My baby turns one this week. I'm only just beginning to come out from under the wonderment. 

I have a baby, I have to remind myself still, sometimes. I have a baby who is my buddy, who grips me fiercely with one hand while she walks around our house, who leans in and collapses into me when she's sleepy. I have a baby who has two teeth on the bottom and four teeth on the top; who scrunches up her nose when she smiles. I have a baby with eyes that gleam a dark navy, that fill with tears when she accidentally bumps her forehead into my mouth, leaving a tooth-shaped bruise like a third eye. 

Because it's important to be honest about parenthood, I confess: In the beginning I thought Please go quickly. Let the days be fast and furious. Let me fast forward to this day, when she is one, when I won't have to wonder what she wants and why she's crying. Let me zip through 365 days. An entire Rent song. 

Well. It did. And I am sorry about that. And part of me wishes for one early day to be dropped into now so I can relive it. Because I think I'd do it all differently. I think I'd appreciate it more.

I try not to be secretive about the fact that I think I did those first few months all wrong. That I handled things poorly. But I also try to be gentle with myself, because what is the point of all that regret? I did the best I could, those early days. I'll do better next time. 

One year ago today I went into labor, waking up before sunrise, wondering what that sensation was that was causing a low-grade, dull pain to spread across my back. It took me hours to realize this was it, this was labor. It was all happening. 

What's funny is, now I know that it's always all happening when you have a little one. Every day, something is happening. A new facial expression, a new sound. A new ability, a new love. 

Yes and no and how they can change you

In the thick of new parenthood "no" became my favorite answer. No, I couldn't meet you for lunch, even though it was literally right down the street, even though I could have easily brought the baby with me, nestled into my chest. No, I didn't want tickets for that concert happening six months down the road; trying to find the mental space to plan a future outing was impossible. No, no, nope. I threw out No's because Yes was buried down so deep, and I was too strung out to search for it. 

That was then. And sometimes when I think about then, I wonder if I'm being retroactively dramatic. Maybe I wasn't that bad? Maybe I didn't cry every time my mom came over, the way I remember it? Maybe I didn't hold my crying girl in my arms, feet aching from rocking her back and forth for so many hours in a darkened room at midnight, wondering when things would get better?

(No. I definitely did.)

Anyway, that was then and now, I have found my Yes. 

It happened gradually, spread out over the past few months, as my baby learned how to point and clap and wave, as spring turned to summer turned to fall. Should I get those Gillian Anderson in "Streetcar Named Desire" tickets for Spring 2016? Obviously. Did I want to go to the Neko Case concert in December? Heck yeah. Could I skip my girl's bedtime one Saturday night so I could toast my soon-to-be-married friend? Yep; I'm sure we'll all handle that slightly different bedtime routine just fine.

The other day I was walking up Broadway after just agreeing to do something after work hours, at night, when I'm usually home. And I felt buoyed by Yes. 

August anchoring

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 9.24.25 PMI am over summer. August feels heavy and long and slow; my office is empty, the park on weekends is empty; there are open parking spots on my block smack in the middle of a Saturday. I used to be one of those people who left during the summers. Pre-husband, pre-baby, I'd pack a light bag and be off from Friday night to Monday morning. My parents' pool; my grandmother's house on the beach; a weekend share in Fire Island with friends. Weeks in San Francisco, in London. Lying in the sun, the radio humming in the background, watching the dragonflies land on still water, daydreaming.

Someone said that summer ends on the 4th of July and I hate that that's true. Summer is mostly about anticipation, now. The bathing suit shopping and the beach house coordinating and the flip flop purchasing and the summer reading lists. By now, we've all already read or discarded our summer reading. We've moved on to fall releases.

So August is a murky in-between, and we all know I have never been good with in-betweens.

Every year, to anchor myself in the month, I start planning for fall. Soon we'll take an autumn anniversary trip -- the first time I'll spend a night away from my baby. (Gulp.) Soon we'll send out invitations for our girl's first birthday party. Soon I'll be buying a fancy dress for a dear friend's black-tie wedding; soon I'll be visiting open houses. Soon it will be Christmas and a new year and a whole new winter, where I'll start planning for summer.

F train reading

Screen shot 2015-07-16 at 2.28.19 PMListen, no one enjoys their time on the F train. (If you do please contact me so I can nominate you for intense psychological analysis.) But this summer I have been so enthralled with the books I'm reading that my hour or so on the train each weekday has become a highlight. TL; DR: there are some amazing books out right now and I need to shout about them.

