Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World

Endurance

Photo by Frank Hurley

January 1915. One hundred years ago, Ernest Shackleton‘s beautiful ship, Endurance, became completely locked in the ice of Antarctica. The story of this extraordinary expedition and the survival of the entire crew, despite being stranded for two years in one of the harshest environments in the world, is a fascinating story. All the men survived that experience because of the phenomenal leadership skills of Ernest Shackleton.

When I taught 6th grade many years ago, my teammates and I put together a January unit of study on the Shackleton story. We used Jennifer Armstrong’s book, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, as the basis of the unit, and the 6th graders became as fascinated by the story as we (the teachers) were!, It was a unit in which we focused on some very important life lessons–lessons and discussions about leadership, compassion, hope, and endurance.

So in the middle of January, I stopped everything I was doing and revisited that story in honor of my hero. I loved sharing that book and story with my students, and, if you haven’t read anything about Sir Ernest Shackleton and his ill-fated ship, Endurance, I urge you to pick up one of the many books about this expedition and discover why this man is one of my heroes. There are quite a few books to choose from, but I’m very fond of the little, nicely written book I used to introduce him to young people. It is also available as an audio download through Audible.

Shackleton

Birthdays

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Today is my birthday, and this week is also marks the 8th anniversary of starting this reading blog. I’m celebrating becoming an official senior citizen (according to the Social Security office) quietly today because I’ve been fighting a mean cold all week. The day will definitely be filled with books, however!

And I celebrate my 8 years of blogging, quietly, too. I’ve been an off-and-on blogger for the last few years, disappearing for months at a time while I focus on life happenings. But I return and check in, and share what I’m reading more often now. And I so appreciate my friends in the blogging world (hugs to each of you!), and all of you who visit me and comment on my sporadic posts. Thank you so much for being part of my reading life!

It’s a Wonderful [Reading] Life

Young Woman Reading a Book, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1875.

Young Woman Reading a Book, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1875.

2014 has been a wonderful reading year for me. It was a year of re-reading old favorites, finding new authors to love, and just enjoying the book journey. The year began and is ending with two beloved books: The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, and The Collected Stories of Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne, both audiobook versions of childhood favorites. What pleasure to listen to both those books again! What warm memories of hearing them read over and over by my Dad, gone now 20 years. That’s the magic of books — book memories are timeless, and the pleasure never gets old. As we welcome in the New Year, this is my wish for you, dear book friends: May you have a wonderful reading year that adds many warm and timeless memories to your reading life!  Happy New Year everyone!me cg presenter.indd

Summer Reading

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Now that I’m retired, summer reading has taken on a whole new meaning for me. For one thing, my summer is longer with much more time for sitting on the porch and reading. Yay! I don’t have to spent most of June finishing teaching units, grading papers, and writing report cards. I don’t have to take classes in July to update my teaching certificate. And I don’t have to spend days and weeks in August preparing my classroom and going to district teacher meetings. Although I miss my kiddos, I am happy now that I can just enjoy reading on my front porch! And doesn’t that sounds heavenly?!

Hobbit-coverSo I decided to start my “Summer Reading” on June 1st this year with a re-read (this is the 6th time) of an absolute favorite of mine: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

It was early in 1968, having just returned from a year abroad as an exchange student, when I read a reprint of an article by W.H. Auden from The New York Times. It was a review of a series of books by an English author, J.R.R. Tolkien. They sounded so good, I quickly went out and bought all 4 books: The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. Those delightful hours spent reading those books set the standard for my summer reading. Total immersion into a different world… Traveling there and back again without having to leave my comfortable summer reading spot… Complete enjoyment of beautiful writing and wonderful creativity…  I would love to recapture some of those delightful reading moments from long ago!

So… I am reading and enjoying, once again, The Hobbit.

By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green…

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Hobbit house at the Oregon Garden, Silverton, Oregon…

I’m Dancing!

Us

Things change. That’s for sure. The husband and I are are coming up soon on the one-year anniversary of our retirement, and retirement is the biggest change we’ve made in many a year, with plenty of adjustments to make and challenges to face, but it has been very positive for us, I’m happy to say.

If I admit to being retirement age, then I must admit, also, to some of the changes that are inevitable as I move into that age/stage. In my case, it’s hearing loss and getting hearing aids. As any teacher knows, and any hearing specialist will confirm, spending 27 years in a classroom can be hard on the ears. My classroom for most of those 27 years was particularly bad because it had metal walls. So lots of voices, and ventilation systems noise, and bells ringing loudly, have finally taken their toll. (I should probably add into the mix those very loud concerts I used to enjoy — including Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin!) The sum total is that I now need hearing aids.

