Monday, March 31, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Slice of Life Challenge Post - Day 31 - Love Letter to my Parents

These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week. I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books. 

Sorry so long - I haven't posted a #IMWAYR for two weeks, and I had a lot to say about each book!It's also the last day of the March SOLSC.  What a journey it has been!  My slice is at the end.
Baseball Is . . .
      Today is the Reds' opening day!  Take me out to the ball game! I'm not even a baseball fan, and I loved this book. With beautiful imagery and vivid sensory details, this book takes you inside the experience of baseball with joy and excitement. With tributes to baseball greats, the atmosphere of the ball park, and baseball's rituals, Borden creates a love letter to the great American game. The illustrations are beautiful, the word choice and design perfect. This book will be loved in my classroom. I can't wait to read it to them today! (I wonder if a few will be missing since the weather is supposed to be great.) 
     A little fun fact - we came home from our vacation Sunday, after connecting through the Miami International Airport.  Unfortunately, our luggage did not follow us.  While we were waiting in line to report the missing luggage, Ed spotted Dave Concepcion, who also lost his luggage.  Ed was a HUGE Reds fan when they were The Big Red Machine.  He's told me stories of when he was 10 years old, listening to the games on a transistor radio in his bed when he wasn't allowed to stay up to watch them.  He had all the Reds' baseball cards, Concepcion's being one of them.  I wanted him to go up and introduce himself, but he wouldn't - he didn't want to bother him.  He did talk to his driver, however, who told Ed he was in town to throw the first pitch.  Louise is a Cincinnatian and a friend, and she loves baseball.  It certainly comes through in this beautiful love letter to the great American pastime.
Dairy Queen (Dairy Queen, #1)
I loved everything about this book - the narrator of the audio, D.J.'s sarcasm and wit, the farm stories, the unconventional girl character who plays football and bales hay, Brian, and I could go on and on. I laughed out loud, felt for D.J. as she comes to grips with her size, farm chores, and family, and the romance between she and Brian. I will definitely continue with the series!
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

    I don't know where to start with all the responses I have to this book. I wanted to cry all the way through it. Leo is a heart-breaking character. This is an important book - timely, empathetic, a call to action. I don't want to see myself in the antagonists - Linda, even the AP English teacher. However, I wonder if we all abandon our children and students sometimes. Are we self-absorbed, busy, in denial of the pain around us? Thank God for the Walts and Herr Silvermans of the world. They paid attention. They listened. Spent time with Leo. They didn't ignore the warning signs. I think this would be a great book club book for jr. high and high school faculty members. Take some lessons from Herr Silverman - greet each student by name every day. Listen to everyone's perspective. Pay attention to things that might not be quite right. Make yourself available. Value every student. Even the unusual ones. Especially the unusual ones. You never know what might be happening in a child's head. Who you might save. What violence you might prevent. And remember birthdays. 
The Invention of Wings 
2014-book, adult-fiction, african-american, empathy, historical-fiction, slavery, women


    This was an incredible story of two powerful sisters, Sarah and Nina, and two unlikely friends, Sarah and Hetty (Handful). Sarah was born into the privilege and wealth of Charleston, SC in the early 19th century, but was struck at an early age by the injustice and cruelty of slavery. When she saw a slave savagely beaten, she lost her voice, causing her to be plagued by a stutter throughout much of her life. Handful was given to her as a house slave when she turned 11, and she wanted to refuse her, but she was not able to stand up to the system at that time. The two forged an uneasy, unequal, but strong bond. Nina was born into the family late, and Sarah asked to be her godmother. They were inseparable. Through both Sarah's and Handful's points of view, we hear both of their struggles to be free of the societal prisons that held them both - Handful's body and Sarah's mind. Handful's mother, Mauma, was a trouble-maker, dreamer, and story-teller. She wanted Handful to be free more than anything. Sarah promised Mauma she would free her someday. She tried to teach her to read, only to get them both severely punished. When Sarah grew up, she left the plantation and tried to forge her own way in the North. She found her calling in the abolitionist movement and even became a Quaker. Nina eventually joined her in her efforts, the two of them becoming famous and notorious speakers and writers against slavery and for women's rights. Based on real life women, Sarah and Nina endured brutal backlash, severe societal punishment, and separation from family and community. However, they pushed on and made a difference. The ending made me want to stand up and cheer. I became so attached to all the women in this story.. Favorite lines and passages:
- "Mauma had sewed where she came from, who she was, what she loved, the things she'd suffered, and the things she hoped. She'd found a way to tell it."
- "My granny-mauma told her, 'See, that's what birds do, they stop flying and hunting food and swoop down to tend their dead. They march round it and cry. They do this so everything know: once this bird lived and not it's gone.'" (This was significant later when there was a slave hanging, and no one was allowed to attend and mourn - even animals know it's right to have a funeral.)
- "I hadn't really expected Lucretia to respond, but after a moment, she spoke, 'God fills us with all sorts of yearnings that go against the grain of the world - but the fact those yearnings often come to nothing, well, I doubt that's God's doing.' She cut her eyes at me and smiled, 'I think we know that's men's doing.'"
- Sue Monk Kidd in the Author's Note: "I want the reader to feel as if he or she has participated in the interior lives of the characters and felt something of their yearnings, sufferings, joys, and braveries. Empathy - taking another's experience and making it one's own - is one of the most mysterious and noble transactions a human can have. It's the real power of fiction."

