Positivity Day 2: Books

I am writing these posts in no particular order, in case someone was wondering why today’s post comes before one about my daughter, or any of the other important people in my life.  Although, if I’m going to be honest, books are as important to me as many of the people I know, and much more important to me than some.  Anne Lamott wrote, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you,” and that pretty much perfectly fits me.

And it always has.  My parents say I have loved books since I was tiny, memorizing them and “reading” them aloud to other people, and demanding that books be read to me by the hour.  I devour books.  My husband complains that my collection takes up a disproportionate amount of space on our shelves, and he’s right–three of our four bookshelves are almost totally taken up by my books, and that’s not counting the boxes in the attic, those still in storage at my parents’, or the ones I have sold to make room for new ones.  I read and re-read and am constantly on the lookout for new things.  My husband teases me about the giant bags I carry, because books are also like a security blanket for me, and I always have at least one in my bag, tucked in right beside my notebook.  You never know when you are going to have a few seconds to fly through a couple of paragraphs–waiting in line, stopped at stoplights, during stupid commericals.  My books ensure that I am never bored.

Despite my constant hunger for new books, I have become more selective about the ones I’ll buy.  Even on Amazon, books are expensive now (and I thought my Baby-Sitters Club books were expensive at $3.95 when I was a kid–ha!), and I am unwilling to spend the money unless I’m sure the book will be good.  So I tend to collect authors–Silas House, Joshilyn Jackson, and Pat Conroy are a few fiction writers on my mind right now.

Fiction has traditionally been my favorite, but I’m also finding a lot of nonfiction capturing my imagination lately.  I read quite a bit of travel writing, biography, and Christian inspiration, but mostly it’s books about writing and teaching–or both together.  Don’t Quit Your Day Job is a collection of essays I’ve been reading as quickly as I can.  It’s about writers and the jobs they had before becoming full-time writers (it has essays by Pat Conroy, Joshilyn Jackson, and Silas House!), and is absolutely beautiful, with essays both touching and hilarious.  It’s been keeping me good company while I’m sick, and too tired and weak to move off the couch. For teaching books, I like Tom Romano, Ralph Fletcher, Donalyn Miller, Penny Kittle, Donald Murray (the link is to the NWP’s tribute to him) and too many others to name.

I could go on all day about books and authors I love and who have touched me and changed me, and I’ve tried to start keeping up with them on my goodreads page.  They are my long-time companions and friends, and I have no idea who I would be without them.


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So, I’m back again…maybe.

Recently, I’ve been seized with the urge to start blogging again.  Since I was never very regular with it, I make no guarantees on how long this will last, but I will guarantee that I’ll do it for as long as it seems fun.  Sounds fair to me.

Not long ago, my husband started a series of positivity posts on Facebook.  A few of them made it to his blog, and I loved them so much that I am at least going to start my own series here.  Today seems like an appropriate time to start this list, as I am all pitiful on the couch, eaten up with strep throat.  I feel the need to remind myself of all I have to be thankful for, and I’m going to start my list with my husband.

Joe is amazing.  He works all day, every day, including some nights and weekends, and still comes home ready to play games with our daughter, listen to my day, do the dishes, clean the bathrooms, and he covers a variety of other household tasks that are too numerous to mention.  He’s never too tired or cranky to do anything that needs to be done to help our family, particularly while I’ve been a crazy person finishing my masters, and I never thank him enough.

I love how he’s thoughtful in everything; he is never rash in his approach to any decision.  He slows me down, as I tend to be too quick-tempered, and he makes me laugh; he cheers me up, and he always knows just what to say to tip my mood back in a positive direction.  Maybe most importantly, he reminds me that I’m not alone, that he’s always on my side.

I think on some level I knew I wanted to marry him way back in college, when we first met and he was into my best friend, and he announced that the two most important goals of his life were to be a good husband and a good father.  He is indeed the best of those, every day of his life.  Love you, Joe.

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Discovery 3

My daughter is obsessed with her own hands.  Even before she was born, she covered her face and appeared to suck her thumb in the ultrasound pictures.  Now that she’s here with us, she wrestles her hands out of any swaddle we put her in, and when she eats, she balls her hands into fists and keeps them near her cheek, except for when she’s holding my hand.  When she’s mad, she waves her outstretched hands like talons, and she has managed to claw my neck and snatch some of her father’s chest hair.  I think her nails must grow abnormally quickly–no matter how much we trim them, she always has a new sharp one to stab us with.

