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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: family, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 1,637
26. picture stories

              An afternoon drive out of Atlanta, a patriotic rest stop, a Confederate flag flying over the Columbia, South Carolina Statehouse, an arrival at Mama's house on John's Island. O Charleston, O Youth, O History of Long Ago. The marsh, the swamp, the salt, the

0 Comments on picture stories as of 9/21/2014 2:08:00 AM
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27. Honesty Has a Smell

A relaxing morning, cooler temperatures, a good run, and a mystery to be solved. That’s what greeted me on Sunday. What started off as an excellent day devolved into a conspiracy against me! The evidence piled up early until I had no other option but to come to the conclusion that I am not trusted in my home when it comes to selecting fragrances.cp

No one would tell me this shocking news, of course. I had to figure it out on my own. Since my littlest’s sickness means my wife stays with her most of the time, I must do a good portion of the shopping. I am up to the task. I have now purchased things I didn’t know we used, needed, or even existed. One of those things is fragrance products. Did you know there is a whole store that just sells that? I knew about air fresheners, baking soda, and odor-eaters, but do we really need a store.

The aforementioned little one currently loves bubble bath – which apparently, they only sell at the smell store. So I volunteered the previous day to go and get her more. When I did so, I noticed a few sneers and strange looks around the room. Never did I think they would stoop so low as to plot an underhanded way to keep me from helping. But that’s just what they did.

I believe in honesty! If someone has an issue with me, tell me. I would much rather someone tell me that my pants are too tight and my shirt too puffy than let me walk around all day looking like a foolish pirate. I guess this is a value I have been lax in instilling in my children…

On our way home from church, we passed the smell store. When I suggested to the two daughters present that we stop in, I got fumbling excuses about homework and hunger. I should have known something was amiss right then. I mean, when do they ever want to do homework?

Arriving at home, pizza appeared from nowhere along with cold Dr. Pepper. I was ushered to the TV where the Falcons game was already cued up on the DVR. Hmmmm….

Lulled into a football coma, three hours passed as my team got pushed around by their opponent. Likewise, I got manhandled by five delicate females. Angry about the game, I grabbed my keys to go – only to find that the purchases had already been made.

I was going to get something exotic, tropical… something that would have let her float away to an island retreat… Whatever scent I picked would have soothed her beyond all her troubles. It would have uplifted her mood and spirits just to reflect on its glorious scent. My choices were as endless as a box a crayons:

Warm Vanilla Sugar

Peace, Love & Daisies

Pure Paradise

Endless Weekend

 

Why wouldn’t they let me? Why?

None would make eye contact with me as I probed for an answer, leaving me:

Hurt

Disappointed

Rejected

Betrayed

 

Finally the little one said, “Dad, you like the smell of your farts.”

And there it is! Honesty! That’s all I’m asking for.                  Wait… Huh?


Filed under: Dad stuff

5 Comments on Honesty Has a Smell, last added: 9/17/2014
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28. Offsides - Kerry Madden-Lundsford

The best advice I ever got, as an author was, "Write what you know." Kerry Madden-Lundsford takes that to a whole new level with her debut novel (republished - 2014), Offsides.

The daughter of a college football coach, Kerry Madden-Lunsford grew up in a series of hometowns, transplanted from one place to the next with the changing of the football season, uprooted from childhood friends with almost no warning. It is this hectic, whirlwind lifestyle which Madden-Lunsford draws upon in writing her first novel, Offsides.

The first thing Kerry will tell you is, "No, my father isn't John Madden." She does, however, pull memories-some good, some bad-from her days as the oldest child of a football coach, being uprooted from one football-crazy college town, to the next.

I found Madden-Lundsford's characterization of an awkward, self-critical, defiant Liz Donegal, refreshing and believable. While she protests every move, we know she will eventually give in and pick up roots, once more, in order to follow her father's never-ending search for that elusive head-coaching job.

On the surface, Liz appears to be an island; never quite fitting in, even with her family, but in between the lines, you feel the love and loyalty the Donegal family possesses, even when her closest confidants, her mother's sister and her father's brother, appear to leave her behind.

While I'm a dog lover, and cringe at the thought of losing a beloved dog, Madden-Lundsford writes an especially vivid scene in which the grave of "Bear Bryant" is dug up by his replacement, "Halfback". Equally traumatic is that all this takes place during Liz's boyfriend's first meeting with her family.

I highly recommend this book for YA and mature teens.

Further proof that Offsides is written from experience? Check out this picture from one of the author's latest booksignings.


Kerry Madden-Lundsford with Lynn Majors, wife of famed Tennessee football coach, Johnny Majors

Offsides: Amazon Kindle
Kerry Madden Books


Mary Cunningham, author, Cynthia's Attic Series,
The Adventures of Max and Maddie Series
 

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29. Offsides - Kerry Madden-Lunsford

The best advice I ever got, as an author was, "Write what you know." Kerry Madden-Lunsford takes that to a whole new level with her debut novel (republished - 2014), Offsides.

The daughter of a college football coach, Kerry Madden-Lunsford grew up in a series of hometowns, transplanted from one place to the next with the changing of the football season, uprooted from childhood friends with almost no warning. It is this hectic, whirlwind lifestyle which Madden-Lunsford draws upon in writing her first novel, Offsides.

The first thing Kerry will tell you is, "No, my father isn't John Madden." She does, however, pull memories-some good, some bad-from her days as the oldest child of a football coach, being uprooted from one football-crazy college town, to the next.

I found Madden-Lunsford's characterization of an awkward, self-critical, defiant Liz Donegal, refreshing and believable. While she protests every move, we know she will eventually give in and pick up roots, once more, in order to follow her father's never-ending search for that elusive head-coaching job.

On the surface, Liz appears to be an island; never quite fitting in, even with her family, but in between the lines, you feel the love and loyalty the Donegal family possesses, even when her closest confidants, her mother's sister and her father's brother, appear to leave her behind.

While I'm a dog lover, and cringe at the thought of losing a beloved dog, Madden-Lunsford writes an especially vivid scene in which the grave of "Bear Bryant" is dug up by his replacement, "Halfback". Equally traumatic is that all this takes place during Liz's boyfriend's first meeting with her family.

