Bite-Sized Book Reviews

Sometimes I post about what I am reading. Today is one of those days.

A couple of disclaimers about these reviews:

A) They don’t necessarily summarize the book.

B) I’m no longer an English major being made to read things. I read what I want. Sometimes it’s YA. Sometimes it’s literary. Sometimes it’s chick lit. The end.

C) Because I love books, I’d love to hear your book recommendations and feedback, too. Chime in!

Let’s commence.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

This book is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, set it modern day Cincinnati (and New York and the Bay Area). I resisted reading it when it was published a few years hence, because I didn’t want the modernity of it to ruin what is basically a perfect original book. I stand corrected. It ruined nothing. I loved it. It was masterfully reworked into today’s world—the characters, the plot, and even the dialogue. I’m a little in awe of Curtis Sittenfeld for doing a retake on one of the world’s best books and doing such a bang-up job of it. True Jane-ites who relish the Regency time and setting may not go for the modern updates, but they totally worked for me.

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier

While visiting my sister over the summer in San Francisco, we saw the newest film adaptation of My Cousin Rachel late one night in the Embarcadero. It inspired me to delve back into the moody drama of du Maurier’s books. Frenchman’s Creek is less psychologically dark and more culturally and romantically driven. It tells a familiar tale from literature of a disaffected upper-class woman looking for fulfillment. It’s du Maurier, so it’s still dark, but also skillfully rendered and fresh, considering it was published something like seventy years ago. I liked it okay and I still think Daphne du Maurier is cool.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konisburg

This is one of those books everyone should revisit because it gets better with age. It’s a Newberry winner and it’s definitely dated. Most of the events in the book would never happen now because technology is so different. Yet it’s a glorious time capsule for a not-too-distant era during which young people felt similar things to young people today, and of all time periods, frankly. It’s kind of a magical take on the “running away from home” and also “taking a journey” tropes of YA lit.

A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-1832 by Joan W. Blos

You know what I love about YA fiction? You can read an entire book in a day. And if you choose wisely, much of it is just so terrific. I’m stuck on Newberry winners currently, which is a good place to be. Joan Blos’s book was published in 1979 and sucked me right in. It’s beautifully rendered and historically deft. I felt slothful after reading about the work ethic and never-ending daily necessities of these New Hampshire townsfolk. The characters are based on real people who lived in the area, but are vividly imagined and rounded out in this story which has stayed with me for days after finishing it.

Chalice by Robin McKinley

This is Robin McKinley at her weirdest. And yet, I still love her. I feel like you might have to already be a devoted McKinley fan to jump into this fantasy book, though. It’s very her. It’s like she took her characters and plot lines and fantasy elements from The Hero and the Crown, The Blue Sword, and Beauty—all better-known books, put them on steroids and said, “Screw it. This is what I like and this is what I do. Read it or don’t read it.” Do you like how I project personalities onto writers? This book is crazy. It’s about honey and how honey saves a kingdom, basically. I liked it.

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace

I met Becky at a writing and teaching conference a couple of years ago. She is a tiny little live wire with big creative ideas and a huge heart. Her YA series The Keeper’s Chronicles starts with The Storyspinner. Book two is The Skylighter. I was enamored with the characters and the story arc in the books, both of which I raced through. Her pacing, shifting narrators, action, and beautifully envisioned world reaffirmed to me why YA fiction is so glorious. I love meeting writers in person AND on the page. Books and book people are the best. I’m a Becky Wallace fan.

The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King

Emily King lives in Utah, like me (yay, Utah writers!), and writes cool stories. This book’s setting and story were completely engaging to me. I’m also a fan of books with fully-realized female characters, which this one does in spades. It’s got the magical realism elements that so many YA stories do, and it injects them into the story of a girl being forced into a marriage as the hundredth wife of a rajah. It’s a coming-of-age, but also coming-of-awareness, ability, and competency tale as Kalinda takes her future into her own hands. This was a fun read.

