Books Read in March.

March books

“The Water Cure” a novel by Sophie MacKintosh

Once we had a father, but our father dies without us noticing.

I could not put this book down. The feminist dystopian novel, mesmerizing and chilling is told through such exquisite writing. The mood is dreams-like but the three sisters, Grace, Lia and Sky are living a disturbing reality of their father’s creation. They live on an isolated island designed to protect them from the outside world where masculinity is literally toxic to women or is the island designed to keep them trapped there? 

Their father, King, the patriarch and protector, goes to get supplies and doesn’t return. Their mother steps in to fill the void. Soon, their supposedly idyllic world is invaded when two strange men and a boy wash up on shore. King is the only men the girls have ever known. They are intrigued, repelled, angered and confused by their presence. 

It’s a thorough exploration of the different worlds that men and women inhabit, the power of female desire and what happens when they clash.

I especially loved the structure of the book, how certain chapters are told in the plural second person through the eyes of Grace, Lia and Sky as if they are one entity. The language MacKintosh uses is beautiful and so many sentences just made me gasp in admiration.

A passage I love:

Llews puts the lid of the piano down without comment, pushes the stool back. There is a fluidity to his movements, despite his size, that tells me he has never had to justify his existence, has never had to fold himself into a hidden thing, and I wonder what that must be like, to know that your body is irreproachable.

“The Art of Hearing Heartbeats” a novel by Jn-Philipp Sendker

The old man’s eyes struck me first.

I love when a friend recommends a book outside of my usual genre. This one sat on my shelf for a long time. I do have quite the TBR stack. When I was returning another book she had given me I decided I may as well give this one back, feeling bad that I’d had it for so long without reading it. But then I glanced at the first few pages and decided to just put my other books aside and read it.Good decision. It is a lovely story that follows Julia to Burma on a quest to discover what happened to her father. It is part mystery, but mostly it is a story of love and connection and the human spirit. 

It’s good to step outside your reading comfort zone. In fact, I think it is essential and will try to so more often.

A line I loved:

This girl moved  with a grace Su Kyi had never before seen. As if her oddly formed feet had given her a different, heightened sense of her limbs and movements.

“The Fifth Risk” by Michael Lewis

Chris Christie noticed a piece in the New York Times—that’s how it all started.

Lewis is a genius at going behind the scenes of what could appear to be boring topics and making them fascinating. This book takes a deep dive into the heart of government. Not just the sexy stories that get all the media attention but the nuts and bolts and people who run the many departments that make up our government.

What inspired me was the dedication that the people who work in the government exhibit. They are there to serve, regardless of party. As Obama’s term came to a close, all the different departments prepared detailed binders of information that the next administration could use. They didn’t have to agree with the policies but the information would be helpful as they transitioned from one administration to the next. What happened instead is…well, is the point of this book. It’s a book every American should read just to understand how our government works. And how it doesn’t work. It’s a book that should be discussed within the media so that we can all see how our government is being broken from the inside.

Some lines that stood out:

“…fifth risk: the risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions.” 

“If your ambition is to maximize short-term gain without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing the cost. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is an upside to ignorance, and a downside to knowledge. Knowledge makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview.” 

“My biggest concern is the misuse of science to support policies.” 

“Broken Things” a YA novel by Lauren Oliver

Five years ago, when I had just turned thirteen, I killed my best friend.

How can you not read on from that first line? Weaving together then and now with pieces of a novel they became obsessed with called, “The Way Into Lovelorn,” we learn about the summer that everything changed for three barely teenage girls. It felt like it might have been inspired by the Slender Man story but if it was, Oliver took it in her own original direction. I had a hard time putting it down as I kept turning the pages to see how it all fit together.

A line I loved:

Words would be less frightening if you could swallow them again, chew them and digest them into nothingness.

“A Happier Hour” a memoir by Rebecca Weller

A blaze of sunlight snuck its way through a gap in the blinds, drilling directly into my eyelids, punishing me.

 I started this in the late afternoon and stayed up until 1:30 in the morning to finish it.

Though I am not writing much about this myself, I am currently exploring not drinking for 60 days. I’m attempting to redefine my relationship to drinking. Reading her story was fascinating. While I don’t drink as much, I could absolutely relate to the amount  of energy expended around drinking. How much? Should I or shouldn’t I? What’s one ore glass? And on and on.

Being able to read her story made me feel less alone. Isn’t that what all reading does? She inspired me to stay the course, to create a toolkit, to be as honest with myself as she was with the world in writing this book in the first place. 

It reminded me yet again of the power of sharing our stories, how we can lift each other up, support and inspire each other when we are authentically ourselves.

A line I could relate to: 

Waking up without a hangover—or heart full of regret—felt utterly delicious, and the thought of not having to deal with another one for three whole months was sublime.

