Friday, December 28, 2012

The Foundation of Love

Tomorrow Justin and I will have been married for five years. We have been in love since 2001, but we have been friends since 1999. There are a lot of things I could write about my husband, but I thought the best way to celebrate this milestone of marriage was return to moment we became friends. Our friendship is the foundation of our marriage. Justin isn't just my husband, he is my closest friend. That has made our marriage possible, without a solid friendship we never would have made it this far.

We met our first week at Western, in the fall of 1998, but we didn't become friends until the next year. Originally, we didn't really like one another. He was rude to Jill at an audition and I decided he was a jerk. I told him what I thought of him, and he crowned me "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" (In fact, he made it my batting song for our inter-mural softball team, and that is right, the Dr. D's Devils was a softball team full of theater dorks and we had theme songs to bat to) We existed in one another's peripheral vision. We didn't become friends until the summer of '99.

Justin spent a lot of time hanging out at the House of E, which for the summer consisted of Jessica, Adrian and I. He and Adrian were friends and he was just around. We would chat and laugh. I decided he wasn't too bad when he mocked me for dating someone who wasn't very smart, while we were shooting a gazillion jello shots before they went bad. The summer was fun, but we still weren't friends. We had just started to think the other was fun.

Our true friendship was born on a fall night at a party our mutual friend Brent threw for the end of dismal play entitled Friends With Benefits. At the time, Brent threw a lot of parties. His roommate  Brandon, worked nights at Winco and I can't imagine how annoying it must have been to come home to 20 some odd theater dorks signing ABBA in your living room.  Theater parties were focused on dorky dances, a marvelous costume or theme, and a lot of pure silliness. We did drink, but that wasn't point. The point was to dance and sing and generally be the goofy weirdos we knew ourselves to be.

When Jill and I arrived, I found myself accepting a drink from the Bryan, the bartender of the night, and out of nowhere Justin appeared to "fix" it. Bryan liked to pour STRONG drinks and Justin took it upon himself to not allow his female friends to suffer from alcohol poisoning. Somehow we found ourselves chatting in the hallway, discussing something that I am sure was truly deep and special. At some point a guy we didn't know, who was a friend of a friend, started hanging around us and being weirdly pushy. My roommate at the time, an interesting soul named Noah, came up and asked us for protection. Weird pushy guy kept hitting on her, in fact, weird pushy guy was hitting on every female at the party, and he was being aggressive with the dudes. There was non funny wresting occurring in the living room.

He appeared in the hall begging us for kisses. Being 21 and grossed out, we chose to go hide in Brent's room. The three had just sat down on the bed and settled in for a chat when weird pushy guy begin to knock on the door and beg to come in. The horrible truth hit all three of us at once, we had trapped ourselves in the room. Either this guy was coming in or he was sitting in the hall and yelling at us.  For a brief moment we were paralyzed, and then Justin started bouncing the bed in a rhythmic manner. Without a thought or a discussion, Noah and I begin to moan dramatically and bounce the bed with him. The yelling in the hall ceased, but the dude didn't leave. He started calling for other people to come listen at the door. Between giggles and general disbelief that he wouldn't leave, we continued our dramatic play knowing that our friends would understand what was going on and take, the now abysmally drunk, guy away.. Finally, he lumbered off and we sat on the bed and started to chat.

Noah left as soon as the coast was clear, but Justin and I stayed and talked about all sorts of forgettable nonsense and matters of great importance. I don't remember exactly what we discussed, and there was honestly no romantic sentiment to it. We never touched and neither of us thought it was a monumental evening that would lead to marriage and a miracle child. Our chat ended when Brandon came home from work to discover weird guy trying to get out of the house through their tiny bathroom window, and decided that he didn't want to be out in the crowd. Soon after, Jill found me and we went home, but Justin and I were officially friends.

For the next two years, Justin, Jill and I spent many parties together. We sat in corners, or out on patios and were often joined by Brandon and Jason and Tami. He looked out for us and we looked out for him. He wasn't just my friend. He was Jill's too. When his roommate, who was female, went crazy and thought they were married he slept on the floor of Jill and mine's room. Jill bought him Ramen and he made us the "Big Salad", still the world's best salad. Throughout this time, we dated other people, and shared the uncool fact that the party wasn't really our thing, and a movie and a board game might be more fun. He was there the first time I went to see a counselor and finally talk about my Dad. I was there when he didn't get the role he wanted and the girl he had a complicated relationship with was being strange and mean. When I really needed to tell someone the things I couldn't tell everyone else, and I couldn't find Jill, he was there. He was my friend.

Ultimately, we moved passed friendship. A trip to Disneyland and Vegas, a tumultuous on again and off again affair.The frightening and exhilarating realization that something kept pulling us together,but that first night we laid the foundation for  our ability to talk about the hard things.  We were honest about who we were. It took a long time for us to get married, but five years ago I walked down the aisle knowing that I was marrying a man who loved me for who I was.  Our love is strong because our friendship is strong. Two years of dealing with infertility could rip a couple apart. What saved us was our ability to talk about things honestly. My 21 year old self was unaware that that night she was beginning "the" relationship of her life, and there were many moments along the way that made me ask if we would make it, but we always do.

I am thankful to be married to my friend. Now I can look back and see all our ups and downs as training for marriage. I can't wait to see what the next fifty years bring us.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Kindness, Forgiveness and Ending at the Cross

Today was a rough start to the kindness challenge. I would give myself a C- on having a kind and forgiving attitude for the day. My heart wasn't ready, and I found myself struggling to know how to respond to things. Does being kind mean not being honest about how you feel or setting boundaries? What is the line between kindness and interpersonal communication? If I am called to forgive "just as in Christ God forgave you", does that mean that I complete trust the untrustworthy and act as if nothing has happened? How is any of this related to kindness?

In preparation for this challenge, I have been doing a lot of thinking, praying, and talking with my husband. I have been trying to take apart Ephesians 4:23. Meditating on a verse and taking it one piece at a time is helpful to me. It makes me less overwhelmed and have a better grasp on what I believe I am being called to do. The second half of this verse, the aforementioned quote, is a struggle for me. This piece of scripture tripped me up for years. A poor interpretation helped me buy into the belief that I would never be "good enough" for God and should just stop trying. For years I believe that "just as in Christ, God forgave you" meant that I had to allow those that had hurt me back into my life and pretend as if there had been no pain and things were the way they were. If someone lied to or hurt me, then I would pretend that it hadn't happened and put myself in a position to be hurt again. I truly thought that God had called Christians to be humanity's whipping boy.  After all, through Christ God's forgiveness is complete. I am made anew and my sins are washed away, God has no memory of the horrid sinful creature I was, so clearly I had to act as if I had no memory of how others had hurt me.

This got tricky when it came to my Father. I loved my Father and I wanted to forgive him. I wanted nothing more than for everything to be ok, but it wasn't. In fact, my Father would often make choices that hurt me. I spent a huge part of my adolescence smiling and acting as if it I had no anger towards him, when I was seething with anger. This wasn't limited to my Dad, the boy who slapped me in front of my friends, in the middle of camp? Oh, I was fine with it, we were friends, no problem. The "friend" that I had since junior high, who manipulated myself and others and was cruel to my other friends through high school, well I smiled and kept being her friend. As I made these choices, I became increasingly resentful. What did God expect of me? I wasn't a super hero, and I had feelings. Why was I expected to be in these positions? Realizing that this wasn't what God wanted was a major revelation for me.

