inspiration, read it love it, words for the heart, writers

Madame Clairevoyant: the only “horoscope” I read

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As mentioned in last week’s Three Things (which will return to its regular scheduled time next week!), I dabble a wee bit in checking my horoscope out. But really, the one I have loved most, for years now, is Madame Clairevoyant. She used to write for The Rumplr, The Rumpus’s tumblr, then The Toast, and I’m so stoked she found a weekly spot on The Cut.

Maybe I love them the most because they’re not rooted in real astrology. But I definitely love them because they are beautifully written and always provide words of wisdom — whether they’re brought from the state of the planets or not — they’re words that help me stay rooted in the week ahead. And they’re words that are often eerily spot on.

Madame C. once wrote:

I am not a real astrologer or a real writer, and so it’s strange and great that people actually read these, that people are connecting with a thing that I work on. At first, when Molly asked me if I’d write horoscopes for the Rumpus, they were so silly—I really wish I were still as funny as this—but then before I even really realized it, they got serious

What I love the most about astrology, what I love most about really any field of knowledge, but especially the ones that lots of Serious People dismiss (astrology, magic, ghost stories, even religion), is the specific structures and vocabularies they give us for understanding our realities outside of common sense or linear time or the rules of science or whatever, the tools they give us for understanding the actual weirdness of our lives.

It is comforting and even fun, sometimes, to blame bad things on Mercury going retrograde; it’s comforting and fun to use astrology to understand the terrible parts of your own personality or your mom’s personality or your friends’ personalities. One of the homeless youths I work with likes to talk to me about how tarot is the only way of looking at the world that makes any sense to him. Everyone rolls their eyes at this, but it’s so real.

I still know hardly anything about actual astrology, though. A lot of people have really put in the time time to learn about the nuances, the complicated parts, the houses and trines and decanates and all of it. I am not there. I am better (I hope?) at paying attention to the people around me, the weird bendy logic of our lives, the emotional textures of the world. My roommate and my sister are both Leos, and they’re utterly different, but there are all these eerie coincidences and resonances in their lives. All the Tauruses I know are totally different except that they aren’t totally different, and I can’t put my finger on what exactly makes up that strange little core of sameness, but that’s where I try to locate these horoscopes.

 

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What ultimately led me to write this post in particular, was this week’s horoscope in particular. For me, it struck me right in the heart. So, without further adieu, one of my favorites to date.

Taurus: Your wildness isn’t too much: Even as it loves, a person’s heart can buck and bristle. It’s possible for loyalty to mean something other than a quashing of your own emotions, your own strangeness, your own rebellion. It’s possible for faith to be critical, and for love to challenge and protest. It’s a week to be true to your people, and a week to stand boldly on your own side, too.

 

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So, go on now, find yours here.

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#AnnaReadsThis, brilliant reads, poetry, read it love it, recommended reading

National Poetry Month // 2017

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When I’ve found myself in moments of pure heartbreak — which is to say there have been many moments in my 27 years of existence — I have so often found solace in poetry. Last year, in the throes of a wee heartbreak, I loved this poem by Andrea Gibson.

Heck, I have even found myself brought to prose as a result of particular heartache — (see this poem) — I genuinely don’t even remember putting the words down. I just remember feeling utterly numb but in dire need to write. To put the feelings I wasn’t feeling down in words.

What I’m getting at, ironically, not so eloquently, is that poetry is powerful. It’s no secret that I’m a bonafide word-lover, so this too should come as no surprise. But even for those not so “into poetry”, I’d argue there’s a poem, poet, or poetry style for them. That’s the beautiful thing about poetry.

So, when I saw this list from The Strand Book Store of “11 Writers Bringing Poetry to Life,” you best believe my bank account took a hit.

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But I need even more! What are your favorite poets, poems, etc.? Let me know! I love it alllll. 

 

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#AnnaReadsThis, books, essays, feminism, read it love it, the future is female

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Feminist Manifesto’

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Last weekend I found myself wandering around the bookstore, as so often is the case. I was absolutely excited when I saw they had Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s latest book of essays, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

In it, Adichie writes to a friend who asks her how to raise a baby girl as a feminist. This book is Adichie’s response. It’s gentle yet sharp; succinct yet poignant; and reads as though it’s a letter from your best friend.

