“Becoming”

I usually do not read biographies or autobiographies. They just never really interested me, however, because I am am huge Michelle Obama fan, I decided to give her book Becoming a try.

I was hooked from the very beginning. She told her story with honesty and intimacy. She allows us into her childhood describing her family Dynamics and relationships. I love how she grew up in a big family, surrounded by uncles, aunts and cousins.

Her parents were lower middle class and they encouraged their children to reach beyond their circumstances and dream big for themselves.

I could definitely relate to Michelle’s ungoing questioning of herself, asking, “Am I good enough?” It is something I continually ask myself.

I could also relate to her desire to instill a sense of independence and confidence in her daughters. I have tried to instill those same qualities in my own daughter.

Mrs. Obama is honest about her trials and tribulations. Her father’s illness and death, her miscarriage and infertility and the marriage counseling her and Barack attended.

She makes clear that bringing her family into the world of politics was not her first choice, but she used her stage to champion those topics that meant the most to her.

One question kept cropping up in my mind as I read, why do some people thrive in spit of their circumstances, while others flounder and fail? Are they born with an inner drive or is that fire lit and kept burning their caregivers? Perhaps it is a bit of both. In any case Michelle Obama has that fire, that drive to spend her life making a difference. She inspires me to follow my dreams at any age and to aspire to make a difference in this world. I was left wanting more. I am excited to see what Michelle does next!

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The Peculiars Are Back!

Miss. Peregrine’s Ward’s are back in Ransom Riggs’ latest installment of The Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children book series. However, these “children” are growing up and trying to find their place in both the modern world and the peculiar world. The adventures and dangers have now shifted to  America. Here the peculiar world reminds me of the wild west, relatively lawless and very dangerous. Jacob and his friends are now the heroes of Peculiardom and they are feeling trapped by the rules that the ymbrynes impose on them. Jacob is trying to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps but is he really ready for dangerous missions that put people’s lives on the line?

I get a hint of social commentary in this installment. A peculiar America that is divided into factions and a threat of war between them. Or perhaps I’m just reading our current state of affairs in the U. S into the text?

In this fourth book, we are reunited with old peculiar friends and meet a plethora of new peculiar characters. We get to meet these new characters through the written word and through the author’s wonderful old photographs!

These old photos are what made me fall in love with Rigg’s books. They are woven throughout the books and it amazes me that these photos from the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds are real. And really creepy!

These books inspired me to start my own vintage photo collection. When I taught high school, I used these photos in a creative writing unit. Just like Ransom Riggs, my students would create stories based on an old photographs. Their imaginations were really sparked by these photos.

My only criticism of this fourth book is that it ended with many unanswered questions. So I eagerly await the next glimpse into the peculiar world.

 

Journaling

Do you journal? Probably most of us have kept a diary at one time or another. Perhaps when we were younger. But how many of us  journal as an adult?

I never kept a diary as a child or teen, but I have kept a journal for about 20 years. Sometimes I’ve kept two journals.

Is there a difference between a diary and a journal? Yes, but it is a very subtle difference. Specifically, a diary is a daily record of events and experiences. A journal is a record of news and events of a personal nature. See what I mean by subtle difference!?

I keep a journal and try to write in it everyday. For me, journaling is a sort of therapy, a meditation, a relief valve from the daily stresses of life. It is where I can regurgitate every important happening of my life, every thought, every feeling to be examined and then discarded within the pages or organized and better understood.

Writing in a journal has many proven benefits. Much research has been conducted and articles written regarding the psychological benefits of journaling. It can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It can help to simply get negative and troubling thoughts down on paper. Once on paper perhaps the cause of the stress and anxiety doesn’t seem quite as troubling. Or perhaps we can better examine those written thoughts and find solutions from that new perspective of the written word. Sometimes just getting those thoughts out of our heads is enough to render them less powerful. Journaling isn’t a cure all for mental illness but it can be part of a process.

There a many different types of journals. Teachers will ask students as a way to reflect on what they already know about a topic or what they have learned after the lesson is over. Some people keep journals around a specific topic like their exercise or career goals. Some keep a travel journal, detailing all their travel adventures. There are reading journals where a bibliophile can keep track of the books they have read or want to read next. Gardening or nature journals are a wonderful way to keep a record of what occurs in your garden or simply nature observations. Creativity journals are fun ways to collect ideas, sketches and magazine clippings to use as inspiration for a special project, art work or creative writing.

There are just so many ideas for types of journals one can keep. Most of the time my journals have been a combination of many different types. An amalgamation of thoughts, ideas, worries, and desires. My journals contain story ideas, future plans, dreams and goals, drawings, beloved quotes, observations and clippings of favorite decorating ideas.

I think after 20 years of journaling it seems right to share my knowledge and love of journaling with others. So I have created a class on journaling to present to adults and teens in libraries, schools, senior centers and other places.

I hope to instill in others a love of journaling.

