Sunday, November 29, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Adventures of Uncle Wiggily, Howard Garis w/illustrations by Louis Wisa



5 stars
Here is a classic in children's stories and if you are looking for a fun collection to put under the Christmas tree this year you will not be disappointed with this book. These tales are meant to be read aloud and are perfect reading before bed (each tale is about four pages). Garis writes to both the adult and child and the accompanying color illustrations bring each story to life. Wonderful tales filled with humor and adventure.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Abraham Lincoln

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, Thich Nhat Hanh



4 stars
Although not a Buddhist myself, Hanh's book was a very beneficial read and one through which I found direct application in my Christian spirituality. His invitation is simple and in good Zen master fashion this Vietnamese monk paints a beautiful picture of what a life of mindfulness entails and why it is so beneficial. The book also includes a very helpful chapter that takes the reader through some practical and specific exercises in mindfulness. Herein lies instruction on how to be present in the now...

One night, Jim asked if he might do the dishes. I said, "Go ahead, but if you wash the dishes you must know the way to wash them." Jim replied, "Come on, you think I don't know how to wash the dishes?" I answered, "There are two ways to wash the dishes. The first is to wash the dishes in order to have clean dishes and the second is to wash the dishes in order to wash the dishes." Jim was delighted and said, "I choose the second way - to wash the dishes to wash the dishes." If while washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as if they were a nuisance, then we are not "washing the dishes to wash the dishes." What's more, we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink. If we can't wash the dishes, the chances are we won't be able to drink our tea either. While drinking the cup of tea, we will only be thinking of other things, barely aware of the cup in our hands. Thus we are sucked away into the future - and we are incapable of actually living one minute of life. (pgs. 4-5)

Monday, November 23, 2009

"I wonder how this flamingo keeps changing colors..."


one-line pen & ink drawing (9"x11")

Chris (age 10)
Once upon a time there lived a witch who was hungry so she caught a flamingo and tried to turn it into a plate of good food but instead it turned the flamingo blue and every day it turns a different color.

Ben (age 7)
Well, a long, long time ago there was a powerful wizard and this wizard had a pet quastridge. One day the wizard went to a witch's house for dinner. Afterwards, he asked if she had a recipe for making someone become powerful. She said, "just if you keep a promise." He brought the recipe home. His quastridge was waiting eagerly. The wizard went over to the quastridge and pet it. Then the wizard got to work making the pill that would make him powerful. That quastridge thought that pill smelled so good. The quastridge broke through his cage and ate the pill. It wasn't finished so it made him change colors.

Moral: Never try to be too powerful.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Augustine

"For Thy omnipotency is not far from us, even when we be far from Thee...I will love Thee, O Lord, and thank Thee, and confess unto Thy name; because Thou hast forgiven me these so great and heinous deeds of mine. To Thy grace I ascribe it, and to Thy mercy, that Thou hast melted away my sins as it were ice."

from The Confessions, Book II

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Haiku XXXI

Planted awareness,
grows a harvest in the mind;
the seed is the fruit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Songs Of Assent, Carla A. Waterman



5 stars
Full disclosure: Carla was one of my college professors and a significant mentor in my life - so I am a bit biased toward her work.

This is a book of profound insight and pleasant invitation. Carla explores five feminine qualities as exemplified in Mary, the mother of Jesus. (These feminine qualities being: simplicity, receptivity, wisdom, confidence, & buoyancy). She explains that by defining "feminine" in this manner, "I am approaching gender as a symbolic expression of a larger reality that transcends biological or cultural definitions." In turn, she is inviting the reader to "locate the symbolic significance of femininity in a fundamental posture of receptivity toward God." (197) These qualities thus become "songs of assent" in our journey of faith and worship. Here is a guiding quote regarding the feminine qualities:
"I have come to understand wisdom as the crown jewel of these songs of assent. We are not specifically instructed to pray for simplicity, although it is the exquisitely freeing fruit of a heart that is enabled to say, "you choose for me - I trust you." And receptivity is the foundational motion of the redeemed soul as our gate is opened to receive the good seed of all God's manifold graces. In the chapters to come, we will see confidence and buoyancy as two specific in-graced responses to the soul's "yes" to God that are, in their own ways, an extension of wisdom's lovely fruit." (105-106)

Although written out of a passion for women and their relationship with Jesus, this book is by no means gender exclusive as these traits belong to all who honestly and humbly seek after God. I highly recommend this read as I found it to be a balm to my own soul and Carla's clear presentation through shared personal experiences and reflection on scripture make it one that does not come back void.

click here to visit Carla's blog related to the themes of this book

you can buy the book by clicking here

The book also includes several wonderful pen and ink interpretations of the feminine qualities done by her sister Pamela K. Keske's. See the illustrations by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"I wonder who these two are...How did they become friends...where are they going..."


one-line pen & ink drawing (11"x9")

Chris (age 10)
Once there lived a witch who made a duck and a hippo. The witch made the duck and the hippo to be eaten at the feast of the witch, when it was in a week. In that week the duck and the hippo became friends. One day the duck ran to the barn to tell hippo the duck said the witch is going to kill us for the banquet in three days. So the two friends ran away to the prairie. The End

Ben (age 7)
One day a long, long time ago there was a wostridge. It's mother died and shortly after his father died. After many days and nights a woosul bear adopted him. Just so you know, the wostridge's name was Freddie and the woosul bear's name was George. After many days and many nights a wolf came and stole the only thing that Freddie had from his mother and father. So, Freddie got on woosul bear and ran. After a long time they saw the fox go into a haunted looking house. They went in and looked around and all of the sudden a trap door swung and they fell into a dungeon...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dr. Seuss

"A person's a person, no matter how small."

from Horton Hears A Who!

