N is for The New Yorker (A-Z Blogging Challenge)

Today is day 14 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  The challenge began with A on April 1 and continues the alphabet throughout theThe New Yorker
month, except on Sundays. My theme for the month will be this blog’s tagline: life, books, and all things bookish, so you can expect a little bit of this ‘n that. I’m still reading, though, and I’ll add reviews whenever possible. Thirty days of blogging is a huge commitment for me, but I’m looking forward to meeting and greeting new blog friends.

Today’s word: The New Yorker


New Yorker
MyEyeSees@Flickr.com

 I think my first New Yorker subscription was over twenty-five years ago–it’s now a budgeted item, costly subscription notwithstanding. I’ve rarely been disappointed in an issue and love the breadth and depth of the writing.

I’ve read about Saddam Hussein’s death and Taylor Swift. About a dentist who faked his running records and the people who try to amass world records for Guinness. I learned about hand transplants and hoarders. About murderers and drug dealers. I read an article by the Newtown shooter’s father about his son. This week’s issue? A voyeur who recorded his observations over decades and a Filipino nanny.

And the covers. Oh my goodness the cover art. I saved this one because it said so much about how our first Black president was perceived.

In my AP class, I use some articles as classroom reading and for one marking period students choose an article each week from the several years I have saved. At first they complain the articles are too long. Then they get hooked–and often confused by the cartoons. (“I don’t get the ‘pictures’? They don’t go with the story …”) Dancers read reviews of ballets and drama kids read play reviews. There is a profile on Taylor Swift and one on John Green. Concussions in high school football. Hopefully, at least a few of the kids will remember the magazine fondly–and someday subscribe themselves.

Magic Trash and the Heidleberg Project (Blogging from A-Z Challenge)

Today is day 13 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  The challenge began with A on April 1 and continues the alphabet throughout theMagic Trash
month, except on Sundays. My theme for the month will be this blog’s tagline: life, books, and all things bookish, so you can expect a little bit of this ‘n that. I’m still reading, though, and I’ll add reviews whenever possible. Thirty days of blogging is a huge commitment for me, but I’m looking forward to meeting and greeting new blog friends.

Today’s word: Magic Trash


Take a peek back at “K”–remember when hubby and I took in a Tiger game on opening weekend? After we left in the 5th, I had a list of Top Ten Things To Do In Detroit all ready to go, links and everything on my phone. I came prepared, people! Now you might ask–Detroit? There’s things to do that would even approach a Top Ten list?

And yes, dear reader, there is.

Because Detroit is coming back–it’s a story on the Michigan Radio NPR station just about every day. And if it’s not yet “back”, Detroit is certainly trying. We found Historic Fort Wayne, a Civil War fort and home of the Tuskegee Airmen museum. Closed, sadly, until the end of April. We found Eastern Market, a urban farmer’s market that spills over into some of the surrounding neighborhood with foodie little Magic Trashshops and such. And we found  The Heidelberg Project. Now I’ve heard about the project for years (on Michigan Radio, of course!) and I’ve seen footage on TV news when it was vandalized by arson. Twice.

But you really must see it to believe it.

Heidelberg ProjectI found an incredible children’s book in the gift shop titled Magic Trash that tells the story of Tyree Guyton and his art. As a boy Guyton’s grandfather (a house painter) encouraged him to channel his extraordinary imagination by painting. Like many artists, Guyton was also a keen observer of the world around him. He saw his beloved East Side decline as neighbors left for the suburbs. He watched riots light the city on fire in the late sixties. And he got out of there. This is one children’s book I bought for myself–the illustrations are whimsical and some of the writing, poetry: “Brush greens and blues/On wheels and shoes/Slosh, slap, and splash magic trash”.

Heidelberg ProjectBut Guyton eventually came back to Grandpa Sam’s house and started to transform the ugliness around him into something beautiful. Now this is where is gets tricky because some would look at The Heidelberg Project and question, not exclaim, its beauty. (In fact, some believe that the arsons were, in fact, an attempt to destroy the Project–but art is eternal, no?) And I’m not an expert in contemporary art, so I may not be the best judge. But I do know that The Heidelberg Project is stunning, extraordinary, profound on some level I can’t quite explain. It is vibrant. Alive.

The Project’s mission states their goal is to, “inspire people to appreciate and use artistic The Yellow Houseexpression to enrich their lives and to improve the social and economic health of their greater community.” One neighbor took that goal to heart. The Yellow House allows guests to sign and date the siding–and has used the money to repair the house: new porch, siding and soffit repair. That’s enterprise–the Heidelberg philosophy in action. Lives enriched. Economic health of one family improved.

Tyree Guyton is an evangelist for his art and his city. At the end of this YouTube video, (which is a must-watch, by the way) Guyton says he believes Detroit will come back. That if he can do one little thing to help that happen, he’s done his job.

We’re planning a trip back this summer.

L: Madeleine L’Engle (Blogging from A-Z)

Today is day 12 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  The challenge began with A on April 1 and continues the alphabet throughout theL
month, except on Sundays. My theme for the month will be this blog’s tagline: life, books, and all things bookish, so you can expect a little bit of this ‘n that. I’m still reading, though, and I’ll add reviews whenever possible. Thirty days of blogging is a huge commitment for me, but I’m looking forward to meeting and greeting new blog friends.

Today’s word: L’Engle


 Most readers come to Madeleine L’Engle through her Wrinkle in Time books. (At least that’s what I call them–L’Engle’s website lists the series as the Time Quintet). When my own children were of an age to read the books twenty years ago, they proved madeleine l'engle's booksa great entry into the world of science fiction and fantasy. (Here’s a great segment about Wrinkle on NPR’s All Things Considered about its appeal.) And believe it or not, Wrinkle in Time, published in 1962, was even popular when I was in grade school. But I didn’t read it.

