Thursday, September 27, 2012

Doggone Tired

I am tired.  Doggone tired.  And I have a new level of respect for Elementary Librarians and Teachers in general.

Recently, I was blessed with a job change.  No longer would I be driving 45 minutes to work in a Middle School Library.  Now I drive 5 minutes to an Elementary School.  Super cool.  Super stoked.  Super tired!!!

"Are you alright?" my girlfriend, Claire, asked me last night as we were practicing our songs for next Sunday's service.  "Yeah!" I responded in surprise, wondering why she would ask.  Well, she can probably sense that I am maxed out.  I am daydreaming of parent-teacher conferences, when the Library will be closed and I can make sense of what I've been making sense of since the end of August.

Here's my schedule:  Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays I see classes about 4 hours of the day.  30 minutes a pop.  Mondays and Wednesdays I don't see classes, but I spend about 3 hours tutoring 2nd graders who are struggling with their reading.  I work a 6 1/2 hour shift.  On the books, I take a 30 minute break.  (Snicker, snicker, guffaw.)  In the "free" time I shelve books, repair books, read about books we need, compile a wish list of books to order (What???  We don't have a copy of Harold and the Purple Crayone???), help any of the staff members who need something from the Library, and work the AR program.  For those of you who don't know about AR, it's a reading program called Accelerated Reader.  Students are tested and placed in a reading zone, which helps them find which books are at their level so that they can feel successful and challenge themselves.  After they finish the book, they go online and take a short comprehension quiz, which gives them points.  The zones are distinguished by color.  In theory, if a student is reading at orange level, any book in the Library with an orange sticker is in their range.  Sounds pretty good, but the problem is that AR was only introduced to our school a few years back and less than half of the books are stickered.  I have put out the call for help and the PTA goddess crew stepped in overtime last week, pulling books, looking them up online, stickering them if they were in the program, writing the level, quiz # and point value inside each book.  (I came up with the brilliant idea of putting a small check mark in the upper corner inside the book if it is not currently in the AR system, so we don't spend time backtracking and looking up books more than once.  This is not a fool-proof plan, as AR is constantly creating quizzes, but it works for me right now.)  As the books come in from student checkouts, I am looking up those books before shelving them.  Needless to say, I'm behind on my shelving.  There is a back table in the Library that held about 150 or so non-fiction books that I wasn't able to shelve before the class visits resumed last Tuesday.  I now have the entire table shelved, except for the 50ish that have no AR sticker.  That's not counting the books that were returned today or tomorrow.  The cart is full.  I think I might be sneaking some books back onto that table early in the morning.  At least the ones that don't have stickers.)

So, with AR, I am hosting a race between classes.  The classes with the most points get to go to a party with the Principal at the end of the year.  There is also an AR Wall of Fame, for the students who have 100 points +.  (They also get to go to the party.)  I am also going to order lanyards for all the students who reach 25 points by the first trimester, whenever that is . . .)  I asked around, got the website and some pricing.  Now to spend some time on the order.  Also, every Monday, I run a report and track the points of every classroom, and move their Vehicle tokens up on the AR Raceboard wall.  Oh.  And each winning class gets to keep a stuffed wolf (our mascot) for the week. The highest point students will also get to be "Staff for the day", working as the Principal, Secretary, Custodian, Computer Tech and Librarian for a day.

Did I mention lesson plans!?!  Yeah, I get to do those now.  I was so scared of this that I put off doing the first ones until about 4 days before class visits first came.  Now I'm getting a little better, but I definitely need to get more ahead on these.  Luckily I have a huge stack of books in the back room that I think are awesome, and when I'm panicky about what to read or promote, I go check the piles


Let's see . . . what else have I got going on?  Last summer I was approached by the Board president of my church if I could head the "Conscious Giving" dinners this year.  Well, my summer was pretty kick-back so I agreed.  Too bad none of the work was to take place in the summer!!!  I now have a gigantic paper hanging on my laundry wall which is methodically filled with sticky-notes of hosts and guests and dates.  (And I have threatened Jake's life if he moves any more sticky notes.  NOT FUNNY!!!)  I have the task of inviting every single member of the congregation to a dinner, hosted by another member.  I have only been attending this church for a year, so I am unfamiliar with most of the names as of yet (but I'm getting to know them pretty quickly!)  Two church goddesses came over last Sunday and helped me identify and organize the attendees.  I told them I felt like a White House intern who has been charged with setting up a diplomatic dinner.  Yikes.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I'm above the water, or at least breathing through a long and wide tube at this point.  I'll be able to calm down once the invites are officially out and the ball is rolling.

