Tag Archives: Reading

Today: Get Messy Thursdays | Words, Week 4

I got completely swept up in this week’s prompts and the chance to focus on favorite childhood stories.  We grew up in a house full of books, with parents who loved to read to us, so there was a lot to draw from.

I zeroed in on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden partly because I had seven thousand flowers cut out and ready to be used, but mostly because it is such a good story.  And while it certainly appealed to my imagination as a child, it really imparts quite grown up lessons on treating others well.  Maybe I’ll re-read it.  After I do, like, the important and necessary things.

Get Messy Thursdays | Season of Words, Week 4

This is where the magic mess happens.

I’ve always loved the look of fold-out pages in other people’s sketchbooks.  It seemed fitting to have something hidden away when drawing inspiration from The Secret Garden.  Unfortunately, I am not a genius when it comes to spatial relations and math and planning and measuring.  I taped together three pages of cold pressed watercolor, which I folded accordion style, and then labeled and re-labeled and re-re-labeled them until I got the proper layout.

And it still wasn’t quite right.  But there’s little time for perfection when working against the ever unpredictable “When will nap time be over?” clock.  So I just made do.

Materials used: Exacto knife, stamp, StazOn ink (grey), Sakura Koi brush pen (pale pink), Faber Castell PITT pen (black, 1.5)

This is how the pages will look — all tucked in and unassuming– once we finish this season of the Get Messy Art Journal program and I bind my altered book.  

The keyhole cut-out gives you a little peek at the inner spread, which is aptly… floral.  I used as many of my favorite passages from the story as I could throughout the pages.  I have no idea why I used that doily stamp.  So there’s that.

Materials used: [In addition to those listed below the keyhole page] Pages from Combray, Strathmore Artists Tiles (black, trimmed in half), Sakura Gelly Roll pen (white), glue stick.

These are the outer pages (obvi… I think).  I forgot a quotation mark on the right hand page.  Please forgive me.  Or just pretend it’s there.  

One day I will stop being obsessed with white hand-lettering on a black surface.  Today is not that day.  Also, I want my own secret garden.  Like, immediately.  

Materials used: Windsor and Newton professional watercolor tubes (ivory black, cerulean blue and Windsor violet), magazine cut outs, glue stick, Sakura Gelly Roll pen (white).

And whaaa-bam!  Here is the inner spread.  I wanted it to look lush and sort of mysterious.  The only mystery I am detecting at the moment (get it… mysteries… detectives…) is, Why did I include an owl atop that floral arrangement?  Like, wouldn’t that be the scariest thing ever to come home to?  Well, maybe not ever… but it would be weird. 

The passage scattered throughout the pages is just beautiful and perfect.  It’s about the fleeting moments when we feel like we will live forever.  Doesn’t that make you want to re-read all your favorite childhood books?

Who wants to have a Secret Garden book club with me?

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Making my first batch of switchel (now that sounds mysterious)
  • These Halloween costumes based on kids books are amazing via The House That Lars Built
  • Prenatal yoga in the living room, with a toddler, Frenchie and stuffed animal audience

What childhood classic are you dying to re-read?

Today: Currently | September 2015

We’re more than half-way through September and my fellow old folks and I are left to wonder, Where has the time gone?  I’ve been feeling a bit in limbo (but physically unable to actually limbo) lately.  

Part of me wants this third trimester and all its grouchiness, discomfort and ill-fitting pants to fly by.  And part of me has always wished the calendar went Winter, Spring, Summer, Christmas.  But most of me wants to freeze time… or at the very least, slow it down a bit.  Even if that does mean being surrounded by fall decor (a.k.a. the worst) a bit longer.  Pants and faux pumpkins aside, here’s what’s currently going down.