God calls us to forgive, but he doesn't call us to be fools. Forgiveness is a selfish act. By forgiving someone, we are letting go of the anger and spite that ties us to someone who has hurt us. We are moving forward and enabling ourselves to grow again. Bitterness stunts and maims us. However, it is possible to forgive without being a fool. In no way am I saying that we shouldn't strive to truly forgive and find ways to express love to those who have hurt us, but we should still be wise. Most often, people hurt us because they break our trust. When I was teen my Mom would constantly tell me that trust could be broken in a second, but take years to rebuild. She was right. Trust is fragile, and once it is broken it cannot be easily repaired. Time and a demonstration of the will to change and make amends are the only things that can repair trust. It can't be rushed or forced.

There are times, when trust cannot be earned back. When the glass has been shattered and the hurt too deep. This is true with my Dad. I love him very much, and by the grace of God I have come to a place where I am not angry at him, and can truly forgive him for the choices that he made, but I can't trust him. He has proven to be untrustworthy. His mental illness makes it so he doesn't know what reality is. Therefore, he lies without even realizing it. He believes his lies. I can love him, and I pray for him, but I have to do these things from afar, because his dishonesty is too chaotic and at time dangerous. I have no choice but to trust that God has a plan for my Father and that he will find salvation before his death.

I don't believe that God expects me to rush in and allow my Father to bulldoze my life, nor do I believe that I am supposed to come to a place of healing or forgiveness without Christ. Little things are simple to forgive, a mean friend can be forgiven and prayed for, but the big things; moments that irrevocably change you or those you love, the realization that someone has hurt someone truly innocent, or the painful knowledge that you are dealing with a person who is suffering with an addiction or mental illness, these are hard to forgive. I would say they feel impossible, because even when I get to a place where I am no longer angry I find myself unable to trust the person, or people involved. These moments are also hard, because you can't forget them. The change your relationship forever, and the only way to heal is to find a hazy starting point. Nothing will ever be the same again.

So often, I thought this verse meant that forgiving someone was to return things to the way they were, and when I found it impossible to do that, I felt like a failure. I have been meditating on this idea for the past several days. Through my siblings, I have learned that each of us forgives in our own way at our time. I couldn't forgive my father when my sister had, nor could I expect my other sister to do so when I had. We all had to find our own way to healing and peace. If each person if finding their own way, then there is no way that it can all go back to the way it was. Any attempts to do this can cause more pain, the one who isn't ready to forgive is angry that they are being put in a position of pressure, or they can feel as if their feelings do not matter. As family and friends, this is a situation in which we must let God take the helm. He is the only one who can sort out this mess, and he has no expectation that it will be exactly same. He will use the time and pain to work in the hearts of each person involved and show them what he wants them to learn from the situation. Finally, God does not expect us to be fools. We are told "not to walk in the path of sinners". If someone has proven to be untrustworthy on a large scale, we should be cautious. If their actions have harmed others we should be even more cautious. We are still called to be loving, but we have to be honest and aware of what is happening. Time may give the person who difficult to trust a chance to make amends, but in the situations described above, copious amounts of time would be required.

What does any of this have to do with kindness?  Kindness is a demonstration of love, and demonstrating love is one clear way to reflect the changes that God is working in my heart. However, it is difficult to demonstrate love if your heart and mind are wrapped in an attempt to sort out how to forgive those who have hurt you, or how you will heal fractured relationships. For all the happiness and miracles that this year brought our immediate family, it also brought a lot of pain to our extended families. There is a lot of hurt and resentment and trust has been shattered. At times it feels as if it will be impossible to come back from. When discussing how all of these familial events fit into the kindness challenge, Justin kept returning to the idea that there isn't any anger, but there is no trust and when there is no trust, how can you start the healing process? I think you start by letting go and trusting God to guide you to make wise choices.

This brings me back to my C- for the day. In order to let go and let God guide your choices, in order to have a calm heart that is ready to look for ways to promote kindness and reflect love on others, you need to go to Him and prepare your heart before going out into the world. I started the challenge with an unprepared heart. I was stewing in some hurt and let that lead me to be snappish. If I had started the morning by going to God first, I may have turned that hurt over and been prepared to focus on how I can use my words to uplift and empower others.

On the first day of the kindness challenge, I learned that this will be impossible if I try to do it on my own strength. I need to leave my pettiness, my bitterness, my anger, my inability to forgive at the Cross. I have to accept that my love, my kindness, my struggle to forgive isn't enough. "Just as in Christ God forgave you" is not, as I believed for so long, a call for us to ignore who we are and pretend to ok, but  a call to embrace who we are, weak fallible humans, and recognize that we need Christ to accomplish these things. In order to complete the challenge, I am going to have to go to the Cross every day, sometimes more than once, and leave it all there. It begins and ends there.

P.S. This was the song that ended our Christmas Eve service last night, and I it struck me as an anthem for this challenge.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Kindness Challenge

There is nothing I can say about the shooting in Connecticut that could properly explain my thoughts about the display of evil that occurred there. All I can do is pray for the families who are left behind and for the children who survived and have to cope with this. In an event such as this, there is nothing else to do but turn to God and pray. Pray for peace, for healing, and for all of us to find a way to focus on being kind towards one another. God calls us to be kind, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32. (Being in Awanas, a children's choir and going to Grace Christian means that I have a large amount of verses that can be easily recalled with catchy tunes) This verse has been frequently popping into my head lately.  Before the horror of the Clackamas and Sandyhook shootings, God was compelling me to examine the example I set for my students, and my son, when speaking about or to others.

I am just finishing up teaching Flowers for Algernon for the sixth year in a row. I love the tale of Charlie Gordon and his journey. One of my favorite parts of teaching it is that it forces students to truly examine how they treat people who are different than them, and allows us to help change their use of the word "retarded" as a derogatory adjective. This was the first year I had students openly reject the idea that we should have consideration for those who are outside the norms of society. The argued things like "well you can't change how people speak" and "maybe people with Downs are being sensitive and need to get over it". I was shocked. Normally students are so moved by Charlie's passion over the treatment of the dishwasher that they express shame at having treated other students in negative fashion. A sophomore recently returned to my classroom to ask my help in crafting a letter that complained about the fact that a coach had used the word retarded to refer to another student. She, and the other students, referred to Flowers for Algernon in their argument that the district should not tolerate this. So, how was it possible that six years in my students were callous about this story and how it reflected society?

I would like to tell you that I had Dead Poet's Society moment and inspired them, but in reality I stared at them and then stated that I felt like they had lost their humanity. "We are in fact, speaking about people with thoughts and feelings." was the best thing I could think of to say. (One amazing young man did stand up and tell his peers that they weren't thinking about what it meant to be a good person who considered the feelings of others. I wanted to hug him) The next day, I watched them rip apart an amazing paper written by a recent graduate. None of them had the skill to write a paper of the same quality, but they only had negative things to say about it. In frustration I finally asked them where they learned to be so critical and negative. They thought about it for awhile and replied, "We can't think of any everyday examples of people being kind, but we see a lot of people being sarcastic and critical."

Wow. Along with my recent lesson about the power of words, this statement hit my conscience like a brick.  One of the major facets of my job is to be an example of someone who is kind, and I am clearly  not doing that. Add to that my new found awareness that my actions will be mimicked and adopted by my son, and my growing awareness that I have developed a habit of responding with snarky comments without being aware of what I am saying. My favorite mode of communication is sarcasm and judgement, and this has been weighing on my heart. I don't want my son to learn to communicate this way, and I owe it to my students to be a better example to them. Finally, I don't want to treat those I love this way. I want to get in the habit of uplifting those I love and break the habit of tearing others down.

