October is a lovely month, this be true. But it is a bit more challenging to enjoy such a lovely time when it rains every day and your windows are taped shut because the first floor flat you rent is being painted. Our land ladies take wonderful care of our shared home but currently all the light is shut out and there is no end in sight to our situation because of the relentless rain. Like a friend said at work, "Nothing happened to me, I'm fine. It's just the weather." Yes, the weather indeed and a few other things that will go unnamed.

I believe I mentioned at some point that I was suffering through graduate school? Well that is very much still the case, but right now the blow is a bit softened by the fact that I am currently the full-time caregiver of a beautiful library. This is wonderful in many ways because the birth mother is bettering herself in graduate school as I get valuable work experience and credit towards my degree. It is amazing, and also really hard. And also amazing, and the paper work nightmare is a real thing. I have to create a literal 3 ring binder filled with dead trees etched with lesson plans and photos me standing like the statue of liberty holding a book for all the little people to see. To prove that I am a librarian who does in fact put books into the hands of trusting children. Rant over.

I have missed you all and this space. But I must tell you that you haven't missed all that much (if anyone is still out there.) There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth as I trained my mind and hand to think like traditional student again. This was not easy. But alongside me the kids did grow a bit in strength and stature which is miraculous and humbling. Praise be to God.

Today was a good day. I walked Myles to school and met my sister for a warm beverage. Then she showed me some photos of our mother that she had dug up. As we approach All Souls Day and her birthday I can feel the grief cloud thickening and gaining matter. Who knew 11 years later, this blog would be like a wailing wall of sorts for me.

But it is. The loss of my mother lives with me every day. And with my children. Myles said to me last night, "you know that piece of music that Marmie really liked, Im singing it at Father Jarvis' funeral on Saturday. I guess I had mentioned that she would play a Sarah Brightman CD at her store, Friends & Daughters and on it was Pie Jesu.

And then moments later (today) my sister and stumbled into this book.  I guess Mary Shelley lost her mother at a young age too. For me the most poignant moment of the story is when the brilliant author writes, "As a girl, Mary learned the alphabet by tracing the letters on her mother's tombstone." This book is so beautiful. My siblings and I were raised on the 1931 film courtesy of my grandfather, but now I must actually read Shelley's true account. I hope I will soak in some of her kindred spirit as I turn the pages.

I love being a librarian. The first few times people asked me for some book recommendations, I struggled for words at the wonder of it. This is something that I have dreamed about for a long time. And then I'm doing all the wrong things in the best of ways. Like I'm buying books that I want to give to kids because I'm too impatient to wait for them to arrive the traditional way. I am checking books out for students on my own public library account like their my own children so they can get them faster. And it thrills me.


A Cloved Christmas

There were a few moments in December when I didn't think Christmas would ever come to our household. Always winter but never Christmas.  Or if it came I wouldn't recognize it. But like an old friend with a haircut it arrived unchanged.  Being "behind" bore its own fruit.  The children were patient with me.  Fiona decorated a bit on her own and sent a few family Christmas cards while I was in the back room trying to furiously finish off final papers and projects. I missed two of Myles' concerts, but the final one, the Britten one was well worth the wait.
It also meant that I never had time to drive to my favorite local book shop, but instead found treasures waiting for me in the Bryn Mawr used book store down the street; a beautiful fairy tale for Fiona, Agatha Christie paperbacks for Myles, a vintage Beverly Cleary and Rumer Godden for nieces, and more.
But now I am finished and have had a moment to clove an orange with Fiona, get a tree, make some cookies and think about another year gone by with happiness and sorrow both. The mystery of Christmas is upon us and I am thankful that its sanctity disregards our lowly state, prepared or not.


Eggplant Rituals

During the agony and ecstasy of fall when harried schedules and responsibilities seek to spoil the storehouses of tranquility from summer, do not despair for that eggplant you are eyeing at the market is asking you to slow down.  I am learning to never say no to its invitation.  You’ll need to hold it first and give thanks for its marvelous beauty, then peel it, slice it, flour it, dip it, bread it, and yes, fry it.  The transfiguration of the aubergine from humbleness to majesty is not an easy endeavor, but there are few other dishes where the reward is greater. Layered in slow-cooked sauce and dry aged cheese and mozzarella, its comfort will keep and give you the most satisfying sandwich for lunch the next day. We bake ours in Eric’s grandmother’s pan who immigrated from Italy as Domenica and then changed her name to Emily.  You never want it to end. But then it does and you dream of the next weekend when the ritual is repeated.
This is what Saturday afternoons look like in our kitchen lately:

These same evenings we cross a few continental countries and read All Things Bright and Beautiful together. It feels like the English literary equivalence to Eggplant Parmesan.  It is the perfect lullaby before bed filled with humor and charm and beautiful sentences.  These are the days I want to remember. Days filled with good books and eggplants. A life worth savoring.


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.


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.