   I certainly think Kidd accomplished this goal!

Celebrating Writers: From Possibilities to Publication

    "Every person has a story worth telling. These stories are worthy because they foster connections, creating empathy for others, and give us a stronger understanding of ourselves. " Ruth Ayres and Christi Overman have written a wonderful and practical book about celebrating writers in your classroom. Ruth is all about celebrating - I, along with many others, have joined her weekly Celebration Link Up every week because it is a place where we can all read about the positives that are going on in our lives and classrooms. It's changed the way I think about my weeks - I'm always looking for something to celebrate. She and Overman tell us to do that for our students. Celebrate the process and not just the product, be specific in our responses to their writing, and become writers ourselves, sharing our struggles and successes. I was thrilled to meet Ruth at a Choice Literacy dinner because she is an inspiration. You will want to have this book on hand!

Grasshopper Jungle Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking: A 14 Day Mystery
My family loves to read, too!
Katie (18 yrs. old)
          She loved this!   So she's reading this:
Firefly Lane Fly Away
Libby (21 yrs. old) - She's a Spanish minor, so she likes to challenge herself to read novels in Spanish:
Front Cover
The King's Deception (Cotton Malone, #8)
Orange Is the New Black
Guns in Sage Valley: A Western Duo
What are YOU reading this week?
     Speaking of my family, this is my last SOLSC March post.  I don't think I'm quite done writing about memories -  I still have Tuesdays for that, but I want to sum up the March experience.  Because I've been writing about memories, I've journeyed through my childhood again, looking at things close up, thinking about what they've meant to me.  What I've discovered was that these mini-memoirs were love letters to my family.  My mom and dad blessed me with a unique and wonderful life.  The things I learned while living on Brewer Road about love, happiness, responsibility, play, and work have made me who I am.  I am grateful for the nurturing and teaching, fun and chores, pets and hobbies, sports and 4-H, reading and writing...everything.  Thank you, Mom and Dad, for teaching me that I was capable of doing anything I wanted.  That I was brave, strong, and valued.  You kindled the sparks of faith, family, friendships, and lifelong learning so I could worship a mighty God,  marry someone I knew would be a life partner and best friend, raise children who are a blessing and a promise,  enjoy friends who have enriched my life, and choose a career that has become my passion.  I love you.

     Thank you, SOLSC team, for all the work you did to put this challenge together, comment on our writing, and encourage us to keep going.  Thank you, slicers, for all your creativity and dedication.  It has been a rewarding journey!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 30 - Death of a Pig


In case this is your first time reading my slices, here is my focus for the challenge: my fifth graders and I are participating in the Slice of Life Challenge this month, and they're writing memoirs.  I thought I'd do the same kind of writing - memory writing - throughout the challenge. I'm going to be writing around photographs and memorabilia.

