Reading between naps

As I assumed would happen after little Ollie’s arrival, my reading has been all over the place.

There are times I can binge-read for hours, feeling focused and content with a sleepy baby in my arms. And other times I’m a knotty-haired, stone-cold mess who can barely open an eyeball to take in the news, let alone get lost in a complicated novel.

Ah, life with a newborn.

But I’m not me when I’m not reading. In the months before my actual due date, I had ambitions to choose a “meaningful” book for the time period of his birth. I didn’t know if I’d have a chance to actually read in the hospital, but I wanted something special and dear to help usher my mama heart into the next phase of life.

I don’t remember what I was reading before my wedding, but I do remember the book I brought to my first date with Spencer: Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. Back in my online dating days, I quickly figured out I liked arriving before my date so I could scope out a good table and settle my nerves. Getting there “a little early” — say, 10 minutes, like a normal person — quickly became a half hour or more, so I took to reading to kill the time.

Plus, you know, I thought it made me look sophisticated.

Choosing “the book” for Oliver’s birth changed when, of course, I became sick with preeclampsia and he arrived eight weeks early. We didn’t have a hospital bag packed before I was admitted, so I had Spence grab whatever was on my nightstand — along with my trusty Kindle — for the long haul.

My family brought magazines; I had the world accessible through my e-reader. But in the chaos of that week-long hospital stay and Oliver’s birth, I barely read a thing. My concentration? Shot. I did finish one book — a simple love story — but forgot the plot almost immediately afterward.

It’s been almost five weeks since Ollie’s birth . . . and I’ve actually finished a few novels. I don’t know when I’m reading, exactly, because I feel like a zombie about 90 percent of the time. Oliver eats every three hours and hasn’t yet mastered the idea of day/night, so he’s awake from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. pretty consistently. We are, too, of course.

Sometimes I watch TV — all I have the energy to do. But other times (magical times, really), I can muster the strength to grab my Kindle. It’s beautifully easy to cuddle a newborn in one arm with an e-reader in the other, and this book-loving mama made sure to begin practicing that skill immediately.

I can’t tax the ol’ brain too much, though. I’ve been popping into lighthearted, easy-to-read stories like Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret and Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I stumbled across Kimberly Rae Miller’s Coming Clean, a memoir of the author growing up in a hoarding household, and read that fast, too.



And I’ve been reading to the little guy, of course. We brought books to the hospital so I could introduce him to Eric Carle, a childhood favorite, but I wanted the first book we shared in his nursery to be really special. With the sunshine streaming in, I grabbed a gifted copy of Dr. Seuss’ classic Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

And I cried, of course, holding this tiny baby while talking and thinking and hoping for his winding, unknowable future. Though Ollie’s room doesn’t have a “theme,” per say, Dr. Seuss features prominently. We have a favorite Seuss quote ready to hang and a “One Fish, Two Fish” mobile above the crib he’ll sleep in after moving up from his bassinet . . . someday.

Someday. Some magical, sparkly day.

After the weeks of chaos following his early birth, I finally feel like we’re settling into a routine. Life with a baby in the house is definitely insane — both easier and harder than I was expecting — but full of beautiful little moments, too. I’m gaining a lot of confidence as a parent and Ollie’s caretaker; Spencer and I have changed hundreds of diapers, given dozens of bottles, changed onesies and socks and given our first bath.

Though it probably sounds silly now, those were things that worried me just a few months ago. Fear of the unknown, you know? But if there’s anything I’ve learned from being catapulted into parenthood, it’s this: you’ll figure it out. I was initially panicked that I hadn’t washed his clothes or gotten the nursery together or read the first chapters of the child care book my mom got me. There were just so many things that I thought I had to do, you know?

But we didn’t. When in doubt, we Google. The baby laundry was done and folded in no time. What we didn’t already have — like preemie clothes and diapers — made its way to us through generous friends and family, and the things that would have once paralyzed me with fear — NICU stays! insurance calls! leaving work early! childbirth! — just sort of . . . worked out.

