Sunday, June 23, 2013

Up a Family Tree

I first discovered Teresa Bloomingdale as a middle schooler.  I stumbled across this book, Up a Family Tree on my mother's bookshelves, which were always a source of great book exploration.  At the time, I just thought she was hilarious.  Her tales of raising 10 kids in the Midwest were exceptionally well-written, and she was just so funny!  I (ahem) "borrowed" my mother's copy when I moved away to college, and I took it with me on subsequent moves.  It now sits on my shelf...maybe someday I'll "remember" to take it back.  (Sorry Mom!)

When I became a mother myself, however, Teresa was no longer just a funny storyteller.  She was a lifeline.  With her book, I was able to reach across space and time and cling to a woman I had never met in that timeless bond that connects mothers.  Mothers everywhere speak the same language, I don't care what culture or country or time period you are from.  Much changes, but much stays the same.  The fact that Teresa had her babies in the 1950s and 1960s made no difference.  I discovered within her pages that we shared the same struggles, the same fears, and the same "I-can't-believe-that-just-happened" moments. 

Teresa had 10 children in a 12 year span.  I was not quite that ambitious, but I did have three children be the time I celebrated my fifth anniversary.  My second children arrived a scant 18 months after my first.  Therefore, in her I found a kindred spirit in the exhaustion - physical, mental and emotional - that happens to a mother of multiple tiny children.  On those days when I didn't think I could do one more moment of this, I would grab her book from my nightstand and flip open to any given page and find solace.  The time Lee played "doctor" with his brothers and the pill cabinet and everyone had to go to the ER to have their stomachs emptied.  The time Mike (age 5) painted the side of the house and took his little brother John (age 4) with him to hold the paint can.   The time a child decided to run away - but the houses was so chaotic that no one realized it, thus creating in Teresa an obsession with doing multiple headcounts every night after they all went to bed.  The hundreds of notes needed for school, change for school and church offerings, shoes that needed buying, convincing a toddler that wearing two different mittens was really on because "Captain Kangaroo wears two different mittens" - all the kinds of stories I could identify with.  They still made me laugh - but they also made me cry.  With relief.  And joy. 

Teresa also gave me permission.  She gave me permission to have a cluttered house.  She gave me permission to be behind on the laundry.  She gave me permission to allow the baby more freedom in the house  She gave me permission to keep basketballs in the bathroom.  But most of all, she gave me permission to laugh.  Teresa Bloomingdale taught me that the best way to manage it all is to just keep laughing.  She helped me see the joy in all of my kids' adventures - and she taught me there is great therapy and relief in writing these stories down.  She was, in fact, the inspiration behind one of my other blogs - Tales From Mommyhood.  That blog has become popular among my friends, but I started it as an outlet for my own stressors as a mother.   In the spirit of Teresa Bloomingdale, I began chronicling my own stories of ridiculousness, such as my List of Things I'd Never Thought I'd Do, or my daughter's belief that Jesus wants her to shake her booty, or what I learned while taking my kids to swimming lessons.  I learned the power of writing my fears and exhaustion away - and the joy that comes with seeing the funny in my children's lives.

Teresa Bloomingdale passed away in the year 2000.  I never met her or any of her family.  But she has changed my life and been close to my heart.  I only hope to meet this lovely woman in heaven today so we can go out for coffee (yes, there is coffee in heaven) and I can tell her just how much she has meant to me over all these years. 

Mrs. Bloomingdale, you have my eternal gratitude for teaching my the joy of motherhood.  Bless you and bless your family. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
What's up next: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Top Five TBR:
1. Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
2. The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family that Shaped Britain by Allan Massie
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser
5.  Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Top Ten

Hello readers!  Yes, it is me!  No, I have not died or fallen through some stones and landed in 1745 Scotland!  I have simply, well, gotten busy.  Very, very busy.  I just completed my first year of teaching.  If you have never completed year 1 of a teaching career, then you cannot fully comprehend the absolute insanity involved.  Many things fell by the wayside over the past year - this blog, weight loss plans, the cleanliness of my house...but now the summer is upon us, and it is time to pick myself up off the mat and get going again.  I love teaching, I love writing, and I love reading, and there is no good reason why all those things should not get to happen at the same time.

Other things are happening with this blog.  I have volunteered to write a blog (this one) for my local newspaper, The Morning Sun, so not only will my readership widen, but hopefully the accountability will keep me writing!  Yay! 

This past week I was swamped with attending workshops for professional development purposes.  One of the workshops I attended was devoted to motivating students to read.  It was a lovely morning all about why it's wonderful to read and how we can get kids to feel the same way.  One of the strategies discussed was making sure students knew what YOU loved to read.  There is something called the "psychological phenomenon of the teacher blessing the book."  That's a  fancy way of saying that if kids know you love a book, they are more likely to read it themselves.  We were encouraged to think of our own top ten favorite books list and display it in the classroom.  I thought doing this would be a great way to kick-start my blog again. 

