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I am in the home stretch of my 52 books in 52 weeks The God Project blog..only 4 books to go, and I have chosen to finish up with 4 children’s books.  Two of them were already on my reading list, but the other 2 I found on the shelf and found to be very important reads.

My Princess Boy is one of them!

This year we have seen so  many young men kill themselves because of anti-gay bullying.  This brought on the “It Get’s Better” YouTube channel and project.  It spurred rallies all over the country.  And it really stirred me.  As I have said before in this blog, I was bullied my whole childhood.  I know what it is like.  I watched my own children get bullied for various reasons.  I have seen it from both ends, and its ugly.  So when I saw the title of this book, I HAD to pick it up and choose it for this blog!  The message is IMPORTANT and timely.

This book is a true story written by a mom who’s 4-year-old son loves to dress in girls clothing.  Instead of forcing her hand and saying..”No!  Little boys don’t dress that way!” she has embraced his creativity and reinforced her love for him.  As a  matter of fact, his whole family has embraced him and loves him for who he is and has no plans on changing him any time soon!  This is so refreshing!

Love & self-esteem start at home!  We as parents need to nurture our children and love them for who they are.  Give them the space to figure it out for themselves.  We need to be able to let go of what we think we want for our children and give them space to be themselves.  Why do we as parents insist on living through our children instead of letting them live their own lives with our loving support?  And it goes beyond what happens at home.  I know some parents will say, “Well its okay to dress like this at home, but when you are out in public, that’s a different matter.”  No!  It’s not.  What does that tell the child?  That you have to pretend to be something you are not so others will not laugh at you and like you?  Talk about starting your child off with a complex!  And it tells your child that you don’t support them and that they can not come to you with their true feelings and issues.

I know how hard it is to watch your child being bullied.  I know how hard it is to see them come home in tears and refuse to want to go to school.  This book is such an inspiration to parents who’s children are being bullied.  It’s an inspiration to kids who just want to be themselves!  It’s such a great tool for the school to use to show the individuality we each have and should be shared and celebrated instead of bullied and put down!

I applaud Cheryl and her family for being such great parents.  And I applaud the school their child goes to for supporting this little boy in his individuality and creativity!

Please visit http://www.myprincessboy.com to learn more about this amazing book and the family behind it.  There is also an amazing interview with Cheryl and her son on YouTube that you can check out!

So I leave you with this question:  How do you support the children in your life in their individuality?  What do YOU do when you see a little boy in the store dressed up like a princess or a little girl in the store who is dressed like a boy?  Or let’s take it a step further…what do YOU do when you see ADULTS who dress like the other gender?  Be honest.  What do you think (even to yourself where no one else can hear you)?  Just some food for thought!

Blessings!

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So there I was, walking through the book store  making a bee line to the children’s section when I saw this cute little puppy dog on the cover of a  book and it was on sale for $4.98.  Add that to my to my favorite word ever, “Bliss”, it was a MUST HAVE!!!!!

I was once told that the quickest way to feel happiness is to play with a pet.  I wasn’t sure if that was true or not.  I have never been a big animal person.  I have always had pets, but I have never really been attached to them so I really didn’t understand this.  Until I was really sad and my cat came up to me to love me and make me feel better.  Then my dog would ask me to play and I would laugh so hard at him.  And I fell in love with my animals.  They have taught me some big lessons.  So it was fun picking up this book and learning some lessons on happiness from Trixie the dog.

I also have to say that it was fun reading a book by Dean Koontz that was on the “light and fluffy” side :).

This book was written from Trixie’s point of view, and was a little odd to read at first.  But as soon as I fell into the rhythm of the writing, it all began to make sense, and I really enjoyed the book.

According to Trixie, “the road to bliss is paved with dog wisdom.” And there are 8 steps.  I will not tell you what those steps are; that is for you to read and find out!  But here are some lessons I learned while reading Trixie’s thoughts:

1) Sit still and be quiet.  Meditation is good.

2)  The rising moon at the bottom of a finger nail is beautiful.  I  never really noticed this before!

3) Life without a cookie is unthinkable!

4) “Pleasure without beauty is just empty thrill”…kinda like Sex without love…..hmmm….same thing, yes?

5) “The world is a gift to  make you happy.”

6) “Here is what real meaning is like.  Maybe you’re meant to give kindness to one special child.  Child grows up, is healer or wise leader.  then your purpose was as big as any king’s, maybe bigger.”  Being a stay at home mom….priceless and so very important!

7) “It is what it is.”  “No Kidding.  if it isn’t what it is, then what would it be?  And if it is what it isn’t, what the hell is going on here?”

8)  “Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor vexation.” ~ St. Francis

9)  If I want to remain young, I must play and laugh more!

10) Grief is cleansing.

Bonus reminder:  Be grateful!!!!!!!!

This book is filled with such heart warming and profound wisdom..straight from the dog’s mouth!  You will laugh and maybe even cry while reading this book.  One thing is for certain, you will smile!!!!!

