Thursday, September 30, 2010

Egg-Timer Intrusions

Last month I blogged about the book Soul Revolution and the 60-60 experiment. The general idea, an old one, is paying attention to God in our lives. Soul Revolution's method for getting this done is by setting new-fangled devices, a phone/clock/watch, to buzz/beep/vibrate every 60 minutes, reminding us to check in with God, pray, think about how God fits into the present moment whether we are deliriously happy, contented, frustrated, angry, etc, etc.  This week we are beginning a church-wide 60-60 experiment (that's every sixty minutes for sixty days minus sleep time).

I started again yesterday, which happened to be the hardest homeschooling day of my life to date. It started at 4 a.m., when the baby awoke. Then, someone was screaming from about 8:30 in the morning until 5:00 at night.  At one point, I put a child on the front porch to quiet the house. One child got swollen, red eyes from her screaming. They were still red three hours later. One child hated and cried through math. One child threw herself on the floor because I said no TV/clean your room/do your schoolwork. Oldest and Middle walked to school for art class, except they got in a fight on the way, stopped, lost track of time, and didn't show up at school until after art class had started and I had exchanged conversation with the principal, the school secretary, and Grandpa (who went off in search of them). In case you're wondering, they were playing "spy" and fighting about who was going to deliver a secret message they imagined was written on a dirty scrap of paper encountered on the way. (Death. To. Litter.) In the meantime I had messages and phone calls I hardly had time to return from two friends, in crises of marriage, faith, and finances.

In the midst of all of this, my cell phone's egg timer was ringing politely every hour.  Right.  I felt like shouting at the intrustion. God! You've gotta do something here. But I prayed for patience and creativity. I prayed to say the right thing at the right moment to the child whose emotional melt down was begining to wear away at my soul. I texted back one friend: "Pumping milk and waging math battles." There was very little give. 

Until. I found myself in the bathroom with Oldest, who was in desperate need of a bang trim. "It tickles," she cried, as I held the scissors to her forehead.  She scrunched up her eyes, and meowed the most fearful bang-trimming angst I've ever heard. We were in a hurry; her running club started in 15 minutes. "Just hold still!" I pleaded, angling at another portion of her hair. "If you hold still I can do this quickly!" And then I really looked at her face, this silly, scrunched-up, fearful-even-though-I-know-I-shouldn't-be face, and I giggled.  She opened her eyes. "What?"  And I giggled again. And then she giggled. And then I was laughing hard and trying to cut at the same time and she warned sternly, through her giggling, "Mom! Stop! You shouldn't try to cut while you're laughing." So I pulled myself together, relieved that we were okay. 

The day ended at 8 p.m. when I caught the big girls in bed with writing utensils and notebooks well after lights out.  After confiscating them, I threw myself on my bed, turned off the lights, texted one of the friends who I hadn't had time to call during the day, and closed my eyes.

This morning, a new day began. This time, with my dropping a lightbulb on the floor, shards of glass flashing around my bare feet. My husband tried to flip our massive king-sized mattress over in our room. In the process, the headboard that was anchored to the wall came crashing down. And I remembered that yesterday he told me our garbage disposal was broken.   Messy, messy life. In the meantime this egg timer rang in the middle of it all, every hour.

You're here, I keep thinking. Right. Right. Right.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Raven Street Notes #1

The post title is basically my way of saying that there are a bunch of random little tidbits floating around in my head this week, not one long enough to merit a post of its own. I guess that means it was a short-attention-span kind of week.
I’ve lately just realized how very, very tired I am. Weird thing is that for about six months I’ve slept 4 or 5 hours a night. Suddenly, this is not cutting it and I feel exhausted. Because of that, homeschooling is killing me and it’s not the teaching that’s hard. It’s the many fights Oldest and Middle put up about math and flash cards in particular. We can spend a lot of time *talking* about Math and flash cards and not very much time doing them.
Tonight I listened to the beginning of a series of teachings about parenting. The speaker suggested that the way most parents try to control their kids’ behavior is by instilling in them great fear of punishment: Parents mostly parent through various levels of intimidation. (This is not a great strategy, says the speaker.) At first I thought, it’s true. And then, I agree. And then, but how else should we do it? I haven’t gotten to the part of the series where he gives the answer. The speaker said something else—and I agree with this too—that God is not up in heaven trying to control our every move. Instead God gives us all manner of freedom and allow us to use our freedom in the way we see fit. Of course, there are often all sorts of natural consequences that come about from our choices. If we’re paying attention, we’ll learn something from them and repeat or modify our original course the next time around. Maybe this is a little bit how we should be raising our kids—asking them what will you do with your freedom? and How does using your freedom this way affect your relationships with others?

