“Whatever you are, be a good one.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

 The journey is more important than the inn

Photograph by L. Liwag

“What you are comes to you.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.” ~ Unknown English Professor, Ohio University

Well, eldest son did it. He walked up there and took his diploma, and the school Superintendent pronounced them graduates. The ceremony was a fast-paced deal that lasted only an hour and a half, as compared to my daughter’s graduation which seemed to go on and on and on. The venue was good too, open, roomy, not squooshed up against the person you are sitting against, so I had no claustrophobia problems.

Aside from immediate family, his cousin who is graduating tomorrow came, as did his friends since childhood, Gordon and Tailor. I made Eamonn stand for pictures with everyone, and he was actually pretty gracious about it.

The only downside was when I was trying to move up a row (because of course every seat in the row that I selected was being saved), and I scraped my thigh on the arm of the end seat. I have a nice, big black and blue spot on my leg, but I don’t plan to enter any hot legs contests anytime soon.

As far as people being overly rowdy and loud, it wasn’t too bad. The school’s principal had already made a few announcements prior to the start of the ceremony in which she said that if the noise became too loud, she would step back and stop handing out diplomas, and she kept her word. Twice she stopped the procession until the crowd calmed down.

It’s such a shame that she had to make the announcement in the first place, and that she had to follow through with it, in the second place.

“What is the most important thing one learns in school? Self-esteem, support, and friendship.” ~ Terry Tempest Williams

The Road Less TraveledI always like to choose a fitting quote to go into almost every card that I give, and I found a really good one on Goodreads. The quote is by writer Neil Gaiman:

“I’ve been making a list of all of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who is dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”

The reason that I like this quote so much is because it is essentially true. What do we take away from high school? How to conjugate a verb in French? How to find the square root of an isosceles triangle? What the Monroe Doctrine was?

If you remember this kind of information, you probably do really well at Trivial Pursuit and/or you have gone on to become a teacher. But what is my son taking away from high school?

A group of friends who have stood by him during the worst times of his life (so far) and the best times of his life (again, so far). Memories of some really great times that he would prefer his mother never finds out about, and more than a few regrets that he didn’t follow through on a few things (track, football).

He is also taking with him the following lessons:

  • Mom knows if you are lying if you giggle too much
  • It’s hard to explain why you were absent from a particular class if your mom dropped you off at school that morning.
  • The school is serious when they say they will confiscate cell phones
  • You cannot make the team if you never go to practice
  • Yes, you have a deceptively charming smile, but that smile only works with some teachers, probably females
  • Mom was right when she told you that you really would survive the second breakup with your first serious love
  • Girls do talk to each other, so it’s probably not a good idea to date friends no matter how hot they are
  • Asking your mom to type your paper that is due the next day at 9 the evening before does not put her in a good mood
  • It takes money to put gas in the Trooper, and it’s probably a good idea to check the oil sometimes
  • Your mother knows when you have been smoking in her car, even if you leave the windows down all night

“High school: Oh man. This is where boys and girls go from tweens to teens and become complicated and cruel. Girls play sick mind games; boys try to pull each other’s penises off and throw them in the bushes.” ~ Eugene Mirman

Zen leapOkay, those are the fluffy lessons, so to speak. But he also learned some really hard lessons, like how much it hurts when your first love breaks your heart. And how hard it is to keep your word if you never meant it in the first place. Or how someone who claims to be a friend can stab you in the back without breaking a sweat. And how your parents can become real hardasses over things like curfews, and grades, and conduct notices, even though you don’t really understand what the big deal is.

I think that it is profoundly unfair that you first discover love at a time when you least know yourself in life. How is a teenager supposed to cope with all of the drama and accusations and breaking up one day only to make up the next day? How are they supposed to handle all of this angst and study for calculus too?

Frankly, when I put things in perspective, it’s no wonder that 11th grade becomes the make or break year for so many people. The pressure from their teachers is incredible because they are pushing students to think about college, and they are trying to cram as much information as possible into a brain that is essentially a sponge: and while a sponge can absorb a great deal, it also lets a whole lot seep out.

