Monday, August 21, 2006
Saturday, August 19, 2006
They Are Listening – A Tree Grows In Brooklyn Chapters 11-26
Children hear what you say and understand more than you know. And it’s not just words. They soak up the smiles, the disappointment, the tone, the indifference, the excitement. They are surrounded by your attitude and it becomes a part of who they are.
Yesterday was a bad day. It was a terrible horrible no good very bad day. When I’m having a bad day, I often find a way to blame my children. “They were so whiny and demanding today. Why do they have to fight all the time? Could they be quiet for one second?” By the end of the day, I was feeling low about everything and I was contentious and whiny and loud.
Today was a great day. The children were angels. They were affectionate and sweet and we spent a ton of time together reading, playing fetch (guess who did the fetching), and exploring in the back yard. I was in a great mood all day. The chicken or the egg?
In the book there’s a scene where Francie goes to the doctor for her immunization and the doctor and nurse talk about her like she isn’t even there. She is crushed by their words and they seem shocked that she even had a clue what they were talking about. She also experiences emotional highs and lows based on her parents’ language and behavior.
This got me thinking of just how staggering of an effect I have on my children. When I am feeling anxiety, sadness, or a sense of low self-esteem, they mirror my feelings and behaviors so closely that it scares me. When I don’t show them attention or when I spend the day talking on the phone about how hard the house hunting is or how fat I look in these jeans, the kids basically fall apart.
I feel a lot of pressure as a mother to be “on” all the time, to put on my happy face and act like everything’s okay, even when it’s really not. In the end, the kids can see through this and I also think it’s healthy for them to watch me face a range of challenges and emotions.
What I’d like to show them are positive actions, healthy ways to deal with those emotions. Do I want them to be wallowers and worry-warts? Not particularly.
Okay, other things that were striking about these chapters. I loved the transfer to the new school and the way Francie describes the old janitor as being the entire reason for the improved atmosphere there. It is one more example of a single person making a huge difference in many lives.
I also loved the end of chapter 26 where Teacher explains that Francie’s “embellishments” are not lies, just good storytelling. She teaches her the importance of telling the truth and writing the story, which is a fabulous scene to me as a writer.
I love when writers create characters who are writers because it means they are writing about what they know and Betty Smith’s voice is nothing if not authentic. You feel that she has lived so many of the experiences in this book, whether through her own eyes or through the eyes of the people she grew up with. Maybe she embellishes them a little, but that’s okay. She’s a writer.
Lauren writes from a New Yorker's perspective about the ways our world has changed and how it remains the same.
Allysha says "[...]Often times it's heartbreaking as Francie has to negotiate the world she has created in her mind with the reality she lives in.[...]"
Chapters 1-10 Saturday, August 12th
Chapters 11-26 Saturday, August 19th
Chapters 27-37 Saturday, August 26th
Chapters 38-45 Saturday, September 2nd
Chapters 46-End Saturday, September 9th
Please let me know if you’ve blogged about the book and I’ll add a link here. And remember, you don’t have to stick to the schedule. If you have something great to say about the first page, let us know.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
A Typical Cloudy Day in Seattle
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Your Time is Limited Little Shish
In an attempt to up the morbidity level of this blog, I feel it is my duty to inform you that Jack Again, our latest attempt at pet ownership, has very little time left on this earth.
Magoo’s linguistical skills are growing and with them, his obsessive compulsive behaviors. He. Must. Act. Out. The. Words. As. He. Says. Them. He must. He will. He shall.
When he says:
Gick: he must kick something.
Dat: he must go to Dad or grab whatever “dat” he is pointing to.
Jeez: he must eat some cheese or say a silent prayer to the Savior, whose picture he is pointing at.
Deeks: he must get a reply of “you’re welcome.”
Engh-engh-engh-engh: he must repetitively whine this syllable until I lose my ever-living mind.
Now his latest word is “shish,” which means in any language “little fishy”. Magoo loves the shish. He adores the shish. He wants to clutch the shish from its watery enclosure, squeeze it lovingly until its eyeballs pop out, throw it on the floor and march off in search of more Jeez. He’s very hungry and also religious.
Now that he’s learned to climb up on a chair, he is frequently seen pushing one around the house, in search of prey. Nothing is really safe unless locked away. And what's the point of having a shish if it's locked away so no one can see it?
I’m afraid for you, little shish. You are still so small and have so much potential for… um… swimming and such.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
I Don’t Want Them to Lie
And they will. They’ll lie through their teeth. It’s considered wrong to speak ill of the dead and a person’s death brings all kinds of healing and magical forgetfulness dust.
When Aunt J was dying, she looked over the wonderful things that were going to be said about her, picked out a specific item and said, “Don’t LIE.”
Driving home today from the funeral of a fabulous and not-possible-to-exaggerate woman, I could not stop crying. I was not sad about her death. Her husband passed away 28 years ago and she was more than ready to join him.
I was sad about my death. No, it’s not imminent. Not that I know of.
There’s just so much more I’d like to be and do before it happens. I want them to be able to tell the truth. So from the tears comes this partial list, a list of the truths I hope to cultivate:
She was kind.
She was the wife her husband wanted and the mother her children needed.
She not only loved people, but she showed that love in a way they could understand.
Her hands were worn in service.
She had her priorities straight.
She knew her limits but stretched them slightly every day.
She didn’t let her desire for appearances outweigh her children’s need for adventure.
She did not waste a breath speaking ill of other people.
She didn’t take the last cookie.
She greeted rather than waiting to be introduced.
She asked people to sit down.
She actively listened.
She helped people discover their beauty.