I kept thinking about, but not doing anything to change, this situation when my friend Chris wrote about the same theme. His blog, and my feeling of helplessness at the recent horrific events, have pushed me to come up with a plan on how to fix it. I have decided to challenge myself to 51 days of being conscientiously kind. There are 51 days between Christmas and Valentines and I feel that this is clear season of love, so I am going to look for a way to demonstrate kindness through my words and actions each day. My theory is that by practicing kindness for several days I will break the bad habit and develop the good habit. All things take practice, and I am sure it won't be easy, but I feel that this is what I am being called to do. Does anyone want to join me and be accountability partners? My hope is that if even a few of us do this, it will make a difference. It may not end horrors, such as those we have recently witnessed, but it will help us heal. Hopefully, my students will be able to say that they have examples of kindness to emulate, and I can be proud when my son copies my mode of communication. Please help me out with some support. I can't do it alone.

Monday, December 10, 2012

No one said it would be easy.

Since Harrison's birth I have struggled to find time to do regular devotionals and have  been lax about attending church. Time is always flying and I am always behind. I was intellectually aware that having a baby was hard, but like everything else on this journey, until you are in it you don't really know what it is like. At this moment, I should be sleeping, but my mind is whirring away and by the time I get it to stop the boy will be awake again. Being a new mom is hard, no sleep, you are always guessing, just when you figure your baby out they change, and everything in life feels different. Not to mention the fact that my body, six months after birth, still does not feel like my own. Nursing means that I am still using it to nurture my child, and it just feels different. Clothes fit strangely, there is weird skin, the weight seems to be stuck, who knew hormones would be still be changing. This is not for the weak.

Keep in mind that I prayed for this, I begged God for this, I longed for this, and despite the above paragraph, I am thankful for all of this. However, I need to hold myself accountable and make some time for God or all of this will just get harder. In an effort to get back in the game, I have been doing and Advent devotional that I downloaded from Amazon. Tonight's study was about how John's disciples came to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. As you may recall, John baptized Jesus and he was only a few months older. Elizabeth, another woman who struggled with infertility, felt her baby jump when she was visited by the pregnant Mary.

This part really hit home with me, because my friend Kristina and I were pregnant at the same time and our boys are about the same age apart as John and Jesus. Elizabeth knew that her son would be preparing the way for Mary's baby, but I don't think she knew how much he would sacrifice for this. When John sends his disciples to Jesus, he is languishing in prison because Herod's wife dislikes his ministry and considers him a social agitator. John knows Herod will kill him, but he also knows that if Jesus is the Messiah he can save him.

Jesus' response to John's disciples is to quote a passage from Isaiah about the things that the Messiah will do, but he changes it and says "tell him that I am". He knows that this will assure John that he is the Messiah, but he does nothing to free John from prison. In other words, John knows that he is dying for speaking the truth and fulfilling his godly purpose, but he also knows that there are no promise of ease or comfort. Jesus could have easily saved John, but instead John's head is served on a platter at the bequest of a young manipulative girl.

Why doesn't Jesus save John? And how must this have destroyed Elizabeth? Jesus doesn't save him because John's death served a larger purpose. He was killed by a man who didn't want to kill him, but was giving into the request of an angry and selfish woman. His death was unfair, and he did not deserve to die, but his death mirrored the death of his Messiah. Jesus was killed by a man who didn' want to kill him, but gave into the requests of an angry and selfish mob. Elizabeth watched her son die for the sake of his ministry, and was the only person on Earth who could have reached out and comforted Mary.

John's life and death are a great example of Jeremiah 29:11. God knew the plans he had for him, and they included physical harm, but John's death and life served to prepare the way for the Messiah. His Mother's struggles with infertility was part of the plan because it ensured that he would be born just a few months before Jesus. When I think of all the times she must have cried at not being pregnant and how she had been chosen for this special child, it gives me chills. This season is about the birth of Christ, but John was a miracle to his parents.

God doesn't promise us an easy life, nor do we get an assurance that we will know what our physical, mental, or emotional struggles will lead us to. John never lived to see Jesus' ministry and sacrifice on the cross. However, in that dark moment in prison, Jesus sent him words of comfort and I believe that John had enough faith to take comfort in them. I like to imagine that Elizabeth and Mary were able to comfort one another and find strength in their shared pain. Both of their miracle babies suffered unimaginable pain.

I don't know what the plan is for my miracle baby. I am reasonably confident that he won't be beheaded, but I know there will be times when he will suffer. He has already experienced physical discomfort and it kills me to hear his little "teeth hurt" cry. I can only imagine how much more painful it will be to watch him deal with larger trials. This is why I need to make time to meet with God on a regular basis. So that I can offer up my trials and be comforted, in order to be able to comfort the ones I love, and to be reminded that as much as I love my child, God loves him more. He knew about him before he was formed, and knows all of his days. When I get wrapped up and stressed, I forget this and anxiety takes over. This Advent I am working on meeting with God to parent and bless my personal miracle baby.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

You Don't Bring Me Flowers

This was one of the most popular songs of 1978, the year I was born. First off, they don't make songs like this anymore. For all the cheesiness, it is well written and thoughtful. Babs and Neil bring it in the song, and I would rather listen to it than most of the crap that MTV plays between Teen Mom 25. It is a song about a couple that has let their love die out. They stopped working for it, but they aren't ready to let go of one another. When I was younger, it was impossible to imagine how you would hit a point in your marriage where you would struggle with this. When you are first married and adoring one another, it is easy to find simple ways to show your appreciation for one another.

As a couple ages and becomes parents, those simple gestures become much more difficult and much more important. Justin shows his love for me by letting me sleep in on Saturday or picking up the crying child. I try to keep our home functioning and our child happy, so that he can work -12-20 hour days- and not have to stress out about home. As a new Mom, it is challenge to also be an attentive and loving wife. 

I don't want my husband to feel that our son has replaced my need for him or become more important to me than my marriage. Obviously, being Harrison' Mom is an answer to a deep and longing prayer. It has changed my entire view of the world. Everything is different, how I look at things, how I spend my time, how I approach my career, familial relationships, friendships, and yes, my marriage. 

Becoming a mother has made my marriage even more precious than it was before. I feel as if it is this fragile thing that I must protect. We aren't having marital problems and somehow a lack of sleep has made us more in love than we ever before, but added responsibilities, extra financial stress, and constant exhaustion can make finding the time to have an real conversation difficult. 

I am constantly struggling to find a way to connect to Justin, not just as the mother of his son, but as his wife. This can be hard. Harrison is in the center of our universe. From that moment, one year ago today, that we discovered he was coming our focus has been on him. I am proud and happy that we are thoughtful about our parenting. Coming up with family traditions, enjoying watching our son discover the world, and working through parenting trials have brought us closer, but these cannot be the only way we reach out to one another. 

For the past month, I have consciously been focusing on ways to appreciate Justin as a husband. I am looking for ways to celebrate him beyond the amazing father he is. This can be hard, not because Justin doesn't have qualities worth celebrating, but because life is stressful and hectic and I am tired and overwhelmed. It is in those moments that I remember the verses from our wedding: "Love is patient,love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, " Corinthians 13:4-7. 

I am trying to take each quality of love and work on it. Patience is tough and exhaustion makes kindness a constant choice. I have to think about how I speak to my husband. Too often I am harsh or unbecoming in my words, too often I pick little fights based on small annoyances and don't stop to remember that my job and purpose is to love this man. 

For the past few weeks, I feel that God has put this issue on my heart to remind me that I need His guidance and love in order to be able to offer that same unconditional love and grace to my husband. My Grandmother told me that true marriage happens when you love your husband when it is difficult. At that  moment, you are choosing to pour out love and feed your relationship instead of pouring out anger or resentment and hurting it. She and my Grandpa were married for over sixty years, so she must have known what she was talking about.  

