Previous month:
May 2021
Next month:
July 2021

Three Pieces: If you never pick up the weight do you understand that you’re not carrying it?

Since I wrote THIS blog post, I have been paying attention to other pieces of experience that fit together in my life. I have always done this, I think, but I am doing it with more purpose lately. I think that truth is scattered and we have to watch for the pieces in order to make sense of our truths. Here are three pieces I am pondering recently.

“One of those ‘woke’ people who don’t understand what is happening.”
A person who is kind-of a friend, more of an acquaintance who I know through a Facebook group which she manages and I am a member of, wrote a post this week decrying “wokeness” and “cancel culture.” She also shared an article written by a business professor who felt that he had been “cancelled” but who, in my opinion, completely misunderstands both the current social movements and his own impact in the “cancelling” that happened to him.

I responded to the friend that I disagreed with the writer of the article, pointing out that we do need things like critical race theory because America is absolutely built on racism and bigotry (not to mention sexism) and that Dr. Seuss was not, in any way, cancelled. I was very polite and non-confrontational.

Then, in the way of Facebook, one of her friends, a person I don’t know and who definitely doesn’t know me, responded to my comment. She used five or six eye-roll emojis, wrote some scathing things about my assessment, and then finished with this sentence: “You are obviously one of those ‘woke’ people who don’t understand what is happening.”

I tried to just let this go, but it ate at me. I mean, first off, it’s a bit ironic that she equates “wokeness” with people who don’t understand anything. To me, being “woke” is a process of trying to understand your place within the larger structure of society, both your privileges and the way you contribute, knowingly or not, to how society works against the Other. It requires you to look at yourself in uncomfortable ways and to know that your way of being within the world is far from the only way, and not even the “normal” way, but just one.

I think to people like her, “woke” means swallowing the liberal agenda without stopping to think about it. It means jumping on bandwagons because it’s the cool thing to do. It means grandstanding ridiculous ideas that might threaten the norms we all know and love. It reinforces the MAGA ideals, even with the dufus out of power.

I finally wrote a response to her comment. I wanted to stay calm and not be antagonistic, but I think the last sentence might be a little barb:

I AM woke. I read and study a lot of different issues from different perspectives. "Woke" doesn't mean illiterate. It means I try to understand my relationship to other people and understand other people's perspective.

I think those who don't strive to do that clearly don't understand what is going on.

As I thought more about it, though, I think that I didn’t word it correctly. I wrote that wrong and didn’t express what I mean. I’m not going to change it because I think the distinction would be lost on this friend-of-an-acquaintance: I’m not woke. I am trying to be woke. I am working on being woke. It isn’t a status you achieve, like being able to do a pull up. It is a process, a way of thinking about the world, and a willingness to be open to understanding how my previous thinking, actions, or words might’ve been racist or insensitive, even though I didn’t intend them to be.

Understanding how I can make the world better is not a one-and-done deal. It is something I must continue to work on. It’s a process. But it isn’t about ignorance. It isn’t about just accepting the “liberal agenda,” whatever that means. It takes work. It requires reading, studying, and listening. It is the opposite of “not understanding.” Instead, it is about knowing I don’t understand fully, but am willing to work towards a better understanding.

We don’t need feminism anymore.
A few years ago, I became casual friends with a woman who I had purchased a service from. (Being vague on purpose because some of my closer friends would know who this is and I don’t want to be gossipy.) We saw each other accidentally, on walks around the neighborhood or at the grocery store or at a restaurant, and sometimes we talked through social media and at church. As I got to know her more, I started realizing that while we shared a connection through our creative endeavors, our thoughts about society and politics were very, very different. I tried to gently share my opinions with her, but it just didn’t work very well. So I kept our friendship at that accidental, let’s-talk-about-art connection because that is lovely, too.

