Archive for the ‘Reading Life’ Category


Happy holiday weekend to my American readers, and happy new week to my international friends!  I hope everyone had a good weekend.  We definitely did – it was insanely unseasonably warm in D.C. – temps in the 70s all weekend – and we definitely took advantage of the heat wave.  I felt a bit guilty about being so giddy over the warm weather – that whole climate change business, and all – but if there was ever a weekend that called for nice weather, this was it.  So I tried to push aside my guilt and just enjoy it.  On Saturday, Peanut and I walked out for a play date with her little BFF from school.  Peanut and her friend had fun painting pottery and I had fun chatting with the other mom.  The rest of Saturday was devoted to house projects, since it was “productivity day.”  I’m pleased to report that I finally cleaned the pantry out, and can now find the mac ‘n cheese again.  (#priorities)  On Sunday, the weather was so gorgeous that I spent almost the entire day outside – hiking at Lake Accotink in the morning (recap coming on Friday for the 12 Months’ Hiking Project), relaxing on the porch with the winter issue of Slightly Foxed during naptime, and finally a walk down to a different playground, the waterfront, and around the downtown area after nap.  Glorious!  My office is closed today, so we’ll be enjoying more sunshine (and squeezing in a little remote work) the rest of the day.

emily-of-new-moon frederick-douglass 1984

Reading.  I had a great reading week last week!  Finished up Emily of New Moon, my childhood favorite, for #ReadingEmily – read my thoughts on it here, plus musings on childhood classics here.  After a good dose of comfort reading in the form of a visit with Emily Starr, I turned to two classics, both of which are having a moment and both of which are distressing in their own way.  First, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (I heard he’s being recognized more and more?!?!), which I’d been meaning to read forever and which seemed like a perfect choice for Black History Month.  And then, my current read – 1984, by George Orwell – another that I’d been meaning to read for quite some time.  I read Animal Farm many years ago, but was finally inspired to kick 1984 up to the top of my TBR after it sold out on Amazon (!!!) recently.  It’s due back to the library in a couple of days, and has quite the waiting list, so I’ve got to make haste and finish it up.  Next up, I think, will be How to Be a Victorian – finally.

Watching.  We’re back to Rock the Park and watching about one episode a night.  The last few episodes haven’t been my favorite – they’re all good, of course, and beautifully shot, but I’m more interested in the episodes in which Jack and Colton visit a park that’s high on my list, or undertake an adventure that I’d like to try.  So, less scuba diving – which is something I’ve no desire to do – and more rock-climbing, please!

Listening.  Still on a podcast jag – I needed a break from long audiobooks (although I’ll get back to Middlemarch soon).  I’ve been enjoying catching back up on The Book Riot podcast, and I’m jealously hoarding three episodes of Tea or Books? that accrued while I was listening to the investment course.

Making.  Lots of productive things.  I made a clean pantry over the weekend – that was no small feat.  Other than that, really all I’ve been making has been lots and lots of work product.  I had a 50+ hour week last week – several days in a row of getting up at 4:30 and putting in two hours before the kids woke up, working nonstop all day, and then putting in more time at night.  The rest of February is looking almost as hectic.  I’d envisioned this “making” prompt as a way to tell you about great meals I’ve cooked, or knitting or photography projects I’m working on, but there’s been precious little of that.  Well, all things in their season.

Blogging.  This week, I’m planning to re-post an older post I wrote about comfort reading on Wednesday, since that seemed like something that might be sort of timely for many of my friends.  And on Friday, I’ll have a recap of our February hike at Lake Accotink in Springfield, Virginia.  Can’t wait to show you all the pictures!

Loving.  This post (“3 ways to listen to Audible audiobooks without a membership”) from Modern Mrs. Darcy.  Anne has some of the best tricks for saving on ebooks and audiobooks – I get her daily list of kindle deals in my email and have bought several of the books that she’s featured – and no one does a better job of navigating the sometimes confusing world of Amazon and Audible to find the best deals.  All of her audiobook posts are worth reading – I went back through them when I was deciding whether to get an Audible membership – but this post is the best, because Anne lets you in on the secret (or at least, it was a secret to me) that several of the companion audiobooks to classic novels are read by some of the best Audible narrators, including some celebs.  As a result of reading the post, I rushed to Amazon and snatched up the kindle version of Anne of Green Gables, all so that I could add the audio version narrated by Rachel McAdams for $1.99 – much less than even the Audible member price.  It had been on my wish list for months; thanks to Anne, I saved a bundle on an audiobook I would have bought eventually, but for much more money, and snatched up several Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell titles as well just because the companion audiobook was narrated by Juliet Stevenson, whom I adore.  If you’re even considering an Audible membership, be sure to read this and Anne’s other audiobook posts.  I have no intention of getting rid of my Audible membership at present, but I’m still getting a ton out of this post, and scoring some major deals on Audible books that I would otherwise have spent valuable credits on.

