Sunday, June 27, 2010

Holes...

My adorable, stubborn, energetic-off-the-chart, smart, rowdy, and hilarious 3 year old son asked me the sweetest (and very thought provoking) question today.  It needs a little set up.  My son has a few favorite stuffed animals.  You would only know they are favorites because he carries them with him everywhere and sleeps with them every night.  You would never think he cared for them at all because of the way he abuses them.  They are thrown, dragged, kicked, stuffed, swung, wrung, and stretched every day.  A few days ago, my son was being particularly rough on Wubby, one of his favorite babies (the blue one in the pics).  In concern for Wubby, I intervened and told my baby boy to stop swinging Wubby around and hitting him on the door frame.  He, of course, asked, "Why, Mommy?"  I, trying to answer on a 3 year old's level, said, "Because Wubby will get holes in him if you keep slinging him around like that."  With great concern on his face he hugged Wubby and said, "Okay, Mommy.  I sorry.  I stop."
    
Today, I was trying to get out of my church clothes and into something comfortable and suitable for doing absolutely nothing around the house.  My son would not stop hanging on to me--literally.  He had wrapped himself around my legs and was yelling, "I HUNGY, Mommy!  I HUNGY!!!  I want my wunch."  I peeled him off of me and swung him around in the air, put him in a cradle hold and spun a few circles.  He was giggling and suddenly stopped, looked up at me with those milk-chocolate eyes, and asked in the sweetest voice, "Mommy, am I going to get holes in me?"  I immediately recalled the Wubby incident from Thursday.  "No baby.  You won't get holes in you.", I said with tears in my eyes as I sat him down.  "Good." he said.  "I hungy, Mommy."

As I changed out of my church clothes, it struck me that I had lied to my son.  Life would fill him full of holes, as it does all of us.  Holes from being left out of playground games, not being "good enough", being called a name, being lied to, making bad choices, being embarrassed, unfair circumstances, deserved and undeserved consequences, hurt feelings, angry words, rejection, losses, and broken hearts.  Everyone's list is different, but we're all full of holes.  Some gaping.  It is scary to think of the holes my children will get (and have gotten) in them.  How many holes have/will I put there?  Which ones can I take for them or prevent from happening?  How do I prepare them for what's coming?  How do I help them not cause holes in others?

While my thoughts became overwhelmed by what might happen to this sweet little boy as he grows up,  I sliced some homemade artisan bread to use for lunch.  I had never realized how many holes are in the bread.  I forgot that the larger air holes told the baker (in this case, me) that the right amount of liquid had been used in the making of the dough.  A bread that is too dry has smaller and fewer holes and will stale more quickly.  Hmmm.  How timely.  The holes make the bread better.  Could the holes in us make our lives better in some ways?  I don't want my kids to live "dry" lives just to keep from being filled with holes.  As much as I want to protect them from life's pain, I know I can't succeed all of the time.  I guess my role as a parent is to teach them how to heal and learn from what life hands them.  I've not done a very good job so far.  I let the little things really drag me down and I'm too afraid of big-hole-causing events. Worry is not a healthy habit.  I know people who walk around with open wounds; never healing or moving forward.  I also know people who have suffered more than I can imagine and live beauty-filled lives.  

So now I've got to learn how to live the way I want my children to live.  I suppose that's the never-ending-cycle of parenthood--teaching your children how to live through each stage of life.  Tough job, this parenting thing, but soooooo worth it. 

Holes and all. 




Oh, and did I mention, it's okay to arm yourself for this challenging life?  

Preferably with a giant sword. 

Go get'em son!  Just don't hurt Wubby...or break your mother's heart.
                            

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer Break Reading Challenge

Because I participated in the Spring Reading Thing 2010, the amount I read between March and June really increased from my norm.  Accountability, I guess.  Once I committed to reading certain books to a bunch of bloggers, I couldn't back down.  So, I want to continue my reading pace with a new challenge.  I've decided to join the Summer Break Reading Challenge and I'm hoping some of you will join me.  It's running from June 23rd to the end of August.  You can get the details by clicking on the challenge link or here.  I want to thank KarinLibrarian for hosting.  Here's what I plan to read (in no particular order).  I hope to read more, but I don't know how I'll get through these in time.  Maybe I'll surprise myself like I did in the last challenge.

