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Tell Me Three Things

17 Jun

I just read the YA romance Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum and so you’ve caught me at a vulnerable time. I am deeply in love with these characters, with this story, with Love In General.

Love is a many splendored thing!

Love lifts us up where we belong!

All you need is love!

(Fine, I won’t start that again.)

In the story, Jessie and SN (Somebody Nobody) text all day every day. Except, TWIST, Jessie doesn’t know who SN is! They fall for each other, of course. Through sharing their souls in little bite-sized chunks.

Jessie and SN often begin the day saying, “Tell me three things.”

They share tidbits and thoughts and all that nothing means more than so many somethings, as Kathleen would say.

All that nothing inspired me to share some of my own.

Maybe it will be a series?

Who knows, I’m not thinking clearly!!

 

Three Things Today

1. I like the bad animal crackers.

You know the ones.

They taste almost neutral. Like eating sawdust. A snack to fill you up but not let you down.

This feels significant to me, somehow. That I want the bad stuff.

I bought the normal branded animal crackers recently, forgetting that they are ever-so-slightly sweet. That they have a taste. I’m not interested in that.

I want my animal crackers like I want my Amazon packages.

Made of cardboard.

 

2. I have created the world’s most perfect Coldstone order.

In my list of life accomplishments this has to go somewhere near the top.

Jillian Denning. Good at book recommendations, birthday presents, banana bread and Coldstone combinations.

(It’s too bad Coldstone combinations doesn’t start with a B.)

 

The Jillian Denning

½ Sweet cream ½ cake batter ice cream

Cinnamon

Pecans

Kit Kat

 

3. My hair is a shaggy mess.

Shaggy seems the only word for it. The ends are frayed, the top is heavy, and there’s this slight fuzz to it all that never quite goes away.

Sometimes I wonder how I got married in August, during a hurricane on Cape Cod and my hair looked fly as pie and now, in my everyday life I wonder if I’ll ever like it again.

Hair, if you are reading this, I’m just joking. Please do not give up on me now!

I have an appointment with Alberto tomorrow and I’m just hanging on until then. Crown braids, high ponytails.

The price of only getting your hair cut two states away from where you live.

The price of picky.

Terry Tempest Williams

9 Jun

Reading Terry Tempest Williams felt so intimate it was almost like hearing an echo. There I was, there were generations of Mormon women, with our voices combining and splitting, yearning and striving.

I felt heard and understood, seen and embraced.

I wonder what it would be like to read Terry’s words and not be a Mormon woman.

A Mormon feminist woman who grew up in Utah.

She speaks of places I know, people I’ve never met who are familiar all the same.

There is a part in Refuge where she is given a ride back to Salt Lake from strangers. She notes that if she had asked enough questions they would have likely been related several generations back, “the dark side of residency” in Utah.

She and I, with enough questions, might find we are related.

I don’t need to ask them, though.

Refuge is a memoir. A story of grief and death. Terry speaks of her mother’s cancer, the slow decline, holding her mother’s hand, acting as her midwife as she passed on.

Refuge is an environmental treatise. Terry speaks of the Utah landscape, of the Great Salt Lake.

Chapters begin with the Great Salt Lake’s water level. Terry spends pages, chapters on birds, at times the text becoming a scientific journal, one I don’t fully grasp.

When I saw her in person, just days after reading this she said, “My dad can tell you, I had every indication of being normal until I started watching birds.”

I’ve always been a little hesitant to use the phrase “hand of God in my life.”

It’s something we like to say at church, instances where something bigger than ourselves shows up. Grace, perhaps.

I can rarely pinpoint these moments in my life when they’re happening, but this week, after seeing Terry Tempest Williams in person I felt it.

Me reading her words just a week before she was to be in Los Angeles and I could see her. Surely that was the hand of something.

Me sharing that experience with a girl who I feel firmly was brought to me by something bigger than myself, well, that was a hand waving in my face.

Hello!

Hello!

I took a lot of notes at Terry’s talk. It’s hard to describe the energy in the room. You could hear others breathing around you. We were eager to take her in.

Terry is thoughtful and kind. I appreciate that so much.

There was so much talk of her being Mormon!

Terry is no longer a practicing Mormon.

I take issue with that very black and white definition, though.

