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.

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But Then Love

27 Dec

For Christmas this year I got a print of the sky the night of our wedding.

It’s such a perfect Jill gift. It’s romantic and personal. Sentimental and sentimental. There we are, Chequessett Road, Wellfleet, MA, August 18, 2017.

I’m fuzzy thinking about it.

The print allows for words, and instead of “Jill and Rob’s Wedding” or “Wedding Day” it simply says

But then love

Hilary gave a toast at our wedding.

I knew I wanted a few things when I got married.

I wanted flowers of all shapes and sizes and colors.

I wanted a wedding dress that screamed me so loudly you’d hear the echo decades later.

And I wanted toasts.

Lots of them.

From people I love.

Hilary was one of those people.

She got up there with her writerly words and her oversized flower crown and she gave a toast so big, so profound, a year-and-a-half later and people are messaging Hilary to get the exact words for my wedding print.

But then love

(But then the wedding toast)

(By Hilary Miller)

When Rob and Jill first asked me to give a speech, I was super excited because I love attention and because I thought it was the perfect opportunity to do a parody of a song from the hit musical Hamilton.

But a few lines into the song, I realized that I was making it into a joke. And it was going to be terrible. So here we are–going the genuine route.

And what’s more genuine than the Bible? Oh, yeah. We’re going there.

My favorite phrase in the Bible–it’s not even a verse–is

BUT THEN GOD.

Things can be going terribly, terribly wrong,

BUT THEN GOD

steps in and turns our mourning into dancing or makes the embarrassing warts disappear or defeats the Patriots.

Well, the Bible also says GOD IS LOVE,

so really this phrase is

BUT THEN LOVE.

Rob and Jill are the embodiment of this phrase.

Getting to know Rob and getting to know Jill at make-believe school were two very different experiences.

Making friends with Rob is feeling at ease in his presence. It’s going to the beach or getting ready to go to the beach or coming back from just having been at the beach. It’s an open mind, unshakeable loyalty, and unbelievable kindness.

It’s also unbelievable food that he cooks. Fancy food.

Once we took Rob out for his birthday because we thought we’d give him the night off, and the restaurant was so fancy that when I ordered ravioli it arrived and it was a single piece of ravioli.

That was the ravioli of my life, Rob.

Getting to know Jill also involves food

and it comes in the biggest portion sizes Chilis has to offer.

Making friends with Jill means always ordering an appetizer. It’s talking with something to say. It’s nights spent with ice cream and open hearts. It’s using your words to make the other person feel better, feel loved, and feel heard. It’s hair that took years to perfect, and it’s so much laughing.

And then there’s Rob and Jill together–that early friendship full of singing Celine Dion as loud as possible. Rob, I heard those whistle tones. Underappreciated karaoke. Day trips. TV viewing parties with Jill’s apartment and Rob’s food and my… presence? It’s also so much fun.

So much fun that when Jill said she was going to give this strapping young man a chance, I was worried. Worried that it was going to blow up in Rob’s baseball-cap-covered face. The friendship was too good. There was no way it was going to work out!

BUT THEN LOVE.

Love came into the picture, and instead of destroying a friendship, it enriched it.

And love created an ending they never taught us at Pepperdine because it’s too wonderful and simple and sweet to be anything other than the great surprise of life, to be anything other than the real, BUT-THEN-kind of love.

As you continue the story together, I hope that love keeps surprising you. I love you both.

(But then Hilary’s Hamilton rap, which she performed to a mic drop)

For those of you disappointed I didn’t do a parody song, let me convey how bad it was with a little taste:

How did an East Coast,

Line cook,

Son of a banker

And a blogger,

Dropped in the middle of an affluent spot in North L.A. County

So far from Wilbraham and South Jordan

Get hitched,

Like it’s a love liner they’re boardin’?

But then love

But then

But then

But then

but then love

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The 10 Best Things I Ate in 2018

26 Dec

In no particular order.

Inspired by this post

1. Rob’s Teriyaki Chicken Pasta

A copycat of Rob’s favorite dish from his favorite hometown Italian restaurant. I can definitively say Rob’s version is better than the original. I have been to the original. It is excellent.

Rob’s version is glorious.