My favorite author, E.B. White

January 1948
Death of a Pig
by E. B. White
I spent several days and nights in mid-September with an ailing pig and I feel driven to account for this stretch of time, more particularly since the pig died at last, and I lived, and things might easily have gone the other way round and none left to do the accounting. Even now, so close to the event, I cannot recall the hours sharply and am not ready to say whether death came on the third night or the fourth night. This uncertainty afflicts me with a sense of personal deterioration; if I were in decent health I would know how many nights I had sat up with a pig.  Link to continue...
     My favorite author is E.B. White, and my favorite children's book is Charlotte's Web.  I shared this fondness for E.B. White with my favorite high school English teacher, Robert Uritis.  He even called me at college upon White's death in October of 1985.  I can remember him writing me a letter that year in which he chronicled a stand-off with a groundhog, regretting how it came to an end. White's voice echoed within the writing.  We both loved reading White's Essays of E.B. White, my favorite section being "The Farm."  I am able to connect to each of those stories with life on my little farm.  White's humor and tenderness toward animals have always touched me.  In Charlotte's Web, I identified with Fern and her urgency to save Wilbur.  I wasn't completely overwrought at every animal death - I did bird hunt and fish with my dad, after all, but I never quite got used to the death of my pets.
     One of the most dramatic outbursts I ever had, oddly, was over a goldfish.  I was probably around nine, which is kind of embarrassing.  Surely I would have been old enough to bear it more stoically. I'm not sure why I was so sensitive about that particular goldfish, but when I saw him floating at the top of the bowl, I was just devastated.  I remember hysterically crying, my mom coming in to see what in the world was the matter.  We even had a burial for it.  I don't think I could stomach flushing it down the toilet.  Remember "The Cosby Show" episode when Rudy's fish died?  Well, I was NOT as cavalier as she, and I loved Bill Cosby's earnest attempt to conduct a funeral for the fish.  He reminds me of my dad.
     My dad stood over many an animal grave.  Sometimes he was as broken up as I was.  I remember him wiping away a tear a two, even for a beloved chicken.  Animals around our little farm died in a myriad of ways.  Sometimes it was old age or poor health, sometimes a duckling was carried off in an owl's talons (impressive as that was, it also made me furious) or pulled under the water by a snapping turtle, sometimes a whole pen of chickens were massacred by coyotes.  I wrote a post about our dog, Lady, and her death, and our horse, Colt.  No matter how it happened, I was always upset.  We even had a cow named Charlotte that I think was raised for beef, but somehow survived until she was an old lady.  Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was attached to her?  Or maybe Dad was?  Or Mom?  Either way, she never became hamburger.  We raised chickens for eggs, not meat.  Selling eggs was my first money-making venture.  We kept ducks for the enjoyment of watching them swim in the pond and to show at the fair. I'm not sure how we would have dealt with being real farmers.  I do love steak and chicken - just not MY cows and chickens!
     Whenever students tell me about the death of a pet, whether it be a guinea pig or dog, I know what their broken hearts feel like.  I can truly empathize.  I know what they're feeling when they get to "that part" of A Mango-Shaped Space, The One and Only Ivan, Wonder, or Where the Red Fern Grows.  I get teary-eyed, too, and we pass Kleenexes around.  One student had me in tears after I read her scrapbook reflection about her beloved dog.  
     E.B. White knew what it was to have a friend in an animal.  One who depends on you and keeps you company.  When one dies, it feels like a personal failure.  And that breaks your heart. 
Front Cover
 "It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.
  Charlotte was both." 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 29 - Chrissy and Celebrating Friendships

In case this is your first time reading my slices, here is my focus for the challenge: my fifth graders and I are participating in the Slice of Life Challenge this month, and they're writing memoirs.  I thought I'd do the same kind of writing - memory writing - throughout the challenge. I'm going to be writing around photographs and memorabilia.

                        It is Celebration Saturday, too!   I'm celebrating FRIENDSHIPS today!

Birthday Dinner 1972

     This is Chrissy on your left.  She was one of those childhood friends that seemed more like a sister than a best friend.  She was the daughter of the Shortens, one of the families I blogged about earlier in the month with whom my parents were such good friends and still are.  I have lots of great memories of Chrissy and her family.  We were together A LOT!  I loved their house.  She had two younger sisters, Libby (one of the reasons I loved the name Libby and wanted it for our oldest daughter) and Susie.  Their bedroom was so fun because they had bunk beds!  I thought that was the coolest.  The four of us would play tigers on the bunk beds.  We pretended they were cages.  I'm not sure why we'd pretend to play tigers, but we'd have fun roaring and jumping on all fours around the room.  Later, they built on a small second floor bedroom addition that had skylights!  That was even more exotic than bunk beds!  