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

I am currently reading this book. Brooks is a gifted writer. One of my favorite books ever is her Caleb’s Crossing. I also loved Year of Wonders. This one is an imagining of David from the Old Testament. While the Bible is totally my jam, I haven’t always loved every movie or book which tries to flesh out biblical stories. The Secret Chord is so classically Brooks, though, meaning it is written exquisitely. She understands people and cultures and the undercurrents which drive them. I am relishing this book.

You Are Boring, But You Are Uniquely Boring by Louise Plummer and Ann Cannon

This is a memoir-writing book for the average person (yay for being average!), pieced out in lovely snippets by my two writing mentors and friends, Ann and Louise. They are so good at teaching the art of writing by making it accessible and entertaining. Read it and be inspired to write about your own life. I predict you may also fall in love with the authors.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This book and the sequel, Crooked Kingdom are a darkly imagined look at the “deplorables” I supposed you could say, of a fantasy city, Ketterdam. But are the thieves and slum-dwelling riff-raff the actual villains? These books showcase the rot that infiltrates humanity when it is driven by greed, abuse, and unchecked lust. They are exciting reads with an ensemble of relatable characters, despite their mystical gifts and probably because of their hang ups.

 

What are you reading? Please tell.

Creativity is Delicate

I listen to classical music when I drive.

This might make me seem like an elderly woman, to which I say, “Works for me. I like old ladies.” My station of choice is Symphony Hall (channel 76) on Sirius XM satellite radio. I like it because, in addition to beautiful music, they have smart commentary that teaches me a whole lot about the music and the composers. Also, there are no commercials, huzzah. And it does more for me than basically all other music (which I still like, a lot). It fixes my brain. I don’t know how, but it does.

Last week, one of the DJ’s spoke about an obscure (to me) composer who, he said, “went dark,” for a period of about three years during his prime composing age because “he was silenced by depression.”

This went straight to my heart. I understood that composer, whose name I can’t even remember.

Creativity is a delicate thing.

It operates at the mercy of factors that seem to change with the wind, the seasons, and all sorts of shifting circumstances. When my 24/7 life featured me running ragged for Jack’s care, I wrote prolifically and continuously. Now, I have more time and room to think, and I simply don’t care to write.

Just now I started to type, “it means nothing to me,” but I couldn’t. Clearly, writing still means something to me, but it means something different.

I suppose the things I have to say feel more private, less funny, less like “the old blog,” darker, and definitely more monotonous. I couldn’t care less about publication or numbers of hits as charted by Google Analytics. If blogging is a conversation with readers, I am not holding up my end of it.

Blogs are dead, or so I hear, though I have been defiantly blogging regularly the last 5.5 years in spite of the so-called death of the blog. Are they dead because nobody reads them anymore? I’m the wrong person to discuss this topic, because I obviously do what I want in the online pontificating sphere, regardless of internet trends. We can probably agree that it’s all about Instagram now, which I have no problem with. You can say everything you need in a lengthy (or brief) Instagram caption, and there’s a photo, and it’s all right there in ye olde news feed.

Or maybe blogs are dead because bloggers are tired of blogging.

Who’s to say?

Anyway, the fact remains that I have less to say now, and it isn’t lighthearted or even particularly enlightening.

There Was No Other Way

We visited Jack today, which was

A) Productive

B) Sweet

C) Happy

D) Fulfilling

E) Bittersweet (because I had to leave him again)

F) Emotional (see above)

Since returning home, I have said out loud, multiple times, “If there were any other way, I would have done it,” to which Jeff unironically said, “There was no other way.”

I would have done anything to keep Jack at home with us. We did try everything. Nothing worked.

There was no other way.

Seeing Jack happy and healthy and content today boosted me. I’m happy with his new school and with how much improved his behavior is there. We had lunch at the park. We played at his house and explored the backyard.

But leaving Jack two hours away is not easy. I am thinking ahead to Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I feel conflicted and a little depressed.

Life is complex.

We are complex.

It’s not bad, it’s just the way it is.