I think I will try out these questions the next time we do flash cards.
Oldest was in desperate need of some new clothes this month. She’s been kinda rag-tag all summer, and I’ve been trying to convince her to hand-down the beloved too-tight, too-short items to Middle. So I picked some stuff up for her tonight that I thought she’d love. She’s drawn to athletic stuff, especially now that she’s joined Girls on the Run. And I have to say I feel a deep welling of relief when I look at my smiling daughter in warm up pants and a sweatshirt. She looks as wholesome as she really is; she's all Mister Roger's Neighborhood without a hint of MTV-music-video.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Selling Jesus

I couldn’t’ help it. The refrain rang in my head like the tale of Paul Revere’s ride: The Mormon’s are coming! The Mormon’s are coming! In all fairness, the two young women in floral nylon skirts and short-sleeved sweaters walking past our house on a warm Saturday in September might have been Protestant Christians or Jehovah’s Witnesses or PETA members (on second thought, PETA probably doesn’t carry small leather-bound books under one arm).

I pulled into our driveway just as they were passing our house and on to the next one. Running inside, I proclaimed, “The Mormon’s went by! –Or Jehovah’s Witnesses!” to my husband. “Did they stop here??”

“No.” He looked puzzled.

“Oh,” I answered, a bit crestfallen, “maybe because we have the sign up on the front door.” Nap Time. Please do not ring bell. (At our house these days, it’s always naptime.)

Usually, I am mildly intoxicated from my encounters with door-to-door proselytizers-of-faith (POFs). There’s something anomalous and quaint about the idea of peddling citizenship in heaven from door to door, the way the girls and I are peddling popcorn balls these days. Not that I’ve ever been close to helping one of these POFs close a deal, so to speak, but I find the theological discussions fascinating (assistant pastor and religion major, here), and it’s nice to rub shoulders out of the blue with others who share concerns about faith and eternity.

Yet, (I speak as one completely ignorant about conversion rates from this type of proselytizing when I say) I don’t imagine it a very fruitful endeavor. In spite of my initial delight in encountering POFs, at some point my enthusiasm turns to dismay when I realize that they want something from me—a conversion, a profession of newly found faith, a commitment to show up at the neighborhood ward on Sunday. I begin to think that they find my shaved head suspect. I can feel their disappointment, maybe a hint of judgment. I let them down easy. I thank them. I reassure them that I pray. I smile encouraglingly and send them on their way.

In selling popcorn balls, part of my discomfort is that we’re asking people to take a risk, to shell out two dollars for a product with no consumer testimonials or FDA approvals attached to it. (For all they know, we’ve shellacked the balls with cat urine and rolled them in a litter box.) We’re asking them to give us something—two dollars—without a guarantee of getting something good in return. It’s the same with the approach taken by some POFs, and it’s the reason I don’t do what those young ladies in the floral nylon skirts were doing. 

I do talk with people about my faith in God. But I’m not into random propositions of salvation. I prefer people get to know Jesus via consumer testimonial or free trial offer rather than door-to-door, sign-on-the-dotted-line sales. My inexpert opinion is that people are more likely to make a move toward faith, toward God, when they have a sense that there’s something good God wants to do for them. With door-to-door sales, however, there's a lot of energy spent on merely leveling the social awkwardness that has arisen between them and a travel-weary, nylon- or suit-clad POF.

If I could, I’d bring some sights and smells and sounds along on our popcorn ball sales trips—a video, perhaps, of marshmallows warming into melted butter; the pop and crunch of yellow corn kernels fluffing into white; and the aroma of caramelized sugars. In the same way, if someone asked me about my faith, I would tell them how God healed me a few years ago of a 17-year-long affair with asthma. About how my eyesight was miraculously restored and I no longer needed the glasses I’d been wearing since tenth grade. I would talk about the love that has lifted off torment from mistakes I've made, and I’d talk about the peace that sometimes—often, even—I am able to tap into during the worst kinds of trouble. Also: the quiet voice I hear as the voice of God that lays so many fears to rest.