Today I attended a GATE meeting at my son's school.  It was pretty informative and they've got some great stuff planned for the students this year.  I apologize to the woman who ran the meeting for not making eye-contact when she asked for parent volunteers.  My plate's full and overflowing.  I send love and light out to the parents who step forward.  I stare down the guilt that I feel about not helping the program and I shush the voice that says that I could probably squeeze it in.  BOUNDARIES is the name of this game.  Sanity and contentment and peace.

Thanks for listening.
And thanks to coffee for being my pal.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Just Happened? Well, I'll Tell Ya . . .

"I don't even know what just happened." said Jake as we approached his school this morning, with me in a huff and he in confused defiance.

Hmmm.  Well, let's see.  First of all, we are still getting into the grove of the early school risings.  Secondly, you got pissed at me because you wanted to sleep another 30 seconds.  I needed you to either get up now, get dressed, then have your free time or sleep while I shower, then get up, get dressed and have no free time.  Pretty simple.  Not so simple when you don't like the choices, though.  When you understood that I said to get up now, that you didn't have as much time as you'd like to putter around your new Facebook account or play a game, you verbally attacked me and closed the door in my face, leaving me in your hot and  messy room.    After taking a deep breath, I followed you down the hall, where you then closed and locked the bathroom door. 

As this is a one-bathroom house and I am now behind in my shower schedule, plus this is not respectable or acceptable behavior, I knocked lightly with a closed fist (so as to not get dad involved just yet) and demanded that you open it.  Then we spent another five minutes discussing what time we get up and what time we need to leave.  I gave you the choice to stand there and keep talking about it, or get dressed and have free time.  I told you to set your own alarm clock so you  wouldn't be affected by my pushing the snooze button.  I got it out of the bottom cupboard in the bathroom where I keep it until needed (to be my backup alarm on early mornings after late nights).  I told you to take it into your room and that I would help you set it if you needed it.  You left it.  You also left your clothes on the bathroom floor.

Once I showered (and repeated a calm song on my ipod four times), I went in your room and asked you to pick up your clothes from the bathroom floor.  You did so, sighing. You still left the alarm clock in the bathroom.

By then my feelings were hurt and I was mad.  I hate starting the day in a confrontational manner.  I hate feeling like I did you a favor that backfired.

"Brush your hair." I called out as I noticed your messy mop.  "I'm going to wear my beanie."  Like we haven't had this discussion before.  "Brush it anyway."  I retorted.  "And say goodbye to dad."  I was through making breakfast and getting it all into the car.  "Did you sign my papers?" you asked.  "The ones you didn't get out for me yesterday?" was my response.   "Get them out in the car and I'll sign them." 

While sitting in the car, in our driveway, with 20 minutes to get you to school and me to school, which will get me there, but I'll now have to sit in the car line of parents before parking and I wish to avoid, you get out the papers.  One of them is a survey about next year's summer schedule and coinciding it with the high school.  I explain it to you, to get your opinion.  You don't get it.  I explain it again.  You turn off the quiet radio and ask me to explain it again.  By the fourth time, you have an opinion.  It coincides with mine.  I sign it and give it back. 

"Jake, I want us to remember the rule about you showing me all your papers every afternoon before you have free time."  You're not really listening again.  You hear just enough to argue.  You say I'm yelling.  (Really???  You want to hear an example of me yelling?  Keep it up!!!)  I take off up the street in the car, driving just a little aggressively because I'm pissed.  You comment.  I am silent.  Two blocks from home I realize we forgot to pack your snack and water bottle.  This is something else that needs to be done in the afternoons, starting now.  I offer you the backup protein bar in my middle console.  You decline.  I hope the lack of food and the emotionally bumpy morning doesn't cause the rest of the day to suck for you. 