I bought this book when it first came out (some time at the beginning of the year).  A group of my Facebook friends were going to take the class that was offered via Oprah I believe, and I was going to do it with them.  Ya.  I bought the book, but I never made it to the classes, and I didn’t read the book until now.  And as with everything else in life, there is a timing for everything and I truly believe I needed to have a few more experiences before reading the book.  It is perfect for right now!  Exactly what I need at the exactly the right time.

This book intrigued me.  As a trained storyteller, I learned a great deal about “the shadow” as it pertains to archetypes in storytelling and how to use storytelling in healing the psyche.  This book seemed like a natural fit into my life and what I have already learned; it seemed like it would be a natural extension.

C.G. Jung tells us that our shadow is the person we would rather not be.  Marianne Williamson says, “We feel if we take a deep look at ourselves, we’ll be too exposed.   We don’t want to look at our own shadow, because we’re afraid of what we might see.  But the only thing we should actually fear is not looking at it, for our denial of the shadow is exactly what fuels it.”

Debbie Ford asks the reader, “Are you ready to embark on this journey of reclaiming all of yourself, the light and the dark, your good self and your evil twin?  Are you ready to return to the love of your true, total, authentic self rather than stay trapped in the judgmental angst of a disjointed human ego?”  If so, “Your job is to learn from the shadow, to integrate it, and allow it to evolved your thinking and expand the boundaries of your self-created persona.  Your challenge is to find its value and to bring the light of forgiveness and compassion so that you can defuse its ability to dismantle your life.  Your job is to bring its complex characters out from the shadow, and to use their power and potency as sacred fuel to become who you were meant to be in this lifetime.”

Wow!  That is a pretty big challenge.  There is a reason it is called “the shadow”.  It can be a bit scary to take an honest look at what we are feeling and why.  Isn’t it easier to sit in judgment and blame someone else than to take 100% responsibility for our own thoughts and actions?  Ya, I think so too!  But I have realized in recent days,  months, years that I need to take 100% accountability for everything that happened or continues to happen in my life.   Whether it’s the abuse I endured as a child, the issues in  my marriage, or what I perceive to be happening within the roller derby league I was practicing with.  This book reiterates what I already believe and that is that “thoughts are things” and we create our own world based on our thoughts.  When I think, “Well they don’t like me and are ignoring me and leaving me out because they don’t like  me” then it sets that “wish” into motion and sure enough I get more of what I perceived to be true.  This just shows  me that I am feeling separate from others….separate from my self…separate from God/Love.  Where there is separation, there is fear.  Where there is fear, there is the shadow.  Where there is shadow, there is dis-ease, pain, sadness.

There are so many great thoughts in this book that really helped me look at things in different ways.  If you are struggling with addictions of any kind, fear of any kind, lack of success…if you feel as though something is holding you back, then pick up this book and give it a good read.  At the end of the book there is a test to see how the Shadow Effect is playing out in your life.  I am happy to say that the shadow is not controlling me completely, and yet there is room for growth :).  My eyes are opened now, and that is a good thing.

I will close this entry with this last statement from Marianne Williamson:

“Ultimately, the healing of the world will emerge not from our changing and correcting others, but from our willingness to change and correct ourselves.  Since all minds are joined, our ability to self-correct has a corrective influence on the entire universe.”

Blessings!

“Though I didn’t know it, I was in a dangerous place now.  Having determined that this world was the only one I had–or would ever have–here I was, in conscious mistrust of its core.  And on the other hand, it had been confirmed that the outside world, the one that I had been trying to escape into since I could walk, was not my home either.  I was a misfit in both places.  The only true home I had was inside the notes of music, inside the all-consuming world of white ivory keys and their black flat and sharp companions.”………….

The passage above comes early in this book, thoughts from a 14-year-old Adelaide.  Being raised in an  ultra-conservative home where a girl/woman’s hair was a glory to God, where dancing was not allowed, public bathing (swimming) was not allowed, as well as so many other “thou shalt nots” (as I call them).  From such an early age she wanted to run away and explore, calling herself a gypsy; yet she was stuck in a home with an overbearing mother and father who was emotionally absent most of the time. What she knew to be HER truth and what she was being raised with conflicted on a daily basis, and she found solace and place of “belonging” in her music.  I too shared this kind of confusion in my childhood faith and struggle in my home and solace in my music…..  this was just many of the similarities between Addie and I that I found between the covers of this book!

This book is such a beautiful and heart-warming journey “Walking From Religion to Spirit” (as the cover of the book says).  Isn’t this what this blog is all about?  Well kind of anyway, right?  I, too, was raised in a conservative Christian home.  Though admittedly I was allowed to wear what I want, dance, swim and certainly didn’t have any rules in my house.  The only rules in MY house were that you were to be a God-fearing, tongues speaking, baptised Christian.  Scratch that, these rules weren’t the rules of my house, but they were certainly the rules for ME.  My brothers didn’t have to live by these same rules.  I’m not sure why, but as I read this book and even typed that last sentenced, it dawned on me that possibly the reason that I was the ONLY child out of 4 that was supposed to live by these rules is because I was closest to my mother and I was expected to be a shining light for her.  (Mother daughter issues…….this book is filled with them!)