     Chrissy was an athlete.  We played soccer together for several years.  When I made my exit into cheerleading, she continued to play sports.  I remember she played soccer and basketball. Maybe softball, too.  Everyone liked Chrissy.  She was smart, friendly, and fun.  She was one of those people who blended into every group.  

     She came along on several of our family vacations.  Since I am an only child, my parents were kind enough to let me invite friends along.  She camped with us up at Lake Erie and came along on a houseboat trip.  We always had a blast.  She was up for any adventure and had a great sense of humor.  I hardly ever remember her in a bad mood.  My dad liked to tease my friends, and he liked her a lot because she could always come up with a good comeback.

     Chrissy's family owned the local funeral home.  I can remember playing hide and seek with Chrissy throughout the funeral home.  Somehow, we weren't afraid of the coffins or other possible morbid things that one finds in a funeral home.  We just thought it was fun.  I can also remember playing hours of kick-the-can in her front yard on hot summer nights.  She liked to play at my house also, swimming in the pond, riding horses, fishing.    Lots of fun times!

     I roomed with Chrissy and my other good friend, Karan, when we went off to college at Miami.  We had a great freshman year.  Her parents and mine would come to the football games and bring tailgate food for us all.  I loved her parents.  Sally was like a second mom to me throughout my childhood.  She taught yoga, which I thought was so glamorous.  She would even lead yoga classes for all of  Chrissy's friends on sleepovers.  I can remember us sitting in a cross-legged position, imagining relaxing scenes in our heads as Sally would talk in a soothing voice, putting us through meditation exercises.  Grant, Chrissy's dad, was so funny.  He always had a twinkle in his eye and a kind thing to say to me.

     When it was time to get married, of course Chrissy was one of my bridesmaids.  After a while, we drifted apart, but I've seen her several times over the years.  She came to several Friends' Thanksgivings.  She lives in California now, and my mom does the Cuties' outings (I explained the Cuties in one of my previous posts) with Sally.  Regardless of how much I see her now, I know she played a huge and happy part in my life.

     After chronicling several important friendships this month in my slices,  I'm amazed at how God places people in our lives for a reason.  Sometimes it's just for a certain time and place.  Geography, a common interest, a job sometimes helps us make a friend.  Soemtimes it's a chance meeting when you recognize a kindred spirit.  Sometimes it's a neighbor or hobby that brings people together. College.  Grade school.  I had a best friend, Laura, who I needed in high school for a number of reasons - I believe she helped me stay connected to God because her father was a pastor.  She had a deep faith, and I was without a church at the time.  I was heartbroken when she moved my sophomore year. Then came Amy who I believe helped me hone in on writing and thinking.  She helped me search for what I wanted in life. I met wonderful people in Pittsburgh when I lived there for five years when Ed took a job there.  I had lived in the same place my whole life, and I felt uprooted and lonely.  Friends like Jen, Maureen, Lisa A., Lisa S., MaryBeth, Anthony,  Kim, and many more were the touchstones I need to survive and then thrive there.  I've made great friends through Ed's work - we've gone on vacations, camping trips, and boating together.  I've made great friends through teaching.  The three colleagues I team-taught with in Lebanon I still see often and am writing with one of them, Megan, and am in a book club with Becky.  Speaking of that book club, it is made up of good friends, too!  When I started at Kings, I was lucky to be partners with Lynn.  I have a  neighbor who has become a wonderful friend. I've been blessed with friends at the churches I've attended. Those of you reading now know that blogging, tweeting, and the Nerdy Book Club can also bring friends together!  I'm even lucky to be friends with my family.  I would choose them as friends if they weren't my family.

     I   think back on some of my daughters' best friends - Libby had Janie, Dani, Alaina. Matt, Annie, then an amazing group in high school who included Jenni and Hannah.  Now she has an amazing group in college.  Katie had Shannon, Ellie, Nicole H., Nicole S., her best friends now - Jessica and Hannah, and I know she'll make some great friends at OSU.  I now have a group I know are forever friends: Karan and Lisa whom I've known since grade school, and Jill and Annie who I met in college - now we're one big group, and I don't know what I'd do without them.  I don't have sisters, but that's okay.  I've chosen the best sisters anyone could have.

