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MOAM Book Club Summer 2019

Oops. I started writing this post way back in July when the summer was stretched out in front of me. And now it’s almost over. But not quite. The days are still long and if you try really hard it’s possible to channel that summery vibe. Especially if you step outside and feel the heat (and humidity. #MonicafromFriends) If you can’t stand the heat, get into the air con – with a fabulous book or three. Here is your MOAM Book Club – Summer Edition. Better late than never…

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This book introduced me to Reese Witherspoon’s book club. I know, I can’t believe I typed that either. But it did and I’m so glad because while all her choices aren’t for me (The Library. Half fab. Half agony), this one was amazing. Terrific storytelling about a wild child growing up alone in the marshes of North Carolina. I couldn’t put it down. Neither will youC

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

This debut novel is an award-winning, buzzed-about book by a young and super talented new voice. A college-aged couple of exes find themselves entangled with an older, “cooler” married couple….A lot of feelings are felt and analyzed and while I didn’t actually love it, I appreciated the writing itself so I’m keeping it on the list. Also because Rooney’s second novel was incredible.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

This sophomoric outing by Sally Rooney grabbed me from page one and wouldn’t let me go. This is a love story between two high schoolers who become secret friends, then lovers, then exes… on repeat. They drift apart and are drawn back together over the years, from school to college to beyond graduation. I adored it and may have finished it in about 3 days.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

This is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in the close-knit Muslim community in Toronto. This isn’t a particularly challenging read, but I’m a Jane Austen fan and this was a frothy, fun read that is perfect for summer – or anytime.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

I absolutely adored this epic, award-winning novel. A generational saga set in Korea and Japan, this was a sweeping, heart-breaking and absolutely fantastic study of characters, history, class and family. One story would cede into the next in a totally satisfying way and I can honestly say that despite being over 500 pages, it wasn’t long enough!

Golden Child: A Novel by Claire Adams

Set in rural Trinidad, this is the tale of a family with twin sons: one is a genius who brings his family nothing but joy while the other is a challenging, non-conforming boy who brings nothing but trouble. A series of events leads the family to grapple with the age-old issue of how far they would go to ensure the success if their children? And at what expense? Heartbreaking.

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

Four siblings are left to their own devices while their mom endures a period of depression. Another decade-spanning saga of characters that grow apart and reconnect. I fully invested in each of the siblings and, while the book isn’t perfect, it’s a beautifully written exploration of love, loss and family.

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray

Every review of this book compares it to An American Marriage and The Mothers and, frankly, I couldn’t put it better myself. When Althea, the eldest of three girls, and her husband are arrested, the younger sisters must return to their childhood home to care for their teenage nieces as the trial looms. Facing demons, understanding memories and all the angst and emotions that go with it are beautifully layered in this story of family and forgiveness that is page turning and fabulous.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Is there anyone out there who hasn’t read this story of the rise and fall of the legendary 70’s band? Really?? What are you waiting for? The series? Yes, an adaptation of the “definitive history” is in the works. And yes, it’s fiction. Cleverly written as an oral history, complete with interviews with the band and their entourage, Daisy Jones is the perfect end-of-summer easy, breezy read.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

When a woman loses her best friend, she finds herself saddled with his unwanted dog, a troubled and mourning Great Dane. Obviously, I was all over this book. It’s a little trippy and unconventional, but I loved this study of friendship, loss, love and relationships – between friends, lovers, and dogs.

The Secrets Between Us / The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar

I had The Space Between Us on my to-read list for years. And I’m so glad I held off reading this incredible story about a disillusioned upper-middle class housewife and her illiterate, long-term maid and confident. Why so glad, you ask? Because by the time I finished the book, 8 years after it was published, the sequel had been released! I was able to keep going with this unbelievable story of modern India, castes, class, gender and friendship. Lucky me – and now, lucky you!!

Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak

The tagline of this novel is “friends come and go…ambition is forever”. Kinda cheesy, but kinda fun in a single-white-female way! Two friends: one has it all. One wants it all. BFF’s become frenemies. You know the drill. Except you don’t. Read on…

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

I love me a multi-generational family drama. This one starts in the 70’s and follows a couple, their four daughters and their extended family as they navigate the ups and downs of marriage, sisterhood and relationships. Throw a secret adopted kid into the mix, add some serious dysfunction, and then try to put this one down.

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Just when he thought he’d come to terms with the end of his 15-year marriage, Toby Fleishman finds himself charting new territory when his ex-wife disappears. People are loving this perceptive story of marriage, relationships and the narratives we tell ourselves. I felt the lead up was way too long and the big reveal, when it comes, was underp-explored. Still, everyone keeps asking if I’ve read it and loved it. Yes, I have. But no, I didn’t.

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Years by Ruth Reichl

This memoir traces Reichl’s rise through the food-writing ranks: from freelance foodie, to NY Times restaurant critic, to helming Gourmet magazine from its peak to its demise. Entertaining, (ahem) dishy, and delicious – plus there are recipes!!

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Oh, Elizabeth Gilbert. How I love your writing. And how I long to edit your storytelling. There’s such great juicy stuff in this book, and it’s a quick and engaging read. I loved world of the 1930’s NYC Theatre set. I loved the premise of a “naughty girl” sent from the suburbs to stay with her flamboyant aunt. I love that she found her freedom – sexual and otherwise – and met a slew of compelling, wild characters. But I hated the narration/framing device. Like Eat, Pray, Love – I loved the Eat, loathed the Pray, and liked the Love. Two outta three ain’t bad….

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

This timely “me-too” story of feminism and friendship is bound to be adapted for TV sometime soon. It already reads like an episodic TV series. Even as I devoured it, I couldn’t believe I liked it. There’s more than a hint of Big Little Lies in these pages and though it isn’t nearly as great, there’s something about this tale of corporate cover ups, ambition and sisterhood that had me hooked.

Machines like Me by Ian McEwan

Disclosure: I am a massive Ian McEwan fan. He could write out a grocery list and I’d read it. Even when he’s flawed, he’s fab. This book is set in an alternate version of 1980’s Thatcherite London and revolves around a threesome: Charlie, a lazy and lost day trader, his neighbour Miranda, with whom he’s in love, and Adam, a far-too-human AI bot. Intriguing, philosophical, and, as always, crazy clever. McEwan has re-written a history. And while it isn’t quite on par with some of his other works, it’s thought-provoking and brilliant.

AUDIBLE: I’m obsessed with my Audible app. I spend way too much time walking my beast dog and Audible has made me want to walk even more. I have no doubt these books are just as good in print, but holy shit are they compelling in the ears!!!

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Brilliant journalism. Phenomenal narration. The author has sent 8 years embedded in the lives of three very different women in this study of female desire. Sounds like a movie, reads like a novel and is non-fiction at its best.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb: A Therapist, HER Therapist and Our Lives Revealed.