“Era of Ignition- Coming of Age in a Time f Rage and Revolution” by Amber Tamblyn

On the bar in front of me, a tea candle meekly flickered at the end of its wick as I sat next to my husband and wondered how I was going to tell him what I had to tell him.

Back before the 2018 mid-terms, I put out a call to women who lived near me to read Rebecca Traister’s new book, “Good and Mad.” I had a huge response. Women were angry. Women were fired up and wanted to be around other women who felt the same way. Then the mid-terms came and went and a new wave of progressive women came into office and there was hope again. And that hope quelled some of the anger. I tried to put a meeting on the calendar but only one person could make it so I put it off. And we haven’t rescheduled it since then.

Reading Tamblyn’s book now reminds of all the work we still have to do. That we don’t have the luxury of feeling relief that things might be beginning to turn around. That we have the responsibility to stay engaged, to stay angry, to stay fired up and let that energy move into action.

She does an amazing job of weaving her personal story with the larger narrative of feminism and inter-sectionality. She is using her voice and her platform to inform us, to motivate us, to support those who don’t have her kind of reach and voice and power. 

A necessary read for this time of rage and revolution. 

A line that resonated:

“But if ignorance can be a learned behavior, then so too can illumination, and it is within each of us to teach someone willing to grow, and to put our defenses down and receive the same gift in return.”

And you must read the letter she wrote to her daughter.

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Taking Care of Me: It’s not just a hashtag.

Sabbatical image

Image found via Pinterest.

I have chosen to take a yoga teaching sabbatical over the month of May. My youngest daughter graduates from college in the beginning of the month then we leave for our 16-day European adventure four days later then my niece graduates from high school at the end of the month.

I thought about just getting subs for the days I needed but then this idea of having a month off from teaching began to percolate.

At first, I brushed it away. All my usual fear-based thoughts clawed their way to the surface:

You can’t afford that.

Why should you get to take a whole month off?

Who do you think you are?

I am quite familiar with this chorus. It’s the Chorus of Unworthiness. All these voices that pop up to remind me that I am not worthy of money or time or attention or love or (fill in the blank). We all have these voices. They are often labeled the Inner Critic, Inner Judge, Inner Bitch, Inner Mean Girl.

Luckily, I am also quite familiar with recognizing these voices when they appear. Recognizing them as stories and seeing through them. See past them and into the fear behind them and into the truth that lies beyond the words. 

Twenty years ago. I studied with Natalie Goldberg for a week. She spoke about resistance. Resistance to writing, to meditating. She said that resistance is the Guardian at the Gate. Every time we stand up to it and get past it to write or meditate (or whatever it is that we are resisting) we gain power. We prove our mettle. We prove how much this matters to us. 

I see this Chorus of Unworthiness in the same way. Each time I stand up to them, each time I do the thing they don’t want me to do, say the thing they don’t want me to say, dream the dream they think is too audacious, I prove my mettle. I embrace my worthiness.

So, I am standing up to those voices yet again and claiming the month of May as my own. 

It will be a month of adventure and milestones. 

A month of being a student rather than teacher. 

It will be a month of exquisite self-care. The sabbatical itself is an act of exquisite self-care. I’ve given a workshop on self-care and often talk about it in my classes. Now, I am walking my walking.

I am taking care of me because I am worth it. Because I, as much as anyone, deserve my own love and affection. And taking care of me is not just a hashtag—it’s a way of life.

A Work-in-Progress.

Me splatterJPG

This blog is having an identity crisis.

I had changed it to focus on writing at the beginning of the year then promptly lost interest. Not in writing, but in only writing about writing.

While writing is a huge part of my life, it’s not all of my life. And all of my life actually feeds into my writing. I began considering starting another blog for yoga then it reminded me of “The Golden Notebook” by Doris Lessing and I didn’t want to fragment my life like that.

So, here I am. Another incarnation of this space. I want to gather all the pieces of myself here and offer them as a way to connect with my readers. I’m not totally sure what that will look like yet but I am trying to figure it out.

In the meantime, I am totally okay with being a work -in-progress, here, on my mat, on the page and in my life.

Books Read in January + February.

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“Rapt-Attention and the Focused Life” by Winifred Gallagher

Far more than you may realize, your experience, your world, and even your self are the creations of what you focus on.

This was the perfect book to enter the new year with. It’s not a self-help book. It doesn’t offer a step-by-step process to harness your attention. What it does is explore the meaning of attention and focus on our lives. How it shapes us, our relationship, our health, our happiness. I love any information about how the brain works and there is definitely some of that. Our brains are fascinating. But what I came away with was that the quality of our lives is determined by what we do—and don’t—pay attention to.

The epigraph sums it up beautifully:

“My experience is what I agree to attend to.” ~ William James

I underlined so many things but here are a couple that stand out:

As the expression paying attention suggests, when you focus, you’re spending limited cognitive currency that should be invested wisely, because the stares are high.

By helping you to focus on some things and filter out others, attention distills the universe into your universe. 

