Saturday, August 7, 2021

"Hello, it's me..."

Wow, I posted back in March...and disappeared again. Sometimes things don't work out the way we plan. I'm sure we all know this. I'll leave it at that.

From my last post, I'd like to say I still follow Bookaholics on Facebook, and I always enjoy the questions, comments, and comradery of the people that belong there. It's really nice to have a place to go on social media that is actually monitored closely, where you are only allowed conversations about books and reading. You know, it's a place where you don't have to hear what anyone thinks about everything else that's going on in the world. Thank goodness for safe harbors on social media! 

As for books I'm currently reading Jo Nesbo's The Redeemer. I really enjoy his serial killers (which, yes, I know sounds more than a bit off). And, just so you know, reading about a detective who hunts down killers is not usually my cup of tea. Nesbo is my only exception. There's just something about his style of writing that I like. I love that the protagonist, Harry, is very flawed personally, but so smart and confident when it comes to his job. I also like that people underestimate him, and he doesn't feel the need to show off to prove they're wrong, he just does his job...and does it well. My kind of guy!

Speaking of my kind of guys, I would like to give a shout out about Matthew McConaughey's book, Greenlights. I was going to read it, but was told it is quite enjoyable on Audible. Listening to Matthew is quite entertaining, so I took him on a road trip to Georgia with me for the week of Fourth of July. When you're traveling on I-20, it's pretty much a straight away. It's easier for me to focus on listening with few obstacles and distractions in my way. I enjoyed every minute of his storytelling. He is a delightful traveling companion! Try a sample for yourself on Audible and you'll see what I mean.

In other news, school is starting back up here in Texas. I'm excited for the school year to begin, and I can't wait to welcome back our students next week! I'm currently reading a couple of "classics" some teachers found in old lockers. I'll let you know if they were worth blowing the dust off of for a read. :)

Happy reading!!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Back in the Writing Saddle

It's time. 

Time to begin again.

Life is full of restarts. No one knows this better than I do.

I won't write about what has happened since the last time I blogged. We are all too aware of all that. I will say, instead, that I've learned a lot in the last year. I've worked really hard and found this old dog can still learn new tricks, since I now teach both virtually and in a classroom. I know how to use more technology now than I ever care to list...or ever care to use outside of my job. It's one of the reasons I stopped blogging: too much screen time required for teaching in the last year.

I have read a lot of books in the last year, though, and I look forward to sharing some book reviews with you! I'm currently on Spring Break from school, so I will post a book review later on this week. I hope you'll come back and check it out! 

And, one more thing,...if you're a book lover and want a good place to go to ONLY discuss books and your love of reading, I'd like to encourage you to join Bookaholics on Facebook. When I reached the point of giving up on social media in the last year, I found Bookaholics, and they saved me. :)

Happy reading!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Magic Books?

I received a very special treasure from a friend of mine. She said she was looking for something to send me "down a rabbit hole" because she knows I love the journey. Well, she certainly found it when she gave me The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, by Mark Twain and Philip Stead with illustrations by Erin Stead. My goodness, what a treasure! (And a delightful rabbit hole of research to discover!)

I love Mark Twain, but had no idea this book existed until I received it as a gift. Twain made up stories for his daughters from time to time, but he didn't always write them down. In the case of The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, he wrote most of it down,...but never wrote the ending. 

Enter Caldecott Medal winners Philip Stead and his wife, Erin Stead. 

Philip Stead finished the tale and included, as part of the tale, short segments in the story where he's conversing with Twain and talking about how the story is progressing. It's quite wonderful.

As enjoyable as the story is, it wouldn't be complete without the beautiful illustrations of Erin Stead. From the cover of the book to the smallest image of the tiniest animal on the inside, the visuals are a delight. My favorite is the image of the old fairy and the skunk, but I love them all.

Now, it just so happens that my friend also gave me something else to go along with the book. It was something she knew I'd love. She bought an old, wood-carved book holder from England to display my beautiful gift in my library. 

So, this is how it looks,...

and it bring me joy every day.

But that's only part of the story.

