Will you give me a nickel if I just post all the stuff in my draft folder? One draft a day? For 143 days? (Yes, seriously. I’m a hoarder, hypercritical of my writing, and used to be prolific. Put ’em all together and whaddya got? Well…143 drafts, that’s what. Pretty sure I just said that. Try to pay closer attention. For once, this is a short post.)

During my first National Blog Post Writing Month (which is actually easier to type out than to abbreviate NaBloPoWriMo because the latter fights every bit of my literal and linear mind) I threatened to dig out old drafts and polish them up for posting.

But that was when I blogged several times a week. Now that I’m down to twice a year, or so, I’m looking for anything to kickstart my writing again.


How about that nickel?


Okay. Enough.

So I’ve recalibrated, and held fish (to remove their unwanted hooks and slide them back into the water), stopped to listen, and focused on a new pace.

And I’m done.

I don’t do relax well. I don’t do chill well.

I tried. I found stuff. Here are photos.

Now can I go back to wifi and deadlines and alarm clocks?

I mean, I don’t need to go back to back-to-back meetings. Or traffic

But have I earned my chill badge? I mean, seriously, I photographed hummingbirds for an hour. Surely that’s some kind of Type A record?


I’ve followed the kids as they invent things to do. And I eavesdropped and read while keeping them in earshot.

But I’m powering through Franzen, with all the frustration that involves. (Seriously, ugh with that guy and his hatred for his characters.) And I’m only running two miles a day, back and forth between the driveway and the almost-fence-line, because out here everyone has property-possessive and stranger-averse dogs.

So I photograph a lot. I mentioned that?


Cool, right?

Now please give back my email.



Everything is relative, of course, but it seems as though there’s no oxygen at 8,000 feet.  And everything is relative, of course, but it seems as though a rural vacation is considerably less work than charging hard at moderate levels of adrenaline six days a week to prove my worth at work. 

This week, I’m paying off my nostalgia for summers in the high desert, sharing with my boys the quirks of tree-line living, of rural rules and assumptions, of the city mouse’s game “what was that noise?” and “what kind of snake is that?” In between explaining about well water and deer vs elk, I’m taking some deep breaths. 

Not just because there’s (relatively) no oxygen here, though. Because everything is different. At home, there’s a busy street 50 feet from our front door. Here, there’s a pond 50 feet from our front door, so stuffed with fish that they throw themselves into the (relatively) thin air to catch grasshoppers. At home, the subway is three blocks away. Here, three blocks is not a recognized form of measurement. There’s here and “about an hour from here.”

We drove four hours from the airport to get to a spot populated by tractors, heron, and large toads.


The first day we enjoyed several major projects. We wandered the yard catching grasshoppers and the boys fished with them, relying on their grandfather to both bait and release the hook from half a dozen bass and bluegill. We wandered the yard looking for antlers and found sun bleached bones from a creature who I’m willing to bet was a calf, and who, judging by the vertical leg bone we dug (with oak sticks) out of a deep hole probably  got caught in the mud, and who met her demise some time thereafter. 



The boys dug up all the bones they could find, and today we might try to reconstruct the skeleton (which seems to me lacking a lot of the fundamentals, unless cows these days are mostly leg.)
Today we will wander the creek. And the boys will whack down all the dried wild parsley they can find, bashing the weed that does whatever you ask when you’re wielding an oak stick. 

I think I’m going to name my band Oak Stick.

I don’t sleep well at elevation, because my sleeping brain is convinced that there’s (relatively) no oxygen. I wake several times a night hyperventilating. But I’ve been here before. From at least the time I could walk through preschool, and every summer since, I’ve been in the southwest, hot and dry days, chilly nights, trouble baking, and breathless. My dad taught me long ago to fight off nighttime oxygen panic by exhaling and only breathing when I actually need air. My brain is wrong. It tricks me.

Just like the panick at work. Self-imposed deadlines and a low-level standard urgency lead me to fly from meeting to meeting, call to call.

