Sunday, September 29, 2013

every book has it's time

i can finally say i've read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.  and i'd have to say i enjoyed it.  reading it even made me climb into the attic to see if i saved my Golden Book Children's Classics.  (i didn't, simplicity clashes with nostalgia at times).  and i think what initially got me curious was the whole raft and canoe connection with a river and sense of personal adventure, having had both this summer.  there are a whole host of books that one is "supposed to have read" that i've never cracked open.  since life is short and there's nothing worse than spending time reading something you're not interested in, however, i think it best to let one of those types of classics find you if and when it wants to.  i also can't help thinking that good ol' samuel clemens wrote a lot of himself into both huck finn and tom sawyer.  smart of him to request that his real autobiography come out 100 years after his death to "make sure that people he wrote about were also safely gone" (takes the messiness out of memoir).  i've even stayed in the mark twain room at the sylvia beach hotel.  decorated in his style and filled with his novels, the room itself is a piece of history.  i thought it strange, however, that just as i was getting ready for bed i smelled wafting cigar smoke.  probably coincidence?  at any rate, just like huck's saving someone, telling the truth or having an adventure, every book has it's time too.  p.s.  if this book finds you, i hope it's one with illustrations.

in praise of naps

"i count it as an absolute certainty that in paradise, everyone naps.  a nap is a perfect pleasure and it's useful, too.  it splits the day into two halves, making each half more managable and enjoyable.  how much easier it is to work in the morning if we know we have a nap to look forward to after lunch; and how much more pleasant the late afternoon and evening become after a little sleep.  if you know there is a nap to come later in the day, then you can banish forever that terrible sense of doom one feels at 9 am with eight hours of straight toil ahead.  not only that, but the nap can offer a glimpse into a twilight nether world where gods play and dreams happen." --excerpt from How To Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson

Saturday, September 21, 2013

a gardener named june

i love attending the annual cottage tour held in cannon beach!  one of the last stops of the day was a master gardener's.  nosing around, i peeked into her garden shed and found a poem called "tending" tacked to the wall with a photo of flowers.  i'm glad i took the time to read it and snap a photo of the last stanza.  i wish i had written down the author, so as to give credit where credit is due for these beautiful lines, "it makes me wonder, standing on well-worn planks, wrapped in softened light, how much we ever know of love before it flowers.  what lies behind our gardens of desire?  is it inchoate energy that bursts forth into splendor?  if we are born to labor in the vineyards of the Lord, i come to know June, here, where her odd treasures, her gardening secrets, are all stored." 

escape from mr. lemoncello's library

want a just plain fun book to read?  try "escape from mr. lemoncello's library" by chris grabenstein.  chris is the coauthor (with james patterson) of the new york times bestseller "i funny" and has written for jim henson's muppets as well as being a playwright and improvisational comedian.  filled with puzzles and riddles that actually help teach people about library history and use in fun ways, this book also makes fun allusions to other books and plays with titles in very witty ways.  even the author's note is fun (how many times can i use the word fun in this entry?), "is the game really over?  maybe not.  there is one more puzzle in the book that wasn't in the story (although a clue about how to find it was!) if you figure out the solution, let me know.  send an email to"  the mystery continues...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

ah, book club

admittedly, my reading pace has slowed down with the start of school, but not my enjoyment!  i'm more eager than ever to read because it's not necessarily an all-day luxury anymore.  book club starts up tonight, whereupon i will have a chance to catch up and read items of my choosing...favorite sections of the Oregonian, the latest edition of Portland Monthly magazine and get started on my fun stack.  right now that includes "Through the Children's Gate" by Adam Gopnick and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.  the one i'm most excited about, however, is an elementary-middle school level book about kids escaping from Mr. Lemoncello's library; published this year, it's filled with allusions to modern books and puzzles to solve.  a student told me about a new book she's really enjoying by Lois Lowry, an author i'm familiar with, but a title i hadn't heard of yet:  "Gossamer".  so yes, my renewals will be more frequent, buying me time which i shall savor like fine chocolate...long live book club!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

