Category Archives: Reflections

Do you love your library?

For the past couple weeks, I have been writing a paper on the Central Rappahannock Regional Library as part of a course on the management of information organizations.  In my reading and research, I discovered some amazing things about the history of CRRL. I love the Virginiana Room that houses a collection of local history resources. Sadly, the library currently faces significant budget and staffing challenges.

I was lucky to grow up in a town with an excellent library. During a time when the state of California was slashing support of libraries statewide, the City of Thousand Oaks made a commitment to its library, with the result that their collections and services grew while other libraries shrank. These days, the huge aquarium in the children’s section is amazing (and of course I’m partial to the whole Newbury Park branch where I used to shelve books after school). But like CRRL, the TO Library’s funding is in question (for a brief article about this, click here).

This link offers ideas as to how patrons can show their library some love.  My favorite suggestions are to honor a friend or relative’s birthday with a book for the library and to support library referenda in elections.

What do you love about your public library?

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Horton Hears a Who and the Pro-Life Message

 Here’s a Seuss-related question I’m pondering: should educators use Horton Hears a Who to promote the pro-life message?

As a junior high and high school religion teacher and catechist in Catholic schools and parishes, I often used picture books to illustrate theological points. My favorite is The Yellow Star: the Legend of King Christian X of Denmark. Naturally, when I discovered the pro-life message in Horton, I wondered if it would be an appropriate teaching tool.

Having never read the book, my introduction to Horton Hears a Who came from a Christian Youth Theater production of Seussical: The Musical. When Horton first uttered the line, “A person’s a person no matter how small,” I had a new definition of irony.

I soon became aware of the intriguing debate that swirls around Horton’s recurring phrase. Others have articulated the situation better than I can. For example, this article comes from LifeSiteNews.com, “a portal of news stories about pro-life issues in Canada, the United States and the UK.” The article explains that, over the objections of Dr. Seuss himself and his widow, Mrs. Audrey Geisel, Horton has been used to support the pro-life movement.

According to Geisel biographer Philip Nel, Geisel threatened to sue a pro-life group for using his words on their stationery. In an ABC Booktalk interview, Nel does not address the pro-life message at all, suggesting instead that “you can read Horton Hears a Who in many ways, but one of the ways of reading Horton Hears a Who is a parable about democracy – that everyone needs to get involved for democracy to work.”

Mrs. Geisel has been vocal in her dislike for the co-opting of the phrase by pro-lifers, insisting according to this article  that Geisel “never wanted Dr. Seuss characters used to advance any political purpose.”

Yet, prior to writing children’s books, Geisel had a lucrative career as a political cartoonist. This work, Nel feels, “had tremendous impact on the political children’s books, on the message books that he wrote after the Second World War – Horton Hears a Who, Yertle the Turtle, The Sneeches. I think it’s safe to say that he wouldn’t have written these books unless he had, during the war, written these political cartoons.”

To return to my question: Should the Geisels’ feelings regarding Horton matter?

Arundhati Roy, an Indian activist and writer, said in an interview, “For me, books are gifts. When I read a book, I accept it as a gift from an author. When I wrote [The God of Small Things], I presented it as a gift. The reader will do with it what they want.”

Moreover, Junipero Russo Tarascio, regarding Horton specifically, writes, “We may never know exactly what, if anything, Seuss had intended to communicate using Horton’s character (some have even suggested that the Whos are a symbol of racism, war, or children’s rights). This leaves the elephant’s story open to all forms of analysis and interpretation, depending on the specific moral values of the person reading it.” (Click here for the full article.) 

So, to use or not to use? What discussion questions, if any, would work with the text? I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this.

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How Reading Can Help Raise a Strong Woman

I was inspired by this post to write a bit about how my blog fits in to the one cause to which I am deeply committed:  the education of young women.

My blog doesn’t look like much now (and hardly anyone is looking anyway).  But I have a clear vision for this project.  Someday it will be a resource for parents and educators who are seeking resources and reading material for the young women in their lives, and hopefully even a resource for those young women themselves.  Just give me time.  Eventually I’ll write amazing posts about Greg Mortenson, Shannon Hale, and Katniss Everdeen.  I’ll write about strong heroines and where to find them.  In the meantime, here’s some of the work I’ve done so far.

