Category Archives: Memories

Old Favorites

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Dusting my bookshelves today, I decided to share a photo of some of the oldest books on my shelf. These are books that have survived numerous purges and were dutifully boxed and moved with us from house to house. I’ve always thought I would reread them, but haven’t done so yet, except for My Antonia. Still, something to look forward to.

What are some of the oldest books on your shelf?

From my Archives: Sparking a Passion for Reading

To celebrate Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s 210th birthday today, I want to share with you a post I wrote and originally published on this blog on February 27, 2008.

 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

born February 27, 1807

Teaching young people how to read is one thing, but sparking a passion for reading is another. As a teacher, I’m highly trained in how to teach children to read, but after 22 years of teaching, I think it’s my own passion for reading that is the most powerful tool I have as I try to ignite that spark in my students. I’ve wondered exactly where my passion came from, and I’ve been able to identify a couple of things that certainly fueled the flames. One was being lovingly read to by my parents. The other was a book experience I had when I was seven or eight years old.

My father, a university professor, asked me to go with him to visit an older, retired professor in town. Dad prepared me on the drive over to this man’s house, letting me know that he was an unusual person, old and always very grumpy with people, sort of a “hermit,” he said. What he didn’t tell me was that the man was a book person extraordinaire.

I don’t think I could ever adequately describe what this man’s house was like. I walked in the front door, my father introduced us, then I looked around. I had never seen so many books in all my life. Bookshelves were everywhere and overflowing with books. Books were piled up everywhere…and I mean everywhere! The living room was completely full of books, so there was no place to sit down. The kitchen was piled high with books — the stovetop and a small space next to the sink were the only places without piles of books. The chairs and table were piled high. There were stacks of books in the bathroom, towers of books in the bedroom. Books were piled high along the hallway. Then, he took us downstairs into his basement, which was also filled with books, except that those books were on rows and rows of bookshelves, just like in a library.

Old Professor Poulson must have recognized me as a fellow book person, even though I was only eight and he was over eighty, because he very proudly showed me his entire collection, was gentle and kind to me, and before I left he gave me a book. That book has always been my most treasured book. It was a very old, lovely volume of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poems, called Voices of the Night. I still read it and treasure it.

I remember spending hours and hours reading those poems and looking at the beautiful art “plates.” I memorized his poem, “The Wreck of the Hersperus,” which fascinated me, and I can still recite it today. And when my father passed away, it was a stanza from Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life” that I chose to use during my remarks at his memorial service:

“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.”

Looking back, I think my Dad knew exactly what he was doing by showing me this striking example of a person’s passion for reading. It had a tremendous impact on me at a very young age! So, in searching through memories to answer the question of where my passion for reading came from, I realize that, first, my dad and mom taught me to read … and then, in so many different ways, they taught me to love reading, passionately.

First Audiobook

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The very first audiobook I ever listened to was The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy. That was about 35 years ago but I still remember the experience well. The book was on cassette tapes borrowed from the library and it was really a lot of fun to listen to and it sparked a longtime love of listening to books. I borrowed a lot of books on tape from the library, and then a few years later, I became a member of Recorded Books — an excellent company for producing books on tape — and ordered my audiobooks by mail. I listened to a lot of books that way. Now it is so easy to have an Audible membership and simply download a book to my phone. I do love to listen to all kinds of books!

What was the first audiobook you listened to?

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Anais Nin

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When I was younger I read all of Anais Nin‘s diaries and many of her other works. They were fascinating! I took many notes, copying out different quotes from her insightful and eloquent ruminations. There was so many things she said that put into words for me my own experiences or inner thoughts. She was born on this day in 1903. I celebrate her today and the influence she had on me as a young woman.

“There are books which we read early in life, which sink into our consciousness and seem to disappear without leaving a trace. And then one day we find, in some summing-up of our life and put attitudes towards experience, that their influence has been enormous.”
― Anaïs Nin, In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays

the-diary-of-anais-nin

These Attacks of the Past

“I have them, these attacks of the past…”
~ The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

This week I have been listening to The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, and the line above really struck home with me. I have them, too, these attacks of the past. And I’ve been having them a lot recently because this is a significant year for me. It has been 50 years since my year as an exchange student to Argentina, a year that had a profound effect on the rest of my life. And since my father kept every letter I wrote home during that year, I have words from my younger self, as well as many memories, to help me revisit that experience. I hope to share some of that with you, if I may.

before-cell-phones-1967

Before cell phones!