The main proposition of “Dear Ijeawele” is that feminism is a project that necessarily binds mothers and daughters, and that raising a daughter feminist has as much to do with what you tell yourself as what you tell her. Ms. Adichie’s first of 15 suggestions places a mother’s freedom and growth at the center of a daughter’s feminist education.

“Be a full person,” Ms. Adichie writes. “Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood.” (The New York Times)

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As an aunt, a once particularly conservative girl from the American Midwest, I found this book incredibly powerful. It made me face a few aspects of my own missteps and helped me reevaluate a few of my former philosophies and internalized patriarchal beliefs. And, more than anything, it helped me understand how to change my behavior in hopes of not instilling the same misbeliefs on my nieces & nephews.

Below are some of the lessons which most affected me.

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On feminism: 

“Your feminist premise should be: I matter. I matter equally. Not “if only.” Not “as long as.” I matter equally. Full stop.”

“Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite. It is the idea of conditional fenable equality. Please reject this entirely. It is a hollow, appeasing, and bankrupt idea. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women or you do not.”

15.1

On marriage:

“Never speak of marriage as an achievement. Find ways to make clear to her that I marriage is not an achievement, nor is it what she should aspire to. A marriage can be happy or unhappy, but it is not an achievement. We condition girls to aspire to marriage and we do not condition boys to aspire to marriage, and so there is already a terrible imbalance at the start. The girls will grow up to be women preoccupied with marriage. The boys will grow up to be men who are not preoccupied with marriage. The women marry those men. The relationship is automatically uneven because the institution matters more to one than the other.”

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On being “liked”: 

“We teach girls to be likeable, to be nice, to be false. And we do not teach boys the same. This is dangerous. Many sexual predators have capitalized on this. Many girls remain silent when abused because they want to be nice. Many girls spend too much time trying to be “nice” to people who do them harm. Many girls think of the “feelings” of those who are hurting them. This is the catastrophic consequence of likeability. We have a world full of women who are unable to exhale fully because they have for so long been conditioned to fold themselves into shapes to make themselves likeable. So”

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On “doing it all”:

Our culture celebrates the idea of women who are able to ‘do it all’ but does not question the premise of that praise. I have no interest in the debate about women doing it all because it is a debate that assumes that caregiving and domestic work are singularly female domains, and idea that I strongly reject. Domestic work and caregiving should be gender-neutral, and we should be asking not whether a woman can ‘do it all’ but how best to support parents in their dual duties at work and at home.”

On standards and differences:

“Teach her never to universalize her own standards or experiences. Teach her that her standards are for her alone, and not for other people. This is the only necessary form of humility: the realization that difference is normal.”

Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Teach her not to attach value to difference. And the reason for this is not to be fair or to be nice but merely to be human and practical. Because difference is the reality of our world. And by teaching her about difference, you are equipping her to survive in a diverse world.”

On love:

“Teach her that to love is not only to give but also to take. This is important because we give girls subtle cues about their lives – we teach girls that a large component of their ability to love is their ability to self-sacrifice. We do not teach this to boys. Teach her that to love she must give of herself emotionally but she must also expect to be given.”

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I really look forward to devouring Adichie’s other books in the coming months. I highly recommend this article from TIME,  if you’re new to Adichie, as well as this TED talk. And, I am especially pleased to now know what to gift everyone in my life for all upcoming occasions. 😉

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April 2017, books, copywriting inspiration, poetry, read it love it, saw it loved it, the future is female

Three things.

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Every day I’m so blown away by the incredibly talented women in my life. (I’m spoiled.) One of the most talented ladies I know is Abby Yemm, whom I met through this very blog. (I don’t tell this blog “thank you” enough. Thanks, blog! You’re one of the best things I’ve ever decided to do!) Back to Abby, she’s hilarious, wildly creative, and she writes rad stuff. Like this piece from Domino Mag, 10 Books to Buy for Their CoversI mean, need I say more beyond, “be still my heart.”

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Balloons + poetry = one of my new favorite mediums.

