The Beanstalk

Record of a writer, a family & an adventure.

To Mae, on your third.

My darling girl,

How is it that three years span between now and the night you were born, a night that is as vivid to me as it is foggy? You barely made it to the thirty-first; it was nearly the thirtieth, and I wanted it so badly to be the thirty-first because that was your due date. I was also born on my due date.

I want to tell you something first that strikes me as particularly beautiful. It’s that the way you love and choose and delight in and obsess over and greet and touch and call out for your father is something that has brought him a great deal of healing. For a man who wrestles always, at some level, with sadness, to have a precious pint of a daughter, who is as beautiful as the sun, seek him first in the day, in the crowd, in the family, in the house, is invaluable. I thank God for the access you have been granted to daddy’s heart and core, because you are a unique balm to him in a way that even I cannot be.

He reminds me, when I’m exasperated with your shockingly strong will, that you have the personality for which I hoped. I wanted you, a girl, a future woman, to be strong and courageous. You have fallen, running full speed, on your knees, face and hands on cement, and popped up undeterred. You are never afraid to look a stranger in the eye and say hello. You walk toward large animals, machinery, strange situations without hesitation. I remember at the zoo this year, the way you plunged your little fist of lettuce into the giraffe’s mouth, his head as big as your body, his black tongue as long as your arm. You want to do every single thing by yourself, you nearly detest having help, and I know it’s because you take such pleasure in your independence. These are qualities I wanted for you, knowing how much they will bolster you in your future years.  But, incredibly, you are also very tender. You love to tuck your little body into the corner of my arm and ribcage, to always scoot closer and closer, to burrow your forehead into my chest. I often think of you grown-up. I imagine you moving through life with this courage and strength, this sense of humor, this grit, this tenderness, and I’m encouraged. I don’t worry about you, honestly.

I can’t believe two is over for you, and for me. I’m so terribly proud of you, Mae-belle. So awfully bound up in love for you,

 

With such joy at all I have in you,

Mommy

 

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5th birthday letter to Jack.

Dear Jack,

Five years I’ve had you, and you’ve expanded my life, made it broader and deeper, exploded it like a firework. You’ve helped me come into myself, to discover hidden wells, like oil, of kindness, care, interest, curiosity, confidence and, of course, it goes without saying, love. Love, love, love I didn’t know before you were born.

This year you shed the last of your baby self, and it makes my eyes well when I think I never get that Jack back. You stink when you sweat. You’ve got morning breath. Your hair is dark, and straighter. You beat me in games like memory, go fish and even the tricky logic game where you have to find little places for geometric spaces, a game for which I, at thirty-one, ought to be better equipped than you, at four. You’re kind and respectful of Mae, and I can’t express the comfort that brings me. You ask me no less than two hundred questions per day; I exaggerate naturally, but that is not hyperbole. And these questions! Did I ever wonder with as much imagination as you do? I can’t remember. You also frequently ask me how I’m doing, or how my day is. You inspire me.

Last week you & I were reading the story of Mae Jemison, a female astronaut, the first African American woman in space. I became very emotional because her story is beautiful, and I was thinking about your sister, and women, and the dark plague of racism, and the convergence of my sadness over the injustices of the world was too much. You turned around and looked at me with tears streaming down my face, and asked why I was crying over such a happy story – she wanted to be an astronaut, and she did! I couldn’t really explain it to you fully, partly because of all the layers, all the complexity; and partly because I’m not ready for you to know the whole ugly truth yet. But we talked about Martin Luther King Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement, which is something we have talked about several times before, and you were very quiet. You nodded when I asked if you understood what I was saying, so I left it at that. I think you do understand, as far as your brain can comprehend sadness, and I know we are building a foundation of conversation and honesty that I hope, dear Lord, I do pray, will grow into a monument inside your soul of integrity, kindness, compassion, honesty, humility and strength.

I want you to be strong, Jack. I want you to experience success, joy, winning, pleasure, friendship, and fun. But I also, deep down, welcome the experiences of failure, loss, pain and disappointment, because I know it is that bouquet which will grow sturdy your legs, strong your arms, and formidable your character. This certainly holds true for me. My heart is always opening for you; it is also always aching for you. You will not understand this until you’re a dad. As a matter of fact, you may never understand this. This is being a mother.

Lastly, I want to mark it down that you started piano lessons last week, and your teacher is flummoxed by how quickly you have already shown such a command of understanding music. I am shining with hope inside, but trying not to be too enthusiastic as to scare you off. A musician? We’ll see, but I’m crossing my fingers.

Happy birthday to you, my dear son. I love you to the moon.

Mommy

My 2017 book list!

Farewell to 2017, a year that taxed me to the brink and showered me intermittently with deluges of pleasure.

One of the greatest delights of my year, which is also one of the greatest joys of my life, is my book list. I read a great variety this year, 42 books in all, and enjoyed many of them very much. A large portion of my life revolves around books – the consumption of them, the creation, the consideration, the research and the discussion. This year my book club picked some incredible novels and works of nonfiction, I discovered (thanks to my reading soul sister) a wonderful, sort of bizarre used bookstore fifteen minutes outside of town, I got to hear Amor Towles AND Colson Whitehead speak (I can’t even begin to express how this inspires me) and I started a “book-sta-gram.” You can follow along with me on Instagram, and my username is @ginnyreads because, well, I do. Frequently and with a large appetite.

Mid-year, I posted a review of the first 19, because it gets a little cumbersome here at the end of the year, on the tails of the holidays. I’m taking down the tree and cleaning out the closets, trying to make good on my resolutions before the time runs out, and then I have to write a whole bunch of book reviews. So here’s a link to the first 19, in case you missed. And here…. are the rest, 23, to come to 42 in all. You get a mini-review, no spoilers, a rating out of five (I rarely give a five), and the season in which this book would best be enjoyed. Please keep in mind: the ratings are based on MY personal preferences (of which I have many, specific, often strict). Just because I didn’t like a book doesn’t mean it isn’t good or may not suit you! If the story sounds interesting, give it a try. Libraries are still free, you know. Mine doesn’t even have late fees.

