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Memories, They Can’t be Boughten*

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This is the house that Papa built.

This is the dresser

That stood in the house that Papa built.

This is the drawer,

That broke the dresser,

That stood in the house that Papa built.

These are the goods all in turmoil,

That lay in the drawer,

That broke the dresser

That stood in the house that Papa built.

This is the wife tired of toil,

Who sorted the goods all in turmoil,

That lay in the drawer,

That broke the dresser

That stood in the house that Papa built.

These are dear children, comic and foil,

Who humored the wife tired of toil,

Who sorted the goods all in turmoil,

That lay in the drawer,

That broke the dresser

That stood in the house that Papa built.

First grade treasure based on the children’s favorite, “The Snowman.”

Out poured the keepsakes, saved from spoil,

To delight the dear children, comic and foil,

Who humored the wife tired of toil,

Who sorted the goods all in turmoil,

That lay in the drawer,

That broke the dresser

That stood in the house that Papa built.
Four cheers for family with new-found riches royal,

Who revel in keepsakes, saved from spoil,

To delight the dear children, comic and foil,

Part Deux: “The Snowman.”

Who humored the wife tired of toil,

Who sorted the goods all in turmoil,

That lay in the drawer,

That broke the dresser

That stood in the house that Papa built. 

A treasure from the first day of Kindergarten

** Title inspired by Lyrics from John Prine’s “Souvenirs”

____

Thank you Mother Goose for your inspiration.

Breaking for Heartache

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A sharp intake of breath, then lungs full, but not a cry – yet.

“Oh no. My baby.”

A parent recognizes the cry of her child. The tired cry. The hungry cry. The frustrated, sister took my toy cry. The “Owie!” cry.

But this cry – different. Never before heard, but I knew.

I pulled the car over and asked Madeleine, then 8, “Baby, has it happened, are you at the end? Oh dear.”

Madeleine begged to read “Where the Red Fern Grows.”   “Well, are you sure?” I asked. “It’s SO good. Might be sad, though”

Unperturbed, she ordered the Wilson Rawls’ classic from the scholastic book order.

by Wilson Rawls

Voraciously she read the story of Billy, Old Dan and Little Ann – a boy and his two dogs. On the drive home from a visit with friends, it was dark. She wanted the dome light of the car on to finish. Seeing she was close to the end, I told her that the dome light disturbs the other drivers (I wanted to delay the inevitable). However, light is just a little thing to an eight-year-old.

Now at the curb on Mayberry drive – how prophetic – I hastened to her side of the car while six-year-old Marjorie asked what was it. “Is she OK?”

For this was the cry of heartbreak. The First heartbreak.

“Why mom? Dan AND Little Ann? Why?”

The truth. A book can break your heart. Oh, there’s the poorly written book, and the one with the stupid ending. The one with the evil villain – but that end is expected, it’s telegraphed throughout the narrative.

This is different. Be clear – a good book will break your heart with its unexpected beauty, the characters you’ve fallen in love with for 226 pages; these characters are good and solid and innocent. Oh. Hurt.

It can be that the story is so well written. It may also be that this heart wrencher is the mirror in which you see yourself.

A long time ago, “Laughing Boy,” a short 1930 Pulitzer Prize fiction winner by Oliver La Farge about a Native American couple in New Mexico was my Red Fern. I had no knowledge of this book, only that it was on the stack of a brother’s college books. The same thing – at the climax, I cracked open with a force of emotion. Utter meltdown.

That memory helped me sooth my girl.

What could I say? Just hold her. Let her cry.

After a while, I managed to say, “Let’s go home. We’ll read the last bits together.”

The heart can mend. Wild violets, rooster heads and mountain daisies still make us smile.

Madeleine’s fifteen now and growing in every way. Ever optimistic, she barrels into life, school, and friendships and some day it’ll be a relationship. She’s bound to have those Red Fern days; I just want to be there with her to find the wild violets, rooster heads and mountain daisies by and by.

Hunger is Not a Game

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Connecting the dots.

Drawing the lines between what I read, what I believe, what I’ve learned and what I do. That’s been part of the fun and challenge of my reading goal for this year.

What I do is work for a food bank. I believe that no person should go hungry. I’ve learned that hunger is in unexpected places.

  • 1 in 4 children in Nevada do not know where their next meal is coming from
  • The Food Bank helps more than 97,000 people per month
  • The Food  Bank serves the hungry through 130+ partner agencies
  • The Food Bank and partners offer free meals to 28 sites in Washoe County during summer
  • The Food Bank of Northern Nevada distributed 10.5 million pounds of food last year.

