ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

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I know all the arguments about guns.  I believe in the Bill of Rights.  All of them.  However, the right to own an assault weapon and the right to own a gun are not the same thing.  I know all the arguments about criminals don’t pay attention to laws.  We can continue to hash out specious arguments and do nothing, but it isn’t productive and won’t save lives.

I taught in a rural school where most kids legally owned guns.  In teaching about logic one day, we read a magazine article about girls and guns.  It was horrifying, but the statistics were presented in a way to satisfy the argument but not logically.  I asked my class how many of them owned guns.  Every single student’s hand went up.  Every. Single. One.  But they were also incredulous that someone would assume that owning a gun meant they were stupid enough to bring it to school.  These teens were responsible hunters.  They took gun safety courses, and they took safety seriously.  It didn’t happen by accident.  They were taught. 

We have to be willing to do SOMETHING instead of digging out old, spurious arguments about why every action won’t work.  We have to prevent people with mental illness from getting guns – especially assault weapons.  We have to take the stigma away from getting help for mental illness and make getting treatment easier. 

The school, the students, and others in the life of the most recent shooter knew this was a troubled young man.  He was expelled from the school.  His classmates now say they thought he was someone who could do this.  There were people around him who saw the signs of mental illness.  He had traumatic events happen in his life including the death of both parents.  Plenty of people saw the signs but didn’t step in.  Why?  Fear.  Legalism and legalities.  Not wanting to cause trouble.  The list could go on and probably includes something that every one of us could recognize as one we’ve used.

All of our society is to blame.  We don’t hold people accountable.  We’re afraid of stepping on someone’s toes.  We have become a society that is afraid to take responsibility and step in.  We can no longer correct and discipline the children we see doing things that are wrong or dangerous.  When I was a kid and did something wrong that neighbors saw, they stopped me and called my mom.  I can’t even count the number of times my next door neighbor, Mrs. Rossano, would yell at me in her broken English to get down off the top of the swing set before “you breaka you neck.”  I behaved in school because I knew that if the school called my parents, there would be a price to be paid. 

Fast forward to the present and I was reprimanded at my job as a librarian for asking a child to stop screaming.  His mother told me not to speak to her child and accused me of being a racist for asking him to be quiet in a library.  After stopping another child engaged in violent play that was putting a toddler in danger, a mother, wearing a Messiah College Sweatshirt, told me very angrily not to ever correct her child because it was her job.  (Which I wouldn’t have had to do if she did her job at that moment!) 

As a teacher, I could not rely on parents to take action or even believe me if I called about the behavior of a student.  I called one parent and was told (and this is a quote), “If you have a problem up at that school, it isn’t my kid.”  That kid later was killed in a car “accident” where, by all accounts, he wrecked it on purpose.  I had another student who wrote a poem called “Killing English Teachers is Good and Wholesome.”  His mother responded that I didn’t understand his creativity. 

On another occasion a woman called to tell me that a relative of hers had stolen guns from a family member.  They weren’t calling the police.  His parents were basically doing nothing because they doted on this child and believed he never did anything wrong.  She wanted me to know about it because she saw him as someone who would bring those guns into the school and use them.  I reported it to our administration, but with no evidence at school, nothing could be done. 

During practice for graduation one year, we had a student with glazed eyes who did not recognize his own name when it was called.  He could not carry on a conversation with the dean of students and me.  Obviously we could not allow this child to get into his car and drive home.  We knew this boy and his reputation for drug use.  However, because of the way regulations are today, we phoned his mother and described to her the physical symptoms we were seeing.  We merely told her that we didn’t think he felt well enough to drive home.  Her response was that he had a cold and maybe took some medicine.  No one said anything about stuffy nose, coughing or sneezing among the symptoms.   

I tell you these examples because they are common, everyday happenings.  While they certainly hurt people around them, none led to acts of mass violence.  But we don’t know which ones will.  I don’t like either/or reasoning.  It tends to be fallacious.  But in the case of the ongoing threats to our society, and especially to the most vulnerable within our society, it is true.  If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.  If all you can do is throw up your hands in despair and point out what won’t work, you are enabling.

