Sunday, November 17, 2013

Best Adoption Books for Children

We've always been open in our dicussions with Jed about his adoption. We want him to ask questions and talk about it. We don't want it to be a mystery to him where he came from. We don't want him to 'remember the day' when his parents told him he was adopted. We want it to always be a part of him. In fact, we want him to be proud of it.

Storybooks are the perfect way to start a discussion about adoption, even before the child is old enough to understand the concept.

When Bob and I were involved in the adoption training classes the second time, we were given the assignment of finding and presenting to the class (other adoptive parent hopefuls) the best adoption storybooks for children. This was the perfect topic for us. Not only were we able to discover new adoption storybooks, but we were able to share our favorites with the class.

So in honor of November being National Adoption Month, I present our findings on the best adoption books for children.

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, by Jamie Lee Curtis. A little girl wishes to hear the story of her adoption and all the tiny details again and again. I'll start with this one because not only is it my favorite, but it's usually the first one people think of when it comes to adoption storybooks. It's so completely adorable!


Happy Adoption Day! by John McCutcheon. This one isn't so much a storybook as it is a type of celebratory tribute to adoption, complete with sheet music to a 'happy adoption day' song at the end. 

 
A Mother for Choco, by Keiko Kasza. A little yellow bird sets out to find his mother. He asks different animals but none of them look quite like him. He eventually finds a wonderfully diverse family with a mother bear. I was thrilled to find this one because it quickly became my second favorite.

 
The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale, by Grace Lin. A king and queen have a pain in their hearts so they follow an invisible red thread across the world to find their baby girl. In my little corner of the library as I read this, something about its sweetness made me weep. 

 
 I Wished for You: An Adoption Story, by Marianne Richmond. Mama and Barley Bear snuggle in their favorite spot and Mama tells Barley how he is a wish come true. My son loves this one and wants me to read it to him all the time. Of course we have to be snuggling when we read it--just like Mama and Barley.

 

We Belong Together, by Todd Parr. A sensitive, kid-friendly way of telling what it means to become a family through adoption. “We belong together because…you needed someone to say ‘I love you’ and we had love to give.” So cute! And it's non-specific about the type of adoption (foster care, infant adoption, interracial) if that's something you're looking for. Obviously the storybooks are going to be more specific.



God Found Us You, by Lisa Tawn Bergren. Mama Fox tells Little Fox about his adoption story and how it was worth the long wait. This one is very similar to I Wished for You except the stars are foxes instead of bears.
 
 

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes, by Rose Lewis. Based on the author’s true story of her journey to adopt a baby girl from China. It's so sweet! And the illustrations are gorgeous.

 
Superman comics. I'll be honest. I did most of the groundwork for this assignment. But Bob had some fine contributions. One of them being this Superman comic book. Superman was adopted, you know. Plus he's pretty cool with his super strength and x-ray vision. So Bob bought this and thought it would be fun to read it with Jed.
 
     
    Last but not least, I believe the best storybook is the one you write yourself. When Jed was first born I started writing his own unique story. I saved it on Shutterfly and worked on it when I could. It took me forever, but finally when he was four years old I finished it and gave it to him for Christmas. These days with Shutterfly, Snapfish, Mixbook, Tiny Prints, and so many others, it's so easy to create your own custom book. This will be something special he can keep to remember the awesome story about how he came to be part of our family.
     
     
    Let me know if I missed any great adoption books for children. I know there are other gems out there and I'm always looking to add to my collection. And most of all, happy National Adoption Month!

Monday, October 28, 2013

One of the sweetest books I've read in a long time


"You can't blend in when you were born to stand out."

It’s been ages since I enjoyed a book as much as I enjoyed Wonder. It’s the story of a boy, August, who has a craniofacial anomaly (he calls it a “mushed-up face”) and it chronicles his fifth grade year in a new school. It’s a middle grade novel, but worthy to be loved by anyone of any age. And I did.

By the end, I was so in love with August (Auggie) that I wished I would’ve had a friend like him growing up. Everyone should have a friend like Auggie.

Wonder is honest about the good and bad in humanity while inspiring greater kindness and empathy. It offers a completely unique perspective while at the same time being relatable to anyone, if that makes any sense at all.

