currently reading: The Push

“Before we were conceived, we existed in part as an egg in our mother’s ovary. All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother’s womb and she in turn formed within the womb of her grandmother. We vibrate to the rhythms of our mother’s blood before she herself is born….”

— Layne Redmond, When the Drummers Were Women

Great epigraph to the new book by Ashley Audrain, The Push. As sweet as the above quotation is, the book is a suspenseful psychological thriller about a mother who increasingly suspects her daughter is dangerous. One of the blurbs on the back cover claims the book will set your nerves “jangling in both horror and recognition.” Gulp. Recognition. Is this what I’m in for, with our 14-month-old? Will I, like the narrator, wonder if her behavior is normal toddler antics, or something more…sinister?

My husband said he already worries our daughter has a mischievous side. I slowly set The Push down.

“What do you mean?”

“Like when she picks her nose even though she knows we don’t like it, or drops food on the floor.”


reflections on war from a Cold War teen

Currently reading Heather Clark’s 1,118-page biography of Sylvia Plath. Was struck by this line:

“What are we fighting for? ‘For’ nothing. Against communism. That word, communism, is blinding. No one knows exactly what it means, and yet they hate everything associated with it. One thing I am convinced of: you can’t kill an idea.”

— Sylvia Plath, age 17, in a letter to a German pen-pal, August 1950

My combat veteran husband says much the same about “terrorism.” We can try to bomb it into submission, but you can’t kill an idea–and the bombing only makes it bloom elsewhere.

Sylvia Plath drew this, at age 13, for a 38-page school report:

If killing ideas doesn’t work, and killing people on our way to killing ideas doesn’t work, we’ll have to figure something else out.

