Every year or two I am reminded that I have a Listography account where, for brief spells, I have experimented with logging various kinds of daily notes. In truth, I have these ephemera all over the place—an old Typepad blog, a for-a-little-while side-blog here at WordPress, dozens and dozens of paper notebooks accumulated over the years…sometimes I wish I’d been consistent and kept everything in one place. One shelf of notebooks stretching back through all the years (not leapfrogging over so many), or one lovely Listography archive like the one Sue writes about in this post, which is what nudged me to check in on my own page. Now of course I know that this blog itself is my most consistent record, and here I have captured much of the stuff worth capturing these past ten years.
But as Sue of Mouse Notebook writes, there’s something particularly nourishing in the daily practice of noting things that made you happy.
Exactly five years ago I began the practice, at bedtime, of writing a list of five things that have made me happy that day. It has been so good for me to do this, to look for the small beauties of life as well as remember the big, wonderful things. I now have over 1700 searchable entries recording snippets from my life over the last five years, which feels like a priceless asset.
Her lists are simple and direct and quite wonderful. I don’t know how I came across her list-page (via Lesley Austin, perhaps?), back in June 2010, but I was moved to follow her example:
Inspired by Mouse’s lists of things she liked today. I’d been keeping something similar in my paper notebook, but this might be a better place (baby keeps running off with my pen).
And reading on, I see how many things I captured that I would have forgotten, had indeed forgotten until this moment.
I see I kept with the daily notes barely a week, and then picked up again a year later for a handful of days. Interspersed with the ‘happy things’ lists are collections of links and book titles for various projects I was immersed in. Those have been fun to revisit, too—I’m laughing at the tentative summer reading list from June 2010. I’d be embarrassed to confess to the number of those books I have actually managed to read thus far—though, of course, the list of other books I did read would outstrip that one, thanks in large part to my Cybils-panel stints. (“So, huh, this is like four summers’ worth of books,” I noted at the bottom. Oh 2010 Lissa, you optimist.)
I love that I collected a list of rabbit trails inspired by my immersion in A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book, which I’ve reread twice since then! The sight of that jolly face on the jug makes me want to pick the novel up yet again (though it is anything but jolly).
Other sticky-notes there are collections of links I would probably just save to Diigo now, so they’d show in my sidebar. Or Evernote, if they were for me alone. Neither of those platforms (convenient and multifunctional as they are) can touch Listography for visual appeal, though. The look of those simple sticky notes was what drew me to Listography when I already had a perfectly good place to collect ephemera right here at Bonny Glen.
I played a lot of pennywhistle in the summer of 2010. Never got very good at it. By fall I was busy with other things and never circled back around to it (yet). Beanie has recently picked it up, though, and is already far better than I was.
By far the best notes on that page are the lists of happy moments from a handful of June days, a year apart. Planting sunflower seeds with the littles, rolling a ball down the slide, salt water taffy sent by Scott’s brother Jay…I’m glad I captured those. And Sue is right—imagine a list like that kept consistently year after year. What a treasure.
1) Spent a lovely weekend with my parents, who were visiting from Colorado. It’s the first time I’ve spent Mother’s Day with my mom since my sophomore year in college (May’s a busy month and their spring visits are typically in March, April, or June). So that was very nice indeed. Scott made brunch for all of us.
2) I ate a lot of bacon. (See #1.)
3) On Monday, my folks kept the kids while Scott and I headed off to the hills for an early anniversary dinner in the beautiful town of Julian, CA. Perfect weather, perfect food, perfect company, perfect day.
4) Except for the teeny tiny hiccup of my having to visit the podiatrist before we left town. Two needles, three sticks, RIGHT INTO THE TOE, which I’m pretty sure is a violation of the Geneva Convention.
5) I finished Turn of the Screw and made Scott read it right away because IT HAD TO BE TALKED ABOUT IMMEDIATELY. (More on that later.) Then I read The Rosie Project and made Scott read it right away because DITTO. I think sometimes it must be hard to be my spouse.
7) I didn’t blog about our anniversary on the day (yesterday) because (weep for me) my computer was in the shop. Had to have a fan replaced. It’s back home now (obviously) and no longer sounds like a jumbo jet taking off.
8) Now you know how I got so much reading done this week.
9) Because I also had to follow Turn of the Screw with a couple hours’ worth of online perusal of literary criticism on the book. Because I MEAN COME ON. Chilled to the bone, the whole time. Hats off to Mr. James. I’m still making my way through this site, which is a dissertation on the history of critical reaction to the book. Internet (and long-toiling PhD candidates), I heart you.
