A Year in Books

2017 was the “year of the book” for me.

In the Spring I wrote about the books I read the first quarter, but after that, mainly I just picked up the next book once I hit that last page – often because a long-awaited hold had come through from my library account and my full-time job of writing and editing consumed all my writing energy. I am left with a list of books that connect to memories of what was happening when I read them and how I was feeling. Looking back, these reflections often map a very particular response to a year addled by some serious back pain that only began to lift at the very end of the year.

History books (both non-fiction and well researched fiction) have always been a mainstay for me but I found that in this era of “America First” and nasty childish tweets from our leader, those books have taken on new meaning, especially those about World War II – particularly how our leaders acted during it and after it. What’s most striking in all of these is the level of deliberation –  strategic, political, moral and ethical –  that these portraits reveal about genuine leaders in troubled times.

I also found a few contemporary fiction books that stayed with me and some that really got me through (along with the Hamilton soundtrack). I single out a few from each genre below that may help those looking for their next read.

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The Winter (and a Little Spring) of My Discontent: Brief Thoughts on 16 Books

Inspired to serve as a model for my older daughters, whom I have urged to keep a reading log, and perhaps feeling beholden to correct my own hypocrisy, below are my brief and very informal thoughts on the books I have read from January to April 2017. Intensely painful back and hip problems have limited my activity the past four months, especially the last month, and I found reading to be even more of a pleasure than usual, so the books added up quickly. The insights of other writers have helped me to select books, beyond just goodreads, so that was another reason to try to record my own, for myself if not maybe for others, and not linger too much as I usually do on the editing part.

The books I read in this period are varied in length and genre and tone – from historical fiction to contemporary fiction to biographies to memoir/novel hybrids, with settings as varied as 17th century Ghana and present day La Jolla, California. Continue reading


We lost our beloved Estelle Lana Pastarnack – Stelly or Nana to many – on July 6, 2016.IMG_0889

She was an outspoken and strong woman who loved red lipstick that left a telltale mark when she kissed your cheek. She loved designer shoes – especially if they were discounted at Loehmanns. She adored “making parties” and fur coats. She also could not resist a good hot dog, no matter what diet she was on.

Most of all she loved her four children, ten grandchildren, four great grandchildren, her nieces and nephews and her friends.
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They Still Believe

I wrote the below three Christmases ago for “Parentlode” at the Huffington Post.  My twins were on the cusp of Kringledoubt.  I expected, when I wrote this, that by now, at ten years old, the Santa expiration date I talk about would have long past.  It has not.  I post their Christmas lists at the end.


Santa Claus has an expiration date. Every parent who has introduced Santa Claus to their kids knows this. You get a few good years and then the doubts start creeping in. Other kids at school are usually the catalysts in this process, which seeps through school lunchrooms with the first signs of frost every year. Usually it’s the hand-me-down scoffings of older siblings. Sometimes, however, it’s an axiom discovered through a child’s deduction alone. Continue reading

The Long View of Working Parenthood

Last week I had the fortune of being interviewed by Dr. Portia Jackson of workingmotherhood.com for her podcast.  We  had a lot of fun talking about challenges and successes.  I talked about treating each child as an individual, which can be a challenge with twins.  (This article in Time about twins and gifted programs resonated with me as we submit our applications for public middle school this week – yes, applications because we have no zoned school.) Continue reading