50 years ago today, my hurried preparations were complete for spending a year abroad. In the 3 week period between receiving my acceptance letter and my departure, I got my passport and required shots, was tutored by the Spanish teacher at my high school (since I’d had five years of French, but no Spanish training), put together a wardrobe that I hoped would work for the year, and was almost finished packing it all into one large suitcase. I said goodbye to my school friends who would graduate before I returned. I had just turned eighteen years old and the longest I had ever been away from home was two weeks at Girl Scout camp. But I was over the moon with excitement and ready to take on the world!

DEPARTURE:

I wrote these words about my departure for Argentina in a post I published here in 2008.

In early 1967, I was chosen to be an exchange student with the American Field Service (now known as AFS Intercultural Programs). Looking back, I realize that the year I spent in Argentina was a “pivot point” in my life — that point where I stood still, poised to move in one direction or another. A photograph of me, at age 18, was snapped at the moment I hesitated at the top of the stairs while boarding the airplane to Argentina, looked back over my shoulder, and then began the forward motion of my life.

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A Bibliography

notebook-from-1974Looking through some of my old notebooks the other day, I found an extensive bibliography of a book that I vaguely remember reading: Images of Women in Fiction: Feminist Perspectives, by Susan K. Cornillon. It was a library book, I remember that, and I was particularly interested in the extensive bibliography the author included. At that time I was a young stay-at-home mother with a 2-1/2 year old, so I must have been very Impressed because I took the time to copy it down, filling 5 pages in my notebook. With my cell phone, I took photos of those five pages to share with you because it’s a terrific book list! And it was fun for me to realize that over the years since 1974, I have read many of those books even though I hadn’t looked at that list in years! Do you keep notebooks? They really do turn into treasures after a few years…

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Note:  You can stop the slideshow and then click on the page to enlarge it if you want to look more closely at the list.

An Old and a New Bookstore

Long ago, before I went back to school to finish my education and become a teacher (now happily retired after 27 years of teaching), I worked in a wonderful little independent bookshop in Salt Lake City called The King’s English. It was a dream job for me because I had always appreciated and supported independent bookshops, small and large, and because I have always been an avid reader. Now living in the Portland, Oregon, area my favorite independent bookshop is Powell’s!

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A photo of my sweet little independent bookshop, The King’s English, (and my old blue VW bug) from long ago.

But yesterday, my friend and I went shopping at Washington Square, a mall in nearby Tigard, Oregon, and visited the new Amazon bookstore, one of a new chain of bookstores nationwide. We enjoyed our visit there, as I always do when I find a new bookstore to explore, and were glad we stopped in to check it out!

10 Years Ago: A Shy Blogger

Books and reading are such an important part of my life. Recently, I’ve become fascinated by the many reading blogs on the internet–the wonderful sharing of ideas and the love of reading. Thinking to myself…I’d like to share some of my passion for books, and some of my experiences as a reader. So, shyly, I begin a blog.

Ten years ago this morning I sat down at my computer and started this blog with that first very short post. I had fallen in love with the new book blogging world online, and although I’m a shy and very private person, I wanted to take part in the celebration of books and reading that was happening at that moment in time. It’s been a wonderful ten years full of books and bookish friends!

So this morning I celebrate a decade of sharing with you my thoughts, memories, and ideas from a lifetime of reading! A heartfelt thank you to all of my readers/followers for being part of my reading life!

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50 Years Ago: A Dream

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Destination: Argentina!

It started as a young girl’s dream: I wanted to be an exchange student!  50 years ago today, my dream came true. On January 25, 1967, at age 17, I received my acceptance letter from the American Field Service, (known today as American Intercultural Programs) and I began a journey that shaped my life in so many ways.

