I’m on the train, coming home from a quick jaunt to Portland for a meeting of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers. The one-day education session and board meeting turned into a wonderful mini-retreat. A day of meetings and a night of reading wedged in between peaceful train rides were just what I needed.
Since the owner of the bookstore where I work announced that she would sell the store, 2012 has felt pretty stressful, but in April, happily, a new owner will take over. Friends’ and family’s recent big life changes and challenges put lots of things in perspective. However, this spring it took a night of quiet in a motel in another city to help all that sink in.
Do you have a mini-retreat strategy, a way to step back and put everything in perspective?
I have a cousin who was a real, compete-with-uniforms, root-for-teams, pom-pom wielding cheerleader. I’ve never had the chance to be that kind of cheerleader, but I’ve always loved cheering on the sidelines, from the bench, along the parade route, from the audience. As a bookseller, I love cheering for authors and books I read and love. This month has been great for a book I read before it went on sale this Tuesday: Wild by Cheryl Strayed.
Wild is Cheryl’s memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail when she was 26. Cheryl’s mother died four years earlier after a short, intense fight with lung cancer. After lots of grieving that didn’t heal (extramarital affairs, drug abuse), Cheryl made the choice to hike the Pacific Coast Trail to move through her grief, be alone, and prove to herself that she could live up to her potential– and her mother’s love. The book is gorgeously written, with passages that distill Cheryl’s experiences into vivid specifics but also somehow feel universal. I was riveted and inspired by her journey.
This is the kind of book I love to discover– a book that will stay with its readers. Because of the emotionally intense subject matter, it’s also the kind of book that people might not just pick up when they are in a bookstore, despite its striking cover. So I particularly love spreading my recommendations so people will choose this and be moved by it. It has humor! It has beauty! It has meaning! I still think about it months after I read it. I have given it to friends. This is a book worth the hardcover price.
I’ve been thrilled to see that even though I was an early enthusiastic reader, I’m certainly not the only one. Random House, the publisher, posted on its blog about Wild as “A Book We’re Loving” (and used my blurb!). Oprah.com (Oprah!!!) featured it as one of the 17 Books to Watch for in April 2012. Reese Witherspoon bought the film rights to the story.
Seattle-area readers, if you’re free, Cheryl Strayed is in town (from Portland) to do a reading and signing tonight (Thursday) at Elliott Bay Books at 7 and she’ll be at Third Place Books at Lake Forest Park tomorrow (Friday) at 6:30. I was delighted to hear from her publisher that she’ll also be swinging by my bookstore, Queen Anne Books, to sign stock, while she’s in town. She has also been signing books at the local distributor, Partners West, so if you’d like a signed copy, chances are good in the Pacific Northwest.
If you go to any of Cheryl Strayed’s events, please be sure to cheer loudly!
Posted by Linda on Mar 19, 2012 in family
, life at home
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Since Heather’s graduation from high school it has been up to us to create a life for her. Her days are wide open, and we are the ones to put in structure and purpose. It starts with what does Heather like and what does she have to offer?
Heather likes being outside. Anything outside is a great fit for her. And what she has to offer the world is that she is small and young kids find that she is easy to approach and ask questions about her. So her being an Ambassador at the Zoo is a perfect match. She is there welcoming people with her switch, and young kids often ask their questions of why is Heather like this? Which helps them know that all people fit in our world no matter what body they were given.
Another place Heather goes is swimming, usually on Fridays. She spends a lot of time in the hot tub. The warm water relaxes her, and it another activity that is out and about.
We are hoping to be part of the community garden this spring but that doesn’t get going for another few weeks. Heather and Toni often go to the mall for walks or Third Place Books on rainy days and outside walks on nice days. We are looking into one more place for Heather that is part of her established week, be that a music class we can listen to, or other ideas that are spreading for a business.
While Toni is here most days and shares a bunch of Heather’s care during the week, Mondays we are Toniless. It’s just Heather and me soooo. . . we tend to stay in our PJ’s until 11:00 or so, and then get going. It’s my favorite slow motion day. We take life slowly; there is no hurry. We generally do go for a stroll, but that’s not until noon. I love Mondays. Mondays make me appreciate Tuesdays and the busy week that starts moving the minute Toni gets here.
