Monday, January 28, 2008

my very own fairy tale: a monday mission

I recently reread a favorite book of mine (well, listened to the audiobook...), The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. One of the things that always stands out to me when I read it is that at night, when there's nowhere to go, the characters sit by the fire and tell stories. Is it just me, or does this not happen as much these days? I love books, don't get me wrong, but there's something about telling stories, about remembering a story and then, with the telling, making it your own. I've been thinking about that the past few days, and thinking of stories I can tell to the Little Mister. Here's one that slowly formed itself in my head while I was laying in bed yesterday morning. I've read a lot of fairy tales, so if this closely resembles something you've heard before...sorry. I'm not meaning to copy anything. I guess I'm just...making it my own. :)

The Lady's Gift

Once upon a time, in a far away kingdom by the sea, there lived a King, a Queen, and a very small Princess. The Princess had everything she needed and some things she wanted, and she also had a sweet smile and a kind heart.

One day a Lady came to the palace and asked if she could visit with the King and Queen. They invited her to have dinner with them and their daughter. While they ate they talked, all but the little Princess who ate and listened and smiled at the Lady. When the Lady's water glass was empty she looked at the Princess and said, "Could you get me some more water?" The Princess smiled, trotted over to the side table where the water pitcher was kept, and refilled the Lady's glass.

The Lady smiled warmly at the King and Queen, and said to them, "Your daughter is full of kindness. Many princesses are spoiled and want others to do everything for them, but this little Princess didn't hesitate to do something for someone else."

Then the Lady said to the Princess, "Thank you for bringing me water to drink. Because of your kindness I'm going to give you a gift: One day, when you are truly in need of help, I will help you. Just say 'Lady, come to me' and I will be there. But you can only call on me one time, so be sure you think before you speak."

The Princess and her parents were wide-eyed with amazement and thanks, but before they could thank the Lady she smiled...and disappeared.

"Who was she, Papa?" the Princess asked with a voice full of wonder.

"I don't know," answered the king, "but she gave you a precious gift. Keep it in your mind always."

Some time later the Princess was alone in her room, playing with blocks by the fireplace. Suddenly the fire danced and the wood popped and sparks flew out of the fire and landed on the rug near the Princess. She jumped back as the rug began to burn, and she was full of fear. The Lady's gift, she thought, and opened her mouth to speak. But then she thought, But what if I need more help later? I should try to stop the fire myself first. She looked around the room, and when she saw a pitcher of water on a side table she remembered that water stopped fire. She threw the water onto the fire on the rug, the fire sizzled out, and the Princess was safe.

The Princess grew and grew, and when she was old enough she leaned to ride a horse. Her favorite thing was to ride in the forest behind the palace. One day she was riding alone when a snake slithered across the path in front of her horse. The horse reared up, startled, and the Princess fell off. Before she could get up, her horse ran away, and she was alone in the forest.

The Princess was afraid. When she fell she twisted some, and she didn't know which way to go to get back to the palace. The Lady's gift, she thought, and felt better. She opened her mouth to call on the Lady, but she closed it again. I have to try on my own first. I may need the gift later. She looked around, and saw the sunlight filtering through the trees. The sun! thought the Princess. She knew it set at the palace's front gates, so if she walked towards it she should get home. It would be a long walk, and she was sore from the fall, but she would be okay. And she still had the Lady's gift.

Years passed. The Princess grew and grew, married, and the King and Queen passed their crowns on to the Princess - now the Queen - and her husband. Their kingdom was peaceful, the fields grew plenty of crops, and the people were happy. Everyone said they loved the new King and Queen.

One day, while the King and Queen were having their dinner, a messenger ran into the dining room. "Your majesties! An army is coming! An army is coming!" He was tired from running, and he fell onto the floor.

The King looked at the Queen and said, "Is it time for the Lady's gift?"

The Queen chewed on her lower lip while she thought. It might be time for the Lady's gift. My kingdom is everything to me, the people depend on me to protect them. We don't want to fight a war, we are a peaceful people. I think it is time. The Queen opened her mouth to call on the Lady.

