Adventures in Subbing #5

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“I just wanted to know what it felt like to be someone you look at.” – Ove, from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

 

 

 

 

 

Last year I was witness to a modern day middle school dance. I use the term dance loosely. It was more like a sweaty, sugar high, hormone fest. I never attended a dance until the Prom my senior year, unless you count square dancing in fourth grade.

However, some things don’t change. We all want to know what it feels like to be the one someone else wants to look at. To be someone that a special someone else wants to be with.

(edited/reposted)

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Shopworn Words

stuart miles

graphic-stuart miles

In a book by Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, she says this about language:

“If our vocabulary dwindles to a few shopworn words, we are setting ourselves up for takeover by a dictator.”

Now, at first glance that seems a little overboard. But, when you think about it she makes a great point. I know I am ashamed of my lack of vocabulary. I’ve tried, and failed, to incorporate some kind of self-help ritual to learn new words. But, I won’t give up; I’ll persevere in my efforts. I do not want to fall to a despot. I do not want my lack of good words to allow me to be usurped.

My facebook/twitter-pal and ex-Bhamian (is that a word? well, now it is), Mandy Shunnarah, used to post a word a week;  such as words like youthquake and pablum. She is onto something.

 

 

So, are you with us? Take up the vocabulary yoke!

Pulses

 

ew (1)“Childhood’s learning is made of moments. It isn’t steady. It’s a pulse.”

~ Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings

 

 

 

I can remember random moments from childhood and now wonder, were they learning moments?

I remember when I was five being frightened of the man next door, the father of an older girl I played with, who pushed his wife down as she was ironing. She already had a cast on her leg. He knelt down to try to comfort me, to tell me it was okay. I knew not to trust him.

When my older brother and I got in trouble and were banished to our separate bedrooms, we got our little brother to be a messenger, passing notes between us. These notes consisted of stick figures doing silly things. I learned my brothers would be my friends for life, though not without a few rough patches.

Fast forward to fourth grade and the learning didn’t feel like a pulse. Long division felt like a long, slow drip-drip-drip in a bucket. A bucket with a hole in it; for just when I thought I was finished with a problem, I’d discover my numbers weren’t lined up properly and I would have to start all over again. Recently I think some of my students have fely this as they have become friends with the seam-ripper in thier efforts to make pillowcases and aprons.

Many of my learning moments came through books. The horrors of the Holocaust came through the eyes and words of Anne Frank and Corrie Ten Boom; the horrors of child abuse from A Child Called It and Sybil. But before these books, there was Little Women, where I first got the idea that I’d like to write. I wanted to be Jo. That desire has waxed and waned over the years, as motherhood and making ends meet took precedence. I know many have been able to work, mother, and write concurrently, and I did to some extent, in pulses like my childhood learning.

But now the writing flame has been fanned and I need it more than ever. I don’t want it to go out.

A Thought From All the Light We Cannot See

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“Werner thinks of his childhood, the skeins of coal dust suspended in the air on winter mornings…” from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

For some reason, this stirred a childhood memory of milk. For a very short time when we first moved to Jacksonville, FL, we had our milk delivered by the “milkman”. On our front porch sat a metal crate where we would leave our empty bottles and take delivery of fresh milk. I remember the tops were sealed with thick paper lids. This milk was probably from Skinner’s Dairy, a hometown company that later built numerous drive-thru milk stores across Jacksonville.

In north Florida it didn’t get cold very often, but there were some winter mornings when we were excited to be able to see our breath in the chilly air. There was one winter I’ll always remember as the temperature got down in  the upper teens and our heat went out. Our dad was out of town at the time on one of his many business trips. We bundled up and played outside anyway. The very large ditch – like a creek – behind our house was frozen on the top. Our friend’s little dog, Ginger, skittered across easily. Our dog, Dixie, followed her and went right through to the icy water.

Other fall and winter days were filled with my brothers playing football in the front yard and a few evening fires in our fireplace. In high school it was a time to wear stylish sweaters to school, then go outside for PE in the short gym suits we had to wear. I remember being teased about the chill bumps on my legs – referred to as chicken skin.

After moving to Birmingham in 2014, I was so excited about our first fall and winter. Sweaters and boots and scarves were so much fun! But, then it seemed to last forever and I yearned for the warmth of spring.

Last year, summer far outlasted its welcome. And this year we’ve had our share of hurricanes in the south. Now I long once more for the cool air and some justification for a pumpkin spice latte.

Step Back in Time

 

Last year I read some wonderful books set during World War II. Besides being drawn in to care for the characters and having to google location images, I learned a bit of history along the way. The following is a brief review on my selections.