Just before the pandemic got rolling, she wrote a post on FB about how we don’t need feminism anymore. Especially as members of the church, she emphasized. We don’t need feminism. I read the responses and so many were in agreement and I just…I had to pull back. There is disagreeing on politics but then there is an essentially different perspective about life and society in its totality and I can’t bridge that. There are so many ways we still need feminism. So, again…I did share my opinion on her post. I was gentle and non-confrontational but also firm in asserting that feminism IS necessary. The reaction from her friends was swift and bitter.

So I just left the friendship alone and then the shutdowns started happening and I didn’t see anyone, let alone a person who had been on the fringes of my life.

But I saw her again last week. Saw her with her cute daughters, and all sorts of emotions started eating at me. I of course was friendly, and likely my emotional response was not apparent to her. But I couldn’t help thinking about the tools she is not giving her daughters. And I almost felt…envious? Yes, that is the right word. Envious, just a little, that there are people in the world who are so unable to look at reality that they don’t see reality. I don’t want to live like that. But I also have this small part of me that thinks what does any of this accomplish? I can’t fix the world by myself. I can witness, I can watch, I can read and explore and try to be—ah, here it is, a connection— “woke,” but if I am honest it is painful. It hurts to see the ways that women are complicit in their own undoings, the way that they don’t see the power imbalances and how they are impacted by them. (Let alone all of the political insanity she also doesn’t pay attention to.) What might it be like to not feel any of that? If you never pick up the weight do you understand that you’re not carrying it?

(I am not going to go into all the reasons we do still need feminism in this post, because it is already growing too long, but let me assure you: we still need feminism. We will always need feminism.)

I chatted with her for a bit and then I found myself thinking: maybe I should put it down. Maybe my efforts to know, to understand, and to be a person who is less hurtful to others are pointless. Maybe I’m just up here on my high horse thinking my efforts might make a difference while really I am just being ridiculous.

“That doesn’t make me a communist.”
Last night when I got home from work Kendell said “I just watched something on the news that I think you will appreciate.” He showed me the introduction, with Matt Gaetz (I never can decide, is he Beavis? Or Butthead?) questioning Congress about how the military’s study of critical race theory is impacting the soldiers. This is not the first time Gaetz has spread the propaganda that we are being threatened by wokeness, that elementary-aged children are learning critical race theory (they aren’t; it is taught in universities but honestly I think it should be part of high school curriculums), and that the military is soft because of these things.

Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answered him.

(Listen all the way through because Brian Williams gets in an awesome dig at the end.) “I do think it is important for those of us in uniform to be open minded and to be widely read. . . I’ve read Mao Zedong, I’ve read Karl Marx, I’ve read Lenin, that doesn’t make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding. I personally find it offensive that we are accusing our [military leaders] of being “woke”  or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there.” He goes on to explain what the basis of critical race theory is based on, which is the historical fact that America is based on racism, slavery, and bigotry, from the very beginning. (Slaves arrived in what would become the United States before the Pilgrims even, for example.)

My thoughts about my little personal struggle to continue to try to learn, change, and grow suddenly grew clear. I actually felt—dare I say it—a little bright spark of hope. Milley’s response made me remember that while it often seems we are living in a country ruled by people who refuse to look at reality with an objective lens, who have never read a book in their life, who refuse to look outside of their own comfort zones, there still are the other type. Call them woke, call them educated, call them socially aware, call them freaking English majors for all I care. Just that they exist and are trying to change the route our country is taking: that gives me courage.

Being woke is not a negative thing. And these three puzzle pieces have fit together into a larger understanding for me:

I don’t care if someone tries to insult me by calling me “woke.” I don’t care that my efforts might be ridiculously small and ultimately generate no larger change within society.

I am going to continue trying. I am going to push forward using an open mind and, yes: making my decisions based on what I learn from reading widely.

The critics of the concepts behind being woke, critical race theory, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, and all the other social movements working in America today are narrow-minded. They are frightened of how their positions of power might be lessened if society changed, and they are not going to stop their assault on democracy. So I will work just as hard to hold it up.

