Processing: The Gap between inspirations and aspirations

I love going to conferences. I'm blessed in every way when I can pack up and take a break from the everyday hustle and concentrate on learning and listening. For me conferences are not just opportunities to listen to speakers but opportunities to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. I learn something from every interaction, not just in the workshops or presentations, but at the breakfast line and luncheon table. I've only been here a little over 24 hrs and my mind is bursting.

I feel a little anti-social right now writing and trying to process instead of sitting down at hotel bar networking, but I felt a stronger than usual need to think and process on my own tonight. I feel caught in that productive discontent of sorting through the inspirational, convicting, challenging and occasionally frustrating things I've learned & trying to think about what things I want to bring back and do & which of those things I can realistically tackle.

This school year I made a choice to scale back some of my efforts, to reserve my energies and not over perform to the sacrificial degree I had done in the past. That was not a easy decision. I love my school, but it is a part-time position that I was treating and working as if was full-time because I love them so much. But in the long run it wasn't fair to my family nor did it set up the realistic expectations. I advocated for myself, and was able to get a schedule that didn't set me up for overwork. I've asked for help more than I've ever have in the past, and said no to things that couldn't accomplish within my paid hours. It has been hard to scale back my expectations of myself but it I needed to pull back in order to respect myself and my family.

I thought I knew what I was going to do with the time I was reclaiming. I had plans. I thought I would sub more, clean more and catch up with everything but that wasn't what I've ended up doing. While I am reading more and writing more (which I deeply love to do), in the end the majority of my reclaimed time has been taken up by unexpectedly by homeschooling. While there is still a gap there between what I aspire to do, and what we have been able to do, I've at least I had the time to try to tackle it.

Despite my greater than usual need to pull back and process I am as always incredibly thankful of being been able to come. I know that I can't aspire to do everything I'm inspired to do, so I'm storing up some of those big ideas for later, and I will content myself with the smaller ways I can improve my practice.


Cocooning -- Day 12

IMG_4703It is really cold outside, but we can't just stay home everyday. There is school for Aay, Karate practice, Drs & Vet appointments to go to, groceries to fetch, church activities & meetings to attend.  However I feel we have been cocooning or nesting these past two weeks.

It started as lark, last Saturday, I had grabbed one of the blankets from my bed to cuddle up with and read in Chris's big chair.  I was feeling not quite sick, but worn down. I had spent all morning driving the girls back and forth from Choir & Karate. Zee came to check on me, said I looked like I was in a cocoon. She brought me snacks, and water, climbed into cuddle with me. It was a lovely way to spend the rest of my afternoon.  All this last week whenever one of us feels tired, fussy or out of sorts, Zee suggests we cocoon.

We have also been nesting.  I haven't been home for most of the day this many days in a row in years outside of summer vacation.  The house is cleaner than it has been since I started working. I actually moved furniture today to dust & vacuum.  I deep cleaned the kitchen, even wiping down walls. It is isn't all I do everyday, just something to do, something to burn up the energy I would normally use up at work.
There is no way I will be able to sustain this when I get back to work in February (sorry Chris!), but it is nice to do it anyway.  Nice to tend to parts of my life that have been neglected, to tackle projects I always mean to do when we have a school break but I never do because all I am good for then is a good books and stiff drink. This isn't vacation, but it is still something restorative.

I am thankful for this time cocooning and nesting.

Marlena Graves's A Beautiful Disaster

At RCRC I have the incredibly privilege of helping lead one of our adult Sunday school classes.  We have two adult Sunday school tracks at RCRC, one is a bible-study track and the other a book-discussion group.  In our book-discussion class we tackle books on theology, spiritual living and other material that comments on christian faith. In the past year we have read  Lewis Smedes's memoir  "My God and I", Gordon Fee's book "Paul, the Spirit and the People of God:" and we just finished a unit, discussing the play Athalie by Racine and wrestling with the biblical passages in Kings and Chronicles that served as its inspiration.

We just are about four chapters into our discussion of Marlena Graves's book on suffering, "A Beautiful Disaster".  Marlena is a former youth leader & member of our congregation.  Marlena and her husband Shawn moved away for Rochester right at the same time Chris and I moved here.  We know each other mainly through social media and through acquaintances.  It has been a blessing to discuss the book as mixed group, those who personally know her and those like me who know her through her words.

