Nothing New Under the Sun

sunshine

My friend Christie always teases me that I was born in the wrong time-period. She says she can picture me in a bonnet. The other day I came to work in a dress something similar to Baby wore in Dirty Dancing and she said, “Don’t you look very Puritan today!” She says it all in love and not with the least bit of malice, and I actually sort of take it as a compliment anyway. I wasn’t too chaste in my early twenties–though I wasn’t exactly a partier, either–so it is nice to be thought of as conservative…and pure.

Despite my tendency toward promiscuity when I was younger, I actually have always been somewhat old-fashioned. I am a home-body, and although I appreciate and applaud the strides women have taken these past several decades, I would love nothing better than to be June Cleaver and answer the door in my dresses and pearls with a glass of brandy for my husband and a piping hot dinner on the dining room table in my house of sparkling floors and plump couch pillows. I am pretty sure that Haley over at Carrots for Michaelmas (one of my favorite bloggers) and I would have been BFFs had we grown up together, because I hitched up giant My Little Ponies to a toy baby pram to use as a covered wagon so that my Barbie could be Laura Ingalls, and begged my mother for pinafores.

Sometimes this world seems to move too fast for me. There are so many people in it and always rushing to be somewhere, and rarely using good manners; children–toddlers, even–constantly on cell phones or some electronic devices; bawdy lyrics on the radio incessantly–even in country music (which has lately really gone down the drain–I am not into this “bro country” thing)…it just hurts my heart sometimes.  I was killing time in Wal-Mart the other day while my car was having its tires balanced and rotated, and I was walking up and down the aisles looking at things. I have no small children and no little girls, and it is my heart’s greatest desire to have a wee lady, so I decided to look at baby clothes and little girl toys and fantasize what I might have for my future daughter. The dolls were just so ugly–scantily clad with garish make-up and the baby clothes even seemed like they were less than modest. I always picture babies as being sweet in pastels, at least for their first year (this is a huge Southern thing), but there were all kinds of animal prints and neon. I just think animal prints are for panties–or animals–not babies.

I have spent the past week reading the Emily of New Moon series by L.M. Montgomery, which is one of my favorite authors. I realize her books are flowery and geared for children (though the children would need to be very knowledgeable about literature and classical mythology to really get them), but it feels so nice to escape into a world of simple beauty. And even though I could shake Emily on scores of occasions (Dean Priest is beyond gross; if you love Teddy then tell him, you fool, or at least quit running away when he is about to tell you; and for goodness’ sake, get over your stupid pride and network in New York so you can climb your Alpine path!), the books really make me long for dairy cows and buttoned boots.

It has taken me a few days to really snap out of my wistful longing and realize that her idyllic world never truly existed. In a way, yes, there was a time and a place where all those lovely things happened, but ugly things happened, too. There was really hard work, lots of narrow-minded people, incurable diseases, fast and loose people, people with ugly hearts–not unlike today.

The truth of the matter is, there has always been nastiness in the world, ever since the fall of man. There has always been raunchy music, slutty clothes, promiscuous or evil behavior, abortion, pollution, bad manners…there really is no such thing as the “Good Ol’ Days”. I wouldn’t even say it is getting worse (except pollution). We have far more people than any time in history, so incidents seem more numerous, but I am not sure the proportionate volume has really changed. I think that the sum of human happiness and the sum of human failures is pretty static, proportionately. In fact, if anything, we are probably in a better time and place in history than even my beloved Laura Ingalls or Maud Montgomery, despite the great wonders and discoveries Laura had or the charm and propriety Maud had. We have more opportunities and freedoms, cures to many ailments, and lots more general knowledge. I suppose what I really want is to know what I know, but travel back in time so that I can wear long dresses and Psyche knots and get around in a horse and buggy at will–but that is absurd as I don’t have a Delorean or a Tardis. What I need to do is attempt to keep the pure, sweet things alive and spread beauty and love in the world as best as possible, which is part of my duty as a disciple. I can help keep evil at bay, but that sweet world of my imagination or in my books won’t come to pass until the next Kingdom, which will be better than ever I could imagine and far better than the world in any book.

We, including and most especially myself, should probably stop sitting on our laurels and whining about how things are not how they used to be and how this world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and instead enjoy the blessings we have and spread them around. Montgomery wouldn’t have wanted me to think that way, either, because as Anne Shirley pointed out to a naysayer, “There are ever so many bright sides…It’s really a beautiful world.”

Five Favorite Books for Tween Boys

Linking up with Jenna at Call Her Happy & Rachel at Efficient Momma for Five Favorites this week.