But then I’d probably just shut up. And live. And pray for their blessing and their good. And be a good friend. And let them decide what, if anything, they want from me and what, if anything, they need from God.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

God's Popcorn Money

If you follow me on Facebook at all, you’ll know that this weekend Middle and Oldest (with assistance from me) started a popcorn ball sales endeavor. The motivation is to teach them about money, having their own business, accounting for expenses, etc, etc.They each earn a dollar for every ten dollars made. Another dollar goes to me (coffee money!) for my toil in the kitchen, another to charity. What we don’t use to purchase more supplies will go into savings for Christmas gifts for their beloved cousins.
Oldest has been asking me for months if we can take up residence in a stall at the local Farmer's Market, wanting to sell our garden strawberries or her home-mixed olive oil-and-vinegar dressing, requests I've politely discouraged as we lack volume in strawberries and salad dressing materials would cost us a pretty penny, not to mention I don't have an entrepreneurial bone in my body. But we got the idea for popcorn balls from a friend, whose been selling with her children the last couple weeks. Since Iowa City is all Hawkeye-crazy, she tied up their balls in black and gold ribbon and the $2 treats were gone in a flash. (Yes, you read that right—TWO dollars apiece!)

It seemed easy enough, so we began our project on Sunday afternoon with a ribbonless test batch of 8 and a sales tag of $1. Who knew how things would go in our “east side” market? Surprisingly well. For the most part, people seemed to drop everything they were doing at the sight of Middle and Oldest. “Hi, we’re selling popcorn balls,” was all Oldest said, and the ladies and gentlemen answering would reply straightaway with, “Okay. Let me get my wallet.” It gives the adage about taking candy from a baby a whole new twist.

I stood back, at the end of the driveway or on the sidewalk, the parental presence authenticating the girls’ venture, and waved a hello or called a thank you as the transaction wound down. Calm I may have appeared, but I found my heart beating crazily, my breathing shallow; I had a fierce desire to run back to our house and leave the girls on their own. A saleswoman I am not.

And guilty. I felt incredibly guilty. You might be interested to know that up until that first moment, I would not have purchased a $1 popcorn ball from children wandering the neighborhood. What are the ingredients? Who made it? Were refined sugars used? Is it organic? Those would have been my concerns. Maybe if someone came along and said, Hi Lady, we made these popcorn balls in a nut-free kitchen. They are made with organic popcorn and organic butter and sweetened with agave nectar. Then I’d bite.

Well, after a successful first day, we fancied up our product with different ingredients, adding ribbon and special wrapping and changing the price to $2. (I should note that we did use organic popcorn and rbgh-free butter in our recipe.) And shockingly, the girls made 14$ from selling six popcorn balls (if you do the math, you’ll see they got $2 in tips). I did notice some balking at the price (Two dollars? They must be really good popcorn balls!), but that didn’t stop them from purchasing. Every time a customer went off to fetch money, Oldest looked back at me, her eyes wide and eyebrows raised in surprise at the ease in which cash was filling up her little purse.

Easy as it was, $2 felt like way too much to be charging just so they could make some money for xmas presents. Until I remembered that a portion was being donated and maybe we could give more away than we planned.

My husband and I have for the most part always given away %10 percent of our income—either to a church or other organization doing work that helps people or to individuals directly. When we talk to the girls about this we talk about “giving money to God,” which is shorthand for putting our money toward purposes that line up with what we think are God’s values—caring for people, feeding the hungry, providing shelter for those in need, etc. So, when I told the girls I’d put some of the sales cash in an envelope labeled “God’s Popcorn Money,” Middle (appropriately a literalist at 5 years old) asked, “How do we just give the money to God?” And so ensued my breaking-down-of-the-figurative language for the little one, about how we wanted to put the money toward helping people, which led me to recall a blog I’ve been reading recently by a woman named Carrien.

She’s a homeschooling mom of four, living in SoCal with her husband. Together they are raising money and expanding an operation called The Charis Project for a children’s home in Thailand. The kids there are mostly orphaned Burmese children, many of whom have fled their country of origin to escape from the government's attacks on minority ethnic groups.  Many of the chilren's parents and other family members have been murdered during attacks on their villages. Just last week Carrien was asking for donations and/or letter-writers for some of these children, who so desperately need friends.