But then she closed it again.

She looked at the King and said, "All these years I've held onto the Lady's gift. Many times I almost used it, but each time I knew I had to try to solve the problem on my own first. So we are going to try to stop the army, see if we can talk to them to see what they want."

The King smiled, called for horses, and said to the Queen, "Let's go."

The King and Queen, along with many guards, rode out to meet the invading army. When they were close enough the Queen sent a messenger to their leader. When he came to meet them he had an angry face, but the Queen smiled kindly and said, "Why are you attacking our small kingdom? We are a peaceful people, and don't want to fight."

The leader glared and said, "We make many fine goods in our kingdom, but we are surrounded by other kingdoms and have no access to the sea, for trading. We are attacking your kingdom so we have land by the sea, to trade our goods with other kingdoms."

The Queen smiled again and said, "Is that what you want? You don't have to attack us, you are welcome to send your goods through our kingdom to the sea!"

The leader was surprised at this. He was from a kingdom that always took what they wanted, and here the Queen was offering what they wanted without a fight. The two kingdoms had many long talks, but in the end there was no fighting and everyone was happy.

More years passed. The Queen had children, and grandchildren, and even a few great-grandchildren. She had passed on her crown years before, but everyone still called her Queen. She was coming to the end of her life, and she still held the Lady's gift. One evening, while she was resting in her bed, she closed her eyes and whispered, "Lady, come to me."

When she opened her eyes the Lady stood before her, looking exactly the same as she had all those years before.

"You've grown up, little Princess!," the Lady said with a smile. "I am here at your service, how can I help you?"

The Queen looked at the Lady and said, "I'd like to talk with you, but my mouth is dry. Could you bring me a glass of water?"

The Lady smiled again and passed the Queen a glass of water. After the Queen finished every drop, she looked at the Lady and said, "Thank you for your gift. It was a treasure, and without it my kingdom would not be so happy and peaceful."

The Lady winked at the Queen and said, "But I only gave you a glass of water!"

And the Queen replied, "No, Lady. You gave me wisdom. My whole life, whenever there was trouble I thought of your gift. And each time, before I called on you, I made myself try to solve the problem myself. And each time, when I solved a problem, I gained wisdom. Thank you, dear Lady. You have blessed my whole kingdom."

The Lady smiled so brightly the room shone with her light. "Kindness and wisdom. Forever onward your kingdom will be blessed with kindness and wisdom." The light dimmed, the Queen blinked, and the Lady was gone.

And the kingdom went on and on, blessed by the Lady, happily ever after.

In my head this story wasn't so long! I guess if it were told instead of written it wouldn't seem so long. Oh well. :) This week's Monday Mission is to write a children's book or poem. What fun! Click over to Painted Maypole to read more stories...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

we went on a date!

It wasn't anything special, we just went to a movie. But it was nice to get out, just the two of us! I did, however, have to remind the Sergeant that when you take a girl out you should make an effort to, you know, talk to her. In response, he said, "hi." What a conversationalist I married. ;) I also had to remind him that when you're on a date in a movie theatre it's okay to hold hands. He gave me a look like I grew an extra head...but he held my hand. For a few minutes anyway. And he smiled at me too.

And the Little Mister had a good time upstairs with our neighbors. He was a good boy and ate his dinner (we've been having a hard time getting him to eat anything he can't feed himself..), and when we got there to pick him up he gave us big smiles. I missed him, but it's good to know he's okay with the neighbors for a little bit.

(In case you're wondering, we saw National Treasure: Book of Secrets. We both enjoyed it quite a bit. It wasn't as good as the original, but it was an excellent sequel, and there was obvious set-up for a third movie...which made me happy because I like the characters, and the history stuff is fun too. Plus...Nicolas Cage. Do I have to say more?)

