Five-Minute Friday: Berry

(Note: “Five-Minute Friday” is an activity adapted from Kate Motaung’s blog. Each week, I use https://randomwordgenerator.com/ and write for five minutes straight with the word as a prompt, free-write style with no editing and no over-thinking.)

 

For several summers before we moved to Ohio, my mother rented a house on Sunset Lake in Alton Bay, New Hampshire, and my family (dogs included) along with my sister and her husband would spend a week, sometimes 2, enjoying the peace and quiet. (Sunset Lake is a much less congested body of water than Lake Winnipesaukee.) One of the perks of the house we went to most frequently was use of their kayaks, which we used to ride the perimeter of the lake to pick blueberries.

I am not one who typically appreciates the outdoors – or, rather, I appreciate it from behind the glass of a window pane, sitting on a comfortable couch, reading a book. But throw me in a kayak with some empty pint containers, and I can lose hours paddling around the water, navigating spiders and other insects that would normally send me back to the couch and a bestseller.

It’s not really about the blueberries, though I have a deep sense of satisfaction when I see the filled containers lining the kitchen counter. We usually freeze them and take them home for baking, and I still have several bags unopened from our last trip a couple years ago.

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6 Months, 40 Books: A Midyear Review in Haiku

Y’all, for the last two years, I’ve written a year-end blog about the books I read. Last year, I read so many that I broke the post up into three, organized by genre. This year, I’m on track to read even more, so here’s a midyear review of the 40 books I’ve read so far.

I’m sticking with the same structure as before – books I keep thinking about, those that disappointed and surprised me, books I should have ditched, and “the rest” (good books that met my expectations). In each category, books are listed in the chronological order in which I read them.

To keep it concise, and to add an element of challenge for my writing brain, the “reviews” are all in haikus (5-7-5 syllables, in case you forgot the form).

My plan is to do the same with the books I’ve read from July – December and write lengthier reviews for a “Best of the Year” post.

Enjoy – and happy reading!

Books I keep thinking about

TillThe Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson (nonfiction)

Journalist writes truth:
Racists and a lie killed Till.
Mrs. Till inspires.

So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo (nonfiction)

Practical tools for
talking about a touchy
subject challenged me.

Voice Lessons for Parents by Wendy Mogel (nonfiction)

Follow these age-based
tips for talking to your kids.
Relax! They’ll be fine. 

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran (fiction)

Timely tale: Couple
gets detained mom’s boy. Read and
weep. This is our world.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (memoir)

Mormon-bred girl seeks
knowledge and has to leave home
to find it. True life.

Tenth of December by George Saunders (fictional short story collection)

Saunders, I don’t quite
understand you, but I sure
do like the wild ride.

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall (fiction)

Got under my skin.
Author’s larger point was not
lost on me, sadly.

Disappointments

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (fiction)

Female artists share
troubled pasts, form partnership,
and blaze trails. But…eh… 

Immortal

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (fiction)

Knowing when they’ll die
messes with siblings’ lives, yet
is a boring read.

Loving Day by Mat Johnson (fiction)

Surprise love child? Race
relations? Hippies? Didn’t live
up to potential.

The Art of Vanishing: A Memoir of Wanderlust by Laura Smith (memoir)

Want to hear about
Smith’s open marriage? I didn’t
either. Now I know.

Let Me Tell You by Shirley Jackson (collection of essays and fictional short stories)

I was hoping for
stories like “The Lottery.”
I did not find them.

Surprises

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (fiction)

Adopted siblings
reconnect and redefine
what family means.

Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years by David Litt (memoir)

Speechwriter shares his
memories and belief that
politics matters.

The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros (nonfiction)

Educator gives
practical tips on how to
change education.

How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge by Clay Scroggins (nonfiction)

Pastor gives advice
on leadership with Jesus
references throughout.

RBGThe Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon (nonfiction)

RBG, how I
love thee! A remarkable
tale of love and work.

The Wide Circumference of Love by Marita Golden (fiction)

Alzheimer’s is a
cruel thief. The Tate family
deals the best they can.

