Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Family, Babies and Painting

I had a busy weekend.  Correction, Sunday and Monday were busy.  Saturday was busy in the catch up on laundry kind of way.  Nothing exciting there, although I did get to meet some of the new neighbors as I gave them a ride into town.  Not having a vehicle is a pain, and it is something I remember well so I'm more than willing to help people out.
An older pic of Oneida Lake, NY.  At sunrise no less.

Sunday I joined my mother and my youngest brother for a road trip to Syracuse, New York.  I'm not sure why we say that, because we actually go above that city to a little country area just outside the village of West Monroe.  I used to really enjoy driving or riding through that city, this country girl who secretly loves cities was always so impressed.  Now, after seeing New York City, Syracuse kind of pales in comparison.  My brother and I had good conversation on the way up, including a run down on the Hunger Games as he knows nothing about them and hasn't seen the movies.

Because of the side trip into Cicero for the church service we were attending, I missed my favorite bit of scenery anyway and that was going across the bridge over Oneida Lake.  It scared me as a child, but that changed the older I became and the vast body of water fascinates me.  I had been planning on video taping it this time as we crossed it, but I failed to let the driver know and by the time I realized we were taking a different route there was no point in speaking up.

This was the first time I've attended a church service in I don't know how many years.  Well, there was my sister's baptism last summer but that wasn't a "normal" service so I don't know that it counts.  There was music that time, but no sermon as they had people give testimonies instead.  It was ok. This past Sunday was ok as well, although it was different.  I'm not precisely sure how the Vineyard churches operate, but instead of having a different pastor for each church and a different message each Sunday, they stream the head pastor in from where ever he's at.  I'd never experienced something like that and I'm still undecided as to how I feel about it.  Not that it matters, it's not my church.

We were there to support my cousin Lawrence as he dedicated his youngest two children to the Lord.  An act that maybe took two minutes.  I wasn't timing it, honest, as I was too busy fighting with my iPhone so that I could snap a picture!  It kept telling me that I didn't have enough room in memory!  What?  I just deleted pictures not that long ago!  I've had problems with my phone ever since I upgraded to IOS 7; I really need a new phone to go along with the software upgrade!

From left to right: Tim holding his son Gabriel; 
Serena and her nephew Alex; Leland;
Rebecca holding niece Paige - being dedicated; 
Lawrence holding daughter Hailey - also being dedicated .
Standing up with my cousin Lawrence as godparents for the little girls his wife left behind was his twin brother and sister-in-law, Leland and Becky and their oldest sister Serena and her husband Tim.  I have to be honest, the entire custody issue with Lawrence and the little girls confuse me somewhat, but I'll save that until my joint post with my cohort next week.  CP has it started already, and I'm supposed to provide the logical perspective since I don't have children of my own.  Trust me, I heard all about how I need to catch the baby germ while visiting my family!  That post should be up some time mid-week of next week.

We spent the day with my New York relatives, eating up popcorn and looking at the Tim and Serena's pictures from their mission trip to Haiti.  They went in January while their home state of Indiana was getting a blizzard.  Of course, they had stories to go with most of the pictures.  Even pictures that had been lost were mentioned - like the little boy who wouldn't let them take his picture until he had bathed and put on his good clothes, even though bathing meant he had to draw the water from the village well and heat it as well.  The things we take for granted here in the US!

It was late when I arrived back home, after 11pm and I was ever so glad that Monday was another "dark day" and I didn't have to be up at 4:15 the next morning.  As tired as I was, I stayed up until midnight watching videos on YouTube while waiting for Mr. Janney to come to bed.

Painting black on black...
Since I didn't have to work on Monday, I decided to help Mr. Janney with his latest project with the welder.  Painting a twenty foot trailer.  Black.  On black.  He had already done the undercoat and was ready for the first layer of regular paint.  There was no way to tell where we left off painting when we renewed the paint on our rollers except to remember where we had stopped.  It was a fun challenge, to be sure.

I enjoy working with my husband.  It's something I miss from when we used to work at the Daily Review together (where we met).  Part of me regrets that we changed employers, but we have to do what pays the bills the best.  And where I'm at now does pay better, even working four days a week.  They're hoping the market is changing so that we'll start working five days again.  As long as our daily hours go down so that we're not working 9 or 9 and half hours I'll be okay with that; we've worked 9 and a half so far this week and my body is telling me all about!  That extra half hour may not seem like much, but it does have an affect.

