Alabama Reads

I’ve been working through some books that are either by Alabama authors, or take place in Alabama, or both. Here are a few brief reviews.

I Wish I Was in Dixie collected and edited by Marie Stokes Jemison and Jim Reed
This is a collection of stories from all across Alabama, from Birmingham to Montgomery to Tuscaloosa.

Dear Slave – poems by Irene Latham. These are rich retellings of stories taken from the mouths of slaves and recorded by Ruby Pickens Tartt many years ago.

I Still Dream of You by Fannie Flagg.  This was an enjoyable read and one that had me doing a little research about Birmingham. I read this for my book club, but no one else was able to finish it that month.   😦   You can read more of my thoughts HERE and HERE.

Fried Green Tomatoes At the Whistle Stop Cafe – also by Fannie Flagg. I couldn’t read this without picturing Kathy Bates in the role of Evelyn. I STILL want to go to the cafe in Irondale!

 

The last book is one I DON”T recommend – Looking for Alaska. I read it mainly because I heard it had a lot of references to the Birmingham area, but it didn’t really. Sorry, John Green fans, but I just didn’t like this and am disappointed that it is marketed to middle schoolers. I think all the reviews on Barnes & Noble were written by teenagers.

So, I will continue my Alabama quest at a later date. Right now my reading is headed to Ireland.

Baseball

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May, 2017 – SGC

 

I’ve been thinking about baseball since I joined my husband at a baseball reunion a few weeks ago. You can read about that HERE.

Seeing how much the game of baseball meant to these guys reminded me of a wonderful kid’s book I read called Baseball Saved Us. You can hear the book in the video below.

 

When my son and his family were in town last month, we went to a Baron’s game. Even though there was a rain delay, we had a great time. The grandkids made friends with some other kids while we waited for the game to start.

 

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April, 2017

 

My hope for the summer is to make it to the new SunTrust Park for a Brave’s game. Because, what’s summer without baseball?

I Can’t Even

 

I decided to tackle my bookshelves last week.  I reorganized, categorized some, discarded a whopping five books. Along the way I made a few discoveries.

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Some of my Maeve Binchy books

I’d consider about 21 of my books to be reference books; I’m not ever going to read them cover-to-cover. About 41 are fiction books I’ve read that I just have to keep, including my collection of  22 Maeve Binchy books.  I didn’t make a final book count in the house because that would have meant counting my husband’s books and all the books I have for grandkids and other littles that visit. Speaking of kids’ books, I have 13 Golden books, 15 in my set of Chidlcraft from my own childhood, 12 Great Illustrated Classics, a set of 11 “My Book House”  books from my father-in-law, plus quite a list of pictures books.

Of the 270 (+) TBR books, here are some breakdowns:

  • 11  “Irish” books
  • 33 biographical
  • 17 “classics”
  • about 50 kid/YA books
  • 8 short story/ collections
  • a variety of 49 fictional books
  • and… I think I’m embarrassed about this … 42 books about writing

So, where does all this lead? Hopefully to me stepping away from the computer and TV and reading more. But, when I AM on that computer, I need to be putting one of those 42 writing books to good use.

Adventures in Subbing #7: School Dance

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“I just wanted to know what it felt like to be someone you look at.” – Ove, from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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This week I was witness to a modern day middle school dance. I use the term dance loosely. It was more like a sweaty, sugar high, hormone fest. I never attended a dance until the Prom my senior year, unless you count square dancing in fourth grade. However, some things don’t change. We all want to know what it feels like to be the one someone else wants to look at. To be someone that a special someone else wants to be with.

 

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Adventures in Subbing #6

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He could steady a one-hundred-and-eighty pound man by himself, fold up and carry a wheelchair one-handed, but that didn’t count on the basketball court or in grammar or much of anywhere. – from Stand Tall by Joan Bauer 

There are skills that are sometimes taught, sometimes caught, that often go unnoticed. I saw this a few weeks ago in a fourth grade classroom. I was standing in the back of a room while another teacher was reading a story about Rosa Parks to the students. A chubby, red faced boy in the back was kind of sniffling and putting his head down. I wasn’t sure if he was ill or sad or if I should approach him. Before I could decide, a student just acted on his instinct. I watched a sharply dressed young black student walk all the way across the room, put his hand on the blubbering boy’s shoulder, and speak kindly to him. I was so touched. I thought how proud Rosa Parks would have been to see that moment.  I read more to the class about Mrs. Parks, and her struggles and we had a wonderful discussion.

A short while later, I saw the boy smiling broadly who had before been so sad. Seems he thought he’d lost a watch and was going to get in a lot of trouble, but he found it way back in his desk.

I didn’t get a chance to speak to the kind boy, but I wish I had. I wish I had told him I noticed.

 

 

Adventures in Subbing #5

On the other hand he tried to point out her that she shouldn’t give money to the beggars in the street, as they’d only buy schnapps with it. But she kept doing it.

“They can do what they like with the money,” she said.

When Ove protested she just smiled and took his big hands in hers and kissed them, explaining that when a person gives to another person it’s not just the receiver who’s blessed. It’s the giver. – from A Man Called Ove

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A few weeks ago I gave a writing prompt to some fourth graders. They had been focused earlier on the character trait of “caring” , so I told them to pretend I’d given them $100. But, the catch was they had to give it to someone in need or a charity. Some of the students shared what they had written, and one young boy reminded me of Ove, and of myself in days past. He told of giving to the homeless, but also went on to say some of them would not use the money for food like they should. I remember grappling with this same issue years ago. I now believe that if I give money, it’s between them and the Lord what they do with it. I am not to be the judge.

A few other responses touched my heart from those students. Like the girl who said she would give it to her mother so they could move out of her grandma’s house and get their own home.

The past few years I have learned to give anonymously. Though I long to see the joy on a child’s face on Christmas, I am happy knowing I made it possible for someone. And when I don’t know someone well enough to seek them out for a hug in times of grief or crisis, I can ask God to bless the little I can give, and to send comfort along with it.

Step Back in Time

This past year I read some wonderful books set during World War II. Besides being drawn in to care for the characters and having to google location images, I learned a bit of history along the way. The following is a brief review on my selections.

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All the Light We Cannot See

Set mostly in France, this heart-wrenching story follows two main characters: blind Marie-Laure whose father works for the Museum of Natural History in Paris, and Werner, an orphan recruited into the Nazi army. “Seeing” the war through blind eyes was interesting. Marie Laure’s father made a model of their city so that she could eventually earn her way around unaided. Later, he had to do it all over again in a new town, but this time his model was more than just a way to help his daughter. It also held a secret.
Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s paths eventually crossed, as I hoped they would. But it was a bittersweet timing.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This story was a little more light hearted, yet still contained moments of sadness that can’t be avoided in war. Written in the form of letters between the main character, Juliet Ashton and others who were a part of her life, this one has an element of romance sprinkled in with the courage shown by those who faced wartime with tenacity and tenderness. The “society” was a cover story made up on the fly, but one which led to a community coming together under the bond of reading. This one is a book lover’s delight!

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Suite Francaise

Written in 1939, it was the last work of Irene Nemirosky, who met her untimely death in a concentration camp before she finished this work. It’s almost too full of characters, so it needs to be read carefully. I often found myself backtracking to pick up storylines or remind myself who the characters were. Still, it is an interesting take on a side of war that we don’t often see. It shows what happens to those who aren’t on the front lines, but at home, forced to house the enemy. Yet, sometimes the enemy seems like a friend.

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Once There Was a War

The only non-fiction work on my list, it was easy to read Steinbeck’s collection of his news articles. Sometimes I breezed through the technical military aspects, but I got the jist of them. There is something about his style that makes you feel like he’s sitting across the table telling you about his day.

If you want to brush up on your history and lose yourself in a good book, any of these would make an excellent choice!