So, in the middle of our conversation, the girls and I went to the Charis Project web site and read about 11-year-old Saewang*. My voice caught in my throat as I read aloud to the girls about his interest in art, how he wants to be a teacher when he grows up, and how his parents were killed during the conflicts in Burma. Oldest had tears in her eyes, and she decided right then and there where she thought we should send God's popcorn money. Middle and I agreed.

*If you are interested in getting involved or sponsoring one of these children, please check out the web site links above and you'll see how to go about it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Few Quick Takes

I’m reviewing a book for Foreword Reviews called High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout. I wonder if this is quite a serendipitous pairing, me and this book. Even though I am not a doctor or lawyer or corporate executive, I think I might be “high octane,” whatever that exactly means (I’m only on page 25). And it makes me think that there are probably a lot of mums out there who aren’t necessarily swimming in the corporate world and yet are managing an AWFUL lot in and outside their homes.

Rejection letter: I got a second rejection on my nonfiction manuscript today. It only took five days short of 4 months to hear back from this press (PLU grads of 2010, please note this is better than the 6 months we talked about at residency). So anyway, I figure I should get another ten more of these at least before anything remotely promising happens. Somebody pinch me. I think I’m starting to feel like a real writer.

In the dead space of my life these days, the ones where no one’s talking and the baby remains focused on nursing, rather than bobbing her head in the direction of anything emiting sound over the decibel level belonging to the buzz of a mosquito, I’ve been thinking about all this stuff I have, and how I don’t really want my life to be weighed down by this many things. At the same time, I don’t want to part with my things because, well, I don’t know why. I think about the second chapter of the book of Acts a lot, about how the believers were “together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” I would like to have so little attachment to my things that selling them for someone else’s good would be easy. But I don’t, and it’s not. So I decided to do something about it. I had a few things people needed, things that would make their lives easier, and I gave those things away or lent them out, sent them off into the world. And I'm trusting that my resources will be replenished when I need them, at just the right time, in just the right way.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Faux Peace

I am a control freak. I try to hide it, but the people I live with know it all too well. Mostly, I reason, I just don’t like messes because they screw around with my inner peace. And messes have to be cleaned up. I hate to clean up. If these people I live with didn’t make messes in the first place, there would be less to clean up and I would have a lot more inner peace.

If you have children and attempt to implement this philosophy, you’ll find that you spend a lot of time telling them to clean up their messes or not to make them at all. You’ll find that instead of focusing on the beautiful, creative, and imaginative work they are doing (say, a painting inspired by the artist Joan Miro), you are noticing first and foremost that they’ve set up their easel over the rug you just washed and that, before setting up the easel, they failed to put away five boxes worth of Barbie dolls, tutus, art supplies, and Legos, all of which, since yesterday’s clean-up, managed to take up residence on said rug.

And, let’s face it, elementary-school-aged kids need a lot of coaching in order to stay tidy. They require constant haranguing, which tends to interrupt their play. Are you really using that sock as your car right now or can we put that in the dirty clothes basket? Really—that copy of Amelia Bedelia lying on the floor is your ‘post office’?

Haranguing also interferes with my inner peace.

I’m doing a lot of self-talk today,  telling myself to sit in the mess and be thankful. Also, to shut my mouth because I don’t want the thing these kids remember most to be my reminding them for the twelve-thousandth time to take off their shoes at the back door. Or that I couldn’t see my daughter’s Miro-inspired masterpiece because I had eyes only for all the Crap Made in China.

On another note, I do have the sense to realize that inner peace so dependent on my surroundings is not anything to write home about and, in fact, isn’t true peace at all. That kinda peace is just an anxiety disorder at a masquerade ball. We live in a world of wars and rumors of wars and earthquakes and floods and death and betrayal. That’s real Chaos. Not Barbies on the floor. I know what real peace feels and looks like because I’ve spent some time with it. (We’re friends, you see, but at times I’m not so good at keeping in touch.) I know that real peace, irresistible peace, likes to whisper in the middle of a life falling apart, do not be afraid, and you can’t help but follow its command.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Iowa: You Make Me Smile*

I’m a Midwesterner well-trained in Midwestern social graces. You’re so nice, my spunky friend Kate, from Portland, likes to say. Kate loves me, but she doesn’t necessarily tell me how nice I am as a compliment. In fact, she recently remarked on the understated fury in my graduate thesis: “You Iowa’d it up.” Meaning I was just a little too nice to characters who deserved such rage. While the jury’s out on that, Kate’s comment holds an inherent criticism of our Midwestern modus operandi: we’re so nice we don’t always say what we feel.

