Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Reading Life: The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars (Schmidt) was not on my to-read shelves. In fact, it wasn't even on any shelf. Rather, it was on someone PaperBackSwappers shelf before mine. I do wish I could remember what rabbit trail I followed that caused me to end up with the book. Especially now when I've been in a half-a-year-long book cull-and-purge. But it made it onto the shelves very recently. 

The lure of the juvenile fiction book was that it involved Shakespeare, seventh grade, and school. This combination piqued my curiosity. Even for an adult, The Wednesday Wars is humorous, sometimes downright laugh-out-loud funny. 

The setting is Long Island, New York during the late 1960's. I could relate because I was in the seventh grade in 1968, but our whole school set up was different. I smiled my way through this book as class assignments were given; if only my schooling had been half as good as the protagonist's. How I wished I had had a Mrs. Baker in my life. The Wednesday Wars is also a coming-of-age book, a second one in a row that I've read, and set in New York, too. 

If you know no Shakespeare, some of the humor will be lost on you. But even if you know a bit, you will appreciate how lines written in the sixteenth century are quickened and applicable in the twenty-first century. Reading this book stirred me again to strive to read through the plays I've already read again, and to add the others to the to-read list. 

The writing is well done, too. I like good description. Here's an example: 
I walked home under gray clouds whose undersides had been shredded. (Can't you just see that?) They hung in tatters, and a cold mist leaked out of them. The cold got colder, and the mist got mistier all through the afternoon, so that by suppertime a drizzle was making everything wet and everyone miserable -- especially m y sister, who believed that she had hair that belonged in southern California, where it would be springy and bouncy all the time, instead of in gray, cold, misty Long Island, where it just hung.

As always, I get author-curious after reading a good book. And after reading bio sketches about Gary Schmidt here and here, I really wish I had had him as a teacher.

If you have middle schoolers, convince them to read this book! And if you are like me, and like an interesting juvenile fiction once in a while, tolle lege!

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Reading Life: Or Give Me Death

Or Give Me Death was my first Ann Rinaldi, and I have several more of her books that I look forward to reading. I'm always a little skeptical about reading juvenile fiction -- historical or otherwise -- at this stage of my life, but this was an engaging read.

Rinaldi is a self-made writer, groomed for that position with years of reading and writing in her job as a newspaper columnist. Her interest in historical fiction was fed from the urging of her son and her subsequent participation in his various interests in historical reenactments. All combined together was fodder for her pursuit into juvenile / young adult historical fiction.

Or Give Me Death,  a story of Patrick Henry's family was unknown to me, and I found myself thinking about it at times when I wasn't reading it. That's always a good sign that the book has grabbed me. Even though the story was engaging, it was sad, a sadness that hangs like a cloud of poison gas around a family trying to do the best they knew how during a challenging time in American history. Rinaldi explains in the afterward which parts are true and which parts she fictionalized for the sake of the story. This helped to clarify the history for me. I'm glad I read the afterward first and then again at the end of the book.

I have several other Rinaldi books to read, ones that I had stocked my classroom library with but came home with me when I did. After I finish them all, they will go onto a homeschooling sale board to move on to another's shelves, but Rinaldi's evident skills as a wordsmith will remain in high regard with me.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Catching a curve ball

Why I chose this post title, I don't know. It just floated into my mind. And it seemed to fit. Here's how:  For the past several years, I've rubbed shoulders with the title of the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I had several students ask me if I'd read it and push it on me, because I hadn't. Although the title was familiar from long ago, I'm sure I'd never read it. But I recently put it on my want-to-read list and requested it from PaperBackSwap. When it became available and arrived, I shelved it with all the other recently received PBS books waiting to be ordered onto my bookshelves.

