Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Joy is in Our Hearts

by Sara Groves

we were pressed on every side
full of fear and troubled thoughts
for good reason we carried heavy hearts

it is good to come together
in our friendship to remember
all the reasons hope is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

now with patience in our suffering
perseverance in our prayers
with good reason this hope is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

oh we saw the face of Angels
many good things well secured
for good reason this joy is in our hearts

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength
hallelujah hallelujah
Christ our joy and strength

for good reason joy is in our hearts

Wanting the Wisdom Without the Walk

Jon's Serious Wednesday post at Stuff Christians Like is especially good today.

Christian YA Fiction

This is an interesting article on the Christian version of YA fiction.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Getting Ready

Today I bought some books for my classroom, including some potential read-alouds, for the first time in months. I am starting to get excited about teaching again. For a long time, every time I have thought about my classroom or my work I have pushed the thought away. Now it seems to be close enough that it might actually happen.

One of my eighth graders sent me a message a couple of months ago saying that she really missed me, and adding that, to her great surprise, she missed my class, too. In her new school she didn't get to express herself in writing, the way she did in my Writer's Workshop classroom.

I am so looking forward to reading my students' writing again. Remind me of that, would you, when I start complaining about how much grading I have to do?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Memorial Service

This morning my family and I attended the worship service that always marks the end of the Reunion Weekend at the local university. This is where we attended, but this wasn't our reunion year - last year was. However, my husband had been asked to speak for a few minutes about Haiti. One of the traditions in this service is to honor those who have died since the last reunion. For the reunion classes, names and photos are shown of everyone who died in the past five years; for other classes, they only show those who died in the past twelve months.

This year I was more struck by this than I usually am. I saw two faces that I recognized, both of people younger than I am, and one of them had been one of my students. But I also kept thinking that our pictures could have been up there this year; we could so easily have died in the earthquake. And I also thought, Some day our pictures WILL be up there.

Every day is a gift; we know this well. But these days I am constantly aware of it. I am grateful for every moment of life and I want to live well in the moments that I have, to honor God and love the people around me.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I Have Finished the Race

This morning my daughter and I walked the local 5K. It's a run, but I walk almost every year. I missed it last year but blogged about it two years ago. It was fun to do it with my daughter - last time she was in it, I was pushing her in her stroller and she was two years old. That year she enjoyed it a lot more - as we came to the end she said, "That was easy!" This time she complained most of the way and kept announcing her imminent death. She finished, though!

Once again, the T-shirt this year was made in Haiti. I'm praying for people in Haiti whose race is so much harder than mine and who are running it with discipline and courage.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I Love to Tell the Story

On Thursday I got to spend some time with a dear friend who lost his wife in the earthquake in Haiti. It was wonderful and terrible to talk to him. One of the things J. said was that while he was under the rubble of the building, waiting to be rescued, not knowing if he ever would be, there were two songs that kept coming to his mind. One was "I Love to Tell the Story." (Here's a link to the lyrics; the link plays the music as well.)

In the evening, we attended a camp meeting service. We sang a hymn, and it was "I Love to Tell the Story." I couldn't even sing most of it.

These days when I talk to people I haven't seen in a while, the story I am telling is about the earthquake. Everyone wants to know where we were, and how it was. As those around me sang, I thought about that. Am I telling the right story?

Yes, I think I am. Because as J. and I told and retold our stories to each other - the parts we love to tell and the parts that make us cry - we were telling the story in the hymn. It is "the story of unseen things above,/ Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love." Even for J. it is, even though he lost the love of his life.

We talked about how we don't understand, about how it is all too confusing to fit into our theology. But about how we know that no matter how terrible it is, that God will bring good from it, and is bringing good from it.

Here on my blog, I have told and retold the story of what happened to us, and I don't want my story to be that I was in an earthquake and that it ruined my life. That's not a story I love to tell. But through all the wretchedness and misery that we've already seen and that we will see in the future, the story is that Jesus has met us, and loved us through His people, and that He will keep walking with us as the story continues.

P.S. I met a reader at the service, too! She said, "Are you the Ruth from Haiti that has a blog? I read your blog!" Hi, Hope! Thanks for reading!