Parents with daughters even younger than mine (4 yrs) need to be thinking right now and every day about the woman they are raising.  What kind of character do I want her to have?  What skills will she need in the world she’ll live in?  By my words and actions, what messages am I sending about womanhood?

Reading can help.  Reading books, articles, blogs.  Reading aloud.  Reading, and then talking about what you read.  And just so you know:  throughout my life, I’ve been surrounded by strong women, all of them readers.

Here’s a quick booklist of titles I recommend for parents with daughters.  Thorough reviews someday, but if you’ve read them before I post, we could have a better discussion 😉

Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman
Totally Wired by Anastasia Goodstien
The Primal Teen by Barbara Strauch
The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (a book I also recommend for tweens)

This is the article mentioned in Mitali’s blog about the pressures facing today’s teen girls, and this one discusses the advantages of single-sex education.

Educating young women does not just involve parents and teachers.  Being both means I am not a great many things.  Please share your ideas and resources.

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The Tevana Menu

I have carefully read the entire Tevana menu.  More than once.  Okay, many times.  I admit it.  And when the menu changed several months ago, I had to do another careful read (er, reads) to discover everything new.  If there isn’t a Tevana shop near you where you can pick up your own copy of the menu to pore over, you can spend some time at the Virtual Tea Wall.

My love of tea is not the only reason I enjoy reading Tevana’s menu.  The descriptions make for great reading.  For example, Kamiya Papaya Oolong is described in part as a “bright tasting” tea “inspired by the sunshine and easy-going breezes of Hawaii.”   I’ve never heard a flavor described as “bright” before!   

Or there’s Utopian Jewel Oolong, a tea “cornucopia” with “red raspberries and strawberries radiat[ing] like jewels among the emerald green oolong leaves.”  Fruits and leaves as gemstones?  Love it!

The Tevana menu also mentions Tevana’s commitment to giving back to the world community through a partnership with CARE International.  Incidentally, CARE is mentioned in one of the books I am reading, Half the Sky.  It is an important organization working to improve the lives of women around the globe.  And yet another book I am reading, Shopping with a Conscience, discusses fair trade tea and organic tea.  Some of Tevana’s teas are organic, but I don’t know if they are fairly traded even given the partnership with CARE. 

I am a tea drinker (in case you hadn’t guessed), and tea frequently complements my reading.  Here are my recommendations from Tevana.

My go-to teas:

Chai: Maté Chai.  This one makes a great chai latte (and wallet-friendly alternative to Starbucks, though this tea does not taste like Tazo’s chai).  As it’s energizing, I drink this in the morning, and sometimes in the afternoon when I’d like a nap but can’t indulge.  Also a good tea to sip while reading the news or completing reading assignments.

Green:  Jasmine Tropica.  Hot, this tea goes well with Asian takeout but is also lovely and relaxing on its own.  I prefer it iced, and I always have a pitcher in my fridge.  Better than water, though not as cheap.  Very refreshing when reading at the beach or on the patio.

Others I enjoy, especially when curled up in a comfy spot with a good read:

Herbal: Azteca Fire.   A sugar-free alternative to hot chocolate, but it might not be for everyone.  I like it because I love spicy dark chocolate (with chili and cinnamon). 

White: Pear Luna.  A great nighttime tea that contains chamomile, but tastes fruity.  A good choice if you like the soothing effects of chamomile but not the taste. 

My tea kettle is whistling, so I’m off to steep a cup of chai.  Tomorrow, the young cat lover’s booklist I promised earlier this week.  In the meantime, you might like reading a friend’s post on tea.

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Love in Scripture

Poetry is one of the few things I do not care to read.  There are poems that I love, but poetry in general is not my thing.  And none of my favorite poems really fit with the love and reading theme I’ve been working on these past weeks.  I will admit that for a while my favorite poetry book was The Handbook of Heartbreak: 101 Poems of Lost Love and Sorrow.  Yeah, not quite the right tone for a Valentine’s Day post. 

