The Unlikely Start of Me and Him

“Max was just so intimidatingly real.” – The Start of Me and You, Emery Lord

A few weeks ago when I read The Start of Me and You, I stopped myself on the page with the above quote (note: it’s from an ARC so it might not be in the final book but I hope it is) and thought: Hm. This reminds me of something. And then Emery leads into how Max is “not glamorous or idealized or complicated” and a light bulb went off. When I first met James, that was exactly what it was like. I always tell the story that I didn’t like him in college, but then after he graduated and I went off to a different school for my junior year, we reconnected and decided to meet up. We went to school for two years together, had many of the same classes, but never even had a cup of coffee in our cafeteria together. (No, we just shared awkward moments in the newspaper office and later, a grocery store.)

The first meeting didn’t feel right to me. Why? Because he was just so nice. He listened to what I said, he shared stories about his family with me, and he was generally curious. Sure, he smoked and his hair was long and in need of some product but he had a nice laugh and a great smile and didn’t chew loudly or anything embarrassing like that. As far as “first dates” go, I should have had no complaints but I was sure I didn’t want to go out with him again.

Why is it so hard to admit things are actually good?

My heart was confused. When I was forced to switch schools, a part of me thought I would get back together with my serious boyfriend from a few years before. I was sure if I had never gone long distance, we could make our relationship work and now I wasn’t as far. Everything about wanting him, being with him, and feeling disappointed by him was filled with such intensity. It was LOVE. It’s this all-powerful thing and it’s supposed to be loud and conquering and make your heart hurt, right? I was sure he and I were meant to be. This huge passionate love story that would end with a beautiful happily-ever-after. Surely, all the crying and “fighting” for him all happened for that very reason, right?

I think it’s really hard to come down from something like that. Reconcile with yourself that sometimes putting your all into something doesn’t work out. That maybe not all love stories are drowning in drama; that the chase should never seem never-ending. Your heart should not always be bruised. The happy moments should outweigh the difficult ones. And sometimes all the hope and all the effort in the world does not overcome all the cracks.

This is why I can totally relate to Paige’s “a-ha” moment. I invested four years of my life alternating between being a complete puddle vs. silly in love all to end up (kind of where we had started) getting very upset in the aisle of a dollar store. Then I re-meet this guy who I totally misjudged and it felt so easy. Too easy. Is this what love is all about? I’m still not sure but I’m glad I didn’t listen to myself and I went out with him a second time.

James at Coney IslandI never went on another date with anyone else again.

Today we’re celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary and as I write this, I’m realizing the difficult parts of our relationship didn’t pop up until later. Not the difficult kind of moments where I doubted we would make it or anything but moments I never would have predicted based on how easily we fell into a rhythm with one another. Love does not shield you from unexpected surprises or loss. It can’t protect you from hurt, but it can help you heal. It forces you be flexible and compassionate with one another, even when you might not understand it or necessarily want to be. As a couple, we’ve certainly been tested and I know those days are not over. But I can say that I have never loved harder because of those times. I read so much about focusing on your “baby family” before saying “I do” and I stand by that advice. That bond is the foundation of your commitment. You have to believe in it and each other when the going gets tough.

But the good times, man, they are good. Whether we’re splitting a pizza or a dozen cookies, or he’s playing a video game and I’m reading next to him on the couch, I’m so incredibly lucky to be married someone who (mostly) understands my crazy quirks and encourages me to push harder and be better. He also still deals with me when I’m hangry or super exhausted. He will randomly tell me that he is still so crazy about me, I’ll tell him to shut up, but secretly I love it. It’s likely we’ll never foresee who exactly is going to make a huge impact on our lives. Like Max for Paige, or me with James — the newspaper editor I once yelled at and then totally wrote off. Maybe the best things do happen when we place the least amount of pressure on them.

You’re Invited: A Fictional Birthday Party

Greetings, friends!

It’s early, I know. (Well, depending on where you are, of course, but I’m going to imagine you woke up at 8 a.m. to read this.) You are dressed in the outfit that makes you feel your best and headed to a party to celebrate yours truly and the big “omg I’m 30” moment. Don’t worry. It’s less about me than it sounds. I just want to mingle and have fun cocktails. Maybe we can do a large book swap? No gifts, please. I’m happy just to make your acquaintance (or see you again, whatever the case may be) and introduce you to some of my fictional pals. (I’ll invite my parents and some real life friends too so this isn’t too weird. Promise.)

