Stacey Loscalzo

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Oct 17

Permission to Be a Mediocre Reader

by Stacey

I read Tim Wu’s In Praise of Mediocrity a few weeks ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. The entire article is worth a read but this paragraph is what has stuck with me.

“If you’re a jogger, it is no longer enough to cruise around the block; you’re training for the next marathon. If you’re a painter, you are no longer passing a pleasant afternoon, just you, your watercolors and your water lilies; you are trying to land a gallery show or at least garner a respectable social media following. When your identity is linked to your hobby — you’re a yogi, a surfer, a rock climber — you’d better be good at it, or else who are you?”

Of course I have thought about this idea as it relates to the girls and their extra-curricular activities but the fear of mediocrity extends to me as a reader as well.

Sometimes it is easy to think, “Gone are the days when you read a book and maybe talk about it with a few friends over coffee. If you are a reader, you are certainly in a book club. And often you are in a real life book club and a hand full of virtual groups as well.” Or, “As a reader, when you finish a book, it’s not enough to sit back and think about how you felt about the ending. For many, the end of the book means that it’s time to post an image on Instagram and a review on Facebook.”

As I think about what is next for me as the girls get older, I always consider how to extend my love of books and reading into something more professional. Ironically, as I consider the power of being a mediocre hobbyist, I plan to write and share more about books in an organized and thoughtful way. Where is the balance I wonder between doing something purely for enjoyment and then extending the love of that thing to others in a professional way?

I will be playing with these ideas in this space over the next few weeks. I believe it is still possible to be a reader simply for the fun of it and I can’t wait to find some new readers to bring on this journey with me. Stay tuned for more details….

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Oct 15

Quick Lit: October 2018

by Stacey

I have not joined Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit in ages so I thought I would jump in today. I have been doing a decent job of tracking my reading this year on Instagram. At the start of the year, I set a goal to collect all my books from the year in one spot so that at year end, I could see what I had read and loved and easily share these titles with friends and family. Somehow, as I’ve done that, I have forgotten how much I love connecting with Modern Mrs. Darcy readers during Quick Lit days so here I am.

My picks for Quick Reads: October are…

Foe by Iain Reid- Foe was my September pick from my favorite book subscription, the Shelf Subscription from Bookshelf Thomasville. This book is exactly why I love having other people choose books for me every so often. Foe is way more ‘out there’ than the types of books I usually read but I loved it. As frequent readers know, I do not like to reveal plot very often and this is no exception. I didn’t know much about this one going in and that was the best way to read it.

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott- I have read Megan Abbott in the past and have always considered her a young adult author. She writes perfectly about relationships between teenage girls. Give Me Your Hand is written for adults but Abbott’s facility to write about human relationships is again at the forefront. I also learned a lot about science reading this book which is not a topic I ever spend much time with but it was a completely enjoyable way to spend a few days.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult- I have so many words to say about this one that I’m considering a separate blog post. In case I don’t end up doing that though, let me just say that A Spark of Light should be required reading. As she seems prone to do these days, Jodi Picoult tackles a polarizing and complex topic and puts it into a compelling and super readable format. A Spark of Light is set in an abortion clinic during a shooting and hostage situation. Picoult does not shy away from presenting all side of the abortion debate. I closed the book with more questions that I opened it with which I believe is exactly what Picoult hoped to accomplish when she sat down to tell this story.

 

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Oct 12

Reading in the Age of Anxiety

by Stacey

Anyone who has been around here for a bit knows that my anxiety has been pretty high since November of 2016. I have tackled this problem in various ways from eating lots of cookies to watching every single episode of Criminal Minds (in every show they present a problem and solve it in 43 minutes- how great is that?!) to turning off all sources of news. Of course, books are my favorite anxiety beater but I have found that only certain types of titles calm my nerves.

My most surprising fails were the slew of political memoirs written by staffers who worked for President Obama or journalists who covered the election. I tried so many of these books only to find they did nothing to relieve my stress. That said, I know tons of people, including Rob and Caroline, who found that these books were just what they needed. A few of my family’s favorites include Thanks Obama by David Lit, Unbelievable by Katy Tur and Who Thought This Was a Good Idea by Alyssa Mastromonaco.