This book would be a great discussion starter. As soon as my son gets a few years older, I want him to read it. Even better, we can read it together. At age 5 he’s still in that magical time where differences aren’t that big of a deal. They’ll become so all too soon.

In a word, this book is sweet. No spoilers here. It’s just plain sweet.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's the little things

I just remembered I have a blog. It's been a while. My head hasn't been in the blogging game. And that's OK. There's a lot going on, usual and unusual.

But today I had a moment and I want to share. My boy started baseball. Today was his second practice. He's way behind timewise (and otherwise). I thought I was being so on-the-ball signing him up, but it turns out the other boys on his team have been playing for two years. Um...he's 5.  So yeah, my kid's first time running the bases was tonight while the other kids can catch fly balls and do heaven knows what else. As a parent that makes me feel awesome. (Not really.)

That's OK. We're sticking it out at least through the season.

The other thing is...well, my child doesn't really like to listen to instructions. If he thinks it's boring he'll just start doing his own thing. So what if the team is doing their stretches and he's sprawled out on the grass? No biggie. So what if he's asked to run from point A to B and he runs from point A to, say, G? G must've had better shade.

I'm not going to be pushy. This is supposed to be fun, right? We're supposed to learn things like camaraderie, teamwork and discipline, right?

Thankfully, everything is low-key and his coach is extremely patient. (Next year, I'm told, is when things start getting really serious.)

It was his turn to bat. The coach was showing him the proper way to stand. I was sitting behind him in the bleachers and gave a little, "Alright, Jed!"

He turned around in that oversized helmet and gave me a look of surprise. After all, this is new to him, not accostomed to his mom shouting random bits of encouragement from the stands. Once the surprise wore off he gave me the sweetest smile I have ever seen. My insides melt at the thought of it.

Once again, I'm reminded it's the little things that make life worth living. This picture isn't that great and you can't see his face. But I still can. I'll carry that smile with me forever.



Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Piece de Resistance

The piece de resistance of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, for me, surprisingly wasn't Shakespeare. It was their fabulous production of Twelve Angry Men. Three words: Go see it! After the play ended, I've never seen an audience leap so fast to its feet for a standing ovation.

Twelve jurors must decide the fate of a boy accused of killing his father. That's it in a nutshell. The movie is one of my favorites, but this is loads better than the movie. Live theater almost always is.

The actors are outstanding! Each character brings his personality, quirks, and prejudices to the table. But there's another secret weapon: pacing. The facts of the case, the backgrounds of the jurors, the emotional highs and lows--everything is paced so perfectly.

After the play, three of the actors came on stage for a brief Q & A. Someone asked if the actors ever ad lib. One replied that it's impossible to go off script with this one and if you did, the bottom would fall out. That's how perfectly the puzzle fits together.

If you can make it to Cedar City, seriously, go see it. I'm determined to go back and take Bob next time.

(Photography wasn't allowed in the theater. For some reason I think that, if possible, every blog post should have a picture to go with it. I got the above picture from www.bard.org and will gladly remove it upon request.)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My revels now are ended


Two days, four plays, and 376 miles later, I have returned home from the Utah Shakespeare Festival. I went by myself, actually, while my husband took some time off work to spend with our boy. It was Bob's idea, in fact. He is well aware of my Summer of Shakespeare, so when he heard about Nevada Public Radio's bus tour to the festival, he encouraged me to go. NPR handles the bus ride, hotel room (one night), and play tickets all for one decent price and all I had to do was show up and be fed by the spoon of eloquence.

So I did it! And though I went alone, it did not take long to meet friends. For when such kindred spirits bind themselves together, friends will be made! These are two wonderful women I met, Carolyn and Diane. They are both educators and we had good chats about preparing my son for kindergarten (for which they had great advice) and all sorts of other topics. Carolyn even brought along all sorts of supplemental reading for the plays.

What a wonderful time!

 

Much to my surprise, my favorite play from this year's festival was not from Shakespeare. No disrespect to the Bard, of course, but there was a certain production that BLEW ME AWAY. I'll blog about it in the near future. Very near, in fact, so I can convince some soul out there to go and see it.