What are you waiting for? There’s guacamole! Mini tacos! A soft-serve ice cream machine! Rachel made her famous red velvet cupcakes! A room to cuddle with puppies and kittens. Dirty Dancing is playing in the background with no sound. (Who needs sound?! We all know the words! If you don’t, it’s not a good time to tell me.) Mickey Mouse might even show up! Don’t forget your phone but, please, let’s refrain from too much tweeting. Let’s forget to take too many pictures. I want to have THAT much fun.

Rather Be Reading Fictional Birthday Party

A good host knows great party begins with people who all have some sliver of something in common and won’t be afraid to meet new people. Plus I have to guarantee a good time. Entertainment! Laughs! Stimulating conversation!

Case in point:

  • First things first, I need Kitty Song (To All The Boys I Loved Before) to do my hair. She’s so talented for a nine-year old. Okay, fine, Lara Jean can come too. (Just kidding. I need the ENTIRE Song clan. Maybe they can make some cookies?)
  • I have wanted Jordan from Catching Jordan to meet Sam every since I read Rites of Passage. Strong ladies unite!
  • Guys, you might not know this. But the Super Bowl just happened and most especially after this one, I need to know what Jordan is thinking about it.
  • How about some music? Gabe (Beautiful Music for Ugly Children) can spin the tunes. Maybe he’ll also want to talk about Katy Perry’s half-time performance.
  • THEN we need dancing and I know Skylar from I’ll Meet You There has the moves and isn’t as shy as I am. (I also want to talk to her about her collages.)
  • For my bachelorette party I dragged my friends to karaoke because I wanted to hear them sing. (No one wants to hear me sing.)  But I want to hear Devan (The Reece Malcolm List) sing! Perform a bit? A little cabaret? I want to be able to say I had a future Broadway star at my party. (Maybe she can introduce me to Jeremy Jordan some day?)
  • Hands down, I think Vivian and her best friend Harp will be the ones everyone wants to talk to. They are running from the Rapture (Vivian Apples at the End of the World)!  They’re parents have disappeared. (I think Skylar will also relate to their best friendship.)
  • Rumor has it Matt from The Boy in the Black Suit is a pretty awesome cook. (Homemade chocolate chip cookies.) But he also has an incredible heart, and it would be nice to “get to know” (I realize he’s not real) someone else in the city. I also need to give him a hug.
  • Rafe from Openly Straight is so real to me, it’s like I’ve already met him. I have a hunch he would be hilarious at a party, and I sure want to hear what he is up to lately!
  • Cricket, Jules, and Zac? (Nantucket Red) I don’t feel I need to explain this one because I know we would get each other and I need to know all the latest gossip. (This is where I ask/beg Leila Howland to write another one of these books.)

For no other reason, I would be happy to get all the dirt from these characters. I AM A GOSSIP HOUND. I will not blog about it, fictional birthday guests. I will not. I will just write it in my journal and look back on this night with so much fondness. (Sidenote: Will I allow +1s? Hell yes. I need to know everything I can about these happily-ever-afters.)

I can picture it now. I’m chatting. There’s champagne (and sparkling cider). My #pubdate ladies have supplied themed beers. Magan and I are once again united! We’re laughing, we’re twirling, we’re eating all the mini pies (the cherry is delicious), and it all goes by in a snap. But you know what? All the planning was worth it. It was one fun shindig.

Thanks for spending this birthday with me, friends! I can’t let you leave empty-handed though. I’m giving away two of the above books to reader in the U.S. or beyond. (Just not the moon, okay?) Click through below to enter and good luck! xoxo

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To Have & To Discard

Clutter in Estelle's Apartment Rather Be Reading BlogI get into these crazy cleaning moods. The ones where I am stuck in the middle of a pile of whatever I’m cleaning and it’s really hard for me to move (and also find the motivation to clean it back up). Last Friday, I was in one of those moods. NEW YEAR MUST GET RID OF SHIT. Something like that. So I go through Playbills, event flyers, old greeting cards, and I weigh the importance of each and every one. Do I keep it if I didn’t have fun or if I don’t talk to the person anymore? Or is that the reason to keep it in the first place? See, I pride myself on keeping my memories honest. From the scrapbook with the old boyfriend that cheated on me to the itinerary from that kind of horrible trip I went on… I probably have all of it.

But when is enough enough?

