Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Copper Crown

Copper Crown by Lane von Herzen. I read this book last weekend, and got totally immersed in it. I want to know what happened to the characters next, after the end of the book. It’s that kind of novel.

I didn’t think I was going to like it that much. The blurb on the cover made it sound too predictable… “At its heart is the story of Cass and Allie, two young women – one white, one black – sharing a friendship amid the divisive and violent racism of rural 1913 Texas. But when a murder turns the town of Copper Crown into an inferno of lynching and riots, Cass and Allie make a startling decision – to strike out on their own in search of a life where a person’s heart, not race, is what counts.” That struck me as trite.

But the writing is so beautiful it won me over quickly. The dialog and the descriptions of the landscape roll like a song. The characters are clear and tender. The truths here run deep and powerful. The author lays out a part of the heartbreaking, gut wrenching reality of America’s history. You will come away from this book a different person.

I wanted to give a quote to let you see the loveliness of her words, and I had a hard time picking only one paragraph. I settled on this one, from a letter written by the character Maggie. Maggie is a black woman who was raped by a gang of white men and then bore a child with light skin. Her husband lashes out in rage and murders a white woman and is lynched. Maggie continues to live and work in the community, raising her child in spite of constant taunts and abuse. She says about her child:

If I would’ve left him at the door of some white-folk church, he would’ve been took in for one of their own, I’s guessing. They would’ve raised him up rich white, most like, they sure would’ve set more meat to his plate than I’s done these passing year. And he wouldn’t never have knowed about his mama – how her love had got used up and throwed away and how, after on, she couldn’t never get clean again, least not in the eyes of them that remembered. But I couldn’t let him go, allie, selfish as I be. I needed him entire. I needed his elf-size feets and his angel hands. I needed them wide, blue-marble eyes with all his love inside them. And now that he be growed, I needing him still. This boy be keeping me alive by love. God help me, but he be.

As much as I was moved by the hatred and violence and horror of the ugly parts of the book, that is not what holds me the most. The depth and hope and strength of the love and determination and life and joy of the women in this story is what shines out and what I will continue to carry in my heart. I found this book on the share shelf in the faculty lounge at school, and I am going to put it back there now for someone else to pick up.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Girl Books

Someone posted a question about finding good picture books with female protagonists, so I did a search in my library. Check these out at your library:

The Other Side Jacqueline Woodson
Cowgirl Kate and Coca Erica Silverman
Dirt On Their Skirts Doreen Rappaport
A maze me by Naomi Shihab Nye
When Sophie Gets Angry Molly Bang
The Table Where Rich People Sit Bird Baylor
Beauty, Her Basket Sandra Belton
Fanny’s Dream Caralyn Buehner
Flower Garden Eve Bunting
The Wishing of Biddy Malone Joy Cowley
Saying Goodbye to Lulu Corinne Demas
Abuela Arthur Dorros
Isla Arthur Dorros
I Lost My Bear Jules feirffer
Sidewalk Circus Paul Fleischman
The Lotus Seed Sherry Garland
Elana’s Serenade Campbell Geeslin
The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses Paul Goble
The Good Luck Cat Joy Harjo
Going North Janice N. Harrington
My Dog Rosie Isabelle Harper
Trudi & Pia Ursula Hegi
Come On Rain! Karen Hesse
The Girl on the High Diving Horse Linda Oatman High
Maria’s Comet Deborah Hopkins
Girl Wonder Deborah Hopkins
Vergie Goes to School With Us Boys Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard
Amber on the Mountain Tony Johnston
Just Like Josh Gibson Angela Johnson
The Hello, Goodbye Window Norton Juster
Homespun Sarah Verla Kay
Nora’s Ark Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
Annie Bananie Leah Komaiko
Come a Tide George Ella Lyon
The Magic Hockey Stick Peter Maloney
The Water Gift and The Pig of the Pig Jacqueline Briggs
One Morning in Maine Robert McCloskey
Precious and the Boo Hag Pat McKissick
Goin’ Someplace Special Patricia McKissick
The Witches Walking Stick Susan Meddaugh
Grandma’s House Elaine Moore
Get out of Bed! Robert Munsch
Flamingo Dream Donna Jo Napoli
Fancy Nancy Jane O’Connor
The Recess Queen Alexis O’Neill
Junie B. Jones and the stupid smelly bus Barbara Park
Babushka’s Doll Patricia Polacco
Just Plain Fancy Patricia Polacco
When Lightning Comes in a Jar Patricia Polacco
Excuse Me, Is this India? Anushka Ravishankar
Moon Festival Ching Yeung Russell
Christmas in the Country Cynthia Rylant
The Bird House Cynthia Rylant
Snapshots from the Wedding Gary Soto
Naptime, Laptime Eileen Spinelli
The Patchwork Path Bettye Stroud
Elizabeti’s Doll Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
Angel Child, Dragon Child Michele Maria surat
Mei-Mei Loves the Morning Margart Tsubakiyama
Ginger Finds a Home Charlotte Voake
The Day the Animals Came Frances Ward Weller
Princess Anne Wilsdorf
Elsina’s Clouds Jeanette Winter
Something Beautiful Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Soul Looks Back in Wonder

From the book Soul Looks Back in Wonder; edited and illustrated by Tom Feelings:

To You

To sit and dream, to sit and read,
To sit and learn about the world
Outside our world of here and now -
Our problem world-
To dream of vast horizons of the soul
Through dreams made whole,
Unfettered, free - help me!
All you who are dreamers too,
Help me to make
Our world anew.
I reach out my dreams to you.
Langston Hughes

Who Can Be Born Black

can be born black
and not
the wonder of it
the joy
the challenge

And/to come together
in a coming togetherness
vibrating with the fires of pure knowing
reeling with power
ringing with the sound above sound
above sound
to explode/in the majesty of our oneness
our comingtogether
in a comingtogetherness

can be born
and not exult!

Mari Evans

It's getting ridiculous...

How often my boys are sick. It's gotten to the point that I lie to people when they ask me how the boys are. It's embarrassing and boring to keep saying this one or that one has a fever...

Last week Buddy Boy came home from daycare on Wednesday with a fever of 103.3 so we stayed home for four days. He is on amoxicillian now for an ear infection.

Last night Punkin came home with a fever of 102. This morning it was 105. Sweet Jesus! 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

I actually called my mom and asked her to come and pick him up and she is going to take him to the Dr. today because I thought I should go to work. I have been out 9 days already this school year. My other two librarian coworkers aren't in today so if I called in sick at the last minute the media center would be without staff. Am I crazy for going to work when my baby is sick?

Who better to take care of him than my mom? She just called and she has an appointment at 11 this morning. The fever is down and he is eating Cheerios.

I swear I have been in to the Dr.s office at least twice a month since last August. They know my voice when I call. It is not big things... Usually it is an ear infection or virus or strep throat. Buddy picks them up in daycare or Punkin gets them in the church nursery. So when folks ask me how the boys are sometimes I lie and say they are fine. Is that pitiful or what?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Barack Obama

Barak Obama’s book Dreams from My Father is one of the best books I’ve read this year. His writing is so well balanced and lyrical. He gives just enough description of the physical settings, the sights and sounds and tastes so that you can imagine yourself walking along with him. He tells the story of his life from childhood, through adolescence and adulthood. Along the way he muses over his values, longings, struggle for identity, and of course, his dreams. I think what makes his writing most engaging for me is the tender, compassionate interest he has for all the people he meets along the way. He describes the lives of his family, his friends, his colleagues and his neighbors with such insight and affection it allows me see more beauty in my own world.

Barak’s father was Kenyan and his mother is a white American. He was born in Kansas and lived for many years in Hawaii with his maternal grandparents. His father moved back to Kenya when he was an infant, and he only knew him for one brief visit during his childhood. His mother’s second marriage was to an Indonesian man, and the family lived in Indonesia for several years while Barak was growing up. He later moved back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents while his mother continued to work in Indonesia. He went to college in LA, and then moved to NYC for his first job. After a few years he moved to Chicago and started working as a community organizer. I was fascinated to watch his career unfold, as I have never before been able to visualize how a person gets that kind of work going. I am also curious about how one gets involved in politics the way Barak did. I hope he will write a sequel so I can see how the rest of his career goes.

Some of the most visually and emotionally stimulating chapters of his story tell about his trips to Kenya to visit his family a few years after the death of his father. He gets to know his sisters and brothers and extended family, and learns of the way of life in Kenya. Again his writing style is so engaging, I found myself looking forward to the end of the day when my kids were in bed and I could curl up and read this book. I stayed up too late many nights and was bleary eyed the next day, and I was really sad when it was over. I think I am going to start it again, as soon as I let my son read it.

There are many things I want to discuss with others who have read the book, including issues of justice, racism, poverty, power and identity. If you have read it, please post your comments and we can get a discussion going. If you haven’t read it yet, go find this book and read it. Then come back and post or blog yourself about it, and lets talk! This is a great book.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Stepping Lightly

Stepping Lightly: Simplicity for people and the planet by Mark A. Burch. Having taught in Quaker schools for 15 years, I have had a lot of exposure to voluntary simplicity and the value of stepping lightly on the earth. I treasure the wisdom passed down from Friends who have learned to live simply, leaving a small footprint and seeking a sustainable, creative, joyful, generous way of living. This book is a wonderful guide to anyone looking for relief from the constant onslaught of consumerism. It is divided into sections including:
The challenge and the joy of voluntary simplicity,
What is voluntary simplicity?
Why practice voluntary simplicity?
How to practice living simply
How voluntary simplicity benefits us all

I’ve read this book twice in the last two years, and I am getting more out of it each time. It is a gentle, encouraging guide to thinking about living a life of joy and simplicity. I highly recommend it to anyone wishing for a more abundant, zestful life with less cumbersome stuff.

Thinking further...

I have worked hard in the last 10 years or so to lighten my load. I recycle, I compose, I organically garden. I use an old fashioned reel push mower instead of an electric or power mower on my lawn. I use hand-me-downs, I purge and declutter and give things away on a regular basis. I don’t watch TV and don’t go shopping much. I live on a tight budget, rarely going out to eat and seldom traveling for vacations. I have chosen a career with school hours so that I can spend a lot of time with my kids, instead of a high powered career with a larger salary and less free time. I enjoy reading library books and sharing tools with friends and neighbors. I feel like I have cut my consumerism to the bone, but I still want to lose more and become even trimmer. I am looking for more ideas. Yesterday I read my favorite column in the paper, Everyday Cheapskate by Mary Hunt. She said she could save me $600 a month by cutting back on a few things like cable and lattes. Only problem is I already have cut out everything she mentioned. I need some more ideas! What have the rest of you done to adopt a more simple lifestyle and cut back on consumerism?

Towards the end of May...

Overheard in the computer lab:

Teacher: Wow you are getting so big! You are almost first graders now...

Kindergartener: Only 10 more days, but I am not counting!

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Covenant

My computer is in the shop, and no word of when it will be back. Buddy boy has been sick with fevers and sore throat since last Wednesday, so I was home with the boys and no computer for four days!!! I haven’t read any blogs or updated here in so long I am hopelessly behind. Not to mention everything piled up on my desk…

The good news is I got a lot read over the weekend. Now I just need to find the time to process and write about it!

I read The Covenant after hearing about it on Soul of Adoption. It is a collection of essays on the most important challenges and opportunities facing our nation in the 21st century. The focus is on black Americans and the particular struggles of the African American communities, but reading this book as a white American I feel these issues are vital and intrinsic to all our lives and should be addressed by everyone. The cost of racism is not carried only by oppressed people, but by all of us. The legacy of discrimination and disenfranchisement does not affect my black sons alone, but impacts myself, my whole family and my entire community and nation. Working for justice and equality, healthy environments and quality education, economic opportunity and affordable housing is the concern of all Americans. Success requires the awareness, investment and participation of all of us striving together. The alternative is all of us sinking together.

The book is introduced by Tavis Smiley and Marian Wright Edelman, and covers ten major issues or “Covenants”: Healthcare, Public Education, Justice, Community-Centered Policing, Affordable Neighborhoods Connected to Job Opportunity, Democratic Participation, Rural Roots (Land ownership/farming), Accessing Good Jobs, Wealth, and Economic Prosperity, Environmental Justice and Closing the Racial Digital Divide.

Each section opens with an essay written by important leaders in academic, medical, scientific and political arenas, which present the current situation and outline the challenges. While speaking straightforwardly about the sad and frightening conditions facing many American men, women, and children, these essays also present hopeful, optimistic scenarios for change and advancement. Following the essay are sobering facts and statistics presenting the historical and current situation. Then practical suggestions for what the community, the individual, and our leaders and elected officials can and should be doing to address the problems. Examples of what is working are given as well as extensive documentation of informational resources. Because this book has just been published in 2006 the data is fresh and accurate and the examples include the effects of Katrina and plans for rebuilding.

My eyes were opened on many of these topics. I have been challenged to seek new opportunities and become involved in new ways, from looking for local food/farm cooperatives and educating myself about possible local toxic waste/industrial pollutants in my community, to contacting elected officials, and supporting just and equitable rebuilding efforts for Katrina-affected communities. I strongly urge every American to read this book and allow it to educate and empower you to work for a better, stronger, healthier America.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Weekend without a computer...

We are on the final spin of the rollercoaster ride of a school year now. This week and next all the computer lab projects need to be edited, polished, published, shared, finished. Report cards are due the end of this week, and my annual curriculum mapping has to be finished up by the end of May.

Buster's term paper is due and his Senior project presentation is looming. Wouldn't you know it our Mac is in the shop. After numerous calls to support they finally told us to take it in for a looksee. What timing!

So although I am reading some very exciting books these days I don't have as much time to devote to writing about them. I am saving up my thoughts for future posts. For now I'll just share some pictures from this weekend in the garden.

Friday, May 12, 2006


A poem from e.e. cummings' 95 poems


now (more near ourselves than we)
is a bird singing in a tree,
who never sings the same thing twice
and still that singing’s always his

eyes can feel but ears may see
there never lived a gayer he;
if earth and sky should break in two
he’d make them one (his song’s so true)

who sings for us for you for me
for each leaf newer than can be;
and for his own (his love) his dear
he sings till everywhere is here

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Librarian as resource collector

I was looking online for some science/nature themed movies to show my “Natural Expeditions” nature club of Kindergarten and First graders tomorrow if it rains and we can’t go walking in the woods. I have been downloading some nice short movies on bugs and birds and woodland plants, but I need a few more just to have all my bases covered. I got distracted, as usual, and found several other equally interesting links.

Plowshares: Great short fiction, book reviews, and poetry by eloquent voices, both old and new.

Africans in America on PBS

Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac

I swear, I am working here. This is my job. Really.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Today I am reading about allergies. Buddy Boy has been breaking out in masses of hives so last week I took him in to get allergy testing. He has always been an itchy boy but this spring it has gotten ridiculous. I called the Dr. last night because they left a message on my answering machine. At first they told me I had to call back between 8 am and 4 pm, but when I insisted that I needed advice now because he was miserable they put a nurse on the line. He told me the throat culture was negative and the allergy tests weren’t in yet. I already knew about the throat culture because it was a quick read test done last Thursday and the Dr. told me it was negative before I left his office. I told him I needed to know what I should give Buddy because he was covered in hives. I already gave him something this morning, but could I give him another dose now? So he looked on his computer again and said “Oh, yes, the results are here, but I need to talk to the Dr. first and call you back.” He said not to give him more meds yet. So two hours later he calls back and says the results are positive for mites, mold, and shrimp – moderate; milk, eggs – mild. He’ll call in an Rx in the morning and I should just use cold compresses on the hives. Right. Buddy is not going to sit still for cold compresses. He didn’t have much information to give me about which allergen was triggering the hives and he suggested I cut them all out and make an appointment to see the Dr. in two weeks. I asked about possible strawberry or food dye allergies and he said those tests weren’t done. So now I am reading everything I can find online, doing my own research. I am disappointed that the Dr. wasn’t prepared to answer my questions and provide the information to me right away. They are quick to give you an Rx without definitive identification. I am discouraged and overwhelmed at the thought of having to cut out all milk and eggs, completely changing Buddy’s diet as well as thoroughly cleaning the house to get rid of the mites and dust. I have Celiac Sprue and can’t eat wheat, rye, barley or oats (gluten). I only found out about that three years ago, after being on antihistamines for about 10 years due to hives, also a symptom of Celiac Sprue. My dermatologist couldn’t figure out the cause of them so she had me on meds year after year. It was only after an ER visit with severe gastrointestinal pain and several tests that the real problem was identified. I don’t want to have Buddy on drugs for years, not knowing what the major triggers are.

I found a lot of information about allergies and milk substitutes at, and discovered that May is National Asthma and Allergies Awareness Month.

The second week in May is Food Allergy Awareness Week. I am asking all of you who have any experience with allergies similar to Buddy’s to send me links to good information. How do you cope? What are your best meals and recipes? If you are allergic to milk, or have a child who is, which is better: soy or rice milk? Anyone know about hives? How do you keep the mites under control? If Buddy is moderately allergic to mites and mildly allergic to milk and eggs, do you think I even need to focus on his diet or just go after the deep cleaning first?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Leaving Mother Lake

Thank you all for your kind comments on my last post. I have serious computer problems with my home Mac, and the time I got online Saturday morning to post was the only time it was cooperating all weekend. I think I am going to have to do a clean install of the OS and lose everything that hasn’t been backed up. Mainly that is software updates and the pictures from the last month or so. Bummer.

I was forced to spend all day Sunday without a computer. ACK! I did a lot of other stuff like knitting, reading, and working in the yard though, which was nice. The baby was feverish so we stayed home from church. Buddy boy helped me prune and weed the garden, mow the lawn, and sweep the patio and I was struck with the irony of the situation. My 18 year old son, who is bigger and stronger than me and who I expect could do a man’s full day of work spent the day mostly sleeping and my 3 year old little man who needs constant supervision and assistance was dogging my heels “helping” me all day. Why isn’t it the other way around?

The book I am reading was lent to me by a friend, and it is checked out of her library on her card so I have to hurry up and finish it and get it back to her. It is a true story titled Leaving Mother Lake: girlhood on the edge of the world by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu. Yang grew up in Moso country, on the Chinese-Tibetan boarder. She tells of her matrilineal Moso culture, where women are the heads of the family and everyone lives in their mother’s house their whole life. No one gets married. Women have as many children as they can, and live in their mother’s house with their children. Men take care of the Yaks in mountain pastures, go on trading treks and visit their lovers’ homes but return to their mother’s house to live. The society sounds very healthy and balanced and peaceful. Yang’s mother broke with tradition and left her mother’s house in her youth, and set up her own household two day’s walk away. Yang herself follows this example, leaving home to join a dance troupe and eventually gaining fame in the Shanghai Music Conservatory. According to the fly leaf she now lives in San Francisco and Beijing. I am enjoying the descriptions of their simple way of life and the beauty of the Himalayan mountains. It is interesting to see the Han Chinese described as outsiders as well as the dominant majority, influencing Moso culture only a little in the first half of the book (the 60’s and 70’s) but having a major impact on Yang’s life in adulthood. Having lived in China for two years I could relate to many of the images and enjoyed reading about life there from a different perspective. It is always fascinating for me to read of the rites of passage for young girls coming into womanhood and making a life for themselves. Seeing it unfold in a unique culture brings home the beauty and wonder of our common passage.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Luci Shaw

A section from my favorite poem in the collection The Green Earth; Poems of Creation

Edges of Wales

Stalking the blind lanes, striding to the hill
top before daybreak, often I’ve ached at the sweet chill
of spring light glittering through an intricacy
of leaves, when, in its precision of green, every tree
turns candle. With a series of airy, sharp surprises
crow’s wings fold pearly heaven. Then the full sun rises,
polishing the view – stones quick and wet as steel,
glitter on a cobweb, gravel under my heel.
What is a prunus?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Holy Smokes Batman

Every day I find something new on the Internet that blows me away. Really. Wonders never cease. I started looking for information about an author that I was going to write about this morning, and found this.

Followed the links to this.

Spent about an hour being amazed and adding bookmarks, then went here:

And here:

And spent another hour here:

Learning about Wikis. I can’t get any work done today, and I can’t write about Lois Ehlert like I planned, there is too much to read and my head is spinning.

If any of you have a Wiki, or have something to add to this list, please speak up! The world is exploding right before our eyes.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Jane Goodall

I am reading biographies to the second graders all this year. I love introducing them to some of my favorite people who lived amazing lives. This month I am reading Jane Goodall; Living with the Chimps by Julie Fromer and With Love; Ten Heartwarming Stories of Chimpanzees in the Wild by Jane Goodall. Ms. Goodall is 72 years old this year and still does speaking tours and scientific research with her institute, which just won an award from the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund. Her work studying the chimpanzees in the Gombe National Forest in Tanzania, starting in 1960, has changed the way we understand chimps, wildlife, our environment and human beings. She has had a dramatic impact on the world by following her passions and committing herself to her work. I love teaching the second graders about her life because it is fascinating to them and because her work started with her dreams as a child. As a child she wanted to go to Africa and work with animals and that is exactly what she did, by hard work and determination. I love telling them, with their wide open eyes and trustful faces looking up at me, that they can change the world for the better just by following their dreams and living their passions.

Take a look at the Institute website and click on the link to visit Gombe with Google Earth. You will have to download the free software for Google Earth if you don’t already have it, but I promise you it is worth every second it takes. Google Earth is going to blow your mind. You can visit any place in the world, up close and personal, by zooming in from orbiting satellites. The links to Gombe are provided by National Geographic, and link to articles in the Journals detailing the work going on there. When you get finished meeting the chimps and the scientists there, start touring all your other favorite places in the world. I’m warning you, though, you might not want to come home till way past dinner time. Mt. Kilimanjaro is another amazing trip....

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite children’s authors and I always enjoy her books. I read Because of Winn Dixie several years ago and I loved it so much I read it out loud to my fifth grade classes. India Opal meets a dog in the grocery store and calls him Winn Dixie. Her story grabs you right from the first page and you can’t help but want to tag along and see what the Preacher (her father) is going to say about her bringing home a stray dog. I am not even a dog person, but I loved that story. India and Winn Dixie speak with clear, personable voices and seem to jump right off the page into life.

Mercy Watson to the Rescue I read in bus room yesterday. It is a quick read, targeted at the Pre-K to 2nd grade crowd. Mercy is a lonely but friendly pig who likes the comforts of warm buttered toast and a cozy bed. He causes some distress to his family and neighbors without even seeming to realize it, and becomes a hero just by pursuing his passions. Buddy Boy is going to find this one very amusing. It looks like DiCamillo is planning to write several more in this series.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is another quick, satisfying read. It reminds me a lot of the Velveteen Rabbit. Edward is a china rabbit, well loved by his mistress, until he gets hurled into the sea by some bullies. He has many adventures and is loved by many other people, but never feels any love in return until he meets a little girl on her death bed. The main differences between this and Velveteen Rabbit are that Edward Tulane doesn’t want to become real, and the lesson he learns is the necessity of loving others, rather than just the need to be loved. This is a story that sinks in and stays with you.

The Tale of Despereaux is a fable about a mouse with unusual talents who loves a princess named Pea. He becomes friends with a rat named Roscuro and teams up with a serving girl who wants to become a princess. The narrator tells the story with wit and tension, often giving asides to define terms, ask pressing questions and drop intimations of coming drama. I found this style somewhat distracting, but the fourth graders who listened to the story read aloud were intrigued and drawn in by it.

The themes of this book and DiCamillo’s others revolve around loneliness, hope, love, forgiveness and belonging. Her characters are finely drawn and speak from the heart. I have The Tiger Rising, her book from 2001 on my desk as my next bus room book and I am looking forward to it. Check out her website linked above, where she gives advice about writing and keeps a journal as well as information about her books and speaking tours.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sunday Afternoon

We had a great weekend. Nothing exciting, just great weather and hanging out at home. Did a lot of yard work on Sunday, since the little boys took good long naps. Buddy Boy has a cold (again) so he slept better than usual in the afternoon, thanks to that great-grape-tasting cold medicine. Working in my yard, I think I am in heaven. It’s not that it is anything elaborate or extravagant, compared to some. But it is green, and it is mine, and I have for the first time in my life all the flowers I love most in my very own garden. I’ve been working on this yard for five years now, and this is the best blooming I’ve seen. This year I am not planting anything new, just trying to keep up with the weeding and pruning. With the two little ones under foot and the tight budget that is enough of a job! One of my very favorite chores is mowing the lawn. I have an old fashioned reel push mower, which I bought new last year. I used to have an old hand-me-down reel mower that was in bad shape and difficult to manage, so this new one is a joy to use. I love the sound of it clackety clacking along, and the smell of fresh cut grass. It reminds me of that passage in Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, where Grandfather says

“There’s a thing about the lawn mower I can’t even tell you, but to me it’s the most beautiful sound in the world, the freshest sound of the season, the sound of summer, and I’d miss it fearfully if it wasn’t there, and I’d miss the smell of cut grass.”

I hope I never have to buy a power mower. I also love to weed and prune. Those darn Maple trees put out so many seedlings it is a full time job keeping them pulled, not to mention the onion grass and the dandelions, but I find it so soothing and satisfying to move through the garden one foot at a time cleaning and sorting and admiring the growth of my favorites.

After I worked for about an hour and a half I sat down in my lawn chair and read the paper. Another joy… the Sunday paper all to myself with no interruptions!! In the home section there was an article about how to take care of ant problems, which is a constant battle around here. This region has an ideal climate and ecosystem for carpenter ants and my yard is overrun with them every summer. I have had someone come and spray them in the past, and the guy told me that the Queen’s nest can be all the way down the block but the worker ants travel the neighborhood looking for food. I really don’t want to spray poison all over my yard again. The article said Borax is the best solution because it doesn’t kill them right away. They take it home to the nest and in a few days the Queen and all of the workers are dead. I have read that before and I mean to try it this year. The article mentioned a company named TERRO as having liquid baits using Borax so I am looking for that next time I get to the hardware store.

One of my favorite sections in the Sunday paper is the feature called Earthweek: A Diary of the Planet. I always check to see what latest disasters and dangers have hit around the globe. It makes me relieved that I have had a safe week and also scares me with the possibilities of what horrors may be on the way. This week the first item is a UV Radiation Warning.

“Canadian health and environment experts warned that the sun’s rays could be more dangerous than ever this summer as levels of harmful ultraviolet radiation are expected to rise by 4 percent. Environment Canada warns that the higher level of cancer-causing UV rays will be due to a thinning of Earth’s protective stratospheric ozone layer. The agency warns that cases of skin cancer, sunburns, cataracts and other related ailments are likely to increase this summer. People are advised to wear hats and sunglasses, and make frequent applications of sunscreen when outdoors.”

Rats. One of the things I don’t like about summer is worrying about putting sunscreen on squirming, complaining little boys. I am not good at consistency and thoroughness. Guess I better work on it.

And on a positive note, one last item. With Buster heading off to New Orleans this fall, I am closely watching the news for hurricane preparedness.

President Bush on Friday rejected the idea of killing FEMA.“The lessons of Katrina are important,” Bush said. “We’ve learned a lot here at the federal level. We’re much more ready this time than we were the last time."

“Let’s, first of all, Pray there’s no hurricanes,” Bush said. “That would be, like, step one.”

Amen. That is one thing we agree on, W.