I'll end with a quote from The Tempest, which production was spell-binding.

The Tempest was Shakespeare's final play. Some have suggested it was his goodbye to the world and that Shakespeare was speaking as himself, through his character, Prospero. Toward the end, Prospero says:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.


It's interesting that Shakespeare talks so much about fading away, and fretting on the stage of life and never being heard of more. What would he have thought if he'd known the impact his works would have on mankind?

OK, one more item of housekeeping. As promised, I will announce the winner to my old fashioned raffle. After wearing out my hand from writing all the names of particpants (ha ha), the winner of the Pony Express book and playing cards is....Amy King!

Amy, I will mail your prize shortly.

Love to all and good night.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Pony Express Museum plus a Give Away

This is where it all began!



The Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri has been on my "to-go" list for about 5 years. I've read and referenced a ton of Pony Express books, but museums bring history alive in a whole new way.

On April 3, 1860 one rider in St. Joe began his trek west, while on the same day another rider in San Francisco rode the ferry to Sacramento and began the relay east. As promised, ten days later, the mail was delivered to opposite ends of the country.


Check out the Pony Express digs. This is what a home station would have looked like where a rider could stop for a meal and some shut-eye while the next rider carried the mail forward.


Very rudimentary, as you can see. Many of the stations were clapped together pretty quickly.

 
Most stations would have had a fireplace for cooking as well as for warmth in the cold seasons.


This is the mochila (Spanish for "knapsack") where the mail was kept and locked. It was designed to sling quickly from one saddle to the next.


And check out these two handsome guys I picked up on the trail.

 
They have a working well (that draws water from under the building) where you can pump water into a trough.
 
 
And a place where kids can play.
 
 
I thought this was pretty cool. It's a buckskin shirt/jacket that belonged to William F. Cody aka "Buffalo Bill." He wore it in his Wild West show in the 1880s. In his younger days (age 14 to be exact) Cody was a Pony Express rider.


The Pony Express ended up being a financial disaster and left its founders broke and in legal disputes. It ran for 18-19 months until the telegraph wires were connected across country. But as far as historical significance and fascination, it was a huge success--not to mention it made its goal of cross-country mail in ten days. It was the Pony Express, for example, that got word to the West that Lincoln had been elected president November 6, 1860.

Can you tell I love this era of American history?

Now for the give away. Fresh from the Pony Express museum gift shop is this children's paperback book, They're Off: the Story of the Pony Express by Cheryl Harness AND your own Old St. Joe deluxe playing cards.



To win simply leave a comment below and I'll put your name in a drawing to be announced next Sunday.

I'll ship to anywhere in the continental U.S. as well as Ireland. (Yeah, Ireland is special.) Don't put your address in the comments. I'll get it from the winner.

Yee-haw!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Shine On




Well, I came home from vacation to find that David Powers King had bestowed me with The Shine On Award. Woo hoo! I had never heard of this award, but I accept it wholeheartedly and would like to thank him as well as the Academy for this honor. (Smiley face.)

A word about David before I continue. His book, WOVEN, is a YA paranormal fantasy set to be released October 2013 and you can bet I’ll be reading it! Also, he’s a champion of aspiring authors and of people whose blogs are still very very small. For real, thanks, David.

Rules for accepting The Shine On Award are as follows:

Display the Award on your Blog.

Link back to the person who nominated you.

Disclose seven random facts about yourself.

Nominate 15 other bloggers to receive the Award. (I’m going to go with 3 as my blog is slightly smaller scale.)

OK, a few random facts about me.  

  1. I have a vivid imagination. It’s my greatest gift and my bitterest curse. Great when I’m working on a story and a curse, say, after I’ve watched a scary movie.
  2. Actually, I can’t watch scary movies. In some cases not even scary movie trailers. The images haunt me after everyone else has gone to sleep. (Sometimes I can’t help myself and watch one but I aaaaalways pay for it later.)
  3. I’ve been to the Kremlin and I speak a little Russian. (Da, ya znayu. Meenya otleechna.)  Not enough to be a Russian spy, though, which would be super cool.
  4. The three historical eras of highest interest to me are these: Elizabethan/Shakespearean England, American Old West, and any time/place in World War II.
  5. I love music. My ipod is one of my most prized possessions. I can do anything if I have a good song to accompany me: running, cleaning bathrooms, whatever. The best is when I’m alone in my car and I can belt out my favorite tunes as loud as I want.
  6. I love musicals. I’ll blog about my top ten favorite ones. Just so you know, Newsies is among them.
  7. I like my feet. I wish it were acceptable to have feet-shots instead of headshots.
Now, without further ado, here are the three newest recipients (should they accept) of The Shine On Award.
 
and
 
Shine on, my friends!