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IKEA consistently has some of the best ads. I love this one about a “Couple” of Sheepskin Rugs.

It turns out the anthropomorphic floor covering, who lives in an apartment complex with its significant other (also a rug) and its puppy (a $10 step stool), is on a very special mission. (AdWeek)

 

Happy April! xx

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anxiety, dear sugar, life lessons, march 2017, read it love it, three things, vulnerability, words for the heart

Three things.

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After two months of having been without our beloved Patrick, I’m able to look at dogs again without bursting into tears… well, usually. This dog, Rusty Rodas, has an Instagram and it is epic.

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There are many things I love about Man Repeller. But far above all the reasons lies Leandra’s courageous honesty. Her life, personality, closet—all can ignite a flame of jealousy in the best of us, but that’s not her intention. You just know it from reading her words. She genuinely wants to have a community within Man Repeller. She cares. She wants you to know she’s just as real as her readers. And in a time when Instagramming and Blogging have taken a turn for the unattainable—perfect homes, “little ole papas & mamas,” and unblemished images—it’s so effing refreshing. No matter your home, your lot in life, your career, your closet… we are all humans. And being a human is hard. Why deny it? So thank you, Leandra. Thank you for your openness. And thank you for plucking this issue right out of my heart (and brain for that matter).

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I’m rereading Tiny Beautiful Things for what seems like the hundredth time. It’s just as good as the first time. And just as relevant as ever. Here are 10 of the best entries from the Dear, Sugar column (of which the book is compiled).

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essays, february 2017, read it love it, Short Story Love, Uncategorized, words from wise women

Short Story Love: “Challenger Deep” by Marina Keegan

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I just finished Marina Keegan‘s book, The Opposite of Loneliness. It was bold and beautiful and haunting.

Marina is most known for her Yale commencement speech of the same title, which went viral immediately. She was killed in a car accident only five days later. She was only 22. A former professor helped her parents publish various works she wrote during her time at Yale, and published it with Scribner.

I loved every piece I read, but I especially loved on of her non-fiction stories, “Challenger Deep.” I wasn’t sure I would like it as it began, as it was out of the realm of the typical stories I go for, but by the end I was riveted and left wanting more. Below, you can read it in its entirety. I’d love to hear your take on it…

“Challenger Deep”

When the jellyfish came, we woke everyone up. They floated down on the ship like snow and even Lev came into the sail to press his face on the periscope. The glow was dim but we could see our arms and outlines and after a minute we stepped away from the glass to look at each other’s eyes. No one said anything, not even the Captain, and I could hear Ellen breathing hard against the glass. My eyes hurt from seeing but there was a strange hope in the blue light, and the weeks of darkness drew us toward it like moths. The five of us sat on the steel for what must have been an hour before the fluorescent specks drifted out and the submarine returned to its blackness. Eventually, I heard the Captain stand up – but it was a while before he finally cleared his throat and felt his way back to the controls.

We couldn’t see anything. Not even our fingers flexing in front of our faces or the steel walls we ran our hands along as we passed through chambers. We were thirty-six thousand feet under when the ballast tanks broke and the pressure gauge short-circuited the electrics. The power was on but the lights couldn’t be fixed from inside. I wasn’t angry like the others. Lev would pace around and scream things in Russian or slam his fist against a door, but he was young and louder than the rest of us. I preferred the days when no one spoke, or at least not about the surface. There wasn’t a point, I told them once while we were eating dehydrateds, there’s really no point.

I waited by the periscope for the rest of C shift because it was my sleep break anyway and I wanted to see if the currents changed and the jellyfish came back. I sat there for a while but they never came so I pulled out the ripped piece of shirt to tie back around my eyes. It’s easier when you pretend to be blindfolded. I heard this on a cave tour in Arizona but Ellen was the only other crew member who listened. It was a small ship, only an Alvin II, so I could pass whomever I wanted to if I took the right turns. I heard Lev talking to the Captain by the desalination tank, which was easy to find because of its dull hum.

“We’d know if we were rising.” The Captain must have been sitting down.

“Maybe not, sir. Maybe the pressure streams are different in the trench.”