your brain on creativity

one thing i've always wanted to do was watch my brain work while i was thinking.  "this is your brain," they'd say, "and this is your brain on creativity."  it's what i call 'the zone'.  time as we know it ceases to exist, you're in a state of heightened focus, and you and what you're doing blend into one continuous action.  it's important.  it's relaxing.  and it's something we hardly ever get.  i heard someone say recently, speaking of simplicity, that they didn't think we were meant to be filled with too many details of varying sizes.  for example, can we really attend well to simultaneous thoughts and news items such as the middle east crisis (global/macro) AND what sandra bullock wore yesterday (individual/micro)?  or, say, the latest ways to cut our mortgage fees AND the cute puppy trick that someone captured on youtube?  i think you get my some point we have to focus on something, which means there are a lot of other things that we are filtering out.  it seems that the ability to do this is lessening as the stiumuli increases and i'm wondering what it's doing to our brains.  a life coach once gave our team a chart with four quadrants labeled:  urgent/not important, not urgent/important, urgent/important and not urgent/not important.  she challenged us to spend the majority of our time on the things in the square labeled "not urgent/important", such as planning time, exercise; the things that get easily crowded sometimes by what's right in front of us.  "attend to a crisis, obviously," she said, (speaking of the urgent/important), "and then get right back to investing in the things that pay the long-term benefits."  people paid her a lot of money to tell them this and then ask them if they did it.  so, no doubt sandra bullock rocked the pink dress, but i think i hear my exercise shoes calling me.  and then i'm going to read, maybe draw; spend some time in "the zone".  this is your brain.  this is your brain on happy.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


that's all it needed to say on the coffee shop window:  psl.  yes, last weekend i had my first pumpkin spice latte of the year.  but that doesn't mean that summer is over!  far from it, in fact. and just because the other evening i got caught walking out in the most torrential rain that ever pelted on my person, hair stuck to my face and such a drowned sopping mess that people i don't even know were offering me shelter (two days later, my shoes are not dry yet) i still think we get some of our very nicest nw weather in september and october and i plan to enjoy every moment.  furthermore, i think it is even possible to keep a summer state of mind no matter what season we're in.  it's a daily choice to be calm.  i've noticed how frenetically the world rushes by and i've written a few things down to make sure that i keep everlasting sunshine in my mental outlook.  1) hunt down what you liked about the day and share it with someone, ask them in return 2) if you are grateful for someone, tell them so and be specific 3) share your toys 4) if you get something new, give two things away 5) listen well and offer up things that are important to you 6) ask for what you need 7) leave open-ended time when possible 8) know thyself and plan accordingly 9) when in doubt drink water, eat healthy food, move your body and sleep, things will look better in the morning 10) repeat all of the above.  there's plenty of time, plenty of fun and yes, plenty of pumpkin spice to go around. 

the class

two weeks of in-service under our belts, we had our first week of school!  all of a sudden, friday nights speak to me of pizza and movies.  on one hand, teachers are too tired for wild forays by this time in the week *leave room for exceptions, every week is different!  on the other hand, you don't just want to do nothing...but you do want to be passive, not in hence the birth of the pizza-movie pairing (instant food and escapist entertainment).  to celebrate first-friday style, i got into oversized sweats and broke out the popcorn to watch "the class" a film by laurent cantent.  if anything, it made me thankful for my school.  it was almost too-real for my evening and not as escaptist as i'd hoped; documentary-like (french with english subtitles so you can at least read the insults the kids are hurling at mr. marin) about a tough inner-city middle school in paris.  it was an academy award nominee for best foreign language film and palm d'or winner 2008 at the cannes film festival, and is based on francois begaudeau's best-selling autobiographical novel of the same title. clearing my dishes and shuffling off to dreamland, i promised myself out loud that i would not be dashing off to france to teach middle school, glamorous as it may sound in theory, the grass is green enough right here under my very own teaching shoes, merci very much...