How to Get Lost (and a free book)

I’m not sure when it happened, but it was confirmed this past Christmas.  We have moved past the toys on the wish list.  My (not so) littles were hoping for things that supported their dreams–like dance and games and shoes.  My little fella asked for a pair of Crocs (easy to slide on and off and APPARENTLY back in fashion?!?) and books.  When I asked him what books–was there a series or author he preferred, he said “No ma’am, surprise me.  I always love what you pick out.”

As they were excitedly planning what gifts they wanted to give each other, I was scratching my head about what books to suggest to Santa to bring for him.  My little guy Cooter who didn’t read a lick until he turned 7 is an avid reader–magazines, books, cereal boxes…..whatever he can get his hands on.  He loves it when I grab a paper at the grocery store and bring home to him.  He reads it front to back, with extra attention to politics, comics, and ads for trucks.  And gas prices.  He’s a fanatic about watching gas prices.

Christmas morning was a delight and joy as we shared love and gifts and laughter and memories.  Cooter was intrigued by the book choices and said they looked promising.  Last fall he read the young adult version of Just Mercy because his big sister had read the original version, and there was a movie coming out.  He and his sister were fortunate to get to go to the advanced screening for the movie locally two days after Christmas.  He came home saying the book and movie had changed his life.  That moved me to tears because he has found a passion for justice and defeating wrong.  When looking for books for him, I knew to stick with history and books that would fall in this same realm.

One night about a week or so after Christmas, I was locking up and turning off the lights, preparing to go to bed a little after midnight.  Cooter has always been my child who goes to bed before everyone else.  10:30 is about the latest he can handle on the weekends, and he’s usually in bed way before that.  The girls tend to be night owls in comparison.  So I was surprised to see the light on underneath his door.  I suspected he’d fallen asleep reading as he often does.  When I opened the door, his face popped up from behind one of his Christmas books.  Shocked, I asked, “Buddy, what are you doing? It’s after midnight!” His eyes got huge and he said, “What?! For real?”  I recognized that look.  I have been blessed to feel that more times than I can count in my life.  He’d gotten so wrapped up in the story, he’d lost track of time completely.

Bless.

After he recounted the story to me, I encouraged him to put it away and turned off his light.  My heart was light and thankful.  He seemed to struggle–or maybe it was me–when he was little and reading was on the agenda.  He never seemed to be able to get what the letters in front of him were doing. Or I couldn’t help him understand. Until he turned 7.  And then it clicked.  For the past almost six years he’s been a voracious reader.  I’m so very thankful for that.  For his anger over injustice, for his love of funny books, for his need to read the stories from the past, for his desire to share the stories with me.  This year we are using a literature based curriculum for his lessons, and he is loving it.  Who knew when I was close to tears over his lack of drive to learn to read that we’d be where we were that night…..with his little face showing the shock of coming back to reality after being so lost in a really good book.

It all started with reading him good books when he was small.

Actually, that’s not true.

It started with my Mama reading me books when I was small.  I never felt our lives lacking, no matter what we did or didn’t have, because we were always surrounded by good stories.

Mama passed that and so many of those good books down to us.  I have shelves of her books that are blending with ours.  Children’s books that are still brought down and pored over and read and left sitting out to remind us that we are never too far from that child in us who first delighted over the pictures and rhythm of a well-written story.

That’s why I’m happy that me and mine are never too old to enjoy a good children’s book.  Especially since all of the ones by one of my favorite children’s authors have been published after my three have traditionally aged out of those books.

But we say we’re never too old to love one.

Matthew Paul Turner has a new book coming out tomorrow–When God Made the World.  You need this book for your littles, your grands, your friends, your home, yourself! Like all of his books before, he uses words to paint a story that your heart longs to hear–how each part of creation was designed lovingly and with a purpose–including and especially YOU! The author leaves us with a blessing and a charge–words that I find myself praying over my children as they enter this new chapter in their lives.

MPT when God made the world photo

I was talking to my sweet girl yesterday about her future and her dreams for it.  She listened and responded and finally shrugged.  “Mama, I’m just trying to figure out this being fifteen years old thing right now.”

Oh baby girl, I hear you.  And I get it.

Sometimes–actually quite often–it’s good to sit and simply reflect with gentle words and remember the stories from when we were small.  When God Made the World is just right for doing that.  With rhymes and words that remind us to look around us in wonder and appreciate the gifts that God has put before us, paired with the lovely bright and vivid illustrations by Gillian Gamble, Matthew Paul Turner has given us the perfect book for those moments.  He reminds us we are a part of a much bigger picture BUT a very important, precious, and unique part of it all.

