All Kinds of Audiobooks

Iaffiliate links pic All Kinds of Audiobooks love audiobooks and always have. I’ve had a lot of long-distance driving in my life and audiobooks have been the only way I cope. Even when I take public transit it helps me detach from the mass of humanity and go to somewhere else in my head. I’m back to long commutes now that I’m at a new job, but I’m  not really sad because I get 45 minutes or so of uninterrupted listening time each way in the stillness and solitude of my car. It’s a beautiful thing.

I see people asking for audiobook recommendations a lot so I thought I’d share the best of my listens for the last year or so.

Where to Get Audiobooks

1. The Library. Libraries usually have a pretty fantastic selection of audiobooks, especially if you have several local libraries that can send audiobooks from one location to another if you put it on hold. This should usually be your first stop. If it’s a new release you’ll have a decent waiting period. But on the bright side, only really popular and really new releases have enough holds that the audio has a long wait. The audio almost always has less holds than the book, though there are also less copies so keep that in mind.

2. Audible. I restarted my Audible subscription last year even though money was really tight. It made me happy enough that it was a total deal. You can do 1 audiobook a month for $14.95 or 2 for $22.95, and those prices are enough of a markdown from the audiobook price that you should get a subscription even if you aren’t sure you want more than one or two. With this link you can try Audible and get two free audiobooks All Kinds of Audiobooks. The thing is, once you start an Audible subscription, it’s really easy to get more audiobooks cheap. Audible has a Daily Deal every day (I check the emails every morning) where a popular book is marked down to usually less than $5. They also run sales every few weeks where a whole bunch of audiobooks will be on sale for cheap. The selection at Audible is incredibly good, you really can’t beat it. And if you get an audiobook you don’t like, you can return it and trade it for another book. Bonus: the recently updated phone app is a huge gamechanger. It works well (if you used the phone app before, it’s SO much better) and now I listen to more books on my phone than anything else.

3. Scribd. My pals at Book Riot got me on board with Scribd. It’s also a subscription model and most people use it for access to e-books. But they also have a decent audiobook library. I started my free trial last month when I read the first of a series on Audible but was out of credits even though I immediately needed to read the second and third. Enter Scribd, who kept me from spending too much money or waiting so long that I’d go nuts. The selection is smaller, but the price is great: $8.99 a month. You get e-books, too, with a lot of new titles mixed in. On the downside, as a subscription service you don’t get to keep anything. And their app needs tweaking, the audio quality isn’t as good and I’ve had a few hiccups. Not enough hiccups to get me to stop using it, though.

Now that you’ve got sources for your audiobooks, here’s some of my favorites in a few genres.

Crime

Way back in the day when I had my first Audible subscription, I listened to Tana French’s first novel In the Woods on audio and it is still one of my favorite listening experiences. Mysteries can be hard since you have to pay close attention, but if you’ve got time on your hands any of French’s books make great listening, especially if you like long books (I do!!).

 All Kinds of Audiobooks All Kinds of AudiobooksIf you like it on the gritty side, go for The Whites, a book whose praises I’ve been singing all year. By Richard Price, one of my absolute favorite authors, writing as Harry Brandt (long story), the reader here is one of the best I’ve ever had. He nails both sides of the story, and he turns on the New-York-cop-talk and the New-York-criminal-talk very well. All kinds of accents and backgrounds fly through this story and it feels 100% real the whole way. It’s a long one but moves, moves, moves.

 All Kinds of Audiobooks All Kinds of AudiobooksI read a lot in translation, especially crime, and a recent favorite is The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino. Never has a modern mystery reminded me so much of Agatha Christie, which is a huge compliment. A woman murders her ex-husband and her strange neighbor helps cover it up and at first this seems like your typical will-they-get-away-with-it book as the police investigate. But it’s meticulously done and has an ending that will make you fall out of your chair. I can’t praise it enough. The reader gives the book’s often-gentle Japanese style just the right tone.

Young Adult

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a book by two YA powerhouses (John Green and David Levithan) that goes back and forth between two narrators. It’s great for audio since you get two readers. I like to break up serious books with YA and this book was a delight. Plenty of real stakes for the two teenage boys with the exact same name at its center, but also plenty of lighthearted whimsy, including my favorite character, Tiny, the not-at-all-tiny gay best friend who writes a musical based on his own life. 

