Who am I?

Isn’t that the eternal question? Who am I? What makes me ME? Is it my history? My ancestry? The sum of my actions? My thoughts? Fears? Aspirations? I think this is a fundamental human question, something people the world over ask themselves, regardless of their life circumstances.

For me, it’s less a question of who I am than of where I belong. Thanks be to God, I know where that is: right where I am. If there’s one thing this pandemic has made abundantly clear, it’s that I am one blessed woman. My husband and my children are MY LIFE. Last year, we packed up and moved across the country. I was scared, but I knew that as long as the six of us were doing this together, I’d be fine. I can adjust to a new location, make new friends. But the core of my life is here with me. Even more so, now that we’re staying-at-home-all-together-all-the-time. Is it easy? No. Do we get on each other’s nerves sometimes? Yes. But do I doubt that we will come through it together? Not at all. My husband, my children, and the Grace of God will carry me; we will carry each other.

I haven’t always felt this at home. I had a profound identity crisis after becoming a mother – who was I if I wasn’t the smart woman who walked into work every day and did “important” stuff? If I couldn’t engage in my regular hobbies with my husband anymore (um, no rock climbing or backpacking with a newborn baby)? If I wasn’t the perfect student and had to give up grad school? I wrestled. For years. I suffered from PPD – multiple times. I reached incredible low points that I don’t wish on anyone. But I found me, I found home.

Perhaps it’s because I endured that journey that I am so interested in others’ stories as they search for what makes them them. I’ve had a chance to read a lot of books over the past bunch of days (self-isolating from your family does that, dratted pandemic), and there’s been a common theme across many of them: search for self.

A Drop of Midnight: A Memoir by [Diakité, Jason]Jason “Timbuktu” Diakite, a biracial Swedish rapper born of American parents, recounts his search for his identity in his memoir, A Drop of Midnight. I picked it up for free as part of Amazon Prime’s “First Reads” in February. I’d never heard of him before, I don’t like rap music, and I certainly don’t know what it’s like to experience a racial identity crisis. I’m a white girl from NJ. Very simple. So in many ways this was not a typical read for me, but I found it fascinating – which was certainly helped by the incredibly beautiful writing (hats off to the author and the translator!). It was moving, and while I can’t identify with his particular experiences, I can identify with Jason’s search for himself. I rooted for him as I read, praying he’d find that comfort in his own skin, that home he was clearly searching for. (I also learned a whole lot along the way, which is always nice.)

The War I Finally Won by [Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker]Ada Smith is a fictional 11-year-old girl with a club foot in WWII England. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War I Finally Won, a sequel to the Newberry Honor recipient The War That Saved My Life, takes us along on Ada’s journey as she finds her place in the world, a world that is constantly changing around her and full of heartache. She perseveres. She finds people who love her, she learns to love, and in doing so she finds home. It’s beautiful.

Austenland: A Novel by [Hale, Shannon]

On a more lighthearted note, Shannon Hale’s Jane “Erstwhile” Hayes (Austenland) takes a vacation to nineteenth century England to figure out who she is. It’s easy to call it a romance and move on, but it’s really one woman’s effort to figure out and accept herself so that she is capable of loving and being loved in return.

 

Rightfully Ours by [Astfalk, Carolyn]Finally, I just finished Carolyn Astfalk’s Rightfully Ours, a young adult, Catholic love story. It is beautiful in so many ways. In it we see Paul struggle through the hard work of adolescence, with the added burden of great personal loss. He grows from rotely following along with his childhood faith to true personal conviction. He finds who he wants to be, the courage to try to live his ideals, and the family to support him in that effort. For many, many reasons, this is a book I hope my children will read when they are old enough.

So, there you have four very different books that all speak beautifully to the human question who am I? There’s a fifth, too, but it’s an ARC and I can’t share it yet — wait ’til May/June. Who knows? We might even be able to go out in public by then….

