She must learn again to speak
starting with I
starting with We
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
and pleasure
and rage.

-- Marge Piercy

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (Book Review)

I have not survived against all odds.

I have not lived to tell.

I have not witnessed the extraordinary.

This is my story.

So reads the cover of Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, a charming book full of funny, strange, sweet, poignant little anecdotes from A-Z.  Literally.  Her "alphabetized existence" has a chapter for each letter, further broken down under headings such as (from Chapter "C"): Coffee, Stopping For; Compliment; Cream Rinse; Croutons; Curly Hair; and Customary, Things That Are.

As I made my way through the book, I was highly amused by the overlap between the author's quirks and my own, and our similar ways of seeing and being in the world.  For example:

      • Amy went through an extended period when she was unable to read fiction.  (Me, too!) (Although she has since emerged from that phase, while I'm not sure I ever will.)
      • When a car stops for her at a crosswalk, Amy hurries across the street to show the driver that she is conscious of the fact that she is impeding his progress and not looking to take advantage of the situation.  (Me, too!)
      • Amy gets Wabi-Sabi.  (Me, too!)

If you read this book, you will likely find yourself "Me, too"-ing, too.  A lot.

But the real fun started once I finished the book.  Because that's when I began thinking encyclopedically about my own ordinary life.  (And I was given the unique opportunity to use the word "encyclopedically," which is also very fun.)

I write a lot of stories from my life, but thinking encyclopedically takes things to a whole new level where there are stories within stories wrapped up inside the minute, mundane, everyday details that usually don't warrant a second thought.  Small stones, but often even smaller.  Tiny pebbles, really.

For instance:

      • Under "Water, Hot," I would tell the story of how I've learned to organize my life around the fact that my "on-demand" hot water heater only works some of the time, despite my demands.  That's just my life, but it makes a good story because most people reading this would not be okay if they turned on their hot water and it worked only sometimes.
      • Under "Help Desk," I would confess that there's a part of me that is always a little disappointed when I call for computer help and it turns out to be an easy fix.  Just once, I want the IT person to freak out like I do and scream, "Oh my God I have never seen this happen before!  This looks very serious and appears to be something that even rebooting will not fix!"  That never happens.  They always know just what to do and go about it in such a calm manner.
      • Under "Ballot," I would tell of my most recent voting experience and how I was sitting at my dining room table staring at my ballot when the sweetest, approximately 80-year-old man rang my doorbell to encourage me to vote for a candidate I assumed was his daughter.  It worked.  I would also admit to filling in the little circles for the unopposed candidates first.  "Ah, yes," I think, "this is the clear choice, the absolute right person for the job."

You get the idea.

The point is, I highly recommend you read this book.  And then start paying that kind of attention to your own life.  Because that is where the good stuff is.  That's where God is.  That's where we see ourselves in one another and begin to understand how truly not alone -- and slightly strange -- we all are.

* * * * *

If you've read the book or even if you haven't, I'd love to hear some encyclopedia entries from your own life.  Do tell, so that the rest of us can say, "Really?  Me, too!"

Message to My Daughter

Post-It Notes from Heaven