Asking.  What are you reading/watching/listening to/loving this week?

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I was always a bookish kid.  Much like Peanut today, I loved books even before I could read – although I only have very foggy memories of a time before reading.  My mom, an elementary school teacher, taught me to read before kindergarten, so it’s hard for me to remember lacking at least rudimentary reading skills.  As I grew older, I devoured pretty much anything and everything printed.  My tastes were pretty indiscriminate – obviously, the back of a cereal box wasn’t as great as, say, a Baby-Sitters Club book, but if it had words, I was here for it.

Despite my own tendency to read anything that crossed my path, my mom and grandmothers tried to steer me toward the better children’s literature.  Think more “Lake of Shining Waters” and less “Claudia Kishi’s room” – although I definitely still read the prevalent middle grade fiction of the day, too – a.k.a. Sweet Valley Twins and later Sweet Valley High in addition to The Baby-Sitters Club.  But my best reading memories from childhood are the books that have endured.  I have fond recollections of curling up in my grandmother’s armchair, in a sunny spot right in the window, and not looking up from Anne of Green Gables for several hours.  (She had a blue and white hardcover edition with a picture of Anne, braids blazing, sitting on the bench at White Sands Station waiting for Matthew Cuthbert to pick her up.  That was my first encounter with L.M. Montgomery, who would become the best-loved and most-read author of my growing-up years.)

The Anne books.  Later, the Emily trilogy, which was the defining reading experience of my childhood – maybe of my life.  (Wondering about my daughter’s name?  It’s not a coincidence.)  Jane of Lantern Hill, which I read so many times that my paperback copy – I still have it – is almost as tattered as my Emily books.  And the lesser-known Montgomery works – The Story Girl, The Golden Road, Kilmeny of the Orchard, The Chronicles of Avonlea, and so many more.

From time to time, I ventured off of Prince Edward Island and read other children’s and youth classics.  I spent nearly as much time in a covered wagon with Laura Ingalls as I did roaming the shores of PEI with Anne and Emily.  Little Women was a favorite, as was The Secret Garden – which was, perhaps, the only book that captured my imagination as much as the L.M. Montgomery books.  (I liked A Little Princess, as well, and read it many times.  But it couldn’t compete with The Secret Garden.)  Of course, I was a huge fan of Madeleine L’Engle and read both the Time books and the Austin Family series over and over.  And The Chronicles of Narnia until I had it practically memorized.  And of course, Winnie-the-Pooh.   Less frequent re-reads included RedwallHeidi and Hans Brinker.  But looming over all others were Anne Shirley, Emily Starr, Jane Stuart and Sara Stanley.


I always felt good about my childhood reading.  My mom made sure that I had plenty of books at my disposal – both through birthday and Christmas gifts and through regular trips to the library.  As I got older, L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Frances Hodgson Burnett gave way to Jane Austen, Eudora Welty and Agatha Christie.  I think I’ve read lots of good books in my time here (and hopefully, I’ll have time for lots more).  Yet as an adult, thinking down the road to my own daughter’s middle school library, I am realizing that there were thousands of pages of children’s and youth classics that I somehow missed as I was gobbling up every Avonlea story I could get my hands on.  Most of them, I still have not read.

  • The Betsy-Tacy books, by Maud Hart Lovelace.  Somehow, as I devoured one Maud (Montgomery), I missed another (Lovelace).  I had no idea these books existed until my friend Katie mentioned them on her blog.  Since then, I’ve read the entire Betsy-Tacy series – all ten – and my only regret is that I never knew about the books as a child.  They would have been a perfect place to jump after exhausting Avonlea.
  • The Shoe books, by Noel Streatfield.  Although I loved the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” and must have watched it dozens of times (it’s still a favorite) for some reason I never picked up on Kathleen Kelly’s recommendation of “the Shoe books,” and particularly Ballet Shoes.  I still haven’t read them – must fix that.
  • I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith.  I so regret missing out on I Capture the Castle in high school; I’d have loved it.  I first read it as an adult, after a work friend urged her copy into my tote bag.  What a delight.  It’s a favorite now, although I’ve yet to read anything else by Dodie Smith.  I hope to correct that omission in 2017.
  • The Swallows and Amazons books, by Arthur Ransome.  I have absolutely no excuse for missing out on Swallows and Amazons and its progeny, since my camp BFF, Sarah, loved them.  (We went to a sailing program at our camp, and these are books in which the characters have adventures on their sailboats.  How on earth did I not read them?)  They’re very high on my list for 2017.
  • The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge.  I never even heard of Elizabeth Goudge until I grew up.  My first awareness of her came after reading that The Little White Horse was one of J.K. Rowling’s favorite books.  (I’ve acquired a gorgeous edition from The Folio Society, and read it last month – what a joy.)  I’ve since discovered that Goudge also wrote books for adults, that have been described as an ideal next step after finishing all of L.M. Montgomery.  Again – how did I miss that?
  • The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  How many bookish kids count The Hobbit as one of their childhood reading influences?  Lots, but not me.  This is another one I never read until adulthood.  Although I loved the Narnia books, I never touched Tolkien until my thirties.  I was really missing out, wasn’t I?  (I’ve since read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, once each, and I really need to re-read them and delve further into Tolkien’s worlds.)
  • The Railway Children and Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit.  I didn’t read E. Nesbit until adulthood.  Even now, I’ve read The Railway Children (and I would have loved that book as a kid) but have yet to pick up Five Children and It, or anything else, by E. Nesbit.  I know she’s beloved by many – must get to her soon.

