Last Thoughts at Night

Dear Kids,

When you were babies I got into the habit of checking on you each night before I went to bed. I wanted to make sure you were still breathing. I know that probably sounds paranoid, but if you ever have babies of your own, then maybe you’ll understand.

I still check on you most nights, and I still sometimes pause until I hear you breathe. I used to give you each a kiss on the cheek but, as you got older, that would sometimes make you start. I don’t want to interrupt your sleep, so I don’t do that anymore.

Marshall used to sleep with so many toys in his bed that there was no room for him. I used to put them away, and then, because he used to sleep too close to the edge of the bed, I would put pillows on the floor, just in case he fell out of bed. Then it was Livia for whom I did those extra things. Not anymore, though. Livia sometimes still has a few too many stuffed animals, but not usually enough to crowd her out of her own bed.

Livia likes to sleep with her comforter over her head. It used to be that if I pulled the comforter off her head, she would take a long, deep breath, as if grateful for the cool influx of air into her lungs. Now she usually pulls it right back over her head. So much for that idea.

Lately, sometimes one or both of you is awake. Livia was still reading at 10:30 the other night, and she begged to be allowed to continue, because she was just three pages away from the end. (Aw! She’s so much like her mommy!) Because I’m a reader who knows what it’s like to want to stay up to finish a book, I let her. But, because I’m a mom, I also told her not to do it again.

This routine can’t last much longer. You don’t seem to mind me checking in on you for now. If you’re awake, sometimes you even have things that you want talk to me about. Eventually this routine of mine will become unwelcome, though, and I want to give it up before it does, which means soon. It’ll be a tough routine to break. You’re still my first thoughts in the morning and my last thoughts at night.



Posted in Dear Livia, Dear Marshall | Leave a comment

This Friday Afternoon

I’m trying to relax and do a good job (ha-ha) of taking the day off, but I keep getting distracted by random thoughts. Here are some of them.

  • If Trump supporters will finally admit that he’s a lying bastard who has done more harm than good to our country, I’ll admit that I dislike him so much that I criticize him reflexively and occasionally out of proportion.
  • I signed both of the kids up for fencing lessons starting in late February and put them on the wait list for guitar lessons (Marshall) and piano lessons (Livia). Lessons are always inconvenient and expensive, but I love them. I want the kids to have these kinds of opportunities. (Regarding the piano lessons, I know that most people would be like, “Hey, you play piano. Teach the kids yourself!” Problem is, I have little patience, and being both the teacher who preaches practice and the parent who enforces it is probably beyond my capabilities. However, the kids are on a wait list, which isn’t the same as actually being signed up. If nothing comes of it, I’ll consider trying to teach piano to both of them myself.)
  • I started a new poetry collection last night. If anything, it’s even more challenging than the last. Poetry, you are not making this easy for me!
  • I also started a nonfiction book about The Hobbit, and so far it’s good. How strange that I’m on a nonfiction binge!
  • I haven’t been neglecting fiction, though. I’ve just been watching it on Netflix in the form of The Magicians, a TV show based on Lev Grossman’s novel of the same name, which I reviewed recently. Aside from the graphic, bloody scenes which I wish I could erase from my memory, it’s a good show and possibly better than the book (note: I have not read the sequels, so I cannot judge them). SPOILER: people and animals are killed in horrific fashion in this show. If you watch it, expect a lot of gore. For me, the animal deaths were harder to take. If you see a bunny or a cat, fast-forward and spare yourself scenes that you won’t want to remember.
  • I did some blog cleanup today. I went through my drafts folder, deleted some of the posts, posted a few others. In this regard, the day has definitely not been a waste.
  • I also spent some time playing the piano. I’m not happy with my progress. I want to play new pieces, but not at the expense of the ones that I still haven’t quite learned. I need to think about what my goals are.
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How I Met My Book: Part II

The last time I wrote about “How I Met My Book,” I talked about some of my favorite inherited books. This time I want to talk about a special variety of book: the unexpected loaner. Sometimes other people get it into their heads that you just have to read a particular book, so they loan it to you, whether you want it or not. The expectation is that you’ll read it, be totally wowed by it, then promptly return it. But, as is so often the case with loaned books, the loan goes on for so long that it turns into permanent ownership. It doesn’t matter whether or not you read the book, or whether or not you even want to keep it. Sometimes the book stubbornly takes up residence on your shelf and never leaves.

