Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Grown-Up Kind of Evening

Last night, one of the youth babysat for me. We have some of the most generous teenagers, and I am very grateful. It is going to be a long year, Corey's final year of seminary, and time to myself is a commodity. I was nervous because the last time we left the kids with sitters, Haydn had one of his full-on Aspie meltdowns. However, I prepared him in advance for this event - no surprises. It was lovely to spend an evening out with no problems.

I drove to Oxford, about an hour away, to go to a book signing. Joshilyn and I met when we were both members of Momwriters, years ago. I remember the excitement over her first book, Gods in Alabama. I went to her signing in Jackson that year. I also attended her signing in Jackson when she published Between, Georgia. Due to my work hours, I missed her event for The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and she didn't come near here for Backseat Saints. It was lovely to see her again. I always enjoy her reading voice and the way she explains the creative process. The way we birth stories is similar, though not exactly the same. It was a fun evening with great conversation around a table at City Grocery before driving home to start reading.

I really needed to sleep. I have been sick and Corey was out of town and there was school today... You know the routine. I crawled into bed at 9 and planned to read till 10. At 11, I forced myself to close the cover and go to sleep. Well, I tried to sleep. Thanks to my cough medicine, I was actually awake more than asleep. I may as well have stayed up reading. But, I am trying to get some things done today so I can disappear into the story for a while longer this afternoon. I finished the third chapter of my work in progress and picked up some reference books from the library. I want to get my setting just right. I hate inconsistencies in books.

I'd like to offer you something deeper. I have a blog in my head (The Parable of the Ugly Spoon Rest), but I am foggy-headed from cough medicine and sleep-deprived as well. Hopefully I will have my wits about me by the end of the week. I don't like it when my life swims around me like a dream.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Six Places

Six Places

{1}  Kentucky - I was born in eastern Kentucky. It is home. We moved from there when I was four, but we went back often. I was able to visit last summer, and it brought up all sorts of things. My body felt like the vines of history twined around each limb. Poetry poured forth after my visit. I want to go back this summer. I'd really like to take my boys there. You understand a person better when you see where they come from. My grandmother's white house is a part of me. The winding roads and dirt hollers map my heart.

{2} Rocky Road - When we left Kentucky, we moved to Hopkins. First, there was trailer #13 in McDonald's Mobile Home Park and then, a year later, there was the single-wide on Rocky Road. We lived there from the time I was five until just before my 13th birthday. Rocky Road houses my childhood. I had chicken pox there. Wendy and I played house, dressed our Barbies, put on plays. Ashley and I have a picture of us sitting on the front steps, my baby sister between us. I insisted I was going to ice skate there (roller skates + snow = why did Mom say no?). That's where we lived when Dad left, when I cried all day on my pink bedspread. My baby sister arrived on Rocky Road. My Papaw died there. The trailer now sits empty, windows broken, lot overgrown.

{3} Lower Richland High School - The sidewalk by the library: that's where Brian kissed me for the very first time. It was the first time I was kissed by a boy I wanted to kiss me, and it was magical.  The "Diamond" where my friends and I spent our lunches for four years: it no longer exists. They put a building on top of our place. Mr. Latham's class: where I learned I did NOT want to be a journalist, but I did want to write. He and Mr. Martin were my writing encouragers. I owe them a lot. The football field: homecoming in the rain. The computer lab where I spent hours with Lynn, preparing the school literary magazine: who knew she would be dead in just five years. She left me her words on so many pages. The psych class where Pat doodled in my book and took my picture: he lived two years after high school. I found so many diamonds in that mine.

{4} Temple Baptist Church - I accepted Christ in that gym. It was painted two shades of blue. I met my husband there, though I'd have never guessed it at the time. Eric and I, kissing in the hall before VBS. Luke, his brother... yeah, I wasn't the best behaved teenager. But I had friends there - drama and pain, but friends too. Kim and Rebecca and Karen and Dustin and so many others. Pat walking me to the sanctuary, one arm around my shoulders, ever the gentleman. George Porter smiling so big. Phil Chappell with the orange tiger paw on his glasses, flirting like only an old man can flirt and get away with it. Pool parties and pizza and just what did Jesus want from me. Trey baptized me there, and both of my parents came.

{5} Pilgrim's Way - God got us there through Ashley's sister forging a note so she could ride home on the bus with me. I took my first communion there. I worshiped the teenagers and their lock-ins. Mom sang. She met her husband there. She married him and, later, Preacher married Corey and I before the same altar. I learned to read my Bible in Peggy's Sunday School class, where I sat next to Pam.  Ms. Anne offered a dollar for each commandment I could learn. The very next week, I recited all ten, thankyouverymuch. Now, it's where my Uncle Greg's body rests, near Preacher and Ms. Virginia. The once-empty cemetery now holds too many friends.

{6} Target - It isn't there anymore. Rather, the building I worked in isn't there. It was bulldozed and rebuilt. Newer, cleaner, bigger, better I suppose. I answered the telephones, and I could see clear across the store from my little desk by the fitting rooms. I met Joey there. Summer and Marcielle taught me more than just zoning and pricing and replacing watch batteries. Honestly, there is too much in my gut to write this one down. I suppose, I grew up there. That's all.