It’s not working for me.

Neither does fishing.

So I’m back to reading and writing. Exhaling completely and then forcing myself to wait until I really need a breath. Listening to what works rather than the stressful combination of “should” and “hurry” I’ve concocted. Recalibrating.


Summer, grant me peace

It’s 3:32am and I can’t sleep. I’m worried that the boys aren’t getting enough attention. I’m worried that I haven’t been kind enough. I’m worried I forgot two pages in a report I need to submit this week. I’m worried that we’ll all forget to bring back the library books. That we paid too little in taxes. That we paid too much in taxes. That I forgot to fill out healthcare forms. That the dentist is this week not next week. That the house is just messy enough to encourage my children to grow up into slobs. That I forgot to email a friend and that we’ll miss our summer window to get together. That I haven’t planned summer vacation for my kids yet.

By 4:07am I’m worried that I’m not getting enough sleep. Or exercise. Or vegetables.

And that I’ll sleep past my alarm.


It’s the last week of school. I am dropping off plates for the kindergarten potluck, hummus for the fourth-grade potluck, and petition for the dissolution of marriage at the county courthouse.

I haven’t read a book in four months. I haven’t fenced in five months. There’s just no time. I have crammed life so full of “should” that I can barely breathe. And I’m nauseated. Almost constantly. Wound so tight that I injured both sides and was barred from running for 6 weeks.

Not good for my mood, the lack of running and books and fencing.

I should really have a dance party with the boys before school today. Make a note. Remember that.

My life, through no one’s fault but my own, has become about list making. Planning, mandating, chastising, reporting events and discussions and thoughts. My thinking has become staccato, matter of fact. My writing feels terse. Shamed out of adjectives. I can almost hear the words I type begging for bullet points.

Please don’t waste words.



This is not just lack of writing time, single parenthood, lack of sleep, or overly intense focus on work, though it is, for the record, all of these. But in a bigger sense, I feel that I’ve become less of a person this year. Is it simply that there’s less to me than I thought there was?

It’s been two years since Spouse and I parted ways and tried to navigate the infuriating, heartbreaking, and complicated world of joint parenting. We haven’t bothered to figure out the logistics, again, through no one’s fault but my own. I didn’t want to add more tasks to my list.

But when I took the 10 hours it required to pause, make appointments, gather documents, make decisions, and participate in the first mediation session, I realized that I put the logistics off intentionally. No, I didn’t want to spend what will likely amount to 30+ hours of the Business of Divorce. But I also didn’t want to face the crushing disappointment of voluntarily ending my marriage. Twice during the mediation session I restrained myself from bolting out of the room. The whole two hours was physically nauseating. Not because we’re fighting, because we’re not. We’re agreeing on everything.

I just don’t want to be divorcing. I don’t want to be married, I don’t want to be in between. I just don’t want any of this. But I’m missing a lot while my life is in limbo, scrambling to be a full-time parent, full-time employee. I’m not making space in those double-time parameters to be even a part-time human.

I missed fava bean season this year, because I was too busy. I missed cherry season, too. I think. My two favorite markers for the shift from winter into spring, then spring into summer. Completely forgot to notice, to taste, to revel. Having the boys’ dad pick them up two days after school means I am not in the right place to stumble across the farmers’ market anymore. And instead of walking the kids to school every day, I’m driving at least three days a week. That means I only caught a few days of vine week in Berkeley, the time where the air is almost dripping with the artificial-grape scent of wisteria during the day and heavy with the scent of star jasmine in the evening. For two weeks, Berkeley smells like living near a nectar factory.


I missed most of that.

But school ends this week. And though I still have to work, it feels as though everything is opening, languorously, and extended without obstacles until September.

The paperwork is filed. Whatever step is next is just another step. Summer plans and work and divorce are all just steps. And I plan very much to put my head down and just step.

