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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Things We Leave Behind...

So I finally finished reading Harry Potter, and while I'm in a good-bye-ing mood, here are the:

Ten Things I Will Most Miss About Tuscaloosa:

This list (and the graphic--my feeble attempt at creativity) are just an overall view of the many things--small and large--we are saying good-bye to here in Alabama. I know there are great things in store for us in Texas because God is calling us there. We are so sad to leave but so excited to follow Him. And, if we start having doubts, we just look back over what happened to Jonah when he didn't go when God said go. :)

Lightning bugs--I've been catching these guys since I was little, but apparently there are hardly any of these in Texas. Too least it was before the recent floods.

9) Coffee shops--If you've read this blog for any length of time, you've probably figured out that I'm somewhat of a coffee addict. Not that they don't have coffee shops in Texas, but I've become accustomed to getting my caffeine fix at either Crimson Cafe, Heritage House, or the Naughty Donkey as we call it in my family. I love different things about each one, and they each meet a different craving. Needless to say, I'll be highly caffeinated during the next few days while trying to say a proper good-bye to all of them!

8) The
University of Alabama--Where do I start? I've been a Bama fan practically since I was born. I'll miss the football games, the basketball games, the gymnastics meets, the concerts, Homecoming parades, Reese Phifer Hall (where Jason and I met and married), the Quad, seeing Crimson and White all over the place.

7) New Creations--specifically Katie Wilson at New Creations. This is the first time I've actually liked my hair in YEARS...and the first time in a long time that I can do something with it. She's a miracle worker, so if you're in Tuscaloosa and looking around--I suggest looking her up!

6) Restaurants--Again, I know Texas has restaurants--some great ones that I've been able to sample already! However, we have our favorites around town that we're really going to miss--City Cafe, Cypress Inn, the Waysider, Dreamland. Branching out to Birmingham, it's so nice being close enough for a quick trip to Surin West or The Bright Star. OK, now I'm getting hungry.

5) Water--My wonderful husband did some research on the Net and found some bodies of water in and around Fort Worth, and we took a look at these when we went out in June. Not bad...and I'm glad to know Texas isn't as dry as I had originally thought. However, for a girl who grew up swimming in the Tennessee River and now loves to gaze out over or ride on the Black Warrior (no swimming in the river anymore), it's hard to imagine not having these two old friends around and available.

4) Our Church Family--Oh, what a long process church hunting can be. Pray for us, please! We will miss First Baptist, Tuscaloosa, and we're already eager for a visit! What an amazing experience we've had teaching Sunday school, being part of the choir, listening to Dr. McKee's inspiring sermons, growing spiritually. We are so blessed to call this our church home.

3) Our Work Families--ACA has only been a part of my life for a couple of years now, but I'm going to miss the kids, my coworkers, my amazing bosses and having access to such a great library! APR has been part of our lives for more than five years, and, even though I no longer work there, I never felt like I really left! The people we have worked with are friends-like-family, and my gut knots up when I think about telling them good-bye.

2) More Friends-Like-Family--Whether it's friends from elementary school, high school, college, church, choir, work, whatever--most of our friends are close enough to visit fairly frequently. It's going to stink not being able to have lunch or coffee with them whenever we want.

1) Family--Do I really have to elaborate? With the exception of my brother and some distant cousins, most of both of our families live within a couple of hours of us. This move is going to be tough on us all. Thank goodness for blogs and e-mail!

So long, Harry Potter? Nah...

Well, I finally...finally finished the last Harry Potter book. No spoilers...I just want to say that I thought it ended just as it should. :) I think it took me longer to read this one for a couple of reasons: a) I've been packing like crazy while trying to read (who knows what made it into those boxes now?) and b) I was hesitant to see the series end!

I was introduced to Harry, by chance, in the airport. I had an unexpected delay and, strangely enough (for me anyway), run out of reading material. I had plowed through all the books and magazines I had with me, so I went to one of the million little stores they have in airports out of desperation. I saw nothing...nothing that interested me, also unusual. Then I spotted Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This was about three years after it was first published. For some reason, it had never appealed to me before. But one of my coworkers at the time was a big fan, and I thought..."Sure, why not?"

By the time my flight landed in Connecticut, I was hooked. So much so that I stopped and bought a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for the flight home. And Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest have been happily residing in my library since then.