I'm going to eave you with a short short video of my cousin Serena blowing bubbles for her son Gabriel and her niece Hailey.

What about you readers?  Do you like to travel?  What's the farthest you've ever traveled to spend time with family?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Road Trip Memories: Washington DC By C.P. Stringham

Government Girl standing at the podium after meeting
Secretary Kerry at the 100th orientation class graduation ceremony. And, yes, she's wearing a pantsuit. 
Maybe Hillary left it behind.
My friend, Government Girl, was struck by Cupid’s arrow last year. While thrilled for her, a committed relationship with G.I. Joe required her to relocate to the DC area—a five-hour car ride away. She assured us the move may take some time pending her job search, which meant there was plenty of time for more Girls’ Nights. Only that wasn’t the case. Being an intelligent and very capable woman, it didn’t take long for her to receive job offers even in a poor job market. The most appealing offer came from the U.S. Department of State, specifically, their Office of Diplomatic Security Mobile Security Deployments. In essence, her boss is Secretary of State John Kerry. Government Girl has taken to her new life with aplomb and verve—just as our tight-knit circle of friends knew she would. We have all missed her terribly since she left.
Together, with Government Girl’s aunt and cousin, my oldest daughter and I made plans last fall for a double mother/daughter road trip to visit her this spring. Our original weekend was planned to coincide with the annual March Kite Festival in DC, but fell through and we rescheduled. We lucked out with our new date because we arrived in time to see Washington’s famous cherry blossoms at their brilliant peak. To top it off, the weather, which was horrible two weeks earlier (the weekend of the Kite Festival,) was perfect for the Cherry Blossom Festival. We drove to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and met up with Aunt Babs and Poli-Sci Ellie. Aunt Babs, a former resident of Manhattan, drove the entire way from Bethlehem to DC, handling rush hour traffic like it was a simple Sunday drive. The woman is completely unflappable behind the wheel. Meanwhile, I was in the rear seat breathing into a paper bag. Five lanes of bumper to bumper traffic on the Beltway ain’t for the faint-hearted.
Government Girl greeted us with a glass of Merlot.
We arrived at Government Girl’s in time for dinner. Our happy reunion was held over bowls of delicious ratatouille paired with crusty bread and glasses of Merlot—lots of Merlot. As the sun set, we adjourned to the deck and sat around a gas-powered outdoor fireplace. G.I. Joe came home shortly thereafter from coaching his son’s game and introductions were made. It was the first time my daughter and I had met him. I’ll admit, I was more than a little curious about him. The protective side of me needed to know my dear friend had found the right guy for her. He proved himself worthy and then some as the three-day weekend progressed. I mean, how many men would put up with having their home invaded by four extra women? That’s a lot of estrogen under one roof! He turned out to be an excellent host. And the man makes a killah cheesecake with blueberry reduction sauce!! Yum. Can you say keeper?!
On Saturday morning, we drove from Maryland to a nearby Metro station and took the train into DC. Having a retired Marine along is a lot like having your own personal security detail. G.I. Joe made sure his charges were always following along and safe as we made our way from the Metro and out into the crowded city streets. The annual Cherry Blossom Parade and Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival brings an average of 100,000 extra attendees from around the world. This was a first time visit to DC for my oldest and me and we were totally excited about it. She and I can be a tad political at times. I let her stay home from school the day Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as the first female Speaker of the House so she could watch it on C-SPAN. We had so many items on our list of things to see that we had to slim it down. There simply weren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. The crowds kept us away from the actual Tidal Basin, but even without moving closer, there was a sea of pink blossoms as far as the eye could see and plenty of cherry trees planted throughout. I snapped 196 pictures just by walking the National Mall. The architecture is astounding. The museums, offices, and memorials were all within short walking distance. Each Smithsonian building has no admission fee. Where else can you see museum collections for free? Every capable American should take advantage of this and see the treasures they offer on display. It was all truly incredible to experience our Nation’s Capital in such a way and I’m so glad I got to do it with my daughter. I have to admit, as an avid fan of the former NBC show The West Wing, I half expected to see Josh Lyman jogging along the Reflecting Pool or Leo McGarry shaking hands with a U.S. Senator up on Capitol Hill. Speaking of Capitol Hill, my daughter was in awe of the Capitol Building. She said to me, “I’m going to work there someday.” I reminded her she needed to overcome her dislike of cities. But a girl can still dream, can’t she?  