For my birthday I chose this dinner and then proceeded to eat an entire pound of pasta myself with no regrets or sadness, only love and light and 31 years.

2. The Chocolate Sparrow Soft Serve Ice Cream

A Cape Cod classic, their chocolatey drinks are special, but I got their soft serve almost every day we were on the Cape this year. Maybe every day come to think of it?

There is something about good soft serve that simply cannot be topped, and this soft serve is great.

3. HiHo Cheeseburger

The best burger in LA. I live right by Father’s Office, often touted as The Burger out there, and let me tell you no. And not just because of the stressful Father’s Office atmosphere. HiHo is melt in your mouth better. (And the choice for Rob’s birthday meal.)

4. Costa Grande Carnitas Wet Burrito with Green Sauce

I travel to the Valley for this burrito. It’s known to my coworkers as my Valley Burrito. It is so enormous, the size of about an eight-month-old child, that I usually bring half of it to work the next day and people ooh and ahh and say, oh Jill got her Valley Burrito yesterday.

5. Cafe Du Monde Beignets

They live up to the hype.

6. Sidecar Doughnuts Breakfast (Eggs Benedict) Donut

Hear me out. A donut stuff with a poached egg, ham and basil. It’s a real thing that sounds maybe iffy? And is glorious.

7. Sarita’s Pupuseria Papusas!

This restaurant was featured on La La Land and now has a picture of its movie scene right on the cash register which takes away a bit of its charm, but the pupusas remain THE PUPUSAS. The only thing you really need to do in Downtown LA.

8. Los Agaves Chicken Chile Poblano Campestre with Agave Sauce

Los Agaves is my favorite restaurant in the entire world. The restaurant we went to right after we got engaged. The restaurant on the top 20 best reviewed restaurants on Yelp. Like 60% of the reason we go to Santa Barbara so often. This is my order plus beans + rice + guacamole.

9. Parasol’s French Fries and Gravy

Is there anything better in this life than french fries topped with roast beef and gravy? In New Orleans?

10. Crack Shack The Firebird

Rob’s best friend lives in San Diego, and so Rob has been raving about Crack Shack for years. It finally came to LA, and to a place we go often, at that! Any excuse I have to get this spicy, melty chicken sandwich I take, eagerly. I have a lot of excuses.

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The Great 2018 Soup Swap

11 Dec

Image

I live for soup weather.

I live for soup.

I live for soup weather.

Let’s live as a group!

 

Wow, what a clever opening poem, for this, the first annual Jillian Lorraine soup swap!!

(crowd roars)

(um, is that the wave?)

I was telling someone recently that I’m at the stage in my life where I would enjoy a recipe swap.

I used to mock these things, mock this lifestyle, and yet.

We all turn 30.

Here I am, writing poems, and doing the wave and putting out a recipe swap for the whole gosh darn internet!

(That’s who reads my blog, right?)

I truly do love soup.

When I told Rob about this idea he said, “Soup girl never leaves her soup.” This is nearly as clever as my opening poem.

We are a fun time.

Right now in Los Angeles it’s the best of the soup weather. It’s all fuzzy socks and half finished cups of tea, spiced nuts and soft blankets.

Later this week I’m making this lemon soup right here:

Avgolemeno (Greek Lemon Chicken Soup)

(You see what I did there! I introduced the first recipe for soup swap!)

It takes fifteen minutes. It’s delicious. You can pack it with veggies if you so choose.

Other soups I make regularly over here:

Spicy Thai Curry Soup

We use udon noodles because I always want the best noodles in my soup/life. Also we add bok choy, bell pepper, yellow squash and chicken. 

Black Bean Soup

This one is hardly a soup, more of a very thick…stew? Sauce? We add chicken and put it over a bed of lime/cilantro rice (a la Chipotle).  Mmm.

Lasagna soup!

Double the spicy sausage and the noodles and you’ve got yourself a winner.

 

 

OK, now it’s your turn. Do not let me down. Gimme all your best soups. Or at the very least, the links to your best soups. GO!

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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

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A Memory. Click, Click, Click.

2 Dec

A couple of weeks ago Robert and I bought an internet booster thing.

There’s a real name for this item, and we had real reason to believe it would work, but that stuff is irrelevant to the story.