 
1.  Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese 
I'm a couple of hundred pages in this book and it's really good, and different, so far.  It has received extremely good reviews and I'll let you know how I liked it at the end of the challenge. 

  
                                  
2.  Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
I'm intrigued that this novel was written by a Jewish woman in Paris during the German  occupation.  She died in Auschwitz in 1942.  This novel remained unknown and was not published until 64 years after her death.  It has also received amazing reviews.


3.  The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
I've had this book for over a year, and something just keeps me from picking it up.  I'm determined to get it read this summer.  It is a murder mystery, which I rarely read, but I'm optimistic.  We'll see.


A friend from work gave me this book to read over the summer.  He loved it.  I also have another Alexie book to read, but I'm going to read this one first so I can chat with my friend.  It certainly has the strangest title of my summer reading books. 

5.  Hearts Awakening by Delia Parr
I actually won this book this spring and have looked forward to reading it this summer.  I have really started to enjoy Christian historical fiction over the past year.  I haven't read Parr before, but I see her show up on lots of to-be-read lists. 


6.  An Echo In The Darkness by Francine Rivers 
I am looking forward to reading the second book in the Mark of the Lion series.  Ever since I read Redeeming Love a couple of years ago, I have loved Francine Rivers.  She's an amazing writer and I'm sure this book won't disappoint. 

7.  Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
I CANNOT WAIT to read this book when it comes out in August.  I devoured The Hunger Games and Catching Fire last winter.  It's been too long a wait for this final book of the trilogy.


8.  Love and War: Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed Of by John and Stasi Eldredge 

This is the book that got bumped off my spring reading list.  I need to make more of an effort to read Christian non-fiction, but I enjoy fiction so much that those books jump to the top of the to-be-read stacks.  I've got a big stack of non-fiction to work through, so this will be the first one to tackle.  I'm sure it's great.  My hubby loves John Eldredge, so maybe he'll want to read it, too (I think that's the idea of a marriage book, huh?) 


Jump on board and read as much or little as you want.  I love seeing what other people are reading.  If you join the challenge, leave me a comment.  If you don't join the challenge, leave me a comment.  I like getting comments.  Happy Reading!!!   

Monday, June 21, 2010

The End of the Spring Reading Thing 2010

Well, I did better than I ever thought I would.  I only chose four books for The Spring Reading Thing 2010 challenge (see March 21st post) because spring is the busiest time of year for me.  I didn't think I would get through the four on my list by the June 20th deadline, and technically I didn't.  I ended up adding a couple of books to my list and bumped one off for awhile (wasn't in the mood for that one).  I'll list and review below, but I want to thank Katrina at Callapidder Days (http://callapidderdays.com/) for "hosting" this reading challenge.  It pushed me to read more and made my busy spring much more rewarding.  It's great to see so many people involved in the challenge (more than 150).  I can't wait to read the reviews of some of the other participants.  I'm afraid my "to-read" list will now be longer than my expected life-span will allow.  So many books...so little time.

1.  Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
It took me awhile to get into this book, but I ended up liking it more than I thought I was going to.   There are thirteen stories interwoven together in a small town in Maine, with the one character, Olive Kitteridge, playing a part (sometimes a really small part) in each one of the stories.  It's really like reading a book of short stories instead of a novel.  Olive is a difficult character to like.  She's a rude, crass, opinionated, wounded, rejected, pessimistic, retired seventh grade math teacher.  But, by the end, she seemed like a relative we all have but don't understand.  Olive would have made me very nervous if I were in the same room with her, but I would want to be in the same room with her so I wouldn't miss anything interesting that happened.  Strout does an excellent job of developing this deeply flawed, but genuine, woman.  You hurt for her at times, but you know she's mainly living with the consequences of her choices.  You see glimpses of goodness and kindness in her.  I didn't love this book, but I'm glad I read it and met Olive Kitteridge.

2.   Love and War: Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed Of by John and Stasi Eldredge 

     


Okay, this is the one I moved off the list.  I'm sure it is wonderful, but I just wasn't in the mood for this type of book.  I wanted to read fiction in the spring, and that's what I did.  I plan to read this soon and I'll post something about it when I do.