Poetry Friday: Going Back

In some of our travels this summer, we went past a town where my husband lived for a year as a child. We got off the highway and drove through the town until he located the house, which apparently had changed little in the nearly forty years since he lived there. We drove by his school, which is now an apartment complex for senior citizens. We went by his uncle's house, where, on the day when his little brother was born, my husband was passed through the window because in all the confusion, nobody had the key. My husband (or rather, the small boy who became my husband many years later) unlocked the door and let everyone in, and saved the Thanksgiving turkey.

Such memories! And all of this made me think of the following Gregory Djanikian poem, "Going Back." (I love Djanikian's work and have posted a couple of his poems before here and here.)

Going Back

by Gregory Djanikian

We have been cruising, half a block
at a time, my wife, my two children,
all morning, and I have been pointing out
unhurriedly and with some feeling
places of consequence, sacred places,
backyards, lush fields, garages, alleyways.
“There,” I say, “by this big cottonwood,
That’s where I dropped the fly ball, 1959.”
“And in 1961,” I say, “at this very corner,
Barry Sapolsky tripped me up with his gym bag.”
My son has fallen asleep, my daughter
has been nodding “yes” indiscriminately
for the last half hour, and my wife
has the frozen, wide-eyed look of the undead.
“Maybe lunch,” I say, though I’m making now
my fourth approach to Curtin Jr. High School,
yellow-bricked, large-windowed, gothic,
where Frank Marone preyed on our terror once
and Janice Lehman walked in beauty.
“Salute, everyone,” I say, “salute,”
bringing my hand up to my brow as we pass
the gilded entrance, “This is where things
of importance happened,” and I am pulling out
from under the car seat a photo album
of old school pictures, “Page 8,” I say,
“Fred Decker, John Carlson by the bike rack,
Mr. Burkett … ,” and driving on, following
the invisible map before my eyes.
Now we are drifting toward my boyhood house
and I am showing my wife trellised porches,
bike routes, more than she’d care to see;
“Why this longing?” she says, “What about now,
the kids, our lives together, lunch, me?”

Here's the whole thing.

And here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pictures of Egypt

My son came home from school on the last day and said, "What I don't understand is why I really want to go back to Haiti but I also don't want to leave my friends. I mean, when I first came here I thought I would hate it here. And I do, but..." and he teared up.

The whole time we were here, he resisted feeling at home because it seemed he felt that liking being here would be somehow disloyal to his home in Haiti. And now that we are getting ready to go back, we are learning once again that there is always somewhere to miss; there are always people to miss. Life is a continual series of goodbyes.

I can't decide how appropriate this Sara Groves song is to our situation. We're not going from slavery to freedom, just from one place of uncertainty to another one. And where is Egypt? The way Haiti used to be? Our temporary home here in the US? Or just the past...our strong desire to be somewhere comfortable, where everything is figured out, instead of stepping out into something new and strange, where we have to trust God to lead us?

Today in Haiti

A friend posted this on Facebook. Reposted here with permission.

Paul and I went around Callebasse this morning documenting the homes that have been built and recording the GPS coordinates. We only were able to do a few homes, as we took time to hear stories and see the needs of others who lost their homes. The needs and stories are heart-wrenching. It was very hard to hear a mother share about losing her only child when their home caved in and to embrace her as she cried. As she took out a small cellphone box, she removed some photos of her precious child and sobbed. We prayed with her and we went on down the mountain. When we came back by her home, she was waiting for us with a gift of lemon grass and some peppers. In the midst of such sorrow, she wanted us to have this gift. I just wanted to sit down and cry. My heart is heavy for the people here. We walked the whole way home in the rain with a few others carrying two pumpkins and some leeks. We didn't really have to say much...humbled.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Leaving the Beach

It's the end of a glorious beach vacation, a gift from one of our earthquake refugees. I told a little bit of their story here. Soon after we got to the States, J. started mentioning the beach house and telling us we would be welcome to spend a week or so there in the summer. Back then it was winter and it felt to me as though summer would never come, but it did, and here we are.

