MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS

Like most of my retired friends, I’m busier than ever now that I’m wrapping up my last semester at the university. Most of us in our younger years looked forward to our “golden years,” of sitting back and doing nothing. When I tried to retire once before, I found myself in the pit of a depression that took doctor’s visits and medication to climb out of. It is with great trepidation that I attempt to retire again. This time it will be different. I live a very busy life with demands like blogging, checking e-mails, keeping up with family, making things. I have just finished Halloween baskets (think Easter baskets) to sell in order to help finance my Advanced Writing students’ Literacy Projects. Of course each Halloween basket has a paperback, children’s Halloween book.

The following popped up in the morning devotional I follow, and I wish to share it with you:

“To describe Jesus as a man in demand is an understatement.  He mentored his disciples, cast out demons, taught in synagogues, and visited followers’ homes. Imagine His to-do list! Everyone wanted Jesus’ time and attention, but He knew when to say no.He knew where to focus and He stayed on task. What enabled Him to do so? He spent time in His Father’s presence alone, praying. We don’t know what He said, but perhaps He asked the Father to direct Him. Jesus had twenty-four hours in each day, just like we do, and He completed His life’s purpose in three years.  Obviously He did something right, and we can learn from Him.”

This made me stop and think of how many times I had thought of a possible solution on my own, made plans and asked The Lord to bless them after the fact. If we go to our Father first, asking for guidance, we will accomplish more than we ever dreamed we could, and maybe even accomplish God’s purpose for our lives.

Reading/Cooking: Monday Morning Musings

Those of you who are bibliophiles understand when I say, we read to “escape”: from boredom, form being too busy, from our hum-drum, ordinary lives to adventures and emotions we can experience vicariously.  Recently while studying a text on human nature, I came across a concept that not only can we change our lives, but our moods as well.

I came home in a grouch and felt grumpy, but the books I thumbed into did nothing to relieve my self-induced bad mood, so I turned instead to cooking. The humidity was finally low enough (a beautiful, sunny day) to make forgotten cookies, a recipe from the 1970’s that was so popular.  They are made with whipped egg whites (2), 3/4 of a cup of sugar gently added and mixed in on high until peaks form, then a teaspoon of vanilla added in with more beating time via mixer.  All this time, the cook is preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Finally when the oven indicates the correct temperature has been reached, one folds in a cup of chopped pecan pieces and a cup of semi sweet chocolate pieces.  After dropping by spoonfuls onto  prepared cookie sheets, said sheets are placed on the racks in the oven and THE OVEN IS TURNED OFF. The next step is to forget the cookies for the next three to four hours or overnight.  Yes, the recipe sounds like Grandma’s old fashioned divinity, and yes, the cookies dissolve in your mouth. After the painstaking care and concentration on making the cookies, I felt much, much better.

Looking back at this week, I must have been escaping through cooking all week, for I made BBQ pork in the crockpot; used some black bean chips from our trip to Central Market to make nachos as a snack; tried out another bag of chips, this time parmesan cheese and garlic flavor, as another day’s snack; baked brownies, following the “cake-like” directions rather than our usual “fudge-like” directions on the box, then iced them with cream cheese icing.  Actually, re-reading this paragraph, I think this week I “escaped” into eating, not cooking!

Monday Morning Musings

Back in the summers of ’83 and ’84, I had the opportunity to lead a workshop on teaching poetry to a group of fourth through sixth grade teachers from small schools all over Texas. My theme song throughout this workshop was that nothing kills an appreciation or love of poetry quicker than arranging it as a “poetry unit”. To me, poetry should be an integral part of the curriculum, not only the language arts curriculum, but the entire academic curriculum.  I feel that poetry is felt most effectively when it occurs spontaneously, ingeniously, and naturally.

In the elementary school, especially, the recognition or celebration of occasions can be marked through poems of occasion.  Although much bad poetry has been written about “Holidays, “some good holiday poems exist.  However, merely remarking on what day it is we are celebrating and then reading the poem seems rather artificial and an isolated way of presenting the poem. Ideally, the poem can be integrated into the activities and assignments for the day.

For example, our sixth grade language arts class used a basal reader which had a story about Abraham Lincoln which described Lincoln’s early relationship with his stepmother as she cut his hair, but it also explored how she influenced his love of books and reading.  I saved this story for February twelfth and supplemented it with anecdotes and jokes from The Abe Lincoln Joke Book, a scholastic publication. It also included a poem by Eve Mirriam that I feel gives the students a sense of the persona of Lincoln and what the appropriate child’s response to it might be.

