Monday, December 31, 2012

Books Read in 2012

Books #1-8
Book #9
Books #10-20 (Actually, through 21 - first mathematical error detected. I'm good at reading, not counting.)
Books #22-28
Books #29-32
Books #33-36
Books #37-40
Books #41-44
Books #45-52

On my latest check, I did reach my goal of 52 books this year. I'll go check it one more time, but I think I'm right.

Reading Update

We just got back from a relaxing few days at the beach with our Christmas guests.  Here's the last reading update of the year.  My goal was 52 books.

Book #44 was Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. This was for my class, and I really enjoyed it, so much that I ordered the sequel when it came out.  So while I didn't really read this next, let's count Days of Blood and Starlight as book #45 of the year.

Book #46 was The New Kids, by Brooke Hauser. This is a journalistic book about a high school for immigrants in New York City, and it was fascinating reading. Highly recommended.

Book #47 was The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This was another book that I liked a lot. It was the story of a foster child whose most enduring placement was with a foster mother who knew all about flowers and what they meant in Victorian times. The book has a beautiful website complete with a flower dictionary in case you want to try some of the language of flowers.

Book #48 was  Inquiry and the Literary Text: Constructing Discussions in the English Classroom. This was the textbook for the class I took this fall, and I found it useful reading. It contains many helpful suggestions for leading book discussions with students.

Book #49 was  Kingdom Journeys: Rediscovering the Lost Spiritual Discipline, by Seth Barnes. This was a very interesting discussion of how going somewhere new, somewhere uncomfortable, can be a galvanizing force for the spiritual life.

Book #50 was a reread, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, always one of my favorites.

Book #51 was the one I read at the beach, To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. This was a time travel story recommended by my daughter, and it was thoroughly entertaining. The title refers to the Victorian book Three Men in a Boat, To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Jerome K. Jerome. I hadn't read it since high school, but this was a fun reminder.

You can see that I didn't quite meet my goal, but I was pretty close.  My reading wasn't terribly cerebral this year but it was enjoyable. I hope my readers will forgive my cursory reviews in my haste to finish up the year's listings.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Poetry Friday: Winter Stars

Winter Stars
by Sara Teasdale

I went out at night alone;
The young blood flowing beyond the sea
Seemed to have drenched my spirit’s wings—
I bore my sorrow heavily.

But when I lifted up my head
From shadows shaken on the snow,
I saw Orion in the east
Burn steadily as long ago.

From windows in my father’s house,
Dreaming my dreams on winter nights,
I watched Orion as a girl
Above another city’s lights.

Years go, dreams go, and youth goes too,
The world’s heart breaks beneath its wars,
All things are changed, save in the east
The faithful beauty of the stars.

Here's today's roundup.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Peace Peace

This song is actually the one I was looking for yesterday, and I couldn't find any renditions on YouTube that I liked. Apparently my friends the Livesays were thinking about the same song, though, and last night they posted this video of their daughter singing it.

Peace Peace
By Sara Groves, Ben Gowell and Aaron Fabbrini

Peace Peace it's hard to find
trouble comes like a wrecking ball
to your peace of mind
and all that worry you can't leave behind you

all your hopes and fears
all your hopes and fears
all your hopes and fears
are met in Him tonight

peace peace it's hard to find
doubt comes like a tiny voice
that's so unkind
and all your fears they conspire to unwind you

all your hopes and fears
all your hopes and fears
all your hopes and fears
are met in Him

And in your dark street shines
an everlasting light
and all your hopes and fears
are met in Him tonight

all your hopes and fears
all your hopes and fears
all your hopes and fears
are met in Him tonight

peace peace
peace peace
peace peace

Friday, December 14, 2012

Poetry Friday: This Peace

So many words to say, but I'm opting for silence
So many days to live
I thinking I'm sitting this one out
Cause something I've been chasing finally stop to let me catch it
Something I've been longing for and dreaming about 

It's a whisper in my ear
It's a shiver up my spine
 It's the gratitude I feel for all that's right 
It's a mystery appeal that's been granted me tonight
This peace

It's something so elusive
Something close but far away
It's the home that I can't live in yet somewhere in outer space 
And sometimes I barely miss it when I walk into the room
The curtains are still swaying and I feel the air move 

And it whispers in my ear and it shivers up my spine 
It's the gratitude I feel for all that's right 
It's a mystery appeal that's been granted me tonight 
This peace

No time to grab a camera
No time to write it down
Just time enough to breathe it in 
And linger 

It's a whisper in my ear 
It's a shiver up my spine
It's the gratitude I feel for all that's right
It's a mystery appeal that's been granted me tonight
This peace 
This peace 

Sara Groves

I had this YouTube page open on my laptop, ready to post it the first chance I got in my hectic day.  Then the news came through about Connecticut and it seemed even more appropriate.  There's so much that is not right in this world, so much suffering and horror.  In this holiday season, and end of school season, when we're all busy and the news is screaming at us about tragedies we can hardly bear to imagine, I wish you a little peace today, a little gratitude for all that's right in your life.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

No God-forsaken Towns

This past week, a study came out listing the best and worst cities in the world to live in.  I never expect Port-au-Prince to make the "best" list, but I was surprised by just how low our city scored on this index.  Out of 221 cities studied, Port-au-Prince placed 219th.  A new tourist slogan could be: "We're better than Bangui and Baghdad!"

There's worse news, too.  The same study examined the infrastructure in these cities, and on that list, Port-au-Prince came in 221st.  Yes, dead last.

