the habit of being_the folded clock


“I am a jack-of-all-trades. I edit and teach and at times desire to be a clothing designer or an artist (one who doesn’t draw or paint or sew) and I write everything but poetry and I am a mother and a social maniac and a misanthrope and a burgeoning self-help guru and a girl who wants to look pretty and a girl who wants to look sexy and a girl who wants to look girly and a woman in her middle forties who wishes not to look like anything at all, who wishes sometimes to vanish.”
―Heidi Julavits, The Folded Clock: A Diary


Having read a good bit of pre-pub hype on Heidi Julavits’ The Folded Clock I went back and forth several times about buying it. Ultimately I caved and bought the book. What pushed me to click the purchase button? The cover. Really. I found it lovely and wondered just what might be inside the pages.

Ideally, this is the type of book I would like: smart, funny, self-deprecating woman writes about her life. There were moments I laughed at her, moments I thought I might like to talk to her over a bottle of wine, and moments I was just plain bored.

As a long standing keeper, I thought the diary format would work well however the entries are not in chronological order and often have nothing to do with what she did that day despite all starting with Today I… A few entries in and you realize the entries are merely snippets that serve as a means to deliver anecdotes—some funny, some not. What I did enjoy: Julavits is charmingly neurotic, the reoccurrence of objects (an old tap handle so impossibly beautiful she carries it in her bag and draws it every morning before settling into work), and the sense that Julavits truly likes herself (a woman who likes herself seems so very rare in our culture).

  • The cover really is quite pretty, sorry the writing didn’t deliver.
    It took me many years, but you know what? I like myself and am pleased with the woman I grew up to be, wrinkles, grey hair, softer than my 30’s muscles, too tender heart, a loud laugh,…
    they all make me!ReplyCancel

  • I’ve had a hard time articulating my feelings about this book, but you have hit on some of them. I did not read about it pre-publication, I stumbled upon it in a bookstore, but I too bought it for the cover and concept, sometimes felt bored, and laughed a little. I liked the last paragraph of her June 21st entry, when she describes her writing process. I was also annoyed on many occasions and haven’t sorted out how to describe that annoyance. Part of me thinks she wanted to annoy us, at least a little bit. I strongly disliked the discussion with her daughter she shares on August 6th. I did finish the book, and I’m not someone committed to finishing every book I start. I think it was hope that kept me reading, hope I’d find a golden nugget that made it all worthwhile, but I never folded a page corner. At this point I’ve simply let it go.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Denise, You said it quiet well—there were no nuggets for me and there were parts I forced myself to get through. I do think you’re right about her wanting to annoy the reader and she succeeded!ReplyCancel

  • Brooke

    i LOVE the cover of this book for the most part because it reminds me of my friend from Maine. I really liked reading this as summer descended here. I think I felt emotional ties because I have several relocated Maine friends. I had to cry a bit when she wrote about pressing her face to stone quarried from her hometown to build a bridge in her new town. I used to stare at wildflowers in empty lots after I moved from the Midwest. I picked up Women In Clothes (great cover too) and can’t get in to it.ReplyCancel

the habit of being_a few lines from june


June, month that brings the heat, month that throws the curveballs. Summer is here. It has been here for a while but now it’s official according to the calendar. The Magnolia has mono now so that is fun—two girls missing out on the fun that is summer. Given the swollen tonsils and sore throats, I’ve resorted to buying popsicles because I am a one-woman-show and unable to keep up with popsicle production for our current rate of consumption. Plans have had to change and one of us need always be here with the Magnolia & the Poulette to avoid exposing other people (people we like and want to remain friends with) and their children to the joys of mono. I am at work reading (potential) books and trying to maintain the rhythm of work (writing) despite a plethora of (un)welcome distractions. Maybe I should write a book about distractions.

  • Oh no!!! I am sorry this is your summer. I think store-bought popsicles are perfectly acceptable. Think of them as part of the whole glorious story you are your kiddos are weaving. It will be a memory for them to soften the ice of mono. I hope others are nearby to give you respite, friend!ReplyCancel

  • Poor Magnolia, poor you! Mono is something we haven’t experienced in my house, but I remember several friends having it when I was in high school.
    Summer is here too and I for one am looking forward to winter.
    I think you should write a book, on any topic, you have a special gift with words.
    Hang in there.