Friday, January 27, 2012

30 in 30 - Wrap Up

The day got off to a bad start with the case of the disappearing diamond. When I went to bed, I left my wedding band and engagement ring on the nightstand. Normally, I put them in the bathroom before sleeping, but I was already in bed when I took them off. I can't sleep in them anymore, not since pregnancy #1. My hand goes numb when I try. Well, I picked up the band this morning and could not find the engagement ring. I have torn the room apart and have no idea how it could have gone anywhere. But, I am choosing to be calm. In a day or two, I will stumble upon it, right under my nose, I am sure. Instead of panicking, I took David to school. He helped me with my 30 Random Acts of Kindness by taking a Dr Pepper to his teacher and little treat bags of homemade yumminess to his principal and the school secretary.

My next stop was Starbucks. I ordered myself an apple chai. One of our youth, Josh, suggested I try one, and it was quite heavenly. I always drank vanilla chai when I was a Borders barista (RIP lovely bookstore), and I love apple cider, so the drink was pretty much meant for me. I ordered my drink and also purchased a $5 gift card. When I first walked in, no one was in line behind me, and I wondered who I would give the card to. However, an older man got in line behind me before my transaction was complete, and he seemed positively tickled when I handed him the card.

From there, it was home to make a plan for the morning. But, first, I stuck a candle in one of the chocolate pumpkin muffins I made for the goody baskets. I found the recipe on Pinterest, where I find most of my recipes as of late. It was so simple, and it felt crazy to not add milk, eggs, butter, etc... The two ingredients are cake mix and a 15 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, pureed pumpkin). You just mix it all up and fill the muffin cups with batter. Unlike cupcake batter, you actually fill the cups all the way up for these. It made exactly 12 delicious muffins. I blew out the candle after making my wish, but I still have not eaten the muffin. I have been running all day. It will probably be breakfast in the morning (don't you judge me. It is fruit, right?) Tonight, for dessert, there is tiramasu that I brought home from lunch.

Haydn helped me load the car full of trash bags we have filled over the last month. The boys selected toys to donate, including a box of K'nex that went to Haydn's therapy office. I cleaned out my closet and the craft room. I was ruthless with myself. We also filled the car with baskets of baked goods, a box full of children's books (to be shipped to the Chocktaw Mission), a stack of books inscribed "in memory of Natalie Rose York," and other random materials to make the day a success.

We stopped at the church first. I dropped a stack of postcards in the out box. Those will go to a handful of youth. I love sending them little cards just to say, "Hey, I'm thinking of you today." We also taped a bag of change to the soda machine, stocked Corey's fridge with Coke Zero and Mountain Dew Voltage, and delivered a basket of cookies and muffins to the janitorial staff. Those men and women care for the house of God and do not get thanked nearly enough. The basket in the picture is the one we dropped off at the library, but they all looked about the same.

We made it to the post office next. We always go to the downtown branch, because it is next door to the church and one block from the library. That just makes it insanely convenient. The same man and woman are always behind the counter, and I look forward to chatting with them each time we visit. I ship things often. I love getting snail mail, so I try to send snail mail as much as possible. I also do some Amazon trade-ins and resells, not to mention swapping through Bookmooch. With family and friends spread all over the world, the post office is my friend. So we stopped there to ship the aforementioned box of books, and Haydn gave boxes of cookies to each of the postal workers. He loved getting to do that. I loved seeing the grin on his face as he gave gifts to others.

Next stop: the library, where we delivered a basket of treats and donated a bag of books for the Friends of the Library bookstore. Also, we donated a game called Booktastic. The library here does a monthly board game night. I have had Booktastic since I found it at Borders when I worked there, years ago. Corey and I played it one time (and he beat me, go figure), so I decided the library would be a better home for it. We also put a dollar in the fund for those who need to print but are short on change. I planned to put inspirational bookmarks in random books, but I forgot the bookmarks. Also, after we drove away, I realized I had forgotten to put my coupons in the library coupon baskets.

Well, I had an extra basket of goodies with no specific recipient planned, so I decided to be even more random than we already were. We stopped at CVS. I used to be one of those weekly CVS shoppers who always paid with Extra Bucks and had a billion coupons. Homeschooling ended that for me. I got out of the routine and never have gotten back into it. However, I still run into CVS for this and that, and I see one particular cashier on a regular basis. She is kind and helpful and always remembers me by name. So we took her the basket of goodies. Then, since I still had coupons, I walked up and down aisles, leaving coupons next to their product. Hopefully that will help a handful of strangers. I left one of the Nattie books there as well.

On our way to Walmart, we stopped to donate the bags of stuff from the trunk and backseat. Then, inside Walmart, I left quarters on the claw machines and in the gumball machines by the exit doors. We dropped off a few more coupons near their items and also left a Nattie book in the bathroom and another Nattie book on top of one of the candy machines.

Our last stop of the day was the Dollar Tree. I picked up a few things (including a couple of audio books, because how can you pass up audio books for a dollar) and we hid dollar bills in the toy aisle. I hope some kid found them and had his day made. It was hard not to hide out and watch to see who found them and how they reacted. Haydn bought himself a pack of magic playing cards (magic is a current obsession) and decided to do his own act of kindness by buying a pack for his brother as well. I am very proud of him. He had a rough day yesterday, due to his brand new airplane (purchased with his own money) getting blown into the road and then run over by a car. If it tells you anything, my little aspie boy let me hold him while he cried. Letting someone cuddle him is always reserved for the worst pains.

