Saturday, January 24, 2015

{read aloud} The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Our last book club selection was a Civil War era tale that wove together history, adventure, laugh out loud humor and the horrors of war. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg is a quick read, packed with the unbelievable shenanigans the protagonists find himself in as he searches for his illegally conscripted brother - from helping a Quaker abolitionist, working in a medicine show, flying an untethered silk surveillance balloon to actually participating on the battle field. The battle scenes are not sugar coated and reveal the brutality and cruelty of warfare, but there is a tidy, happy ending. We recommend this book, especially if you are studying the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's end this year. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

{read} The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them. Whenever I'm sad I'm going to die, or so nervous I can't sleep, or in love with somebody I won't be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say, "I'll go take a hot bath"

I meditate in the bath. The water needs to be very hot, so hot that you can barely stand putting your foot in it. Then you lower yourself, inch by inch, till the water's up to your neck. 

I remember the ceiling over every bathtub I've stretched out in. I remember the texture of the ceilings and the cracks and the colors and the damp spots and the light fixtures. I remember the tubs, too: the antique griffen-legged tubs, and the modern coffin-shaped tubs, and the fancy pink marble tubs overlooking indoor lily ponds, and I remember the shapers and sizes of the water taps and the different sorts of soap holders. 

I never feel so much myself as when I am in a hot bath. 

...I guess I feel about a hot bath the way those religious people feel about holy water. 

I recently revisited The Bell Jar 20 years after I first read it when it was mentioned in my reader's tribe. Not only does it retain its power, but it was even more poignant the second time with the benefit of age and experience.

To read Esther Greenwood's story of one year in her life - from her highs of success, to her mental breakdown and the barbaric treatments available in the mid 20th century to her final rebirth - is to read (ash experience) the story of what it means to be an educated woman in America. Her story is recognizable in the women I know and talk to today.

The tragedy of Plath's life as experienced in this semi-autobiographical novel is right at the surface and as tangible and electric as it was 45 years ago. I was moved and highly recommend a rereading if it has been while for you too.

Monday, November 10, 2014

{review} Heidi

“Not long after, and while it was still twilight, the grandfather also went to bed, for he was up every morning at sunrise, and the sun came climbing up over the mountains at a very early hour during these summer months. The wind grew so tempestuous during the night, and blew in such gusts against the walls, that the hut trembled and the old beams groaned and creaked. It came howling and wailing down the chimney like voices of those in pain, and it raged with such fury among the old fir trees that here and there a branch was snapped and fell. In the middle of the night the old man got up. "The child will be frightened," he murmured half aloud. He mounted the ladder and went and stood by the child's bed.

Outside the moon was struggling with the dark, fast-driving clouds, which at one moment left it clear and shining, and the next swept over it, and all again was dark. Just now the moonlight was falling through the round window straight on to Heidi's bed. She lay under the heavy coverlid, her cheeks rosy with sleep, her head peacefully resting on her little round arm, and with a happy expression on her baby face as if dreaming of something pleasant. The old man stood looking down on the sleeping child until the moon again disappeared behind the clouds and he could see no more, then he went back to bed.” 

This is such a sweet book. It is one that I think you might read to yourself and think, "well, that was nice," but read aloud, it becomes something else altogether. I do not think I can finish any read aloud with out crying at least once and this classic was no different.

Heidi's childhood is marked by drastic and sometimes cruel upheavals. She is always able to look at the positive side of most situations and her friendliness, generosity and kindness are pretty saccharine compared to today's protagonists. But, I think we need a good dose of this every so often and this time of year is perfect.

Pick a week where your evenings are free, stock up on the hot drinks your family loves and settle in for a cozy family story.

We have this edition and I think it would make the best gift for anyone on your list this year. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

{review} Esperanza Rising + Smuggled

My kids book club just read Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan and once again I am so happy to augment my own reading with the awesome books I am introduced to through our homeschooling adventures. 

Esperanza Rising is the story a young girl who lives a very privileged life on Los Ranchos des Rosas in Mexico, the vineyard her father owns, in Mexico.  She has servants, loving parents, and constant pampering. The night before her birthday, her father dies and circumstances quickly change. All the sudden Esperanza and her mother have to be smuggled out of their hometown and across the border into California where friends have helped her mother secure a field worker position. The late 20's and early 30's in America were a particularly tough time for Mexican-American citizens and immigrant workers for several reasons explored in the novel.

