German Lit Month Has Arrived

I remember the books I’ve read for the challenges sponsored by fellow bibliophiles with great fondness. I would not have found The Virginian by Owen Wister, had it not been for a Western Challenge hosted by James. I would not have read Kafka On The Shore had I not hosted the first Japanese Lit Challenge. I would not have read Skylight by Jose Saramago if not for Stu and Richard‘s Spanish Lit Month, nor Therese Raquin without Thyme for Tea‘s event, Paris in July. And, I would not have read Buddenbrooks had I not picked it up for German Lit Month which comes around each November.

While I have several books on my night stand for Richard’s Argentinean Literature of Doom event, namely Buenos Aires Noire recently sent to me from Akashic Books, I am sorely tempted to read Effi Briest for German Lit Month, which came wholeheartedly recommended by Tom the last time November rolled around. (Or, was it the year before?)

imageAssuming that I can come through conferences unscathed, meaning not depleted of every ounce of energy remaining since Halloween’s tricks and treats, that is the book I will embark upon, with Peirene Press’ Dance by The Canal closely following.

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The review site can be found here.)

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Readathon Ready

The house is clean. The apples have been picked. The stack of books lie in wait. Tomorrow is Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, a blogging event I took part of at its inception, now faithfully carried on by Andi and others.

Included in the stack above, from the bottom up, are:

Doorways of Paris by Raquel Puig

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Behind the Eyes We Meet by Melissa Verreault

Dance By The Canal by Kerstin Hensel

Melville, a novel by Jean Giono

The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Sweet Potato by Kim Tongin

Buenos Aires Noir edited by Ernesto Mallo

Not once have I read for the full twenty-four hours, and I’m sure I won’t tomorrow. For one thing, it is my husband’s birthday, and my parents are coming to help us celebrate. So at some point in the day I will need to make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.

But, all the time before, and all the time after, I will be exacerbating the pain in my tailbone by reading as much as I possibly can. When I must lie down, it will be with the audio version of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, to which I am listening as I drive to school each day. It is remarkable.

And you? How will you be spending the weekend?

Anticipating Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Coming Soon

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I posted this photograph of a most spectacular coffee, enjoyed with my mother in Toronto, in response to #30daysofreadathon on Instagram. Not because it’s banner worthy, such as one I made several years ago, but because coffee will be required to read for 24 hours on October 21.

That’s my husband’s birthday, of course. There will be no 24 hours of reading for me, because my attention will be required elsewhere. In consuming birthday cake, for example, or walking through autumnal leaves with him and our dog, Humphrey. But, when he no longer needs me by his side, for that day at least, I will turn to such a stack of books as I have been hoarding since school began August 28.

The stack is yet to be fully revealed. For now, some of the titles include:

Should you wish to partake in this reading extravaganza, for any amount of time you are able, the sign-ups are here. It has been a time honored event for ten years, one I haven’t missed…ever.

Created to Create 2 (Finished booklet)

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As you may have seen on Facebook or Instagram, I have become so enamored with the devotional kits from Illustrated Faith. Your may use them to journal directly in a Bible, or may assemble the cards into a little booklet as I have done with Persevere and Created to Create 2.

I do not feel terribly creative, despite my affection for origami and other artistic endeavors such as photography or watercolors, but that is not the point. The point is that because we are created by a creative God, and created in His image, then we are creative, too.

The little booklet I assembled is held with a keychain which one of my students brought me as an end of the year gift last year from Singapore. “Ah ha!” I thought. “Teaching is a gift. Creating relationships is a form of creating.”

Can you think of creative gifts you have? Do you care to tell us about them in the comments? I’d love to know how you expand on this theme.

My favorite Illustrated Faith page so far, with a favorite verse

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“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; struck down but not destroyed…”

2 Corinthians 4:7-8

(As for the page itself, I find myself preferring a simple entry rather than a complicated one, a watercolor entry vs. slathered on acrylic; one word rather than many.)

Richard’s Literature of Doom; a spark of hope for my dying interest

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Behold the left corner of one of my shelves of Russian literature. It carries on, of course, into my shelves, nook and kindle. I have a deep and abiding affection for those Russians.

So Richard’s announcement of the Argentinian Literature of Doom, also including French and Russian authors, appeals to me intensely. It is just what I need after finishing what I consider to be the three best of the Man Booker list and dragging myself through the final remaining titles. More on that later.

For this particular event, the participants are asked to read one fiction and one nonfiction work of an Argentinian, French or Russian author. I believe there is something to do with being “allowed” to watch a film in those categories, as well. Richard will link up every month to those reviews.

As for me, I will finish the reread of Anna Karenina I began before the Man Booker long list was revealed. And surely I could fit in Volume 1 of The Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn, something I’ve long been meaning to read.

