Things I Love Lately

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A favorite picture from right now, last night, which I shared on Instagram.

What I Learned Today in SchoolJessica is my oldest and dearest friend, and she’s also both a hugely talented teacher and a wildly beautiful writer.  I adore her reminder that school should be, her her words, “a space — real, imagined or virtual — of learning.”  Her what I’m reading page is full of excellent suggestions and the brief, digestible stories she tells every day are inspiring and thoughtful.  I can’t say enough about this beautiful, thoughtful new blog.

On Walking the Walk – I was so reassured by this piece on Yogapata, profoundly moved to hear the admission that we all sometimes struggle to do as we say.  This seems particularly true when it comes to the voices in our head; if we could all speak to ourselves with the compassion and love that we so often show to others, things would be entirely different.  I highly recommend this short essay.

51 of the Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature – This Buzzfeed article was just like reading one long, glorious exhale.  What a reminder of the crystalline power of language to move us, touch us, make us less alone, make us see the world in a different way.  There were sentences I know well and those I’d never heard before on here.  Reading this list reminded me of how much I want to re-read Four Quartets, so that’s on my bedside table now.  So many of my favorites and many that I’ve shared on this blog are on this list (Rosencrant & Gildenstern, Cheryl Strayed, Eliot, Harry Potter).  Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Embrace the Intrusions – I adore this piece by Andrea Jarrell, which I just found.  She beautifully evokes the push-pull demands and complicated myriad identities that mother-writers, especially those with young children, often feel.  I love the advice to embrace the intrusions.  This piece reminds me of Anne Tyler’s quote that “it seems to me that since I’ve had children, I’ve grown richer and deeper.  They may have slowed down my writing for a while, but when I did write, I had more of a self to speak from.”

I just read Mary Oliver’s latest book, Blue Horses, and am reading my friend Rebecca Pacheco’s Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life, which comes out this spring.  I look forward to reviewing closer to the release date but suffice it to say that I love this book.

I’m also ready to say that my top 3 novels of 2014 were All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Euphoria by Lily King, and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

What were your favorites of the year?  What should I read over the holidays?  What’s on your mind, your bedside table, your kindle, and your heart lately?

I write these Things I Love posts approximately monthly.  You can find all of the previous ones here.

Things I Love Lately: the book edition

I’ve been reading some excellent books lately, and wanted to share some of them.  Please, I am curious: what are you reading?

Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel): I admit it took me a few chapters to get into this story, but once I did I was hooked.  It’s a darkly glittering tale of a post-apocalyptic world that ultimately concludes that humans are good, art endures, and the world we take for granted now is breathtakingly beautiful.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  It’s a riveting, unsettling story whose characters I can’t stop thinking about and whose pages contain indelible images of beauty.  Mandel’s novel reminds us to see the beauty that we don’t even notice around us. I believe this book would make a terrific movie. (read my friend Jennifer’s thoughtful and compelling review of Station Eleven here)

Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message (Tara Mohr): I devoured Tara’s book, underlining madly because so much of what she said made so much sense to me.  Playing Big is a call to action, a reminder of all that women leave on the table when we don’t speak up, and a careful diagnosis of the ways in which we sideline ourselves without even realizing it.  In every chapter Tara unfolded an insight that I’d never seen that particular way before, and I frequently gasped as I read.  “This book was born out of a frustration and a hope,” says Tara in the introduction, and Playing Big helped me both understand my frustration at certain constructs in the world and allowed a new hope about what might someday be to bloom.

Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters (Carla Naumburg): “Mindful parenting is about remembering that in any moment we have a choice about how we engage with, and respond to, the details of our lives.”  I love this quote so much that I instagrammed it, and it’s been running through my head like a banner ad ever since.  Yes, yes, and yes.  Carla’s book is sensible and reassuring, sensitive and wise, thoughtful and realistic.  I dislike parenting books as a general rule, but Parenting in the Present Moment feels different.  It’s a book about how we live our lives.  Period.  Plain and simple and powerful.  I highly recommend it.

Lila (Marilynne Robinson): This was one of my most-anticipated books this year, and the honest truth is that when I first read it I was slightly disapppointed.  I found the narrative, which cuts back and forth between history and the present day, a little bit confusing.  But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the story, and that tells me that Robinson’s book is another masterpiece. Like Gilead, Lila‘s pace is deliberate, and reading the novel felt like attending a sermon or praying.  And yet for all the parallels between the books, Robinson beautifully differentiates Lila’s voice from John’s.  This is a powerful tale of redemption and grace, and reminds me of what religion, at its best, can be.  I loved it.

I write these posts about what I’m reading and thinking about and listening to and loving lately approximately monthly.  You can find all the others here.

What’s on your bedside table, your kindle, and your mind lately?

Disclosure: these are affiliate links

Things I Love Lately

Glenda Burgess’ blog is a must-read for me, but this post, Permission, struck me even more than usual.  “We are done with life when we cease to engage with our dreams.”  Oh yes.  How true this is.