L-R: Government Girl, Poli-Sci Ellie, and Aunt Babs enjoying the fabulous DC weather in the National Mall. Poli-Sci Ellie reading some of the names at the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. Our group heading to Capitol Hill for dinner at We, the Pizza. 
The most memorable part of our DC tour came about when we encountered our first Honor Flight veteran at the World War II Memorial. For those unfamiliar, Honor Flight Network is a program in which veterans from World War II are flown in to see the 2004 memorial that was erected in their honor. Honor Flight Network is a nonprofit organization dependent entirely on donations. It does not receive any funding from our government.  Data from the Department of Veterans Affairs states that we lose an estimated 640 World War II veterans a day. Due to their advanced years, for many, this trip to the memorial will be their last adventure. To date, Honor Flight Network has flown over 100,000 veterans into DC.
My friend, Michele McDonald, heard about my upcoming trip to DC and was quick to tell me to be sure and “hug a veteran.” She knows all about Honor Flight Network. She lives in nearby Richmond, Virginia and has recently completed her second turn as a “guardian.” Guardians are approved volunteers who are asked to accompany and treat the Honor Flight veterans assigned to them as if they are a member of their family and, while Michele lives nearby, there are other guardians making the trip from other states who have to pay their own travel expenses. It’s the guardian’s job to ensure each veteran has “a safe, memorable, and rewarding experience,” per their webpage at I asked Michele how she heard about the program. She said, “My husband had been watching FOX News interviewing the director of this movie called Honor Flight - One Last Mission. It was going to be playing locally here and he asked if I wanted to go. It was about WWII. I thought I'd just tag along. This movie just sucked me in and I thought to myself, ‘I have to be a part of this—for the Veterans.’ I have never before been so passionate about anything like this.” Michele will be going on her next Honor Flight Network “mission” in two weeks. She notes that you may not always get picked to go, but she has been fortunate so far and picked each time. Eleven missions have been run from Richmond to date. I asked her how it felt to be a guardian and she told me about her first experience and what it was like from the moment they departed the buses. Honor Flight volunteers known as “ground crew” greeted the WWII veterans and their guardians. Many of the ground crew members are veterans of the Vietnam War. Michele added, “They (ground crew volunteers) started hugging these men and women. Bending down to wheelchair level and saying thank you and spending time to talk with them. The general public was wondering what was going on. And then, it was like the parting of the waters…people just moved to both sides and started clapping and thanking these folks. Even little kids! That’s when I really got choked up! I was sooo proud to be amongst these men and women. I felt like I was the fortunate one and a true American.” Michele notes that it is a truly gratifying and overwhelming experience. Many of the veterans require extra assistance being pushed in wheelchairs or helped with their walkers. EMT’s even have to be brought in to help with others needing specialized care with oxygen tanks and such. Michele’s last veteran talked to her about his career as if he was just “one of the guys.” He was part of the United States Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team and planted explosives underwater. Michele urged me to imagine what it must have been like to be a scuba diver back then and the equipment they used. Although he wanted to come across as “one of the guys” to Michele, the other veterans in his group made sure she knew he later made the rank of admiral! Michele was quick to say she highly recommends this wonderful organization to others who wish to volunteer their time as a guardian. She’d really like to see folks in the 20-30 age group get involved so they could hear, firsthand, what these amazing veterans went through in order for them to live in a free country. From the moment the public greets them Michele says, “They feel so proud. So loved. So unforgotten. You're not human if you don't tear up at that point!”
Michele volunteering as a guardian for Honor Flight Network. L-R: With Former Senator Bob Dole who tries to attend each Honor Flight mission to greet the veterans. With veteran Harold. With veteran Wally--The Admiral!! 
   Government Girl's dad, Poppa Don, served tours of duty in Vietnam with the United States Air Force. Poppa Don was career military, serving for many years and they moved from base to base as a family.  My father-in-law served in Vietnam with the United States Army. For Government Girl and me, greeting the veterans at the memorial was a very emotional experience. Just from saying seven simple words: “Thank you for your service and bravery.” My daughter overheard a guardian say to her wheelchair-bound veteran, “Boy, you’re famous! Have you ever met so many strangers in one day?” “No,” he replied with a chuckle. Hands down, witnessing the Honor Flight Network in action, was my favorite part of our tour and it will be a memory that stays with me always.
A great mother/daughter road trip. L-R: My Daughter and me with the Washington Memorial. Cherry blossoms and the architectural beauty of the Capitol Building. Park on Capitol Hill. 

