Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Twenty one books....

I love to read.  I consume books.  I gobble them up so fast, one after the other, so that at times, when people ask me what a book was about, I can scarcely remember.  So Tad suggested I keep a book journal and I started one on January 2015.    My book journal includes the book title and author, the date I started the book and the date I finished the book. It also includes quotes from the book that struck me enough that I wanted to remember them.  It also includes the books that I decided to abandon after starting them. It hurts a bit to do so, but this year I gave myself permission to abandon books that I just didn't love.  "It's not you. It's me" I told them.

I read 51 books this year from start to finish.  I abandoned 2. 

In May, my friend Kate posted a link to this Huffington Post article: 21 books from the last 5 years that all women should read. 

I decided to read them all.

So from May to December of 2015 I read each and every book on the list.  I would like to share with you my five seven favorites from that list in no particular order. 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

Yes Please by Amy Poehler 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Room by Emma Donoghue

I loved these books in particular because they were all full of real emotion and beautiful truths. 

All seven of these books made me forget I was reading actual words and took me along on a ride somewhere. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: "That girl never understood that the first rule of life in Lagos. You do not marry the man you love. You marry the man who can best maintain you!     .....Amen...But sometimes one man can be both o."

Helen Oyeyemi: "When something catches your attention just keep your attention on it. Stick with it until the end, and somewhere along the line there'll be weirdness.  Ive never tried to explain it to anyone before but what I mean to say is that a whole a lot of technically impossible things are always trying to happen to us."

Roxanne Gay: "Death is a tragedy whether it is the death of one girl-woman in London or seventy seven men, women and children in Norway. We know this, but perhaps it needs to be said over and over again so we do not forget.  I have never considered compassion a finite resource.  I would not want to live in a world where such was the case.  Tragedy. Call. Great. Small. Compassion. Response. Compassion. Response."

Amanda Coplin: "It was only too bad that to gossip and support mean ideas was easier and more enjoyable, really, than to keep quiet and know in silence that the true story can never be told, articulated in a way that will tell the whole truth. Even if it is better to be quiet, quietness will never reign. People talked, even the best of them."

Amy Poehler: "Going from crying to laughing [that] hard and fast happens maybe five times in your life and that extreme right turn is the reason why we are alive."

I thought Room and Wild were both fantastic but didn't write down any quotes from them.

What a lovely thing it is to read.  To get lost in a story that makes you laugh or cry or better yet, to think.  I hope you check out some of these twenty-one books if you have not already. Let me know what you thought.



Sunday, November 15, 2015

Why is your enthusiasm not as wide as mine?

I've noticed this phenomenon in which someone feels strongly about a piece of art like a song or a scene from a movie, or even a play in a football game or a strong statement that someone made...A person feels strongly about this thing...and they cannot BELIEVE that the person or people around them are not having the same reaction.

Do you know what I'm talking about?

Picture this public example:

A football player on the field, looking up at the stadium, aghast, almost angrily flapping his arms up and down, asking for more enthusiasm from the crowd.  Why is he so angry about it? I often wonder to myself.  People are going to get as excited as they're going to get.  Yay! One of your teammates got a touchdown or a two point conversion. Amazing!  People are already cheering loudly; You make a hundred zillion dollars a year.  What more do you want?  Is their increased volume going to validate you and your teammates further?

Or this more private example:

A man at a party, playing a song that he absolutely loves for a group of people.  They smile, bop their heads up and down to the beat.  Listen closely to the lyrics. But still. This man is astounded that these people are not reacting with the life changing amazement that he did upon really hearing this song for the first time.  Their minds aren't sufficiently blown. What is their problem???  He wants to know why their enthusiasm for this piece of art isn't as resplendent as his.  I see this happen often enough and I always want to know...why is it so important to you that others react like you react. Does our lack of enthusiasm for this thing somehow discount your own? It shouldn't.

But we want people to share in our glory and our grief.  Our joy and jubilation, or distaste and outrage.  I do understand this.  I want it too. 

But there's a difference between contagious thrill in music, art or sport..and an almost ire in someone not sharing your same reaction... 

I'm trying to understand why this bothers me so much when I see it happen.  Is it because it annoys me when someone gets angry at another for a naturally occurring reaction (or non-reaction)?  I admit that I'm not the most comfortable with anger without forward action...  And I believe that anger always is the secondary emotion to something more uncomfortable to sit pain...hurt...rejection.  So then, is it because of the validation so craved and needed in that moment? Does it make me become aware of the validation I also wish for? 

I suppose I recognize that the person trying to take, albeit sometimes in a forceful manner, the shared reaction of his or her fellow humans, comes from a place of simply wishing to share in something moving.  We all want community of a kind.  We want to share in the experiences of things strongly felt.  I think, in this age of face-book paced twittering on and on about our sandwiches, our babies, how long we worked out, our experience of the horrific things going on in this world with the same voracity,  we want to matter.

