Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book Bits: Summer Reading List

Book Bits are mini-mini-reviews of books that I either don't have time or inclination to review fully.  However, I have read the entirety of the books I mention.  If you've reviewed any of these books, leave your permalink in the comments so others can check out varying opinions!

Today's list includes books I want to recommend as particularly suited to your summer reading list. What books do you recommend?

A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson
May 10th 2007 by Puffin (first published 1996)
Paperback, 416 pages
0142408662 (isbn13: 9780142408667)
rating: 5 of 5 stars
A romance to end all romances, set in Austria just before the war. If you've not read any of Ibbotson's YA romances, just know that my heart is beating a little faster simply thinking about this book. Read this, or any of her others (The Morning Gift, The Reluctant Heiress, A Countess Below Stairs, A Company of Swans). Then come back and thank me!

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
May 4th 2010 by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
(first published 2010)
Hardcover, 352 pages
1416990658 (isbn13: 9781416990659)
  rating: 4 of 5 stars
I kept waiting for Matson to flub up, to execute some unforgivable writing mistake. This is an author I really want to hate because the book is just that good and I wish I'd written it. Thank heavens, I get to read it. You'll want to, too.

Aurelia by Anne Osterlund
AureliaApril 17th 2008 by Puffin (first published April 1st 2008)
Paperback, 288 pages
0142405795 (isbn13: 9780142405796)
  rating: 4 of 5 stars
I came away with a crush on one of the characters, a respect for intelligent, fiesty, romantic, common-sense Aurelia, and a little bit winded from the twist at the ending I didn't see coming (I'm very difficult to surprise.) Also pick up Academy 7 by Osterlund.

The Cardturner : A Novel about a King, a Queen, and a Joker by Louis Sachar

May 11th 2010 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, 192 pages
0385736622 (isbn13: 9780385736626)
rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have to say, this was almost better than Holes.  Yeah, it's just that good.  Plus the best explanation of religion/God/spirituality I've possibly ever, ever read.

The Tavernier Stones by Stephen Parrish
May 1st 2010 by MIDNIGHT INK
Paperback, 384 pages
0738720569 (isbn13: 9780738720562)
  rating:5 of 5 stars
I'm obviously biased now (though I wasn't when I wrote my review) since I have become the first of the Tavernier Babes. Still, this is the perfect summer read - not too heady, but not fluff, either. Get it. Read it. And look for the Tavernier Babes 2011 wall calendar, available soon at a blog near you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

This one's for you, RJinx

RJinx once rescued me from the Titanic.  True story.
Faceboook, 7:30AM: I have 15 hours stretching ahead of me that require strenuous physical activity, mind-numbing patience, and an endless supply of energy and positive attitude. It's going to be tough, but I can do it. (Right?) Feel free to contribute support, jokes, funny comments, and/or tequila.
                RJinx: Hey, you must be a parent. ;-)
                Look at it like surfing.
                Just ride the wave.
                If you fight against it you will drown yourself
                and keep yourself from getting where you need/want to be.
                If you just ride the wavy and
                let its energy guide you, you will reach the shore....
                namaste, grasshopper.