One day, my grandchildren came over for a visit, and my sweet four-year-old granddaughter wandered into my library. I thought, perhaps, she wanted one of the books I keep in a basket for them, so I followed a few steps behind her.

When she walked up to the tray on the bench, she became still and quiet. She reverently approached the open book on the stand and reached out her small hand to barely touch the edge of the pages with her fingertips. Without taking her eyes off the book, she spoke in awe as she asked, "MawMaw, this a magic book?"

I realized instantly what she meant. She'd never seen a book on display like that except in cartoons and movies where it's almost always a magical book. My sweet grandbaby thought her grandmother had a magic book!

I walked up behind her, with a smile on my face, and whispered, "Yes, it's a magic book. All books are magic, my sweet girl." 

My answer seemed to satisfy her, and we looked at some of the beautiful pictures in the book before she moved on to something else. It's a moment I'll always hold in my heart.

And, yes, I know one day she'll know the truth...

All books really are magic.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Getting Out More

Yes, it's true. I'm getting out more. Okay, okay, I get out plenty,...but not in the way I should. I've always been very driven, a very hard worker. It is my primary focus most of the time. Even my husband will tell you, when I was a stay-at-home mom (many years ago), I was very driven at trying to be a good mom, wanting to keep a clean house, and be a good wife. It's when I work outside our home that the driven part of me...has a hard time dividing properly.

Since I became a teacher, thirteen years ago, it has been my primary focus other than my family. Now, my family is all grown and gone. So, I focus more on my job. isn't a job. And though my work is much more than "a job" - it's a calling - I still needed to look at my overall priorities. I am very passion about what I do. However, we all need to pull back, sometimes, and re-evaluate how we spend our time.

I've now taken up a new goal from a good friend: get out more and live a life you enjoy. Yes, I can still be driven and passionate about teaching reading. Absolutely. But I need to practice more genuine 'down time' to fill myself back up with good things I enjoy. 

And you know what made me question whether I really do this enough or not? A coach. No, not a life coach - just a regular, middle school, athletic coach. That's right, a coach at my school. 

Here's the story of it:

I was making copies in the teacher workroom, not too long ago, when one of our coaches came in and saw his pile of work was in my work area. He was concerned his stuff was messing up my workflow, so he apologized and moved his stuff out of my way. I said, "No worries, Coach, I'm easy-going." And he laughed. Laughed?

Not only did this give me pause, I gave him crap about it. Teasing, actually. He's an older man, and I adore him. And he knows it. So, it's okay if we pick on each other from time to time. Our classrooms were side-by-side last year, so we know each other well. We know each other's stories and our teaching styles. 

But, still, I gave it some thought. And, later, when I brought it up to him again, I said, "Hey, Coach, isn't it possible to be focused and passionate AND easy-going?" And the old sweetheart chuckled again at my silliness. 

"Do I get to plead the 5th here?" he asked with a wink. 

And while that old softy has no idea how much he made me re-evaluate how I live my life, he most certainly did. He's been through a lot in his personal life. He lost a wife, at a fairly young age, to a heart disorder that, eventually, also took the life of one of his sons. I can't imagine. I truly...can't imagine.

I began to think about how I spend my 'down time" and how I need to do more with it. Enjoy life more. Get out more. Let people I love know how much I love them...more. I do those things, of course, but not nearly as much as I should. I needed to add an easy-going stride in my life...somewhere. 

So, yesterday, I met friends for tea and an impromptu trip to a bakery. I also spent some time with my beautiful grandchildren. Today, I went with my oldest daughter to brunch at a place she's wanted to visit. Later, we're going to a museum to enjoy some art together. 

And while my work is very important, and I love the children I teach,'s time to make time on my weekends for the most important part of my life: my actual life. We only get one, you know.

I hope, reader, this inspires you to get out more and do things YOU enjoy!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Surviving and Thriving

If books have taught me anything, they've taught me to be grateful. While my life has not always run a smooth course, reading has taught me...things could've been a lot worse. I've read numerous books, over the years, by people who have survived circumstances I can't even imagine. 