What is your slow motion PJ day of the week?
Posted by Tegan on Mar 15, 2012 in brave things
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March is Women’s History Month. So today, let’s give some shouts out to brave women in history!
Lucretia Mott (left) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (right) were two activists I remember studying in middle school. In 1840, the two Americans were delegates to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. Then eight years later, they organized the Seneca Falls Convention for women’s rights. Stanton prepared the “Declaration of Sentiments,” a modification of the Declaration of Independence that stated that “all men and women are created equal.” In a time when women didn’t have the vote and in some states married women didn’t have rights to their own property, these women dared to claim the rights of personhood and demand that others see the capability and equality of their sex.
Our history tests sometimes included pictures of famous people we had to identify. I recall studying these women and thinking, “This will be easy; they’re the only women in this chapter.” I hope the emphasis on women’s history helps girls today know more great women from the past.
What brave women in history do you remember studying? What brave women in history do you wish everyone recognized?
Posted by Linda on Mar 13, 2012 in community
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Have you ever wondered why buildings are named after people? I used to think this was kind of silly and a little vain. Until I got an email 23 months ago announcing that they were going to name a building after my dear friend who died too young and too fast. Then all I could do was clap and cheer inside.
Yesterday was the dedication of that building, Francis Village, in Kirkland, Washington. Named after Jason Lee Francis. Jason, who was the playwright behind my one-woman shows. Jason, who was part of the St. Andrew’s Housing Group (now Imagine Housing), which has built many housing projects on the Eastside for low-income folks. Jason put a ton of his effervescent energy into his work raising money for affordable housing, and he was good at it. He worked for them for 5 years. So when the news broke that they were naming their next project after him, all I could do was smile.
Jason had moved on to get his Master’s in Theater Arts in Lincoln Nebraska. In his final year of school, he was diagnosed with cancer. Eleven week later Jason did not live on this planet any longer.
We, his friends from Seattle, kept in touch though email, care-pages, and phone calls. Jason was a true blue extrovert; he had over 500 close friends, really. It was terrific to gather once again to honor such a tremendous guy.
We like that Francis Village was designed with community gathering places in mind. There is an art room, a computer room, a community gathering room, a playground, and more. We heard all the pieces that go into a building like that, and I was impressed anew by what a great job Imagine Housing is doing. All their effort is making a dent in the homeless population. We heard the statistics have dropped significantly, but we are not done yet.
So, we were reminded afresh of who we lost; the Eastside now has a housing facility that bears his name. Jason once said to me in the height of fundraising season, “The reason I do what I can do– it is knowing many children are sleeping warm and dry tonight because of our efforts.”
And I now imagine some of them in a place named Francis Village.
Posted by Tegan on Mar 8, 2012 in healthy tips & tweaks
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I cannot resist Girl Scout Cookies. I cannot resist the Girl Scouts selling the cookies. Such a good cause! Such good cookies!
So my healthy tip: only buy Girl Scout Cookies for Operation Cookie Drop. Every table of Girl Scouts I’ve seen offers Operation Cookie Drop, and the Girl Scouts are so kind as to never even let the box of cookies touch my hand… I tell them what flavors I want to send to the troops, they tell me how much, then they put the boxes in their donation box to pack up (with cards and other treats) to send to active duty troops.
Not ever touching the box is the only way I can resist eating a whole stack of Thin Mints.
Please note: The box pictured was purchased in a moment of weakness, abetted by my cookie-hungry husband. Because he bought them and opened them, he saved me from eating the whole stack at once by eating half himself. I didn’t think “make your husband eat them” was healthy enough advice…
Do you have a strategy for keeping trigger foods out of your hands (and mouth)?
Posted by Tegan on Mar 7, 2012 in book world
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I’m on a roll, reading-wise. I just finished another great one.
Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt is his account of the year following the sudden death of his daughter, Amy. Amy was 38, healthy, a pediatrician, beloved wife, and the mom of three young children. She died of a rare heart defect on the treadmill at home and was discovered by her eldest children. Roger and his wife Ginny immediately moved in with Harris, Amy’s widower, to help with the kids: Jessie (6), Sammy (4), and James, aka “Bubbies” (1).
