Sunday, December 29, 2013


If you look up the word "lover" in the dictionary, you will find several different definitions. I have a few of my own. After reading Lady Chatterley's Lover, I think I may have added a few more. None of these, of course, could I put into words for you. Some words you must define for yourself. 

Why read Lady Chatterley's Lover? I think a better question might be,...why not? 

I recently decided it was time I read more "classics," and I certainly wanted those classics to include some of the more controversial ones from long ago. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence was originally published in Florence, Italy, in 1928 and was quite the scandal for its time. In fact, it was denied publication in England until 1960. 

When I decided to read it, I didn't think I would really find it as sordid as all that. After all, I live in the day and age when people take great joy in airing all their private affairs on national television, not to mention the general public's fascination with books like Fifty Shades of Grey. Surely, I thought, D.H. Lawrence's lovemaking scenes would be tame by comparison to today's 'standards.'

What I found might surprise you, it certainly did me. 

The book had me blushing a bit, not from overly detailed, drawn out, erotic love scenes, but from...the absolute, sheer, brutal honesty of them. It doesn't dress it up, it doesn't make it pretty, it just says it outright. I respect that. I also find it has a beauty all its own. It may be a little crass, a little crude, but - God forgive me - it speaks truths that even in today's society, no matter how much talk there is, people rarely say. 

By the way, the sex scenes do not permeate the book, like so many novels do these days that classify themselves anywhere from 'romance' to 'paranormal' to 'erotica,' and the actual scenes are fairly brief. There are, however, conversations about sex and gender roles throughout the novel, which I think are crucial to understanding the mindset of the time and, I feel, speaks volumes about it even today. 

Another surprise I found was the amount of commentary on the state of England during this time setting, just after World War I, but I suppose I should have expected it. World War I changed the face of England, and it certainly changed her heart. The novel speaks of the mood of the country at the time, the mood of its people. Lawrence is vivid in his descriptions of the landscape, the class wars, the broken men who were able to return from the war, and people struggling to find their own identities in a world that had been forever changed. 

Lady Chatterley's Lover is one of those books that I wasn't 'in love' with as I read it, although I admired the frank statements it made about society. I did, however, find myself quite fond of it after I had read it in its entirety and mulled it over a bit. It says a great deal about many things without going on and on about them. I have quite a few quotes marked, for such a small novel, and - no - none of them are sex scenes. 

If you love to read, are over the age of 18 (and, as a parent, I'd prefer to say 21), are a serious reader (you know, you read something more than Twilight and Harry Potter), and if you especially love to read novels set in England (as I do), you should read this one. It's a small novel, won't take you long. If you read it and find it wasn't quite your cup of tea, I don't think you will ever regret sipping the flavor of it. 


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Addictions, and Resolutions, and Challenges! Oh, My!

Half-Price Books is a wonderful secondhand bookstore that I never get tired of. I can always find something I like, even if they don't have exactly what I'm looking for at the moment. Their staff is always helpful and will go out of their way to help a customer find something. I don't feel like I'm going into a store when I shop there. I feel like I'm at home with people who understand my love of books.

Yesterday, when I came home thrilled with my most recent Half-Price book finds, I realized that I was now adding eight more books to a long line of books at my house waiting to be read. I looked over my recent additions with adoration, but then I looked at some of the ones on my shelf and felt guilty I haven't read them yet. I adore them, too, you know. 

Proper neck placement for book browsing
I was contemplating how serious my addiction to buying books might be when my daughter, Katie, came down the stairs and saw my new stack of books. I smiled, like a proud parent, as I placed my hand on the top of the stack. I was prepared to say, "Look at my great, new finds!" What came out instead - before I even knew it - was, "Katie, I think I have a real addiction problem." 

She laughed at me and said, "What? Buying books? So what? It's not like there's anything else you buy, and you buy at a bargain. They're good for you. You read them. What's the problem with a little addiction? Besides, there's worse things you could be addicted to."

I sighed and told her that I had plenty of books at the house that are really good books. I told her I should read those, I want to read those,...but I want to read other ones that come along, too. Katie knows I don't like to "need" something. Addiction is definitely not my thing. (I even gave up coffee for six months one time just to prove to myself I didn't "need" it.)

"Does this really bother you, Mom?" she asked me.

Katie, my "fixer"
I should mention my Katie is a fixer. She likes to have a solution to a problem. To her, life is simple - only stupid humans make it complicated. There are times I agree with her theory. She is known for cutting through the drama of most situations and just telling it like it is. It's a quality I like in her a great deal, even when it's my own drama she's calling me out on. 

"Well, Mom, does it?" she asked again.

"Yes, Katie, it does bother me. I'm a sensible person. I should read the books I already have. I don't keep books just to keep them. All the ones I have are good books, as far as I know, and I should read them."

"OK, then here's your solution. Just make a New Year's Resolution to not buy any more books until you've read all the ones you already own. See? Problem solved. Simple," she said with a smile and continued her task at hand.

I was stunned for a moment. A resolution to...not buy any more books until I read all the ones I have? Hmmm,..I had to think that over. I looked at the shelves in my library. Then, I went upstairs and looked at the bookcase I have in my bedroom. I guesstimated that I've read more than half the books I own. I also noticed I liked every title I saw. In fact, I found myself smiling at the books. I have such a wonderful selection!

