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When a Book Makes You Cry

Do you remember the first book that made you cry?

I do.

It was Message in a Bottle, by Nicholas Sparks.  I read it when my family lived in Coral Springs.  My children were in elementary school, and I remember sitting up late one night in our front living room.  I was the only one awake.  The rest of the house was dark except for the small corner of the room where I’d set up shop for the evening.

Y’all, I had, to that point, read hundreds of books.  I was a voracious reader in my youth; the stories took me away from the angst of teenage-dom.

Up to that point, I’d been quite stoic.

Well, maybe the reason why I hadn’t cried was because I’d never met a writer who could break my heart the way that Sparks did with that book.

Oh, how I sobbed when I read the ending, quietly of course because keeping the kids asleep was kind of important.

I’m just going to be honest with you.

I don’t like watching movies or reading books that make me cry.  I don’t like the headache I get afterward, but I especially don’t like having my feelings trod upon.

That’s why I don’t watch movies or read books about animals . . . especially dogs (except that I did see Benji when I was a kid and whew, what an emotional roller coaster ride that was!).

A few years ago, I happened upon The Honest Truth, by Dan Gemeinhart.  I read it during summer break and cried as I sat at my kitchen table with that book in my hand.  I loved it so much that I read it aloud to my classes that year . . . and the year after . . . and the year after.

Every single time I read it to a class, I cried in exactly the same places even though I knew what was going to happen.

That’s a lot of crying.

Dan has such a way with words; his characters’ voices are childlike but so easy to connect with no matter the age of the reader.

I’m a member of Pernille Ripp’s Facebook group, where someone recently mentioned something about another book Dan had written, Good Dog.

He’s actually written four books (how have I not known this?).  Good Dog is his most recent novel.

I read a summary of the book on Amazon, and I had a little chat with myself.

“Don’t you dare buy this book.  You know you’re gonna cry.”

“Be quiet.  I need to read this so I can tell my students about it.”

“You don’t need this book in your classroom.  You already have books that your students love.”  (I think this may have been the Mr.’s voice arguing with me.  Ha!)

“But I don’t have this book, written by this author.  I know it’s gonna be good.”

“That may be true, but you don’t have to be in the know about every book.  Stop trying to be tough.”

“La la la la la.  I no hear you.”

Add to cart.

Purchase.

Done.

I couldn’t take my own advice.

The Mr. receives emails of all of the purchases on our Prime account, and he walked in from work saying, “What in the world are you doing?”

He knows me so well.

The book arrived a few days later.

Aubie and Molly’s collars in the background

Good Dog is the story of Brodie, a dog who has just died and is stuck between death and Forever.

Yeah.  That should have been enough to make me tuck my own tail and run.

Even that picture on the cover.

Sigh.

I prepared myself mentally, armed myself with Kleenex, and sat down to begin reading . .

The first two sentences made me cry.

I knew it was going to be a hard, hard read.

I read about Brodie getting used to where he wakes up, acquiring words in the process – words that, as a living dog, he did not possess.

Although it was told in short, simple sentences, this part of the book – the opening chapter – held me captive.

Brodie meets other dogs who explain what’s happened to him.  He can’t remember anything at first; memories come back to him very slowly.  However, what becomes clear fairly quickly is that he has to return to Before, where he was alive and with his boy.

Oh my gosh.  His boy.  Y’all, this part made me think of Rooster and his connection with Gambit.

Gambit never left Rooster’s side when Rooster lived at home.  Rooster was his person.  Fortunately, we still have Gambit with us, so that’s where the similarity to the story ends.

Mostly, what I thought of Molly, who you know I’m still grieving for.

This book, and the story of Brodie going back to find his boy, who he senses is in danger, made me smile in some parts, because Dan was wise enough to know that his readers would need some comedic relief to balance out the heavy stuff, and it made me hold my breath in other places.

It’s a book that made me root so hard for Brodie and the fur babies helping him, feel sorry for the bad dogs trying to stop him, and hope for some sort of happy ending that I knew wouldn’t be there because y’all, Brodie is dead.

Sigh.

I stayed up really late Wednesday night to finish the book because I knew that I would need a few hours of sleep afterward – the emotional price too steep for this tender heart.

The last chapter of the book completely broke my heart, and I tried really hard to cry quietly so I wouldn’t wake the Mr., who was sleeping in the other room.

I thought of Molly, and how I wish I could hug her one more time.  I wondered if she, like Brodie, had a hard time letting go of her person.

Now, don’t be thinking that I’m all emo and need medication.  I’m fine.  Really.  I just have my moments when remembering is so very hard and the missing is so very painful.

You can’t go almost eleven years with a breathing soul and not feel something when that bundle of happy is wrenched away.

Herein is the power of books – even books that make you cry.

Yes, there’s hurting and a whole lot of tears and big, puffy eyes.