Corey met us at the house and handed me a birthday card that uses Star Wars music to call me old. Classic. Also, he gave me an Olive Garden gift card and sent me to lunch by myself. It has been so long since I went out to eat with my book for a date. It is one of my most favorite things. I left the final Nattie book in the bathroom before being seated and ordering my usual (cheese ravioli with meat sauce). I disappeared into The Passion of Mary-Margaret (Lisa Samson is one of the exceptions to my typical aversion to Christian fiction, but that is for another post) and then ordered dessert to go and tipped the rest of the gift card to my server before driving back home.

Haydn and I made cocoa balls (a recipe I found in the Everything Kid's Cookbook) and filled a little mailbox shaped tin. I left that in the mailbox this morning, flag up, for our mailman. He is always so nice to Haydn and even left Haydn a Christmas present. After picking David up from school, we saw the flag down, so we figure he got those. There was a box on the stoop, a package from my friend Ashley. She and I have known each other since I was 6 and she was 3. We lost touch for a while in middle/high school but then she managed to track me down again, and I am so glad she did. It is amazing how some friendships just are. No matter time or distance, they just are. Ash sent me 30 happies for my 30th birthday. Yes, I am spoiled. But, I am a very GRATEFUL spoiled.

I just finished a long phone call with my mama, whom I adore, and now I am going to order some Papa John's (my favorite pizza) and play a game of In a Pickle with my boys. Here are some other pictures to chronicle my 30th.

Now, go do something nice for someone else. You will be so glad you did!


Friday Felicities: My Birthday Edition

It has been a while since I posted my Felicities. I was posting "Multitudes on Monday" for quite a while and the two lists were often the same. I am still keeping my 1000 Gifts list, but I am no longer typing them up once a week. So, it seems a good time to return to my dear friend, Natalie, and her Friday Felicities...

Friday Felicities

Chocolate pumpkin muffins
Apple chai from Starbucks
Successfully completing 30 Random Acts of Kindness today
Birthday cards from family
Constant texts, tweets and FB messages to tell me happy birthday
Blog readers that make my spirit soar
Our church building, early in the morning
Fat pen refills, at last
An email David sent me from school today
The boys helping me bake this week
Lunch with a good book at my favorite place

PS I miss you, Nattie-Pie.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

30 for 30 - Let the Party Begin

When my parents were my age, they had a three year old. Little me, with my white skin and black hair, their little china doll. That's what people called me back then. I had three years left to be an only child. In other words, my mom wasn't finished having babies. Me? My youngest is seven, and he will be the last Truett baby unless God moves in a mighty way.

Look at me, rocking' my feathers well before the trend.

I don't fear thirty. I am not approaching that number with any dread or trepidation. I doubt it will be so much different from 29. Before I know it, 30 will pass to 31 and 32 and 33 and so on. Or else it won't. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, is it?

Alright, before I grow morbid...

I blogged earlier this month about my plans for my thirtieth birthday. It will be a busy weekend for my minister man, so I decided to take the celebration into my own hands. My birthday just so happens to fall on Friday this year. Friday is traditionally pizza and a movie for our family. We will be having Papa John's, because it is my favorite. And I get to pick the movie, of course. 

Also, the boys and I will be doing 30 Random Acts of Kindness. Originally, the plan was to do all 30 items on my list on my actual birthday, the 27th. However, timing has worked out so that we started today. I have been baking a lot, prepping baskets of goodies to go here and there. I found the most adorable little mail box shaped tin at Target. We will fill that with yummies and leave it in our real mailbox for our mailman. Haydn and David sorted toys and donated many. Today, Haydn took a box of K'Nex to his therapy office, along with cookies for his two main therapists. I mailed a surprise to a friend today. "Just because" cards are in envelopes, already stamped and addressed. They can go in the mail Friday morning. We have a box of cookies for our trash collectors, if we can catch them in the morning. I will photograph some things, but some are private kindnesses that no one need know about.

All in all, I am having the best birth week I have had in a long time. Normally, I countdown to the big day as though something really amazing is bound to happen. There is no way not to be disappointed when Jesus Himself doesn't part the clouds to present my cake and watch me blow out the candles. This year, however, my mind is mostly not on myself. I'm having fun baking and planning and gathering supplies.

If you want to give me a birthday present, please do something kind this week. Hold a door for someone whose arms are full. Pay for the food of the person behind you in a drive-thru line. Make an effort to smile at the people you pass while doing your routine errand running. Say thank you to the people who rarely garner the notice of those around them. 

May you be blessed and be a blessing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dear David

Lately, you are quick to be defensive and negative. I hate that for you, though I recognize why you fall into such  pattern. Your big brother is often extremely negative. He is supposed to be your role model. On top of that, you are seven at the same time as your mother is turning thirty and struggling to launch a writing career while homeschooling your brother and supporting your Daddy in his last year of seminary. In other words, life is tough right now.

You are not a negative person. I know this. I see your huge heart in your teary eyes whenever you feel hurt. You are sensitive and, usually, very kind. The notes teachers send home speak of your creativity and your enthusiasm for learning. I love that, David. If you love to learn, you'll never stop growing, searching, expanding. If you love to learn, the whole world is handed to you on a platter. Life is your buffet; serve yourself.

