Monthly Archives: October 2011

Quotable Monday: You’re a miracle

Today’s quote is from the film, Little Children, which is based on a novel (of the same title) by Tom Perrotta.  I read the book a little over a year ago, so I cannot recall if this quote actually appears in the book.  But I was re-watching the movie this past weekend and it really stuck out to me.  Therefore, I am judging that a quote from a film based off a book is close enough to get some air time in my blog.  I hope that you enjoy!

You’re a miracle, Ronnie. We’re all miracles. Know why? Because as humans, every day we go about our business, and all that time we know… we all know… that the things we love… the people we love, at any time now can all be taken away. We live knowing that and we keep going anyway. Animals don’t do that.

Check out the book on Amazon.

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Welcoming Winter with Poetry – albeit a little early.

Alright.  It’s October.  It’s snowing.  This is madness.  No matter how much I, and 98% of other New Englanders hate it, it’s happening.  So, let us pause our moaning and take a moment to “embrace” the early entrance of “winter” into our lives this year with some poetry by Sylvia Plath.  Yes, Sylvia Plath again.  She’s my favorite and that’s really the only reason that I ever need to assault you with her work.

Winter Trees

The wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.
On their blotter of fog the trees
Seem a botanical drawing.
Memories growing, ring on ring,
A series of weddings.

Knowing neither abortions nor bitchery,
Truer than women,
They seed so effortlessly!
Tasting the winds, that are footless,
Waist-deep in history.

Full of wings, otherworldliness.
In this, they are Ledas.
O mother of leaves and sweetness
Who are these pietas?
The shadows of ringdoves chanting, but chasing nothing.

A Winter Ship

At this wharf there are no grand landings to speak of.
Red and orange barges list and blister
Shackled to the dock, outmoded, gaudy,
And apparently indestructible.
The sea pulses under a skin of oil.

A gull holds his pose on a shanty ridgepole,
Riding the tide of the wind, steady
As wood and formal, in a jacket of ashes,
The whole flat harbor anchored in
The round of his yellow eye-button.

A blimp swims up like a day-moon or tin
Cigar over his rink of fishes.
The prospect is dull as an old etching.
They are unloading three barrels of little crabs.
The pier pilings seem about to collapse

And with them that rickety edifice
Of warehouses, derricks, smokestacks and bridges
In the distance. All around us the water slips
And gossips in its loose vernacular,
Ferrying the smells of cod and tar.

Farther out, the waves will be mouthing icecakes —
A poor month for park-sleepers and lovers.
Even our shadows are blue with cold.
We wanted to see the sun come up
And are met, instead, by this iceribbed ship,

Bearded and blown, an albatross of frost,
Relic of tough weather, every winch and stay
Encased in a glassy pellicle.
The sun will diminish it soon enough:
Each wave-tip glitters like a knife.

Wintering

This is the easy time, there is nothing doing.
I have whirled the midwife’s extractor,
I have my honey,
Six jars of it,
Six cat’s eyes in the wine cellar,

Wintering in a dark without window
At the heart of the house
Next to the last tenant’s rancid jam
and the bottles of empty glitters–
Sir So-and-so’s gin.

This is the room I have never been in
This is the room I could never breathe in.
The black bunched in there like a bat,
No light
But the torch and its faint

Chinese yellow on appalling objects–
Black asininity. Decay.
Possession.
It is they who own me.
Neither cruel nor indifferent,

Only ignorant.
This is the time of hanging on for the bees–the bees
So slow I hardly know them,
Filing like soldiers
To the syrup tin

To make up for the honey I’ve taken.
Tate and Lyle keeps them going,
The refined snow.
It is Tate and Lyle they live on, instead of flowers.
They take it. The cold sets in.

Now they ball in a mass,
Black
Mind against all that white.
The smile of the snow is white.
It spreads itself out, a mile-long body of Meissen,

Into which, on warm days,
They can only carry their dead.
The bees are all women,
Maids and the long royal lady.
They have got rid of the men,

The blunt, clumsy stumblers, the boors.
Winter is for women–
The woman, still at her knitting,
At the cradle of Spanis walnut,
Her body a bulb in the cold and too dumb to think.

Will the hive survive, will the gladiolas
Succeed in banking their fires
To enter another year?
What will they taste of, the Christmas roses?
The bees are flying. They taste the spring.

