Monday, October 16, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Home Sweet Home

Every once in a while, we go looking at houses that catch our eye, because we can't quite decide what to do with ours. Most recently, last weekend (well, the weekend before this one) we went to see a house that seemed absolutely perfect from the listing -- it had ALL THE THINGS (a porch, a private looking backyard, a newer kitchen, a finished attic, a first floor laundry, three bedrooms, office space for both of us, and a kickass location where you could walk to a village and a library and shopping and a movie theater and also the canal path). It really looked amazing.

The key word is "looked." After we saw it in person, we could see all the things that were awful -- the backyard was private to the back but woefully open and viewable from the sides (and one neighbor was exceedingly creepy); the basement had two sump pumps and a water track; the kitchen was newer but in disrepair; the rooms were as small as our rooms; the closet space was nonexistent; the awesome giant garage addition was offset weird and the bonus room space was only accessible from the second floor bathroom window (!); the basement smelled as though it was saturated in cat piss; the porch was also in disrepair -- this was not a house that was loved.

We need a house that is loved. And, quite honestly, we love our house.

So why do we keep looking?

I always thought that if we ended our journey childfree, that I'd want to move. That I'd want a house that was free of counters that had seen injections, free of space that had seen mourning over losses, free of ever having had a nursery that we put together (and then tore down).

Except... we redid our kitchen, so the counters are new. We bought all new living furniture, so the couch that held me wailing is gone and replaced with more joyful upholstery. The nursery was transformed into my office, which is definitely one of my favorite places in the house -- not at all tainted by what it once was.

We made a big list after this last house coveting adventure, and decided that we can make a first floor laundry for this house, and we can try to get a 4-season sunroom/family room addition on the back. Our needs have changed since we last looked at an addition and we don't need to do a two-story jobbie. We love our neighborhood. We love our neighbors. We love our gardens and outdoor spaces. We love our kitchen, and living room, and offices, and bedroom... every time we look at another house we always end up feeling like our house is somehow better.

Because it is. And keeping it will give us greater financial flexibility -- buying a new house would be definitively more expensive than what we have now (and what we have now is 15 years down on a 30 year mortgage, and the possibility of paying the whole thing off sooner than later), and if we stay here we could have the flexibility to travel more (and do it up), to look into the possibility of a lake cottage or something down the line, and to have the glory of not overextended ourselves for a house that has more space than we ultimately need.

So is it because we want a change somehow? Are we putting our want for a new direction into the wrong place? It's possible. It's strange to have been in this place of striving for something that didn't come, and now to be like, "um, now what?"

It's nice though to realize that we don't have to move to find that fulfillment, that we can enjoy what we have and make it even better and then decide where we want to go from here, knowing that we have our home sweet home.

All decked out for the season, loving the fall light

Love our home! Heh heh heh
Want to read more #Microblog Mondays, maybe ones that are actually playing by the rules and are micro? Go here and enjoy!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

And Do You Have Kids?

All ready to be fancy for the night


Bryce and I went to a ball Friday night. It was in the gussied-up fieldhouse of the college where he went and is pursuing his doctorate, and it was the President's Alumni Ball -- we were invited through corporate relations, and we knew pretty much NO ONE at this event. But, I mean, how often do you get to go to a ball?

There were some really awesome things -- a bhangra dance performance, an all-male a capella group that serenaded us hilariously as we walked in the orange carpet and then solemnly sang the alma mater song after the bhangra dances, free wine (that may or may not have been a good thing), entirely gluten free entrees (but not so much with the hors d'oeuvres or desserts), and after dinner and presentations you had a choice -- dance, or play at the ginormous arcade setup they had ringing the cocktail area. We played pinball machines, shot millipedes from tiny spaceships, shot dinosaurs in a Jurassic Park jeep thingie and I raced Bryce on a motorcycle in my fancy-ish dress, which wasn't very ladylike but whatever. It was fun.

