It's only NSFW if you say it outloud.

My sister sent me an old Chinese Proverb in the email today:

Confuscious say, if you're in a bookstore and you can't find the book you want, you're obviously in the:

Happy Wednesday!


My Monastery is a Minivan by Denise Roy

***I published this on my other blog - it's only vaguely a review, but I was moved in this manner by this book, which is more honest than me just saying: "it's great. Read it." ****

Dear Denise,

    Can I call you Denise? We’re both adults, and after reading My Monastery is a Minivan, I feel like we’re friends.

    My son is 3 months old. 15 weeks. It’s such a short amount of time - not a full season for any sport, not a full semester, only a 3rd of the amount of time it took me to make him. And yet in that time I realized several very disturbing things. First, I am psychotic. I’ve worked with a lot of young children over the course of the past 20 (egads!) years and the one thing that every mom has ever told me is: “it’s different when they’re yours. You’re more patient.” They. LIE. After twenty years of what I considered to be “helping to raise” children I thought I had the baby thing IN THE BAG. It took ten days to knock me off that horse. Second, I am not nearly as calm and composed as I’d like. I know there are hormones, but the tears, the frustration...it’s like puberty all over again only this time it’s being triggered by an infant. These two things left me feeling very out of my depth.

    So I started to look for some guidance. If you want to lead a more calm and balanced life there is a guide for that - many, actually. I started with mommy blogs (perfect window dressing but few willing to actually post that their child had them up all night for God-knows-why and what they really want is a martini) and moved on to montessori review (I’ve studied this as education and child care training, but not as a mother) and it’s still just as dry a read as it was when I was eighteen...I watched a documentary on the Dalai Lama (I follow him on facebook as well) and that was helpful and inspirational...but he’s not a mom. He doesn’t get it.

    And then, I’m in our local children’s bookstore just browsing and I see your book. On the shelf directly below “Once Upon a Potty” is the exact word I didn’t know was missing from my life: Momfulness. I picked it up and allowed it to fall open in my hands. This is something I often do with books - allowing the universe to guide me to recipes, essays, inspiration - and it opened to the Thich Nhat Hanh prayer*. Needless to say, I purchased it.

    But I read My Monastery is a Minivan first. I’m just starting on Momfulness, and I so far I’m glad I’m reading them in this order. I needed to know more about you as a mother before I started to learn from you. Although, really, I don’t think one needs to be a mother to enjoy your stories. One just has to have a mother. One just has to have a family.  On 35 separate occasions I was moved to tears, laughter, and deep contentment. I am inspired to be more present, to recognize that we are happy, to have more patience with myself and my son. Just hearing your experiences helps me find peace with mine.

    I do want to particularly address the story entitled “The Mother of Men.” For reasons too lengthy to go into here, I was (and am still, to a lesser extent) very apprehensive about raising a son. Everywhere else I looked were platitudes but you got to the heart of it: what men need is a rite of passage wherein the older men say “you are important and what you say is important.” I finished the book and immediately re-read that essay. In 13 years my husband (and our close male friends and relatives) will take our son into the Redwoods for a weekend and they will welcome him to manhood.

    Your 35 stories (and now your second book - so far, at least) has given me hope and reassurance that even though I’m not perfect, I don’t need to be. That as long as I practice compassion and mindfulness and respect - not just for my family but for myself as well, which is often harder - that it will all be ok.

    So really, I just wanted to say thank you.

Breathing in, I calm my body
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.


Noah's Garden by Sara Stein

   Way back in January I read a review of this book here, at a garden blog that I follow. I am I glad I took her advice and read it. Even though Stein wrote it seventeen years ago, it still has relevance today. It’s maybe MORE relevant today, considering the state of things.

    From chapter one, where she “unbecomes” a gardener, you know that the woman who wrote this book loves her land. And not really just the land that she and her husband own properly, but the American landscape as it used to be before everyone decided they needed English gardens surrounding their homes. Her attitude is one that New England should look like New England and California should look like California - it’s what made our country so appealing in the first place.

    If Stein had her way, the only foreign plants that would be allowed would be the ones who could get along with the natives and be contributing members of their habitat. And that’s where the unique part of her recollections lies: her yard isn’t just a place for a flat of emerald grass, some roses, and a shade tree or two - it’s a place for the entire circle of life to take place under her interested and caring gaze. The lowly aphid is just as welcome as the ladybugs who eat them and the birds who then feast on ladybugs.

    Like Pollan’s approach, Stein arrived at her present opinion through a series of trial and error. She didn’t set fire to a woodchuck’s home, but she did take part in the wholesale spraying of trees which led to the destruction of more than just the pest she was trying to save the trees from. Now (well, seventeen years ago) she doesn’t preach that you completely let your lawn go wild - what appears will not always be what you want to see - but that you understand the stages at which things happen, plant judiciously and with a vision of what it will look like in seventeen years rather than seventeen days (or months, even) and know that once you’ve restored the habitat to the balance it knew before the developers had their way with it...well, then you can sit back and watch the party. (By the way, I found the chapter in which she used the “Lawn As Party, Gardener as Host/Hostess” metaphor particularly charming.)

    It’s not quite “Zen” gardening because even that feels like it requires more maintenance than Stein’s garden probably needs today. But it is certainly more relaxed in its upkeep (though not in its establishment) than what my house is currently surrounded in and I am truly inspired. Unfortunately, as renters, we can only do so much; no prairie grass will grace our front lawn...but then, that wouldn’t have been what graced this valley when it was inhabited by Ohlones who embraced it’s natural resources.  I can say that the snails will live in the succulents so that the birds can have something to feast on and their shells will disintegrate to enrich the soil with minerals. I also have a new respect for our compost heap.

    PS: I tried to google to see if I could find a picture of her garden now, but to no avail. I would love to see how it’s grown.


Nail Biter by Sarah Graves

* I read Tool and Die...but I’ve had really bad sleep since then. I know I loved it...but I don’t remember it well enough to review it. On the plus side, this means I can re-read it!

It’s fall in Eastport when Nail Biter opens up and we discover that Jake and Ellie have purchased - and are currently renting out - a fixer-upper in one of the neighboring towns.  It’s not an entirely out-of-character move for our daring duo, as Jacobia likes biting off more than she can chew and Ellie is infinitely capable. But Ellie has a baby, a doozie of a fall storm is on its way, and Jake has...well, her family, her house, and a list of repairs as long as her arm.

So it only makes sense that the story opens with a murder, and then Graves throws a missing person into the mix, as well as her trusty conglomeration of hooligans, ne’er-do-wells, helpful citizens, suspicious strangers, suspicious old acquaintances, weather, leaky plumbing, boats, and pets.

At this stage of the game, it feels like the murders and missing persons are almost the b-plot. I would go so far as to say that they’re really just an excuse for us to catch up on the lives of our favorite fiction Eastportians. I’m also a fixer-upper junkie, so the state of her projects and - ultimately-  her house - are of great interest to me. I sit in my rental and read vicariously about things like new porches and double hung windows and a justification for power tools.

This book - which is set in October - has it’s share of chilling moments and things that make you go hm….it also serves as a gentle reminder that we don’t always know what something means, not everything can be explained, and not everything makes sense.

And that’s all I’m saying because otherwise I’ll spill a whole boatload of spoilers and no one likes that. Luckily, there are 3 more of these before I get to the one that’s coming out in May. Also Luckily - my TBR list never shrinks.
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