The title says it all. The author is genius in every way and I loved everything about this book – except the narration. I wish I had read this on the page instead of listening. But once I got over the voice I got really into it. You will too. Amazing on every level.

You Don’t Look Your Age…and Other Fairy Tales by Sheila Nevins

O.M.G. Spit takes, snot rockets and overall laugh-out-loud bits of this book put a spring in my step and a smile on my step. Nevins’ essays on aging, errors, and other nightmares is accompanied by a star-studded cast of narrators and is sensational. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. And you’ll laugh some more.

Life Will be the Death of Me by Chelsea Handler

This is Chelsea’s story of her year of therapy and self-discovery. She narrates her own story with bravery, gusto and hilarity. Dark, funny and sad all at once. I’m a fan.

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August 22, 2019   1 Comment

Winter Break

Vacation was calling. And I was listening…

A few weeks ago I was presented with an opportunity for my kids and I to escape winter and head down to sunny Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a long weekend. Said weekend happened to be Family Day and my boys had a mid-winter break from school. My husband was busy with work so I told my kids the good news…and was met with an awkward silence. My youngest son, age 10, told me he wanted to stay home with his father to have special one-on-one time. I didn’t mind, as it gave me a chance to hang with my big boys, ages 13 and 15. Next, my 13-year-old reminded me that his hockey team was fighting for a playoff spot and he couldn’t miss the games. That left my eldest, he of the similar interests and sympatico vibes. When I told him it was just him ‘n me, he cringed and told me he’d rather stay home.

Naturally I flew off the handle.

Insulted and hurt, I yelled at them all and stomped off, dramatically. And my eldest son yelled right back, exasperated. “You always tell us to be honest, so why are you getting so mad at me?” He was absolutely right. Why was I getting so upset? Here’s my 15 year-old boy with school work and friends and XBox who knows himself really well. And realized, before I did, that he’d likely be bored hanging out poolside with “a bunch of old people”.

Cringing at the “old” part, I begrudgingly acknowledged that he was right. I’m not the parent who throws around a football, plays water volleyball or roughhouses in the pool. I’m the reader. The lounger. The dinner entertainment. I tried luring him down with offers of surfing lessons, and even suggested he bring a friend, but he was having none of it. He asked me if, when I was 15, I would’ve gone with my mom to visit my grandparents. Obviously I would. And I did. With or without parents, and often with my brother, I jumped at the chance to escape winter and head down to Florida to visit the grandparents in the concrete jungle they called their southern home, Palm Aire.

Palm Aire was built around a golf course, surrounded by apparent no-go areas, and I loved to hate it. I’d lie out by the pool with the grandmothers and their final-net super sprayed hairdos that couldn’t get wet or be touched, fending off questions about boyfriends and marriage. My Zaidy would golf, or swim a couple of lengths before grabbing his paper and a seat next to me. We’d go for early-bird dinners and watch a lot of television. While my brother would often test the grandparents’ patience by rollerblading the 5 miles to the beach, or disappearing to meet up with rando friends he’d make on the daily, I’d hang out with my grandmother as she’d share stories and gossip. We’d join my grandfather at the local dirty bakery to pick up day-old bagels he could scoop out and fill with cottage cheese. They’d drop me off at Loehmann’s Plaza or take me to The Flea. I think I bought a pink Sony Walkman 3 years in a row. If it rained and they were feeling particularly wild ‘n crazy we’d bypass Burdine’s and drive to The Galleria, where Saks and Bloomingdale’s were waiting. My grandparents loved it as much as I did, encouraging me to try and buy. “If you love it”, they’d say, “buy two”. Ann Taylor, The Limited, Express, Victoria’s Secret and, of course, the holy grail: Polo Ralph Lauren for stripey button downs and rugby shirts. I’d fly back home tanned, overfed, and excited to show my friends all the contraband clothing I smuggled passed customs

But those were the 19080’s. And this is now. When I pictured my boys between the hours of noon and 6PM, I knew they’d be going out of their minds. No one to run around with or play with. They weren’t into lounging and chatting, shopping and eating. Regardless of whatever adventure I dangled as bait (Surfing! Zip-lining! Fishing! Day trips!) they simply weren’t biting. My eldest explained that I shouldn’t take it personally, it just wasn’t as fun without another kid around. Was I hurt? Yes. Did I get over it? Yes. And did I still ditch my family over Family Day weekend to go to Mexico? Damn right!  When I called to tell the grandparents the news, that it was just me flying south, they didn’t even pretend to hide their delight. Sure, they missed my kids, their grandchildren. But they were thrilled to have their daughter to themselves for a fast 4 days. Four days of lounging and chatting, shopping and eating. And when I returned the snowy Sunday of the long-weekend, with novelty-tees, tequila and Mexican chocolate, it was just in time to spend Family Day with my family. And to remind me that flying south to visit the grandparents really is the best way to spend time, with or without the kids.

March 6, 2019   2 Comments

Writers Write

I have been writing this blog, in one format or another, for 13 years. T.H.I.R.T.E.E.N. From the earliest and far more frequent blogspot days up until the sporadic postings of today, I’ve been “a blogger”. Now I call this “my website”, rather than my blog, but it is whatever it is: restaurant reccos, film and TV reviews, rants, raves and, of course, my book club. There have been celeb photobombs and selfies, mini-travelogues and motherhood musings. But most of all, it’s been a place I can come to write. Kernels of ideas, nuggets of wisdom, food for thought – name your metaphor, it’s been all that (and more) for me. Often I wonder if there’s anybody out there. So to those who read, bookmark and forward to friends, I thank you. And to the many who ask “why don’t you just write a book?”, I say: believe me, I’m trying. And maybe one day I will. But in the meantime, I write what I can. For myself, for the people who pay me, and for you.

I’m trying to embrace my vulnerability without diffusing it with humour. Sounds cheesy. And feels gross. It’s really really hard. And takes a shit-ton of practice. In the meantime, there’s this…

“Writers write. She’s always known that. She used to live by the rule, writing faithfully every day. Jotting in her journal, completing assignments, even copying out interesting sayings, song lyrics, or what she deemed to be poetic. Writers write. So she wrote. Snippets of overheard conversations. Concerns and frustrations about lovers and family. How she wanted to be treated. How she was treated. How she treated others. No matter what was happening in her life, she was a writer. And writers write. So she wrote too. Articles, reviews, screenplays, television pilots. Imaginary dialogue she wished she herself had the balls to speak aloud. Confessions she dreamed she would hear. She was a writer. She defined herself by the term. She told anyone who asked. She never shirked away from her daily page requirements. That’s just the way it was. Because writers write.

Until they don’t.

Until they find themselves overcome by the day to day living of their lives. She got lucky. She worked freelance. She met the man of her dreams, who loved her right back. They got married. Bought a loft, then a house, and then one more. Got a dog. Had a baby. Had two more. And soon the words on the page became less frequent. At first, she couldn’t find the time. But then she couldn’t find the words. Letters on pages became by meals on tables. Overheard conversations turned into recipe adaptations. The joy of looking up after a day spent at her keyboard, living an imaginary life and creating characters, dialogue, and scenes were replaced with school runs, grocery shops and bedtimes. Meetings turned into appointments.