“We’d know,” he repeated. “We’d feel it.”

“Then how do you explain the goddamn fluorescence? You know damn well cnidarians can’t survive in near freezing!” He was pacing now.

“The geysers are heated—”

“The geysers are heated. Poshol na khui, suka!” He kicked the metal and I inhaled.

“Ellen?” The Captain had heard me. I was always accidentally listening in because I couldn’t think of anything to say.

“No, sir. It’s Patrick,” I said. “I was just coming back from the sail. Wanted to make sure we didn’t miss them if they came back.”

“They’re not coming back.” It was Lev’s voice and I heard him lean against the wall. I waited for the Captain to reply but he didn’t.

“I just wanted to make sure.” There was silence and I could hear Hyun clicking the switchboard down the passage. He was Korean and couldn’t really speak English but he was the best technician at Woods Hole lab. We listened to his taps for a while until we fell back into ourselves. The Captain walked over to the air vent so it blew on his face and hair. I knew everyone was zooming out, imagining once again what we looked like from far away.

“It was nice,” Lev finally said from the wall. “I forgot what it was like.”

“I know,” the Captain said. “My hands.”

I pictured the tiny dots floating out like stars. The way it looked like outer space from the periscope windows. For the first time in a long time I thought about my sister and the house I lived in as a child. Lev stood up and walked out to his berth. He didn’t leave at B shift but there wasn’t much we could do about allocations anymore.

* * *

We had no concept of time and soon the darkness made it hard to remember what was real. I’d imagine tables that weren’t there and reach for railings that had never existed. After a while I stopped having visual dreams, shifting in my sheets as my mind recounted sounds and sensations that were all cold or steel or underwater. We talked less about trees and more about nothing, playing endless games to name the elements or species of fish until one of us would hit something or start crying or simply not respond.

Once when we were all together, Lev wondered aloud whether China had a deep-capacity submarine that no one knew about. It was stupid, but we spent the next three days hypothesizing about why and how the international community might be able to procure it and send it down to get us out. Ellen believed it most of all because she was in love with a man named Daniel who lived in London. She told me when we were cleaning the interhull vents and the other three were sleeping. I’m not sure why she decided to tell me – probably because I don’t say much. She was skinny for thirty and wore a blindfold like me. I remembered then that she’d told us this was her first real dive.

“He’s a teacher,” she said softly. “We met online through this website.” I’d heard that this could happen but I didn’t really understand how. I took the solution and ran it on a cloth pipe through the holes. When she sat up, her braid flew up and fell again on her back with a small thud. “We haven’t made real plans but I think we’re going to get married.” Ellen was the only one who still spoke about home in the present tense.

“What does he teach?” I wasn’t sure what to ask.

“Social studies.” She paused. “I did my marine PhD at Cambridge so that’s why we met.” I was trying to get the dust from the vent sheets but I couldn’t see whether or not it was working. Ellen was working too and I liked that about her. She wasn’t a very pretty girl if my memory was right, but she had really long hair and her eyes were a sort of green. “I don’t—” But she broke off.

We worked for a while until it was mostly done and then I asked if she wanted to eat now or later and she said now. We traced our way to the dry box that held our rations and added water to the powdery protein mix. Regulations required six months of meals on all H-certified vessels, and the Alvin II was about eight weeks into what should have been a two-week Experimental. We sat at the small half-counter and ate until Ellen fell quiet and started to shake. For the first time in my life I think I was happy to be alone. I wouldn’t want anyone up there to be shaking for me.

* * *

It wasn’t long before people started whispering. The darkness and circles were getting unbearable and most of us were beginning to crack in our own ways. Lev started advocating for “alternatives” to waiting it out. There wasn’t enough food.

No sub could go deep enough. It was now or six months from now. But the ship required five people to operate it, so everyone had to agree before anything was going to happen. I disagreed at first but the idea had fallen like a seed. I felt it when I lay in my berth, when I tried to sleep, when I had dark dreams, and when I half-woke to eat protein and walk around the same five rooms in the same five patterns until I slept and had the same dark dreams.