Here's what I've been reading and LOVING this summer:

Dietland by Sarai Walker: You guys. YOU GUYS. This is the feminist book I wish I'd written but don't you dare roll your eyes at that description. It's not a book centered on a moral issue; it's political but only in a deeply engaging, narrative way; and most of all it's inventive, witty, smart, and pretty damn genius. I've been talking about this title on Twitter so much that the author has joked about paying me but I'm the one who should be paying her because this book brought a type of hope to me that has been much needed.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: I haven't read the first book from this duo (the smart team behind Go Fug Yourselves) but Twitter couldn't stop raving about this one so here I am, in love with it. It's a sort-of re-imagining of Will and Kate, Duke and Duchess, but here's the kicker: I don't give a damn about the British royal family, despite my love for London. But I definitely give a damn about this book.

In the Unlikely Event and Summer Sisters by Judy Blume: You don't need me to recommend Judy to you, obviously, but her newest -- Unlikely Event -- was so immersive and reminded me how much I love her writing that upon finishing it I had to go re-read (for the 100th time) Summer Sisters, one of my favorites. Here, listen to NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour episode about it.

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan: Have you ever read a book you thought was about one thing and ended up being about something else entirely? Maybe it's the cover image, but I thought this was a book about the sinking of the Titanic. Pro tip: it's not. It has a plot I haven't seen before in YA and, while I had some slight issues with some things, I still immensely enjoyed it.

Up next: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which I'm hesitant to start because, from what I understand, it's an incredibly emotional book...and not necessarily positive emotions. So I'm mentally preparing myself to be upset. Also on deck: the new Beatriz Williams, Tiny Little Things, because I adore her writing.

So, because I seem to be on a book buying binge, feel free to leave your suggestions for what I should read in the comments.

Roommates

I am missing three roommates. Their last names are lost to me, and their first names are common. Sometimes I scour my old email account, the one I used when I lived with them, to see if a stray message from or to them remains. Something about the fact that I lived with these three people whose names I can't remember eats at me. I am good with names, better with faces, and I still see theirs, wandering through the large Victorian home we rented together. This was immediately following 9/11, and I was new to the city, new to the working world, terrified of everything. They were Long Island girls. They had serious boyfriends. They worked in beauty PR, in fashion PR. We had all the free Pantene products we wanted.

The time between my meeting with them to first view the apartment and then actually moving in was only a few weeks apart but I think I arrived a different person than who they expected. The day before my move I had gotten a haircut, and the stylist had butchered my hair. I mean, it was really terrible; I managed to hold in the tears as I paid and tipped her and then, slipping into the passenger seat of my mom's car, I lost it -- shoulders shaking, the works. I know now I was crying over more than just my hair.

So my hair was so, so bad, and I moved in and never quite felt at home there. The Long Island girls went home to Long Island most weekends, where their boyfriends lived; I would drive aimlessly on Saturday afternoons, or take the bus into Manhattan alone and explore the streets of the West Village. I took a screenwriting class to fill my time. I watched American Idol; I painted on small canvasses and gave myself pedicures.

One night the four of us went out to dinner, and I dropped a chicken wing on my shirt. It stained my favorite sweater.

And then, seven months into our stint together, one of them announced she was moving to Texas with her boyfriend and was going to become a teacher. We agreed it was time to move out. I found a great apartment in a city much more suited to my age, my needs, and the one moving to Texas told me she was jealous of me, because she'd always meant to live there, and now she never would.

I can't remember their last names.

And the locker room smelled of Juniper Breeze

This is happening, and it is glorious. Screen shot 2015-06-04 at 12.59.13 PM I am not the only woman of my generation who has a story to tell about these fragrances. In mine, it always starts with a darkness outside. It's either nighttime, or late afternoon in a deep winter, or a gray day where the sun decided to sleep it off. It always starts with a basketball game in the gym, my bare legs glistening in their Juniper Breeze lotion, the cold air shocking them into goosepimples.

I am 15 and cheering at the game, arms flailing, legs kicking. I am 15 and in my best friend's Geo Tracker, listening to a Beastie Boys cassette. I am 15 and wearing ripped jeans and Doc Martens and my Varsity Cheerleader tee shirt on my way to chemistry lab. I am 15 and driving through the Pine Barrens, or along the coast, or into my parents' driveway, or into the 7-11 parking lot, Tori on the radio. I am 15 and ready for anything, except not really, not at all, because my readiness was just a mask for my general fear about life.