Friday, November 13, 2009

"I wonder who found this giant chest and what's inside it..."


(pen & ink drawing 11"x9")

Chris (age 10)
Once upon a time there lived a wizard. He made a chest that can make the person inside go anywhere the person wants to go but when the wizard died all the people took the stuff away but no one wanted the chest because the chest looked normal to the people. After a long time the home started to rot but the chest didn't rot and after many years the chest was buried in rubble. After a long time two kids found the chest. Their names were Chris and Ben. One day Chris shut Ben in the chest and after a long time Ben wished that he was at home and right away he was at home! Ben told the family what happened and after that day they never had to pay to go anywhere they wanted to go, especially Disney. The End

Ben (age 7)
When ever you open this chest you get whatever you want at that time. Back in 5000 B.C. they buried it and after thousands of years scientists found it. They got thinking there was gold and got mad when they saw there was no gold. One of the scientists got so mad he said, "I want to go home" and POP he was home. The End...Chris got mad at me because I finished my story too fast, maybe he will go home.

Monday, November 9, 2009

glory:

The sun splitting like an atom on the horizon of an ending day only to rise as a new day on another horizon.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dominic, William Steig



5 stars
A wonderful tale of life as pilgrimage. Steig once again taps into the realities of human love, longing, and adventure through a cast of animals. This book follows Dominic the dog as he wanders his way through choices and discovery, fiend and friend. A superb tale and very fun as well as insightful read. It includes Steig's great pen and ink illustrations throughout the story.

Here's a taste from the beginning of chapter seven:
"Dominic went out for a long walk and did a lot of thinking. He was still walking when the stars came out. Mournful, he lay down on the ground and looked at the stars. Life was mysterious. Bartholomew Badger had been alive long before there was a Dominic - long before anybody had even thought there would ever be such a dog. Two hours ago Bartholomew Badger was still alive. But now he was gone. There was no Bartholomew Badger; there was only a memory. His turn was over. Dominic's turn was still at the beginning. There were many who hadn't yet even begun to exist, but there they would be, some time in the future, a whole new world of creatures, some important, some not, and many of them wondering about life just as Dominic was wondering now. It would be their turn, and then Dominic's turn would be over. Many of them would think about the past, which was now the present, but by then what was now the future would have become the present. Somehow this kind of thinking made Dominic feel more religious than usual. He fell asleep under the vast dome of quivering stars, and just as he was falling asleep, passing over into the phase of dreams, he felt he understood the secret of life. But in the light of morning, when he woke up, his understanding of the secret had disappeared with the stars. The mystery was still there, inspiring his wonder."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pipi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren



4 stars
Listened to the audio cd read by Ester Benson - made the driving around town a bit more fun as we enjoyed Pipi's unique way of seeing and being in the world. A great childhood read.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Story of My Life, Helen Keller



4.5 stars
Here is an inspiring read (the book includes her teacher's account as well as letters, journals, and supplemental essays - I only read the first 117 pages which is Helen's autobiography). Keller, who was both deaf and blind, writes the story of her life with incredible detail. It is as much a story about her as it is about her teacher Anne Sullivan - in a very real way this is a story of two geniuses.

Along with science, math, and English Literature, Helen also studied Greek, Latin, German, French, and could read Braille! Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

"While my days at Radcliffe [College] were still in the future, they were encircled with a halo of romance, which they have lost; but in the transition from romantic to actual I have learned many things I should never have known had I not tried the experiment. One of them is the precious science of patience, which teaches us that we should take our education as we would take a walk in the country, leisurely, our minds hospitably open to impressions of every sort. Such knowledge floods the soul unseen with a soundless tidal wave of deepening thought. "Knowledge is power." Rather, knowledge is happiness, because to have knowledge--broad, deep knowledge--is to know true ends from false, and lofty things from low. To know the thoughts and deeds that have marked man's progress is to feel the great heart-throbs of humanity through the centuries; and if one does not feel in these pulsations a heavenward striving, one must indeed be deaf to the harmonies of life." (pg 87)

"Is it not true, then, that my life with all its limitations touches at many points the life of the World Beautiful? Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I may be in, therein to be content. Sometimes, it is true, a sense of isolation enfolds me like a cold mist as I sit alone and wait at life's shut gate. Beyond there is light, and music, and sweet companionship; but I may not enter. Fate, silent, pitiless, bars the way. Fain would I question his imperious decree; for my heart is still undisciplined and passionate; but my tongue will not utter the bitter, futile words that rise to my lips, and they fall back into my heart like unshed tears. Silence sits immense upon my soul. Then comes hope with a smile and whispers, "There is joy in self-forgetfulness." So I try to make the light in others' eyes my sun, the music in others' ears my symphony, the smile on others' lips my happiness." (pg 108-109)

"Thus it is that my friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation." (pg 117)

click here for Helen's famous "water" account
and here for another word on the role of limitations

There was also a fantastic 90 minute movie done on this classic by Disney entitled The Miracle Worker which I highly recommend.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Giraffe And The Pelly And Me, Roald Dahl



4.5 stars
Read this one in less than a half hour in one sitting. A delightful book filled with Edward Learish poems, Quentin Blake illustrations, and Dahl's classic entertaining ways. This is the kind of book you read out loud to the kids! See his website in yesterday's post below.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

George's Marvelous Medicine, Roald Dahl



3.5 stars
This was my least favorite Dahl book I have read to date. It includes all the components that make for a great Dahl read but I had a hard time getting past how off the wall he went with George's dislike of his grandmother. The interview at the end of this edition was well worth the whole book however. Check it out here: Official Roald Dahl Website (click on the "Roald Dahl" link and then the interview - very good!)