So I make myself get rid of things. I even went and bought a fun new box from Staples to properly store the memories I wanted to keep safe. It feels good to cull once in awhile, really go through the things that I have and question whether I need it or not. Sure, I want to keep it all but do I need it?

I have this addictive collection problem. I blame my dad who collects every napkin and coaster from vacation, and currently has a museum of sports memorabilia in his basement. (It’s all very diligently organized and recorded. Trust me.) From clothes to books to lipsticks to shoes to pictures, it’s really hard to draw the line because I grow such attachments to things. Sometimes (again in another weird Estelle mood) I can’t sleep and wonder what I would grab if there was ever a fire in my apartment and I had to leave. My husband, my cat, my old stuffed raccoon who sits on my nightstand, and then… what?

(I worry about crazy things.)

Last January in the spirit of the new year and resolutions, I experimented with maintaining a list of what I was buying and bringing into our tiny apartment to keep myself honest. In March, it lost its appeal. Not because I was too embarrassed to write down how many shirts I bought that month but because, like a lot of resolutions, it fell to the wayside. I can sit here and tell you that I did not buy as many books in 2014 as I did in 2013. But still… it might have been too much. How do I know that? I’m hiding books under my chairs, behind my clothing rack, and in my hallway and — the most important reason — I haven’t read them all.

Blogging continues to be this interesting thing because — unlike Disney trips — books are less expensive. Sure, you say, I can spend 10 dollars on that and then not read it for a few months… a year… (much like my gym membership but hey, I’m walking up six flights everyday while our building installs a new elevator). We all talk about books so we can share our love of certain books and, in turn, people run out and buy the books. It’s a simple formula until you are so up to your eyeballs in books that you aren’t sure where you are going to put your Christmas tree and take a full day to shuffle it all around and make room. (I would like to applaud all bloggers for their amazing marketing skills.)

So what about this year?

Well, I’m not making lists this year and I’m not limiting myself, per se, but I am challenging myself to question if I need this certain thing right this moment or if it can wait. Maybe 2015 is all about patience for me and holding the special, meaningful things close. Even if that means waiting to build this library and being more careful about it. Going to the public library more, and not forgetting that friends can lend you books too. That maybe, like all things, personal libraries take time and care to build. That it’s not necessarily about the shiniest new kid on the block but the ones that have stuck with you the longest. And finding the perfect balance between the two.

On a Personal Note: A “Brave” Reminder

“I might be a little scared.”

“That’s awesome.”

“No, it’s not,” I said.

“Yes, it is, because you can only be brave if you’re scared.”

– from The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

↔

Last week, I flew through The Impossible Knife of Memory (why did it take me so long to read it??) and after I finished, I couldn’t stop thinking about the above passage. So today of all days, when tons of kids will be starting a new year of classes, teachers will be learning a whole new set of kids, and when I will be starting a new job, it helps to hear that because scared is a good thing.

In fact, it’s a bit of advice I’ve heard over and over in the past few weeks. You’re nervous because you care. Or because you want to do a great job. These are all acceptable reasons for being a little shaky the first day? Okay, well. That’s good. Because I am. All of the above. Looking back at the first days of school, I was always the kind of person who stayed up all night, unable to sleep because all the anticipation. Some years, this carried onto Sunday nights too. I’m a natural born worrier; that’s definitely a part of it. On the other hand, I’m a major perfectionist so I’m sure that had a hand in it too.

As self-admitted bookworms, I don’t think I’m alone when I say I rely on books a lot during these times of change. Practically all the characters we meet are working through some version of newness, dealing with a bit of insecurity, wondering if they have what it takes, and if they will fit in. Silly as it might sound I find myself thinking “if they can do it, I can do it!”. Fully aware, my confidence boost is coming from fictional characters in fictional scenarios.

So I thought I would share a few of those titles today. Just in case you need a little cheerleading too.

Books and Bravery A List from Rather Be Reading Blog

Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes | Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally | Only Everything by Kieran Scott

Disneylanders by Kate Abbott | Nantucket Red by Leila Howland | There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos

Like No Other by Una LaMarche

↔

Truth be told, it was difficult to narrow down this list because there are so many books that have given me support at one time or another. But I think these are a fantastic start. (Plus I read all of them in 2014 so there’s that.) Here’s hoping you have a wonderful start to your September, knowing support comes from all places in your life. Even your bookshelf.

