My Blog and the Three “R’s”

I hit the one year mark with my blog this month.  This  brought to mind a line from an old song, “School Days”, which listed “reading and writing and ‘rithmetic” as fond memories. (The song was already old when I learned it 50 years ago, so the reference may be mine alone.)  Those three categories sum up my blogging experience.

‘Rithmetic.  (No real math, I promise.)

My goal when I started was to write at least twice a month.  With 21 posts in 12 months, I didn’t quite make that modest goal.  But I am in good position to beat that number of posts next year, and 21 soundly beats the previous year’s 0. I had a list of things I wanted to write about that had been on my mind, and though I wrote less than half of my original list, half of my posts were not part of the list at all.  Meanwhile my “to write” list has tripled.  (That is a story problem for anyone wishing this was about math.  How many ideas were on the original list?  And when will the train arrive with the apples? or oranges?)

Writing
I came to blog in secrecy, thinking that after a few posts I would tell family and some friends about it so they could read if interested. I was writing for the joy of writing. Imagine my surprise soon after my first post to find people reading, commenting, following my “secret” blog. Just a few, but still a surprise. I am writing about a variety of things that interest me, so a reader who liked my posts on Alzheimer’s might be bored with the posts on books and so on. I understand the value of sticking to a topic to attract readers, but I will continue to write variety, and hope some continue to tune in from time to time when a topic strikes their interest, too. I hope so, because being read increases the joy of writing. And I will tell my family soon. After so much time passed, it seemed logical to wait a year. Having learned others did the same when they started blogging helped me feel more normal, or at least less alone, in secrecy.

As I wrote, it was interesting to me how often a post veered off in a different direction than I had originally planned, and how many just popped up suddenly to be written ahead of the ones brewing in my thoughts for a long time. There are ideas on my list I look forward to working on, when there is time. In addition to blogging this year, I am finally starting “Mom’s Memories” stories for my grown children. I don’t want them to be left in the situation my sister and I are having, alone in piecing our childhood memories together for some kind of family history. So I am challenging myself to write outside the blog, for them.

Reading
In addition to the happy surprise of people (anyone!) reading my blog, I have found some wonderful posts to read, blogs to follow. I have spent too much of my writing time reading. But what a wealth of creativity, a diversity of lives and ideas I have found in these blogs and bloggers.

And so I’ll end on my 4th “R”. My life is richer, thanks to this year of blogging.

My Nose in a Book, The End

In recent years, I’ve done most of my reading without an actual book in hand.

I like the physical act of reading a book. I admire the cover, read the dedication, the forward, and never-ever skip ahead to see what happens later.

Books and the word cozy go together so well. We have dozens of pictures of our family snuggled in and reading. Parent to child, child to self, child to other child, one of us trying to read with a cat in the way, and so on. (Cats must love books, too.)

I have old books displayed as decorations, as well as shelves full of loved books I might read or reference again and other books waiting to be read as time allows.

I love books. But most of all, I love reading.

I do not own a Kindle or any of its kin, but I imagine I will some day. The convenience of having so many books so easily at hand is compelling. Already I find that I spend more time reading online than out of an actual book most days.

So here is my guilty secret. I check out three audio books each month from our public library. I listen to them on my commute to work and home again. I listen to amuse myself while I am doing mindless tasks, like cleaning or sorting. But despite the fact that each audio book ends with the words, “Thank you for being a recorded book reader.” I feel a little guilty each time I mention a book I have recently “read” when someone else was doing the reading. After all, I never claimed to have read any of the books read aloud to me by teachers in grade school, though I often later chose to read them on my own.

Without audio books, many of the good books and short stories I have enjoyed “reading” would still be waiting. Reading books is still a priority for me, but the time I have to devote to it is limited. And as much as I love being curled up with a cat on my lap and my nose in a book, that activity doesn’t lend itself well to multitasking.

Listening is not equal to the experience of reading and relishing an actual book for myself. But it is just as engrossing. In a few minutes I will hop in my car and listen to the last chapter on the final cd of this months third book as I drive home with both hands on the wheel, both eyes on the road. I can’t wait to hear how it ends.

