Books are the best present

Books are, without exception or doubt, my go-to present.  The holidays are hurtling towards us, and as I do every year, I’m starting to amass gifts for the people in my life.  Last year I shared the books I was planning to give to various people in my life and I loved hearing your suggestions back.  Some of my go-to books are perennial and don’t vary year to year.  For example, when I have a small child to give a book to, I’m likely to choose Miss Rumphius, Roxaboxen, Space Boy, and the others in the small-child category from last year’s post.  Equally, I often give Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems, Volume One or the work of Katrina Kenison (especially The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir) and Dani Shapiro (especially Devotion: A Memoir) to adults.

But on my list each year are also recent finds, either by me or by my children.  So, here are a few books we will be giving this year.  I’d love to hear what’s on your list.

For children (mostly older, though it’s worth noting that my kids, 9 and 12, still like picture books):

Rosie Revere, Engineer (Andrea Beaty) – Both Grace and Whit love this funny, inspiring tale of young Rosie and her unquenchable desire to invent things.  She’s briefly daunted by negative feedback but bounces back with positive input from a mentor.  I love this book and recommend it to children young and old of both genders.

Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun (Joshua Glenn) – To call Whit obsessed with this book is a ridiculous understatement.  We’ve been giving this as a present to any and all birthday parties all fall, and this year many boys close to our family will receive it under the tree.  The highlight of Whit’s fall, perhaps, was meeting Joshua Glenn in person.  The follow up book, UNBORED Games: Serious Fun for Everyone, is also excellent.

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World (Cynthia Chin-Lee) – This book tells the story of 26 women whose lives and work impacted history.  The illustrations are a beautiful mixture of collage and drawing.  I’m always a fan of books that showcase the often under-reported achievements of women and I think Amelia to Zora does so in an approachable, entertaining way.

The Secret Series Complete Collection (Pseudonymous Bosch) – Whit has devoured this entire series with an enthusiasm I’ve not often seen.  A great gift for an elementary-school aged boy (or girl) who is looking for a world to dive into.

Grace for President (Kelly DiPucchio) – I wish the protagonist in this book wasn’t named Grace, since my adoration of the book (which my children share) has nothing to do with her name.  I cry every single time I read it.  Every. Single. Time.

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition) (Malala Yousafzai) – Grace loved this book and, having read it, was incredibly excited by and invested in Malala’s Nobel Peace Prize win.  Interesting and inspiring non-fiction for tween girls.

For adults:

Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life (Erin Gates) – This book would make a beautiful hostess gift and would please any design-minded woman on your list.  In addition, Erin’s voice is both hilarious and deeply honest and compelling.  I wrote a more complete review of my most-anticipated book of 2014 at Great New Books.

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace (Anne Lamott) – I love every book of Anne Lamott’s I’ve ever read, and her newest is no exception.  Lamott manages to make me feel like she’s speaking directly to me, and as though she has access to the innermost reaches of my heart and mind.  I loved this book.

Dinner: A Love Story: It all begins at the family table (Jenny Rosenstrach) – This book isn’t new (though the companion volume, also wonderful, Dinner: The Playbook, is) but I love it and plan to give it often.  Jenny’s recipes are easy and delicious and more than anything, her philosophy is one I embrace.  I believe in family dinner and we do it whenever we can (though that’s certainly not every night, and I do think that the outsize pressure to have family dinner every night can be punitive to mothers).

It’s been a year of fantastic novels!  If you have a novel-lover on your list, I recommend All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (reviewed here), Euphoria by Lily King (mentioned very briefly here), Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (reviewed here), and Lila by Marilynne Robinson (reviewed here).

What books are you giving this holiday season?

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Art, prayer, and the eye of the storm

I feel that art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness which characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm.
– Saul Bellow

Another beautiful quote from Glenda Burgess’ gorgeous blog.

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How She Does It: Alyssa Hertzig

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I can’t remember exactly how I met Alyssa online, but I thin kit was through the phenomenon of the Binders Full of Women Writers this past summer.  Since then I’ve been entirely smitten by her blog, The Sparkly Life, which covers an eclectic mix of style, fashion, beauty, links, and parenting.  Her weekly link roundups are not to be missed.  I was delighted when Alyssa agreed to participate in my How She Does It series.