8:50 AM: Pick up Bluejay, a 10-yr-old student who is not my biological child.
8:54 AM: See cop lights flashing quietly behind me.
                ME: Good morning, officer.
                Nice, slightly hot OFFICER: I pulled you over for speeding back there. Um, did you know you were going 53 in a 40 zone? Do you have any reason to need to go that fast?
                ME: Um,  no good reason.
                OFFICER: Well, I'm going to let you off but I will need to see your license, insurance and registration.
                ME: Of course, of course. (rummaging in the Car That Vommited VBS Supplies) Um, I'm afraid I can't find my registration.
                OFFICER: Okay, well, sit tight, let me check this out.
                (minutes pass)
                OFFICER: Well, it seems as though your insurance card isn't current. See here? It says expires 2009.
                ME: Oh, well, that's just the card. The insurance is current.
                OFFICER: Thing is, I do have to give you a ticket for that.
                ME: Of course, I understand.
               (minutes pass)
               OFFICER: Did you realize your driver's license is expired?
                ME: Yes, at the end of June.
                OFFICER: Afraid not. It expired on June 12, your birthday.
                ME: Of course this is happening to me. I'm on my way to Vacation Bible School.
                OFFICER: Well, I can't let you drive there. Is there anyone else in the car who can drive?
               (Bluejay scrunches; she is in the front seat though technically she shouldn't be. Fortunately she looks mature enough he doesn't question.)
               ME: No, I'm afraid not. I can - no, I can't call my sister, she doesn't have a car with enough car seats. Um. Well, my mother - no, she's at Annual Conference. Um, can you give me a minute to try to call someone?
               OFFICER: Oh, sure, sure. I have to go write up your court summons, anyway. (At my look) It's just, it's mandatory for driving with an expired license. But I'm not going to ticket you for speeding or not having your registration or not having current insurance.
               ME: Thank you for being so understanding.
               OFFICER: No problem. And we'll just wait here until someone can come pick you up.
               (which happened thirty minutes later, after Bluejay and I decided to walk to Starbucks)
               MR. AERIN: Well,now what?
               ME: I need to renew my license.
               BLUEJAY: And I want to come with you!
               (drive 20 minutes to DMV)
               ME: Oh my god.
               MR. AERIN: What?
               ME: I forgot my driver's license. It's still in the Odyssey.
               MR. AERIN: Maybe it won't matter, let me check.
               (minutes pass)
               MR. AERIN: It's good, they'll look you up by your SSN.
               ME: What about a current insurance card?
               MR. AERIN: I had Allstate fax a current copy to my office, and my co-workers are standing by to fax it to DMV.

EMAIL (on my iPhone) from Fritz: Present for you.
(with a link, that I didn't check until this evening, but...well, you see for yourself.  I should have looked sooner!)

FB, 10:45 AM: 10 yr old student, a cop, a court summons, Starbucks, DMV, profuse amounts of self-loathing, all before 11am. Today sucks /major/.
               RJinx: Ride the wave, young woman.
               I sent you positive juju.
               Although I am looking forward to this blog post. ;-)

TEXT MESSAGE FROM JS: On the flip side, you'll look cute in one of those orange jumpsuits.

               DMV Worker RICK: Hi, how are you?
               ME: I've had a terrible day, actually.
               RICK: Well, let's see if we can make it better.
               ME: I need to renew my license, which expired, but I don't have my old one with me. I was told you could use my SSN.
               RICK: Sometimes we can.
               ME: Uh.
               RICK: What's your #? (I give it to him) Name? Address? (checks, checks) Okay, it looks like we're good.
               ME: Oh, that's awesome.
               (eye test, answer three questions, I feel good)
               RICK: Well, it looks like your day might be getting worse. I can't give you your license.
               ME: What?
               RICK: It doesn't match the name in the Social Security database.
               ME: What?
               RICK: About six months ago we merged data with their systems, and now we have to reconcile everyone.
               ME: But my name is long, it won't all fit on a driver's license.
               RICK: We have foreigners who have much longer names than you do.
               ME: (doing Lamaze breathing) First, let me ask: could you give me my license if I had my old one?
               RICK: No.
               ME: That's good at least. But you're telling me I have to go somewhere else and get something changed so that I can come back here and renew my driver's license.
               RICK: Yeah, there are only three offices within a 50 mile radius, and they really don't answer their phone lines, so you'll just want to go stand in line.
               ME: (hyperventilating)
               RICK: Good luck with that. Next!!

FB, noon: Now DMV is telling me that Social Security doesn't recognize me. Now I have to prove I exist.
               RJinx strangely silent
               CW Response: Just drop my name and I'll vouch for you. I'm a former government bureaucrat lackey. We all know each other.
               KRS Response: Call the IRS, they'll confirm you!

12:25 PM: Take Bluejay Home
12:30 PM: Drive home to get passport and social security card.
12:59 PM: Arrive home.
              ME: I have to pee.
              MR. AERIN: I'll get your stuff.
              (minutes pass)
              MR. AERIN: Hey, honey?
              ME: Yeah?
              MR. AERIN: They're not here.
              ME: WHAT?????