The tight end with his big bucks and heavily padded work life wants to matter.  The party goer with his discovery of a new beautifully produced song with smart lyrics wants to matter.  I want to matter. You want to matter.  

And we do. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


I know, I know. They say that multitasking isn't actually a real thing and if you're doing one thing then you can't really do the other thing very well at all.

Texting and driving.

Listening to voicemail and checking email.

Folding laundry and eating soup.

Case in point:

Tonight I called my dear friend Ryan for a catch up chat.  For a while, I just wandered around the house while I talked to him, but after a bit, I realized that I was sweating and that it was hot and stuffy in our house.  I remembered that I still hadn't taken down a few of our storm windows and I thought it would be a great idea to do that while I talked to Ryan.

As he told me what was going on in his life and I told him about mine, I got the front room storm window out, brought it in to the house, got a chair and the screen window and tried to put it up only to find that I couldn't reach it.  Bear in mind Ryan is still telling me a story at this point and I am listening.  As I carried the ladder up from the basement and out to the front of the house, bonking it into walls and corners and finally getting it outside, Ryan said to me, "What is going on over there?"

"Oh!" I laughed. "I'm taking the storm windows down. Am I making a lot of noise?"
"Yeah!" Ryan said, laughing.

We continued our conversation and I moved on to the dining room windows.  These windows are considerably more difficult.  They are high up on the house (almost to the second to last rung of the ladder I have to climb) and sticky.  I got the first one out and the screen in no problem.  The second one was stuck.  Going back into the house, still talking to Ryan, I climbed upon our built-in china cabinet and tried to tap at the window to get it unstuck.  Nothing.  So I went back outside, climbed the ladder and unhooked the screen window which was already in.  I went back in the house, and pushed it so it was halfway open, leaving me space to push from the inside and pull from the outside the winter storm window that was stuck.

Ryan was telling me a tale about work and I held the phone tightly between my ear and my shoulder as I ever so gently tapped the heavy stuck storm window out of its frame.  Suddenly, it was freed and then it was freed a bit too enthusiastically and I fell sideways on top of the china cabinet, trying to old fast to the falling storm window AND listen to my friend.  Well, that storm window was quite heavy and the sheer force of its fall tipped me forward and I dropped both the phone and the window RIGHT out the widow frame and into the garden below.

"Don't worry Ryan!" I shouted, leaning out into the open window frame. "I dropped you out the window!"
I clambered down from the cabinet and ran downstairs and outside, yelling "I'm coming, Ryan!"
Once down there, I found to my relief that the storm window was fully intact. I was sure it would have broken in the fall and was so glad it didn't.  Now at least I would have the option of NOT explaining what had happened to my husband when he returned.
But I couldn't find my phone.
"Here I am, Ryan!" I yelled, crawling around in the grass,  "I can't find my phone!  I'm coming!" I shouted as I rooted around in the bushes, "I'll find you! Don't go away!"
Finally I found the phone face up on the ground and to my delight, Ryan was still there.
"OH Ryan, you're still there! I dropped you out the window!"
"I'm still here." he said.  He was laughing "What happened?"
When I got up from the grass and looked up, my son was standing there, arms folded looking at me sort of scoldingly.  "Mommy." He said. "What are you doing?"
I looked up to the house and Lucy was in the half-open screen window, peering down at me. "Mommy. You're being very loud."

I ushered my children inside and finished my conversation with Ryan and decided that it might be best to save the activity of the taking down and putting up of storm windows for when you're not engaged in any other activities.

But it's done!

Monday, February 2, 2015


So apparently this guy, Arthur Aron, did a study where he came up with a series of questions with increasing intimacy for two people to ask one another, culminating in staring into one another's eyes for 4 straight minutes. 

Then this woman..this New York Times writer, Mandy Len Catron, tried it with this guy she'd had her eye on.  In her story, it worked.  She and that guy are now happily married.  And she says, at the end of her article that they didn't fall in love...they chose to be.

This is a question I ask myself and other people all the time.  Do people fall in love? Do people believe in the kind of love that just happens to you, the kind that you can't even help or stop or steady?  The kind that overtakes you like the waves of an ocean all warm and giddy and alive? 

I do.

The kind of love that happened to me and Tad is as undeniable to us as God is to people of faith.  It wouldn't be fair to tell us it doesn't exist. It would be blasphemous.  I want to find more and more people that believe in that kind of love.  That would be my kind of church.

I looked up the questions and found them in this New York Times article.

And then, last Saturday night, when we had a date because my parents agreed to take our kids overnight and he asked me what I wanted to do...I told him.

I wanted to answer those 36 questions and stare for four minutes into eachother's eyes.

Uh oh.  He said to me, smiling.

Now, let me clarify...the kind of love that I believe happened to Tad and happened. But the kind of love we share now, the marriage, the partnership, the raising of children and running of a household? That we choose.  We work really really hard and some days it's wonderful and some days one of us wants to other one of us to bugger off for a while....  That's how relationships are.  But is something else entirely.