There’s anger at the unfair twists and turns and the ugly parts where the bad is happening.

There’s even disappointment when things don’t turn out like you want them to.

A good book, one that makes you cry, should imitate life.  It should get you in your feelings and hurt you where you’re vulnerable.

That’s when the healing can happen.  Sometimes, when we can’t find the right words to match our sadness, a book comes along that does exactly that.

That is why I made myself read this book, even though I knew I’d be doing the ugly cry the entire way through . . .

Until the wee hours of the morning . . .

With a certain fur baby on my mind.

I love you Molly.  You were a good dog (most of the time), and I will never forget you.

“You.  Me.  Together.  Always.”

Catching Up 3.0

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve got some catching up to do, eh?  These past two weeks . . . if I could erase them, I would, but since I can’t, I guess I’ll go forth.

Despite my world being turned upside down, life has had to continue, albeit at a different pace.  Grief has a way of slowing a person down, to the point where some days, you’re doing good to put one foot in front of the other.  Thank heavens for friends who continue to check in with me to see how I’m doing.  I received a card and Amazon gift card from my precious friend, Kris.

She and I have done numerous online Bible studies together.  She has a heart of gold. ❤

So, back to the blogging . . .

To help me gauge where I last left off as far as blogging goes, I’m digging into my Flickr account.

Ugh.  Loads and loads of pictures, because that is something I’ve managed to keep up with . . . photographing and uploading tons of pictures so I can remember every moment of every day.

I can be extra that way.

I have been doing a crap-ton of reading . . .

Poolside and in the pool as well . . .

I must have read the second book right after.  Alas, but I didn’t take a picture.

I started on the Throne of Glass series (shout-out to Megan, who’s dying for me to get to the last book so we can discuss the characters).  I will not get to Once and for All until I finish this series.

Y’all, Throne of Glass is every bit as good as Megan promised.  I flew through the first book.

While I waited for the rest of the books in the series to arrive from Amazon, I started on the third book of the Storm Siren series . . .

I loved this series!  I have discovered that I like books that delve into magic powers.  Perhaps one day, I’ll finish the Game of Thrones series.  I’m in the middle of the second book and refuse to watch the series until I either finish or ever (I’ve heard it’s a bit graphic).

Meanwhile, my new books arrived . . .

All Photos-547

I do believe I hear angels sing when the Man in the Brown Truck delivers Amazon packages.

In the middle of reading all of the aforementioned books, I also participated in a Proverbs 31 online Bible study . . .

This book needs to be read by every single person.  We all tell ourselves lies that, gasp, we actually believe.  Jennifer’s wise words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and her gentle leading to scripture passages, help readers learn strategies to combat the negative crap that goes into our thought closets.  I’m going to be keeping this book close at hand to refer to.

I haven’t just been reading; I’ve also been working out.  The only day I missed was the one in which Molly passed away.  I couldn’t even pick up my arms that day.

I did my workout the next day . . . and cried throughout the entire program.

I have been keeping at it, though, and I’m starting to see results.

I’m currently doing Body Beast, another Beach Body program.  It’s a weight training video series, my favorite!

I really, really like it.  It’s definitely challenging, but the payoff has been worth it.

There are even weights incorporated into the cardio and ab workouts!!!!

Yesterday, when I was brushing my teeth, I randomly looked up and saw a little bit of arm muscle action going on.  The vain part of me was a teensy bit happy.

Please ignore the pink thing around my waist. It’s my Flip Belt, which I wear when I’m walking. It holds my phone and kleenex. I love it, but it’s not very fashionable.

Pele and Gambit have been sticking close to me since Molly passed away.  They don’t stray far even during my workouts.

I’m trying to walk at least three days a week.  I spread my walks out around leg day because my ankle still cannot handle too much at one time.

My pace isn’t great, but whatever.  My only competition is my brain and my bum ankle, both of which come out battered some days . . .

This was my ankle after a day of only doing a shoulder workout . . . no walk that day.

I keep trying to put into practice the lessons I learned during my Bible study . . . I am not defined by my circumstances.

The last person to finish a race is still a finisher, same as the person who came in first.

The fact that I’m getting out in the heat and humidity means I’m trying . . .

I read the following quote in my Bible study book:

I’m going to print this, laminate it, and display it prominently in my classroom as a reminder to my students and to myself.

One small snafu in my workout plans happened when the new ear buds the Mr. gave me for Christmas stopped working the DAY we left for his surgery.  I was not very happy; monkey wrenches and I do not get along.

I called the company because they were still under warranty, and the representative I talked to was extremely helpful as he explained the return policy.  After emailing him a copy of my receipt, he confirmed that my pair was still covered.  He then sent me a pre-paid mailing label to print out with detailed instructions on how to package them up.  I had them in the mail the day we got home from the hubby’s non-surgery.  I got a new pair in the mail on Monday . . .

