Tag Archives: Books

Love Hurts

1_uvQCWIZ3amjtMWtkvDrgugRecently I was in a library. You know the scene. Paper rustling, old cushioned chairs, an indestructible rug, hushed voices, overhead air blowing, throats clearing, necks cracking, lots of wooden shelves and cubbies and tables, pale-faced librarians smiling shhhhh.

I was going to go to Starbucks but then the library beckoned. There wasn’t green iced tea there but I felt silent and hidden, as opposed to Starbucks where I feel obvious and judged.

I wanted to smell the books. Stick my nose in them and keep going down the rows sniffing and gulping the pages. I wanted to swallow stories whole.

I used to go to bookstores. Bookstores are bright and social and full of razzamatazz. They’re like eating a bag of Skittles – a zillion little pieces of candy so colorful and yummy and fruity and sweet and you just can’t stop. Until your tongue is purple-red and the sugar high jolts you and then crashes and you’re sick to your stomach. All those beautiful colorful books make me feel like I’ll never get the chance to join them. So lately I’ve crinkled the empty Skittles bag and raised my fists to the sky and shouted, “Curse you bookstores.” And I don’t go.

But libraries are so contained. They are William Blake’s world in a grain of sand. They are Stonehenge. The TARDIS. Out of place and time. But they can send me into a panic too. There’s an undertow. Something ancient and secret and predestined. Something a little sacred and scary.

Truth is, whether it’s a bookstore or the library, I go there because of the writing. And it’s the writing, even the hope of writing, that really frightens me.

Writing is a terrible beast. It makes me feel old and awkward and stupid and stuck. I feel vulnerable and exposed and never good enough. I feel defeated before even trying. Like I’m in an unrequited relationship that’s killing me.

I can’t stand loving something that makes me feel this way. It’s heartbreaking and nerve-wracking and depressing. But I can’t stop. Too much history and hope. Too many moments of joy when I produce something from thin air that sends a little quiver up my spine and into my soul. It feels like magic. It feels impossible and yet true.

So what’s a girl to do? Give up? Move forward blindly? Grasp at straws? Write?

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

-ee cummings



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Thanks a Lot


There is a mountain of research that correlates the practice of gratitude with mental an physical health benefits – everything from better mood, less anger, positive outlook, happiness and lower blood pressure. Of course, this is just correlation, not cause and effect. These outcomes could be caused by any number of other things the subjects share like eating a lot of artichokes or flossing three times a day.

But it is Thanksgiving and it’s possible all those research studies have some truth. Plus, my blood pressure has been running high lately so what the hell, here goes.

I’m grateful for:


Books – so many, so little time

Costco, because it gives my dad somewhere to go and something to talk about (you should see the size of the shrimp!)

The Food Network, for cooking shows that inspire in the moment (not so much when I should actually be cooking) and for a second fantasy family of amazing chefs.

Everyday when I can get out of bed and put my feet on the floor and walk.

My mom, who died of pancreatic cancer 7 years ago, and who still lives on in me – the good and the bad. Her unforgiving metabolism and complex relationship with food, her dreams of travel even when it wasn’t possible, her love of reading and learning, her tendency towards judgement, her ability to make and keep friends, her greatest enjoyment a table loaded with food and her family sitting around it joking and snarking and loving her stuffed shells, her ability to cover up fear and insecurity, her desire to create beauty, her care taking, her obsession with dishes.

Seeing my girls – now 18 and 22- sharing a memory and hearing them laugh together

Writing, even when I don’t actually write, it is always there. In my head, my hands, my heart

Bright red cardinals against snow


Anyone who is reading this blog after all this time

So now I will go check my blood pressure and see if this gratitude stuff really works. I’m skeptical, but I’m always skeptical – I think I get that from my dad. Currently he is trying to peel a dozen hard boiled eggs and swearing because the shells are sticking. It’s a good life if you don’t weaken.

Eat, drink, be merry and grateful. It’s worth a shot.








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It’s a Cold and It’s a Lonely Hallelujah

chipsForgive me Father, for I have sinned. It’s been six months since my last blog post.

Not that I have anything to write about.

I suppose I could rant about  Donald Trump but if I get started I won’t stop.

I could talk about this book I just finished that was the saddest story I have ever read. So well written you should run out and get it now. But so heart wrenchingly sad I can’t possibly recommend it. But the writing…I know, why did I even bring it up? Ok, A Little Life, but don’t blame me if you can’t get through it.

I could talk about eating clean. I want to eat clean. I bought a Prevention Magazine guide to eating clean in the check out line at the supermarket the other night, alongside a bag of sour cream & onion potato chips. I felt a little dirty buying the chips. I ate half the bag reading the magazine.