To Meet Mr. Lincoln

If I lived at the time

That Mr. Lincoln did,

And I met Mr.Lincoln

With His stovepipe lid

And his coal black cape

And his thundercloud beard,

And worn and sad-eyed

He appeared:

“Don’t worry Mr. Lincoln,”

I’d reach up and pat his hand,

“We’ve got a fine President

For this land;

And the union will be saved.

And the slaves go free;

And you will live forever

In our nation’s memory.”

 

Not only can the traditional occasions be celebrated, but also the lesser known, everyday ones will lend a light note to a sometimes dreary week.  One year on a calendar of trivia, I spotted the birthday of the Earl of Sandwich.  It came up right after a week of testing–the perfect time for some relief.  The entire class brought peanut butter sandwiches for lunch that day.  One of the mothers had baked a decorated birthday cake, complete with candles.  After our makeshift lunch in the cafeteria, we sang Happy Birthday, and when we got to the line, “Happy Birthday, Earl of Sandwich,” the other children began to “Who?” like a chorus of owls.

Other activities back in the classroom involved writing How-To paragraphs on “How to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich” and a reading of Shel Silverstein’s poem, “Peanut Butter Sandwich.” It tells of the king who loves peanut butter sandwiches, but his jaws locked and he couldn’t speak because the peanut butter stuck to the roof of his mouth. As I read the poem, each student was eating half a dry, peanut butter sandwich.  They listened to such lines as “Oh darn that sticky peanut butter sandwich!” Very few of the students, after chewing and chewing, had the same response the king did when his jaws were finally pulled apart, “The first word they heard him speak/Were, How about another peanut butter sandwich?”  Instead, I heard many pleas asking, “May I get a drink of water?”

Poetry, whether for an occasion or celebration can give students many memorable moments. You can write a limerick about each child, using his name, or like this one  I wrote about my Kid’s class in Reading Improvement.

There once was a class called reading,

And to Mrs. Longest we’re pleading,

Please no more tests;

We have done our best,

So, tell us what else you are needing.

 

 

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS(on Wednesday)

Monday morning fell on a Wednesday this morning, primarily because my total thoughts, actions and life has been busy thinking about and preparing for My Better Half’s birthday yesterday.  It was a celebration for two, but involved cooking his favorite meal and was full of many gifts and greetings from family and friends.

Again I’ve been browsing through my old Graduate School poetry anthology, and tucked into the back was a folded piece of paper, an old essay test.  It consisted of one question, “What is Poetry?” As was my habit many times on compositions, I turned the theme into something I thought the professor would pause over and wrote the following:

What Poetry Is Not

Poetry is not “an expression of pure emotion,” a definition I learned in high school. It does deal with emotion…sometimes. It is not the beautiful statement of some high truth. Instead, it is that truth itself–with decorations.  It is not always fine sentiments in fine language, but sometimes lowdown sentiments expressed in gutter language.  Poetry is not something separate from ordinary life.  What “makes” it poetry  is not separate from the busyness of living.The matters with which poetry concerns itself are what matters to ordinary people. Poetry is not just a bundle of things poetic in themselves, a list of “My Favorite Things, Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…” Part of what makes a poem a poem is what holds these things together in a meaningful relationship as opposed to a collection of pleasing items. On the other hand, poetry is not just a group of mechanically combined elements…meter, rhyme, figurative language, etc.  The relationship among these elements is important.  They must work together to impart a specific impression, feeling, sense of things to the reader.

The poet makes the “familiar strange and the strange familiar.” Perhaps with John Ciardi, our textbook author, we should ask not, WHAT does a poem mean, but HOW does a poem mean? How does it go about being a human re-enactment of a human experience?  A poem  is an expression of a moment of pure realization of being that brings to the reader in a vivid way some scene or sensation…but it is more than that. Almost always a writer conveys information, but he conveys an attitude toward and a feeling about that information.  The poet becomes the translator  and the transmitter of experience to others. By choosing and shaping words, by selecting and presenting images, the poet forms the verbal object that captures and imparts his contact/confrontation with Nature/God/Reality.  The poem itself exists as a bridge between the reader and the Cosmos.

