8.18.2017

Roll Call in August

When summer is slow and beautiful, the cliches you always hated suddenly become necessary and appropriate. Most of them referring to the passing of time.  Our New England summer has been exquisitely beautiful. For weeks we have had cool mornings and pleasantly warm afternoons.  Its how you imagine summer to be like.  And we all know how often our imaginings come true.  I am so thankful for this backdrop. The school year was one of the busiest on record for our family.  And when it came to a grinding halt the luxuries that are books and glasses of lemonade reminded us that it is possible to enjoy life and not just endure it.  We haven't really done much apart from camp here, farmers market there, and libraries of course.  No grand vacations or getaways.  Aside from a trip to the Hudson Valley to visit FDR's birthplace we've been home, hosting family, recovering.  This is not out of the ordinary for us, but it was welcomed because we all craved rest and open schedules above all.  And I'll be the one to admit that I do not enjoy traveling with my kids.  I don't think its fun. Like at all. Myles tries to take over as head vacation planner and Fiona just wishes her brother would chill out and that we were back on our street again.  So to be able to say that we've read some great books and pent time with family, is all I can ever wish for.  And I, myself have been reading with even more of a fervor, for in the fall I am heading back to school to become a full fledged librarian.  I am thankful for  this opportunity, and only slightly concerned about my current word retrieval abilities.  Here are some words this week that other people had to supply me with: 1.  Enable  2. self-deprecation  3. congruent.  Hopefully grad school will turn this slide around.
***
"Despair has a way of making tea taste bad."  Despite the summer's blissful temps, 2017 has had a date with despair destiny.  The ten year memorial of my mother passed by in June and the months preceding and following have been acute.  Acute meaning I've been emotionally flattened by a large eighteen wheeler hauling a wide load of grief across the country to my doorstep. That's what ten years feels like in a nut shell. Worse than ever.  My new neighbor obsession who happens to be a Pulitzer Prize winning writer thinks that our subconscious craves a calendar to rationalize loss and express grief, which is why memorials are so freaking hard.  I thinks she's right.

My mom would love this book ( the one I quoted earlier) because its just so British and witty and poignant and true and just flat out great fiction.  Reading things that I know she'd love brings me comfort.


Two graying twins wearing feeble smiles on the memorial day from hell. 


When I am in the depths of despair sometimes the only thing legal and available to me in the quantity I require are raisins.  I eat them in excessive amounts and feel my blood sugar soar to dizzying heights. It dulls the pain a bit. I was forced to use this cheap coping mechanism last week when we received news that Myles' beloved literature teacher resigned.   I know Marilla condemned Anne when she would travel to the depths of despair preaching that to despair meant to turn one's back on God, but I disagree with this. For me it feels right and good to despair. And only then you can realize that all you actually have is God.   I actually sent this teacher a weepy email quoting Anne by saying "It was all too good to be true. You don't want me because I'm not a boy" Okay well I left the last part out, but I felt as grieved as Anne on behalf of Myles and his classmates and of course me, because her emails and book lists I would pour over again and again for their charm and insights.  She was priceless.  Like the sudden tragic death of beloved aunt we have lost the most passionate caring teacher I have ever come into contact with.  She made the school a special place to be and I don't know what it will be like without her. Well actually I do: terrible.
***
On a happier note Fiona turned nine in July.  One day she was eight and the next she was begging to read the book, Fifteen by Beverly Cleary.  This was tough for me. ALL librarians in these parts tell you not censor your child's reading.  "If they want to read it, then their ready," to quote the director of libraries in our city.  But I've always paused at this advice, because I don't entirely agree with it. But given my new career swing and the fact that it doesn't get more innocent and G rated than Beverly Cleary, I just went with it feigning "no big deal." She then proceeded to read it three times straight through. Hmm.  That's all I'll say about that for now.



Myles read this book a hundred times and labeled, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi one of the best books he's ever read.





And here are just some therapeutic reads laying around the house in case I run out of raisins. Hehe. Okay, I think we are all caught up.


4.11.2017

Beautiful Tony


The beauty of this book hurts me a bit.  I am happy and sad at the same time. I think I have told you that I tell stories on Sunday mornings. In some of those stories I tell about the complexity of how happiness mixes with sadness to make joy.  Like a potion.  When I first encountered this concept I didn't really get it or believe it to be true.  But now I see. Especially when I read books like this.  There is so much emotion in the poem and in the sketches. It is alive.  Yes, there is nothing more alive than poetry.  I think about how much work it took to make this piece of art and my hand starts to cramp.  It must have been painful.  Like most things.  As I grow older I am struck by how much effort and work it takes to accomplish tasks with excellence.  To cook, to clean, to write, to parent, to live. Everything takes more time than I ever thought it would.  It is hard to realize this in our American culture.  When everything is faster, faster, more, more.
  I have reread Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott this past week and it has changed me. I tried to read it about 15 years ago, but I wasn't ready for it.  My mind was too small then.  Anne Lamott voices universal truths that no one cares to admit.  And now her words will help me live through this week and then tell the story.  I hope.

