Library Love: Bright Open Spaces

Much of the vibe that I love when exploring a library comes from the dark, cloistered corners filled with dusty books and brittle pages.  Our library has some of those wonderful nooks, but today I’ll highlight a spot that is equally enjoyable but quite the opposite in terms of ambiance.

The children’s department at our library consists of two rooms.  One is a very large area with lots of books, DVDs, music, computers, a play area, cozy seating, and a gazebo that my boys adore.  The smaller room can be closed off by large wooden doors.  Nonfiction books are in this area, and it is often used for special events like the puppet show that I mentioned last week.  These are all wonderful attributes of a library, but the feature that strikes me most about the children’s department is the bright, open atmosphere.  The high ceilings, the warm lighting, and the soft yellow paint on the walls give the whole area a honey glow.  We enter this area from the main section of the library via a small corridor that has a low ceiling and no lighting of its own.  Emerging into the children’s department makes me feel like Dorothy stepping into Munchkinland.  We are drawn into the colors and textures of books and rugs and cushions and beads and paper and crayons.  Can you tell I love it here?

I love celebrations.

I love celebrations. Although we happily celebrated my husband’s graduation a few weeks ago, there was a little matter of a dissertation defense. (The committee members had difficulty finding a mutually agreeable date for the defense prior to the ceremony, so my hubby was permitted to participate in graduation exercises with his advisor’s complete approval.) Last Wednesday (one week ago), he passed beautifully! He even said that it was “a little bit fun.” The boys and I were scrambling in the morning to buy special things to make a fajita dinner (one of our family favorites), and we bought a tiny chocolate cake at the grocery story. So with very happy hearts and a store-bought cake, we enjoyed one of the most blissful and memorable occasions of our family’s journey.

Tomorrow we will celebrate a very special preschool graduation! A wonderful year of milestones, friendships, play, creation, paint, glue, and music.  A year of sharing, giggling, discovering, and loving.

Library Love: The Little Red Hen

We love our library.  Like many libraries across the nation, our library is struggling to maintain the materials, programs, staff, and hours of operation that the community enjoys and I would argue, needs.  My family isn’t in the position to be financial supporters at this time, so I’m adding this little “feature” to my blog as a way of showing my support of our library and others that enrich the lives of many.  I’m calling this feature “Library Love,” and I hope to share–regularly–the reasons we love our library.

Yesterday morning, my boys and I attended a puppet rendition of The Little Red Hen.  Two kindergarten classes were also in attendance plus two other moms with toddlers.  The show was cute and funny with some great banjo music that enticed the kids to clap along.

If you don’t recall the story, the little red hen plans to make some bread, and her barnyard friends are excited about the prospect.  The hen invites the other animals to join in the work of making bread (planting & harvesting wheat, grinding wheat to flour, mixing & raising the dough, and finally baking the bread).  For each task, the animals of the farm have “better” things to do, so the hen and her chicks do all the work.  Of course, the other animals want to enjoy the warm delicious bread, but the little red hen sticks to guns, so to speak, and refuses to share her bread with the animals who refused to share in the work.  A simple, significant lesson.

Well, I was pleased to see that a recipe for basic bread was printed on the back of the program.  How cute!  So as soon as the boys and I got home, we pulled out the ingredients and got to work on our own bread.  Messy, yummy fun!  We ate our loaf with dinner, and the house still smells good.

So thanks to our local library, we enjoyed a great puppet show, a fun baking experience, and a tasty treat at supper time.  Gotta love the library!

It’s that kind of a weekend.

The kind I love!  We’re having a very “family” weekend.  Today we’re spending the day with my parents.  My husband and my dad are fishing all day.  They headed out at 7am.  My mom, the boys, and I are doing a mix of thing…visiting a consignment sale (fun!), going for a big walk, maybe visiting the library. 

Tomorrow, we’ll be going to church and the church’s ice cream social (a fundraiser for Relay for Life).  Then off we go to celebrate my mom-in-law’s birthday.  It will be a fun afternoon with lots of family and yummy summery food. 

As I head off to a wonderful day, I’ll leave you with some photos from my snazzy new camera.  I’ve been dreaming of a new camera for quite awhile, and my sweet, sweet hubby agreed (just in time for Mothers’ Day) that a camera would be a good investment for our family.  So I’m learning…

I’ll be toting along my new camera on today’s adventures, so I’ll be back soon to share the goings-on.

I want the real thing…

On the day that I received my first acceptance letter to a PhD program, I cried.  At last, my dream would be coming true.  When I was just twelve years old, I set the goal of earning a doctorate in English.  What does a twelve year old know about graduate school?  Not much actually.  But I knew that I was completely in love with language: poetry, stories, reading, writing, and talking about words.  My seventh grade English teacher inspired me with her expressive readings and her praise of my own writing.  I knew that I wanted to spend my life helping others to love language as much as Mrs. Keller and I did.  But I also knew that the kids made fun of my dear teacher.  They mocked her enthusiasm for her work.  I knew that I wanted no part of the jr./sr. high scene.  The answer was college.  I would become a college professor where no one made fun of the teachers.