Friday, January 25, 2008

friday five

Five Things That Make Me VERY HAPPY Today:
  1. My Brand-New Dryer!! Yes, I have a new dryer. About a week before I expected to. I take back all the mean things I said about DPW (which I found out means Department of Public Works). Not that I was wrong; they were supposed to come look at the dryer on Wednesday...but they didn't. I called DPW again and they said, "We don't have any record of that work order. It must have been deleted." So they came yesterday. But when they came they brought a brand-new dryer, so all is forgiven.
  2. The Little Mister's TWO teeth!! Yes, two. His first poked through on Sunday, his second poked through on Wednesday. I'm expecting six or seven more by February. ;)
  3. Sunshine. It's only 31 degrees, but the shining sun warms me all the way through.
  4. Another refreshing reading day. Yesterday I (mostly) stayed offline again; in the morning I read Gathering Blue (the sequel to The Giver) and in the afternoon, while I did stuff around the house, I started listening to an audiobook (The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. It's a Full Cast Audio recording, and it's wonderful. I've read the book several times, but it's fun to be read to. And the Little Mister seems to enjoy audiobooks too.).
  5. Knowing the Sergeant is home with his family. He's actually at work at the moment, but he's still in Germany. See, deployments are tricky. It's not like one day someone calls you on the phone and says, "You're being deployed on July 27" or whatever. There are always rumors ("in the fall" " not 'til next year" "earlier than expected") but you can't ever take rumors seriously. But sometimes you go to a meeting and someone important makes an announcement. It's never specific, but it gives you a time frame and it's more believable than a rumor. Last spring, when I was still pregnant (and quite ready to not be pregnant anymore!), there was a meeting like that. And they said, "November." And I cried, because that meant the Sergeant would miss the Little Mister's first Thanksgiving, his first Christmas, and his first birthday. But...things changed. Dates got pushed. I know he's going to have to leave at some point, but right now he's still here. We had Christmas and Thanksgiving as a family. And he'll be home later today to play with his little boy. And that makes me happy. :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Two things happened this morning: after the Little Mister got up at six to eat I actually fell asleep again (a very unusual occurrence)...and I had a very strange nightmare.

In my dream, I was just about to get into the bathtub when I noticed one of my teeth was loose. I touched it...and it fell out. I thought this was odd, so instead of getting into the tub I decided to go tell the Sergeant. When I walked through the bathroom door I wasn't in my apartment anymore, I was (fully clothed again) in the lobby of my high school, which had for some reason been turned into a shopping mall (the lobby, not the entire school; upstairs was still classrooms and such). This didn't seem strange to me, as dreams often make perfect sense while you're dreaming them.

Anyway, every time I tried to tell someone about my tooth falling out, another tooth fell out. Eventually I didn't have any teeth left in my mouth. Just before I woke up I was transported to a hospital, where they were going to surgically implant porcelain teeth into my mouth, a procedure I was told would result in excruciating pain every time I bit into something for at least five years. The surgeon was my high school chorus director.

Since I woke up I've been obsessively checking to make sure I still have all my teeth.

I hope I'm dreaming about teeth because of the Little Mister's first tooth and not because I've suddenly been granted a gift of prophecy.

* * * * * * * * *

Yesterday evening we spent with friends, friends we've had since June 6, 2007 (the Little Mister's birthday). The mom and her youngest daughter (they have three daughters and two sons!) were roommates with the Little Mister and me at the hospital. Little Glory has the same birthday as the Little Mister, but she is the "older woman" (she's about 16 hours older).

I'm blessed to have for a friend a mother of five who can reassure me when I feel like I don't know what I'm doing, among other things. It's also way fun to see how incredibly different two babies -- born on the same day, in the same hospital, delivered by the same doctor -- can be. Little Glory sits up on her own for long periods of time, where the Little Mister tips over after ten minutes or so. The Little Mister rolls and scoots and gets around while Little Glory just sits, perfectly content, and cries if she somehow ends up on her tummy. Little Glory is petite and the Little Mister is solid. He doesn't look much bigger, but the weight difference is astounding! Little Glory thrives on the attention from her brothers and sisters while the Little Mister is overwhelmed by all the attention and so many little hands.