Ellen didn’t want to. No one needed to ask anyone else because it was just obvious. Hyun and the Captain were too rational not to agree, and Lev was the first one to really lose it. He started groaning and hitting his head from inside his door. The Captain admitted that he could still see in his dreams. He rushed through his maintenance so he could close and open his eyes. If the lights hadn’t gone when the pressure snapped the ballast tanks I think things might have been different. I think we might have been able to wait until the powder ran out.

“Here!” Lev screamed from the center control. “Here, here, now!” He was shrieking and we could hear banging so we all ran to the control. The Captain sat Lev down until he stopped thrashing. Hyun seemed scared and Ellen was hanging back to the side.

“I can’t do it,” said Lev. We couldn’t see him but we could hear the violent quiver in his voice. “I’m sorry. Look, I can’t do it. I see things in my head. Faces and all the water, it’s… My zdes’ umryom. Vy vse ponimaete, chto my budem zhdat’ i zhdat’, i potom mu vse umryom. There are voices and – the darkness and—” He erupted into a sob and the Captain went over and must have put his hands on his shoulders because he quieted down. Hyun never said much but we heard his quiet voice speak up from Lev’s other side.

“Yes,” he said. “Yes. No more do.” I didn’t say anything and neither did the Captain but everyone understood that we couldn’t. We needed to wait. We heard Ellen inhale like she might say something but her lips closed and she shifted her feet. There was a silence and I almost said something about the time or temperature gauges but then Ellen finally spoke.

“I just…” She paused. “I just… there’s no point in not waiting. They might… it’s not impossible.”

“It’s impossible.” Lev spoke the words quietly, straightforwardly. She was hurt. “It’s impossible,” Lev repeated, louder. But Ellen had shifted to move and walked out of the room. I heard the Captain run his hands through his hair.

“She has someone,” I said. “We have to wait for her. We have to wait for her because he’s in England and Ellen…” No one said anything and we waited in that room for a long time until Lev began rocking in his seat again. I started thinking about trees even though I knew it would only make the aching worse.

* * *

Things were different after that. We became suspicious of each other, of all two-person conversations. Ellen didn’t talk to anyone much, but we knew she was listening. I passed her one night standing by the dry box. I wasn’t sure what she was doing with it open but I wondered if maybe she was trying to calculate portions or time. There were five shift jobs and five people so we couldn’t run the ship without all of us. Lev might have been crazy, but he knew this too and he knew we all had to agree. So we waited. We waited two weeks until one day after circuit repairs when I couldn’t hear Ellen in her station.

I thought she might be upset in her berth so I walked by her door. I wanted to tell her that it was okay and that we were going to wait, that there was no rush. We could make it half a year if we wanted to. We could wait. But she wasn’t in there. She wasn’t by the dry box or desalinator and when I screamed her name it rang through the steel of the ship but there was no response. Then I heard Hyun’s tiny voice call back from a passage that we hadn’t used since before it got dark.

The Captain came running and we fumbled for the switch that pushed the door to the launching suits. When it was open, we couldn’t see but I started brushing my arms as fast as I could along the floor where the wires were stored, feeling one, two, three, and then it was missing. There were only four deep-water suits and I think we all realized at once what had happened. We opened the screen vent to the anteroom that opened out to the water and pulled in the cord with the autosimulator. The ocean was black just like the walls so when we heard her body thump into the chamber we couldn’t tell. I ran in and felt the cold on her face and the wet on the suit, but the veins in her neck were still throbbing. She’d cracked the helmet, and her face had ice shards on the sides.

“Ellen!” I screamed, but she didn’t respond. “Ellen! Ellen!” Then I realized what had happened. What the depth had done. I shook her quickly, and she stirred, coughed, choked over to the side. I moved immediately to her ears and felt the warm blood trickling out and into her long black hair. Her eardrums had burst and she was trapped in darkness and silence and a giant iron suit. We moved it off her and her hand reached up to touch my face. It felt strange and I wanted to move away but I let her feel my nose and mouth and eyes until she knew it was me. She’d done it on purpose but she didn’t know we’d find her in time.