Right now, you probably feel left out a lot. You go to public school while your brother stays home with me. Your dad and I have discussed bringing you home as well. I have prayed over it a lot. You are blossoming in the public school environment though. You come home excited everyday. You talk about your friends and what you are learning. You are such a social creature, and though I could make a bigger effort to keep you in social situations despite no classroom full of 15 kids, I don't see the point in fixing what isn't broken. You love school and school loves you, so I leave you where you are for now. I promise, schooling decisions are not things we take lightly. You are where you are because we love you and feel it is best for you.

I know you miss your sister. You are still too little to grasp the hugeness of that situation. You pray for her, and I feel the heaviness in your little boy heart. I wish I could carry that for you, but I cannot. The missing of Savannah is yours to hold. The ache to have her around is something you will carry into manhood. It will affect how you treat others and how you handle separation from those you love. In short, the hurts of childhood shape the person in adulthood, so I have to let you feel those hurts. If I carry them all for you, how will you ever learn to walk without holding my hand.

I hope, one day, you will come home to visit. With you will be a young wife and a new baby. I will hold that little bundle and coo and say, "Son, he looks just like you." Your wife will say, "Tell me about David when he was little," and I will tell her so many stories. I'll tell her how you once told a teacher that you couldn't quit talking because your mouth just had "so much information." I will tell her about your first tee ball game and how you rode on a float in the Christmas parade in Tupelo and once put a twenty dollar bill in the offering plate at church because the air conditioner was broken and you wanted to help them fix it. I will overflow with stories that show you to be...


you... exactly the you God intends you to be.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Seven Wants

I am a person who wants things, lots of things, all the time. These aren't always material things, but often they are. I am participating in an online study of a book called Made to Crave, so wants are on my mind right now. The premise of the book is this: we were made to crave all sorts of spiritual things, but we try to satisfy those cravings with material things. The concept isn't new to me, but I am trying to pay closer attention to my cravings and how I respond to them. So, with that in mind, here are seven wants...

{1} My boys to be obedient and kind. I am aware that this isn't going to happen overnight. Raising children into adulthood is hard work, and I am not always up to the task. I also have to admit that, quite often, my boys ARE obedient and kind. They are especially obedient and kind when I am not the person they need to obey and be kind to. I'm sure other moms can relate. What I crave, I suppose, is for my children to be people I enjoy spending time with. Sometimes they are. I see glimpses of the people they will grow into, and I like a lot of the things I see.

{2} To somehow be closer to my family and friends. I have to drive 3 hours or so to see Leila or Cat, and I have to drive 9 hours to see Ashley, Rebecca, Kimmi, etc... My family is also 9 hours away. I have never experienced life as an adult with my family close at hand. Lately, I get lonely easily, but not lonely for people in general. I specifically wish to be close to the people who know me better than I know myself.

{3} A wardrobe that is both comfortable and flattering. I have gained weight, and I am okay with that. I don't hate my body or anything. I just want to dress it appropriately. The clothes I used to wear are tight in all the wrong places.

{4} To begin publishing books. In 2011, I completed two manuscripts. One is a middle-grade fantasy novel and the other is a book about a girl who tells lies. I also finished a 10,000 word short story/novelette (not kid-lit) and began brainstorming a picture book with a friend. I am now working on another children's book. This one is about a magic library discovered by two children in Eastern Kentucky circa 1950.

{5} Not just survive but thrive in 2012. That sounds all gimmicky, but it's really not. What I mean is this: Corey has one year left in seminary. He graduates in December. This will be a LONG year. I will be spending the majority of my weekends alone with the boys. I am the kind of person who needs me-time. Solitude becomes me. Constant noise and neediness makes me want to scream and cry and hide in my room. There will be little to no solitude for me this year. I am, quite frankly, terrified. So, when I say I want to do more than just survive, I am being serious. I would like to come out of 2012 without having to recuperate in a sterile white-walled asylum.

{6} To travel. I am always dreaming about far away places. I haven't even renewed my passport, which expired in 2008. There's been no need. People around me make the pilgrimage to Israel or plan summer trips to England and France. I listen to stories from friends who recently spent time in Greece or Italy. My travels are confined to this country, thus far. I make it to South Carolina to see my family, a couple times a year. I finally made it back home to Kentucky for all too brief a visit in 2011. We go to Knoxville for weekends with Corey's parents and I drive to Jackson to see friends. I do my real traveling within the pages of books, and that is both wonderful and sad. I close a novel and feel as if I've been on a glorious voyage, but I also feel a new ache inside... yet another place I may never see in my reality.

{7} Write longhand easily. Carpal tunnel has always popped up in my life, here and there. Usually my hand will cramp if I write too much at a time or use a skinny pen instead of my Dr. Grip. When I was pregnant with Haydn, my thumb remained numb until I was almost a month postpartum. Lately, I can type without issue, but writing makes my whole hand feel fat and tingly. I wake up in the morning with a numb arm and fingers. I wear a wrist brace, and it makes things better about 80% of the time, but it is annoying to sleep in. I love journaling, and I am currently filling the pages of a beautiful Italian leather book my friend, Desiree, bought for me. However, most days, I look at the book and back at my hand and skip writing to avoid carpal tunnel issues. This is not cool.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Eight Fears

8 Fears

1. I fear being wrong - 100% in the wrong in front of people where I have adamantly insisted I am right. Honestly, this can be a good fear in some cases. It has often kept me from opening my mouth too soon. Since I am prone to intellectual/spiritual pride, I am pretty sure I need a good healthy dose of this humiliating fear to keep my mouth in check.