I highly recommend this book for YA and mature teens.

Further proof that Offsides is written from experience? Check out this picture from one of the author's latest booksignings.


Kerry Madden-Lundsford with Lynn Majors, wife of famed Tennessee football coach, Johnny Majors

Offsides: Amazon Kindle
Kerry Madden Books


Mary Cunningham, author, Cynthia's Attic Series,
The Adventures of Max and Maddie Series
 

0 Comments on Offsides - Kerry Madden-Lunsford as of 9/16/2014 10:42:00 AM
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30. Upcycling

photo (39)

Contrary to appearances, we are not giving away our youngest son (and all his toys, to boot). The neighbors put out this shelving unit and we thought it might be just the thing to replace our sagging makeshift TV stand. We stand corrected. What it is JUST THE THING for is setting up a shop, of course. What were we thinking? The Legos and Wedgits are being offered in lots ranging from  “small pile” to “big pile” to “treasure.” When business is slow, you can fold yourself into your house and take a nap.

TV stand. ::snort:: What nonsense adults come up with sometimes.

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31. Bumps and Petty Annoyances

There once was a humble Lord who refused the high stature, fame, and glory that he so rightly deserved. He lived with his beautiful Lady in a quiet manor deep in a thick forest. The two had a dog who rarely barked, save at pillaging squirrels – and that was just fine because the Lord hated squirrels nearly as much as he detested noise.noise

Slowly, however, noise crept in. It started with a small bump on his Lady that grew and grew until the bump turned into a baby. How proud he was of this little bump. It cooed, it giggled, it smiled… and it cried. It shattered his peace with its colicky wails and while he loved this little bump, the Lord yearned for the peace it had stolen.

From time to time, snuck off to the porch, basement, or rolling meadow to get away from the ruckus. As time marched on, the little bump became mobile. For some reason, it loved the Lord of the manor and would follow him to any retreat and destroy the silence he sought.

Three more bumps put an end to any refuge on the grounds. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, no square inch of silence to be found. The bumps may have shattered his peace, but they brought him laughter, love, and joy he hadn’t known before. He loved the little bumps more than he ever thought possible… even though they were loud.

All four little bumps grew in stature and decibel until they could no longer be called little. In fact, the time came for one of them to strike off on its own. It was the oldest and loudest bump that left home in search of her destiny. Both Lord and Lady were sad. There was but one comfort in her absence, some measure of quiet returned to the manor.

In the evenings, while the other three bumps pursued wordless interests, the Lord sat back in his easy chair and relished the silence. This newfound peace lasted several days before he realized something was missing. Something he had previously considered an annoyance was gone. He should have been happy. He should have rejoiced over the removal of the thorn. But instead, he felt a different way.

So it went until a long weekend came and the oldest bump burst through the door with a very large bag of laundry. Beside her stood an equally loud jester she suspiciously called “boyfriend”. They sung, hooted, hollered, and raised the excitement of the other bumps until the Lord of the manor had to hold his ears. Now he knew what was missing. Though his head did ache, his heart was full enough to accept even the added noise of her jester friend.

In this merry state, he wondered what joys had he missed over the years simply because he had loved silence over substance.

Petty annoyances can be dangerous things, don’t give them more credence than they are due.   


Filed under: Dad stuff

7 Comments on Bumps and Petty Annoyances, last added: 9/9/2014
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32. #652 – I Love You Infinity by Jillian, Max, and Sam Schmidt

coverx

I Love You Infinity

Written by Jillian, Max, and Sam Schmidt
Illustrated by Robert Pracek
Blue Note Books 2014
978-0-9895563-2-3
Age 4 to 8 32 pages
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“I Love You . . . Infinity brings a precious, yet simple message about expressing love, while journeying through space and experiencing a fun fact about each planet in our solar system with the characters Fisher and Rigley. The book’s vivid and colorful illustrations and lovable characters help your children engage in bringing them along on this lively adventure Fisher and Rigley’s characters are so entertaining and charming, they will pull your children’s attention in like gravity and encourage their imagination to explore an out of this world love. Bring the message of love into your home when you and your children say I Love You . . . Infinity.”

Opening

“Mommy, How much do you love us?” asked Fisher and Rigley.”

The Story

The family of three starts out on the ground asking if mom loves them bigger than their house. Then Rigley, who is a giraffe, wants to know if Mom loves them farther than the moon. The next spread shows Rigley in his space outfit, floating near the sun. Once again, he asks,

“Do you love us BIGGER than the sun?”

Of course, mom does love him bigger than the sun. Then the trio head off to a star; the rocky planets Mercury and Venus; the beautiful Earth; red Mars; Jupiter, the largest planet in the system; Saturn and all its rings; cold Uranus; as far out as Neptune and the once, but no longer planet of Pluto. Mom loves the boys more than all the planets in the solar system, the universe, and finally infinity.

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Review

Brothers Fisher and Rigley ask Mom how much she loves them. This sparks a long series of increasing degrees of love. The first thing mom must do is explain the meaning of infinity. Mom says,

“It means forever and always.”

Though not exactly correct, that definition fits the book. Infinity is limitless in time, space, or distance; a number so great you cannot count it. For a four-year-old, “forever and always” may be easier to understand. Do not think your child will learn a “fun fact” about each planet. The “fun facts” include the Sun is big, planet Earth is beautiful, Mercury and Venus are rocky, Mars is red, Uranus is cold, Saturn has rings, Neptune is a long way away, and Pluto is no longer a planet. I expected more, something new, something interesting. If you want interesting facts about the solar system and each planet, go to Kids Astronomy.com. (http://www.kidsastronomy.com/) The writing is good and nearly error-free.

I love the spread, near the end, with the complete solar system laid out including poor abandoned Pluto. The brightly colored illustrations fill up each page, and, because you are in space, expect to see a lot of yellows and blues. The three characters are cute, especially Rigley, who is a giraffe.  Somewhere I read that the two brothers were to represent the two brothers who co-authored the book with mom. Now, which one chose to be a giraffe? Whoever you are, your giraffe is cute and one of my favorite animals.