  • Oh no! I am so sorry :-( poor girls (and momma). Sending love to you all!ReplyCancel

  • I’m sorry to read that mono is in the house :( Praying that they heal quickly and that you get to socialize outside the house more often than not. I also hope that no one else gets it!! What a spring you’ve had.ReplyCancel

  • I was considering this morning the thought I put into creating a calm life for my family, and yet–sigh–and yet, something or many things always manage to appear keeping a bit of crazy going on in our midst. I want you to know as someone who reads your words and sees your images on instagram that I appreciate the way you live your life, distractions and all. You have substance. I know it can be a challenge to let yourself buy grocery store popsicles, but there are times when all the other challenges get priority and we must simplify whatever we can simplify. Sorry about the mono–saying a prayer for complete healing as well as joy in the interim.ReplyCancel

  • mono! Part of me wants to plug my ears and run. You should be buying Popsicles! Popsicle production when folks are not sick is an event already. Have you read Heidi hula it’s the Folded Clock?ReplyCancel

  • Oh no! so sorry about the mono with two of your kids! Will light a candle for them!

    I know all about the swollen throat and need for popsicles. I have mono about two years ago, it was NO fun!

    Here’s what I wish I knew then about mono:

    Do not let your doctor prescribe antibiotics for the swollen throat. Mono + penicillin antibiotics causes a rash. I had to go on steroids to get rid of that rash and all of that made me WORSE instead of better. See what the mayo clinic says about mono – I would of avoided getting more sick on mono if I had read this – they explain the NO Antibiotics part and are super trustworthy and biomedical without being ‘let’s treat everything with antibiotics but instead think first!’

    One of my friends who is into holistic health did the following when she had mono and had a much quicker recovery than I did…:

    no meat if possible (except fish) (to ease up on liver/spleen I believe), limit dairy and sugar, boost immune system with Echinacea, Astragalus (well known for immunity enhancing properties), olive leaf tea regularly (natural antiviral and antiseptic), much garlic as one can eat (antiviral), oil of oregano, lots of Vit C, (the kind with bioflavonoids is essential), above recommended dosed is helpful), all these can be found at a vitamin or health store……

    My naturopath made a tincture for me and I think that really helped, but for me the damage done by wrong diet (I should of not had all the meat I think), even worse the antibiotics (kills one’s gut too! super hard on one’s system), and then the steroids.

    Lots of liquids, rest and care needed.

    Anyway, sorry about the soapbox ‘here’s what to do’ but if you did not know about the antibiotic bit and I did not tell you and things got worse, I would feel much worse than writing a long comment!!!

    God bless, heal and give peace during all of this!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Thanks for the input Elizabeth. One of the girls did take antibiotics for strep but neither were given them for mono 😉ReplyCancel

  • So sorry the girls continue to feel poorly. Sending you all healing, cooling thoughts.ReplyCancel

  • I sure hope they get better and feel some sunshine soon. A book about distractions. Hmm… This could be the beginning of something.ReplyCancel

  • no fun at all, for any of you. why does illness seem more tragic in the glaring light of summer?

    may healing and summer fun come your family’s way soon!ReplyCancel

  • Oh dear Amanda, I do hope everyone is feeling well really soon. Take care xxReplyCancel

  • Your last sentence made me smile. I think a book about distractions would be just up my street (she says, as she distracts herself from stove long enough for the pasta to boil over…).ReplyCancel

[Reading] The Life and Death of Sophie Stark


“It’s hard for me to talk about love,’ she said. ‘I think movies are the way I do that.”
― Anna North, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark


The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an exquisite and unusual story of legacy, love, and emotional scars. The book revolves around Sophie Stark, and what we know of her is told through the filter of others—her lover, her brother, her husband, her college obsession. From these narratives we piece together an image of Sophie—her magnetism, her manipulation, her lies, her vulnerability, and her deep longing to connect in a meaningful way with other people. I disliked Sophie. I pitied Sophie. I felt sorry for her.

While the ending wasn’t a surprise, it is clearly stated in the title, what North does in The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is to write fearlessly about scarred and wounded people with freshness and grace. I won this book in a giveaway (thank you Esmé!) and so thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s currently my favorite read of 2015 and has given me much to ponder as I move through my days, write in my journal, work on essays—what am I saying in the printed word that I hesitate to say aloud?

  • hmmm, you’ve intrigued me with this one. that it’s good enough to be a favourite and any book focusing on character is interesting to me too.
    thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Your favorite book of 2015 and it’s almost July? I take that as high praise from someone I admire very much. I will be reading this, thank you Amanda.ReplyCancel

  • If you considerate one of your favorite books of 2015,then I will be adding it to my list of reads.
    What a lovely review of this book, Amanda.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda, every time I visit I am adding a book to my list, I’m not complaining just noticing. I love books with flawed characters and this one sounds nice.ReplyCancel

the habit of being—notes on a june evening


I’m sitting here on the sofa, nursing the Camellia who smells like Weleda baby Calendula bath goodness, watching the sun set on the yellow cottage across the street—a favorite late evening activity because the house and the trees surrounding it are positively ablaze with light and color—I can hear the Mister outside on a conference call, and the chorus of crickets. A hush has fallen in the back of the house as the kids read and ready for bed.

