Sunday Lowdown #77

pandemic gratitude

You may have noticed that I keep changing the name of this section. It was “pandemic update,” then “update on me,” but now it’s “pandemic gratitude.” Yes, it sounds weird, like I’m somehow grateful for a world-wide virus, but it isn’t like that. COVID-19 acted like a reset button in many ways for me, helping me readjust anxiety that was building pre-‘rona, have confidence to cook all meals but one per week at home, carve out time for myself on Fridays when I watch a horror movie and have popcorn, and join/create new book clubs.

Each day can easily suck like a shop vac if I let it, so I asked my husband to pay attention all day, looking for a positive moment that he wants to share with me at dinner. I do likewise. Maybe I saw a baby bunny. Maybe someone who typically wears their mask under their nose now wears it above. Maybe a coworker said something nice to me. It could be anything, really. My husband’s stories typically involve a a positive experience with a lectern, but he’s not the most social creature. We’ll get there.

Here are some things I was grateful for this week: I realized I’m basically in five book clubs right now — one is library hosted (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet), one with my mom (and it’s attracting others) (The Girl in the Tower), one with Emily @ Literary Elephant (Mexican Gothic), one with Gil @ Gil Reads (the Earthseed duology), and one with Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku (#ReadingValdemar).

Thanks to Emily’s review of Stephen King’s novella Secret Window, Secret Garden, I watched the 2004 film version, simply entitled Secret Window, for my Friday night horror pick. I didn’t mention this last week, but I watched Psycho, which I didn’t think would scare me because it’s older, but during the second stabbing the attack, music, and scream were timed so well I about soiled myself.

I keep getting curbside groceries with great joy and plan to never shop in a store ever again.

I’m on the last week of my continuing education course about the basics of cataloging and I couldn’t be more relieved.

Lastly, I’m grateful for all for all of the characters in East Pittsburgh Downlow by Dave Newman, who constantly surprise me in unique, beautiful ways. Like the protagonist meeting a guy in a bar who looks like John Grisham, so he calls that guy John Grisham, and next thing you know the protagonist, bartender, and John Grisham are all buddies and doing coke. He answers to John Grisham. It’s very Twilight Zone. Yes, I’m shortening the “What I Read to My Spouse” section because it seems we take ages with the same book.


Although I knew S.M. Reine’s answers to my Meet the Writer questions were amazing, I was still so pleased that you all agreed. Different aspects of her interview stood out to readers, and it sounds like a few of you may be picking up Reine’s different series!

On the flippity-flop, Leah Vernon’s memoir, Unashamed: Musings of a Fat, Black Muslim, was totally depressing and disjointed. It was so weird for a book to be exactly what it purports not to be, so I was confused and also intimidated by all the five-star reviews on Goodreads. It doesn’t matter though; as long as reviewers aren’t slanderous, we must speak our truths.


Recently, I tried listening to an audiobook, one selected from my TBR of potentially fat positive titles. While I was frustrated with the story, the characters — everything, really — I couldn’t articulate why, so I kept listening. Then, it dawned on me. What came next was me furiously writing a post about intersectionality and how it works in that book, Dangerous Curves Ahead by Sugar Jamison. This latest Time to Ponder Books post will be available on Tuesday.

Earlier this year I read Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir by Jance Erlbaum and praised the author’s ability to write about what are typically annoying topics for me in a way that was engaging. Her follow-up memoir, Have You Found Her, is stylistically different, but just as alluring. Review on Thursday.



  1. It does sound weird to say one is grateful for the pandemic, but I think what a phrase like that means is that we can find meaning and things to be thankful for in the midst of it! I love the being on the lookout for a positive thing a day—ever since I started becoming anxious because of the flood of bad news, I began using a mood diary or tracker and make it a point to log a good moment, even if it’s just seeing Cat sleeping. It’s been extremely helpful. I’m glad COVID-19 was something of a reset for you—I listened to a podcast recently where the host also mentioned that word reset in reference to the pandemic, and I find it’s pretty appropriate.