At dinner, we sat with the corporate relations people and a few other corporate-y people who were alumni. Once we sat down and you could chat, it became clear that everyone there had something in common -- three or more kids. In high school, or college, or the military, but it IMMEDIATELY went to "as a mom" type statements and "treasure the days" and "poor guy, all we had was three girls" type ilk. I may have drained a glass in one sitting during that small talk, leaving my delicious short rib without accompaniment. Whoops.

And sure enough, one of the people turned to us and said, "And do you have little kids at home?" I guess I should feel a little better that we appeared clearly younger, and even though I knew, just KNEW that going to an event where you're going to be sitting with strangers this would come up, I felt a little stuttery.

"No, that didn't work out for us." (Not a bad answer, right?)
"Oh, I'm sorry."

And then I had this strange feeling that I needed to make the person feel better, because I inexplicably said, "Thanks, but you know, we love kids, and I'm a teacher."

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? I mean, it was good because it deflected the conversation and it turns out that he has kids at my middle school, but why did I feel like I had to soften things? And I HATE it when other people say "Well, you're a teacher, so it's like they're all your kids" because in what universe is a good consolation prize a ton of 13 year olds? And wouldn't it be kind of inappropriate if I Mom'd my students, like the worst kind of boundary-crossing? That's not my role. It's a nurturing role for sure, but it doesn't replace the fact that I won't have children of my own to raise. So why would I have basically made that connection FOR someone?

Desperation, probably.

Eventually the discussion wound its way back and the gentlemen who opened Pandora's Box let me know that he and his wife had a hard time, as well, and they weren't willing to consider adoption because the process just seemed so heartbreaking and difficult. So I shared that yeah, we tried with IVF for over 5 years and then spent 2 1/2 years in the adoption process, and it sure as shit is heartbreaking and difficult and the toll for us was too great. And then he said,

"But you never know what could happen -- we ended up pregnant unexpectedly and then were shocked when we got pregnant again -- anything can happen!"

And I let that go. I just said, "We decided that we are enough as a family of two and we'll put our energies into that life" and, despite the free-flowing cabernet sauvignon, I did not tell the tale of woeful biology and broken body parts and the complete impossibility of ever having a whoops pregnancy. I think sometimes people feel better if they think that they've given you hope, even though for us hope came finally in the letting go of that possibility so we could focus on the rest of our life.

In the end we had a great night out together and didn't feel like sad saps at all. We went home to our cats and didn't have to pay a babysitter and drive him or her home...we could just get into pajamas and have some tea and go to bed. It doesn't take away from our grief to enjoy the life we actually have, even when we're reminded that things didn't turn out quite the way we'd hoped during dreadful small talk with strangers.


Monday, October 9, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: "As A Mother," Fixed



I was listening to NPR the other day, and they were interviewing a woman who kept trying to help out in Las Vegas. She said that she tried to give blood, but they were set for the time being, she asked if she could bring snacks or water or anything to the first responders/hospital staff, and was told to try again later. It's a wonderful thing, seeing how such abject tragedy can be met with incredible human spirit and a desire to help and come together.

As they interviewed her, she said, "As a mother..."

and I groaned inwardly and rolled my eyes. Because of course, only a mother can feel the pain of tragedy, only a mother can be truly scared of the current state of the world for the sake of her children, only a mother REALLY has a stake in humanity or has something to live for when bad things happen.

But then...

"As a mother, wait. As a sister, a daughter, a niece, an aunt...you just want to make it better, you just want to help where you can do something [or something along those lines, forgot the exact wording]."

And just like that, a statement that instantly creates a divide between women who are (implicitly) more capable of nurturing and caring and feeling a responsibility for the state of humanity for the future and women who are childless and so perceived as somehow less invested, that statement was instantly much more inclusive; she was speaking as a WOMAN and not a MOTHER, because she recognized even in the midst of horrible tragedy that they aren't always the same thing but that we can all be equally concerned and helpful.

Thanks, lady on NPR.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Rethinking My Tattoo

A while ago I was thinking on a tattoo that would represent my infertility journey.

