Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Tenth Gift

I went on an interesting journey this week- -in my reading chair!! I traveled to Cornwall, England and then to the coast of Morocco on Africa's northern coast. I sailed with corsairs, dallied with slave runners, and roamed the alleyways of Sale. The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson was the high seas adventure that provided my escape.

Inspired by a family legend, Johnson's research took her to the Cornish coast and then to modern day Morocco where she discovered that the family rumors were true. A congregation in 17th century Cornwall was kidnapped from a Cornwall church during a slave trader's Sunday raid. It seems that between the 16th and 19th centuries, over a million Britons were kidnapped and enslaved by corsairs and pirates. Indeed, the Pirates of Penzance, had more than an element of truth!! Jane Johnson then went on to pen a tale that wove two women together - 400 years apart.

I loved the author's backstory for this book and I was intrigued by the plot and adventure,however; the main characters left me flat. I felt that Julia, the modern day character, was selfish, petty, and a twit. I had little respect for her and I never really cared about her. Cat, the 17th century character, was similiar to Julia but somehow a little easier to forgive. She was immature but wanted more from life and I guess I was okay with that.

Jane Johnson is the publishing director at HarperCollins UK and The Tenth Gift is her first novel. While on a trip to Morocco to do research for her story, Johnson met a man who so impressed her that he became the inspiration for one of her main characters. Another twist - she later married him and now resides half the year in a Berber village in a remote part of Morocco!! Which is stranger - fact or fiction?!?!

I enjoyed the journey and what I learned - too bad the characters kept me from wanting even more!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Things to be excited about....

They did it!!

Paul & Jessica got married!

Mother's Day 2009 will be remembered for the day that Paul and Jess decided to become a family!! Yippee!!!!!!

We had a great time celebrating with them .... family, food and fun!! Thanks for making her part of the family, Paulie! We love you both!

Other random exciting things....

  • vacation planning - 7 states, 4,200 miles, and two very lucky people! Maybe we'll try eating ice cream in every state again!
  • summer projects - cleaning, organizing, reading, walking - be still my heart!
  • family reunions - Tucson, Idaho, and Montana (wahoo!)
  • marriage classes - thoughtful, funny, and well worth it!
  • movie madness - summer adventures on the big screen, popcorn and a big soda - that's escapism at its best!
First day of summer . . . . . .


Friday, May 22, 2009

Goodbyes and Hellos

"How lucky I am to have known someone who was so hard to say goodbye to. "

Saying goodbyes and farewells to co-workers was emotional today. Due to budget cuts and decreased enrollment our school lost a stagg
ering number of employees. We are grieving and saying goodbye was hard. Goodbye seems more final this year. An end and not a farewell til fall. An end of a year of laughter, tears, hugs and fears. Teaching those kiddos can be so darn hard. It drains you when you pour so much of yourself into them. We were blessed to do it as a team. To shoulder our burdens side by side. As a team we shared everything with each other.... helped out when we were sick, endured endless meetings side by side, shared 184 lunches, laughed til we cried nearly everyday, and worked in tandem; making our team the best. We've lived through marriages, babies, surgeries, lost loves, and new found friends. We've been together through jury duty, weathered sadness, and uncertainties. We are the B Building!! Here we greet each morning with hugs and leave each afternoon with hugs. All 8 of us! It's just who we are and we all love it that way. So how could we say goodbye? It just seemed too final....we decided that this would not be farewell but just another "see ya later." Then why was it so hard?? We know we will text often, call, and email...but ....I will miss long talks after school, catching up on the weekend activities, crying together, and a regular morning laugh. I will miss a particular giggle. Drats.

Goodbyes have always been hard for me. Maybe because the goodbyes in my life were always sad ones - they seemed permanent. Not like " see ya later"s.

My little first graders became misty and moisty this year - tears were ready to flow until we sang a silly song and gave hugs. This has been the greatest class - I hestitated for more than a moment when it was time to let them grow up! But... they know where to find me next year when life seems uncertain. Maybe that's why so many of my past students come by daily for that hug....they know where I am and that first grade love is unconditional!! I need to remember that!

