Giannis

“How’s the book?”

“It’s good,” I said as I held it up and showed it to the barista. He had just brought out my blended mocha and set it down on the table for me.

“It’s about Giannis, the basketball player,” I said.

“Oh, basketball,” he said it with a bit of a question in his voice.

It might not seem like a book I would pick up. Especially if you checked out my Goodreads record and saw the last book I read was Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date.

I try to alternate, reading fiction and nonfiction. And when it comes to nonfiction, I enjoy reading memoirs and biographies. Because I believe everyone has a story. The specifics may vary, but in those specifics you tend to find the universal.

So now I’m reading Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP by Mirin Fader. (In case you don’t know, Giannis Antetokounmpo plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. In 2021, they won the NBA Championship.)

On the surface, Giannis and I don’t have much in common. 

But that’s okay. That’s more than okay. That’s why books are so valuable. They give us the chance to take a peek at someone else’s life. To realize the many ways we are similar. To acknowledge that what you see on the surface is rarely the full story.

My family and I are basketball fans. While we always root for our Los Angeles Clippers, we are admirers of the game and those that play with heart and soul. 

Players like Giannis. 

Just Haven’t Met You Yet

Sometimes I read for information. 

Sometimes I read for inspiration.

Sometimes I read for pure enjoyment.

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens is a novel I picked up because I wanted something fun and entertaining.

Sophie Cousens wrote that book. Just Haven’t Met You Yet is the delightful escape I was hoping it would be. But it’s also more than that.

This week, I wanted to share some of the passages that really moved me.

“Ted looks thoughtful for a moment, then he says, ‘Someone told me that growing up feeling loved allows you to go on to love other people. Maybe love is simply a huge chain letter, passed down through the generations. The details of the stories begin not to matter’.”

“ ‘She was a part of me,’ he says softly, the pain palpable in his voice. ‘When you are with someone for a long time, you grow into each other, like adjoining trees with tangled roots. It’s hard to extricate yourself and find the part that’s left — who you were before’.”

“ ‘This is not something that gets better,’ Gerry says with a calm smile. ‘So, if I can’t look back, and I can’t look forward, I’m forced to live here, right now. Today I can sit around a campfire and talk to my friends. Today I can watch the sunset, even if the outline is getting hazy. Today I have made a new friend and I’m enjoying her company and her vibrant conversation.’ He makes a single, slow nod in my direction. ‘The Roman poet Horace said Don’t hope or fear, but seize today, you must! And in tomorrow put complete mistrust.’ All any of us have is today’.”

“People like to fill in the gaps, to paint their own picture, but no one really knows the truth of someone else’s story.”

“I have no illusions about happily ever afters — I know life will bring its challenges and nothing is forever — but I hope we might be happy today, and for as many todays as we are lucky enough to have.”

The Matzah Ball

Sometimes you find a book, or a book finds you, and you just want to tell everyone about it. You want to grab the pom-poms you never owned and create a cheer for this book. Then you want to place the book into the hands of readers everywhere. 

That’s how I feel about The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer.

The Matzah Ball is a holiday romance with a twist. It’s a Hanukkah romance, and our main character, Rachel, lives with a chronic illness. Right away I was intrigued, and the book did not disappoint. (Additionally, the author is a Jewish woman living with a chronic illness — myalgic encephalomyelitis.)

I loved getting a glimpse into some of the Jewish traditions I’m less familiar with. I loved seeing Rachel and all the messiness that comes with a chronic illness depicted on the page. And, I loved that this book gave Rachel, and by extension – me as the reader, the happy ending I was hoping for. 

I read a library copy which I tagged with many sticky notes, which means I now need to buy my own copy at my next bookstore visit. 

This week, I’m excited to share just a few of the passages that stood out to me:

“Turning beneath the covers, she blinked and took a careful accounting of how she was feeling. Would it be a good day or a bad day? She could never be certain.
Some mornings she woke up feeling well, only to find herself completely depleted two hours later. Sometimes it was the opposite. She would crash for days at a time, with no ability to do even the most menial tasks. Her disease was constant but fluid. It peaked and ebbed with only one discernible pattern. Everything she did, everything, from writing two pages to carrying the groceries one block to her apartment, came with a kickback.
It was her normal.”