Anyway, back to the book.  I LOVED it!  I love the history behind the words.  I love the visuals created by the words.  Every time I turned a page, I felt like Addie could have been telling my own story from Religion to Spirit.  I even learned a bit bout my own father and the way he must have been raised (though Addie is nearly 20  years older than my dad would have been today).  More than just her spiritual journey, there are a plethora of insights into being what I call a “sacrificial mom” (or even wife)…of being that care taker.  I found myself self saying out loud…”Hey, Addie!  That is what I am dealing with right now!!!!  Thank you!!!”

All the way through I kept thinking how incredibly blessed I am to have Addie as a member of my church.  This book was released on her 90th birthday…at my church.  Even though I have been attending this church since January, I had never met her until purchasing her book and having her sign it.  When I smiled and wished her a “Happy Birthday” I had no idea just how much this book would  mean to me and how it would touch my life!  Now all I can think about his how truly blessed I am to have such an amazing woman and possible friend in my church.  I can’t wait to send her a card and thank her personally!

Addie’s story is such a blessing and inspiration to all women out there searching for their spiritual path…for all moms out there who give so much to their families…for all the wives who just might  give too much of themselves to their husbands….to women who suddenly find themselves empty-nesters and wondering what the heck to do next!  For all the women out there who say, “I’m too old to do this…..”  you should read this book!

Have you heard the saying, “the only thing constant in life is change”?  Addie’s book is a perfect reminder of that.   As a matter of fact, one of my favorite quotes in the book says, “For me, the status quo, however appealing, never shone as brightly as the radiance of change.”  You get to follow her journey as she moves from parsonage (the home of a pastor) to parsonage and finally to her own homes.  You get to follow her journey that starts in New York and ends in Idaho and takes you places in between.  You get to cry at the unfairness of abuse, face fear in the face of disease, revel in the feeling of first love, feel the darkness of depression and the climb back out to light.  You get to sit with Addie at the bedside of her loved ones as she says goodbye, and you get to say goodbye too.  You get the thrill of not just becoming a mother..but of becoming a grandmother AND a great-grandmother!  This book is a fascinating and exciting read!

I find myself having a hard time sharing what I have learned from this book, but I will say that there are no coincidences in life…….and just as Addie mentions being led to our church (CSL) for a reason (this book), I feel as though I have been led to CSL for a reason…one of them being this book!

I will close with this thought.  Lately, I have been feeling “old”.  I’m only 41.  Yes, this is young.  I never felt old until I started in a sport where the women start retiring in their mid to late 30’s and I was just getting started!  Trying to get onto a Roller Derby team at the age of 41 seems kinda crazy.  And with my new schedule, I will be 42 by the time I can get drafted!  That is even crazier!  Then to add salt to the wound I was inflicting upon myself, I started to read a book on menopause.  The book is written by one of my favorite, entertaining local authors, but the idea of me going through menopause just made me feel even older!  I had to stop reading it.  The next book I picked up was this one, and towards the end of the book, there is this great quote from Addie reminding me that 41 is still very young!  “The new energy breathed into my home lifted my spirits and supported the feeling that, at the age of eighty-three, I was entering the best era of my life.”

Go, Addie, Go!!!!

THE BEST $7.95 I HAVE EVER SPENT ON A BOOK!!!!!!!

This is a short 122 page book that will have you using just about as many tissues to wipe away the tears!

Okay, to be fair, I have to say that I knew when I picked up a book with this title, that I was going to shed a tear or two.  I knew I was picking up a book that was going to be heart warming.  But seriously, I had no idea just how much this book would affect me!

Follow the story of a young journalist on a mission to have her story land on page 1A (above the fold) of her newspaper.  Like they say about every goal in life, it’s not about the destination in life, but the journey TO the destination.  So true for this book and the story of our young Heroine.

Life is filled with so many amazing lessons about being strong, following your dreams, being forgiving and forgiven, never letting go, letting go, and giving back.  This book just reiterates all of that!

More importantly, reading this book reminded me of so many lessons in my own life, and lessons that I hope I have passed on to my children.  Though, to be honest, it can be challenging to pass on some lessons to your children without the same life shattering experiences to provide the ground work.

I have shared my story with my children numerous times, and I hope they have really HEARD it.

Christmas Fire

 

Christmas in my home was always exciting!  In 1980, this statement was never more true.  I was 11 years old and I had three brothers: Matt age 21, Mark age 17, and Michael 10. With 4 children in our house, you can imagine the excitement around the Christmas tree!  The Christmas season always started the day after Thanksgiving.  Each year, my mom would take us kids out to pick out the best Christmas tree; then we would bring it home and decorate it.  Soon after the decorating was completed, the presents started appearing!  From the moment the presents started appearing under the tree, right up until the magic moment on Christmas Eve when we opened our presents, my little brother and I spent countless hours digging through the presents, reading the tags, shaking them, and counting.  One year, we counted over 120 presents under the Christmas tree!  It was absolutely magical!  In 1980, the presents were already starting to pile up and Michael and I were counting the days until we could open our gifts!  Life had different plans.