3.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows 
I found this book to be absolutely charming and very touching.  The entire story is told through letters (which took some getting used to).  I love historical fiction and I especially liked that this book told such an unknown WWII story (well, unknown in America for sure) about the German occupation of the island of Guernsey.  This is definitely a book for book-lovers considering a literary society is what brings the characters together and later draws in Juliet, the main character and a writer.  It is a story about the love of literature and the bonds between people during heartbreaking times.  It made me wish letters were a bigger part of modern life (as I'm sure the U.S. Post Office would agree).  There's something about waiting for a letter to arrive, holding it, folding it, keeping it, and reading it again years later.  What email can boast the same?  This book made me want to buy stationary, work on my penmanship, and visit Guernsey.  Maybe I'll do all three.  It's very cliche, but I laughed and I cried.  I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful book.

4.   Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist       
I just love Deeanne Gist's books.  I've read them all and was looking forward to the release of her latest romantic historical novel.  All of Gist's novels are "Christian" historical fiction, but they are in no way preachy and she does a lot of research to get the historic storyline as close to right as possible.  While the end is usually predictable, the fun is the trip the characters take to get to the end.  While I did not enjoy Maid to Match as much as I did Gist's other romantic novels (particularly A Bride Most Begrudging), I definitely found myself caught up in the story.  This is a fun, light-hearted, quick read.  We all need a few of those in our bookshelves.  Just a warning:  this book will make you want to plan a trip to The Biltmore in Ashville, NC.  I've been before, so I could place some of the rooms Gist uses in the story.  I think having been to the Biltmore made this book better.  If you have a chance to go, you certainly should...and then read (or reread) this book.

Now for the two I didn't have on my original list.  Who knew I'd have time to throw these in the mix.

5.     The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks
I think I'm past the Nicholas Sparks stage in my life.  There was a time when I read his books as soon as they were published, but after several years away from them I think I'm ready to move on.  I read Dear John in January and really didn't like it at all.  My female students were reading The Last Song in droves, so I thought I'd give it a chance.  It was definitely better than Dear John, but I just didn't enjoy it at all.  Sparks aims at making the reader cry, and I've cried while reading a lot of his books (absolutely sobbed---like ugly cry sobbed---in The Notebook and A Walk To Remember) but this one just didn't get me.  I, as the reader, felt rushed to accept the relationships between the characters (Ronnie & Blaze, Ronnie & her Dad, Ronnie & Will) and I just didn't buy it--it seemed too forced to me.  I don't want to give the story away if you're planning on reading it, so I'll just leave it at that.  It's certainly a quick read and Sparks is a good writer.  But for me, it's going to take a lot to keep The Last Song from being my last Sparks book.

6.  The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
I never intended to start this book for this challenge, but somehow it just wiggled its way to the top of the to-read stack.  It's a daunting one at 974 pages about cathedral building in medieval England.  The building of the cathedral serves as a cornerstone to explore the lives of an intriguing cast of characters and how life was lived at this point in history...and it wasn't often pretty.  I was captured by the first revealing line, "The young boys came early to the hanging."  This book is not for the faint-of-heart.  It is brutal, violent, and shockingly explicit at times.  But, at it's heart, it is a story filled with hope and the unwillingness of the human spirit to give up.  This is a book of good, but flawed, "ordinary" people doing extraordinary things against forces of true evil. Tragedy followed by triumph, followed by tragedy, followed by triumph.  The story spans about fifty years with no letting up on the action--it's a real page turner (which is a good thing since there are 974 of them).  I lost a lot of sleep trying to get to a good stopping place--there aren't many.  The characters are well defined and the storyline is, at times, amazing.  Follett is an riveting storyteller and I want to read the sequel to Pillars soon. 

And the winner is.....
It's close between Pillars and Guernsey as my favorite read this spring, but I may have to go with Pillars.  It's just epic and sweeping and shocking and awesome and amazing.  It's also overwhelming and heavy (I mean actually heavy--weighty, not just a heavy topic).  Guernsey is charming and funny and sweet and British--and I do love the British (except for a few BP executives right now).  Why don't you read both and let me know which you liked better.  :)  

Now, onto my summer reading list.  Talk about daunting---so many books stacked on the to-read shelf.  It's a good thing summer has just gotten started.  Happy reading!