I haven't gotten it yet, as I like to really think on tattoos before getting them since getting one I totally regret in my mid-twenties that is now covered with a nice, badass dragon.

Love this guy. Irritated that the stupid effing monkey is popping through a bit, but that's nothing a little more black ink can't fix... And maybe it's okay that you can see it swallowed by the dragon. Heh. 

I don't regret the dragon. I don't regret the snake I got when I was 24.

She's above my right ankle, on the inside. Love her. 

I really wanted to think on what I want to get next, since I plan on it being fairly large and intricate, covering my left shoulder/back.

My original thought was a dandelion with fluffies that represented all 35 of our embryos, 2 fluffies replaced with monarch butterflies to represent our pregnancy losses, and 8 fluffies headed in a westerly direction to represent the 8 embryos that went to the couple who adopted them through Snowflakes.

Except.

Do I want to map my back out with all my losses? I mean, I carry them with me everywhere I go anyway, so is that really necessary?

I decided, no. No it's not.

I'd rather focus on how I've emerged from this journey than be mired in the muck, beautifully symbolic as it could be with the dandelion and the butterflies. This was a decision that may also have been influenced by the first set of our embryos failing with the couple despite a new uterus. That's nothing but sadness and wishes that were left unfulfilled.

So here's the new idea: 

I want a phoenix, and instead of flames (or maybe in addition to flames), there are orange monarchs. Or maybe monarchs incorporated into the phoenix. I want the phoenix in black, and the flames/monarchs in color. And I want it across my left shoulder. I have a secret Pinterest board, and I have been pinning ideas like mad over the past couple days. I think I'm ready to take the plunge and have this go from conceptual to actual.

Because I'm a phoenix, rising from the ashes of a failed journey to parenthood to redefine my life. I'm forever marked by my experiences, but I can rise up and create beauty from the fire. It's got metamorphoses, transition, pain, and beauty all in one.

Here's some designs I liked a lot, lifted from Pinterest, and just replace the butterflies with monarchs and add some flames:

Like the incorporation of the butterflies into the phoenix, but the bird itself is a bit simple for my tastes. (image saved from "OnSugar" on Pinterest)
I like the design of this phoenix better, but flipped to the left (since left shoulder placement), and add in the butterfly(ies) somewhere and flames below.  (Image saved by "Loredana Pacello" on Pinterest, no other credit could I find)
And finally, this is the butterfly I found that I liked, color and everything. Don't mind the music either, but that's another tattoo for another day... (saved from "kooltattoideas.com" on Pinterest)

I think this might be my Christmas present to myself. Now to go book an appointment over a long weekend...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Strengthening the Ghosts

School has been very busy lately. Good busy--it's a great year so far with a really sweet group of kids -- but I feel like I am never quite all the way on top of things. I'm not behind per se, but I wish there were a sneaky extra hour of the day in the middle where I could get some more paperwork done, or call parents, or finally print things out in one of just a couple color printers left in the building.

The other day I had two students up for lunch, and they chatted with me as they finished their food and got ready to do some math (and I was frantically putting together the lesson for Work Lab 9th period, since that is a total reactionary gig based on whatever needs reteaching from what we saw that day). These two students are very sweet and come up virtually every day, but they are genuinely working on stuff and asking for extra help, so how could I ever say no to that? For the sake of simplicity, let's call them George and Betty.

Here's what went down:

George says, "Do you have kids, Mrs. ___?"

"Nope, no I don't. We wanted them very, very badly, but it just never worked out no matter what we did."

"GEORGE! She totally told us this in her Who I Am thing at the beginning of the year! Jeez!" Betty was mortified.

"It's okay," I said.

"Well, did you have names all picked out?" George continued on, possibly missing out on some vital social cues.

Ah. Why yes, yes we did.

"We did, George. We did."

"Can you tell me what they were?" (Before you get mad at George, remember that my students often don't always have a great sense of what's appropriate, and it was actually  touching to have him be so interested.)

I pause. Could I do this without turning into goo?

"I don't see why not, it's not like they're ever going to be used by us." And so the prickly, burning feeling starts behind my eyes.