The book is overflowing with Mormonism. She speaks of it with respect and nuance, recalling a spiritual experience as angels in the room. She speaks of its origins and liking to be connected to something magical and mystical.

She prays over her mother’s sick body.

She carries a few verses of Mormon scripture, Doctrine and Covenants 88:45-47, with her at all times.

45 The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.

46 Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?

47 Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.

Practicing is a subjective term, isn’t it?

After Terry’s talk, my friend and I stood in line to get our books signed. We were missing another event, but it seemed vital, pressing that we stay. That we see her.

Terry joined the crowd on  her time, smiling and friendly. We introduced ourselves.

We are Mormon.

We met through the visiting teaching program.

She spoke about her love of fast and testimony meetings, of hearing each other’s stories and bearing witness to each other.

She gave us a hug and said, “We share so much.”

Hello!

Hello!

We share so much.

A Person Without Skin

5 Mar

I have been thinking about this quote from Less for months now.

The book itself was just fine for me, but this quote has stayed with me, swirling in my head, naming something I’ve only ever felt.

You’re like a person without skin.

Everything hurts.

Once, in his twenties, a poet he had been talking with extinguished her cigarette in a potted plant and said, “You’re like a person without skin.” A poet had said this. One who made her living flaying herself alive in public had said that he, tall and young and hopeful Arthur Less, was without skin. But it was true. “You need to get an edge,” his old rival Carlos constantly told him in the old days, but Less had not known what that meant. To be mean? No, it meant to be protected, armored against the world, but can one “get” an edge any more than one can “get” a sense of humor? Or do you fake it, the way a humorless businessman memorizes jokes and is considered “a riot,” leaving parties before he runs out of material?

Whatever it is—Less never learned it. By his forties, all he has managed to grow is a gentle sense of himself, akin to the transparent carapace of a soft-shelled crab.

PS: A few other quotes from the book that I loved:

And we realize that we thought we were the only changing thing, the only variable, in the world; that the objects and people in our lives are there for our pleasure, like the playing pieces of a game, and cannot move of their own accord; that they are held in place by our need for them, by our love. How stupid.

We think we know the ones we love.

Our husbands, our wives. We know them – we are them, sometimes; when separated at a party we find ourselves voicing their opinions, their taste in food or books, telling an anecdote that never happened to us but happened to them. We watch their tics of conversation, of driving and dressing, how they touch a sugar cube to their coffee and stare as it turns white to brown, then drop it, satisfied, into the cup. I watched my own husband do that every morning; I was a vigilant wife.

We think we know them. We think we love them. But what we love turns out to be a poor translation, a translation we ourselves have made, from a language we barely know. We try to get past it to the original, but we never can. We have seen it all. But what have we really understood?

One morning we awaken. Beside us, that familiar sleeping body in the bed: a new kind of stranger. For me, it came in 1953. That was when I stood in my house and saw a creature merely bewitched with my husband’s face.

Perhaps you cannot see a marriage. Like those giant heavenly bodies invisible to the human eye, it can only be charted by its gravity, its pull on everything around it. That is how I think of it. That I must look at everything around it, all the hidden stories, the unseen parts, so that somewhere in the middle – turning like a dark star – it will reveal itself at last.

2018 In Books, Books, Books

21 Jan

In 2018 I saw the Red Sox win the World Series. Like I was in Dodger Stadium standing next to Rob, Mr. Boston Sports Guy when it happened.

It was a moment.

I never wrote about it, though. That moment.

I never wrote about a lot of 2018.

But here we go. I’m going to try to write this one.

BOOKS.

Books and 2018.

 

My favorite series

Books that swept me up, made me feel things, made me believe in reading second chances:

The To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

The book I recommend constantly that absolutely everyone I’ve given it to loves:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

(No really, read it if you haven’t)

The nonfiction book I tell everyone about because it reads like a juicy page-turning thriller and we can talk about it for months on end:

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

If you love romance

My Oxford Year by Julie Whelan (my favorite romance novel this year)

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

Shonda is turning this into at television series for Netflix! It follows eight siblings as they each fall in love. The tagline says it all: Can there be any greater challenge to London’s Ambitious Mamas than an unmarried duke?

Also! The author is starting a podcast with my very favorite feminist podcaster from Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. It’s all about the joy of romance novels and called Hot and Bothered.