Lend Me Power

The three and a half months since Jack’s placement in his group home have been a period of mourning, adjusting, and accepting. I keep comparing my grief to a body of water in which I am floating. That’s what it feels like. I’m adrift and disconnected from the worldly things which tend to weigh us down. I’m just floating.

Except at times when I feel I am coming undone by the things I CAN’T do.

Like, being with Jack on a regular basis and being part of his daily life and care.

My discomfort with this situation manifests in sadness (at life) and discouragement (at my floating state/inability to get things done anymore). To summarize, I know on a profound level that God knew Jack needed residential care, that he loves Jack, and that he led us to the right setting and caregivers for our son. But I also feel unsettled, because this is not the family life I envisioned when I embarked on motherhood with my whole self nearly sixteen years ago.

Feeling unsettled results in stewing. My muscle memory is to never let my guard down when I’m home with my kids, because I must always be on standby (because I used to always have to be on standby for Jack). I’m not used to being still. I’m used to waiting on edge, heading off disasters, deescalating ugly situations, and surviving home life with the most extreme behavior conditions at play.

Now, when I stew, I look around me at the beat-up state of our house. I recognize, gratefully and sheepishly, that I am not in the aftermath of a hurricane, nor coping with murky floodwaters swirling around everything I own. Truly, I have nothing to complain about.

But really, I am sometimes disillusioned with the constant state of entropy in the world. Humans sleep, pray, get up, work, learn, try, keep trying. And yet, the world moves in an endless state of decay. Can we ever keep up? Will our efforts ever be enough to keep productive life afloat in a temporal world?

I believe the answer is no. We can’t. Only God can. That’s the way he designed life on earth to be. We could live and we could choose, but we are incapable of saving ourselves because that wasn’t the point of creation.

The point was to give us the chance to choose Jesus Christ, without anyone forcing us to choose Him. It was to let us see that we are capable of glorious things, but without his grace, power, and help, it all means nothing because we are lost.

I felt immensely sad this morning. I felt the weight of my house, which looks like a film set for an orphanage (not really. Okay. maybe a little? Of course what I mean is that it looks like my house has seen lots of children hoofing it over every surface and sometimes literally hammering it to heck).

I felt weary from the grief that is my weighty companion.

I felt incompetent. I wanted to trust God and stop being sad that Jack is away. I wanted to put my temporal house in order. I also wanted to go back to sleep.

I said a prayer in my heart and started cleaning the kitchen. I attacked the laundry while I listened to Russell M. Nelson’s recent talk about drawing on the Savior’s power in your own life.

“Why aren’t they shouting this from the rooftops and across all the social media sites like every dang day?!” I wanted to tweet out as I mopped dirty floors. Because this—drawing on the power of Jesus Christ—is how you do life when it is impossible, miserable, overwhelming, depressing, unexpected, disappointing, and tiresome.

It just is. I have listened to the talk roughly 18 times because I am giving a lesson on it this Sunday, and yet it filled me up again, more thoroughly than before. I wept as I swept. I prayed for strength, for power that comes from a well greater than my own stores or abilities.

I cleaned my forlorn house. I took Truman to the park and then to kindergarten. I drove to Home Depot and bought paint and quarter round trim and other random renovation supplies. I picked up my boys from school and began attacking the baseboards in our kitchen/living room. Jeff joined in and we began fixing things that have been broken or sadly neglected for many years in the name of being Jack’s parents.

Perhaps this sounds like the sort of activity you undertake regularly. Perhaps you are unimpressed because your energy level, motivation, and skill at home improvements way surpasses mine. But the fact remains, I did more today than I have done since Jack left, and I was able to do it because I prayed and Jesus lent me strength I didn’t otherwise have.

I still feel sad Jack lives far away. But I am more grateful he’s happy and healthy and having his needs met perfectly by caring people.

There are mountains, valleys, plains, jungles, and oceans of things that need doing in my house and in my life. But today I was able to begin. He sent me energy and a will to pick myself up and get started.

Nothing to See Here

You guys, I just don’t have anything to say.