My favorite example of that kind of book is the one given to me as a teenager by a boy who, I have to assume now, had a little bit of a crush on me. He was a huge fan of The Beatles, and he wanted me to read his favorite book, John Lennon’s Skywriting by Word of Mouth. So he loaned the book to me.

He and I didn’t move in quite the same circles, though, and it was a while before I saw him again. When I finally did, I was walking out of a restaurant with a group of friends as he was walking in. As we passed by each other, I said, “Hey! I’ve still got your book.” “Keep it!” he replied. Then he turned the corner, and I walked out the door, and that was probably the last time we ever saw each other.

It was not a life-altering event. And, to be honest, I never thought that I’d keep the book. I’d read the first few pages, and they didn’t do anything for me. Once I was free of the obligation to return the book, there was no reason to keep it.

And yet, all these years later, even after purging my library of so many of other books, I still have it. It’s strange how books, even the unread ones, even the ones from people we hardly know, can get strong feelings attached to them. I have a little bit of the hoarder mentality, I guess. Hoarders keep objects that speak to them, not just of the past, but of lost opportunities, missed connections, things that never were but could have been. I recognize that hoarding tendency in myself, and I know that I ought to give the book away.

And I would if it were not for one detail: that boy, long since grown into a man, died in 2014. He was still relatively young when he died, and no doubt he still had countless expectations from life that will never be met. So now, even though I really need to pare down my book collection, I don’t want to give his book away. I feel like it’s keeping some tiny sliver of him alive, just that small moment of time in which our paths crossed. It’s not much, but it makes me feel better. Everybody deserves to be remembered.

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Reaction to Poetry

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith

Grade: none

I added Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith to my list of books read in 2019, but it felt almost dishonest to do so. Yes, I did read the entire collection. I even reread most of the poems and gave them some additional thought. But I couldn’t make very many of them speak to me. This felt like a failure on my part. How could I not enjoy a Pulitzer-winning collection of poetry by the Poet Laureate? How could I fail to understand some of the poems? Did I not read them properly? Am I lacking what it takes to appreciate poetry?

This reaction doesn’t surprise me. I’ve had similar reactions to poetry in the past. These feelings of failure are what have always pushed me away from poetry.

But it’s a reaction that doesn’t make sense. I haven’t immediately liked or immediately understood every prose work that I ever encountered either. I never took that as a sign that prose “just wasn’t my thing” or that I lacked the ability to understand it.

So I’m going to continue my efforts to read and enjoy poetry. I’m not going to give up just because I don’t like a poem, or a collection of poems, or any one poet’s particular style. I’m going to continue reading at least a poem a day and see where that takes me.

And, for the time being, I’m not going to give grades to collections of poetry. A grading system only works if you know what you do and do not like and have seen enough of both to know where the extremes lie. So Life on Mars does not get a grade, at least for now. Maybe I’ll revisit it someday, after I’ve experienced more of poetry’s extremes, and see how it suits me then.

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Obsessed With Reading

I go a little overboard on the books sometimes, and it must be an inheritable (or contagious) condition, because Livia has it, too. She picked out dozens of books at the library last night. There was a family leaving the library as she was carrying the books to the checkout. One of the kids, a boy, took one look at her haul and said to his dad, “Wow. Look at how many books she’s getting. She must be obsessed with reading.”

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Unusual Words

Because one of my favorite books of all time, The Last Legends of Earth by A.A. Attanasio, has such weird words in it, here is an Unusual Words post for you today.