Our trip to visit Government Girl was incredible. A nice, relaxing time of catching up, eating tasty food, meeting G.I. Joe, and feeling like part of the family. I feel
good about Government Girl’s new life. I know she is content and well cared for. In all honesty, her Marine has her spoiled rotten—and, well, good for her! She deserves it. Maybe next time we’ll visit the Smithsonian.    

Monday, April 14, 2014

Facing Our Fears by Robin Janney

Jaclyn loves going along on rides with us!
Talk about a tough act to follow!  After reading C.P.'s post from last week, I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out how I could even begin to match her excellent post!  She and I have vastly different lives and sometimes I feel so booooring! I work a demanding full time job, and don't even have children so I can't share any anecdotes of that nature.  I have a husband and a dog.  Granted, Jaclyn's a cute dog...and a perpetual toddler in many ways.

As I thought about it, C.P.'s delightful post was about a common motherly fear of lettering the first child leave the nest.  While it is something I can't identify with, I have my own fears.

One I do share with my writing cohort and that is neither one of us is fond of public speaking.  Give me a script and ask me to act out a character, and I am all for it!  I love being in plays or skits, though I haven't been for years.  Oddly enough for a woman of my size, I once belonged to a church dance group.  But ask me to be myself in front of people, regardless of whether I know them or not, and my heart starts doing double time!  In fact, in tenth grade I was so afraid of getting up in front of my classmates that I reused to give a mandatory speech for English class.  If I didn't do it, I wouldn't pass the tenth grade.  In the end, I was allowed to give it to just the English teacher in the principal's office on the last day of school.  It was enough to allow that wall to begin to come down; in fact, for eleventh grade not only did I give the speech for that year with no problem, but managed to be so persuading about mental abuse being a legitimate form of abuse that I was called into the school's Guidance Office to make sure I was okay!!

Stronger together!
Back on the 5th, when C.P. and I gave our presentation at the library, I had the stray thought that my tenth grade teacher would have been so proud of me.  She is no longer with us, so if those who have passed on into another life are truly aware of current events, it may well be that she is. And no doubt, she delights in the irony of it.  She was a great lover of irony in storytelling.

She may have despaired over my actual execution of my side of the presentation, but she would have been proud nonetheless.

There is strength in numbers, and together C.P. and I pulled it off.  There was a decent crowd that day, not too many and not too few.  More chairs were filled than empty.  We fielded some good questions afterward, which was it's own satisfaction.  It's always nice to know that people are genuinely interested in what you're talking about.  Not like those days back in school when not only were we required to give speeches, but we were also required to listen to the speeches of our classmates.  There were even a few 'after' questions, when the time was up and the people began to disperse except for the few that wanted to talk to us one on one.  I can only hope we were able to clear up the one gentleman's belief that Kindle Direct Publishing charges us for our self-publication!

Over on my own blog, I touched on one of my other fears.  Last summer, in my first attempt to operate one of my in-laws four wheelers, I managed to run myself over with the machine.  No, really, I did.  I took a turn too sharp and hit a pile of logs hidden in the high grass of their field.  It threw me off balance, and dummy me put a foot on the ground in a futile attempt steady the machine.  Not my brightest moment.  I ended up falling off the machine, with my leg getting tangles up with the foot rest and the back tire ran my ankle over.  I did one smart thing though, I got back on the machine and drove it back down to the trailer so that I could get a better idea at my injuries.  Largely just bruised, although the side of my leg was sorely scraped by the foot rest.  I am truly lucky I didn't snap my neck when I fell.
All set to ride...

For the rest of the summer, I only rode behind Mr. Janney when we went out for rides.  But fears are meant to be faced.  This past Saturday was a delightful day here in NE PA.  The weather was beautiful, as it is today on Sunday as I begin this post.  Sunshiny and warm.  Neither Mr. Janney or I wanted to stay indoors and we spent most of the day outside up to his parents.  And yes, once again I got back on the beast that had dumped me and I rode it around.

And had a blast!  I zipped up and down the field you see behind me in the picture I've shared.  Well, ten miles per hour may not seem like much in a car, but on a four wheeler it was enough for me!  Sometimes I did reach as high as fifteen and twenty.  I followed my husband as he broke me into easy forest trails. The end goal of all this is to get me comfortable enough on the machines so that I can go on the mountain trails with him.  I doubt I will ever be as bold as he is; the times that I've ridden double with him in the past, he's taken some pretty harrowing trails.

