November 2008 Archives

November 24, 2008

The Book of One Hundred Truths

The Book of One Hundred Truths The Book of One Hundred Truths by Julie Schumacher

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I enjoy reading smaller books specifically because, as a writer, I know it is so much more of a challenge to tell a story of depth with fewer words. Not all smaller books are successful, though. Many books, especially those written for kids, sacrifice character development and most lose sight of emotional nuances in the small moments.

This book is not one of those books. The characters are fully realized, each moment is a perfect, poignantly realized morsel to savor. Having grown up on the coast, I could almost smell the sea water, feel the breeze on my face, the coolness of the sand beneath the surface on the soles of my feet. I could also feel the shame and panic Thea feels as she finds her carefully constructed web of lies, and her family, unraveling.

I eagerly read this compelling little book and thoroughly enjoyed discovering and uncovering Thea's secrets. It is an incredibly insightful book, focusing on the relationships between people and how secrets and lies can shape or destroy them.

View all my reviews.

Teen angst

In June of 1989, I went swimming on a gloriously sunny, hot day in Alligator Point, Florida, a little doohickey hanging off the panhandle. Because of its location (Gulf of Mexico, can you say bathwater warm?) and the season (ever changeable summer), I should have known to be careful. Instead, I swam out pretty far and laid on a raft, just floating, soaking up the sun and enjoying my time away from my (then) husband. I was listening to the sound of the water lapping at the raft and the distant noise of kids playing on the beach. I remember thinking that I couldn't wait to take this trip as a family someday, with kids and diaper bags and chairs and coolers in tow. As I drifted in the waves, I was rocked to sleep, all sounds of the beach fading off into the distance. What I didn't know was they were fading away because I had floated out to where the current grew erratic, out of the protected inlet, past the sand bars and into deeper water.

When I realized I was hearing the sound of nothingness, I looked around and saw that the beach was just a smudge of brownish beige and I had gone far west of the beach access. I began paddling back toward the beach but my arms became very tired fighting the current. I thought it would be smart to slip off the raft and kick, knowing I had much more strength and stamina in my legs.

I was fighting a losing battle. For every stroke forward, I was being pulled back, so it took forever to make any headway. It felt as though the water was pulling on my feet, trying to pull me back out to sea. Every kick was a monumental effort, a struggle against the riptide's embrace. Several times, I wanted to give up, so sure I was that I could not make it. Lord knows it would have been easier to just give in and float on out but, for some reason, I kept kicking. Instinct kicked in and I was full of survival adrenaline.

When I finally did make it to shore, I was quite further down the coast than the point where I had gone in and I had to drag my sorry, sopping wet, sunburnt ass back to my stuff, all the while being berated for being stupid and clumsy by my (now) x.  Later that day, after I thought I had coughed up all the sea water I had swallowed, I tried to sleep off the exhaustion, only to be woken up every few minutes to retch more fluid. Turns out, I had a bit of sunstroke and eventually I was swollen, feverish and shivering uncontrollably. It didn't quite ruin our vacation but it wasn't the most pleasant trip I've ever taken.

Funny how when you are dealing with teenagers, your mind makes connections. I feel the pull of the tide of my children's emotions, knowing any minute I could be pulled into the swirling vortex and drowned. It is so much easier not to fight, just give up and wait for it to be over. For some reason, though, I keep trying new ways to communicate, to relate, to keep us all afloat.

I'm on pure survival adrenaline now. While the boy (17 next month) seems to be coming out of a bad patch (thanks to a new girl, apparently), the girl (just turned 15) is in a downward spiral. Her best friend is, and I mean this with love, a little shit and since the girl can not help but act like the people that she hangs around with, she is being a little shit too.

Tell me ... where are the parenting magazines and websites for single moms dealing with just everyday teen angst? My kids aren't troubled or in trouble, they are just "normal" kids. Since I was pretty much left to raise myself, I don't have a good model of parenting to hold myself up to. I guess I just really would like to know that I'm not on this raft alone. 

November 23, 2008

Sums the election up pretty well, I think

Perusing my old favorite haunt the other day, I found The Ink Tank, a daily roundup of editorial cartoons. Now, I appreciate in-depth analysis as much as the next girl (reading through the very lengthy New Yorker articles online during my lunch is a guilty pleasure) but there is something to be said for trying to tell a story with a picture and very few words. This one does it without any words.