I’m sure there are more.  It constantly amazes me that – even as a bookish kid who constantly had my nose stuck between the covers of a book, and whose mom made a point of putting good books in my path – I somehow missed so many classics.

What childhood classics did you discover as an adult?

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WOW.  I can’t believe that tomorrow is the last day of January.  How is 2017 already 1/12 over?  How can that be?  And yet it feels like we’ve lived several lifetimes in the last week alone.  But – I try hard to keep this a politics-free space, as challenging as that is becoming, so no more about You Know Who.  For now.  How were your weekends?  Mine was… okay.  Saturday started off dicey, when Nugget woke up at 4:45 with absolutely no intention of going back to sleep.  I tried bringing him into bed with us, despite having a 0% success rating on that tactic in the past – hope springs eternal.  We ended up dozing together in his rocking chair for about 90 minutes until sunrise.  Not a great start for Productivity Day, but I did my best.  We ran some errands in the morning – a haircut for Nugget, then the grocery store – and then I came home with the beginnings of a sore throat.  I worked (paying work, not house chores) while the kids napped, squeezed in a bit of a nap of my own, and then rallied for a family walk after they woke up, even though by then I felt horrible.  Swallowing was excruciating and I had a pounding headache on top of it.  I pushed through to their bedtimes and crashed on the couch at 8:00 – Saturday night and I know how to party.  I still felt kind of crummy on Sunday, but we saddled up and headed off to meet my friend Carly and her family at the zoo.  I figured my throat would hurt the same no matter where I was, so why ruin everyone else’s good time?  I started feeling a little better as the morning went on, and we got to see most of the coolest exhibits – the cheetahs were closed and we ran out of time to see my favorites, the lions, but we got in quality time with the sea lions, the bald eagle, the elephants, the pandas, the great apes (baby orangutan for the win!) the reptiles (Peanut’s on a snake kick, don’t ask me) and more.

notwithstanding the-little-white-horse the-making-of-a-marchioness

Reading.  I have gone full-steam into comfort reads this week.  They were the only thing I could bring myself to pick up.  Finished Notwithstanding: Stories of an English Village by the author of Corelli’s Mandolin on Wednesday (okay, but not great) and then – I couldn’t wait any longer – picked up my GORGEOUS Folio Society edition of The Little White Horse, a children’s classic I’d never read before.  (The picture above is of the edition I have.  It’s even more stunning in person.)  I devoured it and seriously considered flipping right back to the beginning and starting again, but chose instead to pick up another classic that was calling to me – The Making of a Marchioness, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  FHB wrote one of my childhood favorites – The Secret Garden – but I’d never read any of her adult fiction.  How can that be?  Loving it so far.  The comfort reads are exactly what the doctor ordered – expect to see more of them, although I’ll have to turn back to my library stack soon.

Watching.  Not much of anything this week.  A few episodes of Rock the Park here and there, and some National Geographic animal videos with the kiddos after the zoo yesterday.  But I’ve been more inclined to my comfort reads.  Oh, and I can’t get enough of two videos I saw on Facebook – the Dutch “welcome” to Trump (I was weeping, it was so funny – “We built a whole ocean; nobody builds better oceans than we do”) and the Thug Notes discussion of Pride and Prejudice (hilarious and smart).

Listening.  Most of the week was devoted to Middlemarch on Audible.  (I’m down to a little over 16 hours of listening time left. Considering the book is over 35 hours, that means I’m past halfway – holla!)  Over the weekend I took a little break from Eliot and listened to part of The Great Courses: Money Management Skills, which I picked up for $2.95 after Anne Bogel featured it in her Great Kindle Deals email.  I’m about an hour in and finding it very interesting and informative.