"And Yet You Will Weep and Know Why": Thoughts on My Dad

Yesterday I listened to a scrapbooking podcast while I worked in my flowerbeds. The topic was documenting your dad’s stories, and as I listened I had some realizations. The timing was odd for me, as it is June, which holds both his birthday and Father’s day, when I already think about my dad more than usual. This July marks a decade since his death, but since he had an undiagnosed type of dementia, he has been “gone” for much longer…I think we had our last semi-real and meaningful conversation in 2006.


A few days ago, I was at the grocery store, and in the produce section I realized I must’ve come at the grandparent hour, as I was surrounded by old people. Mostly couples, one pushing the cart, the other gathering apples or onions or romaine, but there was one man who was by himself. He looked nothing like my dad but he made me think about my dad. What-ifs starting filling up my mind. What if his marriage had been happier? What if he had found fulfilling work after the steel mill closed? What if he could’ve recognized his inaction not as laziness, as my mom labeled it, but as depression? What if his dad hadn’t died when he was in high school? What if his parents’ marriage had been happier? What if his mom had loved him more? What if he’d skipped football on whatever day his skull was hit too hard, what if he’d skipped football altogether? What if he hadn’t stood in the open refrigerator, depression-eating mayonnaise out of a jar with a soup spoon bent by scooping ice cream from the container?

(I believe all of these things contributed to his early dementia.)

I looked at that old man putting a small bag of red potatoes in his cart and I wondered. What would my dad have been like as a real grandpa? What if he could’ve grown old and achey, his hair entirely white, still talking and telling stories and laughing at off-color jokes? What if he could’ve really interacted and known my children—how would he have loved them, how would their lives be changed? How would I feel, right now, nearing 50 and empty-nesthood and my own aging, if I had a dad I could turn to for help or advice or maybe just a good long phone call about a person he knows from down at the coffee shop?


When I sat down to write this blog post, I thought it would be a list of questions I wish I could ask my dad. Did you ever wish you had a son? How did you really feel about your marriage? Why didn’t you try harder to spend time with my kids when you could? Tell me a good memory about your dad. Tell me a good memory about your mother. Why did we never visit your grandparents’ grave even though we were in the same cemetery every Memorial Day? What did you love about football? What did you love about wandering around in the desert? Were you, like mom, disappointed in how my life turned out?

Or maybe I would write about the realization I had. When I dig into my family history, I am consistently disappointed by the lack of stories about my female ancestors. Even the short life-story someone wrote about the person I was named for—titled “Amy Simmons’ Life Story”—is mostly about her husband and sons. So I have told parts of my story, and of my mom’s and my grandmas’. But I have told very few of my dad’s stories, and all of what I have written down is about me interacting with him, not him as a person independent from being my dad.


What surprised me about writing this—knocked me on my back, so to speak, with an absolute flood of tears—is how raw it all still is. How I have put away unexamined so many ugly and painful truths about our family, simply because he died. I haven’t really processed any of it, my parents’ shaky marriage and how it impacts still, to this very moment, my own. The way I loved my dad and I know he loved me but how I also have a lot of buried anger at him, and how if I could hold it up and look at it, I think it would look a lot like the anger my own children must have for me. How I am just like him in many ways, not all of them positive.

Ten years ago, my dad died. I thought it was a life event, a thing that everyone has to face, and while it was unfair that I had to do it at 39, at least I had good memories to hold on to. Those summer weeks in Lake Powell, the look on his face when I stood on a first-place podium after a gymnastics meet (which was the same look when I stood in 9th place or in no place at all), that one time in the car driving him home from the airport with Haley in her carseat and he sang “you are my sunshine” with her and that’s the only time I ever heard him sing.

I thought: he died and I miss him and so I have to let go of all of the rest of it, the complications and the disappointments and the wounds and the struggles. But ten years later, if I let myself think about it, if I stop to be within it:

I only put the things on a shelf. They are still there, unprocessed, unspoken, still being carried around. His death didn't negate them and it didn't heal them.

I still miss him.

It still doesn’t feel any better since he started leaving by stopping speaking.

