Monday, March 23, 2015


We were at another lake this weekend, this time for the same reason every literary person goes on holiday: a basketball tournament.  That's right, I attended a March Madness gathering.  I was once invited to this gathering with the promise of movies and yoga but since the town we were in didn't even have a coffee shop, I wasn't holding out for any Bikram studios.  Not that I do Bikram!  I have attended two Bikram classes in my life.  During the middle of the first class the instructor answered his cellphone.  He stood in those strange underwear-pants Bikram instructors wear, in front of all those Jazzercise mirrors, and coached his wife through disconnecting their house alarm.  I returned the next morning because it was part of a free package and, also, because the instructor complimented my yoga skillz.  (I am not immune to compliments.)

I finished reading Alexandra Fuller's new book this week.  It's called Leaving Before the Rains Come and is about her divorce from the man she married as a young woman living on her family's farm in southern Africa.  If you haven't yet read Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight, you must!  It is drenched in beauty.  It also has quite a bit of sadness, but if you can take it, it will honestly make your heart bigger.  Oh life!  Why so large and crushing sometimes?  Sighhhhhhhh.  

I really do love Don't Let's Go To the Dogs Tonight.  More importantly, as I rediscovered in the new book, I love Fuller's prose.  I found myself nibbling at Leaving Before the Rains Come like a delicate dessert, moving slowly, leafing back and forth between sections, wanting to taste every word.  The book moves between the progress of her marriage and some of her family's personal history in southern Africa.  The sections about her family were my favorite, a delightful reminder that no matter what genre I read, I hunger for character.  If you do it right, some family members make wonderful characters.  I'm thinking here of David Sedaris, obviously, who sort of takes the cake for this sort of trick.  On a different part of the memoir spectrum, the less beguiling Molly Wizenberg crafts a loving portrait of her larger-than-life dad in her first book.  And though Bill Bryson is, it seems, a bit of a controversial figure in both wilderness and literary circles, who can forget his outrageous send up of his longtime friend Katz in A Walk in the Woods

Some decisions are easier than others
If I'm being honest, I think the real reason I did not move quickly through Fuller's newest book was not just because I savored every word.  It was because I could feel the long slow car-crash of her marriage and was not ready for the bloody end.  The author herself took sweet time getting to her point and, in that slow, circling-in-on-itself way of the book, I knew I was in trouble.  There was not a huge story, or rather, there were plenty of dramatic events, but the way Fuller told them, I desired as much time to process the information as she herself had clearly been doing for decades.  No matter how resolved the writer tried to appear, I simply did not want to see one of my heroes go through the slaughter of divorce. 

Speaking of slaughter, we made the mistake of going to a brewery on St. Patty's Day.  I don't really go to bars, period, so to wade into one on an official drinking holiday, with a baby strapped to my back, was one of my dumber moves of 2015. But we were meeting new friends and I'm so glad we made it.  The conversation was lovely.  We discussed writing, reading, and how stressful a room full of drunk people is to all of us, not just to my young child.  Don't worry - no babies were harmed in the making of this celebration, only our vocal chords as we shouted over patrons arm-wrestling nearby.  For better or worse, our daughter is emerging as the social butterfly of the family and seems genuinely entertained by rooms full of buzzing activity. 

During barroom conversation, I was reminded of a novel I read in the fall.  One-third of the way through it, two of the main characters divorced.  I did not see it coming and it sort of undid me, as a reader.  I was Just So Sad.  I never really recovered.

Divorce is a super tender subject.  I haven't gone through it personally but something about it really slays me, and not for any of that silly judgmental religious business.  Obviously there are times when it is necessary and important, but it must be hard to find an example where it is not a heart-wrenching trial.  My response to it may be as simple as understanding what it means to lose your footing, your foundation, your trust in the world.  I could cry just thinking about people having to go through this in addition to all the other pain-in-the-rear things adults have to go through, and when kids are part of the mix, just hand me the whole box of Kleenex, please. 

