Thursday, March 28, 2013

Don't Look Now, but Here Comes the Progressive Poem for 2013!

April's almost here, and this year I'll again be participating in the Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem! Here's the final version of last year's poem, after it had traveled from blog to blog all month, getting a new line added each time. Creating that poem, and watching it happen, was so much fun, and I'm thrilled to have another go at it.

Below you'll find the schedule, with a link to the blog where each line will appear, but don't worry: I'll be keeping you posted every day on how it's going.

1  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
2  Joy Acey
3  Matt Forrest Esenwine
4  Jone MacCulloch
5  Doraine Bennett
6  Gayle Krause
7  Janet Fagal
8  Julie Larios
9  Carrie Finison
10  Linda Baie
11  Margaret Simon
12  Linda Kulp
13  Catherine Johnson
14  Heidi Mordhorst
15  Mary Lee Hahn
16  Liz Steinglass
17  Renee LaTulippe
18  Penny Klostermann
19  Irene Latham
20  Buffy Silverman
21  Tabatha Yeatts
22  Laura Shovan
23  Joanna Marple
24  Katya Czaja
25  Diane Mayr
26  Robyn Hood Black
27  Ruth Hersey
28  Laura Purdie Salas
29  Denise Mortensen
30  April Halprin Wayland

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bread and Wine


Shauna Niequist and I have a lot in common.  We both studied French from an early age (we both have undergrad degrees from Christian colleges in English literature and French), both love Paris, both love to travel and taste new foods and see new places.  We both grew up in the church, daughters of people in ministry (though her parents, Bill and Lynne Hybels, are way better known in the evangelical world than mine).  We've both experienced pregnancy and birth, but we've also both experienced the devastating loss of miscarriage.  We both are ambivalent about wearing a swimsuit.  And apparently there's something about our voices that made my friend Katie think of me when she read Shauna's second book, Bittersweet, as I explained in this review. Katie texted me on a Sunday night in 2011 to say that she had a book for me; she said she'd thought of me the whole time she was reading it.

A lot of people feel this kind of connection with Shauna.  I'm always seeing comments on her blog from people who say, a little sheepishly sometimes, that they feel like they are friends with her.  It's the way she writes, I think; she is chatty and confessional and says things like this (from her latest book):
"Every year I feel like I'm letting everyone down, like there's a collective sigh of disappointment on Memorial Day weekend, 'Oh, look, there she is again, still kind of lumpy and nonfabulous.' But as my friend Sara always reminds me, no one's actually thinking about me as often as I think they are. Probably my friends are not actually counting the days till summer to see if I've finally turned into a supermodel."

But there are things that Shauna and I don't have in common, as well.  I found out, while reading her soon-to-be-published book, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table, with Recipes, that she doesn't like A Prairie Home Companion.  Really, Shauna?  She's never lived long-term outside the United States (though she has traveled extensively), whereas I've spent most of my life living as an expat.  She's run a marathon, and a 5K is my limit.  But probably the biggest difference between us that comes up again and again in her books is that she's a cook.  I'm not.  I do love to eat, but I married a man who loves to cook, and that's just fine with me.  When I see beautiful recipes, like the ones included in this book, I don't think, "Hey, I have to make that right away!"  I do think, "This sounds delicious," and sometimes I tell my husband it sounds good and ask him to make it.  But I'm not drawn to taking cooking classes or perfecting my cooking or feeding people the way Shauna is.

But that's OK.  I still enjoy reading her essays, even this third book, which is more food-related than the others (including a recipe with almost all of the chapters).  She still has a lot to say to me.

In addition to her meditations on food and fellowship and friendship and how all three work together, Shauna writes excellently on shame, body image, marriage, pregnancy, parenthood, slowing down, caring for others.  She talks a lot about opening your home and your life to others, not waiting to be perfect before you can show anybody who you really are.  Appendices to the book offer tips on weeknight cooking, stocking the pantry, entertaining, having a cooking club/book club, and further reading.

But you know, she's right about food.  Even though I'm not usually the one cooking it at our house, I found myself nodding at this:
"Food matters because it's one of the things that forces us to live in this world - this tactile, physical, messy and beautiful world - no matter how hard we try to escape into our minds and our ideals, food is a reminder of our humanity, our fragility, our createdness. Try to think yourself through starvation. Try to command yourself not to be hungry, using your own sheer will. It will work for a while, maybe, but at some point you'll find yourself - no matter how high-minded or iron-willed - face-to-face with your own hunger, and with that hunger, your own humanity."

I was excited to get an advance reading copy of this book, and to get to read it before it even came out, but I would have bought it anyway, as I bought her first two books, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet. (Yes, I read Katie's copy of the latter and then bought my own.)  While I probably won't make any of the recipes in this book (though they all look delicious), I do appreciate Shauna's words, and I will come back to these essays, for myself and to share with friends, just as I have to the essays in the other two books. You can pre-order your copy here, or order it at the same link after it comes out on April 9th.

