Monday, February 29, 2016

Seasons (of Life) Through Stories

Hydrangeas already coming back up!

February can be a such a tease! Here in the NW we can have days of endless rain but low and behold, sometime by mid-month we have a few days of warm weather and we are all ready for spring. Especially the flowers! For a few days I can ditch the coat, dream of potted plants and outdoor furniture, and actually sit outside and enjoy the sun! But not for long.....within a week I'm back in front of the fire, curled up under a blanket with a book.

This was one of those weekends. So, I was back inside with a stack of books. I've been reading so much lately. This shouldn't come as a surprise, I am a librarian after all. But, honestly, finding time to read during the last year has been SO HARD. When you work long days reading emails, reports, articles, it's not always the first thing you want to do when you get home. But, I vowed that this year I would make time for the things that are important to me, that fill me up. And reading is my therapy.

I see new books every day. Part of my job is to decide which books head to the new book shelf and which ones get interfiled with the rest of our collection at the library. January, February, and March are quiet in the publishing world so fewer books are debuted before spring when things pick up again. That doesn't mean there aren't ANY new good books, just fewer of them. (Summer and Fall are the sweet spots in the world of books!) And January 2016 did not disappoint. Last month I read When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I love a memoir sometimes for the shock value, but mostly because I appreciate the human spirit and the reassurance that we are all going through life together. I am grateful when someone has the courage to share their experience. This book broke my heart and then put it back together with the story of a dying man who spent his limited time looking at and living life in ways I could never imagine. Life is precious and beautiful. Wow.

My Name is Lucy Barton is another brand new book, this one a novel about the relationship between a mother and daughter and life's disappointments. The book takes place in a hospital overlooking the Empire State Building as the narrator, Lucy Barton, lies in a hospital bed recounting her childhood and life while her mother looks on. While it sounds depressing, it wasn't. Elizabeth Strout is a wonderful writer and I appreciated the human element in her words.

Speaking of the fragility and beauty of life...I also read this (older) memoir which had me from the cover. It's the story of strength and courage and faith in the face of something unthinkable. At once  sad and inspiring, Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson amazed me with her ability to more forward from a tragic accident and continue to realize dreams for herself and her family.  She writes to this day as the author of  NieNie Dialogues.

When pickings are slim I have to get creative when looking for something new to read that isn't necessarily hot of the press. I recently discovered Instagram as a wonderful source for interesting reads. There are so many beautiful vignettes of books and photos of books I've never even heard of! Book Musings is one of my favorite feeds. Not only does she have a beautiful home library, but she introduced me to the New York Review of Books Classics and Persephone PressModern Mrs. Darcy, a book(ish) blogger, writes a little about life and a lot about books and makes recommendations of new and older titles alike. She also has an Instagram feed AND a podcast about books called "What Should I Read Next?" She's lovely really.

Did you know that the New York Times Book Review has a podcast? Reviews from the weekly publication AND author interviews. Perfect for a commute.

The Millions is a blog about books. It's been around since 2003 and has an archive. Ever heard of it?

BookPage is a publication available to libraries (and maybe also bookstores?) with an online companion site.

Looking for something sort-of recent that might actually be available at your local library? Kirkus Reviews, the venerable publication trusted by librarians everywhere, offers a Best of 2015 list for fiction, nonfiction, and children, among others. (Truthfully, they have great reviews, but the magazine is text heavy and black and white so the website is WAY better!)

And then there's Book Club Girl. Book Club Girl actually works for Harper Collins, but her reviews are good, there's a podcast, and plenty of links to other reading sites.

Finally, if you like to judge a book by it's cover perhaps you'll enjoy Book Browse. This online magazine for book lovers covers fiction and non-fiction which includes a read-alike page where you can find recommendations based on popular books.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Be Still. And Know.

We celebrated our ninth anniversary on Ash Wednesday this year. Incidentally, the timing was perfect. It was my first Ash Wednesday as a convert and it felt meaningful since my conversion is two-fold. Being Catholic is a way for me to be filled and a way for us to be a family. I've always been fascinated by religion and what draws us to our beliefs. (I love a good novel, but if my choices include a religious memoir, no matter the religion, I will always choose that. My absolute favorite is An Unquenchable Thirst, but Father Mother God is equally gripping.) So, this mid-life conversion comes with much thought and consideration and absolutely no surprise.