Making.  A completed 2016 family yearbook – just finished yesterday!  Ordered and everything, thanks to a 50% off deal on Shutterfly.  The books are a big investment of time and money but, I think, totally worth it.  I love flipping through books from previous years, remembering all of our family adventures.

Blogging.  This week, I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to answer the question of what’s saving my life lately on Wednesday, and sharing my winter list (only halfway through the winter!) on Friday.  Should be a fun week around these parts.

Loving.  I’ve been loving watching my social media feed explode with examples of people banding together to stand up and #RESIST the forces of hatred and bigotry.  Of course, I wish more than anything else that it wasn’t necessary – and I’ve been beyond ashamed of the government this past week; every act more disgusting and outrageous than the last – but I’m proud of everyone who has been protesting and speaking out.  These people work for US and we’re the boss, and I hope folks remember that at the polls.  I’m still looking for the best way to get involved myself – so far it’s taken the form mostly of donations to causes I believe in, and additional pro bono work – but I’d like to get more involved on the ground, so I’m working on that.

Asking.  What are you reading/watching/making/loving this week?

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Well, here we go again – another new week.  How was everyone’s weekend?  Decently productive over here.  It was the second weekend of our “one day for family fun, one day for chores” scheme, and we ended up flipping the days because Saturday’s weather (even though grey and misting) was better than Sunday’s.  I’d been seriously considering going to the Women’s March on Washington – I was thinking I might push Peanut in the stroller – but decided against attending, mainly because I was a little anxious about the event.  To quote a work friend who also opted out, “It only takes one crazy with a gun.”  I also have another state Bar application in progress and I didn’t want to jeopardize that with any police entanglements.  So I reminded myself that I was there on Election Day and I did my part in pulling the lever for Hillary.  Of course, with 20-20 hindsight – knowing that the protests were peaceful, no violence and no police clashes – I wish I’d gone.  But instead, I took on a new pro bono case, made a statement of support for the National Park Service after they were banned from Twitter by the Trump Administration (I just threw up a little) (and so it begins) and lived to fight another day.  We spent Saturday at Great Falls, hiking the North River Trail into Riverbend Park, talking about how much we love our National Parks and how horrified we are about the news that they’ve been banned from Twitter.  (And I waved the Adirondack flag over the Falls, just for good measure – we love state parks, too!)  Sunday was devoted to grocery shopping, food prep, and completing our unpacking in the dining room – a productive day.


Reading.  Decently productive reading week, too – helped out by the fact that I left my phone in Nugget’s room overnight on Saturday, and so could not be distracted from my book (The Fate of the Tearling).  But that’s jumping ahead.  I finished March: Book 3 last Monday (astonishing and necessary), then read Becoming Nicole in less than 24 hours – I couldn’t put it down.  Finally, after avoiding it for two weeks, I then picked up The Fate of the Tearling.  I know that the Queen of the Tearling trilogy has tons of fans, and I don’t dislike it, per se, but I just don’t see what the fuss is about.  The third book, like the first two, was fine – although the ending was a massive WTF for me.  (Sorry if that’s a spoiler – it’s not meant as such.)  Now I’m just a few stories into Notwithstanding, a book of linked short stories from the author of Corelli’s Mandolin – so far, I’m enjoying it.  Next up, I think I’m finally going to tackle the new Jonathan Safran Foer – wish me luck.

Watching.  I might have to go back to my old format if I can’t mix it up more, but I can’t help it – I get on jags.  Steve and I are still working our way through Season 2 of Rock the Park.  We have decided that we are going to Denali to pet sled dog puppies, because CUTE!  I think we may have to stop watching, though.  Sunday night’s two episodes were so epic and amazing that there’s probably nowhere to go but down.  First, Jack and Colton hiked in Mt. Rainier National Park with then-Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.  And then, they CLIMBED. THE. GRAND TETON.  THE GRAND TETON.  Yup, we’re not watching anymore – that was the limit.  Just kidding.  We’re totally addicted.

Listening.  Still going strong with Middlemarch on Audible, even though my podcatcher is starting to fill up again.  Since I know you’re all wondering – Mr. Casaubon is every bit as infuriating on audio as he is in print!  He is. The actual. Worst.  Amirite?

Making.  A fully unpacked and cleaned out dining room (this is exciting stuff, guys) and an empty upstairs hallway – again!  Not to mention a fridge full of sliced veggies and hard-boiled eggs, because I am starting a modified Whole 30 today (wish me luck).  I wish I had something more fun to report to you.  Oh – here’s something fun.  I’m nearly done with my 2016 family yearbook!  Layout, backgrounds and embellishments are done.  I just have to finish the captions and proofread it, and then I’ll be ready to press the “order” button the next time there’s a 50% off sale (those books aren’t cheap).