My favorite children’s book:

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

My favorite memoir:

Educated by Tara Brach, really because it led to so much further discussion and thought.

Fiction:

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Beartown by Fredrick Backman (the author of A Man Called Ove.) (I put myself on hold for the second book in this series, which is actually pretty rare for me.)

This is how it always is by Laurie Frankel 

A visit from the goon squad by Jennifer Egan

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Power by Naomi Alderman

 

Beach Reads

The book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

 

Nonfiction

In Conclusion, don’t worry about it by Lauren Graham (Lauren Graham’s graduation speech. I’ve reread it a few times.)

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

 

Children’s Books

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

The adventures of a girl called bicycle by Christina Uss

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

 

Young Adult

A very large expanse of sea by Taherah Mafi

One of us is lying by Karen M. McManus

 

Fantasy/Sci Fi (I know these two are different, but I just don’t read enough of them to really separate them out)

Into the drowning deep by Mira Grant

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

 

Graphic novels

Chi’s sweet home by Kanata Konami

A children’s graphic novel from the perspective of a cat. I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed this before this year, but now I couldn’t help but think of Dolly. Couldn’t help but meep meep.

 

Thrillers:

Listen, I’m just listing all the thrillers I read this year. It just so happened every one I read this year I enjoyed. None of them changed my life, but that’s not really what I’m looking for with a thriller:

Then she was gone by Lisa Jewell

The last time I lied by Riley Sager

The secrets she keeps by Michael Robotham

The wife between us by Greer Hendricks

 

Memoir:

The Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks

We are never meeting in real life by Samantha Irby (Do the audiobook version! It was such a treat.)

Real American by Julie Lythcott-Haims

And now we have everything by Meaghan O’Connell

Flunking sainthood by Jana Reiss (I’m now a huge, huge Jana Reiss fan. Jana to write everything about Mormonism, please.)

Make Something Good Today by Erin and Ben Napier of HGTV’s Hometown

This was a surprisingly poignant read for me, it went far beyond “Oh I like their TV show let’s see behind the scenes!”

Take this quote, for instance:

It might look as if those of us from small towns who move back home are mkaing a safe bet or no bet at all. But I disagree: it takes effort to rediscover what you think you already know, and that’s an unsung bravery at work. We may find nothing. Or, if we shift our perspectives, we allow for the possibility that life can crack open with wonder and we can find magic in the familiar.

 

Spirituality

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by the one and only Anne Lamott

Walking on water: reflections on faith and art by Madeleine L’Engle

Radical acceptance: Embracing your life with the heart of the Buddha by Tara Brach (she also has a great podcast)

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little pep talks for me & you by Lin Manuel Miranda

(I didn’t know what to put this under, but I read and approached this book like I do other spirirtual books. The reading of it became a spiritual practice for me.)

Tattoos on the heart: the power of boundless compassion by Gregory Boyle

My Top 10 Books Published In 2018

28 Dec

Inspired by #libfaves18, where librarians Tweet their top 10 books published that year. You can see the final list for 2018 here.

I get precious about the books I recommend.

I don’t like this about myself.

In my job as a librarian I’m not like this at all.

If a student comes in loving Diary of a Wimpy Kid I’m READY.

How about Timmy Failure? I gave it to my husband to read, I loved it so much. Have you done Hamster Princess? It’s not what you might think it is, such a great feminist message. 13-Story Treehouse is a sure hit, but what about something more like Phoebe and her Unicorn?

If they reject my picks (and they often do) I say great! and move on. My goal is to get them to a book they love and want to read, not to get it “right. “Not to have them say my taste is flawless.

Often after a book recommending session I have 20 rejected books by my side, but one happy kid with one happy book on their way out the door.

When I recommend books online I’m much more particular.

I’ve shared the life-changer books here on this blog.

High Fidelity

The Year of Magical Thinking

The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing

But the ones in-between (as almost all books are)?

I hesitate to share.

What if people think I have bad taste? Do they know that Hey Ladies isn’t as good as Joan Didion?

(Of course they know. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.)

_

This is all to say I’m going to try to share more this year. I’m often asked to share and recommend books and I love it. I’m so flattered by it! I’m also a little nervous!

What if people hate my books?

What if it’s a reflection on me?

To start off this sharing, this less precious self, I will lead with my Top 10 books published in 2018.

