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! :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

My Addiction

I am addicted to books. Seriously. And one of the worst things an addict, like myself, can go to a bookstore. I don't think I've ever left a bookstore without buying a book,...and it's usually more than one. I don't buy one "lightly" either. I don't buy...just to buy. It might take me an hour or more to decide on "just the right one" or to collect a few and then decide which ones I think are best.

I'm not complaining about my addiction, mind you, I'm just stating my case. I'm stating my case because yesterday I did something I thought was impossible...

I had plans to meet up with friends, but when my friends said we should all meet at this big, beautiful bookstore, my first words were, "Now, y'all know I can't go in there. You KNOW what's going to happen. I'm going to HAVE to buy some books." They just laughed at me and told me I'd be fine. They know me better than that - I was not going to be fine. We were going to meet at a BOOKSTORE.

I think bookstores are so beautiful. It doesn't matter what kind they are, I love them all. I love old antique bookshops, second-hand bookstores, children's bookstores, and little market square booths of books. They are precious, wonderful, magical places.

When I entered this particular bookstore yesterday, I was met with two floor levels of books. I had to pause and just...take in the full presentation of books. I could see both levels of the store from the front door. I had to breathe in deeply - nothing else smells like a bookstore. I got the biggest grin on my face. Then, the madness began...

I'm going to allow you a rare look inside the head of an addict:

Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh. I LOVE this place! Bargains, bargains, bargains. Where are the bargain shelves? Gotta check those first. Let's find those hidden treasures other people overlook...


No surprise there, right?! Dang, I'm good! 

Oops, there's another. Let me see...don't know the author, but...(reading the summary)....sounds good. Nice set-up. No praise quotes from the ignorant magazine book reviewers...that's a good sign....yep, it's a keeper.

Now, let's find the speciality tables that are set up for browsing: New Fiction, New in Paperback, Classics, Seasonal, Readers Recommend, New Authors, Staff Recommends,...oh, goodness, it's delightful!

OK,...OK,OK,OK...I have two books. Yes, I know I don't need them - but I really DO. Ooooh, this one looks interesting! Kim, you do NOT need another book. You have PLENTY at home to satisfy your need to read....WAIT - I don't have THIS one. Ooooh, and the summary looks really good! Whose the....ah, yes, who told me about this one? Said it was a must read! OK, I'll put back the other two and just get this one,...but the price on the others are bargains and they look like GREAT reads - how can I pass THAT up? Obviously, this store is aware of my particular addiction, and they enjoy tempting and teasing me. I'm sure of it! I want almost everything I see! Crap, there's the new Hosseini book I MEANT to read over the summer! I forgot about that one...

The school year just started, HOW I am going to read them ALL?!?!

(Deep breath)



I can't. I can't read them all...right now. I'm turning into Burgess Meredith from an old Twilight Zone episode. Breathe, Kim, breathe. Pace yourself. Think this through.

Now, normally, I don't try to resist. I do try to budget, but I'm never happy leaving a bookstore empty-handed. Oddly enough, something in me decided it was time to fight my addiction. It was getting a bit out of hand.

How did I do it?

I began to think of all the wonderful books I have at home that have been on a long waiting list to be read. I thought about how many times I put another book, a recent purchase, in front of a book I had owned awhile. I thought of Patrick Rothfuss. I remembered how long I'd owned his book before I opened it up and found the wonderful world he'd created in The Name of the Wind. It sat on my shelf far too long before I gave it the time it deserved. I had ignored it for lesser books.

I have many wonderful books at home that deserve to be read.

I decided to walk around the bookstore and enjoy the atmosphere. I walked around every part of it, and I really enjoyed watching other people find books they wanted. I loved looking at the displays and browsing bookmarkers, magnetic quotes, and beautiful journals.

In the end, I put back the two books I had picked up. I did note them on my phone for something I might like to purchase and read at a later date. I smiled a sad smile at the two books as I placed them back on their proper shelf.  I had given them false hope by carrying them around. I felt I was abandoning them when they begged to be read. I knew, though, someone else would discover them. I was happy to see so many people in a bookstore on a Sunday afternoon. I felt sure those books would find a good home with another bibliophile.

Now, did I conquer my addiction? I did for this one day. I take some satisfaction in that. I also take satisfaction in knowing that it gave me a renewed appreciation for my own personal little bookshop at home. :)

Happy Reading!

If you've never had the great pleasure of seeing this Twilight Zone episode, here's your link:

I am very thankful my older brothers raised me right. While I was not born when this Twilight Zone episode originally aired in 1959, I have seen it (and appreciated it) many times over thanks to my big brothers. I also have them to thank for exposing me to other fabulous shows such as Night Gallery, Alfred Hitchcock, Star Trek, Hogan's Heroes, M.A.S.H., and Saturday Night Live. :)