Here's a video of Shauna talking about the book:

This post is linked to today's Saturday Review of Books.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Poetry Friday: Morning

I recently finished reading Parker Palmer's wonderful book The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life.  Palmer explains that in his teaching workshops he asks teachers to write two reflections. One is to be about a time when things were going so well in the classroom that they knew deep inside that they were born to teach. The second is about a time when things were going so badly that they wished they had never been born.

That second description might strike you as a bit histrionic, but that's not how it struck me. When I read that, I thought, perfect. When my teaching is going badly, that is exactly how it feels to me.

And I just got done with a class like that.

Palmer's descriptions of things going badly are more on the lines of nobody's answering my question, oh no, it's quiet it's quiet.... I've been there, but in middle school, not often. Quietness is not my issue, but racket. Today I tried to let the eighth graders discuss a bake sale for the last twenty minutes of class. It degenerated into a mess of yelling at one another, in which I removed one student from the room (only one -- a victory!), and yes, wished I had never been born. Once I regained control and ended the period calmly and sent them to their next hour and then cried a little bit by myself in my classroom, I thought back to this morning, and the calm of it, and the words of this song that I was singing in my mind as we sat and ate breakfast at our outdoor cafeteria at school.
I remember singing this song at my first school when I was five or six years old. I loved all the words, but especially the third stanza: "Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning." As a small child, I loved that sense of ownership of the new day, in which anything could happen. By this time of the day, things are broken in another sense of the word, but it makes me feel better to think back to those first moments this morning, and to know that tomorrow will be a new morning, and that Monday will be a new week and a clean slate. Another chance to face the eighth graders, and maybe this time it will be one of those moments when I know I was born to teach.

Here are all the words, written by English poet Eleanor Farjeon and made very famous by Cat Stevens, or Yusuf Islam, as he is now known:

Morning Has Broken
Eleanor Farjeon

Morning has broken, like the first morning.
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning,
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word.

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlight from heaven.
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning.
Born of the one light Eden saw play.
Praise with elation, praise every morning;
God's recreation of the new day.

Morning has broken, like the first morning.
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning,
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is here.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Poetry Friday: The Stepsisters' Lament

I have posted before about a song from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. I really love this musical, and I love this song. Although we're not supposed to sympathize with the ugly stepsisters, just laugh at them, I find their question poignant. "Why can't a fellow ever once prefer a girl who's merely me?"

Of course it's not appealing to be jealous of Cinderella's "fluffy beauty," but really, what else is there to her?  And don't we all feel like ugly stepsisters sometimes, wishing that someone would see something beautiful in us?

But yeah, these performers (Sarah Rudinoff and Nick Gamson) are hilarious, too.

You can find the lyrics after the video.

Why should a fellow want a girl like her:
a frail and fluffy beauty?
Why can't a fellow ever once prefer a solid girl like me?
She's a frothy little bubble with a flimsy kind of charm,
and with very little trouble I could break her little arm.

Oh, oh why would a fellow want a girl like her, so obviously unusual?
Why can't a fellow ever once prefer a usual girl like me?

Her cheeks are a pretty shade of pink,
but not any pinker than a rose's
Her skin may be delicate and soft,
but not any softer than a doe's is
Her neck is no whiter than a swan's
She's only as dainty as a daisy
She's only as graceful as a bird!
So why is the fellow going crazy?

Oh why would a fellow want a girl like her, a girl who's merely lovely?
Why can't a fellow ever once prefer a girl who's merely me?

She's a frothy little bubble with a frilly sort of air
And with very little trouble I could pull out all her hair!

Oh why would a fellow want a girl like her, a girl who's merely lovely,
Why can't a fellow ever once prefer a girl who's merely me?

What's the matter with the man, what's the matter with the man, what's the matter with the man?!!

The Poetry Friday roundup is here today.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Poetry Friday: Puppy

I had other plans for Poetry Friday today, but then this happened:

Puppy, 3/8/13

He found the puppy on the driveway.

He wondered how that happened,
Because this one was the smallest of the litter,
And couldn't walk yet.

He picked up the puppy,
And then I heard the sobbing.

As I held my little son, he told me,
"He didn't wake up! He's cold!
Yesterday he licked my face
And now he's dead!"

My son wants to know why;
Why the puppy died when it was innocent,
Why bad things happen,
But most of all,
Why something was alive
And now it's not:

How a puppy can lick your face one day
And the next, be only a cold body.

Ruth, from

The roundup today is at My Juicy Little Universe.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Poetry Friday: Superbly Situated

I celebrated my birthday this week, and received a flurry of Facebook messages from people I normally don't hear from much. I love all the reminders of the different times in my life when these people entered my world, and I love the feeling of being loved. This poem caught my eye with its examination of why people love us; later in the poem, Hershon's persona frets that whatever the lover sees in him can always change; he wants a love that does not "alter when it alteration finds." Me too. I have been very blessed with people that love me in spite of the way I am. 

Superbly Situated
by Robert Hershon
you politely ask me not to die and i promise not to   
right from the beginning—a relationship based on   
good sense and thoughtfulness in little things

i would like to be loved for such simple attainments   
as breathing regularly and not falling down too often   
or because my eyes are brown or my father left-handed

The rest of the poem is here.

Here's some information about the poet and here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.