The interaction between the two seven month olds was priceless. They were both fascinated to be able to see and touch someone their own size, on their own level. The Little Mister kept reaching out to touch Little Glory's face, and she didn't mind at all. Once when they were sitting on the floor together Little Glory decided she wanted the Little Mister's she reached out and took it right out of his mouth and put it right into hers. All the adults were laughing too hard to interfere. My poor Little Mister was just shocked that she would do that. So as soon as she got it into her mouth he grabbed it right back. I could almost hear him saying, "That's mine!" He was protective (possessive?) after that, keeping one hand on the paci at all times.

* * * * * * * * *

When we got up this morning I called DPW (I don't know what that stands for, but they're the maintenance people who come and fix things!) and, miracle of miracles, they're actually coming to look at the dryer tomorrow! This doesn't mean I'll be able to use my dryer any time soon, it just means that tomorrow I should be able to find out when I can use it again. If it has to be replaced it could be...well, I think last time it took more than a week to get a new one (our dryer broke in September and they brought us a new (used) one...but it took awhile). Hopefully I'll be able to do laundry in my own apartment sometime this month. :)

* * * * * * * * *

Awhile back (I'm a slacker, okay?) Jennifer at Faking It gave me an award! My very first!

She awarded it to me (among others), saying "... and Dragonfly ... for sharing themselves and for always having a kind word for others: you all make the world seem a bit smaller and more cozy." Aww, shucks!

And I'm going to pass it on to Karen, for writing beautifully, and with heart. (If you haven't yet, read her post called The Sand Dunes. It's haunting and scary and will tug at the heartstrings of any parent.)

* * * * * * * * *

And that's all. Now I'm going to wash the Little Mister's lunch off his face, change his clothes, and read him a book. :)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

a post about (almost) nothing

I am desperately trying to get through all the millions (okay, just over 100) of posts waiting for me on Google Reader. I'm doing more reading than commenting, and I'm sorry about that, but I just fell so behind...I'll be a better commenter once I get caught up! :) Plus...we've been quite busy at home (painting the living room, rearranging and organizing three separate shelving units, finding out our dryer is broken..) and I've been fighting an almost ear infection and an almost sinus infection, so I haven't exactly been inspired to write. Hopefully that'll change sometime soon, too.

In other news......we have a tooth!! It wasn't there when the Little Mister woke up at 8:30 (I am forever sticking my fingers in his mouth to check for a tooth) but it was poking through when I gave him Baby Orajel at ten. Yay!! He's still drooling and chewing on everything, and the tooth next to it (these are the bottom middle teeth) is just below the surface....but perhaps we'll be given a break from teething soon. For at least a few days. :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

a different kind of book

The past few days I haven't been reading many blogs, or commenting on the few I have read. Because during the time I usually read blogs I've been reading something else.

A book.


I feel a bit hypocritical. The Sergeant often pokes at me with comments about books being obsolete one day, that the printed page will be no more and all books will be read on computer screens. When he does that, of course to get a reaction out of me, I willingly oblige, and rant and rail about books needing to be held and felt and (in the case of "old" books) smelled. There needs to be the soft whisper of turning pages. I tell him my books will always stay on my shelves, except when I'm reading them, and that I will never give in even if no one else in the world has books.


I wanted to read Pride and Prejudice. Since I am in Germany, I can't just run to my neighborhood bookstore to find a copy. And although they probably have a copy at the post library, it is often difficult for me to get on post, especially since we only have one car and walking up and down and up and down the hills while pushing a 17+ pound baby in a stroller is not something I try to do very often. Plus...I was impatient. Saturday I remembered reading that many classics have been typed out and are available to read online, so I looked it up. And I found it easily. Even as I started to read I didn't want to do it. It felt wrong. I shut down the program several times and walked away from the computer, but I kept going back. Just one chapter of the story and I had to read more. *sigh*

I have to say, however much I enjoyed the book (I just finished in the last hour), that I stand my my convictions that it is much, much better to read a "real" book. I couldn't read as long because it's not so easy on the eyes, plus it's not as easy to get comfortable with a laptop as with a paperback. No curling up with a computer! And I've been reading a "real" book along with Pride and Prejudice. I just couldn't go so long without a book in my hands!


