

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way - I really enjoyed this. There were quite a few twists that I did not predict. It's also set up like there could be a sequel, which I don't know if I'd be into, but this book on its own was a fast, intense read. 4 stars

Normal People by Sally Rooney - This was my IRL book club's September read and if it weren't for that I may not have finished it, but I ended up liking it better than I thought I would. That said, I did skim through some parts, but we had some good discussion about it. 3 stars

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips - Very intense, fast-paced book that takes place over three hours. I couldn't put it down. I would have given it five stars but there were too many unanswered questions for me so I knocked it down to four. Also, I'm not a parent, but I don't know that I'd recommend this to anyone with small children.

Next up for me: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (October's book club pick)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Showin' My Books - August '19

It's been a while but Gila got her groove back - her reading groove, that is! Linking up as always with Jana and Steph. Here are some books I read since the last time I posted about books.

Life According to Steph

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah - I listened to this and I highly recommend the audiobook. It's read by Noah, and it's so so good. It's also a reminder of the way oppressed people have to live. 5 stars

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite - This is a quick read, and a different perspective of a murder mystery. It's not a whodunit mystery, but more of a why did she do it, and even more, why does the sister keep cleaning up the messes? 4 stars

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides - A psychological mystery with a twist I never saw coming, which I always love. I might have given this 5 stars but what annoyed me was the diary parts. Who writes full-blown dialogue in their diary? 4 stars

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid - I finally read a TJR book! Actually, I listened to this one and I loved it on audio. There's an entire cast of voices and it was just wonderful. 5 stars

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult - I love most all of Jodi Picoult's books. I was hesitant to start this because of the subject matter, and at times it was really hard to read, but that's also one of the things I love about Picoult. 4 stars

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser - I got this from Book of the Month over a year ago and finally read it. It takes place in Yellow Springs, Ohio, which is close to me and one of the main characters is from Springfield, where I went to college. So that alone is cool. It's also a neighborhood mystery and I had not predicted the ending. 4 stars

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen - Read for Erin's book challenge (book with an article of clothing in the title). This was a super fast and easy read, which I needed. There are multiple points of view (and I do mean multiple!) and it's just a feel good book. 4 stars

That's it for now. I'm currently reading Ask Again, Yes and really enjoying it. I can't wait to see what everyone else has been reading!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Draw me safely to Thy side

Apologies in advance, because this is going to be a heavy post for a Friday. But for those in the Christian faith, it's Good Friday, and where I am right now it's gloomy and rainy, so heavy seems appropriate.

In the past several years, death has visited my family far too many times. My dad died of lung cancer in 2011. A couple months later my aunt Linda died at age 61 of a brain aneurysm. My mom died in her sleep of an apparent heart attack in 2014, and then three days later our goddaughter Lauren died at just nine months old. Aaron's mom died of pancreatic cancer three years ago. My grandmother died at age 99 eighteen months ago. My aunt Jean died last fall after years of various health issues.

Last night we sang at a Maundy Thursday service. For as long as I can remember, one of the anthems for the night is "Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me." The words are by Paul Gerhart, and this particular arrangement is by Craig Courtney. It begins with men's unaccompanied voices, then the organ comes in. The second verse is sung by the full choir but it's still somewhat subdued. The third verse builds to a powerful crescendo. Then the fourth verse is a cappella and quite soft. Here are the words to that last verse:

In suffering be Thy love my peace;
In weakness be Thy love my power;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
O Jesus, in that final hour,
Be Thou my rod and staff and guide,
And draw me safely to Thy side.

For the past four years, every time we sing those words all I can think is that I hope that is what death is like.

I hope it for my dad and Aaron's mom, who both suffered from that horrible disease, cancer.

I hope it for Linda, who was here one minute and gone the next.

I hope it for my mom, who wasn't ill when she died but had so much stress on her at the time.

I hope it for Lauren, who lived such a short life but touched us all so much.

I hope it for my grandmother who outlived her husband and both of her daughters.

I hope it for Jean who, once she made the decision to move to hospice care, was finally at peace.

Read the words again. If you're not Christian, replace "Jesus" with whatever higher power you believe in.

I hope.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Showin' my books - April '19

Hola, friends! I just returned from Florida, where I spent four days with 20+ sorority sisters. It was glorious. I also managed to read a little so I'm linking up with Jana and Steph.