Of course, we didn't realize that the house would look as though Martha Stewart had decorated it, or be filled with everything we could possibly need, including an endless supply of thick white towels, and another endless supply of beach towels. And, especially enjoyed by someone from Haiti, a laundry room with washer and dryer (I wrote here about how much fun it is to do laundry in the USA). We were a block from the beach, and we went there every day, but we also spent a lot of time watching World Cup action and playing games and reading and being a family. One night we went to see some live theater and came back after midnight.

It was wonderful.

Now we're cleaning up and getting ready to go. I am washing sheets and towels, sweeping up sand, packing. Each of these small domestic tasks, such as remaking a bed with sheets fresh from the dryer, cleaning a toilet, putting away bathing suits, is bittersweet for more than one reason. Yesterday was the solstice, so the days are getting shorter already, even as summer, according to the calendar, has just begun. Our time here is over. But also, each job inevitably makes me think of tent cities, of mothers making homes with what they have, which isn't much. When do they get their break from the harshness of their lives?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Reading Update

Book #33 was The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell. The author is a frequent contributor to the radio show This American Life, and the book has something of the style of that show - irreverent, discursive. Improbably, Vowell has written a history of the Puritans in North America, and it's highly entertaining. I liked this parenthetical remark, for obvious reasons:
(After an earthquake shook Boston in 1755 and prompted the usual religious flipouts about the wrath of God, Professor Winthrop delivered an influential lecture at Harvard proposing the earthquake might have been caused by heat and pressure below the surface of the earth. With God's help, of course, but God comes off as an engineer instead of a hothead vigilante.)

Book #34 was The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, by William Goldman. It's almost exactly like the movie, for which Goldman wrote the screenplay. Lots of fun.

Meg Wolitzer's book The Ten-Year Nap was #35. I liked this book and found the characters convincing. Four main characters are stay-at-home mothers in post-9/11 New York City (though one has recently moved to the suburbs), with varying attitudes towards what that means for them and for the way they had imagined their lives. A blurb from Salon on the back of the book begins, "Everyone has an opinion about stay-at-home mothers." Really? How annoying of "everyone." Meg Wolitzer at least seems to understand that there is not one monolithic type of stay-at-home mother to have an opinion about. When it comes to wondering in middle age if everything you had hoped to become was just a great big illusion, I think stay-at-home mothers don't have a monopoly, and this book may be more about being a human being than being a woman taking care of children. But human beings are wonderfully various, and so are the characters here.

I don't know quite what to think about book #36, The Great Lover, by Jill Dawson. It's a historical novel about the poet Rupert Brooke, who died in World War I. When I was fifteen or so, a teacher handed out a mimeographed copy of Brooke's poem "The Great Lover." (Here's the poem.) I remember the giggles as we read the title, and I remember the teacher making a comment about how she knew it sounded like Cassanova. Predictably, I loved the poem, which turned out to be about all the things that Brooke loved, including "White plates and cups, clean-gleaming,/Ringed with blue lines; and feathery fairy dust;/ Wet roofs, beneath the lamp-light, the strong crust/Of friendly bread, and many-tasting food." Later, another teacher gave me a copy of a collection of Brooke's poetry, inscribed with these words from one of his poems: "Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given." In college, I wrote a paper about one of his sonnets, and for the first time, read some criticism about his work. One author called him a "perpetual adolescent," which seems a bit unfair since he died at the age of 28, but which made me reread his poems a bit less rapturously and fall a little bit out of love with him. Well! Reading this book would have accomplished the same feat, since Brooke comes across as a spoiled, selfish, obnoxiously entitled young man, cursed by beauty that makes everyone - male and female - chase after him. Dawson portrays Brooke as an amazingly alive character, using lines from his own letters and notebooks and others' writing about him. We witness him trying to choose among his many admirers, fretting over the messy details of birth control, and musing, after writing to a girlfriend, "Sometimes I write well. Better than almost anybody in England!" We read a painfully detailed account of an encounter with another young man (one of the parts of the book quoted directly from his own writing). Fortunately my literary crush had been over for many years already, but I still love many of his poems and I wonder how he would have turned out if he had survived the war. And I do think this book is a remarkable achievement, making a far-off adolescence feel urgent and real.

This post is linked to the June 19th Saturday Review of Books.

