Category Archives: Children’s Books

Kids on Drugs….I Mean, Screens

Photo Credit: Flickr

I have a confession to make.

There’s a precious little girl in my life who calls me “Ga” (because she can’t yet say “Gram”). Not even 20 months old, she has learned well how to use her tiny index finger to point for us to take her wherever in the house or yard she wants to go. She demonstrates her mastery of body parts by pointing that finger to her eye, nose, mouth, etc. when we call out the word. Just recently, she holds up that singular wee finger when identifying the number “win”.

My heart melts.

Unfortunately, I am a culprit contributing to the delinquency of a minor…no, no. Not that…but I have contributed to her developing that index finger further in playing with my smart phone. She knows how to scroll through pictures and she knows how to tap the “play” icon to start up videos.

Is that so horrible? What’s the harm?

[Here’s the disclaimer. There is no judgment here whatsoever for the sleep-deprived moms out there who hand their preschooler their smart phone or tablet while nursing or dressing the baby…or trying to get dinner prepared…or (fill in the blank). I remember the years of small ones myself, so many years ago. In fact, the TV as babysitter was my go-to device to get stuff done or maintain my own supposed sanity. Not just for the little ones but for myself, just to watch something for my own relaxation. Of course, they were watching with me…so I had to consider the possible impact of that then, as I’m writing about screens now.]Photo Credit: Pexels

My confession comes from a place of discovery. The problem is not that this toddler likes looking at pictures of her family on my phone. That has to be a morally neutral (even positive) thing. Also not a problem is her fondness for her Uncle Nae’s music videos. She has her favorites and daily asks to see those (Dayman and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)…among others…several others.

The problem is when she doesn’t get her way. When Mommy intervenes or when Gram comes to her senses about the amount of screen time she’s facilitating. Then this funny, sweet, curious little girl flings her head back, attempts a body-slam, and emits a piercing angry cry against those who would keep her from her screen(s).

Morally neutral or even positive goes out the window at that point. Given her reaction, when does something soothing and enriching like family photos and videos cross a line…out there in a few kiddie years…to a screen or internet addiction?

I don’t think I’m over-reaching here. There is balance absolutely, but if we don’t even consider the risk, we won’t take steps to keep screen use healthy for our children/grandchildren. I’m dealing with this in my own head right now…and in my habits.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

But it’s even worse than we think.

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

I was reminded of when our boys were middle schoolers. A friend of theirs came over to spend the night. They played video games for hours. When we finally told the boys to take a break, the friend actually became more and more anxious, even to the point of not being able to get his breath. We had to take him home.

Now all toddlers are not going to end up heroin…I mean, tech junkies. Again, there is a balance in how we determine what’s a healthy use of electronic devices and where limits need to be set.

It’s just something to think about. My confession here relates to the personal struggle I have with internet dependence. I was a late adopter of smart phones (my first being in 2013). At the time, my job was a communications strategist for a new work team. Managing a blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and other office communications kept me online most of the time. Online and distracted by it. Still a struggle for me to have balance in this area.

I don’t want to have that sort of influence on this darling granddaughter, our tinier grandson, or others who will come after.

Before smartphones and Wi-Fi, I was a people-watcher and a people-engager. I read books more. Had people over all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong…those things still happen…but screens are a huge distraction for me. I would love to be one of the nurturers for our grandchildren of a different sort of life… Screen time is going to happen every day, sure…but not to the point where they don’t prefer talking face-to-face with people nor be a part of great adventures or discover the world (in real life).Photo Credit: Flickr

How are you handling your own electronic version of life? Please share in the Comments section. You will find helpful links below – articles and books. All the articles are practical and empowering. [I have not yet read the books; they are recommended by the authors of some of the articles below.]