    • My anxiety about COVID exists, but by anxiety around everything else has gotten pretty low. I try to remember: I can only control me. Why didn’t realize that 30 years ago? A mood tracker diary sounds like a great idea! If you live with other people (I believe you live with your brother at least?) you could also ask him to share one thing with you each day and be mood buddies.


  2. Woooo! Look at you go with the book clubs! For some reason, my normal book has basically died off in the last several months. I mean, I get we’re not meeting but we could totally still read and then have a video meeting. I think this whole pandemic is just getting to everyone in general and not everyone is looking out for their own mental health. I recently decided to significantly slash my screen time on my phone, read or watch documentaries and have weekly drinking sessions with my BFF on FaceTime. (Plus, we got out and went kayaking yesterday. The fresh air was much needed.) You gotta take care of you even in a pandemic!


    • We’re having a blast breaking a book into four sections and meeting once per week. It’s more about socializing around books than just a book club. Plus, when you meet weekly, you really get into the details of what you were thinking and feeling while reading. I hope your book club gets back in gear!

      Oh, man. Your mention of kayaking makes me miss floating down the Chippewa River in Mt. Pleasant. There was a meme in March that said, “If you’ve been in the Chip River, you’re immune to the coronavirus.” I found that quite funny at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interested to see you adding Joanne Harris to your TBR. I’ve only read one of her books (Chocolat) and that was years ago. I didn’t like it at the time but I was a teenager and think I might just have been too young for it, so I’ll be curious to see what you think of her if you review any of her books!


    • These four novels are all part of the Chocolat series, which I didn’t know existed until I looked up Chocolate just recently. I started a book club with my mom, and now we have another member, and they mentioned Chocolat at our last meeting.


  4. My first professional job as a librarian was and the public library cataloguing department – and I loved it. I rather like cataloguing! I ended my career running a cataloguing section (but in a film and sound archive, where I, in fact, spent most of my career – in and out of the cataloguing areas.)


  5. What brilliant book club choices! I’m a big Becky Chambers fan and my book club just read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow. I’m also interested in The Girl in the Tower.


    • I didn’t realize the Chambers book is the first in a series, though the first book is contained, so you don’t have to keep reading. Same think with The Bear and The Nightingale — you don’t have to keep reading, although it is a trilogy. Mexican Gothic was WILD, though it took about 150 pages too many to get there.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You’ve made me think if I could come up with some little thing I enjoyed each day, though it’s getting on for a month since I shared even part of a day with someone. I always enjoy that I am out and about, and yesterday I was in an area where lots of people died in a bushfire and now it is all grown back and green.


    • I didn’t hear about the people who died….U.S. news is so U.S.-centric right now that I haven’t heard global news in ages. I don’t even know how the rest of the world is doing with the pandemic and their economies unless another blogger shares with me. As far as something positive, I think it’s important to do even when — or especially because — so many horrible things are happening. A few weeks ago I found one of these fuzzy brown and black caterpillars that I remember collecting when I was a child and largely don’t see anymore. I was so pleased, and just over a caterpillar.


  7. I am also enjoying curbside pick up for groceries, and will avoid going into grocery stores for the rest of my life now haha. I LOLd at your ‘suck like a shop vac’ saying, that’s so awesome I need to use that myself. My hubby doesn’t really understand the concept of ‘something nice that happened to me today’ dinner time talk either, he’ll just take that opportunity to launch into a 15 minute explanation about some engineering thing and bore myself and the kids to death. Alas, I love him anyway 🙂


  8. I like your pandemic gratitude idea! I currently write down one thing each day that I’m grateful for in my planner, but discussing it out loud with my husband might be even more helpful!