“How to Not Always Be Working- a toolkit for creativity and radical self-care” by Marlee Grace

Here is a book, a workbook, a guide, an ode to not knowing.

If you are looking for some grace in your life, space to explore, play, be and create, then this delightful book is for you. It reads like a love letter or creative manifesto. She offers exercises but they are gentle nudges towards creating balance in our lives, guiding us into how to not always be working as the title says. As she writes, “this book is for anyone who is looking to show up to their life, this one true journey of being alive.”

A sentence I love:

 This book is not about self-care for the self, but  self-care for the collective and liberation from the obsession fo work.

“Insomnia” by Marina Benjamin

Sometimes the rattle of a clapper sounds over your bed.

Anyone who has struggled with insomnia will deeply understand this book. For those lucky enough to have never experienced it (are there such people) they will still deeply understand what it is like.

It’s a graceful meditation on being awake in the dark hours, on the mysterious world of sleep where we spend such a large part of our lives and on a long-time marriage.

While she explores her own relationship to sleep and insomnia she also weaves in so many other lovely pieces from philosophy to literature that it reads like a beautiful mosaic, each piece better informing the whole. 

A sentence I love:

At the velvet end of my insomniac life I am a heavy-foot ghost, moving from one room to another, weary, leaden—there, but also not there.

“The Dreamers” a novel by Karen Thompson Walker

At first, they blame the air.

I devoured this book in less than three days and I have to say, I think it is one of my most favorite books ever.

The story itself is so intriguing: a mysterious sleeping illness spreads across a campus then out into the small California town of Santa Lora. We see what happens when fear spreads just as fast as this unknown illness. The writing, the sentences are just beautiful. If I underlined every sentence I wish I had written, the whole book would be underlined.

I love how the novel explores time and memory, sleep and dreams, while being anchored in the lives of these characters. Reading it felt like I was entering a dream state with them. 

Simple beautiful and stunning.

A sentence I love:

While Rebecca sleeps, and while the nurses change in and out of their suits, and while, outside, the soldiers go on and off shift, and while the world watches the continuing coverage of the Santa Lora sickness, the small developments of one minute human being go on unfolding at a perfectly predictable rate, like the intricate ticking of the most delicate clock on earth. 

“You Are a Badass-How to Stop Doubting your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero

I used to think quotes like this were a bunch of crap.

If you are looking for a supportive kick-in-the butt, check out Jen Sincero. 

If you’re feeling stuck in your any aspect of your life, read this book.

If you know you are not living up to your potential, read this book.

I was feeling all of those things and now I feel like I am a badass!

For once, I actually did the exercises and uncovered and rewrote some deeply held beliefs that were holding me back. As I wrote in another blog post, once I did that I felt aligned with the flow of the Universe and that has totally shifted how I show up to my life, how I view my writing and the publishing process.

I underlined a lot but here are couple of gems:

So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable.

You playing small simply withholds your gifts from the people who were meant to receive them, including you.

Your faith in The Universe must be stronger than your fear of not getting what you want.

“Lightworker-Understand your Sacred Role as Healer, Guide and Being of Light” by Sahvanna Arienta

In order to understand your lightworker soul, we have to begin with where you come from—Source. Source is an all-knowing, all-powerful entity that dwells in every crevasse of the universe.

I hadn’t really heard the term “Lightworker’ before, or if I had I didn’t give it much energy. But in my roles as writer and yoga teacher, I often write about my intention to be a light in the world, to bring light into the world through my words, through my classes and invite my students to shine their own light. The world just needs more light.

This book was a lovely exploration of what that means. She writes, “It is the Lightworkers’ mission to lend their light energy to a planet heavy with fear and negativity.” And they aren’t just gurus or well-known spiritual teachers. She writes, “They are musicians, shopkeepers, accountants, stay-at-home moms, and people you pass on the street. They share their gifts by speaking out for those who have no voice, and they create glorious works of art that beautify our planet, or write music that elevates our spirits.”

I got a glimpse into the different planes of the universe which will also help me as I write my YA Fantasy trilogy. I learned how important it is to protect and ground my my own energy. I’ve just become more aware of the energy I bring into a space.

A sentence that resonated:

It (Source Energy) is what connects every single thing in the entire universe with every single other thing in the entire universe—from huge things such as solar systems right down to the tiniest atom.

“Inheritance- A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love” by Dani Shapiro

When I was a girl I would sneak down the hall late at night once my parents were asleep.

This book has been on my radar since Shapiro announced its impending publication. She is one of those writers that I would read her grocery list. 

I could not put this book down. It took me maybe 2 days to finish. The story itself is fascinating. She and her husband, almost on a lark, send their saliva into a genealogy service as so many of us do these days, hoping to learn a bit more about their families’ origins. What starts out as a lark soon becomes a shattering discovery when it is revealed that her father is not actually her biological father.