Not my top 10 books read in 2018 (that’s coming!) but books published this year that I read this year.

No disclaimers.

(Beyond the 373 words in the post so far.)

1. Front Desk by Kelly Yang

My favorite children’s book this year.

2. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

My favorite obsession this year.

3. Educated by Tara Westover

My favorite book to discuss this year.

4. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

My favorite emotionally intense fiction this year.

5. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

My favorite book to debate this year.

6. The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Use

My favorite sweet story this year.

7. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

My favorite picture book this year.

8. My Oxford Year by Julie Whelan

My favorite romance this year.

9. A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Taherah Mafi

My favorite YA novel this year.

10. Almost Everything by Anne Lamott

My favorite spiritual book this year.

Destiny’s Child And Overdue Library Books

9 Dec

Today I returned 14 overdue books to the library.

In my 31 years of library use this has never happened.

I am a responsible and independent library user!

My mama taught me better than that!

It started with Angela’s Ashes.

Doesn’t everything?

(I joke.)

(I kid.)

(I don’t know.)

Angela’s Ashes was a tough read for me. It was very dark and hopeless feeling.

I told this to a friend and she said, really? I didn’t feel that way. I thought it was so full of life and humor.

Which just means that

  1. Maybe it’s not the time in my life for Angela’s Ashes
  2. Maybe another time would be!
  3. Maybe not!

All valid options.

Angela’s Ashes was hard for me to get through.

And suddenly, “Oh it’s a day overdue” turned into “Oh it’s a week overdue.” And I keep the sort of library schedule where a lot happens in a week.

I keep the sort of life where I can say that phrase and Mean It.

I returned them all today. All 14 of the beautiful, overdue books.

My arm still kind of hurts from lugging that weight six blocks uphill in the rain both ways.

It was a weird defeat.

I thought I could conquer that stack!

I thought if I just read one book every day for 14 days I would be caught up!

But as I mentioned before, I’m on the sort of library schedule where a lot happens in a week.

Imagine what happens in 14 days!

Imagine what it’s like to live in my brain!

There’s meaning to all of this somewhere, I’m sure of it.

It’s just beyond the tip of my tongue.

Something about control or success or a feedback loop.

Something about learning my own limits and saying no and not seeing this as a defeat or a reflection of self.

There’s a lesson in this, and yet I keep coming back to Destiny’s Child.

My mama taught me better than that

Always and Forever, Jillian Lorraine

25 Nov

Photo

Well dear me. I’m a bit of a mess.

I just finished Always and Forever, Lara Jean, the final book in the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series.

I loved it.

I wish I had more eloquent words to convey the bubbly feeling right above my stomach, like foaming soap bubbles combined with a fizzy 7-up, but I loved it.

I’m bubbling.

Lavender foaming soap bubbles.

Lara Jean would approve.

I tried to read PS I Still Love You a few years ago when it came out. It was all over my Book Twitter, my Book Instagram, my book world. I hadn’t read the first in the series, but people said it didn’t matter.

It did, I guess.

Not for me, I said.

Not for me, I told others.

This is the rare case where the movie started it all for me.

I love the movie.

I would watch the movie every day if I could. Sometimes I think I should. Isn’t that what my whole “let entertainment be entertaining thing” is about?

Isn’t that what I mean when I tell parents it’s great their kid loves Captain Underpants?

The movie is perfect. A perfect high school romance.

And so I gave the books a try again.

This time I started at the beginning.

The books are sweet and simple. Conflict is sweet and simple.

I can see how the second book didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t already in love with Peter Kavinsky, the handsomest of all the handsome boys. I didn’t understand the Covey sisters. The Song sisters.

This series is really a story about a sweet family who loves each other. About sisters.

I know about sisters and about happy families.

But it’s also a book about Lara Jean. A modern day Anne Shirley.

Yes, I’m saying it!

How could I not, when Lara Jean says things like this:

Sunday night I curl my hair. Curling your hair is an intrinsically hopeful act. I like to curl it at night and think about all the things that could happen tomorrow. Also, it generally looks much better slept on and not so poofy.

Can’t you just see Anne saying that?

Or this?

Families shrink and expand. All you can really do is be glad for it, glad for each other, for as long as you have each other.

I see so much of myself in Lara Jean, a homebody who loves to bake and loves her family and is dreamy and romantic about the world around her. A girl who wants the world to be pretty and full of glitter and vintage dresses. A girl who is a good girl, who is uninterested in being anything else.