But I’m really jazzed about them because all of a sudden I can hear nuances again! I can hear my daughter’s quiet voice without having her repeat everything she says to me! My husband no longer mumbles. And, I decided that since I need hearing aids, I deserve some special stuff to go along with them. So along with the hearing aids, I ordered a bluetooth “streamer” so that I can listen to audiobooks (or music) through my hearing aids. Sweet! I’m going to enjoy many, many audiobooks with such a nice system!

So, yes, big changes in my life, but that’s okay. I’ll be enjoying my audiobooks more than ever, and I will keep foremost in my mind something very wise that Alan Watts said about change:

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

Distractions and May Reading

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Nasturtium in the morning light…

My blog has certainly been quiet for a month, mostly because I’m spending more time in the garden and doing outdoor things, and not spending as much time on my computer. That sounds downright healthy! When I do get on my computer, I’m spending more time on my other, more personal, blogs — Reader in the Grove and my new gardening online journal, Garden in the Grove. I’d love to have you visit me there, if you’re curious.

But just so you know that despite the lovely distractions I AM still reading…here are my May reads so far:


And I’m finishing up a few others, hopefully before the end of the month:

Happy Birthday to a Hero

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Today is Jane Goodall’s 80th birthday, and I want to wish her a very happy birthday. I have admired her work for over 40 years! She is one of my heroes, and I was very blessed to be able to meet her a few years ago. She came to the school where I was teaching, to help launch our new Roots and Shoots club, and I was asked by my principal to introduce her at the school assembly. Why me? …because I Shadow_of_Manhad told my principal my story about reading her book, In the Shadow of Man, when my son was a newborn, and about how that book had really influenced my parenting! In reading about the chimp, Flo, who was such a wonderful mother, I learned a lot about patience and close attachment, and it really hit home with me as a new mom.

My principal asked me to tell that story as I introduced her, so I did. And my son, Dan, came in from Portland to be present in the assembly and to meet her. It was an extraordinary experience. She must have liked it all because she kissed my cheek after the introduction. It’s a totally awesome experience to have your cheek kissed by one of your life heroes! So, for her 80th today, I send her a big birthday bear hug and wishes for good health and many more years of her inspirational work.

Goodall

 

Rainy Rainy Saturday Morning

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It’s a rainy, rainy Saturday morning. Son and Grandboy are laughing and playing GO FISH on the kitchen table. Daughter is knitting on some beautiful new yarn that arrived in the mail yesterday. Husband is puttering around in the basement. And I am listening to the second book in The Once and Future King while doing laundry. I just want to pause and enjoy this rainy Saturday morning because this is one of those little moments that make up a lifetime, and I want to savor this simple, beautiful, happy moment in time. Despite the rain!

A Seven-Year-Old

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Yes, my Grandboy turned seven at the end of December, but he’s not the seven-year-old I’m talking about. No, I’m talking about this blog which is Seven years old today!

January 27th, 2007… I was on a medical leave from my teaching position, with time on my hands to enjoy my new Grandboy, read lots of books, (and talk about those books with my Mom over the phone) and also explore the new-to-me world of book blogging…

I am a very shy and private person, but I was intrigued by the book community discussions and the creativity of those blogs. So, as another way of sharing books with my Mom, this very shy person started a book blog and began to write about what I read and how my reading impacts my life.

I immediately discovered that the very best thing about the book blogging world is the people!  Blogging friends and authors are cherished people in my life now, even though most of us have not met each other in person yet, although I have been very fortunate to be able to actually meet a few of them. [Kristen, it was so fun to meet with that group of Seattle-area bloggers way back when. I love being able to picture Z when you write about him, although my mental picture of him is of a little boy and he has grown so much since then!] This blogging world has also inspired and expanded my reading, encouraging me to read beyond my usual patterns and explore other books worlds. It has all enriched my life tremendously.

The book blogging world has changed a lot in seven years. I remember when Twitter arrived, and I was intimidated by the very personal contact the bloggers were beginning to have with each other. My shyness factor kept me away from that world for a long time. Now, I enjoy those more personal and informal communications about books and life. But I still love sitting down and writing a blog post and exploring how a book intertwines with my life.

I am also “older and wiser” than I was seven years ago. A few years ago, after a series of sad family happenings, I stopped blogging for 15 months. Part of that silence was about grieving, but the other part of the silence had to do with privacy and trust. Unfortunately, I had learned first-hand that the internet can be used for malicious purposes or to present a completely fabricated view of a person’s life. It was a traumatic experience, and it took me a long time to come to terms with the vulnerability I felt for myself and my family by being online.

But I really missed blogging and the interactions with my blogging friends. I finally decided that the best thing I could do for myself was to return to my blog and continue to write about my life — with honesty and emotional integrity. That’s what really matters afterall.

So my blogging journey continues and I celebrate seven years of sharing my book life with you. Thank you, dear readers, for stopping by my blog occasionally to read my thoughts. And a special thank you to those of you who didn’t give up on me during my silence and warmly welcomed me back. You all mean the world to me!

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