I decided that if I took Katie up on her idea, I would exclude having to read all my travel books and my workbooks that I use for references and lesson planning. All the rest, though, would make a really good challenge. I also thought the one exception to buying would be my monthly book club book, but I sometimes borrow that one anyway. It isn't something I'd really have to buy. 


I was still contemplating the idea when Katie stuck her head in my bedroom. "Well, Mom?" she said, as she looked at me expectantly. I smiled and began to nod.

"I think it's a great idea, Katie! It sounds fun, and it would be a challenge for me," I said, just  a wee bit more enthusiastic than I felt at the moment. I think Katie could tell.

She grinned at me (along with being a fixer, she also loves being right). "Well, if that's the case, then...answer like Barney!"

"Ummm, I'm sorry. Like Barney?" I was a bit puzzled. The purple dinosaur?

"Yes, Mom, you know - on 'How I Met Your Mother'? He always says, 'Challenge accepted!'"

Oh, THAT Barney! I had to laugh! "Oh, yes, OK - Challenge accepted!"

(Goodness, what have I gotten myself into...)

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Reluctant Review

I just finished reading my third Kate Morton novel and, to be quite honest, I'm not quite sure what to say about it - or how to say it best...? This is a reluctant review because it feels strange to not want to overly praise a Morton novel. I've loved her two novels before this one and, given this was her debut novel, I guess I should have expected it might fall a little short of the glory of the other two she wrote at a later date. We should all improve as we go, yes?

Still, I hesitate to give my opinion which may be...a little skewed. Tell you what, I'll state what I think - plain and simple - and tell you why I fear my perspective may be a little off. You'll have all the facts and can decide for yourself. The House at Riverton, also known as The Shifting Fog, by Kate Morton is a good novel. There's no doubt about that. Is it a great novel? Well,...let me tell you my problem...

I felt a bit impatient (and a little bored) with the first half of the novel and thought it dragged a bit. I believe it's because I'm a fan of the "Downton Abbey" series. You see, so much of what I read was similar to scenes I've seen played out on "Downton Abbey," I found reading the novel a bit tedious - almost like watching a rerun of a show I liked the first time, but didn't find it very interesting the second time.

I realize there are many books written about the whole 'upstairs/downstairs' dynamic of England back in the early 1900s. I thought that, perhaps, that was what seemed a little redundant to me. I'm still not quite sure. The core of the story is really great, but it just seemed like it took too long to get there. And I am not, typically, an impatient reader. 

To be completely honest, I even looked up to see when the BBC series was created because I felt someone must have copied someone. Now, I'm not accusing anyone of anything, but I will say that Morton's novel was published in 2006 before Julian Fellowes created the BBC series, which was launched in 2010. Again, I'm not accusing anyone of anything, but I had to research it. There was just too much that was bugging me. Fellowes gives credit for his idea for the series from a book he read To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol Wallace.

All of that aside, I can't help but wonder if I'd never seen the BBC series, would I have liked Morton's book better? Would I have had more patience with it and enjoyed learning about the life of a housemaid/lady's maid in England in the 1900s and the secrets she keeps? I certainly think that's possible, even probable. 

I have read (and reviewed) Morton's The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper. I loved both of those, but The Forgotten Garden still remains my favorite Morton novel to date. One of the great things about this author is that she weaves a fabulous tale and always, amazingly, ties up all the loose ends - some that you didn't even realize were loose until she ties them. I love to read her writing, love to read her descriptions. I never fail to find delicious quotes and make deep connections with her characters.

Kate Morton

I'm looking forward to reading another of her novels The Distant Hours, which my friends tell me is a wonderful read. I already own it, but I'm not going to read it right away. I've decided to sprinkle a few classics in between now and the Christmas holidays, when I have the time, and save The Distant Hours until after the holidays.

Ah, you know how it is: So many book, so little time! ;-)

Happy Reading! 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Welcome, Winter!

I hope I never reach a point in my life where I don't marvel at the  magic of icicles.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Need A Good Cry?

"As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once."

I avoid books that make me cry. I just...don't care to go there. That isn't to say I don't read books that have sad parts, even depressing parts sometimes, but - as a rule - I try to stay away from books I think will just absolutely break my heart. 

A couple of weeks ago, I began seeing quotes pop up on Facebook for a book titled The Fault In Our Stars. I liked the quotes I saw, so I looked the book up. I quickly found that it was a young adult book and the narrator is a sixteen-year-old girl with cancer. I immediately scratched it off my "maybe I want to read it" list. I knew my heart could not take reading that book.

A couple of days ago, however, I just couldn't get some of the quotes I'd seen for the book out of my head. I looked the book up on Amazon and found I could download it on my Kindle Fire for $3.99. At that price, it was hard for me to pass up. I didn't want to buy it, though, if I wasn't going to really read it. I finally decided I would make it my first read over my Thanksgiving break from school, so I would have time to read another book or two after it to ease the heartache I felt sure the book would give me.

I downloaded the book on Friday night, and I finished it this morning. I even 'scheduled' the crying I knew would come. When I was about seventy percent done with the book, I could tell I was going to start getting emotional. I stopped reading last night and decided to finish the book this morning when I would be all alone in my house, and no one would question my tears, or ask me to explain, or wonder what the book touched off in me that would send me in to sobs.