None of it is resolved, none of it is repaired, and it can’t ever be. Not really. I can work through my own issues over our history, give voice to my own angers and sorrows, write down what I loved about him and my favorite memories and the fact that I will likely never go back to Lake Powell because Lake Powell is my childhood and so it can’t exist without him.

But me processing it doesn’t help him. It doesn’t fix his wounds and his damage and his anger (which he never, ever voiced).

Me processing it doesn’t give him the chance to go to his brother’s 80th birthday party last month.

It doesn’t let him be at my kids’ graduations.

Or let him have a good, long, loving but hard conversation with my son who is his generational twin.

Or stand in the grocery store as an old man buying potatoes.

You live with it—grief, loss. Sometimes it feels less heavy, but I think that is only because life, the living of your life, lets it weigh less. And then something happens, some small thing, a stranger in a store, and you start to feel the weight of it. I don’t want to not feel it, honestly, because it is the only way I have of interacting with my dad anymore. I miss him and part of me will always be mad at God for not letting him have more joy in his life.

And I guess I just needed to put this out into the world today:

I wish my dad was still here.

101_0176 amy don edit b&w

Summer Reading Plans

A few weeks ago, I discovered 746 Book’s “20 Books of Summer” reading challenge. The idea is neatly summed up in the title of the challenge: read 20 books this summer and review each one.


I thought this sounded like great fun so I set about making my list. Right around June 1, I started reading a book off my list.

Only thing: I never shared my list. Or the challenge. But after talking to Becky about it yesterday while we were hiking, I decided it’s never too late to start.

So here it is, my goal list of 20 books to read this summer, with the full and honest acknowledgement that it is highly unlikely I will actually read twenty books before September 1. But that is OK because just making the list itself has helped me be more focused and purposeful in my what-to-read-next choice. I suspended all of my other holds (so my library’s gotta be thanking me!) and am looking forward to just seeing how many I actually get to. I made the list so it would be a sort of reflection of my reading tastes…my idea of beach reads and vacation books, the types of nonfiction I like the best, a few books that aren’t released as of this blog post but that I’ve been looking forward to for MONTHS, some older books I have been intending on reading, fiction that speaks to my personal reading quirks. These are listed alphabetically rather than the order I will read them in, because…I don’t know the order yet!