She left places more beautiful than she found them and people happier than she met them.
She was humble and confident.
She generated, rather than consumed, peace.
Tip Tuesday – Emergency Preparedness
Hurricane season is almost upon us. There are readers of this blog living in earthquake, tsunami, tornado, winter storm, bird flu pandemic, country music infestation, and even war zones.
All kinds of disasters are going on throughout the world and all we can really do is prepare the best we can, pray hard and then go on living like we mean it.
Who knows if the next terror attacks will involve spit-wad activated nuclear bombs contained in pocket PCs? Not me. I most definitely do not know, homeland security personnel reading this blog. Please do not shut down my site.
We can’t know everything but we can plan for the things we do know are likely to happen. Here are a few random tips for emergency preparedness. Please share yours in abundance.
1. Keep an axe under your bed – Now that you’ve sent me your addresses for those removable tattoos, I may be coming for you. If you’re one of the lucky few who did not give me your street address, you still may want to keep that axe or hatchet handy. If you live in an earthquake zone, there’s a good chance that during the quake your doors will shift, making it either impossible to get out of your bedroom or to get into other rooms in your house. If you’re in an earthquake zone, you should also keep a pair of old shoes (for broken glass) and a flashlight under the bed. This is one of my favorite tips because it’s really easy to do and very practical. Just make sure the hatchet is safe from your kids.
2. Have a single emergency contact – Often in times of emergency people are not able to call into or within the disaster zone but some calls can be made out. Designate one person living in another state to be your main contact. Then if your family is separated in an emergency, you can each call that one person and tell them your whereabouts and they can let you know if they’ve heard from the other members of your family. We emailed all of our family on both sides and told them to contact Dan’s mom in Utah if there was ever an emergency in Seattle. She will be the one person who knows what’s going on.
3. Have enough food and water on hand for at least 3 days but hopefully as much as a full year in case of emergency. Make sure this food is usable (no cooking required unless you have a stove and fuel available) and something you will and can actually eat.
4. Find out about your city and county emergency procedures.
5. Go to the Red Cross and FEMA websites to find tips. They also have print materials they can send you free of charge. The LDS provident living website also has some great ideas for getting started with food storage, including tables to guide you on how much basic food to store.
6. If “they” say evacuate and you have the time and means to evacuate safely, JUST DO IT.
This is just the tip of the ice berg. Share all your great ideas and links and we will revisit this topic again.
Monday, August 14, 2006
When it's Too Embarassing for my Blog
I just write it up over at Parenting.com.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Beauty in Every Soul – A Tree Grows In Brooklyn Chapters 1-10
Betty Smith paints with words, talented beyond my limited means to express. As I read this book, I ask myself over and over again the question – WHY HAS NO ONE MADE ME READ THIS BOOK BEFORE?
I’m sure Betty would say that a person cannot be forced to read a book but must discover it on their own. I can imagine she would deny the perfection of her own exquisite prose, stating that there are multiple sides and shades to anything, the good must be taken with the bad and a love or distain created out of the complex web of contradictions.
I was hooked from the moment she began to describe the old man, seated in the bakery.
“Francie stared at the oldest man. She played her favorite game, figuring out about people […] her thoughts ran…
‘He is old. He must be past seventy. He was born about the time Abraham Lincoln was living and getting himself ready to be president […] He was a baby once. He must have been sweet and clean and his mother kissed his pink toes. Maybe when it thundered at night she came to his crib and fixed his blanket better and whispered that he mustn’t be afraid, that mother was there […] Now his children are getting old too, like him, and they have children and nobody wants the old man any more and they are waiting for him to die. But he don’t want to die. He wants to keep on living even though he’s old and there’s nothing to be happy about anymore.’ […]
A terrible panic that had no name came over her as she realized that many of the sweet babies in the world were born to come to something like this old man some day. She had to get out of that place or it would happen to her.”
Aging and death are recurring themes in this book, the idea that our time here is limited. As I read, I feel a growing sense of urgency, an urgency to get out of this place I’m in before “it” happens to me, to choose my life and not live by accident.
Francie’s mother chooses to take charge of her life and clings to the direction she has created for herself, while her father lets life happen to him, playing the victim and enabling himself to fall deeper and deeper into a hole of self-loathing. The amazing part about these two and all of the characters in the novel is the depth with which they are portrayed. I LOVE that I can simultaneously identify with and censure a character. I adore that they do not feel like flat people made up of words on a page but rather living, breathing beings who might accidentally let a fleck of spittle fly my way if I'm not careful.
The description of the way Francie’s sainted grandmother views the world seems to be a roadmap for the way Betty Smith wants you to view the world she has created within the story, seeing the good and the bad in people but choosing to embrace the good, realizing that we are all flawed and we are all deliciously beautiful in all our failure, triumph and daily plodding hypocrisy.
Near the end of this week’s section, on page 95, a Woman is telling Francie’s mother Katie that the child is a whelp who would be better-off dead. Although Katie feels no great love for her child, she fiercely disagrees with the woman’s conclusion.
“Don’t say that,” Katie held her baby tightly. “It’s not better to die. Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.”
“Aw, somebody ought to cut that tree down, the homely thing.”
“If there was only one tree like that in the world, you would think it was beautiful,” said Katie. “But because there are so many, you just can’t see how beautiful it really is. Look at these children.” She pointed to a swarm of dirty children playing in the gutter. “You could take any one of them and wash him good and dress him up and sit him in a fine house and you would think he was beautiful.”
And you’d be right, Betty Smith, he would be beautiful because he already is. We all are.
Yes, you too.