I don’t know what to write about. I am pretty disconnected from Jack’s day to day life. There are other, comparatively minor autism-related issues with my other boys. But they feel SO VERY SMALL and, frankly, super easy compared to the challenges we faced caring for Jack.

There’s grief, which I’m tired of talking about.

I don’t want to list my every daily trouble.

I’m not the kind of writer/blogger who creates a beautiful lifestyle/persona/aura thing which people enjoy consuming because it’s so stylish and gorgeous.

I have a cold and I haven’t washed my hair in four days. I’m not sleeping well. The transition back to school has wearied me more than it should have, but whatever. It’s grief and I can’t hurry it along or ask it to leave.

It’s real and it just IS.

This was a basic sort of day, involving a morning nap because I felt awful, coaxing my kindergartener to eat lunch and go to his second day of school (“I think I’ll have a day off,” he announced mid-morning #eyeroll), driving to Costco because we were out of everything, and prepping my lessons for class tomorrow.

It was the sort of day where I could not even when my little boys started fighting. Laundry feels like way too much work. Reading the book I got at the library is the one thing that really sounds reasonable.

I did order and ship Jack a coat. And I handled miscellaneous other Jack-related correspondence.

I just don’t have anything inspirational to say. I don’t have the capacity to engage in social things. Yesterday I felt pretty good about Jack’s new life. Today, I know he’s in the right place, but I don’t like being so separate from him.

I feel like my mothering relating to Jack now is a sham.

 

I Grew New Skin

I’m sitting at a little white Ikea table in the corner of a climbing gym, watching Charlie take part in a climbing class for kids. It’s his first ever organized sport. Ever.

I watched him amble in the line of kids across the gym to a new climbing area with his signature mosey (arms slowly swinging, a literal spring in his step–okay not literal, because he doesn’t have actual springs in his shoes, he just walks like he does), and all I could think was “look how far we have come since Charlie was a feral five-year-old consumed by anxiety and impossible to wrangle.”

He can do things in a group! He can follow instructions! And he has always been unnaturally good at climbing, so he’s in his element!

Since Jack resettled, life at our end has changed incredibly quickly and thoroughly. I continue to be amazed by the motion of our lives.

Charlie is now mainstreamed at school, with resource help. He is excited about school because he gets to ride or scoot there and see his neighborhood friends. He feels independent. He is becoming more independent. This is good for both of us. One of my Charlie fears has been that he will never quite achieve self-sufficiency, but be stuck in limbo at home, or living apart with constant managing from Jeff and me, when he desires complete independence. Seeing Charlie succeed, and yearn for more success heartens me. He tries so hard, and it’s working. His eternal nature is, like Jack’s, sunny. And determined. Curious. Unflagging. Willing.

I’m sure I will experience withdrawal once my children don’t need me all the time. But at this moment, I need to believe that I won’t always be standing beneath them, figuratively holding a net on the chance that they fall.

My baby begins kindergarten next week—a milestone I never actually thought would arrive. The years after Truman’s birth, and before Jack’s placement this spring sandblasted me. Any part of me resembling the old Megan sloughed off. I grew new skin, but not before finding myself raw and weeping as disabilities parenting peeled me away in layers.

My friend Liz recently said to me that when raising children, “zero to five lasts forever,” which summed up parenting small people, at least for jaded people like me, with an economy of words.

We then agreed that the years twelve to eighteen go by in a blink.

I look at my university students and see them not so much as grown ups but as somebody’s recent teen. They are darling and I love them already.

Motherhood did this to me.

Foolishly Optimistic

I have been awake since 4 am, because it’s the first day of school: my own (returning as a university writing instructor) and two of my children’s (as students). This is how anxiety manifests in me—sleepless early mornings.

I’m sorry if you’re sorry to see summer end. But I’m personally okay with it because I love the fall and we (meaning, my family) all do better with routines. If you give our days structure, we flourish, me included.