I think all of us in the book-study class are being blessed and challenged by Marlena's book and I wanted to share here some of our discussion questions, so those who are not able to participate with us every week can still share in our discussion.


Dropbox link to our discussion questions

Jasper in the rear-view, winding down the vacation

The Yellowhead out of Jasper

This morning we said goodbye to the the majestic mountains of Jasper. After picking up breakfast at Tim's we went to see some of the smaller brilliant blue lakes on the outskirts of the Jasper townsite. We went to see Lake Annette and Lake Edith, still shockingly blue despite the gray cloudy sky. They are favorite lakes for townies, and have lovely sandy shorelines. Reluctantly we climbed into the car and set off for Edmonton.

Lake Annette

The drive was beautiful but we once again failed spot any wildlife, not even big horned sheep, not that I blame them from steering clear of the busy road out of Jasper. The terrain changed quickly from foothills to a mixture of forest and rolling farmland. We made good time to Edmonton despite construction for the last hour. We were starving however when we got into the city, and since our GPS wasn't sure where out hotel was we drove the Gigantic West Edmonton Mall, and found food. The mall reminded me of Plaza las Americas, huge, loud and hard to navigate. Stomachs full we went to to the hotel to check-in, except they didn't have our room ready. We ended up camping out in the breakfast room watching the Netherlands/Costa Rica World Cup match.

Proof that we can both be in a picture

After nearly 45 minutes our room was ready and we all crashed for a bit, but when it was time to head back to the mall to meet with Mr. Bratt no one wanted to leave. So I headed out on my own. They finished watching the game and went for a swim in the pool. Mr. Bratt and I discovered that the WEM has more than one Crepe shop, and played elaborate game of Marco Polo, before we met up. It was so much fun to reconnect and catch-up. God has taken us on unexpected journeys, all over the world, to places we would have a hard to imagining 20 years ago. Mr. Bratt meant a great deal to me when I was in high school. My family was in turmoil and books/writing gave me worlds to play in. Mr. Bratt challenged us, and I am so thankful for all that I learned in his class, and the many books he shared with me.

Lake Edith

Tonight we are resting, coaxing the girls into one last day of sightseeing before heading home. The girls are about ready to be home, tired of being on the road. So tomorrow we will drive to riverside parks in downtown Edmonton, before heading down to Calgary and the Zoo.


Pyramid Mountain


Lake Annette


Reading Joy!

 Zee got her Scholastic Books order today, which included a 2 book-packs, one a four book collection of SkippyJon Jones books and a 5 book  collection of David Shannon books.  The David Shannon pack proved very popular this afternoon. Aay read to Zee, No, David! and David gets in trouble! and I read them How I became a PirateHow I became a Pirate will I believe become a family favorite. It has great pirate arrghs and natural call and response rhythm. I am sure soon, the girls will be doing all the crew responses, and talking like pirates.

They also really liked the David books. Amusingly enough they almost received one of them about 3 years ago, when Chris's mom Marianne used to send them books she ordered from Scholastic at the daycare she works at, monthly. I think cross-border postage has sunk that tradition, so they get books now whenever they visit. The David book they almost got, had sent it a replacement book for something that was out of stock and she hated it and sent it right back to them with complaint letter.  I understand her reaction. At first glance the book can be off-putting.

The David books like Shannon's Alice the Fairy are drawn in a very rough kid-like style.  In the Author's notes, Shannon mentions that the first David book was inspired by a book he drew as kid, that his mom had recently found and sent to him. The book, No, David! chronicles David's misadventures as his mother call out No! in a variety of ways. And in David gets in trouble!, David is resisting taking responsibilities for many more misadventures till in the end he finally say sorry. They are wonderful books. I have yet to read a book illustrated or written by David Shannon that is anything but funny, charming and just plain fun to read out loud.

What I just read...

Banana_tpb_lg As the hours till the start of my semester tick away, I took some time to read a little graphic novel Chris had picked up yesterday. It called Banana Sunday by Colleen Coover and Root Nibot.  I love her work on Marvel's X-men First Class and Power Pack's back up stories (some of which you can read on her new website, so follow the link!). So I was very happy to see it in Chris's pile.