After finishing a planned book, I decided to start A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, even though it wasn't on my list yet. I can get a little OCD about doing things out of order. The first night I was tired and only read about fifteen pages. It was ho-hum, nothing grabbed me and told me this was as good of a book as everyone lets on. Sunday afternoon, I picked it up again for a few more pages to see if maybe there was a yes-I've-got-to-read-this-book sign. Nope. But I did finish a couple of pages before naptime overcame me, and I was up to the beginning of chapter two. Picking it up again later that night, I silently told myself that if I wasn't grabbed after this nightly dose, back on the shelf it goes. I had far more books I knew were waiting, and I couldn't afford a time-waster, even if I do have a 50-page rule. (The 50-page rule is to try my best to get through fifty pages, and if nothing grabs me to finish, I give myself permission to put the book aside.)

Well, here was the curve ball. An unlikely throw that not only grabbed me but knocked it out of the park for me. If you've never read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, bear with me and read all of this quote, delighting in the words and thoughts:

"The library was a little old shabby place. Francie thought is was beautiful. The feeling she had about it was as good as the feeling she had about church. She pushed open the door and went in. She liked the combined snell of worn leather bindings, library paste and freshly-inked stamping pads better than she like the smell of burning incense at high mass.

"Francie thought that all the books in the world were in that library and she had a plan about reading all the books in the world. She was reading a book a day in alphabetical order and not skipping the dry ones. She remembered that the first author had been Abbot. She had been reading a book a day for a long time now and she was still in the B's. Already she had read about bees, and buffaloes, Bermuda vacations and Byzantine architecture. For all of her enthusiasm, she had to admit that some of the B's had been hard going. But Francie was a reader. She read everything she could find: trash, classics, time tables and the grocer's price list. Some of the reading had been wonderful; the Louisa Alcott books for example. She planned to read all the books over again when she had finished with the Z's."

Now, that grabbed me! As I read those words, my mind pictured my own little hometown library inside the noisy old building of hardwood floors that resounded with amplified bouncing basketballs every time you entered. But once you turned the large brass doorknob on the old half-glassed door and pushed it open, you entered into a different world. A quiet world, save the creaky floorboards as you walked in. Closing the door quietly, and almost tip-toeing in if you were wearing hard shoes (which all of us did back then and in the day when libraries encouraged quiet), you entered the juvenile fiction section of the library. I distinctly remember this was where all the Little House books were. This short entry hall led to the library's main desk. It was set up high and unreachable for anyone in early elementary grades. I remember those smells too. And they were lovely and comforting smells. The children's section was small and crammed up close to the library desk and divided from a couple of tables, the card catalog, and the rest of the library by a half-sized bookshelf. This library was not one that offered comfortable chairs to read in. It was one where you came, did your business, and left. Maybe all libraries were like that back in the 60s, but this is the only one I was ever in then.

I loved being in this place of solace. I liked one of the librarians too. She was an older lady; of course, she was probably the age I am now. She was kind and helpful, but not overpowering so. Yet, she didn't offer guidance with books and show me ones that she thought I'd enjoy. I guess she thought I didn't need help. But she was wrong. I did need help because, as many of you know, I did not grow up a reader with books in the house. And my school did not encourage reading. Or even require reading. I didn't know one book or author from another. But I loved books. And libraries that smelled rich with wood and book-smell. I wanted to read those books. I wanted to be like Francie.

It would take me years to become her though. It would take having my own children to become her. And then, I became that librarian-who-pushed-books-on-people.

So, I've caught that unlikely and unexpected curve ball thrown by Betty Smith. Yes, Francie, I'm going to read all about your next few years of life. And I think A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is going to be one of those books that leaves me forlorn when I finish the last page. I don't relish that feeling. It is bittersweet: glad to have completed the book but sad to bury the character lives in the past.

Saturday, February 08, 2014


Sarum. Edward Rutherfurd. What a book. What a tome. No doubt it took Rutherfurd less time to write these almost nine hundred pages than it took me to read them. (Actually, it took him three and a half years to write it.)
When I think back on my days with Sarum, I remember opening that heavy book every evening in bed and carefully balancing it for some time of reading. Often, I would sigh as I got the book into place. Sigh because of the long journey with the story and the story of stories, and the characters and the relationships of the characters throughout its 10,000 year scope. But then, as I began my reading ritual that always enabled me to fall asleep easily when the book was closed, the sigh faded, and I became absorbed in the story. 
And now that the story is done, I wander almost aimlessly lost in body and soul. Isn't that how it is when you finish an absorbing book? Its stories follow you around like a shadow throughout the day until your next new story begins. 