Currently | September 2015

Currently feeling…

  • A little adrift and a lot disorganized.  Which is unsettling.  I usually have my act way under control, but I’m finding myself losing track of my keys, doctor’s appointments, and days of the week.  I’ve resorted to using Google Calendar (I’m usually paper-and-pen only), my regular planner and a dry erase calendar.  I’m making more lists than usual.  I’m triple-checking my handbag before leaving the house.  And I still forget something.
  • Like I sort of miss the back-to-school rush.  Sort of.  I love being home with Grace (and I know this was the right decision), but this is first year I haven’t been swept up in that new year’s feeling that used to come with September.  I did treat myself to some new school supplies paint, though.  Which brings us to…

Currently watching…

  • Paint dry.  I put together a new watercolor palette this morning and keep peeking to see how it’s setting up.  (I’ll probably let the paint sit overnight before using it.)  I’ve been using a pre-filled palette for ages, and am excited to see how limiting my colors and being selective will affect my creative process.  Then again… 18 shades is not really a limited selection.

  • Grace, Clark and mini-plastic-Clark snuggled up on the sofa.  They melt my heart.
  • Football… but only because it’s on.  And hockey is not.

Currently reading…

A little doodle from earlier this month

  • Articles about potty training.  Because Grace decided a few months ago that diapers are weird.  I don’t blame her.  And while I appreciate her enthusiasm for forgoing the diapers, I wish she were a bit less interested in testing out every, single bathroom available to her.  From her new gymnastics gym to Target to the Chatham Fish Pier… we’ve seen and experienced ’em all.
  • Mindy Kaling’s new book, Why Not Me?.  Because she can do no wrong.
  • A Nest is Noisy — fascinating for me and the little one.

Currently creating…

  • A gold leaf and shell homage to summer
  • A pre-baby check list (which I will likely lose and/or forget about… see above).

Currently enjoying…

Apparently this is what Grace thinks my workouts look like… she’s not far off.

  • Outdoor workouts and lots of stretching.  
  • Making plans with friends.  
  • Rediscovering old favorites on Spotify, including Patty Griffin’s “Heavenly Day” and basically anything on the 90s Pop Radio Hits playlist.

bulu box

  • New mid-workout treats.  As a Sweat Pink Ambassador, I had a chance to check out last month’s Bulu Box for free.  I’m a sucker for monthly boxes — they’re such a fun way to find new products. I think a Bulu Box would make a great gift for the athletes on your list this holiday season (Too soon?  Nah…).  The August box was sort of hit or miss for me, but I suppose that comes with the territory.  I loved the movit energy gummies and racefood fastbar — both were perfect for a mid-bootcamp boost. I received a weight loss supplement, which (even if I weren’t pregnant) is not really my jam.  Similarly, I’ve cut back on the caffeine, but I have a feeling the Runa tea included last month will come in handy soon enough.  I’ve loved other Runa drinks I’ve tried and look forward to brewing a nice hot cup once our little guy arrives.  I (thankfully) haven’t had occasion to use the fourth item included in my Bulu Box — an anti-itch cream — but hey, you never know.  If you’re interested in your own Bulu Box (or one for a pal), use the discount code SWEATPINK to save 50% on a three month subscription.

Alright, time to go peek at that paint again.

Also On Tap for Today:

Do you subscribe to any monthly boxes?  Which are your favorites?

Today: Currently | June 2015

And just like that, May is over and June has arrived.  Time flies when you’re having fun.  Or attempting to clean out your closets.  Or making a fresh start.  Or maybe just some fresh juice.

It’s been a week now since I’ve been office-less, business card-less, commute-less and fax machine-less.  I hesitate to call myself (or anyone else, for that matter) a “stay at home mom” because, like… we’ve been out of the house quite a bit since I left my job.  

It currently feels less like a life change and more like a vacation, but I think we’re all settling into this new way of being quite well.  I’m resisting the urge to over-schedule and fill up our days, but I also don’t want us to become weird shut-ins.  It’s all a careful balance (I think.  Who knows?).