I am a work in progress, but I am determined to pour love into my marriage. From the moment I fell in love in with him, Justin has been my home. If the rest of the world fell away and I was left with just he and Harrison I would still be blessed beyond my imagination. Each day, I am working on remembering that and reflecting it in my actions, and fortunately for me my husband considers getting pizza to be one of the most romantic things I can do for him :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Humble Reminders

Yesterday I was reminded how powerful our words are. I had an interaction with a student whom my words had caused anxiety and stress. A few weeks ago, I opened my mouth and inserted my foot. That set up a situation where when I had a conversation with a student, they were already feeling intimidated and words that I viewed as honest and helpful, were taken as critical and harsh. Now, I know that my words were taken through the filter of an emotional 8th grader, and my first instinct was  to blow their hurt off and chalk it up to middle school drama.

Something stopped me from doing this, and put this situation on my heart. I ended up pulling the student in, apologizing and having one of those great conversations that remind me why I became a teacher in the first place. You see, I had forgotten that 1. as an adult my words are very powerful,
 2. middle school is a horrid thing to go through, and 3. kindness and humility are good for everyone.  Apologizing to this student may have made them feel better, but it was huge relief for me. It felt like I was throwing off the cloak of crankiness and self-centeredness and remembering that the world is bigger than me.

Too often I embrace the idea that I am too busy, stressed, tired, etc, to stop and be kind to anyone. I feel like I have absorbed a societal disease that is reaching pandemic levels. I see it on television, on the road while driving, at the store, in my own relationships and interactions. We as a society appear to have be losing the ability to stop and make time to be kind.  I feel like as we become more "connected" via media, we become more disconnected from basic manners. How often do I encounter someone who budges the line, or expresses annoyance that they have to wait, while they are typing away on their cellphone? They don't make eye contact with anyone around them, and barely acknowledge the person helping them. How often do I hear "I am too busy to deal with that"? I think it is time we all acknowledge that everyone is busy and move on.

My words were brusque, because I was solely focused on myself. Due to that focus, I hurt a child's feelings. I made a child cry, and that makes me cry. If I had just taken a moment to stop and think, to put on my manners and really listen to what the child was saying, I could have avoided the whole situation. How often have I hurt others in the same way? This is not the person I want to be, and more importantly it is not the example that I want to set for my son. I want him to see that treating others with kindness and consideration is a reward unto itself.

Yesterday, I had to force myself to slow down and take fifteen minutes to talk to this student. Yes, it was fifteen minutes past when I was supposed to working, and yes it was fifteen minutes away from my son. However, that fifteen minutes was a powerful reminder of the importance of kindness. My apology was heard, and I felt like the student and I left with a much better relationship than we had before. For that fifteen minutes, I was able to let them know that I remember how scary middle school can be, that we don't all do things right,and most importantly that their thoughts and feelings mattered. They were able to reminded me that I need to be conscience about how I treat others and more humble about my day. It may sound strange, but I was thankful for the reminder.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Oy Vey! The Guilt!

I returned to work this week. I love my job and am one of those fortunate people who get to do something that makes them happy. Each new year I am excited to meet my students, reconnect with families and begin the cycle again. This year has the added challenge of leaving my little man behind. He couldn't have a better place to go than Nanny's. My Mom recently retired and spent last week adoring Harrison in a way that only a Grandma can. This knowledge makes me feel secure, but I still feel guilty, or maybe just sad.

Most of the time that I am work I am fine. Partly because I no longer have time to dally. I want to get my work done so I can home and not think about it, but there were many long meetings this week. Long meetings gave me time to think about Harrison and wonder what he was doing right then. I know that I am feeling what thousands of Mom's before me have felt, but it was still a big adjustment. Add to that a moment where someone almost walked in on me breastfeeding and you have a mildly stressful week.....

It is a struggle to balance work, home, baby and family. Both of our families have had some big issues this summer and Justin and I are struggling to come to terms with the fact that we can't control what others do and even if we disagree with, or in some cases are appalled by, the decisions being made they aren't our decisions to make. This has its own version of guilt. Do you swoop in and say exactly how you feel and cause estrangement with that person? Or do you go along with them and try to be supportive? We are currently in a strange middle ground of mostly not saying anything.  Neither of us are happy here, but we both don't know what to say.

When you are watching someone you love slip away, in fact choose to go, and the situation is testing the very bonds of your family how can it be ok to step back? And yet, that is what I feel God is saying to do. Step back, don't try to control others. Currently no one is in danger and everyone is an adult. I may not understand it, but for the moment I have to accept it.  I will keep praying, and we will keep hoping that it all works out in the end........

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Having a child has a way of boomeranging all the issues you had with your parents. Resentments, hurts, fears, traditions, connections, comforts and everything else that makes a family messy are brought to the light when a baby comes. When you are the child of an alcoholic, when your dad walked away because he was mentally unable to provide for you, when said dad is in prison for stealing millions of dollars, forgiveness can seem like an unending road. Just when I feel that I have reached a new level of comfort in the realities of estrangement, something happens that highlights the fact that he is missing. My siblings and I are experts at dealing with this. We all know how to manage the landmine that is a big life event minus a dad. In a lot of ways those are easier than the big life events that are plus a dad. There is less chance of a fight or an awkward encounter.

There was a moment at my wedding, the moment when I should have had the father daughter dance, the moment when my Dad should have been there and he wasn't and than it passed. I am expert in moving passed it, but now that I have my own son it is harder. I have bigger questions. How could you ever walk away from your baby? How could you hold your child in your hands and than leave her behind? How could you not be there for your wife? At two in the morning, when I was screaming and couldn't be settled, when my sisters were cranky and annoyed and my Mom had to go work the work in a few hours, why wasn't he there? Did he not feel that connection? When he held my brother, sister and I did he not have that instant euphoria? How could a bottle be more important than us?

To be honest, these aren't new questions. They are the same questions I have had my whole life, and the truth is there is no answer that will make it better. My Dad doesn't even know the answers. He doesn't understand why he did what he did and he can't change the choices he made. He wasn't equipped to be there for us, and in many ways it was blessing that he left and didn't stay.

Someday I have to find the words to explain this to my son. I will need to find a way to articulate why his Grandpa isn't here. I will be honest with him, but I also will need to find a way to explain to him that his Grandfather is not an evil or horrid person, he is a man who made some bad choices and hurt people, but he also loved us in his own broken way.

The churning mess of family relationships is always rooted in the past. Family trees cast large shadows and we cannot escape them. There isn't a way out of your family. You can be angry, or try to run, you can ignore them and forge ahead, but sooner or later we all have to go back and we all have to take back in the ones who walked away.  This is what I have to explain to my son.

No matter what your family does, no matter how broken it feels, no matter how far you fall from grace, or how much somebody hurts you, you will always love them because they are your family. Somehow everyone has to find to work it out and keep moving on, and sometimes someone will choose to walk away and you have to let them go. When you love someone, you want to protect them, you want them to do what you what them to do because that is what you think is best. Usually they won't do what you want, or say what you want, because they aren't you.  Families can be painful and brutal, because no one can love you or hurt you more than your family, but they can also be wonderful and marvelous for the same reasons.

I don't know why my Dad the choices he did, and I never will. I will never stop wishing he made different ones and I will certainly encounter other life events that make me ask those questions all over again. However, I have been blessed with not just an amazing immediate family, but I married into a strong, large family that makes up for all my two person eating at a diner slightly sad holidays.  My son is overwhelmed with Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. He has a Nana and a Grandma who love him fiercely  and most importantly he has a Grandpa who will love him enough for two Grandpas. He will never know that he is missing another Grandpa. He won't have to ask questions, because his Grandpa Lindemann raised a man who will never leave his son. He raised a man who will be there always.