MPT 4 books photo

The book releases tomorrow.  If you pre-order TODAY, you can copy and paste your order number at this link and choose another of Matthew Paul Turner’s books to be sent to you ABSOLUTELY FREE.  You don’t want to miss out on this.  All of his books are wonderful and make great gifts.  Or belong on your own shelf.  Go ahead and treat yourself.  I won’t tell.

Wishing you all some time today to get lost in a good book.  Cooter and I highly recommend it.

Love to all.

Maemae’s Holiday Book–2015 Edition

December 17, 1967.

Forty-eight years ago.

My parents stood before a small group of family and friends in front of the Pastor, and with my Mama’s best friend and my Daddy’s Daddy standing beside them, they said “I do.”

And they did.

They laughed, they learned, they worked hard, they listened, they tried, they failed, they succeeded, but most of all they loved.

Through it all. They loved.

Each other.  Us.  People they met along life’s journey.

They loved.

One of the things they enjoyed most was hearing stories about the children in the family–and those who were not in the family.  They loved the stories, and they loved being with them.  Over the years it became one of their greatest joys to pick out books for the little ones they knew and loved.  On birthdays and especially at Christmas.

It has been one of mine too.  For the past two Christmases I have chosen “Maemae’s holiday book” in honor of their anniversary. This being the third Christmas without my Mama right here with us, I spent a lot of time and energy and thought into making my choice for the book this year.

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Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman 

This year’s story I had to think about before committing to it.  After all, it is about a mouse.  Mama was not a fan of mice.  As a matter of fact, she could be downright inhospitable to the little creatures.  She never could sit down and watch “Ratatouille.”  A mouse that cooks?  Food?  In a restaurant?  “Blech,” she would say and shake her head.

Oh me.

But this little mouse named Mortimer (pretty sure Mama would have loved his name too, I know I do) is adorable, and the whole book is whimsical at the surface and powerful underneath.  It’s about making room and finding a place and feeling the love of the Gift given all so many years ago.  Without giving the storyline away, we can all learn something about hospitality and welcoming with open arms from this little mouse.  Eventually.  Like all the rest of us, Mortimer is a work in progress.

As I sit here next to our twinkle-lighted tree with “Mortimer” at my side, I give thanks for my parents who loved reading and taught me to do so as well.  I give thanks for them and their love of children and books and how they loved matching the perfect book to the perfect child.  It was a beautiful thing to behold and to be a part of.  Tonight I’m honored to carry on this tradition, and I hope, as the ones loved so dearly by Maemae and Cap/Uncle B and Aunt B find their books in their mailboxes over the next couple of days, that they will remember the smiles and the hugs, and even if they don’t remember that–I hope they will know how precious they are, that they were and are still so loved, and that every person deserves a sweet place where they are always welcome.  A place to call home.

Love to all.

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As I read Mortimer’s story, I kept thinking of this picture our Princess drew several years ago.  It is all of us around the supper table.  She said that extra seat was in case a special Guest dropped by.  Keeping room for others–at our table, in our homes, in our hearts, and in our lives–that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?  

 

PSI have one copy about Mortimer’s little adventure to share.  I’d love to send it to someone with a little one or not quite so little one who would enjoy it.  Comment below sharing your favorite holiday book and subscribe to the blog and you’re entered to win.  It’s that easy.  Winner will be selected randomly Friday 12/18 at midnight EST.  

And the Award Goes To…..

What a beautiful day!

I hope it was a sunshine-filled day where you are too.  We’ve had our fair share of cloudy/cold/gray/rainy days, and I love those too, to be quite honest, but today the sunshine and blue skies just suited.

It’s been a day of taking care of business.  (More cleaning out of things that belonged to those I love.  Today it wasn’t as hard as it has been, and that tells me I can do this.  It’s not easy, it’s not fun, but it’s doable. Which is good, because it has to be done eventually.)

It has also been a day of laughter.

My sister Mess Cat and her little guy Shaker mixed in with this crew?

A blast.

While my Fella and Leroy were hauling the heavy things from over yonder back to the house, we watched the children.

Ahem.

Well, we did.

And we talked about silly things like TV shows and things our children have been up to.  We talked about serious things like worries and the like.  And we talked about books we have been reading.

Mess Cat and I both LOVE books.  We both love to read.  Over the years we’ve shared many a good book back and forth and enjoyed talking about them.  (Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor, I’m especially looking at you. #tearsofsorrowandjoy )

Hey, Mess Cat, I think we’ve had our own little book club going and didn’t even know it.

But that was before.

Before the heartbreak and pain and grief.