Because we never really told anyone our names. And with the names out there, the loss is somehow more palpable. It's like an odd sort of haunting -- with a name you can imagine what might have been, and there's this diaphanous ghostchild attached to it, a specter of what might have been, something more tangible than "Mystery Baby" or "Future Baby."

I told them the names.

And I did not cry. For which I do believe I should receive some kind of massive pat on the back, because I really felt like crying. And I did cry, later in the evening, when recounting the story.

Bryce was a little horrified, because the names have always been sacred. We've kept them so close for so long. And now they are just whispers in the wind, forever unattached to any actual humans. But then he understood. In telling the names, it's an honoring of our loss. It's a step of letting go, or really moving forward, since I don't want to let go all the way.

I can picture the possibilities that went with those names, even though they aren't going anywhere anymore.

And I think I can share them with you, now, to keep the ghosts alive, to strengthen the haunting in a good way.

If we'd had a girl, our top choice was Stella Rose. Stella for a bunch of reasons -- it means "star," it reminds me of Stellaluna, and it's also the name of a friend we hold dear. Rose for my grandmother, Rosemary.

Other girl choices were Audrey (in part because of Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks), Josephine (so we could have a Jo or a Josie, and it would remind me of Jo from Little Women and is a little off-the-beaten-path), I liked Charlotte so we could have a Charlie (and my dad's middle name is Charles), but then there was a little princess named Charlotte so that one fell to the bottom of the top choices list. A less-agreed upon name was Edith, one I loved (Hello! Edie is so cute...) but Bryce felt might be too old-fashioned. It was a good middle name choice though. That name has significance through my stepfather's family.

Another name that we'd considered was Emerson, to honor my grandfather (it was his middle name), and I loved it for a girl. But it didn't make the top of the list and then someone else in my family decided on that name, so it matters not.

Our top boy name was Dylan Gray. I've always loved the name Dylan -- it's got a lot of literary ooomph between Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan -- and no student has made me second think it. Gray is a family name on Bryce's side. But isn't that the most amazing name? No one is going to pick on Dylan Gray on the playground (at least we liked to think so). He'd be artsy and cool and not really care what other people thought. We had a whole backstory to Dylan Gray.

We didn't have as many alternative boy names, but William was a close second (Will, not Bill). Boy names were harder for some reason.

Family names are always hard because someone is always going to feel left out.

So I guess we can add that to our positives list for ending up childfree... we don't have to have any arguments about naming or hurt feelings that other family names just didn't resonate with us as much as the ones above.

Here's to Stella Rose and Dylan Gray, the babies we never had but who will always be a part of us. Here's to George for making me think on those names again and helping me to set them free.

Monday, September 25, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Old Photographs

Tomorrow is picture day -- another side effect of #teacherlife (as one of my new students loves to say) is that you NEVER escape picture day. I have to go in front of the school picture camera every year and try to convince them that while tipping my head down will eliminate glasses glare, it will also give me a couple new chins (I don't wear my glasses anymore for pictures), and this picture lives forever in the yearbook, for a few years on the Class Of __ plaques down in the main hall, and maybe for a little while on my Mom's fridge.

I usually show my kids my own 8th grade school picture as a cautionary tale -- I am wearing SWEATPANTS for one, for two, my henley shirt and my sweatpants are in matching pastels to the LASER background (oh 1989, you space age), I have a terrible short haircut (Dorothy Hamill I was not), and I'm smiling with my mouth closed to hide my braces.

I couldn't find it.

What I did find, however, was an envelope of old pictures of myself that my mom gave me while doing a purge at her house -- like REALLY old pictures, some of which I'd never seen before.

Going through them in detail was really neat, but it was also really sad.

No one is going to have those curls or gray-blue eyes passed down to them.

And who am I going to give these to when I clean out my house in my 60s? Who will care about my childhood photos, little snapshots of the late 1970s and early 1980s? It took something entertaining and gave it a decidedly morbid, morose tinge.