Thankfully, he was smart enough to keep it easy on Saturday.  I trusted him to remember that I was a newb and he did.  And then his parents came home and his father joined us in our fun.  And my sense of adventure, which is tentative at best, was put to the test.  Father Janney wanted to know if his son had taken me on any of the mountain trails yet.  The answer was no, not solo. We'd gone up early riding double, but even then we hadn't gone all the way up.  So it was that Father Janney talked me into taking on the mountain.  Being the beginner, I was placed in the middle.  He would lead and my husband would follow behind.  All I had to do was follow his tracks.

Easier said than done!

Especially when the trail we were on was rocky in places!

But I did it!!

It may not seem like much to some, but for this country raised girl who wasn't raised with any kind of ATV's, it was a proud moment.  And let me tell you, going UP the mountain was far easier than coming back DOWN!  Some part of the trail were steep, and the angle was a bit intimidating. I can't help being afraid, I will almost always be afraid of height's...but I can decide how I'm going to handle that fear.  It won't rule my life.  It won't stop me from having fun and learning new things!

Just waiting for all this to turn green!!
Part of me regrets not taking my phone along with me on my rides, so that I could have captured some impressive scenery.  We saw at least two deer on our first trail, and when we were out with Father Janney we saw a grouse in the brush.  And the view from that high up, without leaves on the, just wow.  The pic that I've posted is a portion of their lower fields, the easiest part of the rides.  But the other part of me loved being free from my phone for the afternoon.  Indeed, I barely went on Facebook at all yesterday, even before we arrived at his parents.  And it was wonderful!!  Maybe next time I'll take the camera along and see if I can't capture some of that awe inspiring serenity.  Maybe...  ;)

What about you, dear readers?  What fears have you overcome?  What fears do you still battle?

Monday, April 7, 2014

But I Don't Want to Grow Up!! By C.P. Stringham

My Best Friend and me.
My oldest is a high school junior. Not only do I love her because I’m her momma, but I love her for the young woman she has become. My husband and I really can’t take all of the credit for the end product we’re seeing. While we know a good upbringing, in a loving and supportive home, plays a role into creating a thoughtful, kind human being, so much also happens in the outside world to shape them as well. Situations they are placed in during the school day can have a large influence on who they will become. Let’s face it, as parents, we can’t be with our children to coach them on their decisions all the time. We need to have faith in their ability to choose right from wrong. Trust that the values and lessons we’ve instilled them with are used in the process.

I worked outside of the home when Syd was little. We were fortunate to have a wonderful private babysitter whose family loved her like she was one of their own. On my days off, I maximized every moment spent with her. She was this amazing sponge. I found that even while I worked on household chores, she was content being set up nearby with her toys or craft items and interacting with me. The sponge part comes into play because I could say almost anything to her and she’d retain it. By two years old, she could count to twenty in English, Spanish, and German. Learned her colors in English and Spanish. We sang together all the time. Itsy Bitsy Spider was her favorite. Syd spent most of her time around adults. Even when the opportunity to play with kids her own age came about, she usually abandoned them to hang out with the adults—although she was terribly shy. It took her forever to warm up to others. Instead of interacting with new acquaintances, she preferred observation. Her vocabulary was incredible and, at times, colorful.   

The first day of kindergarten was hard on both of us. I had to take her to Mr. Gorman’s classroom with her wrapped around my leg, limping along, while she screamed her head off, “No! No, Mommy! Don’t leave meeeeee!!” Gut-wrenching. I was crying as badly as she was. Thankfully, Mr. Gorman, a fresh-eyed new teacher, was kind, patient, and creative in getting her to come out of her shell. As she matriculated, my husband and I loved watching the evolution of our daughter The Student. Many say it takes a village to raise a child. I will go so far as saying it takes a school to raise a child. Syd has had many wonderful teachers. With some, it goes beyond the standard classroom lessons and special shout outs should go to Mrs. Sherwood, Mrs. Heffron, Mr. Nichols, Mr. Learn, Mrs. Stern, Mr. Hafer, Mrs. Stropko, Mrs. Silverstrim, and Mrs. Bustin. *I needed to add Ms. Duncan, Ms. Acla, Mrs. Hill, and Mr. Wakely--4/8/14* These select educators are the ones responsible for molding the young adult her father and I see today. Education is about more than jamming specific facts down a student’s throat for standardized testing regurgitation at a later date. It’s about amazing teachers selflessly giving 110% of their time to their students. Going that extra mile. Daily lessons can be fun, interesting, and inspiring. A teacher’s passion (or lack thereof) for their subject is infectious. They challenge, encourage participation and even want a good debate when appropriate. They know that valuable skills like organizing, prioritizing, self-motivating, and giving and receiving respect are just as crucial as reading, writing, and arithmetic.  A student’s success is their success and brings on a tremendous amount of pride. Syd keeps in touch with some of her past teachers since true friendships have developed.