FB, 1PM: I might have to cry.
              RJinx:This is my shoulder.           

FB, 3PM: So....I can't find my SS card or my passport. And I can't request a new SS card without a valid license (well, I can, but I'm going for dramatic, here, people). I feel like a complete and total failure as an adult. #utterwasteoflife

 FB private message from RJinx
              good mother? check
              good friend? check
              treat others with dignity and respect? check
              hot tamale? check
              It all comes out in the wash.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Picture Book Monday

I told y'all I'd be fine today.  And I am!

I wish I could say I felt totally

It's not that I feel sad or depressed, it's that I feel

And that's because I've been
only with 20 times more kids.

I can't take all the credit. 
Our VBS curriculum (Richard, look!) is
and uber-fantastic Larissa aka
put it all together.  

I just get to be the 
Pretty soon I'm going to get on the 
note: my rear end is not nearly as tight as hers. hence the treadmill.

And then I'll have

Tomorrow I get to do the whole
thing all over again!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Problem with Birthdays

I'm a moody person.  Stop, I know.  You're shocked.  I can be joyous and jubilant one day and in doldrums the next.  It's how I roll.*  Not only do I find myself, on this rainy Sunday afternoon, post-birthday, but also post-blog-party and post-morning-with-my-students (today's sermon: "Celebrating Harry Potter: Spiritual Seeing & Living" by the Rev. Keith Thompson.)  

I start to question everything when I get lonely: the meaning of life, my own self-worth, the authenticity of my relationships, the unfairness of some people being this beautiful, and the all around strangeness that is people's obsession with True Blood **

By tomorrow I'll be okay again, of course.  For now, I'm going to go do something totally self-indulgent. I know you're going to be jealous.

I'm going to go hit Sephora.  If you haven't heard from me in three weeks, send the search parties there.

*That one's for you, Travis.

** Come on. Sookie Stackhouse as a name? Seriously? And Stephen Moyer? Could we get a less attractive vampire? I haven't read or seen any of the series.  I guess it can't be worse than Twilight.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thirty Four Years Ago

Today is my birthday.  I'm 34 years old, as of 5:25 pm.  Someone told me it's not that big a deal - just marks another cycle of the earth around the sun.  I told him that our mothers think about it very differently.
 (top row: mum and dad; bottom: kiki, tristan, me, nicholas, tot #1)
My mum always made our birthdays special.  We had a visit from the birthday bird - a small present left by our bedside, first thing in the morning.  I grew up poor.  A small present might be a new toothbrush or hair decoration.  Still, it was always the best way to start the day.  Usually school was out by the time my birthday rolled around, so I might have a friend over to play, or we would go to the community pool.  Sometimes we were camping, and once we were in a hotel room in Asheville, NC.  I turned 13 watching my siblings in a hotel room while my parents went to a work function at the Biltmore.

No matter where we were, mum added special touches.  If we were home, she made special dinners, with whatever kind of cake I wanted.  (More often than not, I wanted a huge chocolate chip cookie.)  My Nanny and Papa would come, and I'd have a couple of friends over, or maybe just one (Betsy Alice Ingrid Elizabeth Huff.)  I would be excused from chores, given a one-day pass on my messy room, and presented with the gift of pure childhood, at least for a day.

If we weren't home, mum still found ways to celebrate.  She'd gather flowers to put on the wooden picnic table at our campsite, or she'd have brought a special blanket or pillow for my tent.  I could choose what hike we took, or whether we went swimming.  We'd make s'mores and she wouldn't even admonish me about getting my fingers too sticky.

That birthday in the hotel room?  Mum sneaked a collection of petits fours out of the business dinner and put a candle in one for me to blow out.  (At the time I think I was resentful she didn't outright steal a priceless valuable or something, but I was 13.  What did I know?)

This is who my mother is.  She is someone who makes everything more beautiful.