books I have read in 2020

  1. Once More We Saw Stars – Jayson Greene – Jan. – heartbreaking memoir of a father who lost a two-year-old daughter; the description of their subsequent pregnancy made me remember the quiet secret joy of my own and made me want to have another baby
  2. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know – Malcolm Gladwell – Jan. – I was disappointed in his writing related to racial profiling and injustice toward black people…I felt he gave white people even more reason to explain away racial profiling as something other than what it is
  3. The Magic of Motherhood: the good stuff, the hard stuff and everything in between – Ashlee Gadd/Coffee + Crumbs – Jan. – I thought this book would be too cheesy for me, like a floral devotion for mothers. Thankfully, it was just what the doctor ordered! Read this on mornings our baby was sleeping and I was sneaking in my breakfast in the bathroom where I slept on a mattress. Ha. I did relate to the authors.
  4. The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 – Garrett M. Graff – Feb. – ABSOLUTELY RIVETING and could NOT put it down – heartbreaking and haunting, chilling
  5. Boys and Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity – Peggy Orenstein – Feb. – riveting and worrying as I try to parent a daughter in the 21st century
  6. Rehearsing Scripture: Discovering God’s Word in Community – Anna Carter Florence – March – started in March 2019 and finished in March 2020…she did an enthralling conference where she had us playing with the texts and hearing them afresh
  7. Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad – Austin Kleon – Mar.
  8. Highway One, Antarctica – Justin Herrmann – Mar. (second time reading it)
  9. Where the Light Gets In: Losing My Mother Only to Find Her Again – Kimberly Williams-Paisley – April
  10. This Life That Is Ours: Motherhood as Spiritual Practice – Lauren Burdette – April
  11. After This – Alice McDermott – April – such gorgeous prose! McDermott really excels at the craft of writing…enjoyed reading this during meals
  12. Shameless: A Sexual Reformation – Nadia Bolz-Weber – April – helpful as I think about what parts of Christian teaching will be conducive to a positive body image + sexuality for my daughter, and which parts will be harmful
  13. Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace – Robert Farrar Capon – June – WOW! Recommending this book to EVERYONE. I need to reread it and try to let it sink in. Turns my understanding of grace, faith, Christ, Christianity, and me…upside down.
  14. What Now? – Ann Patchett – June
  15. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics – Daniel James Brown – July – absolutely loved this book! great for traveling
  16. The Thing Around Your Neck – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – July – pretty good collection of stories and made me want to try my hand at the genre
  17. Act Natural: A Cultural History of Misadventures in Parenting – Jennifer Traig – July – super quirky 
  18. Cowboys Are My Weakness – stories by Pam Houston – July – loved this book (despite the female protagonists’ poor taste in men)! Superb craft in writing! Have to read more of her.
  19. The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000-mile Journey Into the Alaskan Wilds – Caroline Van Hemert – Aug. – just okay
  20. Wiving: A Memoir of Loving Then Leaving the Patriarchy – Caitlin Myer – Aug. – started out riveting but then grew tiring…too much drama and frustration…pretty disturbing book, too
  21. Contents May Have Shifted – Pam Houston – August – She claims it’s a novel, but I have no idea how. Tale of travels and relationships.
  22. An American Childhood – Annie Dillard – August – for the second time! Looooooove this memoir. It transports you.
  23. The Nanny Diaries – Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin – August – for like the eighth time…guilty pleasure
  24. Waltzing the Cat – Pam Houston – September – just love her
  25. Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country – Pam Houston – September – now I want to take classes from her and be a ranchsitter for her…she’s my idol
  26. Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect – Magda Gerber – September – at least my second time, perhaps my third time, reading this book…and always recenters me!
  27. 1,2,3…The Toddler Years: A Practical Guide for Parents & Caregivers – Irene Van der Zande – September – despite many typos/grammatical errors, a fairly helpful book
  28. Valentine – Elizabeth Wetmore – September – riveting and suspenseful, but I found a few mistakes/inconsistencies, and there were a few parts that felt inauthentic…otherwise a fine read
  29. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin DiAngelo – September – certainly not an easy read!
  30. How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids – Jancee Dunn – October – made me more affectionate and grateful toward Jordan!
  31. Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid – October – de-LISH-ous, so juicy, so compulsively readable…wasn’t sure about it at first (whether it felt genuine), but was hooked before long…among the many things she captures perfectly, the guilt of a white woman’s psyche is one of them
  32. Becoming Dr. Q: My Journey from Migrant Farm Worker to Brain Surgeon – Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa (with Mim Eichler Rivas) – October – read this book to help Jordan with a Spanish project and found it blessing me!
  33. Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool – Emily Oster – October – demonstrates that no matter what you do as a parent, basically it doesn’t affect how your kid will turn out
  34. The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist – Adrian Tomine – October – graphic novel about all the most cringe-worthy moments of his life…the part about having diarrhea while an interviewer sat just outside the bathroom door made me laugh and laugh and laugh
  35. Comfort: A Journey Through Grief – Ann Hood – November – memoir of a mother who lost her five-year-old daughter to a virulent form of strep
  36. Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith – Henri Nouwen – November – seemed quite fitting for my questions, wonderings, discernment during this time
  37. The Long Winter – Laura Ingalls Wilder – December – I’ve read this many times and still adore it (though I am newly aware of its white privilege/-centeredness)
  38. Little Town on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder – December – I’ve read this many times, just like the former, and still adore it, just like the former…but wow…their depiction of a minstrel show was pretty rough to read…especially to realize how I didn’t clue in about the craziness of it till now
  39. These Happy Golden Years – Laura Ingalls Wilder – December
  40. Bel Canto – Ann Patchett – December – for the second time, and it’s still divine!
  • The Most Fun We Ever Had – Claire Lombardo – 380 pages of it – I got tired of the unrealistic dialogue – do people really begin so many sentences with “Jesus Christ”? Or use “Viol” as a nickname for “Violet”?
  • Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (and More Life to Live) – Eve Rodsky – most of it…
  • Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the world, and Become a Good Ancestor – Layla F. Saad – 69 pages of it
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown – 134 pages of it
  • Just Us: An American Conversation – Claudia Rankine – 175 pages of it
  • Dreyer’s English – Benjamin Dreyer – 200 pages of it