 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Back Soon

I'll be back in one week to tell about my adventures at the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri. Cheers!

Friday, June 28, 2013

My Top 10 Favorite Movies of All Time

I love movies. I love movies almost as much as I love books. It's a different kind of love, I suppose. Books mean time and commitment. Movies, they're brain candy. Two hours and they're done. If it was horrible, you've hardly invested a thing. I'm sorry to admit this, but I must be a product of my instant-gratification society. I will, however, post my favorite books at some point. For some reason that's a harder assignment.

With that preface, and the preface that Bob says no one will care about my favorite movies (it's so nice to have someone around who will tell me what he really thinks), here I go with my top 10 favorite movies.

#10. Inception. I'm not nearly smart enough for this to be one of my favorite movies. But if I claim it to be, maybe some of its smartness will wear off on me. This is scriptwriting and movie making at its best. And I love being blown away even if it means missing half the plot. Hey, I can always pick up the pieces of my brain later, just blow me away and let me deal with my own stupidity. 
 
 
 
#9. 12 Angry Men. Maybe it's the unexpected wow factor that got me. Roughly 95% of the film takes place in a single room, yet I was captivated. To achieve this is nothing short of brilliance. Just like it proclaims on the poster, "It explodes like 12 sticks of dynamite!" If you haven't seen this 1957 gem, check it out.
 
 
#8. Pride and Prejudice (BBC). If I've seen a film more than 20 times (and a 6-hour one at that) I think it's safe to place it in my top 10. Love it!
 
My favorite scene is when Darcy's sister is playing the piano and one of those horrid Bingley sisters mentions Mr. Wickham. This throws off poor Georgiana who stops playing. Darcy shifts nervously. Awkward glances are exchanged. Elizabeth rushes back to Georgiana. "I'm so sorry. I’m neglecting you. How can you play with no one to turn the pages? There. Allow me." A look passes between Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennett that brings out the giddy schoolgirl in me. (Sigh.) There is one slight disappointment for me and that's a lackluster end to the ever-building romance. "Quite the opposite" does not count as a declaration of love, Miss Lizzie! Where's the eloquence you so scathingly used to reject him? (Still love it, though.)
 
 
 
#7. North and South. What Pride and Prejudice lacks in a romantic ending is every bit fulfilled in North and South. Oh my goodness. One evening after everyone was asleep but me, I watched the ending scene at the train station probably ten times. (Another sigh.) Some have called this a grittier version of Pride and Prejudice, and I can somewhat agree, though it definitely has legs to stand on its own.
 
 
#6. Amelie. An adorable film about a quirky, sweet girl. Loved it! It's in French but worth watching and reading the subtitles. The movie poster is a little creepy, but this is definitely a feel-good movie.
 
 
 
#5. Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh). I love this play. So many dramatic questions and thought-provoking concepts. I like the Mel Gibson version as well. In fact, I've never met a Hamlet I didn't like. But this Hamlet is superior to all the film versions and is definitely the most complete. (The Mel Gibson version chops the original script in half, probably.) I applaud Kenneth Branagh for this visual feast as well as for making so many other Shakespeare masterpieces palatable to a modern audience.
 
 
 #4. Dear Frankie. I'll always be baffled as to how this movie manages to be so sad and so happy at the same time. If you find the ambivalence to be too much, console yourself with the fact that Gerard Butler is in it.
 
 
#3. Band of Brothers. Some people don't know this, but I'm a bit of a World War II junkie. Band of Brothers is based on a true story. It's one of my favorite books and the movie is just as good. It may be long and not for the faint of heart, but so well done. Reading the book first made it so much more enjoyable for me to watch. You come to appreciate the characters in the book and the movie makes you fall in love with them. It's raw, honest and action-packed. And, um...the title comes from Shakespeare.
 