2. I feel afraid when I am home by myself at night and trying to sleep. This has gotten a lot better over the years, but I cannot shake it entirely. Sometimes I have to take a sleeping pill when Corey is out of town. As soon as I close my eyes, I hear every tiny sound and my heartbeat quickens. The cats have been helpful. Now, when I hear a sound, I say to myself, "It's only the cats."

3. I am afraid of spiders. Especially the trifecta of spiders: wolf, black widow, brown recluse. This isn't a fear I hope to get over. They are gross and dangerous and I see no need to not be afraid of them. However, I am not so afraid of regular spiders. At least, so long as they stay in their nice outside place and let me have my nice inside place.

4. I am afraid of never making it as a writer. Define "making it?" I am not really sure. I don't expect to win a pulitzer or even write the next series of Harry Potter-esque books. I'd like to make a little money as a writer, enough to contribute to the running of our household on a more regular basis. I would like to publish children's books. I would like to be published as a poet widely enough for my name to be known. I don't need to be a name everyone knows, but I'd like people outside of my family and friends to perhaps have heard of me.

5. I am terrified of math classes. I am not joking. At. All. Math classes bring me to tears.

6. I am afraid of being seen as unimportant, annoying, silly, shallow, self-righteous, a burden and a bother. In other words, I worry way too much about what others think.

7. Crowds. Well, fear is probably not the best word. I just don't like them. When a group grows too large or rowdy, my heart rate speeds up and I want to hide. Ironically, I don't have stage fright. I love being in front of people, but I don't like being surrounded by people. I suppose the difference is a sense of control. I'm not sure.

8. I fear being exposed as a fraud. In my worst moments, I am lazy and selfish and I am not a good example of Christian/Mother/Wife/Woman. I fear those being the only moments that matter in the end.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Scary School with Darth and Voldy

Corey has 2 semesters left, and he graduates in December. My plan is to sign up for an ACT prep class in 2013 and take my ACT. I took the SATs twice, in high school, but if I get a certain score on the ACT my tuition will be covered at a local community college. The plan is to do my core at that school and then, hopefully, transfer to Ole Miss. Ole Miss has a creative writing major, so that is where I want to go. Or, rather, Ole Miss has a creative writing major and is close to home, so that is where I will go. I somehow doubt I can make the commute to that other Oxford. *wink*

I suppose, this line of thinking explains last night's wacky dream. It started with me returning to college. Of course, I have to start over (my credits have expired), so the dream began with me walking onto campus as a freshman. The school was somehow attached to my alma mater, Lower Richland High. Incidentally, the first college I attended was a tech school down the street and we often called it "Lower Richland University" as a joke.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Thank You, Dr. King.

On Saturday afternoon, I curled up on the couch to read with my boys. We were planning to start the second Harry Potter book, but first I asked them to let me read Rosa by Nikki Giovanni. In 2010, we read a biography of Martin Luther King Jr, and both boys enjoyed it. With Monday being MLK day, David has been learning about Civil Rights in school, but Haydn is homeschooled, so he was missing out. I was surprised when he did not know who Rosa Parks is, so I set out to remedy the situation. Kids, you know, need repetition. We had talked about Rosa before, but he forgot, and I want to make sure she is someone he remembers.

As I flipped the pages and read them Rosa's story, we came to a paragraph about Emmett Till. I was trying to read normally, but Haydn noticed my shaky voice and teary eyes and asked why I was crying. I stopped reading then and told my sons the story of Emmett Till in my own words. I told them how I feel for his mother and how amazing what she did (open casket) was. They didn't understand. Why would it matter if a black boy spoke to a white woman? Why did black people have to sit on the back of the bus? Why did they use separate drinking fountains and go to different schools?

At the end of Sunday service, a video was played. A handful of children were speaking, answering the question, "What does Dr. King's life years ago mean to your life today?" Many of the young black students explained how they can dream because King dreamed. They can go to college, have the career they want, even be president, because of the life King lived before them. One little white girl said she was grateful for Dr. King, because without the Civil Rights Movement she would not know the children who were her best friends.

I cried listening to them, as I cried trying to explain Emmett and Rosa to my own sons. I am grateful to Dr. King as well. This country isn't perfect. We have not wiped out all racism, but we do live in a world where my sons are perplexed by segregation. They cannot understand why it was ever the norm. It is so hard for me to explain what once was just a way of life to little white boys.

My sons can safely live a life filled with people of every color. My sons are free to ask, "Why did the white people think they were better than the black people?" because of Dr. King. Thanks to Martin Luther King Junior, I - a white woman - can sit on my sofa and cry for a dead black boy, openly disgusted by the actions of some idiot white men and the court that let them go.

Because of Dr King and those who stood with him, before him, and after him, I can read Nikki's words to my children. I was able to grow up with a variety of races all around me. I am especially grateful for that. See, I was one of those "different" kids in school. I struggled to fit in with my peers. At my high school, I would be the first to tell you, the black girls were always nicer to me than the white girls. They taught me to dance, calling me the "black white girl" when I was surprisingly good at it. They built me up, even as the girls I would have been forced to spend my time with, pre-civil rights movement, tried to tear me down.

Thank you Dr. King. Thank you for the country of your dreams.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Best YA/Kid Reads in 2011

Whales on Stilts by M T Anderson cracked me up. We listened to the audio version on a car trip. It is just silly enough without being annoying. One day, I want to write something similarly bizarre. :) Actually, I think Whales on Stilts has an air of Hitchhiker's Guide meets Nancy Drew.

