November...

Hello, friends!

Since the last newsletter, I have become well acquainted with three things: the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit at Texas Children’s Hospital; the best routes to drive between our house and the Houston Medical Center; and the amazing, unfathomable kindness of God. I mentioned last month that we had experienced a family crisis, and at the time it was still relatively fresh so I didn’t like to talk about it much. Plus I knew a lot of you all were already acquainted with the situation. For those who weren’t and aren’t, here’s the summary: on October 1 my daughter and I were in a car accident and Christina suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. Since then, she has gone from being unresponsive to being alert and awake, and her cognitive and physical abilities are returning in amazing ways. Her personality is shining, she is working so hard at all her therapies, and she is being really brave and strong having to be away from home for so long. 

It’s a long road that we are on, and this current part of it has required a lot of juggling and tiredness, a lot of physical support from family and friends, and a lot of looking forward in hope while also living with the emotional ups and downs of a difficult situation. I might have more deep thoughts on our current situation next month, but not today. Today is for being present. (plus, I’m a slow processor).

The back and forth and tiredness and hours in a hospital room have--as you might expect--affected my reading and media consumption the last several weeks, but not necessarily in a bad way. I’ve gotten reacquainted with an old friend, and met some new ones, shared books with Christina, and enjoyed a couple on my own.

What I’m Reading...

Ramona and Her Father, by Beverly Cleary 

My memories of reading the Ramona series are so clear, so imprinted, that they feel like my actual memories. Klickitat Street is so vivid in my mind, it’s like I’ve been there in the flesh. I’ve looked forward to reading the Ramona books with my kids more than any other books, I think. Nostalgia aside, I’m also pleased to say that for me the books hold up. Some of the references and language may be a little old fashioned, and give hints to the publication dates, but the stories, characters, and themes are timeless, and Beverly Cleary writes with such deftness and sympathy for what it’s like to be a kid. 

Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth, by Jane O’Connell

I discovered the Fancy Nancy books when I was working as a librarian, and thought Nancy was adorable. I was secretly pretty thrilled when Christina took a liking to the picture books. I knew that the author had begun writing chapter books starring Nancy several years ago, but it wasn’t until the hospital librarian offered us the first of the series that I actually read any of them. It turned out to be a highly enjoyable read aloud with Christina. It’s classic Nancy with an excellently plotted mystery, not too difficult for a 6 year old to follow, but still intriguing enough to be a real mystery. 

The Magic Treehouse, by Mary Pope Osborne

Our friends sent us the first four of the Magic Treehouse books, and they were really fun to read. After the first one, I found myself waiting to pick them up until I knew I had a big enough chunk of time to read it all in one sitting! I can picture myself having loved these books as a kid, sitting in my favorite reading spot on the end of the living room couch. 

Don’t Blink, by Amy Krause Rosenthal

This picture book is fantastic. The premise is that every time you blink, you have to turn the page, and when you get to the end of the book, it’s bedtime. So an adorable owl tries to help you NOT BLINK, because we all want to avoid bedtime, right? (except me). This book was one of the first things that Christina interacted with and smiled at as she began to emerge cognitively, so it will always hold a special place in my heart, but I would love this book regardless. I’m thinking it will become one of my go-to gift books for babies and little kids.

The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime, by Mark Haddon

The main character of The Curious Incident is a teenage boy with autism. The set up of the story is that someone killed the neighbor’s dog, and [x] sets out to investigate the crime, but really, the book is more about getting to know [x] and spending time in his life. I really enjoyed it. I thought it was poignant, funny, and thought provoking.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon, by Sarah Addison Allen

This book was exactly the kind of novel I needed. I’ve checked Sarah Addison Allen books out from the library numerous times, but never managed to actually read one, despite the fact that everything I’ve heard about them indicates they are right up my alley. A few weeks ago, a friend sent me this one, so I felt extra motivated to finally read it, and my instincts were correct: it was right up my alley. Character driven, magical realism, with lyrical writing and a plot that touches on some deep and heavy subjects, but with enough hope and joy to keep it from feeling weighed down. 

What I’m watching...

When watching both the first and now second seasons of Umbrella Academy, I found myself thinking, “how are they going to manage to bring all these flailing, unravelled threads together?” Yet somehow, they do. I found myself thinking, “none of this makes sense,” and yet it also manages to make perfect sense! I loved watching continued development of this family’s relationships, the redemption arcs, and the crazy reveals. The plotting of this series was so tight, and the conclusion both satisfying and maddeningly tantalizing (please start filming season 3 soon!!) 

What I’m grateful for...

Starbucks gift cards, family and friends who take care of us, friends who clean our house, and Bri McKoy’s Whiskey Sour recipe.

Meet the Author: Charlotte Whitney

Charlotte Whitney’s historical fiction novel Threads: A Depression Era Tale, captivated me with its vivid setting. Ms. Whitney’s story was grounded in a single family in a specific time and place, but through her storytelling was able to capture a moment in history in a way that was really engaging and sympathetic. So I thought we might like to get to know her a little better! Meet Charlotte Whitney...

Favorite part of writing process: 

When you receive that first shipment of author’s copies and pull the new book out of the box.  You flip through it, and look at the familiar chapters, and it’s like a kid entering a toy store.  You’re finally there!

Least favorite part:

I struggle through every first draft.  Every sentence sounds clumsy.  The plot isn’t intriguing.  The characters are boring.  Even though I tell myself it’s the first draft, I want the words to come out polished with an exciting story and oh, so fascinating characters.  But that just doesn’t happen.

Where I feel at home:

I love being out in nature, whether it be a walk through a garden, a hike on a mountain trail, sitting at the bottom of a waterfall, listening.  I grew up on a farm, so much of my childhood was spent playing outside. When I’m outdoors I feel young, carefree, and much less stressed.

Someone who inspired me:

Early in my career I met someone about my age who was working on her first book.  She was so encouraging, indicating that perseverance was critical, plus lots of rewriting.  I knew I could do that.  A couple of years later, she told me that I was the only one of many friends she encouraged who actually followed through and published a book.  Perseverance.

Types of books I gravitate towards:

Not surprisingly I enjoy historical fiction.  I simply love being transported to a different place and time, swept away with a conflict that’s not part of my twenty-first century reality.  Some examples:  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline; The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah.

My super power:

Invisibility.  Listening in on conversations in waiting rooms or at other tables in restaurants, overhearing conversations in the locker room at the gym. 

Best piece of advice: 

Lighten up!  I tend to take life too seriously.  Fortunately my husband has a great sense of humor so he makes it easy to laugh at the world and at myself.

Go visit Charlotte and read more about her work at www.charlottewhitney.com.

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