Either way, here’s what I’ve been up to…

Currently | June 2015

Reading

  • Per usual, I’m late to the party, but I’m nearly finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  There are parts that were so funny (made even funnier by the fact that they were intended to be serious) that I cried.  Overall, though, I think it’s worth a read.  
  • When my mom asked for reading recommendations, I came up empty.  Because I can’t remember the last non-how-to-clean-your-house-book I read.  Not good.  Meanwhile, I was attempting to work some life-changing magic on our bookshelves when I came across an unread copy of J. Courtney Sullivan’s The Engagements.  I loved her first two books and am excited to get started on this.  Magic, indeed!  
  • Oh, and magazines.  They’re like books… for lazy people like me.

Watching

  • Lots of sunrises… because Grace has taken to getting up at 4:30 AM for the day, regardless of how early or late she has gone to bed.  The upside? We suddenly have an extra hour or two to our day (or something).  Our pediatrician recommended we check out this toddler alarm clock.  At first I thought she was kidding… but she hasn’t steered us wrong yet, so into the Amazon cart it goes!

Listening

  • Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”  It was playing in the Birmingham airport and I have been blasting it in the car ever since.  One of my first tapes was Whitney — I think I need to go Spotify the entire album.

Eating

  • We’re spoiled with Whole Foods just over the bridge in the South End, and a farmers market just around the corner (which opened for the season today!).  I can’t get enough of the early summer produce available — watermelons, berries, corn and tomatoes!

  • Lots of “hers and hers” meals.  Grace shares my love of snacking and enjoys a bit of variety at lunch and dinner.  I saw these adorable stainless steel divided bus plates on Peas and Crayons (thanks, Jenn!) and ordered a set for Grace.  They are perfect for plating toddler-sized portions of whatever I happen to be snacking on.  

Making

  • Progress on my “stuff to do around the house” list (how domestic, I know).  I’ve been adding to that list since we moved, but barely but a dent into it until this week.  So far, I’ve cleaned out my closet (three bags of clothes went to the Red Cross, and fourth went to ThredUp — we shall see how that goes), hung up our new artwork from Minted, packed up Grace’s 6 and 9 month clothes, cleaned out the super-cluttered, super-dangerous (mandolins!  knives!) kitchen utensil drawer, and purged most of our kitchen cabinets.  Next on the list: Change our wifi network name to Hillary Clinternet (this is a major priority), recycle every single scrap of paper in the house, find a new rug for the living room, make order out of the chaos that is our bathroom cabinet, and wrangle all those books and toys.

Feeling

  • Like this is going to be a really great summer.

Also On Tap for Today:

What is on your home “to-do” list?

Today: Currently | April 2015

We had such a lovely Easter with our families this weekend.  Grace was in her glory, snuggling up with her grandparents, aunts and uncles and following her cousin where ever she went.  I didn’t take many photos (I had my hands full of candy), so I thought I’d share a bit of what’s On Tap currently, instead.

pansy

Currently

Reading

Watching

  • This weekend we watched Mile… Mile and a Half from the Muir Project, which follows a group of artists hiking the John Muir Trail in California.  It’s available on Netflix and is worth a watch for the breathtaking scenery alone.  

Listening

  • Every, single episode of On Being with Krista Tippett (this week’s interview with Greg Boyle, S.J. had me crying at the hair salon while my color processed… but in a good way) and my girl Kristi’s new podcast, Soul Chat
  • We are taking a music and movement class on Saturday mornings in the South End and received a CD of all the songs at the first class.  When Grace and I are in the car together (and I am terrified to listen to the radio now that she’s in a repeat everything phase), we usually listen to Raffi… but every once in a while you need to give the ol’ guy a rest.  Our current jam is a song about a dog finding a cell phone on the way home from the dog park. (The second I drop her off at daycare, however, it’s back to sports radio or Morning Edition.)
  • Also…  My current position is that Taylor Swift can do no wrong.  I reserve the right to change my mind, but for the time being: can’t stop, won’t stop.

Making

  • 100 days of something.  I signed up for #The100DayProject (which starts today) and plan to roll that into the new season of the Get Messy Art Journal challenge (the new theme is brave).  You can follow along on Instagram to see what I make each day.  Many of my projects will likely be drawings or paintings or letters, but I am planning to count carefully crafted, non-Cheez-It meals as an accomplishment as well.
  • I picked up a new frame and some acrylic paint to make a memo board (similar to the one I made for Grace’s room) for our kitchen.  I am hoping it will help me remember important things like renewing Clark’s dog license, or upcoming appointments, or like… wearing pants.