I’ve tried Caroline’s best anxiety beating book strategy- re-reading- to no avail. Ever since Caroline was teeny tiny, she goes back to old favorites for comfort. She has read every book in the Babysitters Club series over and over again. There were years where I pretty sure she read nothing but these titles. Other common re-reads for Caroline include The Running Dream, The Mother Daughter Book Club series, Forward by Abby Wambach and most recently Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton.

Typically when I need a book to break a reading rut or just when I am looking for straight fun, I go to thrillers along the lines of the Alex Cross or Patricia Cornwell series. Lately though, as I worry over the state of our country or how to raise girls in today’s climate, these books aren’t really doing the trick.

You know what is? Phillipa Gregory. Gregory’s books are historical fiction set mostly during the Tudor period. It took me a little bit to realize why these books were soothing. I read a lot of them years ago and just thought of them as fun reads. They still are but you know what else they are? They are a good reminder of an important fact. The world has always been nuts. Power has always corrupted. Crazy things have always happened behind the scenes and when there are big shifts in leadership. And the world has continued to spin.

I do still think we are in an unprecedented time. I do still think we all need to pay attention. I believe we all must vote on November 6th. But at least when I am reading, I can believe for a minute that civilization has been this topsy turvy before and we have come out on the other side.

So… what do you read when you need a reminder that everything is going to be ok?

 

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Oct 08

Unfinished Books

by Stacey

People ask me all the time, “How do you read so much?” Sometimes I hesitate because the answer seems so obvious to me and I know that responses like “I just do” are pretty unhelpful. I have read all my life so I really have to step back to think about the how and the why of it. This month though, I had a realization. Part of what helps me read so much is to stop reading. Yup. You heard me right. I stop reading books I don’t like. And these past few weeks have been full of books I have put aside. Sometimes I close a book within a few pages, while other times, I will make it half way through before knowing that I just can’t spend another minute with the characters.

As much as I loved my time in school and encourage the girls to feel the same, I know it is years of schooling that have made reading hard for some people. We were taught in school that you finish the books you start. In fact, you don’t just finish them, you write an essay about them and you talk about them for a really long time and maybe you even have to create an awkward (for me at least!) art project about them. Regardless of how you feel about the book, as a student, you finish it.

For many of us, that is a hard message to leave behind when we walk away from the classroom. I spent years after grad school finishing subpar books. I never even consider the fact that finishing a book was optional. Truth be told, I don’t remember the first time that I realized I did not have an assignment to complete but I am so glad I finally came to understand this.

The guilt of abandoning a library book or a Kindle sample is obviously way less than a purchased book but truth be told, I abandon all types of books. I consider this an investment in my reading life and in the case of my purchased books, an investment in bookstores and authors.

I also know that I put down a lot of books that other people love. And books that I might love on another day or in a different season or in a different mood. There have been plenty of books that I have put down only to come back to and love on a different day.

Anything you have abandoned lately? I’d love to know!

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer- I loved The Interestings also by Meg Wolitzer and the cover of The Female Persuasion? I mean come on- just looking at it makes me happy. Even the topic seemed like it would be just right. A college aged girl discovering feminism. But nope. I couldn’t do it. 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I think this is probably one of many readers most favorite books. It has been on my shelf for ages and when I had jury duty a few weeks ago, I brought it with me. I was so excited to have uninterrupted time to dive in to this book. And then I didn’t like it. Too much hype? Not so into to WWII books at the moment? Who knows. All I know is that it went back to my shelf unfinished.

Unselfie by Michele Borba- This is the title that our district chose for our One Book. One District initiative. I struggle a bit with non-fiction so I am not surprised that I put this one down. I bet the author has a lot of great things to say though so I will be curious to hear from people who attended her presentation earlier this week.

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld- Sittenfeld’s book, Prep, is one of my all time favorites so I really hoped that she would be the author that would get me to love a book of short stories. I’m not going to give up forever on this one but I did give up for now.