I’m cleared to run short distances, so this weekend the boys rode their bikes and I ran, to exactly the mid-point of what my doctor prescribed. We sat with a cold cup of tea and boba, discussing everything we could think of. And on the ride and run back, they found each others’ rhythms, for at least 20 minutes outgrowing the bickering and assumptions, falling behind each other or surging gently past, without cutting each other off, without discord. With grace and understanding.

I noticed their rhythm. I found mine. I celebrated not panicking anymore, not worrying that they’d hurt themselves or bump into someone else or ride off the sidewalk and into the street. I let myself notice the lack of worry, and to celebrate it.


I hope with everything in me that this is a beginning. For them, a beginning of a long, hilarious, exhausting, splashy, filthy summer. For me, a transition out of marital limbo and into a realm where I find spaces in which to be. Quietly, mindfully, not shoulding myself to death. For all of us, I hope this is a beginning, a new understanding of each other, with tools to make our family everything we need it to be.

All that from a date on a school calendar and a stack of papers with a courthouse stamp.





Ask and ye shall receive

Last night I was texting friends, for hours, talking about life and ads and politics and Alaska. About an hour in, I complained about my general chiastic feelings of gratitude and malaise. I told them what I really needed was a hug.


[I cut out the friends’ replies because nobody needs to think their texts are going to wind up on a blog. It’s hard enough to be friends with me that I feel I should spare them the public outing of their responses to all that typing. Suffice it to say they were supportive and not at all dismissive of my loneliness.Duh. They’re nice people and rather patient with me.]

Literally ten minutes later I got a text from a different friend, who wasn’t privy to my hug deprivation.



Please forgive the exclamation points. I was drinking and lonely.

And so I got my hug. I got four really good hugs, actually, but she didn’t know I was counting.

We watched Andie and Duckie and Blane, we ate caramel and drank red wine, we talked until 1:30am.

And it was absolutely heaven. I have no typographical tricks that wouldn’t cheapen both the absolutely or the heaven. But I have to reiterate: best movie ever, best food groups ever, best booty call movie ever in the history of everness.

I’m not proud of my whining about how rough my privileged life is. But I’m awfully glad I knew enough to say aloud what I really needed, and that I have good friends who are willing to listen, and to hug when necessary.

Best. Valentine’s. Day. Ever.

Hope yours was, too!

Not the only one

There is likely a reason that no other post, at all, on the Interwebs includes references to Bemidji, Winnebago, Ft. Defiance, Gallup, Sioux City, and Tucson. But this one does. And seriously, since this is the only one, I feel no reason to tell you why I googled those city names all together.

I just wanted to plant a flag in this space. This intersection. This pointless juxtaposition that is unnecessary to everyone but the five people (or so) who know why the heck I’d put those cities together.

And please don’t think this is a colonial attempt to own the space, or an appropriation of any knowledge of the space beyond my own, or a claim about anything other than affection for the overlapping space among those six cities.

Finding the one outpost of the internet in which it feels as though I dwell alone, for now, does have me thinking how strange are the collection of experiences we all have. How many overlaps, how few “seriously, you’re the only one”s. It’s a crowded world. Genuinely unique is rare.

And for the record, I’m not saying I’m unique. I’m just the only one to type a string of words and hit “post” in the past few years. That’s it.

I always roll my eyes when people are excited to find they’re from the same generally large hometown. Or that they worked at the same big company. Or that they read the same obscure book.

But I would be impressed, I’ll admit, if someone else had a story that linked Alamosa, Holbrook, Arivaca, Acoma, Bemidji, and Sells, and Pocatello together in the same ways I have.

That’s all.

Talking to hear my own nostalgia. Thanks for your patience.




The Benefits of Having a Single Mother

All the depressing tropes of being single during the December holidays came knocking this year, but I beat them back with a big stick called “I got a lotta awesome friends behind me, and your cultural assumptions about how women can’t hack December on their own are welcome to walk right off the same pier that ol’ Donald Trump is headed for.”