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  1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. People are raving about this Young Adult novel, which is extremely timely and relevant in America today in the midst of what has become an endless list of African Americans who have died unjustly at the hands of police violence, misunderstanding, irresponsibility and a failure to follow guidelines not only of police behavior, but human decency. It’s a fictional take on the same true story. I got on the bandwagon. It is compelling, and therefore quick to read. I am not, in general, a “YA” enthusiast, but for those who are, I recommend. 3.5 / 5. I’d read in the summer
  2. Nine Stories by JD Salinger is old; think back to Holden Caulfield and your first foray into Catcher in the Rye. Salinger is an expert storyteller, isn’t he? And he writes the most realistic dialogue I’ve ever read, but he takes his characters in these short stories around the oddest, most unpredictable courses that sometimes I just despised it, felt like he was just choosing to be contrary. But I think that’s what made it good. I still don’t understand the one about the bus driver — anyone care to explain? 4 / 5. Read it in the spring, when the world is soggy.
  3. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. This was one of my favorite favorites of the year. 5 / 5. She got the Pulitzer for it! Every chapter narrated by a different person, all persons are loosely connected over many years and circumstances. This book is about life over time, and the connectivity of the choices we make and the people we meet, and the beauty and pain of the most basic things. I shake my head as I type because it’s very difficult to pin this kind of beauty down. Give it a try in autumn
  4. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, who took home the Nobel Prize for Fiction this year, an award which lauds an author’s entire body of work rather than a single book. I started with another of his book’s first (I’ll get there), and then wanted more, so picked this one up because that dang cover is so beautiful with it’s sparkling, gnarled tree. This book falls into the genre of fantasy, so that might stop you in your tracks. It reads like allegory, a la Pilgrim’s Progress, or the like, but it’s set in post-Arthurian England when the Saxons and the Britons are locked in a race struggle. It feels pertinent to the world today, and is largely grown from the nuclear theme of memory, and the concept of how our memory, or conscious, defines our reality. It was a page-turner for me, but I don’t mind a *little* fantasy. 4 / 5. Cozy up by the fire and read in winter.
  5. Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss broke my heart. I wanted to love it, because The History of Love is my second favorite book I’ve ever read, and I waited seven years for her to write again. I bought the hard copy! I convinced my book club to read it, and there were things I enjoyed, characters I liked, and some beautiful language… but I was disappointed. It felt cold to me, lifeless, without a mast; the opposite of her earlier stories. I’m certain there’s a contingent of readers out there who love this book. I don’t know them.  2 / 5. Read in summer, I guess, because when the characters are in Israel they’re hot.
  6. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng was a huge book this year. It is sitting at the top of so many best-of-the-year lists, and the cover is lovely with those small houses and the headlights of cars. It’s a very modern story about modern sort of people living in a wealthy midwestern suburb and the way they all deal with some very sensitive information when it comes out. There is a big house fire in the story, but there are also, as indicated by the clever title, little fires everywhere. I read this at the beach, and it felt just right for that. In many instances I wanted more, deeper, thicker, but it was just a good, fun story. I’d give it 3.5 / 5, and read it at the beach in summer.
  7. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai is the wild, true story of Malala and her stand against the Taliban as she championed the rights of girls to go to school in Afghanastan. I listened to this on audio, and it was fascinating and beautiful to hear such conviction from an oppressed child in awful circumstances. It’s difficult to rate, because it’s true, and it’s her voice, but it wasn’t something I was dying to return to. It’d be good in summer.
  8. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit was a book club pick, a collection of essays on issues of feminism (and more) in contemporary society. Solnit wrote the title essay and published it as a stand-alone, and it was widely acclaimed; the rest of the collection is a compilation in a similar tone. Solnit is famous for her direct, often scathing declaration of the-way-things-are (as she sees it.) Several of the pieces made me think about my femaleness very differently, gave me more confidence, and helped me to consider the way our society has been built, and why for so long all the Harvey Weinsteins of the world have been allowed to carry on without consequence. Some of the essays diverted into wider political realms, which felt isolating to me, and detracted from her primary purpose. I rarely read nonfiction, and this was a big shift I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, but as some of the points made still stick in my mind, I can’t say it was wasted. 3 / 5. Read in spring
  9. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles was my favorite book of 2017, even more than Goon Squad, and it might be up there with East of Eden and The History of Love for my favorites of all time. I loved the characters, young, spirited, wounded, honest adults; I loved the setting, New York City in the twenties and thirties; I loved the story, all of its twists, the sadnesses and the victories. I love when a book makes me cry. I love this book, and I’d read it every single year, over and over. Meeting Mr. Towles and hearing him speak this fall was a tremendous privilege. I could go on.   5 /  5. Read in any season. Maybe winter.
  10. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for fiction in 2017, and in my opinion, rightfully so. With this story we plunge into the deep south of Mississippi to peer into one modern family through the eyes of the boy, Jojo, his mother Leonie, a young black woman, and the spirit of one connected, long dead. The story takes place over a few days, but there are glimpses into the more distant past and the old and new manifestations of the same tension which is racial prejudice and brokenness in America. It’s a gripping, beautiful, awful story, which is how all the best, most perfect ones are. I’ll read this book again for book club in 2018, and I can’t wait. 5 / 5. Read in summer.
  11. Goodbye, Columbus by Phillip Roth is a collection of shorts, the longest one being the title piece. Phillip Roth is a writing legend, and I’d never read anything by him until this, per the recommendation of my good friend Ann Patchett. There is something similar between this and Salinger’s 9 shorts mentioned above, something in the rawness, the unwillingness to write the thing the reader wants in order to feel satisfied. It’s the story of a relationship between two young people, one rich, one not, and it’s really quite as simple as that. But the nuances, the dialogue, the feelings are superb. It is GOOD. It is famous. Phillip Roth is an icon. You should read it. I did not love it. 3 / 5. Read in fall