 

It was a typical busy day in my home.  My two older brothers,  were both working.  I had been invited to stay the night at my best friend Noelle’s house.  My little brother Michael was home watching TV and my parents had plans to go out for the evening.  Michael was left alone for most of the early evening.  He decided he was going to make popcorn, which back then had to be cooked over the stove.  He had done this plenty of times, so it was no big deal.  After eating his popcorn he headed out to his friend’s house to spend the night.  The house was empty, until my parents came home and went straight to bed.  Then Matt and Mark came home and went straight to their rooms to sleep.

 

The next morning Matt was gone as soon as the sun rose.  My parents were up pretty early as well.  They went into Mark’s room to get the car keys, and they left (leaving Mark’s bedroom door open behind them).  Mark was the only person left in the house, and he was sound asleep; that was until the smoke woke him up.  Coughing, Mark woke up dazed and confused as the smoke-filled his bedroom.  He jumped out of bed and threw the stereo through his bedroom window and then he got himself out  He called the fire department and then waited.

 

I had just spent a fun night at Noelle’s house and we were riding our roller skates back to my house when we heard sirens heading in our direction.  We turned around, “Look, Noelle!  A fire truck is heading this direction!  I think it’s going to my house!”  Noelle looked in the direction of the truck, “No it’s not, Martha.  Just watch.”  We watched the fire truck race past us and down the street.  We watched as it turned right on my street.  A sickening feeling rolled through my body.  We skated faster towards my street and reached the alley that ran behind my house.

 

I looked down the alley and saw the smoke.  “Look, Noelle, the smoke is right where my house is!”  I raced to take off my skates.  “Martha.  It’s not your house.  Everything is fine.”  “No,” I said, “It IS my house!  I have to run!”

 

I took off running down my street, racing towards my house.  I saw the 2 fire trucks, police cars, ambulance, and neighbors all around my house.  The black smoke was spiraling into the sky, and I KNEW it was my house long before I ever got there.  When I was 3 doors down from my house Mrs. Mac stopped me and held me tight.  “Mrs. Mac!  It’s my house isn’t it?  My house is on fire!”  Mrs. Mac held me tight as I sobbed in her arms, “Yes, sweetie, it is your house.  Mark was in the house, but he is safe. No one else is home now.  Everything will be alright.”

 

Right after that, my brother Mark came running up to me.  Together we stayed in each other’s arms as we watched the firemen dowse the flames out with their hoses.  After the fire was out, the firemen came up to me one by one giving me hugs.  “Excuse me, Mr. Fireman, can you  tell me what happened to my pets?”  He held my hands, “Your dogs were in the back yard, and they are fine.”  “But, Mr. Fireman, what about my bird that was in my bedroom?  What about our cat?”  The look in his face said it all, and I broke back down into tears.  He couldn’t save my bird, and there was no sign of our cat.

 

Eventually, my parents returned home.  My oldest brother was called home and my little brother, Michael had been retrieved.  The firemen told us that the fire had started in the kitchen at the stove.  “Someone left the stove on, and that’s what started the fire,” they said. The last person in the kitchen had been Michael as he cooked his popcorn over the stove.

 

Since our family was so big, we had to be separated.  Each of the kids went to a different friend’s home, and my parents went to yet another friend’s home.  We were separated for a week or so until my parents could find a house for us to rent until my childhood home was rebuilt

 

Finally my parents found a small, run down house for us to move into.  It was too small for our family, and my little brother had to sleep in the living room on the rented furniture we had until our home and our furniture was repaired.  We moved into our rental house on Christmas Eve.  When we moved in, all we had to bring to the house were a few articles of clothing, rental furniture, and a metal card table with folding chairs for a dining table.  That night, instead of making our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of Tamales and Chili, my mom and I went shopping.  Instead of buying toys and games, my mom and I shopped for plates, silverware, pots & pans, groceries and some more clothes for the family.

 

Instead of wrapping presents and putting them under the Christmas tree, my mom emptied the shopping bags and put the items we just purchased on the card table.  These necessities were our presents, and for the first time in my young life, I realized what Christmas was really about.  It had nothing to do with how many presents were under a Christmas tree.  It had nothing to do with toys and games.  It had everything to do with family and love!  And the best Christmas present I could ever receive is the gift of my family being together happy and healthy.

 

There are so many great lessons in this book and with less than 2 months till Christmas and the stores already playing Christmas carols, I high recommend reading this book to restore some sanity in your life in regards to the holidays.  And with the invention of a child’s gift registry, I highly recommend having your children read this book..or at least sharing the message with them!  It just might change yours and their lives!

“What would happen if you discovered the primary love language of your spouse and chose to speak it consistently?”  This is the question Dr. Chapman raises in his book The 5 Love Languages.

I will be honest.  I heard about The 5 Love Languages (the book and the concept) several years ago.  At the time, I did not read the book.  I thought it was a bunch of….ummm….nonsense.  However, I did take the quiz.  My husband took the quiz.  My  kids took the quiz.  But we did nothing with it.