       Friendships are well-crafted miracles.  I thank God for them!

Two generations of Miami friends at Friends' Thanksgiving 2012

Friday, March 28, 2014

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 28 - The Stupid Smelly Bus

In case this is your first time reading my slices, here is my focus for the challenge: my fifth graders and I are participating in the Slice of Life Challenge this month, and they're writing memoirs.  I thought I'd do the same kind of writing - memory writing - throughout the challenge. I'm going to be writing around photographs and memorabilia.

 This picture was taken when I was in first grade.  I have very similar ones of both my daughters.  I remember feeling much excitement about getting on the bus when I started school.  It seemed so grown-up!  My bus driver in my elementary years was Mr. Shutte.  He was the father of one of my mom and dad's good friend, Janet.  I loved him.  He had a twinkle in his eye and was so kind to all of us.  I loved to sing on the bus with my friends.  I wish I could remember exactly what songs we sang, but I can't.  I suspect they were camp-like songs or Sunday school songs.  He would grin and encourage us to sing back and forth to school every day.  It was joyful.  Since I lived a fairly good distance from school, it was a good thing the trip was so positive.

  Then came jr. high and high school.  I'm not sure if Mr. Shutte was still our bus driver.  Probably not.  It was not a good experience anymore when I got to be that age.  There were some kids who lived on my street who made me nervous.  They teased and bullied me.  They sat in the back and I sat WAY up front, trying to avoid them.  At least they didn't come up to the front with me.  I hated their smirking and jeering when I got on and off the bus.  I couldn't WAIT to get my driver's license when I turned 16.  Driving to school made my life a whole lot better!

   Fast forward to when my daughters rode the bus.  Katie didn't like primary school very much.  I can remember her going through a crying period in 2nd grade.  I would put her on the bus, and if she forgot something or thought of something that made her sad, she would start crying and look forlornly out the window at me.  It  was heartbreaking.  One time, she realized she forgot to brush her teeth, and she looked frantically out the window, making tooth brushing movements over her teeth with her finger. Tears were streaming down her cheeks.  It was awful!

   Libby didn't like the bus much either, and even learned some of her first bad words on it when she was really little.  You can imagine what she learned when she was singing "Old Man Tucker" on the bus and accidentally rhymed it with an unsavory word.  The other kids, who knew the word was bad, laughed at and chastised her, making her worry all the way home since she didn't know what was wrong.  When she asked Ed, he had to suppress the laughter, and brilliantly told her to "Ask your mom."  Imagine my shock when she said, "Mom, what does _____mean?"

   Even now, my students aren't always crazy about what goes on during bus rides.  Some, however, are lucky.  They have bus drivers that make the journey fun, and I'm grateful for them.  I've even heard a few say they sing - the Mr. Shuttes of the world are still alive and well.  I'm glad!  In case you didn't get the allusion of the title, I took it from the Junie B. Jones series. ;-)


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 27 - A Spelling Bee and Best Friend

In case this is your first time reading my slices, here is my focus for the challenge: my fifth graders and I are participating in the Slice of Life Challenge this month, and they're writing memoirs.  I thought I'd do the same kind of writing - memory writing - throughout the challenge. I'm going to be writing around photographs and memorabilia.

     This clipping is from a spelling bee in 8th grade.  I LOVED spelling bees.  I still do - I think the national one is riveting, and I love hearing all the back stories of the participants.  I loved "Akeela and the Bee," and I love that this newspaper even recorded what words Bobby and I stumbled over.  Unfortunately, I think spelling is a lost art.  We've got spell check now, after all, and there hasn't been a spelling bee in any of my schools where I've taught for years.  I do think spelling is a genetic thing, and I know it isn't connected to intelligence, but I still love spelling challenges.   This post, though, isn't really about spelling bees; it's about Bobby, who was in several spelling bees with me.