  12. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders won the Man Booker Prize in 2017, which is remarkable because I read an article that said this book was Saunders’s first foray into novels; he is known for his short fiction. This book is about one night in Abraham Lincoln’s life, the night his youngest son, Willie, died of a fever while the Lincolns hosted a diplomatic dinner party. It is written vaguely in the style of a screenplay, with what felt like almost a hundred different voices of observers, and, as the reader gets into the meat of it, ghosts living in the graveyard where young Willie is taken and buried. Though difficult to explain, or give justice, this book is exquisitely written and George Saunders is a genius storyteller and creator of voice. 4 / 5 for me. Read in winter.
  13. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. This novel, one of Stegner’s last, published in 1987, is simply explained as the story of a long friendship between two married couples. It’s about their lives, together and separate, their journeys and how they intersect, their co-dependencies, their hatreds and loves of one another — a fascinating exploration of something so ordinary, my favorite kind of book. It was not a page-turner, and the story was sort of a gentle pull. There were some characterizations I did not like, though after discussing with book club, as a whole, I was very glad to have read it. 3 / 5. Read in fall
  14. A Million Junes by Emily Henry. It’s very hard for me to remember what this was about. I didn’t realize it was YA when I picked it, and if I had, I wouldn’t have taken the plunge. It feels very teen-y, a la Twilight meets the legend of Johnny Appleseed. There are fantastical elements at play, something I don’t typically love (forgiven for Ishiguro), and the language felt overly simple. Love story between teens. I read it at the beach over a day or two. 2 / 5. Read in summer.
  15. The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob. This one was a surprise recommendation from a few trusted reading companions about an Indian family which has relocated to New Mexico and, because of painful events, has diminished in many ways. I don’t like to give any details away (because I don’t like to have them given to me!), but suffice it to say it’s a family story about love, failure, brokenness and restoration. There is a good modern Seattle-ish edge, which feels current, and a sort of Best Exotic Marigold Hotel feeling as well. 3.5 / 5 because it was a little long. Read in summer
  16. Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson is a WW2 story about a Polish family and the horrors of the Holocaust in their lives. Balson is an attorney, and structured the book from the vantage of one family member, now elderly, filing a lawsuit against a family friend whom he accuses of having been a Nazi. This is a great concept for a book, a great take on a very familiar and thoroughly written-about subject, but the writing fell very flat. Think: legal briefs. The perspective shifts, the shallow sub-plots, and some elements of sensationalism lost me entirely. 2 / 5. Read in fall
  17. Moonglow by Michael Chabon bowled me over, and I couldn’t stop reading. Here is a WW2 story I just loved. Chabon is most famous for Kavalier and Clay, and he is a master story teller, a great weaver of tales, has an enormous imagination, a great willingness to delve deep, and the most stunning way with words. Beware: this is a big, fat book. Here is the story of a young man who interviews his mysterious grandfather on his deathbed, and Moonglow is the disjointed story he receives. This is a work of fiction, though Chabon did interview his own grandfather in similar circumstances many years ago. The story is WW2, it’s the sixties business world, it’s modern, it’s surprising, it’s so poignant. 4 / 5. Read in fall
  18. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Quirky Eleanor, a friendless British office secretary who seems to fall somewhere on the Autism spectrum, has a generally affable disposition and contentment with her quiet, somewhat tragically lonely life, which covers over the true darkness of her past. I loved the dichotomy of the levity and the darkness, and the way despite her almost emotionless expression of herself, you got to know and love her as a character. There was something similar between this and The Rosie Project. 4 / 5. Read in fall.
  19. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m sitting here, fingers on the keys, and coming up short. This book blew me away. This book is what has propelled me to read Ishiguro’s entire body of Nobel Prize-worthy work. It’s dystopian, but barely, just the hint of a dystopia, the subtlest indications of the great treachery and horrors afoot. There are children at a boarding school in the English countryside, and they seem happy, content, pleasant, smart! But there are all these irregularities and as a reader, you keep wondering what, precisely, has tilted the earth ever-so-slightly. To write a story with such deep rivers of sadness, of humanity, in the most delicate and understated ways, I marveled at it. Read this book. It is so very incredible. It is so very sad. 4 / 5. Read in spring.
  20. The Dry by Jane Harper. A thriller! A murder mystery! Australian! So different from anything I usually read, but it came on the recc. of Anne Bogle, and it was great! There were some very Cormac McCarthy odors coming out of this, the landscape felt similar to that of No Country for Old Men (a horrifying novel, and personal favorite – must read), and the darkness of a murder in a ghost town. The violence is grizzly, so take heed. 4 / 5! Who’d have thought? Read in summer.
  21. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman is the only parenting book I’ve ever read, and it was incredible. The French have such a different take on raising children! While there are some aspects which did not resonate with me, many did. Principles of patience, peace, rhythms and simplicity that I find we, as a culture, tend to lack. I wished I’d have read this before my kids were born, but have brought several principles into practice in our home with happy results. Note: Druckerman’s tone in this book makes it very readable — no judgement, a great deal of healthy self-deprecation. 4 / 5 (because nonfiction will never be my favorite). Read in spring.
  22. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. I did not read every short in this collection yet, but the reason I went to this was because in a postcard from Ann (we are penpals*) she told me to read “The Getaway Car,” which is her 80-page treatise on writing. I cried reading it many times, of course. 5 / 5. Read any time.
  23. Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova, author of Still Alice – Alzheimers, brings us another story written around/to the idea of a disease, and this time it’s Huntington’s. Genova is a doctor by trade, and it shows. In this book, the disease is a central character. It’s not spoiling anything to say that the patriarch of the O’Brien family, a Boston police officer, falls ill with what turns out to be Huntington’s Disease, a dehumanizing degenerative disease without much treatment or any cure. The story is about the way he, his wife, and his four children shoulder the burden of the devastating change. 3 / 5. Read in winter.