A favorite line“Lily told her about what had happened so far. (If you're interested, you can go back to the beginning of the book and read all the way through to this point again.)” 

I am cheating a bit on this one, because Warriors is a series of books, not just one. Haydn started reading them in 2011. I was curious about the books that made my son quit grumbling about his 15 minutes of reading per day and start devouring 300 page novels. I figured I would read the first book in the series and then. move on. Instead, I read the first sub-series of 6 books and then read one of the stand alone novels. They are just great books. The ladies who write them go by the name Erin Hunter, and they are both very talented. I cannot tell who wrote which (and that is hard as a writer/editor). Also, I get so into it, I forget they are cats not people. Just, wow.

A favorite line“You cannot live with a paw in each world.” 

Another audio selection that we enjoyed was Scat by Carl Hiaasen. I had never read his work before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. He crafted a good story, taught my kids a few lessons about judging others and protecting the environment, and made all of us laugh out loud.

A favorite line“Jimmy Lee Baylis was a wise man, and knew better than to talk back to the man who signed his paycheck.” 

I decided to go through some classic kids' lit with my boys, via audio book, last year. We listened to quite a few Jerry Spinelli books. By far, my favorite was Maniac Magee. It brought up some race issues that I was able to talk about with the boys. I love any excuse to show my boys how people are people, regardless of color, and how we should treat others with respect, recognizing that everyone has problems and fears.

A favorite line“Amanda took the torn page from Maniac. To her, it was the broken wing of a bird, a pet out in the rain.”

Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite children's authors. She weaves stories with deep emotion and strong imagery. The boys were instantly interested in this book, The Tiger Rising, because of the tiger. My boys love cats of all sizes. The characters were good, as was the ending. Honestly, it was just an all around good book.

A favorite line"He made all his feelings go inside the suitcase; he stuffed them in tight and then sat on the suitcase and locked it shut."

I read the first of the Incorrigible books, The Mysterious Howling, because it was really cheap on Kindle. I loved it. Adored it. I want to finish the series, but the other books are not cheap on Kindle and not available at my local library. *sad face* This story was just plain fun, the epitome of a good children's story, and a good children's story is a good story. Period.

A favorite line“If it were easier to resist, it would not be called Chocolate Cake.” 

Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry is the first book we listened to that so caught my oldest son's attention that he would ask to sit in the car to keep listening. He has only done that a handful of times (most often during Harry Potter), so it is truly high praise. I did not expect to love the book, but it was outdoorsy so I had hoped the boys would like it. Instead, I found myself profoundly moved by the pure religion of the grandfather and the shepherding imagery that made me think so much of Jesus. Please, read this book.

A favorite line“A person can live a little bit broken...Most of us do, I guess.” 

I blew through The Hunger Games (all three books, actually) in 2011, and I am excited for the movie. I even convinced my Daddy to pick up the first one. Katniss, the girl on fire, is from District 12. District 12 sounds a lot like the world I was born in, Appalachia, a land mined of so much richness and yet still completely beautiful and stronger than most of America can ever hope to be. I love my home, no matter how far away I live. I love it, and I love seeing it conquer all, even in fiction. ;)

A favorite line“Destroying things is much easier than making them.”

I was absolutely enchanted by Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I borrowed it from one of the teenagers I know, because I had been told it was better in hardcopy. There are lost of intriguing photos included, which Mr. Riggs collects from all over the world. In one sense, this is a classic tale of a boy with secret powers. But, it is also completely original in so many ways. I loved it. I just loved it. There will be another "peculiar children" book, and I plan to read that one as well.

A favorite line“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.” 

I picked up Big Mouth and Ugly Girl on a trip to the public library. I was on a YA kick, as I was most of 2011. I have been writing a lot of fiction, both children's and YA, and it helps to know what is currently selling and what boundaries are being pushed or held to fast. I have read Oats before, and her writing is truly a force to be reckoned with. This book was no different. Not long after reading it, a similar type of outcasting situation happened at a school nearby, and I thought a lot about this book then. I am glad I read it. Very very glad.

A favorite line"For dress-up I'd put in all my ear studs- nine in each ear. (Not that they matched.) I felt big and clumsy as a horse trapped in a tinsel candy box"


Friday, January 13, 2012

Best Reads of 2011

I was lucky enough to borrow a copy of My Reading Life by Pat Conroy from the library (Kindle library loans are a godsend to my bank account). Pat Conroy is my favorite living novelist. I have not read everything he has written, because then I will have read everything he has written. If that makes sense to you, then we are kindred spirits. I also reread Prince of Tides this year. The rhythm of that books moves inside me.

A favorite Line: "The writers who scoff at the idea of primacy of stories either are idiots or cannot write them."

Another of my favorite novelists, Barbara Kingsolver, had a new book out last year. The Lacuna was completely engrossing. Also, in reading it, I learned a ton. I loved that Frida was a real person, and I was able to look up some of her art online. Also, I found the paranoia of the 1960 fascinating. With the recent passing of the NDAA, America is poised to descend into that craziness all over again. Instead of communists, the fear is terrorists.

A favorite line: "My words, me, how could there be any difference?"

I stumbled upon this fun read and am glad I did. Amazon suggested it to me, and they were right on target. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making by Catherynne M Valente was a fantastical romp through brilliant imagination. I have her other stories on my to-read list.