I'd like to share a few with you, so that they don't eventually end up disconnected to my own life, so that I can feel like they can have a little life of their own right now, since (hopefully much) later they may end up in a box that no one cares to have.

Me and my Popie, many moons ago. You might think I'm wearing legwarmers a little early for my time, but...
Those aren't legwarmers. I'm happy anyway, but do you see something odd about the stance of my legs? 
Yeah, that's a double cast, because the hurdles came early. I had congenital hip dislocation that wasn't detected until months later (the doctors scornfully told my young mom "all babies cry" as I kicked one leg and howled, but there was a reason!). I'm sure that was tons of fun for diaper changes. I'd never seen these photos until I was bequeathed the envelope. 
I love this photo -- look at that HAIR! This was two months before my sister was born. And the cast is gone! 
There's no notes or anything on these, but I'm thinking this is shortly after my sister was born, because of the crib. That truck thing is crazy. 
This is probably my favorite. Love the hair, love the pensive look, love the bellbottoms, love the ugly plaid couch that I totally remember. This one made me so happy and also so, so sad.
I actually used this one today for a question flood with my students. What is going on in this picture? Am I lost? Is there a polar bear to my right? I think I'm maybe 5 or 6 here, but again no notes so I'm not sure. Strange sort of Little Girl Lost shot, this one. 

Thanks for sharing in my old photographs and keeping them alive somehow; it makes me feel a little less sorry for myself.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Summer Reading Challenge

I absolutely love to read, and over each summer I aim to read at least 20 books. Except for last year, when the Summer Reading Challenge started.

Bryce bet that I couldn't read 30 books over the summer. Challenge, accepted.

And I "won," because last summer I read 32 books before the first day of school with kids. And I got to go out to a fancy dinner at a place where they serve you complimentary bubbly if you are celebrating something, and that something was reading more than 30 books in less than 10 weeks.

But this past summer, Bryce set the stakes even higher. He set them to 36 books. THIRTYSIX books. Um, I am a fast reader but I was nervous about that one. And as summer was drawing to a close and I hadn't yet read 25 books as of the end of August, I admitted defeat.

It's not just sour grapes, but I don't want to do the reading challenge anymore. (Definitely not because I ended up having to do cat boxes for four months straight as a result.)

The thing is, last summer was so very different from this summer. Last summer I was overwhelmed and, frankly, depressed, and so I did less and read more. I am all for reading, and it is my favorite thing to do to relax, but you read a heck of a lot more if you're not, say, out for hikes or actually gardening with some regularity or going for amazing two-week trips where you do things out and about all day. Last summer was very much an "insulate myself and get lost in other people's lives because my own is a bit of an exhausting mess" type of deal.

And this summer? This summer was our honeymoon. It was the beginning of our new reality. It was the summer of making my office out of a nursery, which was horribly difficult but also very cathartic all at once. I love that stupid room. I spend a lot of time there. It was a time of healing and getting together with friends and family and just trying to figure out...what now.

So reading, while still a big part of my summer (the count ended up at 26), wasn't quite as all-consuming. I think that's okay. It was a different summer, a new beginning, a rebirth of sorts, and that took an awful lot of energy.

The challenge actually stressed me out. It made me feel like I wasn't enjoying the reading time as much; I felt too often that I was just clocking hours. I'm all for goals, but this time I found myself not reading books that I wanted to because I wasn't sure if they'd afford me the time to read others within the parameters of the challenge due to length or complexity, and so I feel that I lost in more ways than one. It was fun last year, when I needed a distraction, but I think I like it better when I am in control of why I am reading, and how much.

I keep my lists on Google Keep for what I've read during the school year and each summer, as well as books I want to read. I love it, because I can easily tell you what I read and when. And I read some great books! Some were eh, but that's always the case. I'm proud of my list of 26 books, and feel a little freer knowing that I can read without parameters moving forward, that a challenge is fun but when it interferes with enjoyment...not worth it anymore. Plus I am so sick of doing the cat boxes. Ha.

In case you are interested, here is my list from this summer.