Third Quarter Recap

 

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October is almost over and I just realized I didn’t write a third quarter recap at the end of September. So, for what it’s worth, here are the highlights of my third quarter:

  • We kept our daughter’s dog, Poca, for over a month while she was in Columbia, South America. Things started out well, but after the second fight, in which Loretta received a puncture wound, we kept the two dogs separate. It was fine, though, as each one got special attention.
  • I went to McAlister’s Deli for the first time. The Orange Cranberry Club was delish!
  • Joined Grace Covenant Baptist Church and began making new friends
  • Subbed in some new schools. including McAdory Middle, McAdory High, Pleasant Grove High, West Elementary, Hueytown Middle, Oak Mountain Middle, Helena Middle, Helena High
  • Attended a few Saturday Write Club meetings at the Hoover Library
  • Went on five hikes
  • Took lots of pictures around Bham
  • Went to Jacksonville and squeezed in a lot of visits. Got to see my  cousin Paula for the first time in over 15 years
  • Spent a morning at Jacksonville Beach
  • Started the Kindred Spirit Book Club  – it’s online, so if you are interested, leave me a comment or email me.
  • Started Round Two of the Capture the ‘Ham Small Group/Photo Group3q2

And now to finish the year well!

 

A Thought from All the Light We Cannot See

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“Werner thinks of his childhood, the skeins of coal dust suspended in the air on winter mornings…” from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

For some reason, this stirred a childhood memory of milk. For a very short time when we first moved to Jacksonville, FL, we had our milk delivered by the “milkman”. On our front porch sat a metal crate where we would leave our empty bottles and take delivery of fresh milk. I remember the tops were sealed with thick paper lids. This milk was probably from Skinner’s Dairy, a hometown company that later built numerous drive-thru milk stores across Jacksonville.

In north Florida it didn’t get cold very often, but there were some winter mornings when we were excited to be able to see our breath in the chilly air. There was one winter I’ll always remember as the temperature got down in  the upper teens and our heat went out. Our dad was out of town at the time on one of his many business trips. We bundled up and played outside anyway. The very large ditch – like a creek – behind our house was frozen on the top. Our friend’s little dog, Ginger, skittered across easily. Our dog, Dixie, followed her and went right through to the icy water.

Other fall and winter days were filled with my brothers playing football in the front yard and a few evening fires in our fireplace. In high school it was a time to wear stylish sweaters to school, then go outside for PE in the short gym suits we had to wear. I remember being teased about the chill bumps on my legs – referred to as chicken skin.

After moving to Birmingham in 2014, I was so excited about our first fall and winter. Sweaters and boots and scarves were so much fun! But, then it seemed to last forever and I yearned for the warmth of spring.

This year, summer has far outlasted its welcome. Now I long once more for the cool air and some justification for a pumpkin spice latte. But, even more, I long for rain.

Half the Year Gone

People are always asking, “Where did the time go?” The time goes in big and small moments, some memorable and some wasted. You can read my highlights of the first quarter of 2016 HERE.

Here are some highlights of the second quarter of my year:

  1. I got my taxes done on time
  2. Discovered Ruffner Mountain
  3. Finished out the year subbing – you can read some of those adventures HERE.  This also included the last three days of school with a great bunch of 8th graders  IMG_4822
  4. Flew to Tampa to spend time with fam. This included a late afternoon at Clearwater Beach and a gorgeous sunset sunset 
  5. Read lots of books – You can check out what I’ve read so far this year here on my Pinterest board
  6.  Made several trips to Pepper Place Market
  7. With more time in the summer, I checked out movies from the Hoover Library. It’s also a great place for lunch or a coffee!
  8. Discovered: Over Easy Cafe – delish!; Hillsboro Trail; Lazy Boy BBQ in Helena (great pork – best for take-out); Twisted Root Burger  in Vestavia (you  must check out the Chuck Norris wall!)
  9. First-time visit to Clanton for Peach Festival – highlight was getting peach ice cream.
  10. Got the first pedicure in over four years at Riveria Nails & Spa in Hoover. – so nice!
  11. Enjoyed watching the Braves beat the Marlins in Atlanta with hubby and daughter. braves

 

Looking forward to the rest of 2016!