Friday, April 26, 2013

To go on a family vacation and be able to read a book (or two) all the way through is a wonderful thing. I had been looking forward to both "Autobiography of Us" by Aria Beth Sloss and "Frances and Bernard" by Carlene Bauer, and I liked the first but loved the latter. One reviewer said he thought the ending was a bit of a letdown, but I disagree. I've gone back several times to reread the last page.

The elementary school that two of my children go to is celebrating National Poetry Month with what it calls "Poem in a Pocket Day." Every child is to write or find a poem that takes no longer than 30 seconds to read or recite and keep that poem in his or her pocket, ready to share if someone asks. While I won't name names, one of us was a little more enthusiastic about this project than the other, but both ended up with poems I think are "very them" folded (or stuffed) in their pockets. This is what I might choose if someone asked me to put a poem in my pocket.

I enjoyed this article in The New York Times Sunday Styles section (from a couple weeks back - still catching up) on conflict resolution in families, i.e. how to manage arguments and end up happier. The article includes several tips such as sitting in comfortable seats when discussing uncomfortable subjects; avoiding the word "you" in any discussion, such as "You never do this..."; and my personal favorite, the three-minute rule, which recognizes that the most important points can be made in the opening minutes. "After that, people repeat themselves at higher and higher decibels," the author says. For me, that's a hard one but a good one.

A little background on the photograph below, which is this month's Boston Magazine cover. According to the magazine, the original May cover was almost ready to go to print when the editors learned of the bombings in Boston. They quickly started over and came up with the idea of a heart composed of shoes worn in the marathon. They sent out posts on Facebook and Twitter asking runners if they would be willing to donate their shoes and to be interviewed about their experiences. Staffers also talked to friends and friends-of-friends until they had the 120 shoes you see below. I love this story, and I love this beautiful and touching cover.

Happy weekend.

(Photograph by Mitch Feinberg for Boston Magazine)


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It feels as though I've been away from this blog for a very long time. Last week was school vacation, and we flew out of Logan Airport the morning after the Boston Marathon, wondering if we were doing the right thing. As a friend said of her family, their feet were in the sand, but their hearts were at home. That was true of us, too.

Part of my silence over the past week was being away, but part was a struggle to find words. So much has been written about that day, so eloquently. As for me, I didn't run, I wasn't at the finish line, and everyone I knew who ran or watched from the end of the race eventually got home safely. I'm so grateful for that. Still, I'll share one impression from what I think of as "before," and one small anecdote from "after."

The official halfway point of the marathon is down the street from our house, and every year we love to watch the runners and wheelchair racers react to the 13-mile marker. Some raise their fists in a silent cheer, some grimace, most check their watches, and every single one keeps going. We'll keep going, too, as long as we live here. It's our tradition, and that won't change.

One week later, we were coming home from our trip, making our way through security. We were flying to Washington and from there on to Boston. I handed my driver's license to the security officer, who looked at it and then at me. In an accent I couldn't place, he asked me where in Massachusetts I live. I told him we live outside Boston. "I'm praying for you, you know," he said. Immediately, my eyes began to sting. "Thank you," I said.

"This is why we're a great country," he went on. "We're strong. And we support each other." I nodded, not trusting my voice, and we continued through security headed toward home.

(Photos from

Lean In

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I haven't yet read Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In, so it's a little funny that I'd be writing a post about it. In my defense, I'm really writing about Real Simple managing editor Kristin van Ogtrop's response to Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, and Sandberg's hugely successful and widely discussed new book.

Once, long ago, I read something van Ogtrop wrote in an anthology on motherhood. It was before I had children, but her essay struck me as the most honest and daring of the collection. Ever since then, I've looked forward to reading her monthly "editor's note" in Real Simple. She's funny and smart and, just as she was in that first essay, always honest.

In her most recent "editor's note" (an expanded version was published in The Huffington Post), van Ogtrop says, "Here's the thing: I don't want to be striving for bigger/better/higher/more every minute of every day. I don't always want to have a larger goal. That just sounds exhausting and, worst of all, completely joyless."

Obviously, as editor of a successful lifestyle magazine, van Ogtrop has achieved the kind of success I think Sandberg's talking about (but remember, I haven't read the book!). And she makes a point of saying how much she loves her job. But to me, that makes her argument more compelling, not less. This is the part that moved me most: "... I can tell you with certainty that, when I'm lying on my deathbed, I'm not going to be thinking about career wins. I'm going to be thinking about my parents and two sisters who greeted every new life situation like it was another chapter in a long, hilarious narrative; my steadfast husband, who gave me love and a true north; and finally, the three children who made me take life both more and less seriously, and whose faces are the only thing I see when I close my eyes."

The second best part of van Ogtrop's essay is the last few sentences. I've given away too much already, so I'll let you read it for yourself. I'd love to hear what you think.

(The photo above - of the mantle in my living room - was taken by my good friend and fabulous photographer Jennifer Green.)

Good reads

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I read this and this recently. They're so different but both good. I can't wait to read this. And I read this a few years ago, which I really loved and which turned me on to author Elizabeth Strout.

One of my favorite things in the world is requesting books online from the town library and then getting an email saying they're being held for me. It's like buying something new for free, and there's never any guilt. That's how I read Woman in the Mirror, a beautiful book by Richard Avedon of his photographs of women - some previously published, some not - from 1946 through 2004, the year he died. I like the earlier images best, particularly from the 1950s and '60s, but it's fascinating to see how his work changed, getting edgier and edgier as the years passed. My only disappointment with this book is having to give it back.

(All photographs from Woman in the Mirror by Richard Avedon)

Window seat

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

In our family room, there's a long, low row of cabinets full of games. It runs almost the length of one wall, and though it's not particularly deep, I've always thought of it as our future window seat. Future because, in the almost seven years we've lived here, no one has ever sat there or even perched, as far as I know. There is no comfortable cushion and no pillows, only Legos, a whole village of them. I like this village and will miss it when it's gone. But I think I'll like my someday window seat, too. So for now, I wait.

The window seat today.
A window seat for someday.
(Last photo by Emily Henderson)

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