I'll tell you how this book ended up on my shelves. Back in late 2011 or early 2012, we began to plan a trip to the United Kingdom. If I can, I always like to read something ahead of time about wherever we travel. And about this time, a long-distance friend had recorded that she had read New York by Edward Rutherfurd. Inquisitive as I am about other people's reads, I looked it up, being unfamiliar with the author. I wasn't interested at all in reading about New York, but he had written two that caught my eye: Sarum and London. Just perfect timing for our trip! I ordered nice, used hardback copies of these and began Sarum first. 
I was teaching at the time and couldn't hold my eyes open long at all at bedtime, but I did manage to get a third of the way through the book. I liked it. I learned. The characters intrigued me. But I knew I would not be able to finish it before the trip. And since I was dragging through it anyway, I decided to lay it down for a while. That "while" lasted almost three years until I determined to pick it back up in early January. I was surprised at the progress I made this time, especially since I am not a really fast reader. But I am persistent. And besides, now that I'm not teaching, I can read as long as I want at night.

In many ways, I'm saddened that I did not finish this before our trip in 2012 because we were there. We were right there. At least I had read, before the trip, the part about the perceived building of Stonehenge because we marveled at it and one of the outcrop areas in southwest Wales from which those bluestones were taken and dragged almost two hundred miles.
Bluestone cairns in Pembrokeshire, Wales

 The land between Stonehenge and Salisbury

Stonehenge is such a beautiful site. 
Peaceful. Still.
Silent except for murmurs from visitors and caws from the ravens who like to sit on the stones.

 We entered the Close in Salisbury through St. John's Gate. 

 I'm so glad I took a gazillion pictures and that some of them were of the models. Now I can look back at them and understand more of the building descriptions in the book.

The cloister was always described as a place of quiet walk in Sarum. It is beautiful, but it wasn't too quiet on our visit with the multitude of people.

Rutherfurd has a way of introducing many new characters with each new time period but all of these people have attachments, usually relatives, from the previous period. Even so, Rutherfurd draws you in through his writing to make you want to know these new people. The ancestry tree in the beginning of the book helped to keep them all straight, for the most part. 

I'll never brush over a last name of "Mason" again without remembering all the Masons in the book. Or Shockleys. Or Forests. And I looked up more medieval English vocabulary dealing with taxes and landholding than I'll ever remember or recognize again . . . escheat, scutge, tallage, virgate.

Throughout the many years described in building the cathedral, Rutherfurd helped me to have a better understanding and appreciation of its construction, and particularly, of the carvings. 

Someone described Rutherfurd using his characters more as "placeholders in history" to build the historical context. Yes, he does. But he does it so effectively. His narrative might tend to get long, maybe even border on tedious at times, but by doing so, he drops his reader right in the middle of the stone dust from cathedral carvings. I like a book which makes me part of the story, even when I'm laying in my bed five thousand, five hundred, or fifty years later than the depicted event. At one place in the narrative, Rutherfurd describes political life in medieval Europe, and by doing so, really describes how the book is written: 
. . . the kingdom and provinces of Europe in which the merchants operated remained related to each other by family ties. the ties were endless. They crossed the continent like huge and intricate spiders' webs; and the shifting family ambitions and alliances of the rulers frequently overrode all considerations of peace, prosperity, or even common sense.
 Some new vocabulary and phrases to me:
hirsute = hairy
vexillology = the study of flags
schnorer = one who wheedles others into supplying his wants
 torpor = the state of dullness in body and spirit
"Plenty of wealth but no money"
"He had not met the term before" as describing a new word
"He crossed the sky of England's history like a meteor."