 I've always been the one to carry the religious torch and found meaning in the connections that I made with others through church. JSM is always supportive. But then life got busy and I no longer had time to give and we fell away from the Protestant church we had attended. JSM was raised Catholic, but in many ways golf is his church. I thought about this a lot in the last year as we moved not only to a new house, but into a new phase in our life together. The fact that we don't have children prompted us to move to a new home for our hopes and dreams, but in the midst of that, I wondered if we have no children what does it mean for us to be a family? At the same time, life was busy, I felt adrift, and I needed a place to just be. I, too, was raised Catholic in the sense that I attended Catholic school, though my parents didn't practice the faith. So, it's comfortable and reminds us both of where we came from. At the prompting of my mother in law, I attended mass on my own this past summer and well, as they say.....the rest is....happening. I hope to be a full-fledged Catholic in a few months and I look forward to this new chapter in our life. I am so grateful for my dear friend, Judy, who is walking alongside me on this journey.

As we move into our tenth year of marriage I am reflective on what keeps us choosing one another. Every day. Marriage takes work. And patience. People grow. Some days are harder, others are easy. Sometimes you have to be the one to carry, sometimes you are carried. Forgiveness is constant. And so are jokes. For me, it's a deep love and bond I can't explain which makes work, forgiveness, having to be carried (maybe more than I carry) all worth it. I know I, too, am loved. Especially when my husband handed me this Valentines Day card. The timing was perfect.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Autumn in New York (.....Spring in South Africa, and Christmas in the Northwest!)

 I'm way behind and I've missed this blog. To bring you up to date: the last 5 months in photos. This past fall we went on an epic trip to South Africa with good friends, spent a couple days in NYC on the way, and came home to a chilly holiday season. Exactly the way I was hoping to wrap up 2015! South Africa is special to us. The landscape is both breathtaking and heartbreaking, the people are wonderful, and it's at once exotic and comfortable. Deep in our hearts is a sense of adventure and this life we've been given allows us to explore that both in our dreams and every now and  then with our own eyes. We may never again cross borders in the Middle East, swim in the Strait of Hormuz, or climb the steps of a towering mosque. But we can revisit the place that stole our hearts, introduced us to biltong, brought back Chablis, and is home to some of the kindest people we know. To celebrate JSM's 50th year we wanted to experience it again and bring along people we love. And that's exactly what we did....

 St. Patrick's Cathedral

Lighting candles for Big Ed and Little Grandma

 Central Park

Fifth Avenue

At The Peninsula simple and so beautiful!

The real reason JSM wanted to go to SA....ha!

Our home while in Cape Town

 English and Afrikaans

 Noon day canon in Cape Town

 The food!

 Company's Garden's a library!

 Camps Bay Beach

 We got to see Lauren Kriedemann again - so lovely!

We had missed this little dog so much! (And we love his humans, too!)

With the lovely NV (now Mrs. Bock!)

 Boulders Beach


From Cape Town we drove to Franschhoek, a delightful town in the Winelands with beautiful Dutch architecture, amazing scenery, and surprisingly good pizza!

 Fine the bathroom!

From Franschoek, we drove to Plettenburg Bay where we stayed at the most amazing lodge, visited an elephant sanctuary where injured elephants spend their days, and relaxed in the treetops!

It's a miracle that no one slipped on those floors! You could see your reflection in them. Seriously.

Then it was on to safari at Kruger National Park where we spent 4 days at Naledi Game Lodge. We practically had the place to ourselves and the most lovely staff took care of us. No words can really describe the amazing experience of being in the African bush. But, what I can say is that for someone who is constantly on the go (me!) it was the first time in years that I truly felt relaxed (after I adjusted to the idea of riding in an open top vehicle and staring down a real, live lion 5 feet away.) The African sky is big and hauntingly beautiful especially at dusk, but so are the animals any time of day. Wow!

Sipho! One of our fantastic guides...

JSM in his happy place....

Because you NEED Cheetos in the bush :)

 Love them! APK & KWK

 OK, that was a little unsettling. In the dark. No zoom lens required.

Those eyes!

The sunsets were unbelievable

 Morning game drive selfie with lion - ha!

 Getting a lesson from the magnificent Eric!

 Taking a break during an evening game drive. Must stop for wine.

 The always beautiful KWK.

A penny for your thoughts, APK!


 A beautiful table setting at one of our dinners

 The food was fabulous. This was breakfast!

 We witnessed the most amazing thing - two giraffes fighting over a female. It was terrifying to watch (and listen to!)

 The winner!

 A storm rolled in.....

Heading home.

 We got home just in time to put up our Christmas tree and got this in the mail from our little Stella. That handwriting melts my heart.

 KS and RJ came to visit!

 We had a special ornament added to our tree.

And a special gift that finally made our house a home. (But that kudu lamp in the background is pretty awesome, too. Straight from Johannesburg - a piece of Africa courtesy of West Elm.)

2015 is SO. LAST. YEAR. We are already having new adventures and Abigail the cat is making this house her home, too. In the way only she can. Seriously.