Poetry Friday: Beach Glass

This poem is appropriate for several reasons. We're at the beach, spending some time reconnecting as a family - precious time. All of us Americans are being reminded right now of the value and fragility of beaches and the ocean, and of the temporary nature of all that we love. And every day we, like the ocean, turn the same things over and over, over and over, and contemplate how to make a life out of what we have been given, which is enough - of course it is, and how blessed we are - but which is also, sometimes, so painful that all we can do is look for what is beautiful, and pick that up.

Beach Glass

by Amy Clampitt

While you walk the water’s edge,
turning over concepts
I can’t envision, the honking buoy
serves notice that at any time
the wind may change
the reef-bell clatters
its treble monotone, deaf as Cassandra
to any note but warning. The ocean,
cumbered by no business more urgent
than keeping open old accounts
that never balanced,
goes on shuffling its millenniums
of quartz, granite, and basalt.
It behaves
toward the permutations of novelty
driftwood and shipwreck, last night’s
beer cans, spilt oil, the coughed-up
residue of plastic—with random
impartiality, playing catch or tag
or touch-last like a terrier,
turning the same thing over and over,
over and over. For the ocean, nothing
is beneath consideration.

Here's the rest.

And here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Talking About It

This morning my husband spoke about the earthquake in the church we attended. Although he had shared briefly in a couple of services we've attended together, this was the first time I had heard him make a full presentation on the subject. While I didn't learn anything really new about his perceptions, it was very emotional for me to listen. I cried profusely and was glad for the (southern?) custom of having boxes of tissues available in church pews.

In the evening, I gave my presentation. I have done the talk many times now but this was the first time my husband had heard it (though he had read the text). I noticed that his eyes weren't dry either.

We asked the kids what they thought afterwards, and our son said that he didn't mind listening to it, since the earthquake was all over now.

Well, maybe it's not completely over yet. Not for us, and not for Haiti.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Five Months

Five months after the earthquake, this article says the world has forgotten Haiti.

What is there to say about Haiti? We're frustrated with how bad the conditions still are. And yet, life goes on. In the camps people try to forget by watching the World Cup. And some remember Joe Gaetjens, the Haitian who actually scored that goal we've been hearing so much about today, the one 60 years ago that allowed the US to beat England. (Altidore, also of Haitian descent, almost scored today - wouldn't that have been great?)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Reading Update

Book #29 was The Program, by Stephen White. The "program" of the title is the Witness Protection Program, in which Dr. Alan Gregory gets involved when he helps out a friend who is on maternity leave and needs someone to substitute for her in doing psychological therapy for people in "the program." I like these novels about Dr. Gregory, and I enjoyed the relationships in this one.

Book #30 was another Elizabeth Berg title, Until the Real Thing Comes Along. Patty is desperate for love and marriage, but especially for children. She has been in love since sixth grade with Ethan, who is gay. I never found either Patty or Ethan to be very convincing characters, and the supposedly happy ending of this book was mostly just sad to me.

Book #31, Let it Rain Coffee, by Angie Cruz, was about Dominican immigrants in New York City. I liked the title better than the book.

Book #32 was also about an immigrant in New York: the unforgettable Strength in What Remains, by Tracy Kidder. Deogratias ends up in New York after his experiences in Burundi, where he was on the run for six months from génocidaires. He continues to suffer in New York City, both from the trauma of what he has already seen, and from the difficulties of someone with no money, no English, and no friends. I admire Tracy Kidder's handling of his material; as in Mountains Beyond Mountains, he manages to be a character in the book without taking over, and in a way that presents his subject to his audience even more clearly. I would like to know more about Deo's spiritual beliefs, which are referred to only obliquely. (We learn, for example, that he is "far from irreligious.") Kidder is uncomfortable with some of his own thoughts about Deo:
She [Sharon] was an unusual person, obviously, and for Deo to have run into her on his grocery delivery rounds was a great piece of luck, maybe even - in Sharon's presence, I was tempted into thinking this - providential.