I spent a lot of time in the locker room in high school; changing from gym clothes to my cheerleading uniform; changing from my cheerleading uniform to street clothes; changing from a shy teenager to one who stood in front of a crowd in bare legs, bloomers showing with every stunt. And that locker room smelled of Victoria's Secret, scent mingling with scent -- Plumeria, Cucumber Melon, Raspberry. Body odor. Wet pom-poms. Decades of locker room grime. Thousands of teenage girls.

In that locker room I made fun of a freshman girl who stared at herself in the mirror longer than anyone else, only to learn months later she had been checking to make sure her pregnancy wasn't yet showing. In that locker room I burst into tears when my cheerleading coach, who'd been acting weird for weeks, told us she'd miscarried twins. In that locker room I sank into a corner whenever a certain girl would enter to glare at me, until one day I decided she didn't matter; I wasn't afraid of her.

Sometimes I don't know which memories of the locker room are mine, or which are memories of locker rooms I've stolen from books. But I'll never, ever forget those scents; the signature smells of my locker room stories.

 

 

It is June now

It is June now but it feels like early spring, raw and rainy, like we're all just waiting for the first buds to open up out of the ground. It is June now and something has happened to my wrist. In the mornings it aches and collapses under pressure, like I've sprained it, maybe. By midday, though, it's nearly back to normal. This has been happening for weeks and I have no idea why.

It is June now and my baby is getting so old, so big, that each day she becomes brand new to me. Each day she is a marvel.

It is June now. My birthday month, but who's counting?

It is June now and I'm behind on lots of things, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier to catch up. When I look back on these past few months -- working, momming, writing, podcasting, traveling, trying to breathe -- all I remember is the rushing.

Now it is June and I am hoping for some stillness, some time.

 

Spring

Screen shot 2015-04-15 at 10.43.04 AMSomething happens to me in the springtime. I get giddy; I get dreamy. I read other people’s tweets, their links to their work, their self promotions, and I think about all that’s possible, all that’s ahead. I want to do everything. I can do anything. Can’t you smell it in the wind? This week I burst into tears when I watched a slow-motion video of my baby girl laughing. Throughout the days now my husband, the reluctant texter, sends me photos and gifs and updates on our girl, on their days together. They teach me things. I study my girl's expressions intently when I’m taking a pump break in the basement of my office, in a sterile room that so many other women have used. I bring my laptop with me each time, ostensibly to get some work done, but mostly I find myself swiping my phone back and forth, up and down, staring at her. Thinking, wishing.

There are the dreams you have before you have a baby and the realizations you have after you have a baby and sometimes they don’t match. Sometimes, things you want have to be placed in a temporary hold because other things are more important right now. This spring, I am reading other people’s work and I am thinking, “I should write about this, and that, and pitch it here, and there” but then I remember the reality of my days right now. They are packed. They are rushed. I wake up bone-tired but alert, always alert, always listening for my baby’s cry and her breathing, always reading and intuiting her needs. I play with her and read to her and then I go to work and try to cram everything in. Where I used to have ten hours, I now have eight. Where I used to have unlimited time, I now have limits.

The world feels very much on Pause for me right now in all aspects except one, the most important one, which isn’t on Pause after all but instead is very much on Fast Forward. My girl is sitting up. She is teasing me, playing games with me. She is testing me. She is growing at such an alarming rate that all I can do is watch and marvel, and point out the flowers that are blooming.

Summer rentals

Screen shot 2015-04-08 at 12.11.38 PMWe lived in a pink house that summer. The top floor of a two-story rental, the deck was so rickety we would have "deck counts" every time we had company over. I'd open the screen door and ask, how many of you are out here? and then listen for the numbers echoing back in the starlight. Five was the limit, and even that was pushing it. We laughed and rolled our eyes at our paranoia, but at the end of that summer, the deck of a similar house up the island collapsed, so the risk was real. (A decade later I'd meet a friend who actually did experience a collapsing deck, this one at her college rental house in Michigan. She broke her leg. A newspaper article about it is still her first hit on Google.)

