Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Fair Is A Veritable Smorgasbord....

What are you doing this weekend? Maybe the Festival of Books?

If you love books and live anywhere in southern California, you should come. Books, authors, illustrators, poets, speakers, booths, food, freebies, crossword puzzles, etc. You owe it to yourself to go at least once, if you can.

My lifelong love is of children's books. I have a lot of favorite children's books - not just "favorites," but loves. My teenage son was looking for a certain picture book recently at home (Flossie and the Fox, a family favorite) and he ended up with several other long-time favorites in his arms - one was Heckedy Peg...By Don and Audrey Wood. Fun stuff.

In Valerie & Walter's Best Books for Children, they describe picture books.
When I am forced to come up with a definition of what makes a good picture book I say that a good picture book is one where the words tell the story without needing pictures and the pictures tell the story without needing words - yet when the two are combined, you cannot imagine them existing apart.
Two other quotes from their book that hit home for me:
Read to them every day that you have them. Read to them until they flat out refuse to stay in the same room with you, and then chase them from room to room with the book in your hand, reading aloud.
Reading together needs to be a constant in your children's lives, a promise that you would not break any sooner than you would break your promise to feed them, love them, or make them wear a coat in winter.
All good points. For me, going to the Festival of Books is a shot in the arm. I look forward to it every year. It firms up my resolve to read to my kids and to push again to help them develop a love of reading for themselves. My mother asked, "isn't that hard, though, to give up a Saturday for that?" Mom, it would be harder not to.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


In the interest of Earth Day, let's have a quote from a great naturalist:

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. - John Muir

Have a great day - whether "Earthy" or not...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Second Chances?

Today the book I'll share from is The Reader, by Bernard Schlink. I'm sure I was drawn to it initially by its name, but I soon became engrossed in the story. It's been a few years since I read it, and so I took a look at it again online. As I read what they say about this book, it is obvious that what seemed an interesting story to me was full of all sorts of other, hidden, meanings. Oh well, for me, this was one part that spoke to me then...and speaks to me now.

"Then I looked at Hanna's writing and saw how much energy and struggle the writing had cost her. I was proud of her. At the same time, I was sorry for her, sorry for her delayed and failed life, sorry for the delays and failures of life in general. I thought that if the right time gets missed, if one has refused or been refused something for too long, it's too late, even if it is finally tackled with energy and received with joy. Or is there no such thing as "too late"? Is there only "late," and is "late" always better than "never"? I don't know."

Sometimes, "late" should be better than "never".

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tidal Waves in Life

Years ago, when I was in high school, we read The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck. I don't remember it very well, just bits and pieces. But more recently I discovered a children's book of hers, The Big Wave. It is about two rural Japanese families (the two young boys are good friends), and the aftermath of a big wave that hits the island.

"I don't think Jiya can ever be happy again," Kino said sorrowfully.

"Yes, he will be happy someday," his father said, "for life is always stronger than death. Jiya will feel when he wakes that he can never be happy again. He will cry and cry and we must let him cry. But he cannot always cry. After a few days he will cry only part of the time. He will sit sad and quiet. We must allow him to be sad and we must not make him speak. But we will do our work and life as we always do. Then one day he will be hungry and he will eat something that our mother cooks, something special, and he will begin to feel better. He will not cry any more in the daytime but only at night. We must let him cry at night. But all the time his body will be renewing itself. His blood flowing in his veins, his growing bones, his mind beginning to think again, will make him live."

"He cannot forget his father and mother and his brother!" Kino exclaimed.

"He cannot and he should not forget them," Kino's father said. "Just as he lived with them alive, he will live with them dead. Someday he will accept their death as part of his life. He will weep no more. He will carry them in his memory and his thoughts. His flesh and blood are part of them. So long as he is alive, they, too, will live in him."

Other civilizations' thoughts about mourning make a lot of sense to me.

Today, I may be mourning a loss. I may cry a lot - maybe all the time. But tomorrow, I will not cry so much. And over time, I will get back to living. Kino's father assured me of that.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I'm reconsidering going back to school to become what I thought I wanted to be when I grew up. (Apparently there will be a lot of job openings in my preferred field within the next 5-10 years, and the increase in technology has changed the job but not negated the need for it. On the other hand, maybe I'm too old to bother with finishing my degrees at this point?)

Anyhow, reminded me of a insightful bit from "Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief," by Bill Mason:

"I think what's actually going on is that childhood is like an allergy test for talent. If you've ever been tested for allergies, you know that the doctor rubs your skin with hundreds of different substances until one of them raises a welt. In the same way, a kid comes across hundreds of opportunities to uncover some latent talent until one of them hits, and then his course in life starts to take on some direction. Sometimes it's obvious, like when a seventh-grader is six feet tall and can dribble a basketball blindfolded with either hand, or a grade-schooler builds a radio out of old washing-machine parts.