So, you don't know what just happened?  I feel you have been picking and snarking and arguing with me all morning and it's been less than an hour since I gently woke you up with a calm voice and a backrub. 

"I'm going to draw this."  You say as I drop you off.  (Yes, I said that I loved you, and yes, you said it back.)  "You do that."  I say.  I mean it.  You draw awesomely and I support self-expression, especially of frustration and confusion.  (It's the reason I write!!!)  "You're not going to like it."  you say.  "I didn't like this morning, so if you draw about it, it makes sense that I won't like it."  I say.  We both smile a little.  I watch you start up the steps.  I drive off to wait in car line. 

Love you, Bub.  Sorry if I don't make myself clear.  I'll help you set your alarm and you can get up when you want, within reason, of course. Thank you for your apologies.  I accept them. 


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Changes on My Path

Something new happened to me this morning, I left Barnes and Noble in tears.  No, it wasn't because I was only fantasy shopping and had left my wallet and membership discount card in the car.  It's because I am changing jobs and the reality of it came to the surface as I automatically noted in my head which books my current library needed, which sequels had come out since I last shopped.  Well, I'm not going to be there anymore.

After 4 1/2 wonderful years working in Oceanside, I landed a job that's 5 minutes away from home, in an Elementary school, grades kindergarten through 6th.

Gone is the 45 minute commute one way.  Gone are the podcasts and audiobooks that kept me looking forward to the drive.  Gone is the gorgeous drive along Sleeping Indian Road where, in the mornings I would sometimes need to slow for peacocks and would roll down the windows in the afternoons to catch sniffs of what was growing locally.  (Side story, one time I had my son roll down his window to smell the amazing strawberries that were ripening in the sun.  Sadly, they had just manured . . .)

Gone are my fantastic friends, staff from many campus's, as I had worked at 3 and met with the library tech's monthly.  Gone are the hilarious and sometimes teary conversations with my middle-schoolers.  Gone is my last library, with about 50 tasks still in the process of completion.  (The new library tech is going to pull some hair when she/he reads my "to do" letter.) 

Okay, enough with feeling maudlin about all this.  Friends are friends, whether you see them daily or just play catch-up online, on FB or by phone.  I had opened myself to what was to be the next move for me and was hired at a fantastic school that I can literally walk to. 

I have come full circle, as the reason I thought I might like to be a librarian was to read to the little'uns.  Well, kindergartners, here I come!!! 

I am 5 minutes from our son, so if the school nurse calls me, it won't take me an hour to get him.  I will start recognizing kids on the street and in the stores.  (No more wearing pj's to Albertson's, I guess.)

As for the young adult lit I love so much?  Well, our local library has an awesome selection and I will read it to my heart's content.  Maybe blog a little about it too.

Do they have The Hunger Games or Twilight  in my new library?  (Do I want them to be there? I brought my posters, just in case, along with my READ posters starring Yoda and Darth Vader.)  I will soon find out.  In the meantime, it's time to brush up on my readin' aloud skills and getting caught up on the great books that have come out since our boy graduated from the kiddy section.  I hope I have a good collection of Amelia Bedelia  and Stephen Kellog books . . . .

All is well. 
Thanks for listening.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Early A.M. Ramble

As I walked the dogs early this morning, I couldn't help but explore a couple of empty houses that are currently for sale.  One used to be vibrant, I could tell, with its now dry and dilapidated rock water fall and its front living space.  As usual, I had to look in all the windows I could, noting the layout and the debris left behind.  In the backyard, I made a full turn around before noticing the amateurly painted mountain scenes on the low stone wall.  There was another dry waterfall next to an intrusive and ugly back porch awning.  There had once been a lot of time and effort spent on this property.  Now it's bank owned and vacant.