Feeling

  • Hopeful that spring is actually here
  • Excited for the Tone it Up Bikini Series (sign up and get more info here)
  • A little anxious and a little overwhelmed (it’s that time of year in the office) but also very grateful for what’s to come

Wearing

Craving

  • A salad as big as my car 
  • Organized closets and cabinets and drawers 
  • “Cool Mom Jeans” (I’ll know ’em when I see ’em)
  • A beach day
  • Caffeine and/or a nap (what else is new?)

Also On Tap for Today:

What are you currently reading? I’d love your recommendations!

Today: My morning reading list.

If it’s morning and you’re in bed, and you’re reading this on your phone… thank you. I always appreciate your being here. But please, put the phone down.  Let’s meet back here in a few hours.

One of my worst habits?  Letting other people decide what I am going to think about in the morning.  And by other people, I mean my phone.  If you’re looking to get up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed, grab your phone as soon as you wake up and get flooded by such things as:

  • Tweets about chemicals in your favorite foods
  • An Instagram post informing you that the Frenchie you insta-stalk died of a mysterious illness (True Life: This is why I don’t follow random dogs anymore.  At least 5 dogs I followed have died in the last year.  Which is both weird and sad.  Also, I am convinced I cursed them all.)
  • Emails from your boss sent at 11:44 PM, 2:06 AM, and 4:18 AM
  • Facebook pictures of your friend’s cousin’s college roommate’s ultrasound
  • “Breaking news!” about Taylor Swift’s most recent break-up
  • Actual news about any of the upsetting things going on in our world
  • Weather reports about 900 feet of snow

It’s a tough habit to break (tougher than Diet Coke, I think… still working on that one… again), but if you can hold off on the Insties and Twitters for even a few minutes — just enough time to choose what you first consume — it can work wonders.  It can set your day on a happier, calmer, more inspired course.  I was going to type, “It will change your life!” (and I kind of believe that), but I don’t have proof.  So let’s just stick with this: Choosing what you read in the morning can have a really wonderful affect on your day.

You might already have something in mind.  A mantra, a prayer, a favorite quote, or line from a movie.  It doesn’t have to be complicated (and given that this is likely pre-coffee, perhaps it shouldn’t be complicated).  I keep a few scraps of paper in my bathroom cabinet and in a notebook in my dresser drawers– my favorite things to read are right there when I wake up, ready to keep me from the glow of my iPhone.

Looking for somewhere to start tomorrow morning?  Here are a few of my favorites.  You’ll find the full text by clicking each title.  Oh, and feel free to print any of the images and stick them to your mirror.

My morning reading list

Mary Oliver’s Five A.M. In the Pinewoods: I love everything Mary Oliver has written.  This poem, in particular, feels very meditative to me.  

A Precious Human Life, His Holiness the Dalai Lama: I’ve read this one so many times, I know it by heart (I love that expression).  It is such a beautiful way to start the day — mindful, kind and well-intentioned.

Dr. King’s “Life’s Blueprint” speech: Last spring, I heard this speech recited by a group of eighth grade students in Washington, D.C.  It was their middle school graduation ceremony and each student had memorized a few lines of the speech.  While I’d read it before, I felt like I was hearing certain parts for the first time.  It was moving and beautiful.  By the time they got to “I would say to you, don’t drop out of school,” I was crying.  The speech ends like this: “Be the best of whatever you are.”  Yes.

The Guest House by Rumi: You have to read the full poem.  It’s a perfect reminder in the morning (and in the afternoon and the evening) that we may not be able to control what or who comes into our lives, but we can choose our response and attitudes.

Okay.  It’s safe to pick up your phone again.

Also On Tap for Today:

How do you start your days?