One of my former students who became a teacher shared yesterday that she had a student who brought a gun to school.  He was caught before any tragedy happened.  He asked the officials to share a message with her.  He decided not to do anything because she had cared and taken the time to talk to him.  We have good teachers who have loved children through problems every day.  Sometimes they don’t know the extent of the difference they have made.  But I’m sure that all teachers would tell you that they would like to be able to do more.  It is through connections they make in the classroom that they can.  In order to do this, class sizes need to be small and we need to allow teachers to teach – when they are busy doing scripted lessons and test prep, they can’t make the kinds of connections that need to be made through interaction.

There is no one simple solution that will prevent mass shootings.  We need a combination of every facet of society saying Enough is Enough and working together to solve the problem. 

      • We need to stop pointing fingers and start working together. 
      • We need to stop offering platitudes and start putting action behind our words.  I believe in the power of prayer and pray for all of those victimized in these violent events, but we have to also take action to prevent others from becoming victims.
      • We need everyone to stop digging in their heels to protect their own self interests and begin working toward the good of all.
      • We need to empower schools and law enforcement to require that students be assessed for mental health issues if they see any signs. 
      • We need to open genuine communication between schools and parents.  As a teacher I was told that I could not suggest that a child might benefit from counseling or that there may be a need for drug and and alcohol screening. 
      • We need families to be willing to help their loved ones get the mental help they need just as they would get them the medical help they need for the flu, broken bones, and cancer. 
      • We need child psychologists available to our young people in addition to guidance counselors in every school in the country.
      • We need to assure that Medicaid is NOT cut because a huge amount of the funding for mental health in this country comes from it.  According to several sources including the Kaiser Family Foundation, “a total of $135 billion was spent on behavioral health services in the United States. The federal-state Medicaid program is the largest source of financing these services, covering over a quarter of all expenditures. Medicaid plays a large role in financing behavioral health care because its eligibility rules reach many individuals with significant need; it covers a broad range of benefits; and its financing structure allows states to expand services with federal financial assistance.”
      • We need gun owners and the NRA to say that gun ownership is a Constitutional right but that there needs to be some common sense involved in regulating who should not have a gun and what kinds of guns should not be necessary. 
      • We need to acknowledge that just making something illegal will not stop it completely, but it could save many lives.  Taking away a market for assault weapons would at least slow their manufacture and proliferation.
      • We need our elected officials to take real action that protects and heals Americans instead of following the lobbyists with money and special interests.  When it comes to protecting their constituents, we need them to have courage to speak truth and act on it even if it angers some of their donors.
      • We need to live out a Christian teaching that even the likes of Bill Maher and Joy Behar wouldn’t argue with.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Doing this would lead us to do the right things, accept the help others are willing to give, and prevent a multitude of evils.  True love would not involve doting, ignoring the things we don’t want to acknowledge, or allowing those we love to continue in a state of mental illness. I’m sure I could go on listing things we need, but I believe this last one has in it all of the ways that people can come up with.  If people put their hearts and minds to work seeking answers in love, there is no telling what could be accomplished.  As Peter said in his epistle, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1Peter 4:8) 

I Am in Love With TED

Okay, so everyone knows how much I love books.  I don’t just love fiction.  I am just as interested in nonfiction – especially if it introduces me to something new.  And it isn’t just books that I am hooked on.  I love learning new things, hearing thought-provoking ideas, and listening to people who have creative minds.  This is why I have developed an addiction to TED Talks. 

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I was first introduced to TED through a talk that is still their most viewed presentation.  It features Sir Ken Robinson speaking on the topic “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”  It was fantastic and gave much to think about.  Curiosity led me to find out what this organization was and if were there more talks like this.  Their self-description says, “TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world…TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, we’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.”  I was hooked.  Who wouldn’t love an organization that so freely shares the ideas of some of the best minds in the world!

Eventually I shared the site with my students who found Aimee Mullins and introduced me to her.  Many of my favorites are on topics of interest to me, but I have also found more interests and a wider scope of fascinating topics by just clicking from one video to the next.  I can follow the rabbit hole just like I have often done on Pinterest, but the difference is that when I’m done, there is no guilt.  I find the time well-spent because my mind has been stimulated and I’ve learned new things.

If you aren’t familiar with this organization, you need to dive in and start watching!  I usually give you a book list, but with this post I am sharing a video list (with some references to books following it.)  Start exploring with this brief list of some of my favorites.  And when you find a great video, please return the favor and recommend them to me!

