Tuesday Book Club: The Signature of All Things

signature of all things

What I’ve (re)learned through reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s most recent novel, The Signature of All Things: it’s OK to not like a book, especially a book everyone else seems to like.

This has happened dozens of time, most notably when I cried on about how stupid I thought Catcher in the Rye was until I reread it nearly ten years later and promptly decided that I loved it. That experience was actually transformative. But, there was a long time when I despised that much-loved and immediately canonized novel and everyone acted really grumpy about my thoughts on the book. It was just, like, my opinion, man.

Opinions change, however, and I eventually wholeheartedly came around to enjoying and appreciating The Catcher in the Rye, which is a great thing for me now. But, there’s no shame in not liking a book. Similarly there should be no shame in not really liking The Signature of All Things, despite all my best intentions of wanting to like it, not to mention its overwhelming critical success.

I suppose I was underwhelmed by what transpired during the well-over 500 pages of Alma Whittaker’s life and I just always wanted something more, something deeper. Though the book covers the entirety of Alma’s life I still never felt true empathy or sympathy for her and was more often than not bewildered by some of her choices and thoughts. I never fully identified with her and lacking that prevented me from becoming invested in the novel.

Does this ever happen to you? Does it affect your reading of the novel? How do you get over it? I’m curious to hear from anyone who has read the book. How did you feel about Alma and the curious trajectory that was her life?

On another note, I’m trying to get my books for our honeymoon organized. I want to bring, like, seven but I know that’s absurd because I anticipate that Adam is going to want to spend some time together on this vacation. What we should do is pick three and them swap books with one another. It makes the most sense not only for our marriage but also for packing purposes. Until then, I’m furiously trying to finish this book before I interview the author on Thursday for an article I’m writing. I feel like I’m in grad school again!

Our Week in the States: The Rehearsal Dinner

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Immediately after the rehearsal, hosted in our living room, we snapped a few pictures in our backyard. Above is my sweet younger sister Courtney and Adam’s best friend Kyle, the matron of honor and best man, respectively. We kept our bridal party tiny, especially because we are already married, and I love how much support we felt from these two. They’re just the best.

Adam’s parents hosted a beautiful rehearsal dinner at J. Gilbert’s in Overland Park. It’s a wonderful steak house with a warm and moody interior and dynamite food. We were cozy in the back room and has tons of privacy, which made for an easy and wonderful evening. From my spot in the middle I was able to look around the entire room and see how much fun everyone was having: laughing, chatting and enjoying perfect Kansas City steaks. I loved this night.

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^^Adam and I with his dad. Joe knows how to work a room! He is seriously everyone’s best friend and such good company.

adam and erin

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Swiss Sunset

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Last night after dinner on the balcony Adam and I scrambled across the street with our bottle of wine to catch the sunset. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do this summer and I’m so happy we made it here. Clear evenings and comfortable temperatures are not always a given, even in summer, so we felt like we experienced something special. Below are a few images if you’d like to see.

 

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I love those wispy clouds that are so fluid they almost look like smoke. And the colors! We certainly weren’t the only ones out admiring the gorgeous sunset. Those visits to the Rosengarten helps us feel more connected to our neighborhood–it’s like a collective backyard for all our fellow apartment-dwelling neighbors.

What are you up to this weekend? We are going to dinner tonight with some friends and then hopefully visiting a farm for brunch on Sunday. The weather looks beautiful so I’d love to spend as much time outdoors as possible. All last week we were living in the upper 90s and this past week it has been in the low- to mid-70s–amazing what a twenty degree difference can make! I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Our Week in the States: Part 1

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It’s hard to imagine a better ten days back in the US. Christmas was nice, of course, and we loved being at home last summer before we moved, although that was for a lot longer than ten days. The last week that we were back, however, was truly exceptional: the best people, the best places, and the best times I can imagine.

Adam and I started in Charleston for a long weekend and I wish I had more pictures to share with you other than the two I have, but we were too busy making memories and being present, which I consider a major success considering how much we looked forward to this trip. The whole thing was very bittersweet. With every friend we met up with we continually wondered why we ever left the place. It’s wonderful to know all those friendships are still very much intact and that we could pick up where we left off, but it’s also hard to imagine being so far away from them and not knowing exactly when we’ll be back.

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^^can you see my hair beginning to expand in this photo? I swear, it started out straight! (maybe not really, but almost..)^^

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I met up with a couple of my girlfriends from graduate school for brunch at Husk, a major must if you’re in the city (also, consider visiting the bar next door for wicked bourbon cocktails and the best burger imaginable). We then hit King Street pretty hard and I swooned over some of my favorite stores (think J. Crew, Madewell, Anthropologie, etc.) and American prices. Everything felt like a steal! We met up with Adam and friends at Bay Street Biergarten, a very cool addition to the downtown area, and finished with dinner at Leon’s Oyster Shop with a table of even more friends. Insider Tip: go for either the fish sandwich or fried chicken sandwich and don’t turn back. Obviously we couldn’t leave without a quick stop at The Belmont for gin and tonics.

On Sunday we feasted at Butcher & Bee, our absolute favorite brunch spot, and then relaxed at my editor’s house with her kids and husband. It was a hot afternoon soothed by welcome libations and homemade duck prosciutto. In short, they know how to entertain. For dinner, we supped with Adam’s old roommate and a few more friends. It was the perfect cap to the weekend.

