I just finished Ms. Hempel Chronicles
by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum. It’s a series of stories about the titular Ms. Hempel- an elementary school teacher who by turns finds, loses, and finds love- of both the romantic and platonic (of the kids in her school) variety. The stories are interesting and compelling and a little odd, and some fit more cohesively than others. I discovered at the end of the book that all (or most) of the stories had been previously published in different publications, which explains the disconnect in some of them. But I enjoyed them, and seeing as I enjoyed her previous book, Madeline is Sleeping (the link goes to my review), I’ll be keeping my eye out for anything new from her.
Now I’m reading Why New Orleans Matters
by Tom Piazza, and it’s making me want to go back. It will probably be a few years before it would be plausible to take the girls there without it being somewhat tortuous, but, oh, I miss it. And it’s an excellent book.
And I’m still reading Adventures of a Young Naturalist. So much to read!
Current total: 12
And no, I’m not talking about gambling, even if College Betting Quarterly (or something, I don’t remember the name) somehow mysteriously comes to my mailbox. (It does- no idea why. But my name is on it. Strange.)
I finished another book, and it was wonderful. The Confessions of Arsene Lupin by Maurice LeBlanc has introduced me to a new favorite character- a master thief who can’t help but solve mysteries when no one else can. These stories are masterfully told, and such fun. The combination of skill, intrigue, deviousness and conscience LeBlanc balances in the character is perfect. Seriously, if someone could take this tact on Catwoman, they’d blow the series away on a regular basis. Someone should get on that. If I could come up with the story lines I’d pitch it, but that’s not going to happen. So someone else should do it.
Now I’m reading the lovely The Adventures of A Young Naturalist by Lucien Biart, a book I picked up for free for my Kindle. It was written back in 1871 and is a real account of a father taking his son out on a month long expedition through Mexico. It’s charming and inspiring- it makes me want to get out in nature with the girls. And it’s sweet and funny, and full of interesting facts- I look forward to reading it to Z when she gets a little older.
What are you reading?
This morning I decided to get to work on one of the Personal Progress experiences for faith. It asks you to read Alma 56:45-48 and 57:21, and then consider what qualities a mother needs in order to teach her children about faith. I’ve done this experience before, and came up with all the stock answers: integrity, commitment, being an example, etc.
But today, I started thinking about those actual women talked about in the scriptures. We don’t get a lot of detail on them, just that they taught their children faith. But as I started thinking more about it, I started thinking about what we do know about the society they lived in, the events that brought them to where they were, and what that must have been like.
These women were part of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, a group of Lamanites converted by Ammon. We know that they had been a very war-prone people, that they had much blood on their swords. They didn’t have a concept of Christ or redemption- just of a Great Spirit that their fathers spoke of.
I’m assuming the women didn’t go fight, but think of what a lifestyle that must have been. Husbands, sons, brothers off to war, not knowing if they’ll return, with no hope of reunion if they don’t. Or maybe the war came to them, with loss of home and destruction of family and community.
Then Ammon came and taught their king the gospel of Christ, and the people were taught, and their conversion was such that they struggled to come to repentance of their many murders and when they finally felt forgiven and free of their sins, they buried their weapons of war and covenanted never to raise them again.
Think of the change that must have come over these men, to go from being so quick to anger and violence to complete pacifism. Think of the change that must have meant for their families. Think of the peace these women were able to have in their homes, of the hope in their hearts, the joy in the idea of Christ and his Atonement.
When other Lamanites came against them in anger over their conversion, they knelt down and were slaughtered rather than fight back, and this changed the hearts of some of their attackers and they were also converted.
Can you even imagine? To see husbands, sons, fathers, brothers exhibit that kind of faith, that commitment to their covenants? To watch them slaughtered, knowing that you and your children are next, with no one defending you? Holding on to your new found faith in a Christ who has promised redemption and resurrection? And then to see those same attackers stop, and leave you alive?
They were attacked again, and more were slaughtered, until the Lord instructed them to leave and go to the Nephites for help. The Anti-Nephi-Lehis were willing to be their slaves, but they were accepted with open arms and forgiveness, and given a land of inheritance. The Nephites protected them against attacking Lamanites so that they wouldn’t have to break their covenants.
I’m sure, given the numbers, that there were still men alive in their community, but there must have been so many widows and single mothers. Women who had seen the miracles the gospel of Christ had brought to their lives, who had hope and faith that the sacrifices they and their families had made- in blood, no less – would be rewarded. Women who had to provide for their families, physically and spiritually.
