On The Pleasure of Reading

   

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”  ~W. Somerset Maugham

Like many of you out there, I have always been a reader; started very young and was encouraged to read and write by my parents. All through school I read lots of books and wrote lots of poems and stories. As a teacher I would tell my students that the more you read, the better you read; and the more you read, the better you write. Reading and writing go hand and hand. I passed the love of reading onto my children, though my son fought it and didn’t become a reader or writer until later on…more so when a graduate student. My daughter took to it right away. Each child is different.  Currently, I just started “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, which has received very good reviews that I usually ignore. I’m not one to choose books by looking at book lists; only what strikes a chord as I’m reading the blurb. So far, so good, but I just started. I so enjoyed the last book I read, “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd, whose “The Secret Life of Bees” I truly loved 12 years ago, even enjoyed the movie, a rarity. Since mom is pretty much homebound, I am always looking for books for her to enjoy. She finds big books too big and too heavy to hold so now I’ve been getting her paperbacks like small mystery series set in England…nothing gory. Also, when I can find a good book set in WWI, like the wonderful, wonderful Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, I make sure to order those through my library. I refuse to buy books. No room. The latest WWI book that mom loved was “Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War” by Jennifer Robson, which I may read too, after I finish “The Goldfinch.”  Reading brings joy. Reading distracts. Reading takes me places without moving one step! Gotta Love it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Second Home

The public library is my 2nd home, always has been, even as a child growing up in Brooklyn. I realize the internet has taken its place in the hearts and minds of many individuals, but it’s still so nice to enter a library. I love seeing people in the library sitting at the computers, browsing the shelves, lining up by the Reference Desk for inquiries. I love to see that…but it’s rare. Our libraries are underused by generations growing up where information is a click away. When my daughter was 3, she proudly walked into our library like a little prize fighter and asked for a library card. She got it since she could write her first and last name. The library was a special place that I frequented with my own 2 children; scheduled trips to with my students and visited several times a week as a teacher to pore over books and select just the right ones for my students. Now I research books that I think my nearly 90 year old mom will like, order them through the library and just pick them up when they arrive. My mom was a reader and as a child I was a voracious reader and so was my daughter. Educators, psychologists, researchers have written that if parents model reading, their children will read. Really?  My son didn’t like to read OR write, so I read to him and I also asked him questions and he dictated his answers for me to write down. I have such lovely memories when we would lie down and share books, I would read, he would read. He didn’t really become a reader until he was close to finishing his B.A. in of all things: ENGLISH!!!!   Then he immediately went onto an MA in Teaching Adolescents English Language Arts, so you never know the direction your children will take. The fact that mom was a teacher and a guidance counselor and I was a teacher made us very proud my son was following in our footsteps. Now he reads a lot, probably on his ipad. He left NYC teaching to teach in India and loves it.

The public library is an important resource in every community and I just wish more people would frequent it. Just go in, read the daily newspapers, say good morning to the people working behind the Circulation Desk, show your appreciation that there IS a library in your community.

The Difference We Make

Those who educate children well are more to be honored than parents, for these only gave life, those the art of living well.” -Aristotle

When my son was growing up, he had a friend, Zeno, who was being raised in some sort of foster situation. Zeno never lived with his parents who were plagued with many, many problems. The person who was “raising” him didn’t use any money they were receiving for Zeno’s well -being and care. During his high school years, he made a break in that situation and lived with various families and then, hallelujah, he went away to college in NYS. We always welcomed Zeno into our home; he was polite, courteous, had a beautiful smile and very bright. We were happy to have him as a friend for our son who was a year younger. In person and while emailing Zeno in college and afterwards since he stayed upstate, I always simply told him to “Stay Strong…” that was my mantra I repeated over and over again and also always told him how proud we were of him. Well, this wonderful young man left in July for Ghana to teach and live there. Yesterday I received an email chock full of info on everything he is doing there…the people he is meeting…the programs he is in charge of and/or initiating. I am so proud of him. This is a little of what Zeno said to me:

I feel so humbled to be in this position and I really just wanted to tell you about it because I often hear your voice in the back of my head.

I can hear all of the times you would encourage me to push for the best and remind me of what I was capable of. So I wanted to say thank you. You have been so essential to many levels of my development.

I realized that I can do the things that make me absolutely happy and make a life for myself. So many realizations are occurring. This one year is changing my life more than any other time I have lived (in this lifetime that is).

I hope this email finds you well.

Love and Light from the Motherland,

I responded to Zeno by letting him know we always knew he could do anything he pursued and that we continue to be so proud of him and that whatever words I may have passed onto him, I know he is doing the same thing in Ghana for his students and that they must love him.

“The great teacher is not the man who supplies the most facts, but the one in whose presence we become different people.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

 

 

 

One Tip I Have Learned On Raising Children

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” –Neil Postman

I have never given advice on raising children; too flawed to do that; and I’m not one of those know-it-alls who pass on advice like passing the salt. Even when I’ve been complemented on my children and how they’ve been raised, I have always said it was the luck of the draw; you can be the best parent in the world and have children that have many problems; or you can be the worst parent and somehow your kids triumph. The reality is, we never know how our children will turn out…we do the best we can, we hope for the best, but what will be, will be.

 This morning, I read a lovely post on a blog that is following me and vice-versa, by a “fellow” baby boomer, My Life in My 60s. Her most recent posting concerned raising children, listening to children and how the busyness of today’s lifestyles requires parents to truly make sure they are making time to listen to their children.  I responded to her immediately that I learned from my husband to “just listen.” Sounds so easy, right?  I also responded that asking a lot of questions might be inherited on my part, a learned behavior or might be a cultural thing that I have had to overcome; I’m really not sure. What I do know is that I can go rapid fire from one question to the next and then find out that my husband knows more than I do when it comes to the kids’ lives (who are now 30 and 28) and when I ask him how come he knows so much more, he’ll tell me, “I just listen.”  He has always just listened without judgment, without interruption, without hysteria…a wise man, a good man, an outstanding father and my soul-mate.  So I agree with My Life in My 60s about the importance of listening and making enough time to listen to our children.

Letting Go as a Parent

“Letting go helps us to to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress.”

Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go 

This all sounds so very nice and it also sounds unrealistic from a parent’s perspective. I don’t think a parent is ever free “…from unnecessary stress!”

I am much more aligned with the African American author, Toni Morrison and what she said in her beautiful novel, Beloved, “Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother.  A child is a child.  They get bigger, older, but grown?  What’s that suppose to mean?  In my heart it don’t mean a thing.”



A Sunday Winter Morning

Woke up to some snow covering the grass and the cars. I can objectionably affirm that yes, snow is pretty, but I pretty much hate it cause: “Every mile is two in winter.” – George Herbert.

Just discovered this poem by African American poet, Robert Hayden:

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

 

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he’d call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house,

 

Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?