Friday, December 25, 2015

Six Words

Christmas on the road, again, now.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

December 24, 2015

It's quiet here.

Across the street, the one-bedroom apartment dwellers have fled to more populous climes.  The parking lot of Target, this morning spasming with cars, has begun to unclench.  And yesterday's  thunderstorms blew overnight to the east, although the air left behind still feels, for December, like breath against our skin.  

Perched, for the moment, in our new home, we've opened our gifts to one another- some thoughtful, some pointed, some exhilaratingly pointless. We've labored over bread, guzzled good coffee, and accidentally butt-dialed the landlord.  We've done all the things you ought to do when you seek to mark a day but one of you isn't sure why, or how.

Happy Christmas Eve.   May your day be quiet -and light. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 in Books!

There's nothing like a book to show you your place in the world.  Think you're troubled?  Try Tartt.  Think you know the South?  Read Faulkner.   Think you're an idiot?  I guarantee Don Quixote has more claim to the title than you.

A book is, in fact, the only mind-altering substance that clarifies, as opposed to clouds, your perception.  So they are especially useful to have when life turns upside down.

2015 was a shakeup.  I started my year a complacent Virginia homeowner and ended it in a rental house half a country away.   I began with three solid careers and ended with three rocky ones.  It's been a year of uprooting and unsettling- all the better to do it with books!

According to Goodreads, I read 36 books I will admit to.  Some were good.  Some were OK.  Two were dreadful.  But you probably don't want to read those.  So here are five that were stellar!

1. So You've Been Publicly Shamed (Jon Ronson).   PR professional Justine Sacco boarded a plane after tweeting a bad joke and woke up an international pariah.  Ronson's book, in which he interviews Sacco and other shamers and shamees, is an uncomfortably funny, can't-look-away catalog of humiliations past and present.  And although it pains me to write this without irony, his message is capital-I Important.  Additional kudos to Ronson for annihilating the best-of-2015 list I'd dared to construct before picking up his book (sorry, Gail Godwin).

2. My Brilliant Friend (Elena Ferrante).  Two Neapolitan girls endure the travails of poverty, institutional violence and impending womanhood as they journey to....snore.  I mean, God, there's no way to juice the plot summary on this one.  But the book is wildly better than its blurb.

3. Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel).   Plague!  Shakespeare!  Empty airports!  This book has every ingredient you could ever want.  And yet, unlike if, say, you took all of your favorite culinary ingredients, mixed them together and then baked them, which my little brother did, once, and we tasted it, and  the results ended up on the lawn where they were summarily ignored by all wildlife while undergoing a bizarre combination of putrefaction and petrification- unlike that,  it's awesome.

4.  Fun Home (Alison Bechdel).  Just pretty much the best graphic novel I've ever read.  Never mind that it's the only graphic novel I've ever read.  It's still fantastic.

5.  The Boys in the Boat (Daniel James Brown).  So this is the kind of book I hate.  It's non-fiction, written by a man, about sports, with a World War II theme.  And yet, I cried more reading Brown's book than I've cried since Old Yeller bit the dust.  Read this.

Honorable Mentions:  Flora, Gail Godwin; A Long Way Gone, Lou Berney; Lila, Marilynne Robinson

Monday, December 21, 2015


Apparently bears do not need to urinate while they hibernate?

Until yesterday, this numbered among the vast constellations of facts I did not know.

I am comforted that they are out there, these galaxies of ignorance. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Once More into the Breach


It's what my son shouts every time he's delighted, or surprised, or even mildly interested.   A squirrel daring across the path of his stroller: AGAIN SQUIRREL!  A first responder, careening past: FIRE TRUCK!  AGAIN!   A burst of rain: AGAIN RAINING!

Of course, I have no control ( yet) over the squirrels.  The fire trucks elude my whims and I have been unable to bring the weather to heel.  I explain this to my kid -that I'm a powerless mote in an unblinking, heartless world- but it doesn't seem to stick.  AGAIN MOMMY!  AGAIN!  My son wants a do-over the and the universe better listen up.

To be truthful, I'm daunted by his demands.  I am tired of singing "Row Row" for the fortieth time.  "Honk Honk," that paragon of children's literature, palled after the sixtieth reading.  And I feel, acutely, the heaviness of the responsibility he has laid on me-  to spark his delight, to bend the world into a gob-smacking, soul-kindling, repetition-worth place. 