Sylvia Plath on Amazon.

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Poems by Shel Silverstein

I decided that I was going to stick me unintentional theme of kids-related “stuff” this week and post some poems featured in A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein.  As a kid, I loved reading his work.  Always silly, funny, and accompanied by silly drawings that always went perfectly with the poems that they were paired with.  If the Berenstain Bears were the books that most excited me about reading as a child, it was Shel Silverstein who got me excited about poetry as a child.

Spelling Bee

I got stung by a bee
I won’t tell you where.
I got stung by a bee
I was just lyin’ there,
And it tattooed a message
I can’t tell you where
That spells out
Hello… you’ve been stung by a bee

I always loved this next poem probably because of the picture accompanying it.  A man with a fleshy face and skeletal body sits, sweating, on a chair with a fan (apparently not turned on) in front of him.  How odd.

It’s Hot!

It’s hot!
I can’t get cool,
I’ve drunk a quart of lemonade.
I think I’ll take my shoes off
And sit around in the shade.

It’s hot!
My back is sticky,
The sweat rolls down my chin.
I think I’ll take my clothes off
And sit around in my skin.

It’s hot!
I’ve tried with ‘lectric fans
And pools and ice cream cones.
I think I’ll take my skin off
And sit around in my bones.

It’s still hot!

Poemsicle

Id you add sicle to your pop,
Would he become a Popsicle?
Would a mop become a mopsicle?
Would a cop become a copsicle?
Would a chop become a chopsicle?
Would a drop become a dropsicle?
Would a hop become a hopsicle?
I guess it’s time to stopsicle,
Or is it timesicle to stopsicle?
Heysicle, I can’t stopsicle?
Heysicle, I can’t stopsicle.
Ohsicle mysicle willsicle Isicle
Havesicle tosicle talksicle
Likesicle thissicle foreversicle-
Huhsicle?

What were your favorite poems as a kid?

Buy A Light in the Attic on Amazon

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Fun with words Friday! Leviathan

It’s almost Halloween, so today’s word is in relation to MONSTERS!

Leviathan – noun

  1. (often initial capital letterBible. a sea monster.
  2. any huge marine animal, as the whale.
  3. anything of immense size and power, as a huge, oceangoing ship.
  4. (initial capital letter, italics) a philosophical work (1651) by Thomas Hobbes dealing with the political organization of society

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Books for Halloween!

I won’t go so far as to say that Halloween is my favorite holiday, but I certainly do enjoy it!  As a kid, I always looked forward to the excuse to dress up in costume and eating copious amounts of candy – no matter the time or day of week – because it was “special”.  This was all harmless fun, of course, until our Miniature Schnauzer, Hilda, started sneaking into my room and chewing up my stash.  Yup, she devoured everything from my Butterfingers to bubblegum.  She did not discriminate. When you have to worry about your dog eating your treats, for a kid, this adds a whole world of stress that just doesn’t need to ever be associated with Halloween.

Anyway.  My thieving dog didn’t totally destroy my love of this spooky day.  The most powerful reason as to why Halloween is so wonderful, in my opinion, is that it lands smack dab in the middle of Autumn, which is my favorite season.  The air is crisp, the trees are changing color, hay rides, pumpkins, and apple cider are in season.  What is there not to love?

Also, as with any holiday, there are special books!  For kids, it appears as though all favorite characters get their own Halloween special.  Here are some of my favorites:


Clifford’s First Halloween by Norman Bridwell
Find on Amazon. 

There’s really not much to say about this one.  Baby Clifford is ADORABLE.  And watching his Halloween antics unfold before your eyes is ADORABLE.


Berentain Bears – Trick or Treat by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Find on Amazon. 

In addition to the fact that my family read to me regularly when I was a child, I would have to say that I thank the Berenstain Bears for my love of reading.  I adore this series – the characters, the stories, and the illustrations.  Everything about these books is perfect and I look forward to sharing these stories with my kids someday.


Little Critter:  Happy Halloween, Little Critter! by Mercer Mayer
Find on Amazon. 