As for our little one’s love of her uncle’s videos? She will still be watching them, just not over and over and over. Fortunately she can also enjoy the music (without benefit of the screens) because we are Patreon patrons of her uncle with his MP3s as perks). Those music files were a great help recently to this tiny girl enduring a long roadtrip. Listening to her favorites, she finally fell asleep.

Peace.

Worship Wednesday – All These Babies – Raising Up Worshippers – Lullabies

IMG_0065[From the Archives – as we seem surrounded by beautiful pregnant women and so many darling little babies – sweet times.]

My family, growing up, was not in church until I was 6 years old. Any awareness of spiritual songs began then for me. The Baptist Hymnal of my childhood was my worship textbook in those days. Then came the Christian Contemporary Music worship movement of the 1970s. When our children were born in the ’80s, there were songs deep in my heart that would become heartsongs for our three little ones as well. The main reason is that they would fall asleep to them at night, as we sang them during that wind-down time before lights-out.

My husband and I wanted to be the kind of parents who had family devotions faithfully [“Bible before breakfast” sort of thing], but that turned out to be more challenging than we thought it would be. He and I both had our own quiet times with the Lord, but adding people (especially little people) to that mix was a discipline that eluded us for most of the years of our children’s growing up. We had Bible teaching in our home and prayer bathed our routines, but that family devotion habit…sigh…now, we encourage our parenting children to better us in this area.

We did succeed at bed-time rituals – we needed those routines probably as much as the kids did. No matter where we lived (and we lived a lot of places), bedtime was a sacred benediction to the day – bath, pj’s, teeth-brushing, a bit of play just for fun (to draw out the rest of the day’s energy), and then to bed. “To bed” also included a story, prayers, and a song or two. By that time, our children were, for the most part, settled, snuggled down, ready to let the day go.

We always sang the same 2-3 songs. All through their growing up years. Right until they somehow arrived at that point when lullabies went the way of story-time. They read their own Bibles and they chose their own music. It happens so fast,,.always. Sigh.

Those 3 songs (linked below) were Jesus, Name Above All Names (Naida Hearn, 1974); Jesus – There’s Something About That Name (Gloria & Bill Gaither, 1970); and I Love You, Lord, and I Lift My Voice (Laurie Klein, 1978). These three songs soothed to sleep our three little ones wherever we were. Today, they are grown and their millennial music tastes have grown with them. Still, these songs remind them, and us, of a time that seems not so long ago – when we were a family of five who, at the end of the day, loved Jesus – no matter where we were, with children growing up across four countries. Those simple little praise songs, turned lullabies, sealed each day with the hum and the cuddle of God’s unfailing love.

What lullabies do you remember? Singing them or hearing them as you nodded off to sleep…

Jesus, Name Above All Names – YouTube with Lyrics

Song Story of Jesus, Name Above All Names

Jesus – There’s Something About That Name – Godtube video

Song Story of Jesus – There’s Just Something About That Name

I Love You, Lord, and I Lift My Voice – Youtube with Lyrics

Song Story of I Love You, Lord, and I Lift My Voice

Song Story of I Love You, Lord, and I Lift My Voice with added verses by John Piper

Phil Keaggy’s Instrumental Version of I Love You Lord on The Wind and The Wheat album

Don’t forget to post in Comments what your favorite lullabies were…or what songs you can imagine would make great lullabies for raising up worshippers.

As you think…I’m posting a “through the years” sequence of our sleeping child…the one who could sleep anywhere at any time…who still needed those lullabies at night…and is one of those worshippers today.

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Saturday Short – 2nd & Charles – Geeky Nerdy Marketplace

Blog - 2nd & CharlesPhoto Credit: Wikimedia

In a different era, the words “geek” and “nerd” were derogatory terms of a sort. These days, they are a certain subset of “cool”. When we tune into Krue.tv to watch Nathan live-stream, these superlatives pop up often as he or his fan community describe each other.