Maybe if we had done something with it, my husband and I would not go through the same cycle of disappointments that we go through every  year.  This year, that cycle hit us hard…harder than it ever has before.  We sought out a marriage counselor..thinking we (I) needed sex therapy.  (Maybe this is too personal to talk about on  my blog….but it’s the truth..and very vital in possibly helping someone who is struggling.)  Every year, my husband and I would “get into it” because he felt like he wasn’t getting enough sex.  I would take it personally and feel like I was being pressured into having sex.  With my history of sexual abuse, this did not go over so well.  But something has to give!  Something has to be changed if our marriage is to survive!  The fact is, we have been together for 27  years, and we love each other.  We do not want to separate and we want to make this work.  So we went to therapy..a sex therapist.  The only one in town, it seems.  But he was old…..VERY OLD.  So old, in fact, he couldn’t hear, couldn’t see, barely walk, and couldn’t remember what we said 2 minutes before.  I’m sure he had great things to say…back when.  But now, well, it just wasn’t working for us.  AND…he made it sound like it was *me* that was the problem.  I just had to suck it up and give it up.  That wasn’t the answer.  So we never went back.

I continued searching for something to help.  We watched the movie Fireproof that was based on the book The Love Dare.  The movie was “okay”.  It had some valid points, but it was highly Christian which was a turn off to my husband and myself.  It seemed to be more about “becoming a Christian” than saving a marriage.  So I thought that maybe the book would be a bit different…… I am currently reading through it on a day by day basis as it is a 40 day Love Dare.  I’m over half way through and will blog about that book when I am done.  At the same time, I decided to read The 5 Love Languages, and I loved it!

I’m sure you have heard about the book “Men are from Mars Women are from Venus”.  I have never read that book, but as I remember what I have  heard about it, I believe it is about the different ways men and women communicate.  5 Love Languages is about the different ways we all communicate our love.  So what are the 5 Love Language?  Words of Affirmation.  Quality Time.  Receiving Gifts.  Acts of Service.  Physical Touch.   In the back of the book, there is a “quiz” for both the husband and the wife to take (individually) to see what their Love Language is.  However, Dr. Chapman says you can also figure out what your spouse’s Love Language is by listening to their complaints.  Are they complaining you never talk to them?  Then Quality Time may be their primary Love Language.  Are they constantly asking you to do things or complaining you never help around the house?  Then consider Acts of Service.  If we listen to the complaints of our spouses, we will likely hear their Love Language. Also, I was told once as a teenager (by my mother in  law) that people do for their loved ones what they would have done for them.  Dr. Chapman says the same thing…..  Does your spouse constantly praise you verbally?  Maybe Words of Affirmation is THEIR love language.

All the way through the book, Dr. Chapman allows you to sit in on his counseling sessions and learn the ways in which he helps his clients.  You get to see how their lives and marriages change!  It’s a fascinating and eye-opening read.  I learned more about myself the way I wish my “love tank” would be filled…and more importantly, how I can help my own husband feel more loved.

Dr. Chapman explains that the “in-love” feeling we all get at the beginning of our relationships can last up to 2 years, but then what?  It might not even last a complete 2 years, and by then, you may already be married!  Then what do you do with the rest of your lives?  “That is what this book is all about.  How do we meet each other’s deep, emotional need to feel loved?  if we can  learn that and choose to do it, then the love we share will be exciting beyond anything we ever felt when we were infatuated.”

Lest you think this book is all about theory and not practice, let me set you straight.  At the end of every chapter, there is a little part called “your turn” where he asks you questions and challenges you to be better.  Do them!  Be an active participant in your life and in healing your relationship (or maybe just making it better).  It certainly won’t get better if you do nothing!  I have to say that my favorite chapter was Chapter 12 “Loving the Unlovely”.  It follows the story of a woman who felt like her marriage was done for but struggled between her faith and morals saying divorce was wrong and the feeling that she just wasn’t loved and there was nothing she could do.  Dr. Chapman gave her a 6 month challenge, and at the end……she had the marriage she had always dreamed of.

Seriously?  Can it be that easy?  Not sure “easy” is the right word.  It can be difficult to feel like you are the only one working on your relationship..and sometimes its not just a feeling; it’s the God’s honest truth!   But I found that trusting the process helps.   As I have been working through The Love Dare, even though I found myself resentful that *I* was doing it and  not Tracy (long story), I have been telling myself to trust the process.  I did my dares, and as I did them, I saw Tracy respond.  (I don’t think Tracy knows I am doing them…..at least I have made a point of not telling him.)  So, now, having finished The 5 Love Languages, I have decided to take the 6 Month Challenge.

My marriage is sacred to me.  I love my husband with all of my heart.  I always have and expect to always feel this way.  I knew the minute I saw him that I was supposed to marry him.  It was that “knowing” that has kept me strong over the last 27 years.  THAT is what I remember when I am hurting most.  I believe that when we are struggling in our marriage, it just means that its time to learn to communicate and grow again…..so here we go… more growing!!!!  Isn’t that what this blog…”The God Project” …is all about??????

So how about you?  Want to take the challenge with me?