I do not often get to talk about mommy stuff as my kid is half grown and I only have one, and not a passel. He is, thank and praise God Almighty, a healthy, well-adjusted child, so I don’t have much to complain about with him either. I think in all of his 13 years, he has thrown up 3 times, and the last time he had a fever on my watch was when he was 3 years old and he had an abscessed tooth. Aren’t I the lucky duck?

Anyway, one thing I do lament over is he is no book worm like his mommy dearest. He tolerates reading reasonably well, and very occasionally he will get into a book and forget to do chores or eat, but only very rarely. He used to love to have me read to him as a child, though. He and I would always go pick out two books on payday, so we have a hefty library of children’s books that I am saving for dream baby #2 or for grandkids. He would pick out a book for himself, and I would pick out one FOR him…and invariably he liked the one I picked out more, so I must have good taste 🙂

Being a girl, I grew up in the worlds of Anne Shirley and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I own every single Laura book and Anne book, including recipe books. I read almost incessantly as a child and so did my sisters, so this foreign male creature barely seems like my kin at times. Finding books to entice a tween or young teen boy (other than comic books) has been a especial challenge, as he is not quite old enough for more mature content or to grasp heavy themes, but I want to introduce him to weightier material without scaring him off of books. I have to read them first to make sure they are suitable and have some merit to them–he reads enough comic books on his own, so I have to supplement his library with something with more substance. I definitely don’t mind him reading books written from a female perspective, and I encourage it, but since he is little bit hard to induce to read in the first place, I prefer to bait him with primarily masculine books.

Of course, any kid with a healthy imagination and a grain of sense and taste loves Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, though lots of the literary devices of Rowling and (especially) Tolkien will be lost on him for some time yet. Below are some books that I have coaxed him into reading (and one he asked ME to read) and we both think they rock our socks, so if you have a tween/young teen or know one, these might be some cool suggestions for summer reading.

1: Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

 I cannot say enough good things about this book. Adults and kids alike should read it. It is funny, touching, and gives you something to really mull over. He’s the funnier, smarter, more talented Harry Potter in that he, too, is an orphan left with a weird aunt and uncle but is destined for greater things. Neglected and unloved, he sets out on his own and inadvertently becomes a legend. If this was a hit, then your kid will probably also enjoy Hoot by Carl Hiaasen.

2.  A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

This is a true story of a seemingly orphaned Sudanese boy and his journey to find refuge in a war-torn country. The story flashes back and forth to the boy’s future in which he comes back to help his country by digging wells for clean water in poor villages. There is plenty of suspense and even a little gore to engage any young boy, and the story is told simply and effortlessly. My son read this in 6th grade and loved it so much he DEMANDED that I read it, which I did, in about two hours.  It was the first recommendation he has ever made me on a book, and he did his mama proud. If your boy liked this one, I recommend The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. Be prepared for some serious questions, but it will open up great dialogue.

3. Bud, Not Buddy—Christopher Paul Curtis

This is more for the 9-11 age range, but my son loves it nonetheless. Bud, a young orphaned African American boy growing up in the Great Depression (why do I enjoy orphan books so much???) sets out to find the father he never met, who he believes is a semi-famous jazz musician.  A beautiful story of hope, optimism, and sheer grit and determination. Elijah of Buxton, also written by Curtis, is another great story if your kids enjoyed this one, as is the classic Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.

4. Johnny Tremain—Esther Forbes

Not for nothing is this one a classic. I always love anything about the American Revolution, despite being an Anglophile, so this one is right up my alley and it appeals to masculine little souls as well. Johnny is a young apprentice silversmith caught up in the intrigue of 1770s Boston on the cusp of the war for independence. There is even a tiny bit of romance in it for boys just starting to be the teensiest bit curious about girls, but not enough to freak them out or anything, and it is very tame and clean. I recommend this book for 12-13 year olds, but The Riddle of Penncroft Farm by Dorthea Jensen is a good choice for the 10-11 year old crowd. Both would make a good reading assignment for an American Revolution unit.

5. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

This kid lives the life any kid, especially any boy, would dream about. He “runs away” (his parents let him) to live on his own in the Catskill Mountains. He teaches himself all kinds of cool survival tricks that I cannot wait to try out on my next camping trip in Ocala, trains a hawk, and lives in a hollowed out tree. Pretty dang awesome. If your boy (or girl) likes this book, then he (or she) would also like Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and the Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare, or even Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell.

I am ALWAYS looking for new books for me and the kid to enjoy together, so if you have any suggestions to entice a 13 year old boy to read, please let me know!