March: America’s First Daughter, Stephanie Dray

Hello! This month has been so long. It always is because it is literally long with 31 days, but on top of that it’s the push up to spring that everyone needs and wants and needs and wants. So here we are! A month of reading! I bet you read more than 1 book this month, but I didn’t! So let’s get to it.

I really enjoyed America’s First Daughter. I was going to initially say that it was a gentle read. Even in its most tense moments, the most gasp-worthy, it was pleasant. And that is true! But then I hard-sobbed through the last three chapters. Is this the best book I’ve ever read? No. But is it a lovely foray into historical fiction? Yes!

I did find it particularly useful, during this time of political unrest paired with Hamilton FERVOR to read an intimate portrayal of the Jeffersons. The book is based on letters, so it feels very accurate as far as life events go. I had this naive epiphany moment about half way though where I realized the US has always been a mess, except for a handful of brief moments when we could all come together over a common goal. One of those moments was the Revolutionary War (And not everyone loved the direction we were taking). But not even 20 years after the war we were back to arguing and dueling and tearing down politicians over affairs and character smear campaigns. And though what’s happening right this second is pretty bad, it made me feel like this country is actually very resilient for all its fragility.

And though Hamilton and Jefferson didn’t agree or get along, it was nice to read something from the other side of the Hamilton love fest. It’s important to keep in mind that these men were all flawed people with big ideas. And the work that the women did, always there, always pushing, always behind the scenes, was immense. Without them things would be very very different.

Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, was a FORCE. And I am incredibly impressed with how much she accomplished in the face of so much death and so many BABIES. Holy god. She didn’t stop giving birth for like more than 20 years. Insane. And she still held down the fort during Jefferson’s presidency, she still managed the political aspirations of her husband, she still educated all of her kids.

I also thought the way the book handled slavery was really interesting. I was pretty uncomfortable with how I was reading it for the first half of the book. It seemed a little apologetic. But, because it was first person and because slavery becomes a main focus in the politics and the moral struggle of the characters, I felt like it was handled ok? I think it is probably controversial how they portray Sally Hemings and her devotion to Jefferson. I feel like even talking about any of this comes off so racist. This paragraph that I am writing, even. This topic is so fucked up and I truly don’t know how to read it or how to write it in historical fiction. So, you know, if anyone else has thoughts on this definitely let me know. I was conflicted and cringe-y most of the time.

I feel like most people are going to really like this book. But how did everyone else, especially in this political fraught time, read it? How did you feel about it? What stuck out?

For April we are reading Atwood!! Check out the full BIRL Book Club book list here. 

February: I Was Told There’d Be Cake, Sloane Crosley

Month two of the BIRL Book Club is now over! I read I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley and I hate hate hate to admit this but I was… underwhelmed. I felt old and weathered reading it. I felt like a grumpy old lady, rolling her eyes, and thinking (against my very hip and aware will) “oh you just wait and see.” Oh my gosh I was so annoying, even to myself.

Here’s the thing. This book was published in 2008. Before the great recession. Before I graduated grad school only to flounder financially. Before entry level jobs were no longer falling from the sky in one’s chosen field. Before people lost their family home or had to go back to work at 70 because their retirement up and vanished.

This was also the height of the blog. The lifestyle blog was going strong. Everyone had quirky design tips. Everyone had slightly self-deprecating stories that made them feel unique and interesting. This was probably written before literally every single personal story archetype had been published on the internet.

I think I’m a solid 5 years too late reading this book to appreciate it.

I think I’m old and weathered and tired and when I spend my last moments of awake time reading about people in their early 20s it just annoys me that they are so self centered.

I did think some of the parts were funny though – and I did actually laugh out loud at a few. Especially the story about her first job. That was… ridiculous and horrifying and I enjoyed it immensely.

Have you read this book? Did you read it recently? Did you read it like 5 years ago? Am I just being a grumpy gus? What was your favorite part? Where did you eye roll so hard you thought maybe that was just your face now?