Just like that she went from a writer who writes to a mom who mothers. From someone who was a respected “something”, to an unheard, oft-ignored nothing. The most important job in the world, she’d hear when she muttered she was “just a mom”. But she knew better. It was so obvious. It was a volunteer position. Where she worked for tiny tyrants who ruled her life. Her home felt like a prison at times, her family its warden.

The years went past and the kids grew more independent. Sort of. They didn’t always want her anymore, though they still needed her. They always would, in some capacity. She didn’t need them, but she wanted them. She loved them. But she was starting to wonder what she had given up to “have it all”. Her freedom. Her body. Her mind. She knew writers needed to write, but she found it almost impossible to do so. And when she did sit down, hands on keyboard and screen glowing brightly, she found herself in a spiral of rage. Her imagination dulled, she would spill out her feelings about her family, her friends, her life and her choices. Typing through tears, she’d feel ridiculous, painting herself as a victim, when she actually loved her life….Most of the time. She would re-read her words and set forth editing, putting a shiny, positive spin on each and every one. And then she’d delete it all, knowing she’d start again, someday soon.

Because writers write. That’s just what they do. “

January 31, 2019   2 Comments

New year, new books!

Happy 2019 MOAM readers of books and site!

I am not a very good resolution maker, tho I am an excellent resolution breaker. Diets, exercise, work hard, be more present, meditate, breathe….Whatever. And the “don’ts”? I do. There is, however, a new resolution in town. One I keep noticing in various New-Year-New-You pieces. One I actually want to make and can totally keep.

Apparently, the latest craze in resolutions is to read more books! I love that. How about “eat more”, “spend more” and “travel more”? Let’s all climb aboard the “more” resolution train.

(And by reading I also mean “listening to” more books. I have invested in AirPods and they have changed my life. First it was music, then podcasts, and now audible. Dog walking will never be the same. )

January is here. Winter is coming. Here are some great books to get you through it… (sorry – no direct links. I’m neither technologically savvy nor patient enough to add them in). Happy Reading!

THE HEART’S INVISIBLE FURIES – John Boyne

The Irish Catholic Church has a lot to answer for. (Surprise!) Born to an unwed mother in rural Ireland in the 19040’s and adopted into an eccentric Dublin family, young Cyril must figure out the world and his place in it in this brilliant novel.  Spanning several cities over the course of five decades, this excellent novel shows us the best and the very worst of what it means to be alive. Horrifying yet charming, funny but heartbreaking, this is so much more than a coming of age tale or story of struggle. I loved it.

WASHINGTON BLACK – Esi Edugyan

The epic story of a Caribbean slave taken in by his master’s eccentric brother won the 2018 Giller Prize. At age 11, Washington Black meets Titch and together they embark on a life of adventure and learning. It’s not long before Wash must go on the run, travelling from Barbados to the Arctic, Canada to England in search of the true meaning of freedom. Disclaimer: This book started off super-strong but, for me, ultimately traded intricacies and details for plot points. Still, a great novel from an excellent writer.

THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS – Laurie Frankel

Rosie, a doctor, and Penn, an aspiring novelist, live a hectic, unruly life with their four sons. And then their 5th child, Claude, arrives and is a lot more complicated than they could have ever imagined. Secrets kept and shared, family dynamics, nature, nurture and how to be to do the right thing by your child are all issues touched upon in this page-turning, heartwarming book. Very loosely based on the author’s own experiences, the writing can feel a little simple at times, yet it’s always moving and, ultimately, a damn great read.

THE RESURRECTION OF JOAN ASHBY – Cherise Wolas

Joan Ashby is on course to becoming the next Great American Novelist – until she gets married and finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. She soon shelves her literary aspirations to tend to her family. Besieged by great love and, eventually, great betrayal, this is the story of “what could be”, the paths we take, and the choices we both make and are given. Interwoven throughout the novel are pieces of Joan’s work, making this a truly literary piece of art. I love how this book was crafted and wish I was still reading it now! Spectacular.

THE FAMILY TABOR – Cherise Wolas

This book received terrific reviews and I was more interested in this one than the author’s first book (above). But because I adored the debut novel, this one couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations. When a philanthropist patriarch is being honoured, his entire family turns out to fete him – until he disappears. Family dynamics and age-old secrets play out over the course of one weekend as it explores the stories we tell each other – and ourselves. If that hasn’t been snapped up for a film or TV adaptation, it will be soon enough….

EDUCATED – Tara Westover

I feel like I was a little late to the party on this one. Everyone seems to have read – and loved – this crazy-ass memoir of a girl who, born into a survivalist family, starts school at age 17 and ends up graduating from Cambridge. Tara’s upbringing is unconventional, to say the very least. Turning these pages I couldn’t believe she managed to survive her childhood, let alone thrive. But thrive she did – because she is beyond brilliant. This is an uncomfortable read, but well worth it.  If you think you have have obstacles in your life’s path, wait ’til you get a load of these…

HOME FIRE – Kamila Shamsie

I loved, loved, loved LOVED this book. I couldn’t put it down (and neither could my man, FYI). This is the story of two very different Pakistani families living in London and it’s one helluva ride. Told from several points of view, this is gorgeously written and a total page turner. I was completely transported and duly devastated when I finished it. Of course I had to find out more. Like the fact that it’s based on the myth of Antigone (google it). Or it was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. And it won the Women’s prize for fiction. Don’t ask. Just read.

THE GREAT BELIEVERS – Rebecca Makkai

There were two intertwining parts to this acclaimed novel. One is all about friendship, love and loss in 80’s Chicago. And then there’s the other part. To be honest, the “other part” (set in Paris today) left me cold. But the thrust of the book, set among a group of wonderful friends, the specter of AIDS looming over them, was amazing. This is the story of growing up, branching out, finding passion, and trying to stay alive.

A PLACE FOR US – Fatima Farheen Mirza

An Indian-American family must balance expected tradition with the progressive culture in which they now live. Family dynamics, parents and children, love and estrangement are all here in this magnificent book. As the family struggles between faith and choices, the fallout becomes devastating. This is a quiet and stunning book, the debut of a supremely talented young writer who is totally impressive.

NINE PERFECT STRANGERS – Liane Moriarty

I am a huge Liane Moriarty fan (since long before Big Little Lies on TV, thankyouverymuch). I pre-ordered this book and couldn’t wait to read it. And while the author’s talent for spinning a yarn is crystal clear, I didn’t love this one as much as I’d hoped to. I didn’t even like it all that much. I’m adding it to the list because everyone keeps asking me if I’ve read it. I have. If you’re looking for a Liane Moriarty book, check out The Husband’s Secret…

DARING GREATLY – Brene Brown

After reading the excerpts, watching the Ted Talks and hearing the podcasts, I convinced myself that I had read or heard everything Brene Brown had to offer. And then I downloaded this book on Audible and walked my way through it. Guess what? I’d barely skimmed the surface. This book was everything I’d hope it would be and so much more. Narrated by the author herself, it really should be required reading/listening for anyone and everyone. Genius.