It helps that I’ve changed, too. Though always a calendar-keeping planner, I’ve realized you can’t always shape life into perfect, convenient squares arranged in the pattern of your choosing . . . and I’m a much happier person when I just surrender and adapt. Digging my heels in the sand serves no one. And when pressed? I am capable. Strong. I can handle it.

So many lessons from this crazy, glorious, hard and wonderful time in our lives.

Ones I’ll continue to ponder . . . between naps.

Especially when my Kindle battery finally gives out.


Book Blogger Love-a-Thon: Howdy!

BANNER - 2015 LOVEATHON

Time for the Book Blogger Love-a-Thon! This two-day event is a way to bring together folks from all over the bookish Internet, spreading love for books and the bloggers who chat about them in the process. We’re meeting new folks, leaving comments, connecting on Twitter (#LoveAThon) and generally offering virtual smooches. See the list of participants and more at Alexa Loves Books.


Hi there! I’m Meg, a 29-year-old writer from Maryland, and I’ve been blogging steadily — about books, food, life — since 2008. write meg! began about a year after my college graduation as I languished a bit in the “real world,” missing the connections I found in the English classrooms I’d haunted for four years as an English lit major. I was a Borders bookseller as well as a newspaper editor, and was constantly seeking an avenue to discuss stories and writing. Starting a blog was a natural fit.

I stumbled upon the bookish Internet when a coworker introduced me to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, then quickly discovered The Book Lady’s Blog, run by Rebecca (now of Book Riot). Though I’d been posting about this and that for a few months, I lacked purpose — and hadn’t yet connected with other bloggers. My site averaged 10 hits a day. It was just kind of a thing I did . . . a thing without a goal.

But finding others posting reviews, creating book-inspired playlists, making recommendations and generally indulging their love of a story, an author, a series? Well, a light bulb went off. My aimless wanderings suddenly veered onto a path, and I wrote my first review — of Jennifer Weiner’s Little Earthquakes — that September.


me_waves_reading


I love literary fiction, contemporary fiction, chick lit, historical romance, young adult . . . and in the past few years, I’ve gotten into memoirs and humorous non-fiction, too. I’ve reviewed nearly 450 books here at write meg! with no plans to quit — even with a little one on the way. Most of my reviews are for contemporary and women’s fiction. These are my favorites.

When it comes to my best blogging experience, attending and speaking at the Book Blogger Convention in 2011 definitely ranks up there. Meeting so many friends in New York — in the flesh — was very exciting, and moderating a panel at the event pushed me way outside my comfort zone . . . in a good way. Though I don’t think public speaking will ever not force me into a cold sweat, it was an awesome way to connect with bloggers away from our computer screens. And just generally a great time.

So, given this is a Book Blogger Love-a-Thon, I feel the need to, er, come clean about the fact that I don’t blog only on books. I can sometimes go weeks without posting a review, actually, though I’m always in the middle of one novel or another. Reading is a vital part of my life (and I even had a bookish wedding!), but I often write about whatever is on my mind: weight gain (and loss), twenty-something conversation topics, becoming a parent. Variety is the spice of life, eh?

As the book blogging community continues to grow and change, I’m happy to still be here — and have formed many dear friendships these last seven years. Several have translated to “real life,” though even our Twitter chats are “real” to me. Checking in with you guys daily is just a part of my routine. We’ve been through countless life transitions, major moments, holidays and more together, and I look forward to sharing the arrival of Baby J — and many bookish stories — in the years to come.

Beyond write meg!, catch me on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.


Want to join the fun? Check out Alexa Love Books for more information and to visit other participants — there is so much going on this weekend. Giveaways, fun posts, Twitter chats . . . see you there!


Make new friends, but keep the old: Kindle vs. paperbacks

When an Amazon Kindle arrived under my Christmas tree in 2012, I was tentatively excited — but still unsure about the whole “e-reading” thing.

A lifelong paperback lover, I worried that reading on a screen would feel too much like work — too close to my 9-to-5 spent in front of a flickering computer monitor, not enough like the relaxation I crave. Though much smaller, I’d already tried reading on my iPhone and hated it.