  1. American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption by Gabrielle Glaser. A memoir/history focusing on the US adoption system during the 1960s.
  2. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint. Tells the story of the princess of Crete who helped Theseus kill her brother, the Minotaur. Greek retellings are my jam!
  3. Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman. I meant to read this memoir about friendship last year but staying close to friends felt like a painful thing to read during the pandemic and shut downs, so maybe this summer!
  4. Brooklyn was Mine edited by Chris Knutsen and Valerie Steiker. A collection of essays to read in preparation for maybe going to New York this fall.
  5. The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray. A novel about two sisters taking care of their older sister’s teenage daughters after she is arrested. I’ve wanted to read this since it came out in 2019.
  6. Dearly: New Poems by Margaret Atwood. I bought this right when it came out last fall, read two poems, set it down, and didn’t pick it up again. How can that be true of poetry by my favorite author?
  7. Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi. I listened to a little bit of this on audio and enjoyed it but I think I want to read the physical copy.
  8. The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff. I don’t like traditional “beach read” novels but am counting this as a summer read, since it’s set at a family beach house. Rosoff is one of my favorite YA authors.
  9. Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead. A combo historical/contemporary novel, about an Amelia-Earhart-esque character and the actress who plays her in a movie after her death. I don’t generally like books about Hollywood or acting, but I continue to be drawn to this one so I will try it.
  10. Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian. A retelling of the Arthurian legend, told from the perspective of The Lady of Shalott; a book that releases this summer.
  11. Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change by Maggie Smith. One of my favorite poets writes a sort-of self-help book, although I think it is more about creativity.
  12. Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenridge. Reconstruction-era Brooklyn in a novel that “parses what freedom actually means for Black women.”
  13. Lore by Alexandra Bracken. I’ve actually checked this YA novel out twice but never read it! A contemporary story based on Greek mythology.
  14. Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn. Magical realism set in Hawaii and the west coast…another “beach” read. I am reading this one now!
  15. The Soul of a Woman: On Impatient Love, Long Life, and Good Witches by Isabelle Allende. I’ve loved Allende since I was 15, so I really want to read her memoir. Plus, “good witches” is always going to grab my attention.
  16. The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin. I recently listened to the first two books of this trilogy, because when I read them this third book wasn’t out yet. This will be my trip book, since I read the others while on vacation in 2017. Will the return of the moon destroy or revitalize the world? Can Essun and Nassun ever repair their relationship? Will the citizens of Castrima find a new home? Is Alabaster now a Stone Eater? How did I miss that Essun’s arm turned to stone? I think this series is one of the most brilliant I have ever read, but I’m afraid to be disappointed by the ending.
  17. The Turnout by Megan Abbott. Abbot is one of those authors who I’ll read no matter what she writes. She does a sort of menacing, subtle literary thriller that just…shiver. Works for me. This one is set at a ballet studio.
  18. What Comes After by Joanne Tompkins. Every year I try to read a few things outside of my usual favorite tropes, and suspense/thrillers fall into that category. I picked this book because I initially thought it was a thriller, but I don’t think it actually is. More psychological drama, but I can be 100% ok with that, so I’ll try it anyway.
  19. Whose Story Is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters by Rebecca Solnit. Because I love her work and haven’t read this one yet.
  20. The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec. A fantasy novel based in Norse mythology, about Angrboda, who is mostly known as “Loki’s wife” in the mythology but here her story is told. That’s one of my favorite book tropes…a little-known woman from mythology brought to life.

As I wrote about each of these books, I remembered all over again how much I want to read them. It’s impossibly lofty to set myself the goal of roughly 6,000 pages in three months, but I am going to try it, and let my reading be controlled by only this list (unless, of course, I find something else I can’t resist). And, to make it official, I am guessing I will read EIGHT of these this summer. September will tell!

Have you read any of the books on my list? Any guesses as to what ones I’ll actually read?

This Kid

IMG_4005 amy kaleb bw 5x6
This kid.

Being a mom is strange. You decide: the timing is right, finally. You feel a persistent knocking from the other side. Or surprise! And you make a different sort of choice, and with your own body you create a whole new person.

I have long understood that when you get pregnant, you aren’t having a baby. You’re having a person, who happens to start as a baby, but whose life will be more than just that baby time.

But I am also just beginning to understand what that actually means. How the little clump of cells you chose to allow to grow become a body and that body is a person and that person…that person will have you, yes, but not only you, and while they never stop being the most important people in your life, your children become people who have many important people, and one of them is their mom.

It hurts and it is also glorious because it is your goal, as a mother: to help them learn enough to not need you, even though you will never stop needing them.

And this kid—he is right on the cusp of that transition. Sixteen. Sixteen!

Kaleb is the baby I pined for. There is a five year gap between him and his closest sibling, because of various financial difficulties we went through. But through those years I never, ever stopped wanting him and hoping for him and begging heaven to make the time right and then finally the time was, at last, right. For me, I cannot separate those years of wanting from the reality of his existence. In some ways it could’ve been easier to let that hope go, to set it aside, to be OK with the three very-loved children I already have. But it never went away. I suppose if I had chosen that eventually I would’ve processed it but some part of me would’ve always been broken by that longing.

But for him, his life is just his life.

He is funny in an entirely uniquely-Kaleb way. He is quirky. He is determined and stubborn. He is dedicated to his sport (basketball) and loyal to his friends. He is stoic. He doesn’t love reading. He loved fried chicken. He has the sweetest heart—since he understood it, he’s been bothered by homeless people and has wanted to help them. He loves the ocean. He hates having his picture taken. He likes a huge variety of music, including some alternative 80s tunes. He can be loud but he also has a quiet side. He loves a good caramel iced latte. He works SO hard at keeping his body healthy and strong. He makes a mean sandwich and an excellent pile of scrambled eggs.