Monday Morning Musings

Today’s thoughts are on books.  Books, Books, and more Books. Here are a few quotes I’ve collected over the years about books:

“A little library, growing every [day]/year, is an honorable part of a man’s history.  It is a man’s duty to have books.”    Henry Ward Beecher

“I cannot live without books.”    Thomas Jefferson

“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?”    Henry Ward Beecher

“When I get a little money, I buy books, and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” Erasmus

“If you cannot read all your books…peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from them the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are.  Let them be your friends; let them be your acquaintances.”    Winston Churchill

“It is a good plan to have a book with you at all times.  If you are presently without [one], hurry to the nearest bookstore, and buy one of mine.”    O. Wendell Holmes

“Books are not dead things, but do preserve, as in a vial, the present extraction of that living intellect that bred them.”    John Milton

“Books have an extraordinary power to take you out of yourself and into someone else’s mindset, so that for a while least, you look at the world from different eyes.  That can be an uncomfortable experience.  But it can also be really enlightening.”    Ann Morgan, from ” My Year of Reading a Book From Every Country in the World.” (Ted Talk)

“One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”    Cassandra Clare, from The Infernal Devices

Monday (Afternoon) Musings

Here I sit, running late once again, but with a good excuse.  I just finished the classic, Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody, and I am filled with things I would like to say to the young protagonist of this memoir.  Because of this feeling of a need/desire to communicate with a character in something I’ve read, I would like to provide the venue for you to do the same.

Post here by typing in the reply box a letter, e-mail, or simply address the protagonist of the book you are currently reading.  I am going to set a deadline of January 20th for posting your communication here. If you cannot maneuver the necessities for posting yourself, click on “contact me” and type in your letter/note there, which I will copy and attach to this post.

I am looking forward to you thinking about what you would say to your book’s character in writing.

Monday Morning Musings

It’s 11:30 am, so technically, it’s still morning.  Because New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday, a day off anyway, many businesses etc. are taking today off as their New Year’s holiday.  Public school is waiting until tomorrow, and the post office was dark when I went by earlier, so I guess there’s no mail delivery either.  The Tournament of Roses Parade is on TV as I type (There is some kind of “rule” that will not allow them to hold it on a Sunday.), so today is a quasi-holiday of sorts.

Today is a good day to reflect on the year past and plan for the year ahead. Going to that “hermitage inside you” as one blogger phrased it to “take stock” is my intention.  Miriam Webster’s defines “hermitage” as “a secluded residence,” a “private retreat”, a “hideaway.” In this New Year, it is good to go there and take stock, make resolutions, resolve and promise oneself to “do better,” be kinder, be more grateful. For myself, I am going to pick a random person and plan some small act of kindness.  There is no way I could ever repay or even acknowledge the acts of kindness friends (and sometimes total strangers) have done for me, so I dedicate this random act of kindness to a random person, to all of them.

May the New Year be a new start and the beginning of a new attitude in me.

Monday Morning Musings

What’s on my mind this morning?  The same thing that’s on my mind almost all the time-BOOKS.

Sunday’s newspaper was full of lists of “The Year’s Best “, but the one I read every word of was the one titled, “A Look Back at the Year’s Best Titles.” In her introduction, Alyson Wood, the writer, said, “What did you miss?  What should you buy now with that bookstore gift card? It’s impossible to read every worthy book published last year, but don’t leave 2016 without at least one or two of these titles.”

Well, I have read one, The After Party by Anton DISciafani, and I loved every moment I spent reading it.  I purchased it in hardback as soon as it came out and will enjoy lending it to friends for a long time to come.  Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth also made the list, and it is sitting on my dresser, borrowed from the local library, ready for me to start.  I am a bit hesitant because another blogging friend, who is a personal friend as well, said it was “all right.”  Faint praise from someone who seems to enjoy the same type books I do quite often makes me wonder if I want to just send it back.  Have any of you read it and really liked it?

Some of the others that made the list I have read ABOUT, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to invest my reading time in them: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iaian Reid, the title alone turns me off; The Mothers by Brit Bennett deals with abortion, and although praised strongly would be brutal reading for me.

The YA read, aimed at middle schoolers sounds worth putting on my TBR list.  It is Raymie by Kate DeCamillo, and it deals with girlfriend friendships as well as a dad who has exited his daughter’s life.  I enjoy stories about women’s friendships regardless of the women’s ages. Perhaps this is because I have so many special “girlfriends” whom I travel through vicariously, are my support group ,and keep my  life interesting.

Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong was selected as the poetry book to read, and because it is described as a “slim volume”, that  places it on my TBR list.  I’m overdue to read a collection of poetry,  Definitely to be added to the list as well are: Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee; a possible consideration is the memoir included on the list, Please Enjoy Your Happiness by Paul Brinkley-Rogers and the non=fiction, March by Andrew Aydin.  Ones I will have to read about on Goodreads or Amazon before putting on my list round out the Best of 2016  List: What is Not Yours Is Not Yours,  and Truevine, a memoir or something like one and a true-crime story, respectively.