10) My Friday poetry group discussed meter (an introduction to scansion) and metaphor, and we did close readings of three Frost poems. I need to prep for tomorrow’s meeting, when we’ll dive into iambic meter and personification. Poet of the Week yet to be determined. (Give me an hour.)
11) Meanwhile, we’re hiding from the shocking heat in dim rooms, worrying about our North County friends who are dangerously affected by the fires. Stay safe, friends.
• Landmark History of the American People. I love this book. The chapters on the rise of the American political parties, which we read a couple of weeks ago—fascinating, engaging, even funny in parts, and of course highly relevant to current events, ahem. We’ve read big chunks of Landmark in years past, but never the whole book in one go; it’s a lot to take in. Finished up the Civil War section last week and are just about ready to head into the Antebellum era. Going to hold off a bit, though, until we catch up to 1865 in our American lit readings. Which brings us to…
• Anne Bradstreet. Read about her, read a couple of poems.
• The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan. Just came out. We procured a copy yesterday and it was immediately devoured by the first two sisters in line. Today was Beanie’s turn. All other events come to an immediate halt when a new Heroes of Olympus book crosses the threshold.
• Also I’m seeing The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (Mysterious Benedict Society prequel)The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma [edited because I should learn to read book titles] in a different set of hands every time I turn around. Scott picked up a copy after my booksigning on Saturday. (This is the peril of bookstore appearances. Any royalty income you might eventually see from the books sold at the event is spent before you leave the shop. Basically, I write books to feed my bookbuying habit.)
• Wonderboy is hooked on Calvin & Hobbes. His favorite bedtime reading. He falls asleep under a collection every night.
Other today things:
• This morning was finally cool enough (which is not to say cool, just notbroiling) for me to plant the treasures we picked up at last week’s City Farmers outing. I even did a little weeding. In a San Diego October (our crispy season), that feels like a Herculean feat. (Speaking of the Heroes of Olympus.)
Thankfully, I was alone when I read the denouement of this lovely little middle grade tale; anyone who watched while I was reading would surely have wondered how I could derive so much enjoyment (as evidenced by the broad grin on my face) out of what is obviously a children’s story. This one is pure enjoyment.
Here are some of the things I’ve shared via social media recently. (I do most of my FB posting on my author page now—a switch I made because I don’t like the visual layout of Timeline. Right after I made the switch, Facebook announced they’re rolling out Timeline to fan pages at the end of the month. Ah well.)
A whole new world of magic animals, brave young princes and evil witches has come to light with the discovery of 500 new fairytales, which were locked away in an archive in Regensburg, Germany for over 150 years. The tales are part of a collection of myths, legends and fairytales, gathered by the local historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (1810–1886) in the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz at about the same time as the Grimm brothers were collecting the fairytales that have since charmed adults and children around the world.
You can read one of the tales (in English) here: The Turnip Princess. (The very name gave me goosebumps. And the tale: quirky, intense, full of the familiar and yet quite fresh. “The nail burnt up like fire.” There’s an image for you.)
I always find something to love and something to learn at Tanita Davis’s blog, and this post is a case in point: Potpourri.
One of the nicest things about Scott’s return to the freelance life (over a year ago now, wow!) is that he’s beginning, occasionally, to blog again, so I get stories like this one capturing moments I wouldn’t have otherwise known. Love.
My poet friend Susan Taylor Brown has started a perfectly lovely new blog called Poppiness: Making a Home for Wildlife in the Suburbs. As a person who has read Noah’s Garden seven times, I am immediately and utterly beguiled by the title alone, and so look forward to enjoying all the posts to come.
Speaking of beguiling, this tidbit from my own Twitter feed: just a fragment of conversation I overheard this afternoon, Rilla to Scott.
I have no idea what the context was, but there is something enchanting about hearing the 5yo say to her daddy: “Yes. In the wilderness.”
(Some of these things, I’m sticking here because I want to hold on to them, and social media whisks them away into the void. I need to be better about storing up our own memories here, where I’ll always have them.)
In that vein, I loved this Rose utterance last week: “Yesterday, the world was cruel and life was dull because I wasn’t writing. Today, I’m writing, and the world is cruel—and life is colorful.” Yes. Yes, that about sums it up, my dear.
Overheard (Beanie this time): “You know what really pushes my buttons? Killer whales.”
Me: “I love my dinner! I love my family!”
Rose: “I notice the dinner came first.”
This one goes all the way back to January. Me, to the birthday boy: “How old are you?”
Birthday Boy: “Short.”