    • Since you’re like me and live with one other person and likely don’t visit other people, it can be hard to avoid constantly talking about the pandemic and all the bad things that are happening. Us talking about them doesn’t make those bad things stop, it only stresses us out more. So if we can talk about one thing at dinner that isn’t negative, it makes a big difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m glad you’re finding moments to be grateful for in the midst of the chaos. As much as the world sucks right now, I have also been thinking lately about some of the smaller changes we’ve had that would be positive things on their own- like the curbside pickup options and the stronger virtual/internet connections we’ve all had with family, friends, even businesses. The increased interest in reading books by Black authors. Yeah, these things all started because we were in a bad place, but I think (hope) they’ll continue as we get to a better place, and they’re worth celebrating now too.
    Also, thanks for the shout out(s)! I’m so looking forward to chatting about Mexican Gothic with you next week, and it’s fun to see that one of my reviews inspired your weekly horror film fest! And Psycho really can be unsettling, despite its age- I suppose that’s how it got to be a classic. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Secret Window though- has it aged well? Is it still creepy and delightfully confusing?


    • I think the thing that stood out to me about Secret Window is that I never realized pretty much everyone in that movie is a big-name actor. It ages well — the cabin has a big, plastic landline phone, which makes sense because there likely wouldn’t be cell reception out on the lake. Everything else is removed from technology. Even the way Mort needs the magazine to prove his story was published first makes sense, as Ellory Queen was not published online at the time, nor does it look like they digitally reproduced their old issues.

      I added Psycho to my list last week because I watched this documentary on Netflix about trans people in movies, and they mention how Psycho has this transman, which….I don’t want to disagree with transpeople, but I’m not sure why Norman Bates counts as a transman when he isn’t dressing like his mother in order to become a woman to match his gender identity with his body.

      I saw on Goodreads that you finished Mexican Gothic, too. I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, that’s interesting! Of course there’s nothing wrong with a story taking place before modern technology is available, especially when it’s accurate for the time when it was written, but while reading the novella I was constantly thinking that there was no way it could feel remotely plausible today. The MC’s thoughts are too focused on how hard it would be to prove his copyright dates and how every time he needs to speak with someone he has to play phone tag or wonder whether it would be worth getting an answering machine or he just drives and hopes he’ll find who he’s looking for in town. It sounds like the film did a good job of setting the atmosphere and explaining how someone could still have some of those fears in the modern era.

        Wow, I had never heard of that argument. I suppose Norman Bates does have a particular sort of vibe, but I wouldn’t have jumped to that conclusion either. I’m definitely not as informed as I should be, but if Norman is a trans man does that mean he would have started female and transitioned to male? I feel like that could explain a bit about his weird relationship with his mother, but I am… not well informed. I am curious though, does the documentary focus on trans characters or trans actors, or both? Maybe I should watch it, since I’m clearly out of the loop.

        Yay! I’ll look forward to exchanging notes! I think it was a great buddy read choice, there’s plenty to discuss!


        • The documentary is called Disclosure and it’s on Netflix. It’s about trans men and women in film and TV.

          I think the idea of Norman Bates was that he was a transwoman? It doesn’t make sense to me, and I wonder if in some places the documentary was stretching for examples. Then again, any time a villain wears clothes associated with the opposite gender, it opens the door for transphobic people to say, “See?! They’re murderers!”

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks! I recognize the title but hadn’t heard what it was about yet; I’ll definitely want to check this one out!

            Norman Bates as a trans woman isn’t initially making sense to me either. And you have a point, about transphobic people loving to associate trans people with villains. I would hope a documentary like this isn’t being made by a bunch of people who are transphobic, but one never knows where the influences/ideas come from. I’ll be curious to give it a watch and see what I think.

            Liked by 1 person

  10. I really like your idea of sharing one thing you’re grateful for each day. I try and do something similar and it can make a huge difference in my general happiness. Sometimes I feel guilty finding things to enjoy and appreciate about a pandemic when I know many are truly suffering but at the same time, the world isn’t benefitted by me being paralyzed with anxiety.


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