The leaves are definitely starting to change around here. I love fall color, and one of the upsides of the season is that even driving around in the car becomes this beautiful experience.
That’s good because I spent a fair amount of time in the car over the past few days. On Thursday, I drove to Princeton to give a reading at Labyrinth Books on Nassau Street as part of the She Roars conference. I got to meet the authors of Code Girls, Flight Season, and Mary B. Although I wasn’t there long, it was really fun to be in town.
On Friday, we celebrated my daughter’s 7th birthday. She wore a tutu to school. She got a birthday crown at school. And my husband, my mother-in-law, and I could all come in to her class at 2:45 p.m. to celebrate. So that was pretty exciting. I read The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair, and the teacher read the cards that everyone wrote. Then my husband took our daughter to go buy a hermit crab. So we now have a tank and a new family member possibly named Luna (although this name changes frequently; Luna herself is too busy burrowing to care).
We had fondue for the birthday dinner, opened family presents, and then drove to Fairmont Park to go to The Glow. This is a display of thousands of carved pumpkins. It was pretty similar to last year, though the addition of a Super Bowl champions display, and a graveyard with all the New England Patriots players’ names on the stones, was a nice local crowd-pleasing touch.
Saturday I woke up early to meet Jane at 6:30 a.m. and run 8 miles on a local trail. We started in the dark. It is not getting light until 7 a.m. these days. While I don’t like the prospect of dusk at 5 p.m. (which is the inevitable result of the Daylight Savings shift) it will be nice to have light in the morning. One morning this week I had gotten up to run outside but it didn’t really feel safe enough to run until 6:40 a.m., which cuts into the kid-getting-ready time. (We don’t have sidewalks in our neighborhood, maybe if I had head-to-toe reflective gear — I welcome suggestions from people who run in the dark.)
We got in our 8 miles (and change) by 8 a.m., at which point I zoomed back home, said hello to everyone and showered, and zipped out to drive back over to Princeton, arriving by 9:45 to meet my fellow panelists for another She Roars-related event: a panel on combining work and family. There were four of us from the classes of 2000 and 2001 and between us we had 17 children. Adding in the moderator (a rock star engineering professor) got us to 21. So it was fun to hear everyone’s stories of managing their (large) families and their careers.
I got home around 2:00 p.m., which bought me approximately an hour of downtime before we loaded up the cars to go to my daughter’s birthday party at this indoor bouncy-house place called Bounce U. This felt slightly more contained than the Go Kart-arcade-Laser Tag craziness of my 9-year-old son’s party last week. So I felt a lot more relaxed.
Then it was home to open presents and watch the Texas A&M game. Well, some of it. I put the 3-year-old to bed, and watched for a bit, but I was tired, and it went into overtime, so I had to learn of the victory the next morning.
Sunday was very, very chill…for me. I sang with the chamber choir in church, and while I was there, my husband and mother-in-law elected to take the kids to NYC. So they were gone all day. I did a lot of work, but I also may have napped for 90 minutes….
One non-fun weekend experience: in my hour of downtime on Saturday, I bit down on a snack and suddenly felt something hard and sharp in my mouth: half of one of my molars. Apparently it broke off from an old filling. I’m posting this in late morning because I spent the morning at the dentist’s office getting that tooth reconstructed. Since that half of my mouth was numb, my dentist offered to take out my other silver filling on that side and replace it with a tooth colored one. I guess the upside is that my mouth is now much more cosmetically attractive than it was yesterday! As I near my 40th birthday, I’ll take these little bonuses…
Addendum: Books read in September 2018
Amid all the List of 100 Dreams fun last week, I realized I forgot to post my list of books read in September. Possibly just as well; it wasn’t a prolific month. I think I’m still recovering from Middlemarch in July and Infinite Jest in August.
Fed Up, by Gemma Hartley
This book, based on Hartley’s massively popular Harper’s Bazaar piece on emotional labor, will be out on November 13. Hartley has agreed to be a podcast guest, so I’ll write more about this title when that episode airs.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I’d seen this book on tables in book stores for years, and finally decided to pick it up. I was a bit…underwhelmed by it. (Note: Spoiler alerts coming up!) Yes, it was quirky and a quick read. I read the whole thing (200-plus pages) in one day. For being part of the seemingly endless genre of WWII books, it was unique, told in letters, featuring two spunky heroines, and covered the relatively uncovered topic of the occupation of the British channel islands. That said, given that the action occurs in the first half of 1946, I felt like the characters wrote and acted with a detachment that seemed unlikely given how recently the Germans had shipped out. Indeed, at the start of the novel, the society was still hoping that their ringleader would come home from the camps. The fact that her betrayer was still there, living on the island, and isn’t mentioned until late in the book, is just weird. Plus, the ending is too pat. Of course there will be marriage. And adoption! I guess my take is that it’s an immediately appealing, fun book that then leaves a meh aftertaste.
Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata
A strange young woman named Keiko gets a job at a convenience store in Tokyo. Nearly two decades later, she’s still there, perfectly happy, and wondering why the rest of the world finds this lack of career and life ambition unacceptable. This book is quirky, and moves fast (and is short) and though I can’t say I loved it, I did enjoy the satire of Japanese convenience store culture.
Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, by Mary Norris
This book has been sitting in the book pile in my office for more than a year, but I had not yet gotten around to it. I finally picked it up this month. Norris has worked as a copy-editor for decades at the New Yorker, and this memoir covers both her time there and the grammar lessons she thinks everyone should learn. The inside scoop on The New Yorker life is interesting (though since I’d read John McPhee’s Draft No. 4, I felt like I had gotten something of a glimpse already). It is a lot more entertaining as a grammar book than any others out there.
I am feeling in a bit of a reading slump this October. We will see if I pull out of it. Last October I read War and Peace AND Battle Cry of Freedom, so it’s going to be hard to top that (at least from a page count perspective).
Photo: The Mona Lisa, carved on pumpkins