Sunday, June 13, 2010

Vous Ne Pouvez Pas Tout Apprendre à Partir D'un Livre

Photo by Aussiegall

By this age, I should know things. I'm supposed to be the grownup.

I learned something this week. Two things, really, but they go together.

I decided to mow the lawn. I tried mowing one other time, but I ended up shearing the cap off an important drain, and I was so traumatized that I said I'd never do it again.

Then, this week, I saw my 83-year-old dad out mowing. And my petite daughter-in-law. If they can do it, I can do it, I thought.

So I tried it. I just mowed. I mowed and mowed and mowed. I thought it would take me an hour. It took me four hours. When I finished, I was hot and covered with pieces of grass, but I felt happy:  I did it. I mowed the yard.

And how did I figure out how to mow the yard? I just did it. I tried it. I missed some spots and I won't try going over a tree root again and now I know that you have to open the valve on the gas can before you add gasoline to the engine, but the thing is that I tried it and I did it.

The other thing I learned this week was French. No, I'm serious. I learned French this week. I got a school subscription to Rosetta Stone and I learned French.

Now I've been trying to learn Spanish for oh, fifteen years, and I honestly don't think I know as much Spanish as I know French now. And that's after one week.

How did I do it?  How did I learn French?  I just did it. I tried it. I practiced it over and over. I wasn't always right, but I kept doing it, over and over, and now I know a whole lot of French that I didn't know before.

Here's what I took away from these experiences:  As Nike says, Just Do It. Don't just talk about doing it. Don't just contemplate doing it. No. Just Do It. 

What does this have to do with books? Well, here's another thing I figured out this week: You can't learn everything from a book. Or, as they say in French, Vous ne pouvez pas tout apprendre à partir d'un livre.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Why I Didn't Get Around to Writing a Sunday Salon This Week

No, the dog didn't eat my Sunday Salon. But, guys,
I've been busy.

At school, this was the last week.
I had to pack everything up.
They are remodeling the library this summer.
And I had to finish inventory. Whew!

I spent most of the weekend practicing my French on Rosetta Stone.
 Will I ever be able to properly say, "un garçon"?

I made a big dinner today,
to celebrate the start of summer, 
with stuffed chicken breast in a spinach salsa sauce,
 and homemade French bread.

A beautiful Tarte Aux Fraises for dessert.

So, that's why I didn't get around to writing a Sunday Salon this week.

Next week, I promise I'll do better.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Why I Read: Random Passages from This Week's Readings

"Monseigneur, the man has gone! the silver is stolen!"

"Madame Magloire, I have for a long time wrongfully withheld this silver; it belonged to the poor. Who was this man? A poor man evidentally."


"Tangerines!" said Akeyo. "My favorite fruit."
"Tangerines?" said Handa. "That is a surprise."


"A large body of research has shown that doing a favor for someone often results in their giving significantly more in return....Favors have their strongest effect when they occur between people who don't know each other very well, and when they are small but thoughtful...."

Mama, I've got it.

So have I.

What? Here it is.

Here it is.

My goodness! Show me.

You show me.


"What would you write?"

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe I'd call it Split Infinitives and load it up with a lot of divorces...."

"That's depressing."

"Yeah, I guess if it was too depressing I'd add a knock-knock joke."


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Whatcha Gonna Read This Summer?

Two more weeks of school and then I will have over a thousand hours to dream and read. Mostly read.

So what shall we read this summer?

We readers love lists. Here are a few:

Summer Reading for Kids
I just finished modifying my Summer Reading List for Kids. This is a work in progress and I welcome thoughts on additions or deletions from this list.

Want other people's ideas for kids? Try these.
Horn Book has compiled a summer reading list.
The National Endowment for the Humanities has a classically-minded summer reading list.
NPR calls its list A Cure for Kids' Summer Reading Doldrums.
The Texas Library Association offers reading lists for kids, including the 2x2 List (for two year olds through second grade), the Bluebonnet List (for third through sixth graders), the Lone Star List (junior high students), and the Tayshas List (for high school students).

Summer Reading for Grownups
What about us grownups? What are good ideas for us this summer?
Oprah has a summer reading list. NPR came out with a summer reading list also. The Texas Library Association, for the first time, has created a recommended list of reads for adults which it calls the Lariat List.