March is for America’s First Daughter and I am SOOOOOO excited for it!! I love historical fiction! Come read along with me!

January: My Life On the Road, Gloria Steinem

Here we are! The first review and discussion in the BIRL Book Club! YAY! I have to say, My Life On the Road was perfectly timed and it had absolutely nothing to do with current events. Whoops. The reason I chose it first was because I already had it from seeing Gloria Steinem speak, and in order to get this review out on time I couldn’t wait for the rest of the book list to get to me. Happy accident, though, because it was exactly what I needed to be reading at this exact time.

I started reading it the week before the March on Washington and this book filled me with incredible purpose and incredible drive to keep going on and on and on.

The books speaks on many levels, lest you think this is killjoy feminist drivel. It’s a memoir of Gloria Steinem’s life and career through all of her time traveling the world and the United States. The book is one of those that demands to be read from cover to cover. Don’t skip the dedication, don’t skip the appendage. It’s all good. Every last drop.

The paragraphs that I keep coming back to in my mind are some that I’m going to share here. (And for anyone who has read this book, please tell me what you keep chewing on. There are so many moments that Gloria has lived and thought about and bared witness to and I’m sure you are all chewing on something.)

[When speaking about her mother]

If I pressed and said, “But why didn’t you leave? Why didnt you take my sister and go to New York?” she would say it didn’t matter, that she was lucky to have my sister and me. If I pressed hard enough she would add, “If I’d left, you never would have been born.”

I never had the  courage to say: But you would have been born instead.

As a mother I have to work to still have a self. I have to work to not be swallowed up by my children while still doing my best by them. This part breaks me. It is too common that women are trapped by children because they have no choices. Because they have too many. Because they didn’t know there were any other options.

But where this book was its biggest educational win for me, was in explaining the history of intersectional feminism, and how second wave feminism was largely intersectional. BUT that getting the media, at the time largely run by men, to GET IT and run with it, was incredibly difficult. Second wave feminists have been pushing for intersectionality for decades, and our love of boxes has been making that message muddy. Betty Friedan didn’t help either.

I finished this book on the plane home from DC. I read the majority of it in flight, as I think it is best digested. It frustrated me just how much I did not know because women’s issues don’t make the news. It frustrated me how much what we’ve been pushing for we are still pushing for. It made me love Gloria Steinem even more for her ability to talk about her regrets, her mistakes, her personal shortcomings while also paying homage to the many women who helped her along the way. It made me want to listen more. Listen and learn and offer assistance.

If you haven’t read this book, you should read this book. If you have read this book, talk to me about it in comments!

2017 Book Club Revealed + Winner!

So! Here we are. A list of books and the promise of 1 winner to win them all! My plan is 1 book a month and one instance of two books in 1 month. We start…now!

I grabbed from everyone’s suggestions except for me adding an Atwood into the mix. Because of course. Plus I have a goal of reading them all and it’s been a while. So here we go!

January: My Life On The Road by Gloria Steinam. This one first because i already have it, haven’t read it, and I feel like this is the month for it.

February: I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. This is a short month, so a book of essays is fitting.

March: America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray. This is a long one, so we need a long month. I am ridiculously excited for this one. I love historical fiction(y) things.

April: Surfacing by Margaret Atwood. It’s my birthday month, so Atwood for all!

May: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I love Colson Whitehead. This will be the third book I’ve read of his. He is so masterful. Plus he has a really lovely sense of dry, self deprecating humor and when he used to be more active on twitter it made my whole day.

June: Orleans by Sherri L Smith. June is for dystopian YA. Obviously.

July: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson AND The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley. The days are long in July. Enough daylight to read two books. Plus I just feel like we should fully understand how to survive massive disaster. I just think MAYBE that might come in handy this year and into the future.

August: Station Eleven. I have heard nothing about amazingness about this book. I was writing when this was all the rage and therefore not reading, so I’m so very late to this party. If anyone else is late to the party, come party with me.