The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer- I think I have finally come to accept the fact that I don’t like spy novels. Many people do but they hurt my brain.

So… are there any titles here that you think I should try again?

 

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Sep 14

Ten Things to Tell You: A Thing That Changed My Worldview…

by Stacey

A thing that changed my worldview is… books. I know this is the most predictable response ever but what’s a reader to do? I don’t travel a ton and I haven’t lived in too many places. I expand my world through reading. Sometimes I do better than others. Sometimes I branch out and read books that introduce me to people and places that I wouldn’t otherwise know. Sometimes, I seek comfort and read about people just like me. Sometimes my comfort comes from genres that I know well- literary fiction, middle grade and thrillers. Sometimes, I dig into a book of essays and ever so occasionally I’ll try out a short story or two. I do struggle with non-fiction. I know these books would open up my worldview even wider but this is a genre that I find to be more work than joy. For this picture, I walked quickly through the house and chose a few books I have loved both in the past and in the present. These are not necessarily all time favorites but I am busy yet determined to stick with this daily challenge so I am embracing ‘done is better than perfect’ for today. #10thingstotellyou

I am joining the amazing Laura Tremain of 10 Things to Tell You in her latest Instagram challenge #10thingstotellyou. Laura will provide the prompts and we provide the conversation. Her goal is to get people to “share the things about yourself that usually get glossed over. They type of things you want friends to know, but for some reason never come up.”

 

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Sep 13

Ten Things to Tell You: Someone Who Influenced Me Is…

by Stacey

Prompt #2: Someone who has influenced me…

Someone who influenced me is my grandmother, Dammy. She chose to be Grammy but when I was little, I replaced my /gr/ sound with /d/. Long after I mastered the correct sounds, forever in fact, she was Dammy to me. This was really only a problem when I was young, sitting in a shopping cart. When she picked produce from the bin a bit down the aisle, I lost sight of her and called out, in my toddler voice, ‘Dam!’ “Dam!” She talked about the looks she received from fellow shoppers until the day she died. We always lived close to my grandparents, first a short drive away and then just a walk. Dammy and Dampy (ideally Grampy but now you know the story) were both ever present when I was young but it is Dammy who fills so many of my childhood memories. I am a reader because of all the stories both Mom and Dad read to me but also the time Dammy spent reading poem after poem, like the Swing and The Land of Counterpane by Robert Louis Stevenson and then the Dutch Twins over and over again. As I grew, she was my research partner, going to the public library while I was in school checking out every book on the topic of my latest school project. As a teenager and young adult, her love started to feel a bit more like nagging. She insisted I needed a proper winter coat or a better purse or enough dramamine for my trip to Europe. But now that I have become the ‘nagger’ instead of the ‘naggee’, it is clear she loved me and influenced me right to the end. #10thingstotellyou

I am joining the amazing Laura Tremain of 10 Things to Tell You in her latest Instagram challenge #10thingstotellyou. Laura will provide the prompts and we provide the conversation. Her goal is to get people to “share the things about yourself that usually get glossed over. They type of things you want friends to know, but for some reason never come up.”

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Sep 12

Ten Things to Tell You: I Grew Up…

by Stacey

I am joining the amazing Laura Tremain of 10 Things to Tell You in her latest Instagram challenge #10thingstotellyou. Laura will provide the prompts and we provide the conversation. Her goal is to get people to “share the things about yourself that usually get glossed over. They type of things you want friends to know, but for some reason never come up.” Please follow me there @staceyloscalzo and if you don’t follow Laura yet, definitely do that too. You can find her on Instagram @laura.tremaine