 All Kinds of AudiobooksI just finished listening to More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera, a new release. If I miss a book before it comes out and hear great things, it’s not at all unusual for me to hit up Audible and get it. The reader is not my favorite (the main character is a kid from the projects and the narrator’s voice just doesn’t hit that note) but I’m making up for it a little bit by listening to it on 1.25x speed which makes the too-long pauses not so long, another audio bonus. This book hits so many of the Contemporary YA notes, but is about a poor, brown kid instead of a well-off white kid, so if you’re tired of hearing about how tough kids in the suburbs have it, get on board. It also has an Eternal-Sunshine-esque twist of magical realism. There’s a slowly rising undercurrent of LGBT issues that go in directions you don’t expect. This is a novel that you have to really work not to spoil, so let me just say that I hit an unexpected plot twist as I pulled into the parking lot for work one day and was seriously devastated that I had to stop right then.

 All Kinds of Audiobooks All Kinds of AudiobooksI don’t think Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein belongs in YA. The protagonists happen to be teenage girls, but if they were teenage boys fighting in a war that would be an adult novel. The fact that these “soldiers” are girls shouldn’t change anything, and bonus points they’re spies!! But anyway. This book is another that had two readers for the two protagonists and they were both spectacular, with the right kind of accents (one working-class British, the other Scottish) that really bring their characters to life. Having much of the novel written in letter form, also makes it perfect for reading. This is really high-adventure, one of the most thrilling and heart-pounding books I’ve read. A great pick for a group listen.

Literary Fiction

 All Kinds of Audiobooks All Kinds of AudiobooksBilly Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was a book from a few years ago that I always meant to read and never did. This is exactly the kind of book I tend to seek out on audio and I’m so glad I read it that way because it had a spectacular reader and I think the novel was well served by being read aloud. This book is set in the early 2000’s and it’s about one day in the lives of Bravo Squad, who are briefly back in the US for a press tour that interrupts their tour in Iraq. This is a satire that captures the US in a specific place at a specific time. But the reason this book is so good (one of my favorites I’ve read this year, for sure) isn’t the satire but the big beating heart that is Billy Lynn and the bonds he feels with his family and his squad. The narrative that walks you slowly through the day building up to… you don’t know exactly what is also surprisingly suspenseful. Oh, and the reader is stellar, switching back and forth to the different and diverse voices of Bravo Squad like it’s nothing at all.

 All Kinds of Audiobooks All Kinds of AudiobooksWhen I found out that Toni Morrison has recorded several of her audiobooks I immediately had to get one. I listened to Sula, which was a perfect choice. It’s not one of her denser books (listening to Beloved strikes me as much too hard) and it’s not too long. You will see lots of readers complain about Morrison’s voice, so you may want to try a sample. I adored it. She doesn’t read like an actor, she reads like a poet. There is something so soothing about her voice, it moves like a river that flows right through your head down to your heart. She does voices well, which surprised me, and I was very sad when the book ended. I would like her to read so many things to me. 

 All Kinds of Audiobooks All Kinds of AudiobooksIf you follow me on Twitter you may know that I am addicted to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. I listened to the first 3 (the 4th comes out this fall) on audio in a frenzy. These books are more than just coming of age novels or books about a difficult friendship. They’re about what it means to be a woman and a person and, well, pretty much everything. You can start with My Brilliant Friend and if you find yourself unable to stop listening to it (I like audio for these, since I can hear what the Italian names and words are supposed to sound like) you can find all 3 on Scribd and binge them just like I did. My Brilliant Friend was one of those audiobooks that made me gasp out loud on the subway. Good stuff.

Celebrity Authors

I love celebrities reading their own writing, especially if it’s a comedian who writes well. Amy Poehler’s Yes Please is my top pick in this category. Poehler plays around with her audiobook, bringing in guest readers, and going off script plenty of times. She saves all kinds of special surprises just for the listener and it’s a delight. Her book is pretty fantastic as well, it got me teary-eyed on multiple occasions, so fair warning.

