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!