A block or so over was a house I have been interested in looking at for a long time.  It's probably a lot older than me, on a corner lot, made of stonework.  A squat house, it has no fencing to keep things in or out.  It's probably not good for a remodel, will most likely be torn down.  What caught my eye were the dried mud handprints left by a few children on the outside wall.  They were deliberate, like one last stand at possession of the place.    

Out front was a dresser.  It seemed like expensive factory made stuff.  One drawer was out and to the side.  The rest of it just sat there, the back a bit mildewy (as was the inside of the house) and I acknowledge my inner urge to take it home, sand it down, fix the drawer and resell it.  I patted that inner voice on the head, reminded her that my workspace is limited,  the piece not unique enough to warrant the effort, them moved on.

I passed by the home of an acquaintance I know, who is a hoarder.  I have gotten better at spotting these homes, by the long-placed, well-intended piles that spill out into the driveway and along the small sides of the walls.  Sometimes the bushes and trees are overgrown, sometimes not.  (If they are renting, there is a good chance there is a gardener on duty.)  Again, I take notice of the inner personae that wants to help, to rummage, to organize their house, their possessions, their life.  I send her a little smile and I walk on.

In front of another house is a stone lion.  I think about how it might awaken when everyone on the street is asleep or not paying attention to what's happening in the dark outside.  How it might prowl the neighborhood, making sure everything is in its rightful place.  I walk another half block around the curve and there are two more lions in front of a driveway and a third ensconced on a pillar.  Busy nights for the lions indeed.  Do they get together to roam or do they avoid each other, respectful of the territory that is innate to a small stone lion in the middle of suburbia.

I notice how many jacaranda trees are blooming.  They are my favorite and have been since I was a child.  I admire how pretty they are when next to the deep pink of a bougainvillea.  These seem to be happy outdoor yardmates, and many of my neighbors have planted them together.  I wonder how many of these pairings were intentional, as bougainvillea has a mind of its own. 

I am a happy wanderer, peering through backyard gates and into yards.  These folks must have had friends over last night, their small outside table is littered with empty beer bottles and a child's tea set. 

Another house has an empty, sad feel to it.  Perhaps a divorced dad lives here and doesn't have his kids over as often as he'd like. The front is austere and utilitarian, devoid of personal items or color.

Across the street is a home with flowers and fruit trees in abundance.  There is a garden flag on display and a cozy setting of lawn furniture.  It makes me feel cozy.

The neighborhoods are full of cul de sacs, jutting up to the Marine base.  Here is a gorgeous house whose whole backside overlooks the overgrown, fenced in wilderness owned by the government.  How their house must shake when the soldiers are practicing war, testing their explosions.  Do they use special adhesive to keep their pictures straight on the walls and their china figurines on the shelves?

A big dog barks at us and comes out of a front door.  There is no fence to keep him back.  He probably doesn't get a lot of visitors on this dead-end street and I don't want trouble, so I make sure my grip on the leashes are tight and send him dominant vibes.  It works.  He turns around and faces his house while we walk  by.  I keep an eye on my back, not wanting to be charged by a bully.  He keeps his distance, even though Buster the Boxer is now whining like mad, wanting to play with this big dog who can surely match his paces.

Each house holds many stories.  I appreciate my imagination as I walk past, able to spend a lot more time thinking about what might be, rather than whizzing by in my car, my mind on my agenda and far away from my neighbors.

I come home, happy that I can put a mental checkmark next to "walk the dogs" and grateful to have started the day by roaming my streets in the early morning fog.  The dogs are sure to be mellow for a few hours and the rest of the day is ahead of me. 

                                                                   Thanks for listening.

(Disclaimer  . . . not all of the pics included in this post were by me or were taken on the day of the posting.)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Exquisite Pain of Being Alive

There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth.  From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one.  Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine.  And, dying, it rises above its own agony to out-carol the lark and the nightingale.  One superlative song, existence the price.  But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles.  For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain . . . Or so says the legend.

I just finished reading The Thorn Birds.  Again.  I think I may have read this book about 7 times since my grandmother first introduced it to me in high school.  Published in 1982 and written by Colleen McCullough, this dynasterial epic spans decades and continents.  It is about love and loss.  Family and lovers.  Death and new life.  Hope and marking time, waiting for the grief to abate. 

