Friday, March 28, 2014

five-sense Friday

hearing: traffic whirring by; upstairs neighbours talking (which surely means they hear baby's wake-ups in the night...poor neighbours!); slight hum of the computer, like a kitten in my lap only less wiggly

smelling: old snow, melt, mud; fresh bread cooling on the counter; cinnamony tea

tasting: said tea; extraordinarily garlicky hummus for lunch; almond muffins

feeling: almost uncomfortably warm in the car when the sun shines across my arm; the cool at the back of my neck when I put my hair up; the sandpaper of my knuckles

seeing: slanting slats of late afternoon light on the carpet; a twig-like tree out the window, just barely bending in the wind; the jade plant's very pleasant round bauble shapes, like a head of curly hair, framed just so by the window; baby toys scattered, now that said baby can take them with her while she rolls around

Friday, February 21, 2014

five-sense Friday

tasting: the chocolates from a heart-shaped box left on the table by my sweetheart a week ago (see above for photographic evidence of my gift to him)--biting into one at a time to see what's inside, then going back to finish the ones I like best, because I am apparently twelve years old; rooibos chai; roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes with embarrassing quantities of ketchup

hearing: classical radio; laptop hum; baby sighing in her sleep; a work truck beeping as it backs up somewhere; relative quiet, as the children are on break from school and therefore not screaming and laughing on the toboggan hill across the street during recess

smelling: tea spices; fresh air from my new collection of houseplants

feeling: cold creeping up my arms; a sore back from bad posture while I feed the wee one; steam dampening my nose above the mug; excited for a weekend

seeing: bright afternoon light; daffodils grown too tall for their own good; surfaces in need of dusting; four partially eaten chocolates winking at me with a come-hither kind of a glow

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"i believe" (write ALM)

(writing while she sleeps, to get my writer muscles back in shape)

I believe…

-- in chocolate

-- in praying and working for peace in my home, my neighbourhood, my world--and that reconciliation is often harder than violence

-- in the arc of redemption, in observing the ongoing tension between entropy and development with wide-eyed, utopian hope that beauty and goodness will win out in the end

-- in water process decaf filling my cup, and cold glasses of water, and milky red tea, as the antidote to doldrums and aches and most everything

-- in intergenerational friendships

-- in education, and the power of conversation and the printed word

-- that art is the answer to many problems, both private and public

-- that Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Life (a belief that comes to me not through logic or the rational mind but through a deep, abiding sense of things: I have been wooed by a Lover, soothed by a Comforter, challenged by a Holy Fire)

-- that Christians are often the reason folks (justifiably!) dislike Christianity

-- in the restorative power of cotton sheets

-- in reading as a spiritual exercise

-- in the restorative power of an old fashioned glazed donut (always nutmeggy cake; never those feathery yeasted puffs of air)

-- that Love is stronger than Death

(thanks to write ALM for the inspiration)

Monday, February 10, 2014


Maternity leave is a wonderful time for reading (also for baking)--after the first month or two of "What do I do all day with a baby at home and will I ever regain use of my hands or eat breakfast or drink a warm beverage while it's warm or wash my hair again?" To be fair, M is NOT a baby who requires constant holding--she's very into her freedom of movement and exploring the world. And now that she will sleep in the daytime without being worn (alas, for only 40 minutes at a clip), things have evened out a bit.

I started with nighttime reading to keep me awake while nursing her: All of a Kind Family, the whole Little House series, Madeleine L'Engle. Children's books promised large enough print for the dim light and engaging stories. Also, the ones I chose were all lightweight enough to do little damage if dropped on a dozing babe.

Reading during daytime nursing (while holding a babe rather than lying next to her!) developed a bit later, and stronger light let me branch out into smaller print. I've been making good use of the library. I also read while bouncing on the exercise ball (no rocking chair soothing for this baby) and, when I'm kind to myself, during those micro naps. Here are a few of the books I've gulped down:

Lovely prose. Lovely meditation on the sweet shape of an otherwise unremarkable life, the redemption at work in otherwise unremarkable interactions.

I didn't love it. I wanted to love it. It was irreverently funny and (I think) honest and made me feel (appropriately) uncomfortable about lapping up another novel about poor African kids. But it just didn't hang together for me. This is probably partly because I read it after Someone, which is so quietly warm, and Bulawayo's debut novel is like its cover: harsh and a bit discordant. I know this is on purpose. I should probably try reading it again in a year or two.

Disappointing, honestly--it felt like Bauer wrote her memoir too soon after the events transpired, so the narrative lacked a narrative arc, a coherent sense of motivation and movement. The book is supposed to be about a young woman's struggles with faith (and sexuality) in NYC, but it didn't manage to convey her motivations for any of the dithering she did in either category.

This was a hard book, but beautiful. Walker is a poet, and her prose sings accordingly. I expected the book to be a bit more about Alzheimer's (a concern in my local community), but it was really more properly the author's own pilgrimage through her own memories of childhood and her relationship with her family members--a worthy topic of its own. I especially resonated with Walker's recollections of her childhood fundamentalism and her drift away from it.

I do love memoirs by poets. Mary Karr's Lit is a phenomenal account of her descent into alcoholism and her climb into daily sobriety, laced with a quiet admission of the role her conversion to the Roman Catholic Church played in that ascent. This book was beautiful and painful and gripping.