Sometimes it's not so obvious, as in my case. I could climb trees like a monkey and take apart all kinds of machines and put them back together; there was little that frightened me and I could keep my mouth shut while listening. But so what? How did these things add up to a career?

It wasn't until I went out and tried to steal something that I realized what my odd collection of skills might be good for."

Sigh. Unfortunately, that doesn't help me decide in my situation...I know I have interest and "talent"...Now I'm up against the calendar. Suggestions?

Friday, April 11, 2008

(Throat Clearing Sound Here)

Tomorrow, I'll be singing in a double trio for a special women's program at church. I'll be singing as a 2nd Soprano, which is normally fine. I'm fairly flexible, when I sing....Trouble is, I haven't been singing much lately. (Well, at least "official" singing. Singing along with the radio without an audience doesn't quite count.) And, unfortunately, my voice really shows it. I feel really congested in my throat, most of the time. We've had a few practices over the past week or so, and every time I'm frustrated as it takes quite a while for my voice to be where it "should" be, and I know I'm not singing as well as I used to. Plus this is a hard 2nd Sop part...very tricky harmonies. Even my co-2nd Sop -who sings a lot- is struggling to consistently get the right notes.

Part of me wishes I could just get "sick" and forget the whole thing - I don't want to embarrass myself or my fellow singers! But then I remember it isn't all about me.

From Songs From My Heart (by Janice Kapp Perry, who writes amazing songs):

"A wise old Hawaiian woman chastised me when I declined to sing a solo at a [religious meeting]. Holding back was a sign of pride, she said. Just stand up, do your best, and look to the Lord for your approval, not the world, she instructed me. I took her advice, and I've been singing ever since."

My singing may not be the greatest, but if it is uplifting and helps the women feel good about themselves and their role in the world...I'll have done my job.

We'll still warm up before singing tomorrow morning...and somehow, I'll find my voice.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What Does Your Car Say About You?

This is not a post about cars. Not at all - except for in their function as a bookcase. Some of us just can't fathom being caught without! Frankly, that's probably my phobia - of being stuck somewhere, waiting, with nothing to do....I wonder if there's a name for that?

Anyhow, check this out:

One of my favorite sentences is the eye-catching first one. Had to read it twice, I admit!

Glad I came across this gem.

Out With The Old...

Last Sunday night, I was feeling really stressed. I just needed to hide away from the rest of the family and do something basic...something for me. I ended up cleaning out a couple of boxes of "stuff" - you know, the piles of things that you keep because you want to read it, or you like it, or it is from your childhood. Maybe it is something "good" that while you may not know what to do with it, you know you shouldn't just throw it could be useful!

There's a great book that deals with these issues - in more ways than you can imagine - called "Unclutter Your Life: Transforming Your Physical, Mental, and Emotional Space" by Katherine Gibson.
"We discovered that battling clutter isn't a one time thing but a continuous process. It requires a shift from impulsive acquisition to being mindful about what we bring into our home, minds, and hearts. It means pitching what doesn't serve us and enhancing our lives to make room for what does. Most importantly, remaining uncluttered means examining our relationship with our stuff."

So what is "clutter"?
Clutter, defined by Karen Kingston: "things that we don't use or love, too many things in small spaces, and anything unfinished." Clutter also extends beyond the physical and into our emotional and spiritual well-being, surfacing in negative, life-limiting thoughts; relationships with toxic people; and disruptive or abusive situations."

Hm. When I re-read those, I see I need to go back and re-evaluate more of the clutter in my life - both in the boxes and beyond.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Value of a Dimmer Switch

I really like the book Playful Parenting.

The author's got a great sense of humor. For example, when one child comes to him to complain about the other....:
"Hmmmmm, this sounds like a bad case of it all started when she hit me back."

But he's also quite wise. About the importance of identifying the reason for a child's misbehavior - and why it is important to not go on auto-pilot:
"It doesn't make much sense to say: You are feeling bad, so I'm going to yell at you. You are lonely, so I am going to send you to your room. You are feeling disconnected from other people, so I am going to hit you. You're hungry, but I"m going to take your toys away instead of feeding you. Absurd! Punishment enters into the scene because of our own feelings: I am mad, so I'm going to yell at you. I am frustrated, so I am going to have a temper tantrum. I am scared, so I am going to scare you. I've had a hard day, so I'm going to take it out on you."

Along the same lines,
"Emotional competence means that we have a dimmer switch, instead of just an on-off button, on our feelings. We want children to be able to express strong feelings in a modulated way, safely and respectfully, but directly. We don't want them to have a switch that is stuck on off, or that can't be shut off at all."

Don't you love the way he writes - and his ideas?