 I had a single mom, I have smart and kind friends, and there was no way I will be beaten down by something as lovely as the Hanukkah-Solstice-Christmas stressfest. 


I don’t see in this water fountain a dessicated worm who shriveled under pressure. I see a worm who left her mark.

 You know how, in times of crisis, all the things your elders have said come flooding back? How when you see fire you remember clearly the visit in second grade in which the firefighters told your class, “In case of fire, use the stairs not the elevator.” And how when you’re packing your earthquake kit, you remember your grandma’s entreaties to “Please, whatever else you remember, make sure there’s water, and bags for the makeshift bucket-toilet.”

No? Just me?

Oh. Well. I taught my children candle safety during our Hanukkah week and I taught them why postponing our Solstice peanut-butter-and-birdseed pine cones because of rain made sense. 

And then I panicked a bit about Christmas. 

I  had a single mom growing up, so I benefitted heavily from her experiences. I remember keenly the year she cried because she couldn’t get the Christmas tree up the stairs by herself. 

“Would you like this tree netted, for an additional $3?”

Yes, yes I would. 

I remember the year she couldn’t get the tree into the stand because the trunk was too wide. And that, the next year, the trunk was too narrow and the stand’s screws couldn’t reach the bark, let alone enough core to hold the dang thing. I also recall that, after years of tree stand frustration, she  asked for the wooden stand, got the tree upstairs and realized that it was too tall. And already in the stand. 

“Would you like a stand? Did you already measure the ceiling of the room this will be in?”

Yes, yes I did. 

Christmas, I knew, made single moms cry. And I would not play those reindeer games. 

So we went to the cut-your-own farm with my darling sister-in-law. Third year in a row, but our first as two ladies with an agenda: make this Christmas about SuperLadies, the lady people who make the plans and do the things. With ease. 

I had the kids pick out a pre-cut tree, after we wandered the acres of drought-ravaged pine. They didn’t care I wasn’t cutting something down. Neither did I.  Selection: check. Cutting: check. Netting, so nine year old and five year old can help, but also so that I don’t cry when I can’t do it myself if they are feeling whiny: check. 

Hunky college guy making extra money on his break tossing the tree on the car: check. Just saying. Silver linings and Ho Ho Ho and whatnot.

The kids waited patiently for the six seconds it took me and my SuperMom partner to lace it to the car. 


By ourselves, yo. We are all under 5’4″, yo. And this bad boy is 7′.

Long drive home: cakewalk. Transfer from car roof to living room: so simple. Decorating: fast and peaceful. 

I did none of the seemingly miraculous feat myself. My mom taught me pitfalls. My sister-in-law provided moral support and heavy knot-tying skills. My kids helped and lifted and toted and watered and decorated. 


All the decorated tree photos are still in my camera, so just take my word for it so I don’t have to go in the other room to find and download them.

And none of it felt overwhelming or daunting or When Harry Met Sally pathetic. 

As with our famous hike and trolley episode, everyone involved with this tree felt the process was easy, everyone knows we can do stuff like this, and everyone feels better that divorce hasn’t killed any of us yet. 

So that’s good. 

As was hosting Christmas, by myself, for the family: a beloved and small group of 10. Potluck, and a decent outcome. I forgot to get a picture of us all together, but everyone seemed okay and well-fed and happy. 

So on the pop cultural single parent scorecard I was winning. Up too late wrapping presents, including one for myself, but still reasonably patient the next day. 


To me, from the garage. Because i found the present in the garage. Obviously.

And then the boys’ dad, who had come early to watch them open presents, took them to his place for the weekend. 

Saying goodbye to my children on Christmas evening might have been the hardest part of the split so far. 

I forced myself to go out, to a friend’s house for a casual Christmas evening of chatting and wine, so I wouldn’t just sit and sulk. Or clean and sulk. Or drink and sulk. 

And as I came home, to a tidy-ish home that smelled of chestnuts and butternut squash and Irish soda bread, I saw the twinkling holiday tree and realized everything is about give and take. That, all in all, the sacrifices I’m facing are relatively small. 