But her hands are perfect, these tiny little palms with lines already stretching through them.  When she was born, they were wrinkled like Benjamin Button’s, but as she has grown, the wrinkles have started to stretch out and smooth into these long, tapered fingers, smooth palms, and pointed nails that are going to be excellent for manicures, once she can figure out how not to use them as weapons and we don’t have to cut them every day.  Baby hands are amazing, these beautiful pieces of potential.  Her father looks at her hands and sees a guitar player, or a basketball player.  Her Aunt Kristi thinks maybe she will play the piano.  I picture those little hands all chubby clutching a pencil and laboriously writing her name, pads of her fingers tapping a keyboard, palm clapped over her mouth as she laughs, fingers wrapped around a set of car keys, and one day, holding steadily to her daddy’s arm as he walks her down the aisle.  Right now, only God knows who she will be and what she will do, but I can’t wait to find out.

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Another day…

My daughter is wonderful. She really is.  Even on days like today, when everything possible has gone wrong–she wouldn’t sleep, she went through a million messy diapers (including one where she seemed to mistake my husband’s UK football shirt for a clean diaper), she threw up a lot, she developed a wheezy breathing pattern, and we ended up at the pediatrician’s office with me sobbing outside the lab door where my husband was holding on to her tiny arms so she could be x-rayed.

Thankfully, nothing really turned out to be wrong with her, but what I discovered today is just how panicky being a parent can make a normally sane person.  Only this morning, my husband was commenting on how cool and calm I was about changing her diaper fifteen times, and how she wouldn’t eat.  I felt calm and collected too, and then mere hours later I turned into a basket case, and I still haven’t really recovered from it.  I start crying again every time I think about my tiny little girl on the cold table surrounded by giant machines.  She’s just so small.  And she depends on us for everything, and although it’s totally unreasonable, and we did the responsible thing by taking her in, it’s hard not to feel like we let her down.

She’s so wonderful, and I want to do everything right for her.  But I keep remembering what my grandmother told me when she came to see me in the hospital:  You want to do everything perfectly for your kids.  But then you mess it up, and you have to figure out what to do with that.

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I’m back.

I have definitely let my blog posting lapse lately.  It’s been ages–I honestly kind of figured I was just done with this blog and should let it die.  I’ve been really busy with work and and home and working on my masters degree.  Oh, and having a baby.  (Okay, so that part just happened last week, but it’s a pretty big deal to me.)  Plus, I just hit one of those spots where I couldn’t think of anything I really wanted to say.

But when I checked my Google reader recently, I found a blog by one of my favorite authors, Silas House.  He has committed to discovering something new every day for a month and blogging about it. The idea inspired me, and although I can’t guarantee that I will be able to post every day, I decided to try to share some of my discoveries here on the blog.  Probably most of my discoveries will have to do with parenting, since figuring out how to be a good mom and spending time with my beautiful daughter (I love how that sounds!) are occupying most of my time lately.

I had no idea how much I would love parenthood.  There are a million tiny things every day to discover and wonder at.  One of my favorite things over the past week is watching her learn to breastfeed.  She’s so trusting and loving in everything she does, but especially in her eating.  As she eats, she reaches behind her ear to where my hand is supporting her head and she wraps her tiny fingers around mine, or she just touches my hand.  It’s so humbling to watch her reach back to find security in my touch, and to see how much she depends on me to fulfill her basic needs.


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Music Lover

I think I’m addicted to my iPod.

When I first started making a fuss about wanting one, Joe groaned.  He thought I just wanted one because it was cool, and we would spend a lot of money on it and I’d never use it.  To test me out, he bought a cheap imitation MP3 player on eBay.  It came with badly translated-to-English warnings not to “damage the auditory” by playing it too loudly, and it had a real affection for Paul Simon’s “Graceland.”  Every time I turned it on, it started with that song and usually returned to it several times.  Even when you skipped to a new song, it usually came back to “Graceland.”  Maybe it was trying to tell me something.  You had to push every button five times before ANY song would come on, and I never did figure out how to actually put music on it.  Joe had to do it, which probably contributed to his willingness to buy my iPod.

I used the crappy little player for months, tucking it in my pocket while I did household chores, always making sure Joe could see that I was using it.  So for Christmas last year, he caved.  I now have my slender, perfect, bright pink iPod, which made me as happy as if he’d bought me jewelry.

I figured I would use my iPod while cleaning or exercising, or maybe as something to help me on long car trips when Joe refuses to switch the radio off the bluegrass station.  I had never really been one of those people who just sits around and listens to music, unless I was driving.  If I’m just sitting around, I am probably reading.  I like singing along with music while I cook or clean, walking to the beat while I’m on the treadmill.  I like having it on in the background while I grade papers.  But as I used my iPod more and more, it became kind of like a security blanket.  I loaded it with all the songs that I thought I might ever want to listen to, and organized a ton of playlists to fit each new mood.  I started downloading podcasts and radio shows.  My iPod has become another thing I make sure I toss in my bag before I leave the house, with my phone and book and journal. 

