Tag Archives: reading

A New Foundation

I love it when life inspires me with dots. For my regular readers you understand, if you’re new to this blog, dots are moments in life that connect to reveal a theme or idea that I share in a post. Yesterday, life provided two dots to highlight an important aspect I had been thinking about.

In the morning I was reading the book, Dragonwings, by Laurence Yep, while waiting for my wife to complete her doctor appointment. I read through the part of the story when the earthquake devastated the neighborhood except for Miss Whitlaw’s home. “‘Papa always built well. He said he wanted a house that could hold a herd of thundering elephants -’ … No one had constructed the houses along the street as well as Miss Whitlaw’s father had built his” (pg 157).

At the time, I was just enjoying the story, not connecting any deep life themes. Until about an hour later when we headed out to get groceries.

I know it is hard to see, but this house is having a new foundation built underneath it. You can see how the ground underneath of the house is being dug out, you can see sunlight toward the back of the hole. They have half the road blocked off for the trucks and the excavator. There are temporary supports in place. Putting in a new foundation looks like a lot of work, but it can be done.

As I am prone to do, the metaphor of a foundation connected in my head, maybe because I have used it before in a blog post about parenting (“Trust Your Foundation“). However,  this time I connected the metaphor to our personal foundations, which are built with the help of our parents in our younger years. If the foundation is strong at the beginning, like in the book, we can withstand an earthquake. It doesn’t mean the house isn’t damaged, but we will be standing after the storm.

Not everyone has that strong of a start. People can feel lost in this life. They can feel like they can’t withstand the troubles life brings, but the second dot makes an important counterpoint. With some hard work, any house can have a new foundation. You have to dig deep, find the support you need, then take the time to build a new foundation for your house to rest upon.  

Our foundation is the base of our everyday life. The foundation supports our goals and provides us a stable home to live in. Our foundation will be tested in this life, there will be storms. We will stand or fall based on how well we built our base–even if we are older, working on a new foundation.

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Reading is Cool!

I know what you are thinking… You are a writer, a teacher, of course you think reading is cool. 

But hold on, this post is not just about how reading helps in academics or in writing.

Even though it is true… this post is about how reading is cool.

The first reason reading is cool is because it generates unexpected thoughts. When reading a new book you will come across a line or section that makes you think about something you would not have thought about on your own. A simple line can set you off on deeper paths of thinking. A paragraph can elicit emotions or bring you to a new understanding of yourself or the world. I’ve experienced this lately.

While reading a book of poetry by A.E. Housman I came across the line above. The line challenged me emotionally, so much so I had to make a creative picture quote of it. Poetry hasn’t been the only text to challenge me. Stephen King’s book, The Outsider, has generated a sense of frustration. And that is a good thing. Without giving away the book, the story is a great example of Dramatic Irony, where the reader knows something the characters of the book don’t. By reading I get to understand myself a little better because of this emotion. I get the chance to work through why I am frustrated. Reading gives us opportunities to be challenged, to learn more about ourselves. That is cool, but it is cooler to share that experience.

The second reason reading is cool because it can be a shared experience. There is nothing like handing a person a book to read, then talking about it later. There is a different connection when people read something together because of the emotions and thoughts that they can share. One of the cool things I enjoy as a teacher is reading with students. Even though there are grades involved with studying literature, most times students enjoy the discussions that center around their thoughts and emotions.

The shared experience goes beyond the classroom, I shared in a past post (“The Why”) how a former student had a dad moment that spurred a memory from a book we read in class. The shared experience of reading is timeless. It is like a literary photograph. We can mention a book or poem and the memories flood the conversation.

Reading is important for a number of reasons. But reading is cool! Reading allows us to think of ideas we wouldn’t normally consider. Reading can make us feel emotions. Yet, the coolest part is reading can be a shared experience that connects us through those emotions and thoughts.

Below I share 5 works (in no particular order) you can read to connect with me, then share your thoughts in the comments. I can’t wait to read about what you thought.

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Magic of a Bookstore

Today I got to buy some books from our local bookstore, Prairie Books & Gifts. The store is closing after 43 years. I was awash with emotions as I walked around the store. When I worked downtown, I would spend time in the store. Sometimes reading a book in their reading area. Other times, just wandering the aisles until my lunch break was over.

I wrote a series awhile back about how different life was for me growing up as compared to my children. I started to consider that my kids may never know the joy of a bookstore, especially a local store. (I don’t think that will happen, but you never know…)

There is something magical about a bookstore, about the rows of books. Finding your favorite author’s books, hoping in some small way that there is a new book, or gandering through a genre or subject section. Yes, I always checked the poetry section.

A bookstore is the center of our universe. There are millions of worlds, people, and story lines just waiting for us to discover. And yes, you do sometimes judge a book by its cover. You pick it up from the shelf, slightly bouncing it in your hands trying to get a feel of the weight of the book, both physically and metaphorically. The crinkle of the binding. A quick read of a page. And then you have to decide if you are going to enter that world. The whole process is magical. A bookstore is the center of this universe, and it makes me sad to see our local universe die.

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Our Story Part II

It is late Sunday evening, and I don’t know when you might read this, but let me share a few highlights of the week. The following moments are parts of other people’s stories and mine.

My oldest son is in Baltimore for National FBLA competing in Public Speaking.

A coworker headed home for a family wedding as her marriage is in the process of ending.

My other son spent time in Indiana on a basketball trip with his high school team. They visited the Milan 1954 Hoosiers MuseumHoosiers gym, Butler University, and played a basketball game against a school also named Adams Central.

I spent a morning working in my new classroom (more on that later).

I attended the funeral for the son of a colleague.

Two of my daughters were in their first play, 101 Dalmatians Jr.