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I may even have something Argentinian in the wings.

The Timer Has Begun

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I used to go to Institute Day and wonder where all my friends had gone. I would joke to my team, most of whom could be my daughters in terms of age, “They’re either dead or retired.”

And now that’s me.

Not dead, of course. But looking retirement square in the face.

“Happy last First Day!” my old student, turned student teacher, turned teacher himself, said. “Happy last First Day!” resounded through the halls on Thursday when the children first entered the building.

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My friends and colleagues are happy for me. Certainly, I am happy as well. I have an air-conditioned room for the first time in 34 years. More importantly, I have a classroom of beautiful children. They are polite and sweet and smart; one of the girls asked me (asked me!) if she could turn over the hour glass above, as I bought one for my room, too.

But, I see the time running out as it has a way of doing. Time, so elusive. Time, so quick. A time for everything.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh,;
a time to mourn and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek and a time to lose;
a time to keep and a time to cast away;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

This year I will be making many memories in my classroom.

One last time.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King (about the story this time)

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Roland, the gunslinger, isn’t any one I can admire right now, even though he is clearly the hero.

He isn’t a hero as I would define one: honest, fearless, and loyal.

He wanders through the dry desert, following the tracks of the man in black, leaving  destruction in his wake. Allie, with whom he has slept (for information) is dead; the town, Tull, is destroyed behind him.

He meets a boy, a brave boy named Jake, who has somehow withstood the heat, the lack of food and water. They go together, the boy clearly admiring the gunslinger and asking for stories from his youth. How, for example, did Roland become a man?

The answer is less than pleasant. The gunslinger used a trick against his teacher, choosing a weapon which was perfectly admissible and yet most difficult to take a position against. The battle is bloody, and I can tell this is just the beginning of many such battles.

For there are hints that Roland will exchange the boy, use him as “a poker chip” which Jake himself knows, when next they meet the man in black.

It ain’t no Girl Scout camp, this journey to the Tower. The fact that Roland came from New Canaan ought to be enough to tell you that, for as anyone knows, Canaan was not a land of the noble or good. No matter what Stephen King may tell you.

It will be interesting to see where this series takes us, if I continue in reading all 7 books. After I get back to the Man Booker list, of course.

“Flip Through” of my Midori for July

I may have told you, through my blogging years, how much meaning an analogue life holds for me. Which is an interesting thing to note on a digital format. There is so much pleasure in looking back over one’s day, or week, or month, or years(s). Better than a scrapbook is the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, for it holds a calendar, a journal and photographs; a paper trail of that which is my life.

So why tell you that here? Because as summer draws to a close, and fall is showing up ever increasingly in the darker morning, the bits of red edging the leaves, the ads for Back To School, I suggest this system for you.

My Midori holds my “calendar” as pictured above, but also an insert for the Bible studies I do each day, as well as a commonplace book for the reading I do.

I can’t imagine how I managed life without it.

“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning…”

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I have put up a diaphanous net in my room. It is sheer, and sways slightly in whatever breeze comes our way, and I am certain the fire department will make me take it down when they come to inspect the school in October. Maybe I’ll just nod my head politely and ignore the directives, as I am prone to do at this stage of my career.

I am facing my last year of teaching, and it makes me happy-sad. Mostly, right now, it is making me sad.

My colleagues exclaim in wonder how it is possible that I am able to retire at the end of the year; my husband told me to say, “I know! These past thirty-five years went by so quickly!” Which they did.

I was offered a job with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools in West Germany fresh out of college. The principal said, “Let me see you teach,” and sat in the back of a fifth grade classroom where I was subbing all afternoon. When she called me into her office at 4:00 she told me I was hired, and I haven’t stopped teaching since.

Not when my son was born in 1991, nor when his father died in 1997. Not when I had surgeries on my feet or surgeries in my mouth. Fortunately, the areas in between have held up much better.

Teaching is what I know; teaching has been my life. Now I am looking at the end of this beautiful career spent with beautiful children. It is so strange to know that this coming class is the last new class I’ll ever greet.

In 1984, I was handed a set of manuals, the academic standards, and an empty classroom. Now, we have Smartboards and document cameras and Chromebooks and Google classroom, and I am the only one who still teaches cursive along with all the technology.

I teach origami, too, and the love of literature, and the joy of laughter.

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I think that the diaphanous net is symbolic of so many things: the years fluttering by; the old ways of pedagogy; time. What can I hold in my hand? Like Wilbur who watched Charlotte’s children fly away on their gossamer strings, I am watching what I have done, whom I have taught, all the things that I have been, sway in the breeze. It is the way of the world.

It is time for me to learn new things.

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Ecclesiastes 7:8 ESV