And that is exactly what I did - bawled my eyes out for a bit. (It's OK, though, I was overdue for a good cry.) And if you think I'm giving anything away by saying that, you'd be wrong.  

Am I recommending the book? Oh, absolutely. It may have a couple of sad parts, but it has happy parts, too - along with great sarcasm and intelligence. I can't resist a book with good banter between characters. This one has a good bit of that. I promise you will smile and laugh and smirk more than anything else.

While the book is listed as "young adult," I will let you know it has some mature language in it here and there. It is appropriate (and not gratuitous), in my opinion, given the ages of the main characters and the fact that they are having to deal with some serious life issues. That being said, I wouldn't recommend it to one of my sixth graders, but I think it would be good for older teenagers. Amazon lists it as age appropriate for fourteen and up.

The book isn't long, only 318 pages in the hardcover edition. It packs a good punch, though, and makes you think,...which is exactly what a good book should do. I liked the book, and I am glad I read it. I am especially glad I read it before it becomes a movie, which is currently in the works. 

Nothing ruins a good book like a movie...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"Et tu, Brother?!"

OK, so...I'm tired of being stereotyped. It is ridiculous that some people think if you are intelligent and well-read, you must have "no life." While I will concede there may be some people who fit that stereotype, I don't happen to be one of them. I do not live vicariously through fictional characters in novels. Please. Give me a little credit here.

The truth, as I see it, is that reading enriches your life. It causes you to reflect on your own life, your thoughts, and your actions. It makes you understand that the world is a bigger place than just the part you live in. I also think it makes you a more thoughtful person, and you operate on a deeper level of life - not just a shallow existence of one.

I do not stay holed up in my library and live my life through books. I absolutely enjoy the worlds I travel to through reading, but I also enjoy the world outside my own front door. I know how to socially interact with the world and do so quite often. In fact, as a teacher, it is imperative I have good communication skills - not only for my students, but also because I communicate with parents, administrators, and my co-workers. 

Do I sound slightly defensive? Let me tell you why.

My youngest daughter has mentioned, on more than one occasion, that I don't understand what she wants out of life because I "prefer to live in books." She says it like it's a bad thing. Of course, as I said before, I don't live in books. In the same breath she likes to throw that out at me, she'll complain I travel too much, or I'm not around enough. Have I mentioned this is the daughter who joined the Navy and doesn't even live at home anymore?

Now, I don't get too upset about her incorrect analysis. She's nineteen. It's the only excuse she needs. I also understand that she only sees me as "mom" and doesn't understand all the complexities of my life. I know she never will and that's OK, she's not supposed to understand. So, you can see why she gets a "free pass" on her judgment of me. I should also mention her judgement of me doesn't bother me. Never has. 

But, then, something else happened.

A few days ago, I was having a nice conversation with my older brother. We were talking about education and "kids today" and how technology seems to have taken over the world. In an off-handed comment, my brother said he didn't see how someone who "stuck their head in a book all day" was any different than someone who had their head stuck in a computer game all day...


He then proceeded to make some comment about how they're both 'escapism' or 'checking out from the world' and...well, quite frankly, I'm unclear on exactly what he said after that because my ears were still ringing from his incorrect analysis that all book lovers are reclusive hermits who need to escape from the world into a book and that he thinks what book lovers do is the same as kids playing computer games.

"Who are you and WHAT did you do with my brother?"

Like Caesar, I felt betrayed. 

Some things I expect from a nineteen year old daughter, but not my older brother. He knows better. He's smarter than that. I really mulled over his words and wondered why I felt so betrayed at such a general statement coming from someone who has known me, literally, since the day I was born. I knew it had to do with something bigger than just me and my love of books.

I realized it's because I feel I fight the good fight every day of trying to teach children to read and teach them why it's important. I truly believe, in the deepest part of my heart, that reading teaches empathy and makes you a more open-minded, well-rounded individual. I think reading makes you a better person. I'm not just trying to help children become good readers. Through reading, I'm trying to encourage children to become better human beings.

To have my passion reduced to the same category as computer games was...unthinkable. Not to mention, many of the students I have who read on the lowest levels and struggle the most in their reading are usually very proud to label themselves "gamers" and brag about their skills (and the amount of time they spend) at playing games. I often get asked if reading something on their computer games counts as their "reading time" for homework! 

And...before you start thinking my students who are "gamers" may be playing things that actually require some real reading (like mystery games or educational games), let me assure you that we're talking about games from the "Halo" and "Grand Theft Auto" and "Call of Duty" series.

And my brother thinks it's all the same?!


Unlike Caesar, though, I will not give up the fight because my brother also raised his verbal dagger. It just isn't the way I'm wired. Reading is important! It has enriched my life in more ways than I can say. I have learned so much about the world, other people, history, life, and myself through reading.

No, I'm not like Caesar at all. I will fight the good fight and passionately teach the importance of reading until there isn't a breath left in me,...or - as I tell my students - until they pry my cold, dead hands off the school doors...

and, even then, ghost will haunt every student I've ever taught. It will hover over their heads and whisper, "What good things have you read today that added something positive and insightful to your life?" :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Arrival!

I'm a bit behind on my blog. I'm more than a bit behind on many other things...

You see, the world stopped and then started again this past Saturday when my first grandchild was born! It's hard to explain what it's like to experience your own child having a child. Even though my oldest daughter is grown, twenty-five years old, and married,...she's still my baby. Always will be.