TED Talks – Just click on each video and be inspired.

 

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Sir Ken Robinson:  Do Schools Kill Creativity?

 

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Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution

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Aimee Mullins:  Changing My Legs – And My Mindset

 

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Aimee Mullins: My 12 Pairs of Legs

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Brené Brown:  Listening to Shame
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Brené Brown:  The Power of Vulnerability
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Bono:  The Good News On Poverty (Yes, There’s Good News)
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Dan Pink:  The Puzzle of Motivation

 

 

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Rick Warren:  A Life of Purpose
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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story
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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:  We Should All Be Feminists

 

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Billy Graham:  On Technology and Faith
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Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, Happiness, and Spaghetti Sauce
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Jamie Oliver:  Teach Every Child About Food
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William Kamkwamba: How I Built a Windmill
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William Kamkwamba: How I Harnessed the Win

 

Some Books by the Speakers Above:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

  • Americanah
  • Half of a Yellow Sun
  • We Should All be Feminists
  • Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Brené Brown

  • The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
  • Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love Parent, and Lead
  • Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

Malcolm Gladwell

  • The Tipping Point:  How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
  • David and Goliath:  Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
  • Blink:  The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
  • Outliers:  The Story of Success

Billy Graham

  • Nearing Home:  Life, Faith, and Finishing Well
  • Where I Am: Heaven, Eternity, and Our Life Beyond
  • Just As I Am:  The Autobiography of Billy Graham

William Kamkwamba

  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope  (published in various forms for adults, children, and even as a picture book)

Jamie Oliver

  • Jamie’s Food Revolution:  Rediscover How to Cook Simple , Delicious, Affordable Meals
  • Jamie at Home:  Cook Your Way to the Good Life
  • The Naked Chef

Dan Pink

  • A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
  • Drive:  The Surprising True About What Motivates Us
  • When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Ken Robinson

  • The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
  • Finding Your Element:  How To Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life
  • Our of Our Minds: The Power of Being Creative

Rick Warren

  • The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?
  • God’s Answers to Life Difficult Questions
  • God’s Power to Change Your Life

TED

  • TED Books Box Set:  The Creative Mind:  The Art of Stillness, The Future of Architecture, and Judge This

Public Speaking and TED

  • TED Talks:  The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking
  • Talk like TED:  The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds
  • TED Talks Storytelling:  23 Storytelling Techniques from the Best TED Talks
  • How to Design TED Worthy Presentation Slides

 

Finding Where I Fit, Where I Should Be

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The image of a person in search of self-identity, purpose, and a place in this world is common.  It’s that young adult fresh out of school and facing the question of “what now?”  Except I am finding that isn’t the full picture.  I’m that person wondering where I fit in, what I am meant to be doing, and how I figure out who I am now.  And I’m about 40 years beyond the young adult facing a full life and career, marriage and parenthood, and all that life has to offer.  Been there and done that, but (as Lin-Manuel Miranda said) “there’s a million things I haven’t done But just you waitjust you wait…”

When my son graduated and faced those questions himself, I often said that I too had been presented with figuring out who I am.  For my whole life up to that point I had been my father’s daughter, then my husband’s mate, then my son’s mother.  Suddenly it was time to find out who I was.

At least I thought I was doing that.  I wasn’t.  I was moving along day after day doing the same things I had been doing for years without the required seats in the bleachers that come with having an athletic kid.    I was a teacher.  That became my identity, my goal, my purpose.  I knew over the years that teaching is a career but that it is also more than that.  It is a calling, a vocation.  I loved the students and felt that I was doing something important.  But time passes, things change, and retirement came.

In the few years since I retired I have discovered that this is another phase of life where people search for meaning, purpose, goals, and a place to belong.  I was feeling isolated in this, but as is often the case, when I pursue answers the right way (praying over wallowing, actively seeking instead of just wishing) responses come.  I find revelations dropped in my lap.

This past couple of weeks have been another one of those times where I got out of my own way and the Lord stepped in and showed me things.  One or two things might be coincidence, but when you have sought for direction and are suddenly surrounded with things that are leading and pointing the way, it isn’t coincidence.