Joe makes fun of it, a little.  Being the music snob that he is, he scoffs at the slight loss of sound quality that occurs when music is transferred to the tiny player.  I don’t really hear the difference.  He also gets a little paranoid at the idea that iTunes and other online music stores will cause the ruin of the CD and the destruction of independent music stores.  I have to admit, that one stops me a little.  I can’t stand the idea of not being able to walk into Ear-X-Tacy and browse through hundreds of albums I’d never think to look for online.  I’m uncomfortable with the thought that I may be helping to put them out of business, but I think, for me anyway, my iPod has had the opposite effect.  It’s made me enjoy listening to music more, and has made me eager to try new artists.  It’s given me a way to test out new songs without making my husband’s ears bleed.  We buy a lot of CDs still, and the only difference is that many of them now end up on my iPod, where I listen to them a lot more than I would have in the car or while washing the dishes.

So yeah, I am addicted to my iPod, but it’s actually probably improved the quality and quantity of music that I listen to.  But sorry, Joe–I’m still drawing the line at bluegrass.


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Oxford, Mississippi

Joe and I took a brief fall break trip to Oxford, Mississippi, this weekend.  That little town has become one of our favorite places in the world, for reasons neither of us can clearly articulate.  It’s a beautiful place, for one, and a friendly community.  We always check out Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s old home, with its stately, tree-lined drive and tall white columns, the room that has one of his novels outlined on the wall, and the walls that smell and look slightly like what I remember from Granny’s old house.  We love the food–Taylor Grocery is a must at some point for anyone who loves southern food, and while I know it’s just a little greasy spoon, I’ve never had better coffee anywhere in the world than at the Beacon.  It eases me slowly into my day and makes me a happier, better person.  Then there’s the shopping.  I always spend hours wandering the shops on the square, dragging Joe in and out of dress shops, stationery shops, and bath shops, trying on sunglasses and bracelets and buying oversized bags.  No trip is complete without multiple trips to Square Books and Off Square Books, which may be my two favorite bookstores in the world.  I could sit all day on the balcony at Square Books, reading and writing, watching and listening.  It’s a gorgeous, relaxing, calming place for us to be, and I love it more than I can say.

This time, we started our trip with a visit to the Thacker Mountain Radio Show.  Joe saw an episode of the program on his first trip to Oxford, and he’s been anxious to get me to it ever since.  Basically, on Thursday nights, Off Square Books clears its floors of books and sets up 200 folding chairs so the audience can watch a live, literary radio show.  A house band plays a few songs, and then artists come in and read from their books, or play some of their music, or just talk about whatever they do.  It was beyond cool–so interesting, and then the artists relate to and react very well with the audience.  I wish I could be there every week, but since I can’t, I will just have to pick up the live feed on their website.

On Saturday, we went to an Ole Miss football game.  Joe was pretty fired up about it, and I have to admit that I was excited too, because I’d heard a lot about Ole Miss school spirit, and tailgating in the Grove, and all that.  We were not disappointed.  It was homecoming, and we couldn’t even get a room in Oxford that night, or in any of the surrounding towns, so we ended up 50 miles away, in Tupelo, driving back in for the game.  Oxford was packed.  I wondered if it could have possibly been more crowded the week before when the first presidential debates were held in town.  We parked at the town’s decrepit mall (it always makes Joe gleeful that this town has a thriving downtown and a falling-apart mall) and joined the throngs headed through campus toward the Grove. 

It was amazing.  I knew going in that I would be massively underdressed in my jeans, Chucks, and Ole Miss t-shirt, but I had a long drive home that night and really didn’t care.  Even so, I was awed at the extent to which people dress up for football there.  Everywhere we looked, there was a girl in a sundress.  Red, white, and blue tents stretched as far as the eye could see.  Beneath the tents, southern women put on a spread that put my church’s homecoming banquets to shame.  Like I said, I knew going in that tailgating was serious there, but since the only live football I’d ever really watched before was at Western Kentucky and UK, I was kind of blown away.  I wanted to pull up a blue Ole Miss chair, grab a red plastic cup, and join in the party.

The game itself was pretty cool.  The stadium is a little bit crummy, and our seats were in the end zone, but they were low enough to have an awesome view of players coming in for a touchdown, and the football whizzed over our heads every time an extra point or a field goal were kicked.  Fans were spirited and fun.  I got a monstrous sunburn and look a little like an alien today, but it was worth it.

Every time I go to Oxford, I watch “For Sale” signs, idly dreaming of packing it all up and moving down there, studying southern culture at Ole Miss, writing and reading and drinking a lot of sweet tea.  People always look at me oddly when I say that this town tops the list of places I would be willing to retire too.  I tell them, go there sometime.  Then you’ll understand.

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