Here's an article about the Mercer study and here's the study itself. And here is a recent UN report on the status of the world's cities.

It's true that in Port-au-Prince, you have to spend a lot more energy on acquiring basic utilities than in most urban settings in this world.  I've whined about that many times on this blog.  And that's for people living in homes.  A statistic I read this week said that 360,000 people continue to live in tents following the earthquake.  We will soon mark the three year anniversary of the earthquake.  Imagine living in a tent for three years, a tent that has by now been disintegrating in the tropical sun and rain for a very long time.  There is deep, intractable poverty here.  The inequalities are severe.  Yes, there is still much that is beautiful (and frankly I'd much rather focus on that), but I can't deny that the quality of life for many people in this city is far from adequate.

Kelley Nikondeha, who lives in Burundi, put it this way, speaking not specifically of Port-au-Prince but of the world in general, the suffering she sees everywhere:
More than anything I feel weighted by unsatisfied longings. Ambushed by word of disrupted adoptions and the demolished marriage of friends, angst replaces the more traditional anticipation. News out of places like Goma and Gaza remind me people live under daily threat, some days cowering in their homes. Slums in Kampala and townships outside Cape Town refuse to be quieted, they scream of layers upon layers, years and years of injustice. These people, these places press all the levity out of me.
  Read the rest of her post about her Advent ache here.

As we celebrate Advent once more, I have to believe that Emmanuel, God with us, is here in this city, that He has not forsaken this city or this world.  He came as a baby, as vulnerable as it is possible to be, to a family who had nowhere to stay the night of His birth and who became refugees soon afterward.

Last night we listened to a concert of the Messiah.  Before the concert, my husband and I got to hold the twin babies of a school employee, as their father beamed and snapped pictures with his phone.  Later, as we sat waiting for the music to start, I noticed a row of drool marks on my husband's shoulder from the tiny boy he had snuggled against him.  Instantly my mind went to the description of the Messiah that we would soon hear sung: "the government shall be upon His shoulder."  He who shoulders the burdens of the world became small enough to be held against the shoulder of fallible human parents.  He entered into the mess of the world, the low quality of life, the lack of infrastructure, and He is still here, bringing life in mysterious and incomprehensible ways.  

But we wait, we long, we work, for things to be better.  Because one way God is in this city is in His people.  Even though we don't know what to do, and we don't know how to help, and we get it wrong so often. 

Friday, December 07, 2012

Poetry Friday: Best of 2012

This week I got an email from the Academy of American Poets giving the results of the voting on the best poems of the year. I've mentioned before that I get a daily email from the AAP (not the American Academy of Pediatrics), whose site is I didn't vote in these elections, but when I looked at the choices, I was surprised and interested to see that of the ten chosen, five were ones I had particularly liked myself. ( I always save the ones I like best and delete the others from my email.) Considering that voters had about 350 poems to choose from, this seemed a high level of agreement. You can look at the list here of which poems were chosen. There are links to all of them.

I had some trouble deciding which one of them to share with you here, but finally decided on this Rafael Campo poem, entitled "Love Song for Love Songs," for a couple of reasons. First, I've been reading a lot of love poetry this week, drafts from my seventh and eighth graders. I'm touched and amused in about equal measure by their take on romantic love, the pain and embarrassment and ecstasy and misery. At this age, at least in our school, they are mostly talking about crushes and adoration from afar, which is no doubt just as it should be. Still, these emotions are real to them, and I'm glad they can write about them. And secondly, isn't all poetry love poetry in its broadest sense? Poets write about our love for people and places and times and living, and even when they are writing of suffering or of topics that seem to have nothing to do with love, they still remind us of our rootedness in this earth, and of the joy and sorrow of being human. This poem is light and funny (and I enjoyed searching out more of Rafael Campo's poems, and his ironic touch), but it also makes me think of the job of poets, to make the oldest ideas and experiences in the world fresh and new. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes not, but I am so thankful that they (and I, in my own way) keep trying.

Love Song for Love Songs

Rafael Campo

A golden age of love songs and we still
can't get it right. Does your kiss really taste
like butter cream? To me, the moon's bright face
was neither like a pizza pie nor full;
the Beguine began, but my eyelid twitched.
"No more I love you's," someone else assured
us, pouring out her heart, in love (of course)—
what bothers me the most is that high-pitched,
undone whine of "Why am I so alone?"

 Here's the rest.

And here's today's roundup.

Thursday, December 06, 2012


Once November and the daily posting commitment was over, I slipped back into my old ways, especially since my class was ending and I had various projects to finish. Now that's done, and my grading is calling instead. But here are a few seasonal pieces I've read lately that resonated.

This one is from last Christmas, but new to me. Addie Zierman tackles the mandate this time of year to "Put the Christ Back in Christmas," and concludes,
"Incarnation means a lot of things, but one of them is this: the earth is wild with God’s love, his beauty, his presence. One silent night he came and now he is here, and because of that, the world is glowing, lit from within by grace."

Here she tackles some more of those Christmas cliches, and once again, reminds me that "Immanuel means that when you can’t find him, he is finding you."

In this post, Sarah Bessey goes all obstetric on us, because Christmas, after all, is about a birth.
"There is something Godly in the waiting, in the mystery, in the fact that we are a part of it, a partner with it but we are not the author of it. How you know that there is life coming and the anticipation is sometimes exciting and other times exhausting, never-ending. How there is a price that you pay for the love love love."
Go on, read the rest.