Thursday, April 27, 2017

Facing Big Changes, One Step at a Time

I've been a bit tight-lipped here on the blog about some big changes happening in my real life, mostly because while we knew they were coming, we didn't know how or when or where. For basically this whole year, we've been living in a state of anxious anticipation about our foggy future and trying to figure out our next steps. But things are finally starting to come into sharper focus, and so I feel okay now with sharing some of these bigger bits of news here on the blog.

As my faithful readers know, last fall I began applying to PhD programs. In mid-February, I learned I was accepted, with good funding, to two of these programs, and in March I accepted a place at the University of Kansas. My husband immediately began a job search that went through several rounds of ups and downs, but yesterday he accepted a very good offer with a law firm in Kansas City, and today he gave notice to his firm here in Houston. And so next month we will be moving.

To Kansas.

Looks like we're going to need to resurrect this family Halloween costume from 2012. And I've always loved ruby red shoes, so I should fit right in. There's no place like home, right? (If I'm going to live in Kansas, I might as well own it.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Power of Language to Overcome Violence (Plus the Value of Finding Unexpected Connections)

I often seem to find myself thinking about the connections between books I read right around the same time (the English teacher side of me calls this making "text-to-text connections"). Sometimes the connections are obvious because the books are very similar (like when I read two books by the same author with the same setting and themes within a few weeks of each other), but sometimes the books are completely different in every way and the only reason my brain picks up on a connection is because it was already thinking about the theme or topic from a book I just finished reading (for instance, when I connected a rambling memoir about a young woman with a foreign novel about an old man because they were both clearly introverts).

This happened to me recently, with an even more bizarre pairing: a literary foreign novel about friendship, and an action-packed fantasy novel with a heist twist. You guys, Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend and Leigh Bardugo's Crooked Kingdom could not be more different, but while I was reading the latter, I couldn't stop thinking about the themes of poverty and violence, mostly because those were such big themes in My Brilliant Friend, and therefore it was on the mind.

Violence is not something I spend a lot of time thinking about, I guess because I live a lucky and privileged life in which I've had very little exposure to real violence. Once, when I was in kindergarten, a boy I didn't know very well came over for a play date (our mothers were friends), and he proved to be a bit rougher of a playmate than my sisters and other girl friends were. I think he was pretending to be a ninja or something, and at one point in the game he punched me hard in the chest. I was shocked because it was the first time in my life I'd ever been hit like that. It was also the last. (Except for that one time when my then-boyfriend now-husband accidentally punched me in the nose while he was putting on a sweatshirt and forcing his arm through the sleeve and I was standing a little too close. It was clearly unintentional, but I still like to rag him about that moment.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Screen Time: Considering the Good

Benefits of Screen Times

Screen time. Such a sensitive, hot button topic. We all let our kids have way more screen time than we feel they should, and we all feel super guilty about it. Or we don't let our kids have any screen time and get completely worn down by the fight of it.

I've been thinking about the topic recently because my husband and I have been discussing just how much screen time our kids should get, and we disagree. If you guessed that I'm on the side of "the less screen time the better, and we should really try to not let them have any at all" then you'd be...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

On Re-Reading Anne of Green Gables as an Adult

Anne of Green Gables

I first met, and fell in love, with Anne of Green Gables when I was twelve. My sister received the whole series of eight books a few years earlier as a birthday present or something, so after devouring the first book I was able to race through the rest of the series in one go.

They made a huge impact on me. I loved, loved, loved those books. I related to Anne like no other. I used the term "kindred spirit" in an essay I wrote about friendship for my English class. I tried to sunburn my face to get freckles like Anne (not joking). I even considered dying my hair red. But, I'm not a huge re-reader, so while I watched the classic TV series a few times over the years, I never re-read the books.

Until now.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Easter/Spring Book Page Crafts (Am I Still Talking About Decorations?!?!?)

Easter, Spring, Book Page Crafts, Easter Decorations, Book Page Flowers, Book Page Eggs

Okay guys, I know I have no business talking about holiday decorations and crafts. Martha Stewart I am not. But considering I couldn't shut up about my fall decorations last year (a post here, and here, and here, and I would've subjected you to even more posts about my Christmas decorations beyond this tutorial if the end of that pregnancy hadn't been so terrible), let's just say I'm a little obsessed with the topic right now.

It's just, I've come to realize in recent years how much intentional design and decor matter to me, and how much decorating for holidays seems to add to the festiveness and fun of celebrating. In a word, it makes me happy. It was kind of a light-bulb moment for me when I realized my style and criteria for holiday decorations, and then I also realized that I have a bit of an inner crafter in me (shocking!) who actually likes creating and making these holiday decorations, and so this is something I'm getting a lot of satisfaction from right now.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Magic of Babies

Babies, Infertility, The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey, Books

In the past few weeks, I've read two books by Eowyn Ivey: The Snow Child and To the Bright Edge of the World. There are three themes which both of these books share, and about which Ivey writes with eloquence and genius: the majesty of cold and wintry Alaska, the heartbreak of pregnancy loss, and the mysterious magic of the inexplicable.

Maybe you remember last year when I wrote a post on Magical Realism and how I just did not get this genre. Everyone in the comments recommended checking out The Snow Child (and then I kept seeing it recommended by practically nearly everyone who's bookish taste I trust), and so I put it on hold at the library (and yes, it took nearly a year for me to actually get that book off the holds list, it's that popular... or my library just has that one copy and someone lost it for a while). And you guys were totally right. You were all exactly, wonderfully right. The book is amazing. The writing is exquisite. The characters and the story are beautiful. But also, don't hate me if I think I might like To the Bright Edge of the World  just a tiny bit better. Not that it's a contest. It's not. Basically, they are both incredible books that I highly, highly recommend. And while reading both of them I just kept thinking THIS IS WHAT I WANT MAGICAL REALISM TO BE! THIS IS WHAT IT SHOULD BE! THIS IS AMAZING!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Books I Read in March

Well, not only is my baby getting much more efficient at nursing, in the past month she's started sleeping longer and dropped a couple of feedings, so I lost a lot of dedicated reading time. But I still managed to get six books in this month, which is ahead of my book-a-week goal, so still very much a win. Let's jump in!

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

This was very good, if a bit heavy and sad. The main character is eleven, but I'm not sure if this makes it more middle grade or young adult. The main themes center on bullying, and it's disturbing stuff, but I do think it's would be worth handing to kids and talking with them about. It's definitely not my favorite book ever, but a very strong recommend. Read more of my thoughts about it here.