 All Kinds of Audiobooks All Kinds of AudiobooksIf you are single and frustrated or not single and just want to live vicariously, Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari is a good pick for listening. Ansari apologizes early on that you don’t get to see any graphs (I honestly didn’t really notice or care) but it’s a great pick for audio, especially if you’re only able to listen a little bit at a time. This book is seriously fascinating, a detailed look at all the ways dating and romance have changed in the last 50 years, and if you never had to worry about texting someone you’re going out with let’s just say you lived in a simpler time and I envy you. As someone who’s out there, this book felt really accurate (skewed a little younger than me, but still accurate) and helped me feel like I really wasn’t a crazy person. It’s basically required reading if you’re back in the field for the first time in a while. And it’s a fun book full of fascinating tidbits so if you like trivia, you should really get on board.

Sci-Fi

 All Kinds of Audiobooks All Kinds of AudiobooksSometimes I get a book just because of the reader. And that was a lot of the case with Redshirts by John Scalzi. I’ve been meaning to read Scalzi for ages but seeing that this book, about the kind of low-level characters on a Star-Trek-esque starship who keep getting killed off, was read by Wil Wheaton, who was one of my first crushes playing Wesley Crusher, I was 100% in. Wheaton’s a good reader and it’s a great audiobook, especially for a crowd on a long drive. It’s fun and interesting and not too long, a crowdpleaser for sure.

 All Kinds of Audiobooks All Kinds of AudiobooksFor more serious sci-fi you can try The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, another book I’d always meant to get to. This book is pretty harrowing at times and full of joy and love at others, definitely a book that covers a wide emotional spectrum. It’s also one of the few examples out there of a book about space exploration that also explores questions of humanity, morality, and religion in complex ways. Doing this book on audio helps a lot, since a lot of the book is made of dialogue between the central characters and hearing them actually have these conversations helped you feel more like you were there. 

Horror

 All Kinds of Audiobooks All Kinds of AudiobooksOne of my favorite books from last year, Bird Box by Josh Malerman, is one of my all-time favorite listens. Something about listening to horror makes you feel even more powerless and held-captive than you do with a physical book. You can’t skip your eyes ahead to the next paragraph to see what happens. You have to wait and feel like this is all happening too slow and it really rachets up the suspense. Listening to this book only made it more creepy and it remains one of the scariest books I have ever read. Sometimes I listened at home and would yell at the protagonist. I really wanted to do this on the subway, too, but I also didn’t want to be the crazy person on the subway yelling, “The birds, Malorie!!! The birds!!!!!”

A little bit of Stephen King backlist is a palate cleanser I go to every so often. I think I got pretty lucky with the selection of Christine. Yes, it’s the one about the car. But honestly I found it to be one of his stronger efforts from his not-so-strong years. It had a good reader who really brought the characters to life, and with a book that long you really start to get in a groove with it where it almost starts to feel like something you do every day.

I’d love to get some of your favorite audio picks in the comments. What have you listened to lately that’s been totally amazing??

Ditch Peer Pressure Pinterest Parties

sponsored post image Ditch Peer Pressure Pinterest Parties
Thanks to Hood for sponsoring this post.

Birthday parties are a racket. I don’t really believe in parties as a rule. I’m perfectly in favor of get-togethers, you know, where a bunch of people who enjoy each other’s company spend time together. But parties make me twitchy. 

Once you call it a party and start making lists, it no longer becomes a party. Now it’s work. And no matter how happy everyone is at that party and how many great pictures you get, it’s still work.

Parties at our house take as little work as possible. And the great thing is that everyone is still really happy and we get lots of great pictures and that’s the stuff that matters. It’s actually pretty easy to have a low-key, super-happy party. Anyone can do it with these simple steps.

1. Talk to your child.

Parties can involve a lot of trappings: food, cake, presents, games, friends, and all that. But not all of that matters. Talk with your child about what they really care about this birthday. What are the things they want most? Seeing a few specific friends? Getting that perfect present? Doing something super cool with family or best friend instead of a party? Once you’ve set priorities, you’ve also set the things that you can worry about less. It’s all about managing expectations and helping to avoid meltdowns, tantrums, and tears.