“She’s deaf,” the Captain said. Lev was groaning again from the other room. We didn’t know what to do so we carried her into the counter room, heated water, and poured it on her over her clothes. It felt darker than it used to, and I wondered for a minute if that was possible. If we had drifted into a trench of the trench where we would soon hear tectonics crunch into lava and draw us down.

Ellen moaned. I ripped my blindfold cloth in two and balled it up into her ears to stop the bleeding. She lay there like that for a long time until she was quiet. We gave her food and she seemed like she was okay so we moved her into her berth and went back to our stations. I could hear Lev pacing and Hyun clicking and the comfort of the desalinator hum and ventilator air and imagined Ellen alone in the silence of her world – confined entirely to the universe of her thoughts and half-drawn memories of days somewhere in England.

She emerged much later with her arms outstretched, feeling around corners she already knew by heart. We’d squeeze her shoulder when we passed, but that was all we knew how to do. She was lost. And the reality of her attempt had silenced our philosophizing. We were waiting now. We ate and moved and ate and moved.

* * *

I was on Sonar Detect when we picked up the signal from the rover. It had no metal detection and looked like it’d been traveling blind straight through the trench. It was small, robotic, and probably the only thing they could construct to withhold the pressure in limited time. Lev went running and screamed and I guess Ellen could feel the vibrations he made on the floor because I heard her door shut behind her.

“It’s audio,” said the Captain. “There’s an antenna. No one’s coming.” We turned up the sonar controls and heard a short five-minute clip play twice through the wave detectors before it slipped past in its motion and out of sight. They knew our range and they knew we’d have five minutes to hear it on either side. It was expensive, I could tell by the frequency. A million-dollar message.

It was my sister and the Captain’s old lieutenant and Lev’s best friend and Hyun’s mom. The last voice was Daniel’s and it spoke in a shaky whisper: “Ellen, I love you. Ellen, I can’t look at the ocean anymore.” He went on but I was too dazed to remember more. Ellen moaned and walked around, confused. Daniel, I traced on her arm. Slowly, so she could comprehend each letter. A message. She didn’t understand. My hand was shaking, so I did it slower. A message. The ocean. He loves you. But we couldn’t remember any more – our own thoughts scratched with our own words. She jerked away and went wandering back through the ship until we found her later, collapsed and sleeping by the vent.

* * *

The hours blurred as our food box emptied, but I never stopped dreaming black dreams. Sometimes, when the Captain was at the controls or Lev was asleep, I’d climb into the sail and stare through the periscope at the thousands of leagues. I closed my eyes and saw stars but the jellyfish never came.

From the collection The Opposite of Loneliness, via Bookanista.

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bloggers, books, funny women, instagram, read it love it, someday, the future is female

This isn’t a veiled announcement…

… I just love Midwife Clemmie Hooper’s blog, Gas & Air, and new book “How to Grow a Baby and Push It Out.”

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I can’t remember how I found Clemmie, aka Mothers of Daughters on Instagram, but I do remember loving her feed instantly. She has four daughters, two of which are twins, and she keeps it real. (A much-needed breath of fresh air in the world of social media.)

  And how fantastic is her style? And her girls are so flippin’ gorgeous!

As the aunt of 8 little (and not-so little, anymore!) babes, and former au pair and nanny, I have been lucky to have a front row seat to motherhood, a safe distance from the ring, but close enough to have had my fair share of sweat & tears splattered on me. (Is this boxing metaphor ridiculous or what? No regrets.)

 

What I really love is how honest and raw she keeps it, all the while expressing how important motherhood is and how rewarding it can be. And, while I’m not at that stage yet, I do know that when that day comes I’ll definitely use Clemmie’s book as a guide.

I highly suggest you listen to this hilarious, insightful podcast interview with Clemmie on Scummy Mummies, as well as these other pieces, if you’re interested:

Motherland’s, “Expecting the Unexpected”

The Telegraph’s, “Meet Clemmie Hooper, the ‘Insta-midwife’ every millennial mother-to-be wants at their birth”

Alex & Alexa’s, “Family In Focus with Clemmie and Simon Hooper of Gas & Air

And, of course, her husband, Simon aka Father of Daughters, is worth a follow as well — his posts never fail to make me laugh.

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