As I thought about this today, I knew for a complete surety that the women of that community supported and strengthened and served each other. They watched each others kids, they brought over food, they prayed and mourned and worshiped together. They spoke to their children, and to each other, of the blessings and miracles they had been witness to. They testified with a sure knowledge that the Lord delivers the righteous, even if he doesn’t save them from physical death. They honored and gloried in their covenants, and drew strength from them. They approached trials with faith, knowing that they had the support of the Lord, and of those around them; humble in their willingness and necessity to accept help. And they were just as willing to provide that service.
And it was those things, not just a five minute lesson during family home evening, that taught their children faith. Taught them to the convincing of their souls, so that when the time came that their lives were again threatened, 2000 of their sons offered to go and protect their community, to give that service in defense of the covenants their parents had made. 2000 young men who had never fought, (who possibly, given their communities culture of pacifism, had no idea how to fight), yet who “did not fear death; and they did think more on the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.” (Alma 56:47) Because given their mothers’ lives, their experiences, their testimonies, which of them could doubt that their mothers knew it?
I am filled with such love, such admiration for these women whose names we don’t know, but whose actions and example are written on my heart today.
Did you watch Glee last night? Did you, did you? If you didn’t, go click on that link and watch it now!
I didn’t find out about this show until almost the last minute– a couple days ago, with the “preview” of the first episode being last night. Fox is doing a weird, risky thing, showing the first episode after American Idol, and making that episode available on their website all summer, and then not showing the rest of the season until the Fall. But hopefully a bunch of people watched and are now as in love with it as I am. It’s totally tailor made for me- created by the creator of one of my favorite shows of all time, with singing and dancing, and a similar sweet, lovely feel to Pushing Daisies,another of my all time favorite shows.
And the singing and the dancing. Oh my goodness. They completely and utterly traffick in what Liz and I refer to as musical blackmail- they use arrangements and songs that make you all emotional- but oh how I love it. I can’t even begin to start to talk about Rachel’s “On My Own” audition scene, it was so heartbreaking and so perfect, and perfectly expressed to us the duality of her character- and goodness, she’s a little baby Idina Menzel! I was in tears at the end of the show when they finished “Don’t Stop Believing”- and not just because the arrangement was gorgeous, but also because again they used it to mirror the character development, as the best musicals do. It came perfectly after Will’s speech about his own experience with Glee Club, how during their award winning performance he suddenly “knew who I was in this world”. Ah, it gives me shivers just thinking about it, because it so completely spoke to my experience.
In Zen terms, my most present, most mindful experiences have been while on the stage performing. I can remember them in vivid detail – I was hyper aware of everything that was happening, of every other person on the stage, in the audience, in the wings, of the lights, of the air around me. And I was completely aware of my connection to each and every one of those things- of exactly who I was and my place in the world. And that feeling is so brilliant, so ideal, that I know why people spend so much time in pursuit of it, whatever way they go about it.
But seeing that played out, as Will walks in and sees those kids feeling that same way- man, it kills me. Seriously, I want to put this episode on my iPod so I can just carry it around with me.
I also totally identify with that little rag tag glee club fighting against the powerhouse money suck that is the Cheerios (the cheerleading squad) – in our High School it was the teeny tiny drama department against the Show Choir. So I look forward to living vicariously through New Directions and their ultimate triumph. And yes, I could have just been in Show Choir, but the teacher drove me insane and someone needed to stand up against his madness and keep the drama department afloat. (Yeah, I was a total little activist. Just call me Lily. If you don’t get that, go watch Popular. You’ll love it.) Maybe someday I’ll post the story of how I stormed into his office and completely told him off for being disrespectful and actively running drama into the ground for the benefit of Show Choir….. ah, good times.
But old resentments aside, I also love how the creator, Ryan Murphy, so captures what it is to be in high school. Obviously, this is a made up world for TV, but the underlying emotions and motivations are all there and so dead on. He did it in Popular, and I can already see he’ll do it again here. Rachel’s certain, yet completely uncertain statement that “If you’re part of something special, that makes you special… right?” is heartbreaking on so many levels. Ah, I love it.
Go check out the show. I hope you like it.
I just read two amazing and completely creepy short stories that are only available on the Kindle- ah, they were so good. The first was The Babysitter’s Code by Laura Lippman, and I’m going to need more of her stuff. This story was so short, but so evocative, and the ending so up in the air my head is buzzing. The other was UR, a story that Stephen King wrote specifically for the Kindle, about a man who receives a pink Kindle that can access books written in alternate realities. So creepy, and wonderfully thought provoking- in all the realities the main character accessed, Hemingway wrote Farewell to Arms, regardless of which other novels he wrote or didn’t; likewise James Cain always wrote Mildred Pierce. In one reality, Poe lived longer and wrote novels.