  • tractate: treaty; essay; any book of the Talmud
  • ephemerides: plural of ephemeris
  • ephemeris: table showing positions of a heavenly body on a number of different dates in a regular sequence; or an astronomical almanac containing those tables; or any almanac or calendar
  • dolmen: two or more standing stones with horizontal stone across top (like in Stonehenge); usually regarded as a tomb
  • brindled: gray or tawny with darker streaks or spots
  • fraught: filled (with)
  • peristyle: colonnade surrounding a building or an open space; or an open space (e.g. courtyard) surrounded by a colonnade
  • opaline: opalescent
  • ferine: feral
  • supernal: from on high; heavenly; extremely good
  • talus: ankle bone or sloping mass of rubble at base of cliff, or just a slope
  • farouche: fierce
  • parlous: perilous
  • snuggery (British): a snug place or position, or a comfy room
  • tuff: rock made out of fine volcanic output, fused together by heat
  • pelagic: oceanic
  • orgulous: proud
  • stravaging (chiefly Scottish): roaming
  • And for last, a few beautiful compounds that Attanasio presumably made up: bootjawed, eaglebrowed, silkstone, sparkfly, planetshadows, and rootwoven.
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Deja vu’s coming after you.

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Time and the Art of Not Procrastinating

  • I’ve been working on one of my 30 Must-Read Books, Time and the Art of Living by Robert Grudin. It’s a book on the subject of Time, and it’s a difficult read, as you might expect from a philosophy book written by an English professor on an abstract topic. Time is not something that can gathered into a sample, dissected, and examined under a microscope. But the author did his best to give us a thorough examination of how we experience Time and how to get the most out of it. The book is divided into individual, relatively-short passages. I’ve been attacking the sections randomly and marking each one as I read it. I flagged those that I liked, the ones that seemed worth additional meditation, and/or that I thought might be personally helpful. (Note: I don’t usually approve of writing in books. This one is a softcover from the ’80s, and its pages are foxed and tanned, so it’s already less than pristine.) I’ve made a lot of progress, and I might be able to finish the book this weekend.
  • I’ve tried to read this book before, and I’m so glad that I wrote about my previous attempt. That post contains a cute little snapshot of my life during Livia’s infancy. It is one of those “letters through time” that Grudin was talking about in the quote at the beginning of the post.
  • I have to undecorate the tree this weekend. I don’t want to, but procrastination can really mess things up. As Grudin wrote, “Every time we postpone some necessary event—whether we put off doing the dinner dishes till morning or defer an operation or some difficult labor or study—we do so with the implication that present time is more important than future time. . . . Very often our decision to delay is less a free choice than a semiconscious mechanism—a conspiracy between our reasoning awareness and our native dislike of pain. . . . When we delay something, we simultaneously admit its necessity and refuse to do it. Seen more extensively, habitual delays can clutter our lives, leave us in the annoying position of always having to do yesterday’s chores. Disrespect for the future is a subtly poisonous disrespect for self, and forces us, paradoxically enough, to live in the past.” So true. Better to just get things done and over with.
  • I will also be putting away the Advent calendar today. I’m going to put a list of Christmas ticket ideas into the box with it. Next year, when I open it up, I’ll find that half my work has already been done. That’s what I call “a love letter through time.” 🙂
Posted in Crazy Me, Reading | Leave a comment

Thankful, Happy, Disappointed, Surprised, & Nostalgic

Today I am feeling . . .

  • Thankful that my work computer is now up-to-date and virus-free. Yesterday the antivirus was malfunctioning so badly that I turned the computer off rather risk a virus running amok on it.
  • Happy to have started work early and accomplished so much.
  • Disappointed that the temperature outside didn’t get high enough to melt the ice off the driveway. I was able to clean the car off, but the driveway is still frozen solid and super slick. It was too dangerous to drive on, so I couldn’t take Livia to her crafting class today.
  • Surprised that my hubby’s storm prep didn’t include buying sand or deicing stuff. Next time I will remind him.
  • Nostalgic for the ’80s. My husband has been listening to ’80s music as he works on the great room. Sometimes I go in there and dance in front of the fireplace.
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Snappy Saying

“No cuts, no buts, no coconuts.”

Livia says that this is what you tell a kid who tries to cut into line.

Good to know.

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