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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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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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Books, motherhood, and time

From “Boyhood on a Shelf” by Barbara Mahany:

That’s what reading together in childhood does: It forever binds us. My two boys, born eight years apart, played with their toys alone. Reading was where we nestled, where we sank in deep, side by side. Books are where our hearts did so very much of their stitching together. And they were my guideposts as a mother; they whispered the lessons I prayed my children would learn: Ferdinand, the gentle bull? Be not afraid to march to your own music. Harry Potter? Believe in magic. The tales of Narnia? Defend what is good. Tom Sawyer? Roam and roam widely. And never mind if you tumble into a slight bit of mischief.


I remember my mother reading to me. For some reason, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and A Castle in the Attic stick out the most in my mind. But I know she started our nighttime reading years before either of those, with classics like Goodnight Moon and Dr. Seuss. My memories are hazy flickers of a candle’s flame. It’s not the sound of her voice that lingers decades later, but the feeling of being read to, and cared for. The feeling of shared discovery, as the stories unfolded before both of us at the same time.

It is interesting, and wonderful, to be on the other side of that now.

We started reading to IB almost as soon as she was born. Ridiculous, maybe, but oh well. First, it was simple board books with black and white illustrations. Then, little stories with cute rhymes. Now, we can tackle more complex picture books, with layers of meaning for all ages to appreciate.

I imagine we will do the same with RB, when he gets here. (Oh, by the way, I am pregnant again.) I very much look forward to reading to him too, and to her and him together.

I wonder which stories they will remember the most when they’re adults. I wonder what shape their memories will take.


From “How I Rebuilt My Childhood Library, Book by Book” by J. Courtney Sullivan:

When you’re dealing with used books that once belonged to children, even those listed as “like new” are worn. A stray crayon mark or a torn page is not a sign of neglect, but of love.

With the arrival of every volume, I’d get a thrill, remembering. Not just the book itself, but what it meant to read it under the covers with a flashlight, or on the back porch of our house…


In the publishing industry, there’s a lot of talk about how books are not in competition with other books — at least not truly or solely. They are in competition with movies, TV shows, apps, social media, etc.

Now that I’m a mother, and my time and energy feel much more limited, I understand this more than ever. At the end of the day, after I’ve put IB to bed, and daytime’s obligations have either been finished or saved for tomorrow, I have about an hour or two to myself. I typically spend the first thirty minutes “resetting” the house — cleaning dishes, putting away toys, etc. Then it’s my time to “relax.”

Relaxing should be easy, right? And what could be easier than surfing the internet or watching TV? Or scrolling through my Facebook and Twitter feeds? So those are the places I turn to first. The places where my mind can go a bit blank, usually.

But I don’t find fulfillment there. I don’t gain much if any nourishment from those things. Mostly when I close my laptop or put down my phone, I feel as if I’ve lost more than I’ve gained.

I don’t like that feeling.

Maybe “easy” isn’t always worth the tradeoff.

I want to read more. I want to write more.

And what’s stopping me?

Nothing at all.

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This is 33

Last month, this little turkey turned two. Yesterday, I turned thirty-three. And of course, today is Thanksgiving. Lots of occasions for reflection. It’s easy to say that what I’m most thankful for is her — because it’s true. Like any toddler, she does cry and whine on occasion, but on the whole, she’s such a joyful little creature. And now she can talk, she can sing, she can draw, she can imagine. She fills us with awe every day.

This is 33: Holding my daughter in my arms at the end of each night, telling her “just one more minute,” and then counting to 100 instead of 60, because sometimes I just want to savor the moment a little bit longer.

She’s in full-time daycare now, and while I miss her terribly when she’s away, I also revel in having my whole day back. I love the quiet of the house while the sun is shining through the windows. I appreciate the ease of running errands, scheduling appointments, and doing all the other tedious things adults have to do, without worrying about how to bring her along. Even though I am honored by my role as a mother, I enjoy feeling like my own person for a few hours. I live for sitting at the table with my journal and my pen and actually writing again.

This is 33: Returning to my roots, just a girl with some time and some blank pages, and stories simmering inside her. 

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