Little Critter was another favorite series of mine from childhood.  And this Halloween special includes lift-the-flap surprises!  How spooky!
And for the pre-teens and teens, we have R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear St.  Perfectly scary reads for the Halloween season — or all year round, if you’re into creeping yourself out and/or a freak and totally into the macabre like me.

Find R. L. Stine on Amazon.
So, Halloween isn’t only an excellent excuse to eat all of the candy that you want (no matter how guilty you might feel afterward), but also a good excuse to enjoy some fun, spooky, and, sometimes scary, books!  What scary books do you like to read around this time of year?

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The Babysitters Club, another childhood favorite

The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin Photo Source: http://chillpillbox.com/?p=3427

We all had our favorite books as kids and thanks to my volunteering with Everybody Wins! I have been thinking about some of the books that I read as a tween.  One of the ice breaker questions during my first week volunteering was, quite obviously, What is/was your favorite book? I have a laundry list of titles to choose from for this, but the first book that popped in to my mind is a book that I recall as being able to most vividly visualize the scenes and characters while reading.


I am, of course, talking about The Babysitters Club.  Specifically, Super Special #5: California Girls!  By the time that I read this book, I was familiar with the characters, had chosen my favorite, and had possibly devoured both the television series and movie.  I fancied myself a little bit of a tomboy, so I gravitated to Kristy.  I also took to Claudia, though, as I was drawn to her funky, individualistic, artistic style.

What I loved about this book, though, was that, while reading it, I could feel the plane take off.  I shared their excitement, enjoyed the sun, smelt the sunscreen as they lolled on the beach.  I loved it because their experience was unlike anything that I knew from reality.

A blurb about the story:

Who would believe it-the Baby-sitters have won the lottery! And with their winning money, the girls are all going with Dawn to… California! — What adventures they have. Jessi lands a (tiny) part in a TV show, Kristy gets into a kind-of fight with Dawn’s We Love Kids Club, and Stacey turns into a surfer girl! And in between all that excitement, they still have time for baby-sitting, sight-seeing, and the beach.

How could a girl NOT be totally jazzed to dive into that book?

I don’t know when The Babysitters Club stopped being a popular series, but the child that I’m reading to had no idea what I was talking about.  Well, it was nice to reminisce anyway.

Relive the magic – buy The Babysitters Club on Amazon.

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Volunteering: Everybody Wins! Metro Boston

A few years ago, a co-worker of mine brought my attention to the local Everybody Wins! program.  A few people in the office volunteered on a weekly basis to visit a local school and spend a lunch hour reading to a child.  The idea of this was very appealing to me because I had done similar volunteering in the past.  Additionally, I value the importance of being read to.  I was lucky as a child and had a family ready to read to me at any time, but not everyone is so lucky.

Now I’m starting my third year in the program and cannot say enough good things about it.  This organization has really figured out a way to make it easy for local professionals to get out into the community and to make a difference.  The kids look forward to it, the volunteers look forward to it, and every week happens smoothly, which is impressive in and of itself.

Some statistics that I found on their Boston Metro site (http://www.ewmb.org/subpage.htm?provenresults.htm) further drive home the importance of this program:

  • The National Institute of Education’s Commission on Reading identified in its report Becoming a Nation of Readers that “The single most important activity for building knowledge required for the eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” The study found conclusive evidence to support its use not only in the home but also in the classroom and declared it to be “a practice that should continue throughout the grades”. (1)
  • A 2002 report revealed that children who are read to at least three times a week are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading than children who are  read to less than 3 times a week. (2)
  • Children from low-income families are at a disadvantage. In 2002, it was determined that 62% of parents with a high socioeconomic status read to their children every day, compared to 36% of parents with a low socioeconomic status. (3)
  • Children who are enthusiastic about books and reading are likely to be better readers. A recent study showed that students who talked about reading with family and friends, however frequently, had higher average scores than students who never or hardly ever talk about reading. Students who talked about reading once or twice a week performed the highest. (4)

On top of how beneficial this is for the children, volunteers benefit quite a bit, as well.  It’s something that I look forward to every week, you get to explore exciting children’s’ literature, and, sometimes, you even learn quite a bit yourself!