LOVE WARRIOR – Glennon Doyle

Wow. This memoir is the story of the beginning, middle, end and rebirth of a marriage. After surviving her own childhood and adolescence (bulimia! alcoholism!) and starting a family (surprise!) the author’s marriage implodes. With depth, sensitivity and introspection this is the story of hitting rock bottom and rising back up, over and over again. Despite sometimes wading into spiritual new age areas that weren’t for me, I still loved this book – so much so I found myself stopping to take notes. Often

As always, I welcome feedback and suggestions. And yes, I am almost finished Becoming by Michelle Obama. Swoon…

January 9, 2019   1 Comment

MOAM BOOK CLUB

Howdy reading readers.

It’s been a long, hot, fabulous summer. A summer of love, parties, and revelling in being 50.

It’s also been a summer of reading!

I’ve been writing to lots of you with mini-lists, but here, at long last, is The Big One.  I’ve tried to add a link so you can purchase the books directly from this site, thereby earning me about $.03/book (CAD!!) but between wordpress updates and Amazon affiliate codes, I cannot for the life of me figure it out.

So here is the official Summer 2018 MOAM Book Club. Do feel free to send me comments, questions and reccos. And don’t be share to spread the book club love.

Remember, friends,  reading is for life, not just for summer…..

THE LONELY HEARTS HOTEL by Heather O’Neill

I absolutely loved this magical tale set in 1930’s Montreal (with a side of NYC). Two babies left in an orphanage grow up together and fall in love. One is a musical genius, the other the consummate song’n dance gal. Together they dream up the most extravagant and fabulous circus act ever to be seen. Of course things don’t go quite as they imagined. Separated as teens, each is forced to use their talents to survive, until they can be reunited. Stunning writing. Gorgeous characters. Whimsical yet dark. Total page turner.

SALVAGE THE BONES by Jesmyn Ward

A pregnant teenager and her brothers are essentially raising themselves as their drunken father prepares for the upcoming hurricane. This is a visceral and beautifully written award-winning  book set in an impoverished rural town. Dog fighting, sick puppies, motherless children, and young people looking for love as devastation in the form of Hurricane Katrina looms made this a real graphic and incredible page turner.

SING, UNBURIED, SING by Jesmyn Ward

After I finished Salvage the Bones I needed another fix of Ward’s writing. I found it in this, her next novel. Another award-winner, another story of familial desolation. This time ghosts haunt the present and the past in this poetic and stunning story of a drug-addicted woman striving to be a better parent, and her young biracial son trying to come to terms with who he is, where he comes from and where he is going. Southern Gothic greatness.

THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe Benjamin

What would you do if you knew the exact date of your own death? In the late 1960’s in New York’s Lower East Side, four young siblings visit a psychic who claims to be able to predict just that. Hearing their prophecies, each sibling sets out on their own path. A tale of destiny and choices, paths dreamed of and routes taken, I was this novel to be intriguing, compelling and amazing.

AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayari Jones

Celestial and Roy, a young married couple finds their newly wedded bliss destroyed when Roy is arrested and convicted for a crime Celestial knows he couldn’t possibly have committed. Through letters and straight up page-turning prose, this story of about being Black in America, trying to hold to love when you’re forced apart, and trying to keep it together, separately. So timely. So brilliant.

THE RULES DO NOT APPLY: A MEMOIR by Ariel Levy

I read several memoirs this past year, most of which fell flat. Ariel Levy’s, however, was searing, honest, funny and brutal. I’m lifting the quote straight from the back cover for this one. “When thirty-eight-year-old New Yorker writer Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true.” Extraordinary.

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah

This book had been repeatedly recommended to me. Set in WW2 France, it is the story of two sisters and how they survive the war. I never really had any interest in reading it, but it kept getting mentioned, and it kind of reminded me of All the Light We cannot See (which I read in one sitting). So I picked it up The Nightingale….and put it down only after devouring it in one long sleepless night. What a story! What a read! This in an author who really knows who to spin a tale.

THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah

See: above. Another Kristin Hannah novel, another total page turner… A Vietnam vet uproots his young family to go live off the grid in the wilds of Alaska. This is the story of the teenage daughter, coming of age and coming to terms with her parents’ unconventional and passionate choices. An extraordinary portrait of life, resilience and growing up in Alaska’s wildly beautiful and dangerous frontier. This author has written 30 novels. What to read of hers next??

GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER by Shoba Rao

In an extremely poor Indian village, two young girls form an unlikely friendship. Despite the hideous life they are born into, they find solace, light and love in the bond they share. One which threatens the power structure and the others in their lives. A statement about feminism, the caste system, and the power of love, this book is magnificent and horrifying as the girls find themselves living separate and brutal lives, always holding on to the belief that they will be reunited. Tragic, hopeful, gripping.

THE GUNNERS by Rebecca Kauffman

Six kids from very different families become best friends – complete with ghost stories, sleepovers, adventures and a clubhouse. They were destined, like so many childhood pals, to be bffs forever. And like many childhood bffs, when they hit high school, things changed. As they grew up, moved on, and skipped town, only Mikey stayed behind, living a lonely life as his vision fails. When one of the gang kills herself, the rest return to town and they reconnect and reminisce. Very Big Chill-esque….

WE ALL LOVE THE BEAUTIFUL GIRLS by Joanne Proulx

I loved this book! A family’s life is ripped apart on one fateful night: the parents discover they’ve been cheated out of all their savings by their friend and business partner, and their son passes out in a snowbank with terrible consequences. Yes, in one night. After hitting the reader with all that, this is the story of what happens next.  Relationships are tested, as everyone tries to find ways to deal with the fallout. Some crumble and fail, some grow into something new. All are changed….

THERE THERE by Tommy Orange

There’s a big powwow happening in Oakland. For some, it’s a reunion. For others, an opportunity. As a diverse group of people share their interconnecting stories, one thing is certain: they will all converge at the powwow and shit will go down. This is a poetic, surprising, gripping and incredible read. Voices we don’t hear often enough come through loud and clear in this bright and beautiful book about indigenous urban identity. Powerful storytelling at its finest, this amazing book hits all the right notes from beginning to end.

LESS by Andrew Sean Greer

This Pulitzer-winning book centres on a failing novelist on the eve of his 50th birthday. In an effort to avoid the wedding of a past lover, he hits the road and travels around the world, trying to hide from himself. This is very much a character study with some great moments and even greater truths. It is very “writerly” and character-driven rather than plot-heavy. I absolutely loved this voice. So many lines in this book spoke to me…and stuck with me. And not just because I recently turned 50. Well, maybe a little….