This is a deeply personal book, full of specifics. At times, reading it felt like attending the wake of someone I didn’t know (but wished I had). Rosenblatt recounts stories from Amy’s life, perhaps partly as a memory book for Amy’s children, perhaps partly as therapy– a way to bring Amy back to life, at least on the page.
Rosenblatt’s adventures as Boppo the Great (his grandpa title– for which he has even created a silly anthem) are sweet and loving. He savors the joys of parenting young children but also owns up to the absurdity of it. However charming the stories about life with the kiddos is, the grief and pain of his daughter’s loss is always present. His book shows how he, Ginny, Harris, the kids, and countless friends and family who knew and loved Amy will never get over her loss but will get through it.
The fresh rawness of the grief from Amy’s sudden death does seem to heighten Rosenblatt’s appreciation. His wife Ginny’s strength, organization, and tenderness floor him and make him fall in love all over again. His son-in-law’s love and resilience draws them as close as two not-very-verbal men can be. The children’s nanny is a rock of support, a living example of practical love in action. His contractor, who loses a son suddenly, becomes a closer friend as they navigate parental grief together. The grocery store clerk, the dean of the medical school, and the TV personality who express their genuine condolences touch his heart and become even more important to Rosenblatt because they acknowledge his pain.
Boppo is Great, and he shines a light on the community that supports him and his family as they soldier on with each other, and the memories of Amy, to sustain them.
Have you read this book? Or maybe the excerpt that was in The New Yorker? Are you interested in the follow-up, Kayak Morning?
Yes, we are desperate here in the northwest. It is the beginning of March, and winter has gone on long enough. We expect to be bored, restless, and lack energy. That’s how I usually come out of winter. This year we decided to try something different. We registered for the Rainman Triathlon, an indoor triathlon scheduled for April 1st.
To meet this goal Jackie offered up her basement for Saturday morning biking workouts, our once a week gathering for chatting and biking. It is very fun and worth the energy to haul equipment to her house every week, to build riding muscles I haven’t seen in a while. There are five of us involved in our Saturday morning workouts to date.
It’s more than a work-out; it’s a check in time. My friends can tell in a heartbeat if I’m having a rough time and will ask. And I’d better just tell the truth and get on with it, because I’m not good at lying. I love this little Jackie’s basement human gym. It makes my week softer.
What makes your week softer?
I finished The Boy in the Moon
by Ian Brown. It’s a wallop of a read– painful, smart, and powerful.
“On the bad [days] he stayed with me, hanging on to my arm or lying near me, moaning or wailing or crying. When it snowed too much for him to go outside in his stroller he pitched fits, lying on the floor and slamming his head against it. I know the precise shape of that noise from memory.” – pp. 51-2
The sleepless nights and awful self-beatings that Brown’s son Walker endures were excruciating to read about. Somehow Brown’s intimate, honest accounts of his son’s pain (and the rest of the family’s) made me realize that no matter how hard it was to read about, it must be so much harder to live it. Then he was able to convince me that they should not be pitied. He writes of the fleeting beauty of their life.
“So when Walker does anything to suggest there’s a point to his life besides pain and isolation, it seems particularly brave… If I pay attention long enough and sit still long enough to think about it, if I am daring enough not to scurry along to a more ‘productive’ or distracting activity, the idea of hanging a trinket on a tree, a memory on a branch, an ancient pagan ritual, rises into fresh view again… Walker makes me see the ornament for what it is– better still, for what it could be, what it might be.” — pp. 242-3
The author, a journalist, vacillates between intensely personal reflections/ confessions and intellectual investigations into topics like genetics and group homes in his search to understand his son– and his life as the father to his son. I was more drawn to the intimate writing than the interviews, but I admire the way he tried to find answers to unanswerable questions.
I found Brown’s specificity extremely compelling. He gives such concrete details of his life that I could start to understand what it might be like. His honesty can be almost off-putting at times, but I think his ability to write the unthinkable is what made me trust him.
I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in stepping outside their own world through well-written nonfiction. Brown’s story is moving, compassionate, and honest.
Have you read this? Anything else you would recommend that might be compared to our book