Yesterday, at our youngest son Daniel’s request, we stopped in to check out 2nd & Charles. I had heard it was some sort of used book store, but what we found was way more fun and exciting. This enormous marketplace is a brilliant combination of new and used, and the inventory includes books, music, movies, gaming accessories, memorabilia – for all ages and every possible nerdy or geeky bent.IMG_8630IMG_8640IMG_8641IMG_8645IMG_8647

Even their quotes around the store and on their website made me want to hug the clerks when leaving the store…seriously. Embarrassing, but true.

It’s not old. It’s vintage.

It’s not used. It’s pre-loved.IMG_8639

Daniel and I stayed awhile scoping out the books and memorabilia (me) and music (him). He was so enthralled that we’re heading back there today with a box of his books, DVDs, and CDs to see how the trade/sell system works and to shop some more.IMG_8653

To be honest…I was also enthralled. This takes Christmas shopping to a whole new level.

The following disclaimer from another blogger‘s review also works for me:

** I’m in no way affiliated with 2nd & Charles. All opinions are my own. I’m way too opinionated to have it any other way.

Postscript: Nathan, you’re going to love this store. Save your tips.IMG_8654

Youtube Video – Epic Rap Battle – Nerd vs. Geek – Rhett & Link

Owls in the Neighborhood – Fascinating Facts & Children’s Books to Match

Blog - Owls - Jeanne BarneyBlow - Owls - Jeanne BarneyPhoto Credit: Jeanne Barney – Barred Owl parent above; Owlet below

Only once have I seen an owl in flight. We were visiting with neighbors on their porch one summer evening and this big bird swept across the back yard. I don’t recall the wing-span, but it was sizable and the wings powerfully swung through in flight. Then the bird disappeared in a nearby tree, and an authoritative hooting followed. Unmistakably, an owl. It was a magical moment for me.

We have other neighbors who are the happy hosts of a couple of adult barred owls and (most recently) a single owlet. I can hear them chatter at night sometimes but have never seen them except through pictures. I envy our neighbors their guests.

Here are some fascinating facts about barred owls:

  • The barred owl is also known as a hoot owl because of its distinct call.
  • This owl’s preferred habitat is old forests near a water source. It is territorial and usually non-migratory. Unless pushed out by its own predator (the great horned owl) or altered habitat, the barred owl may stay its whole life in the same area.
  • It is a raptor (a bird that preys on smaller animals for food) and a night hunter. Its daytime counterpart is the red-shouldered hawk. They share the same preferred habitat and foods. The owl will not tolerate intrusion by the hawk; fortunately for both, they rarely encounter each other.Blog - Owls - barred owls and red-shouldered hawks - daily mailPhoto Credit: Daily Mail
  • Although barred owls probably mate for life, they are only together during mating and nesting. Once the owlets are out of the nest, the owls return to a more solitary life.
  • The barred owls may be responsible for a decline in the population of spotted owls. There has been a gradual, decades-long increase in the range of habitat for the barred owls. They are most commonly found in the Eastern United States, but now are present in the Great Plains states and the Northwest. Their population has thrived in these regions, threatening the smaller, less aggressive native spotted owls. A federally funded owl removal program was initiated to bring down the barred owl population, giving spotted owls opportunity to repopulate.

Owls are intriguing creatures. They are first predators snatching up all sorts of little forest animals at night, and at the same time, they have these intelligent human-like faces that draw our attention and affection. Dirya Srinivasan is an author and illustrator who brings a tiny character to life in her books about Little Owl. Little Owl’s Night and Little Owl’s Day give us a bird’s eye view of the world as this little one might see it. Blog - Owls - Children's book primary

The night is opened up and made friendly to the reader. The day is full of wonder for Little Owl who rarely sees this bright woodland world (which is fortunate, given what I’ve learned about the red-shouldered hawk’s appetite for small creatures). We have these board books for our granddaughter, but I can see her enjoying them as she grows into a reader herself.