And part of me felt like a traitor, honestly. At a time when online retailers were contributing to the demise of brick-and-mortar bookstores and we began to worry if print was dying, here I was: reading novels on a glowing device, buying e-files and casting aside my hardcovers. With hundreds of physical books in my library, would I no longer be interested in them? Would I get addicted to Kindle convenience and give my paperbacks away?

It sounds silly, maybe: e-reader guilt. But it was there.

The first book I read in digital format — Why Can’t I Be You by Allie Larkin — was . . . well, it was weird. I remember thinking I couldn’t concentrate on the text the way I can when holding a physical book, and I actually wondered if I’d retain any of the plot.

But I was pumped for the Kindle because, you know, it was a cool new gadget, and I was interested in getting review copies digitally. Because space was a premium at home and at the apartment I would later share with Spencer, the appeal of having dozens of books on a device in my hand — instead of stacked around our overflowing living room — couldn’t be denied.

Book I have not readMore than two years into my relationship with my Kindle, I can honestly say that many of those fears — especially the ones about getting rid of my physical books — never came to pass.

As I’ve started recording my books for 2015 on a spreadsheet, I’m tracking not only what I’m reading but how I’m reading it: physical, digital, audio. Where I was once a purist who couldn’t fathom the appeal of audio books, I’ve completely converted — and now spread my reading pretty evenly amongst the three mediums.

Do I still prefer print books? Well, yes and no. Nothing can replace the feel of a real book in your hands, fingers sliding across smooth pages, the sweet heft and look of it. I love real cover art; I like having a physical sense of being halfway through a story, versus “50 percent” through. A real book never needs charging, and it doesn’t have to be stowed before take-off.

But my Kindle has a place, too. I love it when I’m on the go, especially traveling (more room in the suitcase!), and the backlight is awesome. Our living room is pretty dark, and I’ve yet to find a comfortable place to read a physical book without having to squint and angle the book just so. The Kindle takes all that away. Plus, when I want to stay up and my husband wants to go to sleep? I can shut off the lamp, dim the Kindle and make reading in bed comfortable for both of us. Boom!

I miss “real” books when I want to re-read a passage from a previous chapter, or flip back to get a sense of a character I might have originally overlooked. I miss “real” books when a novel has a particularly glorious cover I wish I could gaze at, or when a quote really grabs me — one I wish I could underline and dog-ear. “Highlighting” on a Kindle? Just not the same.

So I switch it up. As we get closer to Baby J’s arrival, I’m trying to get through a backlog of novels I’ve now moved twice: some books I wanted to read as far back as 2008, stories lodged in my library patiently waiting their turn. Though I have no formal “Kindle/print” system, I’m on a sort of every-other-book method.

And it’s working well. I’m still enjoying the books I’ve collected over the years with the convenience of the Kindle for everything else. I mostly use my e-reader for review books these days, and I’m getting the hang of requesting digital copies from the library. Which is free! I love free. Free is good.

Like all major changes, the transition from physical to digital was strange at first — but with time, I’ve come to appreciate the awesomeness of each.

And toting around my Kindle takes “never leave home without a book” — in this case, twenty — to a new level.


Broccoli cheddar and a book for the soul

Bookmark

There’s nothing like treating yourself to lunch.

I stopped for a while, mostly when I went full-force on Weight Watchers and knew that dining out each day was a surefire way to go over my daily points allowance. Lunches out went from commonplace status to special treat — and that wasn’t a bad thing! Not for my wallet, my waistline, my psyche.

When I stopped worrying about lunches every day, I became more productive at work and in my personal life. The time I once used to read over soup at Panera became a chance to run errands, get gas, swing by the grocery store for random items. All those little, annoying tasks we must fit in somewhere.

But I missed those relaxing breaks. A chance to step away from the desk and into the sunshine; an opportunity to reunite with characters, eat a hot meal and gather my thoughts. I don’t mind eating alone . . . it’s one of my favorite things to do, actually. And where I tend to go on my breaks, I’m just one of many sitting solo.