The pressure from worried parents intensifies in their junior year because there is college to think about, and if not that, then how have they prepared for a trade? And aren’t they spending too much time on the phone, and shouldn’t there be limits on the computer?

And the poor teenager is thinking “God, I wish that I could talk on the phone in peace, and I really don’t think that chemistry is going to make or break my career, and I’m responsible enough to stay out until midnight on a school night.”

And then comes the summer before senior year, and everything changes. By October, your senior is already thinking about graduation and getting an apartment, and you are wondering where all of the years went and praying that nothing goes horribly wrong in the next seven months.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

Eamonn made us tremendously proud today, but I have to admit that there were times when I wasn’t sure that he would make it. There were moments when it seemed that there was nothing more than Pooh fluff in his brain, and there were many nights when I would get anxious about his state of mind and just how much he was in control of himself when he wasn’t under guard at home.

But I really believe that the senior year is more for parents than it is for their teenagers. It’s nine months in which you can begin to accept the fact that you son or daughter isn’t 7 any more, that you are not the most important part of their world, and that they are thinking about life without you.

Starry skiesIt’s a hard reality to face, and if you are anything like me, you don’t accept it gracefully. Even as your man-child or woman-child is thinking of new paths of discovery and a brand new chapter in life, you are reconciling yourself to fate and the need to close a chapter that has ended much too soon.

I hope that Eamonn figures out what his great adventure is going to be. I hope that he never stops dreaming, and trying, and loving, and living. I wish him star-filled skies at night, and red-orange sunrises that will take his breath away. I want for him all of those things that are possible, and even some that may not seem possible. I wish him joy, and I wish him love, but most of all, I wish him a life that is filled with hope.

Hope for better tomorrows, a world more at peace, people who are more in tune with their environment, friends who will be there at 3 o’clock in the morning if he needs them, and the immutable knowledge that home is always waiting.

And in the words of the incomparable Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.”

More later. Peace be with you and yours.

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Lola’s Terrible, Horrible, Bad Two Weeks in June (okay, not so poetic)

 

Take On Edvard Munch's Scream

My Take on Munch’s Scream

Mea Culpa

I’ve been terrible about posting lately. Perhaps if I give you a short glimpse into my life, you might understand:

In a desperate attempt to help Brett complete all of the back work that he missed on all of those days that he was absent, I have been working like a fiend, collecting data, typing up poem circles from his drafts, ya da ya da ya da.

Ask me a question about Khrushchev. I’ll bet that I can answer it. That is unless I immediately socked all of that stuff away in the recycle bin of my brain.

His Khrushchev presentation (in character) is on Wednesday, and he is sweating it big time. Once we get past that major hurdle, he has his English final next Wednesday, for which he will have to dissect a poem from one of the 15 poems that he has been working on in the poem circles. No advanced warning on the poem.

Can I just tell you how nervous public speaking makes him? He really needs things to be added to his anxiety right now.

The good news is that school is almost out. Eamonn’s graduation is June 15 (still haven’t gotten his invitation order in the mail, nothing last minute there). My niece is also graduating. So much going on.

“Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful” ~ Old Pantene commercial featuring the very beautiful Kelly LeBrock (and of course, women hated her)

I’m going to take my coffee and go outside for a bit and soak up some sun in an attempt to restore my vitamin deficiency. Then I’m going to come inside and reread Macbeth, so that we can get to work on his Socratic method analysis of the play. My life, so full. I know that you’re jealous.

Speaking of jealousy, last night I dreamed that I was a secret agent trying to foil a plot to kill the Queen of England. After I successfully completed that mission, I got back on the boat (which boat? I don’t know. It’s a dream) and my cabin mate was . . . James Bond (as played by the younger Pierce Brosnan). Always was a sucker for an Irish accent.

That’s all for now. Just wanted to let everyone know that yes, I am still alive, and no, I’m not posting regularly at the moment, but hope to be soon. Also, a big welcome to my new readers that have clicked over from Goodreads. Thanks so much for loving me for the book nerd that I am.

I’ll leave you with this. I know that it’s bleepin old, but it just cracks me up every time that I see it—still.