We were 19 and 21; carefree workhorses; young enough to work two jobs each day -- 10am to 4pm, then 4:30pm to close at another place -- and still find time for parties and bars and midnight beach gatherings. I eschewed the sun that year, for some reason; white as a ghost, I'd sneer at the tourists with their tan lines as I rang up their tee shirts and jewelry, their island trinkets. I was jealous, though. What good was living in a pink house on the beach if I was always stuck inside working?

I've never been a fan of springtime, but now I am craving the warmth and the light. Today, though, is gloomy. When my baby and I walked through the house on our regular morning routine she didn't have to squint her eyes when I pulled back the curtain and opened the blinds; the moon was still out and the sun was filtered through too many clouds. She looked confused. Where was the brightness? Was it really daytime? I kissed her plump face -- cheeks for days, that girl -- and assured her it was.

The pink house is gone now. A few years back they finally knocked it down, rebuilt it, like so many things on the island after Hurricane Sandy. Someday I'll walk my little girl past it. The sun will be on our backs, pounding, prodding us along the street. We'll be holding hands and squinting at the brightness. Look, I'll tell her. Mama lived there for a summer, just one, and managed to not collapse.

 

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Tick-tock

Screen shot 2015-04-06 at 4.06.05 PMToday is my first day back at work full-time, after a transition period of part-time work. I like working, and I like my work, and I've always gotten immense satisfaction from leaving my house each day and entering a building full of people with  purpose. But there are Feelings today. Way back on a cold afternoon in January, when my husband and I could only get our girl to sleep if we took her for a walk (ask me anything about the streets of Park Slope, I know them by heart), we began talking about my return to work. I started crying, even then, even knowing that I wanted to go back, that being a full-time caregiver is not for me. Even knowing that it was far away. Because the thing is, this whole parenting-while-working thing is a lose-lose and a win-win situation at the same time. I lose whether I stay home or go back to work. But I win, too, just in different ways. And the struggle is figuring out which ways are more important. More pressing. More long-lasting.

There are Feelings, too, about time. Having a baby makes the passage of time very real. Time is counted now in a way it wasn't before -- how many weeks is she? How many weeks until this milestone happens, or until we have to look out for that? Before my maternity leave, the reality of it felt distant, surreal. I couldn't even picture the springtime. Now, poof, it's over*; I am here at work wearing flats and lightweight jackets. I am here, walking past tulips and waiting for drizzle. Spring is springing, and I am back at work, and I'm sad. Not about working, but because it means time has passed. And it's just going to keep passing.

Maybe this is a treatise on our mortality. I don't know. I just know that I see infinity in my gorgeous girl's eyes. I just know that I love her and I want to spend all day with her. I just know that I love her and I don't want to spend all day with her; I'm not cut from that cloth. I love her and I don't want to spend all day with her and I don't want to feel guilty for that, but I do. And what a waste of emotion and time, two things that I'm always already nearly tapped out of.

*Only it wasn't poof. Not really. My maternity leave has been equal parts exhausting, difficult, loving, calming. (All within the same hour, usually.) In the early days of parenthood when I hated it all (sorry/not sorry) I would count on that passage of time; telling myself it would fly by is what got me through some nights. #RealTalk 

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The one with the boots

friends_episode180_337x233_032020061517At an old job I had a sharply-dressed coworker who let me tag along to sample sales. At one, held at an old bank in midtown with ornate architecture and a world-class view of the Empire State Building, we walked up and down rows of shoes, their boxes open, tissue paper raining down. It was winter and we carried our bulky coats and kept a close eye on our Blackberrys. We were on the clock. C.’s style of dress was city chic but approachable, punctuated with a range of heeled boots I always coveted. So when we shopped together that cold day I must have been subconsciously inspired by her and my eyes landed on a pair of structured ankle boots I knew I had to have. The heel was a little taller than I normally wear – I’d learned my lesson by then after years of crossing the river by train and bus in heels that left their marks – but it was a wedge, and the boot was lined with buckles that served no utility but screamed confidence.

I bought them. They were more than any other shoe I’d bought, ever.

When I wore them for the first time, the unthinkable happened: they hurt. Like, badly. Like The One with Monica’s Boots. I tried again, and then again. Both times I had to give up before I even left my apartment, switching into something that fit me properly.