Alyssa is the Beauty Editor at Brides Magazine.  I highly recommend her Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest feeds too!  She’s funny, smart, and has great taste.  What’s better than that?  Alyssa’s children are younger than mine, so I live vicariously through her in some ways, for example when she posted about her son’s adorable first birthday party or her daughter’s toddler-version-of-fashion-blogger outfit.

Without further ado, I’m honored and thrilled to introduce Alyssa.  I hope you love her wisdom and humor as much as I do!

Tell me about the first hour of your day?  (I often describe mine as being “fired out of a cannon”)

My day starts when my daughter wakes up, which unfortunately, is almost always between 5:30 and 6 a.m. (I haven’t set an alarm in years.) I go downstairs, make her breakfast, pack her lunch, make a fruit-greens-and-almond-milk smoothie for myself, and then sit down at my computer for a bit until it’s time to start getting ready for work. (My son doesn’t wake up until 8 a.m., which is basically a dream.)

Do you have a work uniform that you rely on for getting dressed?  What is it?

99 percent of the time I’m in a dress or jeans. I almost never wear a top and a skirt (or a different type of pant) because that requires a lot of thought about what coordinates with what and my brain just does not want to be a stylist at 7 a.m.! I’ll do a pair of dark skinny jeans, boots, and a sweater or top/blazer if it’s a more casual day; a dress if it’s a day where I have a lot of meetings or events. And then I’ll almost always throw on a big statement necklace. It’s the quickest, easiest way to take even the most basic outfit to the next level.

How do you and your spouse resolve conflicts about scheduling?  

My work life has a bit more flexibility, so I’m usually the one who ends up changing plans (or staying home from work) if there’s a scheduling snafu. It’s one of the few downsides of working part-time.

Do you second-guess yourself?  What do you do when that happens?

Not a ton, actually. Occasionally, sure, but my bigger problem is indecisiveness. Once I’ve made a decision though, I’ll usually just go with it. I try not too worry or second-guess too much—I’d never get anything done!

What time do you go to bed?  

Around 11:30pm. I should go to bed earlier, but the evening is my primary work-on-the-blog time (and my main unwinding time!), so going to sleep any earlier is tough.

Do you exercise?  If so, when?

I do—although I wish I was able to go more. I go to Pilates twice a week (one group class, one private). I try to fit in one other thing each week (typically Spin, barre, or yoga), but if I’m being honest, it rarely happens.

Do you cook dinner for your kids?  Do you have go-to dishes you can recommend?

Because we have a nanny during the day and I get home after they eat, I am not usually the one cooking dinner for my kids. I do make their dinner on the weekends, but my kids are both going through a picky stage, so I wouldn’t really call what I do for their dinner “cooking.” My daughter will usually eat a hot dog (no bun) or chicken fingers, rice or soup, and green beans (one of the few veggies she’ll eat!). My son will eat any of those things, too, but he’s a little more adventurous—his favorites are meatballs, broccoli, and feta cheese.

Do you have any sense of how your children feel about your working?

Recently my four-year-old daughter said to me, “I wish work wasn’t a thing. I always want you close to me.” And my son has recently started screaming and crying every time I leave in the morning. That’s tough. I know they don’t like me going to work, but it’s important for them to see me having a career, doing things that I love, being happy. And I know that I’m happier when I’m working—part time. I am very, very lucky that I am able to work part-time, so that I really have the best of both worlds.

What is the single piece of advice you would give another working mother?

Just do your best. That’s all you can do. And you’re doing great. There will always be someone on Instagram who looks like she’s “doing it all” better than you. But your kids think you’re doing a damn fine job—and they wouldn’t trade you for that Instagram mom for anything in the world.

And, inspired by Vanity Fair, a few quick glimpses into your life:

Favorite Artist?

Marilyn Minter. I dream of having one of her pieces on my living room wall.

Favorite jeans?

Rag & Bone Kensington Skinnies

Shampoo you use?

Whatever they happen to be using at the blowout bar! ;)

Favorite book?

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving and She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb are two of my all-time favorites.

Favorite quote?