And yet, in some sense, it's salutary.  Wielding his two-syllable whip of a word is my child's way of saying: pay attention.  Here's something worth noticing.  Twice or thrice or a hundred times: look, again.  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Blow Up

One peculiarity of moving to a city most people never think to leave is..... well....its peculiarity.  St. Louis is chock-a-block with weird traditions and cultural flotsam that most St. Louis residents (who by and large seem to be kind, straightforward lovers of bad cheese) don't seem to realize are theirs and theirs alone.  

Take Halloween.  Unlike other places I've lived, in which, to procure candy, the only requirement is that you waddle or bounce or demand to be carried up to a door,  here in St. Louis, you must joke.

That's right, as in knock knock.   Or why did the chicken?  Or a guy walked into a (candy) bar....

When the first kid did it, I thought it was funny. When the 30th kid's eyes rolled back in his head in an attempt to dredge up, from the depths of his candy-addled brain, the punchline, I realized I'd crossed into an alien land.

It was like waking up in the twilight zone.  Here I was, drinking the dregs of white middle class cultural specificity, poised atop one of the few heaps of Anglo-American tradition not yet flattened by the inexorable glacier of T.V.

It was only October.

I had yet to witness the rise of the Christmas inflatables.

You may think you know Christmas inflatables.  Unless you live in St. Louis, you are mistaken.  When I say Christmas inflatables I mean Christmas inflatables on a scale you have not yet dreamed possible-  Christmas inflatables more numerous, more varied, more sizable, more artfully positioned and more turgid than your most wildly inflated dreams.

I mean Christmas inflatables possessed of moving parts, Christmas inflatables that gibber and yawp, Christmas inflatables tumescent with light.  When I say Christmas inflatables I mean that you will see things inflated that you had not conceived were within the power of human endeavor to inflate.

I admit it is taking me a while to acclimate.  I have not yet crossed over; there is nothing inflated about my yard save for my lawn-care-related shame.  But someday, if I stay in St. Louis, I know I will eyeball a spot on my lawn and mutter- here.

And on that day, when the air rushes out of my lungs and gently, yet inexorably, into a moderately sized accordion-playing Santa - on that day, I will be home.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dec. 16

Christmas vacation: A door jerks open with all of your weight behind it.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Six Words

Still bone tired after copious coffee

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas Letter

Dear Friends,

I want your Christmas letters.  I want your best-crafted, most thoroughly curated cardboard mockups of yourselves.  I want your your glossings-over and your under-reportage, your artful excisions and misleading interpolations.  I want it all, friends.

Why don't you give it to me?

I'll resort to playground antics.  I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

So greetings!

I'm writing to you from the great flyover state of Missouri, where we've recently moved and are sort of settling in.  David is loving his new job.  Good thing, or I would have been really steamed because moving is the worst. The move from Virginia went as smoothly as it could have but was still huge pain in the *ss,  for which I am working desultorily at being extremely grateful!

We found a wonderful rental with a range of plumbing problems in a fantastic, walkable neighborhood really far away from work, and we love strolling to the nearby park.  Anne had a whole lot of trouble but eventually found part-time work in one of her fields and is with agonizing slowness drumming up work in the others.

William is learning how to throw tantrums and growing too fast to keep him in shoes!  He knows many words some of which we wish he didn't and is sharing several of them with me at the top of his lungs while trying to bite my ankles as I write this.

Ampney has spent the year breaking every drinking glass in the house and barfing up ribbon and being a cat.

I hope to hear from you soon.  Why haven't you sent me a d*mn Christmas letter, you monsters?
There is no good cheese here.  We're on the lookout for dairy Nirvana in the new year!  Send cheese.

Love to you you ingrates,

Friday, November 27, 2015


My two-year-old already knows to smile for the camera.

I'm not sure where he picked it up, but any time you point a phone in his direction and look vaguely documentarian, the kid turns, hits his mark, and flashes his gums.

It's not like any of the rest of us have photographic selves that are any more truthful.  When I examine the visual record of my son's first years, I am confronted with a well-lit, nicely framed alternate universe in which he slept beatifically and snuggled in my arms as we floated cherubically in a warm bath of community support.  I'm smiling in the photos -puffy cheeks, greasy hair, jelly belly and all. 