So, like any old book friends, I'm sorry to say good-bye. Except I know this isn't really good-bye. It's more of a "see ya later." Because as soon as my dad finishes reading the series (that he borrowed from me), I intend to read through them again...and maybe I can even convince my husband to read one this time.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Light in August

Light in August by William Faulkner

I'll be honest. I was even more hesitant about reading this book than I was about reading Deliverance. I have read and enjoyed a good number of Faulkner's short stories, but his novels just seemed intimidating and inaccessible. All those l-o-n-g sentences and the stream of consciousness writing style. I just didn't know if I could handle it!

However, I am glad to report that I found just the opposite to be true, at least with this novel. Well, OK, characters' thoughts as well as the sentences do tend to run on, but instead of making it more difficult to understand, it actually contributes to the "sense of place" we've been talking about in this reading challenge. When you're reading, you just feel August in the deep South. Even the chapters are long (20-30 pages in the copy I had), just like these hot summer days are, but all these literary devices served to fuel the tension.

And this novel is fraught with tension. For those of you not familiar with the plot, Lena Grove (fraught with child) sets out on foot to find the man who impregnated her and left, promising to send for her but never intending to fulfill that promise. Always believing the best about not only him but pretty much everyone she comes into contact with on her journey from Alabama to Jefferson, Mississippi, Lena's perseverance, strength and hope shine through her circumstances. Her positive qualities seem to either highlight the good in other characters or make their negative traits stand out all the more.

For example, we are able to see what kind of a man Byron Bunch, a solitary mill worker, really is capable of being only through his relationship with Lena. On the other hand, placing her story next to that of Joe Christmas makes his life and his choices seem that much more dismal. Lena arrives in town just as Christmas is at the center of a murder investigation.

As a baby, Christmas was left at an orphanage on Christmas Day (thus the name). I don't want to spoil too much of his story because it unfolds throughout the novel, and there are several plot twists. His ethnicity is questionable; whether he is half-black or not is never quite clear. However, the important thing is that he considers himself to be part "Negro," and that perception affects every choice he makes, most of which are horrific.

In a way, Christmas never has a chance in life. Living first in an orphanage, then with an abusive adoptive father, you can feel his desperation grow as he gets older. No one in his life was ever purely kind to him--they were only conditionally kind. The way they treated him mostly depended on what he could do for them, never simply on who he was. I know some find his character offensive, others don't approve of the "n-word" used throughout the novel, but I think the most troubling thing to me was the mindset behind his choices.

"...The black blood drove him first to the negro cabin. And then the white blood drove him out of there, as it was the black blood which snatched up the pistol and the white blood which would not let him fire it...It was the black blood which swept him by his own desire beyond the aid of any man...And then the black blood failed him again, as it must have in crises all his life."

This was a character speaking, not the narrator, so I don't know if Faulkner truly believed Christmas's "black blood" was behind his bad decisions and the "white blood" behind the good, or if he was merely conveying the mindset of many Southerners in the early 20th century. Either way, it was disturbing for me to read statements like that.

But other than the racial/cultural issues and occasionally getting lost in the timeline of the novel, I absolutely loved it. With sentences that are pages long, characters as rich as these, and words like Augusttremulous and thwartfacecurled cigarettes, how could you not? And, even better, I no longer fear Faulkner's novels. Bring on Absalom, Absalom!

Favorite quotes from Light in August:

"He was a hard man. Softness and gentleness and youth (he was just forty) and almost everything else except a kind of stubborn and despairing fortitude and the bleak heritage of his bloodpride had been sweated out of him."

"She went out of sight up the road: swollen, slow, deliberate, unhurried and tireless as augmenting afternoon itself."

"And that was the first time Byron remembered that he had ever thought how a man's name, which is supposed to be just the sound for who he is, can be somehow an augur of what he will do, if other men can only read the meaning in time. It seemed to him that none of them had looked especially at the stranger [Christmas] until they heard his name. But as soon as they heard it, it was as though there was something in the sound of it that was trying to tell them what to expect; that he carried with him his own inescapable warning, like a flower its scent or a rattlesnake its rattle. Only none of them had sense enough to recognise it."

"When anything gets to be a habit, it also manages to get a right good distance away from truth and fact...All that any man can hope for is to be permitted to live quietly among his fellows...A fellow is more afraid of the trouble he might have than he ever is of the trouble he's already got."

"Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders."

"It seems impossible for a man to learn the value of money without first having to learn to waste it."

"Here I am Yes I would say Here I am I am tired I am tired of running of having to carry my life like it was a basket of eggs."