 
#2. It's a Wonderful Life. Just typing the title makes me smile. What a sweet film. Without fail, I cry every time I watch it. Jimmy Stewart is amazing and I can't say I'd love it as much if another actor played George Bailey.
 
 
 
And my all-time, number one, favorite movie is...

 
#1. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. I never get sick of this movie. In fact, it seems to get better every time I watch it. I always notice something new. Brilliant, compelling and inspiring. Here is my favorite line from Captain Jack Aubrey as he rallies his troops/shipmates:
 
“They mean to take us as a prize. And we are worth more to them undamaged. Their greed...will be their downfall. England is under threat of invasion, and though we be on the far side of the world, this ship is our home. This ship is England. So it's every hand to his rope or gun, quick's the word and sharp's the action. After all...surprise is on our side.”
 
 (Surprise is the name of the ship.)
 
 Then the crew gives a resounding “Huzzah!”
 
 
There you have it. My top 10. What is your favorite movie? I love knowing this about a person because I think it tells quite a bit about their personality. I'm not sure what this tells of me. I like costume dramas, historical fiction, awesome characters, and a well-written script all rolled into one?
 
I have a few honorable mentions, but Bob is right. If you've made it this far, I've already taken too much of your time.
 
*Copyright notice: I spent considerable time searching the Internet to see if it was OK for me to post the DVD covers in my blog post. Since I am promoting these movies, I figure no harm can be done. I think I found my answer in this article. All the images I retrieved from Amazon.com. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Sword of Quintelle

Shield of Faith by Judy Cooley
A few years after I wrote my play I found this image that reminded me of my Quintelle.
 
All this self-imposed Shakespeare cramming reminds me of the time I wrote a play in the style of Shakespeare. That’s right, I think it’s time my 18 readers knew this about me. The play was enormously fun to write, but unfortunately only mimics in a cheap and vile manner the grandeur of the Bard himself. If the afterlife affords me an encounter with Shakespeare I will truly shrink in horror. Perhaps it’s not so vile, though, if I think of it as experimentation rather than attempting at emulation.

Tonight I found a copy as I rummaged through some old memorabilia. I wrote it back in college and I had the happy experience of seeing it performed on stage. The actors held their scripts and wore minimal costumes, but it was a high point in life for me to invite my friends and family to come hear what I had written. One of my favorite college professors even showed up then discussed it in class the next day. (Thanks, Dr. Oaks, wherever you may be!)

The story of Quintelle is about a princess who, at birth, is given a prophecy. A day will come when she will defend her kingdom with the sword and when her father dies she will succeed the throne. This doesn’t sit well with the king. He envisions his firstborn son as the successor and is mortified at the thought of his daughter breaking societal rules in such a manner. He executes the seer (harsh, I know) declaring him an impostor and orders the words forgotten.

 The words may have been forgotten over the years, but Quintelle grows up to embody this prophecy without knowing it took place. She learns how to fight with a sword and learns all kinds of valuable leadership skills while her brother fritters away his birthright womanizing and behaving recklessly.

There’s romance, too. Quintelle falls in love with the top knight, Thomas. There’s mistaken identity, poison, swordplay, arranged marriages, an epistle sent to the wrong person, and a character called the “Dark Man.” Good times. I included a few sonnets as well.

This is a sonnet, written by my character Thomas for his fair Quintelle. What think ye?

 My lady rests upon a throne of gold
A demigod whose crown doth amply shine.
Her beauty to Shaherezade doth scold
Yet forsakes the noble helm that she be mine?
What oracle should bid my lady so—
Some tainted tincture give her lips to drink?
A spell-bound trap some sprite to her o’erthrow?
'Tis more than sage can say, than fool can think.
If I were for an instant but to steal
A glance from her—my soul should find its rest,
But selfish hours my craven heart appeals
That I might openly my love confess.
My Joan of Arc, my queen, my sovereign, she
Unlocks the chain to my felicity.
 
