Now We’re the Pineapple People

One of my favorite people in the world is turning four next month.  He is our neighbor and one of my little guy’s best friends.  He cracks me up.  He is full of energy and life and I just love him.

I have watched him grow from a newborn to a fellow who says, “Let’s play ‘Ready Set Go.'”  Then you say those three words and he revs his “engine” and takes off.  Bless him, I wish I had that energy.  Even just five minutes a day would be good.

Within our little corner of the world here, we have a street full of young’uns ranging from three to eight in this group that plays together.  Their birthdays fall throughout the year, so it seems like there is always a birthday coming up for one of the children.  As you might imagine, they have their fair share of–ahem–discussions as well.  My almost four-year old friend came up with what I believe may be the greatest indication of where you stand with him.  One of the children did something to frustrate him, and he told his Mama, “She’s off my birfday wist.”  It doesn’t get much more serious than that folks.  He is for real.

But grace abounds.  You can right a wrong and he’ll put you back on his list.  Which is good.  Seeing as how his birthday is next month, I’m trying to be careful and not take any chances.

The shovel in our ground up tree stump pile.....that pool is really coming along!

The shovel in our ground up tree stump pile…..that pool is really coming along!

Two nights ago we were out back in our ground up tree stump pile. (Yes, that’s what it is, doesn’t everyone have one?)  Our friend likes to dig in it with the shovel my Daddy got our Princess for digging years ago.  He was digging for all he was worth–I think he might be digging me a pool, and I’m really quite pleased.  He would toss the dirt behind him.  On one toss he threw dirt all over his brother’s shirt.  The next one he threw dirt all in the Princess’ hair.  All was well because they knew he didn’t mean to.  I really don’t think they forgave him because of his upcoming festivities, but then again, you never know.  As his sweet Mama was gathering her two to head home, I took the shovel and dug a little out, almost without thought.  Sure enough, my little bit of dirt flew onto my friend’s shoes.  Oh dear.  He was NOT happy.  At all.  Fearfully, I said, “Am I still on your birthday list?”  He frowned and folded his arms across his chest and shook his head.  I’ve got to tell you, I was just about devastated.  As they started heading home, I followed behind him and told him he could play again the next morning.  He laughed, and when I asked, I was BACK ON the birthday list.  Huge sigh of relief.

My friend and his precious brother, both my guy’s best friends, are moving.  Such is the life of the military family.  Saying goodbyes, packing up, moving.  My heart is breaking.  Our children have had their own Roxaboxen out here.  I have loved this family and been loved by them.  I will miss the way my little guy and their older son, both two when they moved in, prefer to ride the other’s Big Wheels.  Every single time.  I’ll miss their games of good guy bad guy, when the little brother, my friend, runs after them with his siren blaring.  The three boys love to aggravate our Princess and her friend, and five minutes later they are all sitting together in my front yard playing “Duck Duck Goose.”  They all call my three by our family nicknames, which is so precious to me.  Their Daddy is the one who replaced the tire on our Princess’ bike when our Daddy was serving overseas.  Another time he was the one who helped us figure out what to do with the lethargic little chipmunk who found his way into our garage.  (We returned him to the woods where he is scampering playfully to this day–disagree and you’re not on my birfday list anymore.)  Their Mama and I have had so many late afternoon visits standing in her front yard or mine, sitting on her back porch or my front one.  When I got the call from Mama to come say goodbye to my Daddy nineteen months ago, she knew because she saw me leave my house so early and she KNOWS me.  When Mama went in for her HospitalStay, my sweet neighbor friend cooked a huge meal (actually several in one) for all of us, even remembering my Aub’s and my sister’s special food allergies.   And when our washing machine went out and we had no way to wash our clothes for Mama’s funeral, she was the one who said, “Bring them over here.  I got this.”  And she did.  Washed, dried, and hung up ready to go.  Neighbors and dear friends like that don’t come around very often.  I will miss her sweet spirit that she shares so generously.

pic of pineapple statue

When our neighbors moved in four years ago, one of the first things we noticed was a pineapple on their mailbox.  Pineapples represent hospitality, and this is one family that embodies that a thousandfold.  A week ago, I came home and the pineapple was on our mailbox.  We are only keeping it until this sweet family returns to our neighborhood in a few years.  But it was at that moment that the tears started flowing and the loss became real for me.

Change and goodbyes, you are not on my birfday list.  And I don’t think you will be back on it anytime soon.

On my Bedside Table

pic of bedside table books

I was inspired by the book I was given yesterday to get my reading act together.  As we wind down our “official learning” school year, and shift into mostly reading, I thought I’d get my “wish list of reading” put together for summer.

Before I get started on my rather lengthy and somewhat intimidating list (focus is a little hard these days), I thought I’d look back at what I have been able to read lately.  Just to remind myself I can.  *sigh*  I used to be able to read all the time.

Last book read:

Tornado by Betsy Byars–I read this one aloud yesterday morning to the littles.  We got all comfy and listened to the timely story of Pete, the farmhand, who gathered in the storm cellar with the family and told stories of his dog Tornado to keep their minds off the storm.  I really liked this one.  A lot.  So did the littles.

Before that:

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran and Barbara Cooney–I love this one.  But then I’ve already told y’all that.

And before that:

The Invisible Girls: A Memoir by Sarah Thebarge–Another excellent read.  The story will change how you look at people as you go through your day.  And how you can change your world.

I really haven’t read much in completion before those three.  At least not since last year.  In looking around here at my plethora of books, I was thinking.  People sometimes will ask you who your favorite author is.  That is hard to say depending on the mood I am in or what genre I’m reading at the time.  But if someone were to ask me, what author has affected you the most?  Easy.

Karen Spears Zacharias–I’ve read all of her books except one. (She also writes over here.)  She is the author of Hero Mama, also published as After the Flag Has Been Folded, Where’s Your Jesus Now?, Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? (‘Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV),  and A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder.  She has also written Benched: Judge Rufe McCombs, which is in my to be read stack of books.  Each one of her books has affected me, challenging how I think, what I do about what I think, and how bringing justice in this world requires each and every one of us taking a stand.  She’s a strong woman whom I was delighted to meet over a year ago.  I love her as a person and a writer.  If you want to have your world turned upside down and a fire lit under you, go find one of these books and set aside a few hours of uninterrupted time.  Each one of these was hard to put down.  I read Silence in its entirety in less than 24 hours after I got it.  And everyone was fed and clothed as required.  Even though you know the ending, you find yourself not believing that it’s actually going to end like that.  And then she puts making a difference in the reader’s lap.  GREAT BOOK.  If you’d like to know a little more about these books and their amazing author, watch this interview.  It was done when she visited us last May.

So on to my stack of to be reads–these do not include the ones on my wish list that I have yet to find at our local used bookstore or at the library.

Sitting on my bedside table:

Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling by Becca Stevens–I love Thistle Farms and the Magdalene project.  Rev. Stevens is doing some amazing things, and these women are healing and getting stronger.  You can check them out here or find them on Facebook.   Here are the words I read that made me HAVE TO HAVE this book.

From Rev. Becca Stevens' facebook page

From Snake Oil: The Art of Healing and Truth-Telling

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh–This book was recommended by Karen Spears Zacharias.  More than once.  Yes ma’am.  It’s getting read in the very near future.  The plight of young people aging out of the foster care system has been weighing on my heart and moving me to take action.  This book tells the story of Victoria, an eighteen-year-old who has been emancipated from the system and tries to find her way.  I look forward to reading this and seeing where this will lead me on my journey.

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans–Our Wednesday book group started this book back in January.  I was so excited about it.  Unfortunately the HospitalStay and life’s circumstances intervened, and I haven’t been able to get back to it.  Our group had a blast reading this, and I know I will too.

Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite–Another recommended by Karen Spears Zacharias.  She and Ms. Hite are going on tour together this fall with new releases for each of them.  I want to read this one in preparation for the tour.  I am hopeful we can host them in our area, just as we had Karen down last year for her Silence tour.  I’ve already learned that if Ms. Zacharias says it’s a good read, it’s a GOOD read.

Letters from the Earth by Mark Twain–A collection of stories and essays written after the death of his wife and one of their daughters.  This was recommended by a good friend, and I was able to acquire it through the old bookstore I love so much.  In the title story, Satan writes a letter to his fellow archangels about the inconsistencies of human religious faith.  Oh yes, this is going to be good.

The Saddlemaker’s Wife by Earlene Fowler–I was at the library last week, picking up a book on reserve from our princess’ reading list, when I wandered over to the new release section.  Because, you know, I don’t already have enough books here to read.  As I looked around, I saw the name–Earlene Fowler.  My chest tightened, and I took a deep breath to calm my spirit.  She was one of Mama’s favorites, and old habits are hard to kick–my first thought was, has Mama read this one?  Does she know about it? When I came around, I decided to check it out.  I used to read Ms. Fowler’s Benni Harper mysteries years ago, and I really enjoyed them.  When I read the blurb, I realized this was not in that series, but the sequel to The Saddlemaker’s Wife, which they did not have.  Nor could I request it at the time.  My favorite bookstore to the rescue again–I have a much loved copy here to read.  And remember Mama.  I do wonder if she read this one.  She wasn’t able to focus much on books and stories the past couple of years, so I really can’t be sure.

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings–My Aunt tells the story of my Daddy taking her to a bookstore in downtown Macon and getting this book for her.  She fell in love with reading.  So of course I had to find a copy.  And I will read it one day too.  It will remind me of Daddy, and his little sister.  He used to tell me about them piling up in his bed and him reading to her when she was little.  Precious.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly–When we were doing a major cleaning to prepare for our out of town company a couple of weeks ago, we went through Aub’s books.  We found some to give away, and I found some that I want to read.  This is one of them.  The cover is gorgeous.  I know, I know.  So I read the blurb–the story of an 11 year old girl in 1899, growing close to her grandfather and managing in a household with six brothers.  Sold.  I just know it will be delightful.  (Total sidenote–but the author has the same name as my eighth grade history teacher, whom I adored–what do you suppose…..?)

pic of calpurnia tate 2

The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason–Another one of my “cleaning up” finds.  I don’t know anything about it, except that one reviewer compared it to the works of Madeleine L’Engle.  Stop right there.  No further recommendation needed.  We’ll see.

Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row by Jarvis Jay Masters–this was my surprise treat that I got yesterday from my cousin.  I’m already 1/3 of the way into it.  Not too shabby for someone who hasn’t been able to get her reading groove back very easily.  I’ve heard grief will do that.  But with this book, the book is hard but the reading is easy.  If that even makes sense.  It is really eye-opening and heart-breaking and hope-filling.  A good book, one that I have a feeling will be another life-changer.

Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey by Margaret Feinberg–My Wednesday book group started this one several weeks ago.  I have missed being with them the past few months, so I grabbed a copy, read some on Wednesday morning and joined them after lunch.  Ms. Feinberg sets out to close the gap between the ancient world and our own.  She visits with a shepherdess, farmer, beekeeper, and vintner, seeking to find the connections.  Really, really interesting.  I’m still working on it, but I highly recommend this one.

So that’s the stack.  I have a couple on reserve at the library, waiting on those to come in.  And there are two that I am most looking forward to getting soon–

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman–newly released by the author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.  That book was so wonderful, I cannot wait to read her next one.  (So yeah, if you haven’t read that one, you might want to.)  I guess it will always be special because it’s one Mama and I both loved and talked about together.

Mother of Rain by Karen Spears Zacharias–This won’t be released until this fall and I CANNOT.  WAIT.  A work of fiction about folks in the Appalachia area.  I am so looking forward to this one.  I will also read Hitty: Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field in preparation.  She said that was a good idea, and she hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

So, on this beautiful summer Sunday, after we visit with our friends at Daybreak this evening and pour a little coffee and a lot of sweet tea, I will come home and grab a book off the stack and get started.  Today I am thankful I don’t have to set the alarm for tomorrow morning.  I have a feeling it might be a late night…..and a whole summer of them.  Lots of books, so little time.

If You Were Ever A Child…..

The homeschool curriculum I use with my littles is literature based. There is a list of books for “required” reading and then another list of “suggested” books if you have the time and your child loves to read.

Which mine does.

It was touch and go her kindergarten and first grade year. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. I gave her a copy of “Old Hat, New Hat” in November of her first grade year. Hoping she could read it. Eventually. Less than five months later she was reading Magic Tree House books. Something finally clicked. Now her favorites are the Rainbow Magic Fairy books by Daisy Meadows. I’m thinking that’s a pen name–you?

As we are looking at wrapping up the school year, I went through the suggested book list and put in many hold requests at the library. (Can I just say I LOVE Interlibrary loans?) We are running a bit behind this year because of the January/February HospitalStay, but reading will be a wonderful pastime for our summer break as well.

Yesterday the first of our hold requests came through, and we ran by and picked it up. Last night my second grader, who loves to read all the time, asked if I would come and read her a story. This was a special treat for me, as she enjoys being an independent reader. I picked up our library book, and we began reading.

Roxaboxen by Alice McLernan, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Oh my, bless it. Precious.

If you have a child or know a child or were ever a child, you should find this book. And read it. Right now. It’s a story of children playing, imaginations taking flight, and the memories we carry with us into adulthood.

Yes, I cried. It was that good.

It reminded me of our little brick house on Old Boy Scout Road. The little two bedroom house where, when she brought home my baby brother, child number four, Mama told Daddy, “I don’t think another thing will fit in here.” And so we moved to Blackberry Flats. But before I was nine, we lived in that little brick house. There was a spot under the pines between our house and the one next door that was perfect for sweeping out and using the pine needles to mark off rooms and houses. At one point, two young girls lived next door and we would play out there for hours, sweeping and building and playing.

It also reminded me of playing at my Granny’s, where we built toadhouses along the banks between her yard and the peach orchard right next to her. We created whole villages and were allowed to bring cars out (“be particular”) to drive in and out of them. My cousins and I used to play “Cowboys and Indians” at their old house on Rabbit Road, where the deep slope of the yard made for some great chases and use of imagination.

When we moved to Blackberry Flats, we had a horse, Betsy. Each fall Daddy would go and get a load of hay to put back for the winter. I can remember the smell of the sweet hay and the feeling of hefting up a bale and handing it down off the truck to him. He stacked it up in the side area of his building. (I guess it was a workshop, but all we ever called it was “Daddy’s building.”) I remember crawling up to the top of the stack of hay in that little shed and reading. Mama let us have the boxes their checkbooks came in, and we created a post office, each of us having our own “mailbox.” We made up our “names,” and we spent lots of time writing letters and “mailing” them.

Creating. Dreaming. Playing. Imagining. Only it all seemed so real.

Just like in Roxaboxen.

I’ve driven by the old home place on Old Boy Scout Road since I was grown. It seems so much smaller now, like the woods crept up towards the house. The old sand pile is still visible at my Granny’s old house. And while there is no hay, the shed at Daddy’s is still standing, stock full of memories that bring a smile and a tear.

I am thankful for those happy memories of a carefree childhood and for my own “Roxaboxen” places. I give thanks for my girls who love to read and dream, and hang onto the hope that my little guy will also find a love of reading one day. As I write this I look out my front window where my two little ones are playing with their friends, and soon they will come in all breathless, eager to tell me about their latest “adventures.” I love that they too have their own “Roxaboxen” right here on our little cul-de-sac. And I give thanks for those who have gone before, sharing stories and reading books with us, helping us to dream and play and imagine. Right now, I can’t think of a better gift that’s ever been given.