     Bobby was one of the smartest people I knew.  He and I grew up together in the Mason City Schools.  We were on and off friends throughout grade school.  In fact, Karan and Lisa (two other friends I've journeyed though life with), and I have talked about how even though we were in school together most of K-12, we weren't always the best of friends.  That cemented itself in high school. However, I love that pictures and newpaper clippings caught our relationship anyway - we were always connected, and I love that.  Once we were in high school, we were fast friends.  I can remember hours spent at LaRosas, my house, Lisa's house, with Karan, in various clubs, musicals, plays, etc.  Side by side we traveled.  We even trailed each other to college.  I roomed with Chrissy (that blog post is coming up) and Karan (that one is, too), and Bobby and Lisa lived close enough by at Miami University that we hung out together now and then.  My sophomore year I became a resident assistant.  Bobby did, too, and we lived in the same co-ed dorm.  I can remember hanging out in his room and laughing and talking, and laughing some more.  Interestingly enough, Ed, who is my husband, landed in Morris Hall, also.  It's amusing to hear Ed talk about first meeting Bobby and me.  He thought we were a couple.  We weren't - just best friends - but it took some reconnaisance on Ed's part to find that out.  

     Bobby was a big fan of Ed's.He helped me figure out he was the one I should marry.  He knew he was the one for me, and fully supported that relationship.  Ed loved Bobby, too.  He knew he meant a lot to me.   Bobby and Lisa were always classically late to things, our wedding ceremony being one of them.  They completely missed it!  Granted, the ceremony was only 12 minutes long, but it was still funny.  They made it to the reception, which we all know is the most fun part anyway, right?  They even did a booze run for us when we ran out 3/4 of the way through the party.

     When we were all in college, we started a Friends' Thanksgiving tradition that has lasted 26 years. Bobby was a part of that from the very beginning.  He was never married, so it seemed like our kids were like his own, and he was their biggest fan.  He came to musicals, soccer games, birthdays, etc.  He knew all their friends, and their friends knew him.  He would ask about them by name.  All the kids loved him.  He was like their favorite uncle even though he wasn't related.  We all love this picture of him with Ellie and Katie at one of the Pittsburgh Friends' Thanksgivings.  Ed and I  moved to Pittsburgh because of Ed's career , and were there for five years.  My high school/college friends continued to made the trek several times a year.  It was so fun!

     When Bobby was 44, shortly after we had a great time tubing at Perfect North Slopes, he was diagnosed with cancer.  It seemed surreal.  He declined quickly, moving into a local Hospice in May, 4 short months after the diagnosis.  My daughter, Libby, was graduating from high school that Memorial Day weekend.  He watched the graduation ceremony, in which she gave the Salutatorian speech, live-streamed from his bed.  He was heartbroken he couldn't be there, and we were the same. On the day of the graduation party, my friends checked in on him (it was a very difficult time for me - I felt like I need to be with him, but I also needed to be with Libby and her celebrations), and he kept asking when the party was going to be over.  It was over about 7 or 8 pm, but close friends and family stayed.  At about 10:30, we got the call that he passed away.  We knew he was holding on until Libby's party was over.  She was already at a friend's bonfire, her day a wonderful success.  My group of friends gathered in a circle, and wept. For our friend, our cheerleader, our good-hearted companion.  He had a heart of gold.  None of our gatherings are quite the same without him.  When I said my final goodbye at his bedside, he asked me (and everyone else) to remember the good times.  Oh, we will, dear friend.  We will.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 26 - Arizona

In case this is your first time reading my slices, here is my focus for the challenge: my fifth graders and I are participating in the Slice of Life Challenge this month, and they're writing memoirs.  I thought I'd do the same kind of writing - memory writing - throughout the challenge. I'm going to be writing around photographs and memorabilia.

Grand Canyon - 1976

     When my mom and I were talking about my memory slices last week, she asked if I was going to write about our trip to Arizona.  It was funny because as we were talking, we realized it was way more fun for my mom and dad than it was for me. ;-)  I wasn't even going to write about it because I don't really have fond memories of it, but then I thought that it wasn't necessary to only write about good memories.  Even the unpleasant ones help shape us.

     I was only ten when we visited my Brandt cousins and aunt/uncle there.  They were living there for a year, and my parents thought (rightly) that it would be a great chance to visit.  I love this picture because of the way I'm standing.  I'm standing that way because my cousin Dorothea would stand like that for her pictures.  Remember how cool I thought she was (I wrote about the Brandt cousins in a previous slice)?  I was trying so hard to emulate her.  I also love the bell bottoms and Dad's sideburns.  