If you’ve read any of her other books, you know that both of her parents died a long time ago so they are not available now to question, to find out exactly what the hell is going on. Shapiro is left to her own devices to unravel the mystery of her paternity and the agonizing question of how much her parents actually knew. Had they been lying to her her entire life or had they been lied to as well?

As always, Shapiro explores her life with an honest yet tender gaze and heart. We feel her pain, her confusion, experiencing the ups and downs as she experienced them as she searches for some semblance of the truth. 

If you look at an index of the books she’s written, it almost seems as if this story was thrumming beneath the surface of her life for years. They all tend to point toward secrecy, history, discovery, this yearning to know and tragedy:

Playing with Fire

Fugitive Blue

Picturing the Wreck

Slow Motion: A True Story

Family History: A Novel

Black & White

Devotion: A Memoir

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

Hourglass

Can’t recommend this book enough.

A sentence I love:

I now understand it as shock: the sense of my own body as foreign, delicate, fractured, and the world at once hostile and implacable in its anonymity.

“The Crossroads of Should and Must- Find and Follow your Passion” by Elle Luna

It was a Tuesday, around 7 AM, when I clicked “publish” on an essay on medium.com titled “The Crossroads of Should & Must.”

The response to that essay was swift and wide-reaching. Clearly, she had hit a nerve.

That nerve led her to write a book based on that essay. It is a delightful book filled with hand-written texts and whimsical illustrations. She shares her own experiences and encourages the reader to explore what is holding them back from following their passion. 

It reminds me a bit of Sark and Mari Andrew but with her own point of view. She really leaves you wondering if you are living a life of should or must.

A question I love:

How long will you wait to honor who you are?

“The Largesse of the Sea Maiden” stories by Denis Johnson

After dinner, nobody went home right away.

Finished shortly before his death, this last collection is just as haunting and moving as his previous work. I remember reading “Jesus” Son” and just being mesmerized by his ability to draw us into the dark corners of life. He does the same here, but there seems to be a certain angle of light in these stories. They aren’t sweet and sappy by any means. No, they still have an edge, a darkness but with humor and the possibility, no matter how small, of hope that beats within the heart of being human.

A passage I love:

I’m writing letters to each one of you lucky winners who has a hook in my heart. Every time your heart beat I can feel a little jerk, just a little something. Whether you like it or not, that’s love.

Showing my Writer-Self Some Love.

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I am learning how to show my writer-self some love every day, not just on Valentine’s Day.

My Writer-Self works hard. She struggles with rejection, with doubts, anxiety. She is constantly honing her craft through intense reading and writing. Even when she isn’t writing, she is thinking about writing. Every experience that crosses her consciousness becomes fodder for her work.

She battles with my inner mean girl and harsh critic constantly so she definitely deserves some love.

Here is what I do:

I’ve created a writing sanctuary. It is a room of my own that when I enter my writer-self sighs with relief. Ah, I am home she says.

I get enough sleep because a tired writer-self is not creative or productive.

I move my body because a cranky body makes for a cranky writer.

I treat her to hot chocolate or chai tea at the local bookstore at her favorite table.

I read books that nourish her heart, mind and soul.

I slow down because life is lived, experienced and written about in the details.

I meditate because a calm mind has room to wander and explore.

I buy colorful pens because she loves to spill colored ink onto page and after page. It makes her heart happy.

I buy beautiful journals because her words are worth it.

I commit time to daily writing because she requires daily attention. It tells her I am serious. It shows her how devoted I am to her.

How do you how your writer-self some love?

 

My Days of Hesitancy are Behind Me.

Days of Hesitancy

My days of hesitancy are behind me.

I recently came across these words while reading “Prayers of Honoring Voice” by the inspiring Pixie Lighthorse. It comes from her prayer, “Honoring Security.”

When I read them them I felt goosebumps multiply up and down my arms. I underlined them. I read them over and over.

My days of hesitancy are behind me.

My days of hesitancy are behind me.

I also just finished reading (and actually doing the work in!) “You Are a Badass” by the awesome Jen Sincero. Her books have been on my radar for a while. I have her book about money and I’ve read part of it. Recently I found that copy, then bought her first and her most recent books.

Books find me when I am ready. I truly believe that. I worked with Sincero’s exercises, even (or especially) the ones that made me uncomfortable or felt a little too “woo-woo.” I worked with affirmations, visualization, beliefs and stories and rewriting them.

Then I read those words: My days of hesitancy are behind me.

It felt like I was in the perfect alignment to receive the power of those words. I was riding the flow of the universe. I was doing the work and this was my gift.

Since then (it’s only been about 3 days) I have sent my novel-in-stories to 4 agents.

4 agents in 3 days.

I haven’t sent my work out to 4 agents ever.

I already received a kind rejection and while I was disappointed my first thought was this:

My agent is out there, we just have’t found each other yet.

And I finally, actually, truly believe that.