September: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I was ridiculously obsessed with A Secret History and again, missed the boat on reading this when it came out. So, back to school time equals back to Donna Tartt. Heart thump.

October: The Folded Clock: A Diary by Heidi Julavits

November: Homegoing by Yaa Gynasi.

And nothing in December because that is a coo coo bananas month and no one can be held accountable during the holiday hubub. Will you join me on this reading journey? If you see something you want to read, mark it in your calendar and then come hang out in comments at the end of each month. If there is something on this list you have already read and have strong feelings about, please please come and share your thoughts. Talking about books is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world.

Oh, and before I forget…. the winner of a box of books courtesy of me (and random.org), just because I love to share the beauty of READING is…..

MADDIE!

So Maddie – you will get a box of books delivered to your house. 🙂 And if you’ve read some of these (I know you have) – share them!

BIRL Book Club is Back!

Hello! It is a new year and I am ready to get back on the horse of READING. Do you want to join me? This time around I won’t be having anyone writing up posts for me, but if you want to read along with the list I am looking for a hearty book club discussion in comments.

First, though, I need to build the list! I am looking for book recommendations. Anything that you highly recommend that you have read recently/semi-recently, please tell me about it! Some of you have already left awesome suggestion on instagram and twitter! This means that you are already entered to win this year’s book giveaway! Surprise! 

If you haven’t left a suggestion yet and would like to win the full reading list, please leave a book recommendation in comments! One lovely winner (chosen at random) will be receiving a big box of books from Powell’s! 

All kinds of books are welcome! YA, Non-Fiction, Genre, etc. I want it all. books written by POC and women are especially welcome, but I guess I can read a few books by the mens too.

I will be posting the list and an estimated schedule in the next two weeks. I hope some of you will join me in reading along!

Episode 23: Celebrations

This weekend we are (finally) going to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary! But it is really easy to neglect celebrating your partner in the face of LIFE and EXPENSES and SHOULD WE REALLY SPEND THE MONEY ON THAT?

The answer should be yes! But it isn’t always. This week, Kamel and I break down how we approach celebrations and how we should probably not neglect each other for Christmas, even though that seems like it is maybe becoming a trend. :/

Things, June

The biggest update of the month is that Kamel starts his new job on Wednesday! Hooray! We have started back up house hunting (though that is a mixed bag of feelings) and our new routine is just around the corner. In the mean time Kamel is soaking up his last hours of video-game playing, house-putzing, afternoon-napping. Big deep breath. It has been a journey and now I am looking forward to some prolonged stability for a little while. Right? Right.

I am so tired of doing for others. Which sounds like such a shitty thing to say. But here we are. When my day is surrounded by caring for others, being exceptionally patient with my children, working with their schedules, being kind to my husband, planning and being flexible for others, hosting events, honoring loved ones, spending much of my daily energy and a lot of money on people who are not me, it starts to wear on me. And this is not to play the martyr card. Maybe it is a flaw of mine. It has to do with balance, but is sounds so toddler to say so. When I’m not feeling thought of, but I’m spending a lot of time thinking of others it really does feel like something is pushing on a bruise. Lately I have had way too much output and not enough input. I am not eternally giving, what can I say?

I have been feeling the pull to Maine stronger and stronger and stronger. A vacation home? (Ridiculous in the face of our inability to even get a home-home.) Or maybe it is the pull to escape to a place where no one can find me. A little world all my own sectioned off from the masses. With bad cell reception and crap data plans. Is this why people go camping?

I want into a book store this weekend. It was kind of cheating because it was an Amazon book store. In real life. But it was SO COOL. Even though, ugh! Amazon! Independent book stores are where it is AT. But… they had a section of most popular books purchased in the PNW. And they had little side sections where the top rated books of certain genres were listed. And other little side sections where they had “If you like this, you will like these” books set up. Which were just FASCINATING. Algorithms in real life! I’m such a nerd for information like that. It felt like I was walking through a tangible internet. It was intoxicating. Kamel and I started off in there together and then silently moved apart until I was suddenly aware that I was browsing alone. Then when I was filled up with words and thinking and quiet time I had to go search for him. It was delicious.