How about a video to get us going?  Here's the wonderful Gotta Keep Reading from Ocoee Middle School:

What have I finished this week? (And last week...I'm a little behind....) I'll be posting reviews of these books later today at my other blog.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Who Says Reading Isn't a Social Activity??!

Two upcoming events:


 Tuesday, May 25 through Friday, May 28

Anyone who cannot attend Book Expo America in New York City



June 4 through June 6

Anyone who wants to try to read for forty-eight hours!

Sign up in the comments section here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Wire Monkeys and Cloth Monkeys

Me and my mom and baby sister, late 1959.

Cattycornered from my house is a small nursing home. Less than ten residents. From my rocker on the front porch, I have watched several cars drive up this morning. First fellow parked, went inside for a few minutes, and came back out with an elderly woman on his arm, helped her into the cab, and tossed a metal walker in the back of the truck. Now here goes a second fellow inside, this one appearing quite elderly himself, with a pot of yellow flowers in his hands.

It's Mother's Day.

Amazon suggests we celebrate by giving Mom "gifts she'll love." First on the list is a sterling silver pendant with a mother and three children (no dad?). Also listed are a World's Greatest mom coffee cup (a tea cup is also available), a dozen roses, and several photo frames. When I restrict Amazon to just books, up comes a surprising number of children's picture books about Mother's Day along with some grownup titles like It's Okay to Take a Nap and Other Reassuring Truths for Mothers Everywhere, Dear Mom Thank You for Everything, and even When You and Your Mother Can't Be Friends.

I watched a video last night. Part of it recalled the now-famous Harry Harlow experiment with Rhesus monkeys. Two monkey "mothers", one made of cloth, but with no food, and one made of chicken wire, with food. The baby monkeys would seek out the wire mothers only long enough to be fed, but then would desperately go to the cloth monkeys for cuddling.

I spent a huge hunk of my life mothering. I stepped away from my beloved job for twenty years to take time with my family. I did Vacation Bible School and Den Mother and PTO mom. I went to nearly 400 basketball games. How many times did I sleep on the ground, in the mud, in the rain, at Scout camps? Award ceremonies. Sleepovers. Field trips. Birthday parties. Choir programs. Not to mention those evenings spent in the emergency room and the delightful vomitting nights.

Last summer, my older son got married. We did the Mother-Son Dance to an old Brenda Lee song, "Side by Side," a song I used to sing to my sons when they were little. It was a happy moment.

"Oh, we ain't got a barrel of money,
Maybe we're ragged and funny
But we'll travel along
Singing a song
Side by side."

Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

An Excellent Week of Reading

A little bit of everything I love in my reading this week:

A 1001 Children's Book.* That's Winter's End. It's translated from the French. (In view of my upcoming trip, I've decided to focus on reading those 1001 CBs that have French authors.) And, though this book was set in a mysterious alternative universe following a dictatorial takeover, the book had a decidedly French feel,  placing its trust in art to save the world. Very dark for a children's book, but with a hopeful ending. 

A French Travel Narrative. That's Paris Times Eight. Kelly visits Paris, yes, eight times, and each trip changes her. Hope I will have my own Paris Times One experience this summer.

Two Books about the Christian Church. That's Crazy Love and If the Church Were Christian. Both scathing, but both authored by pastors who love the church despite its weaknesses. I, too, love the church, but find it disappoints me....We could be so much more but for our complacency and off-putting piousness, the very things Jesus stared down in his Jewish faith.

Two Poetry Books. (You probably figured this out, but, just to be sure, that's Poetry Speaks and Poems to Read.) Man, these poems were powerful. I always forget how powerful poems can be. Whew. Good thing terrorists haven't discovered poetry....They could set down their bombs and guns.

Now I'm off now to enjoy this amazing day outdoors....78 sky....I think I'll visit some blogs on my mini-laptop on the porch and read a little and breathe in all this amazing-ness this afternoon. I'll leave you with a little poem I liked in Poems to Read and a photo I took this morning:

Spring by Charles Simic

This is what I saw---old snow on the ground,
Three blackbirds preening themselves,
And my neighbor stepping out in her nightdress
To hang her husband's shirts on the line.

The morning wind made them hard to pin.
It swept the dress so high above her knees,
She had to stop what she was doing
And have a good laugh, while covering herself.

*One of the books in 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up.