I can’t stop listening to A Life That’s Good by Lennon and Maisy.  So, so good.  Makes me cry every time.  Thank you to Katie Den Ouden for knowing that I would love it and for sending to me (is there anything better than an email from a friend that says “I thought you might like this”?)

Recently I started reading Happy Healthy Kids and the site is a trove of useful information.  Last week’s post on the best TV shows for older children was really wise and full of good suggestions (and resonated with my kids’ recent passion for Survivor).

It was Julia Fierro who pointed me to Last Night’s Reading, which I fell into headlong and in love with at once.  Kate Gavino’s marvelous illustrations are coupled with quotes from writers that I kept writing down.  “We are always becoming.  It never stops.” – Richard Blanco.  “It’s my job as a writer to pay attention.” – James McBride. “We write to inform ourselves of ourselves.” – Julia Fierro.

I just finished Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot, which I really enjoyed, and am now reading Marilynne Robinson’s Lila.  As expected, it is grave and beautiful, solemn and powerful.

I write these Things I Love posts approximately monthly.  You can find the full archive of them here.

Things I Love Lately

One – That my friend Pam’s musings on the first month of her husband’s year-long deployment made me nod so vigorously is a testament to her power as a writer.  In many ways our lives look utterly different.  In the ways that matter, we are walking down a parallel path, and I’m hugely grateful for her companionship, her wisdom, and her candor.

 10 Things No One Tells Women about Turning 40 – Holly Seymour’s piece made me laugh and it reassured me that there are joys and unforseen delights ahead as I pitch headfirst into 40 next month.  I want to be able to say all of these things about myself in my 40s.  Here’s hoping I can.

Shonda Rimes’ Dartmouth commencement speech – I really love everything about this.  Hard work, not dreams.  Don’t be an asshole.  Having daughters and working motherhood and not being able to do it all.  Letting your heart beat so, so fast.  It made me cry.  Thank you to my dear friend Sarah for pointing me to this speech.

I’ve been reading some fantastic books lately.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr has joined the very small pantheon of My Favorite Books of All Time.  It is stunning, breathtaking, spectacular.  Doerr’s lyrical, evocative, powerful writing reminds of my favorite fiction writer, Ondaatje.  Read it.  You won’t regret it.

I could not put down Lily King’s Euphoria.  I described it on Twitter as “evocative, thought-provoking…Identity, feminism, love, power, subjectivity. Beautiful.”

I absolutely loved 10% Happier by Dan Harris and it is one of the very few books that both Matt and I devoured.  Dan’s compulsively readable story is relatable and honest, not to mention incredibly convincing.  I related to so much of what he shared and came away ever-more committed to a meditation practice that has been spotty for years.

This past weekend I read Eleanor & Parkby Rainbow Rowell, which I’d heard such wonderful things about.  I loved it as much as I hoped I would.  I couldn’t put down the funny/sad story about belonging and connection and adolescence.  I highly recommend!

What are you reading, thinking about, and loving lately?

Disclosure: these are Amazon affiliate links.

Things I Love Lately

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is one of the most beautiful novels I have ever read.  The writing and imagery evokes Ondaatje, who is my favorite writer of fiction of all.  I finished it on Saturday morning and moved through the weekend in a bit of a trance, images from the book cartwheeling through my mind, loathe to leave the world that Doerr created.  Somehow he drew a landscape both scarred and devastated by war and also breathtakingly beautiful.  I adored this book

Unprepared. I made the mistake of reading Rob Lowe’s essay about sending his son to college, in Salon, before meeting a friend for a walk.  I showed up with red swollen eyes and had to explain that I’d been bawling – not just wiping tears, but actively weeping, gasping for air, drenching my own shirt, minutes before.  This piece is powerful and beautiful, and because of it I read and loved Rob’s new memoir, Love Life.

Chill. I don’t often read Garance Dore’s blog, and this piece makes me realize I should.  I really love what she has to say about how there’s room for all kinds of success, and about the risks of imposing our own dreams on others.  It’s a fine line, because I do think some people back away from dreams they maybe should go for, but I do believe there’s tremendous joy to be had in embracing the life you have.  As the title of Rob’s memoir above makes me think, and as the point below reminds me … (hat tip to Raluca, on whose wonderful blog What Would Gwyneth Do I found the link to this piece.)

This season of my life. We weren’t able to go away for Memorial Day this year, which was a bummer, because traditionally we’ve spent it with some of those we love best in a place we adore.  But we had a soccer tournament, so instead we stayed home and embraced what is right now.  And I realized that this, this particular moment, is unspeakably rich.  I love the families of the kids’ on our childrens’ sports teams, I love family dinner, I love reading in bed with my children, I love now.  And so, gladly, we continue to sink further into this particular season. (photo above: Whit at Grace’s Friday night soccer game; photo below: Grace carrying in Matt’s birthday cake on Sunday night)

What are you reading, thinking about, and loving lately?

I write these Things I Love posts approximately monthly.  The previous ones can all be found here.

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