There you have it. 42 books. I’m also halfway through Little Women, and as soon as I finish, I’ll start A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.  As ever, I welcome your feedback, happy new year, and happy reading!

CHEERS.

 

*I’ve written her three times. She, out of her great generosity and kindness to the little people, replied twice, and for the rest of my days I’ll keep those postcards, and re-read them in times of writerly despair.

 

a birthday letter to Mae.

August 31, 2017

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Beloved Mae,

Last night you had an awful night terror. At 10:45, just when I was getting in bed, I heard that shrill cry from your room and ran in to find you rigid in the corner of your crib, your fingers stretched out, hollering. I picked you up and carried you into my room and cuddled you up to me, rocked you, spoke to you, trying to break through whatever terror plagues you. You know, I hope when you’re reading this letter one day that you don’t drop whatever digital reading device you use and call your psychiatrist to say, “they woke me up from night terrors! This explains everything!” I know I’m just supposed to let you work it out, but I can’t. I just can’t leave you there, so I pick you up, hold you, blow in your face, tell you true and good things to try to break into that imagined world that frightens you. Sometimes I do the same with Jack too, knowing he has nightmares, I’ll go into his room when he’s sleeping and say softly, I’m here, I’m right beside you, just in case he’s in the midst of something rotten, and my voice can somehow enter that fictional, dream universe and save him. I used to have nightmares, I know what it takes to be drawn out of them.

I hate you had a night terror on the eve of your birthday, mostly because I’d hoped you would be beyond that by now, but if there’s one thing you have showed me this year, is that you will do everything in your own time. It was so many months that I was dying for you to walk, but you were determined to crawl! I admit, with babies, as with children, as with life, we’ve got these expectations written in our minds in a theoretical check list, and we sit with that pen hovering over those small boxes so we can feel like we’re moving forward. Admittedly, part of my longing for you to transition to the biped lifestyle was because I was developing a permanent pain in the right side of my neck from carrying you all over the green earth, but there was a large part that was based in needless worry and pointless fixation on progress.

There was one time I remember when you were still in the crawling phase, but I walked into the living room when Jack was at school, looking for you because you’d gone silent, and there you were taking steps! I said, “MAE!” and you immediately dropped to your bum and looked at me with a blank stare, and I realized, she is holding out on me. Similarly, a couple weeks ago, you were running down the hallway carrying your sneakers saying with pride, “shoes, shoes, shoes, shoes” and I made the same blunder, catching you, saying, “MAE! Say ‘shoes.'” And there you stood, lips pressed together, holding your shoes. You turned around and walked away. I am ceaselessly amazed by how different you are from your brother.

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There is a beautiful sunrise outside my writing room window, the whole world celebrating your day.

For all your dogged independence, you are a tender soul. You want to hug, and be close, and hold hands, and lean in, and occupy laps, and love, and that is something I can relate to, something I remember from when I was a child, and as an adult that manifests in the way I crave deep, meaningful friendships. I hope that’s true for you, too, my girl! Your tenderness to me, to Jack, to the dog, to people who win you over, is a balm. When you wrap those baby arms around my legs and press your face into the backs of my knees, it holds the power over even my dark moments.

You are a beautiful child, and that blonde hair! I can’t get enough of staring at you, of seeing all those Evans features in you, of that incredible smile flanked by those perfect dimples. Real beauty is inside the heart, but you are a picture. You are heaven to me! The girl of my dreams.

You have changed me. I am a different woman than I was before this day in 2015, and one day I will sit down and explain this further, but not today because it’s YOUR birthday, not mine.

I love you with the strength of the sun,

Mama

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Mid-year update (+half my book list).

The first of July means the humidity of a North Carolina summer is in full effect, the weeds grow an inch per day, we are all tanned enough to relax a bit on the SPF, and everyone is sufficiently ready for a diversion. For us, that diversion comes in the form of my brother’s wedding the second Saturday of July, followed by one blessed week at the beach. It can’t be here too soon!

I returned to my post at New Year’s to revisit (and remember) my resolutions. I was surprised! I had forgotten them.

  1. Manage the closets in my house.
  2. Ditch the phone.
  3. Do my best to find an agent, or, cause an agent to find me.
  4. Read, read, read, read. (Nothing new there.)

The closets are coming along. It’s good to be reminded I made that resolution for the second time in two years. I have 6 more months to make good on it. The phone thing is a work in progress, but I have read some helpful and damning articles that reiterate my feelings on the dark side of too much iPhone and screens. This is always going to be a work in progress, as modern times press us toward technology as the pressure of a swift current has the power to carry, but we are trying, trying to put our feet down, grab at the shore, hold onto a stationary root and be present in the tangible world before us. I am deep in the pit of agent-querying, which is a topic for another time when I have more heart and stamina to narrate it. The process can be summed up as mysterious, unsettling, discouraging and long. I read an excerpt from T. Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic,” the excerpt more commonly known as “The Man in the Arena,” which is framed beside my desk, each day.

I’ve been reading a lot this year, and not just any old reading. My reading list, so far, has been so utterly, wholly satisfying — I can’t believe my luck. It is luck, isn’t it? Because so many times I have picked up books, made it halfway to the end on a measure of faith and hope, and come to the conclusion disappointed. It’s not such a horrible thing to be left wanting, but it does seem that there are so many great, perfect, exquisite books in the library of the world, it’s a waste to spend time reading anything which is not.

Below you’ll find the 19 books I’ve read this year, and a short blurb on each. I’ve categorized the books into seasons, which may seem strange, but allow me to explain. These are NOT the seasons in which I read the books, but they’re the seasons I believe I would have best read the books. Classics and intense literary fiction I read in winter. Fast-paced, delightful, plot-driven fiction I read in summer. Warm, generous, lovely fiction I read in fall and spring. I rarely read non-fiction, so it’s peppered throughout. Sometimes I put a book in a season because the book took place in a warm period, or there were instances of snow, and it just has to be dealt with appropriately. The seasonal categorization method might seem useless to many people, obviously a good book is a good book and should be read any time! However, I did this for you, because it’s summer, and I was trying to help you pick books for the beach. You’re welcome.