I couldn’t have actually done the whole thing myself: I had multi-generational help on the tree, the dinner, and the making of the family. The whole reason my kids have two houses rather than one is that I share them with their dad. I don’t get the perfect holiday because I didn’t play the game right; but if I can just learn to let go of them a little bit each week, then the new version of home will look just as beautiful as it is. 

Because this home is warm and loving, and full of us doing our best with a lot of emotional support. 

My reality isn’t what I’d hoped or what I dreamed. But it’s a pretty breathtaking reality, if I just allow it to be. 


Pleasant surprises

This weekend has included several small, delightful moments that I noticed and appreciated. And at least two you can share, too, so I’m here to try to bring some little moments of fun to your day.

First, a friend came over last night, and in addition to our standard bread, cheese, and chocolate, she convinced me to put away my spicy, earthy pinot noir in favor of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau. I never like that stuff. It’s too fruity, too hot with new alcohol, too light for me. But not this year. The 2015 Beaujolais Nouveau surprised me with a complexity and calmness I had never associated with this wine style.

Second, I gouged the crap out of my finger yesterday, and when my bandage slipped off during a shower this morning, not only did the wound not hurt, but the bandaid also had a rainbow.



Finally, I don’t believe I’ve ever posted a recommendation for a podcast before, but this weekend I had such a lovely experience with a particularly good episode of a favorite podcast that I want to share.

I subscribe to dozens of podcasts, and one of the first I found, on the urging of a friend, is “Snap Judgement.” I listen every week, because the storytelling is compelling, the voices (metaphorical not technical) are interesting, and the pacing is strong enough for a car ride or brisk walk.

This week’s episode, #630 – Dirty Work is lovely. The premise of people having to do unsavory work is too neat a package into which to cram the episode, which is really about leaps of faith and the detective work fundamental to both journalism and criminal defense. It’s not gross, it’s not dirty. It’s just a genuinely lovely episode that I would argue is a more satisfying, 53-minute version of “Serial.”

If you have podcast recommendations, let me know. I regularly listen to 99% Invisible, Freaconomics, Double X, the Slate agglomeration of gabfests, SciFri, Things Mom Never Told You, How Stuff Works, Stuff to Blow Your Mind, TWiT, Whistlestop, RadioLab, and This American Life. I’m waiting for Invisibility to come back. I dropped Lexicon Valley after the misogyny of the vocal fry episode, but otherwise enjoyed it. What do you listen to?

And have you ever had a bandage rainbow? Seriously, that totally made my weekend.



Stop Your Whining

I haven’t written in days, for one reason: the only things I want to write sound like whining. And I fought that urge to write or post complaints because I know that 1) whining is annoying, 2) so is complaining,  3) so is the carefully reflexive “I know I shouldn’t complain because I’m really lucky, but I still want to complain.” The latter is my favorite, but it’s still annoying.

So this morning, instead of wallowing, I tried to figure out where the whining is coming from. And I think I know.


The list I kept playing in my head agglomerated all the tasks I have to do each day, with the special holiday-season twist of comparing my life to that of my cohabitating friends. All of the tedious chores adulthood brings, I sighed, are better split amongst a couple. All the cooking and cleaning and prep and parenting and sheets and dishes and trash and child-conflict management are so much easier when they’re split in half (which they never are, if we’re honest, in any relationship.) And as my list grew, cartoonishly buring me in “woe is me, I have to do all this alone,” my rational brain reminded me of something: an awful lot of the first world is doing a lot. Work and kids and household b.s. are things we share in common. Very few people have an equitable split of household, workplace, and parenting tasks. Very few people are in happy couples where the chores seem trivial because of the quality of their companionship.

And that’s where I stopped.

I’m not as overworked as I am lonely.

I’m less lonely than I was in an unhappy marriage. But I’m lonely.

I have lots of friends. Coworkers I like, neighbors I like, family I enjoy, plenty of social interaction. Too much, sometimes, for an introvert.