"I cannot live without books." --Thomas Jefferson      

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'm too hot!

No, I don't mean hot like a so-called "hottie".  I mean sweating, can't breathe, wishing-for-winter hot.  I'm burning up!!!  I used to enjoy June.  It was the month that got me ready for steamy July and oppressive August.  But, this June in Chattanooga is miserable.  I break into a sweat walking to the mailbox.  Even the local swimming pool is not helping since the water is similar to a bath.  My running routine has been decimated.  I can't get up early enough to go running to beat the heat.  It's still hot at night, so I talk myself out of running then, too.  Okay, maybe I'm just looking for an excuse NOT to run but it's still HOT!  Oh, and did I mention the bugs?  They're ridiculous this year.  There aren't enough bug zappers on earth to clear my yard of mosquitoes, flies, gnats, bees, wasps, and all other bugs that send my children into screaming fits of terror.  They have bug bites in places bugs shouldn't even know about.  I give up.  It's just too hottttttt! 
When I've dared to leave my air-conditioned abode (can't wait to pay that bill for June), I've noticed that the excessive heat brings out the crazies.  Is it that way where you live, too?  I've seen quite a few girls/women wearing clothing articles that should not even be made in their size.  I'm not judging, but someone who loves these ladies should tell them that a tube top and shorty-shorts is not an option.  My retinas are scarred from these encounters.  My 3-year-old son let one lady know at Target when he pointed and sang, "I see your belly!"  I was more embarrassed for her than us.  A full length mirror should be required in every household.  I'm sending that as a bill suggestion to Congress.  "It oughta be a law!"  Just because it's way too hot does not mean you should wear way too little clothing.  And, did I miss the fashion update that the "muscle t-shirt" was back?  Please say it isn't so.  Gentlemen, your armpits are not attractive to women unless you have Matthew McConaughey armpits.  When you have those kind of armpits, please wear the muscle tee.  Until then, spare us.  I'm begging you.
And it's not just fashion crazies.  What's with the loony motorcyclists?  Since it's gotten so hot, I've noticed a lot more motorcyclists out and about.  I guess that makes sense....except that they're covered head to toe in black leather!  A couple of weeks ago, I was driving on the interstate in Chattanooga's rush hour (which is really about 15 minutes of stop-and-go traffic unless there's a fender bender for everyone to rubber neck at and then it's 45 minutes of traffic) when a large man on a large motorcycle slipped in front of me from the shoulder of the road where he had passed several vehicles, including me.  Not surprising behavior here...because it's too hot!  After following this guy for a bit, I switched lanes to pass him.  He couldn't seem to stay in his lane and his speed was too slow for the interstate, even in rush hour.  Then he would speed up and "rev the engine" and then slow back down again.  I was actually concerned that he was having some kind of medical problem the way he was weaving in and out of my lane and I was nervous about passing him.  His head was down and he had no eye on the road.  He only had one hand on the "wheel".  I told my daughter that I might need to call 911 to get him help and then it hit me.  I knew what was "wrong" with him (after all...I do teach high school).  He wasn't having a medical problem....not yet anyway....HE WAS TEXTING!!!  A lot!!!  On a big motorcycle!!!  On the interstate!!!   During rush hour!!!  How he kept that giant machine on the road is beyond my understanding.  I don't think texting while driving (or in my case, just trying to walk) is a good idea, but texting while driving a motorcycle is just plain idiotic-ignoramus-please don't reproduce-stupid!  I was furious that he was putting everyone's life in danger with his actions. 