In the middle of feeling lonely and needing to connect, an old friend called.  We haven’t been as involved in each other’s lives as we once were when our boys were in school together.  She invited me to attend a Bible study with her.  As we talked today I find that she too has been praying for friends to be brought into her life – not because she doesn’t have friends but because her life now allows her to expand her friendships and she has more time for them.  She said what I feel – you’re suddenly left with purposeless, unfilled time on your hands.  She was the second friend I’ve had a similar conversation with this week and it’s only Tuesday!

The book that we are reading for the Bible study, Amazed and Confused by Heather Zempel, is helping me address some of the questions I struggle with.  I have also been reading Brené Brown’s newest book Braving the Wilderness.  She reads my mind and always seems to be able to predict just what I am looking for answers to!  I found another video by her that also spoke to me (I can spend hours watching her on youtube.com)

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I’m still looking, searching, seeking, questioning…  But I’m finding that it is becoming more exciting and less dismaying as I take an active role in finding the path for me.  If you are in the same position, I have (as I always do) some suggested reading for you.  Be sure to share your titles and insights with me as well because while I feel like I’m making progress but have a long way to go.

Just a few titles for your reading:

  • Brené Brown – Braving the Wilderness (and if you haven’t read her other work, start with The Gifts of Imperfection and just keep reading.
  • Maya Angelou – Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (some great advice from a wonderful writer – her poetry will lift you up and give you direction as well)
  • John Ortberg – If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat
  • Anna Quindlen – A Short Guide to a Happy Life
  • Amy Krouse Rosenthal – I Wish You More (A picture book – but it will give you a sense of the blessings you should be seeking for yourself and those you love)
  • Monica Sheehan – Be Happy! A Little Book for a Happy You (One of those deceptive books that looks like a children’s picture book but is really a profound little volume for adults)
  • Desmond Tutu & Mpho Tuto – The Book of Forgiving
  • Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu – The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

Power of Memory

I wonder if this has ever happened to any of you.  The first time it happened was a year or more after my grandma died.  I was just hanging around my home doing whatever, and I grabbed the phone thinking, “I have to call Grandma.  It’s been so long since I…”  I broke down right there and sobbed.  The urge to give her a call came upon me naturally and spontaneously just as it had most of my life.  And the sudden, rude realization of something I obviously already knew, that I would never be able to do that again, was as fresh and raw as if she had just passed. 

By now she’s been gone over twenty years, but I can still hear her saying, “This is costing you money.  We better hang up.” (This was in the days where long distance cost as much as going beyond your allotted data does today.)  I can also hear how tickled she sounded when I told her it was worth all they were charging and more.  And we’d keep chatting. 

Another time, I opened my overstocked linen closet and a quilt stored on the top shelf fell out of the closet and out of the bag in which it was stored.  Grandma’s quilt.  It fell against me, and as I caught it, the smell of her house was still there in its fibers.  My son walked into that hallway to discover his mother holding the quilt, sniffing it, and crying like a baby.  He didn’t understand back then the power of a sensory memory like the smell of something loved and familiar. 

There are triggers that can transport you to another time, another place.  At times it is somewhere you can go again.  It might involve your spouse or your child who are still living right there with you.  Or it could convey you to a time you can revisit those who have left you.  Maybe it is a smell – bacon on a Sunday morning, the beach, a special meal that only she made, his aftershave.  It could be “our song” or maybe just the number one hit from the summer when you were sixteen and in love with summer life and friends.  Maybe it’s a thunderstorm, a movie, a phrase, a picture…  It is the quilt that I now see everyday but that still pulls those strings some days.  It might be the miniature Raggedy Ann and Andy that Grandma sent when I was in college because she loved them and knew I would too. These are the special things that allow us to go home for just a moment to a time, a place, and the people who populate our past and our memories.

Not all of my sensory memories are of lost loved ones.  Not all leave me crying.  In fact, those that I wrote about above stand out because they did.  Most memories, even of loved ones who have passed, involve loving times, fun experiences, laughter, and wisdom.   Not all of my most powerful memories are not of people.  Some times I find myself transported by an object, a picture, a quote, or a book to a place where the answers to my questions have been sitting and waiting for me to rediscover them.  If you are a reader, there are times that the characters become friends, part of your family, part of you.