My own copy is worn out, pages are loose, the paper rips easily.  It is badly taped together.  I also have my grandmother's hardback edition.  There are very few books I own two copies of.  (Harriet the Spy is the only other, I believe.) 

The real reason I wanted to babble, was, however, on the topic of longing.  That feeling that is hungry and incessant.  Sometimes it hibernates for years, but a few words from a friend can awaken it with a vengeance. 

Recently, in my a.m. ponderings and prayers, I was moved to ask for "light to be cast on my shadow self."  I watched as I greedily awaited what would come.  I admit to having a sick fascination with drama. But I am also more alive than I have been in a long, long time and although I knew that I was inviting change and maybe some difficult times to my world, I know it is for my own highest good.

 Old feelings started coming to the front of my consciousness again, feelings I had not dealt with for a long time.  I have faith that my cornerstone is higher in my mind now, I hope to not be dragged down into old, debilitating spirals.  Being wracked with uncertainties is not my idea of a good time and I am very aware of my satisfaction these days; my hunger for more is of a practical design:  less clutter, less drama, more awareness of God in my life. 

So when I awoke this morning with that old, familiar hunger in my belly, I lay with it awhile, refusing to let it pull me under.  My shadow self has awakened and is to be acknowledged once again.  I don't feel like packing my bags and I'm not dreaming of a different life.  I am content with my beautiful reality, but the time has come again to look deep inside and feel the truth inside myself.  Time to shed my skin one more time.  Perhaps this time I can do it more lovingly and with eyes wide open.  No need to rip and tear this time. 

The bird with the thorn in its breast, it follows an immutable law; it is driven by it knows not what to impale itself, and die singing.  At the very instant the thorn enters there is no awareness in it of the dying to come; it simply sings and sings until there is not the life left to utter another note.  But we, when we put the thorns in our breasts, we know.  We understand.  And still we do it.  Still we do it. 

Thanks for listening . . .

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Night Circus

Once again I close a new cherished story with a sigh and wish it wasn't over.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has enthusiastically made its way onto the "favorites" shelf in my library and when I come across a copy in my shopping excursions, I will buy it to keep.

It's a story about love and magic.  About a fantastical circus that roams the world without a planned agenda and once you have seen it, you are hooked.  The circus opens at night and closes at dawn; there is no color, only black and white (although after a few years, the patrons who are truly obsessed, wear a splash of red along with their b/w outfits to show their love and devotion.)

Two magicians have competed against each other for countless years, raising protoge's who "battle" their magical abilities in a contained venue.  The latest competition is held at the Night Circus, Le Cirque des Reves.
Celia is raised by her father after being orphaned at the age of 5 by a mother who died of a broken heart.  Marco is plucked from an orphanage as a yongster as well.  Both children are raised in a solitary environment, learning how to perfect their magical abilities.  They are told that one day they will compete against another, thought they have to discover their opponant on their own. 

Almost every chapter contains a date.  I didn't follow this as closely as I should have, so I found myself trying to play a bit of catch-up at times, as the story goes back and forth in time a bit.  When I read it again, I may create a little timeline so I can understand this wonderful tale even more. 

Stories can capture our hearts and change who we are as people.  Towards the end of the book, one of the master magician's says this to one of the minor chracters:

 You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose.  That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what the might do because of it, because of your words.  . . . There are many kinds of magic, after all.

Indeed.  This is the driving force behind my decision to become a Librarian.  I love books and stories and how they can affect a person's life. 

If you want a book that may make you sigh wistfully when it's over, holding it close to your chest for just a moment before reluctantly letting it go, (and you are a romantic at heart), I heartily recommend that you read The Night Circus.  It's beautiful.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cutting Those Emotional Ties . . .

After many years of putting it off, I went through my cookbooks and ruthlessly pulled about 30 aside to donate to the BookSwap being held at my school this week.  I was amazed, kinda, at the emotional ties I have to so many of them, even ones I never made recipes from or found anything good to cook out of them.