STANDARD DEVIATION by Katherine Heiny

Graham lives with his second wife, the zany and kinda crazy Audra, and their autistic son. When his first wife re-enters the picture, he is forced to re-evaluate the choices he’s made in life and love. I laughed out loud while reading this. The character of Audra jumps straight off the page. This book is far from perfect, but it’s tender, awkward, and touching. It’s not a total laugh-riot, but when it’s funny, it’s it’s reeeeeally funny.

THE DIRTY BOOK CLUB by Lisi Harrison

When MJ ups and leaves her amazing job in NYC for a perfect life in California, things don’t quite turn out as planned. She is soon mysteriously conscripted into the DBC: the dirty book club, where the scandalous and erotic fiction inspires four very different women to open up about what’s happening in their real lives. Set both forty years ago and today, the author reminds us that the power of friendship is never dated.  If you’re looking for a fun read about female relationships and empowerment, look no further than this hilarious romp.

CIRCE by Madeline Miller

I am a sucker for Greek mythology and absolutely loved the Song of Achilles. When I read that this same author had a new book, I had to read it. I liked the tale better than the retelling, but I felt compelled to continue reading it to remind myself of Circe’s story and because I loved being lost in that world. A must read for mythology lovers. And a might-read for everyone else.

OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES by Abbi Waxman

A carpool mom stops to grab something from one of her neighbours – and finds her naked on the floor with a man who isn’t her husband. This is an easy, beach read about the goings-on in a neighbourhood and the affect the affair has on the families in the carpool. I quickly got sucked in to the daily drama and gossip.  Liane Moriarty-lite.

THE WIFE BETWEEN US  by Greer Hendricks

It’s hard to write about this suspenseful, twisty thriller without giving too much away, or sending the reader on a quest to forge it all out before the book’s end. Suffice to say this is a real page turner about a marriage gone very wring and the lengths a wronged party will go to fix it. I’ll leave it at that, or else it’s spoiler-alert central! Clever and yes, it’s being made into a flick…..

THAT KIND OF MOTHER by Rumaan Alam

I wanted to love this book, I really did. It’s really well-written and depicts the early days of motherhood when your life is turned totally upside down. It’s the story of a young white women who bonds with her black nursing coach. It takes a pretty crazy turn and explores some sensitive and timely topics. Overall, however, something about it left me cold. That said, people adore this book, so I’m putting it on the list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 13, 2018   No Comments

F-F-F-FIFTY!

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about turning 49. At the time, I felt like there were so many “shoulds”: I should be a certain way. I should look a certain way. I should act a certain way. I should have reached milestones: personal, professional, even spiritual. It was quite alarming – for myself and for all of you who wrote to me, many feeling exactly same way. Less than our ages. Less than our expectations. Just less than.

Cut to: now.

Now that we’re a quarter of the way through the year, my fellow ’68ers are turning 50 every damn day. Old friends coming out of the on-line woodwork, meeting up for dinners and drinks, random emails – so much acknowledgement. And so much fun!

Best of all, a funny thing happened on my way to 50. Instead of stressing about all the things I haven’t managed to achieve by 50, I stopped caring (as much). At the very least, I wasn’t getting upset about all those “shoulds”. The arbitrarily drawn line in the sands of time stopped having as much meaning. Maybe I erased it or maybe it just faded away.  The great fade….

As with so much of life, the binaries have started to fade too.  For me, a person who has always lived life in a very black and white, all-or-nothing way, this has been a revelation. Those who know me, know I either love fiercely or am completely indifferent. Gorge or abstain. This goes for my people and my passions. But I’m starting to mellow. A teeny tiny bit.  Maybe it’s just that I  don’t have the energy for a lot of shit that gets me riled up. Now, when I feel the venom and bile coming, I try my best to let it go. Most of the time.

Because moderation is not my strongest suit, in my quest to not sweat the small stuff I may have let a lot of stuff go seed. I have a wild beast of a dog who has trashed my house. My boys are free to be themselves. For real. Certain triggers that would have had me ranting and raving for hours (or days) have lost their power. My home is very… lived in, despite our efforts to beautify it. (And keep it clean.) And what it lacks in decor it makes up for in laughs. I really try my best to see the glass as half-full, even if it’s a cracked glass. That’s not so easy in an instagrammable world. My shitty 25-year old oven? A total eyesore, but it turns out great baked goods. See? I do my best to buy into the positivity I’ve been trying to sell myself. And, dare I say it, it works.

Is this because of 50??

When I was complaining about 49, a friend of mine, who recently turned 52, told me to enjoy it. Before you turn 50, she said, you’re cute. But once you’re on the other side, you’re just nothing. Another regular shmo, wondering if you’ve made the wrong decisions.

Sheesh….What a depressing thought.

I think being in the middle of the middle age has its perks. The 20-somethings may think you’re old, but not old enough to be irrelevant. The 30-ishes have realized we have something to offer – wisdom, advice, and at least funny anecdotes. Those in their 40’s think we’re the same age (the feeling is mutual) and always seem somewhat shocked when we say we’re 50 (almost). And those already on the other side of 50, but the “right” side of 60?  They’re happy to be where they’re at.  The 60+ crowd appears to be stickin’ with their 50’s or vaulting into their retirement. And the 70+? They seem to think the rest of us are young, adorable, and look great in bikinis.

So, yes, this magical number 50 has provided quite a lot to talk about and plan. It’s been a real buildup for my friends and me. It’s like we realized we all really do have so much to celebrate. Meals and trips and parties – what fabulous entrees to the 50’s. With the milestone year come milestones – for some. Some of us are conquering fears and running marathons. And some of us letting things go and laughing things off. And some are doing bits of both. Because we can. We can do whatever we want. Accepting who we are and where we are in our lives? Why the hell not? We’re 50.

Older and wiser? Mellowed with age? Time will tell. For now, 50 is just another number: a big, round, happy one.

 

 

March 19, 2018   2 Comments

MOAM BOOK CLUB

Winter is coming so bundle up and break out the books!

Your texts and emails and posts and hints have not gone unnoticed. The list has been brewing for months but getting it out there has taken a little longer than I’d hoped. Being distracted by the news and by life doesn’t help much either. But as the days get darker and we snuggle in to prep for the long cold days ahead, there really is no better time to whip out your book/e-reader and get lost.