Wading into Alexandra Fuller's account of her divorce was, I suppose, not too different from clasping a woman's hand you have known a long time, going to that difficult place with her when she unpacks bad news.  Even though she isn't really my longtime friend, what are books if not an opportunity to know another life, to sit with another being, watch them grow and change and reveal and share and dance themselves into being, out from sadness, into light, right in front of your eyes?

Tender.  All of it.  The story of loss, the grief of divorce, the pressures of life no matter who stays together and who doesn't.  All of us in this big stew at once maybe, just maybe, comforting one another through the darkness. 


Friday, March 13, 2015


What is that saying - Denial ain't just a river in Egypt?  Well, when the temperature breaks the freeze mark all week and the sidewalks flood with snowmelt and my houseplants unfurl with luxurious green sighs, I have to admit it: spring is nice.  There is a tick in me, a broken stubborn knot that insists always on being a little contrary.  It's not conscious, and I like to blame it on being the last-born in the family, but it is true that when anyone declares something ugly, I will search reflexively for the beauty in it.  Don't you tell me what to see! is my gut internal reaction.

I've been reticent to declare winter difficult, to admit that grating cold might do more than make our house pop and groan.  It might just be doing the same thing to my cranky heart, and all the people around me moaning about the weather might not be so crazy after all. 

We went to Lake Michigan last weekend.  I felt pretty cool picking my way across the frozen lake among fellow pilgrims, as if we were in the know somehow and had meant to stumble on such a sight.  There were just a few pockets of ice that opened straight to the lake. I couldn't believe how cavalier some people were near those ledges.  Then again, I was wearing the baby, so I was extra-special careful and superstitious. 

In yoga class this week, the instructor - someone I had never met before - asked if everything was okay.  Before that, a woman approached, put her hand on my knee, and said she was sending good intentions my way.  It took me a minute to put it all together. I guess they interpreted the somewhat langorous way I have of stretching, and one particular forward bow I like to do for, like, ever, as signs of defeat.  It made me laugh but also humbled me, like, I really need that lady's good intentions, you know?  Whatever it is people are offering as help, I'll take it. 

When I first discovered yin yoga, a style where you hold poses gently for extended amounts of time, letting the body unfurl at its own pace, I was pretty blown away.  Sometimes I feel like a little elbow grease is called for to accomplish my goals, but lately, I find my life asking me to slow down, to cross six things off my to-do list and go to bed early with my baby.  I'm still blown away by this, that no matter how much my mind thinks it can muscle its way to whatever it wants, what I really need is to take a breather. 

Tim once drew a pie chart that filled in 80% with school and friends and walking the dog, and left 20% completely blank as a way to illustrate how I was overloading my days.  This might sound condescending but it was perfect for our house and went up on the fridge at the time.  We even passed it on to someone who dubbed it "The legacy of 80%." 

There are Sanskrit names for this dance and Jason Crandell, a columnist at Yoga Journal, has an excellent article about ease and effort that I'm basically too lazy to quote right now, but there were several petite miracles this week involving me giving up and then seeing exactly what I dreamed of unfold beautifully later, without any force of my own.  Huh.

All right, that's all.  I just wanted you to see these pretty pictures of the lake!  


P.S. This post was written in a velour bathrobe.  I just thought you should know how serious I take this yin stuff.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Here We Go

Well, here we are.  My birthday has passed. The lovely roses Tim bought me are melting into a sea of white ruffles.  The cake has all been eaten, the wine drunk, the babysitter paid - in baby kisses - and sent away.  Two days ago, I swear, the fridge was packed.  Now my mom is gone, we are out of everything but spinach, milk, and jelly, and I don't know which end is up again.

I really resist talking about some things because I feel like one of the perks of this blog is that it bucks the mundane and reaches for a sense of peace in a chaotic world.  Barring that, it reaches for the absurdity that nourishes us all.  But lately, all I feel is the chaos of life and it's making me uncomfortable. 