I absolutely love these ear buds.  Even though I’d purchased an Apple watch a few weeks ago, it doesn’t do a good job tracking my heart rate when I lift weights.  I had done some research about this and discovered that the reason is that your blood vessels constrict when you work out, so it’s hard to keep a consistent and accurate heart rate on the watch.  The ear buds check your pulse through your ears.

Now, I will say that the power cut out on me three times yesterday when I was walking / working out, which was not good at all.  I’m going to track the issues and, if necessary, return them again.  Ugh.

One thing I learned while I didn’t have my ear buds was that I could still use the Record app, which is done by Under Armour.  My Apple watch connects to it via Bluetooth, so I can start workouts from either my phone or my watch (the app also installs on the watch) and track things there.  MyFitnessPal (my food app) receives the workout information from the Record app.  This has led me to believe that you can use the Record app with any Bluetooth enabled tracker.  Interesting, eh?  Oh, and I used my regular iPhone ear buds while I waited for the Under Armour ones to arrive, and I still got updates about my progress (calories and distance) from the Record app.  So cool!

One other thing I’ve been doing over here in the land of Auburnchick has been eating out with the Mr.

One day, he texted and asked about dinner.  Here’s what I sent him . . .

He wanted to know if I wanted to meet one of the guys he works with.  He even mentioned Mexican food, my favorite.

Thirty minutes later, the transformation was complete . . .

Forget the Today Show makeover.  All I needed was a straightener and my own makeup.

Last week, we visited an one of our favorite restaurants, Bonefish Grill.  We had not been there since I was in my boot . . . way back in January.  I wore a new shirt, which the Mr. had ordered for me.  Bonefish Grill has the kind of ambience you’d wear it to . . .

The back just makes this shirt . . .

What a lovely dinner too . . .

Don’t be hatin’

Edamame and the House Salad for me.  I can’t exactly remember what the Mr. got, but he was very happy.

There’s still more I could update you on, but this post is way too long already.  I’ll have to save the rest for another post (or two or three).

That Moment

You know that one of my favorite things about teaching is watching my students change from being non-readers to kids who cannot put their books down.

It’s a metamorphosis, y’all…a process I am honored to witness every single year.

This year, I am teaching two intensive reading blocks.  These kiddos have the pleasure (ahem) of getting read to nearly every day.

This year, we’ve read The Honest Truth (gripping), Stuck in Neutral (nail biter at the end), and most recently Life Happens Next.

The last book is a sequel to the aforementioned one…both written by Terry Trueman.

Stuck in Neutral is about a boy named Shawn.  He has Cerebral Palsy.  Everyone thinks he’s a vegetable.  He’s not.  He has perfect auditory memory and can read, when his eyes will light on text long enough for him to focus on it.  He also thinks that his father is planning to kill him.

Is your interest piqued?  I know that my kids’ were.

So, we read the first book.  I didn’t tell them there was a second book, relishing their anguish at the cliffhanger of the first.

I am evil that way.  It’s one of the fun parts of being a teacher.

Anyhoo, the second book picks up where the first left off, introducing a couple of new characters.

My kids have been mesmerized.  Shawn’s personality comes through loud and clear…sarcastic but oh so relevant as a teenager.

I finished reading the book today, and I decided to share the author’s notes at the end.  I remembered being blown away by the fact that Mr. Trueman based his characters off of people in his own life.

My kids were in awe, and they had great questions about what happened to the “real” people.

So, being the fangirl that I am, I tweeted out to the author.

And he responded.

Don’t you just love being acknowledged by royalty?  In my world, authors rank right on up there with Prince William and Princess Kate.

For real, though.

Here’s what I received late this afternoon…

As I’m typing this, I am literally giddy.  I cannot WAIT to share this tweet with my kids.

It is a moment like this that solidifies their journey as readers…connecting with characters…reaching beyond their own lives in their quest to understand others.

I mean, y’all…you should have seen my kids’ responses when a character in the book passed away, unexpectedly.  The class had begged for “one more chapter.”  I had acquiesced to their request.

And then the character died.

And the room was dead silent.

For longer than a minute.

Until they blamed the gal who had finally convinced me to read that chapter.

Nobody saw it coming.  This would have ranked as a first class blindside on the show Survivor.

The fact that they were flabbergasted was “that moment.”

It was the moment that preceded today’s “moment.”

In the course of the year that I have my kiddos, we string many “moments” together that keep the kids coming back year after year until they graduate.  We often talk about books.  Sometimes, they’ll borrow some from me.  Mostly, our exchanges are about the bonds that we formed while they were students in my class…teacher to student…human to human.

So, I thank authors like Terry Trueman who stick their necks out and write about difficult topics to get us to think outside of the box…to ponder on things that go beyond the surface…to pick at feelings we didn’t know we had.