     I remember thinking Arizona looked like another planet.  All that brown and dry desert.  The cactus looked like aliens and the food worried me.  An oft-told tale of the trip was the burrito I ate which literally turned me green around the gills, coming up unceremoniously shortly after it went down.  I remember the turquoise jewelry at market shops and trying to decide what souvenirs to buy. I remember tagging along with Chad to the pool, feeling a little out of sorts.  What of the most vivid memories was lying in a little bed at night (I think it was a trundle bed that pulled out from the guest bed that my parents were sleeping on) and feeling homesick for my animals back home.  I also remember my mom and aunt wanting me to get up to see the sunrise at the Grand Canyon and I, who have never been a morning person, deciding against it.  When they came back, they said how beautiful it was and that they saw a deer, but I was unimpressed and didn't regret sleeping in.

     My mom, on the other hand, recounted lots of fun stories about the fun she and Dad had with Aunt Jan and Uncle Rich.  It made us think about how the same trip, family, or surroundings can evoke such different memories depending on point of view.  I am glad I got to see the Grand Canyon.  It was breathtaking and awesome, but the trip as a whole was not my favorite thing.  That's what I love about this trip down memory lane this March.  It chronicles a completely unique perspective....mine.  That's what makes memoir such an extraordinary genre.  Thank you for joining me on this journey - I will be sorry for it to end in just a few days.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 25 - Aunt Judy, Russell, and Kiki

In case this is your first time reading my slices, here is my focus for the challenge: my fifth graders and I are participating in the Slice of Life Challenge this month, and they're writing memoirs.  I thought I'd do the same kind of writing - memory writing - throughout the challenge. I'm going to be writing around photographs and memorabilia.

Aunt Judy, Aunt Jan, Mom
Russell, Kiki, Holly - 1973

     I wrote about my older Brandt cousins in a previous slice, so I'm writing about my younger Steponic cousins and Aunt Judy in this one.  Russell is a year younger than me, and Kiki (her nickname when she was a kid...her grown-up name is Erika, but it's still hard for me to call her that) is two years younger.   Aunt Judy was the middle Deaver sister, my Aunt Jan being the oldest, and my mom the youngest.  It's hard to believe Aunt Judy is no longer with us.  She passed away about fifteen years ago.  My memories of her are strong and good, though, and I'm happy to chronicle a few of them here.  

     My earliest memories of my Steponic cousins were when we visited them in New Hampshire.  Like my other extended family, we visited infrequently because of the distance, but when we did, I loved it.  New Hampshire seemed like a different world than Ohio, and I found it fascinating.   Speaking of fascinating, my aunt sure was.  I thought she had an exotic background - she was an airline stewardess who traveled the world when she was younger, and then she became a missionary later in life.  I loved the way she dressed - colorful, flowing outfits, able to be rolled up in her suitcase  for her world travels, and pulled out looking fabulous.  She loved to laugh, was so intelligent and full of faith.  Russell and Erika (I remembered to call her Erika!) got her creativity and giftedness, Erika becoming a technical writer, jewelry artist, and perfumer; Russell is a math teacher in Bahrain   - both of them amazing people.  I'm so lucky to have family members like them.

  Russell and Erika were able to come to some family reunions and celebrations, but not all.  Erika lives in San Fransisco and Russell still in Bahrain, so making all the family functions was difficult.  They both came to Grandpa and Grandma Deaver's 50th wedding anniversary reunion at my mom and dad's house.  They also came to my wedding.  I can remember Erika helping with the fabric roses filled with bird seed to throw at us after the ceremony.  (Don't ever do this!  It HURTS.  I was picking  bird seed out of my teeth for days - not really, but it seemed like it.)  She brought wine from San Francisco, which at the time, seemed very exotic.  She was so fun - hanging out with my friends and me.  Russell was great at the reception - he danced and twirled around my friend, Annie.  It meant so much to have them both there. Erika came to Oma Lou's (Grandma Deaver) 90 birthday celebration.  She once again used her creativity to make DVDs of Oma Lou's life, bringing us all to tears.  Neither could make it to Aunt Jan's 80th birthday celebration in Virginia, but we all Skyped with Russell for a long time, and Erika sent these amazing favors - clothespins hand-stamped with words and phrases that represented Aunt Jan.  We all took a bunch that we can use to hold photographs, quotes, Bible verses, or other special things.  We talked to Erika on the phone while we were all sitting around the dinner table paying tribue to my aunt.  It was special to have them both there in that way even though it wasn't physically.

