Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Why I Can't Finish "The Polar Express"

I love reading.  
I love reading to children.

Each year before we leave for Christmas vacation I read Chris Van Allsburg's  The Polar Express  to our oldest pre-schoolers.  This year I ask, "Am I reading this year?"  This is probably where I should tell you, The Polar Express is not an easy read for me.   I am an avid reader, and  a make-believe writer...  words are not my problem.  It is this a magical book.

If you are not familiar with this amazing story, here is an abbreviated version.   The narrator, an older man,  who as a child is transported by train,"The Polar Express" to the North Pole to meet Santa, on Christmas Eve.  Each year, after everyone has arrived and gathered in the center of town, Santa appears and selects one child to give the first gift of Christmas.  It is our storyteller who is chosen.  When given the chance to ask for anything, his simple request is one of the reindeer's bells.  Santa delighted by the humble request instructs a bell be cut from a harness and declares it to be the first gift of Christmas.  Upon reboarding the train the child discovers he has lost the precious bell through a hole in the pocket of his robe.  Heartbroken he returns home and bed in time for Christmas morning.  After opening all the presents his sister finds one small box hidden behind the Christmas tree with his name on it.  Inside he finds the lost bell with a note from Santa Claus.  He tells us when he rings the bell, only he and his sister hear it's ringing.  

"At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them.  Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound.  Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe".

You may think this is just a simple story about a boy, Santa and a lost gift.  Oh, my friends,  it is so much more; and I promised an explanation of why I cannot finish without becoming overcome with emotion.  You see, I still hear that bell.  

I always have. 

 I heard it at four when a neighbor told me there was no Santa, and my mother told me Santa was found in my heart.  I heard it at eight when we were told my mother was very sick.  I heard it 29 years later when my mother passed away just before Christmas.  

Yes, just like everyone else, I get stressed out.  I get caught up in the memories, comparisons, and hype of trying to make sure "this Christmas" is the best ever.  Then...  I open The Polar Express, and like our narrator...

I find what is lost, I remember Christmas is not a celebration of what is seen, and 
I hear that tinkling of the bell.

So, amid the stress, sadness, anger and transitions we all face at Christmas and throughout the year, there is no better way to end than with believing in the magic of Christmas, 
and the miracle birth of the Christ child.

May you find time to breathe, to listen and to celebrate.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Who Do I Blame... or Thank?

It is going to be a great weekend for reading!
After my whining about summer's refusal to leave, our days have become milder.  We can actually feel Autumn trying to push through.  To be honest we often go straight from summer to winter, and winter to summer; when the temps drop below 80 two days in a row, we don long sleeves and boots and celebrate our Autumn.

This morning it is overcast and a cool front will be passing through, possibly bringing in some much needed rain.  This my friends is 
the perfect formula for a reading weekend.  

I finished Before We Were Yours last night.  I may have a stack of unread books waiting to be opened and loved, but for some reason when I finish a book, I feel the need to replace it with something new, or new to me (I love previously loved books).    Being too late to run out to the bookstore I began searching for something to download.  This may be considered an addiction... 
 I will not commit.  

Perhaps it was finishing a book about the strong ties of family and what they bring to our lives long after they are gone, while looking for my weekend read I began thinking about who ignited my love of reading and lead me down this path of bibliophilia.  And, of course, the train I jumped on took me to my sweet mother.

I cannot remember waking up and not finding my mother sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a book.   While Daddy watched his favorite sports event or television show, mother sat next to him reading.  Sundays, after Church and dinner, we knew we could find Mother, weather permitting, sitting on the porch with her book and a glass of iced tea (hmmm, sound familiar?)  

Living in rural Louisiana we didn't have bookstores, instead she joined book clubs and visited the Library.   She was always willing to take me to the library, and yes, I had my own book club subscription before I could read.  I still remember the joy of getting  a box of books delivered to my front door each month.  She introduced me to some of my favorite characters... Nancy Drew, Francie Nolan, Scarlet O'hare and so many more.  Mother read almost everything I read, reviewed and edited my book reports and was quick to give her opinion on whether it was an appropriate read for someone my age.

I have almost lived half my life without my mother.  There aren't many days I don't think of her, miss her, especially when November, her birth month, draws near.   I wish we could still share and talk about books.  I know she would love to edit Living Life.

Did someone ignite your love of reading or was it a book that flipped the switch?


"Life is not unlike cinema.  Each scene has its own music, and the music is created for the scene, woven to it in ways we do not understand.  No matter how much me may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance with the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn't suit the moment"

Before We Were Yours begins, 1939,  on a shanty boat tied up on the edge of the Mississippi River, near Memphis, Tennessee.   Four children are left alone when their father is forced to take his wife to a nearby hospital.   With a storm coming the boat is boarded by strangers and the children are taken.  