In Survival in Auschwitz, Primo Levi writes, "Today I think that if for no other reason than an Auschwitz existed, no one in our age should speak of Providence." But for all the horror visited on Deo, the list of strangers who had saved him seemed remarkable....It wasn't as though there was some sort of outreach program in place for people like Deo...No doubt because I was in Sharon's presence, I found myself thinking, "Something must have been looking out for Deo." And I disliked hearing the words in my mind.

I said to Sharon, "One of the things I've noticed about some of the genocide narratives I've read, people will say, 'God spared me.' The problem I have with that is then you think, 'Well, what about all the people who got their heads chopped off? Did God not like them?'" I added, "So I'm not quite sure that's the way to look at it."

"I have a theory," she replied. "I remember thinking long ago, 'We're loved infinitely for how ever little bit of time we have.' And it's not ultimately tragic to die at any age. Whether we're talking about being blown into little pieces or what is ultimate tragedy, I just think there isn't ultimate tragedy except for evil, and God doesn't will any evil. And we're surrounded by - I tell the kids about the Good Shepherd, I think it's a great image for them, but the vine and the branches is great too - but whether we feel it or not, we are surrounded by this tremendously loving presence, and that covers every second of every day. Of everybody."
This book is often difficult to read; Deo's life has been unspeakably terrible, and he still suffers from the consequences. But ultimately this book is about what human beings can survive and still remain human beings, compassionate and willing to give to others. I would like people I know to read it so that we can talk about it!

This post is linked to the June 12th Saturday Review of Books.

Poetry Friday: Soundtrack, Summer 1987

I've been thinking about the way music provides a soundtrack to my life, so that forever after, every time I hear that song it brings back a particular time and place. One of my high school roommates really liked Meatloaf, for example. So if I were to hear "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" (and I just had that dubious pleasure, courtesy of YouTube), I would think of sweet Clare, who was a great friend but whose musical tastes were quite different from mine.

But I was thinking especially of the summer of 1987, which I spent in Paris, studying French, and I was trying to remember the soundtrack of that summer. I can only remember two songs. One is Madonna's "La Isla Bonita," which was everywhere. I remember hearing it in stores, and blaring through the banlieue where we stayed. It's in English and Spanish, not French, but it will always bring back the freedom and delight of that summer.

Edit: I had posted the original video of this song here, but it's been pulled from YouTube, so here's another version - not at all the same as the one I remember.

The only other song I remember is so dreadful that I won't even post the video, though you can go see it on YouTube should you be so inclined. I couldn't remember anything about it except that it was about someone called Hélène. Google came through for me and I found out that it's by Julien Clerc, and the title is, in fact, "Hélène." I know now why I paid attention to this song. It's because the singer says, again and again, "Hélène, j'suis pas Verlaine." In other words, he's not the poet Verlaine, or a poet at all, and yet he will still write things about her. I remember now that every time I heard him say "J'suis pas Verlaine," I thought, "Wow, you sure aren't." (The things he wrote about her made me cringe when I was a teenager, and still make me cringe now. And the only word for the singer himself is smarmy.)

Which brings me to the true soundtrack for that summer: poetry. I was in love, and I was studying literature, and I had an assignment to explicate the poem "Dans l'interminable ennui de la plaine," by, yes, Verlaine. And let me tell you, that guy? He was Verlaine.

I remember working very hard on that explication de texte, which I had to present in front of my class. I would sit in a café drinking a $6 cup of coffee (and I don't even like coffee) or in the Jardin de Luxembourg, and feel pure joy. I was in Paris!

Verlaine was the perfect poet for the bookish teenager I was, besotted with Paris and the whole experience of being in France and in love with a far-off boyfriend who was not writing back to me nearly as much as I wanted him to. (In fact, he broke up with me when we got back to college, but that is another whole different story, and, as Jane Eyre said, "Reader, I married him.")

Here's the first stanza of "Dans l'interminable ennui de la plaine" (and here's the rest of it, plus an English translation and also links to musical settings of the text).

Dans l'interminable
Ennui de la plaine,
La neige incertaine
Luit comme du sable.

Great stuff, Verlaine. And here's the first stanza of another wonderful Verlaine poem, also perfect for adolescence. (Link here to the rest of it, plus English translation and musical settings.)