My childhood had dramas I don't care to write about, though people have tried to convince me to tell my stories. The things I've experienced didn't seem all that terrible at the time I lived them because it was all I knew. Situations don't seem crazy if it's your daily normal. It's only when you look back from a distance of time and space that you realize things weren't quite right,...but still not as bad as they could've been.

I don't think I saw my childhood, and young adult life, clearly until I had children of my own. It was only then that I looked through a lens that said, "Would I ever have allowed my children to experience what I did? Would I ever make my children feel the way my parents sometimes made me feel?" No, I wouldn't. In fact, there have been times I've willingly sacrificed pieces of myself to make sure if any situation hurt anyone, it hurt me - not my girls.

Then comes the question: "Did my parents even love me the way they were supposed to if they didn't love me the way I love my own children?" The love of my parents came with conditions. My love for my children does not. Once I answered that question for myself, I began to seek peace about it.

I don't sit around and analyze why my parents were the way they were, nor the reasons why they didn't love me unconditionally. I used to, many years ago, but it simply isn't worth my time. Who they were, and the choices they made, rest with them. I forgave them long ago, for my own sake. 

Now? My own children are grown. I'm a grandmother. My children have their own lenses in which they see me. The three of them don't always agree on the view, but I'm okay with that. I hope if they harbor any hard feelings about their own childhoods, they forgive me - for their own sake, not mine.

You see, after spending far too many years surviving, I am thriving. And what I've found is that when you find your stride, you gain this wonderful momentum where your heart truly feels free to accept yourself and your journey. No hard feelings towards your past, no excuses, just...moving forward. When you finally learn to shed every label anyone has ever given you, and you no longer care about what lens anyone views you through, you wake with a grateful heart every day. Every. Day.

I don't know where life will lead me from this moment forward. I'm no heroine in a novel. There's no witty banter and meaningful conversations that resolve everything and give me a happy ending. There's only the time I have between this very moment and my own ending.

And I promise myself to thrive!

Sunday, February 3, 2019

If You Could Read My Mind,...Would You Want To?

I'm taking a quick break from reading to tell you about the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness. So far, I've read (in the order the author suggests) The Knife of Never Letting Go and the short story The New World. I am currently reading The Ask and the Answer, and I am absorbing it like crazy.

I was already a fan of the author, but it takes things to a different level for me when I decide to invest in a series. It's actually something I don't do very often unless the first book is truly excellent. My reading time is valuable, and I believe variety is the spice of life...and of reading. A writer has to really impress me for me to set aside my TBR cart and stick with one author for awhile. And to stick with one author for one storyline...for several books? Yes, it has to rank pretty dang high and give me something unexpected.

So, let's to interest you and not give anything away...

The story revolves around a boy named Todd who lives on a planet, the New World, that has been settled by people who left the Old World for a simple way of life. You know, getting back to basics and living like Little House on the Prairie. The problem is the settlers get infected with something that makes it where everyone can hear what each other is thinking all the time. Out loud. And this is not a good thing.

At the opening of the novel, Todd is about to become a man (he's turning 13), and once that occurs, he will be the last child to become a man in the settlement. You see, there are no other children because there are no women. The infection that made it where men could hear each others' thoughts also killed the women in the settlement, including Todd's mother when he was just a baby.

Then, one day, while Todd is in the forest with his dog - just trying to get away from town and the noise of everyone's thoughts coming at him - he feels a quiet. He feels he is near something unlike anything he's ever known before. And he couldn't be more right.

In a nutshell, it's Shirley Jackson meets Ray Bradbury and directed by the Twilight Zone. 

And it's really good.

I think one of the things I like the most about the first book is I kept thinking I knew where it was going, and I was wrong. It's a very original idea with good twists and turns. I really like the idea, too, of these people who traveled through space to reject technology. Interesting.