Don’t get me wrong. Iowans are wonderful people. When my friends move to the country’s coastal areas, they complain that the people there aren’t friendly, that they do not say hello or move their shopping carts out of someone’s way at the store. They say they miss Iowa and Iowans. And it’s true that we do have our own charming brand of being in the world—a sort of generic Judeo-Christian kindness, easily identified. Of course, not everyone exudes the Iowa aura, and it’s dangerous to generalize about anything these days because there are a million exceptions and outliers. Still, stereotypes exist, at times, for good reason:

You see, Iowa defers to people in line at the post office and asks, “How are you?” when jogging past another exercise enthusiast on the street. Iowa smiles and coos at the children of strangers; she pets unfamiliar canines and asks after names and pedigrees or lack thereof. When sitting in a doctor’s office, Iowa does not balk at a fellow patient presenting her with photographs of grandchildren or instructions on canning tomatoes. Iowa bakes muffins. She brings meals to the sick and post-partum. She goes to church/synagogue/temple/Habitat for Humanity on Sundays. She volunteers, coordinating grass-roots movements, flood clean-up, feeding children, and subsidizing electric bills for low-income families. If Iowa says she’ll be there, she’ll be there. If Iowa says she’ll do it, she will.**

If one is too forward, out of touch with the rules governing social etiquette—perhaps they ask to borrow Iowa’s chapstick, or they do not tuck away the photos after a moment and return to the magazine on their lap—well, Iowa smiles anyway (if a bit discouragingly) and with grace because, for the most part, Iowa enjoys small talk with strangers, and can muster a sincere response to the picture of a dimply child presented for her admiration.

Yet, I think Iowa hates to be on the asking end of lawnmower borrowing (she wouldn’t mind loaning her own). And as far as cars go, Iowa would really rather not lend hers, but feels it’s the right thing to do when she has a friend in need. She’ll worry, Iowa will, about the friend’s driving record but feel impolite asking after it. Instead, she’ll hold her breath and genuflect, praying the vehicle returns to with four doors and a pristine windshield. In the doctor’s office, Iowa dissuades herself from proffering pictures of her own children to random strangers because, well, why would they care? Wouldn’t that just encroach on the time/space/boundaries of said strangers? And while Iowa works so very hard at taking care of everyone else, she can’t always take care of herself.

You see, sometimes the excess rain ruins a harvest or the company lays her off or her father gets sick with cancer and she needs to take time off work to care for him. Then, it’s hard for Iowa to ask for help, for a meal, for a ride. You see, she thinks she should have it together. She grew up on the Protestant work ethic. You work hard and you are kind to others who are down and out, though the reason others are down and out, well, it might have to do with drugs or sex out of wedlock or just plain laziness; there’s usually someplace they went wrong--you can trace their demises back to one-too-many casino trips, a shady business deal, or what they did after the senior high hayrack ride, behind Farmer Lotz’s barn.

When Iowa struggles to care for herself, she doesn’t want the rest of the world wondering where she went wrong. What went wrong. What moral failure led to her current financial predicament or broken marriage. And she certainly doesn’t want people musing aloud, behind her back, which they certainly will do. So she stays silent as long as she can bear it and chins up and buckles down and still helps the neighbors, the poorer, the postpartum and the sick.

Am I too hard on Iowa? I don’t mean to be. I admire her courage, tenacity, and a generous spirit that affirms humanity in its essence. She is a little too judgmental (of herself and others), a little too gossipy, and she stubbornly clings to this Herculean notion that she must brave the fierce and choppy waters of hardship alone, lay a smooth finish on all the rough-and-tumble. Thing is, she really doesn’t have to. Sometimes I just want to wrap an arm around her shoulders and whisper, There there, you can let it out now. Just say what you really feel.

*An Iowa state slogan

**Lutheran pastor Don Thompson describes a Midwestern work ethic in this way:

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Party at My . . . [the Real Reason I Love] Facebook!

We’ve all met the socially inappropriate party guest in our travels—you know, the kind who doesn’t know when to stop talking or how to have a back-and-forth (non-monologue-esque) sort of exchange with another human being, but seamlessly moves from one self-related topic to the next without so much as a glance at their audience or a pause for breath. I muse at individuals like this and think of them as boundary-less wanderers-into-social-contexts. Usually, I smile along, nod and uh-huh my way through our encounters, rationalizing that they are lonely, learning , and/or a bit narcissistic.