I wrapped up the classroom in one hour today. It was hard to believe that it's been a year. The stacked desks and covered cabinets see
med sterile and somewhat lonely without the primary colored books, wall decorations, and pint sized bodies. Another year to say goodbye to.

So now I am ready for some HELLOs!

Today I will say a happier hello to awesome clouds, rainy skies, and cool temps! When I asked why I couldn't live in a place with this kind of weather all the time Rich responded that we had worked hard to get "kicked out of the Garden of Eden" and now had to live in some pretty imperfect places instead! Too bad....

Hello summer!

Hello walking!

Hello house!

Hello thinking time!

Hello vacation!

Hello catch-up time!

Hello pillow!

Hello projects!

Hello books!

Hello friends!

Hello visits!

Hello movies!

Hello gym!

Hello afternoon Diet Cokes from Sonic!


Sunday, May 17, 2009


A lesson at church today has stuck with me. It was about gifts.

Think of one of the best gifts you have been given. Why do we remember some gifts and not others? Because usually they are personal and you feel the love of the giver. Well our spiritual gifts are given as a sign of God's love for us. There are many gifts given to us and we spend a lot of time on earth trying to figure out what we've received. Although the lesson took us down a different path, my mind has been wandering to some of the spiritual gifts I've been given.

Remember the old adage, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade"? I'd like to think that's one of my gifts. It may take time, but typically I can find a way to see the positive in almost everything. I find this gift in many around me as well. How I admire my dear friend who is being re-assigned to a new school and is facing it with grace and a smile. Everyday I marvel when she walks in with a smile on her face!! Others in the same situation are negative and morose, but this sweet friend has shed her tear and now is ready to meet new people and accept a new adventure! Her lemonade is delicious!!

What do you see?? Some see a flat tire. Others see an opportunity. Our son, Q, saw a chance to do something new today, meet new people, and have a new experience. He doesn't always see the "lemonade" in the situation, but he is learning to. I love that!

Guess what??? I've been summoned to Jury Duty ---- again!! I received my summons 25 months after I completed a 4 month stint as a juror in a murder case. I was freed from Jury service for 24 months - talk about timing!! I am one lucky girl!! Is there "lemonade" here?? I could certainly plead my case with the judge and tell them my saga ...they really would listen! But you know, I really learned something from the last opportunity. I learned a LOT! I wondered what it was for about a year and a half and in December I finally figured out one of the things I was supposed to learn. So here comes the "lemonade"....I know that I can learn something from this opportunity as well. And on an even better note - the summons doesn't require my service until mid-June!! Perfect timing for teachers!!

So what's the positive in the nasty cough I have??? Well, ya got me! It may take me awhile longer to figure some things out. I could celebrate the whole "I have a body" thing, or the fact that I have a great "husky radio voice", but I'm sure it will come to me. Cough...cough...hack...hack! At least it's not swine flu!!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Hunger Games

Wow! Zowie! Shazam! Pow! I don't even know if I can put into words how cool this book was to "read" (ok, listen to on Mp3!) Because of this book I jumped out of bed every morning at 5 am to walk....because of this book I bent everyone's ear to tell them to read it...because of this book I called a friend (at work!) to complain that it was over! To say that I enjoyed The Hunger Games is putting it mildly. I was captivated with this YA novel.

The Hunger Games are a rite of both suppression and intimidation for the people of Panem, a post-apocolyptic world we can liken to the US. Twenty four tributes from the 12 districts are thrown into an Olympic-type event that plays out more like the gladiators or the TV series, Survivor. In further intimidating fashion, all citizens are required to watch as teenage tributes fight one another, for their very survival. The topic seemed more than depressing and haunting but I was smitten with the characters, the sense of place, the dialogue. The main characters were courageous yet flawed and human. They were independent thinkers with strong wills and ultimately soft hearts. Soon I was caught up in the world of Panem and the Hunger Games.

Suzanne Collins is a skilled storyteller. I fell into the story from the beginning and she led me into "just one more chapter" each time I listened. Carolyn McCormack, narrated the audio version and her vocal abilities lent a haunting feel to the passages. Because I was listening to the book I never knew if I was in the middle of a chapter or near the end of the book(I saw this both as a positive AND a negative!! Especially when the book ended before I was emotionally ready!) I am more than ready for the next book which comes out in September!!