3

I really like the last spread where mom finally proclaims,

“I love you infinity.”

The light blue page shows each planet, in correct order, and the spaceship carrying the characters moves around those planets in a lopsided figure eight—the symbol for infinity. All of the illustrations are pleasing to the eye.  When you purchase I Love You Infinity, be care to get the correct book, there are two other children’s books with the same title.

Kids will enjoy I Love You Infinity, especially if they are into science or the planets. Anyone can make this book work into a fun, giggle-fest, ending in a series of hugs and kisses goodnight. Boys in particular will enjoy this picture book, which I think the authors have planned as a series, though I do not know what is next on their agenda. Though I Love You Infinity is a simple picture book about the complex solar system, it does a good job of orienting kids to our solar system and space, and it gives parents a fun read. The font is rather large, often too large, but if read in a story hour with several kids, the extra large font could be visible to every child. An interesting debut by mom and her two creative sons.

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I LOVE YOU INFINITY. Text copyright © 2014 by Jillian, Max, and Sam Schmidt. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Robert Pracek. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Blue Note Books, Melbourne, FL.

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Buy I Love You Infinity at AmazonB&NBlue Note Booksyour favorite bookstore.

Learn more about I Love You Infinity HERE

Meet the author, Jillian, Max, and Sam Schmidt at their Facebook page:    https://www.facebook.com/Jillian.Anjill

Meet author, Jillian Schmidt, at her website:   http://infinityauthorjillian.blogspot.com/

Find other books at Blue Note Books website:   http://www.bluenotebooksonline.com/

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i love you infinity

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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: Children's Books Tagged: family, Jillian Schmidt, love, Max Schmidt, outer space, relationships, Sam Schmidt, solar system

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33. Reread #36 Blue Plate Special

Blue Plate Special by Michelle D. Kwasney. 2009. Chronicle Books. 366 pages. [Source: Library]


I originally reviewed Blue Plate Special in February of 2010. I loved it. I loved it the same way that I love Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Blue Plate Special is a compelling, dramatic story about three daughters. (John Mayer's "Daughters" kept coming to mind. For better or worse. Also Atticus' advice to Scout: "if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.") The book is very much character-driven. I don't know that I'd go so far to say that it is one of those "what it means to be human" books, but, if not it comes very close.

All of the characters are flawed; not one person within the pages of this book is perfect or flawless. Relationships in Blue Plate Special are messy. Readers meet three heroines. Madeline (1977-78). Desiree (1993-1994). Ariel (2009). Their stories are told in alternating chapters. I believe all the heroines are around fifteen to sixteen. As you'd expect, in some ways their stories are the same, yet, in other ways all three are different. All, for example, are coming-of-age stories. All focus on first love, or first significant romantic relationships. All are bittersweet, but in different ways. But each heroine is unique. The book is great at complexities. Of seeing the whole person from different angles, which made it easier perhaps to take Atticus' advice. I cared about all three.

I definitely would recommend this one.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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34. The Fine Line between Grocer & Gangster

Going to the grocery store is akin to walking down a city street where a guy in a pinstripe suit says, “C’mere… I needs to have a word witcha.” If you follow him down the dark alley, you’ll stumble back out pennyless.

A grocer is just a gangster in an apron. They act like your friend, but they are only there to rip you off.

Take toilet paper. We all need it, but they stymie you with choices and ridiculous descriptions that make no sense! Double rolls, triple rolls, soft, extra-super soft – what does all that mean? I got the Delicately Quilted Super Cuddly Teddy Bear Soft one time and it felt so good the whole pack was gone in a day. The kids wiped when they hiccuped just to feel it and our septic tank backed up from all the quilting. Forget that, now I buy the thinnest, coarsest paper I can find – single ply and unscented. The stuff lasts forever because it’s almost a punishment to go to the bathroom. Some kids refuse to use the toilet at school, mine hold it until they get there.

Another hang-up I have is laundry detergent. It’s so stinking expensive! It’s just soap! When did they start charging by the fragrance? My wife is very particular about her lavender scent. Me? I’m just partial to clean and really not immovable on that point. So, while at the store, I made the command decision that we needed a new scent at our house. Out with the lavender and in with the wonderful smell of whatever the store brand that’s half-price. It’s gotta be good, it says it is Trustworthy right on the box.

I worked out savings on paper products, hygiene, and hair care all before tackling food. 1024px-Man_grocery_shoppingThere I found some pretty good bargains in meats. The store has this whole refrigerated section of half-priced meat. Some of it seemed slightly discolored and the expiration date was fast approaching. But as long as we cook it real well and have 3 – 5 pounds with every meal before Friday, we should be fine.

Yesterday’s bread – check.

Dented cans – perfect.

Brownish bananas – Viva Variety!

 

By the time I had my cart filled, I noticed the apron-clad robber standing in the dairy section watching me. He worked a toothpick with his stumpy fingers as he sized me up. The plethora of orange clearance labels in my cart told him I was onto his little game. We squared off like gunslingers in the Old West. Time stood still. Mothers pulled children out of the center aisle in slow motion, afraid of the impending showdown. From the back of the produce department I heard the signature ominous whistle and somehow, the slap of saloon doors. I cracked my neck, rolled my fingers, and readied for the call to draw.

But the old grocer was yella. I had him beat and he knew it.

couponsI checked out to find I had shaved $87 from our weekly bill. Genius. Street genius. The little old lady behind me nodded proudly as she fingered through a thick wallet of neatly cut newsprint. Intrigued, I inquired about them and learned all about these things called coupons from my new friend, Mildred.

Turns out they save you even more money! Who knew?

 

“Hey Guido the Grocer, I’ve got a coupon-cutting date with Mildred on Saturday… After that, I’m coming back to town. And it ain’t big enough for the both of us.”

 

 

(This story would have ended happily if I hadn’t have changed scents. Turns out, my wife didn’t feel threatened at all by my new 84 year-old coupon girlfriend. She just really likes lavender.)