2. Remember it’s not about you. It’s also not about what anyone thinks.

Your party doesn’t have to be pin-worthy. It doesn’t have to make anyone jealous. It will be just fine if it isn’t a legend for years to come. We spend an awful lot of time telling our kids it’s important that they be themselves and make themselves happy and not care what other people think. This is a great time to put that into practice. If you’re worried about tongues wagging, then give your party a theme that encourages simplicity and old-school fun. A few ideas for old-school-fun themes: bike riding, Olympics, dress up, or even coloring for the little ones. 

3. Have the party and enjoy yourself.

See? That was awfully easy, wasn’t it?

For us, Graham cares most about actually having a party. He gets excited about the fact that it’s happening and that’s what’s most important to him. 

We stay home or go to a park. There are lots of places with fancy birthday party options that Graham loves, but it’s not in the budget right now. But in the future? Yeah, I’d do it. Because we show up, we party, we leave, and I love the simplicity.

Favors and games can be simple and cheap. This year it was dollar-store squirt guns and running around the spray park.

I made cake mix cupcakes with purple frosting and sprinkles Graham picked out. He was pretty pumped about the frosting and sprinkles, probably more excited than he would have been about a fancy store-bought cake. And to go with it we had Hoodsie cups, which totally fit my no muss-no fuss style of party planning. I don’t even have to worry about scooping or bowls. No silverware. Not even any napkins, since there was a shower for spraying down just a few feet away. 
squirt gun Ditch Peer Pressure Pinterest Parties

cupcake Ditch Peer Pressure Pinterest Parties

hoodsie Ditch Peer Pressure Pinterest Parties

I don’t know what it is about the Hoodsie cups. Maybe it’s just that it’s not their normal ice cream from a carton in the freezer. Maybe it’s that they each get their own little cup. Maybe the wooden spoons? But my kids love them and since not everyone we invited made it to Graham’s party, we have extras in the freezer that I can pull out as an after-dinner surprise.

With Graham’s party in the books, I’m off the hook until next year when Tessa turns 4. I’m guessing she’ll be old enough to want her own party by then. I’m not worried. 

This post was sponsored by Hood, who provided product and compensation for this post. I was pretty thrilled when they asked to post about simple birthday parties using Hoodsie cups since that is totally my jam. 

What We Don’t Say

For the last several weeks–before Charleston and McKinney and too many more–I’ve been thinking about this post. 

On Monday evenings after work I’ve been sitting in the cafeteria of the elementary school and talking about race.

Our school decided to take part in the Community Dialogue program run by YW Boston. At first I wasn’t sure if I would go. I already do a lot of meetings, my time with the kids is limited, and I wasn’t sure if I needed another thing in my life. But I’ve been unsettled and troubled and sad about so many things over the last year and I thought that maybe this would help me cope. I also thought that it might help me figure out what I could do to help with the racial problems that still exist in our communities. 

Sometimes I struggle to know what my part is in the conversation. I’m a white woman brought up in white suburbs who attended white schools. Sometimes race played a role in my life, like the year we moved to a town in California where half of the school was Japanese, but usually my life was one where I was overwhelmingly surrounded by white people.

But things changed for me as an adult. I spent years working in prisons and as a public defender where I worked with all races. I saw racism playing out in front of me every day. Atlanta is a pretty segregated city, but before I lived there I lived in a town outside the perimeter that was only 8% white. Boston is pretty segregated, too, but for the last few years I’ve lived in a neighborhood that is 50% white. and my specific area is probably more like 30 or 40% white. My kids attend a school where they are the minority, not the majority. Race has played out very differently in my life for the last 10 years than it did in the first 25. 

I know I understand a lot more than I used to. But often my background leaves me feeling like I don’t have the right to say anything. I worry that I’ll offend someone, I’ll decide to wait for someone else to speak up. After all, that’s how race is in many predominantly white neighborhoods. It’s not something you really talk about. I remember being a teenager and thinking how great it was that we all just didn’t care about race and how we were all just the same. A lot of people still think that way, but I don’t anymore.

The Dialogue sessions were made up of a small, racially mixed group. Our school has a minority white population but we tend to have majority white parental involvement and we have a majority white faculty. It’s something the school continues to struggle with and work through and part of the reason we were having these sessions. 

