Weathering winter

Here in the Great Lakes, our winter seems to drag on for half the year. This is a place where TV weather forecasters talk about Snowmageddon and Snowpocalypes, By February we are so over it, and by March, using the words “March” and “madness” together doesn’t always refer to your basketball bracket. Our winter began in November this year with a storm that dumped two feet of snow on the area. By Thanksgiving, schools had already used two of their six snow days.

So how do we deal with being stuck inside, endless gray days, and no fresh fruits and veggies? I’ve got friends who trail ride on fat tire bikes, friends who ice fish, friends who ski, and (always, right?) friends who run. Every day, blizzard or no.

Me? Not so much. I’m pretty averse to anything that might be called ‘exercise’. If I had to choose, I’d say walking was my go-to exercise. Summers will find me walking our riverside park for a nice 5k stroll—geese, ducks, squirrels, a canopy of trees, bikers, dog walkers. You can’t get much better than that. And I used to trudge out, no matter the winter conditions. (Yak tracks are an absolute requirement.) But wading through unshoveled walks and slip sliding away one too many times has dimmed even that pleasure for me. (It might very well be time for a treadmill, who knows?)

So what are my top choices for weathering winter?

Books, books, and more books: No surprise there, right?! I know I read more in the summer when I’m not in school, but there’s nothing like a blizzardy Sunday to make me stay curled on the sofa. This year I’ve kept up a pretty brisweathering winterk pace, which is probably a good indication of just how much snow we’ve had.

Coffee: My drug of choice; it’s warm, smooth, and creamily delicious.

Putzing: Winter is a great time to rearrange furniture, weed out crowded closets, and organize cupboards. For some reason, I am drawn to make my cave neat and tidy and efficient when I’m stuck inside. Then, when the sun shines brighter and the breezes blow warmer, I’m ready for spring cleaning.

Turn inward: It’s this time of year that I set goals and plan for not the distant, but the near future. Like spring and summer. In order to get a good site, we need to make camping reservations six months out, so my thoughts turn to campfires, hobo pies, and walks in the woods. I think about additions to our garden and yard, and otherwise transport my mind past the snow and into greener days.

In a word—hibernate. And even though that sleepy groundhog saw his shadow this year, I know that in a few short weeks (probably about four, by my count) the robins will be back. And when the robins arrive, I breathe a deep sigh of relief.

It won’t be long now.

True Story …

True story #1

[End of the hour, kids are packing up–the next day is Reading for Enjoyment in my high school junior English class.]

Me: If you guys want to look at my book cart and check out a book for tomorrow, now’s a good time.

50-Shades-of-GreyGirl: Do you have 50 Shades of Gray?

Me: (calmly) Noooooo, but even if I did have it, you know you couldn’t check it out, right?

Girl: Because of the content? (her nose scrunched up and head tilted)

Me: Yeppers.

OF COURSE BECAUSE OF THE CONTENT, silly girl. What in heaven’s name was she even thinking?! Now. Did I read racy books in high school?  Absolutely. But would I ever have even  considered asking a teacher to borrow one? Nah-uh. Part of the thrill is that (we think!) the adults don’t know that we’ve pulled one over on ’em.


True story #2

[I am dog-tired. It’s Friday, the dead of winter, I haven’t slept well in ages, and it was the first week of the new semester. I greet my students at the door each hour, so I’m standing in the hall right outside my room. It’s 10 AM.]

Me: Good morning, Katy!

Katy: Hi, Ms. L.

[She continues on into the room, I greet another couple students, and Katy walks back out to the hall with a frown on her face.]

mascara
Manuel Martin@Flickr

Katy: Are you okay? You look sad.

Me: I do?! No, honey, I’m fine. Thanks for asking.

I fret a bit during the hour, thinking I’d better take a couple naps this weekend.  At lunch, I stop at the rest room first thing and check out the mirror. Man, I do look tired! And … well, rather plain come to think of it … I bend closer to the mirror. Unbelievable. I somehow neglected mascara and eye liner this morning. How did  that even happen?! Even on a day I go makeupless, nine times out of ten I still use mascara. At 5:45 AM I must have started my makeup, went to let a dog back in, and just la-di-dahed back to my coffee and lunch packing. Maybe I do need those naps, after all.

Or Spring would be nice, too.

A novel scrapbook: The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt (review)

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt
Caroline Preston
Harper Collins

One of my most precious possessions is a “School Friendship Book” I found at a flea market several years ago. It is the real deal. None of this photos cropped, matted, and embellished with stickers stuff that we do today.  No, this is a leather journal-sized wonder with dusty manilla paper pages, warped with age and crammed with mementos. It belonged to one Avis B. from Elkhart, Indiana, Class of 1923. Pages are filled with handwritten notes, poems, and remembrances from teachers and students at Elkhart High School. But the fun starts about halfway where Avis taped and glued the following:
An invitation to Bea’s party (“Oh boy, oh joy, did we have fun!)
cut-out construction paper hearts (“Valentine’s party had a swell time”)
Elkhart High Athletic Association membership tickets
cut-out EHS cheers from the school newspaper (“Hit ’em on the elbow/hit ’em on the jaw/Cemetery, Cemetery/Rah! Rah! Rah!)
newspaper articles about sporting events, Jollies, and plays
curly lock of gorgeous auburn hair
Camel cigarette (“Lavon Holdeman June 1923”)
fabric shamrock (another “swell time–why? Oh that would be telling!”)
lock of her own “golden locks”
napkins
Christmas card
Halloween paper cupcake topper/favor
and a dozen or more circa 1921-23 photos of girls, and one photo of a saxaphone-playing young man. See why it’s so precious?