My days of hesitancy are truly behind me.

Writing into the Deep.

welcome 2019

Image found via Pinterest.

After a session with a psychic (something I’ve always wanted to do), I’ve changed the focus of my blog to, well, focus more on writing. I realized I was trying to cover everything that interests me: writing, reading, yoga, marriage, family, being vegan, politics. And by trying to cover everything, it all became a bit too diffuse. Nothing was getting the attention it deserved.

By streamlining my focus here, I am finding my focus more streamlined in real life as well. I am currently reading “Rapt” by Winifred Gallagher and she writes about how the quality of our lives depends on where we put our attention. And, just as importantly, where we don’t. (Yeah, social media I’m looking at you.)

In 2019, I am pouring my attention and devotion into writing. Into writing daily. Into submitting my work to magazines. Into finally finding an agent. Into publishing the novel-in-stories that is already done. Into finishing a draft of my current novel. Into finishing a draft of book one in my YA fantasy trilogy. 

Writing into the Deep means writing with deep focus, deep passion. It means writing and stepping into the unknown. It means staying afloat when I don’t know what happens next in a scene or in the submission process. It means writing far past first thoughts into what Natalie Goldberg calls “wild mind” where all the juiciness lives and thrives. 

So, here’s to 2019 and all that it may bring and all that I will bring to it!

What are your 2019 writing intentions/focus/plans/goals? I’d love to hear. 

Five on Friday.

Each Friday I try to share five links that made me think, inspired me or I just found entertaining throughout the week.

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  1. Do you know your writing purpose? Read this to see why you should.
  2. Deep breathing helps not only on your mat. It helps you as a writer, as a human.
  3. I love reading about projects of committing to something creative daily for a year.
  4. Why you should resolve to read more fiction this year
  5. 39 fiction books to add to your TBR list..

Books Read in November + December

Michelle Obama and me

“Shrill” by Lindy WestShrill

I am writing this two weeks after the 2016 presidential election, and in case you don’t remember what that was like, because things have gotten either better or worse—the world feels concussed.

When a writer writes with such clarity, such precision, such honesty I hesitate to add my own feeble words into the mix. All I can say is: read this book. There is not a subject she will shy away from. In fact, she runs head long into each and every subject she takes on including being fat, abortion, her marriage, career, trolls, the internet, death. Each chapter is an artful dance with and dissection of topics that need to come out of the shadows. West shines a light on each one with humor, truth and (to take a phrase from the back jacket copy) “vulnerability and vicious charm.”

I underlined SO many lines but here is just one on the significance of the title:

“‘Shrill’ is a gendered insult; calling a man ‘shrill’ makes as much sense as calling a smell ‘tall.’ To be shrill is to reach above your station; to abandon your duty to soothe and please; in short, to be heard.”

Amen, sistah!

His Favorites“His Favorites”  novel by Kate Walbert

This is not a story I have told before.

Looking back on her girlhood, Jo shares the incident that sent her life and that of her family into a complete different trajectory. She end ups needing to escape her hometown after the tragedy that she caused so she enrolls in a prestigious boarding school. Looking for freedom from that tragedy, for a second chance she tries to navigate this new life the best she can. There are cliques and roommates and the hierarchy of classmates as well as a teacher who grooms selected girls, his favorites, by first inviting them into his coveted Modern Lit class. 

Reading this in this new era of #MeToo reiterates the need for such movement. This slim but powerful novel explores boundaries, time, memory as well as the narrative choices used to be able to tell the story at all. As Jo says, “Someone once told me that memory  is just another draft of a story.”

And this is one of the most beautifully written and satisfying endings of a novel I have ever read.

A description of a golf course (and an exquisite bit of foreshadowing) I love:

“Only sounds of nature and maintenance, dark expanses of expertly mowed grass and hills, sand traps banked against shorn greens with ramrod-straight flags dead in the no-breeze and still water. The all of it designed for entrapment.”

“When Breath Becomes Air” a memoir by Paul KalanithiWhen breath Becoomes Air

I flipped through the CT scan images, the diagnosis obvious: the lungs were matted with innumerable tumors, the spine deformed, a full lobe of the liver obliterated. Cancer.

This book has been on my radar for quite a while. I just love the title. There’s a simple beauty and grace to the words and that same beauty and grace made illuminated the entire book. Despite the heaviness of the topic (cancer, death) there was a lightness to his story. It helped that not only was Kalanithi a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist but hr also studied literature and turned back to literature as a doctor looking for guidance soon the human condition, on loving and dying. His compassion, curiosity and exquisite observation of self and the world around him made him a beautiful writer.

I close the book with sadness. Sadness at the loss of such light in the world but so grateful that he used his precious time to write his story, to share it with us, to illuminate this dance between life and death. But I also closed the book with a sense of peace. He made dying just the tiniest bit less terrifying to me because he lived his life so fully and with such depth. 