So they went in a pile in the back of my closet, where I would occasionally spot them and wince. For years those boots stayed on my mind. I thought if I could just wear them one more time I'd break them in perfectly; I thought if I just wanted it enough, I could learn to withstand the pain. They moved with me from apartment to apartment, across two rivers, through a wedding, a baby. I still loved the look of them, and as my style evolved I realized they would fit me (aesthetically, anyway) even better now than they did when I bought them. So out of the closet they came. I was going to give them another try, dammit.

So I brought them into work one day last year, intent on wearing them, finally. I changed out of flats and buckled in, ready to take on the day (and with it, the world). But I guess I forgot that even though my style changed, my feet, alas, did not. The boots still hurt. They hurt so much I hobbled right back to my office and took them off. It took years, but they finally broke my of my will.

I’m back at work after a maternity leave and today I found those boots in a drawer. They're still beautiful, and they're certainly not doing anyone any good sitting in there. So tonight I’ll take them home and leave them on the stoop outside my apartment, which is the Brooklyn way of donating things we no longer need. I’ll think of C. when I do it, and of the job where I met her, the friends I made there; the way the city, the world, seemed so close to me then. How everything felt possible. How it all was possible.

But mostly I’ll be thinking of how good it feels, how free, to let go of things you’ve been carrying for years and have never really needed.

Space and noise

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 11.04.38 AMMy mother has begun telling me how gentle I am, how quiet. When I tap my iPad, even. When I speak, when I close kitchen cabinets. I start to take notice. It turns out I've even been saving the unloading of the dishwasher for nighttime, when I can see how quiet I can be, like it's some kind of personal goal. When I watch TV I keep the volume low, so low even I sometimes have trouble hearing it. I mute commercials. Daytimes are fine, but when the sun sets noises seem to multiply. I speak in a hush starting at 7pm. I sit on my couch, baby asleep in her nearby room, and keep the remote close, finger poised over the volume button.

We are very close here in my Brooklyn apartment, and something about that closeness makes me shrink up and drop to a whisper. There are three bedrooms here but they are small, and that is being generous. I watch House Hunters and cringe at the greedy needs of the homebuyers who decline entire houses because their walk-in closets are too cramped. I think back to Sri Lanka, where I helped build a house for an entire family. They were thrilled to be getting two rooms to share between them, to be getting one bed.

I've been pondering space lately. What we need, what we deserve. Whether. I love this city but in my long park walks with the baby I breathe in the wide roads, the stretches of snow-covered fields, the frozen lake, the geese. My lungs expand there in ways they can't just a few blocks over, where the brownstones block the wind.

Last week I visited my sister's new house and got turned around coming out of her master suite. For real. Then I put the baby to bed in the guest room (a guest room!) and even downstairs kept my voice low. "You can talk at normal volume," everyone reminded me. But I kept forgetting. Normal volume, to me, has changed.

 

Writing in Real Life

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 5.45.54 PMMy husband has been listening to podcasts for years. Since before Serial, which means before they were cool, which I guess means he's ahead of the times, or something. Anyway we always said we'd never collaborate but here we are, collaborating: we've just launched Writing in Real Life, a podcast series about writing, publishing, parenting, and marriage. Heady topics! Our first one is now up.

Fun fact: we recorded it on Monday night. By Tuesday I decided I hated what I said, so we re-recorded it Tuesday night, right after the State of the Union, when my head was spinning from all the live tweeting I was doing. I think this session is perhaps a bit less fun, but hopefully more informative than the original one.

I hope you'll follow along!

Mirror/lines

I've begun noticing in earnest the lines around my eyes. Before, spotting them was a sign: of fatigue, of dehydration, of too many martinis, too much dancing. After a power nap, a Gatorade, they dissolved. Now they're permanent; part of the angles of my face. They out me as a 30-something. They, more than any other part of my body, remind me that time moves quickly. That time is running out. I have fallen in love with them.

In the mornings I take baby girl around the apartment to say hello to each room. Hello, kitchen. Hello, living room. Hello, office. Hello, daddy's books, and mommy's, and hello to g-mom, my baby's late great grandmother, her laughing face in a frame on a shelf. Our final stop is always the hallway mirror, where we say hello to the pretty baby and her mommy.

Looking in a mirror while I hold my baby is when I feel most like a parent, when it hits me that I have done this Thing that cannot be undone. I have built a person. We look back at ourselves and smile. The weight of her sits in the crook of my neck, in my elbow, while we make silly faces and nuzzle each other like horses, like puppies, her body still warm from sleep.