We had an internet booster thing.

We procrastinated setting it up, and by the time we realized, no, in fact, this was not going to work, it was 8:45pm on the night we needed to return it.

Staples has a strict 14 day return policy.

We had fifteen minutes to return this internet booster thing within the policy window!

!

Rob tossed me the cord while he ran to put on his shoes.

I left the house in weird camera pajamas and Birkenstocks and soon we were sprinting up the road, laughing into the darkness.

“I’m going to throw up!” I yelled.

“I can’t breathe!”

We huffed and puffed and regretted our poutine from dinner.

We huffed and puffed and regretted that we hadn’t taken care of this earlier.

We laughed and huffed and laughed and puffed and when we arrived at the store three blocks later, they said, um this is a receipt for scrapbook paper?

It all worked out with six minutes to spare.

On the way home, Rob took my hand and we walked leisurely, letting our heart rates return to normal.

As it was happening, the sprinting, the camera pajamas, the yells into the void, I had the distinct thought,

This is a memory.

This moment

right now

a memory.

So here I am, writing it down to save it for later.

Click click click.

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A Day At Church

26 Nov

I gave five hours to church on Sunday.

I am not in a leadership position. I am no one exciting. Just a member of the congregation and this is what I gave.

Five hours.

It’s a job. A day’s work.

As a child I used to say I was churched out.

When my family would sit down to read scriptures or when there was yet another youth activity I would sigh. I can’t, I’m churched out.

I am often churched out.

I wonder how many of us feel this way?

I’ve wondered if this means I don’t like it?

Or like, with everything else in life, there’s bad to get to the good?

The first hour I spent at church practicing the organ.

This is actually an improvement for me. When I was first asked to be the ward organist I would come at 7:30AM and use my key to unlock the green gate. I would turn on the lights and for the next 2.5 hours I would stumble through, my feet bumbling the pedals, my heart racing.

It almost doesn’t matter if I practice, I can never perform it how I’d like.

It’s the ultimate test for a perfectionist and I get it every week!

Lucky me.

A podcast I listen to once talked about church as something that most every single time is boring and semi-horrible and then occasionally, BOOM, that great spiritual experience. And we go and we slog through for the BOOMS.

This is true of most anything.

I love to read, and yet most of the books I read are just fine. But then, wow, when you get a great one.

BOOM.

BOOMS.

The second hour of church I spent actually playing the organ for the service.

I played four pieces.

Prelude.

Postlude.

It went about as well as usual, which is to say at least 20% less than I would have hoped.

Recently I listed all the things I have going on in my life.

There’s a lot.

I load myself up with projects and side projects. With relationships and goals and to-do lists and I am on edge a lot of the time because I am nowhere near accomplishing everything I want to.

Rob points out that I have a lot on my plate and I say, “Yes!” But I want it all there!”

Except for church.

The church stuff on that list often feels like an obligation.

One I take on willingly.

But an obligation, nonetheless.

The third hour of church I teach a group of 4-5 year olds about forgiveness.

We read stories and color pictures and sing songs.

(I do this at work all week.

Now I do this on the weekends too.)

I sound negative and I know I can be about church.

I am, after all, someone who is churched out quite often.

But there are so many good things I’m not talking about here.

About some of the best friends and best people I’ve met through church. About the way the community came together and fed my family for a week when my grandpa died. How people I’ve never met have showed up and helped me move my house countless times, simply because I asked. And because we share this thing.

I don’t mean to be negative.

The fourth hour of church I play the piano for all of the primary children (12 and under). I haven’t practiced and don’t know the songs beforehand, but luckily this isn’t the organ.

I debated publishing this piece.

Will it be controversial? Sharing my experience?

Sharing anything when it comes to religion seems to be controversial. Some people only want to listen to the good. To tell me to try harder, have more faith. Others only want to swirl in the bad. To tell me to leave, that it’s all nonsense.

My church experience exists in tones of gray.

In kind people and long meetings.

In purpose and community, in disappointment and heartache.

In slog slog (slog) (slog) (slog) (slog) BOOMS.

The fifth hour of church I stay behind and help a friend pick out a solo for the upcoming Relief Society Christmas dinner.