While I am ecstatic to be a grandparent, I'm even more ecstatic to watch my daughter be a mother. I believe I could watch her with that baby all day. It fascinates me. I've always thought my daughter was beautiful, but she's never been as beautiful as she is when she's loving on that child, talking to him, adoring him, nursing him.

I know, people expect you to go on and on about the grandbaby (and, trust me, I DO!), but I also have great love and admiration for both my daughter and my son-in-law. Making the choice to become a parent and being a parent isn't easy. It is the most challenging and rewarding job there is in this life. The way I see it, to plan for a child and willingly take on that responsibility is something to be admired.

Now, about my smart, talented, beautiful grandson...

The love and joy this new little addition has brought to both sides of the families is beyond words. We've all fallen in love with the new little man in our lives. He is the first grandchild for us and for our son-in-law's parents. There are also great-grandparents on both sides. Did I mention aunts? great-aunts? great-uncles? cousins? Oh, my goodness, so much family! And I haven't even mentioned all the love and support of friends!

Wow, much love for one little guy.

And now, let me introduce you to the newest star in my sky...


Sunday, November 3, 2013


It's 48 degrees in Texas this morning and time for the first fire of the season! I will be the first to admit there is less of a cold season here than where I come from in North Carolina, but one of my stipulations when we built our house was that it have a fireplace - a real fireplace. The minute there is a slight chill in the air, I'm ready for the warmth and the glow of a fire every day until spring!

Now, I could sit here and write all about mankind's fascination with fire since the beginning of time, but...I'd rather just sit here and focus on the flames, watching them dance together and cast shadows on the wall. I'd rather listen to the crackle of the wood as the fire turns it to ashes than listen to my fingers click the keys of this laptop.

So, for today, I'll make my post short and leave you with a wish for a wonderful week. I'm going to sit here for a little while longer and enjoy another delicious, hot cup of coffee, while I warm myself by the fire on a lazy Sunday morning. 



P.S. I'd like to send out a very special thanks to Troy for helping us keep the home fires burning! :)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Speaking of Favorite Places...

I had the opportunity to go "back home" to North Carolina for a few days and spend some time in one of my favorite little towns, Blowing Rock. It has been one of my favorites since I was a little girl. There's really no place like it. 

I would love to describe for you just how special it is, but...I would not do it justice. I took a few photographs (OK, more than a few), and I thought I'd share some with you. 

I realize you can't hear the sounds of the leaves crunching under my feet or taste the sweetness of the fresh-picked Honey Crisp apples I enjoyed on the side of the road or smell the wonderful aroma of wood burning in the fireplace, but I wanted to share what I could.

If you're ever in North Carolina during "peak season" when the leaves are changing, it's worth it to make the drive to Blowing Rock and take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There's an entrance to it located right off Main Street. 

There's a reason October is my favorite month, and autumn is my favorite season. 

And every one of those reasons can be found in Blowing Rock. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Following Twain's Advice

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

~ Mark Twain

I love Mark Twain. I think I always have. There is something about his spirit, his line of reasoning, and his ability to things like they were (and still are!) that makes me admire the kind of man he was. I've not only read his books, I have also read and researched his life. He really wasn't the kind of guy that Poppa would want a girl to bring home. As it is with many writers, he wasn't good with money, was known to enjoy a good drink and a smoke, and he could be quite...disagreeable...when he got the urge. 

Of all the quotes I love, from many different people, and of all Twain's words I enjoy, the quote I listed above is one of my favorite. When in doubt about what I should do sometimes, I think of these words. I ask myself, "Will my regret be that I did it...or that, when given a chance, I didn't do it?" It brings a great deal of clarity to a situation pretty quickly, to be quite honest.

One time I remember, in particular, was when I was crossing the English Channel this summer. I was actually walking on a path that appears, when the tide goes out, between St. Michael's Mount and the shore. The path has been there for over a thousand years.

As I was walking along the path, I had the urge to take off my shoes, roll up my jeans, and walk back to the shore barefooted. I wanted to take my time, have a seat on the edge of the path, take a few photographs,...pause in the moment and just breathe and be. So, I did.

Now, I realize it's a simple example of what I'm talking about, but you understand the spirit of it all, right? 

There have been many moments when I have found myself on the precipice of something wonderful. Common sense said no, but my heart and my spirit said yes - so I said yes. Not every chance or every risk I've taken has turned out the way I would have liked or wanted, but I don't ever regret the choice I made to experience that moment. 

Life is short,'s long, too. We are the only ones who must truly live with our choices. Only we know what prompted us do what we did at the time. Who are other people to judge?

Besides, I would rather live half a life boldly than a whole life concerned about what other people think.

I know Mark Twain would agree...

Saturday, October 19, 2013


While attending a meeting in Texas, I met someone who was born and raised right outside of Paris, France. I was amazed to learn that French was her first language because she spoke English very well. It was only after she told me she was a high school French teacher that the topic came up of where she was born and her first language.

I told her I had been to Paris. With some hesitation, almost like she dreaded asking, she inquired about my visit to Paris. I assured her it was a perfect trip, and I loved the city and the people there! She wanted to know the things I did. I mentioned a few things, but then just laughed and said, "To be honest, I really did love everything. Everything! My friend and I decided the only goal for our trip was to eat a crepe every day while we looked at the Eiffel Tower, so everything else we did beyond that was icing." She laughed and said she liked that. She also explained that she never knows what reaction she will get from someone when she says she is from Paris, people tend to either have a good reaction or a bad one - seldom anything in between.

