Readers are Leaders

I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. Weekly Saturday trips to the library (where my mom would drop me off and pick me up hours later) were sacred. I scored very high on my first grade reading evaluation and often read books above my grade level. I preferred reading to visiting friends on weekends and after school.

But I didn’t like writing about what I read. In 5th grade Miss Jaderman evaluated our reading ability on small book reports we wrote for books we read. After 5 book reports we got a small pin, after 15 we got a better pin and after 25 we got a gold pin. While I eventually earned my 25 book pin, I got low reading marks for a few quarters and was recommended for the remedial reading class for 6th grade.

We were not expected to write much on the book reports, they were less than half a sheet of 8.5×11 paper. The top half was reserved for an illustration. After filling out the title of the book and author, there was maybe room for 100 words. But I hated doing it. I know I read more than 25 books that year, probably more than most of the class, but because I was so reluctant to fill out the book report forms, I was considered a poor reader.

At the end of the year we were given all of our book reports, bound between two sheets of construction paper with brass colored brads. I think my book report portfolio was orange. I think I still have it somewhere, I distinctly remember what it looked like.

A few weeks ago I found the book report pins. Strange how I kept them all these years, despite despising the method of earning them.

I guess this is one of these things I need to let go. My anger at Miss Jaderman for not realizing I was a good reader — just a reluctant writer and the shame I felt being placed in the low reading class in 6th grade (luckily my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson, figured out I was a good reader within days and brought me back to the regular/advanced reading group).

Things like this could squelch the love of reading out of someone. I am forever grateful to Mrs. Anderson for this, as well as for fostering an even greater love of reading.

A Memorable Walk

Our blogging group settled on a favorite walk for our latest topic. I could not think of a favorite, but I did remember a memorable one.

As much as I claim to love the out-of-doors I am a homebody and tend to stay inside much more than is good for me. Dean likes going out and doing things so he was pleasantly surprised when, eleven years ago, I requested a family hike on the Trillium Trail at the G R Thompson Wildlife Management Area in the Shenandoah Valley for my Mother’s Day gift.

I’d not heard of trilliums until high school when, for my birthday, my friend Cindy gave me a green suede choker with a single white trillium on the front. I’d not seen one in person, until college when my botany 101 professor, Mr. Steinboch, took us on a field trip to a local park. The next time I saw them was in Pittsburgh when a friend and I visited the Trillium trail there (now a subdivision). I was ready to see more trilliums.

We were going to have to get up early to get to the trail and hike before we ate lunch. A small roadblock was the fact that Clare was spending the night with some friends. We warned her that we were stopping by early to pick her up. Andrew was fine with everything, as far as I recall — he always made sure any special day (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays) were special for the person being celebrated.

The morning of the walk we got up early, ate breakfast and picked up Clare. She was unhappy about having to get up early and very grumpy. We let her sleep in the car. When we got to the park she continued her grumpiness, but Andrew was energetic and happy so that was good.

The hike was beautiful and those of us who’d had a decent sleep were good. I saw trilliums, skunk cabbage, lady slippers, May apples and even an eastern towhee or two.

We had a mid-morning snack on a rock, Andrew rested on a branch, Dean took one of my favorite photos ever of me. Clare continued to be grumpy.

I don’t remember if I was upset that Clare was grumpy the entire day. I probably was and I might be to this day except for one thing — years later she explained to me why she was grumpy all day and apologized for it. The night before she’d been drinking with her friends (apparently the parents were okay with it) and the next day she had her first hangover. While I don’t condone her drinking at age 17, I understand why she was grumpy and realized that she was doing her best to make my day a happy one just by being there.