books I read (or reread) in 2019

  1. Somebody to Love: The Life, Death, and Legacy of Freddie Mercury – Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne – Jan. – grew repetitious and put me to sleep on any car ride in which we listened to the audiobook 😕 – but gave me new appreciation of the Queen canon and a new tip for songwriting (melody first, then structure, THEN lyrics)
  2. Hardcover A Child Is Born : The Completely New Edition BookA Child is Born – Lennart Nilsson & Lars Hamberger – Jan. – incredible picture book showing the miracle of being human, from conception to birth – wonderful memory of contentedly reading this by myself in KBay Caffe (Homer, AK) the day after I found out I was pregnant
  3. Image result for miscarriage: women sharing from the heartMiscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart – Marie Allen & Shelly Marks – Feb. – a book that became my security blanket during a time of devastation – first started reading it the morning of Fri. 1/25, and we had our ultrasound later that day that confirmed my womb was empty
  4. Devotion – Dani Shapiro – Feb. – a woman searches for God amidst Buddhism, Judaism, and her own worries
  5. The Wonder – Emma Donoghue – Feb. definitely a page turner, mostly dialogue, long chapters and hardly any section breaks
  6. A Spark of Light – Jodi Picoult – Feb. – predicted the two big reveals at the end; this book, along with a Jen Hatmaker interview of Jodi Picoult & an abortion-related episode of The Cut, made me have compassion on women who get abortions
  7. The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood – Belle Boggs – Mar. – riveting collection of essays about the pressure to procreate, the struggle of IVF, and the miracle of children
  8. [censored for the sake of my brother and any other family who read this blog] – Mar.
  9. Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer – Mar. – another completely convicting resource and another attempt to be vegetarian
  10. The Little Book of Biblical Justice: A Fresh Approach to the Bible’s Teachings on Justice – Chris Marshall – Mar.
  11. What Babies Say Before They Can Talk: The Nine Signals Infants Use to Express Their Feelings – Paul C. Holinger – Mar.
  12. Image result for this boy's lifeThis Boy’s Life – Tobias Wolff – Apr. – laugh-out-loud funny, and heartbreaking – made me want to read more of him
  13. Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation – Martin Laird – Apr. – very deep and thoughtful book on how we actually aren’t separate from God, nor are we our chaotic thoughts – we are a vast silence that is within the silent vastness of God
  14. Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives – Annie Murphy Paul – May – not sure I buy all the science in the book…but still an okay read
  15. Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home – Natalie Goldberg – May – memoir of her journey through cancer and her recognition of her mortality
  16. Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others – Barbara Brown Taylor – May – read in two days during trip to D.C.; inspired me to want to repeat her class experiences in a small group with my church
  17. Normal People – Sally Rooney – May
  18. Image result for song in a weary throatSong in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage – Pauli Murray – May – 572-page autobiography of the first African-American woman to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal church…couldn’t put it down, such an epic life story
  19. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed – Lori Gottlieb – June – borrowed from my counselor-friend; very fun and funny, with helpful tidbits like “numbness isn’t the absence of feeling; it’s being overwhelmed with feeling” and “the past is a vast encyclopedia of calamities you can still fix” (a joke, heard on a podcast)
  20. No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame – Janet Lansbury – June – after binging on her “Unruffled” podcasts
  21. Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership – Laurie Beth Jones – June – had started last year, I think, and finally finished…good used as a daily devotional to inspire you for working with a team (staff, lay people, etc.)
  22. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi – July – second time reading it, after often being tempted to!
  23. Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities—from the Very Start – Magda Gerber – July – finished on the morning we went to our anatomy ultrasound – gets me excited to try this style of parenting from infancy onward
  24. Achtung Baby: An American Mom on the German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children – Sara Zaske – July – makes me concerned about lack of playtime/recess during school, excess homework in early grades, and more — maybe we should homeschool!
  25. The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence – Judith Lothian and Charlotte DeVries – July – makes me excited for those first few hours bonding with baby, and encourages me to give birth naturally
  26. Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said? – Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo – July
  27. Image result for great with child letters to a young motherGreat with Child: Letters to a Young Mother – Beth Ann Fennelly – July – ahhhhhhhh, such a sweet, sweet, beautiful, poetic, charming, transporting, instantly re-readable and liftable book
  28. The Better Pastor: A Fable About Embracing the Role of Leading a Parish – Patrick Lencioni – Aug.
  29. The Library Book – Susan Orlean – Aug. – almost gave up on it but saw it through to the end; enjoyed histories of quirky people who led libraries in California
  30. Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting – Janet Lansbury – Sep. – another good one from the author whose podcasts I still binge-listen-to!
  31. Image result for Three WomenThree Women – Lisa Taddeo – Sep. – the first book in ages that made me want to read it while eating, riding in the car, upon first waking, just before falling asleep, during football games, and (yes) during church — not that I indulged each of those desires (and it happens to be a book about desire), but I wanted to
  32. Image result for creating with godCreating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy – Sarah Jobe – Oct. – wonderful reflections on God + Scripture + pregnancy! Great to read in third trimester!
  33. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation – Parker Palmer – Oct.
  34. Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth – Oct. (most of it anyway)
  35. Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother – Beth Ann Fennelly – Oct. – AGAIN! heehee
  36. Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect – Magda Gerber – Nov. – so soothing, so resetting, so SIMPLE
  37. It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) – Nora McInerny – Dec. – bought used in Pitts. and read in wee hours of morning with newborn (or, more accurately: while constipated and sitting on toilet after taking so much ibuprofen to help with recovery from birth) — grateful for something that could keep my attention!
  38. Unsheltered – Barbara Kingsolver – Dec. – I adored this book and read it during meals. However, the ending seemed somewhat anticlimactic…or abrupt. I longed for more. Perhaps in a weird way that’s a good sign, though — desiring to read more.
  39. Babies Are Not Pizzas: They’re Born, Not Delivered! – Rebecca Dekker – Dec. – makes me so glad I had the birthing experience I did, and makes me grieve for so many women who are robbed of that…but I will say the author seemed like an unreliable narrator from time to time, like someone who writes a memoir too soon after a difficult event and has a desperate need to get you on her side
  40. Baby Knows Best: Raising a Confident and Resourceful Child, the RIE Way – Deborah Carlisle Solomon – Dec.
  41. The Dutch House – Ann Patchett – Dec. – enjoyed devouring this book during car ride to Ohio and Penns. just after Christmas – Patchett almost never disappoints
141 pages of Motherhood after Miscarriage – Dr. Kathleen Diamond
253 pages of Daily Rituals: Women at Work – Mason Currey
302 pages of Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush – Jon Meacham
126 pages of City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert
I forget how many pages of The Power – Naomi Alderman