Dear Magan + Miss E (Well Wishes from Bookish Moms)

Good morning, friends!

You might have heard from a little birdie (literally, Twitter!) that Magan gave birth to a gorgeous little girl on Sunday evening! It’s hard to believe after so much planning, squealing, and excitement that she is actually here! I guess it’s no surprise that I wanted to do something special on Rather Be Reading to commemorate her new journey into motherhood and the birth of Miss E. You know how you just get inspired at the right time? Kid President released a super sweet video a few weeks ago, sharing so many worldly lessons and favorites (corn dogs!) with the newest member of his family. So with that little seed, I contacted moms I knew in this community to share their insights and also a little message with Miss E.

Book Rock Betty

First of all, congratulations Magan!!!  You are going to be a wonderful Mama and enjoy every moment of it!  I’m not going to warn you about how fast time will go because I guarantee 97% of the people you talk to will remind you of that fact.  So onto a few real tips…

1.  You MUST get a Nosefrida.  Nose aspirators are worthless.  Seriously, you will thank me within the first year.  I promise you this.
2.  Fevers are OKAY.  All parents freak out a bit when their baby gets a fever, but try to remember that fevers are a good thing!  It is a sign that your baby is fighting off the infection!  Obviously… you need to be extra cautious the first few months and when the temperature gets SUPER HIGH, but for the most part, embrace the fevers.
3.  It is okay to have a filthy kitchen floor.  With Baby Betty #1 I swept the floor constantly, but then I realized… ya know what?  It is going to get dirty again within 20 minutes.  Your house is going to be messy.  This is normal.  Don’t miss out on play time over it!
4.  There isn’t a single Mama out there that really knows what she is doing.  You will make mistakes and feel completely lost, but you’ll figure it out!

So, remember these 4 things and you will have nothing to worry about.  😉  Good luck with that beautiful baby!!

 Capillya That Cover Girl

Magan! Baby B! You two are going to have such an amazing relationship. When I was asked to participate I wasn’t quite sure what I could possibly say to a mama who is already pretty fantastic. I haven’t dealt with solid foods or a bobble-headed baby that can actually sit unsupported! But wow, M, I know you’ve got this in the bag.

Baby B, you’re so special already. You were special from the moment that your mama and daddy found out you were going to come into this world, and I’m pretty sure you’re special just by coming from amazingly special people, too. There are all kinds of practical advice that people are going to give you when you grow up, but let’s just stick to the basic fundamental baby life lessons and I think you’ll have a great head start in this world.

1. Sleep is good. Your mama and daddy love you very much. But they also love sleep, especially when you have needs that make them get up around the clock. We’re talkin’ 5 times in a 4-hour time span in the middle of the morning before the butt crack of dawn. Please sleep when you’re itty bitty. Better yet, sleep all the time, and start that stuff early.

2. Smiles are also good. I was pretty nervous about having a baby who didn’t smile. My husband and I like to act silly and crack jokes all the time, so smiling and laughter is just a part of our DNA. I have a niece who basically didn’t smile the entire first year of her life and it was soul-neutering. Granted she was a healthy baby surrounded by people who loved her but oh my gosh baby B you have no idea how idiotically crazy happy you will make people when you smile. They might look a little terrifying when they smile back at you for long periods of time but trust me, they’re not trying to eat your face.

3. Give your parents a break. Parenthood is just plain hard. You’ll have a big sister who also needs some mommy-daddy time, but trust me, she’s going to love on you, too. But there are a few things that your mama and daddy may feel inadequate in doing (HAPPENS TO ME ALL THE TIME) but they are doing their best and they are perfect parents to you, baby B. They might get tired or frustrated or confused or sometimes feel helpless and think “OMG how have I been entrusted with yet another human being” but don’t you judge them! You just go on smiling your gummy smiles, because they need reassurance from your sweet face that they are doing everything right, because they are.

4. Never stop being curious. Your little brain and baby body are going to grow faster in this year than the rest of your life, or so Google tells me. Never stop wondering. Never stop reaching out and being curious about textures, colors, and faces. Never stop believing something to be new and uncharted territory. Because trust me, a lot of adults feel like they know everything already and it makes them extremely boring and self-centered people. Don’t forget to make new discoveries every day, because your world is a big, big world. It’s a world that is so so blessed to have you in it.

Magan, you’re going to rock this. You’re going to have such amazing memories with your newest little one. She is going to change you even more in ways you’re going to know so so soon! You will be wonderful parents to this tiny baby B! Congratulations!!!