 

Photo by: By Bill Branson


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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35. 3 Crucial Reasons to Attend Your Next Family Reunion

by Sally Matheny
Smushy Kisses at Family Reunions

     Is there cringing, wincing, and gnashing of teeth at just the thought of a family reunion? Perhaps you had an agonizing experience as a child. Some crinkled stranger planted smushy kisses on your cheek. Then, pulling you away from your mother, the stranger weaved you through a chattering sea of unfamiliar faces. Finally, she anchored in front of another foreign body and the torture began.

     “This is your mother’s great aunt’s, second cousin, Bertha, who first married Joe Schmitt, who was a tire salesman, but then he died, and about ten years ago she married John Brown, who manufactures straight pins in Detroit and he just so happens to be your dad’s podiatrist's first cousin! How about that?”

Excruciating. But you’re an adult now and here are three crucial reasons why you need to attend your next family reunion.


Remember

     When multiple generations gather, there will always be times of remembering special moments from the past. Births, school days, weddings, funerals. While certain memories will mean more to some than others will, this is your heritage.
     Even if you’re attending your spouse’s family reunion, you can learn a great deal. Maybe listening to your mother-in-law’s childhood memories will give you a better understanding of why his family celebrates Christmas the way they do. What annoyed you in the past, you may perceive differently now.

Too often, an unforgiving spirit
is a person's only legacy.
     Pausing to reflect on the past brings joy, knowledge, and healing. Perhaps the reason many people resist a family reunion is due to a past hurt.   
     Aunt Bertha said or did something she shouldn’t have five, ten, or fifty years ago and for whatever reason people chose to hold onto that strife rather than letting it go. Bitterness was chosen over forgiveness. Pain over joy. Too often, an unforgiving spirit is a person’s only legacy.
     What healing might take place if you go to your next family reunion?


Record

     If there’s emotional or physical healing in the family, record it! Everybody has a story. A family reunion is a wonderful time to record those stories. Make a scrapbook or journal. Better yet, make a video.
     Are there any veterans willing to share their experiences? Those who survived a war can instill fresh perspectives on freedom.
     Who survived an accident or a disease? A problem at work or their first day of high school? Survivors bring strength and hope to the family.

Survivors bring strength and hope to the family.
    Ask the older ones to recall interesting tidbits about the family’s ancestry.
     Even recording opinions on current events will be an interesting piece of history for the next generation.
     No family reunion will ever be the same. The dynamics change. People come and go, jobs vary, and events alter our lives.
     So often, we never submerge past the friendly greetings. Families need to go deeper conveying their life experiences. They inspire us and we can encourage them to keep pressing onward. Everybody has a story that can affect others. You need to share your story.


Recount

     If nothing else, family members need to recount God’s blessings to the next generation. How have you seen God working in your life and the lives of others?

     Describe times when God answered your prayers, when he brought healing, and when your needs were met.

    Share experiences where your faith was tested and God was glorified. Consider the value others could glean from lessons you learned through setbacks and poor decisions.

     If you carve out time for your next family reunion, and share the love of Christ, what eternal rewards are possible? It is not within our power to fathom how God can use us. He is quite capable of making transformations we never thought possible.

 

…which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
 so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
 Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.
Psalm 78:5b-7 (NIV)


     Is it time for a family reunion?

Live out your faith at the next family reunion!
     Reflect on what’s worth remembering, and what things are best left in the past.
     Record family stories to share for generations to come. Recount God’s blessings and faithfulness.

     It’s quite possible, family reunions will have a quirk or two. With a large gathering of imperfect humans, we’ll experience occasional flawed moments. For some, showing love to family is more difficult than it is to friends. God freely offers His assistance with that. He’s the master demonstrator of mind-boggling grace.  
     If you truly believe you’ll attend a perfect, glorious, and joyful heavenly reunion one day, then live it out at your next family reunion.




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36. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

I was lucky enough to hear Jacqueline Woodson speak about and read from Brown Girl Dreaming during the School Library Journal Day of Dialog last spring.  If any of you have seen Woodson before, you know she is charming, and dynamic and funny.  She read a few poems from the book and spoke of her family and writing life.  Like the rest of the librarians, I waited in line to speak with Ms. Woodson and have an arc signed, but 10 minutes or so into the wait I knew this arc wasn't going to be for me to keep.  Instead, I had it signed for a student and gave it to her when I saw her next.   So like so many others, I waited for the book birthday to get my hands on the hard cover copy on the day of its' release.

I'm not sure I can add much to the conversation around this book, as I agree with the buzz.  Brown Girl Dreaming is more than a book or a memoir....it is a gift.  We follow Jacqueline and her changing family from Ohio to South Carolina and up to NYC and each poem is a revelation of sorts that brings the reader through the timeline of Woodson's life.  From the "how to listen" haikus to poems like "sometimes, no words are needed", "stevie", and "as a child, i smelled the air" I found myself closing the book to pause again and again.

I had posted a photo of "stevie" on Instagram and commented that I was swooning over this book, and a friend commented that her copy is so dog-eared that she isn't going to share it with her students.  It made me comment back that this is the kind of book you carry around with you.  I will take the dust jacket off, and place it in my school bag.  And when the world gets to be a little too much, I will open the pages and gift myself with a little bit of magic.

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37. Eight years ago this week

Found on my old private family blog, dated August 27, 2006. Scott was out here in San Diego, a month into the new job. I was back home with the (then) five kids, trying to get the house sold. Rilla was only a few months old. Rose would have been eight, Beanie five. Scott and I did not bear the separation easily. I created a little daily-snippets blog just for him so he wouldn’t feel like he was missing everything. At night, after the kids were in bed, I had a gig writing parenting articles for a medical website. Scott and I would keep a chat window open and ping each other back and forth as we worked away on opposite coasts. Sometimes we’d go to audio and listen to the sound of each other typing. Four months, and it felt like forever.

***

August 27, 2006

The Conversation Went Like This

Bean: Why did SHE get to sleep in your bed last night?

Me: Just because. You may tonight, if you wish.

Rose: But won’t she be lonely, waiting for you to come to bed?

Bean: What?