Once I got to college, I was not disappointed.  My small liberal arts school confirmed everything that I imagined “college” to mean.  It even had old, ivy covered brick buildings.  I loved my English courses, adored my professors, and pushed along toward my goal.  I even joked with one seasoned teacher saying “I want your job!”

I did go to graduate school after college.  I went straight into an MFA program in creative writing at a highly competitive program.  I learned a lot.  Most of all, I learned that I DO love teaching.  While working on the MFA, I had a teaching fellowship (free school!), and I loved teaching Composition.  So, during the last year of my master’s degree, I applied to PhD programs in Composition (housed in English Departments).  I also applied to an Education program at the school where my husband would ultimately attend.   I knew it wasn’t a perfect fit, but I thought I could make it work.  Silly, I  know.  I enjoyed my courses very much, but I never quite fit with my peers.  I told my story over and over…to fellow students, to professors, even to a couple of administrators.  No one seemed to know what to do with me. 

In the middle of it all, I became a mother, and my priorities completely changed.  I still liked my work, but I didn’t carry the same sense of ambition or the competitive nature that is so important in academia.  I liked the idea of finishing the degree, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about getting a job after graduation.  I wanted to nurture a home and family, not just watch my kids grow up but really be a part of that learning and growing process.  After the completion of my course work and the arrival of son #2, I took a leave-of-absence.  I needed to sort out all of these conflicting ideas.  Since January 2009 (the start of my leave), I have been hunting inside myself and waiting for God to leave a hint for me.  Finally, in the last few weeks, I decided that I was ready to return to school, and I hoped that the uncertainties would work themselves out.  I believe I could have made it work with the support of my parents, my in-laws, and of course, my husband.

Yesterday, I met with my advisor with the purpose of enrolling for the summer term.  We had a long conversation which basically entailed my advisor saying exactly what I’ve suspect for the last six years: a PhD in Education is not going to get me the kind of job I want.  Professors in Education teach future teachers–Education majors–how to be teachers.  They typically have years of teaching experience in primary and secondary school.  I have about eight years of teaching experience at the college level and no teacher certification at all. 

Now I see.  The acceptance letter to this program did not represent my dream coming true; it was an edited version of my dream.  Not the real thing.  For several years, I have been following a more convenient path in order to spend more time near my husband (not such a bad thing, all in all), but after several conversations with the people who love me and counsel me best, I decided that I must do the thing that will be best for my family (emotionally and financially)—the same thing that will allow me to be more myself and work toward the real long-held, long-loved dream.  I will not be returning to this doctoral program.

So, today I begin on a new path.  I’m a little sad—like you might feel after a difficult but necessary breakup—but the excitement of this new beginning is starting to sink in.  I get to ask wonderful questions like “Who am I now that I’m not a student?”, “What activities were my boys and I missing out on because I was trying to read or research something for school?”, “What will ‘being myself’ feel like when I’m ‘only’ Mommy?”, “What will my ‘office’ look like now?” (so fun to imagine!),  “What will my shelves hold?”, “What books will I read?”, and on and on and on.

On May 2nd, my husband reached his goal.  He is Dr. Hubby now, and I felt that his graduation was my own victory in a way.  I plan to relish “our” accomplishment while happily making tracks on my new path.  The photo above is my honey in full graduation regalia, walking hand in hand with our older son after the ceremony.  It represents so much of what I truly cherish.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

Being a mother has changed so much. It changed how I see myself, how I see the world, and how I see the nature of life and love. Most of all, motherhood has made me feel closer and appreciate more deeply my own mom.

To my mom, my dear mother-in-law, and all the mamas who may read this blog, know that the world is a better place because you love a little one (or maybe many of them!).


I’m feeling inspired. We went on a little road trip a couple of weeks ago to a small community where farming, crafting, home-cooking, cheese-making, gardening, thrifting, and the throwing of pottery (in the artistic sense) are very much alive. This little town is everything I want my life (and my blog!) to be. It’s quiet. It’s colorful. It simply feels genuine. When we walked into the small restaurant where we always go for lunch on these outings, the waitress rushed over to give my mom and I hugs and kisses on our cheeks. She gushed over how big our baby has grown and claimed that she had been thinking of us. What a welcome (the theme song of Cheers was playing in my head).
After lunch we went into a tiny—and I mean tiny—yarn shop. I picked up two cozy, wonderful yarn remnants. I have no idea what they will become, but I enjoy imaging the possibilities. One is a khaki green cotton, and the other is a plum-colored wool/alpaca blend. And the price! Both pieces were ½ off of almost nothing.
We ventured over to the cutest little school house that is kind of year-round yard sale. Lots of funny odds and ends. Vintage and antique this-and-that mixed with…well, junk. But fun junk. I picked up a stack of ten white cloth napkins. My mom found additional settings to her grandmother’s China set. What a find!
So why am I feeling inspired? An Amish farm is for sale out there. Of course, we are not in the market for a new home…certainly not a farm, but the place left me daydreaming all the way home. The basic white house with simple cotton curtains drawn to the sides, the clothes line across the yard, the big barn, the chickens and little kids running in the yard. The farm and our whole trip reminded me of the life I crave: simplicity and family.

A miniature farm at the conservatory. You gotta love the pig on the roof!