Entries in My Humble Opinion (26)


The Choirs Kept Singing: The Best of 2017

Here are some of the high points of the past year, in no particular order:

A book published; a scholarship won; two stories published in anthologies; a residency in Bath; a glorious day in Oxford; an idyllic house exchange in the Loire Valley; Patrick's inspiring stake conference addresses; Hope's acceptance to UC Berkeley; James's faithful mission completion; the kids singing along to Yves Montand; a critical thesis; a creative thesis; date nights galore; sous vide everything; discovering the finest tapestries ever woven; Hope's game-winning buzzer beater; Christian's heroic efforts on two campaign trails; the best book group ever; Tess's PHS all-time fourth place swim ranking; getting our Swiss passports; endless Great Dalmuti matches; Daniel's 3D element Christmas ornaments; Anne's voracious, omnivorous reading; a Hollywood movie opening with Patrick; the biggest and best Thanksgiving of all time; singing carols around the piano; Tess's two ethereal Christmas duets; having award-winning writers as mentors; and steak and symphony with my beloved.

Top Ten Books of the Year

10. Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand

9. Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow, by Faïza Guène

8. The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey

7. Story Genius, by Lisa Cron

6. Mother's Milk, by Rachel Hunt Steenblik

5. The Game of Love and Death, by Martha Brockenbrough

4. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

3. Still Life with Tornado, by A.S. King

2. Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk

1. Uprooted, by Naomi Novik 

Top Five Albums of the Year

1. Northern Redemption - The Abrams Brothers

2. Coming Home - Leon Bridges

3. Winter Songs - Ola Gjeilo

2. Ola Gjeilo - Voces8

1. Freedom Road - Rhiannon Giddens

Favorite 2017 Theatrical Releases 

10. The Napping Princess

9. Logan Lucky

8. Wind River

7. My Cousin Rachel

6. Baby Driver

5. Lady Bird

4. Get Out

3. It

2. Dunkirk

1. Wonder Woman

Most Enjoyed TV Seen

10. The Young Pope

9. Stranger Things 2

8. The Good Place

7. The Handmaid's Tale

6. The Magicians

5. The Tunnel

4. Sherlock

3. Hotel Beau Séjour

2. The Crown

1. The Great British Baking Show

Best Restaurant Experiences

7. Agrodolce - Berkeley

6. Bistro de la Gare - South Pasadena

5. Lucky Noodle King - San Gabriel (Now tragically closed.)

4. Feuillette - Saint-Gervais-la-Forêt

3. Terra Gourma - Paris

2. La Boucherie on 71 - Los Angeles

1. Benoît - Paris

As far as I can tell, 2018 promises to be even better! Happy New Year!


Rounding Up: A Birthday Playlist

I'm closer to 100 than to 0, and I'm the age at which kids will ask things like, "Was music invented when you were little?" That's fine; I don't mind getting older. In fact, in honor of my birthday, I looked back over the past five decades and chose one song released each year of my life that seems the most "me." 

This was tricky; some years, I could have chosen dozens of great songs. Other years, the pickings were slim (I'm looking at you, 1996 and 2005). See what you think.

1966 - Beach Boys: "Wouldn't It Be Nice"

1967 - Van Morrison: "Brown-eyed Girl"

1968 - Simon & Garfunkel: "A Hazy Shade of Winter"

1969 - Beatles: "Here Comes the Sun"

1970 - Beatles: "Let It Be"

1971 - Led Zeppelin - "When the Levee Breaks"

1972 - Yes - "And You and I"

1973 - Elton John - "Daniel"

1974 - David Bowie - "Rebel, Rebel"

1975 - Led Zeppelin - "In My Time of Dying"

1976 - Boston - "More Than a Feeling"

1977 - Peter Gabriel - "Solsbury Hill"

1978 - Kate Bush - "Wuthering Heights"

1979 - The Police - "Message in a Bottle"

1980 - The Jam - "That's Entertainment"

1981 - The Police - "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"

1982 - Joe Jackson - "Steppin' Out"