It was interesting and somewhat comforting to me today when Mess Cat said that she really hasn’t been reading like she used to.

I was worried it was only me.

And since she’s making a concentrated effort and being intentional about picking up a book and reading it, I am encouraged.  Maybe we will get back to being the avid readers we were before the grief and anxiety took over.

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As we were talking, I hopped up from my Roost and found the book I picked up for a bargain price the other day.  I had to buy it for the blurb on the back alone.  HILARIOUS.  I shared the first chapter with Mess Cat and my oldest, and we were all three laughing until tears were rolling.

Good stuff that.

I’ve missed it.

Aub said that her Psychology professor has used some of this writer’s material in her classes.  I found that fascinating, so I read the author’s biography on the book jacket.

And this grabbed my attention.

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I read it aloud to my sister and my firstborn, and again we laughed.

It felt so good.

Mess Cat said through the laughter, “Self-awarded!”

And then the question came that simply had to be asked.

“So what award would you give yourself if you had that power?”

We laughed some more and batted around ideas.

After much contemplation this evening, I decided I would give myself the “most likely to compliment a stranger in a checkout line, at the grocery store, or anywhere else in the general public.”

In addition to this, I also award myself, “Mama who can frustrate her children in 10 seconds flat using less than fifteen words and no body language.”

I’m just that good, y’all.

Tonight I am thankful for the laughter.  For the feeling of not being alone in this journey of raising children, missing parents, cleaning house, and not reading books, I am especially grateful.  I’m also happy that I could find some things about myself that were “award worthy.”

What about you?  What award would you give yourself if you had that power?

(and here’s the thing–you do have that power)

So go ahead.  What’s your award?

Wishing you a day of appreciating all the wonderful and quirky things about yourself.  Name them.  It’s a good thing to love the person you spend most of your time with.  It just makes you a kinder person with everyone else.

Love to all.

 

Rainy Day Reading

It’s been a lovely, perfectly dreary rainy day today.

And I have loved it.

Days like this are perfect for reading, something I haven’t taken time out to do enough of  lately.

So, after I hung the cheerful twinkly lights across my back porch, which is my roost and sanctuary, I sat down to read.

And I read three books.  In a row.

Yep.  THREE.

I know, I couldn’t get over myself either.  Here I’ve been unable to really focus and read much of anything, and I go and read three books in a row.

*insert selfie high-five and pat on the back for me here*

Yep.  Yay me.

Oh, wait–did I mention they were children’s books?

Ah, well.  Ahem.

Yes.

Three wonderful books related to Thanksgiving.  They were all great stories. Well written, beautifully illustrated.  I loved each one, and if you can find them at your library or have time to go to the bookstore, you will want to read these too.  I just know it.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  I am sure I frustrated my Mama on more than one occasion because I was more worried about not missing my favorite performer than I was about helping her in the kitchen.  It just wasn’t Thanksgiving if I didn’t get to wave to Santa on the small black and white TV we had all those many years ago.

Now it’s the same.  I love watching it with my children.  I’m a little busier these days than I was back then, but I do love that parade.  The history, the wonderful floats and balloons.  And then I found this book and read it today, and I do declare it just made it all the more special for me.  This is the story of the puppeteer, Tony Sarg, who was asked by Macy’s to build puppets to be featured in the very first parade, alongside animals from the Central Park Zoo.  And as the crowds got bigger, Mr. Sarg had to make his puppets bigger so they could be seen above the heads of others.  A true story with great illustrations and facts galore.  I can’t wait to sit and read this with the littles and then watch it all click on Thursday.

This book tells the related story of why the parade was first begun.  It’s a fictionalized account, as the “real” Mr. Macy had died years before this story is set, but even with poetic license, this book does a beautiful job of talking about heritage and remembering who your people are and what their traditions were.  I love the spirit and the joy in this book.  And Milly let loose in Macy’s–how much fun would that be?  I’ve often said I’d like to go to New York City for 24 hours.  Only. (But I’d prefer to travel the ol’ wriggling of the nose method…..or floo powder, thank you very  much.)  Looking at the window displays in Macy’s and walking around inside would definitely make the “must do” list.

The last book I read today was the true story of how Thanksgiving almost wasn’t.  Did you know about this?  I am sure the turkeys, just like the one on the cover, are not happy one bit with Sarah Hale, the woman who wrote many, many letters over 38 years, asking that Thanksgiving become a nationally recognized day.  It was actually President Lincoln, in the middle of the turmoil and chaos of the war, who finally said yes.

This true story is told with a clever sense of humor.  I laughed out loud when I read this line.