This post by Joy Cho, whose addiction to color is one of which I highly approve, discusses how little balance she feels between her creative work and her role as a mother and a wife.  Amelia and I talk about this subject (and talk and talk about it!) and Elizabeth Gilbert says that a belief in balance is just one more way to sabotage yourself, one more way to stand between yourself and your dreams.  I can't say what has tipped the scales for me, whether it is all the changes I've sustained in the last year with a baby, a move, career changes, and an icy, wind-lashing Michigan winter, but something has tipped and I find myself with far more questions than answers this season, severely humbled.

On the plus side, it became clear to me this week how much my mom understands the language of babies.  Samantha is blossoming and squawking and banging and exploring in ways she was not just a week before, and I love watching - or rather, hearing - the transition.  It's like the girl has finally found her voice, and I'm so happy for her.  I'm also inspired: it's possibly no accident that the daughter of two writers has been on the quiet side for most of her life.

In that vein, for a number of reasons, I want to post here more frequently.  Sometimes the most appropriate response to confusion is stillness, but I always find my way out of muck with words, the light thread of gossamer promises I am both following and also weaving myself.  In fact, writing is my way of finding stillness, so here we go.  I hope to see you here more often.  Maybe together we can squawk and bang and explore life in all its wild and wooly ways, or you can just watch me slip and slide my way along this season's muddy slope.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Middle of the Road

Angela Farmer in Nepal, 1985: photo credit here.

Angela Farmer has done it again.  A yoga teacher who focuses on the feminine aspects of darkness, mystery, and cycles in her work, Angela considers her classes to be not a workout but a "work-in." At least, this is
according to the luminous talk I listened to last week.  Maybe her bio says it better when she writes: "For me, Yoga is a journey each day down into my underworld - not knowing what I shall find..." 

She has a British accent, a Dutch husband, and lives in Greece.  I could listen to this woman for days.  See below for my crazed notes scribbled while her words piped into my headphones.

My first ever Sut Nam Bonsai post (!!) was inspired by Angela, so it is perhaps fitting to be returning to her now at a time when my life feels very full, sort of confusing, and ripe with cycles old and new: all true things about the period that birthed this blog.  The idea that every hour is actually new really resonates with me right now, and not just because my life is tied so closely to a young being who learns a new trick every day. 

I have this (totally not original) theory that people like children so much because they remind us of the children within ourselves; they bring us into the present in ways that by-pass years of therapy and meditation; they are still blazing in the gorgeous God/starlight that is within us all, but without the accumulated samskaras and dross that keep the rest of us from seeing that light sometimes.  It is also true, however, that such presence is available at all times, to everyone, and I am sort of fascinated by this truth right now.  My days wobble and contract and blossom so wildly lately, and what is true one day is not true the next.

I had to stop reading The First Wives Club because - speaking of dross - it started to suck.  Perhaps you already knew this, though.  Note to self: finish consuming creative work before wading into public discussion of it

I have picked up The House on First Street: My New Orleans Story, by Julia Reed after delighting in her 2014 effort, But Mama Always Put Vodka In Her Sangria!  This earlier book of Reed's is saving my mind, one hijinks-stuffed page at a time.  A columnist for Garden & Gun (a Southern lifestyle magazine that is more about the gardens than the guns, I swear), Reed's work is gossipy and glib, erudite and glitzy, and generally makes me feel closer to home.  She also wrote for Vogue and Newsweek, jobs that put her firmly in my mind with other writers who successfully bridge North-South culture divide; writers like Roy Blount, Jr., Jane Borden, my dad, etc., who feed me when I am underexposed to loveable, crazy people and the kind of everyday glamor that sometimes only people in the south can pull off.

Speaking of everyday glamor, my mom is coming to visit and it is my birthday this week!  I plan on bathing properly, eating well, and fitting in an exotic errand or two while we have trustworthy childcare close at hand.  I'll report back soon!  Unless it's all a disaster - then I'll just post a picture of Sam.