So instead I’m sharing my two favorite scripture passages on love:

From Song of Songs:

Hark! my lover-here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.

My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.

My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!

“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!

“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely.”

My lover belongs to me and I to him.
He said to me:

Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm;
For stern as death is love,
relentless as the nether world is devotion;
its flames are a blazing fire.

Deep waters cannot quench love,
nor floods sweep it away.

Song of Songs 2:8-10, 14, 16a; 8:6-7a (NAB)

From 1 Corinthians:

Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8a (NAB)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Love Letters Part 2

Throughout my childhood and until I left home for college, every week, my grandmother wrote me a letter.  I knew to expect these letters on Wednesdays, since mail from New York to California normally took three days and Nana dropped the letter in the mailbox on Monday morning on her way to Mass.  When I was young and first learning to read, Nana carefully printed these letters for me even though handwriting was easier for her.  The letters mentioned big and small events in the lives of my extended family on the other side of the country, asked me to pray for Nana’s particular friends, and reminded me of her love for me.  Once I was living away from home, the letters continued, though they arrived with less frequency.  I received a letter at least once a month until August 2002, when my Nana passed away at the age of eighty-one. 

 Because of Nana, I have an enduring love of handwritten letters.  I think that they may well be my all-time favorite thing to read.  Since I grew up far from any extended family in the age before email and Skype, letters were the primary way that my family kept in touch. 

Nowadays, I can think of only two people who write me letters with any regularity—Nana’s brother, my great-Uncle Charlie, and one of my college roommates whose email address I don’t know.  When I receive their letters, I find myself sinking into a chair and giving my undivided attention to their words—something I rarely do if I am on the phone or on the computer.  Letters feel more personal to me than any other form of communication, as though I am privy to a page from someone’s journal that has been addressed especially to me. 

Among the letters I’ve saved for rereading over the years are retreat letters (Live the Fourth!), letters from former students, and letters from various individuals whose words touch and inspire me still though the person may have faded from my life.

Tomorrow:  Another love-ly read

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Love Letters Part 1

Along with hearts and flowers, love letters are a symbol of Valentine’s Day.  My husband and I have boxes and even a bound book of them, from the times when our relationship was long distance.  Not all the letters are passionate declarations of our affection.  Some are silly, or serious, or even boring, but to me they are all love letters because they were meant to keep our love growing when we had no other way to be in touch with each other.   

When I started thinking of love letters, I recalled a book that my high school friends and I pored over in our local Borders:  Love Letters: An Anthology of Passion by Michelle Lovric.  I think one of us finally bought a copy which we circulated among ourselves for a while too.  Lovric celebrates love letters in all their nostalgic glory, reproducing handwritten original letters right down to the wax seals.    

I googled “love letters” and from there read some lovely things.  Of particular interest:  at lovingyou.com, community members  created a collection of contemporary love letters by submitting their own favorites.  Probably I’ll be over there reading for the better part of my day.

More reading love tomorrow…

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Reading Diaries

“I never travel without my diary.  One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” ~ Oscar Wilde

As I pondered how to being this blog, I felt motivated to read the first entry from each of my diaries. (I’ve written in a journal since I first learned how to write.  Thus far I’ve filled 26, and kept track of all but one.)  Memories refreshed themselves and I found myself alternately smiling and cringing.  When I’d finished reading, my thought was, how would I feel if someone else were to peruse these pages?

My journal writing was how I learned to speak my mind and be comfortable with honesty and vulnerability.  In its early volumes, my journal was the one place in which I revealed all the secrets I carefully guarded from my parents and friends.  Secrets like angry or selfish thoughts, crushes, jealousies, silly personal triumphs, fears, and goals.  As a teenager I would have been mortified if someone had read my diary.  Nowadays, my journal is a place for thinking aloud privately (occasionally I do think aloud publicly, usually with humorous or embarrassing results).  I would not be mortified if someone were to pick up my current volume, but I would be uneasy and I can’t pinpoint why.  Perhaps because I’ve never been inclined to read a diary that was not my own?

What about you?  Would you read someone else’s diary–with or without permission?  Would you let someone to read yours?

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