Today: What’s in my Pocket, 2/24/14

I thought about putting together a Weekend According to Instagram post, but ever since Grace’s early arrival (and my coinciding early maternity leave), the weekends sort of feel like regular days.  And the regular days feel sort of like weekend days.  Mostly, the last three weeks have felt like one very long (albeit, wonderful) day of nursing, diaper changing, and snuggling… peppered with a few short naps.  And several showers necessitated by being thrown up on by a tiny human.  And some quick snack breaks.  Life has been incredibly wonderful.  My Instagram feed, however, has been incredibly boring.  Which, I am hoping, is a sign that I am doing something right.

Maybe next weekend will be different.  Don’t hold your breath.  (Really.  Don’t.  It’s bad for your health.)

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some late night reading I’ve been doing during those moments after I’ve carefully placed Grace in her co-sleeper, but before I am convinced she is actually asleep.

You’re likely familiar with Pocket, but if you’re not, Julie’s post is a good place to start. I’ve been saving posts and articles to read for later there, leaving with me with a more curated and manageable reading list than my overflowing Feedly, um, feed.  (Side note: Remember when Google Reader went extinct and I was this close to going into mourning?  Totally over it.)

Lest you think me completely vapid… a warning: most of this is very light reading (with the exception of the first article, perhaps).   I’m  fairly certain that’s all my brain can manage at the moment. 

Here’s what’s in my Pocket this week:

And now I have that “one hand in my pocket” song stuck in my head.  Oh, Alanis.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Taking a few photos of the now complete nursery to share later this week
  • Boston fitness professionals: check out this upcoming event
  • Why is it cold again?

What are you reading today?

Today: The weekend according to Instagram XIII.

Lucky thirteen.

The theme of this weekend was boob sweat the arrival of summer weather.  I love the heat.  My dog?  He’s over it.

The weekend according to Instagram XIII

  1. Friday (I’ve decided to start weekends a bit early and lead with Fridays) was Pen Pal Day! at the middle school where I volunteer.  Highlights included a harp performance, breakfast with my seventh grade pal, and an outdoor sing-a-long.
  2. Saturday morning I awoke to find my little herb garden has come alive.  As of last check, we have approximately 5 chive sprouts and 600 basil sprouts (the, um, seed packet sort of exploded when I was putting my little windowsill garden together).  No sign of the parsley.   Rather than watering with a coffee mug (who has a watering can in the city?), which in the past has led to accidental plant drownings, I did a tiny bit of research and have been gently misting the soil each evening with a spray bottle I found in the Target travel aisle for $1.29.  Nothing by the best for the sprouts.
  3. I can’t remember the last time I ran outside (except for every, single morning when I sprint across the crosswalk to avoid getting hit by the MBTA bus…. no regard, I tell you!).  I decided to skip the treadmill, lace up my Kinvaras and hit the road for a quick and hot run along the Harborwalk early Saturday.  I love living right at the intersection of city and sea.  Can’t beat those views.
  4. Did I mention it was hot this weekend?   Sweating buckets.
  5. I joined Nick to sweat a few more buckets at CrossFit Southie on Sunday morning.  As soon as we got back to the condo, we tuned into the Reebok CrossFit Games live feed.  Another weekend, another round of incredible Regionals competitors.  Between the day’s workout (which I loved) and watching the athletes compete, I took some time to think about what I’d like to accomplish this month.  My goal for June is consistency.  With work, travel and other good things happening, I felt like a bit of a flake this spring.  I didn’t make it to the box as often as I would have liked, and found myself making excuses (namely: I am wiiiiiiped) when I could have been making progress.  Even still, I am this much closer to an unassisted pull-up (hello, red band) and have been lifting more weight than ever.  Just imagine what I could do if I, welp… showed up more.  So that’s the plan: show up more.
  6. Sunday’s workout included bent-over barbell rows, ring rows, ring push-ups (I scaled down to hand release push-ups), double unders and wall climbs.  Needless to say, I was feeling the burn.  Literally.
  7. First swim of the year!
  8. I got to spend a little quality time with my niece on Saturday night while the grown-ups celebrated my sister-in-law’s birthday.  My niece turns one this month, and gets cooler by the minute.  It’s just amazing.  I love seeing my brother and sister-in-law read to her, and knew this book would be the perfect addition to the baby’s growing collection.  It’s called You are my I love you/Tu eres mi te queiro by Maryann Cushman.  It is available in English only, too, but I love the bilingual version.  Such a beautiful book.
  9. And this is how Clark feels about 91 degrees: complimented, but not interested.