The photo is from this morning. I was tasked with babysitting the Magnolia’s beloved blue baby—a name that makes me cringe but that she insists upon as the baby wears a blue outfit, her favorite color, therefore making this particular baby her favorite (there is an identical baby that is ignored because of her pink outfit). We celebrate the Magnolia’s birthday on her half-birthday because her actual birthday is just days before Christmas. She has already informed me she wants more blue clothes for her baby and a blue bike and a blue cake. Oliver (the cat) was my intrepid helper.

I worked today reading manuscripts, read through the first pages of a work in translation for a client, and paid bills (depressing). We had sandwiches for dinner—turkey, avocado, sprouts, tomato—and a big bowl of cherries. It’s that time of year where meals are impromptu and don’t require the use of the oven (too hot). I’m looking forward to this weekend, to Saturday sushi with the Mister, to the Sunday morning crossword, to thinking of work and creating and possibility. More soon.

  • I’ve been thinking about you this week. Love the blue outfit baby and my blue is her favorite color isn’t it? I don’t think either of my two had a strong affinity to a color. I’m hugging my ordinary days and hours in between chaos of wedding plans. So many things to do and I have lists everywhere. As you may know my lists overlap as well.ReplyCancel

  • God bless you! That sandwich sounds wonderful; what a neat idea abou the half birthday; kids really know what they want and that is not always bad, hey!? God give you strength.ReplyCancel

  • There were sandwiches on the menu here last night too. I was up at 4:00 a.m. to bake raspberry bars for my guys before the heat becomes oppressive. We are suppose to hit 100 this weekend, Lord help me.
    I am so happy to see you in this space this morning, I think of you often.ReplyCancel

  • Manise

    We almost did the half-birthday thing with our eldest. She too has a birthday 2 days before Christmas, but it seemed off for us and also coincided with the craziness of the last week of school before summer vacation. Glad it has worked for you all though! Camellia is a hoot. I wonder if a blue handknit sweater for blue baby’s twin would bring her out of hiding! Have a wonderful weekend.ReplyCancel

  • Kirsten

    You capture your life beautifully, and I love to hear about it. We’ll be celebrating the half-birthday of my Christmas baby the week after next, and I can’t wait to see his face when he opens his gift – a Lichtenstein colouring book! I’ve heard it’s what all the 7 and a half year olds are after this year 😉 He’s going to be delighted.ReplyCancel

On a Sunday


“Shame lies. Shame a woman and she will believe she is fundamentally wrong, organically delinquent. The only confidence she will have will be in her failures. You will never convince her otherwise.”
―Jill Alexander Essbaum, Hausfrau


Saturday I ran errands with the Mister and the Camellia. We dined on carnitas and margaritas. We made it home, I made him hide my phone, and I settled in for an afternoon and evening of reading Hausfrau. Despite the fact reading it was like watching a speeding train hurtling toward its fiery (and final) destination, I’m still reeling. Oh, to be able to write like that.

And now, I’m sipping wine and watching Ponyo with the Poulette and the Camellia. There is a chicken roasting in the oven, a salad tossed and waiting to be dressed, a loaf of crusty bread on the side table. We’re waiting for everyone else to get home from Mass for a quiet Sunday dinner. I have no idea what this week will bring but I’m hopeful.

  • Shelly

    Ponyo is just the sort of thing that might be able to get your brain and emotions back to equilibrium after that book…ReplyCancel

  • With that kind of review how could I not add Hausfrau to my list? Thank you.

    I pray your week is a beautiful and pleasant one!ReplyCancel

  • Manise

    All of it sounds perfect!ReplyCancel

  • I’ve heard about that book but cannot remember from where…must be a podcast. I’ll be adding it to “the list”. Hope you are feeling more certain or maybe less stressed :)ReplyCancel

  • Brooke

    man, I love the name and cover of that book. Sold! I’m reading dystopian right now, adding this for my next read!ReplyCancel

  • that extract caught me unawares, incredible writing. here’s to your hopeful weekend xReplyCancel

  • that extract caught me unawares, incredible writing. here’s to your hopeful weekend xReplyCancel