I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time on Stephanie Perkins’ Isla and the Happily Ever After, a library book I’ve already renewed and will probably have to check out for a third time to make it through. It’s my “lunch read,” and I usually start debating where to take it that day by late morning.

Though I’m still following the basic tenets of Weight Watchers, I have eased up. I have not been tracking, but I feel okay about that. I’ve given myself permission to relax my strict eating — especially as dealing with recent health issues have meant I’m eating only what I can stomach and no more, no less. If that’s just a slice of bread? So be it. I’m not so far down the rabbit hole I can’t recognize that, first and foremost, I need to take care of myself.

Body and mind.

And that’s where the lunches can come in. As work and daily life can get stressful, I’ve returned to treating myself to meals out a few times a week — when I feel the pull to get up and out, soaking up the colors of fall and enjoying the last few warm days before the cold comes bustling in. Sometimes I meet my dad or my sister, but I often head out alone. Lately, with Isla.

And it’s good. Good for the soul.

Almost as good as Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, you know.


My new happy place

Though I admitted yesterday to reading less than I would like lately (thank you all so much for your rut-busting recommendations!), I am happy to report that our home library is now functional, pretty and perfect for settling into with a good read.

From the moment we stepped into the house, I pictured this bright, sunny and quiet room near the door as a space for reading and relaxing. I lobbied for a library just as my husband campaigned for a basement workshop, and we’re both pretty happy with the results! (And our separate spaces. One does benefit from a room of one’s own.)

The bookcases were originally from our local Borders, purchased for Spence’s old condo and finally moved to the new house. They were gathering dust in the basement until a friend helped us bring three upstairs, and then I was doing my happy-happy dance all over the room until I just couldn’t shake it anymore.

I love that the room feels a little random. It’s filled with goodies we’ve collected in the last few years and is already shaping into the fun, funky, colorful room I envisioned.

The chair was a purchase from Target, the throw a gift from my grandmother. My beloved book pillow was purchased from a French-inspired shop during a trip with my mother- and father-in-law to Niagara-on-the-Lake in April.

I bought the cushion for a future library before there even was a library. The ultimate “If you build it . . .,” wouldn’t you say?

Of course, the books themselves draw most of the interest . . . and rightfully so. I have childhood favorites, beloved series, collections and review copies. There are hardcovers, cookbooks, old journals and photo albums.

A little of everything. Everything I love.

On an end table are coasters for tea (of course!), a painted initial from our wedding and a favorite photo from our engagement shoot. With a tiny piece of Parisian lamp, too, because classy.

Back when I was silly and thought I needed to decorate the house immediately, I made canvases featuring my favorite cover art from three cherished books: The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice and I Capture The Castle.

I’ve had them for months and debated their placement approximately 10,000 times, but Spence and I finally settled on a spot and hung them last week — along with an older “Keep Calm” poster I had in my childhood bedroom. I love that it’s back, displayed proudly again.

Though we still have a few things to work on and will eventually get an ottoman and couch for an adjacent wall, it feels good to have one room close to “done.” I love passing through there daily, even if I don’t have much time to sit, and look forward to all the quiet mornings of coffee and daydreams I’ll enjoy in that chair.

And the reading, of course. The words and stories and change.

And just because before-and-afters are always fun . . .

old library

New library


Powering through a powerful rut

books

Hi, I’m Meg, and it’s been three weeks since my last book review.

Have I stopped reading? Nope. I mean, kind of, but I’m still holding a book in my hands every single day. I’m a bit all over the place and can barely concentrate, but I am most definitely still reading. Even if it’s just a few paragraphs at a time.

After my library sent me a cheery note that my hold had arrived, I made a special trip Saturday to pick up a copy of Stephanie Perkins’ Isla and the Happily Ever After because I’ve been in a rut, cycling through endless novels while committing to nothing, and I thought it would help?

Young adult is a good rut-buster, I think. Melissa discussed this recently and I was nodding along, thinking yep yep yep, because it’s been so long since I finished a non-audio book, friends.