Il pleure dans mon coeur
Comme il pleut sur la ville,
Quelle est cette langueur
Qui pénètre mon coeur ?

Delicious. It brings it all back, just as much as music does. Walking through the streets of Paris, eating schwarma or pain au chocolat, buying books from tables in front of bookstores, riding the Métro, being flirted with by charming Algerian boys...and hearing "La Isla Bonita" at every turn.

I think this may be one of those self-indulgent posts that nobody appreciates but me. But I sure had fun writing it.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

World Cup

It's hard to believe that it has been four years since I wrote these posts about the 2006 World Cup.

This year, giant screens have been set up in tent cities in Port-au-Prince so that people made homeless by the earthquake can watch. Here's more.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Happy and Sad

I am happy.

Babies. A lovely niece born early Monday morning, whom I have not yet seen in person, and a lovely nearly four month old nephew, whom I met over the weekend and whom I have been privileged to hold for hours. (What is this "let him fuss" of which they speak? I feign deafness.)

The beach. A family reunion complete with sunscreen, damp towels everywhere, soft, powdery sand. My back tingling from a bit too much sun. I have missed the tropics.

My husband. Back from Haiti for a rest and some family time. I listen to him snoring and find it a beautiful sound. I wake up beside him and feel the world is the way it is supposed to be.

And I am sad.

These photos of Port-au-Prince taken from the air show tents everywhere. It rains torrentially every night. People get no break from that. That's their life now.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Six Steps to Making a Good Marriage Even Better

1. Survive an earthquake together.

2. Spend almost all of five months apart. A long way apart, preferably in separate countries.

3. Communicate sporadically at first, then more regularly by phone, email, and Skype.

4. Face many challenges separately.

5. Get back together.

6. Realize many times a day what a blessing your spouse is and how you could so easily have lost him/her. As a result of this realization, treat each other like the one-of-a-kind creations of God you both are and revel in God's incomprehensible and completely undeserved goodness in letting you be together.

Please note: Some experts have suggested that the first five steps could be omitted and that couples could skip directly to #6, with similar results (and fewer side effects). More research needs to be done on this point.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Psalm 30

I read this from the Psalter this morning - part of today's reading from the Book of Common Prayer.

Psalm 30

I will exalt you, O Lord,
because you have lifted me up
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

O Lord my God, I cried out to you,
and you restored me to health.

You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead;
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

Sing to the Lord, you servants of his;
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,
his favor for a lifetime.

Weeping may spend the night,
but joy comes in the morning.

While I felt secure, I said,
"I shall never be disturbed.
You, Lord, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains."

Then you hid your face,
and I was filled with fear.

I cried to you, O Lord;
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,

"What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?
will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me;
O Lord, be my helper."

You have turned my wailing into dancing;
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;
O Lord my God, I will give thanks forever.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Reading Update

Book #26 was a re-read, Susan Howatch's Absolute Truths, the final book in her Starbridge series. (I wrote a bit about that series in this post.) These characters, rascally as they sometimes are, demonstrate beautifully the way God works in our lives, redeeming the tragedy and suffering and intermingling them to bring good from them.

Book #27 was another re-read, Parenting Through Crisis: Helping Kids in Times of Loss, Grief, and Change, by Barbara Coloroso. Coloroso's book Kids Are Worth It is probably my favorite parenting book. I like the way she clarifies issues and makes parenting about treating people the way they should be treated. I like the "scripts" she gives for dealing with daily events (her chapter about alternatives to "no" is especially good). This book isn't as readable as Kids Are Worth It, and probably most people wouldn't read it straight through the way I did. I liked the more general sections the best, as those were the ones which related the most to my circumstances (the word "earthquake" was mentioned once in the book but, for obvious reasons, helping children recover from an earthquake wasn't its main focus). Other parts of the book take on topics such as death, illness, divorce, adoption, and step-parenting. At the end of the book there is a section called "Responding to Crises Large and Small," and here Coloroso discusses school shootings and bullying; she is from Littleton, Colorado, so she has some first-hand experience. I'd recommend reading Kids Are Worth It for parenting philosophy, and then dipping into Parenting Through Crisis more for the specific issue that interests you. I do love Coloroso's emphasis on optimism (she says that every crisis must be met with Time, Affection, and Optimism) and on giving children the tools to move on from difficult experiences, rather than being flattened and forever defined by them. (My sister-in-law wondered whether the title was advocating "crisis" as a parenting method.)