 

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All the Light We Cannot See

Set mostly in France, this heart-wrenching story follows two main characters: blind Marie-Laure whose father works for the Museum of Natural History in Paris, and Werner, an orphan recruited into the Nazi army. “Seeing” the war through blind eyes was interesting. Marie Laure’s father made a model of their city so that she could eventually earn her way around unaided. Later, he had to do it all over again in a new town, but this time his model was more than just a way to help his daughter. It also held a secret.
Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s paths eventually crossed, as I hoped they would. But it was a bittersweet timing.

pot (1)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This story was a little more light hearted, yet still contained moments of sadness that can’t be avoided in war. Written in the form of letters between the main character, Juliet Ashton and others who were a part of her life, this one has an element of romance sprinkled in with the courage shown by those who faced wartime with tenacity and tenderness. The “society” was a cover story made up on the fly, but one which led to a community coming together under the bond of reading. This one is a book lover’s delight!

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Suite Francaise

Written in 1939, it was the last work of Irene Nemirosky, who met her untimely death in a concentration camp before she finished this work. It’s almost too full of characters, so it needs to be read carefully. I often found myself backtracking to pick up storylines or remind myself who the characters were. Still, it is an interesting take on a side of war that we don’t often see. It shows what happens to those who aren’t on the front lines, but at home, forced to house the enemy. Yet, sometimes the enemy seems like a friend.

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Once There Was a War

The only non-fiction work on my list, it was easy to read Steinbeck’s collection of his news articles. Sometimes I breezed through the technical military aspects, but I got the jist of them. There is something about his style that makes you feel like he’s sitting across the table telling you about his day.

If you want to brush up on your history and lose yourself in a good book, any of these would make an excellent choice!

 

 

 

 

 

Step Back in Time

Last year I read some wonderful books set during World War II. Besides being drawn in to care for the characters and having to google location images, I learned a bit of history along the way. The following is a brief review on my selections.

all-the-light-we-cannot-see-9781476746586_hr (1)

 

All the Light We Cannot See

Set mostly in France, this heart-wrenching story follows two main characters: blind Marie-Laure whose father works for the Museum of Natural History in Paris, and Werner, an orphan recruited into the Nazi army. “Seeing” the war through blind eyes was interesting. Marie Laure’s father made a model of their city so that she could eventually earn her way around unaided. Later, he had to do it all over again in a new town, but this time his model was more than just a way to help his daughter. It also held a secret.
Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s paths eventually crossed, as I hoped they would. But it was a bittersweet timing.

pot (1)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This story was a little more light hearted, yet still contained moments of sadness that can’t be avoided in war. Written in the form of letters between the main character, Juliet Ashton and others who were a part of her life, this one has an element of romance sprinkled in with the courage shown by those who faced wartime with tenacity and tenderness. The “society” was a cover story made up on the fly, but one which led to a community coming together under the bond of reading. This one is a book lover’s delight!

sf (1)

Suite Francaise

Written in 1939, it was the last work of Irene Nemirosky, who met her untimely death in a concentration camp before she finished this work. It’s almost too full of characters, so it needs to be read carefully. I often found myself backtracking to pick up storylines or remind myself who the characters were. Still, it is an interesting take on a side of war that we don’t often see. It shows what happens to those who aren’t on the front lines, but at home, forced to house the enemy. Yet, sometimes the enemy seems like a friend.

once (1)

Once There Was a War

The only non-fiction work on my list, it was easy to read Steinbeck’s collection of his news articles. Sometimes I breezed through the technical military aspects, but I got the jist of them. There is something about his style that makes you feel like he’s sitting across the table telling you about his day.

If you want to brush up on your history and lose yourself in a good book, any of these would make an excellent choice!

Dream On

 

“Cancel subscriptions to Southern Living, Veranda and Southern Lady magazines”

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– I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

In Flagg’s book, the main character, Maggie Fortenberry, is making plans to kill herself, but she just can’t leave the world without putting everything in order first, including canceling her magazine subscriptions. I am familiar with all three of these magazines; in fact, Southern Living and Southern Lady are both published right here in Birmingham. In another fact, I worked for Southern Lady for two whole weeks. But, that’s a long story for another day.

The bad thing for me about magazines like these is the desires they stir up. Everything is lovely and perfect… and usually expensive. Granted, there is a lot of good information between the pages, such as gardening tips and recipes. But, then again, I don’t have a green thumb and don’t cook like I used to. Maggie Fortenberry didn’t really garden or cook, either. So, why do we get these magazines?

Sometimes it’s fun to just dream. We think about houses we’d like to live in one day, places we’d like to visit, clothes that are lovely. Others of us get inspired: I could make a table like that; I could paint my room that color; I could visit that town on a budget. There is a lot of potential good if we peruse the pages with a little common sense. Or, we can just cancel those subscriptions altogether.