So that’s my introduction to you of our neighbors, the barred owl family in the woods beside our neighbors. What cohabitants teach you about the beautiful varied life we enjoy together?

Owls in Virginia

Barred Owl – All About Birds – The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Laura’s Barred Owl

Shooting Owls to Save Other Owls – by Isabelle Groc – National Geographic

Monday Morning Moment – Last Monday of 2015 – Begin Again

Blog - Mondays with Garfield - Jim DavisPhoto Credit: Garfieldh8sMondays

Here we are on the last Monday of 2015. The last Monday of the year. For some of us, there’s a collective deep sigh! We made it through this year of tough Mondays. Celebrating…quietly.

Over coffee this morning, we talked about the huge build-up to Christmas, and how today, in comparison, is almost a let-down. I don’t feel that way at all. On the Monday after Christmas, I feel satisfied and hopeful. Christmas was wonderful…even with the heart hurt of not having all our children with us and my dad states away in assisted living. Hard things are always strewn across even the best of holidays.

We rejoice in what was good and hope for what can be in the year ahead.

That’s how I also feel about this last Monday of the year. We didn’t deal with a terrifying diagnosis but we have friends who did. We didn’t have to grieve the loss of a family member but we grieve still the great loss of dear friends this year. We went through extraordinary change (in work and community) but thankfully kept those relationships. We did not suffer joblessness and do not take for granted the great blessing of gratifying work.

Work this year was oddly harder than any year I can remember. Some situations in life we expect to be hard – like the adjustments we made living cross-culturally, and like the year my mom died. This year was an unexpected hard.

In a season of chronic financial leanness and a year of organizational change, including planned and necessary downsizing, we still have a job. Months of “just keep doing what you’ve been doing” may now be winding down to make way for new direction and engagement. We breathe deeply the air of new possibilities in the days ahead.

Although there is nothing innately powerful in a last Monday of the year or the coming first Monday of 2016, the idea of a fresh start energizes us with hope and anticipation. This ending and beginning do stir our hearts and minds to begin again…

In 1970, a film was released entitled Scrooge. It was a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The old curmudgeon Scrooge was very well-played by a 30-something Albert Finney. As I look to this Monday and the next, his song “Begin Again” came to mind. If you have never seen it, watch the YouTube clip:

In thinking of finishing out this year at work, and looking to 2016, I hope you also can celebrate whatever victories and mercies you experienced this year. In looking to 2016, I pray you have anticipation of what comes. If you’ve had a hard year, too, then you are even more equipped to take hold of whatever comes.

Scrooge, in his song above, thanked “the world” (1:42) that he was able to begin again. Odd line really. I thank God for another opportunity to begin again – this day and all the days given to us ahead.

“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:18-19

“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”Psalm 34:8

Scrooge (1970) with Albert Finney – available on Amazon.com

YouTube Video – Scrooge with Albert Finney (1970)

Monday Morning Quarterback – What a Sunday of Football!

The Peril & Blessing of Gift-Giving and that Greatest Gift

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Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 9:15

I am undone by Christmas gift-giving. Once upon a time, seemingly long, long ago, giving special gifts was something I did well. Not so much any more. The whole Christmas shopping experience has become quite overwhelming for me. If you give me a definite idea or suggestion, I am empowered. It will be done! To shoot in the dark for a gift that, just knowing you, I know you would love?…not so much.

What a blessing you are who just intuitively know what will please or what will be treasured…those gifts full of meaning, or thoughtfulness, or wonder – gifts that aren’t seeming burdens or requiring a return. You are a blessing to us all. I don’t even compare myself to great gift-givers any more…resigning myself to the writing of checks or the occasional joy of tripping over “just the right gift”.