“There was no way to know how long these crashes would last. It could be hours, days, weeks…or even years. The only way to avoid the flare-ups was through a very unscientific method of pacing oneself and rest.
The problem was, of course, that Rachel was awful at pacing herself or resting.
On good days, she pushed even harder. On bad days, she still pushed…usually making herself way worse in the process.”

“She wasn’t ‘out’ about her disease. She wasn’t out about …anything. Sitting in a wheelchair meant accepting you were disabled and dealing with awkward stares from healthy people.
Most of all, and because she had a disease with a name like chronic fatigue syndrome, there was always a fear tucked away inside of her that someone would look at her and say she was doing this for attention. That she really wasn’t that sick. And so, though a wheelchair would certainly make her more mobile and give her a higher quality of life, she often chose to stay home.”

Books, Books, and More Books

Last week, I did something I haven’t done since early 2020.

I went inside my public library.

During the pandemic, I was lucky enough to still be checking out books from my library, but through a system of reserving specific titles and arranging a day and time to pick them up.

But the library is open again. Open for leisurely browsing. For stocking up. For being in awe of the sheer number of books I have yet to read.

I first thought I’d go into the library with no plans. Just me, my library card, and my empty tote bag. And I’d stroll among the shelves, picking up books, reading the summaries on the back cover, and bringing home as many books as I wanted. (Or as many as I could carry in my bag.)

But then that thought made me feel a bit overwhelmed. There is such a thing as too much choice. 

So I handled the visit to the library the same way I handle my grocery shopping.

It’s considered foolish to grocery shop on an empty stomach. I thought the same rule should apply to me in a library. I was hungry for books. For the freedom to walk in and pick up books because something — a cover, a title — caught my eye. 

So I made a list.

I went online and accessed the library’s catalog. And wrote down the call numbers for books that had been on my “want-to-read” list. I limited myself to eight books. (I’m not sure how I settled on eight, except that ten seemed too many, and eight seemed close enough to ten.)

I went to the library and made my way around the shelves, gathering my books, until my bag was heavier than I expected (I didn’t realize one book was a hardcover and over 400 pages long). 

And I came home happy. With eight books including memoir (Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood), poetry (Mary Oliver’s Devotions), and fiction (Linda Holmes’s Evvie Drake Starts Over) to name a few.

Libraries are open again, and in case you couldn’t tell, I was smiling under my mask.

(The public library still requires patrons to wear masks in consideration of the younger readers who don’t yet have access to a vaccine.)

Lists, Lists, and More Lists

I’m a list-maker.

Daily to-do lists. 

Grocery shopping lists. 

Writing assignments lists. 

Gifts list (gifts to buy, gifts already bought). 

And, of course, my A to Z Lists.

(Check out my Published Work page to be re-directed to some of my published A to Z Lists including “The A to Z List of Verbs Teachers and Students Practice Daily,” “The Alphabetical Prescription for Living with a Chronic Medical Condition,” and “The A to Z List of Boys,” to name just a few.)

And then I discovered Twenty-One Truths About Love, a novel written by Matthew Dicks. 

A novel written entirely in list form. And through these lists the reader learns about Dan – a former teacher, current bookshop owner, a husband, and soon-to-be dad.

These lists are honest. Charming. Amusing. Authentic. 

Here are just a few tidbits from the book’s lists I’d like to share with you this week:

Reasons I quit teaching

– Couldn’t continue to witness bad decisions at the expense of children

– Couldn’t stand one more minute of professional development that was neither professional nor developmental

“My teaching beliefs

– Teachers must be reading and writing on a regular basis in order to be effective teachers of reading and writing.

– Teachers must think of parents as full and equal partners in the eduction of the child.

– The most important lessons taught by teachers often have little or nothing to do with academics.”

“Words that belong on a child’s T-shirt

– Are you really going to rob me of my precious childhood with this meaningless worksheet?”

“21 Truths About Love

– To truly love someone, you must love the person you never knew, the person you know today, and the person that will someday be.

– Love does not make everything better, but it makes everything a little easier.

– ‘I love you’ are three simple words that we whisper to lovers in the dark, say to dogs that don’t speak English, cry out during sex, speak to the dead while standing over their gravestones, tell parents before hanging up the phone, and repeat again and again to the people whose lives are gloriously intertwined with our own.

– Love makes you do the stupidest, bravest, most ridiculous and idiotic things in your life. It makes you scared and crazy and crazed and joyous. Love is all the feelings.”