Book #28 was Small Island, by Andrea Levy. Levy grew up in a Jamaican family in Britain, and the book is about Jamaicans in London in 1948. She brings their world alive. After finishing the book I listened to this program(me) from the BBC, where Levy discusses the book and does wonderful readings of bits of it.

Here's today's Saturday Review of Books.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Poetry Friday: Last Day of School

Today is the last day of school, and everyone knows that that is the real beginning of summer, whatever the calendar says. When I went looking for "end of school poems" I found this article, which has suggestions for poems to stick in your child's lunchbox on many days throughout the school year. There are three suggestions for the last day of the school year, and I picked this one to savor as I anticipate a summer with some days at the beach (which we hope will still be oil-free), some time reconnecting as a family, and a return to our island home:


by Lilian Moore

I made a sand castle.
In rolled the sea.
"All sand castles
belong to me—
to me,"
said the sea.

I dug sand tunnels.
In flowed the sea.
"All sand tunnels
belong to me—
to me,"
said the sea.

I saw my sand pail floating free.
I ran and snatched it from the sea.
"My sand pail
belongs to me—
to ME!"

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


I've been reading many posts lately about Facebook. Here are some examples:

Janet posted here and here. She has pretty comprehensive lists here of what she doesn't like about Facebook.

I already linked to Jess' post about how Facebook is a poor substitute for real community.

And Jon has a post today for Serious Wednesday reminding us that loneliness is as big a problem today as it was in those pre-Facebook days.
Right now, we have thousands of friends who know the Facebook version of us.

Right now, we can distract you from what we want to hide with mountains of tweets and status updates and rivers of words.

Right now we have more tools than ever before to be someone we’re really not.

Right now, we are connected to more people and known by less.

I agree with all these criticisms. Honestly, I do. (Even though, unlike Jon, I don't have 6,290 people who "like" me.) But I'm still not leaving Facebook.

I had had my account just over a year when the earthquake hit Haiti. During that time I had "reconnected" with many friends from my past. When I got back online two days after the quake, I had hundreds of emails and Facebook messages wondering if we were all right. My brother was able to update many people by writing a message on my page before I was online again. During one of those sleepless nights before I left Haiti, I chatted with a friend on Facebook (and then just sent messages back and forth when the chat kept shutting down) and she talked me down from my panic attack. It took weeks before cellphones worked again, and even within the country we were sending Facebook messages to each other. After I got to the States, Facebook was my source for short comments about how things were in Haiti. And I was able to feel I was doing something to help when I posted articles and information on Facebook and saw many of my friends reposting the links so that others would know more.

Here's an article about how others experienced using Facebook and Twitter in those early days.

Here's Kristen's take on Facebook post-earthquake.

It's true that Facebook friendship is not the same thing as true friendship. I realize I am only an observer, and not truly a participant, in people's lives (and they in mine). And it's definitely true that Facebook takes a lot of time. I'll be on it much less when I go back to my full-time job (as opposed to my current occupation of blogging and...reading Facebook)!

But I'll take knowing a little bit about people in my life over knowing nothing, and for many people, writing a little blurb on Facebook is the kind of communication they can handle. And I like the chance to have these little windows into people's lives. This has particularly been true for me during this time when I've been apart from many of my friends and colleagues and students. A sweet student who always says I'm her "second mother" wrote me a note on Haitian Mother's Day. Dozens of friends wished me a happy birthday. I posted pictures of the kids so that my husband, and their teachers, could see them. And my friend Dave asked, out of the blue, why I didn't stop talking about the war (Fawlty Towers humor, and call me weird, but it cheered me up that day).

So no, it's not a substitute for community, but I like it and I'm going to keep updating my status, and liking other people's statuses (stati?), for a while longer.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Theme Day - Funny Signs

The first day of the month is always Theme Day on the Daily Photo blogs. Today's theme is Funny Signs and at that link you can see thumbnails of the participants' photos.