The reality was more ragged.  In those first two years, we faced a random sampling of the short straws any new family must draw: feeding trouble, boredom, loneliness, judgment, teeth....  I wrote every day during first two or  three weeks of it, to keep myself honest and to keep myself sane,  and now, when I contrast the written and visual records, I'm troubled, though not surprised, by the gulf between.

Though it isn't news, the way we curate ourselves.  Social media has exacerbated the practice, and certainly tightened its timelines (no longer do we wait a few years to impress an audience of our future selves; rather we perform our lives in real time to a virtual clutch of friends and near friends and less than friends).  But ever since the first neanderthal put charcoal to cave we've been fronting, and no part of the year is lousier with self-presentation than the stretch from mid-November to late December.  

I'm not advocating for a resurgence of realism (resurgence is the wrong word, and so is realism; we are both what we present and what we repress, and we've never been above fluffing our feathers for a crowd).

Rather I want acknowledgement.  Our smiles are not the whole truth.   But they are fierce and they are brave. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015


My best friend from high school was teetering on her stilettos.

Swathed in white tulle, she might as well have been handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser for all her ability to accomplish everyday tasks.  She needed help to eat a sandwich, help to pee, and help, in this case, to lace up her shoes.

And I, according to the photographer, was on deck.

I frowned down at the shoes, which sported, amidst their rhinestones, a length of lacing that filled me with despair.  I'd dodged at least three other such tasks, hanging back as each bridesmaid, in turn, stood for their handmaidenly photo-op.  Sashes had been tied.  Buttons had been buttoned.  Makeup had been made-up.

I gritted my teeth, held my breath and went in for the kill.

"No, wait," said the bride, a wise woman who has known me a very long time.  "Not Anne."

Another bridesmaid bent over the shoes.  I sagged with relief.

"Well,"  the photographer cracked,  "what good are you?"

It's a fair question.   What good am I?   

I am not a good shoe-lacer.  I am not a good sash-cincher.  I am not good with buttons or make up or hair.  I once gave a good friend a haircut and she, after looking in the mirror, didn't speak to me for a month.  I am not a good cook.  I cannot craft.  I do not decorate or host or sew.  I'm lousy, if you must know, at a vast, ravening, marauding horde of things, and as I move deeper into parenting, I've begun to notice how many of these things fall under the rubric of homemaking, motherhood, or  "women's work." 

I do know that I'm not without talents.  I didn't answer the photographer's quip, but I gave a damn good toast at the wedding reception.  I can write.  I can play some music.   I can speak in public and fake a British accent and read maps and chat with strangers on planes.   I can tell what a student needs or wants and give it to them.

But none of these are things I would have been encouraged to do a century ago.  And the work that would have been mine by fiat- the childcare and the washing, the cooking and the folding- is work in which I would have been forced to confront, day in and day out, not only my lack of excellence, but my lack of interest.  One hundred years ago, it wouldn't have been the photographer asking what good are you?   It would have been me.

So on this Thanksgiving, I offer my thanks to the women who cleared the way for me.  I am so grateful to every brave woman who fought and toiled and wrestled over the years to remake the world into a place where, in 2015,  I can put my son in daycare and outsource my cleaning and not give a damn about dinner parties.  A world in which I do work that matters to me.  A world in which a man can ask "what good are you?" and I have an answer.

Thanks, ladies.

Friday, November 13, 2015


I didn't bother to forbid the babysitter to leave my two-year-old son alone in the house while she went to hunt for her phone charger in the car, because I trusted it would never occur to her to do so.

I didn't bother to check the criminal record of the woman I (almost!) hired to clean my house, because I trusted burglars wouldn't bother with the long con, preferring the quick and sweet.

I didn't bother to worry about all tree falling on my moving car, because I trusted trees stayed rooted in the dirt, and that even if they didn't, even if their roots failed, they'd crush something else, someone else, when they fell. 

I am appalled, this week, by trust.   I've been wading in it.  I've been lathering with it.  I've been shoving it aside in sticky curtains.  When it's been ripped off of me, I've gathered it back to myself in soft folds.

I'm an addict and a fool. 

Yet, trust is all that keeps us hurtling through this world.  We know we will die, but we trust that death is a few inches off.  We understand horrible things will happen, but not to us, we trust.  The sun will come up, tomorrow-

And it does and it does until it doesn't.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Six Words

Won't you be quiet, Krista Tippett?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Six Words

I don't know.  I don't know.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Letter of Complaint

It has become a grave concern of mine: How to stop time.

