I've been working on the manuscript for my book actively for six months now. Every Friday I've reserved a tiny writing room at Albertsons Library on the Boise State University campus and pack my lunch and a big thermos of hot coffee and don't come out for about eight hours. It's been much harder than I thought it would be and the stories of my life are still spilling out of me and being written and are much sadder, scarier and angrier than I thought they'd be. But they are also still so hopeful and heart-full. It's a collection of essays on feminism, bodies, motherhood and standing up. And it's done - all 22 chapters are being printed and shipped off to three of my first readers for edits and suggestions and changes before they go off to editors and publishers after the first of the new year. I was typing up some notes for my manuscript readers yesterday morning at my desk next to the window in our family room, listening to Kacey Musgraves Christmas album (which I can't recommend enough BTW), and home alone for the two hours Arlo is as preschool every morning when I heard five rapid fire gunshots on the street. While my gut knew exactly what they were and after counting people in my family in my head and logically logging their locations of safety I tried to rationalize it as probably squirrels jumping on my tin woodshed roof or a transformer blowing. My gut was right and my neighbor was shot.
Alice and I have been re-reading Little House on the Prairie for our Mama & Daughter Book Club every night before bed. We were gifted the entire Little House series box set and the paperbacks match the ones I had as a child when I, too, was fascinated by Mary & Laura's wild prairie life and the amazing things Pa could build with wood and the delicious meals Ma cooked over the open fire. Alice read a passage out loud last night about Pa's instructions for the girls to stay in the river only where the water was shallow and ankle-deep for safety and Laura's rebellious nature got her in trouble for disobeying. She noted how much she was like Laura Ingalls - in spirit and age. I nodded fervently in agreement. Little House was one of those transformative books for me and thousands of little girls across this country and continues to be. We're getting together to make old fashioned crafts with our book club in honor of this book this weekend and I can't wait to introduce Alice to the TV series.
A few months ago we woke up one morning to six blocks of our neighborhood tagged with pink spray paint in the night, including the side of our new-to-us white truck, our tree, and our entire beloved Little Free Library covered in graffiti. The police came and then the news came and then two neighbors I'd never met showed up with paint and scrapers and repaired our pink library the next morning as I headed to South Junior High to give an all school assembly to teens on positive body image and self-esteem and anti-abortion protestors stood out from with giant signs depicting dead fetuses and lots of words about the "dangers" of self-love and feminism.
Our elementary school native plants garden had it's grand opening in October and a few days before Dr. Brown and I installed our school's new little free library late one night at dusk. With our cell phone flashlights we painted the words on it : "Hawthorne Elementary School Little Free Library. Take a book. Leave a book." We're pretty lucky to have an amazing school library inside the building as well, a place where they make things and play with robots and learn about science and slam poetry and have books like Little House on the Prairie beside the one I found in Alice's backpack yesterday called Bad Girls: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World. My preschooler attends the same school and is sent home with a blue bag full of fun books on a topic each Wednesday and this week's are all about dinosaurs - a subject near and dear to his tiny three-year-old heart. We read about dinos A-Z yesterday in bed in the middle of the afternoon and sounded out words and identified the parts of a book - the cover, the back cover, the author's name, the illustrator.
So much of my time is spent reading and writing and devouring and thinking about words and books. I'm so glad books still play such an important role in my life and my children's. As I prepare to print out my blood, sweat, tears and heart onto 150+ pieces of paper to send off in the mail I feel nervous, anxious, and excited. Do other people really read books anymore? I've heard many other academics and writers lament the loss of education, research, and time spent exploring topics in depth these days. As a historian and a feminist and a body image activist and a mother and a human I worry about this, too. I sometimes make up quippy complicated stories distilled right down to one sentence since it's being made painfully clear people are no longer interested in reading a (text)book or even the Cliff Notes version anymore. In my head I write these American histories, abbreviated, like : "Women are alright if they're pretty, quiet and nice." Turns out I've got a lot more words to say about that, though, like nearly 49,000 of them. So thankful for others who do, too.