FrankieSo imagine my incredible delight when I found Caroline Preston’s The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt recently at my local bookstore–used, in great Frankie3condition, and only nine dollars! (It was also curiously mis-filed because it was in the Book Club section, not in the used books, which in my mind, means it was meant to be mine.) I’m often late to the party, so this is my first encounter with Frankie which was published in 2011. Oh. My-lanta. I might have even gasped aloud softly when I saw it. I bought it for the novelty, assuming I’d just look at the pretty pictures and layouts one afternoon and be done with it. Except it’s a novel. Really–the scrapbook actually reads like one. And of course I can’t help but connect Frankie Pratt to my Avis.

It’s not high literature. There’s no complex plot twists or turns. But if you’re looking for something to read just for sheer fun of it?  You’ll love Frankie Pratt, I’m sure.

Taking the Joy Dare with Jane Austen

I adore Jane Austen. I mean, I am so there. The countryside, all hedgerows and lanes; the homes—Northanger Abbey, Norland Park–gracious with their breakfast dishes and card rooms. And those Georgian manners, “high spirits and good humor” all around at a carriage ride after breakfast; or, letters hastily set aside with colourless faces.  Where new ribbons can make any bonnet both stylish and flattering. Oh, to spend my leisure time with the piano forte or my petit point and drawing (well, maybe not so much).

joy dareSo I was thrilled when I visited my local independent bookstore to choose a new journal and found this little gem: Jane Austen Novel Journal by Chronicle Books. Oh my goodness. (If you can’t find it locally, the journal is available at Gone Reading, a site with bookish gifts to die for—but more on that in another post!) The pages are sprinkled with quotes from her books; the layouts varied–some ruled, some pin-wheeled, some divided.

Now–me, a journal? Quite uncharacteristic. But I’m using Ann Voss’s Joy Dare this year to count up to one thousand gifts and graces. (You can print your own list of dares from her blog A Holy Experience.)  Because I’m stuck. I’ve had countless experiences of grace recently, worked through some incredibly difficult situations last year, and still I find myself restless. Heart-weary. How can that be in the face of so much that is good in my life? I’ve managed to successfully avoid that whole gratitude journal idea—too often (at least in the posts I read) I find it a kind of maudlin here’s-my-life-I’m-pretty-holy exhibition. Harsh, I know, but that’s how I read ’em. But I know I have to do something to rock myself out of this rut.

Enter the Joy Dare which I found via A Holy Experience via Mundane Faithfulness, evangelical Christian bloggers both. Now that’s not my spiritual bent, but I can sure appreciate that the list offers some guidelines without being proscriptive. It’s fresh. So Sunday I wrote down three “yellow gifts of fresh mercy”. Yesterday was “something above, below, beside” and today, “three startling graces of God”. Now this is something I can do (joyfully, I might add!), right along with Jane, because I think she just might understand: “It is well to have as many holds upon happiness as possible” (Northanger Abbey).

Which I intend to do.

A sweet lil’ reading challenge

When I browse online reading challenges, I’m usually underwhelmed by what I find at the linky parties: 30 posts in 30 days and I’m to write about my “favorite side character” (really?!); a mix-it-up challenge and I’m reading “medical thriller fiction” (what the-what the?!); or 52 books in 52 weeks? (I’ve got a life, here, folks!)  I have participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for the past two years because it’s flexible—I set my own goal, as few or as many books as I want—and that sliding bar on my Goodreads homepage is a nice nudge in the right reading challengedirection. But it’s all me. And kind of boring.

But Popsugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge (link) caught my eye, for some reason when it popped up on Pinterest. Odd because I’m not Popsugar’s demographic (18-40-year-old-women … ah, I don’t think so!), nor am I particularly interested in the hottest trends or any place “women’s passion points connect”, Popsugar’s tag line. And I have no idea what a “lifestyle brand” is. But there it was, “the ultimate reading challenge”–50 categories, all but winking at me on the screen.

There are some serious categories—book more than 100 years old, a banned book. Some light reading—a book you can finish in a day, a funny book. And some that will probably stretch my comfort level a bit—a book with nonhuman characters (Have I told you how much I hate talking rabbits?), a book that scares you. Popsugar reassures that even though they included 50 categories (or 52 with the trilogy), readers should pick and choose according to their reading tastes—which I will definitely do.

And if the categories aren’t that different from the million and one other reading challenges on the interwebs? Well, there’s something about a handy printable graphic to download (link) that caught my over-40 year-old, decidedly untrendy eye.

So there it is–printed, tucked in my Kindle cover, all 50 little checkboxes just waiting for me to add my tick marks.