There’s a lot of ways that our hours spent together sharing personal stories and very raw emotions will help our school moving forward. But the biggest benefits was for us, the attendees. The conversations we had were honest and eye-opening and engrossing. I looked forward to going every week and I was sad when someone couldn’t make it. I felt really close to all of them when our sessions ended. All this from sitting on folding chairs and going through guided discussions about a truly difficult topic. I never realized just how much we are all missing by not talking about race. Being “polite” is hurting us. Speaking up opens eyes in ways you can’t imagine until you do it.

I won’t share their stories because they’re not mine to tell. But I can tell you about the themes that came back over and over again. Some of it was what I expected, the struggles that come from a school with a large population living in poverty, the places where race and class get intertwined, the achievement gap, the delicate balance between race and cultural heritage and ethnicity. Much of it was different. There were a lot of personal stories shared to show just what is happening to us on a daily basis and just how different your day-to-day experience can be when your skin looks one way instead of another.

One exercise that was particularly eye opening divided our large group into the whites and the persons of color. Each group was told to list ways they felt like their racial or ethnic heritage was celebrated and ways it made life more difficult. 

The minority group had a lot of celebrations: festivals, parades, community activities built on a shared ethnic or racial background. White participants struggled at first to find ways we were celebrated and our list ended up being a lot of the things that we now call “white privilege.” Seeing white people in media and in positions of power. Being treated politely. Assumptions people make that we are educated and well off.

The other side of the list was drastically different. The white list had a lot to do with the specifics of our school and the neighborhoods we live and work in: trying to reach out to others and sometimes being treated like we don’t understand because we’re white.

The list from the group with people of color, however, was long and troubling. Being watched and monitored in a store. Being stopped by security or law enforcement for no reason. People assuming you didn’t belong or were in the wrong place because you weren’t white. People making blatantly racist comments. Feeling threatened and unsafe. These were not occasional happenings but daily occurrences. 

The differences between these lists struck me in a way I haven’t been able to shake and it’s helped me to understand a lot about why our discussions about race over the last year or so are playing out the way they are.

When you’re a minority, you have to work harder to celebrate who you are. You have to be visible and vocal and work for respect. 

When you’re the majority, you just don’t realize how good you have it. Almost every privilege you get as a white person is silent. It happens every day, all around you, and no one says anything and you don’t notice it happening. But it happens constantly. I wonder what would happen if a little bell dinged every time you enjoyed a white privilege. Would it make people see things differently? 

The celebrations of the minority? Sure, they exist, but they happen only a very small amount of the time. No one is coming together to celebrate whiteness or help build the white community, and that can lead to some white people who feel like they don’t get a fair shake. 

This is, of course, ridiculous and shortsighted. It’s the same kind of thinking that took #BlackLivesMatter and turned it into #AllLivesMatter. It denies the hurt and fear of being treated as an other even if it’s under the guise of equality. Of course all lives matter. But black lives are under attack in a way that’s different from other lives. If we value all lives equally we have to pay attention when one set of those lives is being targeted and taken cruelly and horrifically. (You can and should read Claudia Rankine’s stunning essay expounding on this.)

As a white person going through life, when you’re treated respectfully you don’t assume it’s because of the color of your skin. But the honest truth is that your skin color has a lot to do with it a lot of the time. Just because you don’t hear a bell ringing doesn’t mean you aren’t coasting on privilege.

No one has ever told me I was in the wrong place because of my skin. (On the contrary, they tend to be kind and solicitous because I’m a white girl and that makes people want to treat me sweetly and take care of me.) No one ever assumed I was the maid or the janitor. When I tell people I went to law school, they aren’t surprised. 

I have friends from other races, but we don’t talk about these things beyond sharing articles and comments on social media. Every single person of color in our meetings had stories of rejection, displacement, fear, and danger. And even more stories they’d heard from their friends and family members. As I heard them over and over again, I realized that we’ve all been doing each other a disservice. We don’t tend to share these stories across racial lines.

And among groups of white people, we don’t call out racism when we see it.

We need to tell our stories, not just share whatever makes national news. We need to tell our friends when we experience racism or when we see it happening to those around us. We need to call out people who enable racism whether through ignorance or willful action. 

I had one of these moments recently. It wasn’t anything big. It was just one of those times when I was in a group of people, most of them were white, and someone said something casually racist. For the last year or so I’ve become much more aware of these occasions. With a few weeks of Dialogues under my belt I decided to open my mouth and try to stop it. I was gentle at first, trying to shut it down with indirect disapproval. But that didn’t work. So I said something I don’t think I’ve ever said anymore, “That’s kind of racist.” 