In 1963, I was inspired by our charismatic young president, John F. Kennedy, speaking to a group of American Field Service exchange students visiting the White House. (See the video link below of that speech.) His call for international understanding and his hope for our younger generation bringing peace to the world, touched my heart and set in motion my dream. 54 years later, his words still move and inspire me.

letter-from-afs-1967I can look back 50 years now to that January day and realize the full impact that letter of acceptance was to have on my life and thinking. That year shaped the young me into the adult I am today. That experience of living for a year in another country, completely immersed in another culture and language, shaped my view of the world and broadened my understanding of humanity. We all live similar lives and share similar hopes!

That year also shaped my beliefs about my responsibilities as both an American citizen and a citizen of the world. My experience as an exchange student is why I am so deeply concerned about the direction my country is taking under this new president with his hate-filled rhetoric and his closing of so many doors. But I realize that my experience of 50 years ago is also what gives me HOPE and direction.  I know firsthand that there are many good, kind, caring people in the world, from all different cultures, that are committed to and working diligently for peace and understanding among nations and for human rights everywhere. That is what I will continue doing, as well.

“Everyone who comes here to live and study — every American who goes abroad to live and study — forges one more link of world understanding and sympathy.” ~ John F. Kennedy

My Orca Family

Granny and son, Ruffles

Granny and son, Ruffles

My friend, Kristen, @ We Be Reading, posted a couple of tweets recently that were heart wrenching to me. She and I share a common interest:  we both deeply care about the Puget Sound’s resident pods of Orcas.  In her tweets, she announced the deaths of two of those orcas within the last few months. This is very sad and concerning news for all of us, but for me the news was extra sad because I had a very personal connection to these whales.

Early in my teaching career, a science unit from a textbook included a little information about whales. For both me and my students, that unit of study sparked a fascination with whales and with Orcas in particular. We left the textbook and started reading everything we could find about whales.

Somewhere in our reading, we discovered the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor, Washington, which has wonderful educational and adoption programs that help support the research and care of the Puget Sound’s three resident pods of orcas. Even though we lived far from the ocean, my 5th graders that year became passionate whale advocates and decided that they wanted to raise some money and “adopt” a whale. They collected aluminum cans for months, and finally raised enough money to adopt one of the orcas.

After reading the biography of each orca in all three pods, they chose “Oreo,” a very young whale in J-Pod. (Click here to “meet the whales,” ) We sent in our money and didn’t have to wait very long for our adoption papers to come through. Each student received their own adoption certificate and extensive information about Oreo and the other orcas. It was an exciting time in our classroom!

Whale of A Purpose

Oreo (J-22)

Over the years of my teaching career, I taught my “whale unit” many times and to many different age groups. Three other classes wanted to go through the adoption process. One group of 6th graders adopted DoubleStuf , and a few years later a class of 2nd graders adopted Cookie. Both DoubleStuf and Cookie were male offspring of Oreo, my first adopted whale. I announced to my students that those two adoptions made me a whale grandma!

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DoubleStuf (J34) and his brother Cookie (J38)

Needless to say, learning and teaching about the orcas was a favorite part of my teaching career. The excitement and enthusiasm of my students as they went through this learning process was wonderful to experience. I loved their surprise when they first learned that these magnificent beings live in a matriarchal society lead by an amazing matriarch called Granny; that they are incredibly social animals and their culture is highly organized; that they support each other in heartwarming ways,  even “babysitting” for each other, nursing the ill, and raising the offspring of family members that die.

I was an incredibly lucky teacher in that twice over my teaching years, the parents of my students were very happy to provide the funds, organization, and volunteers to enable our class (and the other classes at our grade level) to go on a whale watching tour so we could see our whales in the wild. Those were the most thrilling field trips of my career!

I was so saddened by the recent announcements of the sudden death of Doublestuf and the death of Granny at approximately 105 years of age. I know my former students, wherever they are, would be saddened by these losses, too, because these whales touched our lives and our hearts in a very profound way.

Links you might be interested in visiting:

Some books about Orcas:

granny-orca-network

Granny. photo courtesy of Orca Network