In that mirror where I stick my tongue out at my baby I spot those lines around my eyes and wait for that sinking feeling, the one where I feel bad about getting older, about not using enough eye cream, about being a feminist who cares whether I have lines.

Today that feeling didn't come. Instead, I smiled at my lines. Like my baby, they're mine. I built those, too.

On Instagram, later, I scrolled past a photo of a celebrity, an actress my age. She has those lines and she is radiant, with her white hair and red lips and floundering career. So what. She has lines, and so do I, and you probably do too, and lines means we're living. Lines mean we've laughed more often than not.

The privilege of reading

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 9.21.29 AMLast night we put our baby in her crib for the first time. She cried for five minutes and then dropped right off to sleep. We thought we got off easy, but then she woke up an hour later, cried for 38 minutes* (yes, we counted), and then seemed to look directly at the monitor to give us a Look. After a few minutes, she closed her eyes and slept. She slept from 9pm to 5:45am straight, which means--if this trend continues--my husband and I have been given the gift of time.

With all that glorious time, I started thinking about what I should do with it. Not surprisingly, one of the first things that I had to set aside when I had a baby was reading. I knew it was a temporary break, but it was a break nonetheless. (I keep joking that I'm mostly excited about going back to work in February because I'll have an hour of commute time...think of all I can read during that hour!) And I miss those worlds I used to visit. I miss the artfully arranged words, the universal truths, the racing action.

We all know books are a privilege, of course, and entire organizations are dedicated to helping underserved kids snatch some scraps of that privilege. (Like First Book, and Reach Out and Read, and Reading is Fundamental, in case you've got out your checkbook for end-of-year donations). But I started thinking about how reading itself is a privilege. Because, for most people, being able to read for pleasure means you have leisure time. It means you're not working a second or third job during your off hours; it means you're not taking care of someone or something. There might be chores to do or errands to run, but if you're reading, chances are they're not urgent.

I'm staying in this New Year's Eve. My husband and I will put our gorgeous baby to bed and then have a crab cake feast, shipped from Maryland, and finally open that mead we bought on our honeymoon. My sister will be stopping by on her way to a party to lend me her ereader, which is shored up with books she's assured me I'll love. And while I don't know when or if I'll ever get to all of them, I know I will have some time in 2015 to read some things for pleasure. And for that I am so, so grateful.

Happy New Year--I hope it's filled with things you're grateful for too, whether it's books or time or perfect babies or something else entirely.

* We practiced a version of sleep training recommended by our pediatrician. 

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My year in books (2014)

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 7.28.05 PMAh, books. I remember those...I think. So I began logging the books I've read last year and, amazingly, stuck with it this year, too. That's the good news! The bad news is, since having a baby in October, I have read exactly one book (and, cough, I haven't even finished it yet). So when I began tallying this year's booklist I expected it to be much shorter than last year's, which clocked in at 34. But surprise! I hit 33 books this year!

Another interesting thing about this year was the Amazon issue. I mostly read on a Kindle and stopped purchasing ebooks from Amazon in the spring due to their shady activities with publishers. That changed my reading plans quite a bit! So I got a library card and made do, but there are definitely books on this list that might not have otherwise been on it had the Amazon shenanigans not happened.

Anyway, here's the breakdown: 11 Adult titles, 13 Young Adult titles, 5 Middle Grade titles, and 3 nonfiction titles. Here's the full list:

After the Red Rain, Barry Lyga, Peter Facinelli, and Rob DeFranco
Shug, Jenny Han
Counting by 7s, Holly Goldberg Sloan
A Snicker of Magic, Natalie Lloyd
Gutbliss, Dr. Robynne Chutkan
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
We Were Liars, E. Lockhart
Expecting Better, Emily Oster
Blythewood, Carol Goodman
The Last Summer of the Camperdowns, Elizabeth Kelly
Second Chance Summer, Morgan Matson
Likeable Business, Dave Kerpen, Theresa Braun, Valerie Pritchard
Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead
Family Tree series, #2 & #3, Ann M. Martin
Astonish Me, Maggie Shipstead
To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Jenny Han
The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E Lockhart
Dramarama, E. Lockhart
Confessions of a Not It Girl, Melissa Kantor
Witches of East End sequel, Melissa de la Cruz
[a lot of false starts with library books, which I'm not counting]
The Fever, Megan Abbot
The Vacationers, Emma Straub
Going Bovine, Libba Bray
I Hunt Killers 3: Blood of my Blood, Barry Lyga
Reconstructing Amelia, Kimberly McCreight
Friendship, Emily Gould
The Secret Life of Addison Stone, Adele Griffin
All the Summer Girls, Meg Donohue

Some standouts of the year: The Poisonwood Bible, Astonish Me (I read it twice, back to back, I loved it so much!), The Last Summer of the Camperdowns, and We Were Liars. I was also in love with the Family Tree series (I love Ann M. Martin so hard) and really enjoyed the Veronica Mars book, too. And, a big shout out to Expecting Better by Emily Oster for helping me survive pregnancy.