 

BTW…..Dr. Chapman has also written a book on The 5 Love Languages for children!  Check out his website http://www.5lovelanguages.com

When I enter a book store the theme song from “Top Gun” should be playing….”Highway to the danger zone…….”  The instant I cross the threshold, my wallet finds a place to hide in the deep dark recesses of my purse, and I can almost swear that when I put my hand in my purse to find it that it moves on me and I have to chase it to capture it!  Book stores are dangerous places for me.  Sure I could go in with blinders on and walk in, get what I need, and hurry and walk out.  But with all of those books just lying around begging me to pick them up and leaf through their pages, it’s a very tempting place!

This is precisely how I ended up purchasing this book.  I went into the store to pick up a book for my daughter, and in the mean time, perused my way through books on the tables on the way back to the children’s section.  Instantly, I saw the title of this book and knew I had to have it!  I had NO IDEA what a whirligig is, but I loved the word!  And when I turned the book over to read a synopsis of the book, I was hooked!  Whenever I see the word “journey” to describe a story, I know it’s a book I have to read!

Funny thing is, I didn’t even realize there were discussion questions in the back of this book!  Crazy!  When I did some research on the book on the internet, I realized this is a book that English teachers like to teach from.  SCORE!  I LOVE these kinds of books!!!!  With all of this said, you know it had to be  great book!  And it was!!!

First of all, let me tell you what a whirligig is!  Here is what dictionary.com defines it as:

whirl·i·gig

–noun

1. something that whirls or revolves.
2. a whirling motion or course: the whirligig of fashion.
3. a giddy or flighty person.
4. Dialect. a merry-go-round or carrousel.
5. a toy for whirling or spinning, as a top.

In the book it kind of describes it as a wind toy/yard decoration that blows in the wind.  Okay, the book does a better job of describing it.  It can have wings that blow in the wind or propellers or any number of things depending on the design of the particular piece.

Got it?  Ya, I know; it’s probably as clear as mud.  It’s okay.

Anyway, the book was beautifully written and will tug at your heart-strings.  It’s a story of a high school boy named Brent who, in trying to kill himself, accidentally kills a high school girl with his car.  As “atonement”, the girl’s mother gives Brent a challenge to travel around the country and build and place whirligigs in the corners of our country.  You get to follow Brent on this journey and learn the lessons right along with  him.  You get to find the healing and watch the transformation right before your eyes!  You also get to see how these whirligigs change the lives or have a part in changing the lives of 4 different people around the country.

Fleischman does a fantastic job of capturing the different voices and moods for each of the stories within the story.  As a matter of fact, it almost feels like a completely different writer at times!  It is artfully written.  I loved it!  As a reader, it is a fantastic journey!  It seriously made me want to hop a bus with little money and go on an adventure!!!

As always I marked some amazing quotes, and there are too many to give you! I will, however, give you a few!

Two girls come upon one of the whirligigs……

“..thoughts are powerful.  that they’re the seeds of events.  That by thinking something, we can help make it happen.”  “All that is, is the result of what we have thought.”

“You can’t see the wind, but look what it can do.  It’s invisible but powerful.  Like thoughts.  One brings a bunch of junk to life.  The other brings desires to life.”  ‘If you learn to use thoughts, you can do all kinds of things.”

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Thoughts on the Afterlife…..

“After night came another day.  And after death another life.  Mornings seemed mysterious gifts.”

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Thoughts on the word “karass”…an English term for a disparate group of people linked together without their knowledge…..

“Your family and friends weren’t part of your karass.  You couldn’t choose its members, and might never know who was in it or what its purpose was.”

I particularly loved this thought.  Brent uses this word and considers the people he meets along his journey as part of this “karass”.  And it made me think of the people who have come and gone through my life…everything happens for a reason.  People come into your life for a reason and a season and sometimes you may not even meet them, but for some reason have become part of your life in such a way as to really make a difference.

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Upon reflecting on one’s actions….

“…the effects of an act traveled far beyond one’s knowledge.  He knew she’d meant harmful acts, like his.  He saw now that the same could be said of good deeds, such as a teacher’s years of inspiring.  Everything we did –good, bad, and indifferent — sent a wave rolling out of sight.”

How are YOUR actions affecting the world and those around you?

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There are so many great lessons and quotes in this book!  I absolutely LOVED this book and can’t wait to share it with my teenage son!  This is perfect for the teenager in your life.  It’s a quick read; I read it in a couple of hours!  I will leave you with my favorite quote from the book:

“The Lord doth provide.  And the dump’s where He does it.  Most folks don’t realize that.”

Seriously, some of our best lessons in life happen when we are “down and out and in the dumps”.  Right?  There is treasure there! We only have to change our perspective and EXPECT to see the good things in life!  We  just have to be open to the possibilities!

 

Happy Reading!!!!

 

 

 


Admittedly, what I know about Maya Angelou is very little and mostly from Oprah’s TV show.  I have read a couple of her poems, which have touched me.  But until I picked up this book, I have never spent any quality time with Maya Angelou’s thoughts or words.  The title of this book spoke to me because I have always thought about the books I would gather and hand my daughter as a gift as she transitions from girl to woman.  This book is now one of those books that will be passed down.

