Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Books I Read in 2016

A year ago, I set a goal of reading 45 books.
I ended up reading 33.

But I'm not too upset about it. A year ago, I had no idea that we would be moving to Denver and I would be going to graduate school. So I would like to plead "grad school" as my excuse. It's not that I haven't been reading. I just haven't been reading as many books.

Out of curiosity, I added up all of the pages of reading I've done in my first quarter of grad school and it came to 1,671 pages. I divided that by a 300-page average per book and I would like to generously increase by book total by 5.57.

(Can you see the week that our world kind of fell apart? That's when I declared bankruptcy But most definitely on reading.)

So I'm going to say my new total is more like 38.57!

Here are the books I read in the past year:

The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver

Jayber Crow
by Wendell Berry

Daring Greatly
by Brene Brown

Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry

by Nayyirrah Waheed

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps
by Kelly Williams Brown

Red, Hot, and Holy
by Sera Beak

Little Bee
by Chris Cleave

by Kent Haruf

The Sparrow
by Mary Doria Russell

The Testing
by Joelle Charbonneau

Independent Study
by Joelle Charbonneau

Graduation Day
by Joelle Charbonneau

The Art of Asking; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help
by Amanda Palmer

Millones Cahones
by Rob Bell

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
by Elizabeth Gilbert

Lord of the Flies
by William Golding

The Alchemist
by Paolo Coelho

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir
by Jenny Lawson

by Emma Donaghue

Island of the Blue Dolphins
by Scott O'Dell

The Bean Trees
by Barbara Kingsolver

100 Cupboards
by N.D. Wilson

Dandelion Fire
by N.D. Wilson

How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living
by Rob Bell

The Chestnut King
by N.D. Wilson

Rising Strong
by Brene Brown

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child
by John Tiffany

The Guide to Getting it On
by Paul Joannides

by Sarai Walker

Love Warrior
by Glennon Doyle Melton

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and The Collision of Two Cultures
by Anne Fadiman

Men Explain Things to Me
by Rebecca Solnit

My three favorite runner-ups this year were fiction and non-fiction books.

Little Bee (by Chris Cleave
     It's a tremendously heart-breaking story about a Nigerian refugee who lands in Britain and is reunited with a woman who never wanted to see her again. But in a way, they heal eachother. This book left me in tears. But good tears.

The Art of Asking; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help (by Amanda Palmer)
     When multiple people tell me to read a book, I take it as a cue from the Universe. And this cue was spot-on. Amanda Palmer is not someone I'd be great friends with. But she is someone I will continue to watch and admire from a distance for her basic not-giving-a-damn-ness. She plays music I don't love. She lives a life I do not envy. But she tells a story that left me curious and wanting more about how to live a life that is less hampered by the opinions of others.

Love Warrior (by Glennon Doyle Melton)
     Glennon is a favorite. I got to see her speak back in October. She's a person I would be friends with in real life. She's a wonderful, no-nonsense story teller and a fierce lover of all. This book tells the story of her husband's infidelity and their path back to each other. But not in the "be a good Christian woman" way. In the "this broke me wide open and I'm choosing to find my own way back to you." Beautiful.

For the sake of the retribution-seeking season I am in, I'd say my favorite book in 2016 was...Dietland by Sarai Walker.

This is a laugh-out loud, powerful story about women taking vengeance into their own hands. In this story a pack of women-vigilantes castrate deserving men on the "Penis Black List" and drop rapists out of planes. Without parachutes. To say it's "gratifying" sounds...harsh. But it's gratifying.

At one point in the story, this world-wide, lady-led retribution is freaking people out and two, women talk show hosts discuss whether this is actually "terrorism":

“I think it's a response to terrorism. From the time we're little girls, we're taught to fear the bad man who might get us. We're terrified of being raped, abused, even killed by the bad man, but the problem is, you can't tell the good ones from the bad ones, so you have to wary of them all. We're told not to go out by ourselves late at night, not to dress a certain way, not to talk to male strangers, not to lead men on. We take self-defense classes, keep our doors locked, carry pepper spray and rape whistles. The fear of men is ingrained in us from girlhood. Isn't that a form of terrorism?”

Read it for every woman paralyzed at the hands of an abuser.
Read it for every woman/girl who has been molested, assaulted, and raped.
Read it for every women completely played by the diet and plastic surgery industry.
Read it for every time you've felt the leering eyes of a male stranger and felt completely helpless. Read it for every woman subjected to a patriarchal society that wants us to play small
(which is all of us).

Just read it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Stubborn Hope for the New Year

It has been a year.

It has been a long, sweaty, hard-fought race. Through the desert. The sun beating the sweat right out of our skin. Dripping from our faces to our toes. Kicking up the red, dry dust that attaches to our wet and weary limbs. Leaving us covered in a thin layer of crusty mud. A little more brown. Stained. Exhausted. Weary.

This is the year that two marriages burned to the ground.
This is the year that a marriage I emulated and longed for fell apart.
This is the year that I was fooled. Hard. By people I trusted.
This is the year that the best friend I thought I would grow old with became unrecognizable to me over night.
This is the year that a very much wanted baby was not born.
This is the year that a very much wanted baby was born. Too soon. So soon. So small. And fighting for her life.
This is the year that I did a double-triple-quadruple-take as the country I thought I knew voted into power a man I absolutely fear.
This is the year that I watched an election transpire and cause hate crimes to break out across the country. And then people were surprised. And I don't why they were surprised.
This is the year that I was re-acquainted with PTSD and its power and its grip.
This is the year where I've felt such hopelessness that I just want to hibernate until spring.

It has been a year.

And many of us are stumbling toward the finish line with weak and fatigued muscles that ache down to the bone. That long for a place in the cool shade. For just a sip of water. For just an ounce of relief.

The day after the election, a mentor and friend emailed me and we grieved a bit together. As we grasped at straws, seeking any kind of relief, he advised:

"Eat good food and good drink and listen to good music and take in good art with good people. It's the only antidote right now."

I know, he's right.
Because often, the only relief in times like this is a reminder of the "good."

And so I've been distracting a lot lately with "good" in any form.
The "healthy" kind of numbing, as my counselor says.
Television shows.
And movies.
And trashy magazines.
And walks.
And runs.
And dancing.
And cooking.
And eating.
And moving.
And being with family.
And seeking out friends.
And laughing--when I can bear it.
And giving myself permission to get nothing done.
Which is frustrating.
But expected.

Because this race has left me weary. I'm crawling here. And when I look around me, many of us are.

It would be naive of me to think that simply crossing the "finish line" on December 31st would truly mean an end to the horrors of 2016. Because Sunday morning will come and many of the same things will still be true. This isn't a race of distance. It's a race in a loop. On a track. It's familiar territory that we tread year-after-year. And we pass familiar landmarks, but it's the same track--the same world. And we just start the circle again. But this hope that somehow the flipping over of our calendars will bring some kind of relief is all I have to hold onto.

And so I will.

I will have hope that next year will bring peace and healing for my sister.
I will have hope that next year will bring comfort to my family.
I will have hope that next year will mean some sense of financial peace.
I will have hope that next year will bring some unity to America.
(if only, unity in the fight)
I will have a stubborn--even nonsensical--hope that 2017 will be brighter than 2016.

Because I must.
Because we must.