For the first time ever, I am not putting Jack on the bus for his first day. He will begin 8th grade this week in a different town, in a different school district. I shipped him a new backpack, size 14 Birkenstocks (men’s, clodhoppers, whoa!), a few of his favorite stretchy shorts, and some Star Wars t-shirts. I am doing my part from a distance. I think I’ll text his caregivers and ask for a back-to-school pic.

I don’t feel sad about Jack starting school in his new town. I’m excited for the fresh start. This could be my own Pollyanna-ish love for new school years and new school clothes and the chance to start over again.

But even if I’m foolishly optimistic at the start of a new school year, the fact remains: stagnation is bad. I prefer progress and growth. I can see now that we had reached a point of stagnation in the last couple of years with Jack at home with us. He wasn’t progressing, despite all our efforts. He needed a new setting, new routines, new people, new environment. Now he has it, and he has made progress in his new town and new home. He is less violent, more verbal, wears underwear and socks (score!), and eats almost everything. The beige “carbivore” diet is gone.

His caregivers moved Jack and his housemate to a different house on the outskirts of town. It’s bigger, newer, and sits on a large lot with flowers, grass, and fruit trees. It’s a good place for being outside, which is Jack’s favorite thing. His new school is a short drive through town, and is the right setting for Jack’s learning needs.

Every one of my children is attending a new school this year, and I feel elated, if also terrified that they (with autism and anxiety) will be swallowed whole.

I’m also teaching a new curriculum this year at the University and feel the same sense of newness. I’m at the cusp of good things, too.

We are moving onward.

Summer of Change

I’ve had a trying week for various reasons. Long story short, just days before the first day of school, we had to move our 4th grader to a new school. It was unexpected, but necessary. It stressed the heck out of me, but it was the right move and I’m peaceful about it.

The last week of summer is the hardest for me, because I am getting my teaching materials ready and driving to the university for faculty meetings and such, but my kids are still home, and they still need all the same things they’ve needed all summer when I was able to be fully present.

Lots of people mourn the end of summer, but I love fall, and back-to-school is particularly delicious for school nerds like me. I’m happy for the change, but the transition is anxiety-producing for the people in my family.

This summer has been complex. We have been able to travel more than any other summer ever. We have begun to make slow and steady progress on repairing our beat-up house. We have had far more daily downtime and peacefulness.

We have also been mourning the loss of Jack as a member of our household. This has not been an easy thing. Grief has been my weary companion this summer. I’ve floated on a river of sadness, letting the change in our family wash over me and through me. I’ve let myself feel the trauma of not having my special-needs thirteen-year-old at home. I’ve opened myself to all the hurt and all the emotion.

So this summer has been extraordinary, but also incredibly hard.

Jack left our home for full-time care.

Home life stopped being a constant hurricane.

We took vacations.

I turned 40.

Henry started driving.

We missed Jack.

We felt empty sometimes.

We grieved.

Jeff and I celebrated 20 years of marriage.

All 4 of my kids are attending new schools this year.

We have experienced change and are bracing for more.

I went to the temple this afternoon in an effort to dial down my own anxiety. It worked. It worked so well that I came home and passed out on my bed for two hours.

The moral of this story is, I suppose, ask God for comfort when you need it, eat a chocolate shake (which I also did today), and take a nap for Pete’s sake.

Life will look better. It just will.

Being Human

As part of our Celebrate Twenty-Years of Marriage Getaway, I got a pedicure this afternoon. This is how it went down.

A. As the nail tech removed the old shellac from my toes to make way for the new, the two women sitting to my left, who were getting their own pedicures, had a conversation.

B. Tan Woman in Shorts asked Brunette Woman with Bangs if her classroom was ready for the beginning of the school year this coming week. Brunette Woman with Bangs explained that preparing for the school year has been busy because she is moving from teaching mild-moderate special ed to severe-with-behaviors.

C. Tan Woman in Shorts, also a teacher (1st grade, with a fair number of students with IEP’s; I know this because she told Brunette Woman with Bangs about it), upon hearing that the other woman was choosing to move to a class with extreme behaviors, said, “Oh wow! Why?”