The story in Banana Sunday follows a young high school girl called Kirby, who is the guardian of the 3 divine monkey "See no Evil", "Hear no evil","Speak no evil".  She is guarding the irrepressible trio while trying to fit in her new high school and make new friends, and do so without the whole world discovering the secret of the monkeys origins.

I really enjoyed volume 1 and Zee and Aay who started looking over my shoulder while I read it, were completely caught up in it, and Aay is now sitting next to me reading the first few chapters to herself. So it has the Canino-Fluit women's seal of approval. 

And after looking at Colleen's new spiffy website, I see she has another graphic novel in the works with the title of Gingerbread Girl, which is now officially on my want list. I don't even know what it is about, but I still want it.

Reading relationships

Chris and I subscribe to the Sunday New York Times, one of the nice perks of moving east. I go out and fetch it from the mailbox while my breakfast toasts in the toaster every Sunday morning.  Chris dives into the sport section while I steadily work thru the paper. Sunday Afternoon, I get deeper and deeper, finally reaching the Sunday Business and my treasured travel section (which I always save for last). Sometimes when a Sunday is particularly busy I don't even get to the the travel section and I have to hide it away and save it for later in the week, or it will be swept away to the recycling box and the curb by Monday evening.

I am always pleased on Monday when stories from the Sunday Times show up in other venues. Today it was the Korean-Vietnamese marriage story that was on top of the portal at the one of the message boards I frequent, and the essay about books and romance that inspired a segment in NPR's Talk of the Nation this afternoon that I happen to catch a portion of while I drove to pick up Arwen after school.

The essay, "It’s Not You, It’s Your Books" By Rachel Donaido brought back memories of our early dating days. I remember picked up my copy of "How Green was My Valley" that had a place of honor in my bookcase and made time to read it, and I remember how happy he was to have enjoyed reading it. Maybe our young relationship would have derailed if he hated my then favorite book, but I somehow think we would have overcome it. But happily he enjoyed it and we weren't tested in that way. In fact we have gone of to share many favorites since then. I have gone on to read " The Stand" and "Whirlwind" and he has often picked up a book I have just finished because I had enjoyed it so much. In fact the most successful book recommendation we have ever given each other  was his recommendation of George R.R. Martin's 'Song of Ice and Fire' series. I at the time feeling very burned out on Science Fiction and Fantasy. I was so sure I wasn't going to read the book, I let Chris spoil great big chucks of the plot as we drove back from our year in California. At the end of the trip I was so intrigued, that I picked up the book and was hooked on Fantasy again. Chris also hooked me on comics by handing me a stack of X-men and Excalibur one reading recess, as I procrastinated preparing for finals. 87 comics and two days later, I was a fangirl.

It might seem from my examples that our literary exchange only goes one way, but I think that a result of the unevenness of our reading tempos. Chris reads steadily and voraciously, I read in binges. Going weeks without reading any more than webpages and news articles, and then losing myself in a book, for days, only surfacing for food and water, with my finger stuck in the book keeping my place. Chris countered this afternoon that he is also a binge reader, only his binge has lasted for 34 years. I have always read this way intensely and sporadically. Back in High School I spent a entire retreat weekend, consumed in 'Jurassic Park', till one of the youth leaders asked me to try putting the book down and interact with everyone else. I still finished the book that weekend though, I just tried to be less obvious about by my consumption of it.

In the essay people reject possible dates and lovers over book or genre choices and I can certainly understand that people make those kind of choices, not the choices I would make, since I think finding a spouse that values reading is way more important than if they love magical realism or hate fantasy. As a reader I fully understand Chris's need to have book time, more than someone who has no need to ever read. 

Recent Books, Winter of 2007

IndexaspxThis was a great conversation starter. In the book a little girl is banished to her time-out chair for being 'wild.' The rest of the book is the little girls passionate defense, detailing how wild she would be if she were 'wild', like a lion, bear, wolf, raccoon, etc. The book is energetically illustrated. The words are playful and fun to read out loud, and it is fun to watch her house be ransacked by her imaginary wild animals. I am sure there are parents out there who would like this book and her mouthy protagonist, but if you can check yourself for a minute, remember what it felt to be a child, and wrongly accused and miscategorized and stop and indulge her in her self-righteous defense you might find yourself laughing along with her.