Through constant struggles and growing, Esperanza becomes like the mythical Phoenix bird, recreating herself from the ashes of her former life to find true happiness and worth. I do not think there was an adult in the book club who was able to finish the book dry eyed. Educational, emotional and heartwarming, this book is a must read (and maybe a must own for your own library).

Our group met, discussed the book, ate the fruit and vegetables that formed the titles for each chapter and made yarn dolls, a craft that shows up several times in the book.

As a family, we talked a lot about immigrants and migrant work forces. There is a large Mexican population in central Florida where I live. I worked with migrant students as an elementary teacher and college instructor. I explained to my kids that many of the struggles that Esperanza faced are current struggles. In particular, the Immokalee Tomato workers have protested and earned support in my community for their efforts to earn more money and improve conditions for field pickers.

I am lucky enough to know filmmaker and producer, Jennifer Fischer of Think Ten Media Group and she sent me a copy of her latest, award winning feature film, Smuggled.  I wanted to watch it with my kids, and after reading Esperanza Rising, I knew the tie in would be perfect.

Smuggled follows the story of Miguel and his mother as they are hidden in a locked luggage section of a bus traveling from Mexico to America. They are excited to be reunited with the family patriarch (who is apparently working in America legally and waiting for them).

The film's relative slow pace and long scenes pull the viewer into the horror of being hidden for days without sun, fresh air, bathrooms, or even room to stretch. Without giving away the plot, things do not go as planned due to one simple accident and viewers are on edge until Miguel is eventually reunited with his father.

My kids were stunned and moved by this film. I was drawn in to the drama of this sparse and direct story line quickly.

I remember when I was in 3rd grade, my favorite teacher gathered all the 3rd grade classes and told the story of her family's harrowing escape from Cuba when she was a child. She shared the actual escape (hiding family treasures, using connections and important doctor appointments in the United States) as well as the trials of her father, a highly educated professional in Cuba and his ordeal as an immigrant. She left us with the message that even if everything is lost (or taken) the one thing no one can take is your mind (ideas, thoughts, dreams). It is there that you always free.

Sharing stories like this with children changes their lives and worldview. We learn that the world is not confined to our immediate environment. That things are fought for and complex and sometimes tragic.

Smuggled is available for rent or purchase on Amazon or through Think Ten Media's website. I think it is a challenging but thankfully not a gratuitously graphic film.  I highly suggest it not only to socially conscious families - but to teachers and schools as well. The discussions and reactions from a community of learners would be so rich and valuable. And so very worth it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wellness Challenge :: Get More Sleep

Mama Scout wellness challenges took a break this summer. Or should I say, the group decided that our challenge would be to take a social media break this summer. I am not sure how well I did - but I am back with a solid challenge. 

How would you like more sleep? Really good, restful, restorative sleep? 

I know I would. So, I am dedicating my September to trying new techniques and setting new habits. 

All of this challenge happens on the free secret FB page I have set up just for this group. If you are interested in joining you have to "friend me" on FB and then message me that you want to join. It is that easy! 

I have been repeatedly been told throughout these challenges that this group is a positive, happy space for people on social media. I agree. We share ideas, ask for help and offer support. There is no inflammatory politics, religious debate or decisive content (I like a good debate - but this is not the place). 

So, I hope you will join us. We will start with setting intentions and then get going - or rather, get snoozing!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book About Me Fall class open (this is it until next year!)

(See the woman in the photograph above? That is not me - it is my friend who I went to NYC with this summer (on a whim!). We went to the  Nuyorican Poet's Cafe one night to soak in some poetry - and she ended up on stage! Unplanned, but game and awesome - she read on the same stage she had 20 years earlier. That is what this lab is about. Remembering, circling back and revisiting your voice and your story on your terms.)

+This is the only time this lab will be offered until next year+

BAM is a huge class and emotional investment that I can best offer once, each fall. 
If you are interested - this in this lab, this is it!