Using the real life horrors of the Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage as a backdrop we follow the Foss children through neglect, abuse and separation.    Secrets are uncovered and lives changed when, two generations later, May Crandall mistakes Avery Stafford, daughter and granddaughter of a South Carolina Senator, for her sister.    After seeing a photograph in May's room, Avery begins investigating her family's connection to the orphanage and to May.  What she uncovers could possibly give her father's political foes ammunition to unseat him in the next election.  We are reminded, no matter how or how long we are separated from family we are tied together by some invisible thread.

Before We Were Yours, is an well researched enjoyable easy read.  Because this fictional story is told using memories of actual survivors of the Tennessee Children's Home Society, and the reign of the  notorious Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis adoption firm, I was pulled in and continued to turn the page.   It is unbelievable this could have continued for 20 years. 

It is a good read!

Happy reading.... 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Wednesday Book Talk (a day late)

I'm feeling a bit guilty after my last post.  
After my pitiful lamenting over Autumn's reluctant entrance, we awoke Wednesday morning to perfect pumpkin patch weather.   The temp stayed in the 60's and the clouds held it there for most of the morning.   Tomorrow it will begin to get warmer, by Saturday it is expected to hit around 91.


Sorry if my cheer sounds a little less than sincere.

No matter the temperature, it is always tolerable when there is a good book to be enjoyed.

"What I know now, my son:  Evil begets evil.  It grows.  It transmutes, so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home."

Tonight my book group will be discussing Yaa Gyasi's, debut novel, Homegoing.     This is generational story of the descendants of Maame, beginning with her two daughters coming of age in eighteenth century Ghana. Effia, a Fante, marries James Collins, a white man, Govenor of Cape Coast Castle.  Esi, daughter of an Asante leader, is captured, sold into slavery and awaits her destination in the dungeon of Cape Coast Castle.  Neither is aware of the other's existence.

The structure of Homegoing is a bit difficult to follow.  After a few chapters it is apparent each chapter tells the story of a different descendant, alternating between the two sister's family line.   The hand-held book has a table, making it easier in keeping up with the characters and who beget whom.   

Though this novel may be a little cumbersome to follow, the language and landscape make it well worth the time.   So often we finish a book and begin thinking about what we will read next.  Homegoing is a book to sit with and ponder the many layers peeled away while reading. 

There have been so many excellent books published the last few years.   I spent my summer frantically reading everything I could get my hands on, and I am still going.  (you can follow my reading frenzy on Instagram, livingbeeslife)   Yes, I read the "good, the bad and the ugly", and so much in-between.   I'll be sharing some of my favorites soon.   

Here are a couple of books I'm enjoying this week.

You know I want to know what you are reading, and what is on "to read" list.

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Where Are You Autumn?


I begin anticipating autumn sometime around midsummer.   Here in Arkansas, summers can be brutal, with temps staying at or above 100 degrees for a couple of weeks or more.  This past summer was mild.... bearable... dare I say, pleasant.   Autumn arrived, and mother nature decided to play a trick, enveloping us with heat and humidity.    I am ready for sweaters and boots , but this southern girl is still occasionally wearing linen.  I know, a well-raised southerner never wears linen after Labor Day... friends, I had to let that one go and walk away.  The meteorologists keep saying one more week... I'm beginning to think they are just messing with my emotions.

I know you have all decorated for Autumn, haven't you?  Though I usually can't wait to pick out my pumpkins,  switch out petunias for pansies and mums, I just can't think about it with temperatures in the high 80s.   I looked at pumpkins this weekend... I couldn't get excited.   This is my one lone little pumpkin.  Sad, isn't it?  I'll keep you posted on my Fall decorations.  Perhaps something will happen next weekend.

Playing in the Kitchen

One of my favorite things about Autumn is pulling out favorite recipes, and playing in the kitchen.   I usually begin with my pumpkin bread.  This weekend R. was craving pie, and I know apple is his favorite.   I turned down the air conditioner, starting peeling granny smiths  and turned out an apple pie.   It was pretty yummy.  The aroma of apples baking mixed with cinnamon and nutmeg wafting through 
the rooms...   divine.

Do you have a favorite autumn recipe?

What I'm Reading

These may have jumped into my hands recently.
Just sayin'...  I'm finding little bits of everything I love about this beautiful season between these pages.

You know this is my favorite time of the year, for so many reasons.  
I love the colors, the aromas, the renewed energy, and not least of all, the food.

What is your favorite thing about Fall?

Happy Autumn friends!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Stay Safe

To all my friends in Texas and Louisiana, please stay safe.   There are so many in this country holding you in their heart's and prayers.

We have always been a country, when disaster hits we put aside differences and work together.  I pray we can do this as our friends in harm's way this weekend work through the next few days, weeks
 and months.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 9, 2010

May 9, 2010

My first post.
My first disclaimer.