I know that some people relate to this kind of memory.  Sensory memory of experiences we’ve had continue to wash over us.  Pat Conroy has a beautiful passage in his novel Beach Music where the main character has taken his daughter back to his childhood home.  He goes up to the room where he had spent many hours during his childhood and the sensory memory of the books he read in his early years flood him:

Then I turned my attention to the paperback books and it seemed that not a single one had been moved from its place.  This room had long served as a retreat from the disharmony and sadness of the first floor, and it was here I had fallen in love with these books and authors in a way that only lifelong readers know and understand.  A good movie had never once affected me in the same life-changing way a good book could.  Books had the power to alter my view of the world forever.  A great movie could change my perceptions for a day.

I have always kept these books in alphabetical order from Agee to Zola, and I had read for the way words sounded, not for the ideas they espoused

“Hello, Holden Caulfield,” I said, taking the book from its shelf.  “Meet you at the Waldorf under the clock.  Say hey to Phoebe.  You’re a prince, Holden.  A real goddamn prince.”

Taking out Look Homeward, Angel, I read the magnificent first page and remembered when I had been a sixteen-year-old boy and those same words had set me ablaze with the sheer inhuman beauty of the language as a cry for mercy, incantation, and a great river roaring through the darkness.

“Hello, Eugene.  Hello, Ben Gant,” I said quietly, for I knew these characters as well as I knew anyone in the world.  Literature was where the world made sense for me. 

“Greetings, Jane Eyre.  Hello, David Copperfield.  Jake, the fishing is good in Spain.  Beware of Osmond, Isabel Archer.  Be careful, Natasha.  Fight Well, Prince André.  The snows, Ethan From.  The green light, Gatsby.  Be careful of the large boys, Piggy.  I do give a damn, Miss Scarlett, The woods of Brian are moving, Lady Macbeth.”

My reverie was broken by Leah’s voice.  “Who are you talking to, Daddy?”

“My books,” I said.  “They’re all still here, Leah.  I’m going to pack them up and take them back to Rome for you.”  (Beach Music, p. 389)

Like my sensory memories of people and places of my life, I have lines and characters who call to me to remember when we met and what they taught me.  I could have a conversation with them just as Pat Conroy did.  I think some of them should know each other.

“Hey, Boo.  Thanks for looking out for Scout.  You’re a better man than the whole lot of them, Atticus.” 

“Celie, you will be seen and loved.  You should meet this kid Auggie Pullman.” 

“Hide the book, Montag.  Watch out for the dog Teacake.  Hey, Esperanza, are those bums in the attic I hear?  Junior, I love books like you do – not so much the basketball.” 

“Dang, Novalee, you are a force to be reckoned with.  If you ever get out to Tucson, look up my friend Taylor and her daughter Turtle.  They are a lot like you.”   

And then I think of More Schwartz and his words to Mitch Albom as they visit on their twelfth Tuesday.  Morrie talks about where he will buried, and he asks if Mitch will come and talk to him, tell him his problems.  Come on Tuesdays he tells Mitch because we are “Tuesday people.”  When Mitch responds that it won’t be the same, Morrie says that he will listen more.  But I think that in a way, the people who mattered and populated our lives – both the real and the fictional – continue to speak to us through our memory of them.  As Morrie Schwartz said, “Death ends a life, not a relationship. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.” 

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Who are the people – real and fictional – who continue to speak to you?

Meet the ones I “talked to” above by reading the books below.  These are just of few of the books that I think will speak to you and maybe speak about me.

 

 

 

 

 

Beach Music by Pat Conroy

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

Welcome, Take Your Shoes Off and Sit a Spell.

 

You know, I really like my house.  It’s a townhouse, not big but a nice place – nice kitchen, huge master bedroom and master bath, Jacuzzi tub, fireplace, open first floor.  My grandson, Chapin, told me once that if I cleaned it up some more it could be one of those houses in a magazine (not exactly Martha Stewart here).  Yeah, I like my house.  But I love my home.

Some people have huge mansions, some have perfectly maintained spotless houses, and some just have a place to hang their hat and take a shower.  No matter what the physical building is like, there is a big difference between a house and a home. 

A house is a building where people can do the tasks of daily life.  It might have no personality so you keep looking for the sign that says when check-out time is.  It might be cold and sterile so that you are can’t relax.  It could be so pristine and put-together that you are afraid to touch anything. 