Right now I’m very into “Comparison is the thief of joy.” In our Instagram/Pinterest/Facebook world, it’s very easy to look at someone else’s life (or body or job opportunity or whatever) and think how much better your life would be if that thing was yours. But it’s not and the constant comparison is just going to make you upset. I try my hardest to remember this quote whenever I feel that comparison/jealousy rearing its head.

Favorite musician?

I’m a closet Katy Perry fan.

Favorite item (toy, clothing, or other) for your children?

I’m trying to think of something besides “the iPad,” since surely I would look like a better mother if I mentioned some cool, educational, indie toy. But I just can’t think of anything that they (and I) love as much. We’re an iPad family. There, I said it.

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Ghosts

We have lived in our house for a long time.  We moved in in the summer of 2001 with plans to stay here for a few years before moving on.  As it turns out, we are still here.  This fact has several ramifications on our daily life, almost all good.  One in particular is on my mind lately.  This house is full to the rafters with memories.  Every room holds ghosts.  This is the house in which we celebrated our first anniversary.  It is the house in which I sat two days later and watched the television coverage of 9/11, my new husband in LA, having flown out the night before instead of that morning .  It’s the house to which we brought home both of our babies from the hospital.  These walls have witnessed joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, first birthday parties and baby showers and engagement celebrations and many tantrums and even more glasses of wine.

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I thought of this the other day when I stood behind Grace in her room as she rubbed cream into her face before bed.  I could not see myself over her head in the mirror because she is almost as tall as I am now.  Suddenly the image of her 4 year old self, standing in the same spot in the room, concentrating hard to write her name, spindly letters sprawling across the paper on the easel, almost knocked me over.  The Margaret Atwood poem that was the preface to my college thesis, Spelling, rose to my mind:

How do you learn to spell?
Blood, sky & the sun,
your own name first,
your first naming, your first name,
your first word.

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The next morning I walked into Whit’s room to find him sitting cross-legged in the yellow-upholstered glider that stands in the corner of his room, reading a chapter book.  I spent so many hours in that glider, rocking him, nursing him, watching the moon out the window of his room.  And here he sat, buzz-cut, almost 10, reading to himself as he rocked quietly back and forth.

The past is animate in every corner of this house.  I sat in the kitchen rocking chair with a week-old Grace on my lap, looking mutely at my doula and nodding silently as she encouraged me to seek help for my already-overwhelming post-partum depression.  I labored by myself with Whit in the darkness of night in our bedroom, pacing back and forth, Ina May’s book open at the foot of our bed.  I have taken more pictures than I can count of Grace and Whit with their grandparents on the yellow couch in our living room.  We have celebrated Thanksgivings, Christmases, and hundreds of family Sunday dinners at our oval mahogany dining table.

I’ve written often about how time confounds me, about the ways that the past rises up through the present, augmenting and haunting it at the same time.  This is something I experience on a daily basis in my own home. The past and the present are layered together in a way that enriches my everyday life and tints it with sorrow at the same time.  When you’re this aware of the past, it seems to me, there’s an inevitable thread of loss and longing that is sewn through your days.  While I don’t think this is true merely because I’ve lived in my house a long time, I do think I confront specific and highly-textured reminders of what was more frequently because of that.

Even now, as I write this, I’m sitting  in the room where I paced for so many hours, a colicky Grace in the baby Bjorn, hoping she would finally fall asleep.  I am looking out the window at the tree whose branches I watch cartwheel through the seasons every year.  Down the hall is the bathroom in whose tub a baby Whit giggled, his plump body in a starfish-patterned bath seat.  When I walk downstairs I will wade through memories from over 13 years.  And the ghosts who populate those memories make me simultaneously sad, grateful, and intensely aware of my own life.

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All the sadness of life

There would seem to be nothing more obvious, more tangible and palpable than the present moment. And yet it eludes us completely. All the sadness of life lies in that fact. – Milan Kundera

Thank you to Mary Kathryn Countryman for reminding me of these marvelous lines.

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Things I Love Lately: the book edition

I’ve been reading some excellent books lately, and wanted to share some of them.  Please, I am curious: what are you reading?

Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel): I admit it took me a few chapters to get into this story, but once I did I was hooked.  It’s a darkly glittering tale of a post-apocalyptic world that ultimately concludes that humans are good, art endures, and the world we take for granted now is breathtakingly beautiful.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  It’s a riveting, unsettling story whose characters I can’t stop thinking about and whose pages contain indelible images of beauty.  Mandel’s novel reminds us to see the beauty that we don’t even notice around us. I believe this book would make a terrific movie. (read my friend Jennifer’s thoughtful and compelling review of Station Eleven here)

Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message (Tara Mohr): I devoured Tara’s book, underlining madly because so much of what she said made so much sense to me.  Playing Big is a call to action, a reminder of all that women leave on the table when we don’t speak up, and a careful diagnosis of the ways in which we sideline ourselves without even realizing it.  In every chapter Tara unfolded an insight that I’d never seen that particular way before, and I frequently gasped as I read.  “This book was born out of a frustration and a hope,” says Tara in the introduction, and Playing Big helped me both understand my frustration at certain constructs in the world and allowed a new hope about what might someday be to bloom.

Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters (Carla Naumburg): “Mindful parenting is about remembering that in any moment we have a choice about how we engage with, and respond to, the details of our lives.”  I love this quote so much that I instagrammed it, and it’s been running through my head like a banner ad ever since.  Yes, yes, and yes.  Carla’s book is sensible and reassuring, sensitive and wise, thoughtful and realistic.  I dislike parenting books as a general rule, but Parenting in the Present Moment feels different.  It’s a book about how we live our lives.  Period.  Plain and simple and powerful.  I highly recommend it.

Lila (Marilynne Robinson): This was one of my most-anticipated books this year, and the honest truth is that when I first read it I was slightly disapppointed.  I found the narrative, which cuts back and forth between history and the present day, a little bit confusing.  But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the story, and that tells me that Robinson’s book is another masterpiece. Like Gilead, Lila‘s pace is deliberate, and reading the novel felt like attending a sermon or praying.  And yet for all the parallels between the books, Robinson beautifully differentiates Lila’s voice from John’s.  This is a powerful tale of redemption and grace, and reminds me of what religion, at its best, can be.  I loved it.

I write these posts about what I’m reading and thinking about and listening to and loving lately approximately monthly.  You can find all the others here.

What’s on your bedside table, your kindle, and your mind lately?

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State championships

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warming up

On Saturday, Grace ran in the Massachusetts middle school invitational championships.  It was a beautiful, bluebird day, the cloudless sky arcing, crystalline blue, overhead.  As we drove out to the race, she fretted.  “I just want it to be over,” she said.  “I know,” I told her.  “This is the worst part.”

“Well, no,” she corrected me.  “The worst part is standing on the starting line waiting for the gun.”  I nodded.

We found her coach and two teammates who were running in their respective age-group races.  Not for the first time, I thought about how dissonant it is that running, the most solitary of sports, can require dealing with a huge crowd when you’re racing.  Grace’s age group (5th and 6th grade girls) numbered 193.  As her start time grew nearer her face grew tighter, her demeanor more anxious.  Her coach and I both urged her to go take some short jogs and she did.

Matt, Whit and I all stood on the starting line to hold her spot as she jogged somewhat listlessly around.  She’d just come back, Friday afternoon, from a four-day, three-night field trip in Vermont with her class.  It is a wonderful trip renowned most of all for how exhausted it leaves the kids.  Every single one of them apparently falls asleep on the bus home.  She had slept a solid 12 hours on Friday night but still, I could tell, she wasn’t dealing with a full deck.  She had also missed practice all week, as well as two races, which she was aware of.

Matt gave Grace a hug and a kiss and took off with the camera to find a spot on the course.  I stood behind her and wrapped my arms around her shoulders.  She murmured that she felt like she was going to throw up and asked me why she did this at all.  She was trembling with nerves.  I leaned my cheek in against hers and just hugged her tighter.  “Are you cold?” I asked.  She had peeled off her warmup pants and was wearing shorts.  She shook her head.