1983 - U2 - "40"

1984 - Hüsker Dü - "Love Is All Around"

1985 - Sting - "Fortress Around Your Heart"

1986 - The Communards - "Don't Leave Me This Way"

1987 - Dukes of the Stratosphear - "Vanishing Girl"

1988 - The Church - "Under the Milky Way"

1989 - XTC - "The Mayor of Simpleton"

1990 - They Might Be Giants - "Birdhouse in Your Soul"

1991 - R.E.M. - "Losing My Religion"

1992 - Niamh Parsons - "The Tinkerman's Daughter"

1993 - The Cranberries - "Dreams"

1994 - Beastie Boys - "Sabotage"

1995 - Great Big Sea - "Runaway"

1996 - The Wonders - "That Thing You Do"

1997 - Foo Fighters - "Everlong"

1998 - Great Big Sea and The Chieftains - "Lukey's Boat"

1999 - Niamh Parsons - "Blackbirds and Thrushes"

2000 - Hem - "Half Acre"

2001 - Alison Krauss & Union Station - "The Lucky One"

2002 - Queens of the Stone Age - "Mosquito Song" 

2003 - Ben Harper & The Blind Boys of Alabama - "Picture of Jesus"

2004 - The Wailin' Jennys - "Arlington"

2005 - Coldplay - "Speed of Sound"

2006 - Calexico - "Cruel"

2007 - The Killers - "Read My Mind"

2008 - Adele - "Make You Feel My Love"

2009 - Fictionist - "Noisy Birds"

2010 - Justin Townes Earle - "Harlem River Blues"

2011 - The Wailin' Jennys - "Bird Song"

2012 - Gary Clark, Jr. - When My Train Pulls In"

2013 - St. Paul & the Broken Bones - "I've Been Loving You"

2014 - James Blake - "Retrograde"

2015 - Portugal. The Man - "People Say"

2016 - Eli et Papillon - "Les rêves"

2017 - Rhiannon Giddens - "Birmingham Sunday" 

A half century-plus-one of music! I can't think of a better way to celebrate. 



A Decade of Superlatives

Our family in 2014. Unfortunately, we don't take group photos very often.













Crumbling Lightposts: The Best of 2016

Taken at the apex of a hike up nearby Bailey Canyon on Labor Day.

This is my eleventh Best of the Year post! Here's a list of all of them, mainly for my own convenience.

I know that when it comes to the world at large, 2016 was annus horribilis. But for me, personally (when I don't think about politics), this year has been terrific. I've loved my first two semesters of grad school. I got to take my mother to Paris for a week to celebrate our milestone birthdays. (I turned fifty, but I'll let Mom tell you her age...or not.)

Our dog is still delightful. Our kids are growing in all the right ways. I've made new friends. Patrick continues to be the best husband of all time. And I've consumed a lot of great media and delicious food (as you'll see).* 

As always, books are first. In the past twelve months, I've read 130 novel-length books and 120 new-to-me picture books--both all-time highs spurred by my MFA program. (My previous recorded high number of novel-length books was 85, and I've never kept track of picture books before.)

Top Ten Novel-Length Books Read:**

1) My Book of Life by Angel, by Martine Leavitt

2) Symphony for the City of the Dead, by M.T. Anderson

3) Calvin, by Martine Leavitt

4) Long Lankin, by Lindsey Barraclough

5) Jellicoe Road, by Malina Marchetta

6) The Elementals, by Michael McDowell

7) Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson

8) Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racciula

9) Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston

10) The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey

Most Disappointing (not the worst) Book:

Wink Poppy Midnight

Favorite New-To-Me Picture Books:

Lester's Dreadful Sweaters, by K.G. Campbell

The Iridescence of Birds, by Patricia McLachlan

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, by Michelle Markel

Monsters Eat Whiny Children, by Bruce Eric Kaplan

The Dark, by Lemony Snicket

Duck, Death, and the Tulip, by Wolf Erlbruch

Boxes for Katje, by Candace Fleming

The Lion and the Bird, by Marianne Dubai

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, by Neil Gaiman

Jane, the Fox, and Me, by Fanny Britt

Because of school, I didn't see that many movies this year. But there were some good ones.