I first came to Madeleine L’Engle through a series she wrote: The Crosswicks Journals. Part memoir, part spirituality, the books explore the writer’s life as a mother, wife, and writer. They are introspective and not at all preachy, dealing with caring for an aging relative, our need for solitude, marriage, and the role of the sacred in modern life. (In fact, writing this, I think I’ll return to the books this summer.)

After falling in love with the Crosswick Journals, I backtracked and read a few of the Wrinkle books, as well as Meet the Austins and Troubling a Star, titles I’d consider Young Adult. Even as an adult (a crossover!) I wasn’t disappointed with the ideas in books that were written ostensibly for younger readers.

In fact, I have a Wrinkle in Time and Swiftly Tilting Planet in my classroom library–and just yesterday, I had a young man check one out. He’s sixteen, mind you. A true testament to the endurance of a writer who cares about Ideas.

J: Joy, or “Are you happy?” (Blogging from A-Z)

Today is day 10 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  The challenge began with A on April 1 and continues the alphabet throughout theJ
month, except on Sundays. My theme for the month will be this blog’s tagline: life, books, and all things bookish, so you can expect a little bit of this ‘n that. I’m still reading, though, and I’ll add reviews whenever possible. Thirty days of blogging is a huge commitment for me, but I’m looking forward to meeting and greeting new blog friends.

Today’s word: Joy


Someone recently asked me if I was happy–the implication being, of course, that I was not. I was a bit bemused by the question because I’ve worked incredibly hard over the past few years to answer that very question: What brings me joy? What makes me happy? The basic mid-life better-get-my-sh*t-together stuff. And I think what most people mean when they ask that question has to do with situational happiness: Am I happy with this or that relationship? Does my job or lifestyle make me happy?

Are you happy? But I think a person can have a deep, satisfying sense of joy–and still not like certain aspects of this or that relationship, job, or lifestyle. In fact, I should be dissatisfied with some facets of my life … or I’d never be nudged to change and grow. Discontent is a powerful motivator.

So here’s why I know I’m happy.

I’m happy because I’m free–really and truly free to make any choice I’d like. I’m happy because I know my heart–I know what I believe, what I value, what I long for. I’m happy because I understand (okay, I’m coming to understand) my flaws and imperfections–I’m learning what to accept and what to transform. I’m happy because I have a deep sense of connection with this Great Big World, one that fills me with joy and moves me to tears at times.

So this or that relationship? Yes and no. The job? Not always. Lifestyle? Maybe not so much.

But am I truly happy? You betcha!

H: How It Used To Be (Blogging from A-Z)

Today is day 8 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  The challenge began with A on April 1 and continues the alphabet throughout theHelpfulness or How it used to be
month, except on Sundays. My theme for the month will be this blog’s tagline: life, books, and all things bookish, so you can expect a little bit of this ‘n that. I’m still reading, though, and I’ll add reviews whenever possible. Thirty days of blogging is a huge commitment for me, but I’m looking forward to meeting and greeting new blog friends.

Today’s thought brought to you by the letter H: How it used to be


On Wednesday I wrote about my tour in Amish country and I’ve been turning it over in my mind ever since. Amish farms usually have a smaller house on the property called a Daadi Haus or Grossdaadi Haus where grandparents “retire” when the son takes over the farm. I’m guessing “retire” is used only by the English because in an Amish household there is always some cooking, sewing, gardening, and baby-minding until a grandma is too feeble and frail to help out any longer. Older family members play an integral role in the life of a young family and the community. Every elder has a purpose–and it’s how we all used to live.

-elderly-woman-washing-produce-pvIt’s an idea worth thinking about, especially as I get closer and closer to my sixth decade. Of course, I could continue teaching far into my sixties or maybe even my seventies, if I was so adventurous. (I’m not.) Americans seem to think of retirement as time to play and be a little self-indulgent after all those years of child-rearing and career-building. Which is all well and good. Quite frankly, I am looking forward to a little more “me” time.

But will that be enough?

Americans are an independent lot. We live and let live. Keep our nose out of our neighbor’s (and family’s) business. It’s every man (or woman!) for him(or her!)self. And now that I’m a grandma, I actively try not to interfere or impose my way of child rearing or house keeping on my children. I don’t step on toes. (I hope.)

So where will I find purpose once I’ve decided I’m done with grading papers and copying handouts, once I’ve taken down my bulletin boards and closed the door to B209 for the last time? I can’t babysit forever–those littles will soon grow up and move into their own busy lives. There’s no huge plot to garden in my small city yard (although a garden is certainly a possibility), no family business to be a part of. I could start sewing again, I guess, and volunteer more. I figure I can only travel for so long. And then what?

I see that playing out in my still very active eighty-year-old mother right now. A widow, she has no end of friends and activities that keep her busier, it seems, than me sometimes–but even she still feels the slow tick-tock of some long days spent alone.

Don’t get me wrong, or accuse me whining. I’m happy. My mind is still sharp. I’ve weathered some treacherous storms in my life and my boat is still upright and sailing on. My daily needs are met ten times over. I have interests and hobbies and no end of curiosity about the world around me.

So I’ll work part time in my sixties. I’ve just started looking into the Peace Corps. I’ll keep busy. I want the last decades of my life to be useful, gratifying. But I think it rather odd that we now have to manufacture ways to be productive.

Sometimes, I wish we could go back to how it used to be.