4.04.2017

Reentry

 When you live in a climate that brings long hard winters, there is a silver lining.  During the dark months of the year everyone has the trump card of rotten weather to excuse you from functioning as a normal person.  No, I can't leave the house, tonight is hygge night and you aren't invited. No sorry, it doesn't look like we're gonna make it, we wouldn't be able to find our way in all this darkness. Or more believable is, I literally can't see my car because its buried in snow. It is all understood and supported. So here is a tip for you to tuck away. Don't offer to host a dinner party between the days of January 1st and April 15 because you will be praying that snow or indoor borne viruses will require a cancellation and then if its not cancelled you will become angry that you are forced to cook dinner for people who didn't have the good sense to understand that your invitation was a mere gesture. Yesterday was our first day of real Spring weather and I felt panicky realizing that my time was short to say No, thank you to life.  This season of reemergence is just awful.  All the squinting and awkward chats with people you haven't seen for the last 6 months.  There is no where to hide anymore. And once we force our vitamin D deprived selves to step out in our scurvy like condition we are quite touchy and desperate.  I  question the normalcy of ever leaving your house. And what do you even do with asparagus? I can't remember.  Do I even own a decent t-shirt? Then you find one balled up in the back corner of your drawer, only to realize that it has mysteriously shrunk.
   Welcome Spring. Here's to hoping that our vocabulary and conversation skills come back in time for Independence Day. 

Here's what we are reading.


3.14.2017

On a Snow Day


On a snow day my thoughts drift to other homes and I wonder what everyone else is doing.  I wonder if the students that I helped find books yesterday are enjoying their titles or if they are still buried in their backpacks.  Is Alise reading, Al Capone Does My Shirts?  Is Rosalind enjoying Sing a Song of Tuna Fish?

I wonder what will become of us all.

I wonder what Amy Krouse Rosenthal's family is doing right now.  I think of the years of grief and loss that lay before them and I cringe at how young she was at her death and how young my mother was.

I think of Shinichi Suzuki's idea that to surrender to the thought of having no talent and give up the effort is cowardly.

I wonder why I even bother with this annoying blog.

I wonder about the events in Mia Farrow's life that gave inspiration to this quote: "I get it now, I didn't get it then that life is about losing and doing is as gracefully as possible and enjoying every minute of it." This is my new mantra.

I wonder if I am creating an environment in my home that will produce abilities in my children so that they will have an easier time enjoying life.

I wonder if this snow day that brings rest and unrest to our home is doing the same to others.

I wonder if my manuscript is as terrible as I fear.

The snow has finally started and now maybe the noise outside will be a background to good things in this home of mine.

***
I read the first chapter of Farmer Boy last night to my family.  This chapter is one of my favorite first chapters of all time  I chose it in hopes that it would ward off any bad omens lingering in the house after a tumultuous weekend. I always turn to it for comfort. After I finished, Fiona told me that it is her favorite chapter in the Little House Books and then Myles crawled in bed with a nightcap of this, Midnight is a Place.  I think this is what enjoyment is for me.








2.28.2017

Dear Sunshine

"Dear sunshine, what a potent medicine you are."  

Before the current day trend of addressing personified seasons in clever captions of social media photos, L. M. Montgomery was a woman ahead of her time. Clearly I am still in the grips of the Emily of New Moon series. Every three paragraphs I pause and marvel at her use of metaphors and impeccable clairvoyance.  I am as much enrolled in a writing class as I ever could be.  Today the sunshine was the perfect remedy. It appears that New Englanders may be served up a Spring this year. A scandalous claim at this spot on the calendar, but the hope is real.

I am working on a middle-grade piece of historical fiction, so yesterday when I visited my ninety-five year old friend I shared a bit of the story with her. She then looked at me hard and asked me what the resolution will be. "What is your heroine getting at?" I stared blankly for a minute searching for a simple reply, but nothing came. It was exactly what I needed to be asked and I give thanks for her wisdom and the work that is before me to answer that question.

"Oh, God, as long as I live give me, 'leave to work.' Thus pray I. Leave and courage."

I will stop with the Lucy Maud quotes now.  The other day at the library, this book was lying next to the checkout counter and Myles exclaimed, "Mom that's what my teacher is reading!"  In a classic moment of, "I'll have what she's having," I plucked this book up and have been enjoying it ever since.  See what you think. 




And this one too; such a heart warming tale that contrasts nicely with other fluffy stuff found everywhere.