We talked for a good while, discussing many different things, but before we parted she asked me a question that was very difficult to answer. She wanted to know, of the places I've been, which one was my favorite. I gave it some thought before I answered, stumbling over my words a few times. I mentioned a few of the places I love, but...I finally gave up and gave my honest answer. I told her all the places I have been are my favorite. She laughed a bit when I said this and asked again, "All of them?!"

Yes, all of them.

I told her that I love the delightful city of Paris just as much as I love England's beautiful countryside. And I am just as fascinated by England's lovely, dramatic, and haunting coastline as I am the healing waters of Italy's Lago Maggiore,...but there's no way to say which one is "better"! I explained that I love walking on the white, sandy, beaches and swimming in the clear waters of Mexico just as much as I love Blowing Rock, North Carolina on a clear, crisp October day when the leaves are in full autumn bloom...and, my goodness, I'll never forget watching the sun come up over the Grand Canyon and, yet, I am just as amazed to sit down in a huge field of beautiful blue bonnets in the Texas Hill Country in the spring! And don't even get me started on how much I love San Francisco and Chicago...

How could I possibly choose a favorite when there is so much beauty and wonder in the world? I've never had a bad experience in my travels. Have there been "hiccups" along the way? Perhaps travel plans didn't always run smoothly? Well, of course, but never enough to daunt my spirit...or my appreciation for just being there - being somewhere - having an adventure!

In all my traveling, I've never met an unfriendly person or someone who was rude because of the way I spoke or the way I looked in an unfamiliar place. Generally speaking, every place I have been I find people who are warm and welcoming. It doesn't matter what the culture or the language is, when I greet the rest of the world with an open heart and an open mind, I have found it gives the same back.

Now,...with a big, wide, wonderful world like that - who could pick a favorite?! :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Coffee by Candlelight

In all of my blogging, have I ever mentioned how much I love coffee? Oh, goodness, I'd say it deserves the title  'Nectar of the Gods' - right along with a good bottle of wine! A good hot cup of coffee is essential to starting my morning off right and helping me through an afternoon.

Contrary to what most people think, I do not drink "a ton" of coffee, but I do enjoy every single drop of coffee I drink. I usually have two cups in the morning and two in the afternoon. By two cups, I mean two tea cup sizes - not jumbo size. And, for me, drinking coffee is as much about aesthetics as it is flavor. Coffee isn't something to gulp down and run out the door.

For instance, right now, I'm sitting in my favorite reading chair enjoying a delicious cup of coffee. All the lights in the house are out, and it's completely quiet. I love the cool darkness of the early morning night. I'm not ready for the shock of lamps and overhead lights yet. I choose, instead, to be welcomed into the day by the warm glow of candlelight.

I have several small tea light votives sprinkled around my library - their small flames remind me of watching fireflies in my backyard when I was little. It's all very peaceful,...almost magical. And when I combine the comfort of being curled up in my reading chair with the joy of sitting among my favorite books, illuminated by the glow of the fireflies, is it any wonder my coffee tastes better?

The scene I have set is a perfect way to start my day. I've been enjoying it for the past hour (or more...). I know the sun will soon be up and peeking through the front window. I'm going to hang on to the last few moments I have here before the clock reminds me it's time to get ready for work.

The only thing out of place, right now, the glow of this laptop. I'll shut it down now, I just wanted to take a moment out of my magic to share it with you.

Good morning...

Monday, October 14, 2013

"They should tell you when you're born: 
have a suitcase heart, be ready to travel."

~ Gabrielle Zevin

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Another Year Older

Yes, that's right,...I had a birthday this past week. I'm not one of those people who dreads my birthday, but I'm also not one who really makes a big deal about it. It's another year, and I know each year is what I make it. What does continue to amaze me is how quickly the time goes by the older I get, and...I wish it would slow down.

You see, I realize that if the next forty-eight years of my life go by as quickly as the first ones have, there's a good chance I won't be around for much longer. I also realize that, aside from biology, I am only a mixture of my experiences. The things I think and feel will all pass away when I do. The things I worry about now, and sometimes lose sleep over, won't matter anymore. I won't matter anymore.

It's something to think about. I don't mean it in a depressing, sad way. I just mean it in an honest way, as a way of keeping myself in check as I go through life.

I suppose that is why I treasure every moment and soak up my surroundings. It's why I love to travel and experience things and always want to linger in a moment longer than most people. I am always aware that, even if you try to recreate it, you can never experience the same moment twice. Once it has gone, it's gone. Forever.

Knowing I'll never experience the same moment twice is also why I love the way I love. If I truly love you, you know it. If I don't, well, know that, too,...and not because I would ever intentionally be mean to someone. It isn't in the things I say, it's in the things I don't say. The people who know me best know this about me. I don't say things I don't mean, don't give cards that declare things I don't really feel, and don't tell you I love you (or like you) if I don't. Life is too short for shallow words and lukewarm sentiments, don't you think?

So, here I am - another year older. The thing is,...I'm not sure I'm any wiser. I still tend to make the same mistakes, even when I'm aware enough to know it's a mistake before I do it. I still say more than I should (a problem I've had my entire life), and the one who is bothered most by all that I me. I love too openly and with my whole heart, which only makes it easier for others to hurt me.