And the more self-aware I grow as a human being, the more I notice my own loneliness, learning-curve, and narcissism (HEY—look at me! I have a BLOG!). And while I’d loathe the day I find myself the socially inappropriate party guest, a boundary-less, discomfort-causer to people I care about and truly want to know, there’s a piece of me that wants to put myself all out there—my thoughts, obsessions, the contents of daydreams and nightmares, the things my children say that I find oh-so-terribly quaint/funny/ironic, the lack of sleep last night, the Tiny’s first smile, the pictures of bath time and birthday parties. Some days this leads me to worry I have the Michael Scott (see The Office) brand of narcissism. Other days I tell myself that I’m an entertainer/writer/wannabe stand-up comic—and don’t they all need an audience?

I’ll admit with reluctance, sincerity, and risk to my oh-so-carefully constructed social persona that this is one of the reasons I love Facebook. It’s the socially appropriate way to be socially inappropriate (of course, there are limits). The ultimate dinner party, Facebook allows you to invite 549 friends to your house and interject over the dinner conversation seemingly random statements such as “Lawnmower broke. Neighbors unhappy,” or produce a picture of yourself in a headscarf with the caption, “For Phil. The Mennonite Look.” While most of your 549 guests will just ignore you, chances are one or five or twelve are gonna LOL or LIKE or comment that you look great in a kerchief, like you’re 18 again, or they’ll praise the good looks of the fruit of your loins, which really means, on some level, they’re saying you look like a supermodel. –Right?

Narcissism aside, I don’t know how I survived having my first child. There was no Facebook. No smart phone with which to tap away at while breastfeeding. I had to—eek—call a friend or—eek—schedule a playdate if I wanted to network socially. FB, myspace, instant chat, tweeting and text messaging get a bad rap from social critics who say we use them too often and in lieu of face-time. I see their point, and I agree. But something has to be better than nothing, and some days the online social networking is all we’ve got in an increasingly work-from-home/work-at-home/work-in-the-tiny-cell-that-is-your-cubicle kind of world.

Social networking=social affirmation: I updated my status. Therefore, I am.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Previews from the Book Shelf

I have more books to read lined up on my shelf than I know what to do with. I'll be lucky if I get through all of them this year, and the shelf is growing steadily fuller with each passing week it seems.  Have you taken a look recently at the titles on your books-to-read pile and thought about what those titles suggest about you, their future reader?  Here are a few of my upcoming reads and why they're on my shelf.

Why? Because I am a sucker for subtitles (this book has two!) like "One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible," "24 Hours of Christian Television," "A Year of Food Life" and "One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia."  I got this book free from Harper because I told them I wanted to review it on my blog; you'll soon be hearing more about the two former Manhattanites.

Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street
Why? Again: subtitle.  Also, I'm a sucker for nostalgia and I heard the author on NPR two years ago.  Once it arrived, a year and a half ago, I wasn't quite sure if I could take 379 pages, with index, of nostalgia.  But now that I"m post-MFA, I'll give it a real go.

Hell and Back: The First Death
This is a fantasy/thriller novel my friend, Steve, from church just published. He's a prolific writer and gets novel ideas in a flash and then spends like two days getting all three hundred pages out of his system (or something like that!) before rewriting and editing. He graciously handed me a free copy on Sunday with the words, "Hey. Try fiction."

The Devil's Child.
This is a book of poetry by my faculty mentor in the MFA program, Fleda Brown. Over lunch this summer, she told me that the poems were written out of wrenching interviews with a woman whose childhood was comprised of Satanic ritual abuse, incest, and other forms of domestic violence. I think this might be Fleda's darkest subject.  She did, however, just come out with a lovely book of memoiristic essays this past spring.

The Last Lecture
No subtitles here and I"m worried it'll be too too sad in light of the book's irony: The book is based on the actual last lecture of Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Cargegie Mellon, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer just before he delivered it. I'm worried this book will push down on my psyche, filling me with the wrong sort of worry about how I"m living my life, achieving my childhood dreams, investing in my children's lives and well beings.  But the cowriter was Jeffrey Zaslow, who wrote The Girls From Ames, and that seemed to be written at just the right pitch.

Happy reading, y'all.