The Books of Summer 2017: 

1) The Raven King by Maggie Steifvater If you haven't read the Raven Cycle GO DO IT. It is SO good. This is the fourth and final book in the series. I cried when it was over, because it was such a great world to inhabit for a time.

2) The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud Loved this one for her voice, and maybe because I could relate to the main character in some ways. Great betrayal in here, too.

3) The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg Really good Swedish crime fiction. Super disturbing and twisty, a nice fast read.

4) The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix So many people I know read this last year, so I decided to give it a try. I loved it. What a great interweaving of stories, what a great dysfunctional family.

5) The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas LOVED this book. If you enjoyed All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely, you'll love this one too. Also reminiscent of Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Really thought-provoking, totally relevant to current events, and the second book this year to have me looking up interesting stuff on TuPac Shakur.

6) The Raft by S.A. Bodeen Same author as The Compound, a really disturbing YA novel, and this one was a plane crash/survival at sea story. Gripping, and I want credit for reading it less than two weeks from leaving on a plane to California.

7) When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi This was beautiful, and haunting, and a lot of reading about death from the perspective of a doctor and the perspective of someone who is actually dying. It made me feel very sad, and while it was worth reading, I felt perhaps it wasn't the best choice for summer.

8) How to Pack: Travel Smart for Any Trip by Hitha Palepu This was a birthday present from Bryce, and it was the BEST BOOK EVER for streamlining my packing for the trip. Some of her advice is a little wacky (like when to get your manicure and blowout pre-trip, or having girlfriends over to drink wine and help you pack), but because of this book I discovered packing cubes and the joys of a travel jewelry case, and it was a lot easier to fit everything in my bags and not be overwhelmed. Great little book.

9) And the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman I love Maira Kalman, and last year got The Principles of Uncertainty for Christmas from Bryce, and this one I found in a little shop in Rhinebeck, NY while visiting with my best friend. It was a bittersweet thing though, because it was written when President Obama was inaugurated and was all about the hope and optimism of everything and now I am NOT FEELING HOPE AND OPTIMISM when it comes to our leadership, and so I think I may have cried while reading this one (and not for When Breath Becomes Air, which is just odd). But the illustrations are gorgeous and the paper is heavy and glossy and her thoughts are so quirky and fill me with joy. Love her.

10) Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett Loved this book, a quirky coming of age story involving deadly sleepwalking and potentially deadly sleepeating. It was really, really good.

11) Commonwealth by Ann Patchett I love just about anything Ann Patchett does and am slowly making my way through all her books. This one was a new favorite, and I didn't throw it across the room by page 26 (unlike State of Wonder, which had an infertility subplot that was pretty pervasive).

12) The Nix by Nathan Hill This was recommended by the English teacher I work with, and he read it twice last year because it was a new favorite. It was so, so good. I loved the twists, I loved the un-like-ability of some (most) of the characters, I loved the arc of the story...it was just plain lovely. Highly recommend.

13) All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker Um, this one I struggled with. For lack of a better term, it was real rape-y. The concept was interesting -- a treatment is available for people who have sustained trauma of various types that allows them to forget the traumatic experience, but is it really the best thing? If it keeps you from remembering things that could bring your rapist to justice, is that okay? If you don't have memories of the trauma but you still have the aftermath of having sustained a horrific trauma, what good is that? Fascinating premise, but SO MUCH BRUTAL SEXUAL ASSAULT. Again, not sure what I was thinking since I read this one in California.

14) Chemistry by Weike Wong This one made up for #13. It was really clever, very cute, lots of funny (and true) references to the hell of doctoral programs, a romance gone horribly wrong and a bit of a breakdown. Now THAT I could relate to (not the romance bit, but the falling apart and feeling like goo part). Highly recommend.

15) The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy This one was super creative -- sort of futuristic, a world where you can become a Body and take these pills called Lotuses so that you can become a vessel for a client's dead loved one's spirit. What could go wrong there? It has murder mystery, it has romance, it has intrigue, it was really a fascinating concept. Loved it.