L to R: Mrs. Stropko, Lesley (her BFF since Kindergarten,) and Syd dressed as famous women in history (Syd was Margaret Thatcher.) Seeing The Iron Lady. Being inducted into National Social Studies Honor Society. 

Syd has other amazing people in her “village” who have helped shape her. Obviously, there would be too many to go into detail, but I would be remiss to leave out a few from this blog post. Her godmother, Andrea, was present for her birth. As a labor and delivery nurse by profession, she served as more than just friend/godmother/coach. She assisted with bringing her into the world and her nurturing hand has been a constant in Syd’s life ever since. Syd’s honorary grandmother, Andrea’s mom, Inge, has been another dynamic force in her life. My friends, Michelle, Vivian, and Jennifer, fill in as aunts by association. They bring rich conversation, comic relief, and emotional refuge. I can’t leave out the best teacher/home tutor ever, Miriam. She came by every Tuesday evening to work extra with Syd, from 5th through 8th grade, to give her an academic boost. Perhaps her greatest support person has been her riding instructor, Pat. Pat came into all of our lives when we were hurting as a family; still reeling from a truly horrific experience—an experience affecting Syd the most. When your child is hurting, you, as a parent, are hurting, too. A wolf in sheep’s clothing entered into our lives and threatened to virtually destroy everything that was our beloved daughter. An adult we trusted with our child’s physical and mental wellbeing was not who we thought. After the experience, we learned just how strong Syd really was. The largest part of her healing came about due to a 5’4” horsewoman with fifty years’ experience in the Morgan Horse world under her petite belt. Pat’s soft-spoken style and empathy reversed 99% of the damage done. We will be forever grateful to Pat for her friendship. Unfortunately, the 1% that lingers on, will most likely follow Syd for the rest of her life. If anything, that 1% has taught her not to be too trusting or na├»ve like her father and I were.

L to R: Her winnings from nine horse show series Summer of 2008. Working beside her riding instructor, Pat. 

We’re in college mode now at the Stringham house. PSAT’s, SAT’s, and college visits consume our free time conversations. Last night, Syd and I poured over the college brochures she’s received in the mail. We had three piles going: Out-of-the-Question, Worth-Looking-Into, and Strong-Possibilities. Numerous considerations went into the selection process such as: distance (because she wants to be able to come home frequently,) total enrollment (she feels she’ll be able to thrive more at a smaller institution,) cost (because college is freaking expensive,) sports programs (she’d like a chance to compete on an equestrian team,) and, of course, undergraduate programs offered. She wants to be a high school teacher. I know. Not a wonderful job market out there for teaching with budget cuts, but she’s passionate about teaching. Has been that way since second grade and knew since 9th grade she wanted to teach high school students. She’s gone back and forth between history and English. Currently, history seems to be winning out since it fits in with her interests and hobbies more.

While Syd is transitioning into this next phase of her life like any typical high school junior, with excitement and a touch of fear for the unknown, I am not handling it at all well. First and foremost, my seventeen-year-old is my best friend. Sure we have our mother/daughter moments of raised voices and clashing personalities, but those moments usually end with us laughing at each other and hugging. My husband likes to say she and I love each other one minute and hate each other the next—only to be cuddling with each other afterwards. I don’t know what to attribute our closeness to other than to say it’s just the way we are. When I travel, she rides shotgun. I don’t know how many miles the two of us have traveled together: out of town horse show series where she competed and I played horse groom, cultural trips to cities so she could experience life outside of Bradford County, concerts, musicals, and even PTA meetings and school events. If the wheels were rolling, she was in the passenger seat. We’ve consumed numerous bags of Twizzler’s, cans of Pringles, and M&M’s, as well as sipped gallons of Dunkin’ Dount’s coffee while on the road. At any rate, I’m prematurely suffering from separation anxiety. I’m Lorelai Gilmore losing her Rory. Edina Monsoon losing her Saffron. Joan Crawford losing her Christina. You get the idea. I don’t want to let her go. But I have to because she’s growing up. It doesn’t mean I’m going to grow up though. 