I’ll be accompanying her on the piano.

She has a lovely voice.

Slog slog slog

(No booms today.)

 

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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

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Thanksgiving 2018

23 Nov

We watched Parks and Rec all of Thanksgiving week.

It wasn’t planned.

In fact, we had just started Homecoming after wrapping up The Haunting of Hill House. We were hitting all the big names!

And then we watched an episode of Parks and Rec and it was just so…nice. So…fun?

I have 38 television shows on my “Shows” note on my phone. These are the shows that I’d like to watch or finish or watch the next season of or or.

And letting go of that list, letting go of an acclaimed show or a recommended show or a new show to just watch something I’ve already seen for the fun of it? It feels like the biggest lesson of 2018.

Why on earth am I making goals around my television shows?

Television is meant to entertain!

I subscribe to 45 podcasts.

That’s a real number too.

I counted after I saw a Millennial Bingo that said “Subscribes to five podcasts” and I was like FIVE? PHEW. MY GRANDMA subscribes to five. Try 45!

And then I realized wow.

I have also turned my podcasts into some sort of goal. Achievement.

I have also lost the entertainment in my entertainment.

Last week I asked people to brag about something they were proud of in 2018. It was the best thing I’ve done in a really long time and I definitely recommend it. Ask the people you love!

Ask yourself.

I am surrounded by the greatest humans.

Humans who start book clubs and change their car brakes on their own. Humans whose movies are now streaming on Amazon, whose books will hit the shelves soon. Who overcame bad relationships or opened themselves up to good ones.

Humans who adopted cats.

(Wait that’s me. I’m a cool person, too!)

But the interesting thing was, after I put that question up, I had many people reach out and tell me that they couldn’t think of anything to say.

One friend told me she hadn’t achieved anything in 2018.

“Hmm,” I said. “The question didn’t ask you what you had achieved, it asked you what you were proud of?”

“Hmm,” she responded.

Hmm.

That was a moment for me too.

Am I only proud of my “achievements?”

What is an achievement anyway?

Isn’t sending a finished book out, one you’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of days working on, something to be proud of, even if it’s not hitting the shelves next year?

Trying something new?

Persevering anyway?

(The answer is yes. But why is it so hard to believe?

Why am I subscribed to 45 podcasts?)

This year I am proud of a tiny Instagram account I started called Mormons in Media. We’ve been talking about it for so long and we finally did it. Almost no one follows, and we did it.

I am proud I publicly wrote about being Mormon.

I am proud I opened my heart to little Dolly.

I am proud I got my flu shot for the first time ever.

I am proud.

This time watching Parks and Rec I’ve realized that I am Leslie Knope.

It’s a strange thing, because I always identify with the Eeyore, the Meredith Grey, the moody moodster.

Leslie is all positivity and energy.

She is also an obsessive overachiever who loves her job, makes binders for her binders, wants to connect to friendships and people so intensely most don’t know how to handle it.

Yes, I am a Leslie.

I am also a moody moodster.

Moody Moodster Leslie, if you will.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Rob made artichoke dip and we have some Parks and Rec to watch.

Just for fun!

What an idea!

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A Call to Words

15 Nov

My therapist has given me strict instructions that I am to write.

That’s her prescription, that’s my task.

We made a list of everything going on in my life and the areas I’m feeling good about and the areas I’m not and at the end of it all she said, OK, your number one priority is to write.

Want to work on your depression?

Write.

Want to tackle these other things?

Write first.

I remember reading about a woman who had a very busy week. In that busyness she decided to give herself permission not to clean her house that week. She would let her mind focus on other, more important matters.

As the week went on and the mess in her house grew she grew increasingly agitated.

She was failing! She spiraled! She would never get it all done!

(She cleaned her house.)

(She felt better.)

(She got more done.)

In this story writing is my clean house. And I am this woman.

Times, oh, 700 million?

I often put off writing because I am busy.

I am busy! This is true. But putting off writing doesn’t help.

And filling that time, that writing time with other (good!) (great!) things is actually making me feel worse.

Tackling my health may begin with writing for me.

Tackling my relationships or finances or or or

Maybe I begin with a clean house.

Maybe I begin where I know I need to begin.

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