Harrison's Dad loves him enough to be there at two in the morning, and he won't miss big life moments. Everyday he makes choices that are for his son. As we blend our family, as we tie together the branches of our family trees and add our own limbs I will always hold a spot for my own father. I will always dream of the day he magically appears and is the suddenly the perfect Dad, but I will also hold tight to Harrison's dad and everyday I will be thankful for him.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Beyond what you can bear

It seems to be a consistent theme in my life that as soon as I feeling strong about my faith, a bunch of situations test it. My extended family has been dealing with some big issues in the past few weeks and they aren't things that anyone can do anything about besides wait and pray. Waiting and praying is not my thing. I find it to be really, really hard. I want to do and solve and there is nothing I can do and no way I can solve anything.

On the homefront, we have been dealing with the economic realities of being new parents who want/need to provide our child with certain things, but are trapped in the economic conundrums so familiar to so many  people our age. My friend Chris, who weirdly seems to be on a similar wave length, articulated this situation much more eloquently than I can.  All I can say is that we both became teachers, and this required large loans and doesn't pay enough to cover those loans and life in general. (I am not trying to start a political debate about the economy, political policy, or the issues with teachers, so please don't start the fight.)

What I do want to share is that it often feels as if we are trapped in a hopeless situation. I love my job and I work hard to be the best teacher I can be. However, it seems financially irresponsible to make this the one job I have for the rest of my life. I would really like to become and administrator, but the 25k in additional loans makes me pause. Our monthly payment already exceeds most people's mortgages and I can't see adding to that with the job market the way it is.

Since Harrison's arrival, a lot of well meaning people have asked when we are going to purchase a home. It has never been a priority for us, because it has never seemed financially feasible.  We are among the few of our friends who don't own a home, but we are also among the few of our friends who have retirement accounts. Most people we know have to choose between the two. We feel it is important to provide our son with a college savings plan (this way he won't have the same debt) and we can't do both.

99% of the time, I am ok with this. I feel blessed and we have more than we will ever need, but yesterday I had to get on the phone with National Ed. National Ed services some of my grad school loans. They keep selling the management of those loans to subcontractors who have done things such as; send my bills to my inlaws house (I have never lived there), added someonelse's art school loans to my bill, and now sent me to default even though I was in deferment. After a very frustrating phone call, I spent most of yesterday in a quiet panic.

I felt that this situation had made it so that we couldn't get the car we need. National Ed reported me as in default to the credit reporting agencies. They state that they emailed notices, but I have searched up and down and can't find any. They called me one time, on May 29th, and sent one letter. By the end of the conversation, I was able to get them to reverse the default in their system, but they won't take it off the credit report.

As someone whose own father used her identity to do all sorts of awesome things, I am well versed in the obscene amount of time it takes to get these things removed. I was feeling pretty frustrated. I didn't really sleep last night. These are the moments when it feels impossible to have faith, and yet these are the moments when faith matters most.

I have to take deep breaths. God doesn't promise a life of ease and he doesn't promise a lack of pain, but he does promise to be there with us and to help us grow. I am not at a place of peace about all of this, but I do recognize that my problems are small compared to those of some people I love very much. We have jobs and are healthy. We have a place to live and plenty of food.

I have been meditating on James 1:2-4

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way."- The Message

This is tough, and I don't like what it says, but growing in faith means facing what we don't like. It means looking at our weaknesses, fears, and faults. I am big wanter. I want bigger and better often, and forget about humility and thankfulness. I still think that God should show his love through giving me what I want, but have avoid thinking about my stewardship of what he has given me. Now may not a season that we can do all we want to do. We may never have that season, but I can make it a season about growing and learning. That is my goal. I think I will start by memorizing the verse.

Monday, July 9, 2012


My friend Chris Plumb recently started a blog, you can check it out here. He recently wrote a novel and is looking for publishers. The blog is more about his random thoughts, which I find interesting. Please support him. He is stepping out in faith, and believing in his dream. He sat down and wrote a whole novel, which I always think about but would never actually have the discipline to do. He wrote the novel as response to circumstance. He, like so many other talented teachers, hasn't been able to find a permanent teaching position, and turned the negative into a positive by using this time to write.

I am very humbled by the fact he simply decided that he was going to write a book and did it. There are so many things that I want to do, but don't follow through with. It takes a leap of faith to follow your dream and put yourself forward. I have been thinking about faith a lot lately. Soon after Harrison was born, someone wrote me and shared that they saw Harrison as a reward for my faith in God's plan. They felt like I had submitted and therefore received what I wanted. This perspective of my experience bothers me. It makes feel like a economic transaction. I did this, so you owe me this. 

At church this week, the message cemented my feelings. Pastor John said over and over again "Faith is not a guarantee that you will receive the outcome you want." This statement reverberated with me. There were many moments in my journey through infertility were I had a "false faith" I said the "right" things and expected God to grant me a baby. It never worked, because God isn't a slot machine. I can't put in a certain amount and win a prize.

"But" I can hear my friend saying, "You did get what you wanted, so there has to be some reward."  This is a dangerous way to approach faith. I know, it is how I did it for a majority of my life. I made the "right" choices, I was a good girl, and I expected certain rewards out of it. If I was faithful than God was obligated to provide me with the family I wanted, the husband I wanted, and the future I wanted, when I wanted it. When I was 18 and the boy I "wanted" decided that our plans to go to college and get married weren't want he wanted, I was left feeling cheated. I put in a certain amount. I upheld my end of the bargain and God had let me down.  I put God in a box of my expectations.

It took a decade for me to stop dealing with God in this mathematical way. It took a deep challenge that brought me to my knees in order to let God out of the box. For me, faith comes through obedience.  I had to slowly work my way up to accepting that I wasn't in control and that my plan was not "the plan". Everyday I have to get up and make a choice to not try to be in control and let God's plan be in place.  This is not easy and it isn't my nature, it is an active choice.  Sometimes I am successful and a lot of times I fail.

Harrison has been a blessing beyond my imagination. I don't feel that I did anything to deserve or "earn" him. What I did was give up control and commit to whatever life God had planned for me. I admitted that I didn't know everything and that I needed A LOT of help to get through this crazy life.

Faith is a personal experience. Sometimes, like my friend Chris, you  need to move forward and take chance, or, like me, you have to stop trying to "make" things happen and wait for God's plan. For me, faith is an active daily choice. What is it for you?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Breast Feeding

Breast feeding is hard. I know it is tough for everyone, but I was unprepared for the sheer time and energy that would go into feeding my child. Before I had Harrison, I tried to be as educated and prepared as possible. I knew that everyone I am related to had issues with breastfeeding and I had long conversations with my doctor about their issues. I also attended La Leche meetings and got a lot of good tips there. I thought I was prepared for what would go into this, but I was so not.

My milk did not come in right away, and our consultation with the lactation consultant was depressing. She essentially told me that because I had issues getting pregnant I would have issues breast feeding. Justin and I left that appointment feeling very confused and defeated. Since then, we have worked things out, but I still don't make enough milk to be Harrison' sole source of food.

In the past three weeks, I have heard from so many other women who have had the same issues and have been very supportive. They make me feel better. I felt an intense pressure to solely breast feed and felt like I was already failing as a mom when I couldn't exclusively do it. Justin, my mom, my sister, and almost every other woman I have spoken to about this have assured me that I am not a failure and that lots of babies have formula supplement and grow up to be healthy and happy.