D. I felt my body freeze into a human shaped column of tension. If these two women, roughly my same age and both working in the field of special education, started railing against badly-behaved students or “bad” parents who “teach” their disabled children to behave badly or the perils of teaching “the worst of the worst” as far as behaviors are concerned, I was going to harden into a lump of clay, and bake in the desert heat into an empty sandstone replica of a woman. “I will not be able to sit here and do this,” I thought. “If the judgment and the unknowing condemnation emerge, this pedicure, this afternoon, and possibly this vacation are going to turn into a cluster cuss of sadness.” Then I thought, “Okeydokey, apparently I am more fragile than I currently realize.”

E. Tan Woman in Shorts repeated that the Brunette Woman with Bangs’s workload would surely increase (although Brunette Woman pointed out that she has 8 paras—para-educators, or teacher’s aides for special needs classrooms—to help with the various needs of the “behavior” students). Tan Woman used the word “crazy” several times when suggesting that Brunette Woman’s teaching prep and classroom management would be quite different this year.

F. And then. This. Brunette Woman said she chose this teaching load because she needed a change. She sounded hopeful. Positive. Capable.

G. Both women began discussing their own children, and the balancing act of being teachers for other people’s children, while managing their own kids’ needs.

H. Meanwhile, the nail techs and Tan Woman in Shorts began to discuss acceptance of teens and tweens who aren’t religious in this mostly religious community.

I. Nail Tech with Vibrant Red Topknot described moving to this area in middle school and finding a lack of acceptance. Tan Woman said her sons sometimes struggle to fit in as outsiders in this area’s social culture. Petite Middle-Aged Nail Tech explained that her experience has been different. Her two teen daughters, Asian, not Mormon, and with a single mother, have been embraced and accepted by their peers. Petite Nail Tech said they have great friends and participate in sports and cheer in their high school.

J. Between reading snatches of my book (The Thing About Jellyfish, a lovely and heartbreaking YA novel by Ali Benjamin, which features a protagonist who doesn’t fit in, who sees the world differently, who can’t be cool or popular because she is quite unique and a lot like my third son in many ways), I watched the nail salon tableau play out around me.

K. Brunette Woman’s pedicure was finished at this point, so she moved across the room for a manicure. She told the nail tech that this was her birthday treat to herself, and that she felt incredibly relaxed.

L. I exhaled and dropped my inward defenses. Brunette Woman chooses to work with the difficult kids. She has a large family through a yours-mine-ours blended situation since she remarried, following the death of her husband, a few years ago (you learn lots about people at the nail salon, see).

M. I went from being a live wire of grief and defensiveness to being a woman who saw another woman for who she is: a complex, real person with sadness and challenges and gifts and abilities. I saw her as a competent, calm, and rather amazing person.

N. I felt great gratitude to this stranger for not saying unintentionally mean things about special-needs kids who behave badly because it’s a function of their disability. I was grateful to her for choosing to work in the field, and for not shying away from the hard ones.

O. I felt compassion for a woman who has experienced great loss herself, though in a different way than me. I felt admiration for her ability to move forward and do so much, while staying positive.

P. This is what ran through my mind: “We all struggle. We all have that which makes us feel other. We all are sometimes lonely and misunderstood. We all are sometimes overwhelmed.”

Q. Then, I thought this: “We aren’t so different. We just feel that we are. The trappings of our lives make us seem different. Inside, we’re just humans. All of us. We have more in common than a surface-y look might reveal.”

R. I could’ve joined in the discussion with the women around me. I could have told them about Jack and Charlie and Truman. I could have led the conversation with my tale of navigating the IEP from the other end of the conference table, and floored them with horror stories of parenting that lies on the fringe because it’s wildly not typical. 

S. But I didn’t want to speak. I am emotional about lots of topics these days (clearly), and it’s occasionally refreshing to fly under the radar, among people who don’t know that I’ve spent many a public outing and school behavior intervention meeting being the lightning rod for my children’s problems in positively interfacing with the world.