This is my tribute to the great gift-givers in my life. Here are examples of late:

  • those old friends retiring and moving away who gave all of us, at their send-off, a rose and two marbles – a “shooter” and a “keeper”. So meaningful because he collects marbles and is always a great “shooter” in real life, and she is such a “keeper”. I will miss them. The marbles go in my work desk to remember them every time I open that drawer.2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 002 (2)
  • that neighbor who baked Christmas cookies with her kids and sent them with their dad around the neighborhood delivering their photo Christmas card and cookies. Such a sweet visit at the door as we talked about spelling bees, and sledding, and no Christmas travel because of work. Blog - Gift-Giving - Christmas cookies
  • those friends who show up with surprises (pictured at top of blog) – the wooden ball Nativity from Bizarre Bazaar (where she fought the crowds of shoppers for those special finds); the cross inscribed with “love”, from a friend (in major transition with what time to shop?!), a silver pillow with “Peace on Earth” in red letters (from a woman in full-time ministry). All working women with little time to shop but hearts so full of love, they do what’s necessary to lavish that love on those around them.

During December each year, before falling asleep, I try to read through my stash of Christmas books. One of those is Andy Andrews’ Socks for Christmas. It’s a shortish story about his growing up in the 60’s Christmas…and the hard reality that, for some children, socks would be a gladsome gift.Blog - Gift-Giving - Socks for Christmas - Book

Sometimes even the smallest of gifts like socks meets a great need.

What about the greatest of gifts – that of the Christ child? The greatest of gifts from the greatest of Gift-givers to meet the greatest of our needs – that need for a Savior.

Ann Voskamp, is a writer and blogger, homeschool mom and farmer’s wife. As she talks about daily trips to the barn, she paints a story about gift-giving. It’s so real, I can feel the cold of the Canadian winter and the musty smell of hay and animals.

“Too often we think that Christmas is something that we can buy or create or make by hand. Ultimately Christmas isn’t a product that we can wrap up but it’s a Person that we unwrap. Christ comes to the manger, that cradle, that trough. The mire and the stench [of that barn…of our lives]. It doesn’t end there. That manger is wood and it’s nailed together. That manger takes us right to the cross. We are saved only through another tree – the tree from the garden, the tree at the manger, the tree Jesus hung on to save us…From the beginning of time, we’ve been coming to this place – the Messiah coming to redeem us…In the cross is the white-hot burn of His love.” – Ann Voskamp

For you glorious gift-givers, thank you. You reflect the joyful, creative generosity of God. For those of us who struggle, we will press our way through that part of Christmas. We will be glad for you and glad for the One who knew exactly what we needed not just for Christmas but for always…and gave us more that we could “ask or imagine”.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

[P.S. Gift ideas that stretch across the globe to touch families in need can be found on the pages of the BGR Christmas catalog. If you can’t figure what to give to folks who have pretty much everything, here you can find plenty to give to others, in their name. ]

Jesus is the Greatest Gift – Christmas Gifts for Neighbors – Ann Voskamp

The Cross-Centered Christmas: An Interview with Ann Voskamp – Tony Reinke, DesiringGod.org

The One Thing Your Christmas Can’t Afford to Be Without – Ann Voskamp

Baptist Global Response – Christmas Catalog

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Socks for Christmas: A Child’s Discovery of the True Riches of Christmas by Andy Andrews

Worship Wednesday – All Is Well – Storyteller Frank Peretti and Songwriter Michael W. Smith

Worship Wednesday - Blog - All is Well - Screen shot 2

[From the Archives]

We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28

All Is Well – A Story for Christmas brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. It was published in 1990 and we read it to our children every Christmas until they were old enough to read it themselves. Then I read it to myself. Frank Peretti is the author and Robert Sauber did the illustrations for the first book. It seems to be out of print now, and a newer edition, with illustrations by Gary Glover, came out in 2002.