"I am not saying he never did what they say he did. Ought not to suffer for it like he made them that loved and lost suffer. But if folks could maybe just let him for one day. Like it hadn't happened yet. Like the world never had anything against him yet. Then it could be like he had just went on a trip and grew man grown and come back. If it could be like that for just one day."

"Now the final copper light of afternoon fades; now the street beyond the low maples and the low signboard is prepared and empty, framed by the study window like a stage. He can remember how when he was young, after he first came to Jefferson from the seminary, how that fading copper light would seem almost audible, like a dying yellow fall of trumpets dying into an interval of silence and waiting, out of which they would presently come."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thursday Quick Links

I of Light in August and thoughts on the last Harry Potter are coming soon. Between reading both of these heavyweights, packing and saying all-around good-byes, I'm juggling here!

Meanwhile, just so you don't think I'm a complete blogging slacker, here are a few quick links for your amusement.

I may stay up and read all night. :)

Article about a professor no longer using textbooks in his classes

Looking for that perfect wedding-day mix? NPR can help.

And this is just for funsies.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tuscaloosa Lasts

I've been meaning to post a list of the Tuscaloosa/Alabama things I'm going to miss when we leave for Texas, but I've been working on a graphic for it. Not being artistically inclined or artistically blessed, this is taking a little longer than I expected! :)
So, in the meantime, I thought I'd have an update about some of the "last" things we've been doing around here.

  • My last day at ACA. As I said on my more literary blog, I couldn't say enough good things about the faculty and staff there. I can't think of a significant conflict we had in two years. The teachers were amazing and inspiring, and I don't think I could have dreamed up better leaders than our headmaster and his wife. It was a fun, interesting, challenging, whirlwind two years, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity.
  • Last dentist and vet appointments (dentist for me, vet for Fred). Those are going to be hard people to replace as well! Normally, I love going to the dentist (I know; it's peculiar), but it's not the most pleasant thing to go around trying out new ones, especially if you find a few not-so-gentle ones in the process.
  • Last hair appointment. This made me indescribably sad, and I don't want to spoil my "will-miss-list" by talking too much about it now. Plus, I'm getting sad again just thinking about it!
  • Last meal at Cypress Inn (where the above picture was taken). Let's just say we're making the rounds to say good-bye to all of our favorite Tuscaloosa restaurants.
  • Last family reunion. (Hoping to make it back next year, though, so I'm trying not to be too sad about this one.) We had lots of laughs, saw people we hadn't seen since last year, and I hope to have a couple of pictures from it soon. (On a side note, while we were in Hamilton for the reunion, I finally got to try Dinelli's. My husband worked in Hamilton in the early days of his radio career and has been a fan of their breadsticks for years. This was my first time, but I hope it's not the last! Those breadsticks were incredible!)
  • Last Harry Potter book. OK, I know this really has nothing to do with our move, but it's another "last," and I'm loving it so far but hating to see the series end! No spoilers, please!
Meanwhile, coming up, we have our last choir practice, two last Sundays at church, last lunches/coffees with friends, last visits with family...the lasts just keep coming!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

So long, ACA

It's my last day on the job at American Christian Academy.

(The picture was from my first week on the job.)

Lots of emotions today--excited about our move (geographically and career-wise), sad to be leaving friends who've become like family, hopeful that people will really keep in touch and not just say they will.


It's been a wonderful, interesting, challenging, amazing two years, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with these kiddos. And I couldn't say enough good things about my co-workers and our bosses, so I'm just going to stop now.

The end.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I win!

I never win...but I did this time!

Pecans from Maggie!


Meanwhile, a happy birthday goes out to my nephew, Christopher. 10 years old...and, I'm proud to say, LOVES to read. Smart kid. ;)

Yard Selling

Moving from a two-bedroom townhouse to a one-bedroom apartment presents its share of difficulties. One of those is that we just have too much darn stuff!

Jason, Fred and I have accumulated in two years of marriage what I'm sure many families with six kids don't store up in 20 years!

OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. But there was no way all our stuff was coming to Texas with us.

So, in the South, the only solution to that is to pile all the belongings you no longer want in the front yard and see if perfect strangers will come by and purchase them.

Classy, right?

Nah, just kidding. I actually think yard sales are the most fun. We're a few dollars richer, a few pounds lighter (both us and our moving ton-age) and extremely tired.

And we still have a chiffrobe for sale. But, overall, I'd still say it was a success.