Despite the many books I have adored, there were others that left me lukewarm, and even cold. Pre-ordering a bunch of eagerly anticipated titles and then finding them beyond dull was a lesson in ditching. Life really IS too short to waste on a book that doesn’t grab you (unless you’re at school. Sorry suckers…I mean…students). Arundhati Roy, Michael Chabon, Madeleine Thien, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss and even my beloved Ian McEwan totally disappointed me. Anyone else feel that way? I managed to finish Forest Dark and Nutshell but not the others. Should I? Do let me know…

In the meantime, check these out:

 

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead

Pulitzer Prize Winner. National Book Award Winner. Oprah Book Club. MOAM. Clearly this is one fine book. After being abandoned by her mother, Cora is an outcast among her fellow slaves on a Georgia plantation. Determined to make a better life for herself, she plots her escape via the Underground Railroad – a literal subway system that heads north. With each stop on the line she encounters a different life, and a new struggle. Cora’s unbelievable odyssey will leave you breathless, feeling both elated and disgusted with each passing chapter. An important, beautiful piece of art.  Also – coming soon to a screen near you, adapted by Barry Jenkins, of Moonlight fame.

 

13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT A FAT GIRL by Mona Awad

Another award-winner (and shortlisted for the Giller), this fabulous first novel tells the story of a suburban girl who can’t see herself as anything other then the Fat Girl. Sharp and funny, heart-breaking and sad, and oft-times downright uncomfortable, this reflection on body image and what it means to be thin and gorgeous – or not – in an looks-obssessed world is one for everybody. And every body.

 

THE MOTHERS by Brit Bennett

Another debut, another fantastic voice. Haunted by the recent suicide of her mother, high school senior Nadia is forced to make a life-changing decision. Friendship, teen romance, an unwanted pregnancy and what could have been all come in to play as Nadia looks back on that eventful final year of high school and the reckoning that comes with the passing of time.  A powerful look at motherhood in all its guises – being a mother, wanting a mother, having a mother.

 

A LITTLE LIFE – Hanya Yanagihara

Warning: this is not so much of a book as it is a masterpiece. And it is massive. Seriously – 737 pages that admittedly took me a couple of tries. The first time, I didn’t think the plot was grabby enough, though the writing was. The second time, I had a hard time focusing on who was who, yet was intrigued by the characters. The third time I couldn’t put it down.  Four friends from college try to make their way in NYC. Sounds simple, and is anything but. An operatic, gorgeous and devastating read. Challenge yourselves. It’s unforgettable and well-worth it.

 

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU – Celeste Ng

When a 16-year old dies tragically, her family, the only mixed-race family in their small town, tries to figure out what happened.  Celeste Ng is a brilliant and totally accessible writer as she explores the effects the tragedy has on the family and their relationships with the town – and each other. I had heard about Little Fires Everywhere (see below) and started this book while waiting for the next one’s release. I was totally transported – and transfixed. Racial issues, trying to belong, the fragility of happiness – it’s all here and it’s all amazing.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE – Celeste Ng

Family dynamics meet small town politics in another gorgeously written novel by Celeste Ng. Lives intersect as two totally different families are thrown together in unexpected ways. A white family tries to adopt a Chinese baby and relationships are tested as the characters are forced to take sides. In this book and the one above, seemingly simple prose that is deeply sharp leaves you thinking about the characters long after the last page has been turned. Celeste Ng could be one of my new favourites.

 

THE HATE U GIVE – Angie Thomas

There was a shitload of hype surrounding this novel – it debuted at the top of the NYT YA best seller list. But make no mistake, this is not just another young adult novel.  A poignant and ridiculously relevant story about what it’s like to be a person of colour in today’s USA. When narrator Starr witnesses the murder of her unarmed BFF by the police, everyone wants to know what really happened. So many reviews use the word “necessary” and that’s exactly what this is: a must-read that is timely without being preachy, channeling all the love, laughter and anger that we all can’t help but feel so often these days. Totally necessary reading.

 

EXIT WEST – Mohsin Hamid

Two young people meet and fall in love against the backdrop of a city under siege in a brutal civil war. He is a restrained prodigal son, she is an independent fiery spirit. Leaving their families and lives behind, they join the flood of refugees popping up in other countries through mystical and magical doorways. They may make it out alive, but will their relationship survive? Another timely read for an uncertain time.

 

MARLENA – Julie Buntin

“The Story of two girls and the wild year that will cost one her life, and define the other’s for decades”. That’s the official log line. The unofficial one should read “a year in the life of two 15-year old girls and how it can go spectacularly wrong spectacularly fast”. At 15 every little thing means everything. A lot of firsts. A couple of lasts. And a whole lot of shit that sticks with you forever. Great read from a great voice.

 

RABBIT CAKE -Annie Hartnett

Another story of family dysfunction and loss, another amazing voice with a gift for story telling. Our narrator, Elvis, is a young girl trying to figure it all out after her mom’s death. She can’t and she won’t but at least she can try to keep some kind of normalcy in her eccentric and suffering family. A great coming-of-age novel that is smart, engaging, funny and sad. Kind of absurd without being too crazy, this book had me from page one.

 

HOW TO BEHAVE IN A CROWD – Camille Bordas

Izidore aka Dory is the youngest in a family of six super smart and trippy kids. Only he’s kind of normal, which means he doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the fam. So while they’re busy prepping PhD theses and creating symphonies, he is the one who is actually noticing things, feeling feelings, and trying to live a real life. And when tragedy strikes, Dory tries to make sense of it all. This is an incredibly charming and quirky coming of age story.

 

YOU’LL GROW OUT OF IT  – Jessi Klein

If you like Amy Shumer, you’ll LOVE Jessi Klein, one of Shumer’s writers. And if you don’t like Amy Shumer, you’ll still like Jessi Klein. Her memoir is like the smarter, deeper and, dare I say, funnier version of Shumer’s The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo. I laughed out loud – a lot. And was moved too. She’s got all the (written) humour of Shumer but with a lot more sensitivity and intelligence.

 

THE FUTURES – Anna Pitoniak

I kept hearing about this book, and it never really appealed. Until I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. It’s a New York story of two college students who fall in love and move to the big city to pursue their hopes and dreams. When the financial crisis hits, they find themselves at the very center of it. Alternating between their points of view, the book explores those trying times in our early twenties when we’re trying to figure out our world, our place in it and who we really are.

 

THE BEST KIND OF PEOPLE – Zoe Whitall

When a beloved husband, father and teacher is arrested and charged with sexual assault, his family must deal with the fall out. Apropos, no? This exploration of loyalty, trust and truth is a gripping read as the author explores the toll one person’s actions can take on those around him. I found this to be a real page turner BUT the ending did fall a little flat. Still, when I enjoyed reading it, I really enjoyed reading it….

 

WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR – by Paul Kalinithi

Proceed with caution and get your kleenex ready, because this is one devastating read. This memoir is written by a brilliant young neurosurgeon who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Really. And yes, he dies while writing this book and his wife finishes it (no spoilers – it’s apparent from the first page). Examining what makes life worth living, this  superb book is an examination of life, love and how we live when we know we’re going to die. A wonderful, life-affirming tear-jerker that is no way shmaltzy.