16) How to Be a Wildflower: A Field Guide by Katie Daisy Ok, this one was totally a bit of a cheating choice, but Bryce bought it for me in Carmel-by-the-Sea and it was part beautiful watercolors and part inspiring things about the importance of surrounding yourself with nature on a regular basis, and it was just a real feel-good piece of fluffiness. And it was physically beautiful.

17) Mischling by Affinity Konar Nothing says summer vacation like Josef Mengele's "Zoo" where he kept twins captive for horrific experiments. While not a light, funny read, this was absolutely beautiful and a testament to resilience. It was brutal (because it WAS brutal), but also beautiful. An important read.

18) Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn't Happen by Lisa Manterfield I don't think I really have to say anything further about this, other than that I slowly made my way through it starting in May, and finished it over the summer. I still have some journaling prompts to do. This is a really helpful, but emotionally difficult, book.

19) Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman Last summer I read My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by the same author, and loved it (it was one of two absolute favorites that year). This is a continuation of the story for Britt-Marie, a character who is not entirely likeable in Grandmother but who winds her way thoroughly into your heart in this book. Loved her, loved it. (Nope, still haven't read A Man Called Ove)

20) The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge This was a birthday present from Bryce, and it was really intriguing YA fiction. It involves a tree that grows a fruit when you feed it lies that you've spread, and the difficulty with being a person of religion when Charles Darwin brought evolution to the forefront. There's "accidents" and murder and lies and a feisty young woman. Great historical fiction with a little supernatural bent.

21) In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume Second plane crash book of the summer! I waited on this one until AFTER the flights to and from California, and was glad, but LOVED it. It was so interesting, in part because it really happened, and because of the masterful way Judy Blume interweaves storylines and so deftly writes coming of age stories.

22) The Red Tent by Anita Diamant I have had this book on my shelf for years, borrowed from my best friend, and I never read it. At first I was like ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME? because I was like, "ah, that's why I never read it, it's all about fertility and the womanly bonds of motherhood and blah blah blah." But it's about a lot more than that. And plus, it has the whole thing with Rachel who was infertile and had a baby through Bilhah...and if that sounds familiar it's because IT'S THE BASIS FOR THE "CEREMONY" IN THE HANDMAID'S TALE! Whoa. It was quite good once I got past the fact that everyone was getting pregnant or not getting pregnant and the central theme was reproduction.

23) Green Angel by Alice Hoffman This was another cheating one, because it's a real slim YA volume, but it was BEAUTIFUL. Nobody does magical realism like Alice Hoffman. The cover art turned out to be real interesting in the context of the book, too. Gorgeous little book.

24) A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielson This was YA historical fiction, but it wasn't WWII, it was the Berlin Wall era. A family is separated the night the wall goes up, and the daughter and son left behind by their father and younger brother need to figure out how to convince their mother that they need to get out from under the oppressive and brutal rule of the police in East Berlin, and then execute that plan without getting imprisoned or shot. It was tense and believable and the first Cold War historical novel I've read.

25) Thrillplex Theater by Brandon Swarrow File this one under "real weird." It was a question mark book given at Christmas to me by Bryce, and it was sort of a screenplay, sort of a novel, definitely someone who has an interesting view of teachers, and after going to Universal, particularly fascinating for the design of the Thrillplex Theater. I think it's self published (distracting things like a blank spread in the middle threw me off).

26) The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs. Okay, I know it's weird to end the summer with yet another memoir of someone dying of cancer, but THIS WAS AN AMAZING BOOK. It is one to go out and read, because Nina Riggs was a poet, and it is evident in how she writes this beautiful tribute to a life that ended so unfairly, but that she squeezed every last drop out of with her family and her friends. It's the kind of book that makes you shake your fist in the general direction of whatever diety or force you may believe in, but it makes you think about the glory of this life we get. I may have cried and cried while reading. At the gym. On my kindle. On the elliptical. I would read this one again and again.

The end...thanks for sticking around, happy reading!