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Upon arriving in Kansas City we hit the ground running: errands and shopping; meeting with friends and family; and finding a few moments to relax amidst all the chaos. I was hit pretty hard with some ferocious allergies and didn’t feel like myself nearly all week. It was a bit rough, considering the temperature never went below 90 degrees and that intensity only added to the general fatigue I felt. But, I’m a survivor so we carried on : )

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We visited with the triplets, which was amazing. They still prefer their Uncle Adam to their actual blood relative, but I’m planning to spoil them with candy and credit cards so they will like me by Christmas. I love them like a crazy person.

My friend Jill came in town extra early and she got a manicure and pedicure with my sister, sister-in-law and me and it was a wonderful calm-before-the-storm moment. So was my “bridal luncheon” with Courtney at Rye, a great place for lunch or dinner.

For me, the wedding day is crystalline, but the week leading up to it is the real blur. Every day I felt like I looked at the clock and thought, No, it can’t already be that late! Those days slipped by faster than I would have liked, but it really was one of my favorite weeks of the year. And, it was surprisingly easy to fall back into routines we had left behind. One morning Adam and I left Nordstrom, after buying ties, shoes and makeup, grabbed our iced coffees, hopped in my mom’s Suburban and drove across the street to Target to stock up on a few toiletries and medicines we like. It felt so suburban. So American. We couldn’t help but laugh at how different our experiences are here in Bern.

Obviously we won’t have our professional photos of the wedding for a few weeks but I’d love to share a few that were taken by us and friends and family throughout the day and night. I’ll work on getting some of those photos ready for next week if you’d like to see them. Until then, I’ll be getting as much sunlight as possible to help me return to this time zone. I spent about three hours counting sheep last night and I’d love to get back to a rhythm soon.

It’s (going to be) Good to Be Home

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Adam came home with this sweet “just because” gift yesterday and I can’t wait to find a place for it in the apartment. Cheeky, almost cheesy, gifts are my favorite.

What are you up to this weekend? We’re en route to Charleston and couldn’t be more excited. I could probably fuel the plane on enthusiasm alone, but I would prefer to sit comfortably in my sit with my new book. We’re finally going to get a real taste of summer with warm temperatures and sunny days. I’m sure I’ll be drunk on friendship for the next ten days so you probably won’t see much action on this space. But, I’ll leave you with a few links to get you through the weekend. Feel free to check out the archives. There’s about three and half years worth of material in there…

A cool song for your weekend. I’m obsessed with this band, both their EP and full album…

41 Rules for How to Be a Good Dinner Guest. Love these tips : )

Looking at your closet and seeing fall inspiration. Say it isn’t so!

When to say goodbye at a party and when to GHOST.

A very sassy list of things not to do as a New Yorker who is visiting LA.

These shoes are really growing on me. Does anyone have them? Thoughts?

Me every. single. day.

8 great rosés for these dog days of summer

Pasta al Limone

Made me laugh. Hard.

Amazon using “Newspeak.” A fascinating short piece about the struggle between what readers want and what writers need. So timely, considering I just read the book

Learning to lose someone is the hardest lesson of all. Rest in peace, Genie.

 

Reset

IMG_0684Yesterday Adam passed along this article about hitting the reset button while on vacation and it could not have been more timely. While many summer vacations may already be over, we are about to embark on two big holidays and preparing ourselves to tune in to our loved ones and tune out the noise is imperative to enjoying our trips.

In the article, Daniel J Letvitin explains how our attention spans work:

“The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited. This is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved. Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network (they’re called networks because they comprise distributed networks of neurons, like electrical circuits within the brain). The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted; neuroscientists have taken to calling it the central executive. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not.”

While the science behind the concept may be new to you, the consequences are not: if we constantly give weight to the task-positive part of our brain (the network that wants to check emails and respond to crises happening perhaps miles and miles away), then we never have a chance to actively daydream and let our mind wander. As Letvitin says later in the article, this is a curse of the overpowering Information Age. We’re subject to news feeds and jibber-jabber that is constantly vying for our attention.

And why is it so important to daydream?

“Daydreaming leads to creativity, and creative activities teach us agency, the ability to change the world, to mold it to our liking, to have a positive effect on our environment. Music, for example, turns out to be an effective method for improving attention, building up self-confidence, social skills and a sense of engagement.

This radical idea — that problem solving might take some time and doesn’t always have to be accomplished immediately — could have profound effects on decision making and even on our economy.”

Tomorrow we leave for Charleston to visit our friends and relax for the weekend. It’s been over a year since we’ve seen our beloved city and our even more beloved friends and we are committed to giving both our full attention. There will be plenty of emails from Adam’s work and questions from wedding vendors that need an opinion or answer to this and that, but I know that resisting the urge to answer those inquiries will help me feel more present and relaxed and able to daydream and wander.

On Monday we head back to Kansas for wedding week! What a busy week that will be! But, same story here. There will be dozens of people to see and tons of activities to do and hitting that reset button will make for a far more enjoyable week at home. I can’t believe it’s already time for us to get married again : )

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What about you? Do you have trouble taking a mental vacation when you’re supposed to be on vacation? Does anyone else struggle with this? I like to document our travels on Facebook and Instagram, but even that competes with my attention to loved ones and isn’t a way to truly disconnect. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.