After reading the book I asked the girls what animal they would love to be "if they were" wild. Zee quickly wanted to a frog, while Aay deliberated for a while before settling on being a dolphin. Zee then changed her mind to be a donkey. Which Aay commented "are really wild." 

We recently borrowed via Inter-library loan a copy of the 2-DVD set, of Walt Disney Treasures - The Chronological Donald, Volume Two (1942-1946)  and thru it the girls have become enchanted by the easily frustrated Donald. They have been following his comic book adventures for a few years, but this was one of the first times they have seen his animated adventures.  One of their favorite adventures is the second short featured, The Village Smithy from 1942, where Donald tries to shoe a very stubborn and wild Donkey. No doubt Zee's inspiration. Another favorite from the DVD set is Donald's Gold Mine, where Donald is again foiled by a willful Burro.

It was certainly a lot of fun to be able to tie these two experiences together and see how their enjoyment of the Donald Duck shorts affected their perceptions of the wildness of the Burritos.

If I were a Lion got us talking but "Shoo, Fly-guy" and "Super Fly-Guy" got Aay giggling and reading. These are simple early reader books with a inventive premise. Fly Guy, a pet fly to a boy named Buzz, get into adventures, one searching for the perfect oozy, gooey, and smelly fly meal and in the second getting lunch lady fired and then rehired. Aay recognized many of the words, and because they are used repeatedly in the short book she was able to read the book to herself very quickly, and another bonus was the binding, Narrow pages, and sturdy covers meant that the books were easy for Aay to hold by herself as she read. I will certainly be keeping my eye out for more books in this series for Aay to enjoy.

Can_1 I can't end a post about books without mentioning these two books,Can You See What I See? Once Upon A Time (Can You See What I See?) and  Old, New, Red, Blue! are both favorites of Mz.Zee.  Can you see what I see? captured her attention, and because it isn't a reading book but a finding book, it let her enjoy it without having to have anyone read it to her. She particularly enjoyed hunting for the little plastic toy that hides in each of the scenes, and pointing at it him on command. Old, New, Red, Blue! was also similarly enchanting to her. She quickly memorized the few words, mainly antonyms and took a lot of joy out of "reading" the book to us. This was particularly satisfying to her because Aay is actually learning to read and starting to be able to read along many of the books were bring home. So very significantly for Zee, Old, New, Red, Blue! allowed her to mimic Aay's reading. She carried it with her so much that unfortunately she has misplaced it, and we might have to declare it lost. Normally our library books get read in the vicinity of Aay and Zee's bedrooms, only rarely being read in the living room, but Old, New, Red, Blue!, a thin book got carried around by Zee all over the house and possibly out of the house as well.  This will likely be the first book that has ever really gone AWOL for us,which is a shame.

The Challenge

Chris and I have been abusing our Library's inter-library loan program. I have requested and received nearly a dozen items, this year alone thru ILLoan, which doesn't count the dozens of book I have borrowed from the Shortgrass System's partner libraries.  Even thought we try to space our requests so our books don't all arrive at the same time, we sometime have little control over it because there is often a unpredictable wait time for book that have a lot of people requesting holds on them (new releases).

Chris and I don't share a lot of books outside of George RR Martin's series the Song of Ice and Fire, Harry Potter and our comic books. Chris is the faster reader and few exception (the last Harry Potter) get tends to get to and finish our shared books first. I often fall a week or three behind him in our comic book readings because I am very irregular in the way I pace my book reading. I tend to go straight to bed, which Chris regularly read every night before going to sleep.

Last week Chris already had a book out when he got the call that another of his books had come in. We stretched out our time a bit, by not going to pick the book immediately. I did end up picking it up by last Thursday. Since Chris hadn't started on it, I idly started flipping thru only to end up reading the first few chapters. Chris said it was okay, and I told him it was okay for him to steal it back if he needed to. Chris has been teasingly asking for updates on my reading progress, and just generally keeping tabs on where I have "his" book. Then on Tuesday another of his book requests came in. The one that arrived, a Jack Whyte novel about the Templars had a special 2-week only reading period, so I thought the pressure was off because, Chris would now have to read this book before taking my Brad Metlzer book away.