 

ANOTHER BROOKLYN – Jacqueline Woodson

This sparely written novel is an exploration of 1970’s Brooklyn as seen through the eyes of a young black girl and her friends as they set out to navigate the mean streets of the city – and of adolescence. Powerful, evocative and emotional, you’ll be transported between now and then just like the narrator. This is a short book, but don’t let its size diminish its stature. Pure poetry.

 

GOODBYE VITAMIN – by Rachel Khong

This book started off quirky and funny and soon had me in tears. When Ruth’s engagement is called off, she returns to her hometown where is she is soon put “in charge” of her father who has been grappling with dementia. As she reconnects with her friends, family and former life, Ruth tries to figure out what she’s been running from all these years – and where she is actually going. Her journey through the best and worst of times is something we can all relate to, especially those who wonder if you can ever really go home again – wherever that may be.

 

CRAZY RICH ASIANS / CHINA RICH GIRLFRIEND / RICH PEOPLE PROBLEMS -Kevin Kwan

Oh, yes I did! After hearing about Crazy Rich Asians for ages and wondering if it was funny, racist or just plain cheesy, I decided to have a look. And I’m so glad I did. The sgtory revolves around the scandal unleashed in the rarified world of Chinese billionaires when the heir to one of the biggest fortunes in Asia brings home -gasp! – an American-born Chinese girl. Soon the backbiting and infighting begins – and doesn’t stop. I finished the first book in 3 days, becoming completely lost in a very different world – and I loved it! So much so, I picked up the other two books and downed them in quick succession. Is it a brilliant series? Hell no. Is it fabulous fun? F&ck yeah! Enjoy – because why not?!

 

To purchase any of these books, click on the links below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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October 30, 2017   1 Comment

GRADUATION DAY

It’s June, and therefore, for those with children of almost any school age, it’s Graduation Season.

Whether from pre-school to elementary, middle to high school, or university and beyond we have all been told, repeatedly, that it is a BIG DEAL. Growing up, wasn’t it just high school that was a big deal? Prom, corsage, limo? And university – duh – but pre?? Like the trophies and the medals – it’s graduation for everyone!

For my junior high “graduation” – our grade performed a musical version of the creation story.  I was one of 3 angels who wore flapper-style fringed dresses and sang a doo-wop song about being in Heaven. No joke. Another friend was the MC. And those were good parts. Some kids had to be “dancers” – in the dark, under black lights with white gloves doing jazz hands.

We’ve come a long way. In some ways.

When my eldest “graduated” from nursery it was kind of cute. Basically it was a photo-op situation where the parents (mostly moms) gushed about how fast time was flying. Some were saddened by it. I was relieved.

Then there was the big switch from pre-school/early years to Grade 1. For my kids, it wasn’t all that different. They went from an all-day Senior Kindergarten play-based classroom to an-day Grade One “big boy” class. Photos were, of course, adorable but the kids’ situation didn’t change all that much.

For the Elementary to Middle School jump, the kids (and parents) had an orientation so we could all understand how it would work. It felt scary. It felt serious.  Ultimately, for our family, it was still the same kids and the same school, but it was indeed different. Different teachers teaching different classes in different rooms. For a kid who didn’t like to sit in one place, it was a godsend. For one who thought a particular teacher hated him, it was a miracle. And the best part? They had lockers.

Lockers. Some of the girls had mini carpets and teeny tiny chandeliers in their lockers. The boys had magnets and shelves…for magnets. A kid with a locker was a Big Kid. Or so it seemed to the children in grade 6. To those finishing Grade 8, the once mighty locker became just another place to put their stuff.

At about halfway through the first term of Grade 8, talk of “Grad” began. I didn’t get it. At all. Graduation from Grade 8 – for me – was not “Grad”. “Real” graduation was from high school. Or university. Suddenly I found myself discussing Prom, breakfasts, pre-parties, post-parties. The kids were barely involved. There was a parent party, a parent poem, a photo collage made by – of course – the parents for their young graduates. Decor, menus, venues – the emails were flying. Even though I was on the planning committee, I felt like quite an imposter – I didn’t buy in. Not to any of it.

And now as the big day approaches, I cannot help but think about what it really means for my boy to be heading off to high school in September. He’s excited to be going to school with all of his friends even though, as I like to tell him (frequently), he probably hasn’t even met his friends yet! Up to now, it’s been all-childhood, all the time. I know his pals, their parents, his teachers.  Now, he’s entering his own phase. New friends. New experiences that have absolutely nothing to do with us. We won’t really know where he is, what he’s doing, or with whom. I’m well aware that it’s been my job to get him to this place, and I can only hope that he makes the right choices. I have total confidence in this young person but still – it terrifies me.

I am thrilled and scared. Happy and devastated. I know what I was up to in high school. I both laugh and cringe when I think about it. When I look at this boy, with whom I have such a special relationship, and I picture him leaving me out of his high school life – because that is exactly what he is supposed to do – I get teary. Not too many teenagers are coming home to discuss what’s going on with their mommies. Some do, sometimes, but not a lot. While my son and I are truly sympatico, I am not his best friend, nor is he mine. I don’t expect him to tell me everything, and as he enters these totally impactful high school years I’ll be happy if/when he tells me anything! This is his time. He’ll be making new memories and really carving out he who is. All exciting stuff, invigorating and, hopefully, not too traumatizing.

So much of who we become is etched upon us in high school. The music we’re into. The friends we find. The mistakes we make. High school is a place of freedom and excitement, but also a place where it can be so hard to figure out who we are. We get boxed in. Left out. Egged on. Some part of us never leaves high school.

And now that’s where he’s heading.

So as we enter his final week of middle school, with the parties and the ceremonies and the goodbyes, I know that it is “only grade 8”. And that in 4 short years when he (hopefully!) graduates from high school I will think back to this with fondness and smiles.

But for today I will wish my young graduate the fortitude to make the right decisions. To be his own person.  To stay kind, funny, compassionate and smart. There will be wounds in the teenage world of social warfare, and challenges he’ll think he can never possibly surpass. Life will be the best. And the worst. And we will be there for him whether he wants us or not.

And whether we want to or not, we will set him free and watch him fly…..

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June 19, 2017   5 Comments

This is (almost) 50

On the near-eve of my 49th birthday, it is nearly impossible to escape The Big 5-0 looming ahead. I think I started telling people I was “almost 50” when I was 46. To which they’d often respond “but you don’t look 50”. That’s because I wasn’t. Then.

But with the year-long countdown about to begin I have been reflecting on turning almost-50. And not just the “do I want a party to celebrate” kind of reflecting. (The answer, for those wondering is: no, I do not.)

The other big question I imagine most of us hitting any kind of milestone birthday ask is: Am I where I thought I’d be?

Not exactly.