But now recounting conversations I’ve had over that past few months, I remember that I felt a pang of “they have no idea” as friends and family combined efforts to get tasks done. Parents divide and conquer to give their children attention, as partners divide and conquer household duties, and couples commingle funds and can afford houses even in the outrageously priced Bay Area; and in watching these teams of domestic collaboration, I thought I was jealous that they had a helper.

The truth is I’m jealous that they have a helpmate.

I’m not a lazy person, and I don’t shrink back from a heavy workload. I just want someone to talk with while I work.

I’m quite capable, and I don’t need someone to join me as I add the leaf to the dining room table or prep for Thanksgiving or wrap gifts for people I love. But it would be really nice to create memories with someone in whose company the joy of planning and accomplishing is even more enjoyable.

I thrill at the opportunity to read to my boys, to help each with their tasks, to meet their requests for awesome and healthy food. And though I’d like to have a partner doing half the reading, the tasks, and the food (especially as I bounce back and forth between each child, literally telling the other to please be patient as I help the other, teaching them patience and also that there is not enough parent to go around), I realize that what I really miss is not the tasksharing but the companionship. I wanted to raise children with someone who made them laugh one room away as I prepared meals, who brought us delicious snacks while the children and I played games. Who made us a foursome at the library so we could each listen to each child as we lost ourselves in books for half the day.

As always, the toxic nature of comparison, as I watch wistfully this holiday season while my family provides a full team for their household, whatever that household looks like, I think that I’m sad that they have what I don’t. But my real sadness is that I don’t have what I  planned. I’m living the dream, but reality has twisted some of the details, and I’m not ready to let go, it seems, of the image of two parents behind the white picket fence.

I have the boys 85% of the month, so the bulk of the childrearing jobs lie with me. All the school lunches, all the homework, drop off and pick up…I miss them one morning a week, two dinners a week, after school two days a week, and two stints of 36-hours a month.

Those numbers have been bouncing around in my head as a blessing and as injustice. Until I realized why they seem so unbalanced. It’s not the burden of all the details.


I love my kids. I really enjoy my job. I like where we live. I’m hopeful, motivated, and Isurrounded by a support network of people I care about.

But I’m lonely.

Doesn’t make me want to date. Doesn’t make me want to reach out more than I already am to friends whose company I love.

It makes me want to blog.


I began this blog more than seven years ago because I was lonely, parenting a toddler in an isolated place with a partner who worked so much of the week I was almost always alone with the marvelous and confusing child whom I tried so hard to understand. I didn’t have my people with me, so I built a community online.

And I am still writing in this space, engaging with friends and strangers, talking about life and books and parenting and all my neuroses…to stave off loneliness.

It still sounds a bit whiny and a bit like complaining. But it’s much more honest than listing the reasons single parenting is overwhelming. Because really, the tasks are manageable. And the emotional well-being I’ve gained from making a healthy choice about a destructive relationship makes everything more relaxing, hopeful, and joyful.

The comparisons I find myself making between my days and others’ days–a tally sheet of the roles of those with kids and not, those with jobs and not, those with pets and not—comes down to a jealousy I now know is both contentment with my life and a dissatisfaction with being more alone than I’d like.

So if nothing else, the blog is free therapy. Because the above revelation would likely have cost me $300 and two hours including travel time and babysitter. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why blogging probably won’t die anytime soon: Free Therapy.



There are times my friends take my breath away. Not just in what they say, but in who they are.

Here. Go see.

We have two transgender kids at our school, and I watch carefully to make sure they’re treated kindly and gently. They are, by teachers, staff, and other children.

And, most of all, by their parents.

Today I’m grateful for parents who live with grace, and allow their children the space, respect, and love to be themselves.


Nobody Listens to Turtle

I had a long talk with the dishes this evening, and it seems they flat-out refuse to wash themselves. I tried offering them a ride in the dishwasher if they’d only talk their clean brethren into dismounting the machine and making for the cabinet in an orderly way.