I look at that “kind of” and wish I’d left it out. It was my manners trying to come in and smooth things over and counteract the pointedness of my comment. But I should’ve just said, “That’s racist. You need to stop,” and left it at that.

Regardless, it stopped the line of conversation and we moved on. No one got upset. I actually felt much more awkward and uncomfortable before I said anything. After saying it I felt relieved. 

This is a duty we all share. You may feel like a conversation doesn’t matter much. But it does, And there’s more you can do.

You can look at life around you and ask if there’s racial discrimination. If there’s something around you where people of color are underrepresented, you need to examine it and ask what may be behind it. Sometimes it’s systemic racism, sometimes it’s the ignorance of the majority, but either way it should be changed. You can look at systems in place at work, at school, and in government that put a burden on people of color. It doesn’t have to be the serious stuff on the news. It can be something you’re involved in, somewhere you have influence, something you care about.

At Book Riot, for example, we make a conscious effort to read books by authors of color because the publishing industry still dramatically favors white authors, it publishes books mostly about white characters, it pigeonholes authors of color as being incapable of creating universal stories, reviewers pay more attention to white authors, and publishers push their marketing dollars behind a very white list of authors. (I saw this in person recently at BEA, the publishing industry’s largest trade show.) We use our platform to draw attention to the problem and to celebrate books by authors of color.

I have started to talk about it on Facebook because most people don’t know about the problem and just how bad it is. Awareness is the first step to changing a system. I get comments sometimes wondering why I bother or what’s the point. These people say they just want good books and they don’t care about race. They love books by authors of all races.

This is the same way I used to think as a teenager. It’s responding to an accusation of prejudice supported by data and evidence by ignoring it. So saying they “don’t care about race” may actually be true. It’s less that they don’t care about the race of the author but don’t care about whether racial injustice is occurring in an industry. 

If a system is racist, you not caring only allows the system to stay just as it is. 

Sure, my steps to change publishing are small. But I do what I can with my influence. I talk about it. I educate myself. I make an effort to expand my reading to include more authors of color. I bring needed attention to deserving books and authors. I provide my readers with information about books that they may not get from other places. And that is the beginning of change. Even if it’s just one industry in a big, giant system.

If you are in the Boston area, I’d encourage you to consider bringing the Community Dialogues to a part of your community that could use it, whether it’s your neighborhood, school, or business. If you’re not in Boston, do a little research to see if one is near you. (I’d just google “community dialogues on race (insert city name)”) Listen to the people around you, really hear their stories, and look at the world around you to see what you can do.

Storytime

A year ago at Graham’s IEP meeting, I was worried. He’d been in his pre-K class for 2 years and he’d made amazing progress there. I didn’t know what would happen when we put him in a classroom with more kids and more academics. Luckily they kept all his supports and I left feeling like it would be okay.

It was okay. All year he’s been comfortable and confident. But I’ve had a few nagging doubts in my head. 

I won’t lie, I succumbed to a few autism myths after Graham’s diagnosis about the big brains inside these closed-off kids. I clung to lines in his reports that talked about him being “bright.” But I saw him struggle with numbers and letters and I let go of those thoughts. I learned a lot as Graham got older and one of them was that I need to accept Graham as himself. If he’s great in school, if he struggles, he’s still my kid and it’s who he is.

Graham in tree resized Storytime

So this last month has been kind of a surprise. In Graham’s IEP this year, I heard that he’s at grade level in all subjects. They’re seeing signs that he’s good at math. 

I was still a little worried about reading. Graham and I have started reading chapter books together and it’s been a lot of fun to get him excited about reading. He would take one of his Magic Treehouse books to bed to “read,” and then tell me 20 minutes later that he was finished. I knew that with 1st grade coming up I needed to keep better tabs on his reading, but he’s always been so private about it, so hesitant to sound out words, so easily aggravated.

I told him that we’d be adding a new thing to our evening reading time, where he would read a book to me. He hesitated. I told him we didn’t have to do it right away. 

But then, yesterday, he asked to read to me. And this happened:

 

OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD You guys, it's the first time he would read for me and he can read!!!!!