I fell in love with the first edition, and it’s still my favorite. Don’t you love when you recover something once precious to you which you thought lost forever? In our many moves, somewhere along the way, we lost All Is Well – A Story for Christmas. I was delighted when, just today, I found the book, that old one, captured on a YouTube video.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - Screen shot - All is Well - 1Screen Shot

The memories of that book have stirred again – reading together cuddled up with the children in front of the fire in Tennessee, Or listening to the audiobook as they stared sleepily into the dark on those long drives to grandparents. Then childhood years across North Africa when stories familiar brought home closer. The tears came again today, as I watched that YouTube video and the telling of All is Well.

The story focuses on a single mother and her little girl, in tough times financially. There was no money for rent and they were facing losing their home. The little girl, Jenny, was determined to help, and she found an old box of Christmas ornaments that she peddled to neighbors in hopes of helping her mom, Ruth, with the rent. One of those ornaments was a small homemade piece of clay inscribed with the phrase, “All is well.” The rest of the story is a lovely picture of courage, hope, love, and kindness – of neighbors reaching out to this little twosome so in need.

The last page of the book ends with this:

“All is well, huh, Mom?”

“All is well, Jenny. Some way, somehow. We can’t see it yet, but all is well.”

(Narrator) “Well, like I said in the beginning, it all depends on where you’re standing and how good the view is from there. When you’re the storyteller, you have a pretty good view. You know things people in the story don’t know… I know Ruth and Jenny will be taken care of…

You know what tickles me: Ruth knows it, too. She knows. She can’t see any of it from where she is…but she knows.  Now that she remembers how come all is well, she knows. She remembers and she’ll tell Jenny once again: that God is the grandest storyteller of our lives. He weaves our days then strings them like beads on the chain of history. He knows the placement of every person…the end from the beginning. From His lofty heights, He has the best view of all.

She remembers and she’ll tell Jenny that in a stable in Bethlehem so long ago, God wrote Himself into the story and became that central character . Now the Weaver of the Story walks with us in the midst of the story…and He will stay with us, until that story is complete, in His way, in His time, for His glory…and that’s how come all is well. Remember?”

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:11-13

Blog - Worship Wednesday - All Is Well - 2nd book

Take the time to worship today…and then read this story as a family if you can. Or click on the YouTube video and cozy up with your kiddos to watch the story unfold. My children are all grown up now, but I don’t think they will have forgotten. All is well…or can be. Remember that.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - All is Well 2nd book coverPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

YouTube Video of original story All Is Well (1990) by Frank Peretti – book and audio CD no longer available. Illustrations by Robert Sauber

All Is Well: The Miracle of Christmas in July by Frank Peretti (2002) with illustrations by Gary Glover – this story is updated from the one above – with Daniel as our young hero, and his mom, Ruth – same great message of love, neighbors, and God’s faithfulness

YouTube Lyric Video of All Is Well by Michael W. Smith (featured in audiobook of All is Well above

YouTube Lyric Video of All Is Well sung by Carrie Underwood & Michael W. Smith (Spirit of Christmas Album)

For the long nights and heavy burdens – Jesus is coming.

PostScript – January 2, 2015 – Look what my daughter gave me for Christmas – she had the original book among her Christmas books for her 3rd grade class. Now I have them both again….

2014 Dec Christmas in Richmond with MomMom & PopPop 005a (2)

Today Is The Day the Crayons Came Home and Two Other Worthy Reads

Blog - Great Books Cover

Book-lovers are divided into three kinds of people – those who borrow books from the library, those who buy electronic versions to read on tablets of some sort, and people like me. I buy books. Usually online. Two days later they arrive and I love tearing open the cardboard box, and turning the pages of those anticipated books.

I might read one book right away, or save it for a plane trip, or file it into the stack of “next reads”. Today my pre-ordered copy of the just out The Day the Crayons Came Home arrived in that cardboard box.

This children’s story, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, is that best sort of book both kids and adults enjoy together. Its best-selling predecessor, The Day the Crayons Quit, is my current favorite children’s story. It sits on the bookshelf to the right of my work desk as my inspiration for the day I write such a book.