Blogging.  Coming up this week, I have good stuff!  Book superlatives on Wednesday, and a recap of Saturday’s hike at Riverbend Park (the first in my rekindled Twelve Months Hiking Project series – hurray!) on Friday.  Check back!

Loving.  Even though I didn’t go myself, I loved all the pictures in my social media feed from the women’s marches around the country and the world.  We are a pretty amazing community of women (and men!) and I just hope that this energy continues.  If you were marching on Saturday, I also love you.

Asking.  What are you reading/watching/loving this week?


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Well – it’s here.  I sort of didn’t believe this day would actually come – but of course, I knew that it had to.  And now it’s here.  Inauguration Day.  Eight years ago, I was on the Mall for President Obama’s first inauguration.  It was one of my dad’s “bucket list” items to attend a Presidential inauguration, and the historic nature of President Obama’s was appealing.  So – we went; Steve, my dad, and I.  We spent the night in the West End apartment of a friend who had (probably wisely) decamped to another state for the weekend, so that we wouldn’t have to fight the Metro on our way in.  And we walked down to the Mall early on Inauguration Day morning.  The crowds were intense and we ended up probably a half mile back from the Capitol steps – all the way down the grass at the Smithsonian Museum of American History (which felt fitting, after all).  The cold was intense, too.  I spent most of the day hopping up and down, trying to stay warm in my warmest ski parka, while my dad waited in interminable hot chocolate lines.  But at the end of the day, we’d seen Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th President of the United States and we walked home beaming.

This year – I have no desire to fight the crowds and attend the inauguration.  I don’t even plan to turn on the television.  My office is closed, as are pretty much all offices in downtown D.C., and I’m planning to spend the day in front of my computer, working from home, and ignore the fact that something huge and upsetting is going on just across the river.  I’ll take refuge in work and then, if I get through my to-do list, I’ll open a book and turn to my lifelong comfort – words.

We all have our ways of coping in times of national (and personal) stress.  Steve likes to take out his frustrations in a video game.  I know people who pound it out at the gym or who pour themselves into knitting, baking, running, or innumerable other pastimes when they’re stressed.  For me, salvation and clear-headedness are found mostly in two places: on the hiking trails, and between the covers of a book.  And since Election Day, I’ve taken particular comfort in my old friend – words – when the going got tough.

Historical Documents


On Election Day, I left the house and walked to my polling place (living in a walkable neighborhood again after a few years is such a delight).  I cast my ballot, exchanged a few jokes and pleasantries with the Hillary campaign folks gathered just over the “no campaigning line” on my way out, and walked to the Metro to head into the office.  As I walked to the train, the enormity and historical significance of this election overwhelmed me and I started to cry.  I really believed that my candidate was going to win (she did pretty much sweep my little liberal Northern Virginia bubble, and I was proud, later, that it was our votes in the D.C. suburbs that delivered Virginia to her).  But I still felt all weird and shaky for some reason.  So when I got to work, I grabbed a cup of coffee from the kitchenette and fired up my work computer to read the only thing that I thought was going to comfort me in that moment – the Declaration of Sentiments.

 We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…

In college I visited Seneca Falls, site of the historic signing of the Declaration of Sentiments and the birthplace of the women’s rights movement (now a national historic park).  I can’t wait to take Peanut there someday, and show her this important place to her heritage.  And on Election Day 2016, as I read articles about women in Rochester waiting in long lines to leave their “I Voted” stickers on Susan B. Anthony’s grave, the Declaration of Sentiments seemed like the words I needed to have in my head.  I left the document open on my computer screen all day.

News Coverage

Of course, we all know how Election Day turned out.  Everyone coped differently.  Some avoided all news coverage; I found myself sucking down article after article on The Washington Post and The Atlantic‘s websites.  I know, I know.  Reading those publications wasn’t going to do much to explain to me How This Could Possibly Happen In America.  But I wasn’t looking for those kinds of answers just then.  I was looking for comfort, remember?  They delivered that comfort, weirdly, amongst the doom and gloom.

Alexandra Petri, the hilarious voice behind the ComPost blog (and one of my favorite satirical writers) wrote:

You go to Baba Yaga’s chicken-legged shack on the edge of the forest. “Please,” you say. “Take anything you want. I will make any trade. My free press? My bodily autonomy? My voice? My right to a place at the table?”

Baba Yaga looks at you, confused. “You must trade something you still have.”

(From “The Five Stages of Trump Grief,” November 11, 2016).

And Garrison Keillor, that giant of the intellectual community (and D.C. darling) gave us these words in the Post, which were shared and shared and shared in my Facebook feed and which I must have read a dozen times if I read them once:

We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear.  The government is in Republican hands.  Let them deal with him.  Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids, and we Democrats can go for a long, brisk walk and smell the roses.