Anyway. I miss reading. Someday, I'll do it again!

 

On being thankful

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 8.48.46 PMA month ago I had a baby*. It's hard to get out of the house with a newborn, but when we do, the world feels more vibrant, brighter than I remember it being before the baby's arrival. The first time I left, I was shocked by what I saw -- there were people, and they were doing things, and there were coffee shops and drugstores and cars and I couldn't believe the world hadn't stopped for us. Anyway, there are lots of stories I could tell about the past month, but I'm inspired by Libba Bray's post on kindness today.

Real talk: the first week after giving birth is brutal. In retrospect, I feel like I was in shock, in the medical sense. I was in physical pain, which also doesn't help, and I hadn't had a proper night's sleep in four days (since two nights before going into labor), so I was exhausted and terrifyingly resigned to the fact that I would be more exhausted as the days went on. Hormones were (are) crashing into every part of me, leaving me feeling like an alien in my own body. I am only just now beginning to feel like parts of myself have returned, commingling with all the new parts.

And of course, most pressingly, there was this...creature I had to take care of. This beautiful, fragile stranger that needed things from me. And I had no idea how to provide most of those things.

And this is where kindness matters. Because so many people have been so kind that many days, my tears are tears of gratitude. There are too many acts of kindness to list here, but most of them were simple, easy things that made all the difference. An old friend from childhood, for example, sent me an email that, quite frankly, saved my sanity. It was out of the blue (we don't email much) but it came at the perfect time and was exactly what I needed to hear. Other friends dropped off baby things they no longer needed; almost daily, gifts arrived. People texted and messaged with offers of help and words of advice, and people visited for just the right amount of time.

Next week is Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday, but also, how is it Thanksgiving already?) and as I raise my glass at a gorgeous meal, I'll be acknowledging the kindness of family and friends (and, sometimes, perfect strangers) who have helped me. Among many other things, the first few weeks of having a newborn are a lesson in accepting and asking for support, and finding grace somewhere in the messy whirlwind of the day.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

 

* Baby's online code name is Leia. As in Princess. (My husband is a Star Wars fan. I've seen it once, at his urging.) If I reference Leia in future posts, I'm talking about my daughter. 

 

 

Boo

Screen shot 2014-10-07 at 5.09.05 PMWhen October comes I think about witches. Okay, really, I think about witches all the time, practically. But October feels like the only appropriate month to talk about them out loud, to hang their likenesses in our living rooms, to show off the warts on the ends of our own noses. I spend the month reading witchy stories (currently: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane; on deck: The Penguin Book of Witches) and Netflixing witchy movies and thinking about that witch tattoo I've been wanting for years.

Maybe what I love most about witches is the fact that, this time of year, they're everywhere, despite people's efforts to stamp them out for so many centuries now.

In my neighborhood, signs of Halloween are just beginning to peep forth the way flowers bud in the spring: first you spot one, then two, then you blink and the whole ground is covered with them. It started with a single brownstone stretching out fake spiderwebs across its front stoop; now, every third house has its own spiderwebs, and the fresh fruit stands at the bodegas have been replaced with pumpkins and gourds, and we all just seem to be waiting for the ghosts, the monsters, the magic to appear.

I'm waiting for lots of things these days--namely, my labor to begin. As much as I love Halloween, I don't want a Halloween baby, and as I wind down at work this week I find myself Googling "how to induce labor." Apparently there's a restaurant nearby that's famous for its baked ziti, said to be just the key for women past their due dates. (Let's hope it doesn't have meat in it, because I plan on trying it next week!)

I know this is all silly: the baby will come when she comes, no matter how much delicious Italian food I consume; the shining, brief focus on witches won't spur many people to consider their history, their tragedy.

But I'll still scour Google while watching Practical Magic.