A video posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

 

He read all of A Kiss for Little Bear with only the occasional question for words like “another” and “kissing.” There was a little trouble with “was” and “saw,” and I know he’s still prone to get things backwards, but I was floored. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. 

I try to remind myself that my kids are their own people, that there’s all this going on inside their heads that I’m not privy to, and that’s a good thing. But it’s really something when they take whatever they’ve been doing on their own and parade it in front of you without warning.

Is this post bragging? Probably. 

But it’s strange to have dreams about what your kids will be like, to see them all come crashing down, and then for them to start showing up again. It’s a strange, strange thing. 

I’ve watched other kids his age start reading this year and it hasn’t been painful, I have enough years of practice now that I’m better at not worrying about it and Graham isn’t so terribly far behind that he won’t catch up. But I’ve been aware of it, aware of his differences and his lag time. I wasn’t expecting him to surprise me so thoroughly. 

I had a complete bursting-with-pride moment and bought him 3 new books (even though I’d just told him no new books at the book fair, that we need to save our money for other things). Last night I had him read to me from one of his new books and he wasn’t nearly as excited. I think he likes to have some time by himself to get things right. I’m working on trying to balance his inner perfectionist and still letting him learn to make mistakes. 

Storytime in our house is a pretty great time right now.

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

It’s not unusual for there to be flurries of activity around something in the blogging world. Right now there’s a lot of talk about quitting and the pressure of blogging.

I respect where those people are coming from, but it’s only reminded me of something that I realized a long time ago: I don’t feel it the same way a lot of other bloggers do.

For me blogging is only a choice in that it’s the fastest end possible. But it IS an end, it’s not a means. I’m not using blogging to get somewhere or be someone. Blogging itself is what I want, it is where I want to go, it is who I want to be.

I have been able to use my blogging to make other things happen in my life, I’ve tried to be savvy and leverage it when I can, but that was never the goal. And it has never been more than a perk.

It is possible that someday I’ll pull post less or differently. But that’s life. That’s things changing. 

I do have that dream that I really will get the time to write that novel and that my blog will become my secondary form of expression rather than the primary one. 

But I don’t see a future where the blog stops. I don’t see me quitting. 

I’ve been doing this for a long time. Two weeks ago marked my 14th blog anniversary. 14 years ago I wrote my first blog post on my old site. I wrote that post as a freshly minted college graduate, just 21 years old. I’ve been blogging my entire adult life. 

I went through one big change, moving from that old site to this new one. I had to find a different way for my blog to work. I had to fit it into a different kind of life. But it didn’t die. And I only feel more strongly about it as time passes.

Those pressures? I don’t feel them. Lately I’m posting around once a week and I’m okay with that. I’m still experimenting and trying things. The blog continues to evolve, but I feel like “evolve” is the correct word because it’s moving forward and becoming something better. 

I post and I feel better. I post and I feel centered. I post and I feel like I’ve spent some time with myself. 

I forget to promote my posts sometimes. I have things I want to try that I don’t get to or forget about. I have goals I set and don’t meet. But none of it changes anything. 

I get that blogging has become an industry. And I’m thrilled that it’s a way some of us can monetize something we love. But I’m here for it whether that happens or not. 

If you don’t get me, that’s fine. You don’t have to. I’m not saying my way is the right way. We all do this for our own reasons and in our own way. But I think there may be some people out there like me who are starting to feel like they should respond to the pressure to “be” whatever it is. And if that doesn’t feel right for you, I just want you to know that there’s nobody out there who says you have to play by a set of rules.

I have a small blog. I don’t care if it ever gets big. I am thrilled with it staying small. I write what I want and the funny thing is that my readers have become more involved when I am more true to myself. I’ve been able to make tons of blogging friends and get a day job or two out of it and learn things and teach them and be fairly well respected in my own small-time way. I thought for a while that I had to be popular and have huge numbers for those things to happen, but you don’t. And I want to make sure that someone who needs to know that can know it.

I love my blog. It is me. It makes me happy. It makes my life better. It makes me a more fulfilled human being. That there are other people who enjoy it and even care about it is still astonishing. That it has done something small for a few people is more than I’ve ever asked for. It is, frankly, the best. And I just can’t quit.