Oh Lara Jean.

Oh Peter K.

I love a good high school romance, but more than that, I love a good high school romance that is realistic to what I know of high school romance.

So many teen books right now are so intense. The tackle heavy issues. They often do it with great success, with excellent writing.

I often enjoy them.

But that intensity? That wasn’t my experience. My experience was a lot more about small conflicts and secret crushes.

Best friends and family dinners.

Oh dear me.

I just want to put on a pair of flannel pajamas and make some Night Night tea and start it all over again.

Maybe in a foaming lavender bath while drinking an ice-cold 7 UP.

Bubbles everywhere!

Bubbles and glitter, and maybe a vintage dress or two.

All the best things in life.

 

– Always and Forever, Jillian Lorraine

Book Club

22 Apr

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My house is so squeaky clean right now that I actually took off my shoes and put them away rather than leave them on the floor.

You know that place where everything is tidy and cozy and you commit to making it this way for the rest of your life?

I’ve been there for the past few hours.

Thank you, book club.

I started a book club (again).

My last one, RIP, ended due to schedules and distance and then the pesky problem of 2/4 members eventually leaving the Los Angeles area.

Eventually, being key to that part of the story.

But I am telling this story. And this is how I’m telling it:

This year when I was looking at what I wanted to accomplish I wrote down a few things.

Read The Brothers Karamazov

Approach social media with intention

Join a book club

Join a book club.

Invest in friendships near, rather than always far.

Join a book club

And so, because I am forever a Kristy, I sent out a few texts.

I chose a book sure to be rich for discussion.

Bing. Bang. Boom.

French toast!

START a book club

(I should have known myself.)

We had French toast today. And bacon. (We ate the whole pound, hello ladies.) And eggs. And fizzy fruity drinks and Diet Cokes and we talked about the book some, yes. About what the book made us think about. About where we lack compassion. We talked about creativity. Religion. Politics.

We listened to Dolly Parton.

We admired Dolly Purrton. (From afar.)

I provided fuzzy socks for those in need.

And nearly four hours after it began I said goodbye to the last member.

I said goodbye and I turned on the sink and got out the soap.

Squeak squeak.

Hear that?

I’m committing to be in this place the rest of my life.

Why I Read

10 Jul

Inspired by this Instagram series

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I read to escape from the reality of the world

I read to gain empathy and understanding towards certain unfathomable parts of the reality of the world

I read for the romance

I read for the hope

I read for the laughter

I read to see females doing the things I’ve never personally seen females do but know, 100%, they can

I read for the company, for the new loves and best friends

For the Mark Darcys and Bridget Joneses

For the Anne Shirleys and the Weasley twins and Esther Greenwoods and the Jo Marches

I read for the antidote to hate

I read for an expanded mind

I read for “In vain I have struggled!” and “WHAT? A PRINCESS?? ME???”

I read for the love of it,

always simply for the love of the game

Literary Love #7: Gilbert Blythe – Anne of Green Gables

9 May

anne___gil__snub_by_swankkatImage

Gilbert Blythe

(Anne of Green Gables)

I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls,

I just want you.

Gilbert and Anne were my first fictional model of love and as such I tried to force future interactions with men down the path they took. Spunky, dreamer girl–check! Handsome rival–check! Hate each other at first, only to realize they’ve always been in love!

It’s a model we’ve seen again and again and it seemed like The One to me. Once, I dramatically ripped up a school paper of a boy I liked, my early 2000s answer to smashing a chalkboard on his head. I then felt so guilty after I apologized again and again profusely.

Alas, I was not Anne.

I am not Anne.

I see her in me, though, in the way I see my dearest and oldest friends in me. The girls who shaped view of the world, my politics, my personality. The girls I grew up with. Anne is one of them.

I just wasn’t to have her exact love story.

From the book:

For a moment Anne’s heart fluttered queerly and for the first time her eyes faltered under Gilbert’s gaze and a rosy flush stained the paleness of her face. It was as if a veil that had hung before her inner consciousness had been lifted, giving to her view a revelation of unsuspected feelings and realities. Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps. . . perhaps. . .love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.

(Anne of Avonlea)

PS: Love #1#2#3, #4#5, #6