 

More later, soon. Promise. Peace.

“Young cat, if you keep your eyes open enough, oh, the stuff you would learn! The most wonderful stuff!” ~ I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, by Dr. Seuss

Dr Seuss Green Eggs and Ham

Green Eggs and Ham: My Favorite Dr. Seuss Book

 

“Think left and think right and think low and think high.”

“Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!” ~  Oh, The Thinks You Can Think, by Dr. Seuss

One of my regular readers recommended a site that she thought I might find interesting. It’s called Goodreads, and it is a social network for readers. With over 1.2 million members, the site provides a way for members to create their virtual bookshelves.

Dr Seuss Oh The Thinks You Can ThinkAt first glance, I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to expend the time or energy on yet another social network. Within three minutes, I was hooked. I have spent the last two days on and off the site. My current pain level, which is hovering between 7 and 8 (out of 10), is making it pretty nigh impossible for me to sit for extended periods (another reason for the laxity in my postings).

Goodreads has proven to be a wonderful balm to my brain. Essentially, it works like this: The site contains the information on over 49 million books (yes, that’s million). By information, I mean everything: the publishing date, the ISBN, information n the publisher, author, genre, number of pages, etc.

Members of the site can search by genre or by lists that are generated by site members. For example, I jumped on lists called “The Book Was Better Than The Movie,” “Books You Must Read Before You Die,” “Best Books Ever,” “Best Science Fiction,” and many, many more. Then I did some searching by genre: classics, biography, crime. As you read through the lists, you rate books that you have read, which automatically adds the books to your personal shelf. You can also highlight books that you want to put on your “to read” list, as well as books that you are in the midst of reading.

If for some reason Goodreads does not contain a book that you have read or in which you are interested, you can add a book. You need to know as much about the book as possible, as in, have it next to  you when you are adding it so that you can consult the publication information page.

I have to admit, though, a few books that I thought that I wouldn’t find were actually already listed.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, by Dr. Seuss

Dr Seuss I Can Read With My Eyes ShutOne thing that I did not do a lot of was to create reviews of the books that I added to my shelf. At first, I added a few short reviews here and there, but then I decided that I wanted to save the reviewing until after I had completed my first pass at compiling a semi-complete list. That way, I can spend some time on the reviews and add thoughtful comments.

The reviews are intended to help other members in evaluating whether or not they might want to read a book. Since I read book reviews all of the time, I think that this is a great idea. Of course, these reviews are not intended to be comprehensive. Instead, they should be on the short side, something quick and dirty, so to speak.

Another aspect of the site that I haven’t checked out yet is the whole idea of “friends.” I’m not sure how you make them, if you have to make them, if you appear hostile if you don’t actively search for them. Whatever. But apparently, the whole idea of creating a virtual bookshelf is so that your friends can see what you are reading, and check out what you have to say about it. I suppose I’ll get to that sooner or later, as well.

“It’s high time you were shown That you really don’t know All there is to be known.” ~ On Beyond Zebra, by Dr. Seuss

Dr Seuss On Beyond ZebraI have a feeling that I am going to like this site. It’s somewhat of a bibliophile’s dream site: pictures of books, lists and lists of books, opinions of books—everything but the book itself.

Just in my few short visits, I have already added 653 books. And that doesn’t really reflect all of the classics that I haven’t gone through, or biographies, or poetry, or . . .

I checked out all of the site information (posted at the bottom of the page. Goodreads offers advertising opportunities for authors who want to promote their book(s), allows giveaways, etc. There is also a site blog that is maintained by the individuals who work on the site. In addition, Goodreads posts job openings for their site for anyone who might be interested and qualified. And of course, there is a method for contacting the site with questions or comments.

“I’m sorry to say so but, sadly it’s true that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you.” ~ Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

I just wanted to add one of my little bits of personal history here as it directly bears on why I think that Goodreads is such a great find:

Dr Seuss Oh The Places Youll GoWhen I left my job at the Museum (left is such a nice word: laid off because of severe budget cuts is more accurate), I decided to spend more time on my freelance writing and editing. A very good friend of mine at the time decided to expand his business empire (loose use of word) by opening a men’s clothing store. The idea was that I would work for him by managing the store, and he would provide an office in which I could work on my writing. The space he provided was very roomy, and it contained several built-in bookshelves.