It all started when E planted the seed of clearing out cookbooks from the baker's rack in our kitchen, mentioning that I could put kitchen appliances in their stead.  Now for those of you who don't know my secrets, most of my kitchen appliances are kept in a small closet in our bedroom, along with the luggage and dirty clothes basket.  Not so cool, I know, but when you're a kitchen goddess who can't bear to get rid of her veggie juicer, even when you haven't made juice in years, storage can be an issue.  Need the crockpot?  Top shelf.  Need the stand mixer?  Bottom shelf.  Got the picture?  So when E basically dared me to part with some of my precious collection, at first I balked, then took a closer look.

I pulled the three that belonged to him first.  "Do you still want these?"  I had no emotional tie to them, even the 49ers one I gave to him years ago.  He's never made anything out of it.  His two salsa/hot stuff books?  They can go.  Nope.  He wanted to keep them.  Then I pulled a few of my own down.  I perused through a few I had inherited from my paternal grandmother.  Hadn't made anything out of them since bringing them home (and according to my Aunt, all those sticky-noted pages represented pipe dreams as well.)  Ok, flip through the pages.  Would I cook this?  Nope.  Would I cook that?  Maybe, but not likely.  It's outta here.  It got easier as I went along.

Then there's the books that have a gem or two inside.  Do I really need to hold onto the whole book or can I print out the recipes and put them in my master folder, making space for my rice cooker on the shelves . . .?  I started typing and printing.

I worked through my nostalgic feelings that arose when I discarded the first cookbook I ever owned.  I was in high school, it was a Hershey's baking cookbook that my grandpa had gotten free as a giveaway at his bank.  I thumbed through it.  None of the recipes had stars or anything more positive than "ok" written on the sides.  It could go.  (Sigh.)

How about the Indian cookbook?  (I adore Indian fare, but am far more likely to go out to get it.)  The Elena's Secrets of Mexican Cookery?  Maybe my mom wants it.  The Ice Cream book?  My sister-in-law is really into making ice cream . . .and I'm seeing them both this weekend . . .

And on it went.  I didn't clear out any Cooks Illustrated cookbooks or magazines, nor any of my gorgeous baking books.  My reference books are to keep (even though I lost almost all respect for A Joy of Cooking after seeing "Julie and Julia").

And then there's The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas, the definitive hippy cookbook, which my mom gave me at the start of my vegetarian phase (which is a whole other posting in and of itself).  The only recipe I can't live without from this book is the pancakes.  Oh, the pancakes.  The ultimate pancakes, in my mind.  (And just to confess, every time I grab the instant pancake mix, I wish for these beauties instead.)  So.  I typed it up and printed it out.  I resisted the urge to print it out twice.  The page is spattered with melted butter marks and my mouth waters just thinking about them.  Before adding the book to the pile by the door, I double-checked to make sure I hadn't forgotten any other gems.  I found a note written in October of 1997 next to a recipe for "simple vinaigrette sauce", a quote from my dear sister-friend Lisa B.  She said, "A nasal cleanser--I need a beer now."  I chuckled and decided I didn't need to copy this recipe down.

I'll haul the books to school in the morning, cross my name out front covers and hope the kids have as much fun in the kitchen as I have.  Thanks for listening and wish me luck going through my tins of cookie cutters . . . I have a feeling my crockpot will be living in my kitchen real soon.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

What's More Romantic Than Hitchcock?

We celebrated Valentine's Day early this year.  Last month, while at the movies with my son, I noticed an advertisement at my favorite local discount theater that they were going to show "Psycho" on February 12th and 13th.  Oh yeah, baby.  There was no way I was going to miss Hitchcock on the big screen.

"Really?!  We're going to see "Psycho" for Valentine's Day?  Should I be scared?" was the response from my beloved when I let him know of the plans.  He was pretty stoked on the idea, as long as we didn't act it out later. 