Rose, breaking it to her gently: If you sleep with Mommy, you have to wait a long time in the dark before she gets there.

Bean, brow furrowed: Oh…

Rose, kindly: Do you want to sleep in Mommy’s room, or do you want to snuggle up with me?

Bean’s reply? She threw her arms around her sister. The hug went on long enough for me to snap it.

2006sisterhug

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38. A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd | Book Review

A Snicker of Magic, Natalie Lloyd’s sensational middle grade debut novel, begs to be read aloud and shared with an audience of dreamers.

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39. Gone Camping: Smiles All Around!

Actually, we’ve just returned from our annual weekend camping trip to Forked Lake Campgrounds. There’s something so comforting and yet revelatory about tradition. You go back, do the same thing every year, more or less with the same people, but each time feels unique. Familiar, yet changed in small ways. A big part of that is our children, growing up before our eyes. The kid you used to watch like a hawk is now out on the kayak, muscles rippling.

This year school year our oldest will be a senior in Geneseo. He missed the trip, already gone. The middle child, Gavin, enters 10th grade; he’ll begin the year on the JV Volleyball team — a new sport for him. Our youngest, Maggie, just 13, enters 8th grade.

They are growing up.

Here’s a fun snap taken in Long Lake, outside of Hoss’s legendary (Triple-S’s!) store. That’s Gavin in the Cape Cod sweatshirt; Maggie, standing beside him, apple in hand; I’m up above in gray (shirt and hair), fondling the bear; and Lisa, my wife, is on the other side in the light-blue tee and vest. Those other folks? No idea how they got in there.

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40. Home, a bracelet and the Maasi

Maasi women (photo credit : D. Burrows)

Maasi women (photo credit : D. Burrows

Some of the joy of travel is when I return home and share the fun and stories with my friends and family.

On this trip though, it occurred to me that I really didn’t have a home to come back to. Not the kind of home that I had always had. This thought kept me traveling for much longer that I had planned and would take me around the world. It was in the space of time when I left the plan behind that I realized home is no longer a place, but resides in my heart. And the heart, while fragile, has an infinite capacity for love.

Some trips shape me. Some trips change me. Some trips transform me. Some trips have affected my family and friends. And sometimes, the stories I tell and the gifts I give have reached beyond those I know and love. Far beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

This is the story of the bracelet.

Wherever I was, whether in the countryside on the outskirts of Melbourne, trekking the Himalayas, in the jungles of Java or on the shores of the Bali Sea, I had my eye out for little treasures. Unique gifts I could bring back for friends and family. As I was backpacking through the world, portability was key.

In Kalibaru on the island of Java I found and purchased a handful of beautiful handmade bracelets. For the next sixty days they would travel with me all over the world. When I returned to the U.S. I gave one to my very good friend. She loved the bracelet so much she never took it off. It stayed on her wrist as she journeyed to Wales and then to Africa.

The bracelet (photo credit: A. Burrows)

The bracelet (photo credit: A. Burrows)

And it found its way to a little village in northern Tanzania where a tribe of Maasai lived. The women of the village made bracelets to help support their families. The Maasai women surrounded my friend when they saw her bracelet. The idea of using different-sized beads on the same bracelet never occurred to them. The type of beads captivated them. The way the bracelet fastened was a curiosity. This gave the Maasai women lots of ideas about bracelets and their future designs. My friend bought one of their bracelets and when she returned home, she gave the bracelet to me.

And through my friend and the bracelet and the Maasi women, my home just got a little bit bigger.

So often in life we think that the little things we do don’t matter. We discount our influence or even our own significance, at times. But the biggest things we do can be the smallest. A smile. A joke. A well-timed call. A small gift. A simple treasure. The little things your heart whispers can bring so much joy to the world.

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41. Reread #34 Out of the Dust

Out of the Dust. Karen Hesse. 1997. Scholastic. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

I first reviewed Out of the Dust in March 2008. Out of the Dust is a historical verse novel that I likely would have avoided at all costs as a kid. It is set in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and Depression.

Billie Jo is our piano-playing heroine. Life was hard enough for Billie Jo and her family BEFORE the tragic accident. Multiple crop failures in a row. Worry and doubt weighing down whole communities, and, not without cause. But after the accident, things are even worse.

Added to despair and doubt is anger and bitterness and regret. Billie Jo doesn't know how to talk to her father anymore. She doesn't know how to be in the same house with him. Things are just off between them. Both are suffering souls. Both have needs that aren't being met. Both need time to heal at the very least.

The novel spans two years, 1934 and 1935. These two years are very hard emotionally for almost all the characters. Out of the Dust is a great coming-of-age novel. I think I liked it even more the second time.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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42. Risen: The Battle for Darracia, by Michael Phillip Cash | Dedicated Review

Risen is the third book in Michael Phillip Cash’s dramatic sci-fi trilogy, the Darracia Saga.

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43. The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier

Molly and Kip are trying to find the Windsors, their new home of employment, but the locals are not making it easy for them.  Every time Molly asks, they speak of the sour woods and tell Molly that she should stay away.  But it's not like Molly has a choice - she and her brother are far from home and without parents.  When they encounter Hester Kettle on the road, they seem to have found a piece of luck.  She is willing to tell the children how to get to the Windsors for a promise of future stories. Molly agrees and they are soon on their way.

Molly's introduction to the family is a far cry from welcoming.  Hired by the Windsor's solicitor, Constance has no idea Molly is coming and is less than pleased to find her telling stories to her young daughter Penny in the dusty foyer of the house.  Constance and her son Alistair want Molly and Kip to leave immediately, but Molly is able to use her gift of the gab to convince them that they would much rather live in a well tended house, and that she and Kip can provide it for them.

She will soon live to regret this move, as the family and the house seem to be harboring dark secrets.  While she is able to throw herself into the ample work of cleaning up the household during the day, it is at night when Molly is most afraid.  Every night since she's been sleeping in the house, she has been having terrible nightmares.  And it turns out the darkness isn't just in her mind.  She wakes to find her door open, leaves in her hair and mud on the floor.