I love a great story; one that will stay with me long after it's over. Well done, Suzanne Collins! Your bedtime stories to your kids must be incredible!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Morning Walks

I am finally getting back to walking. I realize once I am out and going how much I enjoy my walks. I've missed them. Walking with friends, walking solo, walking with an audio book - it's just time uncommitted and it suits me just fine! A bit more than a year ago I was prepping for a marathon and I was going to walk it all. I had dreamed about being a runner but I realized that I just didn't have the chutzpah to do it. I read books, practiced, talked with others...I still hated it. My knees hurt, my lungs hurt, my body hurt. I finally came to grips with the fact that I am not a teenager or athletic. I stopped fighting it! I decided it was okay to just walk!! It may not be as trendy as running but walking suits me.

Remember this... I am NOT a morning person! My mom must have ordered a nocturnal daughter, but overtime I think I am realizing what I had been missing while I slept. I may be converting! The morning is awesome!! Now, I hate parting with the pillow as much as anyone else but I was determined to get back to walking! Walks started at about 5 am this week. It is still cool, a time before the "furnace" of heat starts baking the day. I like walking at daybreak best. The sounds are different from the sounds of full daylight, the smell of the neighborhood --- orange blossoms and dryer vents on weekdays and bacon on Saturdays!! I hate wearing a hat and I don't wear sunglasses so I like walking in the morning when it's still shady. I love the tilt of the light! Although I walk through the neighborhood on weekdays I like to venture out on new explorations on Saturdays. Walking the canal for 13 miles was more interesting than it sounds.... I've discovered a neighborhood full of peacocks....walked historic Mesa and found the Park of the Canals. But this morning I stayed close by ....

I love the resilience of wildflowers and weeds.... they bloom anywhere!! I need to learn a lesson about endurance, working with what you have and just sucking it up!!

Lantana makes me smile.

Look at what I discovered as I rounded the corner of the park this morning! The TP fairies were hard at work last night. It all fluttered in the breeze and I laughed outloud. I must admit though that I was SO glad it wasn't my house that had TP on the cactus!! It's not fun to clean up. Been there, done that!

There's something so cool about wet footprints. In this heat they're gone in a flash. I bet there's something philosophical to say about that.

And Steven Wright says it best.... "Anyplace is walking distance, if you have the time."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Reading Time

How I love reading, my book group friends and the way that reading has helped me grow!! I have been so grateful that Rich is the supportive kind of husband that has never questioned me when I had my nose in a book. He never made me feel guilty for reading instead of tending to some household task, and he never, ever (well maybe once) questioned why we needed so many books or bookshelves.

Rich and I can read side by side and just enjoy being together. He attends book signings and author events with me, walks beside me at Book Fairs, and indulges me when I get sucked into a bookstore. He understands when I carry my "flood" book with me everywhere - just in case there's a flood I have it with me! He knows that the best question he can ask is, "so tell me about what you're reading...." (I know that isn't really a question but it sure starts a great conversation!)

There are times when I read more than others. Sometimes I am so busy with life (label that the beginning of the school year, report card time, or planning a wedding) that when I sit down to read I just fall asleep. There were times when I might only manage a paragraph or two a day, but I still read. I read to tiny babies, read as I nursed and cradled little ones, I read poetry and nursery rhymes to toddlers and chanted Dr. Suess so often that we all knew it by heart. ("Bump, Bump, Bump. Did you ever ride a Wump? We have a Wump with just one hump. But we know a man named Mr. Gump. Mr. Gump has a seven hump Wump. So if you like to go bump, bump. Just hop on the hump of the Wump of Gump!") There were times that the only solace I could find was in the pages of the greatest book - the scriptures! But I was reading nonetheless.

My mom was my reading model. I can still picture her with her book close by. As a teenager I remember her studying for Masters classes. Her college textbooks piled on one side of the bed, her escape reading on the other! She took us to the library weekly and allowed me to read anything I wanted in the library. I think I was the only kid I knew whose mom gave her an adult library card when she was 10. By giving me such freedoms my mom respected my reading choices. I didn't disappoint her and together we picked out some great reads! She challenged me to learn from what I read and then to also just lose myself in a good story. I tried to do the same for my kiddos. We certainly had enough books around - library check out limits were 21 books apiece....that was a lot of books when you have 5 kids!!