No dice.

I also stopped by to share my feelings with the laundry. Collectively, they seem resolutely opposed to washing and drying themselves. Folding is out of the question. And though they tend, eventually, to get themselves put back into the basket once they’re worn, I have never once, despite kind reminders, seen them place themselves into closets or drawers.

I don’t know when this mutiny began, but I feel it’s absolute. The floors categorically deny their role in the family’s lives, and refuse to mop themselves. I sweep, often, because I know the stuff that seems to reproduce itself into well-distributed floor decorations is too heavy for the floor to remove itself. But mopping shouldn’t be a big deal. And yet the floors refuse.

What have I done to earn this level of disrespect from the household? I’m thinking of taking the beds to a counselor, based on their seeming inability to change their own sheets.

The fridge openly mocks me in its disdain for either cleaning itself or staying clean once I sigh deeply and take on the task myself, despite knowing full well it’s my job to teach not to do the chores myself.

The bathrooms seem untrainable, too. What’s so hard about spray and wipe? We have eco-friendly bio-enzyme cleaners…you don’t even have to rinse yourselves, sinks and shower!

But no. They’re all engaged in a disrespectful mutiny in which I’m the default cleaner. Kindness hasn’t worked. Training them as though cleaning is fun hasn’t worked. Bribes do nothing. And gentle lectures about how we’re all in this family together and should each do our part has fallen upon seemingly impenetrable ears.

I don’t know what to do. Well, actually, I do. Because it’s what I do after the weekly or biweekly entreaties fail: clean everything myself.

Well, okay, not the floors or fridge. They’re older and I expect more from them.

I’ll keep hoping. And teaching. And communicating. Maybe in 30 years, when the floors are mopping themselves in someone else’s house, and the dishes live by themselves but manage to keep clean, then I’ll know I did my job well.

But until then, I’m frustrated as hell and running out of hope that the house will clean itself.



It’s been a while since I wrote an update to the books I’m reading, and maybe thinking about a few aloud in a post will help…

I’ve read quite a few books this year, which is a remarkable shift from the years since Butterbean was born. While pregnant with him, I joined a group read of Bolano’s 2666. I gave up about 50 pages from the end, when having a newborn and reading skilled but arms-length-remove prose just wore me down. When Butter was two, I participated in the Infinite Zombies group read of Gravity’s Rainbow. But I gave up about 50 pages from the end again, after getting a week behind in that last month. I just ran out of caring. I’ll likely go back to both, some day, from the beginning. But there are too many books calling my name for me to bother with the ends of those novels. They captivated my attention. They’re well written. I’m impressed by the breadth and depth. I simply ran out of you-know-whats to give.

And that’s surprising, since I pushed all the way through Freedom, a book in which the author barely tolerates his characters. I’m surprised I could muster enough interest in their lives, when he couldn’t seem to.

Anyway, I didn’t read much during the first four years of Butter’s life. And this Spring I threw myself into reading, in every form I could: paper, ebook, and audiobook. I posted a bit about books I enjoyed in the first half of the year, when I succumbed to audiobooks and devoured texts weekly.  I listened to, and loved No Ordinary Time and Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever? I listened to, and had mixed feelings, about A Prayer for Owen Meany. Over the summer I enjoyed (and genuinely recommend) The Martian The Namesake, The Goldfinch, Neverwhere, and The Bone Clocks. And a string of memoirs amused me slightly–Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Lina Dunham, in order of preference for their books–all kept me company on long runs. But I wouldn’t have read the books on paper. Autobiography narrated by the author, to me, is infinitely more interesting than reading the lives of performers.

I flat out didn’t like The Paying Guests or Go Set a Watchman. I felt that the former just lingered too damned long on every point and couldn’t decide whether it was plot driven or character driven, writhing languorously over both plot and character in such a way that I got tired of paying attention because I was being told that every moment mattered more than the last. The Harper Lee novel was as didactic as one by Franzen, with the added burden of having what felt like 400 pages of lecture posing as dialogue. Ugh. I’m still mad I wasted those hours.