Their assurances helped, but whenever I use a bottle in public I feel like I have to explain why.  Why do I feel so much pressure about this? I am feeding him at the breast and pumping. He is healthy and fine, but I still feel as if I am not doing enough. I have thought about this a lot in the past few days and for me, that pressure comes from the reading and research I did while pregnant. I read Mayim Bialik's book Beyond the Sling, and I really liked a lot of her ideas. I also spent a lot of time reading La Leche League literature and really listening at meetings.

I have come to the conclusion that I was not being very realistic about who I am and what my life is like. I am not someone who is going to sit on a couch and breastfeed non-stop.  That would make me crazy. I have come to appreciate the fact that Justin can feed  Harrison, and that that allows me to continue to do work during the summer and earn some extra money. The hard lesson that I have learned, and thankfully heard from multiple people (including a lovely note from Leslie) is that I have to do what works for me and my family and not worry about what other people think.
This is so much harder than I thought it would be.

Breast feeding is still hard. I have be conscience about consuming enough food to keep my milk supply  up, and today we started removing dairy to see if that helped Harrison feel better. However, we still have a happy and healthy baby and we are slowly learning how to be parents. It is going to be ok.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Thoughts on being a new Mom

Tomorrow Harrison will be two weeks old. I don't remember much about the past two weeks. It has all gone by in a blur. I am happy to report that he is gaining weight, 9 ozs in one week, and that I am healing and finally feeling like a real human being. (not taking Vicodin anymore helped with this big time) We are settling into a bit of a routine and I not always scared that I will break him at any moment. We are finally ready for visitors and getting out and about.
My sister Wednesday has been here for the weekend. She bought her ticket to be here for Harrison's birth, but since he showed up early she was able to hang out with him. They have had time to bond and Harrison and his cousin Gabby were able to hang out. It was a fun weekend.
I am amazed at how quickly the days go by. For just eating and sleeping, this little man seems to take a lot of time. This could be due to mild sleep deprivation and my constant desire to want to hold and cuddle my little man.
I did go to the store alone today, and it was nice but I also couldn't wait to get home. Justin and I keep trying to remember what our lives were like before Harrison came, and it is tough to remember. A few days ago, my Mom watched him while we ran to Target. It was the first time we had been in the car alone since we drove to the hospital. We felt like we were lost and missing something. Who were those people who didn't have a baby? It is amazing how quickly your life can change. We are tired, we are deliriously happy, and we still are unable to fathom this amazing miracle that we have been granted.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Harry was circumcised today. Having him circumcised was important for religious and personal reasons, but it didn't make it easy. No new mom wants to listen to her baby scream and know that someone is hurting him. He did have a ton of sucrose to put him in a coma like state, but he still cried. I went to wait in the waiting room, but couldn't handle it and had to back in the room. His Dad was a champ and stayed with him the whole time. I couldn't wait for it to be over and to take him out to the car and breastfeed him to calm him down.  Coming home and changing the first diaper was brutal. I truly believe we did the right thing, but I hate to see my baby cry.

He is currently sleeping, and seems to be ok. The doctor was quick and said he came through like a champ. I have a million knots in my neck and whenever he cries about anything I want to cry too. The good part of our visit to the doctor was that he has gained 3oz in 3 days and I am clearly making more milk. I think we almost have this feeding thing solved. This Mama had a rough day. I think I will snuggle up with my little man and try to make us both feel better.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Harrison Glen Lindemann

A week ago, I was blessed with a miracle. My son Harrison Glen Lindemann came into the world.
I began this blog almost two years ago, it was my way of processing the pain of infertility. I am in awe that I am writing an entry that is all about actually giving birth to a healthy happy baby.

Last night, Harrison and I were rocking and I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for the blessing of being able to be his mother. I just sat in the chair and cried. I couldn't really pray. All I could do was say "Thank You" over and over again. I do not deserve this blessing, there is nothing I did to make it possible. Harrison's existence, is the work of God.

Throughout my pregnancy, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who expressed love, support and true happiness for us. One of the most amazing things about getting pregnant in God's time, and not mine, is that we had a built in support system. The amount of love that people expressed for my unborn son was overwhelming. Thank You for hanging in there with us, celebrating with us and supporting us.

Bringing Harry into the world was tough, but somehow I never realized how tough. When we got to the hospital, we discovered the dreaded anemia had returned and my hemoglobin levels were dropping. Now I know how serious things were, but at the time I  never truly realized it. When the doctor says that they will make sure your blood is on hand, it means something, but I was somehow never stressed. At several points, my contractions actually stopped and they weren't sure that Harry was going to be able to get out. They were prepping a C-section room for me, but when the doctor came in and saw that Harry wasn't in any distress, and was doing fine. She let us try for a bit longer, and thankfully he came.

Now I know that Justin was updating on facebook, and I am so thankful for the support and love that was shared. There is nothing like bringing a baby into a world where he is so loved and wanted. My recovery has been slow, and there have been issues with feeding, but I continue to amazed by the miracle of son that we have been given.

This blog was supposed to be much more articulate, but I don't have a way of articulating the wonder and awe I feel at this moment.  In spite of myself, in spite of my positive and negative choices, in spite of the fact that I have done nothing in my life to deserve this, I have been blessed with the gift of the most beautiful baby boy. As overwhelmed and frightening this week has been, it has also been the best week of my life.  Thank you for supporting us, and going on this journey with us. We can't wait to see what happens next.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

How a degree in theater made me a better person

As a teacher, I have lived through 5 years of cyclical budget cuts. I have now been teaching long enough to remember the "better times". Times when we had enough time and people to fully serve kids. I began my teaching career as a Drama teacher and have slowly morphed into a Language Arts teacher and Literacy Coach. Over the past five years, I have seen every art program at our middle school cut. Next year our high school will only offer visual art on a limited basis, band for half the day, and choir will continue to be a club that meets outside the school day. Praise God, for the brave and marvelous Blair Cromwell. She continues to turn out great theatre with no budget, and represents a refuge for all the lost boys and girls who need a dark theater to figure out how to be "real people".

Before I go further, I want to be clear that I actually agree with the cuts that occurred in my district. When my middle school drama program was cut, I understood the logic behind the decision. If the state refuses to fund education, but continues to raise expectations for graduations, than educational institutions are often forced to make the "best of the bad decisions". If a majority of our students aren't reading and writing well enough to pass OAKS and graduate, and our pot of money has become a teaspoon of money, than no matter how much we love and support Arts, Sports, or in some cases Social Studies, we can't fund them all. I don't find the district at fault for these decisions. It is a societal issue.  Our society clearly doesn't value education, and arts education is a forgotten concept from a bygone era.

This situation concerns me, because so much of my success as human and as a teacher is tied to my long hours on stage. I started acting and singing when I was very young and these two activities were the touchstone of who I was as headed into adolescence. I was lucky enough to go to a high school were Bill Horton created a theatre program that challenged us to not just to be better actors, but to be better people. Out of all my high school experiences, the ones that impacted me the most happened in the auditorium. The  PHS theatre taught me to be humble. I learned how to problem solve, and that we could do a lot on a small budget. There was the hard lesson of how you speak to people matters and what you say can come back to haunt you. Most importantly, I learned that I had to hold up my part of the bargain, because no matter what was happening that curtain was going up and all we would have onstage was one another. Willy cared about how we treated one another. He demanded kindness and respect for everyone, because every person was  important.