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Summer

  1. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is a what-if science principled thriller following the idea of multiple universes or realities. Very out-of-the-ordinary for me, but I read it in three days (three days including my children and work). ***
  2. The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood reminded me of the stories by Fredrik Backman (Ove, Britt-Marie) A warm and funny story about a couple of misfits befriending an elderly woman in the wake of the tragic death of a young boy. ***
  3. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson reads like a classic, which was refreshing, reminded me a little of Downton Abbey with a greater focus on the people “outside the manor.” The first half took some commitment, but in the second half I couldn’t stop. ****
  4. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is tied for favorite book of 2017 so far. It strikes me as literary genius that Towles could tell a story over thirty or forty years taking place inside the walls of a single hotel and keep us enthralled. Alexander Rostov is one of the most lovable characters I’ve come across. ***** and I wish I could read it again for the first time.
  5. The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin is a fictional take on the true events in the life of Truman Capote, Babe Paley and their tribe of socialites in the 1960s. All events are true, characterizations are out of Benjamin’s imagination. This book is a peep hole into the way the upper tier lives, and I enjoyed it very much. ****
  6. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is hanging out at the top of the charts, a little bit the way Nightingale did last year. It’s a WW2 drama with the flip narration style of each chapter in the perspective of one of three central women. It’s all about plot driving forward here, and a very raw study of some of the sickening experiments conducted at Ravensbruck concentration camp. The facts presented are likely very accurate, but something about the telling struck me as somewhat sensational. ** for me.
  7. Columbine by Dave Cullen is a piece of journalistic excellence. This complete 360 degree picture of the tragedy of the massacre at Columbine high school in 1999 is incredibly well-researched and beautifully woven together to give a remarkable picture of the perpetrators, what led them to commit their crimes against the school, the ways the media and police forces failed in a myriad of ways, and small glimpses into the lives of many of the victims. This one is a summer read for me because I couldn’t put it down. *****
  8. Beartown by Fredrik Backman blew me away. It is unlike any of his previous novels in that it lacks the whimsy and fantastical elements. It’s the story of a back woods hockey town in Sweden and all the intensity that can fill even the most inconsequential of places, which is my favorite kind of tale. Think Friday Night Lights, hockey style. *****

Fall

  1. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson is the other first place book for me this year. Hard to sum up, but think of a sweeping narrative of one man’s exceptional life as a citizen/prisoner of North Korea under Kim Jong Il. ***** (Maybe 6)
  2. In the Woods by Tana French is a murder mystery! A rare choice for me, but so refreshing. This is part of a series The Dublin Murder Squad, but the books are not sequential. The writing has a literary quality rarely found in mystery/thrillers, which I enjoyed. Takes place in rainy Ireland, thus fall rather than summer. ***
  3. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead’s reputation precedes it, but I am personally recommending as well. If the Underground Railroad had really been set on tracks and in boxcars, Whitehead imagines, here is a story of one young woman who braves those subterranean rails. Of all the narratives of the American slavery era, this one hit me the hardest. *****

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Winter

  1. The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy is a small collection of short stories. The title is misleading because the stories felt more centered on the idea of the loss and sadness that inevitably surrounds love on this earth. Gorgeous, gorgeous writing and unforgettable images. ***
  2. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout was a simple and lean story of a woman and the sum of her life. Bewitching, compelling because of her character. Love anything by E.S. The sequel, or perhaps “sister” novel just came out this summer. ****
  3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel takes place when the world’s population has dwindled drastically because of a rampant virus that kills the majority of the population. Page-turning, or no-pausing (I listened on audio). Not my favorite type of novel, more like watching a movie than reading a book, but it had great reviews. ***

Spring

  1. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is the darling of book lists this year, but I did not care for it. Sort of the wealthy upper class crashing into the lowest class of refugees and immigrants in New York City. Plenty of people loved this book, so don’t take my word for it. **
  2. Run by Ann Patchett, and anything by Ann Patchett, I recommend with a full heart. An in-depth glimpse into the intricacies of a hodge podge family. I couldn’t put it down. *****
  3. The Arsonist by Sue Miller was not my favorite Sue Miller book. I have loved each of her others unabashedly, but this one plodded a bit too much. I wish it would have been more about the arsonist! Still, the writing takes my breath away. ***
  4. Someone by Alice McDermott reminded me of a mix of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and My Brilliant Friend, which makes it just my favorite sort of book, but I can’t rave about it because I didn’t find myself pulling for any of the characters. Great story-telling, though. I enjoyed it. ***
  5. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is fitting for spring because it is a heart-wrenching book about death and, ultimately, about hope. True story, very short. I dare you to read it through without crying. *****

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Some books I’ve got on my night stand include: The Dry by Jane Harper and A Million Junes by Emily Henry.

Happy summer reading to you! Don’t forget to check back in on your New Year’s Resolutions too.

 

 

 

4th birthday letter to Jack

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Dear Jack,

Happy birthday, my little love bug. You are going to wake up and fling your door open and yell, ‘TODAY IS MY BIRTHDAY!’ I know this because for the past four mornings you’ve given the morning countdown broadcast, waking your sister and your dad; your enthusiasm can’t be stifled. This intensity of feeling is something you’ve come by honestly—Aunt Hannah and I used to talk about our summer birthdays late into the night beginning just after Christmas.

Today, at age four, you have officially closed the door on your toddler self. It has been a quick change, in the last few months, but you have all of sudden turned into this sort of complete little person. You have every word and you form sentences perfectly. You have a sense of humor. You know all the words to songs we love by Taylor Swift, Adele, The Killers and Needtobreathe. You can operate the television without assistance, deal with all your personal bathroom needs, get dressed, take care of Mae, get your own snack and sit quietly for long periods of time looking at books.

You can almost read, and you have taught yourself. You’ve started adding and subtracting figures in your head without instruction. You’re so smart it’s freaking me out.

Last week you were in the living room watching Planet Earth II, probably the one where the leopard gets the alligator, and Mae was asleep for the night. Dad and I were in the kitchen having a conversation that made me start to cry. I was not crying very loud, but somehow (I don’t know how, because when you watch these nature shows you’re usually locked in) you heard me. You paused the TV and wandered into the kitchen. You asked me why I was crying. I told you sometimes there are just hard, overwhelming things in life that make me cry. You hugged me so tight and said, ‘I love you, mom.’ Jack, how did you already figure out that this is the best thing to do when someone is crying?! You didn’t panic, you didn’t try to fix my situation or get all the details or run away because seeing me cry was uncomfortable. You dove right in. I believe this is evidence of your kindness and your sense of compassion.

You have always been really easy to have around because you’re agreeable and a little introspective and funny and curious and comfortable with everyone. I took that for granted I guess, because this year when more sides of your personality began to shine through, I was taken off guard. You have a strong reaction when something isn’t fair, and I’m trying to teach you that in life there will be a thousand things that don’t balance out but that, at the end of the game, what matters is the people and not the result. However, I am so thankful that you desire justice with such resolve. I hope you always, always maintain this conviction.