With love,

Friday, February 13, 2015

Into the Woods

It's almost Valentine's Day.  Yesterday was Sam's ten-month birthday and the only person who wished her a Happy Birthday was the lady in front of me in line at Meijer.  The woman had a two-month old at home and was remarkably cheerful.  She helped me unload my cart (bananas, lampshade, college-ruled notebooks - a variation on the time my friend Sumanth ran into Tim and I buying bananas, cheese, and donuts in grad school).

I wanted to say hello because I missed you guys and because February is one of my favorite months.  Is it childish to have a favorite month?  Don't answer that.

Also, now that we live in Michigan and can expect a more normal spring than ones in, say, Colorado, where it invariably snows in May, we are now closer to winter's thaw, so close I almost taste daffodils.

Where have I been, you may ask?  Besides at Meijer buying bananas?  Well, I've been painting our foyer, pouring over design books like some cliche of a house-wife, writing while Samantha naps - usually on my lap like a fleece-wrapped baby Jesus - and reading here and there. 

I'm currently in the middle of Olivia Goldsmith's The First Wives Club.  When Tim saw it on my nightstand, he says he thought to himself, "Oh, Kara's into beach reads now.  Okay."  I checked it out from the library on a whim, just to see what the story was all about.  I haven't seen the movie but it's always caught my eye, so here we are down the rabbit hole of my associative brain.  I ended up reading the first 100 pages of it in one sitting which sort of surprised me but won me over enough that I will probably finish it.  This piece calls Goldsmith an author of "pop-feminist novels."  What the heck is that?  The phrase leaves me uneasy.  Like, what would be the male equivalent of this category?  Anyway, I like this humongous book with its Manhattan setting.  Goldsmith's frosty-lipped Adele-like glamor shot on the back is excellent and makes me think there was once a glory day for novels (and authors in black sweaters).  It makes me imagine readers sinking their teeth into her book like a big piece of cake. 

I also revisited Meghan Daum's squirrely, bubbling works after listening to her interview on The Other People podcast.  You might remember her early-aughts collection of essays, My Misspent Youth, with its turquoise, blurry cover.  (What you might not remember is pouncing on that book in St. Marks Bookshop one snowy night, but you might have, like I did.)  Daum has a new book out called The Unspeakable which tackles among other things her decision not to have children.  She says our country is still not ready for women who make this decision.  I haven't read the book so I can't be in conversation with her ideas fully, but I've been contemplating this statement a lot. 

At first, I disagreed, or thought I ran in privileged circles because I never felt that I had to have children.  But just because something isn't true for me doesn't make it untrue.  Also, the fact that I wanted to have a child perhaps disqualifies me from weighing in heavily on the subject.

In the interview, Daum says that a society with a variety of roles for women is best for everyone.  This, I definitely agree with.  I remember a friend with a small child once saying that she enjoyed my company because she honestly didn't care for other people's children that much.  She didn't mean it rudely and she didn't want to sound like a snob.  Now that I am a mom, I keep thinking of this woman.  I adore other children but am up to my eyeballs in my own responsibilities.  I just don't have much energy left for anyone else right now.  To hang out with other moms feels like a mirror I can't handle: I know my life is chock full of chaos.  I know my hair is on end.  I don't need someone to show that to me.  I need someone to rescue me from it.

Being a mom gives new meaning to the phrase, Dig deep, which I always equated with pithy high school sports moments or pseudo crises of faith.  Not so now.  Being a parent gives me the, er, constant opportunity to assess my priorities.  The most helpful practice I know came, I believe, from Miranda July in an interview I can't find now, and it is to several times a day, just give up.  Surrender completely to the fact that my life is out of control. 

That's not a very cheerful place to land but it helps me see what matters.  It helps me see what's in front of my face which is usually a pajama-footed being with a halo of strawberry-blonde hair and a pile of books she is plowing through like a digger truck on steroids.  Giving up helps me understand that my dream for this moment may not be what this moment holds but when I let go of that dream, the air can come back into my lungs. 