In that post so many years ago, there is no picture, only one paragraph.  There were no "followers" to read it.  There were no welcoming comments.

I recently listened to a HopeWriter's podcast on if and when the writer might need to "pivot",  change direction.  I've thought about it a lot lately, but then when I read my opening statement I'm still pretty fond of my beginning direction.  Today I might tweak it a bit... I've given up on perfection.

My passion is to find the beauty, the blessings, in the ordinary.... a kitchen experiment,  a good book, a beautiful flower, a garden visitor, a trip with my husband or an outing with my grandchildren.

We live in  a stress filled broken world.  It seems everyone is thirsty for something that unbeknownst to most of us is just under our nose.  My hope is through sharing my journey, my faith,  I give you something to make you smile, and maybe ponder.

Thank you for visiting.
Thank you for staying.

I write for me, but you keep me encouraged.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Thoughts... Rest with no guilt

"If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, 
illness becomes our Sabbath---our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, 
our accidents create Sabbath for us".
Wayne Muller,  Sabbath
(taken from  "Rhythms of Rest)

Spring Break...Resting and recharging...
no guilt!

This was my instagram post a week ago.   And.... this is pretty much how I spent my week. 
I have done nothing, and I have done everything.

When I left school Friday, the beginning of a week long break, I was exhausted.  I wasn't physically tired, my spirit was empty.  I left feeling like I had nothing left to give.  I had allowed too many things to weigh on my heart.   Some things are worthy of taking up space, the rest is clutter.   I allow the clutter to gather and empty me.

Worthy or not, very little can I control.  I don't know about you, but it is those things I cannot make better that wear down the heart... the soul... the spirit.  Everyone has something, some place, someone they go to when the well is empty.  Would it surprise you it was a book where I rested this week?

This was one of those finds placed in front of me so often, I had to pick it up to see what it was all about.  Yes... I do believe things are set in our path when we need them.

Shelly Miller shares her thoughts and experiences on implementing the practice of rest, Sabbath.  The older I get the more I realize I can't do it all.  About 70 + pages in I was slapped in the face with a question.  "Do you often help others, but rarely, if ever, admit you need help?  If your answer is yes, you may be deriving a false sense of self-worth."   I wrote to the side.... maybe.    Just days before stumbling into those words I had been ask by the one closest to my heart, "Why do you think you have to do everything yourself?"  Bam!

The jewel I take away from this book (I think each reader will take away what they are needing)  rest is not sitting down for a day, but learning to take a block of time to put away the work, the chores and do what fills you... curling up with a book, pulling weeds in the garden, writing, cooking a great meal, enjoying a glass of wine and conversation with a good friend.   I can implement rest on my terms and my schedule... and not feel guilty.

From the back of the book,
"Sabbath is a from God to be embraced, not a spiritual hoop to jump through..."

My book is filled with underlinings, asterisks and sticky tabs.   There is so much rich text between the covers, I will be referring back for encouragement often.   Learning to put the "have to" to the side for awhile will take some intentional practice.

And, on the other end of the spectrum.  I recently finished Trials of the Earth by Mary Mann Hamilton.  This was a book group read, though not my selection, I pushed for this one during our book selection.   When I began the book, the simplicity of the writing pulled me in, but caused me to wonder how my fellow readers would review it.

Trials of the Earth, is Mary Mann Hamilton's remarkable life's story.  The simplicity of the writing is what made this autobiography enjoyable.   Her story is one of heartbreak, one disaster after another, and true love.  Though she often speaks of needing rest there was never time.   Her life is spent raising and burying children, running a boardinghouse, living in a logging camps,  watching one dream after stolen, and never losing faith in a husband with a mysterious past.

I finished Trials of the Earth, after our book discussion (everyone seemed to enjoy it... the discussion was lively), and....
I loved, loved, loved this book.

Today is my last day of spring break and I am ready to return.
I hope you are enjoying a restful weekend doing what gives you rest.
I hope you will share where and how you find rest when you are depleted.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday Thoughts... A Radical Resolution

I hope your New Year is off to a good start.  

I love the New Year.  
It's a concrete moment when we can close the door to the past and begin afresh.  I love the chance to hit restart.   Though, I stopped making New Year's Resolutions many years ago, I've been thinking about these pledges made in anticipation of a new calendar year lately.

What if...
instead of making a one time obligatory resolution in January, what would happen if we woke each morning in prayer, asking to be the best we can be, do the best we can do, just for that one day.... not to be the best, to have the most, but be our best throughout our day.   This may be listening to someone's story... holding a hand of someone who is scared... bandaging a knee... smiling at a stranger... giving a hug.  And, sometimes our best is simply taking care of ourselves.

 Think about it.  
If we begin each morning prayerfully making our resolution, we can't fail.
And think...
                                                                      of the tidal wave. 

Wishing you the best New Year ever!