What I Read Last Year//2015

Reading2015(2) Last year was not my heaviest reading year, as many nights I preferred to fall asleep binge watching Midsommer Murders or Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries on Netflix. But despite my wanderings into the world of foreign murder mystery dramas, I did read some excellent works, the clear standout being the last book I read this past year, All the Light We Cannot See. I think I am still processing Doerr's intensely beautiful poetic prose. The other books that made the year were Book of Hours, which is a collection of poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke translated from his native German to English, just so good, so good, so good. My best friend gifted me Rifle Paper Co's edition of the young adult classic, Heidi, and I fell in love with that story all over again. My Mum mailed me the little gem, 84 Charing Cross Road, and I was instantly wrapped up in the correspondence of this English bookstore proprietor and American editor, and ended up in tears. One of my close friends demanded I read Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore and I was more than happy to oblige. Mr. Penumbra is a smart, funny, magical look at the collision of two worlds; high tech and good ol' fashioned paper books. The Shining Girls, The Legacy of Luna, The Alchemist, and Night Train to Lisbon were all from a summer book club where we all submitted titles and pulled them from a jar. I liked parts of all of them, but I didn't love any of them. Night Train was well written and did draw me into its mysterious story. Yes, Please was fun and holds lots of little nuggets of Amy Poehler wisdom,  I wanted to kiss her for writing  "The legacy of my generation will be that we have truly expanded the idea of what “family” means." And in a perfect little cabin on Lake Superior's North Shore, I was enraptured by Edna St. Vincent Millay's poems, especially Renascence and Tavern.

Edit (1/13/16): I totally forgot to put Flora & Ulysses on this list, and it was one of my favorite books of the year! It was the first Kate DiCamillo book I've read and I was delighted to find her a kindred spirit and brilliant children's lit writer. She even quoted my favorite Rilke poem in this story. You must read it at once. Seal Blubber!

What did you read this year? What were your favorites? What made an impact on your year?

PS. Stay tuned for my 2016 Reading List...

Redeeming the Fall

Fall is here. It has come slowly and a bit late, in fits and spurts. Maybe that was the best way for it to come this year. Maybe I needed to be eased into it, my most beloved of seasons. I usually want fall to come early and stay late with her dipping temperatures, mischievous winds, and bright burning leaves, slowly fading into sparkly Christmastime. But this year I am a bit nervous about the advent of Fall. I am afraid that it will be different. I am afraid that everything I love about it will be a reminder of "this time last year.” Many terrible and wonderful thoughts begin with “this time last year.” This time last year I got some bad news, devastating news that began the hardest time of my life. And so, I am afraid that each hallmark of the season will bring a cascade of memories I don't want to remember. I don’t want my beloved weeks of crisp, dusky Autumn and the start of the holidays to be take on a new dismal association of my darkest time. IMG_5860I am afraid hiking on my favorite trail cocooned in multicolored leaves will bring up the thought “this time last year” I was oblivious to the impending doom coming my way. I am afraid the glowing pumpkin faces will suck me into a rabbit hole of reliving that first terrible phone call that came on Halloween, sitting alone in a dark empty room in my office trying to hear what the nurse was saying to me, but just feeling swallowed up. Of wanting to believe the words of hope my friend and coworker whispered to me as she held me tight in the hallway. I am afraid that putting up my spooky Halloween decorations will suck me into that first night of going trick or treating with our best friends and their little boys, waiting until the kids were in bed to tell our friends our news as I sat shivering on their sofa. I am afraid that donning my trench coat on a delicious late autumn morning will yank my mind back to that doctor’s office where we were given hope only to have it smashed to bits a couple months later, in that same damn room, in that same damn chair. I don’t even want to drive by that hospital.

I don’t want to remember my grief and anxiety. I don’t want to remember “infertility,” like a thudding permanent black stamp on our life. I don't want to remember how no one had to say the words “you can't have a biological baby with your husband," they were said in different words, awful test result words. I don’t want to remember how I couldn't cope with that. How I couldn't find hope. How I couldn't wrap my brain around our "other options." How I would impulsively search the internet for an uplifting answer, but it would crush me in an instant. How I first tried everything “natural” to beat my crippling anxiety; counseling and cardio and yoga and prayer and cutting out caffeine and eating well, which are all good and helpful, but why did I wait so long to ALSO try the medication?

I don’t want to remember how I wouldn't let my husband take me home from his parents’ house all Thanksgiving weekend because I was terrified to go back to our quiet apartment and be swallowed up with the emptiness of it. How I called my mum crying so many times; before work, after work, before going out to shop for Christmas presents. I don’t want to remember how I felt abandoned by God,  alone in the darkness crying out "Where the hell are you?”

I confessed this fear of remembering to my friend, this fear that my favorite time of year would be tainted, and she said something to me like, “but we can redeem this season because now you have so much hope!” So I’ve written down here these fears of remembering the memories I don’t want to remember. I’ve put them here on virtual paper for myself, for you, for the universe, and for God. The sorrow of this loss, of infertility, will always be with me, and there are many moments and days when I still feel sad or anxious. But I have waded through the dark stormy waves of grief and anxiety and have come to a peaceful place where I do have so much hope, as my friend reminded me. So maybe, just maybe, I can leave these bad memories here. Maybe when those inevitable “this time last year” thoughts start to taunt me (because they will), I can overpower them with the bittersweet memories from last Fall instead.

Maybe our autumn hike will remind me that “this time last year” I sat at my best friend’s table on so many purple twilight evenings after work while she made me tea, told me she loved me, and held me while I cried. Maybe the jack-o-lanterns will remind me that “this time last year” my bosses became this source of love and support, how they hugged me, and encouraged me, and still believed in me. Maybe the delightfully spooky decor will remind me of the simple words my incredible husband said to my tear-streaked face after I confessed a string of fears brought on by one of my "google" episodes, “our kids will love you, we can do this!” How those simple words carried me for weeks because they came from him. Maybe the crisp late Autumn mornings crunching leaves under foot will remind me of “this time last year” when I started listing things I was thankful for, like a sunset, birds swooping over downtown, a note from a friend, meals with family, first on paper, then as a sort-of prayer on sleepless nights. Maybe Thanksgiving will remind me that “this time last year” began the unending stream of hope, support, and love that our family, friends, and co-workers continue to give us. That that unending stream of love from people in our daily lives was my answer from God, whispered gently, “this is where I am.”

Maybe the first drifting snowflakes will remind me of “this time last year” when hope started to flare up like little candle flames in the darkness of my spirit. A hope that said, "we will still have a family, even if we don’t yet know how, even if it happens differently than we thought." I wouldn’t mind remembering that bittersweet stuff. And maybe, just maybe, that bittersweet stuff from last year and our new hope and plans for our future years will redeem this Fall. I think it's already working.

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