Well done, Mr. Luckovich. I could not have said it better myself.

Might I add that I find it incredibly endearing that the President Elect and the First Lady-in-Waiting fist bump, just like T & I do. It's a sign of the true friendship that underlies their marriage, an indication that they have each others' backs. Keep it up, you too. It has been a long time since we have had a real "First Couple" that this country can fall in love with.

November 16, 2008

Lookie what I got!

I went to a craft show yesterday (my mom made me, she had a table there) and I saw one of our interns from last year. She is a wonderful textile artist and it seems working with us for a semester made her decide to go back for her Masters. Smart girl! I was so impressed by the cuteness and personality in her creations. Go visit her and support a talented artist.

Oh, I'm getting an Anti-Santy for Christmas but I have to wait until Christmas to get it ... I'll post a picture when I finally get it from my mom. It is WAAAAAAAY better than an embroidered sweater.

Anyway, she gave me a present! Look!! It's a Boogie!



Coraline Coraline by Neil Gaiman

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wonderful book. Glad I read it during the daytime (read while I was getting an oil change) because it was creepy. Looking forward to the movie.

I recommend this book to most of my students (5th grade+) ... it helps if they can suspend disbelief. Only the most literal of readers won't enjoy it.

View all my reviews.

Just read...

Measle and the Wrathmonk Measle and the Wrathmonk by Ian Ogilvy

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Plenty of action to keep the interest for the most reluctant readers but still smart and twisted enough for sophisticated kids. Frightening premise : Basil Tramplebone (Wrathmonk = evil, insane wizard) is the guardian of a child, Measle, who has to figure out how to survive under his twisted "care", and, many times, how to escape his wrath. I'd recommend for 4th - 6th grade, but it depends on the kid.

November 15, 2008

Some kind of monster

Last weekend, my son made a bonehead move during breakfast that caused a bit of tension in the house. T was here, I had just pulled 2 trays of biscuits out of the oven, we had sausage and gravy ready for a decadent Sunday morning. T and I had gotten our biscuits, the girl had just gotten hers and he was getting a plate when suddenly I heard a loud *clomp* sound. He had his plate in his hand and a look of horror on his face. Apparently when he turned, his fingers caught the edge of the bowl of gravy and sent it flying onto the floor. *splatter*

My immediate reaction was "How on earth did that happen?" I didn't scream at him, I didn't call him names, I didn't make fun of him, I just didn't get how it happened.

Then I told him to just step away from it and let me clean it up. It was an accident and, as accidents go, a fairly innocuous one. I spent the next 20 minutes cleaning up (because of course I had to empty the sink before I could use the mop and I had to empty the dishwasher before I could empty the sink) in silence. I wasn't the only one being quiet, though, everyone around me was watching, waiting, like I'm a time bomb with a hair trigger.

When I was done, T talked to me, told me not to be too hard on him, he's a kid, etc. He made a lot of sense and I appreciate him being the voice of reason but, honestly, I already knew what he would say. It mostly served to calm me down and was supposed to get me in a better mood so life could go on as normal. And it did, in its own time.

I've been thinking about that incident and others a lot lately, though. Incidents where, although I'm not totally proud of how I handled myself, everything got resolved in a grown up and peaceful manner. I like to think I'm a fairly decent parent but I have doubts and they run deep, especially lately.

I just don't get how I have this reputation for being such a mean parent. The girl has said several times that she didn't want to ask me something or she was afraid to tell me because I would get mad. And the boy, apparently, thinks I'm a raving banshee and tells his friends all the time how mean I am and how I'll yell at him if he asks me  for anything.

What went down tonight really bothered me, though. The girl had a concert tonight (she sung a solo beautifully) and I bought her flowers. After all the buildup and then sitting through the show (I'm a nervous wreck for her!), I'm waiting in a crowd (which I HATE) waiting forever it seems for her to come out. She comes out in street clothes (everyone else still had their concert dresses on) and when I go to hand her the flowers and tell her congratulations, she snaps "What is it with you and flowers?" She then proceeded to talk to everyone BUT me for the next 15 minutes.