An official with a megaphone walked across the course and instructed all parents and coaches to leave the starting line area.  It was time for our children to be on their own.  Grace turned to me, a stricken look on her face, and I gave her one more hug and our secret sign for “I love you” before falling back several feet.  I stood behind her, blinking back tears, watching.  I could see her wings fluttering under her shirt as her narrow shoulders shivered, some combination of fear and cold.  She glanced over her shoulder and mouthed to me, “This is the worst part.”  I laughed and wiped at my wet cheeks.  Once again, the metaphors write themselves.  I let go and I stood back.

And the gun went off.

I stood still, quickly losing her in the enormous, pounding throng.  Whit and I watched until we saw her white sleeves in the front pack, heading up the first hill (or “incline,” as they call it in cross-country).  And then we headed to the finish line, because I didn’t think I could bear watching her as she went.  I could feel my heart beat all the way up and down my arms and blinked fast to keep the tears from spilling down my cheeks.

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As I waited for her to come back into sight, I couldn’t help thinking, she’s in the woods.

I stood there, squinting, trying to see the first girls as they emerged into the home stretch.  Finally I saw someone coming.  It was not Grace.  A few more girls thundered by.  They were all pretty close together.  I saw her white long-sleeve shirt and began hollering.  She looked good but, truthfully, she looked tired.  I saw someone fly past her and almost laughed out loud at her startled expression on her face. She glared at the finish line and sprinted towards it.

She finished seventh.

We took a team picture, she began to catch her breath, and then we drove home.  Once we were in the car she admitted that she was disappointed and she cried a bit.  The litany of regrets began.  She had beaten the third place finisher in a race just ten days ago. She wondered what would have happened if she didn’t go to on the field trip.  She had had a cramp while running. If she hadn’t wondered what if she wouldn’t be my daughter, I realized as I drove, staring forward, my heart aching.

Still: seventh.  In the state.  I am immensely proud of her.  I think she’s proud of herself, though I think she wanted to do better.  Had circumstance been different, maybe she would have.  Who knows.  She has already told me she has a goal for next year, which is to do better than seventh.

The moment I’ll remember from the day isn’t the panting child with a medal around her neck or the glimpse of her coming out of the woods, heading towards the finish.  What I’ll most vividly recall is “Parents, please back away from your children.”  And the look on her face when I did.  And then watching her run away from me.

 

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what it is to be on earth

To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.

– Galway Kinnell

Though I have long loved Kinnell’s poetry, I confess I thought he was maybe Irish, because somehow Galway sounds Irish to me.  To discover that he was Rhode Island born (like half of my family) and died in Vermont (where the family I married into is from) made me love him even more.  And then to find out that he was also a Princetonian (his roommate was W.S. Merwin, a fact that blows my mind) surprised me, happily, even more.

His passing is a great loss.

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Five random things

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I have long loved minutiae and believe there is tremendous meaning in the smallest things (“The more you respect and focus on the singular and the strange, the more you become aware of the universal and infinite.” – Gail Godwin)  I was happy when Casey Carey-Brown and Samantha McGarry tagged me to share five random things about me.

One: I really only listen to music in the car.  At home I prefer that it be quiet.  Right now I’m alternating between a favorite Christmas carol playlist and a new one of songs I love these days, which includes:

Orange Sky – Alexi Murdoch
Let’s Be Still – The Head and the Heart
Peace – O.A.R.
A Life That’s Good – Lennon and Maisy
Let Her Go – Passenger
Compass – Lady Antebellum
The Boxer – Mumford and Sons
Lost In My Mind – The Head and the Heart
Just Breathe – Pearl Jam

Two: I was a very small child.  I grew eventually – I’m not a small person now – but it was late.  When I moved back from Paris I started taking gymnastics lessons and the gym put me on their elite team until they realized I was 7 and not 5.

Three: I have broken nine bones (two bones in my arm, my ankle, three ribs, two toes, and one finger).  I asked Whit to come up with something random about me and this was his contribution.  I suspect anyone who knows me or has read this blog a bit know this fact.

Four: We had a guinea pig for a month when I was in grade school. The guinea pig was named Caliban (thanks, Dad).  This was Grace’s addition to the litany of randomness about me.

Five: When I was four or five years old I almost lost an eye to a wine press in France.  The handle of the wine press hit me right next to my eye, and I still have a scar.  My salient memory of the experience is of the winery’s dog licking the blood from my face. (this was Matt’s offering).