As it turns out, the Night Gardener Miss Polly has mentioned is real.  He wanders the house and the grounds at night and has his hand in the nightmares of the household.

And he is not the only dark element at the Windsors' place.  The tree, growing much too close to the house, is more than it seems as well, and will soon ensnare Molly as it has the Windsors.

This is a deliciously scary story that will have readers up into the night to finish. Jonathan Auxier is one of those writers who seems like he's been around forever.  Not because there are a plethora of his books lining the shelves, but because he is a craftsman.  His books have a timeless quality to them and are made of the stuff with staying power.  The Windsor's legacy is slowly revealed piece by piece which helps bring the suspense level to that of a slow burn.  He explores the themes of human weakness and greed, family and loyalty with aplomb.  The setting is expertly laid out and even now as I close my eyes I can see the grounds, the stables and the green door.

Fans of dark fantasy, Victorians, and well crafted stories will be left shivering with delight.




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44. The New Phone Book’s Here

In the immortal words of Navin R. Johnson:

image

Things are going to start happening to me now!

Yes, due to life, it took a long time to arrive, but that lovable scamp Virgil Creech is back in Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper.

 Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00063]

 

 

Even the idyllic little town of Portsong isn’t immune to the coming depression. What will our favorite family of eleven do when their chief bread-winner is left without a job? Enter the youngest son, Virgil Creech, who discovers an unlikely talent that may just keep the family afloat.

Meanwhile, half the world away, town grocer Harland Gentry discovers the truth of the ancient proverb, Pride goes before a fall. On the vacation of a lifetime, Harland decides to reinvent himself as a man of means, hoping to leave the small town behind. But he is not prepared for what he discovers on his unpredictable African adventure.

Of course, Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper contains a healthy dose of the lovable Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle, as he and Henry begin to rebuild the Lee family farm. All of these stories come together for another delightful romp through Portsong, the southern town halfway between Savannah and heaven.

 

From the back of the book, here is our new friend, Harland Gentry as drawn by Aprilily.

image

It is always rewarding to have someone read one of my books. But I was particularly excited to get a Five Bookworm Review on the first book in the series because it came from a kid, which is my target audience.  He is also not a family member!

You can read his take here.

 

If you haven’t had a chance to read Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption, the ebook version is going to go free for a week sometime soon as publicity for the sequel. Of course, I’ll announce it here.

I wrote the final piece of the Portsong Series last year hope to release it fairly soon. I am now working on my first piece of adult humor and would love to put it out in 2015. We shall see if life gets in the way of that one as well.


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45. Books Strengthen Family Bonds

DSC00616Lydia sat with her two children in the waiting room. Her eldest read aloud from his new book, pausing every now and again to teach his mother and younger sister how to say the words in English. His little sister beamed with pride when he let her turn the page.

Andrea Gatewood of the Nassau County (NY) Department of Health knows that providing new books to families like Lydia’s leads to priceless interactions. For the past ten years, she and her colleagues at the Nassau County Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program have been giving books from First Book to the local low-income women and children they serve.

Traditionally, WIC programs supply women who are pregnant or recently gave birth and children up to age five found to be at nutritional risk with supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education. But at five WIC sites in Nassau County, families also receive colorful new books.

teen parenting program 3“The books from First Book teach children how to count, the alphabet, the importance of family, other languages, colors, different foods and incentives to promote physical activity,” said Andrea. “They strengthen family bonds, promote diversity and improve literacy.”

Andrea takes great care in selecting books that are both engaging and culturally relevant as nearly 100 percent of the children she serves come from minority households.

“We have distributed books at Christmas, Halloween and to kick off the school year. Our goal is to reach as many children as possible,” Andrea shared. “The partnership between First Book and WIC has allowed thousands of children to receive brand new books and will have a lasting impact on an individual and community level.”

Over the past ten years, the Nassau WIC Program has received approximately 20,000 books from First Book, thanks to grant funding made possible by members of the First Book – Long Island volunteer chapter and the Guru Krupa Foundation. The Foundation, based in Jericho, New York, funds initiatives related to education, health and basic sustenance of underprivileged children in India and the United States, and has helped First Book provide more than 51,000 books to children in need in the greater New York and Los Angeles areas in the past two years.

DSC00612“We at Guru Krupa Foundation believe that education is a cornerstone for future success in life,” said Mukund Padmanabhan, president of the Guru Krupa Foundation. “Supporting initiatives that bring the benefits of education to underprivileged children can lead to enormous future dividends, not only for the children but to society.”

Join the Guru Krupa Foundation in supporting program leaders like Andrea by making a gift to First Book. Just $2.50 provides a brand-new book to a child in need.

The post Books Strengthen Family Bonds appeared first on First Book Blog.

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46. After Isaac, by Avra Wing | Book Review

This deeply felt, emotional book is a beautiful glimpse into painful family dynamics, and how a sixteen-year-old boy can come to terms with the complexities of love and loss. An excellent read for teens and adults alike.

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47. To Kylie, the Strongest Person I Know

What is strength? I don’t mean muscular strength, I am wondering about the use of the word to describe a mental and emotional strength. Strength of the heart.

The dictionary defines strength as moral power, firmness, or courage.

I’ve recently seen several quotes about strength. This one stands out:

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option.

-Author unknown

We quote scripture to help us with our strength. Beautiful verses come to mind such as:

But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 43:1

&

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

I have been given many more. We read them in times of need and feel their comfort. I don’t mean to minimize the impact of the Word – it is all-sufficient. But it isn’t always a quick band-aid overcoming the darkest struggle. Slap this on and feel strong, as it were. I wish it were that simple. In the best of circumstances, most of us need to be reminded time after time before things sink in.

While the concept of strength might be an easy one for you, it has troubled me of late. You see, I am trying to care for my daughter who is fighting cancer. Actually, to be honest, right now she is fighting the chemo that is fighting the cancer. She is only twelve and should never have to deal with any weight so difficult. This road would buckle the knees of some of the world’s strongest men, yet she trudges on.