I want to read more Austen*.

And that means going back to my computer.

*Any suggestions on which to read next? I've been told Emma...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

the tooth shall set your free*: a (very late!) monday mission

Something lurks in the baby's mouth.

There is drool. There is pain. There is endless crying.

Even the mommy cries.

Will this vile fiend ever be found?

Find out as you watch horror fill the baby's house in Teething Terror!

This week's Monday Mission was to write a post in the form of a movie synopsis, although mine is more like a teaser trailer. :) And yes, it is Tuesday morning as I post this. Oh well.

*I'm not near clever enough to think up a title like this on my own. It' an old episode of M*A*S*H; when we put a dvd in last night and I saw it in the title list I knew what I had to do for a Monday Mission. :)

* * * * * * * * *

Thank you all for your kind words and encouragement as to being both Mommy and Wife. The Sergeant and I have talked about it, and both of us read all your comments, and in just two days things have improved. We both know this is normal, and we're not overly worried about it, but we are making an effort to pay more attention to each other. The deployment, of course, will not be easy, but we'll make it. We survived the last one (the Little Mister is actually a "deployment baby"; I found out I was pregnant about a month after the Sergeant got home!). And if I can get my neighbor to babysit we'll be having a date night very soon!! Thanks again...

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I am Mommy. One hundred percent of the time.

And that is okay. Amazing, in fact. I love being Mommy. When I was a little girl I dreamed of being the Mommy. During the years the Sergeant and I tried to get pregnant, I sobbed because I couldn't be the Mommy. When the Little Mister was born I cried tears of joy because I was Mommy at last.

But the past few weeks I've slowly started to realize something.

I'm forgetting how to be the Wife.

The Little Mister gets such focus from me, all the time. The only time the Sergeant and I have together is between the Little Mister's bedtime (around seven) and the Sergeant's bedtime (around nine on weeknights, he has pt very early in the morning). In that time we have dinner (which we don't even eat at the table, and I'm usually too tired to argue) and I collapse on the couch because I'm exhausted from a day of being Mommy. The tv is usually on, so conversation is limited, and when we do talk it is almost always about the baby. We can't go to bed at the same time, because the Little Mister usually gets a bottle around ten so I have to stay up to give it to him. And by the time I can finally crawl into bed the Sergeant is sound asleep, usually snoring.

I know I am neglecting my husband. To be fair, though, he's neglecting me too. I'm very focused on our baby, and he's overwhelmed by work, which has been quite crazy as of late. It isn't intentional, for either of us, it's just...hard. How do people do this?? I'm not at all trying to say my marriage is falling apart; that thought is ridiculous and the opposite of the truth. I just don't know (yet) how to balance being Mommy and being Wife. And with deployment looming (probably sometime in 2008) it feels very important to address this. Because if we can't find some sort of balance now, what will it be like when the Sergeant comes home to a two year old and his Mommy?

I'm not looking for sympathy. Just advice. Can anyone help? Because couples have babies all the time, and even though I hear all the time that it's hard it must be survivable. :)

Friday, January 11, 2008

i survived without my computer!

I read a book and my son ate a monkey.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. :) I read The Giver (yes, again). I wrote about it twice last there isn't much more to say. Except that there are several places where babies are a big part of the story; those parts have always been difficult, but yesterday was the first time I've read the book since the Little Mister was born, so they were especially tear-making.

I actually finished The Giver before 1:00pm (it's only 180 pages long), so I also read a magazine and kept going on the book I was already in the middle of (Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce). And the list of books I read with the Little Mister would take up several pages, but it included The Sneeches, one of his Christmas books. (I just love Dr. Seuss!)

