No matter how long I have been out of school, September always feels like the start of a new year to me, even more so than January 1st. The world cools, schedules are set in place, and a brisk sense of purpose kicks in. Plus the transition from summer to fall is lovely while the transition from the holidays to January is like tripping and falling into a mud puddle. #NotAWinterGirl
This year, this is what I am excited about:
Visiting Holland, Michigan for the first time with my parents at the end of the month. In fact, since this is a scheduled post, I’m there right now.
Growing up, we didn’t do family vacations. My mother was the caregiver for her own parents, and my grandma needed someone to give her insulin shots every day. Given that my grandmother did not speak English and my grandfather didn’t speak at all after his stroke (though he understood English just fine), finding a caregiver for a week wasn’t really an option. Even years after my grandparents were gone, my parents didn’t travel. They had simply gone too many years without it, and it wasn’t something our family did.
A couple years ago, my sister convinced my parents to go to Mackinac Island, and surprisingly, my home loving parents had a great time. So this time, it’s my turn to vacation with my parents, and for my mom’s 78th birthday, we’re going to a Western Michigan beach town that none of us have ever visited: Holland.
Getting back into the office. Minus a couple of IT-related trips, I haven’t been in the office since March 2020. I’m not sure what your last in-person interactions with colleagues were like, but mine went like this:
‘Bye, everyone. See you in a couple weeks! Oh wait, should we be standing this close to each other?
Which probably isn’t unique except one thing: We were working in the epidemiology department of a major research university. We really should have known better. But we weren’t prepared for shelter-in-place or that we’d soon have unique ways of measuring a six-foot distance (6 to 12 Subway sandwiches! 2 golden retrievers! 1 Leonardo DiCaprio!)
Now I’m returning to a different department and finally meeting my boss, who I have only interacted with on Zoom and email. I’m eager to sit in my new office and interact with my new colleagues from a safe distance of two golden retrievers away.
Books. To be honest, I’m always excited about books. A couple weeks ago, I saw a woman in Hines Park in a hammock reading a book, while her family was probably off playing frisbee or disc golf or something. I have never wanted to be best friends with a complete and total stranger quite so much. I feel like any woman who has a portable reading hammock truly understands how to live, and that when I too have my own reading hammock, I will have arrived.
Currently, the books I am excited about are:
Plenty by Hannah Howard (memoir)
Food writer Hannah Howard is at a pivotal moment in her life when she begins searching out her fellow food people—women who’ve carved a place for themselves in a punishing, male-dominated industry. Women whose journeys have inspired and informed Hannah’s own foodie quests. On trips that take her from Milan to Bordeaux to Oslo and then always back again to her home in New York City, Hannah spends time with these influential women, learning about the intimate paths that led them each toward fulfilling careers. Each chef, entrepreneur, barista, cheesemaker, barge captain, and culinary instructor expands our long-held beliefs about how the worldwide network of food professionals and enthusiasts works.
But amid her travels, Hannah finds herself on a heart-wrenching private path. Her plans to embark on motherhood bring her through devastating lows and unimaginable highs. Hannah grapples with personal joy, loss, and a lifelong obsession with food that is laced with insecurity and darker compulsions. Looking to her food heroes for solace, companionship, and inspiration, she discovers new ways to appreciate her body and nourish her life.
At its heart, this lovely and candid memoir explores food as a point of passion and connection and as a powerful way to create community, forge friendships, and make a family.
Technically I’ve already read this, as I was able to read it as an Amazon First Read, but it officially releases today. I loved this, and I am excited to review it next week.
Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn (YA novel)
Eighteen-year-old Meg Hennessey just found out her entire childhood was a lie. So instead of taking a gap year before college to find herself, she ends up traveling north to meet what’s left of the family she never knew existed – all while questioning the ideals she grew up with.
While there, she meets Micah Allen, a former pastor’s kid whose dad ended up in prison, leaving Micah with his own complicated relationship with faith. The clock is ticking on his probation hearing and Micah, now 19, feels the pressure to forgive – even when he can’t possibly forget.
As Meg and Micah grow closer, they are confronted with the heavy flutterings of first love and all the complications it brings. Together, they must navigate the sometimes-painful process of cutting ties with childhood beliefs as they build toward something truer and straight from the heart.
This is a pre-order for me, and it should download to my Kindle on September 7th. Erin Hahn is a local writer (Ann Arbor), so I’m really excited to read her for the first time.
All’s Well by Mona Awad (novel)
Miranda Fitch’s life is a waking nightmare. The accident that ended her burgeoning acting career left her with excruciating, chronic back pain, a failed marriage, and a deepening dependence on painkillers. And now she’s on the verge of losing her job as a college theater director. Determined to put on Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, the play that promised, and cost, her everything, she faces a mutinous cast hellbent on staging Macbeth instead. Miranda sees her chance at redemption slip through her fingers.
That’s when she meets three strange benefactors who have an eerie knowledge of Miranda’s past and a tantalizing promise for her future: one where the show goes on, her rebellious students get what’s coming to them, and the invisible, doubted pain that’s kept her from the spotlight is made known.
With prose Margaret Atwood has described as “no punches pulled, no hilarities dodged…genius,” Mona Awad has concocted her most potent, subversive novel yet. All’s Well is the story of a woman at her breaking point and a formidable, piercingly funny indictment of our collective refusal to witness and believe female pain.
So, this one isn’t a September release, although it is still new, but it’s been on my to-read list since I first heard about it. I finally picked up a copy over the weekend.
Ankle boots and fall shoes. Sandal season is magical, I admit, but there comes a time when a woman tires of painting her toenails. For me, that comes earlier than for most because I basically paint my toenails once in the summer (usually before a vacation) and then let it chip off the rest of the summer.
Because I am a barbarian.
So a return to closed toe shoes is always welcome.
Halfway Down the Stairs: Since 2005, I have been on the staff of a small online literary journal. Today, our September issue publishes, with the theme of Skeletons. I cannot believe it has been 16 years since HDtS published its first issue.
What are you excited about this month?