I imagine lassoing it and dragging it to the ground- it's too heavy, and I know it, and you know it, but I can't resist the snag of the image.  Also I imagine throwing myself in front of it, as if it's a train, but we all know how that ends.  I imagine myself prostrate clutching its feet as it walks away.  It's a deaf mute, time, or a robot- or simply hard-hearted.

But my project: Make it stop.   There's drink, which works sometimes, but only in shot-glass-worths, intermittent hiccups.  There are photographs, which are nothing but tattoos of regret, and videos, which are snuff films.  Gritting your teeth does not work, nor does a habit of sustained, maniacal attention to the moment -it passes and passes and passes, indifferent to your efforts.   Meditate and you're nothing but a Greek chorus, a bedside witness, late to the reception with your hands full of funeral casserole.

Writing is your best bet.  You knew that.  But it's a fools errand.  You twist things, by writing them.  You wring their necks.

I strangle anyway.  Damp heat.  Small hands scrabbling at model trains.  The hush, thick and awful and exquisite, after a toddler has passed.  We wake early, drink too much coffee, try to scare up joy where we can - a train's passage and the whine of its brakes, a plan for dinner and tickle chase, again.

It's a no-joke enterprise, the permanent retarding of today: failing and failing and shouting the whole damn time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Bluer sky; limestone.
Oaks again: tall ones, pin, white-
but why this red dirt?

Sunday, August 9, 2015


My son has a smattering of words.  It's a strictly curated, though steadily increasing, collection; he amasses and disburses his words carefully, like currency.  His vocabulary takes him places (up, down); it describes his desires (mommy, wawa) or sparksa smile (hi, bye).

To an even greater extent, his words limn what looms large in his world -a glimpse into the otherwise opaque toddler brain.   My son has 40 words, maybe more, maybe less- and because the set is circumscribed, each individual word takes on greater importance.   Some speak to proximity- Mommy, Daddy, Kitty.  Others to perceptual salience- Ambulance! Airplane!   And some are unfathomable- Button, Elmo.

And coffee. "Coffee, coffee!" my toddler cries, jabbing at the burr grinder, the cups, the beans.  He serves me pretend coffee in a plastic cup, and laughs when I slurp it down.  "Coffee!" he screams, correctly, at church; "coffee" to the travel mug in the car.

I am charmed by this.   I am also sobered.  Our children are ever and irrevocably themselves.  But sometimes, too, they are mirrors-  small, slobbery, fractured reflections of our bean-stained days.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

New new new

The process of settling into a new home is made more complicated when you know you'll leave. After four years of homeowning in Virginia, we're renting for a year in St. Louis- so we'll be here 12 months, maybe less, before having to haul and pack and reacclimate once more.

And so the place-learning process -the divining of the best route from the dresser to the closet, the acclimation to the new angle of the morning sun, the repeated movement of the hand from the tea cupboard to the kettle and back- becomes fraught.

I'll learn the best place to catch the afternoon light- but not for long.  I'll enjoy the porch- but not for long.  I'll tolerate the closet- but not for long.

A sense of impermanence stains things.  It seeps into the manner in which you fall in love, the ways in which you make yourself comfortable- or not.

Impermanence shouldn't do this, of course-  every home, everything, is impermanent. 

But somehow, to love, you need to be able to forget that.  And I can't.  Yet.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


The sky is almost, but not quite, the right color.   Closer, oh yes- less bone-colored, less bleached- but still not quite the blue I remember rushing into my eyes when I cracked my lids, lying on my back in the grass, the blades of it scraping my skin, the whine of the cicadas lapping against my ears, that fat, wet air.

Though there's something to be said for a near miss.

I'm closer to home, then- but farther, too.  Because this house is not mine, and the things in it, all the cheap furniture I dragged halfway across the country, looks only vaguely familiar crouching in its new corners, and the lamps are broken, and I have no friends.

Moving is a mower-down, a knocker-flat.  You grow a life, let it creep up around you, and then all of a sudden it's scraped to its base.

Yet still, wheeling over you, that sky-

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Bend in the River

It's been five years, and we're leaving.

Leaving- a word with so many lobes and limbs.

One of these- though it doesn't become obvious until you actually leave, do the deed, pull up stakes, get gone-  is arrival, the way its memory flares up like a rash.