On Rutherfurd's website is an interview with him in which he garnered even more of my respect:
[M]y books contain both fiction and non-fiction. I think they're an easy way to learn history. But above all, I try to tell gripping stories that move along with pace. It's the storyline that excites me, the art of telling a tale. . . . I believe I've some ability to absorb complex information and retell it in a compelling way. I'd like to think I might have made a good schoolteacher.

. . .The books also popularize history; and I believe that a knowledge of history is one of the most important things any citizen can possess. 
 Before I ever begin reading a book, I have a habit of reading the back cover first, any end acknowledgements, and then the jacket flaps. I'm sure I did that months ago when I first began the book but had long sense forgotten. And when I end a long book, I repeat the process ending at the front cover. This time I paused and smiled as I read the jacket flap information about Edward Rutherfurd. He was born and raised in Sarum. Well, now, how appropriate! No wonder he could write with such description. And he wrote the book in 1987, just a couple of years after the ending date of the narrative which concentrates on raising funds to stabilize the cathedral spire, the tallest in the United Kingdom. The work on the spire began in 1986 just as described in the book. Nothing is said whether or not this book helped provide some funding for restoration. The timing, though, was perfect.

On an almost sidenote, I was reading The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts (Bond) during part of this time. Watts lived in and around Southampton, but I'd not bothered to look this up on the map. I finished this book the same day I finished Sarum, otherwise I'm not sure my small mind would have made the connection, but toward the end of Watts, there was mention of New Forest which I recognized from Sarum. At once, I checked, and yes, New Forest is the short distance between Salisbury and Southampton. My inner being jumps with delight when connections like this are made. 

At some point in the future, I plan to embark on Rutherford's London. And I'm sure I'll need to return to England when it's done and visit anew and again all these places which have made such vivid impressions on me. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It really does work!

I'd seen the pictures. And read the procedure. I just found it hard to believe that you could clean silver so easily and without harsh chemicals.

But, it's true!

The pictures don't lie. While I think I need to do this a second time to get the little remaining tarnish, I'm satisfied with it right now. 

  Start by putting some aluminum foil into a dishpan. The foil will need to come into contact with the tarnished silver you put in.
This is the tarnished silverplate tea pot.

  Pour 1 cup baking soda into the foil.
Place your silver item into the foil.
Pour 1 gallon boiling water over it all. This will bubble.
 The tarnish leaves immediately. 
Turn your item over.
If heavily tarnished, you may need to repeat the process. 

 Voila! Much cleaner!

Friday, January 03, 2014


This is my chair companion, Meagie.
Odd title for a post, don't you think?

But not as odd as seeing it in my bedtime reading last night, and then reading it again today. Twice in less than twenty-four hours. 

I smile at these harmonic convergences when they happen!

Ageism:  discrimination of person's of a certain age group.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2014: The Year of Three Months

Since June, I have almost rushed toward this day. 

My neglect of intentional reading because of work frustrated me and stole joy. But I just couldn't drop everything and begin it. So I gave myself until January 1 to declutter, reorganize, clean, and gift-or-throw-out so I could begin this year with some semblance of order and focus. 

No, I've not finished those tasks, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I see hope! 

Even as I culled more books to move on to someone else's shelves during the last few weeks of December, I made certain resolve to think about what I wanted to read this year. Without that list (which I do retain the right to change!), I would wander through this and that book and neglect intentionality. 

I plan on reading through the Bible again this year and trying the 90-day read. IF, and that's a big IF, I can do it (well, of course I CAN), or maybe I should say if I will be diligent to attend to the plan, I will be able to go through the Bible four times in the year. :) I always do this in the mornings and include a short almanac or 5 Minute reading, and read a bit out of something spiritual. 

This year, I hope to add a reading time at lunch, too, and read about Iceland for our upcoming trip, and add some kid-history books before moving those on to someone else.

The bulk of reading will come at bedtime, and I really want to finish Sarum. I got about halfway through those thousand pages in 2012 before laying it aside for a while. 