books I have read in 2018

One book every 7.93 days. I wish my average was better. My goal is always one book every 7 days — or fewer. Sigh.

Below you’ll find my top ten highlighted:

  1. The Liars’ Club – Mary Karr – Jan.
  2. tiny-beautiful-thingsTiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar – Cheryl Strayed – Jan. 
  3. Torch – Cheryl Stayed – Jan. 
  4. I Heart My Little A-holes: A bunch of holy-crap moments no one ever told you about parenting – Karen Alpert – Feb.
  5. Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved) – Kate Bowler – Feb. 
  6. The Love of a Good Woman: Stories – Alice Munro – Feb.
  7. What Is the Bible? – Rob Bell – Mar.
  8. the-story-gridThe Story Grid: What Good Editors Know – Shawn Coyne – Mar. – helped break down the structure of any riveting novel, so you can replicate it for your own! genius!
  9. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness – Austin Channing Brown – Mar. 
  10. The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows – James Bryan Smith – Mar. 
  11. Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent – Richard Rohr – Mar.
  12. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business – Patrick Lencioni – Apr.
  13. Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America – Natalie Goldberg – Apr.
  14. the-livingThe Living – Annie Dillard – May … amazing … speechless
  15. South and West: from a notebook – Joan Didion – May 
  16. Making All Things New – Henri Nouwen (2nd time reading it) – May
  17. Am I There Yet?: The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood – Mari Andrew (May) – lovely illustrations/watercolors, made me smile, gift from one friend, which I in turn bought for two more
  18. litLit – Mary Karr – June – love love love love love…so many bits of wisdom, hard-won…and love the Christian connection
  19. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable – Patrick Lencioni – June
  20. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – June
  21. the_right_to_writeThe Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life – Julia Cameron – June – ❤️ the practical tips and inspirational essays…made me want to write regularly…makes you fearless and free
  22. theft-by-findingTheft by Finding: 1977-2002, diaries by David Sedaris — lol funny, difficult to put down
  23. Motherhood – Sheila Heti – July – often felt like stream-of-consciousness or lyric prose, and I wondered if I would need to reread it to fully grasp it…definitely articulated some of my doubts about whether to become a mother
  24. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life – Mark Manson – July
  25. if-you-want-to-writeIf You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence, and Spirit – Brenda Ueland – July (minus pp. 59-62 because they were ripped out of the library copy) ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ want to reread and own and devour on a daily basis
  26. The 5-Second Rule – Mel Robbins – July
  27. East of Eden – John Steinbeck – August (finally the right time for me to read this epic book…engrossing family saga that held my attention all through vacation and plane rides)
  28. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandburg – Aug. – seemed somewhat scattered in its structure … oh well
  29. Calypso – David Sedaris – Aug. – funny & sad at the same time
  30. Saying No to Say Yes: Everyday Boundaries and Pastoral Excellence – David C. Olsen and Nancy G. Devor 
  31. One Writer’s Beginnings – Eudora Welty – Aug.
  32. The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb: A Spirituality for Leadership in a Multicultural Community – Eric H.F. Law – Aug.
  33. america's womenAmerica’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines – Gail Collins – Sep. – so compulsively readable! took it with me to meals, to the bathroom…juicy facts and tidbits, plus some material for sermons, potentially – worth keeping around!
  34. Goodbye, Vitamin – Rachel Khong – Sep. – warm tale of a woman whose father is losing his memory, and her care for him; real in its frustration and humor and love
  35. American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World – David Baron – Sep.