Both books tell the woes of various crayons in the possession of young Duncan. So funny, and so human…for crayons. Jeffers’ illustrations are the perfect match for Daywalt’s writing. You want to buy these books for your children, or yourself. Of course, you can borrow them from the library. Not me, but you can.Blog - Great Books - Crayons

Two other great books came in today’s cardboard box…

Thanks for the Feedback is written by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. They also authored the book Difficult Conversations, with Bruce Patton. I heard Sheila Heen speak about feedback at the Global Leadership Summit recently. It seems feedback is something we all want at work…until we get it. Stone and Heen talk about learning how to receive feedback well. My husband will read this book before me, but I look forward to tackling this subject and growing through it.

The third book that arrived today was Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. It is a manual for managers who want to merge creativity and excellence. Catmull, one of the founders of Pixar Animation, and the president of Disney Animation Studios, was also a speaker at this year’s Global Leadership Summit. I’m excited to read Creativity, Inc. to apply his principles in my work and life among creative. I am also intrigued by his many stories of how he keeps the culture and operations so user-friendly for the artists and designers. Looking forward to learning more from him in this book.

This day delivered on great books. I may review them later, but for now I’m just looking forward to reading them myself. For the joy and for the empowering that come with good books.

What books are you reading these days? Would love to hear about them. Maybe I’ll order them, too.

Coming Soon [Today]…The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

Global Leadership Summit – 7 Take-Aways from Day One of #GLS15

Creativity, Inc. Quotes at Good Reads

The Pixar Way: 37 Quotes on Developing and Maintaining a Creative Company

Global Leadership Summit – 6 Take-Aways from Day 2 of #GLS15

Thanks for the Feedback Quotes at Good Reads

Slideshare – How to Give and Receive Feedback – The Triad Consulting Group – Sheila Heen & Douglas Stone (authors of Thanks for the Feedback)

Celebrating a Baby Girl – Children’s Book Themed Shower – Way Beyond Pinterest

2015 June Bekkah's baby shower for Christie - BLog 014First grandchild. It’s a girl. There would be a baby shower. Friends and family kindly help the young couple with the cost of a newborn by “showering” them with gifts. An event of this nature took place in our lives this past weekend. It was so lovely, that I actually felt sorry for guys because they don’t have such celebrations usually. Right?

Themed parties have been around at least for as long as my children have been alive – so a quarter-of-a-century. That was long before Pinterest was launched (March 2010) and began complicating our lives. As fascinating as Pinterest is, it does apply unwanted pressure to those of us who aren’t great party planners. With all those possibilities that can be added to special days, making them even more festive. Still…Pinterest has its place, and it has given this generation of young creatives a platform to showcase their ideas.

This blog today is not about Pinterest though. It’s about what can happen when a really gifted young woman decides to throw a baby shower for her sister-in-law. She knows this pregnant one adores children’s books, and she “showered” her with literary fun and fancy.2015 June Bekkah's baby shower for Christie - BLog 028

 All the food, as you can see, referenced a favorite children’s story. There were also frames, on the dining table and all around the house, with quotes from books they all love.

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In the room where we all gathered, there were flowers, just because, and sweet activities like guessing the due date and writing bookmarks “to baby”. So many details…so much loveliness. That’s our Bekkah’s touch on an event.2015 June Bekkah's baby shower for Christie - BLog 015

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After a couple of games, Christie (the pregnant one), was seated under polka-dot balloons and pink pompoms. Friends and family lavished her with so many sweet presents. I’ve actually been in other cultures where birthing celebrations happened as well. They had their own particular joys… This party was especially touching for me because of all the love, and all the work that went into it…out of love.