Anyway, we went out for Italian food.  Actually we drove all the way to Hales Corners for our favorite Italian food at Mia Famiglia to find it is closed and moving!  So we drove to another restaurant in the third ward that I knew about and it was closed too!!!  Finally we found an Italian place downtown and went there.  We made it through 31 questions during our appetizer, salad and meal.  Then I wanted to go to Purple Door ice cream to finish the last five questions.  Wouldn't you know, it was closed too!!!  But we drove over to Outpost and bought food for the morning and desserts and asked our last four questions.

It was awesome.  We just listened to each other and talked and reaffirmed things we believe and reminisced and it was great.  We talked about our dreams and fears, family relationships, best and worst memories, things we have in common, things we like about each other.  After one of Tad's answers I told him, "See, now if we were first dating or just met, I'd be like, YEP, I could be with this guy."  But at another answer I frowned and said, "Well, that one would have been a turn-off!"  "Hey!" Tad said, his hands up in mock surrender, "There are thirty-six of these!"

We did the eye gazing too.  And it was nerve wracking and scary... deep and serious...silly and lovely.  It was another kind of communication.

I don't know.... maybe that study would work with perfect strangers, maybe not..I think the series of questions for SURE gives you the intimacy and connection with another person that makes you closer. 

But I still believe in the kind of love that takes you over without you choosing it first....

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Loss makes you lose layers.....

I am sitting in my living room awaiting three of my friends and neighbors to come by my house so the four of us can walk to the funeral of the son of my next door neighbors.  I am glad we can go and show our support to two people who are not only mourning the death of their son, but who are the most giving, warm and kind individuals you can ever meet.

I'm also glad to be going because I like the feel of funerals.

Yep. I do.

I'll explain why.  I was telling one of my friends who is attending with me, that I am really really good at dealing with death and grieving and funerals and loss.  I think that I owe most of that to my parents.  My mom and dad, when my dear Auntie Patsy was dying (my Auntie Patsy and Uncle Boobers--yes, yes, I to my dad about the crazy monikers--along with my cousins Susie and Joey were the extended family members we spent the most time with and were extremely close to in my youth) involved my sister and I in all parts of the process.  We knew when she'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We were in the loop about the treatment and the prognosis and all the stages of grief and loss.  My parents did not shelter us from it, but allowed us to see them cry, to feel all the feelings that go along with death and dying.  They laughed with us when my sweet Auntie Patsy's treatment left her loopy and making no sense.  They cried with us when we expressed our fear and sadness and they expressed their own in front of us. They were honest with us about all the unknowns and all the knowns too.  And they did the same when we lost other family members.  And in this way, I was armed with information about death as part of life. I was allowed to both cry and laugh through it and all of my (and others') feelings were accepted.

I think it's an empowering thing to understand that death is part of life and even as a child, not to be sheltered from it.  Loss is awful, death hurts all the people left behind...  But, it's there, a part of this wild and strange life...  It is a comfort to me, just to be aware of it somehow.

Now, here's the reason I love funerals.  At funerals and in other places of mourning, people are stripped down to the barest of who they are.  The walls come down, the energy in the room at a funeral is just all real raw human beings.  Oh, were it up to me, no one would ever feel the need for self-protection.  Everyone would be all vulnerable and bared down to their souls.  Obnoxious,  I know. 

So.  That's why I like the feeling of a funeral, I suppose.  There exists an hour or two to feel the energy of everyone all present and open.  It's beautiful. It's undeniably sad and it can be so painful, but to feel pain is to feel alive and there's something in that that feels powerful to me.

I hope my neighbors feel some comfort today at the presence of all of us who care about them and feel for their loss.  I hope they feel some of that real energy brought to them in the form of support and love and grief and sadness.

Anyone who's reading this and also feeling grief of some kind, I hope you can find some strength and peace.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Christmas Pneumonia: Day 15 of Christmas Break

Well, last I blogged, I was heading into break, guns of peace and presence a-blazin'.  And then the next day I was struck down with the flu which turned into Pneumonia.  Sigh.

So as I lay there in various states of repose, I composed a little song:

On the sixteen days of Christmas break Pneumonia gave to me....five antibiotics, four puffs on my inhaler, three cancelled lunch dates, two missed girls nights, a slept-through family gathering, and a fever of one hundred and THREE!!!!!

Ah but through the gloom of missing out on my much awaited break, there is a light shining through and that is my positive attitude. 

I'm trying anyway.

No, yesterday, actually I went for my first experience with acupuncture and as I sat there, trying not to be aware of the needles, I allowed myself some much-needed meditation time.  And what I did with that time was this: gave myself a major pep talk, ran over some highlights of the past few years, and thought about some concrete things I want to make of this one. 

And then I went out for some therapeutic shopping and dessert with my very dear friend Natalie and, I tell ya, even though it's back to work the day after tomorrow, I feel really good.

I am still working on my presence and my ability to be in the now.  And I am ready for 2015.

Happy New Year, y'all.