I’m Not Getting Old – I’m  Just Getting More Creative in Linking Two Vastly Unrelated Subjects

When my granddaughter called to ask me what I remembered about President Kennedy’s assassination for a school assignment she was working on, it triggered something in me.  You may think it was the memories of the events of that day.  Of course, that happened; but what it really triggered was a cold, harsh reality.  I’m getting old.  Middle-schoolers go to people my age to find out about the past.  I’m somebody’s homework.

I explained to Mia that when JFK was shot I was seven years old – a second-grader.  The full impact was lost on me much like the reason why we had atomic bomb drills where we would crouch under our desks while the air raid siren blared.  On that day, though, I remember our teacher crying as she sent us home from school early.  I remember my parents being upset.  I remember being sad for Caroline and John-John; he was such a cute little boy.  It was strange to think that the president had a regular life as a husband and father.

 

IMG_4828The weirdest thing I recall as standing out in my mind was the newspaper.  The Evening Star had the words EXTRA, EXTRA across the top banner.  This was odd and unusual enough to me that I saved the paper and have it to this day.  Somewhere in the mind of that second grader was the realization that this was important and of lasting impact – a piece of history recorded for posterity.

But, this is supposed to be a blog about Life on the Lighter Side, so with that in mind, I’ll let you know that my being my granddaughter’s homework was not the only thing that has reminded me that I’m getting older.  As background, you should know that I am a huge Seinfeld fan.  My son, Scott, sent me a notice that Larry Thomas, aka the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame, was going to be dispensing soup in a Publix in Kissimmee, which is clear across town.  I was excited about going until I found out the time slot involved a return home during rush hour.  Sadly, I’ll never know the intense pleasure of having my bowl filled with mulligatawny by a stern-faced soup ladler; and I’ll never know if bread was included or not.

That may not seem like a big deal to you, but just a few years ago I stalked Paul McCartney, I mean had lunch with a friend while trying to get a glimpse of him at his hotel where he was staying across town.  I also have driven across the state to hear my favorite author, Alexander McCall Smith, give a lecture.  So it broke my heart a little to know that I wouldn’t brave I-4 traffic in order to see a Seinfeld character in action.

Now that I think about it, it’s all about how you look at life.  Maybe I’m not getting old.  Maybe I’m simply having a season of personal growth.  You know, counting the cost and realizing the value of my own time.  Either way, it adds up to, “No soup for me!”  Ah, but I can always catch Seinfeld in re-runs and ladle my own bowl of soup.  Plus, there’s next to no traffic in my kitchen.  Sounds like a perfect plan.

My Book-Reading Year in Review

Last year in January, I noticed some of the blogs I was reading offered a list of books that the author had read in the prior year.  I found the lists interesting and motivating, as well as a little intimidating.  There are some voracious readers out there!  I decided I would keep my own list in 2012 and share it with you.

Disclaimer:  I think this is the entire list.  Sometimes I forget to write things down.  I can only hope that I forgot to include a couple of books that would feed my spiritual side or my marriage, but, who am I kidding.  I don’t think there were any.  On my 2013 list there will be.

So without further ado, here’s my list of books that I completed in 2012:

  • Lunatics by Dave Barry – I started the year out with humor.  As I have mentioned in my blog before, I love Dave Barry.  Every time he writes a new book it goes to the top of my must-read list.  This book, though, was very disappointing for me.  I cannot even recommend it.  I did read it all the way through, but that was based on the combination of my love for Dave’s writing and my hope that it would get better.  It had its moments, but it was too crude for my taste.  I should have known by the title that I would go a little crazy finishing it.
  • Forever Erma by Erma Bombeck – This collection of Erma’s best columns was a sheer delight to read.  I laughed.  I cried.  I read a lot of it aloud to my husband (Bob).  Oh, Erma, how I miss you!
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – I had to know what all the fuss was about.  My daughter and husband had both read the book and raved about it.  The movie was coming out.  I succumbed to the pressure.  During the first third of the book you could hear me saying things like, “This is awful!”  or “How can they do this?”  or “This is disturbing!”  Yet, I was compelled to finish this well-written story and did before the movie was released, which was my goal.
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – The first book was so good that I had to read this one.  It was a respectable sequel to The Hunger Games – an enjoyable read.
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – I was committed to finish the series.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the finale was lacking in comparison to its predecessors.
  • Manhunt, The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson – Easily the most gripping book I read last year.  How Mr. Swanson could cover those 12 days in the life of so many different characters was beyond explanation.  I felt like I was watching a play with scene changes.  It was tremendous.
  • The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith – This is the 13th offering in my favorite book series, The Number One Ladies Detective Agency.  It is set in modern-day Botswana.  I am amazed at the how each book in this charming series gets better than the one before it.
  • You are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins – I am thankful that I read this book.  At least there is one on my list that helped me in my craft!
  • Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall – I read this book to Mia and Ella (my granddaughters who are 9 and 7).  We all enjoyed the relationship of the title characters who have nothing in common except the street they live on, yet become best friends.
  • The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith – I was thrilled to see a children’s book based on the main character of the Ladies Detective Agency.  This shows her early inclinations to solve mysteries.  My granddaughters and I loved it.
  • Through the Eyes of Grace by Debi Gray Walter – This is the premier book written by my wonderful friend, Debi.  It was a privilege to walk with Debi as she wrote the book and discuss it with her as it progressed.  The finished product is a wonderful tribute to her grandmother, but even more it’s a story of God’s grace and an encouragement to get to know the older generations in one’s family.
  • The Deepest Waters by Dan Walsh – This is the second book of Dan’s that I have read.  It is a totally captivating love story featuring a shipwreck.  My husband and I both enjoyed it immensely.
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson – Set in England, Major Pettigrew is a very proper older man who discovers friendship and love in an unusual way.   The New York Times compared Simonson with McCall Smith, so I had to give this a try.  I do see some similarities and I enjoyed the unfolding of the story and its very satisfying ending.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement – While on vacation, Bob and I stopped in a cute little book store in Sarasota.  As I perused the section devoted to local authors, I came upon this book.  The title reeled me right in.  I did enjoy the book up until the last few chapters, which were too graphic for me; and, therefore, like Dave Barry’s Lunacy, I can’t recommend it.
  • The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson – This is another book I read to my granddaughters.  Hearing them laugh like crazy and then quote the book back to their parents was more than rewarding.  All I can say is, I don’t care how old you are, if you haven’t read this book, read it.  It’s a hoot and a holler with a great message.
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – Finally, I read something by Tolkien.  I was embraced by his lovely story telling from the very first chapter.  When my kids were reading this book I was too busy driving them every place imaginable, doing laundry and cooking dinner to do much reading.  At that point, every time I sat down with a book I ended up taking an impromptu nap.  When they released the trailer for this movie, I determined to read the book before seeing it.  Mission accomplished.  Both the book and the movie were great.

I’d love to hear what you are reading.  Please share in the comments section.

What Happens When Sunday School and Second Grade Collide?

In August I ventured into some new yet familiar waters.  One day a week, in an effort to assist my daughter in home schooling, my granddaughters come over for “Grandmom School.”  The idea came to me last spring, but I was hesitant to tell anyone for fear I was actually being prompted by God to do this and, therefore, might have to follow through.

When at last I broke down and told Bob, he said he thought it was a good idea. I mentioned it to Dena and I’m not sure, but I think I saw a tear in her eye as she jumped up and down and immediately said “Yes.”  So now every Thursday is a school day.  We are focusing on language arts – spelling, reading, writing, penmanship.  The girls are in second and fourth grade.  Dena has two other children who are six months old and four.  I thought she and the other kids would benefit from a day off while I worked with the girls for her.

Having been down this road before, I determined not to assume that Dena had omitted anything from their education.  Kids can make you look bad, and I didn’t want to think the worst when they didn’t know things that I thought they should have already been taught.  They forget from year to year.  Add to that this new home-school setting where they are completely comfortable with me but not as their teacher, and I was ready for them to shout out the first thing that popped into their budding little brains when asked a question.

At least I thought I was ready.

We had been reading The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith.  It is set in Botswana, so I added a study of that country.  They also learned about animals of Africa, which was their favorite part, and we reviewed the continents and the oceans, just to make sure they were seeing the big picture.

During this study, we compared the United States with Botswana, and I asked them a few things about our country.  In hindsight, I may have shifted gears too quickly for them, but it did make for an interesting conversation.  Here is a sample.  The girls’ responses are in italics.  I won’t attribute to a particular child, but I will say that Ella is the fastest to shout out an answer, being first to answer is what it’s all about for her, right or wrong.  If they can just match the exuberance of answering a question with listening to the entire question and thinking it through, they’ll be fine.

Me – “What is the capital of the United States?

The United States of America.

Well, that’s the complete name of our country.  What is the capital of The United States of America?

The White House.

Okay, let’s back up a bit.  Who is the current president of the United States?

Barack Obama.

Good.  Now who was our first president?

Silence

Can you name any other president besides President Obama?

Silence

I know you know at least one more.  Think a minute.  You read a book about a president last year.  He was very tall and wore a stove-pipe hat.

Silence

Okay, remember that we visited the capital last year and we went to several museums and saw many monuments.  One had a huge statue of our sixteenth president sitting on a chair.  Another monument is tall and looks like a pencil.  It is named for our first president, just like the capital is.  The first president is sometimes referred to as the father of our country.

I know – Father Abraham.

It was all I could do at this point not to break down – I was holding back tears, laughter and having to restrain myself from singing Father Abraham, but I kept going.  Finally they shouted out George Washington.  I was exhausted!

Ella “holding” the Washington Monument

Later I got to thinking – Maybe I should make sure they are not confusing Abraham Lincoln with the Abraham of the Old Testament, but I was too afraid to go there.  The learning continues.