I’m getting to the point in the year when I’m abandoning books left and right because they’re disappointing in comparison with books from the early 2015 months. I quit The Buried Giant last month. I sometimes enjoy Ishiguro and sometimes rankle at the pacing. This time, my impatience won. I quit Bel Canto two months ago. A pox on the unceasing, steady pace that lulled me like the rocking of an ocean liner. And I’m in the middle of, and considering quitting, Middlesex and A Visit from the Goon Squad. The latter is just boring me, in part because I’ve never cared about the music industry. And the Eugenides text is really annoying me. I have several friends who are, or who are close family with, transgendered, and the premise of Middlesex irritates me. It’s positing, I feel, that living in a space between genders, and navigating in a time of transition, can be blamed on a variety of ancestral errors. I feel in reading that the novel suggests that transgendered lives are mutations borne of unsavory history. And that angers me. I don’t know that Eugenides is arguing this point of view, but it’s what I’m inferring. So unless one or both books sways me soon, I’m dropping both.

A friend and mentor just sent me A Naked Singularity, and I’m going to start it soon. But it’s huge, and if I’m going to tackle a huge book this holiday season, it’s going to be Infinite Jest. Again. Because the nostalgia I feel for Wallace’s writing is increasing daily, and I just miss getting lost in the cadence and horror and familiarity and erudition and sadness of that book.

Any recommendations? I have a long list of what to read next, and am right now very happily ensconced in Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie. I miss the world of the Rez and Alexie captures the magical and maddening in equal measure.

After I’m done, though, I wouldn’t mind a few books to stave off my Wallace magnet. I do believe there’s still talk of a February group read when the 25th anniversary edition of IJ comes out, so I might wait. We’ll see if I can.

What do you recommend I read to keep myself engaged until February?


Early holiday presents

I got a card this week from a dear old friend. Hadn’t talked to her in almost two years, though I’ve been thinking a lot about her lately. I wanted to write but didn’t make time. She did, and now I’ll reply. 

I received a message from a darling friend I haven’t seen in five years. We’re having lunch next week when he’s in town for the first time in a decade. We’re both already giddy in anticipation. 

I saw a text this morning from a genuinely awesome friend. I’ve heard from her here and there over the past few years, but we haven’t talked…really talked…since the kids started kindergarten. They’re in fourth grade now. It’s time for a long email and a cup of cyber cocoa with her. 

Blogging again after a long break has brought me messages from good friends, too. I’ve smiled so broadly this week as I get comments and texts from people whose existence I cherish and whose words I welcome. 

I don’t know what I sent out to the Universe in the way of distress signal or joy beacon or reconnection magnet. But I’m incredibly grateful to be steeped in engagement with friends who genuinely make my life better. 

Hello, friends. Hope you’re well!



You know what’s not fun at all?


You know what’s even less fun? Knowing for 24 hours how many someones are going to go, but not which of the someones it’ll be.

You know what’s even less fun? Being, on layoff day, a relatively empathic person who cries very easily. I cry at telephone ads, I cry at diaper ads. I cry when someone wins Top Chef and Project Runway. So each name I’m hearing during today’s mass layoffs has me crying.

I haven’t heard my name. So I’m crying about that, too.

Survivor’s guilt, colleague empathy, and relief.

That’s a lot of tears for one morning.

Good luck to all losing their jobs today. May the new job you find come before the severance ends.

Good luck, too, to everyone out of a job. May your new job come soon.

And to all the people who want a new job. May the right opportunity arrive today.

And to all the people having rough days…

No, no, no. Stop. It’s too easy for me to spiral to all the stuff not going right and wishing those people clean water, indoor plumbing, safety, and shelter. And food. And respect. And…again. Spiraling.

I’m going to focus on the people I know, today, who are suddenly unemployed. Wishing you all the best.