I bought one book. It was in the “most purchased in the PNW section” or whatever. I’m certain I am phrasing that incorrectly. It’s “Milk and Honey” by Rupi Kaur. It’s a book of narrative poetry and I read it all in one sitting. I have to share a piece or two from it because I dog-eared a lot of pages for this one purpose.

In a section called “The Hurting”

you pinned
my legs to
the ground
with your feet
and demanded
i stand up

In a section called “The Breaking”

the woman who comes after me will be a bootleg
version of who I am. she will try and write poems
for you to erase the ones i’ve left memorized on
your lips but her lines could never punch you in
the stomach the way mine did. she will then try to 
make love to you body. but she will never
lick, caress, or suck like me. she will be a sad
replacement of the woman you let slip. nothing she 
does will excite you and this will break her. when
she is tired of falling apart for a man that doesn’t
give back what he takes she will recognize me in 
your eyelids staring at her with pity and it’ll hit her.
how can she love a man who is busy loving
someone he can never get his hands on again. 

Father’s Day was freaking beautiful. I handled the baby wakeups in the night, the kids woke up at 545, I ordered breakfast to be delivered by postmates. We made pancakes with Gabriel while we took turns eating our scrambles with hashbrowns and crispy bacon (Which Kamel ate all of, as he should). It was a sparklingly sunny day, Kamel got presents from Gabe, we went to the park and spent a lot of time looking at baby ducks and fish swimming around in ponds, Fae napped deliciously, Gabe refused his nap but was super cute about it, and then we went over to my parents for barbecued halibut and steaks. I mean, that describes heaven, does it not?

2015 is Done.

I don’t do resolutions but I do like to look ahead and make some goals for myself. What can I accomplish next year? What did I do in the year that trails behind me? What are we here for? What are we doing? What have we done? Etc etc.

At the end of 2014 I made some goals.

I wanted to be more involved in charity work.

I wanted to make a dent and/or finish a book I had started.

And I wanted to have my baby.

The entire year I felt a nagging guilt over not being more involved in charity work. But I did do more/give more than I had in previous years. Time, tiny human responsibilities, and finances limited my ability. This is just something I really want to do and will always be a priority for my life. It’s just the unfortunate truth that sometimes other things come before my ability to give to others. Ugh, that just sounds so gross saying out loud.

I did for sure make a dent in a book I was writing. I did not finish it, though I had no excuse not to. I have, though, decided to reorganize it. (Did you hear that Margaret! Stop reading the draft you have! I have no goals for it!) I foresee this being an evolving process. One that doesn’t get much traction until after Fae turns 1. That’s just how having tiny humans works. The first year is a shit show, the rest of life struggles to keep up.

Oh, but I did have that baby. So, gold stars for me!

2016… it has a nice ring to it. When I think about the year in my mind I get little sparks of excitement. THE FUTURE IS HERE. What’s going to happen? What are we going to do? What surprises will pounce on us? Will they be good surprises? Or will they sit on our faces until we cry for mercy? Who knows! The future is a mystery…

What do I want to accomplish? What do you want to accomplish? What are you going to conquer in 2016? Hearing the aspirations of others is inspiring, so please do share in comments.

My three goals:

1.) Buy a freaking house.

2.) Create a successful (meaning good, by my standards) podcast.

3.) Be consistent with Weekend-ing again.

Other minor goals that I’ll say are “honorable mentions” are…

1.) Get into a career situation that is more permanent than where I’m at currently.

2.) Get our photo books printed!! For fucksake!

3.) Get back into shape.

I really feel like this year is the year of Taking Care of Business. It’s going to be one of those rip-roaring years where we all look back this time next year and think, “holy shit… all of that in just one year?” Yup. All of it in just one year. We got this. It’s going to be insane.