I didn't go to college to be a theatre major. I began as an international studies major, but auditioned for a show my first week on campus and found myself spending more time in Rice than other building. My time in WOU theatre had an overwhelming impact on my life. My best friend and I bonded over our Freshman year bit parts, I built friendships while goofing off at after strike parties and sharing audition heart breaks and fears. Most importantly, I met my husband at those first auditions. It took years for us to get together, but I can honestly say that my soon to be born son would not be soon to be without theatre.

WOU was different than PHS. At Western I learned that respect and kindness are not an inherent part of the arts. That competition can make people very ugly. I learned that just because everyone else believes that something is acceptable or ok, doesn't mean that I should to. In my time as a member of the WOU theatre department, I made choices that made me an ugly and horrible person, learned lessons that helped me stop being that person and grew up.

At Western, I learned that teachers have power. Students will literally change who they are in order to impress a teacher. I was exposed to a professor who abused that power and to Dr. Davis, a man who understood that teaching us to be artists was also about teaching us to be the best people we could be. Both of these professors impacted me.

The professor who abused his power, taught me to push hard. If someone in a position of power is going to openly attack you, but you still want to be on stage, than you have to work harder and limit their reasons to attack. I learned that not opinions are valid, and people do have ulterior motives. Most importantly, I learned that what an educator says in and out of the classroom leaves a strong impression on their students. Being a teacher means having the power to influence and shape lives for better or worse. If I had not been exposed to a teacher who so blatantly abused this power, I would be much different teacher today.

This teacher also taught me that your choices will bring consequences. In your personal and professional life, the choices you make will come back to haunt you. Think about how you treat others and what you want your life to be like. This man taught me to make a conscience choice to be positive and kind.

Dr. Davis taught me to that the arts are about human connection. As a professor, he was concerned about who we were as people. He invested in us. This doesn't mean he was always sunshine and roses. There were times that he pointed out your dumb choices, but he also let us learn our own lessons. He inherently understood that failure is a part of learning, and there is no bigger feeling of failure than having the curtain go up and things not work.  He taught us to be risk takers. His artistic choices weren't always popular or understood, but he made them because they were important to him. More importantly he didn't compromise or explain why he did what he did. He fostered the same risk taking in us. A student would write a play and he would throw us all in the black box and see what came out.

There is a breathtaking euphoria in someone believing in you enough to give you this type of chance. He didn't promise to make us superstars, he didn't regale us with stories of his time with such and such a company, or try and convince us of the artist he was, he just showed up and pushed us to try harder and not be afraid to fail. At the same time, his door was open and he was willing to share who he was while truly caring about who you were. Dr. D cared about you as a person, and he wanted you to know that.

I am who I am because of my experiences in theatre. I didn't stop at college. I spent the next five years trying my own company, and working for professional company . Volunteering to work with high school kiddos led me to teaching and my time in theater has made me the teacher I am.

Mr. Horton's lesson's about respect and kindness shape how I set up my classroom. I demand the same of my student's, and this means I must expect the same from myself.  The negative professor, reminds me to think before I speak and to not abuse this precious power that I have given. Dr. D reminds me to be human and that I have to let kids fail in order to help them succeed.

Theater as an art form has left me with a skill set that I use everyday. I am to  be flexible and change plans in a moment. Feedback is important to me and I crave it. I am willing to take a risk and try a new lesson or teach a new class. I can improvise and make things happen.  My training as a director makes me a better instructional coach. I can work with a team and get things done. I can stand in front of a group of people and engage them. I inherently know when it is ok to let go and let the kids take the lead and when we need to stick the script. All of these are skills I learned on stage.

More importantly,  theatre shapes how I view the world.  My long and true friendships are with the people I was on stage with. We had to trust one another to get through performances, now we trust one another to get through life. When someone has seen you bomb in front of audience, it is easier to tell them how scary impending motherhood can be. My marriage is strong because even when our relationship was on a downturn, we still had to show up work with one another. In fact, we came back to one another through directing first. When we couldn't talk about how much we hurt one another, we could give one another feedback on our performances.

I have no plans to return to directing or acting, but I will ensure that my son is exposed to the same lessons. I want him to know the pressure of a bad final dress, and feel the tension that follows a dropped line. He needs to know what it is like to be dependent on the people around you, and to put your heart and soul into something that has inevitable end.  My son will have these opportunities because of who his parents are, but what about all the children who will miss chance to learn lessons the arts teach us?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Book Challenge Day 21: Favorite Series

I have several favorite series. I spoke about one yesterday. I enjoy Stephanie Plum and all of her shenanigans. These other series have come up in other posts, but here they are:

I come back to Anne again and again. I love the whole series.

Narnia is a place I love. I can't wait to share it with Harrison.

I can disappear into these books. Galbadon creates such a complete world that it is easy to sucked in time and time again.

Not as magical as Narnia, and as we are rereading them I am seeing some weak spots in the series. Books two and five aren't that great, but I still love them.

Maisie Dobbs is amazing.

Uplifting, heartwarming, and overall great.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Day 21: A Guilty Pleasure Book

I love Stephanie Plumb. This series is formulaic and the Morrelli vs. Ranger triangle has gone on for awhile, but whenever I read one of these books I laugh out loud. Lulu is my favorite. I was sad that Katherine Hiegel was cast in the movie. She ruined it for me. Like a great piece of cheesecake, these books are decadent bits of fluff that make me smile and feel happy about life in general.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Book Challenge Day 20: A book you would share with and ignorant person

This prompt was actually titled "A book that you share with and ignorant/racist/prejudice person to try to change their mind".  Being ignorant, racist or prejudice is a very personal choice, and you cannot change the mind of someone who does not want their mind changed. However, I am an educator and I spend a lot of time educating children who aren't prejudice on purpose. They are ignorant of how the words they use can hurt others. This is why I love teaching this book:

Charley's journey, which is told in diary form (which I normally hate, but works in this story), is compelling. My students' are appalled at the treatment Charley endures at the hand of his "friends".  As he gains his intelligence and begins to comprehend the prejudices he has endured,  the students share in his anger and despair. By the time we have finished the book, they understand why the word "retarded" is offensive. They see how their use of this word effects their classmates who struggle with developmental disabilities. I am not implying that they never use the word again or are perfect, but their perspective on the how the words they use changes and that helps make the world a better place.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book Challenge Day 18: A nonfiction book that changed your perspective on an issue

This may be the hardest book I ever read. I first read it in my Philosophy of History class, the hardest collegiate class I ever took, and it made me look at the world and history as I had never had before. As someone who has loved history her entire life, this book was the key that unlocked so many mysteries for me. Before this book, we studied Hegel and I though the dialectical was a huge deal. When I read Marx's response to the dialectical, I felt like all the bricks fell into place. I am a Marxist historian because of this book. My view of history, shapes my view of the world. How I view politics, economic and social trends, cultural shifts, art, and literature is influenced by this Marx's theories. In short, I am a Marxist. This is different the being a communist or even a socialist, but that is tough for some folks to get.  Here is one of my favorite quotes:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Challenge Day 18: A book that scares you

There aren't really any books that scare me now, but here are the two big ones from my childhood:

My first grade teacher read this to us. It gave me nightmares. When my Mom went to speak to him about it, he informed her that I needed to toughen up. It was too scary for me.

Ring Wraiths are still scary............

Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Challenge Day 17: A book that is made into a horrible movie

I am not the biggest fan of the Scarlet Letter, but I do think it is a good book. Symbolism, Allegory, there is a lot to get into in the book. This is a literature lovers book and it did not deserve to be turned into this:

The love scene is one of the most disturbing things ever captured on film. This movie has nothing to do with the book, and it is poorly acted and directed. If you are inclined to watch a movie that is based on The Scarlet Letter watch Easy A. It is pretty brilliant.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Challenge Double Whammy

I missed yesterday, so today I am doing a two for one.