It gives me agita to think about tagging others, of course, so if anyone wants to share five things, please do, and come back and let me know!

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The Here Year: Wellness

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Halloween night, 5:30pm.  October blazed out, shining like shook foil, reminding me of the glory that is all around us.

The months are turning faster than I can catch my breath.  That’s always been true, and it’s a cliche for a reason.  I’m thrilled to continue down the Here Year road with Aidan, and this month’s topic is wellness.

I have finally begun to figure out what I need to do to take care of my body and my spirit.  Of course, I often fail at doing these things.  But at least I know what I need to do. And if I’ve learned anything in these 40 years of mine, it’s that I’m going to keep failing.  We all are.  In fact, what I aspire to now is to keep beginning again.

There is a short list of non-negotiables when it comes to health and happiness.  When I fail to prioritize these things I almost always get into trouble.  I need 8 hours of sleep a night, I need quiet time to write and to read and to be still, I need to feel safe and taken care of by the small handful of true native speakers in my life, I need to exercise, and I need to eat mostly healthily most of the time.  These things, which are, at the end of the day, all choices, help me feel calm and happy.  They help me to love my life.

In order to make sleep, down time, reading and writing, and exercise a true priority I have had to cut back on many other things.  Because I work full-time, write as much as I can, and, most importantly, want to be my children’s primary caretaker, I don’t have much other time.  I don’t do very many things socially, I don’t watch very much TV, I almost never go to movies, my husband and I don’t have very many date nights.  For me, it’s more important to read Harry Potter to Grace and to Whit, to be the one who packs their lunches, and to read and write and go to bed early in the evenings, and to get up at dawn to run.

There are many ways I strive to cultivate stillness in my life.  Believe me, this is not my natural state of being (one childhood nickname I had was “Lindsey Mead, she’s on speed” because I spoke and moved so fast).  I have been a sporadic meditator for several years, but these days I do five minutes most days.  Five minutes.  It’s manageable, I promise.  Sometimes I do guided meditations on calm.com and sometimes I just breathe in and out.  What I know for sure is the practice is in the beginning again.  I have to tug my monkey brain back to quiet over and over again, probably 25 times, in 5 minutes.  But I keep at it.  Five minutes.  I promise, you can do it.  I notice the sky, every day, and take photos (and often share them on instagram).  Writing here, a practice so ingrained as to be an inalienable part of my life now, reminds me to be aware of the details of my own life.

My best, truest friends remain essential and close.  I don’t see them as much as I want, but they know who they are, and I value their support and love and presence more than I can possibly articulate.

Exercise is important to me.  25 years of running have had an impact on my joints and I can’t run as much as I used to.  I think a marathon is out of the question now, unfortunately (though, as Whit likes to point out, I have run a marathon, just in two halves, 3 years apart!).  I have been doing yoga on and off for 15 years and I find that it is an increasingly important part of my life.  The hamster run of my brain is slowed and quieted by exercise, and it helps me sleep better.

Food?  As I get older, I grow increasingly aware that what I eat is hugely important.  I like Michael Pollan’s simple, powerful line: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.  Amen.  I have come to love – and crave – green juice, and I drink it most mornings.  I don’t, however, love smoothies.  But grapefruit, kale, ginger, through the juicer?  YUM.  We eat a lot of vegetables around here.  I often view it as a challenge: how many different fruits and vegetables can I eat today? But I also love sugar and try as I might, I haven’t successfully given that up.  I am going with the 80/20 rule on this one.  Mostly plants.  Not too much.  That I can do.

It’s not rocket science, is it?  In fact, as I write this, I’m a little bit ashamed that it has taken me almost 40 years to feel so clear on what I need to do to take care of myself and to love my life.  Sleep.  Down time.  Reading and writing.  Exercise.  Vegetables.  Lots of time with my children.  And, of course, a commitment to begin again.

I wrote parts of this post early this year, in a blog tour run by Katie den Ouden, whose example and work I can’t say enough wonderful things about.  Katie represents and models a life of self-care and gentleness, something I aspire mightily to and fail at often

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