My yard-sale-virgin husband, however, might have a different view. He woke up last night with high fever, chills, no other symptoms except lugging around a bunch of heavy stuff in the July/Alabama heat.

Heat stroke? Heat exhaustion? Yard sale fever?
Who knows? But he's much better now...and now I'm wondering how long I'll have to wait before I bring up the idea of a yard sale in Texas.

Meanwhile...happy birthday, Christopher!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Dark Frigate

The Dark Frigate by C. B. Hawes

Frigate (frig-ette): a name which has been used for several distinct types of warships at different times.

Before I started reading The Dark Frigate, I actually had to look up the word to see what it meant. That practice continued as I read the novel.

Full of naval terms and sea-worthy slang, this Newbery Award winner is going to be pleasing to a limited audience, I'm afraid. Because of the amount of jargon, the almost Dickensian syntax and violence, I would not recommend it to any student below the 5th grade (10-11 years old). However, its adventurous, yet quaint plot would not likely appeal to students older than 13 or 14 (who, I guarantee, will snort out loud every time the word "poop" appears--and that's a lot of times in this book).

That being said, it is still a worthy read, especially considering the current craze for all things pirate. This will satisfy the student who has plowed through (and enjoyed) Robert Louis Stevenson, Daniel Defoe and Rudyard Kipling.

The Dark Frigate is the tale of Phil Marsham, a somewhat unlucky young man with a stereotypical heart of gold and more than his fair share of wanderlust. After losing his father at sea, he returns to England, only to join the crew of an ill-fated ship that is taken over by pirates. Phil finds an ally in the original crew, but when tragedy occurs, he must decide whether to try and escape or cast in his lot with the treacherous, but thrilling gang.

Again, a potentially limited audience, lots of jargon, but ultimately a fun tale.

Favorite quotes:

It was a day to be alive, and, though Philip Marsham was adrift in a strange world, with neither chart nor compass to show the way, his strength had at last come back to him, and he had the blithe spirit that seasons a journey well...The lad was young, and the world was wide, and it was still spring in England.

To look thus at the sea is enough to make a philosopher of a thinking man, and this Captain Thomas Jordan was by no means devoid of thought. But whereas many a one who stands under the bright stars in the small morning hours feels himself a brother with the most trifling creatures that live and is filled with humility to consider in relation to the immeasurable powers of the universe his weakness during even his brief space of life--whereas such a one perceives himself to be, like the prophets of ancient times, in a Divine Presence, the Old One, his face strangely youthful in its repose, threw back his head and softly laughed, as if there high on the poop he were a god of the heathen, who could blot out with his thumb the ship and all the souls that sailed in her. His face had again a haunting likeness to the devils in the old wood-cuts; and indeed there is something of the devil in the very egotism of a man who can thus assert his vain notions at such an hour.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fun Links for Rainy Days

If you're stuck inside with all this rain (we're thankful for it here in Alabama), check out a few quick links. A review of The Dark Frigate is coming soon!

Here's an article on Emory University's Google-alternative program: a digitized collection with user tools included.

Free flash games, many with a library or book theme (haven't tried these out myself yet).

A New York Times article--A Hipper Crowd of Shushers.

Rex Libris might be coming to the big screen.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Sense of Place Contest

Our inspiring Southern Reading challenge host Maggie recently announced a "sense of place" contest to make the challenge a bit more interesting!

The rules: -Pick out a passage from one of our challenge books that depicts a "sense of place"
-Either take a photo or find a picture on the Internet that goes well with the passage.

Since my photography skills are lacking (and I only have a camera phone at the moment), I found this little gem on the Net to go along with one of my fave quotes from Deliverance.

"The other side of the river was not dangerous, but the side where we were was becoming more and more terrifying to stand on. A powerful unseen presence seemed to flow and float in on us from three directions--upstream, downstream and inland. Drew was right; he could be anywhere. The trees and leaves were so thick that the eye gave up easily, lost in the useless tangle of plants living out their time in this choked darkness."

This picture, to me, really represented that tangle of plants Dickey talks about. The river is calmer in the picture than it is in much of Deliverance, and the characters weren't lucky enough to find one of these highway bridges until the end. Otherwise, it fits with what I saw in my "mind's eye" as I read!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Two Years and Counting...

Happy anniversary to us! It's been a great two years (thanks, sweetheart). And, I must say, celebrating our two-year anniversary with fresh brownies was much better than celebrating our one-year anniversary with stale wedding cake. Here's to many, many...many more!

Read from the beginning...