What did you read for Day to Read? Head over to Soccer Mom in Denial to see what other people read!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

wordless wednesday: teething, reading, crying

* * * * * * * * *

Okay, so it's not completely wordless. Just wanted to remind you all that tomorrow is Day to Read, so declared by Soccer Mom in Denial. So tomorrow my computer will be off and I'll be spending time with my baby (when he's awake) and Jonas and The Giver (when the Little Mister sleeps). See you Friday!

Monday, January 7, 2008

thank you, with love: a monday mission

To my Little Mister:

Today was a rough day, for both of us. I was feeling a bit under the weather, and you were an unhappy boy. Teething isn't fun. I wanted to make it all better, but nothing I did seemed to work. It just hurt too much.

But at the end of the afternoon, when I almost started crying along with you, you gave me hope. I tickled your tummy - just an attempt to distract you - and you burst into joyful laughter. You laughed and laughed, even after I stopped tickling you. You were my happy boy again. I even called your crazy Grandma so she could hear you laughing. You took the phone out of my hands and talked to her with a big smile on your face.

You got fussy again later, but that's okay. I know it hurts right now. But you reminded me that teething doesn't last forever. I hope your teeth come soon. We both could use a break!

Thank you for the laughter. Moments like that will be with me forever.

I love you always,

* * * * * * * * *

This week's Monday Mission is to write a thank you letter. I was going to write something funny...but the day presented me with a perfect opportunity to thank my little boy. Check out the rest of the Monday Missions over at Painted Maypole!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

my sentimental side...

June 6, 2007
(after my water broke)
16+ hours later...

July 2007 - one month old

August 2007 - two months old

September 2007 - three months old

October 2007 - four months old

November 2007 - five months old

December 2007 - six months old

January 6, 2008 - seven months old

Friday, January 4, 2008

giving the giver

(If you didn't read yesterday's post, which is sort of the first half of this one, you can find it here.)

It was before the movie Pay it Forward (or before I saw it, at least), but that's what I did.

About a week after Sally finished reading The Giver to me, I went out to find a copy for myself. Even though I was a poor college student (aren't all college students poor?) I bought the hardcover, because I already knew it was a book I was going to read over and over.

I wanted to read it again, but not by myself. So...a few months later, I cornered my mom.

"I'm going to read you a story."

She was a bit baffled, but she agreed to listen. As Sally did for me, I told her nothing at all about the book. I just told her she had to trust me.

Mom was hooked just like I was. She had many of the same entranced/amazed/horrified reactions I did. She wouldn't let me stop; I spent an entire afternoon reading to her, reading until the end.

And she wanted more, too. And, in a way, I could give her more. The first companion book, Gathering Blue, had just been released. To clarify, Gathering Blue isn't really a sequel. It deals with similar themes in a different setting. I love it, though. At the beginning of the story the heroine, Kira, has just lost her mother and is left an orphan. Kira has a bad leg, and in her society she is considered worthless, and no one wants her around. But someone sees that Kira is special...

I honestly don't remember if I read Gathering Blue to Mom or if she read it herself (and I can't find the journals that hold the answer). But I remember talking with her afterward, comparing the two books, comparing Kira and Jonas, comparing the primitive society of Kira to the structured and controlled society of Jonas.

Fast forward about a year, to autumn 2001. A dear friend of mine, Mamma Lo*, was in the hospital (again, she had been in and out of the hospital since she had a big portion of her colon removed in the spring of 1998). I don't remember what the specific issue was that time, but it had something to do with her ulcerative colitis/chron's disease. I temporarily moved back to Mom and Dad's house so I could be near the hospital, and I spent every day with her for...well, it was at least a week. I think it was closer to two.

After a few days of boredom (it's just about always boring in a hospital; you can only play speed so many times...) I had an idea. I went to the bookstore and bought a copy guessed it...The Giver.