This book is a quick one day read of 28 short stories/essays and a few poems about life as an African American woman, pregnancy, rape, being a daughter, coming of age, spirituality and so much more!  I  had some very profound moments while reading this book, and I found quite a few parallels with her thoughts on racism and my thoughts on the discrimination of LGBT individuals.

I spend a great deal of my time volunteering, and I donate money when I can.  I have never spent any time looking up the word “philanthropist”, but thankfully Maya Angelou has.   “The word philanthropy was taken from the two Greek words.  phil–lover of; and anthro–mankind.  So, philanthropists are lovers of humanity.”  She talks about how they show their love through large sums of money and how she would classify herself as “charitable”.  “The charitable say in effect, ‘I seem to have more than I need and you seem to have less than you need.  I would like to share my excess with you.’  Fine, if my excess is tangible, money or goods, and fine if not, for I learned that to be charitable with gestures and words can bring enormous joy and repair injured feelings.”

She finishes her thought by saying, “I may  never be known as a philanthropist, but I certainly am a lover of mankind, and I will give freely of my resources.  I am happy to describe myself as charitable.”

I loved her thoughts on this.

There is a chapter called “Morocco” where she tells a story of her trip to that country.  She was a young naive 25-year-old woman who was not versed in the ways of the Moroccan people.  She tells a humorous tale that reminds us to learn about the customs of the countries we want to visit.  This story actually had me laughing out loud.  I may never look at raisins the same way again!

A lesson in gratitude:

“The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas.  The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising.  Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude.  If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow.  Today I am blessed.”

A thought on strangers and friends:

“I learned that a friend may be waiting behind a stranger’s face.”

There was another story she told about her life with  her ex husband.  “Within two days of our meeting we knew were in love together and had to be in life together.”  To me, the thought of being in love together instead of in love with each other, was so beautiful and such a great way to express what love truly is.

Then as I was finishing the book, in the last “chapter” called “Keep the Faith” she describes a persons spiritual journey as this…”It is in the search itself that one finds the ecstasy.”  And so it is!

It’s October 7, 2010, and it seems as though everyone on Facebook is talking about the bullying that led to the suicides of 6 gay boys/young men.  Okay, I stand corrected.  Not everyone on Facebook is talking about; it’s mostly my LGBT and supportive friends.  They are outraged, as well they should be!

But shouldn’t we ALL be?

One post today said, “it makes me crazy that no one has said anything about this before “.  Another one said, “I am telling ya—Gay parents are better than straight parents any day of the week. Gays will go to the mat for rights that straights take for granted and they stand up for what they believe in.”

Okay, these are just TWO responses in a long strand of comments in a very serious conversation happening on Facebook.  Please do not get all up in arms about things and starting saying it’s stereotyping.  I actually addressed stereotyping in that post.  The important thing here is that it’s NOT a gay/straight issue.

Yes, these 6 young men were gay and that is what they were bullied for and that is why they killed themselves.  But our youth have been killing themselves for years….because of bullying and/or depression.  I remember several years ago there was a rash of suicides due to bullying/cyber bullying, and there was an out cry then to stop bullying.  Back then, those kids weren’t being bullied over their sexual orientation; it was something else.

There are several thoughts going through my head right now.

First, Suicide:  I’m 41, and I grew up in Richardson, Texas.  The next city just north of us was Plano, Texas.  If you do the math, this makes me a 14-year-old teenager in 1983 when the big news about a cluster suicide happening in Plano, Texas.  A year or so later, the boy down the street from me killed himself.  Heck, I tried killing myself several times.  Depression.  Why do our teens become depressed?  Is it because of bullying?  I remember reading a book on how to prevent your friends from committing suicide.  It was written for teens!  Even our high school teachers were sent to special training on how to recognize suicidal students and how to help them. (Not that it was great training, because I pretty much gave my teacher a suicide note and she did NOTHING!)  It can’t be up to the teachers to prevent suicide, but it would be nice if they would recognize the symptoms.  But let’s face it, in junior high and high school, these teachers have nearly 300 students a day they see and are responsible for.  And they are under paid with all the budget cuts.  Is it THEIR job to watch after each and every one of these children?

Second:  Bullying.  Kids have been bullied for a very long time.  It’s not like it just started happening.  I’m willing to bet it has been happening in one way or another since we started having children and they learned to talk.  It’s not new.  I know I was bullied for developing early, for my dad’s weight, for the condition of my house growing up, for developing early, for OVERLY developing, for the religion my parents raised me in, for being over weight, for being a virgin, for not being a virgin…for anything that made me different from someone else (and they didn’t understand it).  My children were bullied for being the youngest in the class, for not being in sports, for learning disabilities, for their religious (or not religious) beliefs, for just being different from the kid sitting next to them.

My parents didn’t stand up to my bullies.  I DID.  For my children, I am the one who went to the mat to support them and help them through their bullying issues.  I asked the teachers to help.  One teacher actually told my daughter there was nothing he could do about it, and he didn’t even respond to my emails about the situation.