Day 15: Best book about a foreign culture

This is the first book I read in my Frosh English class at WOU. That turned out to be the only English class I enjoyed, and a lot of it had to do with this book. Allende's depiction of Chile's turbulent society under Pinochet's rule is shrouded under a cloud of magical realism. This is a beautiful book.

Day 16: Best adaption to a movie

Atonement is one of the best books that I have ever read. The tightly crafted story is entrancing. It is a book you can't put down. The movie does a very good job of capturing the book. Both the movie and the book maintain an air of mystery and slight discomfort. You know something is wrong, but you can't quite place your finger on it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 13: A book that should be on every hs/college reading list

based on the debate that occurred with my very first post, I want to adapt today's prompt to "A book you think every American should read" Here is mine:

In my opinion, this is the greatest American novel. No other writer comes close to the masterpiece that Twain created. He perfectly captures life on the Antebellum Mississippi.  It is a snapshot of who we were, and in some ways, who we still are. It isn't just about a boy helping a runaway slave. Twain weaves in themes of friendship, loyalty, the loss of innocence, the danger of ignorance, and much much more.

To this day, it is a controversial book. Twain's honest use of the language of the time, means that many teachers, schools and districts are choosing not to teach it. Personally, I find this to be wrong. You cannot white wash history. People used, and still use, the "N" word, they treated, and still treat, people of other races, creeds or lifestyles poorly, and literature is a powerful tool in educating teens about these issues. I am saddened that some schools and teachers turn from it not because of contreversy, but because they see the syntax as too difficult for students to understand.

Great literature is a mirror that we hold up to ourselves. Over 100 years after it was written, Huck Finn still speaks to America. It has influenced countless authors.Many of the other books that could compete for "greatest American novel" were written by men who have cited it as an inspiration. It was one of Steinbeck's favorite books. I am begging you to read it. Read it!!!!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day 13: Favorite Childhood Book

I loved this book. I remember reading it again and again. Lyle, his family. It was all awesome.

This was another book I read over an over again. What can I say? I had simple tastes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Challenge Day 11: A book so emotionally draining you had to stop reading or take a break.

I don't know that I have ever read a book that was so emotionally draining I had to put it down. I have read books that have made me cry, see my post about Little Women. There are books that cause me to be upset or angry, but I can't think of a book that is overly emotional. Here are books that took me off guard and caused some tears:

The end of this book signaled a shift in the tone of series. We found out that Voldermort truly was evil and that he was willing to do anything to return to power. A truly innocent character pays the ultimate price for being a good person, and I cried with Harry.

I recently read this and cried when Claire writes her letter to Bree, and when Jamie looks at Bree's pictures.

Rue+flowers+signing+plus the signal= a sobbing Juli Ann.

Once again Rowling raises the stakes, and Harry loses someone else he loves. The lose of a mentor and surrogate father in an intensely tragic situation was heart wrenching.

This book gets you with Hedwig and keeps punching till the end.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Book Challenge Day 11: The book that made you fall in love with reading

This is the first book that I remember ordering in the Scholastic Book order. I got the whole series for my 7th Birthday, and I devoured it. I loved Ramona. She was the youngest, and always behind everyone, and she had a big sister who thought she knew everything. Ramona's life was my life. Ramona's struggles with Beezus, spoke to me more than any other aspect of this book. I was 7, and my sister Wednesday was 14. We didn't have a lot in common, and at the same time she stopped being my playmate and was always wanting to be with her friends and did not want me and Nicole hanging around.  Ramona helped me figure out that my sister still loved me, and that I wasn't the only baby of the family who felt like everyone got to do what I wasn't allowed to do. I loved her family, and her adventures.  When I was younger I could read these books nonstop. They made me love books. 

Book Challenge Day 10: The first novel I remember reading

I was given a beautiful copy of this book for my 7th birthday, I still have it, and it was the first "big" book that I read without my Mom. It is a beautiful story. I read it over and over again and have revisited it every few years.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Book Challenge Day 9: A book I have read more than once

I struggled with this prompt. At first glance it seemed pretty inane, but Justin pointed out that I read books like other people watch movies, and that helped focus me. I read most books more than once. There are a variety of reasons I do this, rereading is a good habit, I teach the same books from year to year, or I know that as I age classic stories teach me different things. However, the books I read over and over again until I know them by heart are my friends. I know these books. They represent a moment or a memory. I love the characters, or the setting. These are the books I pick up when I am stressed out, tired, sad or anxious. They are embedded in the fabric of who I am. Here are the books I would consider to be my best friends:

Anne Shirley is a good friend of mine, and I love all of her books. This particular part of the series is my all time favorite, because she realizes all of her dreams and after a long "Jonah Night" she finally admits that Gilbert is her true love. When I have a "Jonah Night" day or week, this book makes it better. In the end Anne and I will both be fine.

I am a mystery buff, and the little Belgium has always been one of my favorites. When he is using his "little gray cells" to solve a murder that appears unsolvable, I am swept away. Whether reading, watching or listening to these classic mysteries, I am a happy camper.

Jamie, Claire, history, time travel and sweeping romance, what more could a girl ask for? I love this whole series. It just makes me happy.

Steinbeck traveled an America that is almost impossible find today. I love road trips. I choose driving over flying anytime. There is something very special about driving across this country and experiencing just how different we are. Steinbeck did it before there was a huge interstate highway system. There is no author whose voice appeals to me more than his. When I feel a bit of wanderlust and am unable to go anywhere, I am happy to climb into Rocinante and go with Steinbeck and Charley.

One of my favorite myths and my favorite author. It really doesn't get much better than this.

Justin is currently reading all the books to Harrison and I. Rowling created a world comparable to Narnia and I am happy to delve into it. It never gets old.

A modern Agatha Christieesque mystery series set between WWI and WWII. Maisie is a fascinating character who keeps me guessing. I love the time period that she lives in and how her experiences as a nurse in WWI effect her ability to connect to others.

Justin gave me this series for Christmas two years ago and I wasn't sure I would enjoy it. I love them. Longmire is a Wyoming Sheriff who has flashbacks from Vietnam. Johnson style is Steinbeckesque, I can truly see remote part of northern Wyoming that the series is set. I can't put these down.

There are so many more choices I could make. As I am writing this blog, more and more books are rushing to my mind. I may have to revisit this post again later.....

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Book Challenge Day 8: A book that is unpopular

Today is supposed to be about a book that is unpopular and should be a best seller, but I am bending the rules a bit. This book was very popular with women of my generation. I love it. Meg is not perfect, and the situation she is placed in is strange, but the adventure she goes on is marvelous. This book made 11 year old me, more open to sci fi and fantasy.  Every year I suggest this book to a girl who is sitting in class and reading about vampires, or witches, or werewolves, and every year they go get it from the library and hate it. I don't know why. Maybe it it too 80's? I think it is wonderful and I am so sad that none of students have ever liked it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Challenge Day 7: A book that is hard to read

Wiesel's autobiographical description of the inhuman treatment he and the Auschwitz's prisoners undergo is always difficult to read. I have read and taught this book several times, but it still has moments that horrify  me. This novel retains it's power, because it simplistically describes the realities of the  world's largest concentration camp and the genocidal depravity that was fostered and celebrated in the Nazi regime. Wiesel shows his readers the ugliest side of humanity. The side of us we pray goes away and doesn't return, Reading this books requires paying attention to the plight of others, no matter how uncomfortable that may make us.

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.” 
― Elie Wiesel