You may not think you remember arriving, but you do, and suddenly it's all over your body.  I remember it was summer then, too, late July, and I was sick to leave -quite literally sick: feverish and puking and late and alone and driving badly.

I was (am?) a terrible driver, dangerously cautious, epically unreliable, trundling up and down the mountains with my heart yammering and the wheel welded to my hands.  I pissed off truck drivers, obeyed every advisory speed limit, missed the exit and missed the exit and finally, finally-  arrived.

Miles up from the river, the crepe myrtle burst from the trees.  There was heat and sweat, mosquitoes and flat, slick sidewalks and a scatter of fireflies drawling their way toward dusk.  Our new home was five rooms, 700 square feet.  Plus a side porch, the joy of the apartment, upon which we perched every evening, swatting our legs and sipping our drinks.

It is idyllic only in hindsight, glowing under the shellac of memory.

And maybe this leaving, too, will seem, in some faraway pass of my life, sweet.

The boxing and and unboxing and the great sloughing off the pieces of your life, bits of your past falling away until you're not sure they happened to you -or if they happened at all.

Until suddenly -or not so suddenly- you're in transit.  Or some facsimile of you is in transit-

because without the hard mold of your former life you can't seem to keep hold on your own outlines; you blur and run and bleed and waver until you're left with a name and a number and a body on its way to-

Sunday, May 24, 2015


To do: So much.  This is different than so much to do- fewer possibilities, more bite.

Friday, May 22, 2015


  • Facebook's new memories feature, in which your past curation of your life comes back to haunt you, is both sobering and intoxicating.  How little we remember -and sloppily.
  • Someone knows what you want to know.  
  • Cafeteria breakfasts, with their panoply of options, alimentary divagations like creeks splitting off from the great ocher river of AM nosh, are where it's at.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

I Was Here; and Gone

We understand mortality when we understand that there are books we should read- but won't.

North Garden, VA; Ann Arbor, MI.

Friday, April 24, 2015

It is tough to take on the world's larger philosophical quandries when your window is filled with flowers.

We have no talent for scale, we humans.  It's probably for the best.  If we were able to hold in our hearts the proper measurements of each disaster, we'd be worse than useless- and we're already only a few notches north of decorative.  Give us a sense of of the relative importance of this versus that, we'd drool and gibber and vomit chunks of climate change rhetoric.  GO BACK!  SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE!  WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!

Instead we thumbs-up that Onion article on Facebook and fortify our positions on fractions of eighth notes and stare at our windows filled with flowers.  And then we finger, like a rosary, all the the small disasters of our lives: the bug bites and the missed busses and the lost opportunities, that ache in your knee and the continued erosion of my skin.

Two downward strokes, in the middle of my forehead, punctuation to no point.

Earthquakes, cancer, the despoilment of the sea, homes ripped from their moorings, ISIS ebola, peak oil.

Those flowers- clusters of white, loose, fragrant, butting up against the glass.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


It is unaccountably lovely to see your parents playing with your children.  Not least because the time during which you are able to witness this is so brief.  A candle's worth of overlap, quick flare of one life against the next. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

There, There

The waggle -pleasantly unpleasant of a loose tooth, the catch and scratch of wool against your skin, the bounce in the step the lover you can't have.

I resort to metaphor because this thing, my consuming lust for place, is unspeakable.  Not unspeakable in the sense of shameful, but unspeakable as in we -simply?- don't speak of it.  Friends don't mention it.  Literature leaves me hanging.   Am I the only one?

I try to rein it in with adjectives: My desire for this place is obsessive and exuberant, fine-grained and big-boned, anxious and ecstatic.  I ache for my place when I'm away; I ache for my place when I'm home.  The press of it, the weight of its memories, is in my mouth and on my hands and in my head -my place with its taproot and its branches and its bright bursts of green and flame.

More metaphor.  Can't we speak plainly?   I love this town.  I want to be here.  I can't.  It hurts.

I try to walk it off.   But walking is how you make love to a place, how you press and impress and are pressed and impressed until you can't tell what from where.

As always, I land here.  Some particular corner of there and then: the road I rode so fast my bike went head over heels and left me half-dipped in blood; the wilderness I dreamed behind the wire and scrub; where I went to cry at 19 and at 9 and 26.   Sometimes there were berries.  I haven't seen the spot in years.

Still, it hurts.