We read for four or five days; it was tough to find time when she wasn't sleeping or there weren't other visitors. Every day, when I arrived in her room, she told me how hard it was to not look ahead in the book (was it horribly mean of me to leave it in her room?). When we finished, with smiles and sighs, I handed the book to her. Inside I had written something to the effect of "Never forget how wonderful it is to be you."

I am struck by different things every time I read the book, but one thing that always stands out is the importance of being who you are instead of who other people tell you to be. And since that day in the hospital, I've taken to keeping at least one extra copy of The Giver around. Whenever I think a friend needs a pick-me-up, I give it to them. I always put a homemade book cover on it, and ask the recipient to refrain from reading the blurb on the back..."just trust me." Unless someone lied, no one has been disappointed.

I introduced Rose Daughter to The Giver too. And Gathering Blue. And when Messenger (the third book in the trilogy, which sort of ties the first two books together but is about a new hero, Matty) was released in 2004 I read it to her on a road trip from Michigan to Texas (A l-o-n-g trip, with a small child, a dog, and a cat in tow!).

And someday, when he's a bit older, I'll share these books with the Little Mister, too. Read out loud, of course.

* * * * * * * * *

Next Thursday, January 10, has been declared Day to Read by Soccer Mom in Denial. I think this is a fantastic idea. She says:

I'm asking folks, myself included, to take time one day in January to stop blogging - for the entire day or part of the day - and use the blogging time to read. A book. A magazine. A newspaper. ... mark Thursday, January 10, 2008 as Day to Read. Then on Friday, January 11th, write a bit about what you read.

I've been wanting to blog about this for awhile...but there were holidays and surgeries and teething any rate, here I am now, asking you to think about turning your computer off for a day. Or even part of a day. I know I for one spend quite a bit of time either blogging or reading blogs. So next Thursday I'm going to put my computer away. (I'm going to try to convince the Sergeant to turn his off too, to just hang out with us! Do you think it'll work??) And when the Little Mister is sleeping, or playing on his own, I'm going to read The Giver. (Are you shocked?) And when he's awake, we'll read Great Day for Up and The Belly Button Book and There's a Wocket in my Pocket, among others. :)

And, of course, Goodnight Moon before bed.

*We've known each other since sixth grade and been close friends since eighth. At some point in high school I started calling her Mamma. Who knows why we do the things we do in high school...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

the giver's magic

My senior year of college I lived in an apartment of six girls:
  • me: an English/writing/poetry major.
  • Group Meeting: a dance major/education major (I don't mean "dance education"..she teaches elementary school).
  • Belle: a theatre major, serious and fun all at the same time, and also a fantastic costume designer.
  • Sally: a musical theatre major, she went on to children's theatre and puppet theatre. She's amazing.
  • the Brit: an exchange student from (duh) England, an "American Studies" major who in all actuality majored in parties. I don't think I ever saw her open a book, but we all adored her.
  • and poor Russell*: a chemistry major.
Poor, poor Russell. Amazingly, she fit in with the rest of us perfectly, not at all like you'd expect. And let me tell you, living in an apartment of "artsy" folk was fantastic. There might be an impromptu poetry reading, or a game of "Stump Sally" (you say a word and she sings a song with that word in it. I think we only stumped her once or twice at most), or a mini dance recital. Someone was always performing. I loved every minute of it.

At any rate, on to the story I actually want to tell. :)

One evening I was feeling a bit under the weather (turns out it was the start of a respiratory infection, but again, I digress), and since Russell was studying in our room I curled up on one of the couches in the living room. Sally, bored, wandered into the living room to find something to do. When I saw her I said, in a pathetic, little girl voice, "I don't feel good. Tell me a story."

Sally, the biggest performer of the bunch, immediately launched into a "once upon a time" type tale of a girl who was sick and asked for a story. She pranced around the room, acting out every part, and I giggled and cheered accordingly, an appreciative audience. When she finished I applauded while she took a bow (actually several, one for each character). She flopped onto the other couch, and suddenly looked very thoughtful and serious for Sally. She said, "I could tell you a real story, if you'd like."

"Sure," I said.