An instructor shared that her daughter moved into her home with her four kids because the daughter’s marriage was ending.

I finished an excellent graphic novel, I am Alfonso Jones. I highly recommend this graphic novel.

Finished making the third movie of the trapped trilogy.

We attended a wedding for my niece. They dated for over four years.

Our Story

This past week was filled with stories: heartbreak, new beginnings, happiness, and history. It is incredible to think about all the stories being written right at this moment. Some filled with joy, while others are experiencing pain and heartache. Someone right now is trying to fight off doubt and fear, while at the same time a couple is welcoming a new child into the world.

A great story is not without pain or without love. I don’t know what words you are writing right now for your story. But I do know that your story is important, that the words are yours and they need to be written by you. There will always be plot twists that surprise us, but remember, you get to write the next scene… write from your heart.

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Trees…

Storm DamageIt was 2 o’clock Sunday morning and I was feeding my youngest a bottle. I could see lightening flash between the curtains. The wind picked up and I carried my daughter with her bottle to the front door so I could remove our flower decoration before it started to bang against the door. This summer has been active with major storms. As I sat feeding my daughter and listening to the storm, I started to think about the trees. We have a park about a mile away that had a number of trees that were damaged from the last couple of storms. Sunday’s storm didn’t sound too intense, but I wondered if there would be any more trees damaged.

And as thoughts at 2 in the morning can become deep, I started to think of us, people, as trees.

Let’s take a pause for a second to understand how I started to think about people as trees. At the moment I’m reading One Yard Short by Les Steckel. I’m at the point where the Patriots fired him in 1988 and he is talking about being broken from a few rough years of coaching.

I have had a tough transition to losing my head coaching position in May. But this post is not about how dreams change, that is for a later post.

This post is a reflection on why trees get damaged in storms.

Sunday's StormThe picture above is from Sunday. It is a tree in the park I mentioned above. The tree has withstood all the other severe storms through the summer. So why did the Sunday morning storm, which was calm compared to others we have experienced, take down the tree?

Why didn’t other trees have damage?

Why did the already damaged trees stand strong through Sunday’s storm?

I don’t have an answer.

Just as I don’t know which “storm” in life will bring a person down. We never know which storm we will be able to withstand, to be strong through, and which storm may break us. Even if it is a smaller storm.

In the park there are trees that seem to have not been affected by any of the storms. Why? All the trees experienced the same winds, the same rain, but each storm damaged different trees.

In our lives we are faced with all kinds of storms. And we prepare for them, we strengthen our character, consider the consequence of our actions, but we really don’t know which storm my totally uproot us.

What I do know is that storms will come, and that we may experience damage, but unlike trees we have family and friends to help pick up the leaves and branches. To help get our roots back into the ground and help us grow stronger before the next storm.

 

 

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Your Own

We have a hard rule in our house; you can’t say you dislike anything until you have tried it.  Yes, it helps us to get the kids to eat their vegetables at dinner (there are some vegetables that are not served in our house, but it is because we have at least tried them), but the rule stands also for other issues.  From Justin Beiber to reading The Chronicles of Narnia.  We don’t let the kids just spat out other peoples’ opinions.  Or to just dismiss something without at least knowing something about it so that they can form their own opinion.

This approach isn’t always easy, even as elementary students the playground conversation can get negative and degrading.  I am amazed at times with the negative opinions my children express at the dinner table and the range of topics these opinions cover, from songs about Barney the Dinosaur (not happy songs!) to political issues.  With just a couple of questions, I discover that the opinion comes from the playground.  My wife and I then lead the discussion for them to express what they know of the topic.  We help them to formulate what their opinion is based off what they actually know.  Other times, sadly, we have to simply say, no that is not appropriate.  Usually with songs they learn, but it still expresses an opinion.

As a dad, this saddens me in a number of ways.  I actually enjoy helping them learn about the world.  To discuss issues, to question them and yes, sometimes I over analyze things (did you know how many different themes are present in Disney’s Beauty and The Beast?).  But when did this all become so negative?  What is wrong with liking something?  Why do we have to fight so hard to have our own ideas?

Why is our first reaction to something negative? As an English teacher this attitude is almost a cliché.

Courtesy of Flickr user piper caldwell

“I hate reading.”

“I hate poetry.”

“I hate English.”

I have no problem when a student says they dislike a poem, after they have read it.  In fact, it means the poem actually affected them and gives me something to discuss with them.

What sadness me the most, and not just for my kids but for my students too, is the lost opportunities because of this attitude.  The depth of our life is not created by others’ attitudes but through our experiences.  And those experiences have to be both positive and negative.  Those opposites give us the parameters to build our own views. To make this life our own.

Designed at PicLits.com

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Snowy Day

The snow cancelled basketball.  The girls stayed in pajamas.  I shoveled the driveway.  It was one of those relaxing snowy Saturdays when you eat too much, we made sugar cookies, and you get the chance to spend serious family time.  We had a great moment at the dinner table where we all were laughing so hard we were crying.

We read stories; a few of us took naps (yes, I was one of them).  But technology allowed us to do some creative things.

My oldest son wrote a song, “There ain’t room for both of us” as a Christmas gift for his grandparents.

He is learning to play the clarinet.  If you remember a past blog (“Miles Davis: So What”) you will recognize the similarities of the beginning of his song.

This day gave my other son the chance to make his first Lego movie, “ARC Troopers: Ambushed”

I helped with technical parts, but he was the director and producer.  He had the script done, a staging map for the Lego men, and ideas for the sound effects.

These projects are not earth shattering, but allowed my sons to pursue things they are interested in or working on.  This day gave us the opportunity to build memories that we can experience for along time.

I can’t wait for the next snow day…

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