I was speaking to my mother, reminiscing about when she turned 50. I told her she seemed way ahead of where I’m at. To me it seemed like she was able to do pretty much whatever she wanted. Her children were older, she traveled a ton, her home was beautifully appointed and cared for meticulously, as was her cottage. For milestone birthdays she and her friends would make glamorous parties for each other – at home and away, involving costumes, themes, personalized T-shirts and surprise guests. My mom, at 50, was a free-wheeling, seemingly financially secure grown up. A real “adult” yet with a fun and youthful joie de vivre.

Me? Not so much.

I have 3 kids under 14. Our house lands somewhere on the scale between falling down and being torn up. I have several different freelance careers, and  I alternately love and/or loathe them all. My husband works his ass off day and night, coaches all 3 kids on and off the field/ice/pitch. Financial freedom is a dream we may never see realized. Leaving the house (sans children) – let alone the country – requires a shitload of organization and planning and is often not even possible. In fact, I still feel like a kid. A somewhat haggard and often exhausted kid.

I even have some of the same hang-ups from my youth including, sadly, “does my ass look fat?” And, ridiculously, “does he still like me?” You’d think I would move on from these teenage girl concerns. But you’d be wrong. On the flip side, and yes, there is a flip side burning bright,  I also have the knowledge and confidence that being older brings. Beauty absolutely fades and is a commodity I didn’t realize I used to have in spades. Now it’s more about looking good…. considering…. The insecurity within my own relationship? Now we make jokes about it – and blame my father. I can wear the same things day after day and have (almost) no qualms about walking out of the house “looking like that”. I’m not afraid to start up – and finish – a conversation. Or to speak my mind. Best of all I’m not overly concerned with judgements and opinions. Most of the time. I  know that I’m a damn good wife/mother/daughter/friend.   At this stage, the only one I tend to disappoint most is myself. Even my imposter-syndrome is only visible to those who know me very well. Fake it ’til you make it, Baby!

And yet, talking to my mom and telling her she really seemed to have it together, her one comment was that I was exactly where I should be. That I was the one who has it together with my 3 fabulous kids and a healthy marriage. She, on the other hand, had been divorced.

I couldn’t believe it. On paper, she had it all. And the only thing she could mention was that she was divorced? This from a woman who has been together with her husband for nearly 40 years (35 married) and still going strong. To me that’s an amazingly successful marriage. An accomplishment. But in her eyes, despite emerging from a broken marriage stronger, wiser and a mom of two, she still felt “less than” sixteen years later at age 50. If only we could see the positive things about ourselves through the eyes of others… I would argue that one of the best things that could’ve happened to my brother and I was being raised by a mother who was in a happy and healthy relationship.

50 and 23 in 1991.

So now, a month shy of 49, the question really is not “am I where I thought I would be” but, rather, “am I where I want to be?”

In so many ways, I think I am. I’m lucky enough to remember the dreams I had, acknowledge the ones I’ve lost, and be open to discovering new ones. Some dreams may stay dreams and that’s OK. Most of the time.  I am well aware that age is just a number, and all the other clichés that come with long days and short years. But with each birthday it becomes impossible not to reflect on the dreams that change along with the bodies – and the eyesight. New dreams emerge with the wrinkles, the readers, the grey hairs. The important thing is to be willing – and very able –  to deal with it all. Having an incredible cohort to join your journey (and a fabulous colorist) doesn’t hurt either.

Too much? Too personal? Too bad. I’m (almost) 50.

 

 

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April 27, 2017   2 Comments

2017. Buckle Up, Boys.

 

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New Year, New You? Whatever. New Year, Old Me is this year’s resolution.

I haven’t made a New Year’s resolution in years. In fact, the Gregorian New Year feels far less like a renewal or rebirth than the good ol’ 5777-year-old Jewish one. Rosh Hashana brings with it Yom Kippur and, like it or not, I always find it a time of reflection and thought. Being around the start of the new school year helps.

But Jan 1 resolutions? Not for me.

Except this year.

There will be no weight loss, cardio increases or spendthriftery for this girl. This isn’t about volunteering more, drinking less, or vanquishing vices. No, this is the year I’ve decided to stop parenting my children. At least in many of the ways they’ve come to expect.

I will happily try to accommodate them when it works – for me. I will not be forcing activities and plans and action upon them. My Man and I have tried our best to make our boys well-rounded human beings. But we can’t force them to practice musical instruments they refuse to play. We can’t make them like what we like. I am done with sign ups. And paying. And hustling. Gentlemen, if you’re not in, neither am I.

Wanna to stay home and be bored? Me too! Addicted to their screens? Who isn’t?! They can watch their shit while I watch mine. Until I tell them to stop. Negotiations are over. Be as bored as you can possibly be and let’s see what dreams and ideas come out of it. Or not – I’m not making it my problem. I’ve fought the good fight – if there is such a thing – and I’m finished.

I win.

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This year they can – and will – learn to amuse themselves. “Mama don’t play” has been a signature line of mine – and this year I say it with guilt-free pride. Go to the park, the backyard or the basement but count me out. I am not interested. Want to hit a movie? Go for dinner? Walk the streets and see what’s happening? Let me know when and where and I will be there. But activity zones, indoor play spaces and bowling? I’ll be the mom waiting and reading in the car. If I feel like it.

I was never good at sports. Ever. And I’m ok with it. This is not the year that I plan on learning how to snowboard nor will I be improving my skating or training for a marathon. No chance. This is the year I hope someone will join me in walking our dog. And if not, I have my headphones. My noise-cancelling headphones. And I’m not afraid to use ’em.

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Be more patient? Fuck that. I’ll be more real. If you’re making me crazy, you’ll know it, Fellas. I know I’m a good mom. I’ve been doing a great job, or at least the best that I can. I’ve never taken up the mantle of Homework Police and don’t intend to do so now. Furthermore, I resign as Warden of the Washroom. Piss on the walls if you will, just stay out of my ensuite ladies’ loo.

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“Dinner is better when we eat it together”.

Most of the time.

I have enough food issues of my own in trying to eat healthy and clean and low carb and no sugar and good fats and less meat and kosher-style and early enough and organic. There is very little nobility in homemade dinners at our place. At this point “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” will be the only menu item served chez nous. Because there’s always toast. Or hummous.

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As my eldest enters the teen years I brace myself. From all accounts of those who’ve been there and done that, my baby will be hating his dad and me soon enough. So we’ll do the best we can and wait for whatever brewing storm to pass. No one here gets out of adolescence unscathed so Bring. It. On. I have enough trust in my guys to know we’ll weather it well. (Like we have any other choice!)

I love my babies more than anything but this is the year that they learn that yes, parents are people. If I have to spend any more minutes focusing on breathing, I think I’ll bolt. I am full. So full of being mindful and grateful and careful. It’s painful.

So in this year of 2017, I resolve to bring back my own good self. Version 48.5. Because in many ways it feels I’ve been absent for a while and I miss me. My kids don’t know their pre-parent mother. They’ve only heard stories. But they will. They’ll know me and they’ll love me and we’ll all be better for it.

Happy New Year.

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January 6, 2017   2 Comments