How to Have a Great Summer

When I was 12 years old I created my own library. I called it, Samson Public Library, and I operated it right out of my own bedroom. Diligently I taped card catalogue forms into the backs of every children’s book in our house. Then I arranged all the books on my shelves by authors’ last names. And lastly I waited for my family members to come “check out books” from my library. I waited… And I waited…
My two children think this is the saddest, funniest thing they’ve ever heard. “Did your brother and sisters actually check out books from you?” Ace asks with a tone that reveals he no longer thinks his mom was ever cool. Nope, I smile. Not one book. Iris is gentler, “Oh poor Mommy. I feel sad for you.”
She pats my shoulder like you would to a drooling old woman in the nursing home. “But you have to admit, Mommy. It was a little weird to make your own library.” And then my two children let loose their giggles at my expense.
They aren’t wrong, either. It was weird of me. But things that make you weird as a child are usually still true of you deep down as an adult. We just forget. Or we get better at hiding these parts of ourselves.
I still love books. I love owning them, holding them. I love re-reading books and running my hands over the pages or binding as I contemplate the characters and plot. I love and miss libraries. I hope our libraries open up again soon.
A few weeks ago I ran into an acquaintance. To my delight she immediately asked me, “What are you
reading these days?” It’s a great question that I feel like people don’t ask enough anymore.
“I just finished a fun novel, so I don’t know what to do with myself.”
She nodded. “Same. When I finish a book I’m lost all over again.”
I thought about that as I drove home that night. How the dog-earned page of a book is like a compass—reading an engaging book keeps you straight. If you’ve got a good book then you have an evening. Or a great weekend. Or a perfect bubble bath. A smooth flight. Better than a glass of wine after a long day. Slip into my cool sheets and pick up with the story where I left off. How being in the middle of a riveting book is one of the best things this side of heaven.
My neighbor friend, Mary told me that one time, when she was single, she was supposed to meet a guy for date but she never showed because she couldn’t put her book down. “I figured there’d be other dates. But I had to keep reading. I was at the best part.” I love that story. And sadly, I feel like some of us have lost that romance with books.
In 2021 it appears that our self-awareness has turned on itself. We scroll through our social media news feed, hoping for a post that will ignite the same endorphins we used to get from books—a well-crafted
story that is both particular and universal, lifting us from reality while also validating it. But social media can’t give us that. Social media is not literature. You can’t be lost in a book and take a selfie at the same
time. More than ever we need authors. Not “influencers” but authors.
This summer I will do better because I haven’t forgotten that a good book feeds the soul. I’m heading over to Half Price Books, and I’m not leaving till I’ve got a stack. Classics, poetry, cookbooks and best of all, novels I’ve been meaning to read for years.
The months of biting our nails over Covid numbers, distance learning woes and vicious elections are thankfully a little bit in retrograde. Warm summer days are head. Don’t miss the opportunity to reignite that romance with literature again. Your inner child-librarian will thank you.

Feeling Low? Go Watch the Finish Line at a Marathon.

On Sunday, Feb 16th my husband, B. Sterling completed his first full marathon.  He’d trained for it; his heart was in it, and he was determined to run the race, despite some worrying knee injuries.  Anxiously I tracked his progress throughout the race on my phone all that morning, and when I saw that he had completed the 20 mile mark, I corralled our two kids into the car and we headed downtown to watch him finish the 26.2 mile race.
The finish line for the Austin Marathon was on Congress Avenue, just a quarter of a mile from the handsome Texas Capitol building, and the sidewalks were lined with thousands of spectators who, like myself, wanted to watch a loved one cross under the finish line arch.
The only place left to stand with my kids was a spot on Congress where the runners turned to face the last 60 yards of the race.
It was fantastic vantage point.  Those of us at the barricade got to be the last voice of praise and encouragement to the exhausted, weary runners who couldn’t yet see the finish line. But we could. And we got to witness the best perseverance in the human spirit from our little corner of the sidewalk. 
One women in the race hobbled toward the turn… broken, barley able to continue.  It looked like her knee had given out.  When we saw her coming we all instinctively cheered. Someone next to me pointed for her, “Look, there it is…there’s the finish line! You can make it.”  She turned to see, and I watched her face melt into sweet relief.  She saw the bright blue banner of the finish line and seemed to draw from deep inside one last, pure drop of strength. She forced her injured knee to do its job.  We could literally see her steel herself for the task with that one reserve of strength and as we cheered, she somehow managed to jog those last 60 yards.  It was as good as watching a miracle.
As he approached the finish line one man, covered in tattoos, looked like he was about to win an internal conquest over his demons.  When he came to the curve and saw the finish line he began to roar.  It gave me chills to hear him.  It was unabashed from deep in his gut.  He was as wild as a Scottish highlander. It was a wail and a roar all at once.  It seemed to be a victory cry over a deeply painful past. 
I cried when I saw one women, about my age, hobbling toward that last stretch before the finish line.  As she did, suddenly two little people burst through the barricade and sprinted toward her.  Her children– two little girls. They each grabbed a hand and led their mother, impossibly it seemed, they lifted her.  She burst into tears of joy and relief to have them with her.  Incredible, I thought as I cried to see it.  It was a though she’d gotten this far as an athlete, but it was as a mother in solidarity with her children that she was able to cross the finish line. 
I saw pairs of friends and sisters. Brothers, arm in arm. What had they endured together that this race had forged into gold?  Who had been sick and was now in remission?  Who had died and now with tears running down their cheeks, the surviving family members raced in remembrance.   In remembrance of me, in remembrance of me. Do this in remembrance of me. 
And then I saw my husband, towering above most of the runners at 6’5. Miraculously his knees hadn’t failed him.  He was still jogging toward the last stretch.   My kids and I screamed with joy when we saw him. He made a wide berth and came right up to the barricade to slap both our kids’ hands.  Then just like all the other runners, he spotted that blue banner at the finish line and a relief washed over his weary shoulders. He raised his sweat-drenched arms in a Rocky gesture.  He was off to win his victory.
I envied him the moment. I envied all the runners the moment because they had outlasted.  They had gone further and deeper than the rest of us. 
My children were still looking at their hands in awe when he crossed the finish line; as though a champion, not just their dad, had brushed them.

“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7