Meet Cute: Some People are Destined to Meet by a whole host of YA authors (fictional short story collection)

Stories about when
two lovers first meet. Delights
and warms your heart. *Sigh.

Books I should have ditched (but didn’t)

Census by Jesse Ball (fiction)

Father and son with
Down syndrome travel the land.
Not sure of the point.

The Impossible Vastness of Us by Samantha Young (fiction)

Reads like an adult
trying to sound like a teen.
Should have dropped it fast.

The rest…

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (nonfiction)

Her explanation
of feminism is on
point. Book of TedTalk.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (fiction)

Daughter goes to great
lengths to maintain her father’s
dignity. Moving.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (fiction)

Readable book deals
with issues of class and race,
but not the best Ng.

Happier10% Happier by Dan Harris (memoir)

Newsman loses his
shit. Meditating makes him
a bit happier.

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee (fiction)

Billed as a story
about the love of sisters…
It wasn’t…still good.

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia (nonfiction)

Blue Zones can remind
us of life’s purpose and help
us find our meaning.

One Station Away by Olaf Olafsson (fiction)

A case study of
sorts about a man and the
women in his life.

The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien (memoir)

I had to look up
how this could possibly be
real. So disturbing.

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (fiction)

The Hate U Give, but
Muslim heroine. Instead,
read Thomas’s book.

Piece of Mind by Michelle Adelman (fiction)

Brain-injured woman
finds family with brother
after parents die.

Give and Take by Adam Grant (nonfiction)

Who has more success,
givers or takers? Answer
is nuanced, of course.

ObamaObama: An Intimate Portrait by Pete Souza (photography)

A presidency
and a man captured on film.
A bygone era.

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer (fiction)

Many narrators,
all flawed characters that I
loved learning about.

The Power by Naomi Alderman (fiction)

Electricity
courses through women’s hands and
upsets dynamic.

Self Portrait with Boy by Rachel Lyon (fiction)

Young photog’s print of
dying boy sparks dilemma:
Publish or perish?

When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors (memoir)

Black Lives Matter’s birth.
Know origin? Think again.
Read and be humbled.

The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg (fictional short story collection)

Fairy tales retold
with feminist perspective.
Ehh – not quite my thing. 

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea (fiction)

Angel is dying.
Multi-generational
party sends him out.

It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell (fiction)

Like Big Little Lies,
it’s a page-turner whose twist
I didn’t see coming.

Heels in the Hall

(A quick, writing-on-the-airport-floor reflection)

The keynote speaker, a storyteller, says she will tell us her leadership journey (the conference theme) by starting at the beginning. In a split second, something in my subconscious asks me what my beginning is, and without thinking, I am back entertaining myself in a somewhat sterile office, appropriate for a hospital, the people shuffling outside in the halls as background noise.

And I hear it. The unmistakable sound of heels on the hallway’s tile floor, and not just any heels, but my mother’s. I’m not sure how I can recognize her gait from the other female footsteps, but I can. I can tell it’s her, walking deliberately down the hall. Maybe she is coming from a meeting. After all, that is what I once told people my mother did for a living – attend meetings.

In reality, she was a hospital administrator, director of the physical therapy/rehab services, at a time when none of my friends’ mothers worked outside the home. I know now how hard it was for her. I know now the harassment she endured. I know now how others looked down on her for her choice.

Or, really, I don’t know. While I have experienced all of these scenarios in my own professional life, I’ve done so in a different place and time. The culture has shifted…slightly, but it’s shifted.

I will never fully know my mother’s experience, but I do know that when I heard those heels in the hall, I thought, “That’s my mother.”

And decades later, I find myself in a convention center, listening to a keynote speaker tell her leadership journey “from the beginning” and am caught off guard when the beginning of my leadership story comes to me as the sound of my mother’s heels in the hall.

I know now how many physical therapists she mentored. I know now how many patients she helped. I know now how many trails she helped blaze. And I know now, from that moment at the conference today, how my leadership journey started in my mother’s walk down that hall.

Happy International Woman’s Day, belated!