Also On Tap for Today:

What was the highlight of your weekend?  Did you stay cool?

 

Today: What to pack for three days in Maine.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]It’s very simple, really.

Three bathing suits.  Two novels (one should have a lobster on the dust jacket).  One pair of peace moccasins.

Also On Tap for Today:

What are your summer getaway essentials?

Today: The healthy shelf.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false](I summoned all my willpower to not title this post The healthy shelfy.  I love a rhyme.  Especially ones that involve made up words.)  We have quite the healthy collection of books in our housecondohold.  I’ve been making an effort to clear out the random books we’d likely never open again (I rarely read books twice), or that didn’t fit well in our literary rainbow.

Plus, we needed to make room for this guy.

After seeing this set on Pinterest, I quickly ordered one, hoping it would arrive in time for Nick’s birthday.  A few weeks later, I was perusing the always interesting “miscellaneous” section at HomeGoods, when I spotted an identical set (but at a fraction of the price).  Something compelled me to place it in my cart (in hindsight, I think it’s because I am psychic… but in reality, I think I have a problem when it comes to impulse shopping and French bulldogs), even though I had already made the exact same purchase.

When the Pinterest-inspired package arrived, I didn’t fully unpack it, as I was in a rush to wrap Nick’s presents and keep my real, live French bulldog from eating any Styrofoam packing peanuts.  Low and behold, when Nick unwrapped the package, one of the bookends was missing… a foot.  Fortunately, I had a second split-in-two ceramic Frenchie on standby.  Helpful?  Yes.  Normal?  Not really, no.

But that’s beside the point.  As usual.  More to the point, is this:  books are a great way to get healthy and stay healthy.  Some provide motivation or inspiration, others healthy recipes and suggestions for preventative care.  Some you may not want to read in public (say, the one about digestion, for example).  Others might make the perfect gift (I will gladly fake autograph any of these selected titles, to make your present extra sketchy special).  Some make great reference guides you can go back to over and over.  Regardless, I think they’re all worth a read.

A few of my favorites:

  • Michael Pollan’s Food Rules provides the perfect foundation for healthy eating.  No-nonsense, no Fluff (literally and figuratively).  A new edition was recently released, featuring illustrations from the talented Maira Kalman.
  • I was first introduced to Robyn O’Brien and The Unhealthy Truth at a luncheon hosted by Stonyfield Organic a few months ago.  After one of her children experienced a severe allergic reaction to the food Robyn– and most families in the US–was serving, Robyn launched a single-handed investigation into the food industry (including issues of additives and labeling).  Her findings are nothing short of alarming.  I highly recommend that everyone read and learn from Robyn’s story.
  • A Women’s Guide to a Healthy Stomach is not something I’d read in public.  Or in mixed company.  Still, Dr. Wolf provides great information for anyone dealing with digestive issues and a completely un-awkward way.
  • For a little running inspiration, Kristin Armstrong’s Mile Markers offers a fantastic collection covering the many, varied reasons why women run.  I love the community that running creates.  Everyone has their own motivation for running, and I find that really inspiring.  If you’d like to read about my marathon experiences, feel free to check out these posts:  26.2 Miles of Smiles (Part I), 26.2 Miles of Smiles (Part II), Follow the Signs.
  • The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises is a great resource for at home workouts, and includes detailed instructions and photos for any and every exercise you can imagine.  While it is technically a “big book,” it’s small enough to toss in your gym bag as well.