I'm sure there will be some no-go books resulting in some changes in choices. So, here's the plan for the winter months!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Books

As I've said recently, this past year was challenging. And the challenge was reflected in the few books I read. When June hit, all I felt like I could read was fiction, and fiction it was for the rest of the year with the goal of recapturing my pursuit of intentional reading for 2014.

The Adventures of Charley Darwin (Meyer)
King Arthur and His Knights of the Roundtable (Green)
The Cobra Event (Preston)
Ireland ( Delaney)
All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque)
1066 (Howarth)
The Inferno of Dante (tr. Pinsky)
The Last Man (Flynn)
Beach House Memories (Monroe)
The Last Refuge (Coes)
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Butterfield)
Such Thy Mercies (Buckalew)
The Demon in the Freezer (Preston)
The First Commandment (Thor)
The Alpine Path (Montgomery)
Dead Heat (Rosenberg)
Uncle Tungsten (Sacks)
Words By Heart (Sebestyen)
Andy Catlett (Berry)
Triptych (Slaughter)
Fractured (Slaughter)
Criminal (Slaughter)
Unseen (Slaughter)
Undone (Slaughter)
Broken (Slaughter)
Fallen (Slaughter)
Blindsighted (Slaughter)
My Reading Life (Conroy)

Those bold-faced titles proved to be my favorites. Un-highlighted, but favorites indeed, were all the Karin Slaughter books which had story hooks big enough to keep me up way into many nights.

The last book of the year was my only audio, My Reading Life which was fabulous. I think listening to it was my key to loving it. In fact, I loved it enough to find a bookstore and buy it while I was listening to it on a roadtrip. I plan to go back through it to copy a lot of quotes and a lot of new words. This book was just what I needed to stir that intentional reading pursuit in me.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Notes, notebooks, and planning

2013 is grinding to a halt. Or maybe I should say it is a fast-moving train plowing into 2014.

I'm not one that tends to think a lot about the past; rather, I'm one to think forward. So, January 1 has been on my watch list since June. Or was it May? Or even March?

New Year's Day has been my self-projected finish date for decluttering and redirecting. Since I'm a listmaker and pen-pencil-and-paper obsessor, I've finally gotten to decluttering those notebooks.

My list notebooks have to be just right. And often, I switch notebooks before they are full. But I never throw one away unless it's full. Or empty.

Because many of my notebooks have lasted over the last decade (could it be??), I revisited them, pulled out the old stuff, and readied them to use up.

During this time, I've been readying 2014 books to read for what I'm calling "2014: The Year of Three Months." For the past eight years, I've essentially abandoned what I'd learn to embrace: intentional reading.

Intentional reading for me is a thoughtful look at books I aim to read during the year. If I didn't intentionally make a list, political thriller fiction would probably dominate my reading. Since 2014 will probably still be a catch-up year, or at least for a few more months, I've dubbed this reading year in segments of four, each having three months. More about The Year of Three Months in a later post.

In the remaining few days of this year, I'll take pages I want to save info from those notebooks and re-scribe them into which ever notebook I decide to start 2014 with. Normally, I would find a new  notebook to start the year with (thus the reason for so many old ones!). But this year I've decided to use up rather than buy new. Just like I've decided to read up my books-on-the-shelves rather than buy new ones. More on that later, too.

Over the past few years, I often thought about things I'd like to explore through writing but never had time to. Often I'd scribble something down that came to mind. One of those I found in those notebooks: "The Intentional Pursuit of the Good Life." I'll be thinking about that one for a while -- thinking about how I want to do it.

This past year was a rough different one. Lots of changes. Most out of my control. A year of changes. And those changes will require some change to my intentional pursuit. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 28, 2013

The New in the Old

(For the sake of not losing this again, I decided to post this simply worded, yet profoundly accurate memory piece I assigned yearly to middle schoolers.)