Friday, April 3, 2015

I Was Here

NYC puking all over everything (not pictured); Ann Arbor, MI; Greater Detroit, MI and assorted airports; Raleigh, NC; Bloomington, IN, my heart.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Six Words

Afraid for no reason; no sleep

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Six Words

Ten years out, not a trace.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Six Words

All that sun after so long.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Spool of Blue Thread

I can feel my mind unraveling.

There are names I don't remember, faces I don't recall.  Whole chunks of my life, months and even years, have faded from Hopper to Monet.  High school is a vague beige wash.  Childhood a couple of lilies in a dull blue sea.  I regret nothing- but only because I don't remember it.

It's tragic, of course, as every loss is tragic.  It's dull, of course, as every loss is dull. 

And it may be signatory- my grandparents had Alzheimers; my father has Alzheimers; my aunt and uncle have Alzheimers.  There's research to suggest that the brain changes that go on to be so devastating in people who develop Alzheimers start not in the seventies, but in the thirties-  and I can definitely feel my circuits dimming, jamming, slowing, flickering-

whatever verb you want to cough up in an attempt to demonstrate your verbal fluency, the fact that you can still string a sentence together, damnit-

I figure I have about twenty five writing years left.

Does that fact that you will lose a skill make it incumbent on you to use that skill to its fullest capacity in as short a time as possible? To burn through it before it burns away?  Or should you learn to live without it, wean yourself bit by bit from its grip so when it goes, it doesn't knife as deep? 

You could beg the same question of love, of course.  Or beauty, or money, or peak oil, or the various discontinued varieties of M&Ms.  Hold fast or let go?  Hang on or Hang loose?

There might be an answer- I can't recall.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


There are many things to like about snow.  It's lovely, to start, in panorama and in particulate.  It forces a slowdown.  It covers a multitude of lawn care sins.

But best of all, snow is democratic.  Unlike cable news or the Internet or our careers or our family lives, it's something we all experience together- one nation under a winter storm warning.

And there's not much left in our lives like that.  The long tail, that animalistic retailing concept, sweeps us into smaller and smaller and smaller subgroups. We choose what to watch and when to watch it, what to read and when to read it.  We speak only to people who look like us, talk like us, and think like us, reinforcing our stratification with likes and shares. 

And then it snows, and here we all are.  Cold or cozy, cautious or intrepid: watching the white come down.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Six Words

Glorious space heater: mine, all mine.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Six Words

That dirty baby, already wriggling free.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Six words

Trying not to let things slide.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2014 in Books

Can I just say how reprehensible it is that it's 2015?  I have entered the capital-F Future of my childhood, the world in which I had twins and the power of flight and some unknown but deeply fulfilling employment.  The reality is a little more ragged, but here I am.

And I'm reading.

(My younger, dreaming self hit that one on the nose- I could not, cannot, and will not imagine a life without reading.  I will read until my mind goes- it's flint to me, and tinder.)

2014 was the first full year of my son's life.  It is the first year I felt fully, unequivocally, tragically adult.  2014 closed the door on my early thirties and opened the chute to mortality. 

And oh, hey, there were books.  Goodreads tells me I read 43 books that I will admit to- and Lord knows there are several I won't

So without further ado, here are the six best books I read in 2014- in no particular order. There are six because I read too many fabulous books to stop at five! And even six was kind of like axing my children!  So happy Reading!

1) The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt).  Art, cocaine, suburbia, the meaning of life, some dude named Boris: Was there anything that wasn't stuffed into this stunner?  I say "stunner" because reading this novel will set you back on your heels, but also "stunner" because this sucker is really, really long and heavy and maybe a little bit poisonous.  It's the Shelob of novels, thread after thread after shining thread trussing you up for the kill.  And there's no Frodo to save you.  And you don't care.

2) All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Jennifer Senior).   Half takedown, have ethnography- the modern, upper-middle class parent at work and play.  Wait, scratch play, because we hovering, martyred, profoundly anxious present-day parents have no time for play.  We're busy engaging in concerted cultivation of our offspring, which means that play is work and we have to Nail It, Damnit! A smart book that manages to be both wounding and exalting, like crucifixion.  Or, um, parenthood.

3) Men we Reaped (Jesmyn Ward).  A searing semi-autobiography examining the deaths of five young black men in Ward's orbit growing up.   No joke.

4) The Husband's Secret (Liane Moriarty).  Pure fun.  If fun were swallowing a small and expertly trained flea circus.  Which it is!