Now, it's time for me to get back to my book. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Out Sick, Listen, and Read

Have I mentioned I rang in the new year with sickness? Yes, 2019 has been a struggle for me up until now. This is the first weekend I've felt like myself in the last month. There's no need to go into details about the whole thing, but I will say that when I'm too sick to read, you know it's bad. It's also the reason I didn't blog last Sunday. I'm not a whiner, but I'd felt physically bad for too long and was afraid if I managed to blog at all, I might have a meltdown. I'm one of those "grin and bear it" kind of people, so meltdowns don't go well on the very rare occasions when I have them. Trust me. (See? I spared you all that. You're welcome. ;)

I am also one of those "silver lining" kind of people, so...the good news is that because I wasn't up to reading last weekend, I listened. And I enjoyed everything I heard...

Unfu*k Yourself

I love brutal honesty. If you like it, too, or you just need to hear some, Gary John Bishop's Unfu*k Yourself is a definite Audible winner. Bishop narrates his own book and gives you a good, common sense "talking-to" (as my grandma used to say).

I should tell you, I'm not a self-help book person. At all. But I feel like Bishop's is not a self-help, it's a guide to help you clear your thinking and help you understand the importance of life choices. I agreed with everything he said because I'm at an age where experience has already taught me...the hard way. I wish I'd had his voice in my ear 35 years ago. Would I have listened? I'd like to think so.

In an ever-changing world, where the more ways we have to communicate, the less truly connected we are, people need to learn their own minds. They need to know how to live authentic lives instead of social media ones. Personally, I think everyone would benefit from hearing what Bishop has to say, whether it's to learn...or to confirm.

(Side note: Bishop is Scottish and has a lovely dialect. Listening was a delight.)

Almost Everything

If you don't know Anne Lamott, you're missing out. I fell in love with her words many years ago when I read Bird by Bird. The book had such an impact on me, I wrote in the front of the book when and where I began the journey into her world of words. I think she's quite amazing.

All that being said, I'd never heard her read her own words until last weekend. I was excited to hear her Audible narration of Almost Everything. I knew what to expect, personality wise, because I've read her writing and her deadpan, dry sense of humor comes through in most everything she writes.

Almost Everything is funny and wise and sarcastic and hopeful. Lamott acknowledges the world could end any moment, but she also believes we should live with the hope it won't. I told you I love brutal honesty, and Lamott has plenty of that with a bit of dark humor, but she also believes in kindness and empathy and love.

I have to say that I was more than a bit offended when I read a book review that called this book "new age" stuff, when it isn't at all. (But, you know, ignorant people who limit their exposure to the world around them tend to be...labelists.) Lamott may talk about spirituality in a way that a strick denominationist may not understand, or that a diehard atheist may not care to hear, but that's because they lack the ability to entertain a thought without accepting it and moving on. At no time is Lamott preaching her beliefs, some things simply come out as a reference in a few anecdotes she tells. Labelists don't like it when they have difficulty labeling you, and I assure you Lamott is quite good at avoiding those labels, as she believes in many good things in many different ways. I should also mention I don't agree with everything she says,.. but I'm certainly entertained by it.

To sum it up, in terms you might understand better,...if you enjoy brutal honesty, a sense of humor that's a bit twisted, and a heart full of light and goodness with a Lily Tomlin voice, Anne Lamott is for you.

Sea Creatures

I read Sea Creatures, by Susanna Daniel, this weekend, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as a solid read. By that, I mean it's excellent writing, well-paced, interesting, and thought-provoking about the ordinary things in life. It also makes you wonder what you'd do in the same circumstances if the push in your life came to shove.

The plot revolves around Georgia, our narrator, who moves to Florida with her husband and toddler son. Her business has shutdown and her husband, a professor, had an incident that caused him to lose his job. They buy a used houseboat, park it in her father's boat slip and try to start over. There are two main problems in Georgia's life: her husband's terrible night terrors/sleeping disorder and her three year old son won't talk, won't make a sound. Oh, there are other problems, to be sure, but those are her most difficult ones at the opening of the novel. 

Georgia tells us about her life in fragments, flashbacks, to help us understand who she is as the main story moves along, and it flows well. The author weaves a good story about what makes us who we are, why we make the choices we make, and how loving the people in our lives is a complicated thing that only our own hearts can define.

Good book.