So of course, it’s got me thinking, whose books would I look for with a pink UR Kindle? This is somewhat timely, as just before I read these stories I read some snippets of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and was thinking that I wish she’d lived longer so we’d have more of her gorgeous words. So I’d look up Virginia Woolf in a reality where she lived longer, and see what her writing was like in a reality where she didn’t suffer from mental illness. Maybe she wouldn’t have written anything in that reality. Maybe her books wouldn’t have been as good. I’d look to see if good ol’ Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a reality where he never met Zelda. What Dorothy Parker wrote in a world where Robert Benchley left his wife and married her. What Hemingway wrote in a reality without the Spanish Civil War. Heck- I’d want to see what Stephen King would write in a reality where he wasn’t an practicing alcoholic for most of his early writing career.
Edited to add: And what if Salinger never went all isolationist? Think of the other Glass family books he could have written!
I’m sure there are more, but babies are awake. So what would you want to look up? Share, share!
I finished a couple of books lately- one that I feel like I’ve been reading for 6 months, and another that took about 1/2 hr.
Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim by Tom Corwin and Craig Frazier is a lovely little gem of a book. It’s short, but packed full of beautiful images and thought provoking ideas. It tells the story of Mr Fooster, who spends his days wandering the world and pondering such questions as “Why is yawning contagious? How long do frogs’ tongues get? Why do grown-ups lose their sense of wonder?”. And as he travels he comes to some realizations. It’s kind of a Zen story, and I really liked it.
Playful Parenting by Lawrence W. Cohen is the book I’ve been reading for the last 6 months. It’s seriously taken me forever to finish it, but it was extremely good. Cohen is a psychologist who specializes in play therapy, and he explains why play is important for kids’ development, what function it serves, and how parents can help their kids (or other people’s kids) by playing with them in different ways. He gives some really concrete examples, of both how kids play (ie. role reversal- they get a shot, and then when they get home want to play doctor with THEM being the one giving the shot to you- working through the issues of power and powerlessness) and how to help kids work through things through play (like when we played “Car Wash” with Z to help her with her car wash phobia). I’ve gotten a lot of insight from the book, and some really good practical skills to use with Z, and have seen a difference using them. I definitely recommend this book really highly.
This makes 11 books finished this year, which is 9 behind where I need to be to hit my 50 books by the end of the year. But I got a bunch of great looking books from the library, so hopefully I can just steam right through them and catch up.
What are you reading?
Z was playing with her friend Ben yesterday, when this occurred. Luckily I was already snapping pictures like a paparazzi, and captured the entire exchange, because Becky and I almost died from the cuteness. (And no, he’s not bringing her a flower, they each picked one earlier. Just FYI.)
I present, How To Use Your Words: A Story in Pictures. (And some words.) And yes, they are actual quotes.
From Empire Records:
Eddie: Can I ask you something? Do you know where Harvard is?
A.J.: It’s near Boston.
Eddie: No I mean, do you really know where Harvard is? It’s another planet man- another universe. Totally unlike the one we know. Filled with big blond guys who eat ivy and row boats.
It’s going to be awesome, Ana, it really is.
I read something a while back that suggested taking kids to the library to give them the experience of complete and utter bounty- no matter what your budget, there is the possibility of taking home WHATEVER book they want. I love that. I so know that feeling- my mom’s only rule for how many books we could take from the library on our weekly trips was that we had to be able to carry them.
I got to go to the library today by myself (well, with Tiny, but she was in the stroller and not begging to go to the kids’ area, so in effect, by myself) while Z was at our little preschool today. It was so nice. I love being able to just wander and let books call out to me. Today I ended up with 6:
Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim by Corwin and Frazier
The Best Buddhist Writing 2008
Why New Orleans Matters by Tom Piazza
Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
Flappers and the New American Woman: Perceptions of Women from 1918 through the 1920s by Catherine Gourley
Any predictions on which I’ll actually finish before they’re due back again? Keep in mind I’ve been reading my current book for what seems like the last 6 months.
We ended up going back to the library after preschool and naps, Z had a really rough day- two (lightly) skinned knees and lots of crying. She got three books, which is my limit for her, because I can’t keep track of more than that. When she’s older and/or when the library ceases to have late fines, she can get out more.
What are you reading? Which book do you think I should read first?