Best 2016 Movies Seen:

10) Ghostbusters

9) Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

8) The Legend of Tarzan

7) Midnight Special

6) Batman v. Superman

5) Mr. Right

4) Suicide Squad

3) 10 Cloverfield Lane

2) Eye in the Sky

1) Arrival

Ditto on the TV (but I never watch that much, anyway).

Favorite TV:

1) The Magicians

2) Stranger Things

3) Black-ish

Best Music Downloaded:

Summary: A whole lotta French pop--and another terrific album by one of my new favorite bands. 

St. Paul and the Broken Bones: Sea of Noise

Eli and Papillon: "Les rêves," "Cette nuit," et "Automne"

Vianney: "Pas là"

Soleil: "Ce qui guide mes pas"

Favorite Websites:


Fluent Forever


Best Resturant Experiences:

Maison Christian Faure, Montreal

Au Pied de Cochon, Montreal

Angelina, Paris

Aux Merveilleux de Fred, Paris

Altaeats, Altadena

Bistro de la Gare, South Pasadena

101 Noodle Express, Arcadia

Goals for 2017 include further improving my French and writing and turning in both theses (critical and creative) required for my MFA. Happy New Year!

* Sometimes I rank things in ascending order. Sometimes I rank them in descending order. Sometimes I don't rank them at all. It just depends on what I feel like doing.

** I am not and have never been an Amazon affiliate. I include links purely in case you're interested in knowing more. 


What Now?

Twenty-four hours ago, I went to vote. I cried a little with joy as I voted for Hillary Clinton, then wiped away my tears and carefully voted on the many measures presented in California.

As I left my polling place, I thought back to November 4, 1984. I turned 18 that very day and got to cast a ballot for the first time. I was thrilled to vote for the first female vice-presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro. Of course, she and Mondale lost--hugely--to Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. But in the years that followed, I hoped that a door had been opened with Ferraro's nomination. 

When Barack Obama won in 2008, my faith in newly opening doors was bolstered. Even though I'd supported Hillary in the primary (I also campaigned and voted for her when she ran for the senate in NY), Obama won me over with his integrity and vision. And then, I thought, it would be Hillary's turn. Surely it was time.

Our son, Christian, has been employed by Hillary's campaign since early this summer. He's worked 18-hour days seven days a week for months. He's had amazing experiences along the way, and has felt--rightly--that he's been a part of history.

Today is his last day of work. He's broken-heartedly packing up the temporary office he's been in charge of in Pennsylvania and heading back to Virginia. In a few days, he'll be with us for Thanksgiving, and it'll probably be the biggest family group therapy session ever. I am so proud of my boy, his strong ideals, and his tireless, cheerful work on behalf of our first female presidential candidate. 

Last night felt Apocalyptic with a capital A to me. As a devout Christian/Mormon, I do believe in the Last Days foretold by Jesus and all the prophets before and since. They may well be upon us. 

But until then, I feel called to rise up and be better. A couple of weeks ago, I read this piece by David Wong (warning: language), and realized I'd been smug and selfish, and that I needed to reach out to those to whom our president-elect has appealed so strongly. I feel chastened and humbled; I know I can be a more involved citizen and a better practitioner of my beliefs. 

I believe in tolerance and love; I believe in peace and understanding.

I believe in taking care of the poor and the disenfranchised--in every part of this country and in the world.

I believe in working to eliminate injustice and inequality of all kinds.

I believe in careful, radical stewardship of our precious, irreplaceable environment.

I believe in action and dialogue and co-operation.

I believe in asking God--and working myself--to bless not one nation, but ALL nations, with freedom and prosperity.

Because I believe we are all children of God. Now, with this unlooked-for result, I'll be called upon to live those ideals even more fully.

Patrick often says we get the government we deserve, so I will now set about deserving better than what I got last night. Here's hoping we can find our way.