I posted a video to Facebook yesterday. It’s Rilla, caught reading to herself. (When she notices me there with the camera, she barely bats an eye—just asks for help with words she doesn’t know.) The book: Sara Varon’s graphic novel, Bake Sale. Toward the end of the clip, I realized Scott was playing Randy Newman’s “Short People” on iTunes just down the hall. You can hear it on the video. Coincidence. Funny! But mainly, the video was to capture this perfect moment in the life of a new reader. She has just made a massive leap from Elephant and Piggie to, well, things like this beyond-her-years graphic novel. I marveled to hear her read things like “You could use a vacation. Your frosting is looking a little pale” (the passage just before I started filming) and yet stumble deliciously over words like “said” and “extra.” This process, the way it unfolds organically, astonishes me every time. I didn’t teach this child to read. I read to her, and read with her, and slowly the pieces of the puzzle fitted themselves together inside her mind, and it is simply fantastic to behold, every time. Huck is on his way; the early signs are there. How carefully he touches each word on the cover of his current favorite book: The. Little. House. Opens it, turns to the title page, repeats. The. Little. House.
Ha—I see now this should have been a post of its own. Well, I’m not going to bother with cut and paste. This giant post is a pretty apt representation of the things catching my notice and occupying my thoughts, here in these early days of March, 2012.
Oh, and our radishes are up! And lettuce seedlings! A week later. Magical.
Updated to add: Boo! Looks like the Facebook video won’t show up in Google Reader. Here’s a direct link, or else you can click through to the post. It’s showing up there. For me, least. Anyone else?
Busy days here! I spring-cleaned my bedroom today, under the bed and all. (Yes, in July. Let’s just say I’m nine months early instead of three months late, shall we?) I did this not because I’m virtuous but because the dust bunnies were beginning to develop nasty big pointy teeth. Also, the middle girls were all deeply absorbed in Sculpey fashion design again, and Huck had a dump truck AND a toy bus, rendering me utterly superfluous. Wonderboy kept me company while I cleaned, keeping a running tally of the number of lost socks I fished out from behind the dresser and under the bed.
Later, we read a chapter of Calpurnia Tate and (to Rilla, for the very first time, with others listening in because it was a Momentous Occasion), Little House in the Big Woods.
My early reader came back from copyediting with just a few notes, hurrah for that, and now it’s off to the art director. This is the really exciting bit, when I’ll find out (soonish) who the illustrator will be.
And Scott is amusing me with his studious investigations of what route [unnamed superhero] would be most likely to take when flying from Point A to Point B. It seems [redacted] has options that aren’t available to the rest of us.
* the backyard sunflowers bloomed (front yard getting close)
* cleaned up the front flowerbed, moved a few ailing moss roses out there
* tackled the girls’ closet (oh the horror)
* read aloud: Harold and the Purple Crayon, Hush Little Dragon, Stellaluna (found it!), two chapters of Bake Sale, a new graphic novel from First Second (Rilla wanted to hear it because the main character is a cupcake, and before long we’d drawn a crowd. I saw Beanie finishing it on her own later.)
Maybe it’s because I’m in the preoccupied, immersive stage of writing a novel, or maybe it’s because our Shakespeare Club performance is less than a week away, but I seem to be in work-in-progress mode with everything, including writing blog posts and reading books. I have more than half a dozen newish posts sitting in drafts awaiting a bit more brain. They’ll come along eventually. As for reading, I’m still doing that thing where I read bits of many books and have trouble committing to one book in particular. I like all the books I’m reading right now. I like them all too much and can’t seem to settle down and choose between them.
Sooner or later, one of them will grab me by the throat and insist on being finished—probably while the pasta water boils over, or the bread burns.
This happens to me sometimes, this inability to settle down with just one book. I understand the pattern by now and know it has more to do with my mind churning with words and ideas than being a reflection on the books I’m reading—it isn’t that they aren’t gripping, it’s just that my mind is working overtime.
Mental restlessness has its perks; I’ve made a serious dent in the pile of boxes in our garage. Today I found some dishes we’ve been missing since we moved into this place 4 1/2 years ago, and a bunch of pictures I used as reference and inspiration for the Charlotte books, and some rare and highly awesome cassette recordings of my favorite college band. (I married the drummer.)
And my garden is virtually weed-free. I haven’t weeded on purpose; it just keeps happening while I’m lost in my head.
This afternoon Scott and I sat in the sunshine with Rilla curled between us like a cat, and I wrote—out loud—another episode in a little series of early readers I’ve been working on. Rilla helped. There was a delicious moment when I was trying out a line, rethinking, tinkering aloud, and Rilla said, “Yes. Let’s go with that.”