  36. Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living – Shauna Niequist – Oct. – first started this with the moms’ Bible study group in the spring and never finished it…but finally picked it back again during lunch at work…and perhaps God sent it to me at just the right time, before the craziness of fall
  37. The Ninth Hour – Alice McDermott – Oct. – fiction about nuns
  38. liturgy-of-the-ordinaryLiturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life – Tish Harrison Warren – Oct. – beautiful, soothing reflections on how our life in Christ is also our everyday life in the 21st century
  39. Advice for Future Corpses * * and those who love them: A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying – Sallie Tisdale – Nov. – humorous, revelatory…made Jordan and me talk about wanting to be buried naturally (no coffin)…also taught me what not to say to a dying person (for instance, if they’re talking about leaving, ask them where they’re going rather than say “you’re not going anywhere”)
  40. From the Corner of the Oval – Beck Dorey-Stein – Nov. – “beach read” fluff book (admittedly—I couldn’t put it down) of a stenographer’s five years working in the Obama White House
  41. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – Amy Chua – Nov. 
  42. Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable about Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business – Patrick Lencioni – Dec.
  43. Daniel Generation: Godly Leadership in an Ungodly Culture – Jolene Cassellius Erlacher – Dec. – wouldn’t have picked it up if it weren’t for my friend having written it, as the subtitle made me pre-judge the book…but I was surprised by its insight
  44. The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time – Arianna Huffington – Dec. – making me savor sleep more and pay more attention to my dreams (which are bizarre!)!
  45. The Great Failure: My Unexpected Path to Truth – Natalie Goldberg – Dec. – read in less than 24 hours; received on Christmas morning; my take-away from the memoir is: people are always a mixture of good and bad, and to think of them as all one or all the other does them (and us) a disservice
  46. two-part inventionTwo-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage – Madeleine L’Engle – Dec. – so poignant, heartbreaking, and sweet – worth a reread, especially if/when I deal with my own husband’s death someday

new year’s resolution


For Christmas, my husband got me a book with the subtitle “how to stop complaining and start enjoying the life you always wanted.” Should I be upset? All right, to be fair, it was on my wish list.

I’m not ready to undertake the book’s 21-day challenge, not even if it is the first day of 2019, perfect for fresh starts. But I will. The book says on average it takes people 4-8 months to successfully go 21 days straight without complaining, criticizing, gossiping, or being sarcastic. (If you slip up you start back on Day 1.)

Meanwhile, on an unrelated note, I’ve begun a list of Things That Bother Me:

  1. When built-in ribbon bookmarks start fraying, so you have to trim them and then they’re too short.
  2. When I’ve stopped before a crosswalk to wait for a car, and then the car slows down and stops for me.
  3. That feeling you get when you’re wearing leggings, jeans, and snow pants, and you have to go the bathroom.
  4. When drivers glance up and glance down, glance up and glance down. You know they’re texting. No one’s lap is that interesting.
  5. Houses with those laser-star Christmas lights that look like the house has green chicken pox. We have ours angled onto tree branches and it is much, much classier.
  6. When a parking lot is sandy and then I step into my car and feel the brittle sand rubbing the pedals under my feet every time I accelerate or brake.
  7. When you take great care to clip your nails over a sink or trash can but the clippings still go everywhere.
  8. People who clip their nails anywhere.
  9. Nearly all styles of parenting.
  10. Almost all children.

a poem by Ted Kooser

Winter Morning Walks

He wrote these poems while receiving cancer treatment that made his skin sensitive to the sun. If he wanted to take a daily walk, he had to do so in the dark.