The New in the Old

The New Testament is contained in the Old Testament.
The Old Testament is explained in the New Testament.
The New Testament is concealed in the Old Testament.
The Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament.
The Old Testament anticipates the New Testament.
The New Testament authenticates the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament the New Testament lies hidden.
In the New Testament the Old Testament lies open.
The Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament.
The New Testament fulfills the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament they were always seeking.
In the New Testament they found.
The Old Testament predicts a Person.
The New Testament presents that Person.
And the Person is the Lord Jesus Christ
Who fully validated the Old Testament.
The Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) presents Figures of Christ.
The Psalms present the Feelings of Christ.
The Prophets present the Foretellings of Christ.
The Gospels present the Facts of Christ.
The Epistles present the Fruits of Christ.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Contemplations, endings, and buddings

So, what am I doing now while I should be completing my listed things-to-do-today? I'm breaking with a cup of tea and biscuit, thinking about the closing-in of the year and beginning of a new one, and contemplating things-I-want-to-do.

The word intentional comes to mind. I used to use that word often. I carried it with me in my regular vocabulary when I taught at a private school up until this past spring. I guess I used it so much that an administrator picked it up and promoted it as well in a variety of good things. But when things went sour with the job and him, it seems that the word did too. I didn't drop it from use on purpose, but maybe subconsciously I felt I didn't have anything intentional to do anymore. Who knows, but it's back, -- coming back --  into use in my thoughts now. 

As I realize that there are less than ten weeks until the end of the year which, for me, will be a new beginning, intentions are beginning to bud. 

Ten weeks! And I feel I have so much to do before then! The majority of these tasks come from settling my mother's estate and cleaning out twenty years of home school clutter. Both have their ends in sight, but, still, it's the little things that stumble me.  (Somehow I cannot justify the grammar of it's the little things, but I've heard it so much that it seems to fit.) Most of the books I'm selling are gone and going. Shelves are still full of those things I've got to decide if I'll keep, but these were not on the to-do-before 01-01-14. They will wait until later. My dining room, though, is full of clutter. Boxes stacked here and there. The table full of boxes and odd items I'm not sure where to put. Even the chairs are holding framed pictures that I'm not sure what to do with. The little things. 

I've always had more trouble with little things. When I sewed, I'd almost rather cut out and build a garment than sew buttons on or put in a hem. I like to do the big things. When I clean house, I'd rather wash the windows than detail the room. So I figure these next few weeks will be tedious, but with my deadline, I am more likely to find a place for everything. 

Then this morning, a book buyer emailed to ask if I had a copy of How to Read a Book. I think she realized from my postings that we are kindred book spirits. Yes, I did have several copies but sold them all during the summer. And, yes, I do have one copy left. My copy. Did I want to sell it off too? I leafed through it. Contrary to many, I really did like this book. I found it helpful. I liked how it talked so much about books. I read it, and I listened to the audio. Do I really want to send it away, I contemplated? After all, I'm not teaching anyone anymore. There are lots of things I don't need now. And just how much do I need to read about how to read a book when it's just me reading mainly now for pleasure? 

Well, How to Read a Book is still on my shelf, and the offer to buy it was declined. Yes, I want to re-read it. I do want to continue to read for pleasure and edification. Just this little thought and decision made some purpose, some intention, begin to return to my days after the clean-up is complete. This transition is going to be a growing one. But it has begun with this bud. I think I've been severely pruned, to grab a gardening term, which has sort of stalled my growth as often happens. I'm grateful to feel, and later hopefully see, the beginning bulge of a new bud. 

New buds, new tasks, new visions -- all coming in the new year of living intentionally again.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Catching up . . . I'm reading . . . I'm watching

Catching up . . . 

Some of my favorite words  -  or at least words that turn my head and get my attention  -  are plan, organize, and pattern. Those words and their associated tasks are in my viewfinder now.

Our Nova Scotia trip was delightful for the scenery. I'm so glad I got to see those places that have before only been pictures in a magazine. There's a difference in seeing something out of one's own eye no matter what someone may tell you. :)

Despite coming hours after landing from Nova Scotia, my  beach trip was nice too. I always love the beach, and this time there were few people out, a gentle surf, and a full moon. My days were spent reading and napping in the sun with the waves at my feet. But, as often happens, both of us were fertile deposits for the cold germ. Airborne was my double-dosing side drink of choice, and it really does help lessen the length and severity of a cold.