     We miss Aunt Judy greatly.  I especially think my oldest daughter, Libby, would bond with her, just like I think she would Russell and Erika if she had the chance to be in the same place.  She just seems to have the same spirit.    Ed and I were fortunate enough to meet up with Erika in San Fransisco a few years back.  In typical Erika style, she put together a fabulous tour of the city, including a visit to Top of the Mark for champagne - the same place her mother, my Aunt Judy,  would go with her stewardess friends when she was in San Francisco.  I loved that - we took a moment to remember what an extraordinary woman Aunt Judy was, and what extraordinary children she left behind.  I feel privileged to call them my cousins.  (I have a few more pictures I wanted to include, but unfortunately, my iPad isn't cooperating on my vacation right now, so some of them got deleted.  I will add them as soon as I get home.)  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Slice of Life Challenge - Day 24 - Uncle Joe

In case this is your first time reading my slices, here is my focus for the challenge: my fifth graders and I are participating in the Slice of Life Challenge this month, and they're writing memoirs.  I thought I'd do the same kind of writing - memory writing - throughout the challenge. I'm going to be writing around photographs and memorabilia.

     When I was little, I adored my Uncle Joe.  He is my father's younger brother.  I thought he was so handsome and cool.  I wish I had a picture of him holding his guitar because that's how I remember him and partly why I was so enamored with him.  He would sing all kinds of songs, but the one I remember most was "They Call the Wind Mariah."

 He was always so kind and sweet to me.  I didn't see him often, but when I did, he would take extra time to talk with me and play the guitar because he knew I loved to hear him sing.  He even gave me a guitar one year, and I tried my hardest to learn how to play.  My cousin, Chad, played, too, and he tried to teach me some basics, but unfortunately, it never clicked.  I played some piano, too, at which I experienced a little more success, but music was just not a natural talent for me.  I lament that because I admire musical abilities in other people.  My daughters have heard me say that when I get to heaven, I hope I can be a backup singer. ;-)  Anyway, Uncle Joe could sing and play the guitar, which I loved.  I was a folk music fan, and he knew them all.  One of the best memories of my wedding weekend was that Uncle Joe sat on our front porch with his guitar and sang for hours.  It was after our rehearsal dinner, and friends and family came over to hang out.  I'll always think of my Uncle Joe fondly.  I don't get to see him anymore because of a multitude of reasons, but when he was a part of my life, I felt lucky he was my uncle!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Slice of Life - Day 23 - Oma Lou

In case this is your first time reading my slices, here is my focus for the challenge: my fifth graders and I are participating in the Slice of Life Challenge this month, and they're writing memoirs.  I thought I'd do the same kind of writing - memory writing - throughout the challenge. I'm going to be writing around photographs and memorabilia.

     This is one of my favorite pictures of  Grandpa and Grandma Deaver (my mom's parents).  It is 1960, and I love the way my grandpa is looking at Grandma.  So adoringly.  It's no wonder.  She was smart, independent, beautiful, and fun.  She managed to be no-nonsense and compassionate at the same time.  I loved her wit and sensibility.  My mom talks about how much she loved my dad, and he loved her.  When her great-grandchildren were born, we all started calling her Oma Lou.  She was a twin.  Her name was Lulu, and her sister's name was Lola.  Her friends called her Lou.  I love the stories my mom tells of her childhood - she felt like her parents were perfect.  I thought they were perfect, too.  I loved talking with Grandma.  She was a lifelong learner and was curious about everything.  She was ahead of her times - she was born in 1910, but she believed women should be what they wanted to be - all three of her daughters were educated and extremely intelligent.

     She was a wonderful grandmother.  This afghan she made was loved and passed down to my daughters, who kept it on their beds and brought it on vacations.  Grandma was a card player, so I played many hands of Gin Rummy with her.  We talked about books, politics, matters of the heart - everything.  She was energetic and had a great sense of humor.  That smile on her face was always there.  After my grandpa died, she moved in to a retirement community where she was happy and vibrant for many years. 

     Our whole family celebrated her 90th birthday in 2000.  What a memory that was!  Two short years later, she died of heart failure.  But that heart sure was full of life and love for 92 years, and we'll never forget her!