Lately I have been trying to catch up with reading since I think I have finally recovered from the wedding. Of course report cards have come and gone and are back it is the end of the school year and that means summer reading!!! Yippee!!

Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine. The author of Ella Enchanted (Jennie's all-time favorite book), Gail Carson Levine, has really found her niche writing fairy tales and this story was another twist. This time on Snow White. A lesson in "beauty is only skin deep," a lesson on self esteem and balancing who we are, how we feel about ourselves and seeing ourselves as our creator sees us. I enjoy a twist on a fairy tale and this one prompted some ideas and thoughts. I love young adult novels also. Although not as good as Ella and an ending that wrapped up too quickly, it was more than fun and a good romp! But perhaps that's what fairy tales do - problem solved, happily ever after - it's over. The end!
Marley and Me by John Grogan was our book group read for the month of April. This was the story of the most destructive and rambunctious dog around. Yet also the most loveable and loyal. I realize that I was reading the biography of my sister with her dogs and question her sanity....I am grateful that our Shelli (coyote and shepherd mix) has been the greatest dog around. She certainly wouldn't have survived long here. It was an easy read, made one laugh and shed a tear or two. No Pulitzer Prize winner but a family memoir to enjoy. The book wasn't easy to discuss but we all had dog stories to share!

Another Jane Whitefield book - after years and years!! Yeah. Jane hides people, helps them start new lives and risks her own to do it. But life post 9/11 is much harder to hide people in. Thomas Perry has her go "low-tech" and travel under the radar so to speak. No high tech, spy weaponry, but car rides, smart and savvy thinking, and abilities to hide in plain sight. I always enjoy Thomas Perry's books and this one, by no means my favorite, was a interesting reunion with a character I enjoy and respect. It was also a great privilege to hear the author speak at a Book Festival I attended in Tucson. He is a charismatic speaker with a college professor aura and demeanor.
Several friends have been diagnosed recently with pancreatic cancer and each time my heart and mind returned to this book by Randy Pausch. The Last Lecture is a gift to Randy Pausch's children and wife, saved up for a time when he would not be there. Dedicated to his children, it is filled with all the things he would never be able to say, and all the life lessons he would never teach. He knew he would not see his three children grow, so he did the best he could, with courage, humor and love. What he left was truly an amazing legacy. If you ever need to be reminded to breathe the air, find joy in being, and walk the Earth in gratitude, listen to his story. It’s rare that any person is able to help so many others see the world anew. I loved his First Penguin Award, his reminiscence of reading the encyclopedia as a child and his honor for his parents. What a gift he gave us all. Randy Pausch lost his battle with cancer on July 26, 2008. His family lost a hero!

The current read is The Hunger Games. Wow!! What a book. I am listening to it on a cool little invention called the Play-away....

The branch library had it on the shelf when I walked in and I have fallen into the book. You just add headphones and a AAA battery and away you go. Great for walking, listening to when I'm cleaning in the classroom and doing housework - well alright - - I don't do that often enough but it's still great.
The story is captivating ....A postapocalypticworld story, it's a combination of Olympics meets gladiators! I am reminded of The Giver. A rtuly horrifying time yet a mesmerizing writer. It is sure to be one of my most memorable books of the year. More to come....

Boy, oh boy....summer is fast approaching and I'm ready! The TBR pile is high and days await me jumping into a new book. We even have a long car journey planned to Montana. Wow, how many books can I read then. Have any titles to share with me???? Bring it on!

Thank you IRS tax return!!

This little baby has come to our home to live. We will name her, love her and try to give her everything she needs - she's going to be getting lots of attention!! I feel the urge to wash a dish or two!! Thank you IRS tax return!

Rich is pedaling everywhere nowadays! He appreciates his muscles, a good seat, pant clips and pedals....He's developing quite a good relationship with his refund reward!! Thank you IRS tax return!!

Any guesses on where the rest of the $$ is going?? Thank you IRS tax return!

So much for the trip to Jamaica, new clothes or a jewelry....I'm just grateful that we didn't have to pay this year!!