What else can I tell you?  I liked this article about choosing a narrative voice, by one of our most peculiarly named writers, Dinty W. Moore.

That, and I love you, truly.  May your February be full of Valentines, even if you have to send them to yourself.  In my experience, some years, those are the best ones.



Saturday, January 17, 2015

Little Eskimos

Dear friends

Happy New Year!  I hope you had wonder-filled holidays, even if your wonder was of the "what the hell happened to my life?" variety.  It's cold here and Lake Michigan keeps dumping its wares on us, something Tim warned me would happen.  I don't mind.  It's fulfilling my fantasy about living in an igloo.  My current igloo is multi-storied and has a big rug inside.

I've been reading Ruth Reichl's book, Comfort Me With Apples, which is delicious on every level (and was introduced to me by Kat, of the equally entertaining Eggton blog).  It was Tim's birthday last week, which meant chocolate cake, donuts, and ho-made chicken curry. 

In other news, I watched Valentino: The Last Emperor while Samantha napped.  Talk about an indulgence!  The film is fun, pretty, thoughtful, and kind, though it did put a damper on all those donuts.  Models plus haute couture do not an appetite make.

I love the fabrics in the film, the glamor of fashion itself, but what I really appreciate is the film's exploration of Valentino's "empire", which is nothing short of a portrait of work.  It focuses on Valentino's longtime partnership with Giancarlo Giametti and goes behind the scenes to the seamstresses, set builders, and event designers who make up Valentino's world.  It reminded me of two things: 1) Joshua Wolf Shenk's book Powers of Two, which debunks the myth of the lone genius in our creativity-confused culture, and is the whole reason I heard about Valentino: The Last Emperor to begin with, and 2) How nothing made me happier at my last job than doing behind the scene work so my boss could shine.

I guess the look behind Valentino's curtain reminded me of one other thing, too, the moment in Comfort Me With Apples when five famous American chefs including Alice Waters are to cook a dinner for hundreds in Barcelona and are given nothing but a tiny kitchen and two pans.  Reichl can't help but point out, in addition, that the chefs usually have all kinds of minions to prep and chop their food ahead of time, that they essentially haven't chopped an onion for themselves in a decade.

I love restaurants.  Or, I love them when going out is a luxury.  (When it's a necessity, I just feel lazy, wasteful, and nervous about salt intake.)  I love white plates and sparkling goblets, cloth napkins and beams of proper lighting.  All the same, I have a hard time getting behind the whole chef-as-artist thing.  I guess because I love nothing more than hearty, simple food. In fact, I am still a little embarrassed that once, when visiting Amelia Morris, when asked what my favorite food is, I answered apples and salad.  (See also: what could I do with haute couture if I were taller and ate fewer donuts?)  But it's a little weird that I can't wrap my head around chefs as artists because that is my main motivation for being in the kitchen: to create. 

I appreciate Reichl's writing because she makes food sound so easy and full of love.  And while I would never ever call myself a cook or even a foodie, I can't deny the fact that I fell headlong into Molly Wizenberg's first book, A Homemade Life, and have a hard time looking away whenever I come across Luisa Weiss's book, My Berlin Kitchen.

So I guess this post is all leading up to what my life is leading up to a lot these days: memoirs and, in this case, food memoirs.  I stayed up reading an advanced copy of Amelia's book this week and guess what?  It's beautiful.  I zoomed through its pages like a Dyson vacuum and was tingling when I finished it in the early morning.  I was a bit of a grouch the next day but it was worth it, especially since I didn't have to growl at Tim anymore whenever he picks it up. 

I know I've mentioned this book a lot, and it's true, I'm excited about it.  I had the privilege of reading a few of its pages early on, and have been dying to get back to those pages ever since.  Now those pages and the stories they contain are all growsed up.  The fact that I can live inside Amelia's Going To California tale whenever I want now is just so fun. 