5)  One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez).  I mean, you can't deny how good this is.  Awful and offensive and misogynistic and no fun at all to read, but really, really good.  I read it when I was roiling with fever, which on balance improved the experience. 

6) We are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen Joy Fowler).  What does it mean to be human?  What does it mean to be a family?  An examination of love and loss and identity and a  philosophical page-turner- and I never thought I'd string any of those words together without gagging, so.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sixty Minutes

I have an hour.  It's a gift, rounding itself unexpectedly into my hand like the apple that comes loose from the tree before I pull.  An hour like a bear, lumbering into and out of the corner of my eye; one warm day in a spate of cold; the sweet slick at the back of your tongue when the fear has passed.

I don't know what to do with my hour, except to try and snatch up handfuls of it as it goes.

-The sun beating against the hood of the car
-My son beating and beating the bottom of a cookie sheet; the shock of pleasure on his face when he hits.
-When he unfists his hands from the steel; stands; lets go


Friday, January 30, 2015

I Am Here

Wallingford, CT.  The usual stuff: trying to keep tomorrow from burying today. Atlanta already slipped past me.  And January, all those unmarked days.

Monday, January 19, 2015


The good thing -OK, one of a cornucopia of good things- about your child's nap is that it re-sensitizes you to the value of the pause.

Which is a plus, because we haven't really done well by the pause lately, we humans.  Yes, we have an unprecedented ability to bend life to our timetable- we can hit the pause button on our streaming TV, or whatever it is we've DVRed. But what do we use our "pauses" for?  Usually to check our phones or otherwise busify ourselves.  And we're increasingly intolerant of the enforced pauses- the train delays, the long lines, or, God forbid, the buffering.

The nap is a gift. It, too, can become a race to accomplish ALL THE THINGS- or at least ALL THE THINGS that are better done without a twenty-pound, inept miniature human hanging off of you. 

But it can also be a pause in the truest sense of that word- a brief hitch in forward momentum, when all you can do is stare at the wall and think-


Saturday, January 17, 2015


It's come around again-  that familiar morass of self-loathing and self-betterment I cal January.  I halfway enjoy it, as I halfway enjoy most things that demand I gaze critically at my own navel (taxes!  insurance forms!  to-do lists! oh my!).

The truth is, January is the only month during which we self-flagellators catch a break.  For a brief span of thirty-one days, we're not longer pessimists or self-saboteurs or Debbie downers. We're warriors!

Accordingly, here are my two January resolutions.  I'm on day two!   Did I mention the evils of procrastination?

1) Write (for fun, not for pay) every day, but only after I've finished writing for pay and thus don't have much energy or time or brain space.  And in any case the ability to generate my own topics has atrophied now that someone else is generating my headlines, so my list of future writing topics looks like this:  Why I'm not writing.  Cats.

2) Embark on a hideously ill-advised 30-day fitness challenge bearing the embarrassing moniker of "the hook" (am I a suburban gangster?) and consisting of a series unending (fifteen-minute) video interval workouts led by a dangerously perky 12-year-old (mother/fitness guru) who has somehow succeed in enticing me to use my own money to torture myself.

It will, of course, be impossible to succeed- but then, failure's an old February friend.

Friday, January 16, 2015


So basically I can't anymore.

There's an unpleasant stew of reasons- Facebook's nownownow, the yammering of email,  and oh, yeah, the kid-

who may wake up at any moment, who may cry at any moment, who interrupts thoughts and meals and plans and sleep.  Why commit to an activity if it might be torpedoed?  Why hop aboard a train of thought if it might derail any second?  And when I'm finally -finally! alone- how am I supposed to choose just one solitary activity when I want to stuff every possibility into my mouth at once?

Even my metaphors slink away from themselves, ashamed.

I have trouble writing these days, trouble reading, trouble making myself work.  I skim.  I jump around.  I am called away or lured away and I can't seem to figure out how to come back, sit down, and dig until I stumble out, blinking, on the other side of the world.

For escape, I vaguely remember, is focus's paradoxical gift- for a minute or two or sixty, knuckling down to fly free.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I Was Here

The whole-body enthusiasm of a baby, as if every cell were thrilled to its core. 

File under: Insufficient warning.

Meanwhile: Charlottesville, VA; Staunton, VA; Amherst, VA; North Garden; VA.