Perhaps one day I will resurrect young Quintelle, polish up the script and send it to…someone who reads scripts. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Born in the Wrong Era?

 
Ever wish you could have lived in another time and place in history? I definitely do.
 
Mostly, these days, my mind wanders to the Old West when America was still in her infancy, when horses were the most common form of transportation, when folks found gold and silver in the hills, when shooting was a necessary skill, and when the saloon served up just as much justice as whisky. What an exciting time!
 
Since I haven’t mastered the art of time travel yet, my imagination resorts to the way my favorite westerns portray it: SilveradoTrue Grit, Shane, and High Noon.
 
These mind-wanderings were what fueled the idea for my book. I was at an old Mormon outpost taking the guided tour and the host mentioned the Pony Express. I thought to myself, Now that would’ve been fun. Thus, the idea for my book was born.
 
Longing to escape to another time period is probably why historical fiction exists and why it continues to attract readers. It allows us to crawl through its wormholes and live vicariously through the characters in countless settings of the past.
 
Sadly, I must mention that in my study of the Old West, I found that it wasn’t all trail blazing and card playing. The American West has a very sorrowful side, especially if you were a Native American. Much of what we see in the westerns is a romanticized version of our history. Every time period has its flaws, and that, too, makes it interesting to read about.

If you could’ve been born in any other time and place in history where would it have been?  What are the best historical fiction books that have brought history alive for you?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wherefore Art Thou—What, Huh?

 
I had one of the biggest epiphanies of my life the other day while watching the Franco Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet. Huge. And I can’t believe I never got this before.
 
One of the most quoted lines of Shakespeare is often misinterpreted!
 
Imagine Juliet on her balcony longing for her beloved Romeo. My favorite Juliet, I must say, is Olivia Hussey. To me she perfectly captures the role. Consequently my favorite Romeo is Leonard Whiting of the same movie. Mercutio (John McEnery) blows them all out the water. What a stellar cast!
 
OK, back to the balcony.

Juliet:
O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
 
I think most people interpret this to mean ‘where are you?’ But wherefore actually means why. Why are you Romeo? She goes on to say:
 
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.
 
She’s lamenting the fact that he’s a Montague and she’s a Capulet. Why do you have to be Romeo? Why must our names be an obstacle to this romance?
 
Maybe you figured this out long ago and praise be to you if you did. Alas, I have been in the dark. But I know I’m not the only one dwelling there. Just after my epiphany I heard a radio commercial where the lady said, “Romeo, Romeo, where the heck art thou, Romeo?”
 
Which is funny, of course. There were plenty of days when I wondered where the heck my Romeo was. But that’s not the meaning of the quote either.
 
In context, it makes so much more sense for her to ask why. Oh, poor Juliet! At this point of the story she has no idea how much meaning that simple question holds. Why is possibly the most important question of the play.
 
There are two reasons why I post this. First, in case anyone thought I forgot about my commitment to Shakespeare this summer, this is to let you know I’m still on target. Second, I can’t help myself! I had to share this personal breakthrough. I warn you, there may be others.  
 


Sunday, June 9, 2013

My Dedication Page

 
 
According to Wikipedia, a dedication page is is the "expression of friendly connection or thank by the author towards another person."
 
This cowboy-turned-college-professor is my father and I think the world of him. Without further ado, the dedication page of my book.
 
"For all those who believe our loved ones watch over us after they die. Thanks, Dad."
 
Who is your book dedicated to? And if you haven't written one, who would you dedicate it to if you did?
 


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"I Survived"

Yesterday as I walked through the airport toting our rolling luggage in one hand and my son's hand in the other, I saw something that has stayed with me.

Three businessmen walked alongside us, having recently deplaned. One of the men struggled as he walked--presumably something he was born with--exerting great effort lifting his knees.

Our pace must have been faster because suddenly I heard a loud noise close behind us. The man had fallen and was on his hands and knees. One of his colleagues asked if he was OK, to which he said, "Everything but my pride."

I quickly turned away so as to not stare. But I wished I could've helped in some way. Was there anything I could've said or done that would've helped? Probably not. His friends were there to get him back on his feet. Still I longed to help lessen his embarrassment.