If you want to check out Amelia's story, here is a link to the book's trailer.  In the meantime, be well and be sexy, no matter how much butter you use! 

With love,


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lynda Barry & (Bonus!) Gift Guide

My friend sent me Lynda Barry's new book, Syllabus.  I suppose it's disingenuous to call her my friend.  I studied with her in graduate school and have been the recipient of so many books from her throughout the years, my definition of what a book can be has been whacked over the head - in a great way - many times.  It is a testament to her skill as an instructor, her aplomb as a mentor, that she is instilled so cozily in my brain I sometimes forget to credit her the years (and books) she has ahead of me. 

Appropriately enough, Syllabus is a collection of notes from and stories about Barry's years teaching the link between images, imagination, and the physical practice of writing and drawing.  I'm only a little ways in right now but already love it.  By happy accident, my husband recently brought home a different Barry book, One Hundred Demons, and I have (greedily) profited from its beauty as well. 

One Hundred Demons started as a project for, so parts of it can be still be viewed online.  This one is pretty great and gets at both the magical wonder that is the world of newspapers (in its mention of "Hints From Heloise") and at something Barry does particularly well, which is honor her outsider experience in the art world while roasting both her own weirdness and the uptight strictures from which she was excluded.  She's the kind of artist who makes me feel all right in the world, like maybe it's okay if I'm not perfect (of course that's true) and maybe it's just important to treat dogs nicely and eat food every once in awhile and maybe, whenever possible, put pen to paper because that's where love can be found.

Christmas is usually my favorite time of the year but something about travel and Tim's work and chasing a little baby around this year make me feel old.  While Samantha practices crawling, backing little white-socked feet into every corner of the house, I, truthfully, feel a little lost. 

I have always loved Brene Brown's observation that vulnerability is the first thing we look for in another person and the last thing we want to reveal about ourselves but I don't often write about emotions I'm struggling with here (other than those about Jonathan Franzen - but who isn't struggling with him every day of the year?) because I have to figure out my own problems.  Among friends and family members, I'm somewhat notorious for this.  Too Much Input = Unhappy Kara, so it doesn't do any good to air thoughts until I am ready to talk about them.  Generally, when I offer stories here, they are meant as gifts, pre-digested snippets for your happy consumption.  But I can't really hide from the fact that I am not even close to tackling Christmas this year. 

My friend called me Saturday morning and said, "Don't even try to pretend that winter in Michigan is fine because I know it's not.  I just know."  I died laughing because she grew up in Indiana, so she knows all about the Midwest winter, and besides that, she's right.  The grayness is getting to me.  I realized it on a walk last week, arrested by the sight of a glowing nativity scene.  There is a different one in my neighborhood, an old tacky one I still love, where the lamb's nose has rubbed off and Mary's turquoise robe clashes with the red trim of the camel's blanket.  The nativity that caught my eye is in the fancier neighborhood near mine, and I slowed when I saw it, entranced by its white glow in the cold afternoon.  The figures seemed to be floating on their bed of pine needles.  Something about this softness invited me in and I realized then I was starving for beauty.

I am constantly drafting an essay in my head about the importance of symbols in daily life, how an image works on the heart and mind at once, knitting them together in a glossy twine that frees both.  In Syllabus and other books, Lynda Barry tells the story of her teacher in art school who once asked, "What is an image?"  Barry seems to suggest that her whole life as an artist has been spent pursuing - pondering - this question.  I know it's not a new idea, this question of imagery, but I wonder if others have such a strong impulse to defend image.  Also, what is the difference between an image and a symbol?  I am truly interested in letting symbols speak continuously, in layers that unfold over years.