What are some of the best books you’ve read that were published in 2016 ?  Maybe you couldn’t list ten you read that you really liked and would recommend to me, but give me five or three or one, anyway.  I am making up my Published in 2016 To Be Read list soon.  Let me know.

And, as a recommendation as the best book published in 2016 I’ve read is Gentleman from Moscow by Amor Towles (reviewed her a while ago).  It is a large book, but worth reading even if you pick it up and put it down and read other books in between for a year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR and  HAPPY READING in 2017!

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS

This morning I am musing about the reason for the season, and would like to share these three things with you.

First, the lines from Hamlet Act 1, scene 1:

“Some say that ever ‘gainst the season comes

Wherein our Savior’s birth is celebrated,

This bird of dawning singeth all night long;

And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,

The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,

No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,

So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.”

Secondly, the words to the song heard years ago on the Southern Gospel Circuit as a Christmas song, performed by Steve Haupt and Becky Kelly, inspired by grandson, Spenser Reijgers and written by Steve Haupt and Chris Leech. Steve tells that the question posed was asked by his grandson which led him to write these lyrics:

“Where’s the Line to See Jesus?”

Christmas time was approaching,

Snow is starting to fall,

Shoppers choosing their presents,

People filling the mall.

 

Children waiting for Santa,

With excitement and glee,

A little boy tugged at my sweater,

Looked up and asked me.

(chorus)

Where’s the line to see Jesus?

Is He here at the store?

It’s Christmas time; it’s His birthday.

Why don’t we see Him more?

Where’s the line to see Jesus?

He was born for me.

Santa Claus brought me presents.

But Christ gave His life for me.

 

As I stood in amazement,

At this message profound,

I looked down to thank him,

he was nowhere around .

Little boy at the mall might have well have had wings.

As the tears filled my eyes,

but I heard him sing.

(chorus)

In the blink of an eye,

at the sound of His trump,

We’ll all stand in line at His throne.

Every knee shall bow down,

every tongue confess,

that Jesus Christ is Lord.

 

Where’s the line to see Jesus?

Is He here at the store?

It’s Christmas time; it’s His birthday

Why don’t we see Him more?

Where’s the line to see Jesus?

He was born for me.

Santa Claus brought me presents.

But Christ gave His life for me.

 

And finally, a poem scribbled on the back of a church bulletin by a dear friend one Christmas week when I was her Sunday School teacher, many Christmases ago:

 

Silent night, holy night,

Not a Santa Claus in sight.

O’re the heavens near and far

Shines a bright and heavenly star

Beckoning all to come and see.

Kings and shepherds bow the knee

Before a feed trough in an animal shed

To the King of Kings on his straw-filled bed.

The only glitter, the Wise Men’s gold.

The only music the angels told.

The only gifts to Him were given.

The only light sent down from heaven.

Silent night? Holy night!

(Not a Santa Claus in sight.)

The only reason to celebrate,

The birthday of One so great.

 

Let’s keep the Christ in Christmas.

 

 

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS: A Tribute to Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Today’s musings are about a friend, in fact my “adopted” little sister, Debbie Nance.  Where do I start to list the things she has done for me?  Maybe at the beginning, when I first met her.  We were either at a Library Board Meeting or a Third Tuesday Book Club meeting when I was asked to give someone my e-mail address.  With the distain that only a Senior Citizen who thinks e-mail and other computer frivolities are a “waste of time” and for people who are “too lazy to pick up the phone,” I said (confession: I probably turned up my nose and gave a scornful “sniff”), “I don’t do e-mail.”

With no hint of judgment or condemnation, Debbie said “Oh you really should; you would enjoy it.” and explained to me that a volunteer at the library could help me set up an account, and I could use the computers at the library any time the library was open. Thus began my journey to technological savvy. With Debbie to answer my questions (and no question was judged a “dumb question”) I soon was saving myself a trip to the university to “do things required on line”, for I could do them at the local library.  That led to our (my husband and my) realization that we really needed a computer at the house, and with the help of a young man we had met at the Senior Center Learning Lunch, who really wanted to help Seniors just because he was such a fine, Christian young man, we set up a desktop computer, later added a laptop just for me, etc. etc.

And all of this because Debbie was kind enough to tell me in the gentlest way possible that I “really should…” Thank you Debbie for bringing me into the twenty-first century (perhaps kicking and resisting the whole way) and introducing me, not only to your wonderful blog (www.readerbuzz.blogspot.com) but to the blogging community.  And, as Paul Harvey used to say, you can see the results here for yourself, which is “the rest of the story.”