A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza follows Layla and Rafiq as they immigrate from India and make a life in America. They raise their children Hadia, Huda and Amar with all the opportunities that America affords while instilling in them a reverence for their Muslim faith. Mirza writes the relationships between the siblings so beautifully and memorably. This is a first novel by a young writer: I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Sing, Unburied, Sing. Jesmyn Ward. I read this twice this year, once for myself and once for the store book club. I loved it both times. A powerful multi-generational family story set in the American South. It’s part road trip novel, part ghost story.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Gail Honeyman. I was skeptical about this book (Reese Witherspoon Book Club?) but I took it on vacation with me in June and loved the character of Eleanor. Deeply weird in just the right way, this is our top pick at the store when readers want a happy but not dumb novel.
Educated by Tara Westover is a gripping, beautifully told account of growing up in a fundamentalist, survivalist Mormon family. Westover is thoughtful and has done the work. I loved her rumination on what it means to be “educated”. A truly unforgettable memoir.
Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany. Jane Mount. I met Jane when we lived in New York – she painted a custom Ideal Bookshelf for me. Fast forward ten years and Browsers is in her newest book! She painted the store and I wrote a little paragraph on Middlemarch. Jane came to the store in September and it was just the best.
I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life. Anne Bogel. I have read and collected books about books my entire adult life and how thrilling it is to have a personal connection to this slim, perfect book of readerly essays by podcaster and blogger Anne Bogle. She also came to the store in early October – a dream come true!
If I had a penny for every time I said I wanted to write on my blog more, I would have at least dollar by now. But truly, I am more thoughtful when I *do* write here. The pace of the store has doubled in the last year but I am finding how necessary it is for me to remain rooted in certain practices at home. Reading, puttering, cooking, and yes, writing a little.
Oof. So there goes my string of daily participation in the 100 Day Project. I think I will just number these until #100 – even if it’s not quite a daily thing. Weekends are hard. I have so many expectations – I am going to do it all! – but there’s still a lot going on. And sometimes, reading a book for an hour is just a better choice all around.
The whole weekend was a bit of a blur – the electrician is making progress at the store and I spent a lot of time down at the shop deciding on pendant lengths and other practical lighting choices. Cate had her first soccer game and she did great. I think she’s decided defense is her thing and she’s motivated. Telfer and I had three other couples from the girls’ school – all parents we like so much – over for a dinner party on Saturday night. No kids! It was such a highlight – good food, good wine, good conversation. These are all people we have wanted to get to know more. After everyone left, Telfer and I were chatting and doing the dishes while George lurked by the stairs, watching us intently. He was basically asking, “can I sleep with you guys?” Yes, George, you can.
Spring Break is over and it’s back to school for the girls. We’ve had a smooth transition. Telfer has been in meetings tonight but the girls and I had such a sweet afternoon leading into dinner and bedtime. They played while I did all my March accounting and then after dinner, we read a bit of our current read-aloud: James and the Giant Peach. A good day.
It’s already the Friday of Spring Break. I went to the girls’ performance of Snew White at 3:15 and afterwards, I had surprise reservations at our local pottery-painting place. They love painting – Cate painted an arrow wall plaque and Jane painted a round box that will indubitably be full of “treasure.” I am so not up for painting anything but I am such a good chatter and general helper – I hold box lids and consult on color choice. Daddy made a surprise appearance and all is well.
The performance was so fun. This was a fractured fairy tale so as you can tell by the title, Snew White had some…tweaks. Cate was a dwarf – “Cleany”, complete with a beard and broom. Jane was the Evil Queen’s servant. Cate was really funny and into her role – she talked about her props and costumes all week and did such a great job. Jane was the youngest performer and had a lot of lines and played it so straight to who she is. I loved seeing them experience something totally different this week.
Telfer picked up the DVD of The Last Jedi tonight and the three of them are cozily watching it together in our den. I can hear all the dramatic bits all the way upstairs in my office. Telfer just brought me a glass of wine and I am contemplating what book to start. A lovely end to the week.
It’s been a soggy day, not a bad day, but to be truthful, not a great one either. Much of the day was spent on quotidian tasks and dealing with low-grade technology issues but I did meet with the lighting specialist and the electrician. Here’s an amazing thing: the lights that work best for our back room are in stock and relatively inexpensive. So progress. By this weekend much of the lighting will be up. And by tomorrow night, most of the painting will be done.
One of the things about spending 100 days noticing your life is that not every day, not nearly every day, will be an easy day with a perfect moment to share. So on this dreary, rainy day, I took a picture of some stellar soup I had for lunch (vegan sweet potato, kale and peanut soup with just the right amount of heat) but the lighting was poor. Telfer and Cate and I had a quick early dinner at our favorite pizza place but Cate wasn’t in the space where taking her picture was a good idea.
When I first got home, in the early evening, Telfer and I sat at the table and chatted while we both finished up a bit of work. I looked over to see this huge calendar (from 1canoe2) on our kitchen wall and thought yes, this is what I am noticing and calling out today. Sometimes beautiful paper products can be the bright spot. It’s not shallow, it’s noticing what makes your home feel like your home. This calendar fills an empty wall in such an exact, “you-belong-here!” sort of way. I love having calendars that I change every month (we also have this one). The act of changing the pages is almost a ritual for me; it marks time in a concrete way.
It’s Spring Break. For the last couple of years during SB, I have worked less than normal, bringing the girls with me to the store for a limited amount of time each day. This year with the construction project, there’s really nowhere for them to play and there are no railings upstairs. Safety first: I signed them up for a drama camp at the Olympia Family Theater (I am a board member). They are doing a show for the parents on Friday (Snew White) but from what I can tell, there is a whole lot of singing The Greatest Showman. This afternoon, I brought them back to the store for a few minutes before their regular Wednesday babysitter picked them up.
Cate walks in the store, finds the book she was reading the last time she was here, sits down, and is completely sucked into the story. Jane wants me to go to the bathroom with her, she wants to see my cleaned-off desk, she wants to see if there are any snacks in the drawers (no), she wants to see what the workers are doing. The girls are so, so different. I enjoy and love both their approaches. One of my favorite things about parenting two children is I am a different mother to each child. They need different things from me. The connections are different. The tender spots are different. They are each having a unique, singular childhood.
One other story: A new para-educator started in Jane’s class in January. She’s a customer of the store so I know her a little. It took her three months before she realized that Cate and Jane were actually sisters, not just friends. They look nothing alike! I do love that she noticed they were friends before she knew they are sisters.
I hesitate to mention this but I am thinking (more than thinking) about participating in the #100DayProject. The idea is to pursue a creative project for 100 days from April 3 to July 11. The working title for my project is 100 Days of Noticing. I am so much more in my life if I am writing about it. I am planning to elaborate on a photograph here on the blog and then post an abbreviated version on my personal instagram account @andreaygriffith. No pressure to read every day or to even care, but writing this is how I am cementing my participation. This is day 2.