After spending three weeks split between Nova Scotia with forty-four other people and the beach with sister and daughter, I'm spending today in solitary. And it sounds wonderful. My mind is pondering tasks that lay before me but waiting until tomorrow or Monday. 

In my mind's leisure are words I love: plan, organize, pattern. I am closer to beginning a "new normal" but giving myself until January 1 to do so. By then, my hope is that lots of loose ends will be tied up, allowing me to move on. The older I get, the more compulsive I seem to be about finishing one task before being able to move to the next. The "multi" in multi-tasking is quickly becoming "single."

So, my lists continue with a self-imposed deadline of January, hoping to have a clean, organized home again by then and an established routine. Then, I hope to be able to consider whether to pursue a few possible publication projects based on my past school planning. These include student workbook-type things for learning the Westminister Shorter Catechism, student notes for Rod & Staff grammar, and The Story of the World crossword puzzle reviews. 

I'm reading . . . 

These past few weeks I've read a variety of short, no-brainer books that this tired mind can handle and have enjoyed one in particular. My sister introduced me to a detective / crime author Karin Slaughter. I read the first book in the Will Trent series, Triptych. The book is easy to read with page-turner I-didn't-see-that-coming twists. I plan to read the others in the series too, plus finish reading Brad Thor's Scot Harvath books. Right now though, I'm thoroughly enjoying a slow pace through Andy Catlett: Early Travels (Wendell Berry). Slow, not because it is difficult but because Berry's rich use of language and metaphor demands some savory lingering.

I'm watching . . .

Over the summer, we found Island at War on Netflix, the fictional story of life on one of the Channel Islands of England during World War II. Well worth the watch!

We have become hard-core junkies of Breaking Bad on Netflix. I *never* thought I would like this show, but I have. We only watch via Netflix, so we're waiting on the last half of this final season to be posted. 

And I've claimed October to watch through Season 3 of Downton Abbey and get ready for Season 4. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fine Art Friday

"The Champion Single Sculling"
Thomas Eakins

I love this picture! 

The stillness of the water
The blended colors
The clouds that look like mountain tops
the mountain tops that look like clouds 
The look of the rower

Reminds me of this time of the year.

I learned what little I know about sculling from this interesting book, 
Racing Odysseus (Martin).


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"The expressions that would appear on his face . . . perhaps drew me to reading"

"My father was not given to emotion or intimacy, at least in the context, the confines, of the family. but there were certain times, precious times, when I did feel close to him. I have very early memories of seeing him reading in our library, and his concentration was such that nothing could disturb him, for everything outside the circle of his lamp was completely tuned out of his mind. For the most part he read the Bible or the Talmud, though he also had a large collection of books on Hebrew, which he spoke fluently, and Judaism 00 the library of a grammarian and scholar. Seeing his intense absorption in reading, and the expressions that would appear on his face as he read (an involuntary smile, a grimace, a look of perplexity or delight), perhaps drew me to reading very early myself, so that even before the war I would sometimes join him in the library, reading me book alongside him, in a deep but unspoken companionship. "

from Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood (Sachs)

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Kind of a difficult time, these last few days. 

Some not-so-nice emotions are doing their best to subdue and subvert me. Most are due, I believe, from a mixture of post-short-vacation tiredness, the in-betweenness of direcitons to go, the ambivalence of projects on the horizon, and the leftover weariness from some hard classroom teaching years.

But most of these not-so-nice emotions are stemming from the stuff I hear from where I was last year, and the year before that, and . . . .  Stuff that shouldn't bother me, but it does. Stuff I am not encumbered with now, but I am. 

When I hear how things are there now, and how things have changed, I immediately realize that those are the very changes that I had requested to enable me to continue. They were BIG ones too. And then I think, if only . . . . But, no. Those are good changes. They are great for those who are there. I do wonder how different things would be now for me if those requests had been granted.