“Never underestimate dainty little ladies.”  –Laurie Halse Anderson

I think I want this quote framed and hung, because there is more truth than a little bit in it.  Anyone who ever met my Mama knows that.

This book also had lots of interesting facts we shall feast on together tomorrow.  One little tidbit, Sarah Hale is the author of the nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”  Ms. Hale taught school and a student actually had a lamb follow her to school and wait for her all day.   The book also touches on Ms. Hale’s advocacy for education for women–wonder if she ever visited Wesleyan?–and her stance on women’s rights in general.  A great story that I didn’t know before.

 

Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite days of the year.  I love pie.  So there’s that–boy, do I love pie.  My Granny’s sweet potato with coconut, my Great Great Aunt’s Buttermilk custard–I miss them all.  And I miss my Mama’s dressing.  She would bake cornbread and let Daddy eat a little bit–but there were no leftovers for him to have the next day.  It went in the freezer for the dressing later on.  I think she started saving it a couple of months out.  That and breadcrumbs.

But I digress.  What I love the most is the being together.  The warmth, the stories, the memories being made.  This year we will be back at Blackberry Flats for the first time in years, and it will be quite wonderful–I’ve already decided.  The children will climb trees, and the grownups will talk, football will be on, and naps and third helpings are a given.

This year will be quite special as always, but thanks to the stories we are going to read and talk about this week, I think it will be even more so.  I can’t wait to hear their laughter over the illustrations and lines about dainty women being a force to reckon with.

Mama always encouraged us to be thankful every moment, every day, but I am grateful that we have a day set aside where quiet reflection is a must, where people dance in the streets to celebrate a melding of their past and present, where a puppeteer can make big dreams come true, and where the whole country comes together, if only for a day, in one accord.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Love to all.

 

(and if you get a chance to read one of these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts)

 

 

An Afternoon with Mama

This afternoon as I was out looking for one of my least favorite articles of clothing to shop for, I thought about my Mama.  She ruined me (no, okay, she “ruint” me) over the years.  I rarely had to go with her to the store.  She’d pick things up on sale (on clearance and WITH a coupon as my brother reminds us) and bring clothes home for us to try on.  To this day, I really don’t care for dressing rooms.  I’d much rather take things home and try them on there.  But, as returning things to some places is easier than others, today I found myself in the dressing room.  Thinking about how I miss the way my Mama took care of us like that.

Then before heading home, as I don’t have nearly enough books (whoa, was that lightning I just saw?), I popped in our local bookstore to check on a book or two for our studies.  I have to plan what country to move on to after Australia after all.  After looking for some books to inspire Cooter to step over into the world of chapter books and striking out on the search for Shakespeare comics for our Princess (yes, they exist, and yes she loves them–she read one in one sitting this morning), I meandered through the shelves, just looking.  I like meandering, and I don’t often get to do it when I have little people along.  They always have something they want to show me or just plain WANT, and so that sort of takes away the possibility for any meandering to occur.

And as if I weren’t missing my Mama enough already, I saw these

 

Miss Julia books by Ann B. Ross

Miss Julia books by Ann B. Ross

 

and these.

Diane Mott Davidson's Goldie mystery series

Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldie mystery series

 

Mama LOVED books.  I cannot remember a time when she didn’t have one bookmarked, indicating she always had one going.  At least one.  She loved children’s books, but she also loved adult fiction.  She was especially fond of clever mysteries and southern charm.  She adored Miss Julia.  I have the ones she got over the years.  The rest she borrowed from the library to read.  I stood looking at them today, wondering if a new one had come out since she’s been gone.  But I couldn’t go so far as to take one out and check the copyright.  She also loved the Goldie character from Diane Mott Davidson’s mystery series.  Mama loved stories with strong women–yes ma’am, she loved women who fought for themselves and didn’t just stand around calling out for help.  In books and in real life.

Tonight I’m thankful for a few quiet moments of remembering my Mama.  Only it was more than that–it was like spending time with her.  As I drove through the little streets of my hometown and by my old elementary school next door to the new dance studio, I could feel her sitting beside me.  I could feel her warmth and her smile.  And that brought me great joy.  I miss her.  I miss how she spoiled me, though I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time, and I miss how she loved me.  And I miss sharing good books with her.  We didn’t always read the same genres but the ones we did, we loved talking about.  We always got excited, anticipating a new release by one of our shared favorite authors.  I miss her every minute, and I am thankful for days like today, when the veil is thin, and I feel her with me so clearly.

Love to all.