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As the grandmother-to-be, my heart was filled to bursting by the generosity of friends. As the mom-in-law, I was humbled by the great effort that Bekkah (and her small team of buddies) made to create such a special day for Christie.2015 June Bekkah's baby shower for Christie - BLog 090a  (2)

This may seem like an open thank you note for a special day, and maybe it is. More than that, it is also to celebrate the celebrators – those people in our lives who turn a hot summer Saturday afternoon into a soul-refreshing friendship feast. Celebrating a baby girl we haven’t met yet, and celebrating the beauty around us in a home filled with love and loved ones. So thank you, Bekkah.2015 June Bekkah's baby shower for Christie - BLog 092

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How about you who read this far? Are you reminded of great celebrations you’ve enjoyed? Or of some great celebrators in your lives? I’d love to hear your stories.

Themed Baby Shower Ideas – Children’s Stories – on Pinterest

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…and one more of a little girl who loved to read and be read to – with her Memaw.IMG_0017 (4)

Bookmarked Summer: Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street

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I love words. Not cruel, lying, arrogant, or mean-spirited ones, of course. I love the kind of words that make stories come alive, where you can see and touch and smell right off the page of the book. Oh to write that way… maybe one day.

A dear friend, who reads my writing because she loves me, shared this book with me. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I finally read it…just a few hours long, packed with that pink-orange hue of Mexico. Mexico transplanted in Chicago. Cisneros writes so personally of growing up straddling two cultures – living in Chicago sometimes, and Mexico other times. The book is a small novel, large with details of a family living Mexican in an American city. Sandra Cisneros opens the door to the reader to step into her Mexican American childhood, tucked in a neighborhood, so like Mexico and yet still far from home.

I read some of the reviews by readers of Cisneros’ book. They are extreme in their take on this little book – ranging from those who love her writing,  identifying with her stories, and those who hate that they had to read the novel (for a class, etc.), not seeing Cisneros’ writing as worthy of their time. The criticisms surprised me, and then I understood that her writing is full of strong emotion and bore fruit of that in her readers, one way or another.

I loved the way she invited the reader, one outside of this neighborhood and culture, to be a part of its story. It was impossible to tell what was fiction and what was truly her own childhood.

Below you will find some of my favorite quotes from The House on Mango Street.  I hope you enjoy her words, as I did.

“My mother’s hair…is the warm smell of bread before you bake it, is the smell when she makes room for you on her side of the bed still warm with her skin, and you sleep near her, the rain outside falling and Papa snoring.”

“Those who don’t know any better come into our neighborhood scared. They think we’re dangerous. They think we will attack them with shiny knives. They are stupid people who are lost and got here by mistake. But we aren’t afraid…All brown all around, we are safe. But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight. Yeah. That is how it goes and goes.”

“Hips…one day you wake up and they are there. Ready and waiting like a new Buick with the keys in the ignition. Ready to take you where? They’re good for holding a baby when you’re cooking…you need them to dance…if you don’t get them you may turn into a man…they bloom like roses.”

“My Papa, his thick hands and thick shoes…wakes up tired in the dark,..combs his hair with water, drinks his coffee, and is gone before we wake.”

“Everything is holding its breath inside me. Everything is waiting to explode like Christmas. I want to be all new and shiny…a boy around my neck and the wind under my skirt.”

“There were sunflowers big as flowers on Mars and thick cockscombs bleeding the deep red fringe of theater curtains. There were dizzy bees and bow-tied fruit flies turning somersaults and humming in the air. Sweet sweet peach trees…big green apples hard as knees. And everywhere the sleepy smell of rotting wood, damp earth and dusty hollyhocks thick and perfumy like the blue-blond hair of the dead.”

“A house of my own…only a house quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem.”

“I never know what I am feeling till I write about it. Writing makes me feel better when life overwhelms me.” – Sandra Cisneros*

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*Sandra Cisneros’ Letter to the Sixth-Grade Students of Ms. Jill Faison, Hogan Middle School, Vallejo, California

The House on Mango Street – 25th Anniversary Edition

Photo Credit – Picture of Sandra Cisneros – by ksm36 –  Wikipedia.org