Prompt #1: I grew up…

I grew up… slowly. As the mother of two girls, I find myself reliving my teen years each day. There are clear pros and cons to this experience. The one moment that I come back to again and again is walking in to our high school dining room and feeling every single eye on me and my rolled up, plaid uniform skirt and my rolled down hunter green knee socks. I felt all the eyes as I stood in the windy line, as I chose what foods to put on my tray and then most intensely as I walked fearfully to a table. At different times, I have images of girls shifting trays vertically to make room for more people to join and then moments when trays would be turned horizontally sending the silent and subtle message that no one else was welcome. When I try unsuccessfully to remind the girls that no one else cares about what they are wearing or how late they are allowed to stay out at night or what jokes their parents tell when their friends are around, I remember the dining room feeling. I remember the time when I truly felt that all the eyes were on me. That every person cared what I was doing. When I felt like I was the only one that felt different. I don’t think I felt grown up until I realized, just a few short years ago, if truth be told, that everyone feels different, that everyone thinks that all the eyes are on them. It was only then that I was able to take a deep breath and really look outward. And grow upward. #10thingstotellyou

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Jul 08

Happy 15th Birthday Caroline!

by Stacey

When the girls were little I read a lot of parenting books. And I mean a lot. I started with everything that Berry Brazelton wrote and moved on to The Baby Whisperer, Raising Your Spirited Child and How to Talk So Children Will LIsten and Listen So Children Will Talk. I’m not sure which book I took a particular mantra from but I’ve held onto it for a long time. One of these books suggested that instead of saying, “I am so proud of you” you should always say, “You must feel so proud of yourself.” The premise was that children should learn to be intrinsically motivated and to do things to make themselves happy and not to please others. These, of course, are important messages I am glad I taught the girls but all these years later, I’ve learned a pretty big downside to this parenting method.

Caroline turns 15 today and just recently I learned that she is always surprised when she hears me talking highly of her to other people. She told me that she knows I love her and am proud of her but that I don’t ever really tell her so. Gulp. At first, I started to deny this but in fact, it is pretty true. I default to ‘you must be so proud of yourself’ and I hesitate to brag publicly on Facebook and Instagram. These are my preferences but I realized while listening to her that she reads my Facebook and Instagram and sees a steady stream of other people highlighting their children’s achievements. My feeds are full of books and articles, an occasional picture of the girls and very rarely, a shout out of something great they have done.

Once a year, I take a chance to shout from the rooftops how wonderful Caroline is. Today is that day and I now promise that I will not let 364 days go by before I do this again.

Dear Caroline,

Today you turn fifteen years old. This was a year of staggering change and amazing growth for you. The start of high school was not easy but you met and exceeded every challenge. You carried an intensely challenging course load and finished the year with great grades and more importantly a love for the subjects you learned, for (most of!) your teachers and for the new friends you made in your classes.  I was reminded again of what a mature thinker, reader and writer you are. Your natural intelligence and curiosity will take you far in all your future academic endeavors.

You were not content though to focus only on your school work. You loved the time you spent on the soccer field, both for your high school team and your club team. You made it to States with DECA. You wrote for the newspaper and were chosen to be one of next year’s editors. And you did something else truly amazing. After the Parkland shootings, you gathered with others to form the Ridgewood chapter of Students Demand Action and you led over 1000 students in a school wide walk out. During this time, teachers and administrators consistently told me how shocked they were that you were only a freshman. Your maturity and leadership skills reflect a student much older than your years.

As I write this I realize that there were many, many missed opportunities to tell you directly and to tell the world publicly how proud I am of you. I hope that while I may not say it out loud, you know deep down how proud I am of all that you have accomplished in these 15 years and that beyond that I am so, so proud of who you are.

You are a remarkable friend. You have friends from all your activities. I am so impressed that you have formed relationships with all sorts of people this year and each one has added to the richness of your life. A long time ago, a friend told me that you were going to have more friends than you knew what to do with once you got to high school. She said that people were just going to like being around you. It seems like this prediction certainly came true.

And you are an amazing sister. Katherine loves you with all her heart and the way she looks at you makes me so happy. She knows just how much you love her. I tell people all the time how lucky we are that you two have the relationship that you do. Of course, you disagree as all sisters do but the angry moments are far fewer than the loving moments. I know that sometimes you sacrifice time with your friends to spend time with your sister and I know that there are few teeanagers who would this voluntarily. This means as much to me as it does to Katherine.

This year more than ever, I hope you read these words and understand how deeply I mean them. I am so, so proud to call you my sweet girl. Happy, happy birthday. I love you so much!

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Jun 20

I Swore Never To Be Silent

by Stacey

Growing up, I hated immigration units in Social Studies. Both sides of my family came to America on the Mayflower so I thought my story was pretty boring. By the time we talked about immigration, we had already covered the Pilgrims so there was really nothing new that I could share with my classmates. I envied the people with stories of relatives who passed through Ellis Island. I wished that I too had tales of family who learned English once they arrived and worked hard to find their place in an already established America.

Now as I watch what is happening in our country, I think back to all my classmates stories and remember that we are all immigrants, even those of us with families who arrived on the Mayflower. All our families embarked on a dangerous trip, escaping a world that was scarier than the unknown world they would enter. The Pilgrims came in search of religious freedom. The Irish, the Italians, the Germans all were escaping dire poverty. Each of these families came to America hoping for a world better than the one they were leaving.

Today, immigrants from Central America escape situations that many of our ancestors could not begin to imagine. Gangs, drug cartels, murder and extreme poverty. Families continue to travel to our borders every day knowing that death along the journey is a possibility and separation from their children is now likely.

I can not get my brain to think of a world that is worse than one in which our girls would be taken from me. But these mothers can. They are making a choice between death and likely separation. They are leaving behind a situation that is worse than being separated from their children.

I always believed that I lived in a compassionate country. One that would welcome the suffering. One that would aid the sick, the scared and the poor. Do we need immigration laws that make sense? Of course we do. Did we have laws on the books that secured our borders? No. Clearly we did not. But is family separation the answer to the problems at our border? Absolutely not.

When Trump was elected, I had a pit in my stomach. I did not support him. I did not agree with any of his proposed policy. I hoped though that I was overreacting and that things would be ok. I hoped that Trump would surround himself with smart men and women who would provide him wise counsel. Instead, our new reality is worse than I feared it would be.

I will not be silent. I do not know how to better secure our borders but I know that this is not the answer. I will not be silent and hope that all my friends join with me in finding a solution.

 

 

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Jun 18

The Orange Popsicle Story

by Stacey

Before Caroline talked, I had never parented a talker. Before she got a cell phone, I had never parented in the digital age. Before Caroline was a high schooler, I never knew how to encourage while not stressing out a teenage student. Over and over again, I am forced to remember that while I have been a high school student, Caroline hasn’t been. The current lesson I am learning? The way I studied for finals, is not the way Caroline studies for finals. The way I react to stress is not the way she does.

It is all new. For both of us.

Each time I am reminded of our differences, I come back to the orange popsicle story. When Caroline was a toddler, we belonged to a pool and tennis club in Richmond. We spent hours there in the summer months and the highlight of our afternoons was often a trip to the snack bar. One afternoon, we went and they were out of red and purple popsicles. They only had orange popsicles left. When I learned this, I said thanks but we don’t like orange popsicles. We started walking back to the pool but Caroline pulled me back. For some inexplicable reason, she still wanted a popsicle. I was confused because who likes orange popsicles? Well, guess what? Caroline likes orange popsicle. I don’t but she does.

As Caroline completes her first year of high school, I am reminded that there are many, many orange popsicle moments ahead of us and it is more important than ever for me to pay attention to this. Enter my current lesson. The way Caroline studies for finals is different than the way I did. I started weeks before, locked in my bedroom with only my cat, Whiz Bang, for company. I created study sheets and wrote out fact after fact over and over again. Until I could write everything out from memory, I would not let myself stop. I can still picture crumbled pages of notebook paper covered with blue ink marks scattered over my bed. Caroline waits longer to start. She likes to study with people, not cats. Her version of writing everything out is talking it out. She tells stories about her facts and she needs people around to listen.

So while I am not completely ok with Caroline’s studying style, I am paying attention. I am still totally stressed out and confused by her methods. But… I am also reminding myself that this is yet another chapter in the orange popsicle story.

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