You also test me with your mind, trying to out-smart me and find ways around my parameters. It’s so tricky! I am having a hard time helping you grasp the concept of ‘truth’ and why it is the most important thing that can exist between us. This, in particular, makes my heart ache because my biggest biggest hope is that we can we can trust each other. I know we both have to earn each others’ trust, and I can’t make you perform, I can only do my best to be honest with you.

The last thing I want to tell you is how proud I am of your courage. You used to be more timid, but then Santa brought you that scooter and son, you’re a maniac! I would never take a hill that steep at that speed, not in a hundred million years. You are fearless.

I used to say ‘I love you,’ and you would smile. Sometime in the last several months you started saying, ‘I love you too, mom.’ Thank you for this, and for the millions of other ways you consider my feelings even though I’m the mom and your the kid.

Still, every night, I sneak into your room and lay beside you on your bed so I can watch you sleep. In sleep you are peaceful and your face looks the most like it used to when you were just a baby. I usually whisper I’m sorrys to you when you’re asleep because it’s then, in the quiet dark, when I can see you for what you are – a little boy – that I realize the ways I’ve been too hard on you or put myself first. Usually when I whisper to you, you roll into me and press your nose into my arm.

Jack, I love you as big as the ocean. Happy fourth birthday.

Mom

Teaching my daughter.

Today many millions of men and women all over the world marched en masse for many millions of reasons which fall under the umbrella of the rights of all people, which include the fifty percent of whom are female. Some marched for respect. Some for fear. Some for zeal. Some for the sake of another. Some for anger. Some for political agenda. Some for true stories and personal history. Some for hope.

Today I thought a great deal about my daughter who is less than two years old but already showing signs of a fierce and determined disposition, and the millions of things I want to teach and demonstrate to her.

There are many places where women (and men) are treated as animals, or property, or worse; where women are the possessions of men or even other women; where people are stripped of their humanity and told they are not worthy of citizenship on earth. I believe this not only happens around the world, but also in our own cities and towns, and in more ways than one. But today I thought of raising my daughter in a place like North Korea, or Syria, or Uganda, and the thought alone brought me to my knees. I thought of my daughter in the future, in high school and college, when she will require a deep sense of truth to fight for others and to fight for herself in the face of this cruel and tricky and wild and mysterious and adventuresome and often terrifying world.

Who will teach Mae

that power is loving the least appealing people

that every human being should be looked in the eye

that nothing about her outward appearance determines the woman she is

that she deserves dignity, fairness, tenderness and justice

that she doesn’t have to be quiet

that she shouldn’t apologize for her big feelings

that she’s been her perfect self since before I laid eyes on her

that her mind is full and deep and capable of unique and unconquerable creativity

that she can pursue any goal and have courage to stand back up when she fails

that there are people in this world who objectify, hate, destroy and humiliate others, but    that she won’t be one of them?

I will teach her those things, when there are voices screaming the opposite. I will teach her that she is a universe of joy and potential and intelligence and kindness and fortitude and capacity for great things. It is my job, and although I mourn over the condition of so many of our institutions and leaders and churches and schools and communities and cities and families, ultimately I know that I am Mae’s mother. I’m a woman, I’m a girl, and I will teach her what that means.

2017 Resolutions & my 2016 book review

If you’ve followed this blog for even a little while, you might recall how much I love when we turn over to a new year. Starting fresh, setting goals, isolating new ways of simplifying, tidying, growing, challenging — I like the way January sounds. I set three goals for last year, and made good on two. I read 30 books and I returned to the discipline of waking early each day to write. As a result my writing life was very rich in 2016; another manuscript is well underway. Unfortunately, I bombed on untethering from my cell phone.

My three resolutions for 2017 are:

Organize my closets. We moved in and threw our stuff in all the corners of this old house, and we never went back to make sense of it all. I’ve got to get a handle on that this year. Thank the good Lord we have neither an attic nor a basement.

Ditch the phone. A few months ago we sat Jack down and apologized for showing him an example of treating our phones like a member of the family, and started putting them away when we were around the kids. I want to continue with this, so it becomes our lifestyle, not just around the kids but with each other and even in the silences. I’d like to make room for silence.

Try, really try my hardest, to find an agent for my new book.

My reading goal is 31, but that’s not really a resolution.

I’ve tried to be brief so I could include my reading list from 2016 (!!) Ratings are on a scale of 5; these are not in any particular order. I promised my 2015 list last year, but never made good on that. I will say, from my 2015 list, you should read All the Light We Cannot See, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Rosie Project, The English Patient, The Girl with a Pearl Earring, Bird by Bird and Still Writing.

So here you go, my thirty books of last year. Fives are best, fours are really good, threes are also good. I wouldn’t bother with twos. I might not bother with threes.