But SOMETIMES statistics can’t tell the whole story of hunger.

Children care about hunger issues

A recent invitation to stage a food drive at a Sparks, NV elementary school during a special spring event revealed so much more.

This school is “over” standards that would make children eligible for government programs to address hunger and yet, and yet…as the young students and families brought contributions to the food drive, stories emerged.

“I was wondering about the food bank truck I see at Sparks Christian Fellowship,” asked a dad who had just donated a large bag of food to the barrel.

“Oh, it’s a pantry site and they sure could use some volunteers,” replied the Food Bank employee on site. But that’s wasn’t his question. He went on to explain that he and his family belong to a group of seasonally employed — those in the construction trades who don’t always have work in the winter months and need help with food. Because of the food drive, he now has some additional information on how to access food when his family needs it.

A sweet, blonde second-grade boy cruised by a couple times with his book bag slung over his shoulder, blue eyes seeking out a friend or two.

Later, a middle-aged woman with two children at the school donated another large bag of food and our employee thanks her for her donation, “You are welcome, she said, “I always give when I see a barrel. You see, I’ve stood in line for food from you. I know what it feels like and I want to give back. I’m all right now.”

This was turning into a very surprising food drive.

The night was pleasant as children dashed back and forth to classrooms playing games and earning raffle tickets for good reading habits. Among them was the second-grade boy, who shied away from the wave from our employee.

Whereupon a mother passed and commented, Food Bank, ahhh, I’ve always wondered — how can I volunteer?”

“How nice!” our Food Bank representative said, noting that she spoke with a Spanish accent. “We can certainly use bilingual help, if that would fit with you. We can use help with our Mobile Pantry program.” The outgoing mom took with her information on places she can help out with her skills.

Gosh, who knew that we would be collecting more than food? Always great to garner a volunteer.

Soon the children gathered in the multipurpose room for lemonade and books and a chance at the raffle, but our employee stayed outside with the food barrel, just in case.

The nicely dressed blonde boy — sporting a yellow lei that the school provided for the tropical theme — overcame his shyness momentarily and asked, “How much does this food cost?”

“Oh, sweetie, I”m not selling it. I’m collecting food.”

“But how much does it cost?” he persisted.

“If you don’t have any food to give tonight, that’s OK. There’ll be other times — other food drives,” our employee explained.

“But,” he said, gesturing to a pocket.

“No, no. I’m not selling the food. We give it away to people who are hungry.”

One look from him revealed the truth.

“Are you hungry right now buddy?”

“Yes.”

“No food at home?”

No.”

“Well, let’s get you some food right now,” she said in a quiet voice.” “I see you’ve got a bag with you now, can we slip some in there?”

Blondie’s head bobbed up and down, a smile creeping to his lips. “But I got a baby sister, and a mom…”

“Well, let’s pick out some food for them too — want to?”

Increased nodding of head. He stood on tip-toe looking into the Food Bank barrel. He picked out some turkey chili beans for himself, some soup for his mom. “But my sister, she’s just 18-months old. She can’t eat just anything,” came his words, almost in panic.

“OK, you and I are going to dig in here until we find something.”

At last they found some apple sauce, and he slipped this last can into his bag. “Oh, my mom is going to be SO happy!” he said.

The tears that had been gathering in my eyes began to leak out; I didn’t want him to see.

“You are a good boy,” I said. “And a good big brother.”

Off he scampered, eager to walk home and share this food.

He is the one in four who doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from — but he’s plainly not a statistic. He’s a little boy. A neighbor. A student. A friend. A Nevadan. A person.

This school now has information on our summer food program where children aged 1 to 18 can access food in area parks. It is a middle class school, but you see, pockets of hunger are everywhere, and the faces of hunger can surprise and enlighten. Even us.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

This, ladies and gentlemen, was a heart-wrenching experience for me. I carry that little boy with me every day to the food bank and from the food bank.  He reminds me that I can make a difference and that I am making a difference.

Chances are, wherever you live, there is a Food Bank. If you can, volunteer, or give a can of food to help.

As for reading, I do recommend “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” by Ehrenreich, Barbara.

Fifty is Nifty in My Book (list)

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I’ve just rounded on the big 5-0. Sure feels good!

No, I’m not celebrating my  age – that’s a few years off – it’s my goal of reading 75 books in one year. In seven full months I’ve read 50 books and if all goes well I should clear my New Year’s goal and perhaps then some.