She puts on a brave face and true to her nickname, smiles to most. But at night, with her mother, her sisters, and me, she often falls apart. The thing I hear from her most often is that she isn’t strong enough – she can’t do this. I wish there was something I could tell her to change her situation, but I can’t. There is no choice, no option, no plan B. The chemo regimen must go on. I wish I could break her cycle of self-doubt, but it is her cycle. I can’t change it. I can only encourage and hold, assuring her of my presence and love.

That leads me to my present dilemma: What is strength? Does she have it? If not, where can she find enough to continue when there is no other way?

I think back over her history and wonder if she’s had to rely on strength in the past. She has run two 5k races with me and had to reach down deep to finish each one. That took some strength – but not the kind I am looking for. I need her to have strength to say, “This life is worth living and I will fight for it.”

*     *     *     *     *

My wife has been asking me to add a picture CD onto her computer so she can look at them. After putting it off for too long, I finally complied. The pictures I saw reminded me of simpler times and I enjoyed scanning them as they flashed across the screen. They were from our school’s play, Anne of Green Gables, in which Kylie had a part. She barely made it through the performances because of the pain in her leg caused by the cancer soon to be diagnosed.

Wait… what are you showing me, God? Is that strength?

Back up – let me look again.image

I see a little girl who was crying herself to sleep every night due to a growing tumor inside her knee. Yet in these pictures she is singing, moving, dancing, and hiding the pain behind a range of her character’s emotions so she wouldn’t disappoint in the show.

I see a little girl who wouldn’t stop dancing until the director forced her to use crutches in the final two performances – and she was mad about that!

I see a girl who collapsed after the finale and couldn’t attend the cast party because the pain was simply too great.

Isn’t that smiling little girl playing a part on stage the same one who lay in a hospital bed in a medication-induced sleep just a week after the curtain fell?

When told she had cancer inside of her, instead of crying out in anger at God, isn’t this the girl who simply said “God must have a great, big plan for me”?

Is that precious, animated child the same one who, when she began to lose her hair to chemotherapy, decided shaved it herself to deny cancer the pleasure?

That is incredible strength! Undeniable strength.

What about now? If we agree that this girl is a strong girl, has four months of treatment changed her? How would a strong person face chemotherapy? Should she charge in, laughing in the face of the toxins that wreck her little body time after time?

Or is it okay to cry, yet move on?

Is strength found, not in the tears leading up to a hospital stay but in the gritting of her teeth when she allows the nurse to access her port one more time, knowing what will soon flow into her veins?

How much resolve allows a transfusion that scares her to death without saying a word?

What measure of courage is there in quiet submission to a treatment that is nearly as bad as the disease?

An immeasurable amount!

The frail body of my daughter holds enormous strength and when this treatment is over, I pity the boy who would try to hurt her or the obstacle that would stand in her way.

I have always been big and thought myself strong. I have pushed large objects and run long distances. Yet I realize I am weak in comparison to my frail, eighty pound daughter, who day after day pushes on through this hell.

She is my hero.

Every morning that she wakes up and greets the day adds to her resolve. There may be tears, angst, cries of terror, and fits of rage – yet every day also contains smiles, kisses, hugs, warmth, joy, praise, and enough laughter and love to beat back at this enemy on her terms.

Oh, she is strong!

My little girl is strength personified, even if she can’t see it.

 

sometimes


Filed under: Dad stuff

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48. She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

And so, the wheel turns. My eldest has moved to college. Although my Lovely Wife (LW) tells me we have to keep her room intact because she will still come home, I remember that I never lived at home after I left for college. I am somewhat sad about that, but we’ve been prepping for this and hoping she would take flight someday. It’s just hard to watch the baby condor drop off the ledge knowing the perilous plunge that awaits.

I’m taking it pretty well, actually. LW, not so much. Everything in the house seems to remind her that one of her babies has left the nest. Tears, oh there have been tears. I don’t understand tears, nor do I deal with them very well. I remind LW that she’s always got me… forever…  Somehow, that doesn’t seem to help.

After moving our collegian, we had to take our little patient in for treatment where she and mom stayed a few days. While they were gone, I happened into the pantry and realized LW must not have been there since baby condor left. If food packaging could form a face, every piece of junk food in there conspired to draw our missing daughter – even to me and I’m oblivious to the most obvious of things.

This was bad! I couldn’t let LW see this, she would cry for days. It all had to go, but the cheapskate in me said I also couldn’t throw out all of the food. Only one option remained. A 24 hour binge of Munchos and Dr. Pepper.

Have you ever read the nutrition label on those things? DON’T! You can gain 3 pounds just from holding the bag too long. They don’t list things by proportion, otherwise the label would read something like this:

Lard 70%image

Air 27%

Salt 2.5%

Potatoes 0.5%

How they bond the ingredients I will never know. Anyway, I polished off the first bag for breakfast and washed it down with three Dr. Peppers. I checked the remaining inventory and was disheartened to discover that LW must have decided to stock up to try to lure the girl to forsake college and stay with us. Either that or she suspected a Y2k15 disaster and wanted to be prepared. Our pantry was like a saferoom.

This is where having many offspring should pay off! I enlisted the help of the remaining children. When I explained the dilemma, I got more “Oh, Dad” eye rolls than the average game of nine-ball. One took a Dr. Pepper before she left, so I was down to hoarder’s surplus minus one. Alone, I dug in for the day.

In the late evening, I was sure a trip the emergency room was in order. The pantry was reverting back to a faceless state, and my stomach was screaming something in Idahoan. I was sweating a substance that looked like maple syrup, which can’t be good. I put in a call to Poison Control where a kind gentleman told me there was no known toxicity in the combination, but urged me to go to the hospital if I felt light-headed. That’s the last thing I remember before passing out amongst the crumbs of the last bag.

When I came to, it was time to go and pick up LW and the youngest. I used the shower squeegee to remove the syrup-sweat and when I arrived, they were ready to go. The trip home was uneventful, I successfully hid the tick and slurred speech caused by sugar intake. While I was unloading the car, LW stopped me.

“Where are the snacks for the party?”

I shrugged my shoulders and grunted. I didn’t ask ‘what party’, I’m sure I’d been told.

“The pantry was full of them.”

“I dunno,” I replied without making eye contact.