Pity is not exactly a noble virtue so I'm ashamed to admit I felt sorry for him. I'm guessing that's not what he needed or wanted.

Life is so hard. And I do believe it's harder for some than others. I had my problems and insecurities growing  up, but they were nothing, I imagine, to what this man has endured.

We're just not getting out of this thing called life unscathed, are we? Nobody is going to escape pain and hardship. In fact, nobody is getting through this life without feeling the full range of human emotions.

As I awoke this morning, I no longer felt pity for this man. Instead I felt something more of admiration. I really respect a person who can navigate his or her way through something difficult and keep going, keep trying, keep showing up.

After all the lives have been lived, will we look back on this mortal experience and talk about the things we survived? For some reason those stupid t-shirts emblazoned with "I survived Tower of Terror" or "I survived Slick Rock" came to mind.

Will the things we survived become our badges of honor?

These are some t-shirts that could be made for some people I know:

I survived cancer. I survived infertility. I survived the death of a loved one. I survived college. I survived motherhood. I survived junior high. I survived divorce. I survived being single. I survived betrayal. I survived loneliness.

Perhaps the most important of these will be one we all share: "I survived."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

My Man Shakespeare


 
Not long ago I listened to someone who claimed to be a literary sort bash Shakespeare. She—I’m ashamed it was a member of my sex—said that Shakespeare was outdated, too difficult to understand, and irrelevant to our day. Part of me wanted to laugh and the other part wanted to go off on her Elizabethan style.

"Thou art a boil, a plague sore, an embossed carbuncle in my corrupted blood!” Wouldn’t you agree that people don’t insult each other with “embossed carbuncle” nearly enough? I vow to start now.

Please don’t assume that I claim to be an intellectual or a Shakespearean expert. In fact, I found the above quote by Googling “Shakespearean insults.” You should try it. There are some real gems you can use to stun and stupefy.

But the experience did get me missing the man Shakespeare. We had a brief love affair in college. My husband knows about it. It was before he came along anyway. First I dabbled then I delved into the delicious world of William. It’s a fascinating place full of romance, intrigue, passion, murder, deception. There is nothing off limits in Shakespeare. And there is no human foible or noble characteristic not exploited.

Difficult to understand? Definitely at times. Some of the words and phrases are no longer used, much to my dismay. (Carbuncle…snicker.)

Time out. There is one point on which I hang my snob hat. Shakespeare is not written in Old English. Neither is the Bible. Old English is no longer spoken and is basically a foreign language. Take the first line of the Lord’s Prayer: Fæder ūre, ðū ðē eart on heofonum, Sī ðīn nama gehālgod. Shakespeare and the Bible are considered Early Modern English. There, now you can be a snob about it, too.

Where were we? Oh yes, difficult to understand. Well, I know a certain teacher whose first graders seem to do fine with the language of Shakespeare. Guidance from her is necessary, but once they get into it, they love it. And remember, Shakespeare is meant to be seen on stage. In its proper context, suddenly Shakespeare comes alive and is comprehensible even to small children.

It’s not for everyone’s taste. I understand that. But to bash it as irrelevant and useless in our day? I think my urge to insult has just turned into pity. For without Shakespeare, we would miss out on this from Romeo and Juliet:

Love is a smoke made with the fumes of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes;
Being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers' tears;
What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.

There are countless other passages, of course. Frankly I could get lost in them. What my husband doesn’t know is that Shakespeare is nothing if not passionately quoted to his wife.

And as far as literature goes, shouldn’t the fruit sometimes hang high, slightly out of reach rather than served on a platter? Doesn’t the effort make it taste all the sweeter?

With that, I declare the summer of 2013 to be my own personal Summer of Shakespeare. My goal is to watch, read, or listen to all of Shakespeare’s 38 plays by the time my son starts school. (There is some dispute as to how many plays he actually wrote, but I’m going with 38 because that’s the number included in my anthology.) In fact, because my son is starting kindergarten, perhaps now is a good time to introduce him to the Bard.

I’m certain to come out of this Shakespearean deluge sharper, deeper, more refined, a better writer, and more in touch with humanity. I’m looking forward to all I will learn. If anyone out there is mad enough to take the challenge with me I wish him or her Godspeed!