The schools teach character development and along with that goes the anti-bullying segment.  Most schools have a zero tolerance program, but that doesn’t even begin to help.  Eventually, I just had to move my daughter to a different school or different class.

So again, is it the school’s responsibility to stop it?  Is it the teacher’s job to prevent it?  In a perfect would, we would like to think so.  In a perfect world, we would like to think that going to school is a safe and happy place for our children.  But in all reality, sometimes, it’s just not!  So then what???

Like sex education, it really belongs and begins at home!  We as parents need to teach our children how to make and sustain healthy relationships…starting with a relationship with themselves.  If this means sending them to a class at the Boys & Girls Club or Planned Parenthood, then do it!  We as parents need to be open, loving, accepting, supportive of our children NO MATTER what they come home and share with us.  Certainly if it’s the case of them using drugs or some other harmful situation, then step up, take a stand and help them overcome it.  But if they tell us they are different from what we had imagined them to be (sexual orientation, religious preferences, sports minded, educational decisions), then its our job to love and support them through it!  It’s our job to be a safe port in the confusion of growing up!  It’s our job to arm them with education, knowledge, love and support.

Preventing bullying & suicide starts at home!  If we teach them love, tolerance & support, they will take that into the schools.  If we teach them how to stand up for themselves and others, they will take that into the schools.  If we give them a safe place to open up at home, any issues  they may have at school can be brought home to the loving ears and arms of the family and can be taken care of as a team instead of leaving the child to feel like they are alone.  And if you have a warm, loving, accepting, tolerant home…then your child’s friend who may not experience that in their home will likely feel safe to come to yours and express their concerns and you will be able to help them!

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child.  This is so very true!  It takes a village of loving, caring, supportive adults to stand guard, hold vigil and support that young person to feel free to grow and express him/herself..to be who they will become.  Yes, it starts at home….then it spreads to the village…to the safe neighbors..churches…schools….  And it all starts with LOVE!

My heart breaks for the 6 boys who needlessly took their lives recently.  For that matter, my heart breaks for the untold numbers of youth who take their lives on a daily basis because they felt alone..like they had no one to talk to..not even their own families.  My heart breaks for the children in the schools who are being bullied on a daily basis with no one to stand up and fight for them…my heart breaks for the children being bullied who DO have people who stand up and fight for them.

There is a Budhist prayer that says, “May all beings be free from suffering…..”  This is my prayer today and everyday…

 

Today I had a FANTASTIC morning!  The only thing better than being lost in a beautiful picture book is to share that beautiful  picture book with my 11-year-old daughter, Naomi!

On Tuesday mornings, I go into my daughters class to volunteer.  I get to pick kids out to read to me (and later do math).  I have been doing this for well over a month now, and today was the first time I got to work with my own daughter.  I was so excited!  I prepared the table for reading with the kiddos.  I set out all the books for them to read.  I called out my first student and she read a great rhyming book.  Then, to my extreme pleasure, I got to call out my daughter.  I noticed that in my books was Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe.  John Steptoe is one of my most favorite children’s books authors and I actually own several of his books.  As a matter of fact, I own this book as well, but it has been probably close to a decade since I have read it!  So instead of letting my daughter choose which book she wanted to read, I asked her to read this book to me.  I told her it was one of my all time favorites and I would love to share it with her.  Happily she opened the book and began to read!

The book is an African Folktale that has won a Caldecott Award (which means it won for its pictures, and they are beautiful!)  It is about 2 sisters…one who is bossy and mean and the other who is very sweet.  It is your typical “Cinderella” storyline..well minus the evil step mother!  *laugh*  But it definitely follows the Cinderella archetype as outlined by Carl Jung.  Did you know there are 900 Cinderella stories out there?

Anyway, as Naomi was reading, she stops and says, “Mom, I like Nyasha’s personality better than Manyaras.”  She got excited about seeing a snake in the garden and later asked about the snake again.  This is truly the sign of a great picture book…one that gets the children thinking and asking questions..one that engages them!  John Steptoe is amazing at doing just that!  This book is filled with beautiful pictures, beautiful words, and more importantly a beautiful message…and one that I am so glad I got to share with my daughter!

These last couple of days it has struck me just how much reading is a gift in my life.  The act of learning to read and the character building it gave me while I was bullied for not being able to read….the gift of self-confidence my 5th grade teacher gave me when it came to reading…the safe escape it gave me from abuse in my home…the lessons learned while reading such amazing books…and the gift to be able to share special stories with my children and other children I get to volunteer with!  And in all of my years of being a parent, I am never prouder than when I hear my children tell me they have finished reading a book!

Today, while listening to Naomi read this story, my heart was filled with such gratitude and pleasure….for so many reasons.

If you have not read this book to your children (or even for yourself), I highly recommend picking it up!  For that matter you can check it out on this link:  http://vimeo.com/6276456  It is an episode of Reading Rainbow (I loved that show!)  This book is filled with great lessons of kindness, compassion, forgiveness and African culture!  It truly is a remarkable book!

Have fun!!!!!