“Well, we need more for the party Saturday. Can you go to the store?”

“Uh, sure.”

They say never go to the store hungry. I went full! And I bought $57 worth of Dr. Pepper and Munchos, feeling bloated and quite resentful. Even after all the sweets, this was a bitter pill to swallow.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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49. Absolutely Almost (2014)

Absolutely Almost. Lisa Graff. 2014. Penguin. 304 pages [Source: Library]

I loved Absolutely Almost. I think I loved it at least as much as Umbrella Summer. Maybe even a little bit more. I don't know. Time will tell. I don't actually have to choose between the two, right?! I can LOVE two GREAT books by one very talented middle grade author, can't I?!

Albie is the protagonist of Absolutely Almost. His narration gives the book a just right feel. It's a satisfying read about a boy who struggles with meeting expectations: his parents, his grandparents, his teachers, his own. He's never good or great, he's always only almost. Almost good at this or that. Almost ready for this or that. And this oppressive almost gets him down now and then. Not always, mind you. I don't want to give the impression that Albie is sad and depressed and unable to cope with life. Albie is more than capable of having a good time, of enjoying life, of appreciating the world around him.

I really appreciated Graff's characterization. Not only do readers come to love (in some cases I imagine love, love, love) Albie, but, all the characters are well written or well developed. Albie's parents at times seem to be disconnected, out of touch with who their son is, what life is like for him, what he wants, what he needs. But just when I get ready to dismiss them as neglectful or clueless, something would happen that would make me pause and reconsider. Readers also get to know several other characters: his nanny, Calista, his math teacher, Mr. Clifton, and his friend, Betsy. For the record, he does have more than one friend. But Betsy is his new friend, his first friend that he makes at his new school. It is their friendship that is put to the test in the novel. It is his relationship with Betsy that allows for him to progress a bit emotionally. If that makes sense. (So yes, I know that his best-best friend is Erlan. But Erlan has been his friend for as long as he can remember, probably since they were toddlers. He's completely comfortable in that friendship. Their friendship does come into the novel here and there. But for me, it wasn't the most interesting aspect of the novel.)

I loved the setting of Absolutely Almost. I loved how we get to spend time with Albie in school and out of school. I loved how we get to see him in and out of his comfort zone. I loved that we got to see his home life. We got to see for ourselves how he interacts with parents. I love how Albie is able to love his parents even if they don't really make him top priority. Especially his Dad. Albie's need for his Dad's attention, the right kind of attention, can be FELT. Albie held onto hope that one day his Dad would find time to spend with him, that one day his Dad would see him--really see him. There were moments that hope lessened a bit as Albie gave into his emotions-of-the-moment. But Albie's love for his dad always won out at the end. His hope would return.

The writing. I loved it. I did. I think the quality of the writing was amazing. There were chapters that just got to me. Their were paragraphs that just resonated with me. The writing just felt TRUE.

Absolutely, Almost is set in New York City.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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50. She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

And so, the wheel turns. My eldest has moved to college. Although my Lovely Wife (LW) tells me we have to keep her room intact because she will still come home, I remember that I never lived at home after I left for college. I am somewhat sad about that, but we’ve been prepping for this and hoping she would take flight someday. It’s just hard to watch the baby condor drop off the ledge knowing the perilous plunge that awaits.

I’m taking it pretty well, actually. LW, not so much. Everything in the house seems to remind her that one of her babies has left the nest. Tears, oh there have been tears. I don’t understand tears, nor do I deal with them very well. I remind LW that she’s always got me… forever…  Somehow, that doesn’t seem to help.

After moving our collegian, we had to take our little patient in for treatment where she and mom stayed a few days. While they were gone, I happened into the pantry and realized LW must not have been there since baby condor left. If food packaging could form a face, every piece of junk food in there conspired to draw our missing daughter – even to me and I’m oblivious to the most obvious of things.

This was bad! I couldn’t let LW see this, she would cry for days. It all had to go, but the cheapskate in me said I also couldn’t throw out all of the food. Only one option remained. A 24 hour binge of Munchos and Dr. Pepper.

Have you ever read the nutrition label on those things? DON’T! You can gain 3 pounds just from holding the bag too long. They don’t list things by proportion, otherwise the label would read something like this:

Lard 70%image

Air 27%

Salt 2.5%

Potatoes 0.5%

How they bond the ingredients I will never know. Anyway, I polished off the first bag for breakfast and washed it down with three Dr. Peppers. I checked the remaining inventory and was disheartened to discover that LW must have decided to stock up to try to lure the girl to forsake college and stay with us. Either that or she suspected a Y2k15 disaster and wanted to be prepared. Our pantry was like a saferoom.

This is where having many offspring should pay off! I enlisted the help of the remaining children. When I explained the dilemma, I got more “Oh, Dad” eye rolls than the average game of nine-ball. One took a Dr. Pepper before she left, so I was down to hoarder’s surplus minus one. Alone, I dug in for the day.

In the late evening, I was sure a trip the emergency room was in order. The pantry was reverting back to a faceless state, and my stomach was screaming something in Idahoan. I was sweating a substance that looked like maple syrup, which can’t be good. I put in a call to Poison Control where a kind gentleman told me there was no known toxicity in the combination, but urged me to go to the hospital if I felt light-headed. That’s the last thing I remember before passing out amongst the crumbs of the last bag.

When I came to, it was time to go and pick up LW and the youngest. I used the shower squeegee to remove the syrup-sweat and when I arrived, they were ready to go. The trip home was uneventful, I successfully hid the tick and slurred speech caused by sugar intake. While I was unloading the car, LW stopped me.

“Where are the snacks for the party?”

I shrugged my shoulders and grunted. I didn’t ask ‘what party’, I’m sure I’d been told.

“The pantry was full of them.”

“I dunno,” I replied without making eye contact.

“Well, we need more for the party Saturday. Can you go to the store?”

“Uh, sure.”

They say never go to the store hungry. I went full! And I bought $57 worth of Dr. Pepper and Munchos, feeling bloated and quite resentful. Even after all the sweets, this was a bitter pill to swallow.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

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