3 generations: Mum, Bug and Me
If I grew up poor, my mother grew up vastly more so.  She clung to the idea that there can be special touches to any occasion.  We needn't just have napkins - they can be folded and elegant, even if they're just paper.  We needn't have plain ball-point pens - we can glue feathers on them to make them fancy.  We don't just keep chocolate in the kitchen - it's hidden in her dresser so that uncovering it when one of us went into her room for before-bedtime commiseration was a special treat.

I don't know where she learned such flair.  I know from experience it wasn't from her parents or siblings.  She overcame so much adversity and marginalization early in her life it's a wonder it didn't harden her, as it hardened the rest of her family.  But instead I have a mum who likes pink shoes, delights in finding wildflowers in the forests around her mountain house, who keeps youth eternal and makes life sparkle for the rest of us.

me and mommy
Thirty-four years ago wasn't just my birth day.  It was her initiation into motherhood.  I hope I wear it as well as she has.  I love you, mommy.  Thanks.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bread Crumb Trail

Right out of seminary, I interviewed for a job in California (which I happened to get - shout out to my LBUMC peeps!).  The position was Director of Youth and Family Ministries.  One of the initial phone interviews was with a child/teen psychologist, who asked me what my primary purpose in ministry was.  Keep in mind I was newly graduated, full of theology and polity and all kinds of "right answers."  But before I could use any of my school learning, my heart made me blurt out, "To help the kids know who they are."

In so many ways my life has been about discovering who I am.  I've preached that the actual definition of sin is not being true to yourself.  I've worked very hard to be someone who is honest, caring, compassionate, endlessly forgiving, someone who brings anxiety levels down and seeks to find the best in others.  I've spent a lot of my life chasing perfection - not Wesley's kind, but actual physical, mental, social, academic perfection.  (You'd think by now I'd have learned.)

For some reason, when I went through Facebook this evening, I was overcome with waves of disappointment - in myself.  I made a couple of mistakes this past week, and I'm still not at a point that I can be okay with making mistakes.  Several someones pointed out my errors, called me on my posturing.  I guess they meant well.  I should try to see where they're coming from.

And yet, all I want to do is to scream, "Get off my back!"  The pressure is intense - and almost fully self-imposed, I know this.  At the end of the day, I still want someone to tell me that I am loved - just for who I am - strengths and weaknesses and silliness even when it goes a little too far.  In the Christian church we call that "grace."

I don't buy the idea that if you know who you are you'll know where you're going.   I feel more like Hansel and Gretel, who must have despaired when the bread crumbs ran out and they were left alone in the forest, far from the home they knew.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm a big girl. I can find my own way.  Just don't be surprised if I look down, now and again, hoping to catch a crumb, any kind of trace, the trail that leads me forward - and back to myself.

Monday, June 7, 2010

PARTY! Contests! Prizes! Games!

(Made you look!)
Seriously, everyone, you need to get over to
an online launch-birthday-party 
for my friend and yours - but mostly yours - Stephen Parrish
Stephen is the author of The Tavernier Stones.

His circle of writing friends have pitched in with some fun games and great prizes, including:
  • winner's choice, any book (contest for sending people over)
  • $50 Amazon gift card (book trailer contest)
  • one tailor-made e-media kit inclusive of: a news release, a backgrounder and a bio for your book, business, whatever.
  • copy(s) of QUENCHER 
  • signed copy of BAD ICE
  • Texas care package
  • a first chapter critique (up to 20 pages)
  • a signed copy of Plum Blossoms in Paris (released Aug 1)
  • a signed copy of  The Note
  • Autographed copies of the 3 Derek Stillwater novels--The Devil's Pitchfork, The Serpent's Kiss, and The Fallen
  • One coffee mug created by a talented Nova Scotia artisan with a pound of Ooh La La! French Roast (or other blend) from Laughing Whale roasters.

Oh, yeah. Did I mention that Steve himself is giving away a diamond?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Voice Thingy, Dr. Paca style

Now that the dissertation is finished, Pacatrue has nothing to occupy his time...during the Hawaii.....anyway, he invoked the name of the Goddess Robin and called us to present voice offerings of our own works. 