Love, C

Capillya That Cover Girl - BabyJess from Gone with the Words

Lisa is Busy NerdingA Message for Magan for Lisa is Busy Nerding

Lori from Pure Imagination

To Magan,

Your new squish, the couch, a Boppy, and your e-reader are going to be your best friends for awhile. Just embrace it. I know everyone will tell you this, but accept everyone’s help. It’s much harder than it sounds, but do it. Let them cook and clean while you enjoy those new baby snuggles (and some reading)! Those early days are the hardest but they go by the fastest.

To Baby B,

I don’t know your parents, not really anyway, but I know enough to say that you are one loved and cherished child already. You are going to do amazing things because you have been so loved from day one. You are also going to have incredible taste in books. It comes with the package.

Melissa from Writer Grrl Reads

Baby B, as you enter this big beautiful world, I want you to know that your mama is one of the strongest, most selfless and giving people that I know.  She will move heaven and earth for you, and I know that you will love her with all of your little heart.

Melissa Walker Unbreak My Heart

♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥

M + Baby E: There is so much love in this world for both of you, and so much to experience and enjoy together. We are so happy for your family, and all there is to look forward to. Like libraries, eBooks, B&N coupons, friends you never thought you were going to meet and can’t live without, people who support you from near and far, hot chocolate, laughing until your crying, and always finding the awesome in life.

As Kid President says: “You are going to be important. You are going to do a lot! You are going to need a pep talk sometimes. And that’s okay.”

So this is our little way of saying: We are there for you and we love you!

Thanks so much to Betty, Capillya, Jess, Lisa, Lori, Melissa and Melissa for taking the time to contribute to this post!

xoxo

P.S. Stay tuned for more baby fun tomorrow… you aren’t going to want to miss it.

Tree Thoughts, Bear Hugs, Kid President

Hiya!

I was planning on writing something totally different today but I thought I would take a cue from Melissa at Writer Grrl Reads and write about right now. I’m writing this on Monday night, a half hour after we just got back from picking up a Christmas tree down the street from our apartment. This year we have people hanging out from Canada selling Canadian trees, and the girl who chatted us up during the process had the most porcelain looking skin and thick brown dreads. Her accent was super cute, too. After looking at two trees, we settled on the second and lugged it home.

2013 Estelle and James Christmas Tree Selfie

Picking out the Christmas tree has always been a big deal for me. When I was young, my dad and I would go to the school near my church and pick out a tree just a few days before Christmas Eve. When I moved in with my husband (then fiance), we bought our tree earlier than that and always tried to keep it alive and kicking until one of our birthdays (end of January or beginning of February). One tradition we did adopt was naming the tree: Nat (after Nat King Cole), Perry (after Perry Como), and Fozziwig (after Fozzie’s role in The Muppet Christmas Carol).

And then moving from a house to an apartment, a lot of people were shocked (I have no idea why) that we would still get a real tree. Um, hello! Have you met me? I feel personally offended when people tell me they use a fake tree (it’s true) but not have one at all? It’s like Christmas never existed. Last year, we brought home our first mini tree (for almost double the price of the ones in the suburbs… sigh) and somehow managed to get all our ornaments on the tiny thing.

(We named that one Kevin after Kevin McAllister in Home Alone.)

Then a new tradition started: drinking Dr. Peppermints — a mix of peppermint schnapps and Dr. Pepper (I don’t measure and made them super strong last year) while we wait for the branches to loosen up and that true pine scent to fill our little space. So far this year our cat doesn’t seem too impressed with the tree. I was a little concerned about her reaction but she’s napping on the back of our couch right now… not even looking at it.

It’s better than attacking the branches, I suppose. Oh, who am I kidding? It definitely is.

2013 Estelle Christmas Tree

When you read this Christmas is only going to be 15 days away. FIFTEEN DAYS. I can’t believe how it crept up on us. I can’t believe how much there is to do still, and I’m also preparing myself for how fast all of it will pass by. (Isn’t that the worst? I have to get better at enjoying the moment.) So maybe this a just a little reminder to reflect and just enjoy? I don’t know if you are a fan of Kid President (you so should be) but last week he said life is what happens when you put down your phone DO SOMETHING AWESOME and ya know, for the rest of the year and the fresh one to come… that’s some advice I need to follow through on.

By the way, we named the new tree Linus.