I love him so much.

I am so grateful I didn’t give up on hoping and praying and wanting and imagining. On wishing him here, on calling him down to this earth,  whoever he was supposed to be.

I love who he is and who he is growing to be.

I am so grateful he is here in the world.

Kaleb 16 with amy 3x6

Book Review: The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

I realized that the words most often used to define us were words that described our function in relation to others. Even the most benign words—maiden, wife, mother—told the world whether we were virgins or not. What was the male equivalent of maiden? I could not think of it. What was the male equivalent of Mrs., of whore, of common scold?... Which words would define me? Which would be used to judge or contain?

Last week when I was at a physical therapy appointment, one of the techs asked me for some book recommendations. I told her I always like to talk about the book I’ve most recently finished, and as I had just stayed up past midnight the night before to finish The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams, I talked Dictionary of lost wordsabout it first. It is a historical fiction novel based in the time that the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was being compiled, a huge undertaking that ended up lasting roughly forty years. Our protagonist Esme lives with her father, who is working on the OED at the Scriptorium in Oxford, one of several different places where editors and writers worked to research the history and meaning of words. She grows up as the dictionary gets longer, her entire world revolving around it.

I told the PT tech that what the book explores is how the OED is, for all its lofty goals of creating a complete examination of all the words in English since Saxon times, a record of the time it was created. Namely, it was written by white Victorian men, who had a specific worldview. Esme, being a female, brings another perspective to the dictionary. After sneaking out the annotation for the word bondmaid, She starts collecting words on her own, gathered from women, words that the OED editors would never include because they were “obscene” or because they didn’t come from an established print source. “It is a novel that reminded me that we still need feminism” is how I wrapped up my explanation to the PT tech, and then I drove home and thought about it some more, especially since I have been thinking a lot, lately, about what draws me to certain books. For me, feminism in some form is always a part of my favorite books, which is one reason I loved The Dictionary of Lost Words.

The book was different than what I had expected. The reviews I read made me think it would be more of a literary mystery of sorts, a la Possession: A Romance. It isn’t that, really. Instead, it is a book that tells most of the story of a character’s life, covering many years. (I’m a librarian, but I don’t know if there is a name for that genre.) What makes it work—without giving away much of the story—is that as she is exploring “women’s words,” Esme is experiencing many of the things a woman could experience in those years, including some time spent with the suffragettes trying to get the women’s vote in England. In one of my favorite chapters, she’s sent to Scotland to spend a fortnight hiking in order to help her move past a depression she is experiencing, and her gradual return to a happier spirit resonated with me. She takes this trip with her friend Lizzie, who has been a sort of—ironically—bondmaid to her all of her life, and on their last day as they are talking, Lizzie says “God is in this place…I feel him more here than I ever have in church. Out here it’s like we’re stripped of all our clothes, of the callouses on our hands that tell our place, of our accents and words. He cares for none of it. All that matters is who you are in your heart. I’ve never loved him as much as I should, but here I do.” And that so exactly encompasses why I love my Sundays spent in nature church that just on that basis I will love this book forever.

I’m not sure this is exactly what that PT tech was looking for in her quest for books to help her get excited about reading fiction again. It is a slowly moving story, not an adventure, not full of mystery or anticipation. Just the story of a life and how it connects to the larger world. Which is one of my favorite types of books. I’m glad I read it!

Book Review: Oona Out of Order

Oona stopped trusting the mirror years ago. After all it told only a sliver of the story. The mirror exposed time’s passage, yes, but eclipsed her heart’s true mileage. Each year the body was hers but her mind was out of sync with her reflection.

I’m going to say this upfront: this review is all over the place AND it includes spoilers. But as “all over the place” seems to go with a book that’s about a woman who leaps into different years each New Year’s Eve, I guess that works. I’ll warn about the spoilers!