I wrote three entries for the last Clarity of Night contest; this is one I did not submit.


“I made you a new housecoat, momma.” Eve held out the garment.

“You may sew better than you clean my kitchen, but I don’t need a new housecoat.”

“You know Pastor Bob is visiting this morning.” Eve had rehearsed this part. “Your purple housecoat is in the laundry.”

Edith fingered the white lace running down the front zipper, the black bows stitched at the neck. Eve had counted on her mother’s lifelong weakness for bows. She relented, and allowed herself to be dressed. While Eve styled the older woman’s stiff white curls, Edith prattled about election results.

“A Negro in office. We’re a country of heathens.”

“Pastor Bob would say the Lord works in mysterious ways,” Eve murmured boldly.
“Don’t be foolish, girl. Saint Paul says, ‘What communion hath light with darkness?’ Darkness, Saint Paul says.”

Blue veins popped out of the crepe-paper skin on Eve’s hands. “People are people, momma, no matter their skin color.”

“None of that. Thought I cured you of that when that King man got shot.”

“That was forty years ago.”

“Don’t I know it,” her mother snapped. “And we’re still no better off than to get a Negro president.”

April 4, 1968. Edith had made Eve scrub the kitchen floor with a toothbrush for wearing a black armband after Martin Luther King’s assassination. A ribbon, actually; one of Eve’s few hair decorations.

Forty years later, that same ribbon sat eloquently against the white lace of her mother’s new housecoat.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Wish for Someone Else's Daughter

Dear child, welcome to this world, in all its beauty and savagery.  You'll hear the phrase "A picture is worth a thousand words" (and then your da will show you a picture and teach you how to write flash fiction about it.)  This picture by Maxfield Parrish is my (half of a) thousand words, and here's what they are:

I wish for you strength, in big things and small.  An elephant cannot carry its own body weight, but an ant can, and ten times more.  May your body be strong, to run and to jump and to climb mountains.
I wish for you freedom, to discover yourself and be what you choose.  I hope you will make mistakes, and learn from them.  I hope you will know the feeling of wind in your hair as you run through the grass, and that that feeling will find its way into your soul.

I wish for you love, to give and to be given. I wish for love to make you its conduit - love poured in and love given freely out, made purer by the filter of your heart. 

I wish for you patience, for you to retain a sense of the movement of the eternal that you no doubt experience as you sleep an infant sleep.  I ask you to be patient with your parents, who love you and do everything out of that love.  Be patient with yourself. There’s no finish line, only the steps from one reality to another.

I wish for you impatience, for you to reject assumptions of inequality, to challenge with fierce heart the oppression of so much of humankind, of art, of faith.  Learn only the impatience that is born of seeking justice.

I wish for you faith.  May you ever feel the embrace of the Divine.  May you experience the Divine for yourself, choose to believe in the One who exists beyond us but loves in and around and through us.

I wish for you wisdom.  Sadly, you will lose your infant wisdom.  But its impressions remain inside of you.  As you grow, you’ll find pieces of wisdom, and you’ll know where they naturally fit inside the leftover spaces of yourself. 

I wish for you bravery.  Against the dark, against spiders, against aggressive four-legged creatures and bright, bold winged things.  Have courage during storms, both inner and outer, and remember that while slaying a dragon is sometimes necessary, it’s never, ever easy.

I wish for you thankfulness.  For a moment, for a lifetime.  For the smallest gesture and the grandest gift.

I wish for you books.  Skyscrapersful of books.  From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

I wish for you inspiration - from art, from music, from science, from history.  A sense of the world as it is and as it was and as it could be.  A dream, that captures your passions and changes when it needs to and propels you into places of risk and ambition for the sake of the dream.

I wish for you peace.  Peace in your world.  Peace in your soul.  A calm, quiet sense  of “forever” and the luxury to languish in it.  Peace on the journey, and peace to where, eventually, you will cross into yet another reality, surrounded by the same love in which you entered this one.

You are loved.  Be well.


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