I could talk about the fact that The Good Wife is ending or that Elizabeth Keen is dead or that I really don’t like what’s happening to Callie & Arizona on Grey’s, but then you would realize that along with my dirty potato chip habit, I watch way too much television.

I could tell you about my daughter’s chorus concert this week. The auditorium looked like a bare threaded pair of suit pants on an old man. The solos lovely, pure, off-key here and there, heart-in-throat adolescent angst and glory. These sung by seniors – a farewell tribute. My daughter, only a sophomore, doesn’t have to face this yet. Doesn’t have to take the rose at the end of the concert and have something announced about her future in front of all of us expectant adults – the college they are going to next year where 30% will drop out, the majors they have chosen that 80% will wind up changing. Those 3 kids who were announced “still undecided” looked a little embarrassed but I clapped hardest for them.

Or maybe, since it is Mother’s Day, I could talk about what this day is like for us mothers who have lost their mothers. My mom died almost 5 years ago at the young age of 75, and I still have Mother’s Day cards in my bedside drawer that I bought for her. My mom would have loved my daughter’s concert, although she didn’t visit much. One of the things she said to me when I was taking care of her at the end (and she said this in a flat tone as she was taking some of the last steps she would ever walk) is that she loved me more than I would ever know.

But I knew. I knew all the dynamics that made it hard for her to show love and approval to me. I knew she didn’t understand me and my choices. I knew she was jealous of me in my youth, and later felt I could do better on so many fronts. I knew she chose other people over me – to visit, to listen to, to share her love. And I knew she knew I was angry at her and unforgiving.

We are all a mess of good intentions gone bad and repeated tiny heartbreaks balled up with hope. I miss my mother like my arms have been taken away, like I’m wandering the streets of the place I grew up and no one recognizes me or even speaks the same language. I can’t stand that she left so soon, before we could figure it out just a little bit more.

I told her that I loved her. I told her it was ok to go. But I wish I told her I forgave it all. I wish I said, I understand you. I understand.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there trying, hoping, loving. It is practically impossible to get it right. There will books written about you. My Name is Lucy Barton, for starters. It is impossibly sad and beautifully written (another one!) and about a mom and a daughter and I think you should read it. Elizabeth Strout is my hero.

So many times I come back to this blog and promise to write more and then wind up at my default of silence. So no promises today. Just a few words. A few book recommendations. And a shout out to my mom. XO




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Say It Ain’t So

The libraries are closing.

I know other things are closing too. Factories, big box stores, music/art/sports programs, restaurants, movie theaters, entire shopping malls.  I know half our towns are broke, people are out of work, our  house isn’t  worth what we bought it for, Zuckerberg lost a few billion dollars, college graduates can’t find jobs,  health care feels like a bonus and people can’t retire until they’re 80.

But the libraries are closing.

Perhaps the economic crisis is only part of the reason. Should we blame Kindle, Amazon, self-publishing, e-zines, Ask.com or Wikipedia? Are people just too busy to go to the library? Have our attention spans become too short? Is there a backlash in our tolerance for librarians? Are children suddenly developing an allergy to the smell of all those books in one place?

Maybe I’m to blame. I am a reader. If you are a reader you know what this statement means. It is a primal part of who you are. You have read so many books that their words, their stories are part of the way you look at life. Years and years of these books have layered inside you, like sedimentary rock. They are your foundation. You can’t imagine your life without books, without reading.

So I hate to admit this, but it’s true. I hardly ever go to the library anymore.

Then why in the world am I bemoaning the loss of a place I rarely use? Am I just being sentimental? Maybe libraries will show up in movies some day and we will laugh at them, like watching Michael Douglas strut through the streets of New York in Wall Street with a mobile phone the size of a toaster.

I think my attachment is so strong because that is how I became a reader. I loved libraries, felt at home in them, at peace. I also felt excitement and freedom and safety at a time in my life when there wasn’t a whole lotta of that going around. I loved the smell of paper, the hushed silence, the maze of stacks, the little drawers in the card catalog. It was like stepping into an alternative world. A world where stories lived. Where stories waited for me. Where it felt like anything could happen.

In Rhode Island Dunkin Donuts thrives, along with nail salons, strip clubs, and pizza joints. I happen to frequent 2 out of 4 of these places (unless you know me well, you will have to guess which), yet I honestly wouldn’t care if they all started closing. But not the libraries. I want to be able to go there if I need to spark those old feelings. I want other people to discover themselves there, to become readers. I want to be able to get free books when I’m retired and broke. I want to sit at a table and write, surrounded by thousands of stories whispering, you can do it!

Maybe this weekend I’ll go to the library. Before it’s too late.