My Current 10

1.) Trump is a racist and anyone who supports him is also a racist. There is no middle ground or “I can see where you’re coming from” with this one.

2.) More people need to be focused and open to helping others. If we had space for people I would absolutely open my home to host refugees. When I see someone on the street who needs help (passed out in a crosswalk, an older person taking a tumble, whatever it may be), I pull over, I stop the car, I don’t ignore it. Pointing fingers is point-less. All of those people who think Syrian refugees should just figure it out, who don’t want to deal with their problem: may you never experience the feeling of running for your lives. May you never experience a government who actively kills its own citizens. May you never experience refugee camps where your child sleeps in the grass every night. Because if you do experience that, may you also be met with the same attitude you are placing upon others.

3.) I don’t care if I’m a bleeding heart. I want the world to be gentler and kinder. Just because it was hard for someone before me doesn’t mean it needs to be hard for someone after me. I don’t care about “earning” whatever it is that other people feel we need to “earn.” I just don’t care. Everyone should have a safe home, should have healthcare, should be able to send their kids to quality schools. But I do believe in paying taxes, chipping in, supporting local communities and local businesses. Voting with my dollar.

4.) The pyramids were built as tombs, they were NOT to house grain!

5.) The atrocities the Native Americans experienced at the hands of the United States have not been taught widely enough. They should be common knowledge and we should not be celebrating Christopher Columbus. It’s like having “conqueror day” … it’s weird.

6.) But you know, yay being thankful, yay the holidays, yay family time and traditions. Those are positives.

7.) Does anyone actually go Christmas shopping IN stores anymore? It’s like my worst case scenario. Thank you weekend deals that are also online so that I don’t have to think about hunting down presents in person.

8.) I have so many things to say about being approached as a “mom” about money and employment, but at this time it is inappropriate to do so. Ask me in person.

9.) Sometimes I have parenting days where I feel like an absolute fucking failure. Lately I am just bone tired. I am battling a cold, Fae has a cold, she is waking up every 2 hours at night which means I can’t sleep to kick this cold. Gabriel is so difficult. I feel like a hostage negotiator more than I am a happy parent. I am an exhausted, frustrated parent.

10.) I’m so tired of wearing nursing tank tops. I need bras!! But… $$. Always but $$.

 

Do you have a Current 10? Do you have a current 5? I want in on that.

The Hustle

Where did I go? What have I done? WHAT IS HAPPENING?

Last week I had so many posts bubbling in my head. SO MANY. I even wrote half of one! But my real life hustle is taking up all of my time.

First a quick update: Things around here are moving fast fast slow fast fast slow. Right now I am in the fast fast. My search for a full time, normal person job fizzled, and as the holidays approach I am toning down my job search at the moment. Thankfully because of contacts in the professional writing world I have been piling on the freelance work. Piling on so much, actually, that we are able to pay for Fae to go to daycare after Kamel is off paternity leave. I can’t really control the job market, or who gets hired if it isn’t me, and I certainly can’t control how long this process takes, but I can control my hustle. And if my hustle means working from home all day and again after the kids go to bed and during stolen hours on the weekends? Then hustle I will. Because we have some major financial goals and without me those things can’t happen.

Like buying a house. Which is most likely put on the back burner for another year, unfortunately. But we’re getting there… we’re getting there. That’s the slow part. Fast fast hustle, slow life goals. As is life I guess.

So while I’m on my computer my writing brain is 99.9% focused on writing for dollar signs. It has been leaving me with less and LESS time to write for no dollar signs, even when that writing fills me up. It’s only been a few weeks of this hustle so I’m still finding my balance.

But in general I feel so awesome! And mentally kick ass! And smart! And on it! And handling my shit like a BOSS.

Because when things don’t work out like you imagined, strut down the paths that are open to you. Make it work. Make it more than work. Hustle and thrive. Fast fast slow.