Life According to Steph

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris - Somehow, I did not know until after I finished the book that it was based on a true story. I seriously thought it was fiction until I read the Afterword and Author's Note. That changed my whole opinion of the book, which I can't quite explain but when I thought it was fiction, I felt like it was missing something. Anyway, I gave this 4 stars.

Educated by Tara Westover - This one I definitely knew was a memoir. I don't know that I would have read this on my own, but my real life book club read it and I was interested in the story. It is stunning to realize that people really do grow up the way she did. I gave this one 4 stars as well, because while it was uncomfortable to read at times, I felt that it was important (for me) to read.

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory - I needed some "junk food" reading after the previous two, and this fit the bill. What I really enjoyed about this was that it involved an interracial romance but the conflict has nothing to do with race. The characters are all diverse - black, Latino, Asian, gay... I loved that. This is the second book in The Wedding Date series, and I have not yet read The Wedding Date, but I will! 4 stars

That's it for now. I stayed up late to finish The Proposal, so I'm between books right now, but the next book club book is My Sister, the Serial Killer, so I should get on that.

Friday, March 29, 2019

This week, on Grey's Anatomy

Hi, my name is Gwen and I'm a TV-aholic.

"Hi, Gwen."

Mostly my dramatic tastes run with police procedurals (I've seen every single episode of the original Law & Order and SVU), and the legal/medical/firefighter melodramas. I stuck with ER until the very end; LA Law and The Practice were appointment television; more recently I'm digging 9-1-1.

So as you might imagine, Shondaland is my jam. If you don't know what that means, keep reading anyway.

Grey's Anatomy is in its 15th season. I've watched from the beginning. I suffered through Izzie and Denny Duquette, I've watched Bailey mellow with age while still maintaining her badass-ness, I've witnessed Alex's transformation into a pediatric surgeon with a heart, and on and on. Personally, I was ready for Grey's to wrap it up at the end of season 11. If you watch, you know what I'm talking about.

But I just can't quit it.

And last night's episode reminded me why.

Before I go any further, two things:

If you haven't yet watched this episode and you're planning to, come back later. And, trigger warning for sexual assault. I'm not the kind of person who needs trigger warnings, but I can appreciate that some people do.

The March 28th episode of Grey's Anatomy, titled "Silent All These Years," focused on a female patient who arrives at the hospital with a cut on her cheek. Dr. Jo Karev offers to take her to the emergency department and soon realizes that there's much more going on. Jo is herself a survivor of domestic abuse and suspects the same with the patient, Abby. As it turns out, Abby's husband is out of town and she was violently raped by a stranger the night before.

Abby feels safe with Jo and begs her not to leave her side. She also gets terribly upset when she sees any male staff. Eventually she allows Jo and two other female doctors to do a rape kit because she needs surgery and once they sterilize her, any evidence will be destroyed.

As Jo talks to Abby, she tells her over and over that the rape wasn't her fault. She also talks about her own past and how she felt that it was her fault when her husband would beat her. And of course Abby says to her, "it wasn't your fault." How easy it is for us to tell someone else that but not be able to see it for ourselves.

Juxtaposed with this, we see Jo in the near past, knocking on the door of her birth mother's house. Jo was left at a fire station as a baby and bounced around foster homes. She wanted to know where she came from, and she discovers that she was the result of a rape. Her birth mother blamed herself because she had said yes to a date. And in another subplot, Bailey and Ben are faced with their teenage son dating and Ben gives him the talk about consent. (Thank you for showing this very important piece of prevention.)

The most powerful scene is when Abby needs to be taken to an operating room. She's terrified to leave the safety of the exam room she's been in, so Jo arranges for all of the female staff, without knowing why, to line the hallway while Abby is wheeled to surgery. (Music has always been an important part of Grey's Anatomy and in this episode in particular the music is so fitting.)

Here's my reason for writing this post: it is infuriating to me that in 2019 women still blame themselves for being assaulted. And the reason they do is because in many cases they ARE blamed. "What were you wearing?" "How much had you had to drink?" "Were you flirting?" This way of thinking is such bullshit and for real makes me want to burn down the patriarchy.

I've written about this before (see: Standing with the Stanford Survivor, among others) and it makes me angry and sad that I'll probably have to write about it again.

Rape is never ever ever the victim's fault. Ever.

So no, I can't quit Grey's, and I won't. Shonda Rimes, you have a fan for life. Camilla Luddington (Jo) and Khaililah Joi (Abby), I am in awe of you. And a special shout out to Debbie Allen who directed the episode, whom I have adored since Fame. As difficult as it is, I'll be watching "Silent All These Years" again.