I am satisfied with my decision, though, and believe that with time, these feelings will fade and distance themselves to the doesn't-bother-me place in the universe. But it's really a bit hard to swallow right now and makes for some mildly difficult days. 

Maybe with another hard night's sleep, the weariness will fade further and so will the rawness. Tomorrow is, after all, a new day without any mistakes, as dear Anne with an "e" would declare.


Friday, August 09, 2013

Fine Art Friday

"Lappings of the Waves"

Anders Zorn

 Isn't this a lovely summer painting? 
I love paintings with realistic water, and this one has it. 

 The last couple of weeks have been so busy
that I completely missed Fine Art Friday for two weeks.
And things will be busybusy through the end of September.
I haven't seen anything resembling a "retired" life yet!

And speaking of "lapping waves," I'm going to see some of those for the next few days. Nothing like enjoying the water during the warm days of summer.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Alpine Path: Lucy Maud Montgomery

If you've been a Seasonal Soundings reader from years past, you know that I was not raised a reader. But something almost instinctive inside me loved books. I loved to go to the library and would bring home a stack, yet hardly able to get through one before the due date. Having had the typical 60's education, I learned to read with Dick and Jane and never had real problems learning to read but was slow because reading was not cultivated in my life.

I began to change all that as I got older, became acquainted with living-book authors, and as I had money to buy my own books. It was through a book that our journey into homeschooling took root and through another book that the cultivation of classical education blossomed. And it was through all this that I met Anne Shirley in my thirties.

As a thirty-something with four young children, I read every night to catch up on what I had missed in childhood. I'm still catching up! Once I read Anne of Green Gables, I was hooked on all the Anne books. I can remember reading until 2 a.m. with tears wetting my pillow. Anne is such a likeable girl who matures into a lovely woman with adventures still following her. My own girls read her books, and later, I had my eighth grade students read her. Everyone should read at least the first book.

It was through Anne that I became curious about the author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and her prodigious publications. Always curious, yet I never pursued meeting Lucy Maud. Until now. As we scheduled a fall trip to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and the recreated Green Gables where Montgomery's stories came to fruition, I searched for a biography about Montgomery. What I found was her autobiography.

In less than one hundred pages, Montgomery in The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career briefly surveys her life that produced the Anne books. Montgomery uses rich descriptions and vocabulary that makes you think, certainly not commonplace language of today. Certain events in her own life can be seen translated into Anne's life.

While I was somewhat disappointed with the brevity of the book, I am glad I read it and noted two passages in particular. In the first, Montgomery is describing her beginnings in school (emphasis mine):
"The next summer, when I was six, I began to go to school. The Cavendish schoolhouse was  a white-washed, low-eaved building on the side of the road just outside our gate. To the west and south was a spruce grove, covering a sloping hill. That old spruce grove, with its sprinkling of maple, was a fairy realm of beauty and romance to my childish imagination. I shall always be thankful that my school was near a grove -- a place with winding paths and treasure-trove of ferns and mosses and wood-flowers. It was a stronger and better educative influence in my life than the lessons learned at the desk in the school-house."
I believe had Lucy Maud and Charlotte Mason known each other, they would be fast friends and kindred spirits. 

Another interesting-to-me bit  was her diary entry during her "dream-come-true" trip to London. As I read it, I realized that it was just one year ago, almost to the day, we were in London doing -- and feeling -- the same thing!
"So much has been crammed into this past fortnight that I have a rather overfed feeling mentally. But when time is limited and sights unlimited what are harassed travellers to do? The British Museum, the Tower, Westminster Abbey, Crystal Palace, Kenilworth Castle, the Shakespeare Land, Hampton Court, Salisbury and Stonehenge, Windsor and Parks and Gardens galore!"
Of that list, we visited all but Kenilworth Castle. What an apt description: "a rather overfed feeling mentally."

Lucy Maud Montgomery was a gifted writer because, no doubt, she had an inquisitive imagination and was an avid reader. Two prerequisites for an enduring author and two qualities we parents and teachers want to cultivate in our children and students.