I've seen "Psycho" numerous times, but there's just something about seeing a favorite movie on the big screen that is a whole different experience.  With none of the distractions of watching a movie at home, I was really able to get into it.  There was no surround sound.  It was grainy and the film was a bit scratched in places.  I can't remember the last black and white movie I've seen in a theater.  Knowing what was going to happen next just added to the suspense.  Seeing Leigh's wide, dead eye, upside down, filling the screen, as her body lies sprawled out of the shower after being stabbed by "mother" is just fabulous.  The camera turns right-side-up (and I swear I saw her eye flicker) and pans out to see her lifeless body.  The chocolate syrup blood running down the shower drain . . . perfect. 

I'm not a horror movie fan.  Previews for the flicks my middle-schoolers are dying to see leave me cold and seriously creeped out.  I spent too many years getting over being a fearful person to immerse myself in 1 1/2 hours of psychotic killing or demonic possession of mothers. 

I make exceptions for Hitchcock, however.  The way he used personal space (or lack of) and strange camera angles keep it great.  He uses the power of our imaginations to terrify us.  He doesn't need to show us every little gory detail.  We can fill in the blanks perfectly fine ourselves. 

My hubby started dozing off about 3/4 of the way into the movie.  When he ordered Sake during dinner, I knew it was inevitable.  Something about the dark and comfy chairs tends to lead him into dreamland for a bit during almost all movies.  (I am guilty of this from time to time as well.)  But there was no way he was going to be allowed to sleep when Mother's corpse was about to be discovered in the basement!  "Wake up!," I hissed.  "How can you protect me when you're sleeping!!!???".  He smiled and held me close.  "I wasn't really sleeping."  Yeah, right.

I really hope the theatre starts showing more classic Hitchcock.  Seeing "Rear Window" or "Rope" on the big screen would be fabulous.  Maybe I should send in a request.  Or maybe I should start playing the lottery and build us a movie room at home.  Nah.  Not the same thing.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How Many Times can a Book Break Your Heart?

When I first saw the preview's for the movie "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close", my first instinct was to avoid this movie.  Although I enjoy Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks, who co-star in it, the theme was 9/11, a topic, like the Holocaust, which is very hard for me to digest without a horrible stomachache and a lot of tears.

My husband, E, upon seeing the preview, said, "You might want to see this movie."  "No way," I said.  Can't handle the 9/11 theme, but my subconscious started chewing on what I had seen and I realized that I had already read the book, years ago, and had really been touched by it.

I ordered a copy for my school library, barcoded it, then set down to "review" it for my students.  (I love how my homework is to read books.  My job rules.)

Very quickly, the plot came back to me.  Nine-year-old Oskar Schell's father died in 9/11.  Oskar and his father had a pretty amazing relationship.  Being an only child, his father spent in inordinate amount of time with him, creating quests that took the boy all over NYC.  His father's death, however, and a mysterious key found in a cryptic envelope in his father's closet, sends Oskar on the wildest and most emotional journey yet.

Determined to discover what the key is for, Oskar meets people of every possible type.  Oskar himself is quite an unusual child, constantly creating in his mind new inventions, like parachutes for skyscrapers and water from your shower that was chemically treated to turn your skin the color of your mood, which would be helpful to signal to others when to be gentle with you, as well as to help you figure out how, exactly, you are feeling.

Interspersed with the story are photos representing what the character is experiencing at the time, as well as a story written by Oskar's grandfather for his unborn son, whom he abandoned before his birth.
"You look upset. Is anything wrong?"  I wanted to say, "Of course,"  I wanted to ask, "Is anything right?"
This book is a bit on on the adult side, so I may limit its check-outs to 8th graders only, and let them know there is some content they might not yet be ready for (sex) but I have found that the students here who can actually finish a book, are probably ready to read what I have in here.

As far as seeing the movie?  Yeah, I'll do it.  I might sit in the back row, by myself, with a box of tissues, but I feel I owe it to Oskar to relive his journey one more time.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Who Would I be Without Books?

Sometimes I wonder who I would be if I wasn't a reader.  Decidedly less dimensional, and probably more bored with life, I've decided.

Where would my mind wander if I wasn't immersed in the safe world of others' drama (without the messy drawback of being emotionally tied to them in real life)?  When the game is on TV or conversation lags, my brain flits back to the unfinished story in my car or by my bed, working the plot pieces like a puzzle, happy both when I figure out that I was indeed right about what happens next or if it turns out I was clueless.