A favorite line“She sounds like someone who spends a lot of time in libraries, which are the best sorts of people.” 

I take part in the Amazon Vine program, so I sometimes get my hand on a really good book before it even hits the shelves. That was the case with The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I absolutely adored every second of the story, and I am sure it will be one of those rare books I reread from time to time. I have also convinced quite a few people to buy their own copies and have seen some of them suggesting it to others. One of our youth guys even did his English project on the book. I missed out on getting to meet Erin when she was in MS on tour, but my sweet husband took my ARC by for her to sign. I just cannot say enough good things about this book. You can read my post on this book by clicking HERE.

A favorite line“The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones.” 

1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp was the first book I purchased for my kindle, last year. It was a beautiful read, and it changed my life in a very literal way. I began listing blessings, challenging myself to reach 1000. I am well past 2000 now, and the notebook I list in lies open on the kitchen island. I still hear the word "eucharisteo" in my head all the time. I bought my mother a copy for Mother's Day, last year, and she loved it as well. She said the writing reminded her of me, and that is high praise in my opinion. Actually, I have not read the last few pages of this book. Once I read them, I will have finished reading it, and I don't really want to be finished. There is now a category on this blog called 1000. I list blessings there.

A favorite line“Just that maybe … maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.”

Yet another one of my favorite novelists, Jodi Picoult released Sing You Home in 2011, and I was sucked in, as I am with almost all of her books. She does so much research to get things just right, and I appreciate that. I worry a lot about messing up some tiny detail or another when I write, so her skill with legalities amazes me. Not to mention, she has this way of exploring all sides of a story that illustrates the very reason I think novels are so important to our society. When you read a novel, you have the chance to be someone else for a bit. It is okay if you feel or think differently, because it isn't real. But, that's just it, with a good book it IS real. By the end, you have felt and thought things you never would in real life, and you can't unfeel or unthink them. Novels can change how we see other people and the issues that confound and separate us.

A favorite line: "With my eyes closed, with every word a brushstroke, I do the kind of praying people do when they don’t know if there is a God."

During Lent, last year, I read Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler. The timing was perfect. As Passover (and Easter) approached, I explored the Jewishness of Jesus. A million little nuggets of truth found their way into my heart, and I began to look at Jesus differently. Always, He has been Savior, Lord, even Friend and Lover, but after that reading, he also became Teacher. Our church book group is reading it this month, and I get to lead the discussion in February. I am excited to see if they love it as much as I did.

A favorite line: "Would it surprise you to learn that the rabbis thought that study, and not prayer, was the highest form of worship? They pointed out that when we pray, we speak to God, but that when we study the Scriptures, God speaks to us."

Sticking to my little crush on Judiasm, I also read Strangers and Neighbors in 2011. It is a slim little book, by Maria Poggi Johnson, that I bought at Annual Conference in 2010. It sat on my To Read shelf for close to a year before I picked it up. The author lived among a group of Orthodox Jews and they all raised their children together. Her insights were refreshing and challenging. I love books that parallel the practices of Christianity with those of Judaism (think Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner), and I also love books where someone learns from another culture. The opening up of minds and hearts to invited in, well, strangers and neighbors... I love it.

A favorite line: "Christianity is built on the foundation of the Jewish covenant, but it is not just slapped on top of it like a trailer home onto a concrete lot."

If you have read here very long, you already know that owls have become a sort of symbol for me. I was attracted to them, originally, a few years ago. I had no real reason for this attraction, but God did. As my obsession grew, I found myself at the Cincinatti Zoo, face to face with Homer the Barred Owl. He was beautiful. I stared into his eyes and fell in love. The trainer surprised me by saying that owls are stupid birds, the hardest of creatures to train. That stuck with me. We call them wise, but they aren't? Then, I picked up Wesley the Owl by Stacey O'Brien for a dollar at BAM (before ours went out of business). I was delighted to learn that owls are not stupid at all. They are hard to train because they have no need for us and see no reason to obey our commands. They are, rather, relational animals. To me, this showed the difference between being a religious drone and being a child of God, head over heels in love with Jesus. Honestly, I could go on forever about the spiritual epiphanies I had while reading Stacey's book. I will spare you, for now.

A favorite line: "Occasionally someone would ask to see "the baby," and when I opened the blanket, would leap back shrieking, "What is that?! A dinosaur?" Apparently, the world is full of educated adults with mortgages and stock portfolios who think people are walking around grocery stores with dinosaurs in their arms."

Finally, there was Little Bee by Chris Cleave. The writing was lyrical and beautiful. The story was shocking and heartbreaking and motivating. It is hard to properly describe this book. I'll just say, you have to read it. The girl on the beach, the missing finger, the scars... it is a story you need to hear.

A favorite line“We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, 'I survived'.” 

Stay tuned for my best YA/Kid reads from 2011.

Currently: Turning 30

Current Books: I am on the last chapter of Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. I fell in love with her books years ago. Mandy Moore starred in a movie made from two of Sarah's novels, and I love Mandy, so I watched it. That led me to seek out the books, and I still get excited when I see Sarah has a new book out. I have A Girl Named Disaster waiting on me at the library, and I downloaded a collection of Mercedes Lackey stories. I am reading two volumes of poetry (one by Nikki Giovanni and one by Kay Ryan) and a book of daily Mary-based devotions. I am in Chronicles in my Bible. The boys and I just finished listening to The Giver in the car. A reread for me, but so good.

