Tuesday, March 25, 2014

5 Books to Beat the Is-It-Really-Still-Snowing Blues

Use Grammarly's plagiarism detector because plagiarism is such a waste of mind!

One of my favorite ways to keep from sinking into a mental sludge during these gray winter months (it is supposed to snow again tonight!) is...to read. Surprise?! My favorite way to deal with anything is to put a book between me and whatever that anything is. This year especially, during the never ending line-up of sun-absent days these books have been my balm.  

This book hushed some insecurities that have been whispering in my ears lately about the choices our family is making regarding our use of time and energy. Tsh Oxenrider author of the blog,The Art of Simple writes in an authentic voice about what intentional living looks like in her world.  Focusing on topics that are important to her, Oxenrider visits travel, education, food, work, and entertainment in the books short chapters. This work is not a how to guide but rather an inspirational peek into a life lived intentionally.

I'm grinning abundantly at The Antelope in the Living Room and have been ever since I read the books endorsements just inside the cover page...the funny began even there. 

Author Melanie Shankle picks up the heart and the humor where she left off in her debut book Sparkly Green Earrings and delivers it again here in chapter after chapter.

A book I finished earlier this year is a memoir called Little Black Sheep by recording artist Ashley Cleveland. 

Of this book Michael Card says: “Little Black Sheep is not really about my friend Ashley in the end. It is not about her life as much as the One who gave her life and redeemed its brokenness. That she could tell such a complete and compelling story in so few pages is a testimony to a gifted writer.”  

I’m reading slowly through Kathleen Norris’ rich words in her book The Cloister Walk. Her theology and mine match on few points but there is something compelling about her experiences as a Protestant living in a Benedictine monk community. 

Some of my favorite words thus far...

"In our culture, time can seem like an enemy: it chews us up and spits us out with appalling ease. But the monastic perspective welcomes time as a gift from God, and seeks to put it to good use rather than allowing us to be used up by it."
"The monastic discipline of listening aims to still a body and soul so that the words of a reading may sink in. Such silence tends to open a person..."
"It is impossible for us to be surrounded by worldly honor and at the same time to bear heavenly fruit...to keep bearing fruit one must keep returning, humbly to the blank page, to the uncertainty of the writing process, and not pay much heed to the 'noted author' the world wants you to be."
As for fiction I've been reading a highly touted book from 2013 called Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter which is described by Amazon.com as the author's "funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962...and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later." 

Beautiful Ruins is my current treadmill book and it's making the miles much more enjoyable.

Up next in my queue are:

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Math with Molly

Some of my favorite books to read to the kids when they were young were the Franklin books by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark. Sometimes the books began, "Franklin could count by twos and tie his shoes..."

Molly has been enjoying Franklin books for some time now and she can count by twos and can usually almost sometimes tie her shoes. Counting by fives, however, has been another story. during his lunch hour my Man was drawn into Molly's challenge and the math lesson that followed was too fun to watch...

"Molly could jump and jive and count by fives..."

When I was growing up, math was never THAT much fun!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shedding Tiny Tears... {a Guest Post}

Just a day or so after I posted the story of the doll hospital that my sisters and I used to run in our plastic kitchen (click here for that story), I received an email from a friend who graciously shared a special doll story from her childhood. After reading it and giving it to my Man to read and reading it aloud to my kids and my mom, it seemed only fitting to share it here. Happily my friend agreed to let me print her tale...


Those baby doll stories of yours from years ago ---oh gosh! So well written that even the stiffest grump in town would break a smile! I was picturing it -- incubators and examining tables, you three little sisters jabbering...and all! 

But when a sister grows up with THREE brothers -- all very close in age -- the baby doll thing doesn't have much of a chance!! Mom kept buying me those things every Christmas. I usually threw them behind a chair or under my bed and played "cars and trucks" or "cowboys and injuns" with the boys. 

My best move in a final effort to convince my mom baby dolls just were not my ideal, fun Christmas present preference --- was when I ended up with, yet again, this dainty, lovely little "Tiny Tears" doll when I was about six.

This sweet little doll spent several months being very much unattended to, much less getting special nursing attention through those winter time blues! Come spring, when my brothers and I discovered we didn't have anything to "play ball" with in the neighbor's field...off to the house I went screaming, "I'll be RIGHT BACK! DON'T YOU GUYS GO ANYWHERE!!!" 

Us kids loved to play ball!! We would use anything!!! Baseballs were too hard and we didn't have any, anyway! We used rubber balls and tennis balls, which we could hit from Triadelphia (where we lived) into downtown Wheeling, it seemed. We even got so desperate other times we used my dad's roll of black tape--all wadded up into somewhat of a resemblance of a softer baseball. (Daddy was aghast more than once when he couldn't find his roll of tape!) And us kids used large ROCKS as our bases! It was the early 1950s! 