On the other hand, a home lets you walk in and exhale.  It can be a shack, a row house, an apartment, or a mansion.  It has nothing to do with how it looks.  It is all about how it feels.  A home exudes love.  And it isn’t only loving to the folks who have unpacked their stuff and pay the bills. It welcomes others in to join the people who live there. 

I got to thinking about this after writing a Facebook post about the start of 2018.  I ended the post saying, “I love having my friends and family here and how everyone who comes feels comfortable enough to help themselves to food and drink, prop up their feet, and make themselves at home. That’s what I always want my home to be.”

I was relishing the New Year’s Day I had just had with my family stopping by.  I had some there at lunch time and others at dinner.  But it wasn’t just them that I was thinking about by the time I finished writing the post. 

My friends come to my home often.  We had a book club that met for dinner and discussion.  We get together for holidays, birthdays, and just because we feel like it.  They walk in singing out “hello” or “we’re here.”  If I didn’t leave the door open, most of them have keys and could come in anyway.  They throw their coats on the bench in the hall or hang them up if they choose.  Joe and Rob go to the beer fridge and bring up some bottles.  Denise picks out a wine.  Mary Sue checks out what needs to be done in the kitchen.  And they all jump in to get dinner on the table and to pick up after.  We watch Jeopardy, we play a game, or we just sit and chat without ever running out of interesting things to talk about.  On a night six years ago as I was at the hospital awaiting the birth of my granddaughter, they all still came to my home for dinner as we had planned.  They cooked the New Year’s Eve dinner I had on the menu and awaited news of the impending birth.

And it isn’t always long time friends.  As an example, I had a former student Tony who was attending Messiah College near here.  He used to stop by for a visit when the mood struck.  He became comfortable here. He would come in and make himself a cup of tea, help me decorate the Christmas tree, jump into whatever was going on, or just sit and visit.  He was here one night when others stopped by, and he took over as host making tea for everyone.  He’s moved away, gotten busy as a married man, a father, and a doctor now.  I miss him just stopping by.

I have friends and family who come for visits from out of town.  They really make themselves at home!  My friend Sherri and my father come for weeks or months at a time.  All three of us usually live alone and that often leads to us yelling and tripping over each other, but I love that they feel like they can come and make my home theirs too.

Lots of people comment that my house is lovely.  I think it’s pretty nice, but what I really love is when they tell me why they like it.  They usually tell me it’s comfy, it’s homey, or it’s cozy.  I want everyone to come in, grab something to drink or eat, kick your shoes off, curl up on the sofa, and spend some time with me.  Browse through my books, talk about them, and borrow one. Maybe pop some popcorn and watch a movie.  That’s what makes my house a home. 

I am always ready for friends and family to come by.  Just remember Chapin’s critique because there are days it will be a mess (oh, who am I kidding…it will probably be messy and cluttered with my books and papers and dishes).   But you will be welcomed!   I am always ready to stop whatever is going on, brew some coffee, and visit. 

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And If All You Hear is a Whisper of Leaves…

There are times when you read a book that is so wonderful, so wise, so profound that you just sit, contemplate it, maybe reread some passages, smile, and ultimately find a special place on your book shelf for it knowing that you will come back to it again.  Maybe you review it on Goodreads.  If anyone asks or you have book pals, you tell them about it the next time you’re talking books. I’ve been lucky enough to have felt that love for a few shelves worth of books that are loving placed in my bedroom bookcases. 

Once in a blue moon you find one that surpasses that.  Instead of sitting and contemplating and smiling when you finish it, you want to jump up and tell someone about it.  You want to call friends, tell people about it, and run to the bookstore for copies to share because they aren’t getting this one!  I’ve felt that way about less than a handful of books so far.  Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is one of these books! 

I read the book in one sitting.  That isn’t a big deal even for someone who reads as slowly as I do.  It’s short.  It has lots of white space.  And, above all, I couldn’t put it down.  This is an unlikely book to elicit this response.  It is a children’s book.  But I’ve felt this way about a children’s book before.  The main character is a tree.  Yes, you read that correctly.  That’s what makes it an unusual book for me to love.  I don’t even like talking animals let alone talking trees!  But, dang it, it works!