(From “Trump Voters Will Not Like What Happens Next,” November 9, 2016.)  Keillor’s words were the only thing that made me smile on November 9th.  All of his plans sound great – well, except for maybe meditating, which is something I’ve never been able to get the hang of doing.  But reading Jane Austen, raising heirloom tomatoes, tasting artisan beer and traveling?  Sign me up.

In the days after the election, I devoured satire, along with social justice reading lists, calls to action, hand-wringing blog posts, and articles that began to take apart the question that historians will study for years – how on Earth…?


(Busted.  That’s The Secret Garden playbill she’s reading, not Hamilton.  We’re not taking her with us when we see the show on Broadway in October.  Oh, yeah, did I tell you we finally got tickets?!)

I stay and work with Hamilton.  We write essays against slavery.  And every day’s a test of our camaraderie and bravery.

(John Laurens as portrayed by Anthony Ramos in Hamilton.)

It’s not exactly a change to say that we are listening to Hamilton a lot in our house.  The whole family loves the soundtrack – from Steve, who now knows it well enough to know when to adjust the volume (for instance, before just about every Hercules Mulligan line except for “Yo, I’m a tailor’s apprentice, and I got y’all knuckleheads in loco parentis.”) down to Nugget, who has recently started to bust out with “Frow my shot! Shot!” at the cutest possible moments.  Of course Peanut is a huge fan of the Schuyler Sisters – especially Angelica – and she requests “Wait For It,” her favorite song, every morning on the way to school.

Hamilton, as just about everyone knows at this point, is truly a musical for our times.  In telling the story of the American Revolution through hip-hop, rap, salsa, jazz, and so many other styles of song, Hamilton also speaks volumes about the current state of our great experiment.  The cast has been outspoken throughout the election process, using their fame to reach millions of people with their message of inclusivity and diversity.  And of course, the music is awesome.

I think your pants look hot.  Laurens, I like you a lot.

As I’ve been listening on an almost daily basis after the election, a few lines have jumped out as particularly poignant or relevant.  They’re usually delivered by one of my favorite characters in the show – John Laurens.  I have a soft spot for Washington, of course.  But Laurens was a historical figure about whom I didn’t know much, and Anthony Ramos’ portrayal of Hamilton’s best friend and fellow aide-de-camp to Washington is one of the best in the show, I think.  Laurens – an ardent abolitionist – also has some of the most thought-provoking lines for our time.

Rise up.
When you’re living on your knees, you
Rise up.
Tell your brother that he’s gotta
Rise up.
Tell your sister that she’s gotta
Rise up.
When are these Colonies gonna
Rise up?

And of course,

Tomorrow there’ll be more of us.

Yes, there will.  To quote Hamilton – “Laurens, do not throw away your shot.”

Books, Always

the-audacity-of-hope  underground-railroad

in-the-country-we-love  march-3

Eventually I had to take a step back from news coverage.  I didn’t totally eliminate it – I’m still checking my preferred news sites every day – but I couldn’t immerse myself in it anymore.  I’m always reading a book, so it’s not really news that I read books after the election.

The first book I requested from the library after the election was The Audacity of Hope, President Obama’s manual for change written while he was a U.S. Senator.  (I did really enjoy his bio on the back flap.  “Barack Obama is the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois.”  I was all, NOT ANYMORE!!!!)  I was craving the thoughtful words of a sane person and The Audacity of Hope fit the bill nicely, although it did cause me to shake my head a number of times and think, these are such good ideas.  How many more amazing things President Obama could have accomplished if only Congress hadn’t obstructed him every step of the way.  I agreed with basically everything President Obama wrote – except that I can’t “acknowledge that the recreational hunter feels the same way about his guns” as I feel about my library books.  Sorry, Mr. President, but nobody feels as strongly about anything as I do about my library books.  (I’m kidding!  Or am I?)

I’ve also continued to try to challenge my shelves with books by people of color.  Most recently, I finished The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead’s slave escape novel with elements of magical realism, and In the Country We Love: My Family Divided, Diane Guerrero’s memoir of coming home at age fourteen to find her undocumented immigrant parents had been seized for deportation and that she was on her own.  Both were absolutely harrowing, and both felt necessary for the week leading into the inauguration.  Then, craving inspiration, I turned to March: Book 3, the final installment in the graphic memoir by Civil Rights icon, Representative John Lewis.  In the months between the election and today, I’ve read plenty of varied things, but filling my head with the necessary and important words of writers who challenge what we’ve just elected has felt like something that I had to do.

I also know plenty of people who have turned to comfort reading.  Although that wasn’t what I did after the election, I probably will after the inauguration.  Some good escapism is going to feel very necessary going forward.  I predict I’ll be spending plenty of time in Barsetshire – both Trollope’s and Thirkell’s – and between the covers of my Persephone, British Library Crime Classics, and Folio Society books.  I’ll still be trying to challenge myself and read different perspectives over the course of the year, but the upcoming months are – I suspect – going to test us in new ways, and I’ll be turning to old friends for comfort.