Thank you for reading along with my musings. I am grateful that, for now, I have that question answered. I have no doubt that I will face many more trials and life changes that will challenge this notion – but right now, it is such a pleasure to read these stories, and learn from them, but not to feel that yearning, that seeking.

I am home, and it is beautiful.

Mom’s Day Out at the Great Valley Bookfest – it was awesome!

Two weekends ago I had the awesome opportunity (thank you, my dear husband!) to go to a local book festival for a few hours BY MYSELF and it was amazing. I truly could have stayed there ALL DAY LONG. I met and chatted with some interesting local authors, bought some indie books (I’ve already finished two of them!), and picked up some used books from the Friends of the Library sale (I was there for the closing of the Bookfest and all the used books were free!). I also have some ideas for next year’s Bookfest: 1) bring business cards (duh!) – I missed out on some great opportunities to leave my info with authors; 2) sign up to offer a workshop on editing; 3) block off the whole day and go earlier so I can sit in on some of the speakers. So much potential!

I took some pictures, but then my phone broke and I got a new one soooo they’re not accessible at the moment. Instead, I will share some links! First, the Bookfest itself:

GVBF logo The mission of the Great Valley Bookfest is to create a family-friendly festival that celebrates literacy and promotes the written word in the heart of California’s Central Valley. It benefits the following local literacy organizations: Friends of the LibraryGreat Valley Writing CampsGive Every Child A Chance; and San Joaquin County Office of Education (SCHOOLS)

Next, some of the books I picked up and authors I met:

Britt Nunes – Etched  – I met Britt Nunes, her twin sister, and her adorable baby nephew at the Bookfest and bought her first book, Etched. While it wasn’t flawlessly executed–it read like a first book–it was interesting and engaging, and I enjoyed it very much. When I finished it, I bought myself the e-book versions of the sequel and the prequel, and I look forward to reading more from Britt Nunes in the future! Find her here: brittnunes.com

Britt Nunes  33844215. sy475

Susan Lowe – Josie – I met Susan Lowe and her husband, and just had to buy the book — which I read in one day! It is the story of Josie, Susan’s mother, and her experiences as an ethnic German in post-WWII Yugoslavia. It’s spectacularly well done and I’m thankful to have met Susan and had the opportunity to read her book. Find more info here.

Susan A.  Lowe Josie: A Story of Faith and Survival

Major Mitchell – The Dona (historical fiction)

The Doña

Kathy Goosev Howell – The Perfectly Purple Sneakers (picture book)

The Perfectly Purple Sneakers

Brian Weisfeld – The Startup Squad – Find Brian here: www.thestartupsquad.com

The Startup Squad

 

I met a lot of other authors whose books I did not buy that day, but I’ll certainly be looking out for – and maybe I’ll see them again at next year’s Bookfest! 🙂

One of my new favorite lines! Fairy Mom says my messy house is USEFUL

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I’m reading Fairy Mom and Me by Sophie Kinsella to #2 (she’s almost 6). She has actually laughed out loud at this book and asked me to read – something she’s only ever done with the Mercy Watson/Tales from Deckawoo Drive chapter books, so this is big. So far I think it’s a cute book, nothing amazing but super silly and perfectly written for its audience. I do appreciate books as a reflection of reality, and I think I have just found one of my favorite books lines! This made me laugh out loud – and I’d like to tell you that according to Fairy Mom and Me, my messy house is actually useful:

Our house has lots of useful things, all just where you need them. Like Ollie’s toys all over the floor and a pile of coats on the bench in the hall. There are books everywhere, because you never know when you might want a book. (pg 51-52)

For your entertainment, I have included some photographs (taken this morning) illustrating just how readily available I keep these useful things in my house:

Toys all over the floor:

toys all over

A pile of coats on the bench in the hall:

coats on a bench

Books everywhere:

So no, I will not be winning any awards for a tidy house – but look how easily the kids and I can find what we need!