I've given that last one some thought, though, and decided I wouldn't change that part of me, even if I could. If I hardened my heart to protect it, I would be the one burdened with the weight of it inside of me...and that would never do.


Maybe,...I've gained more wisdom in the last year than I thought...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Cure for What Ails Me

I've been a bit "under the weather" the past couple of days, and it doesn't suit me at all. I've always said I'm far too busy to get sick. I have too much to do. Truth be told, I've always been very blessed with good health. I very seldom ever get sick, I don't have allergies, and I don't have migraines. Like I said, I know I'm blessed.

I was supposed to go to work today. It's the end of the six week grading period, and I sure could use some extra time in my classroom over the weekend. I was determined to go, no matter how I felt...but something held me back. I just didn't feel quite right and, sometimes, I really do listen to what my body is trying to tell me - especially when I feel like it's threatening me that if I don't slow down a little now, it will make me slow down much more later!

After taking a shower and actually getting dressed to go to work, I had a change of heart and gave in to my instincts. In hopes of a quick recovery, I decided to prescribe myself a day off from everything. I took off my 'work in my classroom clothes' and changed into a fresh set of my favorite pajamas (purple ones with Snoopy on them) and decided I wouldn't leave the house except to enjoy my patio and the nice autumn weather.

It turns out I made a good choice.

I spent most of the day curled up in my favorite reading chair and read a good book. I found myself smiling and nodding as I read. Some of the passages were delicious enough that I read them aloud. I lost myself inside another world and found that it took my mind off my body's aches and pains. My body rested while my mind constructed its own movie in my head.

I sat out on my patio for a bit with my blanket and drank coffee. Later, I enjoyed some hot tea from my favorite tea cup, which made me smile to look at it. My sister-in-law gave it to me years ago. It is delicate and precious to me. It makes me feel special when I hold it, and it makes me think of good times I've spent with my brother and sister-in-law.

For lunch, I enjoyed an old, familiar food I seldom ever allow myself anymore - macaroni and cheese - which reminds me of my baby girl (the one who's in the Navy now). It's one of her favorites. I could hear her in my head,"Mom, can we get the GOOD kind? You know, the one with the REAL Velveeta cheese and not the powder kind." She's right, it IS the good kind! The mac and cheese was warm and comforting, reminding me of two childhoods - my daughter's and my own.

All in all, it was a wonderful day...even though I wasn't feeling my best. Taking time for myself and letting the world pass me by for one day was exactly what I needed. Even now, I sit in my favorite reading chair looking out the window while the rain comes down. I still don't feel quite like myself, but I feel better than I did this morning.

Hot beverages, warm memories, and a good book make a perfect combination and provide a pleasant cure for what ails me.

(And, now, it's time to take another dose...)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Heart Work

It isn't easy being a parent. In fact, it's really a great deal of heart work. No, that isn't a typo - I meant "heart work" and not "hard work," but there is that, too. While I won't get into the discussion about who is easier or more difficult to raise when it comes to gender, I will say that no matter whether you're raising boys or girls or both, the older they get - the more heart work it becomes.

I have to laugh when young parents think that the most difficult part is getting through "terrible twos" or the pre-teen stages. As a parent of grown children, I know that the roughest road is still ahead of them. It's easy when they are at an age where you can shelter them, protect them, guide them, and know where they are every minute of the day. The difficult part comes when they get older, and you know you can't "fix the world" for them anymore.

I can distinctly remember the times when my grown daughters have had the harsh realities of life hit them in the face. I know the times they've found out the world outside our home, our neighborhood, and our small town...isn't always a nice place to be. Our girls were raised to greet the world with a smile and, generally speaking, the world should smile back. Most of the time, it does. When this doesn't happen, and one of my girls gets hurt, I want to punch someone in the face and...possibly run someone over with a car. This is a natural reaction for a mother, in my opinion, - at least, it is where I come from.

When I decided to have children, I always knew raising them to be good people would be the easier part. Helping them understand the rest of the world hasn't always been raised the same way they were...would be the most difficult part. Even more difficult would be having to watch them go through their own struggles and fight their own battles, while I'm sitting on the sidelines trying to resist the urge to punch someone in the face or run them over with a car. (Are you sensing a theme here?)

I find myself at an awkward place in life these days. My daughters sometimes share their problems with me, and it takes the strength of ten men to keep me from trying to fix their problems for them. When someone is rude to my oldest child at her work, I want to punch that person's face in. If someone makes an inappropriate comment to my middle daughter when she's working out at the gym, I want to kick that guy where he'll sing a few octaves higher in the shower. And, when two jerks shock my baby girl by saying something crude and crass to her while she is in her military uniform on a military base, I want to strip off the uniform they "serve" under and run those guys over with a car NOW!

Yes, being a parent isn't easy. It's heart work.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A New Genre in Books?

You know, I debated about whether I should give a review on the book I just finished. I'm still not sure whether I should or not, goes.

I've always said I'm not a book snob, but I must admit there are some books that just aren't my cup of tea. I don't think that's being a snob, though, I just think we all like something different. Keeping in mind this book wasn't really my genre, I will try to give a fair and impartial review.