New this session  :: 2 more weeks of labs. In the past, participants have always been not quite ready to end our 30 days together, so I have added 2 more weeks of labs! This is new material dealing with voice and place!

Also, when you register for BAM Fall 2014, you will get a spot in my annual Holiday Lab - a 10 day reboot and intention setting lab I run each November. It is a good one, and I know you will love it!

A 6 week Mama Scout e-lab for mamas looking for themselves. 

Through list making, memory mining, visual map making and attentive looking, we will clear the path back to who we are, noticing how we have changed and plotting who we want to be. 

This lab is only offered at the beginning of each fall as we naturally begin to turn inward. It is the prefect preparations for my spring offering, Dream Lab.

_____________Who is this is for?_______________

This lab is primarily for mamas who have given so much to their children and families that they have lost a bit of themselves along the way. A virtual room of your own, but in the form of a self-ethnographic book/journal.

I was inspired to do this project  after I did something similar with my kids. 

Over the weeks that I helped them compile books all about themselves (with lists of favorites, recording of life stories, timelines, maps and charts and more), I kept thinking of how the format could be an amazing tool for self growth and exploration for women. So, I took notes, adapted and added adult themes to the project and this lab was born.

However, the adult Book About Me program has taken on a life of its own and has become a standard Mama Scout lab. It is one of my favorites and I look forward to returning to the prompts (and the new ones) each year. 

By recording the details of our lives, both big and small, through word and image, we recover our lost selves and reconstruct stronger versions of the women we want to be. 

You might be looking for the forgotten you, the submerged self, a younger or different you than who you confront in the mirror each morning. This course is to help you uncover her, find her and also redefine her. Because chances are, she has been deep in the muck so long, she might have evolved into something a little different. 

__________What do I get + how does this work?_______

+Just before we gather you will get a little welcome package of goodies in the mail to get you inspired for the lab.

+ Each day, for 6 weeks you will receive an email lab from me. Each lab contains a short essay, a meaty journal prompt, a creative invitation, copy work and additional resources to help you on your journey. 

+ We will have a giveaway each week! In the past these have included great books, CDs, art supplies, digital products and more!

+ NEW you will be enrolled in my Holiday Lab for free! This lab is offered each year in November and is a gentle and fun way to set intentions and prepare for the holidays. 

+ NEW This lab will have 2 extra weeks of prompts delving deeper into the subjects of voice and place.

+ You will gain access to one of the most positive and friendly online groups. Not only have great friendships and collaborations been welded in mama scout groups - there is a genuine, non judgmental and supportive energy.

I will not lie, it is a lot.

I encourage all participants to write daily for 5-15 minutes. Seriously, that tiny amount can shift roadblocks  and open doors. BUT even if you just read the lab material and THINK about it, you will benefit. 

Our secret FB group will allow you to witness and share stories that will shock, heal and amuse. 

The creative projects are for the most part simple and inexpensive, yet novel and meant to disrupt your (and my) default thinking. I hope they will inspire you to look deeper, think weirder, and explore your life in a creative way. 

As a full time, homeschooling mom, I have found online courses  to be of great benefit to me. As a lifelong student, I am personally enriched and a much better parent when I am engaging my mind and creative spirit. My e-labs are the type of courses I had been searching for and could not find. So, I created them and learn next to the participants in each lab.

Register here. 

(review) Rumpus Letters for Kids

This is NOT a sponsored post. I just wanted to share something I have been loving so much!

Every two weeks we receive a letter from a children's book author through the Letters For Kids program ran by The Rumpus. These letters are funny, thoughtful, sometimes a little melancholy and always gobbled up by my group.

They are not fancy. Just handwritten or typed, double sided and photocopied. Sometime they are in color with little drawings and collages the author has made, and sometimes, they are just black and white. I love that they feel real, this is just the sort of letter I would send out to a bunch of friends (I did something similar last year when I spent time in Paris).

We read them with breakfast or at bedtime. The author always includes an address and an invitation to write them back.

This is great for :

general enjoyment
getting glimpses into the lives of writers
a writer's group or classroom
a present for someone
inspiration to write and send your own letters
supporting The Rumpus and the folks who write these letters
supporting letter writing in general

You can sign up here.

Oh! And be sure to like their FB page here.


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