Oona out of orderOona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore tells the story of Oona, who for unknown reasons begins a sort of time traveling at midnight on her 19th birthday (which is on New Year’s Day). As the clock flips over, she faints and then awakens to discover her 19-year-old psyche in her 51-year-old body. She’s gone from the 80s to the 2010s and everything is different culturally and physically, but her self is still 19. Each section of the book is about a different year, as she continues “leaping” at the end of each one into random years.

I liked many things about this book and am glad I read it. I listened to the audio version, which was read by Brittany Pressley. I worried that the time-traveling aspect of the story would make the audio confusing, but each section begins by telling you Oona’s chronological age and the year she is leaping in to, so aside from the general confusion after the first leap, it wasn’t hard to follow at all. (I was confused, on the first leap, at why Oona didn’t know what was going on and then kind of dreaded her having to figure it out each leap but then I realized that’s not how it worked. She didn’t know what was going on because it was the first leap, duh!) Before her first leap, Oona is in a band with her boyfriend, and there are TONS of musical references scattered throughout the story, and I LOVED that aspect of it. There is also traveling, and a good amount of time spent in New York City, and Oona herself is a character I liked spending time with.

As I got closer to the end I started wondering how it might be wrapped up. The ah-ha for Oona is that she can’t really change what happens in her life (aside from making sure she buys and sells stocks at the right time) and instead she needs to embrace each year as it comes. Which is true for all of us, I think. And honestly, much as I enjoyed the book, the ending let me down just a little bit. It felt a little bit too…pat, I guess.

Still, the book made me think a lot, and that is what makes the best books for me! Some of my random thoughts:

What if I could have my 20-something body back, even just for a year? Would it change how I feel about my almost-50 body? I think 20-something Amy would feel the same abject horror over the softness and the wrinkles and the aches of this 50-year-old body as Oona does. As I am grappling with accepting this body, that first leap made me cry a bit. Aging is hard. What would 80-something Amy tell me to appreciate about my current body?

If I could experience time travel (it is the super power I would choose if they were being handed out!), what would I want to make sure I experienced? (Specifically…not changing big decisions but doing things I didn’t do, just for the experience of them.) I would go to Lilith Fair. I would start hiking earlier. (I would visit Big Springs before they capped it over.) I would spend my time with my newborn babies in entirely different ways. Care less about things that didn’t really matter, even though they seemed important then. Go on that last Lake Powell trip with my parents, even though Kendell didn’t want to go (go without him, even). I find myself adding to this list, a sort of mental tally of missed happy moments. This thought process has made me think OK, but what can I experience NOW anyway?

There is a scene near the end of the book when Oona’s mother, who is ill with cancer, has a good death-is-coming-soon conversation with her. (I wrote more about my response to this scene HERE.)  After I got up off the floor and stopped crying, I started thinking about what it is like to be the mom of adult children. What I can do to make our relationship stronger and more meaningful? One of the painful things for me about my kids growing up was that I had to learn I was no longer the most important person in their lives. This is natural and how it is supposed to go but it was still a loss I had to grieve over. And since I have a hard time feeling like I matter anyway, right now I feel very superfluous to all of my kids. (Less so with Kaleb, of course.) I think I need to find a better balance with this: not being the person who helps them the most in their lives doesn’t mean I don’t matter at all. (They haven’t made me feel this way, for the record.)






I began to suspect who Kenzie was during the first leap. Then I doubted because of the time they went to the Suzanne Vega concert together, but I didn’t put it away altogether. I wasn’t sure how it would work, and honestly I wish the book would’ve included one of the years Oona was pregnant with him. BUT. It pissed me off how often she castigated herself for putting him up for adoption. She uses the word “abandoned” several times as she processes the experience and I just: NO. Birthmothers and adoption are so misunderstood in our culture, and having yet one more voice of negativity about it in the ether just made me mad. I mean, sure, eventually she gets to a place of peace with it, but she never really stops feeling like she was a bad mom. Birthmothers aren’t bad moms.


Have you read Oona Out of Order? What did you think?