I read these poems four years ago, on increasingly dark mornings. I read them slowly, aloud, while taking slow steps around my bedroom. I came across one I copied in my journal on October 22, 2014. Will God grace me with a marriage someday, I’d asked, — a good one? Will my childhood self finally know what she has only daydreamed about? Will it be all she hoped?

december 29

     Windy and cold.

All night, in gusty winds,
the house has cupped its hands around
the steady candle of our marriage,
the two of us braided together in sleep,
and burning, yes, but slowly,
giving off just enough light so that one of us,
awakening frightened in darkness,
can see.

Someday, I wrote. Someday.

on death

Xray skeletons

Recently I was reminded I will one day die.

I had gotten an MRI and was viewing the results: a bulging disc near the top of my spine. Even as the doctor tapped her pen on the offending bump, my eyes strayed to other bones, other features. My jaw, especially. My jaw convinced me I will one day die. It was the jaw of a corpse.

The MRI revealed something I knew but didn’t realize: There was a skeleton in there, with a skull like the kind on a skinless body. There were empty black eye sockets. Teeth that would fall out and turn to powder. There was a brain that might nourish a tumor, which would press on nerves. Meanwhile the doctor tapped her pen on the screen, its plastic tip hitting the slipped disc where a nerve was already being pressed. She suggested physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractics, maybe an anti-inflammatory diet.

I came home and e-mailed my 74-year-old friend. He wrote back, “That was pretty scary, thinking of becoming a corpse.” And he’s a Buddhist who meditates on his death regularly.

Happy All Souls’ Day, everyone.

The entire braid of the self is coming unwound in a rush.

Advice for Future Corpses *
* And Those Who Love Them
p. 56


On Day 12 of the Whole30 nutrition program. We’re hanging in there.

Quick summary: Fill up on meat/seafood, veggies, and fruit — but you can’t have dairy, beans/corn/soy, peanuts, grains, booze, added sugar, or things like carrageenan/MSG/sulfites (none of which I can define). You have to read every label and scrutinize every ingredient. It will likely mean you make your own sausage, tomato sauce, Caesar salad dressing, and mayonnaise.

Breakfast has gone from a bowl of dry Cheerios with cheese on the side, to:


Slider buns get replaced with potato wedges, accompanied by homemade mushroom/kale/squash chips:


And, as an added bonus, you get intimately acquainted with your grocery store clerks!



The Whole30 lasts about 45 days — 30 days of following the rules, then a two-week period of slowly reintroducing food categories and seeing how your body responds. Do you feel more bloated? sluggish? Does your skin break out? Is your sleep suddenly restless? From then on, you can know which foods keep your energy high and which foods make you gassy. Everybody wins.

lunches that make you want to go to work

Ideally, you’ll not only manage your weight better, you’ll also rack up NSVs — non-scale victories. But I’ve been surprised which ones have bubbled up, for me:

  1. more gratitude for food
    1. praying before every meal and almost every snack
      1. and meaning it!
  2. more peace while eating
    1. I used to “need” to read a book or watch a show while eating. Now I can sit quietly, simply savoring and thinking.
  3. more confidence in the kitchen
    1. hated to stray from a recipe, but now I’m growing more comfortable estimating — and riffing!
  4. less screen time
    1. because when you can’t just zone out in front of the boob tube, mindlessly feeding yourself chips, there are fewer and fewer excuses to watch TV at all
  5. more sense of control at work
    1. Building on the positive momentum of planning ahead and meal-prepping at home, I feel more motivated to tackle work projects and chip away at each next action. One positive change in life can lead to another, and another.

All right, so far the Whole30 has not been all magic & fairies…but the good has outweighed the struggle, and we’re still early into it. The book promises that in a week or two we’ll be filled with Tiger Blood.

I look forward to that.

Thai turkey lorb on Romaine wedges, with fresh lime juice, riced potatoes, and kombucha to drink



Of course, eating itself reminds us that none of us can stay alive on our own. If you are breathing, it’s because someone fed you.

Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary, p. 71