Current Playlist: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, due to my father. When I listen to new-to-me music, it is usually due to Daddy.

Current Shame Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Gossip Girl. My 8th grade girls watch it and talk about it all the time. So I promised them I would watch too. It really is a teen soap opera and not my usual style at all, but I have gotten sucked in, so I watch.

Current color: Kentucky blue

Current Fetish: Family history. I have been working on a family tree.

Current Food: I am about to make some heavenly mac-n-cheese in the crockpot.

Current Drink: Ice cold milk

Current Favorite Favorite: Snail mail. Email and social media are great things, but nothing beats a handwritten note.

Current Wishlist: I am buying a desk next week. I am looking forward to that.

Current Needs: To relax in my parenting. I am way too tense.

Current Triumphs: I am about halfway through chapter 3 of the current manuscript. I am writing more slowly on this project, but I am making progress.

Current-Bane-of-my-Existence: Mornings. I am having so much trouble waking up lately.

Current Indulgence: I am planning a lazy weekend of reading, watching Gossip Girl, and eating.

Current Mood: Tenser than I'd like to be, but mostly good.

Current #1 Blessing: Corey took Haydn with him to Memphis yesterday and I had a day off. I got some writing done and rested.

Current Slang or Saying: "Let it be."

Current Outfit: FUMC sweatshirt, black lounge pants, painted TOMs

Current Link: Teachers Pay Teachers is a hugely helpful resource.

Current Photo:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Turning 30

On January 27th, I will be turning 30. I wanted to do something really special to celebrate, but my husband has church stuff and my best friend will be birthing her second baby girl. I decided not to wallow. Instead, I will be doing 30 random acts of kindness to kick off my thirties.

If you want to help me celebrate, it's easy. Just do something kind for someone else this month. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Tape change to a vending machine.
  2. Hide one dollar bills in the dollar store toy aisle.
  3. Leave goodies in the mailbox for your mail person.
  4. Pay for the meal of the car behind you in a drive-thru.
  5. Smile at someone.
  6. Compliment a mother's parenting/children in public.
  7. Donate clothes and toys to a charity/thrift store.
  8. Offer to babysit for a frazzled mom.

Can you think of anything else? Be creative!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Post In Which I Babble

It is Sunday afternoon. I have been out of sorts since yesterday. I stayed home from church to sleep but ended up awake and cleaning the house. Impossible to sleep with my children at home, trying to tear each other to shreds because one of them looked at the other and that is definitely unacceptable. So I made them clean their bathroom together and then sent each of them to clean their own rooms. I got out the vacuum. They clean faster when there is the danger of a vacuum sucking up their Legos hovering nearby. You would not believe how many pairs of socks and underwear were hiding under David's bed. Ew. Boys are so gross.

I made dinner and had that in the oven while we all three cleaned. After dinner, I made myself a lovely mug cake and settled in to read. I am enjoying a memoir called Trespassers will be Baptized. The author is a Southern Baptist preacher's daughter from Eastern KY. Being from Eastern KY and having grown up three kinds of Baptist, I can relate to the inner-workings of her child mind. And, on the adult side, some aspects of being a preacher's kid are universal to pastor's families within all denominations. At least, my experience says that is true. I'll stick to Methodism and not find out from other experiences. I'd also prefer not to ever compare being a minister's wife to being a doctor's wife or a military wife or any other professional's wife. I have heard comparisons made, and I think I will stick to other people's experiences on such subjects.

I am making a list of Mary books to read this year. I downloaded a volume of Mary devotionals as well. Each one is really no more than a few lines. Some are thought provoking and some are just words on the page, but I am going to read one each day and leave the meaning up to God. Currently, I am enamored by the imagery of Mary as the Ark of the Covenant. Both she and the ark were holy vessels because they held the presence of God within them. Also, I am thinking of rereading Our Lady of the Lost and Found. I really enjoyed that one.

Haydn and I are getting ready to start a small unit on rocks and minerals. I found some great resources on a site called Teachers Pay Teachers. We are more than halfway through Story of the World Volume I. I love the book, but I am getting tired of Greece. I never thought that would be possible, but it is. Between studying it in history and reading about it in Rick Riordan's books, I am about full-up on all things Greek... except the food. I'll keep the food, thanks. It's too bad my pupil has so many aspie food issues. I would have loved cooking dishes from the many places we study. I suppose I could try desserts. He has much less trouble with new desserts. He even discovered, this Christmas, that he likes baklava as much as I do.

Math-wise, we are adding numbers with three digits at home and he has started basic algebra with one of his therapists. I am so head-over-heels grateful for his therapists. You just would not believe it. Therapist A can get him to talk about things he would never share with me and he will actually LISTEN to her advice. Therapist B can make just about any bit of academia make sense to Haydn. He taught him number patterns by using game systems (16 bit, 32 bit, 64 bit). We are crazy blessed by the people who help us day to day.

I am doing a massive spring clean. I'm only a few months early. There is just entirely too much stuff in this house: too many books overflowing their shelves, too many half-finished art projects, too many toys, too many papers, too many unsorted notebooks and journals... Too Many seems to have been the theme for 2011. Apparently, it took precedence over peace, and that shall be no more. I have taken a ton of stuff to the big trash can and have boxes and bags of stuff to be donated here there and yonder.

How's that for a post about everything and nothing all at once? (Do you have the time...)

Disqus for Madame Rubies