Everybody Wins! is present in multiple communities across the country.  You can visit the main website for the Everybody Wins! USA program here: http://everybodywins.org/


(1) Trelease, J. The New Read-Aloud Handbook, Penguin Group, New York, NY, 1989

(2) Denton, Kristen and Gerry West, Children’s Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade, U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC, 2002

(3) Coley, Richard J., An Uneven Start: Indicators of Inequality in School Readiness, Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ, 2002

(4) Donahue, P. L., A. D. Finnegan, and N. L. Lutkus, The Nation’s Report Card: Fourth-Grade Reading 2001, U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC 2001


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Filed under Books, Children's Books, Literacy, Volunteering

Quotable Monday: Hamlet and Ophelia

Ophelia by John William Waterhouse

Hamlet has always been my all-time favorite Shakespeare play.  And Ophelia has always been one of my all-time favorite literary characters.  It works out then that one of my favorite artists – John William Waterhouse – painted Ophelia in some of his artwork.  The above picture used to hang over my bed and, as a teenager, I would stare at it, taking in the colors and the beauty.  To this day, I still love this painting, the play, and Ophelia.  I love Ophelia so much that I even named one of my cats after her.  But, still, I can’t say that I love her as much as Hamlet believed that he did…

‘Swounds, show me what thou’t do.
Woo’t weep, woo’t fight, woo’t fast, woo’t tear thyself,
Woo’t drink up eisel, eat a crocodile?
I’ll do’t. Dost come here to whine,
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Be buried quick with her, and so will I.
And if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
Make Ossa like a wart. Nay, and thou’lt mouth,
I’ll rant as well as thou.

Act V, Scene I


In my opinion, the best theatrical version of this play was done by Kenneth Branagh and during this scene, he is in Ophelia’s grave.  And, for some reason, as a teenager, I found literary hunks leaping into graves, clutching the corpse of their beloved, to be TOTALLY dreamy.

Hamlet and Ophelia... INTENSE!

Buy a version of Hamlet on Amazon. 

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Adrienne Rich poems

Adrienne Rich is one of those poets that I read a few pieces by in college, enjoyed, and then never revisited.  Every time that I see her name listed in an anthology I get excited, knowing that, if I read her poem, I will like it.  But, I rarely do.  Why?  I’m lazy, maybe.  Or, sometimes, I don’t feel like that I have enough emotional energy to really dive into a poem.  These days I primarily read literary fiction and memoirs, but poems always, always make me really feel something.

So, today, in an effort to expand my knowledge and experience of Adrienne Rich, I am going to share some of her poems here.

Diving into the Wreck

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau and his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black and I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-detroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

Rape

There is a cop who is both prowler and father:
he comes from your block, grew up with your brothers,
had certain ideals.
You hardly know him in his boots and silver badge,
on horseback, one hand touching his gun.

You hardly know him but you have to get to know him:
he has access to machinery that could kill you.
He and his stallion clop like warlords among the trash,
his ideals stand in the air, a frozen cloud,
from between his unsmiling lips.

And so, when the time comes, you have to turn to him,
the maniac’s sperm still greasing your thighs,
you mind whirling like crazy. You have to confess
to him, you are guilty of the crime
of having been forced.

And you see his blue eyes, the blue eyes of all the family
whom you used to know, grow narrow and glisten,
his hand types out the details
and he wants them all
but the hysteria in your voice pleases him best.

You hardly know him but now he thinks he knows you:
he has taken down your worst moment
on a machine and filed it in a file.
He knows, or thinks he knows, how much you imagined;
he knows, or thinks he knows, what you secretly wanted.

He has access to machinery that could get you put away;
and if, in the sickening light of the precinct,
your details sound like a portrait of your confessor,
will you swallow, will you deny them, will you lie your way home?

Buy Adrienne Rich poetry on Amazon.

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My favorites from Americans’ Favorite Poems

Let us see what Americans like....

This collection isn’t actually mine. I presumed that it belonged to my husband, but the name of one of his exes is written on the inside cover.  Oops.  So, if she ever actually reads this post, knows that this is her book, and wants it back, just let us know.  Either way — it’s a great collection of the poems that apparently you’re bound to love if you’re an American.  I’m an American.  So, here are some of my favorites from the book…

One Art
Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a
gesture I love)  I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Mother to Son
Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor –
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So, boy, don’t turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now –
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

In My Craft or Sullen Art
Dylan Thomas

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

Buy this collection on Amazon.

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