Right now I am fully involved in two plot lines.  (Three, if you count Discordia, which I am reading with my son.)  As usual these days, when reading something really good, I think, "I should blog about this book."  Problem is, I am often on to another book right away and my interest in sharing with you what I just experienced fades into memory.  So why wait until the stories are over before telling you about them?  I am excited about the plots right now.  Maybe I'll write more to you when I've finished the books, but probably not.  Maybe they will seem even more enticing to you with little clue as to the finale.

Right now in my truck, I am on disk 10 of the 20 disk audio version of The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall.  Who isn't fascinated by the world of polygamy?   As a person who loves books with intricate characters and their interactions with what life has in store for them, this book rocks.  Goldie (short for Golden) has 4 wives (and is being pressured to take on a 5th), 28 children (not counting the 4 stillborn or the daughter who died young and tragically), and is attracted to his boss's wife.  (This may make him sound like a scandalous scoundrel, but he is isn't.)  Raised by a chronically depressed mother who was abandoned by her fortune hunting husband, Goldie grew up overly tall for his age and decidedly less social than those around him.  (The school authorities let his mother keep him out of school because she was very difficult to deal with.)  When Goldie is about 17, he discovers letters from his dad, including money and a plane ticket to Vegas.  Innocent and awkward, he leaves mom without notice and goes to live with dad, who is now very rich and has survived booze and too many women and has become Mormon. 

The plot zig-zags back and forth in time, filling in the blanks of the Goldie's life.  Other chapters are from the point of view of 11-year-old Rusty, one of Goldie's son's, who is so desperate for attention and physical contact that he acts out in a myriad of ways.  Goldie's fourth wife, Trish, also has a voice in the story.  Lonely and feeling like she has not done her wifely duty, Trish is aching from 3 miscarriages and resentful of the amount of time she has to sacrifice her "Goldie" time with the other wives and their children.

Goldie is awkward, sincere, and a bit socially inept, despite, his huge family.  His attraction for the wife of his boss seems to stem from his need for a calmer and simpler life.  Alternately amusing and heart-wrenching, The Lonely Polygamist is making my commute a pleasure.

During my lunches and free time at home, I am thoroughly enjoying The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.  Written for young adults, this hauntingly beautiful story is again, written alternately in chapters by the point of view of different characters.  Kate Connolly (Puck) is reminiscent of an older Scout (To Kill A Mockingbird with her unflinching look at life, sense of humor, adult observations, and gritty spunk.  Puck and her two brothers are recently orphaned and barely managing to keep food in their bellies.  They live on an island that is known for The Scorpio Races, which are like horse races held on the beach, but the horses are capaill uisce (pronounced copple ooshka), which are wild, blood-thirsty beasts who live in the sea and are often captured when they come up to the beach to feed on whatever flesh they can  find.  Sean Patrick, also orphaned, is a strong boy, older than his years, whose gift is to understand the capaill uisce like no-one else can.  When Puck's big brother tells his siblings that he plans to move to the mainland, she impulsively decides to enter into the races, knowing that it will buy her more time with her brother, plus win them some much needed money if she wins.  I am not even halfway through with this book and already it is among my favorites.  The feeling of dangerous foreboding in my stomach at the possible bloody fate of Puck or Sean is offset by humor and witty phrasing.  I know without a doubt that this book will sit on the rack labeled "Mrs. E's Favorites" when it is back in the Library.

I like TV and movies, don't get me wrong.  I get all caught up in plot lines and impatient when I have to wait a week to see the next episode of something that has caught my eye and attention for a time.  But what I think books have done for me and my personality is open my mind the infinite and varied personalities and circumstances that exist.  I know that things are seldom as they seem.  The students in my school who are "acting out" are dealing with so many factors, they themselves are probably not aware of them all, from family dynamics and friendships, to hormones and unexpressed emotions.  Not just the kids, mind you, everyone is so very, very complex, and being a reader has helped me to appreciate it all.

Thanks for listening.