Do you take refuge in words during times of national stress?  Any recommendations for either comfort reading or social justice reading that I should check out?

*Title from the Hamilton line, delivered by Anthony Ramos (playing John Laurens) in the song “Stay Alive.”

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Happy holiday weekend to my American friends!  I feel like we’ve been getting a ton of time off lately – not that I’m complaining.  I’m going to try to squeeze some work in today, just to stay ahead of the curve, and we’ll probably hit the trail for a hike later – I think it’s supposed to be reasonably nice.  The first two days of the weekend were unusually low-key.  Steve and I are trying out a new weekend routine: we spend Saturdays with sleeves rolled up, getting projects done around the house, and Sundays are reserved for family fun.  (Although we would swap if Saturday weather was better or if there was a specific scheduled event we wanted to do.)  This was the first weekend of trying out the new arrangement and it felt great to have a buddy helping me get things done around the house.  In the morning, Nugget and I went to Wegmans while Peanut and Steve went to Lowe’s.  Naptime was all about getting the Christmas tree down (finally!) – I took down and carefully packed up each ornament, while Steve broke down the tree itself.  After nap, Steve fixed a couple of small fixture issues while I kept an eye on the kids and worked on my big project for the weekend – cleaning out and organizing both of Nugget’s closets.  (He has his clothes and diaper station refills in one closet, and the other is the kids’ shared toy closet – in a small townhouse, you make your space work to the max!)  By the end of the day, we were exhausted, but we had two perfectly clean and organized closets, a nice breathable space where the Christmas tree used to be, and I even found time to hang up Nugget’s wall letters.  (Still looking for the rest of his wall art.)  The only problem with the work-one-day-play-the-other arrangement?  By Sunday we were so beat that a family walk to the pizzeria for lunch was all we could manage.  Oh, well, we’ll figure it out.


Reading.  Really productive reading week!  I finished up The Underground Railroad early in the week, and can confirm that it deserves every bit of the hype.  Definitely not an easy read, but stunning and worthwhile.  Then, because I guess I hadn’t had enough of harrowing reads (??) I turned to In the Country We Love: My Family Divided, actress Diane Guerrero’s memoir of growing up the daughter of undocumented immigrants and coming home from school one day, at age 14, to find that they had been deported and she was all alone in America.  I cried throughout most of the book – what a powerful story.  Moved on to Today Will Be Different, the newest book from Maria Semple, who wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Where’d You Go, Bernadette.  I’ll say more in my monthly round-up, but meh.  I was disappointed.  Finally, and currently, I’m midway through March: Book 3, Representative John Lewis’s three part graphic memoir of his time as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement.  It’s shaping up to be a powerful conclusion and just as much of a wow read as the first two volumes.

Watching.  We’re still on a total Rock the Park kick.  Just finished watching Season 1 on Netflix, and have moved over to Hulu for Season 2.  We now feel that we are friends with the hosts, and spend the entire episodes commenting, deep thoughts like “I think Jack’s been hitting the gym.” (Steve) and “Awwwww, Colton finally got to see a manatee!” (me).  The show is absolutely exploding our travel list, too.

Listening.  I have a personal victory to report – a clean podcatcher!  Finished up all of my podcasts and was able to pop back in on my Audible app with a clean conscience.  (Don’t ask me to explain why I feel the need to be caught up on podcasts in order to listen to an audiobook, because I don’t know.  It probably has something to do with the way podcasts pile up if you don’t stay on top of them, but that’s about as much as I want to parse it.)  Anyway, Nugget and I listened to Middlemarch on the way to and from Wegmans (and I tuned in while putting the groceries away and un-decorating the tree, for two solid hours of listening on Saturday).  It’s hilarious to listen to anything with Nugget, because he repeats everything like a little echo.  So the whole way to and from the store, Juliet Stevenson’s narration was punctuated with little exclamations from the back seat, like “Indeed, Aunt!” and “Foreign travel!”  Everyone should listen to George Eliot audiobooks with a toddler.  It’s the only way to roll.

Making.  Progress on home projects, as described above.  Christmas decorations broken down and in storage; front porch flag ordered (it’s not an American flag – I thought I’d mix it up a bit – but I’m also not going to tell; you’ll have to wait and see!); two clean and organized kids’ rooms (and they’re going to STAY THAT WAY); and nine boxes on their way to Goodwill today.  I feel GOOD.