L to R: Syd, with her girls, She Knows Shesa Star (Maui,) CocoMaya, and Foxwin Gemini (Gem.) Showing Maui in 2009.

Are there any words of wisdom about sending your first child off to college from our blog readers? Please comment below! I’d love to hear from you.                

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Words of Wisdom from Mr. Koreander

Gateway to another world...
In the beginning of The Neverending Story II, the main character Bastian Bux visits the bookstore where he had found the magical book also titled The Neverending Story in the previous movie.  When the store owner Koreander catches him looking at the book, he scolds Bastian and the young boy naively protests saying that he's already read the book.  Koreander comes back with "Ahh, but have you ever read a book twice?  Books change each time you read them."

While thankfully books here in the "real world" don't change as drastically as The Neverending Story did for Bastian, there is so much truth in what Koreander said.  There are some who only read a book once, and I'm not sure whether they are wise or if they're missing out on a real treat.  I am one who likes to reread books.  Favorites are often reread several times over the course of the years.

Rereading a book is like visiting old friends.  You're already acquainted with the characters.  You know 
Scope for the imagination...
them, love them, hate them and you think you know what to expect.  For the most part.  Nothing changes about them or the plot - except for our perspective.  We see details we missed the first time, and sometimes even the second time.  A character's action that seemed almost commonplace 
is suddenly laden with double meanings.  A random comment foreshadows disaster.

I love to reread certain series.  Anne of Green Gables, The Wheel of Time, and the Little Women series are three good examples.  The first simply because I love Anne.  I saw the PBS mini-series first when I was a child.  It wasn't until I was an adult that I was able to read the entire series.  No doubt part of the draw is that I identify with Anne the dreamer and writer.  Part of that is why I love Jo in Little Women.  Jo March was more successful in the literary realm than Anne was, and strong-willed.  I admire her pluck!  The Wheel of Time was reread right before the last book in the series came out, so that it was fresh as a series that big could be.  And let me tell you, trying to follow all the details in a 14 book series is no easy feet!  That is epic fantasy at its best (and worst) and I tend to look at it with a far more critical eye.  Encourages me to be more detailed, but not to much - and warns me not to drag it out foreeeeeeever!  I admire and envy his world creation skills!
Reading in bed...

Different books in the In Death series get reread from time to time as well, usually when I just want a quick 'Lt. Eve fix' and I only own a handful.  I haven't even begun to make a dent in reading all the books in the series, much to my dismay (maybe I'll borrow a couple next time I'm at the library!).  I love Lt. Eve with her no-nonsense kick-butt attitude.  The books are somewhat predictable, but that in no way takes away from the charm of the colorful cast that enlivens Lt. Eve's world.  Part science-fiction, part romance, part murder mystery, but ALL fun!

When it comes to stand alone books, the one that always comes to mind is Frank Peretti's The Visitation.  Every time that I have read it, I discover something new about myself.  In short, the book follows a disillusioned pastor (Travis) as he deals with a false Messiah (Brandon) that invades his town.  Travis is still mourning the death of his wife at the start of the novel.  While Brandon was a pretender with evil intents his arrival and all that went with it did manage to do one good thing: it eventually woke Travis out of his grief.  The book flip flops between the present and Travis' past, and in my opinion does so successfully.

Because I went to a Pentecostal/Charismatic church at one point in my life, along with some that weren't so Charismatic, I got all the inside jokes.  As I began to become disillusioned myself, I saw the book more and more from Travis' perspective.  I'm not sure how to put it without sounding blasphemous, but in many ways it's been far more influential than the Bible.  It has been one of the best books I've ever read...and re-read.

Of course, this doesn't even begin to cover all my favorite books.  And doesn't even touch on my beloved Star Trek.  Q-Squared, Imzadi...Vulcan's Heart (Best ever!)

I love reliving the best moments in a book, remembering small moments that add up.  Crying over the familiar losses.  Raging when the enemy gets the upper hand, even if for just a moment.

Do you ever reread books?  Which ones and why?

Just a reminder!  The Broads have a presentation this Saturday at 1pm!!

Hope to see you there!