There had been talk that she and her best friend and I and her best friends mom would go out to eat afterwards but that turned into best friend and best friend's mom (and alcoholic boyfriend) and 2 brothers AND at least 6 other people and the restaurant we wanted to go to closed at 9:30 so they decided to go to Chili's (decidedly more expensive) and it was all too much for me. Between the girls flighty, snippy attitude and my awkwardness in these situations, I told her we would talk in the car.

Well, the talk turned into an argument that lasted all the way home about how I always make her feel guilty and miserable and she was just joking. She was sobbing by the time we got home and you know what? I give up. Apparently I'm some kind of monster because I talk to my kids like rational adults and make them take responsibility for their actions and attitudes. Apparently, growning up Catholic did something to me and I have the guilt gene deeply embedded in my psyche. And I'm making the people around me miserable.   

November 5, 2008

So this is what Hope feels like

For the first time in a long time, I felt truly proud today when standing up to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I choked up. I held my chin up high. I pledged my allegiance to this country and the government that I believe finally understands my struggle.

I've pretty much been bursting with tears of pride since last night.

God Bless President Elect Obama. God Bless America.

November 3, 2008

Listening to...

It began raining tonight, which suited my mood. I had a long day at work, an emotional one, and I'm feeling kind of raw. I can't seem to explain why I feel the way I do to anyone (suffice to say I felt pushed into a corner and my immediate reaction was blind rage) so I've been tense and quietly seething since 4ish. Maybe I can put it into words later.

Then came the rain while I was waiting for the girl at Choral Society. And this song came on my Zune. And I just let go. It was what I needed to hear.

This Road
by Jars Of Clay

All heavy laden acquainted with sorrow
May Christ in our marrow, carry us home
From alabaster come blessings of laughter
A fragrance of passion and joy from the truth

Grant the unbroken tears ever flowing
From hearts of contrition only for You
May sin never hold true that love never broke through
For God's mercy holds us and we are His own

This road that we travel, may it be the straight and narrow
God give us peace and grace from You, all the day
Shelter with fire, our voices we raise still higher
God give us peace and grace from You, all the day through.

Would love to sing this someday, maybe as a duet with T. It's so gorgeous. Myabe by then I can hear it and not bawl like a baby.

November 2, 2008

"That is racing"

I adore Formula 1, I really do. And in a season where my favorite driver (Felipe Massa, Ferrari) had a ton of bad luck, to have the Drivers' Championship come down to the last race was something of a miracle. The only way Massa could win the Championship was for him to come in 1st and Lewis Hamilton to come in 6th or worse.

The odds were in Massa's favor. This is his home race, the Brazilian Grand Prix and he won it last year. He and the Ferrari crew seemed to have put his mechanical problems behind him. Even more important, it seemed at the end of the season that Hamilton was making some uncharacteristic "dumb moves" while Massa was getting better and better. Could he really win this thing?

I was almost nauseous watching the race today. For the most part, Hamilton stayed in 4th or 5th place (that is bad) but Massa stayed out front with a commanding lead (that was good). All we needed was for Hamilton to make a mistake and Massa to be as perfect as we know he is.

When Massa crossed the finish line to take the race, I was THRILLED ... Hamilton had slipped to 6th, this meant that Massa had the championship. I then held my breath until Hamilton actually crossed the finish line ... after all, this is F1, anything can happen in the blink of an eye. And it did. Inexplicably, the guy in 5th let Hamilton by and, in the last corner, Hamilton became the World Champion by 1 point.


Needless to say, I was in tears. And then they showed a shot of Massa in his car, pulling in as the winner but knowing how close he had missed his dream, blinking back tears. And my heart just broke for him. All through the podium ceremony (Ferrari won the Constructor's Cup, yay!), through the national anthems, through the spraying of champagne, Massa was choking back tears. He kept his chin up, though, touching his heart and pointing to the crowd, letting them know how much he appreciated their support.909263_article_img_large4.jpg

Later, in the post-race interview, he was an excellent team player, but still fighting back tears. He kept repeating "That is racing." He knew he had a perfect race and did everything he could to win the race ... honestly, in my heart, he is a Champion ... but some things are just out of his control. Like a Toyota that slows inexplicably in the last corner to let someone jump a position ahead. 

Quoted before the race on, Massa said "The only thing on my mind is winning the race. The rest does not depend on me. If I am champion, it will be a dream come true. If not, that's ok, I will try again next year.".

And we'll be there to root you on.

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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