T. So I didn’t speak. Except to tell the nail tech that the water temperature was fine. And to say thank you when she finished.

U. I left with a sense of my eyes having been opened—to other people and their personal tales of woe. None of the women in that salon came in there looking like sad pandas. But I saw that they carry hidden grief with them. That we all do.

V. I felt that God showed all of this to me to help me hold on to the soul-deepening compassion my boys have brought into my life.

W. I felt humbled.

X. Being quiet can teach one a good deal.

Y. Being thankful empties fear from one’s life.

Z. Being human gives us a vast common ground from which to begin.

 

Plays! Plays! Plays!

In celebration of being married FOR TWENTY YEARS, PEOPLE, Jeff and I are on a getaway in our favorite desert oasis, with the express purpose of seeing plays. I am not speaking hyperbole when I say I have yearned for years to go see some Shakespeare and some musical theater, which since we became special-needs parents, has been one of many a pipe dream. Going to shows was for people with normal lives. By definition, that didn’t include us.

I’m an English teacher, a former English major/graduate student, a bibliophile, a Shakespeare junkie, and also a big nerd when it comes to LOVING musicals. So when I said to Jeff earlier in the summer, “For our 20th anniversary, I just want to go to the Shakespearean Festival. That’s it. It’s all I want,” and he responded, “Sounds good to me,” I knew that he was (and is) my perfect match. Not because he loves books, Shakespeare, or musicals like I do, mind you, but because he loves me, and because he is flexible. And now we can do this sort of thing because Jack has full-time care.

Thus far, we’ve seen Newsies, Guys & Dolls, and (because we had extra time today) Dunkirk (not Shakespeare or a musical, obviously). Tonight we see As You Like It, and tomorrow, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I have finished reading two books on this trip, too. I feel quite accomplished. I think we may try to squeeze in another movie before we go home, because this diet of live theater + print/film media consumption is totally my jam.

I love stories. I just LOVE them.

Newsies took me back to high school, when Christian Bale was the hot thing singing about seizing the day and Santa Fe. We saw it beneath the stars and I wanted to do a song and dance number about the fact that I was at a live musical and no kids of mine were there to wreck it, huzzah!

Guys & Dolls was some kind of time capsule for an era when men wore fedoras and women were referred to as dolls, etc. We saw a Thursday matinee, which meant it was me, Jeff, and a theater otherwise comprised of retirees. The line of walkers and other assistive mobility devices outside the door to the orchestra section looked like the rows of strollers outside the rides at Disneyland.

Watching Dunkirk this afternoon was, for real, a spiritual experience for me. I was awash with emotion which culminated in this thought thread: Life calls us to do big, scary, deadly things. Our job is to do them. Whatever the outcome. We are here to do what life calls us to do. We may only be small humans with limited abilities and influence, but that doesn’t matter. God knows what we can do, and we can prove our bravery to him. Also, wow, the heroism and humanity and sacrifice amid war. And I inevitably envisioned my teen son being caught up in such fraught scenarios. Those soldiers were kids, and they saw and experienced horrifying things. Again, because we saw a Friday matinee, it was us and the retired folk. They were a respectful crowd. I was a weepy young(ish) thing.

Tonight, it’s Shakespeare, and I’m jazzed. The Bard’s plays are a) pure genius, and b) a workout for my brain, and a feast for my language-loving self.

A few more thoughts on having been married twenty years:

  1. Life actually does move pretty fast. Even when it’s like slogging through molasses or trudging through a snowy/prickly ice field, the overall passage of time is far faster than one might expect.
  2. I’m glad I’m not twenty anymore. My back hurts more now, and my metabolism isn’t what it once was, but I know a lot more now than I did then. In no way would I want to go back. Twenty years later is much, much better. Forty is vastly preferable to twenty.
  3. It’s a gift to be with someone through so much hardship. Jeff and I grew together. We have worked together. We raised Jack together for thirteen years—an incredible feat. I think God gave us each other before he gave us Jack, because he knew we would need this partnership to carry our family through the whirlwind of disabilities parenting.