Now, as all book lovers know, the top ten list can change day-to-day, if not hour-to-hour.  So please do not hold me to this list for life.  But for right now, for these purposes, I present to you my Top Ten Books list.*

*I did not include the Bible.  It deserves it's own list.  It's own shelf.  In it's own room.  It's another level of book all unto itself. 

1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I have already written about my love affair with GWTW.   This book has been my constant companion for almost 20 years now.  It's different each time I read it.  It is a true timeless classic.  It's not just about love, or slavery, or war.  It's about human nature, and relationships, about survival and selfishness, about who we are as a nation and who we are as humanity.   It has a heroine that you can't respect or even like but that you can't help but cheer on.  It is The Great American Novel. 

2. Rebecca by Daphne DeMurier

One of the first reviews I did on this blog was of Rebecca.  It's the first grown-up book I read.  It's deep mystery and shadowy romance keeps me coming back to re-read it all the time.  The fact that Maxim looks like Laurence Olivier doesn't hurt. 

3. At Home in Mitford and the rest of the Mitford series by Jan Karon

Sometimes you just need to curl up with coffee and a book that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Sometimes you need to go somewhere to sit in a diner in a small town and watch all the people you know go by.  Sometimes you need to meet a dog that can be controlled by Scripture and a rector who strives to be the best man he can be in a fallen world.  The Mitford series is like coming home for Christmas.  They are like a hug in a book.   It's a Christian series without being a "Christian series."  Well written, much beloved. 

4. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

This thin little book has chapters that are only a few pages long, but it takes forever to read because you have to set the book down after every paragraph and ponder the great truths you just read.  Everyone should read this book.  It is a great revelation into the nature of God and the nature of Man from one of the greatest apologists and theologians of the 20th century. 

5. Outlander and the rest of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

When you hand someone Outlander for the first time, you are handing them a lifestyle.  A lifestyle of sleepless nights, forgetting to eat, neglecting silly things like house cleaning and personal hygiene, and above all else, a sense of mourning and longing when you finish the last book in the series and realize it takes her years to write these monsters, so there's nothing to do but go back and start all over again while you wait.  The saga of Claire and Jamie has captured the imagination of millions around the world, and for good reason.  What is this series about?  I don't know - romance?  Religion?  Science fiction?  Naked Scotsmen?   Hard to say.  All I know is, everyone wants to travel time and distance with Claire and Jamie. 

6. The Sacred Romance by John Eldredge and Brent Curtis

Why are we here?  Why do we long to be part of something more?  Because we were created to be part of the Great Story of God.  We were made to be romanced by the King of Kings.  We were designed to be close to the Heart of God - the One who created the universe and everything in it.  It is a journey fraught with dangers, for there is an enemy that seeks to destroy our Story.  The Sacred Romance opens the eyes of those longing for more, knowing we were made for so much more than what we experience, and invites us to embark on the adventure we were all created for - the adventure of the Heart.  I wish I could get each and every person I know to read this book.  It changed my life.

7. Wild at Heart by John Eldredge and Captivating by Stasi Edlredge

Our culture has done much to destroy what it really means to be a man and a woman.  I'm not talking about the fight over sexual preference, I'm talking about being created in the image of God and what that really means for men and women.  Wild at Heart explores the adventure that men were meant for, and Captivating invites women to believe they truly are the beauty they long to be.  Both books give men and women permission to be who they are in Christ, which is the greatest freedom anyone can find.  

8. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

I read this when I was a sophomore in high school.  It may be the only book I like that year.  (That's the year we read Lord of the Flies and Of Mice and Men.  Yeeech.)  I love how Dickens right, even if he is long-winded.  (Hey, give the guy a break, he was getting paid by the word!)   This is a great historical classic tale of intrigue.  Makes me sad that I never actually got around to reading David Copperfield  my senior year.  Someday!

9. When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon K. Penman

Once upon a time, I was wandering through our local library, perusing titles, when I stumbled across this novel with a red cover and an intriguing title.  Years later, I am totally addicted to Sharon K. Penman and her works.  Her historical novels on medieval England birthed a love for a whole new genre for me.  When Christ and His Saints Slept is set in the time of King Stephen and Queen Matilda's battle for the throne of England, and its story proves that real life is often better than anything we could make up.  This is my favorite place and time in history to read about, and it all started with this book.

10. Number the Stars  by Lois Lowry

Someday I'll make a top ten list for young readers.  This book will be the top pick on that list, so there's your preview.  I first discovered Annemarie and her family sometime in grade school - maybe second grade - and I have loved her ever since.  This incredible book about the bravery of the Danish people during World War II in the face of the evil that threatened to take over the world should be required reading in every grade school.  I have taught it as a unit and plan to do so again.  This book opens the eyes of children to history and to the world around them.  One of the most impactful books on my young life.

So, that's the list for now!  As I mentioned earlier, I will be updating this thing on a more regular basis, so come back and check it out!  Should be fun!

What's up next: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Top Five TBR:
1. Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
2. The Royal Stuarts: A History of the Family that Shaped Britain by Allan Massie
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
4. The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser
5.  Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman