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Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

I had a social media meltdown the other day.

Not a meltdown on social media, mind you. Thank goodness for that! This was a meltdown over social media.

I’ve been thinking about how I can reach more people with my blog. Discouraged, some days…okay, many days… over these idiotic numbers WordPress and Facebook feed me every time I open my account. Numbers of clicks. Number of likes. Numbers that represent to me — on the gray days — how few, instead of how many.

The solution, so they say, is more social media presence. More tweets, more pins, more posts, more videos.

I dutifully scroll through others’ pages to figure out how to do this thing better. Tink through Twitter feeds. Glaze over at Instagram accounts. And suddenly, everything seems utterly hopeless. All the pristine, perfectly-staged snapshots, the threaded tweets, the young media blitzers out there who have integrated every detail of their on-line presence to accumulate tens of thousands of followers. I am competing with this?

More accurately, I have no hope of competing with this. What’s more, it makes me feel mean in an Old Sneepish sort of way, this gazing at numbers. More often than not, social media is an overwhelming, soul-withering exercise for me. 

 

So, I have a melt down. I move rapidly from being overwhelmed by social media to sheer, existential doldrums. What is the point, anyway? What do I have to say to the world that’s worth hearing in the midst of our present, shattering noise-level of nonstop messages?

The gracious small voice that answers me, does so with a question: What do you give, when you give the gift of reading?

And I know the answer to that question. At least, part of the answer to that question.

The gift of reading, of loving books, is the gift of a magnificent doorway into a rich world. An expansive world albeit a much quieter world.  One that enhances our lives.

This door swings wide to reveal things we never even knew existed, acts as a portal connecting us to human thought across time and space so we can learn seemingly without boundary, be taught directly from the originators of ideas, the seers, the tasters, the handlers, hear the wrestlings of questioners, catch the insights of people remarkably unlike ourselves who may well have thought their thoughts in other languages and millennia. When we give the gift of reading, we put children in touch with ideas and know-how and experiences and insights and viewpoints far beyond our own limited ones. We give them rocket ships to the farthest reaches of knowledge, bridges to cultural landscapes we’ve never traveled, tête-à-têtes with powerful thinkers in areas of expertise we’ve never dabbled in. 

Reading serves as a gateway to empathy and understanding as we meet people utterly unlike ourselves, hear their stories, some so bitter, so intense, see life from their vantage point. This gateway frees us from hedged-in viewpoints, ushers us out of the small neighborhood of our acquaintances and into other communities,  other witnesses of the human experience. Sometimes these encounters rile us, frustrate us, push us to meet folks we disagree with. Sometimes they introduce us to a kindred spirit. Sometimes our new vantage points surprise us, stop us short with exquisite beauty, poignant insight, electrifying connections. When we give the gift of reading, we give access to a barrier-breaking range of human stories and voices — voices that sing and wail, remember and predict, challenge and commiserate.

Reading’s door is a passageway to a world of characters who become as dear to us as flesh-and-blood friends and who make us better people, be they a straight-talking lawyer from Maycomb, Alabama, or a house elf with a penchant for socks. What a gift these book-friends are. They understand us, articulate our pains and pleasures, amuse us, inspire us, accompany us throughout life. They are always there, unchanged by time, ready to invigorate a spare moment come what may. Reading transports us into imaginary and real places that mark us as intensely as human personalities. Middle-earth and Klickitat Street; Cather’s Nebraska and Dickens’ London. When we give the gift of reading, we open provocatively imaginative doorways .

That is part of what we give when we give the gift of reading. Teachers — blessed teachers — from ancient days to the present, keep making millions of copies of keys to that doorway so others can enter in. When we read with our children and grandchildren, when we spread books in classrooms and libraries, hospitals and refugee camps, prisons and shelters, we scatter pass-keys to rich storehouses.

 Here’s to pressing on.

As I step gingerly into more avenues in the hopes of spreading this love of books — which to be honest feels like stepping into busy traffic without knowing the rules of the road! — I invite you to follow me, say hello, help me do this thing better!

Facebook: Orange Marmalade Books
Twitter: marmalade_books
Instagram: orangemarmaladebooks

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I have a new Musings post up.

As I’ve dug through stacks upon stacks of kids’ books looking for the best ones to share in my Tour of the World series, I’ve run into some interesting questions and thoughts. If I hadn’t been attempting such a broad survey, I wouldn’t have bumped into these questions in quite the same way.

What kind of world do our books portray to our children? How accurate is that portrait? And why does it matter?

These questions would all make for great, lengthier conversations. My musings post is only a starting point, but it’s a worthy starting point, one which I hope will raise your awareness as you nurture the children in your lives.

You can read the post by clicking here, or by using the Musings tab at the top of the page. Click on the title — a world of swiss cheese.

Want to join our world tour? Here are links to the first few posts:

buckle up for a tour of the world
Tour the World: a sampler of cultures
Tour the World: Australia, New Zealand and Micronesia
Tour the World: East Asia

 

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I have a new Musings post up today.

I’m musing about my dear Grandma Runa who is a strong, steady, happy inspiration for me…

…and my recent “Aha!” moment when I realized something surprising about her that’s been staring me in the face all along…

…and what that can mean for our own flourishing.

Click here, or search the Musings tab to read “as green as my grandmother.” 

 

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March is Women’s History Month.

I suppose a gamut of responses are possible ranging from indignation over injustice, to celebratory joy, to resolve. As I’ve read and reflected on the topic this year, my thoughts have revolved around gratitude. Gratitude for people who have encouraged and fueled me along my way.

here I am…needing a lot of fueling…in my very 1960s pants!

I’m thankful for my dad who, although he was a pretty conservative guy, was my chief exhorter during my growing up years in the 60s and 70s to believe in my abilities and push myself farther.

Dad would brook no nonsense about school, especially when it came to math. My moans of “I’m just not good at it!” invariably raised his hackles. “I don’t want to hear that! You are perfectly capable of excelling at math.” Confidentially, I still think math is not my strong point…but oh, how glad I am Dad didn’t say, “Well, after all, you’re a girl.”

my dapper dad

Dad did not support the Equal Rights Amendment but wow, he really wanted me to become a lawyer. Dad did not help with the housework, but thought if law was not what I wanted, probably I should head into business. Why did this traditional guy encourage me to fly high, to pursue powerful careers? I don’t know, but looking back I am profoundly thankful for his affirmation, confidence, and big dreams. Thanks, Dad, for never limiting me based on my gender.

I’m thankful for my mom, a traditional post-war happy homemaker, who made me wear patent leather shoes and act like a lady on Sundays, but the rest of the week turned a blind eye while I grubbed about with frogs, climbed trees, and created stinks with my junior chemistry set in the basement.

my happy parents

Growing up in poverty, Mom was not able to get a college education. It was her lifelong sorrow. Her frugality enabled me that opportunity and she insisted early and often that for us girls, a degree came first. Keep those boys at bay! After we finished college we could think about marriage if we wanted to. Thanks, Mom, for holding a sky-high view of education for women.

I’m thankful for my husband who has been happy to walk through life as equal partners in this thing called marriage. Who never called it babysitting when he energetically parented our children. Who has worked hard to understand what white male privilege looks like from other vantage points. Who taught his girls how to fix their bike chains and his son how to make perfect Swedish pancakes.

everyone gets a pack…and Dad get’s two

I’m thankful that both my dad and my husband freely shed tears of happiness, gratitude, sorrow, so that neither I nor my children ever grew up with the notion that women are the emotional ones. Thanks, Kurt, for resisting squinchy boxes that weaken both sons and daughters, husbands and wives.

I’m thankful for Elsie, my mom-in-law, who raised her son to be at home in the kitchen! Thankful for my brilliant son who finds it normal to work with and for women scientists as he pursues his doctorate. Thankful for my keenly insightful daughters who keep teaching me about hidden, costly assumptions I and our society make about women and men.

I’m thankful to belong to a church full of strong men who are not threatened by equally strong women. For my soul-sisters, J., A., and L. — together we have lifted one another and challenged one another to flourish despite the sexism we have faced. Thankful for Alvera, my favorite college professor, who blew the doors off the ideas of gender inequality I had absorbed to that point.

And I’m thankful for writers who dig out stories of smart, talented, brave, determined women who did not have the support I’ve had but who nevertheless blessed the world. Their contributions have at times been squelched, lost, or under-reported because of their gender. Hearing their stories inspires me. No kidding.

I’ll be highlighting some of these books over the next couple days. I hope you’ll come back to find some gems that fuel awareness and gratitude for women throughout history.

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There’s a new Musings post up on my blog.

G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton

It stems from some reading I was doing this morning and a serendipitous connection I found between G.K. Chesterton’s thoughts on human longings and the stories I seek out for sharing with you all.

What longings, what ingredients for happiness, do we share with the rest of the human race? Chesterton’s response might

from Oscars Half Birthday, by Bob Graham

from Oscars Half Birthday, by Bob Graham

surprise you, as it did me, but with reflection I found it to be a sort of summary of the key ingredients in children’s books. 

See what you think, by clicking on the link here, or navigating through the Musings tab on the top of the page.

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Henri Matisse Woman ReadingI have a new Musings post up today. Thinking about reading as a form of listening. Musing about how this helps us learn to listen well in a hurting and often isolated world.

You can find it by clicking on the link here.

Or use the Musings tab at the top of the page.

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I’ve got a new Musings up, thinking about how we act as gatekeepers of knowledge in our children’s lives.

Passau Mural

You can read about by clicking on the link here, or using the Musings tab at the top of the post.

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