Two very different musicals

Andy and I recently saw the touring production of Les Miserables, which is one of his favorite musicals. A few years ago when he was traveling overseas a lot for business, he would often play the Hugh Jackman movie version — or even just that soundtrack — in the background while doing work on his laptop. Thank you, Delta in-flight entertainment.

I love Les Mis too, in part because I grew up listening to it at my best friend Alex’s house. We would play the Original Broadway Recording on CD, as a lullaby when going to bed, or sometimes as an accompaniment to our make-believe games.

“On My Own,” sung by the character Eponine, holds a special place in my heart, and is possibly the ultimate ballad about unrequited love. I remember singing it to myself often during middle school. My locker was right next to my crush’s, thanks to alphabetized assignments. Hopefully he never heard me humming it under my breath.

As with everything these days, I watched Les Mis through a new lens this time. Now being a parent, I identified so strongly with Valjean’s love for Cosette, his desire to do what would make her happy, even if it put him in danger, or took her away from him.

I also found myself noticing and appreciating new things, like how the same two or three riffs dominate the music, coming in and out, like themes weaving through the story. And in fact, the songs do parallel the way that the plot winds back on itself at times, with all its “twists,” the characters crossing paths with each other in so many different iterations. These “coincidences” could feel melodramatic, like a bad soap opera, but they don’t, because the story is grounded in history, social commentary, and emotional truth.

Also a musical, but completely opposite in tone, is the new TV series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. It’s kind of like a grown-up Glee. (Or at least, the first couple seasons of Glee, which were great. I stopped watching after that.) The main actress, Jane Levy, is remarkably charming, and the supporting cast is solid too. As you can probably tell from the bright colors, it’s an overall upbeat show, but there’s a streak of somberness — primarily in the storyline about Zoey’s dad — that adds unexpected depth. Exactly what I seek in my entertainment these days: optimism and heart.

Only four episodes have aired so far, but I find myself eagerly awaiting more.

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Favorite books of 2019

I was very pleased with my pace of reading in the first half of 2019, averaging 3 books a month! Then in the second half, after my son was born, I read exactly 0, haha. Oh well.

Out of 18 books, not a single one was a dud. I think because, with my time being so constrained, I’ve had to get more savvy — or maybe more ruthless — in my reading choices. Regardless, these were my favorites:

ALL YOU CAN EVER KNOW was a deftly written personal examination of race, adoption, and motherhood. Completely my jam. I plan to do a “Reading Reflections” post on it later this year.

THE LAST BEST STORY was also completely my jam, but in a different way. A teen rom-com featuring two high school newspaper nerds, with witty dialogue and great character depth.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE is a dense but straightforward guide for people who want to do better. I appreciated how practical it was, and I felt like I could immediately make use of things that I learned from it.

And finally, OTHER WORDS FOR HOME is the third published novel by my dear friend Jasmine Warga, and I truly think she has leveled up once again. Told in verse, this book is the story of a young girl forced to leave her home in Syria and make a new one here in America. Full of insight and emotion, humor and heart.

As for 2020, I’m off to a slow start, but I know that as my son gets older and eventually joins his sister at daycare/school, I’ll get my reading time back.

Click here for previous years’ favorites.


My husband’s love of reading continues to flourish, and I take great pleasure in having helped to foster that. It’s so fun to talk about books and authors with him now — and about the thoughts they inspire, and the way various stories intersect with our lives.

These were his favorite reads of 2019:

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2020

Hi.

I’m still here.

Well, not here here.

There is no time for here. No time or space for much of anything besides the kids, really.

But I’m finally getting some decent sleep again, so that’s nice.


Yesterday marked the beginning of a new year. Sometimes I feel that the way we measure and move through time is a meaningless construct — and yet, there’s something to it, isn’t there? Something to the idea of a fresh start. Something to the collective energy of so many people reflecting, reaffirming, rerouting.

In recent years, I’ve often skipped resolutions, but for 2020, I did jot down a few small — but potentially very impactful — goals:

  • Write words with wings
  • Read fiction 10 minutes every day
  • Go to bed around 11:30 pm every day
  • Don’t look at the phone when I’m spending time with people (especially my kids)
  • Blog more consistently again

Yes, in the last half of 2019, there wasn’t time for here. But it’s a new year. I’m back, because I want to be. Because this space means something to me — does something for me — even if “blogs are dead” and “readership is down” and I’m more or less just talking into a void. That’s OK. It’s my void. I like it. I’ll fill it.

(Bonus points if my using the word “void” made you think of The Good Place.)

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And then there were two

This little dude arrived last week, more or less on time, which felt quite late to this summer-hating mama.

We’re all doing well — better than I expected, to be honest — as we navigate through and to our new normal.

These first couple months are my least favorite phase of motherhood. My body aches in too many places; I’m not getting enough rest; the feeding and the burping and the diaper-changing and the helping-to-sleep are endless, thankless jobs.

But.

But there is this baby, so sweet and small. His softness. His vulnerability. His tongue fluttering as he searches for milk. His eyes blinking as he learns to see the world. His fingers curling around mine out of instinct, and maybe even trust. The rise and fall of his chest. His funny little mewls.

Sometimes the tiniest things have the mightiest force. Sometimes the hardest things are the most worthwhile.

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We are not okay

Wow. On Saturday night, I went to bed to one mass shooting, and on Sunday morning, I woke up to another. We can now mark the time between these tragedies — these atrocities — not in days but in hours. Is this what America’s greatness looks like?

I don’t want anyone to have to be “hashtag strong.” I want everyone to be able to be as weak and vulnerable as my children, and still be safe from gun violence.

This country has a problem. Many, many problems. They are fixable, but not if we keep pretending they don’t exist. Not if we keep shifting the blame, and offering lip service instead of making actual change.

We are losing our lives to hate, cowardice, and political bullshit.

It has to end.

Call your reps. Tell them how you feel. Tell them what you want. Tell them to do their f-cking jobs and represent us, protect us, serve us.

I called my reps this weekend — in tears — and I’ll call again. I won’t stop calling, and donating, and speaking out.

There’s a lot to be done. Let’s do it.

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