Loving.  Some of my favorite podcasts make a point of shouting out favorite things or events or happenings each week.  For instance, on Sorta Awesome, the hosts begin every episode with “Awesome of the Week.”  And Tea and Tattle‘s Miranda and Sophie open their show with “Jump for Joys.”  So I thought I’d do the same.  Last week I was loving… a freak warm spell!  65 degrees in January – are you kidding me?  I remember those weird warm weeks happening from time to time when I lived down here a few years ago.  I should probably be more concerned about the weird weather, but I was just enjoying the super-mild winter way too much – especially after three years of frigid Buffalo temps.  I feel like I should make my first “loving” something better than the weather, but – whatever.  It really was all anyone could talk about in D.C. last week.

Asking.  What are you reading/watching/listening to/making/loving this week?


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Merry Christmas to my friends who celebrated, and happy new week (and hopefully day off work) to everyone!  Did you all have nice holidays?  Our Christmas was predictably hectic, but it was great.  I think the kids had a ball – they loved their presents and had a blast playing all day with their new toys.  By the end of Sunday, Steve and I were exhausted from all the hilarity (and the meltdowns that inevitably happen when you combine overstimulated kids with lots of sugar and new stuff).  We’re coming down from the holiday high temporarily – my parents will be here later today, bringing with them a whole sleigh full of more toys and jollity.  It’s gonna be another wild night…

I’m just beginning to dig out of a deep hole that I made for myself over the last week – in case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been (which you probably weren’t).  Last weekend I’d planned to spend Sunday getting ahead on my posting and have plenty of fun content scheduled for you, but all of that went out the window when we were visited by a brief but vicious stomach flu.  We’re not sure which of the kids brought it home, but it laid the whole family low – including Nana, who we’d flown down to provide some child care in a pinch while Steve was traveling for his firm’s holiday party.  Sorry, Nana!  Losing the weekend put me way behind in holiday preparations, and while in the end I got everything done, this space got neglected.  Sorry about that.  So here we go, two weeks of catching up on reading and more…

barkskins fox-at-the-manger peaceful-parent

Reading.  The stomach flu didn’t just put me behind in holiday preparations – it put me behind in reading, too.  I didn’t turn a page all last weekend, which was a big problem because I was in the middle of Barkskins, the 713 page epic Annie Proulx novel about lumberjacks (yes, really).  Anyway, I powered through it over last week and finally finished it up a few days ago, and while I respected the excellent writing and epic scope, I can’t say I really connected with it, which was too bad because it was a major commitment.  I was looking for something more Christmassy and sweet after closing the cover, so I picked up The Fox at the Manger, a sweet holiday story to which I’d treated myself, and read it in one sitting.  Now I’m midway through some educational reading – Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, which has been on my to-read list for ages.  I’m making myself read it, but so far I’m not finding it all that revolutionary – kind of disappointing.

Watching.  So many great things!  The highlight of my watching over the last two weeks had to be watching the kids’ joy as they opened their presents on Christmas morning.  There’s nothing like seeing the magic of Christmas reflected in the face of a child!  Other great watching – The Secret Garden musical, at the Shakespeare Theatre with Peanut, last weekend (after she was feeling better and before I started to feel sick – the sweet spot of the weekend).  We loved it, and Peanut is still singing the songs over a week later.  It’s not quite competing with “Hamiltunes” in Peanut’s repertoire, but she sure did have fun.  And I was psyched that she did so well at the theatre – hoping this means I’ll get out to more plays in 2017!

Listening.  Still trying to catch up on my podcatcher.  In my earbuds at the moment – the Sorta Awesome “best books of 2017” show.  By far the best podcast episode I listened to over the past week was the Tea & Tattle Christmas episode.  Miranda and Sophie took turns sharing their favorite holiday traditions and reading aloud from some of their favorite Christmassy stories – including holiday scenes from Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown and Anne of Green Gables.  LOVED.

Making.  Piles and piles and piles of wrapped presents!  And most of them stayed wrapped for less than 24 hours (I left it to the last minute; can you tell?) but I loved seeing them get ripped open.  I’ve got more wrapping to do once I publish this post, too – getting in just under the wire before Nana and Grandad get here.  Also making… progress on a big work assignment while the kids nap this afternoon, a few new blog posts, and (hopefully) a Meyer lemon cake – my traditional Christmas dessert when we’re not traveling.

Blogging.  Nothing last week – sorry about that.  This week, I’m making it up to you with two big Christmassy posts.  (I went through the pictures I snapped during all of our holiday celebrations, and we did so much that I think I’ve got to break the recap into two posts, lest I crash WordPress.)  Next week, I’ll be back to sprinkling in bookish content, along with some 2016 wrap-ups (is it over yet?) and looking ahead to 2017.  Lots of good stuff coming in January!

Asking.  What are you reading this week?  And if you celebrated, how was your Christmas?

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