Not for the faint of heart! Gordon's "Utopian Divertimento" is irreverent and full of scenes that I'd definitely blush to teach. But while a lot of its reviewers took it as a fun diversion, I think it's as serious as Gordon's other work in exploring gender and work, familial relationships, religion and art, form and content. I put it down once before I decided to finish it, but I'm glad I did.

Bauer's memoir disappointed me, but her novel did not. A fictionalized imagining of a relationship between characters patterned after Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, this epistolary novel is stunning in its dealings with faith, love, mental health, and writing.

I haven't read one of these Christian Bookstore Novels in a long time, though I gobbled them up as an adolescent. I read this one because it was on the list of reads by writers who will be participating in Calvin College's Festival of Faith and Writing in April (I was hoping to attend this year, but it looks like I'll have to wait until 2016). It is exactly what you'd expect it to be. 

I'm only 60 pages into this one. Solnit's prose is haunting. I will keep reading. 

There have been others, too, but my memory fails me at present. It's funny how many books I've been reading about treacherous mother-daughter relationships, especially since I'm now the mother in one such dyad and find my own mother so absolutely wonderful. I'm loving the memoirs by poets. I'm loving novels that keep me looking forward to night wakings.

Of course, I've also been reading more parenting books than I care to admit (mostly on sleep! oh, sleep!). I tried to read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, but the library hardcover edition was just too heavy to hold (the physicality of books is more real to me than ever these days). I've not yet read The Goldfinch, The Flamethrowers, The Luminaries, The Interestings--all the hot books of 2013 beginning with "The." Should I? 

What are you reading, friends? What are you hoping to read? 

Friday, January 24, 2014

five-sense Friday

hearing: babe "nursing" in her sleep; piped-in ocean waves; the garage door below our apartment; sweet sighs

smelling: the diaper pail (yikes); coffee at Tim Horton's; fresh laundry

tasting: very salty Chex Mix and a sweet-sour grapefruit for lunch; lemon-ginger tea; a sugar-covered donut

feeling: misty wintry mix light on my face; warmth after a walk (our first in weeks); the weight of a sleeping babe in my arms

seeing: grey sky; white snow; dark branches and roofs across the street; screen glow; stack of books; pizza dough rising in its bowl on the counter, as it should

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Green Light

Gatsby? The filtering of sun through summer leaves, the tender new ones, maple probably, seen and felt from underneath the branches. Or from within, among the branches, a childhood haunt (and oh, the identification with Betsy Ray from Betsy and Tacy, who also climbed trees with notebook and pencil).

How funny that it does't come to me until much later that "green light" also means "go." My mind, sleepy after a long night of infant snuggles, turns to the literal, the sensory. The nuance of metaphor is lost on me.

But yes, go. You've waited long enough.

I live in a town without any green lights. They're all flashing red, four-way stops. It never occurred to me as a child in the busy suburban Midwest that I would live as an adult in a two-light town, neither of them with all three colours.

The feeling of the gas pedal under my foot, in flip-flops, in heels, in boots. Mostly these days in boots. The pleasure of approaching an intersection with a green, and no traffic, just sailing through. This would probably be metaphor material if I were thinking that way today: the slick ease of carrying on where otherwise there might be a pause.

Better: the leaflight. Green sheets drying on the line. Grass glow. Sea glass.

(thank you, Write ALM, for the inspiration)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

in which time flies

I should absolutely be doing something else right now. The washing machine is spinning. The sink is full of dishes. The floors are a study of grime. I have a conference proposal deadline in three days. And the baby has just gone down for one of her power naps (35-40 minutes, if we're lucky).

But being pushed to my limits usually inspires me to blog, because for me blogging is still the LiveJournal/Xanga experience of "Dear Public Diary." I'm old that way (via AllButtonedUp). I feel the pull of my to-do list, and the thrum of ideas in my brain and bursting at the seams of my notebooks, and I am compelled to share my manic state with the Internet.

(Hello, Internet. I've been planning to write to you about my recent blogging hangups, the unease about writing too much about the new person who fills up my life, using her or making our life together too public. I learned last year that I am an eminently googleable individual after receiving an email from a stranger I met on a train in a big city and told only vague details about my life. Also, students. Hello, students. I suppose it's easy for you to find me too. I hope you're keeping up with your assigned reading alongside this extracurricular jaunt into the weblogs!)

Today, though: today is a typical day, which is to say that today I am learning to juggle. Before noon I'd done three loads of laundry, researched real estate listings, changed three diapers, nursed a baby twice (since waking--it's four times if you count since midnight!), made oatmeal, unloaded a dishwasher, bounced for twenty minutes on a physio ball to help a baby sleep, read several articles, chopped an onion and sautéed it with spinach, crumbled bacon, whisked together a custard, buttered a baking dish, and put together a frittata out of leftover chunks of communion bread saved in the freezer. And my tea is decaf. And we didn't get up until after eight.

This is a good life, and a beautiful one. I love these days. But my, how full they are!

The point of all of which is to say, Hello, Internet. Hello, friends. I have been rather quiet in this space of late, but it has to do with learning to live in my body as well as my mind, to share my days with another human being, to juggle the various and sundry tasks that call out for my attention.

And now: that conference proposal. Here we go.