In looking at the list of books that I’ve thus far got under my belt – or at least filtered into my brain – it’s quite an eclectic list. But then it would be, considering that I was challenging myself to read the many books that I’ve got in bookcases around the house that I’ve been meaning to read. Along the way, though, I picked up a couple from the used bookstore, from the new books store, through my audio book collection and from friends who have kindly given me some of their favorites.

Here how the books stack up thus far:

30 fiction

20 non-fiction

Nine of the books deal with Nevada and the West because I am admittedly a genealogy nut and several of the books on hand are those that have been given to me or purchased by me to learn more about the land my two sets of great-great grandparents emigrated to in the 1860s. Those titles include:

Comstock Women: The Making of a Mining Community Edited by Ron James and Liz Raymond; Saucer Eyes by Eulah Croson Lauckes; The Deep Blue Memory by Monique Urza (Laxalt); The Money & the Power by Sally Denton & Roger Morris; The Mountains of California by John Muir; Where Are All the Magpies? By Patty A. Melton; William Morris Stewart (various authors- Nevada Historical Society); The Ox Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark; Sun Mountain by Richard S. Wheeler.

Thirteen of the 50 I consider literary classics. Though an English major many moons ago in college, the emphasis was on writing, not literature, so these remained unread until this reading binge came on. In alpha order they are:

Candide (Voltaire)

Emma (Jane Austen)

Fairy Tales (Hans Christian Andersen)

O! Pioneers (Willa Cather)

One of Ours (Willa Cather)

Roughing It (Mark Twain)

Short Stories (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (unk)

The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton)

The Legend of Sleepy Hallow (Washington Irving)

The Odyssey (Homer)

The Red Badge of Courage (Stephen Crane)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriett Beacher Stowe)

OK, I admit, I did read the Odyssey back in the day, but it is very much worth the re-read.

A few spiritual ones – or at least books that explore other religions — sped on my reading bender: Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs, and Postville by Stephen Bloom. Bloom’s book is not actually spiritual, or religious, but is a study in Orthodox Jewish-Midwest Iowa relations. Still, educational in terms of orthodox beliefs. One other self-help book to add to the melting pot was The Majesty of Calmness by William George Jordan.

Biographies. Oh, I’ve read a few. Eight people who probably seldom if ever met – Steve Jobs (by Walter Issacson); Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer (Irene Gut); Then Again (by Diane Keaton); Chronicles I (by Bob Dylan); Killing Bono: I was Bonno’s Doppelgänger (Neil McCormick) and the three bios from my Nevada list. Now, tell me, should I have Walden by Henry David Thoreau in with biographies or under classics? Maybe that one can be termed classically autobiographical. But by that standard, so then would be Roughing It, by Mark Twain.

Along the way, I read a few “juvenile” books that our daughters have wanted me to check out. The Indian in the Cupboard (by Lynne Reid Banks), The Book Thief (by Marcus Zusek) and the Secret Dragon Society (by Adeline Yeri Mah).

I like my historical novels by the wheelbarrow load. So far, besides those mentioned above,  my list includes Brighton Beach Boys in the Radio Service about World War I, The Dovekeepers set in the first century in Israel, The Other Boleyn Girl occurring in 16th century England, Mary Barton set in 19th century England’s Industrial Age, and I Heard the Owl Call My Name about Canadian Native life. One further book that is actually non-fiction, but reads like a novel because it’s knitted together so well, was Manhunt, about the quest to track down John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

I threw in two Arthur Connan Doyle Sherlock Holmes books: A Study in Scarlett and The Hound of the Baskervilles. And one science fiction – the Invisible Man by H.G. Wells.

Human beings need their comedy – though these are plainly outdated,  I do enjoy PG Wodehouse and therefore read My Man Jeeves and the Adventures of Sally.

Two disappointments (and this is why I avoid a lot of best sellers) were The Mermaid’s Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (so sad, because The Secret Life of Bees was exceptional) and Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Truly insipid.

Rounding the 50 out were two books on economics that I do so highly recommend: Boomerang by Michael Lewis and Nickeled and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Do I have a favorite? I cannot choose from one of my “children,” though a couple will be relegated to the attic and some of the others may get a further review on this blog. So far, it’s been a fun and rewarding book journey. I’m proud of myself for setting this goal for 2012 and honestly looking forward to augmenting this list with oodles of titles in the next five months of the year.