In the last week days I had made a bit of progress getting about 1/3 of the way into the book, but Chris was quickly gaining on me. Reading 300 out 500 of his book's pages in the first two nights. With that in the back of my mind I made sure to read at least for a half-hour before going to sleep, hoping to at least not lose too much ground to Chris. At 11:00 I was enjoying my reading too much to put it down and turn off the light. Next thing I know, the clock says 1:19 am. Oops. I have less than 40 pages to go.

I finished my book by 2:09 am. this morning. I feel good. But what I feel most is just a little smug, and I am looking forward to seeing Chris's reaction when he sees the book on his shelf this morning.

HA! sure it took me about 4 days head-start on you, but I did it!  No I can go pick up my quilting books waiting for me at the library.

Summer Reading

So far this summer I have read the first two volumes of Jeff Smith's Bone. My friend Bill Beechler frequently lists Bone as one of his favorite series to hand to potential comic-book readers. According to the Scholastic blurb more than 1 million Bone books have been sold. Because I have liked several other series recommended to me by Doc Beechler (like True Story Swear to God by Tom Beland and Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan), earlier this summer I looked at our library system's catalog and found that they have about 12 volumes of the Bone available. So I have been requesting them a rate of about one a week. I finally got volume 3 this afternoon. I am really excited about the series. It has defied my expectations so far. I find it tender, funny and exciting.   I really enjoyed the humor for beginning, the dragon, and the fantasy valley setting but when they introduced Thorn (human girl) at first I was disappointed because I knew that I don't like stories where small anthropomorphic funny creatures fall in love with pretty human girls(bad, bad memories of the Howard the Duck Film)and Fone Bone clearly had a crush on Thorn, I also resented that were leaving behind the woodland setting. Lazyestimgphp

But I kept on reading and I have absolutely fallen with Thorn's Grandma Rose. She is just a fantastic character that you don't often see in comics, tough old broad, that can take on forest full of rat-like monsters or race cows in the most matter of fact manner.

I know eager look forward to each volume, and I will probably buy series at some point for the girls to enjoy as they get older.

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue has come up on several podcast I have listened to on NPR this year.  I listen to the NPR: Books Podcast, which is weekly collection of interviews and radio essays on books, authors and the publish industry. Since it collects stories from most of NPR's shows, there can sometimes some very similar stories grouped together. I know that in the matter of three weeks I heard at least 3 stories where this book was mentioned. I believe the first one was a interview with a independent bookseller where she talked about her favorite novels by rookie novelists. Later I heard a essay about book reviewers, and how they had pushed the Stolen Child up the chart despite the book being ignored by traditional print-media reviewers, called Upon Further Review. The three stories made me file the title in the back of my mind as something I should consider looking at in the future. I like stories where myths and the modern world mingle. One of my favorite comic books is called Fables where characters of fairy tales and myth live in secret in our mundy world refugees escaping the conquering armies of the Adversary. Neil Gaiman's American Gods is one of my favorite novels. So if The Stolen Child lives up to it is first chapter where the changeling that took Henry Day's place and began to live his life ask not be called a fairy and explains the etymological reasons why, I might have a hard time putting this book down.

The last book in my bedside table is Queen bee moms & kingpin dads : coping with the parents, teachers, coaches, and counselors who can make--or break--your child's life / I had heard of Rosalind Wiseman's previous book, Queen bees and wannabes : helping your daughter survive cliques, gossip, boyfriends, and other realities of adolescence on which the movie Mean Girls was based on. Aay is starting school in the fall but I have already been playing in the minefield that is inter-parent relationships for the last two years, ever since Aay started gymnastics. Wiseman hopes to deconstruct some of the behavioral patterns and roles parents fall into when dealing with each other as parents. I think I am doing fairly well in the parent game, since I am trying to play it the same way I played high school, by not excluding anyone and by not trying to hide who I am. Nevertheless this book might give me insight on the adult cliques and snits that I might encounter. While the book is trying to stand-alone I have been a bit overwhelmed in the first chapter as she seems to use a lot of jargon that I might grasp better if I had read her first book. I want to read it because I know I will have to deal with some of difficult situations in the future, like bullying and conflict management with a teacher or other authority figure and I want to go in well prepared. I'll report back if I decide to abandoned this one till I read the first.