I could go on and on, but this post is becoming a novel in its own right.  It’s time to tuck these babies back into their color-coded spot on the shelves.  🙂

Also On Tap for Today:

What are your favorite health and fitness reads?

 

Today: The books I wish I had written.

[tweetmeme source=”elizabethev” only_single=false]After returning from Boothbay Harbor, one of the first things I did was rave to my mother about J. Courtney Sullivan‘s second novel, Maine.  Already a New York Times best seller,  “It’s the kind of book you read and think… I wish I wrote this book,” I told my mom.  It was evocative, and equally as heartbreaking as uplifting– I only wished it was waterproof, so I could take it out on the float with me.

I started thinking about other books I wish I had written.  Unfortunately people like Charles Dickens are always beating me to the punch.  Pests.  Since I just gave away the first author (I was distracted, trying to invent some reason to type What the Dickens?!), I suppose that’s a reasonable place to start.

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens, clearly, I am not.  The last piece of fiction I wrote was my resume.  Totally kidding.  It was an adaptation of Robin Hood, inspired by an illuminated manuscript from the medieval period.  And if you have not already died of boredom, I will elaborate.  It was written in French and (shock!) entirely awful.  And it is now either taking up space in a landfill (sorry, Al Gore) or hanging in my professor’s office, a testament to all that is wrong with American co-eds.

A Tale of Two Cities showed me that a book could be so much more than a book, even if it was assigned reading.  A carefully drawn plot could become a treasure map of sorts.  When Mme. Defarge started knitting in deathly code, I was hooked.

Charlotte’s Web

Each year, a certain teacher at our grammar school would be reduce to tears, all because of an itsy, bitsy spider.  She would barely finish reading the first chapter aloud before dissolving into a crying fit, but– because she loved Charlotte’s Web so– she would pick it up again, day after day, until finally her students would know the ending.  In second grade, I was in the classroom next door.  We listened to a lot of music that year, likely to drown out all the sobbing.

Someone gave me a hard cover copy of the book (I remember it being a First Communion present… that can’t be right, can it?), and I read it on my own that summer.  It was the first book to break my heart.  Had I actually understood The Velveteen Rabbit at such a tender age, surely it would have taken the prize.  That story is brutal.  Regardless, Charlotte’s Web taught me about sacrifice and love and friendship in terms I could understand.  Plus, it made me wonder about farms.

There Are No Children Here

I discovered Alex Kotlowitz after re-reading four of Jonathan Kozol’s books in as many days.  It was the summer after I graduated from Boston College.  I was awaiting acceptance into several volunteer programs, and feeling rather adrift in the world.  If Charlotte’s Web broke my eight-year-old heart, There Are No Children Here ripped my twenty-two-year-old heart to shreds.  I coveted Kotlowitz’s ability to engage, with a seemingly endless reservoir of compassion, while still respecting the professional tenets of journalism.  I couldn’t imagine how I was laughing at the little anecdotes he shared, given the devastation surrounding these stories.  And no sooner had I finished laughing, I was crying like that second grade teacher.  It was all just so human.

A few month later, I would go on to start a career in youth development.  I don’t think this is a coincidence.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

If I was funny enough, rich enough, and patient enough to be a comedian, I would want to be Sloane Crosley.  And if I couldn’t be her, I’d at least want to steal all of her material.  I thought people who laughed out loud while reading on planes were manner-less goobers, until I became one of those people (we all know my manners are impeccable).  Crosley’s essays are all at once poignant and hilarious.

Packed and ready to make peace.

I’ve started writing a few books in my head, including one called Frenchie Kisses for Everyone (a working title, mind you).  The story follows me and Clark, as we circumnavigate the globe and (as the title indicates), he kisses everyone we meet.  In the face of such overwhelming cuteness, rebel forces lay down their arms, corporate standoffs grind to a halt, and you know… other stuff.

Maybe I could start by writing one of those “choose your own adventure” books.  That way, I wouldn’t really have to commit to an ending, and my overactive imagination could be of benefit.  For once.

Also On Tap for Today:

Which book(s) do you wish you had written?