So long. Embarrassingly long.

Why? I don’t know. I have a lot on my mind, yes, what with work and the house and a busy fall and change. But this has happened before, and my beloved novels are typically the place into which I escape and find solace and zone out.

But lately? Something has changed. I am s-s-s-slumped in a big way. Even with my fancy new reading chair and a functioning home library, I’m the pathetic mess who is plunked down in front of the TV with a big bag of Tostitos instead.

It’s bad. I know.

I am a reader through and through — a lit lover to my core. Nothing will ever separate me from books for too long. But for now? For the moment? I’d love your tips on getting back into a reading groove. Better yet: tell me the best book you’ve read lately! Preferably something entertaining and/or funny that will grab me by my shirt collar and refuse to let go.

I trust you. Let’s beat this together.


Fate tied into a bookstore

Time feels fluid in the fall.

Blink and I’m 16, watching open-mouthed as the second tower falls from my silent high school physics class. Again and I’m in my final year at college, sliding hardcovers into long rows at Borders not long before it shuttered. Now and I’m 29, calling into the basement in search of my husband — husband — before making a third cup of coffee.

I get lost in the past sometimes. Perhaps we all do? As Spencer and I worked to install the bookcases in the new space at home, I couldn’t stop thinking about where those shelves had come from — and remembering my bookseller days. For as much as I love my newspaper job (and I do), sometimes I fantasize about going back to shilling novels to the masses.

Silly, I know — but I was happy there. Really, really happy. Part of it was just that time of my life: graduating from college, having the first of my “own” money, making new friends. Being surrounded by words and roasting coffee and folks eager for the latest paperback, the newest hardcover.

That was, of course, nearly a decade ago . . . and the world has changed around us. It would never be the same now. That Borders closed and reopened later as a Books-a-Million, and the bones may be the same — eerily similar, actually — but the soul is not.

It shouldn’t feel different, but it does.


Bookshelf


I find it hard to go in there, actually . . . though why remains a mystery. I have more books than I could possibly read already — but that hasn’t stopped me before. Part of me feels slightly haunted as I walk the aisles I once knew so well, I guess, looking for familiar faces that have long moved on and away.

For as much as I lobbied for a hometown bookstore, I rarely go in. I talk about it and think about it and plan to, but then I just . . . don’t.

Maybe because I need new memories. In random moments when we’re driving around town, chatting and daydreaming, Spencer and I talk about if we ever would have met without online dating. Though we lived just 20 minutes apart, we moved in such different circles that they rarely would have intersected.

But oddly, we do have mutual friends.

If you had gone to this party . . .
If I’d left work early to . . .
If you’d come into the bookstore . . .

The bookstore is where our lives could have crossed — if only for a moment. Down from New York for an internship the same summer I worked at Borders, Spencer might have found himself in Waldorf looking for a guide or record and seen me there, flush from searching for a Hemingway, Welty or Rowling.

I squint and crane and remember, trying to picture the faces of countless customers I saw each week in the evenings with mass markets in their arms. In the years I asked for Borders Rewards cards and took special orders, gift-wrapped and greeted, I can’t bring up his face among them.

But it might have been there.

Thinking of those happenstance moments — the serendipity — is fun. “Fate” feels like a big word, but it’s easy to believe in sometimes.

Though I once lamented my husband and I don’t have a “meet-cute,” I’ve come to realize that isn’t true at all. There were so many factors that led to us eventually sharing coffee on a windy afternoon, each path a different thread in the tapestry now knitting us together.

When I was brokenhearted and uncertain at Borders, looking for direction and wondering how it would all play out, he could have been there in the maps or movies — a man I didn’t yet know that I would come to know best.

Though cheesy, maybe, the bookcases standing sentinel in our new home are comforting. A reminder of happy days, of a part of my past, the job that really solidified my love for reading and eventually helped me launch this space. And my column. And the rest of my life.

My home library is “real” now! Really real. We’re building it slowly, finding pieces here and there, and I don’t plan to call it finished . . . well, ever, probably.

There’s always another book. Another world.