"I'll be right back," Sally said, on her way to her room.

She came back with a well-loved, dog-eared copy of The Giver, by Lois Lowry. She showed it to me and asked, "Have you ever read it?" I shook my head no, and settled into my pillow-and-blanket nest. I was more that a bit excited; I hadn't been read to since I was a little girl.

She didn't tell me anything at all about the book, she just started reading.

It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened. No. Wrong word, Jonas thought. Frightened meant that deep, sickening feeling of something terrible about to happen. Frightened was the way he had felt a year ago when an unidentified aircraft had overflown the community twice. He had seen it both times. Squinting toward the sky, he had seen the sleek jet, almost a blur at its high speed, go past, and a second later heard the blast of sound that followed. Then one more time, a moment later, from the opposite direction, the same plane.

At first, he had been only fascinated. He had never seen aircraft so close, for it was against the rules for Pilots to fly over the community. Occasionally, when supplies were delivered by cargo planes to the landing field across the river, the children rode their bicycles to the riverbank and watched, intrigued, the unloading and then the takeoff directed to the west, always away from the community.

But the aircraft a year ago had been different. It was not a squat, fat-bellied cargo plane but a needle-nosed single-pilot jet. Jonas, looking around anxiously, had seen others -- adults as well as children -- stop what they were doing and wait, confused, for an explanation of the frightening event.

Lois Lowry
The Giver
page 1

I was caught up from the first. Just that one page told me that this was no ordinary community. The adults and children were frightened by an airplane. And December. Why was December frightening?

It was pure magic.

And it wasn't just the story, which was fascinating in itself. The magic was in the telling of the story, the reading aloud. Sally, a born performer, was a wonderful reader. I never had to wonder which character was speaking; I could always tell, just from her voice. She didn't do silly voices, speaking high and squeaky for Lily and low and gravelly for the Giver, but the subtle changes in her tone and inflection were spot on. (My husband says I read the same way. I don't know that I do as well as Sally, but I like to think I learned it from her.)

She read, and read, and read, for several hours. She stopped only a few times, once to get a big cup of ice water, once to refill it...and once for an inevitable break from drinking all that water. ;) She never complained. She told me she'd read the book over and over, but even so both of us were completely immersed in the story. And it was obvious she enjoyed reading out loud.

I won't tell you anything about the book, in case you haven't read it. But it is full of surprises. I couldn't count the number of times I gasped in shock or sadness or delight. There's one moment in particular (having to do with sight, for those who know the story) that left me dumbfounded. I almost cried for the people in this supposedly perfect community.

After about 3/4 of the book I was getting tired and her voice was getting raspy. Also, it was nearing midnight, and in my state I needed sleep. Neither of us wanted to stop, but it was necessary.

Sally tossed the book to me. "Here," she said. "You can finish later."

I'm fairly certain the look I gave her was akin to the look I would give a person who suddenly sprouted two extra heads with purple polka-dotted hair. "No way! You have to finish!" Then, realizing she might have other things to do with her life, I added, "I mean, if you want to. Whenever you have time."

She looked flattered, smiled, and said, "All right. I'm not doing anything tomorrow night..."

Relieved, and realizing it sounded like we were making a date, I laughed. "Perfect."

The next night we finished the book. To be completely honest, I was a bit sad to reach the end, and not just because I wanted the story to go on (which I did). It was wonderful to be read to again. I've always loved to read, but to have someone else read to me was -- I know I've overused this word already, but -- magical.

I've read the book many, many times since then. Every time I read it I hear Sally's voice in my head.

This concludes the story of Sally (although there are other Sally stories, and I might tell them someday!)...but there is more to the story of me and The Giver. This post is already pretty long, though, so I think I'll finish tomorrow. :)

*These are all nicknames. And yes, "Group Meeting" was an actual nickname (which puzzled more than a few people). As was Russell. My nickname was also Russell...but that's another story. And the Brit; that's what we called her. That's how she introduced herself! She's quite a hoot.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008