A sentence I love:

I had come to see language as an almost supernatural force, existing between people, bringing our brains, shielded in centimeter-thick souls, into communion.

Becoming“Becoming” by Michelle Obama

I spent much of my childhood listening to the sound of striving.

I’ve bought several books that have emerged from these political times and this is the first one I’ve finished, reading it cover to cover, not wanting it to end.

I admit, I was sightly nervous before I began reading it. I’ve admired her immensely for so long and I didn’t want to judge her writing but I also wanted it to not suck. One of my pet peeve is shoddy writing by celebrities.

Well, I needn’t have worried. She is a beautiful writer. She writes of her life and experience with depth and grace. I have several friends who are listening to her read the audio version, and honestly, it felt like she she was sitting next to me, talking like girlfriends. She is fierce and compassionate, intelligent and funny. I admired how she mined her life, looking for the threads that wove together to allow her to become who she was meant to be.

But it is not only about she became Michelle Obama. It is how we each have the ability to rise up and become who we are meant to be.It is about how how our country is still in the midst of becoming who we are meant to be.

A passage I love:

“Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.”

“Hazards of Time Travel” a novel by Joyce Carol OatesHazards of Time Travel

They would not have come for me, naively I drew their attention to me.

In a not too distant future, Ariadne pushes the boundaries imposed on the citizens of NAS (Reconstituted North American States). A valedictorian speech brings unwanted attention by those in charge and the consequences are swift and severe. She is transported back to 1950’s Wisconsin to complete four years of college. Ripped from her family, her friends, her time in history, she is left to manage a life alone. It could’ve been worse. She could’v been deleted. Given strict instructions to not travel far from her epicenter and not to get intimate with anyone else from this time, Ariadne, now going by the name Mary Ellen tries to forge a life in this completely different world than the one she knows. What she knows of this one she learned from history books and stories from her parents. When a professor catches her attention, Ariadne is convinced he is an Exile, like her. A relationship is forbidden, but her loneliness is deep and raw. In a love story that looks ahead as well as back in time, JCO has created a mesmerizing world that is really two worlds reflect that who we were, who we are and who we become.

A passage I love:

I felt like a soft, winged thing, a moth that has been batted out of the air. Not hard enough to break its wings, but hard enough to knock it stunned to earth, and the wings slow-moving, wounded and mute in wonderment.

 

Books Read in September + October.

Sept. Oct. books

“Vox” a novel by Christina Dalcher

If anyone told me I could bring down the president, and the Pure Movement, and that incompetent little shit Morgan LeBron in a week’s time, I wouldn’t believe them. But I wouldn’t argue. I wouldn’t say a thing.

Just like watching “The Handmaid’s Tale,” reading this book scared the crap out of me. I read it with equal parts fascination and horror. 

America is now governed by a far-right Christian idealogue whispering in the president’s ear about the role of women and how they need to know their place and be quiet. Nothing new, right? Only now, the ideas have taken hold and are being  advanced in the most insidious ways possible.

Women are removed from the workforce and replaced with men.

Adultery and same sex relationships invite cruel and unusual punishment.

Far right Christian theology is taught in schools.

And, most insdious of all, females are given a mere 100 words a day to use.

100 words. Total.

They are given word counters to wear on their wrists and if they go over the limit they receive increasingly strong shocks.

Cameras are everywhere so even sign language or non-verbal signals of any kind are abusing the rules.

They aren’t allowed access to the internet, books, pen and paper, the mail. Everything must go through the male of the house.

Dalcher created a world based in reality. I saw echoes of what we are currently living through and it chilled me to the bone.

It was a very hard read but also, an incredibly necessary one.

A sentence that made me gasp in recognition:  “…you can’t protest what you don’t see coming.”

“The Slippery Year- A Meditation on Happily Ever After” a memoir by Melanie Gideon

One day when I was sitting in the carpool line waiting to pick my son up from school, it occurred to me that I had been sleepwalking through my life.”

I am in the process of reading books that have been on my shelf for years. Pretty sure this one called to me back when my daughters were younger and that first sentence grabbed me. When I look back at videos of that time, I see this vacant almost stepford-wife look in my eyes. Back then, while I desperately tried to enjoy every moment, mostly I was just trying to back it through each day.

Now my daughters are about to graduate college. My youngest leaves for a semester abroad this week. I am in a whole other phase of life but parts of this book still resonated with me. Each year feels slippery to me. Each years slips away and I find myself standing there dazed, trying to find my footing. By the time I get used to a particular phase of being a mom or a family, it changes.

I no longer feel like I am sleepwalking through my life. Yoga and writing have changed that. Instead, I am awake to everything, which can be a challenge.

Gideon rises to that challenge as she examines her life, her family and marriage as well as her thoughts and actions even when they don’t reflect her in the most shining light. But that’s what being awake is all about: shining a light into the darkness of ourselves, bringing it out of the shadows so we can live from a space of awareness rather than sleepwalk  through our lives.

A sentence on marriage that really resonated: This is what happens when you’ve been together for nearly twenty years. You become strangers and then you recognize each other and then you become strangers again and you repeat this pattern this loop this skein over and over again.

“Waking Up in Winter- In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife” by Cheryl Richardson 

I woke up to a cool breeze drifting through the bedroom window.

September is  month of transitions. Transitioning into fall, back into a routine, back to school. Midlfe is a transition I am currently examining, exploring, living it so I am drawn to books that do the same.

I love that Richardson was inspired by the journals of May Sarton. I discovered her back in my thirties but I think now may be a good time to read her again.

Richardson sets out on year of discovery as she dives into her life by writing in a journal, trying to get beneath the surface of things, finding depth where life feels shallow, discovering who she is and what she wants at this midpoint of her life. 

I absolutely relate to this. It makes me want to keep a similar journal, one that isn’t morning pages or writing practice but a space to meander and really explore my life as I navigate this latest transition.

Sentences that resonated: 

Autumn will soon give way to winter, the perfect time to hole up and explore the inner world.

I’ve never been motivated to do more by feeling less than, I’ve never been inspired to reach higher by putting myself in the one-down position. I’ve never ever done my best after berating myself for not being good enough.

Today has been a tender day.

“Journal of a Solitude-The intimate diary of a year in the life of a creative woman” by May Sarton

Begin here. It is raining.

So, after being inspired by the previous book, I picked up this one to reread. I don’t often reread books anymore because so many books, not nearly enough time. But this one was worth it.

I first read it when I was in my thirties, now I am in my fifties. Not quite as old as Sarton was when she wrote it, but definitely in a totally different stage of my own life.

Some passages that I underlined then still resonated but so many new ones emerged that didn’t resonate at all 20 year ago.

One big thing  I noticed is that the last time I read it I completely related to her struggles with her temper. It’ s a big theme in this book and back then it was something I struggled with as well. Now, at 53, I no longer struggle with it. Oh, I get angry for sure but it never feels out of my control. I never feel this shame afterward like I used to. It might be age but I really think it is yoga. Living my yoga both on and off the mat has had the biggest impact on me.

I love how she is so connected to nature and the weather and the seasons–it becomes almost another character in her journal, in her life. It makes me want to create that same awareness in my own life.

A sentence that still resonates: 

I have written every poem, every novel, for the same purpose—to find out what I think, to know where I stand.

A sentence that resonates now:

The ash has lost its leaves and when I went out to get the mail and stopped to look up at it, I reduced to think that soon everything here will be honed down to structure.

P.S. After reading the next book I stumbled across this passage that perfect captures how I felt upon rereading this book: 

“When we revisit a book we’ve read before, we see how life has woken us up to understand passages that previously went over our heads. The book itself highlights the gap between who I am and who I used to be.”

“I’d Rather Be Reading-The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life” by Anne Bogel

“Can you recommend a good book?”

I couldn’t fall asleep the other night so I picked up this new little book to read until I got sleepy. Big mistake. I stayed up until two in the morning getting more than half way through. And yes, I get the irony of staying up late reading a book about reading books.

I identified with pretty much every word: finding sanctuary in libraries and bookstores, recommending books, not reading the books people have loaned to me, rereading books and connecting with them in a new way, the joy and soothing quality of organizing my book shelves, my fascination with the acknowledgments in books, crossing the line from being told what to read by parents and teachers to finding the books I want to read.

I could go on and on but I’ll just say that if you love books, then read this one.

A passage I love (and explains perfectly why I’ve been keeping this reading log for so many years):

“We are readers. Books grace our shelves and fill our homes with beauty; they dwell in our minds and occupy our thoughts. Books prompt us to spend pleasant hours alone and connect us with fellow readers. They invite us to escape into their pages for an afternoon, and they inspire us to reimagine our lives. Good reading journals provide glimpses of how we’ve spent our days, and they tell the story of our lives.”

“Miss Portland” novel by David Ebenbach

Zoe knew what other people didn’t: she knew that life wasn’t perfectible.

I discovered this awesome writer and human when he graciously reached out to let me know how much he enjoyed reading a story of mine he found at literarymama.com. He’s a generous writer who seeks to connect and support the creative community around him.

This novel is a beautiful journey into the depths of Zoe Tussler, a character I won’t soon forget. Always seeking something, some key that will turn things around for her, Zoe moves her life to Portland, Maine where she sill be near Gordy but insists she didn’t move for him.

She hopes to follow through on their plan to open a mindfulness center but when Gordy doesn’t seem to be moving in that direction, Zoe tries to round up a few clients on her own, hoping to build some momentum that will finally propel her into being the person she desperately longs to be. 

Always feeling out of place, Zoe attempts to find her place there in Portland where people seem to keep to themselves, and she tries to find her place within Gordy’s life.

Exploring from deep inside the experience of mental illness, I found myself deeply connected to her internal dialogue and her internal struggles while rooting for her to find a peace within herself.

A sentence I loved: 

Late at night, Zoe would keep the main lights off in her room so that her roommate, who was a generally exasperated woman from Missouri somewhere, could sleep, and Zoe would turn on a little clip-on book light and huddle over one of her books from this religion class she was taking, or over her spiral-bound journal, writing so intensely that the force of the ball-point pen grooved many pages underneath the one she was writing on, like her ideas were already creating ripples in the universe.

“Inadvertent” by Karl Ove Knausguaard

The question of why I write sounds simple, but simple is treacherous, for now I have been sitting here in front of my desk in southern Sweden for three days without making any headway.

Part of the “Why Write”series, Knausguaard explores exactly that but it’s not a linear trail from point A to Point B. Instead, he takes us on a journey from the inside out, circling in and zooming back out as he wrestles with this question of why he writes. What propels him to put marks on a page? What is his intention? It’s a beautifully complex exploration that takes us deep into his psyche, as well as deep into literature and reading and ultimately what is the purpose of stories at all.

A sentence I love:

To read is to be the citizen of another country, in a parallel realm which every book is a door to.

“Good and Mad-The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger” by Rebecca Traister

The contemporary reemergence of women’s rage as a mass impulse comes after decades of feminist deep freeze.

I found this book in the middle of the Kavanaugh hearings when my own rage was reaching its peak. (Though, I think that every week and it only gets bigger and deeper and stronger.) I tossed out an invite to local women who might want to read it and gather at some point to discuss and almost every single one was in. 

Women’s rage is a thing, people. A thing to take seriously. A thing to dismiss at your own peril.

Traister is a brilliant researcher and writer. She not only lays out all the reasons we currently have to be angry but she maps out the history of our rage and how it has changed the course of history. From suffragettes who chained themselves to the White House to Rosa Parks. She thoughtfully examines the ways that white women have let down women of color over the decades and why that can’t happen now. She explores the double standard that we saw on full display at the hearings where men are revered for their righteous anger while women are held in contempt if they allow their anger to leak out at all.

Reading this book was infuriating, enlightening and empowering.

A must read. For everyone.

I underlined and starred and stuck post-it notes and scrawled WTF?! in the margins of so many pages so here is just one passage I will share:

This is one of anger’s most important roles: it is a mode of connection, a way for women to find each other and realize that their struggles and their frustrations are shared, that they are not alone, not crazy. If they are quiet, they will remain isolated. But if they howl in rage. someone else who shares their fury will hear them, might start howling along. This is, of course, partly why those who oppress women work to stifle their anger.

“Made by May” a novel by Laura Catherine Brown

Unfortunately, we are unable to consider you as adoptive parents on our register at this time. 

After the heaviness of Traister’s book, I needed to escape and this novel (that came on radar via David Ebenbach) did just the trick. I took it on vacation with me (a highly coveted role for my books) and fell into the world of Mary and Ann and their search for connection with each other and the world.

Because of a medical condition, Ann is unable to conceive, because of other reasons, they are unable to adopt. Her mother, Mary, a hippie, pagan, sensual woman steps forward to offer the ultimate gift. She will be a surrogate for Ann and Joel. Together they all enter the ethical minefield of surrogacy, parenthood and technology all swirled within the world of Goddesses and crystals and tarot cards and magic.

It’s a beautiful story of finding your path, straying off of it, finding a new path and connecting with what you most deeply desire and those you love.

A description I love:

The house appeared uninhabited, its raw wood exposed like naked skin beneath flecks of peeling paint. A torn sofa commanded half the porch. Dead plants drooped in pots suspended from the porch eaves, as if someone had once made an effort.

“Almost Everything-Notes on Hope” by Anne Lamott

l am stockpiling antibiotics for the apocalypse, even as I await the blossoming of paper whites on the windowsill in the kitchen.

Anne Lamott is one of those writers who if she wrote a grocery list, I’d want to read it. She has been getting me through challenging times since I first discovered her book “Operating Instructions” when my children were little and she helped me feel a little less crazy when I read that not every moment of motherhood is a Hallmark moment. 

She continues to soothe my battered soul today with this new book on hope. I went to see her in Ann Arbor and she is just what I needed. Her presence, her wisdom, her truth, her humor lifted me briefly out the stew of perpetual angst I’ve found myself in for the last two years.

Reading her words is like sitting down with a dear, tough friend who knows exactly how to talk you off whatever ledge you find yourself on. She never sugarcoats it, but still manages to find the bloom of hope in even the bleakest of times.

Must-read for these times.

The best description of God I’ve ever come across:

“We are talking about a higher power, a power that might be called Not Me, a kindness, a patience, a hope, which is everywhere, even in our annoying, self-centered, fraudulent selves.”