I may be tipping my hand about my religious upbringing here, but I'm really concerned with letting objects speak throughout the day: in written work, in the house, in glowing nativity scenes around the 'hood.  Looking around our house in Colorado, a friend of mine once said something to the effect of: wow, if this stuff were in anyone else's house, it would look crazy!  She meant it as a compliment, and I took it as one because I knew exactly what she meant.  I often worry how many crocheted deer samplers I will continue to purchase from thrift stores, how many wooden coasters tooled by shaky Alaskan hands I will fit into my life.  But like with friendship, I don't want to close the door on what calls to me, no matter how much it feels I have.  It's not about materials, it's about voice.  I don't ever want to be so complete that I won't listen to a new voice, some intrusion or interruption in my thoughts helping me loosen my grip, some friendly reminder that life is beautiful, that I am safe, that grace exists. 

So there.  I did not set out to write about nativity scenes and, in fact, spend a lot of energy in my life trying not to talk about stuff like that.  In my childhood, religion was a seriously love-filled affair.  My family went to a beautiful church packed with intelligent, funny people.  The pews were strong and shiny and the women had eyes that sparkled.  The men were strange in their sea of dark blazers but who cared?  There was craft glue in the Sunday school rooms.  The older I get, the more I understand how rare my experience was, how poisoned so many of my peers have felt in the hands of religion.  Or maybe enough people are not talking about how it affected them in the way it was perhaps always meant to: as an offer of sanctity, as a hand of peace.  Perhaps sordid tales will always make better stories.  In Jim Harrison's novella Legends of the Fall, there is a season of respite for the main character whose life is generally in turmoil and it is for this happy season that the writer has little to say.  Happiness sometimes makes a bad story, unless perhaps you are willing to detail how you came to that happiness?

Anyway, here we are.  Friday my baby was eight months old.  I think of this fact rather as Eight! Months! Old! (a la One Hundred Demon's exclamation-laden cover).  I'd like to write that I'm a mess, but I don't know if that is true or if I just want to think of my days as worth a story to tell.  I want to say I'm ready for winter hibernation, for a well of quiet to envelop and gather me in, but I think I also need to just crank the stereo.  Off I go to decide which, piling folk art upon folk art, leaning in to find my own.

To your season, whirring and dark and everything at once,

P.S. A Very Merry Sut Nam Gift Guide

I wanted to do an image-rich guide to my favorite things this year but December ran away with my brain.  If your life is anything like mine, you are 15% done with your holiday shopping and totally fine with that.  If your life isn't anything like mine, I commend you!  That must feel good. 

1) Remember my love for Justin Hocking?  His new memoir, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld is about Moby Dick, relationship addiction and recovery, and surfing in NYC.  It is beautiful and Hocking sticks the landing of every one of his literary acrobatics.

2) Claire Dederer's memoir, Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, has some of the most riveting prose I've encountered in a while, especially around Dederer's Seattle childhood.

3) I came across Dederer by her essay in the birth story anthology Labor Day, which I wrote about here and which I cannot say enough good things about - both for the topics covered and its sampling of all kinds of wonderful writers. 

4) I will never stop recommending Laura Munson's outrageously sane memoir, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season Of Unlikely Happiness.  Munson's husband says he wants a divorce.  She calmly side-steps the blow.  They work through a summer of weirdness and she writes about it in real time.  I felt like I was curled up in her study with her, holding a mug of tea alongside her. 

5) At $12, All Creativelike's "We Are Creators" poster is cheaper than therapy.  I don't know about your sessions but it's probably prettier as well.

6) We should all be subscribing to the prolific, funny Other People podcast, a show that interviews a different author/writer every episode.  This gift could easily become an obsession for people who like to hear about how people arrive at their art.  Speaking of arriving, Amelia's upcoming book, Bon Appetempt: A Coming-of-Age Story (with Recipes!)  is available for pre-order, and so is Megan Mayhew Bergman's newest book, Almost Famous Women.

7) Finally why not give the gift of good food?  A CSA, egg, or milk share would be welcome in most homes I know.  Heck, getting biblical here, you could even give part of an animal, an ethically raised pig, chicken, etc.  There's no rule that says you have to wait for a wedding to give a goat!  Buy someone's artisinal cheese and wield that wheel like the bounty it is. 

Finally, be safe, be kind, and treat yourself well!