I told my daughter I was going to take his picture with my cell phone while I was passing the numskull, but that would have caused me to drive as recklessly as he was (since I couldn't seem to unwedge the cell phone from my pocket because of the seatbelt).  I finally passed him and gave him my best "you are a complete moron" stare...THAT would teach him.  Then I remembered I have "drug-dealer dark" tinted windows since we bought our car from a wonderful retired south-Floridian couple (my parents) where window tinting is a must because of the heat.  He wouldn't have seen my "death-look" anyway; he was still texting.  Must have been a really important series of texts...life or death, I'm sure.  Stupid heat. 
As if one insane motorcyclist is not enough in Chattanooga, a few days ago I watched with horror as a young man, in a black leather jump-suit, on a bright yellow motorcycle did a movie-like stunt while traveling through one of the busiest, and most dangerous, intersections in town.  He STOOD UP on the seat of his motorcycle with his arms straight out, like he was a track star crossing the finish line first, while traveling 40+ mph through a 6-lane intersection in heavy traffic.  I screamed as he passed in front of my car.  I thought I was having a hallucination.  He then grabbed the handlebars and jumped on the right side of the bike and pulled the bike down on top of him without ever touching the ground or wrecking.  Somehow, he got the bike upright and sat right down on it as if nothing had happened.  He popped a "righteous" wheelie and disappeared from view.  It was like a circus act or some stunt show at a monster-truck event (not that I've been to one of those...I'm just assuming).  I, talking to myself outloud...in the car alone, was letting him have it as if he were my own son.  It's a good thing I was too stunned to chase him down and give him a piece of my mind.  I'm sure it would have changed his life for the better.  I was kind-of-in-awe of him, though.  The punk.  Stupid, too hot, heat.  Makes people crazy!
Stay cool (and sane).               

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Senior Moments...

I know it's been forever (okay, like two months) since I've blogged about anything, but I doubt you've missed me all that much.  It wasn't that I wasn't having "bloggable moments", I just didn't have/make time to blog about them.  Now that it's June, I plan on writing more often.  Please hold your applause.  It's deafening.
 
You see, spring is "senior season".  Since I teach high school seniors and am responsible for planning the senior events, I get a bit stressed out in April and May.  Let me define a bit stressed out:  I can't sleep, when I do I have nightmares of not being able to find the graduation ceremony or the diplomas, I develop an eyelid twitch that lasts until the last senior crosses the stage at graduation, I talk to myself outloud (okay, I do that year round--but a lot more in April and May),  I make checklists on any scrap of paper lying in my path, my head hurts for six straight weeks, my family eats canned soup, boxed cereal, frozen pizza, or take-out for weeks on end, and we live completely out of laundry baskets.  I think you get the idea.  So blogging was, let's just say, on the back burner...of somebody else's stove. 

Don't get me wrong; I enjoy my job and I love my seniors.  Seniors are a special group to teach, especially at a small Christian school like where I work.  I've taught all the middle and high school grades, and seniors are by far my favorite.  I get really close to the group each year and I'm pretty protective of them.  But, about March I'm ready for those little birdies to leave the nest.  They become a little...what's the word...oh yeah...UNBEARABLE!!!  Senioritis is a real, infectious, devastating, irritating, annoying disease.  Someday I may do my dissertation on Senioritis.  I've seen enough cases to have volumes of research.  The sweetest kid can become an eye-rolling, complaining, whining, self-centered, lazy human-like creature.  I've had the valedictorian of the class look at me and say, in her sweetest tone, "no offense, but I'm not doing anymore homework.  I'm just done."  And just when I think I can't handle another class period of whining about their teachers, parents, homework, tests, and society in general, and brilliant statements about the worthlessness of education, something magical happens.  I call it, the Senior Moment.  Right at the very end of their twelve-year "prison sentences", they get sweet again.  It doesn't last long; maybe a couple of days on average.  You have to watch for it, but it's there.  You can almost get a glimpse of that little five year old kindergarden student on his first day of school.  They're not so anxious to leave, they hug on each other (and me if I don't get out of the way),  they reminisce and laugh and cry, they bring photos and look over yearbooks, some say thank you, and a few even write me nice notes.  Without fail, they ask if they're my favorite senior class ever.  I tell them they are one of my favorites and that I will miss them.  And, I do miss them (but I don't want them to come back).  It's their time to cross into the beginning of adulthood, armed or not with the knowledge they'll need.

I love the Senior Moments I've had over my eighteen years of teaching.  They've made me feel good about the future.  Most of these pain-in-the-neck seniors are going to turn into lovely, educated, hard-working, play-ball-with-their-kids, good American citizens.  I've been teaching long enough to see it happen over and over.  So, the stress is worth it in the end and come August, it starts all over again with a new group of seniors.
 
Oh my....August is only two months away.  I just love June and July, don't you?  I think June and July should have 45 days each.  I'm writing Congress...  Will you sign my petition?