I read Luanne Rice's book Summer Light because one of my friends chose it for book club. She purposely chose an easy read because she had read it over the summer. She also said she liked it because it is set in several places that she was able to travel to on vacation. There is also good descriptions of the great outdoors in the book, and my friend loves nature and being outdoors.

As for me, well, it was something easy to read to help change the channel in my head from thinking about work too much. The story wasn't believable at all, but that's OK. You know the type, woman with a small child who has never been married herself - never could find the right man...and the jerk who is the absent father was, of course, married to someone else at the time of their affair and she didn't know it,...of course. Well, this single mom owns a successful wedding planner business (complete with old country house and adorable barn) and one day finds herself on an airplane taking her child to a psychologist and, wouldn't you know it, there just happens to be a professional hockey team on the plane. The woman's daughter is drawn to one of the hockey players and says there is an angel flying around his head. She also believes the man is supposed to be her new daddy. (Now you know why the child is on her way to the psychologist.)

Long story short, the child predicts the plane will crash, tells the man to please save her and her mommy when that happens. The plane has to crash land, and hockey-man heroically scoops up the woman and her child and saves the day! Ah, and another love story begins...

Now, I don't have to tell you they end up together - you know they do. In fact, you know it in the first few pages. I'm not giving anything away. You learn a great deal in the first chapter, which makes me ask...why write the story? There were no surprises, you know how it's going to end at the beginning. Is it fun to go through the details of their relationship and read about them making the same stupid mistakes all the rest of us make - except they get to do it with lots of money, three homes, and a sports car? No, not particularly,...but it was something to read instead of focusing on work. It was a brain vacation.

Remember when I said I wasn't a book snob? Well, honestly, I'm not. I do, however, have a new genre code for books I know I don't want to read. I call it the "Lifetime Movie Network Genre." In other words, if the author has had one of their novels made into a movie for LMN, it is definitely not my kind of book. As you might guess, I am not a fan of LMN.  I actually checked on the author after I read the book. Luanne Rice? Yep, she's a Lifetime Movie Network gal. Not my genre.

If it IS your type of genre, perhaps this author's books are for you...or maybe the mini-series version?

I consider the yellow sticker
a warning label. ;)
Hey, this one has Rob Lowe!

As for me? I'm currently almost halfway through a pretty decent middle school novel about a present-day teenage girl who comes across an old ghost in a cemetery in New Orleans. It seems there was a murder back in the 1800s and, because it was unsolved, the ghost can't find peace. It was a slow start, but it's getting to the good part now. I can't wait to find out what happens next! See y'all later...

Happy Reading! :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cryptic Messages?

I have noticed there is a group of people turning up their noses to cryptic messages people like to post on Facebook.

While I notice most of the complainers mention people who usually post cryptic messages when they're angry at someone, and they claim it is because the people have a passive-aggressive nature, the truth is...cryptic messages serve many more purposes than expressing anger. Just like everything else in life, some people do things for the wrong reasons...and do them badly. To say that all people who enjoy cryptic messages are passive-aggressive and spend "11 hours on Facebook" is a bad generalization.

Please allow me to explain...

Facebook is a great place to say what you think and, while I don't always agree with what my friends post sometimes, I certainly don't complain about it. After all, if they're posting on their own site, who am I to complain about what they post? If I don't like it, I can just ignore it and move on. No big deal. If my friends "live" on Facebook and the posts get overwhelming, I block it from my newsfeed. I still love my friend, I just need to take their small doses. It's an easy fix. I am not the Facebook police, and I am not a therapist.

This is how I see it...

If a person posts a cryptic message, and they're good at it, their intended target will pick up on it every time. If it isn't for me, why do I care what the message is? I'm not going to lose any sleep, or any of my time, trying to figure out a message that - obviously - wasn't intended for me anyway. When I see one, I just smile and know that someone - somewhere - is getting the message. Sometimes it's a message they like, other times...maybe not so much - those are the ones you see and go, "Ouch, I don't know who he/she is talking about,...but I'm glad it's not me."

I should mention the kind of cryptic messages that aren't "angry" ones. Sometimes it's a quote from a teacher/coach that only your old high school buddies will understand. It might be a movie quote that just a small group of your friends understand a funny incident that happened at that movie, at that moment, when you were all out together. If you're a teacher, like me, it might be a post that only someone who teaches could ever understand the true meaning. On rare occasions, it might even be a message you would post that only one person remembers a specific moment in time when those words were said or were important to you. See? It's not all anger management/passive-aggressive issues.

So, while I think we all have a right to our opinion, I think people who complain about cryptic messages should quit telling people to "get a life" and get a life of their own. Seriously. Why do they care what the message means? Don't they have something else to focus on? If the person wanted you to know the meaning behind it, you would.

Do I like to post cryptic messages from time to time?

Yes, I do. In fact, I find it fun to play with words and get responses from the people who know exactly what I mean. I also love to post messages with double meanings. I will say, though, that I don't usually post those messages because I'm angry or need to get something off my chest. I do them for fun.  I also don't do it to get attention from other people asking me what I mean. My intended audience always knows what I mean.

You know, it kind of reminds me of an incident in my past (LONG before Facebook)...

Once upon a long time ago, my dad happened to walk in to the same cafe where I sat eating lunch with some coworkers. He knew the owner and workers in the cafe, so he waved and said hello when he came in. Dad came over to our table, and I introduced him to the other ladies. He was courteous to everyone, but after a few minutes he turned to me directly and said something. I don't even remember now what it was, but it was something he was saying to just me, while the other ladies were talking to each other.