  1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle {a book I enjoyed, read too fast and probably missed many nuances; surprised I hadn’t read previously, though the reception of this novel was mixed throughout the past fifty years due to references to magic, fantasy, etc.}  Rating: 4, would recommend.
  2. City of Thieves by David Benioff {I’ll read anything set in Russia, and I gravitate to WW2, but this story, though compelling, was overwrought with violence and felt excessively ‘masculine’} Rating: 2, would recommend for men, action gluts.
  3. The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan {an exhausting story set in old communist China, largely hopeless, but beautifully written; and the garlic theme is so potent, coming to the precipice of the right balance—I’ll never forget this story} Rating: 4, would recommend but it’s not easy.
  4. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King {this is a re-read, it gets better every time; SK is an intelligent, witty weirdo, but his thoughts on writing are my buoys} Rating: 5, would recommend to anyone, even if you don’t write.
  5. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling {ha! too funny, laughed a lot; sometimes the humor got tired} Rating: 3/4, would recommend for a long flight
  6. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson {fascinating historical expose on the cluster that came to a climaxx with this tragedy; slightly long-winded} Rating: 3/4, would recommend
  7. The World’s Largest Man by Harrison Scott Key {yes, yes, yes! pick up THIS book and read it NOW, to laugh and cry and laugh and laugh and cry; exploration of a quirky father/son relationship with such incredible humor} Rating: 5, would recommend to literally anyone.
  8. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal {unique story, obviously food-focused (anyone know what lutefisk is?), told through several speakers and witnesses with a focus on the midwest, which I found charming / you do sort of lose track of Eva, Stradal’s main character, which creates a deficit in the story} Rating: 3, no strong feelings
  9. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra {one of my books of the year – a gorgeous, thoughtful, lovely, poetic, concrete novel set during the 1990s war in Chechnya with a story that somehow manages to explain the situation of an entire nation while following the small scale of a handful of fascinating people} Rating: 5, can’t recommend more emphatically.
  10. Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain {the sterilization movement in our very own NC is shocking, and the greatest value of this book was in drawing this local history to my attention} Rating: 2, can’t really recommend.
  11. The World Below by Sue Miller {everything by Sue Miller is beautifully written, which is my kryptonite; the story is simple, contains no great twists, but is still somehow moving; the first few chapters weren’t necessary} Rating: 4, but not sure if I’d recommend to everyman.
  12. Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home by Amber C. Haines {this memoir was interesting, honest, somewhat sensational, but by the end I was rooting for Amber to find some comfortability in her own skin} Rating: 3, would recommend to anyone who likes a woman’s personal story
  13. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline {this book is about video games—I wish I’d realized that before reading; it doesn’t have gaming themes, the entire thing is based on gaming *now I know about gaming*  alright, the story got sort of interesting eventually} Rating: 3, would recommend to gamers!
  14. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah {multiple 2016 lists have put this at the top for good reason—it’s beautiful and absolutely compelling; this is a story story, driven by events; wee complaint – some things ‘fell in line’ i.e. predictable? I didn’t mind} Rating: 5, would recommend to anyone.
  15. A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman {took me by complete surprise! FB is a surly looking Swedish man, but he wrote this hilarious, complex and meaningful story that moved me; a grouchy widower becoming the heartthrob—that’s not something I read every day} Rating: 5, READ IT
  16. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout {ES has a similar effect on me as Sue Miller, that narrative voice is hypnosis; a sepia-toned story about siblings, all grown, and the misery they shoulder, all returning to their hometown in Maine} Rating: 4, would recommend, but prep for consternation
  17. The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin {love learning new things; I didn’t know much about the Lindberghs, but this got me started on a trail of researching them} Rating: 3, would not much recommend
  18. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh {book came to me at the right moment, so meaningful to me as a woman, as a mother, as a friend and as a wife, addressing each of those roles specifically, in short but dense sections} Rating: 5, would recommend to every gal
  19. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates {words escape me; how refreshing, how surprising, how unsettling to see unknown stories and suffering through someone else’s eyes —the most thought-provoking book of the year, on the subject of racism in America} Rating: 4, would recommend, but it is a very specific flavor.
  20. This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell {did you love Bernadette? I did! step right up. celebrity mystery meets interesting landscapes meets a few pages with drawings and photos — loved this book.} Rating: 5, would recommend, esp on vacation.
  21. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren {what do you get when a tree scientist writes her memoirs using tree growth and life as a metaphor woven throughout? this book has been incredibly well-received by critics and as a reading pauper, I have to agree—unlike anything I’ve read before} Rating: 4, would recommend.
  22. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett {the best book I’ve read in at least five years, a masterful take on my belief that the simplest lives of people are the most fascinating stories – beautiful beautiful beautiful in so many ways} Rating: 5, READ IT.
  23. White Dog Fell from the Sky by Eleanor Morse {set in Botswana, which is where my in-laws were on safari, my reason for reading; story was odd and meandering with a sense of ‘how did we get here?’ — and when it was over, i missed it} Rating: 3/4, wouldn’t necessarily recommend.
  24. The Dream Life of Astronauts: Stories by Patrick Ryan {short stories, the first collection I’ve read in years, on the recommendation of my fave Ann Patchett; the writing was stunning, some of the stories were good, others I could have done without; the collection as a whole did create a comprehensive flavor of a region and brand of people} Rating: 3 for material, 4 for the telling, would not recommend liberally
  25. Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani {the predictability of this story was its greatest flaw; people fitting into stereotypes} Rating: 2, wouldn’t really recommend
  26. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini {Kite Runner blew me away, this one falls in line, but behind; worth the read, but buckle up for the a big does of sad} Rating: 4, would recommend.
  27. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman {only author I read twice this year, very similar feel to Ove, similar relational plays between children and the older generation, humor as a cloak for sorrow, and warm fuzzy throughout; this one was a bit fantastical} Rating: 4, would recommend.
  28. A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot {a WW1 era mystery, heavily French, with a web of names and dates that make it a bit tricky to follow; overall I was enthralled, and loved it, but had to focus focus} Rating: 4, would recommend in winter.
  29. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd {American slavery-era story based on the life of one of the first female abolitionists; told alternatively through the eyes of that upper-class woman, and her personal slave – one of the best books I’ve read on the topic; toward the end brilliant story-telling gives way to an effort to get the facts straight, but that’s only a slight detraction} Rating: 4, would recommend.
  30. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante {look up the story of this author, fascinating! Loved the story telling, loved the picture of Naples and life there in the fifties; narration is dark, and the story offers little resolution because it’s #1 of 4 in the Neapolitan Series} Rating: 5, would recommend.

This year, hoping to read The Orphan Master’s Son, A Gentleman in Moscow, & Underground Airlines. If I ever have as good a year reading as I did in 2016, I’ll count myself lucky.


Happy New Year, friends!

A birthday letter to my girl.

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Dear Mae,

I’m writing this on the eve of your first birthday. We are going to celebrate you with flamingo yard ornaments and a pink tutu (which your Aunt Kaili got you in Seoul the day I found out you were a girl); this is all really more for me than it is for you. My girl, my girl. Still, sometimes I can’t believe you’re here, and you’re ours.

You were born into a hard, hard time. I know there have been plenty of years in history where women thought, similarly, how could I have brought such a precious innocent into such a wild, desperate, sad, terrifying time? The solidarity of knowing how other mothers have shared this sentiment helps me, because their babies have grown up and turned into the brave, brilliant, world-changing people of the next generation, and the cycle turns over. I wonder what you will learn about twenty-fifteen in history class — or if twenty-fifteen and sixteen are just stepping stones to other times. I wonder who you will be. I often pray for you to have strength and courage, to be unafraid, the same prayer with which God covered Joshua as he put his head down and moved forward into Israel before it was Israel. It wasn’t easy, but it was the promised land. Some day you will be old enough to talk about the things you hear on the news, from your friends, out in public, and I hope you do. I hope you talk to dad and me. I will try to have listening ears, and not give you all my answers. I hope you come up with your own answers. I’m so fascinated by you, I can’t wait to hear what you think.