My Nose in a Book, Part 2

Time stops when I am browsing in a library or book store for a new treasure.

Wouldn’t it be great if that were true?  Since I cannot stop time – or even wrinkle it as suggested by my favorite childhood author Madeline L’engle, I am usually late to my next stop after finally selecting a book.

I have trouble making a quick selection for several reasons.  I have diverse interests and there are so many choices that many times I have no choice but to judge a book by its cover.  I truly hope each new book will be a treasured read.  I have so often been disappointed by what seemed a promising choice.  And then, there is my own disability when it comes to awareness of time passing, but this post is about the books. (TFWYHFD – Time Flies When You’re Having Fun Disorder, if anyone wondered.)

I have nothing against books on best-seller lists, but some of the most interesting things I have read are not new or currently popular.  Just new to me. Sometimes this means finally reading a classic that I have somehow missed along the way.  Other times it is discovering an author who just captures my imagination and if I am lucky, the jackpot of finding they have written more than one book.  Part of the fun of reading is the fun of discovery, whether discovering a previously unheard of book or author, discovering that Great Expectations is a classic for good reasons, or that a best-seller really does live up to its hype.

Recently I have been going through old books that my parents inherited from their parents,  trying to thin the generational clutter.  It is very hard for a book lover to decide any book is ready to be discarded, but I have hardened my heart against yellowing, crumbling old paperback novels and some outdated textbooks.  Beyond that, I have designated book piles that: someone in the family might want, someone somewhere might purchase, or some agency might consider a worthy donation to their library.

Of course, in sorting through these books, I have had to look through them before determining their fate.  There were some gems on child-rearing and understanding adolescents that predate the ’50’s, and a truly disturbing Advice for Young Wives from the ’20’s that explains why no one smiled in wedding photos in those days.  As I tossed a few outdated science textbooks, I stopped to leaf through an American Lit book from the 30’s.  I was curious what selections were included in that era and considered keeping it to compare to more recent editions, when I realized that about two inches of pages were stuck together.  It opened at that point to reveal a hollowed out recess about 4″x6″.

It would be lovely to reveal that my treasure hunt through old books led me to a discovery of real treasure, but this hiding place was empty.  It made me smile to realize that the book I would have selected to keep had been seen by my grandfather (the glued  and rough-cut pages all but screamed of his handiwork) as a book no one would pull from his shelf, making it a safe and perfect hiding place for…?

Ah, Grandpa, you were a gem!

My Nose in a Book, Part 1

It still happens. That glow of anticipation, when I have a new book.

In school, there was the joy of selection with Scholastic book orders, and better yet, the day of delivery. In elementary school, teachers must have kept the books until we were safely headed home, but in Middle School they were handed to us right in the middle of a class. Evidently we were expected to have enough self control to continue whatever work we were doing. I don’t know about anyone else in the class, but they had lost me for the rest of the day.

“No reading at the table. No reading after bedtime. No, we can’t turn on the dome light so you can read in the car. Get your nose out of that book and…DO something.”

I heard them all, because reading was my favorite doing.

Now I am in charge of the Scholastic book orders for six preschool classes.
We earn free books, which become Christmas gifts to the children. I still want to read them all.

A dad to one of our three year old’s started ordering in January after seeing how much his son enjoyed the one book we had given him. Having books in the home and reading together was a new idea to him. How much I take for granted, having grown up in a home stocked with books to read and food to eat.

My young teachers and teacher’s aides often express delight when they see the book order forms. Most say they remember getting to order the dollar books – quarter books in my day.

But my favorite Scholastic book club story came from a young single mom, who bought a dollar book every month for each of her two kids. “I remember when the Scholastic books would be delivered when I was in school. I always wished I could get one, but I never did.” This was spoken with no resentment, just pride that she was providing this small pleasure for her own children.

I can still picture some of the kids who sat in desks near me in seventh grade English. Did they all get a book on delivery day? I didn’t notice. I had my nose in a book.