At the end of what he said, one of the ladies happen to catch that he was speaking to me. She looked over at him, almost expectantly, thinking he would repeat what he had said when she wasn't paying attention. She raised her eyebrows to him, as the other ladies finished talking, and everyone looked at the two of us. I noticed it, but my dad was still looking at me. He then turned to face the women at the table as one said, "I'm sorry, I didn't hear what you were saying to her. You were mumbling too low." My dad looked her straight in the eye and said, "I wasn't mumbling, I was speaking to my daughter. If I had wanted you to understand what I was saying, you would have." My dad then smiled, told us all to have a good day, winked at me and walked away.

Now, you could argue that it isn't the same thing, but I think it is. Other people could see my dad and hear my dad, they just didn't know what he was saying to me. The "messages" he gave when he walked in the cafe varied: one was for a large group (the cafe crowd he knew), one was for a smaller group (the ladies at my table), and one was for just me. We were all in a public place together, but each "message" was intended for different people.

So, here's my advice for people who complain about cryptic messages... 

Next time you see a cryptic message that you don't get, just leave well enough alone. If the writer wanted you to understand it, you would have. If you have a passive-aggressive friend who uses cryptic messages to get attention and it gets on your nerves, block them from your newsfeed.

Here's another thought...

Maybe you should get some friends who are a little more mentally and emotionally balanced. Find some people who are intelligent and well-read enough to know how to play with words and have fun with them or who understand all the same references to novels, movies, and song lyrics. If you do that, you can all join in on the fun! ;)

And, now, it's only fitting I leave you with a cryptic message of my own...

"There's no word like the name that I call you."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Texas Girls

You could tell my children were raised in Texas when... a sea of long, black, Navy-issued overcoats, I noticed my daughter, Cynthia, was the only sailor on the military base not wearing a coat with her short-sleeved uniform on a chilly Chicago morning. 

...much later that same evening, my other daughter, Katie, stepped out of the airport - after just flying back home from Chicago - and in to the Texas heat and said, "Give me the sun, give me the heat, I just want to sweat! I think maybe I'll layout when we get home. I need my vitamin D." 

Did I mention is was 7 p.m.? Katie didn't like the "cold" of Chicago - you know, temps of 56 - 70 degrees. Lol...

Oh, and Katie's Facebook post coming home from the airport last night? 

"Sun beatin' down, hair pulled up, face a little flushed, just jammin' out to some country music in the Jeep on my way home...yeah it's good to be back in the BEAUTIFUL state of Texas!!! God bless it!!!"

Yes, my girls may have been born in North Carolina, but...

                                          you can definitely tell they were raised on Texas sunshine! :)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Lighter Side of Things

My first day back at work, after the three-day Labor Day Weekend, a friend of mine (and fellow teacher), Paul, asked me if I had enjoyed the days off. I had to laugh a little and told him I had worked in my classroom one day and took stuff home to work on for the next two days after that. Such is the life of a middle school teacher after the first week of school.

Paul smiled at me and said, "Well, I'm sure you were able to enjoy some reading time, though." I was sad to report that, no, I had not found time for that. Knowing what a read-a-holic I am, Paul couldn't believe it. "Well, that's too bad," he said, sounding as disappointed as I felt. 

While it was a casual conversation between us, the look on Paul's face and the tone in his voice stuck with me. My friends know how much reading means to me and how much I enjoy it. I had promised myself that I would not allow work to take so much from me that I put aside my pleasure reading. I had been reading that weekend, but it was textbooks and school lesson planning stuff. Necessary? Yes. Informative? Most of it. Pleasurable? Not so much. School had only been back in full swing one week, and I was already setting aside one of the things I enjoy the most!

I made a commitment to myself that day. I wouldn't give up my pleasure reading, no matter how busy and overwhelming my job gets. It's taking the time to enjoy my reading that refreshes me and allows me to do my job better. Like my own students, I don't like reading something that doesn't interest me - that's a "have to" kind of thing - but I do it. I can't let those kinds of books run me off - or run out all of my 'free' time - when it comes to reading what I want. 

During the summer, when I'm on break from work, I read to engage my mind. I love to research and energize my brain cells. With school back in session, my brain already gets quite the work-out between studying, lesson planning, attending meetings, grading papers, and going to workshops. What my brain needs during this time of year is something...a little on the lighter side. I need something that gives my working brain a vacation, gives me something to laugh about, sigh about, or smirk at the irony of it all.

I'm currently reading something that just about fits that description. There are days that are just...well,...way too busy, but I am committed to fitting in thirty minutes a day of enjoyable reading - no matter what. I usually take this time first thing in the early morning. I also usually find I go over the thirty minutes. Most of the time, I find myself smiling as I close the book. There was one morning when it actually made me cry, but it was a good cry. I needed it to wash my tired eyes from too many long days at work and too much time spent staring at a computer. 

The moral to this story?

Never get so busy with something that you can't find the time to pleasure read. 

In fact, the more life overwhelms us, the more time we should spend reading. We all need a break now and then. We all need to read something that makes us believe in love at first sight or magic spells or time travel...even if it's just for a little while...even if it's only for thirty minutes a day. We need to remember that the heavier life gets, the more we need to read and lighten it up! 

Happy Reading! :)