I wasn’t trying to have a natural birth with you, but it worked out that way because the meds didn’t take. That’s what the doctor said to me, when you were about to make your debut. “Well, there’s nothing I can do at this point.” So we battled it out, and there you were, with a head of black hair. Imagine my surprise! There were two days where we sat together in the hospital absolutely still in this private little hideaway, clinging to each other, wrapping ourselves together, and then we went home.

The first couple months with you, we were all figuring it out. I think you were very uncomfortable being ‘on the outside,’ so you screamed a lot. Mae, I’m talking, you screamed most of your waking hours for nine months. I’m telling you this so we don’t forget, and maybe when you have your own child some day, who has similar vitriole toward the planet we call home, you can take heart reading this, because now you are delightful and very rarely scream at us. People warned me that having a second child would be a challenge, but I was not prepared for the demands of two kids, a husband, a job, a house—and, truth be told, the expectations I put on myself to be all things, in all situations, to all people. I had a hard time, your dad had a hard time. I want you to know that your brother loved you with every shred of his little heart from the moment he saw you in my lap at the hospital. He was probably having a hard time too, but he handled it best. He speaks to you with more tenderness than I could drum up in a lifetime. He’s got your back, little one. I pray it’s always that way.

It’s possible you had colic. It’s possible your digestive systems were very painful. It’s possible you are very obstinate and vocal with your frustrations, which will serve you beautifully as an adult. Whatever the reason, it was very challenging for all of us, likely most of all I can say now, for you. A flood of tears we couldn’t stem. So we clawed our way through the months, and prayed over you, and walked around like zombies. Again, I say this to you in part because some day, when you read this letter, you might be considering having a baby, or a second baby, and by then I will be older and removed from this stage of life, and I’ll probably try to make you see the gift of having babies, the joy that it is. But in reading this I hope you can see that I also understand the day-to-day battle it can be.

Hear this: having you and your brother is the best part of my life with daddy. I pray you know that as you grow up, that you always know that for me, being your mother towers over every other role. And I loved you with a ferocious love from the moment I felt you move inside me, a polar bear love, tough and warm in the cold winter.

You finally got past whatever was ailing you. Phew! And what can I say about you? You’ve got a sense of humor! You are always making me laugh. That big, big smile, the way you scrunch up your nose and show off your teeth. How do you already know that’s funny? You’re also very affectionate, and often lean your head into the crook of my shoulder when I’m holding you. I don’t know what you’re feeling in those moments, but I imagine you pressing in just to make sure I’m still there, to re-connect, to get back to those first two days when we were meeting without anyone or anything else around. If I could bottle that affection I would, it fills me up. You are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. You look so much like your daddy and his side of the family, which I love because it feels new to me. Your straight, strawberry-blonde hair is the hair I dreamed of as a child, and your eyes! Everyone comments on them. Tiny little feet (mine were always huge!), perfect button features on that wide, adoring face. It makes me ache, how much I love you. I can’t get you close enough, I can’t squeeze you tight enough.

There were many years when I thought I should only have sons, if I could have children at all, because I wasn’t sure I would be soft or kind enough for a daughter. I was afraid of not knowing the right things to teach her, or the balance of loving-kindness and discipline. But then, like a shock of electricity in my mid-twenties, I wanted a girl so terribly. I asked God all along the way we were trying to get pregnant with you if he would give us a girl. And then, the day we found out about you, I stopped asking for that because I knew you were what you were. Well, we cried in that ultrasound seeing your little face, when Doctor Valaoras told us you were a little girl. It was a sense of disbelief in that kind of goodness. How could it be?

Mae Connelly, you’re named after your daddy – Mark Andrew Evans – and I hope you identify yourself with his initials proudly. I pray you inherit a heaping portion of his humility, his kindness, and his unique eyes which always see past the surface of a man and straight into his heart. And you’re named after your grandmother Claire Connelly, and I pray you have a dose of her grit and determination as you grow up and face the world.

I will sign this letter with a quote by the author Frederick Beuchner which hangs above your crib, a print your godmother gave you when you were born:

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

Happy birthday, goose.

Love,
Mama

The last days of summer.

 

August is the laziest of the months, it reminds me of a big golden retriever laying on the hardwood floor after a long walk. August is tired of the heat, it lacks the luster of the earlier summer months because though it does include summer, it also includes the beginning of school in most cases. It’s the end, it’s worn down, it’s sun-tanned. August is almost, dare the admission, ready for fall. And I have always loved August for this reason, because it doesn’t have a pressure about it. It lacks that speed, that lust, that expectation of June and July. It’s just lazing around on the dock, drinking wine on the porch, blowing off bedtimes, hanging around with your parents instead of your friends.

Even though this summer in North Carolina about did us in, I mean it literally cooked us when we didn’t have air conditioning in the house for six weeks, I loved it. None of us are in real school anymore, but you can’t grow up in America and grow out of that yearly cycle which deems that for three months, you get to chill.

In another week Jack will go back to preschool. He only goes three days a week, but it feels like a lot of time without him. I’m going to miss having him around, and the ease of playing in the backyard, having water fights, practicing yoga on the deck together, watching the British cartoon series we’ve come to love so much, walking the neighborhood in search of construction. Last year every day he came home from preschool he had a few new words, new knowledge and I wanted to grab his teacher and say, STOP, LADY. HE’S THREE. But she’s an educator, and I do want him to succeed in life, so I can’t fault her.

Alas, with that small puff of August solidarity, I say this: Summer, I love you, I have always loved you and embraced you, but goodbye because I am tired of sweating, so tired of smelling like bug spray, tired of walking into the hot yoga studio without any noticeable temperature gradient. Thank you for the beach, for many hours sitting on the porch, and for clarifying I do still have blonde hair, but BYE. (For now)