This is a book that will speak to all ages.  It is a story of our time and a story for all time.  In our time of hatred and division, this is a story of coming together.  A story of overcoming differences, of lions lying down with lambs (no, not literally), and of hope.  I signed off of Facebook last night by saying I need to step away from all of the things that have been getting into my soul and sapping my hope for our world.  I don’t think it is an accident that this is the book that I picked up to read today.  I bought it earlier this week after seeing raves on Goodreads from two of my favorite writers, reviewers, and book women – but I had a bunch of books on my TBR pile that had been awaiting my attention.  Yet it was this one that called to me.  This is the one that I was meant to read right today.  I needed this book right now.  I think lots of people do.  You do.  I’m sure of it!  Get a copy, borrow one from the library, borrow one from me…but you’re going to want your own copy and another to lend. 

If you have read this post, if you have read this book, if you have something to add or to respond to this post, please do it here.  As I said, I’m on a FB fast for the time being.  This will share automatically there, but I won’t see any comments you make unless you do it here.  Let me know what you think too!

Seasoned to be Interesting

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No rocking chairs here (unless the grandbaby is visiting and needs one).  The people in my life who have a few years behind them are living vital, interesting, active lives with friends and family.  They would certainly make some interesting characters for a book!

 

I have reached an age where there are lots more people younger than me than there are older than me.  That’s okay.  I love being around people of all ages.  But not too long ago I realized that everyone I was reading about was younger.  Everyone. 

Part of that comes becauseI love children’s books and young adult literature.  If you have read any of my blog before, you already know that.  But even when I read books written for an adult audience, I am finding that so many of the characters are in their twenties or thirties.  And they are interesting.  But so are so many other characters who are older.

Many classic works of literature feature older characters:  The Odyssey, Les Misérables, Silas Marner, Don Quixote, A Christmas Carol and others.   (Many lists will include Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, but I can’t put that on my list as a recommendation – I really don’t like that book.)  If you’re up for reading plays, there are many more.  Shakespeare certainly features them.   Driving Miss Daisy and On Golden Pond, are plays featuring older characters, but you probably saw the movies – and it is much more fun seeing a play than reading one.

My list of books below have only one thing in common.  They all have older characters who are integral to the story.  At times they are the main characters.  There are a couple books on the list where the main character is a child, but the people in that child’s life are older.  These “seasoned” characters are like the people I have experienced in my life.  Some are feisty, some grumpy, wise, caring, multi-dimensional, living life to its fullest, experiencing end of life, and everything else within the spectrum of life.  There are series.  Some books are older (I couldn’t leave Miss Marple out) and some are as new as this month.  I guess there is one other characteristic I think they share…they are enjoyable reading.

  • Albom, Mitch – Tuesdays With Morrie
  • Anaya, Rudolfo – Bless Me, Ultima
  • Backman, Fredrik – A Man Called Ove
  • Barbery, Muriel – The Elegance of the Hedgehog
  • Bauermeister, Erica – The School of Essential Ingredients & The Lost Art of Mixing
  • Christie, Agatha – Miss Marple mysteries
  • Conroy, Pat – The Prince of Tides
  • Fishman, Zoe – Inheriting Edith
  • Flagg, Fannie – Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
  • Fleischer, Leonore – Shadowlands: Novel
  • Friedman, Daniel – Don’t Ever Get Old
  • Genova, Lisa – Still Alice
  • George, Nina – The Little Paris Bookshop
  • Glass, Julia – The Widower’s Tale
  • Gruen, Sara – Water for Elephants
  • Hanff, Helene – 84, Chapin Cross Road
  • Hillerman, Tony – The Joe Leaphorn Mysteries and the Leaphorn & Chee mysteries
  • Hoffman, Beth – Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
  • Jonasson, Jonas – The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
  • Joyce, Rachel – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
  • Karon, Jan – The Mitford series
  • Magorian, Michelle – Good Night, Mr. Tom
  • McMurtry, Larry – Lonesome Dove
  • Patrick, Phaedra – The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
  • Pratchett, Terry – Reaper Man, The Last Hero, Thief of Time, & others
  • Ross, Ann B. – Miss Julia series
  • Schine, Cathleen – They May Not Mean To, But They Do
  • Simonson, Helen – Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
  • Stegner, Wallace – Angle of Repose
  • Strout, Elizabeth – Olive Kitteridge
  • Sundberg, Catharina – The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules
  • Zevin, Gabrielle – The Storied Life of A. J. Fickry