Seasons of Reading

Everyone seems to have a favorite season. For me…give me 365 days of autumn! I just love the cool crisp air, the colorful fall leaves and the orange pumpkins. I always feel more alive in the fall. It is also my favorite time of the year for reading. I love to grab a soft warm throw, a hot mug of tea and find a cozy spot, inside or outside, to cozy up with a good book. I take my latest read outside, sit on my front porch rocker with a blanket and tea to read the hours away. The cool air and smell of fall leaves being burnt make the perfect backdrop for a good mystery or horror story, especially as the season moves closer to Halloween! In fact I’m saving a book called “The Secret History of Witches” by Louisa Morgan to read in October. Do you ever save a book in order to read it during a certain season or holiday?

Every season has it’s time and it’s reading pleasures. Summer has the beach reads with our toes in the sand or our bums in the water. Spring has it’s new, exciting reads coming for the new year,  the self-help books which give us some hope of keeping our new year’s resolutions or our gardening books as we plot our plans for getting back out in the fresh spring soil. Winter offers readers the opportunity to stay inside, curl up on a favorite chair with a roaring fire and hot cup of cocoa. Perhaps we revisit old Yule favorites during the winter months, like “The Autobiography of Santa Claus” by Jeff Guinn.

There are so many great opportunities to grab a book and read throughout the year. Do you have a favorite season for reading?

Thoughts on “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness

I recently purchased a book at the bookstore called, “A Monster Calls”. It is written by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Jim Kay. The book is based on an original idea by Siobhan Dowd. What first attracted me to the book was the front cover artwork. The artwork throughout the book is dark, raw and emotional. Illustrator Jim Kay was the illustrator for the Harry Potter books. His illustrations in “A Monster Calls” really invokes the feelings of this book, which I found were sad and scary. The story idea originally came from the mind of Siobhan Dowd. Ms. Dowd was an English children’s author. Unfortunately, she passed away from cancer in 2007. Patrick Ness was tasked with completing her story. The story is about a 13 year old boy, named Conor, who is trying to cope with the impending death of his mother. We enter the story after the mother has been battling her cancer for quite some time. Both mom and son have a glimmer of hope which begins to fade away as the mother’s illness progresses. The teen is finding it difficult to cope with his mother’s terminal illness, an absentee father, a grandmother who he cannot seem to get along with, bullying at school and a recurring nightmare about a monster. One night at 12:07 midnight a monster does come to call but it isn’t the one from his dream. This one he is not scared of, this monster is the walking, talking yes tree from his backyard. The tree is an ancient being full of magic and mystery. It says it has come to tell the boy stories, but insists the last story will be shared by the boy. Is the yew tree there to help the boys dying mother through it’s magic or it’s medicinal properties or is it there for another reason entirely? This tale left me sad but enchanted. While the storyline is indeed sad it is told in a magical and imaginative way. I believe that this story would truly help a teen who is dealing with grief. This story seems to be a bridge between the fantasy of childhood and facing the reality of mortality and loss that some young people have to face much to early. Ultimately the story is about letting go. As someone who lost my own mother to cancer when I was 8, I can understand all the feelings expressed by our young main character. The feelings of bewilderment, anger, guilt and sadness. I can understand the need to turn to the fantasy and imagination of childhood to cope. The reader can also hear Ms. Dowd’s voice and feelings on her impending death throughout the book. This YA novel should be on every teacher’s, counselor’s and child psychologist’s reading list. This book is tailor made for bibliotherapy. There was a movie made by the same title, but the book is better. Also, make sure you read it with tissues.

Rainy Days at the Library

Where is the busiest place in town on a rainy day? The public library of course! We have had 4 days of rain and counting here in PA. One might think that the rain would keep patrons away but nothing could be further from the truth. On rainy days and snowy days people flock to their public libraries. Kids can’t play outside, families can’t go on outdoor outings, the senior citizens can’t take their daily walks about town, so the library is the place to be. Families come in for the various activities, like storytime, craft activities, or just to browse for books and movies. It’s a chance to get the kids out of the house for awhile.  Adults come in to find the perfect rainy day book to read or movie to watch. They search for audio books or browse the internet. Patrons can look at a magazine or read the New York Times. Whether they curl up in a comfy chair at the library or take their treasures home with them, they will be enriching an otherwise blah day with adventure. So if it’s raining in your neck of the woods, head out to your local library and lose yourself between the pages of a book.

Finding Time to Read

A brief report on my journey to find time to read. I have been having a difficult time finding the motivation to pick up a book and delve in. It wasn’t for lack of material. I always have great books that need to be read. And it really wasn’t for lack of time. I was because I was choosing to fill my spare time with other things, namely social media and facFaceb in particular. So this past weekend I decided to take a break from social media and focus on good books and tea. As luck would have it the weather cooperated and offered up a rainy weekend. Perfect tea drinking and book reading weather. I have decided that weekends will be social media free for me. What motivates you to read? Do you find it difficult to find time to read? How do you carve out some time to take a leisurely stroll between the pages of a book? Perhaps you too ban social media for a few days? Perhaps you have time while waiting to pick up the kids from an activity. Maybe right before bed. Or perhaps you sneak in a few pages over lunch. However, you choose to carve out time for a good yarn, I hope you do it often.