 

The Stories Interwoven With My Own

Today has been one of those precious days that you set aside in your memories to come back to later when the days are dark and cold, to warm yourself by as though it’s a fire burning in the fireplace.  Time with my family, getting things done, and in the midst of the doing, taking time to smell the books…..I meant roses.  Actually, no, I mean books.  Anyone else do that?  Maybe it’s because I worked in the library for years, but I do tend to sniff my books occasionally.  Weird, but true.  I love books.  And everything about them.  Including their smell.

Today has been about bringing all of the books in our home to one area and putting them on shelves.  Over the years of collecting books, we’ve had some tucked on bookshelves in nearly every room in the house.  So if you were looking for a particular book, often you would just give up before you’d go through all the possibilities.  Today I have channeled my inner librarian and sorted by different groups–the books from Maemae’s house, the children’s stories, some separated out–like the Berestain bears and the chapter books and the fairy ones and the Star Wars and Cars ones.  I’ve even gotten a little crazy and “alpha by author” ‘ed our Junior fictions.  I have yet to start on my books, and the space is dwindling.  Obviously I have some culling to do.  I know, it pains me to even think it.  But I’d rather do that than get rid of any more of the children’s books.

And that is just something I can’t do.  As the day progressed and I saw and heard my children’s reactions to having their books put away where they can see them all in a glance, I knew there was no way that I could get rid of any of their books anytime soon.  And in part it was because many of these books are a part of my story as well.

Some of the classics sitting together on their own shelf.....

Some of the classics sitting together on their own shelf…..

Aub, as she surveyed the nearly done shelving of our “Junior Fiction” books, said, “I feel really vulnerable and out there with all of these books together like this for anyone to see.”  She touched one set of books and then another, “These were my third grade world…..these I loved when I was in the fifth grade.”  And then there’s the Harry Potter series.  She and Harry grew up together think.  I know what she means.  As I shelved some of the oldest ones we have, I remembered my own fifth grade year.  And high school.  And the book Mama and Daddy bought for me when I turned six.  All there.

Princess' and Cooter's very own shelves to hold their very own favorite books.

Princess’ and Cooter’s very own shelves to hold their very own favorite books. My Daddy’s “granite” bear was the first thing placed on the shelves.  It had to be.

 

Our Princess was thrilled that she got her own shelves for her fairy books and the Junie B books and the Magic Treehouse series.  Though we’d gotten that set for her sister at least twelve years ago, those are the ones she jumped into after she first learned to read.  Those will always be precious stories to us.

Cooter sat on the rug tonight, and asked us all to “keep it down” please because he wanted to read.  He pulled out books that he hasn’t looked at in ages, because he could put his hands on them now.  Only this time he saw them with a new lens–for the first time, he is seeing them through the eyes of a reader.  At one point today, as we were working on shelving, I looked and all three had a book OPEN in their hands, and they were reading for a moment.

Yes, I think this is a very good thing.

My Mama's books tucked away for the night in their own section.  The apples and kokeshi Grandparents use to sit on top of Mama's bookcase.  My children would feed the dolls the apples and then Daddy would move them when they weren't looking.  Too much fun and a sweet memory.  They will move for more books but for today, that is right where they belong.

My Mama’s books tucked away for the night in their own section. The wooden apples and kokeshi Grandparents use to sit on top of Mama’s bookcase. My children would “feed” the dolls the apples and then Daddy would move them when they weren’t looking. Too much fun and a sweet memory. They will move for more books but for today, that is right where they belong.

I thought we had shelved all of the children’s books, and I was beginning to breathe a little easier about having room for my books.  And then we found one last bin of books from my Mama’s that we’ve had for a while.  As I saw the sorted piles growing, I realized I needed another shelf to hold these.  These books had Cooter exclaiming, “Oh that’s one of my favorites!” several times. Princess, as she was helping me get them out of the bin, had to stop every few minutes and flip through one and read several words.  So sweet.  And my college girl, Aub, saw the lift-the-flap board book that I remember from long ago, and said, “Oh this was my very favorite book EVER! I love this book.  See all of the children’s names.  I used to say I liked this one, not that one, that one’s okay…..”

Umm, so no, of course that one wasn’t in the give away pile.

Ahem.

It is funny and beautiful to me the way these stories and mine are interconnected.  There are books that touch one’s life and never let go.  They never really leave, woven into the tapestry of who we are.  In truth, I think that I probably have fewer of those in my adult fiction and non-fiction books than I have in the children’s books that bring back memories.

Maybe if I look at it that way, it won’t be too hard to cull some of mine.

At least I hope so.  Because I won’t say goodbye to the children’s stories.  They’re just that good.

 

Love and wishes for a good book to read to all.