While I was busy contemplating the bizarre turn of events in my life over the past few months, I wrote and published my One Thousandth (1000!!!!) post here, in my starry corner of cyberspace. For a woman who has a strong predilection for abandoning projects (jobs, hobbies, diy projects, exercise, people who annoy me), it surprised no one more than myself to discover I have sat down with a blinking cursor and an alphabet soup of words a thousand times over the last eight years.
For this, my 1001st post, I thought I’d give myself a little Q&A, to answer all of your burning questions. That’s a lie. No one is asking these questions, but I thought it would be fun anyhow.
What are you currently reading?
People do ask me this question, and my answer is usually a disappointment. I’m often reading books for my MFA program, so more often than not, they’re a bit obscure or strange or both. My recent reading list includes:
Fiction–Gods Without Men: Hari Kunzru. Well written, bizarre, with a taste of magical realism. This is a genre I typically struggle to understand. After my attempt at reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, I gave up the genre for good. Until now. I don’t feel any smarter having read it, just generally confused by much of the story.
Non-Fiction–The Journalist and the Murderer: Janet Malcolm. A bit dry for my taste, but it raises questions about the ethics of the relationship between a journalist and his subject. It did cause me to consider how I tell stories that involve other people, and my responsibility to them in that process.
YA Non-Fiction–Charles and Emma: Deborah Heiligman. This was an enjoyable read after so many heavy books over the last year. I enjoy YA, and this didn’t disappoint. This is the story of the marriage between Charles Darwin and his wife Emma, a devout Christian. Well researched and an interesting study in how opposites attract.
Poetry: Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks. Absolutely beautiful, and although it was written decades ago, her work is oddly (sadly) relevant in our current racial climate. Brooks wrote this particular selection between the 1940’s-60’s from her perspective as a black woman in America. She was the first black author to win the Pulitzer prize in any category, and I feel privileged to have met her across the pages.
Classic–A Tale of Two Cities: Charles Dickens. This is not a beach read. I repeat, do not read this on the beach. Your head will swell with the details, and combined with the heat pulsing off the sand, your head might explode. Otherwise, this is reading for a rainy, autumn day, and it’s a classic for a reason.
Childhood Favorite–Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret: Judy Blume. I love to re-visit books that made an impact on me in my childhood. I often find small clues about the woman I’ve become as I rediscover what drew me to a book in the first place. What drew me to Margaret? Everything. The struggle for belonging, the desire for my body to catch up with my brain, the inability to understand the world of grown-ups, and the search for meaning through conversations with God. Reading this again filled a little chink in my adult armor.
Current read–The View From the Cheap Seats: Neil Gaiman. The man is a genius and this book is absolutely wonderful in every way. This is a collection of essays, forewords, and speeches spanning Gaiman’s career. Fantastic material and proof that one doesn’t have to live in one particular genre. Caveat: I’m only 1/3 of the way through, although I doubt the back-end falters.
What is your reading strategy?
To read as much as possible while still feeding my family. It’s more difficult than it sounds. Do other people have reading strategies? I think we might have to label this as something specific to nerdy people.
As you can see from my list above, I enjoy reading earlier childhood favorites, as well as reading across most genres. Due to a woefully inadequate English education, I like to throw in a classic book every few months. I like to mix it up, and I typically read one fiction or non-fiction book and a book of poetry at the same time. It’s a bit like music, the different notes bring together a single melody. I love to follow where the notes lead me.
will you stop talking about grad school do you graduate from grad school?
I’ll graduate with an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction next May. There is much work to accomplish in the meantime, including an elective in Poetry. What possessed me to take a class in poetry, I’ll never know. It was likely the fantasy of calling myself a poet and finally having an excuse for my melancholy sensibility. I may also have been inspired by the book, I Capture the Castle. Which, incidentally, is the book I wish I’d written.
Who inspires your photography on Instagram? (an actual question asked by my 11 year old daughter)
Lean in, here’s a secret: she does. I love seeing the world through my daughter’s eyes. I love discovering what she finds absurd or lovely or artistic or photo worthy. At eleven years old, it’s mostly some version of herself. And I love it. It allows me a peek behind the curtain to the little wizard she’s hiding.
I like to think I offer the same with my instagram, without all the selfies. I’m inspired to capture whatever catches my eye. It’s my own little work of art on the internet. Perhaps it’s not the most original, but it captures life through the filter in which I see it. Or as I’d like to see it. I typically edit out the offensive and the ugly. I don’t feel the least bit guilty about that. I see the pile of muddy shoes by the backdoor and the egg smeared like an abstract painting across the countertops in real life. I don’t need to see it in my feed, and you probably don’t either. My life is just as ordinary as your average suburban mother, but I challenge myself to find something beautiful in it daily.
What do you miss the most about living abroad? (also a real question!)
Oh, where to begin! I typically avoid thinking too deeply about the losses, because they are many. Thinking about them makes me discontent with my current life in suburban New Jersey. However, more than anything, I miss the ability to travel Europe (and further abroad) whenever the mood struck us. The mood struck often, and we took full advantage of all the culture, art, and beauty of the world surrounding us while living in both London and Zurich. Our experiences traveling abroad are the scaffolding upon which I’m built. I was built by the hot, bustling streets of Rome, the croissants and culture of Paris, the heavy grey skies and conversations over cups of tea in London. I was sculpted by the Alps, by long runs through the evergreen forests of Horgenberg, by the beaches of Egypt and the ancient olive trees in the garden of Gethsemane. They are molded into my bone and blood and skin. And I miss it more than I can say.
What do you love about living Stateside again?
This question would have been more appropriate to answer prior to the current election, which has soured me a bit on these, our Divided States of America.
But, I love two things:
1. The convenience. Call me shallow and consumeristic, but this actually matters when you’re raising three kids. Everything here is built for convenience and ease. Until you’ve carried your toddler, infant child, and their stroller up and down four flights of stairs at various Tube and/or train stations just to buy your favorite pint of ice cream, you haven’t experienced inconvenience. Parking is readily available and free. Shopping carts are free. So are smiles and trouble shooting and conversation.
2. Being a part of the conversation. Living abroad, one is automatically “other”, an outsider to the national culture–particularly when there’s a language barrier. I missed ambient conversation and understanding the punchline of a joke. I missed all of the back story that one absorbs by learning and living in their birth country. Moving back to the US was like one long exhale, having never realized I’d been holding my breath for years across the ocean.
Join me for the rest of the Q&A tomorrow to hear about my latest disappointments and developments. Thanks for reading!