My Hygge Place

Helen suggested this week’s topic: Hygge. Here’s what she actually said:

It’s a cold, rainy day here and I’m reading an article on hygge (https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-…n-with-getting-cozy), so we could always write about our personal hygge practices (or a very hygge-like experience we had)

Helen from Canada

Until I used the attic office for my full-time work, I believe I felt hygge as I ascended the steps to the attic space and smelled the mixture of old house, carpet, dusty books, disintegrating slate shingles, baseboard heating and the odor of technology. It was my haven. It was where I escaped from the children and where I met up with friends from around the world in online communities (years before Facebook). It was where I sat on the tiny sofa-bed and read or watched television. It was where I listened to Dan Bern and Kate Bush.

Even before we had the attic refinished, before we bought our first computer, I would sit on a kitchen chair at a desk that Dean brought up for me and write in journals or on sheets of legal pad paper — pour out my thoughts, feelings, emotions. Of course in those days I could only go to the attic in the fall or spring because it was neither heated in the winter nor air conditioned in the summer.

Lately, I’ve gotten the feeling back on weekends when I don’t have to sit at the desk and write reports admonishing website developers for forgetting to add alt text to their images or aria-labels to redundant links. I’ve been cleaning (really really really, cleaning) out my office closet and throwing things away that I don’t need and sorting things I might still need. Blogging about some of the things I threw away, and wondering why I’d kept the others for so long.

I still have a ways to go, and come the fall, when I retire, the office will no longer be my work-space. It can go back to being only my place of hygge.

Side note: I’d hoped the enclosed screened in porch (our Lodge) would become my hygge place, but so far it is not doing it for me.

Have you noticed…

This week (fortnight actually) our small blogging group are answering a question we found in a poem and using it as a starting point for our writing. Helen suggested a few poets and their questions. I am sticking with her first suggestion “Have you noticed…” from Ghosts by Mary Oliver.

Have you noticed… people are being kinder these days?

Have you noticed … people are being more cruel these days?

Have you noticed…people are acting smarter these days?

Have you noticed… people are acting stupider these days?

Have you noticed… leaders are speaking the facts?

Have you noticed… leaders are speaking lies?

What have you noticed?

This is How I Am

This was probably created in late May or early June 1963. Possibly September. I am somewhat shocked at the writing and spelling — I was at least 6 years and 9 months old. I think kids these days are more advanced — or I was behind at nearly 7. My drawing ability never improved much.

This is How I Am!
My Mommy My Family My Daddy My baby bother My bother
My house is at 240 Heine St
Where I go to School. I go to School at this pleas.

Two birthday cards from Grandma Green

This card was from 1980 and the note on the back refers to Dean and my trip to the Chetek cabin for our first vacation together. By this time Grandma had moved in with John in his trailer in Plano, Illinois.

This next card was probably from 1983 because I spent a few days with my Grandma and her partner, John, on my way from Pittsburgh to Elgin to drop off the cats for some reason or another — maybe Dean and I went to San Francisco that year? It was not the most direct of routes, but it enabled me to see her in her home. I think it was the only time I went to Plano, Illinois to visit her and John.

Post card from our honeymoon

Dean and I spent nearly 7 weeks in Northern Europe on our honeymoon in 1985. We sent this postcard to my folks.

Dear Mom, Dad & Kevin,

We are in Copenhagen now — at a laundromat believe it or not. No one seems to know the town Grandma came from.. We may go to Jutalnd (the mainland) tomorrow, after Odense (the town where Hans Christian Anderson was born). Man am I travel-weary! We have seen 6 countries (been through 9 altogether) in one month. I am ready to pack up and leave. But then soon something wonderful will happen and I’ll want to stay here all my life.

Can’t wait to tell you about Amsterdam. A post card just won’t do. Really seedy. Spent the night in a houseboat! We will go south after this. Maybe end up in Portugal — on the beaches. Paris has good food. Copenhagen is basically a city. As are all the places we’ve been. Maybe I have a jaded view of traveling like this. Staying with a family in one country is so much nicer. You only see one country — but you see it well.

Love,
Dona and Dean

Post card from Ireland: Fishing boat at dusk in the Blasket Sound, Dingle Peninsula