But on what later turned out to be a dreadful spring day, I had what I thought was a great idea!!! I knew of something me, Bill, Jim, Ronnie -- and a couple neighbor boys -- could take our wooden baseball club to!! I had ripped the RUBBER head off that "Tiny Tears" doll (she DID have the prettiest blue eyes)!!! For hours, we blasted that rubber head into what seemed like the far reaches of the neighbor's field, having the time of our lives laughing about every smack of the wood!!! 

Tiny's battered rubber head survived to play another day---so I thought. While we were gleefully outside playing, the "jig was up"!! Mom discovered a headless "Tiny Tears" doll on my bedroom floor!!  In my haste to rush back to the ball field before my brothers got sidetracked into some other shenanigan WITHOUT ME... I had neglected to "hide my deed" by giving the remainder of Miss Tiny a hard fling under the bed!! 

As it turned out, Mom did not take long in putting two and two together....as she stood over me with a decapitated "Tiny Tears" baby doll. (No "nursing techniques" were gonna work for her!) My mother's highly skilled  interrogation techniques resulted in a quick confession. Let's just say my rear end hurt when it was all said and done...and none of us kids were allowed to play ball for what seemed like forever. 

But one thing for sure, there were no more baby dolls bought for little Judy! 


Judy's love of all things sports lives on today! She sat through many a girl's softball game with our family this summer. Little did we suspect she was imagining the head of Tiny Tears flying off of those bats!!

I found the picture of a Tiny Tears doll on eBay. It is the 1950s edition like the one my friend used to hit in the head with a bat play with. I have no "after" pictures of Tiny Tears and that's a merciful thing...I'm confident our imaginations can paint the better picture as it is!! 

Thanks Judy, for sharing your hilarious story!

Happy Weekend everyone!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Russia, Ukraine, and my Couch

I woke up this morning with Russia and the Ukraine on my mind. I hold this article which addresses global news and our chief focus, as Americans, only on what happens in America, partially responsible. 

I was and still am, completely guilty of this internal focus in my news consumption. Even this morning, with all of the chaos going on in eastern Europe, there was a part of my mind hoping that the international news coverage would hurry on a bit so that I could enjoy the reporting on Oscar fashions and get an outlook on what the weather for my week looked like. 

It was when I checked my Twitter feed that my focus returned to Russia. Later today I’ll need to explain to my kids what is going on there and we’ll look at a map and we’ll try to absorb the facts. 

It seems to me that the scenario playing out on the other side of the world looks something like this:

In our family room we have a big comfy couch. It is a sectional that wraps itself around the greater part of the room. 

Two of the seats have built in recliners, the corner seat sits next to the recliners and is large and cozy. The next two seats boast nothing special and are sort of stiff and are the least comfortable of the couch, but next to those sits the prime real estate — the chaise. Sit there for just minutes on a Saturday morning and before long you’ll find that you’ve lost an hour or two of the day because it has taken you that long to coax your body out of your soft warm nest.

Naturally, the chaise seat is the most desired, most fought over, bargained for, coveted seat on our vast couch. 

The adults are just as guilty as the children when it comes to manipulating the seating arrangements so that the Seat of Happiness and comfort might be attained.

Now, imagine that comfy seat being occupied by our 8-year-old daughter Kate. She sits and knits, practicing her skill in deep concentration. Soon 5-year-old Molly comes by and begins yanking on the scarf that Kate is working on. Kate’s concentration moves from her prime seating position to her scarf which is now under attack and she scoots to the edge of the Seat of Happiness so that she can untangle Molly from her scarf. 

As it would happen, Cole the big ole 14-year-old, has been sitting on one of the uncomfortable seats. He’s been biding his time, one eye on his screen and one eye on the Seat of Comfort. He sees Molly harassing Kate. He sees Kate yielding her prime position inch after inch. He strikes scooting to fill each inch as Kate leaves them behind in her efforts to save her scarf. 

And let’s suppose that I, the mom, and Meg the peace loving sister, have been watching all of this from the comfort of the recliner chair on the other end of the couch. We see perfectly what has happened and have a fairly good idea what is about to happen. We have only a few moments to decide what position to take. 

I could be quick and firm. “Cole, get off that seat, your sister is sitting there.” I could also sit and assess the situation for awhile, letting the players get well bothered and upset before weighing in. I could leave the room completely and ignore the whole episode, letting the bigger, stronger, craftier character win the day. I could tell Kate to not make a big deal out of such a small issue and talk her into settling for a lesser seat on the couch. 

So many options.

Enough imagining. 

Let’s look at real life. 

The Seat of Happiness is the Ukraine and Kate is its citizen. Molly is the unrest that distracts the citizens and leaders in the Ukraine just now. Cole is of course, playing the role of Russia, taking advantage of an unfortunate situation on the Seat of Happines to move in on prime territory. I am the United States, and Megan is another country of the world who is as yet uninvolved. We are pondering how to handle the whole situation as we watch from our own comfortable seats on the couch which represents the world in this global analogy. 

I’m very interested to see how my own country and its allies from their recliners will deal with the situation on the other side of the world and after I tell my story to the children this morning, I think they will be eager to see how things play out as well.

Note: Links below will be useful in learning more about the situation.
The Atlantic: Putin's Playbook

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