I nested immediately, as I am prone to do in any space that I occupy. Part of that nesting included bringing in my writer’s reference books, and since I had so many shelves, I also brought in my poetry collection. In all, I had about 150 books in my office.

Now I need to stop here to insert a very important fact: the building in which the store was located was very old. The heater was this huge monstrosity that was mounted to the ceiling. I was always in fear that the heating unit would fall on me because it never looked very sturdy.

The usual routine was that I would open the store every day, and around 2 in the afternoon, after his restaurant’s lunch rush, the owner would come by to check on things. One afternoon, I was sitting in my office space, and the owner was on the sales floor. The two were only divided by a three-quarter wall that did not go to the ceiling. I heard my friend calling my name, but I was very engrossed in something, so I did not respond immediately. Then he called me again, and I detected a not of panic in his voice.

“The store is on fire,” he said. I just stood there frozen. Finally, he yelled at me that we had to get out. I quickly grabbed the pictures of my family from my desk, and one framed photograph that was very old. I took a second to look around, realizing that everything on those shelves was about to be obliterated.

My friend grabbed my arm and hustled me out the front door. We got outside, and someone called the fire department. At this point, I think that I must have been in shock because I grabbed the handle to the front door and opened it. All I saw was black smoke. One of the firefighters later told me that I could have caused a flashpoint and an explosion if I had let enough oxygen into the room.

“So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a great balancing act.” ~ Oh The Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss

Dr Seuss Cat in the HatThey were able to stop the fire without much destruction to the building, which made the other tenants pretty happy. Once we were let back inside, the fire investigator was standing under the heating unit shaking his head. It was pretty obvious what had started the fire: the coil that attached the heater to the electrical source was old and bent, and as a result, it had sparked, and since the store was full of lots of burnable material, that is, clothes, it didn’t take long for the spark to turn into a fire.

After the firefighters had declared it safe to go back into the building, I walked through the piles of wet clothes on the showroom floor towards the door to my office. I had remembered to close it when I walked out. I admit that I was completely paralyzed by the image of what might lay beyond that closed door. Amazingly, none of my books or pictures had burned, but everything was severely smoke damaged.

In the end, many of my books were able to be saved because I used my homeowner’s policy to cover my personal damage. The insurance company sent someone out to my house to evaluate the status of my belongings. Fortunately, there was a process that the cleaning company used whereby they wiped every single page of a book with some kind of wipe that removed the smoke smell and soot from the pages.

The other good thing was that I had kept an inventory of all of the books that I had taken to the office, so I was able to reconcile my inventory with what made it out of the burned store.

“Oh the things you can find if you don’t stay behind.” ~ On Beyond Zebra, by Dr. Seuss

Dr Seuss One Fish Two FishI mention all of this for two reasons: First, I have never updated my book inventory. I have plans to do so once we finally finish the remodeling of the house, and I have the built-in bookcases that Corey promised me.

Second, and this is very significant, I can now use Goodreads to create an online inventory of all of my books. I cannot recall every book that I own from memory, but by scanning the site’s inventory, I will be able to create a very good online inventory.

How will it be accurate, you ask? Well, I may have mentioned that I’m a bibliophile, and I am also a hoarder of a few things, one of them being books. I buy every book that I read, and I never give away books unless I absolutely hated them. So just about every book on my virtual bookshelf will be a book that I have in my possession, even though in possession at the moment means in storage containers.

“If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.” ~ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, by Dr. Seuss

So, if you love books as much as I do, be sure to check out Goodreads. You can click on the link in the paragraph above. And if you decide to join, don’t forget to friend me (friend as a verb? appalling), or whatever it is you do to let someone know that you visited.

Seriously though, it’s a great way to spend some time immersed in book titles long forgotten.

See you around the bookshelves.

You’ll get mixed up of course, as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.

So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
And remember that Life’s a great balancing act.

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

~ From Oh, The Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss

More later. Peace.