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Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Oh yeah. I did it. Up at 7:00 AM baking cookies. Watched those Rockettes kick higher than the Empire State Building. Saw Harry Potter singing in a suit and bow tie with John Larroquette (Didn’t I see that last year too? Wasn’t it just as strange then?). Watched my better half cook enough food for a small army and then wrap it up and wedge it into the back of our dilapidated minivan, steaming up the windows and smelling like an aphrodisiac. One hour later dinner at my sister-in-laws sitting at the kids table eating and eating some more. Walked off two forkfuls of mashed potatoes on the beach with my kids. Then back for dessert. Ended the day with Charlie Brown and Lady GaGa. Finally stumbled into bed with a food hangover, a raging fibromyalgia attack, a profound sadness.

I hear from so many people these days say that Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday. It feels less stressful, easier, more singular in focus, free of religious overtones and guilt, less expensive. The expectations are lower, the carbohydrate intake is higher. All in all it’s a great day.

And it was. I enjoyed my family, I witnessed only minor dysfunction, I felt full and grateful, the sun shone, the beach was glorious, I didn’t have to cook or clean a lot (thank you TXN), and my sister-in-law lent me 3 new books to read. It really was a day to be thankful for.

Yes, here it comes. The but…

My mother wasn’t here.

Truthfully, it has been a long time since my mother played a significant role in my Thanksgiving. I’ve been out in the world quite a while now. Cooking my own turkeys and pies, buying my own rust colored table linens, getting the lumps out of the gravy or sitting at other dining room tables and oohing/ahing over bowls of white and orange vegetables.

But talking to my father 300 miles away, his voice flat and dull, a pretend voice, empty without her, I am filled with abandonment and loneliness. All day it rattles and wheezes inside of me, like stale air, so that by midnight, stuffed with food and small hapinesses and the confusion of watching Charlie Brown and Lady Gaga in one night, I’m engorged. Like those Macy’s Day Parade balloons, I feel enormous and unwieldy and held to the ground only by a proverbial thread.

This morning I came to slowly, shook off bad dreams and joint pain, made french toast for my kids, started reading A Secret Kept, started thinking about every chapter–how it hooked me in, made me want to keep reading to find out more, how it screwed up point of view and distracted me, how it introduced new characters successfully and not so successfully, and how I loved it. Because I was dissecting it, learning from it and the whole time enjoying the ride.

Books help. They take me away and bring me back and then take me away again. They get me in front of this computer, to this blog, and to my own sense of myself as a writer. They get me through Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Holy Saturday, Fat Tuesday, Christmas Eve, Hanukkah, Ground Hog’s Day, Friday the 13th, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and even my own damn birthday. I love books. Can’t imagine where I’d be without them.

Can you?


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Summer Lite or Summer Lit?

I may have said this before but I’m somewhat of a reading snob. I feel bad about it but I can’t help it. I huffed and puffed my way through The Da Vinci Code, I practically spit nails reading the first Twilight novel, Maeve Binchy (bless her soul) puts me to sleep, and I wouldn’t be caught dead with a Danielle Steele or Anne Rice or Michael Connelly book in my beach bag.

And yet, there is something to be said for escapist reading. This summer in particular called out for it so while I was caring for my dying mother in the home I grew up in I read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. My other half bought me this book because she heard about it on NPR. She hears a lot of my rants about crapy best-selling books so I think she wasn’t sure how I would take to it, but her belief in NPR is unflappable. As it turns out, I really enjoyed this book. It was a seamless, wild ride. There’s magical creatures, an ancient enchanted book, history, Oxford, a vampire love interest that makes Edward look like a pimply-faced teenager (oh wait, he is a pimply-faced teenager), great literary references, cool witchcraft, strong female characters, and a lot of wine and tea drinking. So if you’re tired of cutting coupons, planning spontaneous summer fun, attacking crab grass, fixing your chipped toenail polish, writing letters to your congressman, or finding new uses for baking soda, I highly and ever-so lightly recommend it.

Might I also suggest Tana French’s Faithful Place. I brought up her name in another post–she’s a crime novelist–a genre I usually snub. But her writing is terrific, her characters complex, and you get to go around saying “that would be grand” and “ahh Jehsus” in your best Irish accent for weeks after you’ve finished.

If you really can’t take the lite stuff, try Room, Bloodroot, Traveling with Pomegranates, A Visit from the Goon Squad, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I’ve also read Mudbound, A Gate at the Stairs, and Little Bee recently.

There’s only a few weeks of summer left so put down that People magazine and read something. And let me know how it is! I’m looking for more Lit but I can always use a good Lite.

PS  I could only get the link tool to work on A Discovery of Witches–not sure if it’s Word Press or me. I have to get better at this blogging thing…

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