17 Weeks

Four months and one week…that’s how much time has passed since November 13th when I broke my ankle.

Each week brings me closer to a full recovery, but I am still a long ways out.

This past week, I learned some painful, yet powerful lessons.

Last weekend, I thought I’d be all that and did three very tough weight lifting routines.

I’d wanted to start Body Beast ever since I’d been sidelined in November.  I had done chest and triceps the previous Friday, legs that Saturday, and biceps and back that Sunday.

To make matters worse, I spent about seven hours on my feet on Sunday…cooking four different recipes.

Boy, was I hurting when Monday rolled around.  I always say that it’s not the day after a workout that you’re most sore but the second day after.

This was me on Tuesday…standing like a gorilla because I couldn’t straighten my arms from Sunday’s bicep workout…

My ankle was a hot mess from Saturday’s workout, let me tell you.  It was so bad that the outside of my ankle…the side where I have my plate, was hurting.  This side rarely gives me problems.

When I got to physical therapy on Monday afternoon, I was doing some serious hobbling.

My physical therapists were not happy, and because I’d done too much, they weren’t able to add new exercises to my regimen.

The ice and stem therapy when I finished that day were much needed.

I struggled all week with my ankle…all because I’d tried to be my former, overachieving self.

Here’s what’s hard for me…remembering that, although my ankle might feel okay while I’m doing something, the effects of being on my feet or doing whatever it is I’m doing don’t hit until later.

I have to start thinking about the after-effects, which is so hard for me because I feel as though I’m missing out on stuff.

Sigh.

So, last week was frustrating, and I might have had a pity party or two when nobody was looking (and even when someone was).

The Mr. got a bit upset with me and fussed…in a loving way (ahem).  He reminded me that I am only four months out from breaking my ankle.

Yes, I can walk.

Yes, my limp is getting better.

Yes, I can drive and do some things.

The key is the word “some.”  That doesn’t mean all, and it doesn’t even mean that those “some” things are going to be to the full extreme that I’ve done them in the past.

YET.

One day, I’ll be able to.

Just not yet.

Just like I can’t wear pretty shoes for very long, so it’s tennis shoes and dresses, on the days when I feel like looking uber-professional.

Don’t be jelly of my fashion style.

Before I left my PT session on Wednesday, I was instructed to take it easy over the weekend…to not do any more than a mile without checking to see how I felt (it had been my intention to get started on my S.P.E.W. virtual race…six miles…broken up for me, of course).

I took their words to heart and went home on Friday determined to be a better patient.  On my way in the house, I stopped to smell the roses…literally.

It had been a tough couple of days with work stuff, and I listened to my body and crashed in the recliner.

Then, I did NOTHING on Saturday.  I stayed in my pajamas and read my new Neal Shusterman book, Scythe.  I had started it Friday night after the Man in the Brown Truck delivered it and finished it early Saturday evening.  It was FANTASTIC!

There were a few twists I didn’t expect, which made this a real page turner.

I took a bit of time out on Saturday to watch the movie If I Stay, which is based on Gayle Forman’s book.  I read it last summer and enjoyed it.  It was a heart-wrenching book.  The movie didn’t disappoint except in a couple of places where things strayed from the book a bit.

Gambit chose to interrupt my “me” time periodically throughout the day.  Being in the recliner puts me at the perfect level to give him a good scratch or two.

All of the resting made a huge difference for my ankle, as evidenced by the fact that you can see most of the bones in my foot.  They’re usually slightly obscured by the swelling that seems to be a constant part of my world right now.

As I type this, it’s Sunday afternoon.  The Mr. is grocery shopping, and I’d like to try to make a couple of things.  We found some recipes that don’t look like they’ll require a lot of standing-up time.  My fingers are crossed.

This journey is reminding me of the importance of rest.  So often, I, along with most of America, use the weekends to try to catch up on tasks that aren’t able to be done during the week.

My body, however, tells on me.  I need the kind of rest that requires purposely sitting down and not doing a whole lot of much, whether it’s thinking or finishing chores.  Everything gets done eventually…it just doesn’t have to be done now.

Speaking of now…the Mr. just pulled into the garage which means for now, I’ll be starting work on those recipes and then hunkering down in my recliner to watch a little NASCAR and, perhaps, enjoy a quick nap.

Thank you for your continued prayers as I press on in my recovery. ❤

The Art of Finessing

Finesse…it doesn’t always mean what you think it means.

Especially if you teach at the high school level.

If you’re old, like me, when you hear the word finesse, you think of doing something with style.

In a way, this sort of fits the new-fangled slang that the kids have turned it into.

According to the Urban Dictionary, finesse means, “To talk someone out of their things. Not stealing persuading someone out of their belongs, or to do you a favor.

Please do not go to Urban Dictionary and look this up for yourselves.  The sample sentence that uses the word is definitely rated PG-13.

I’m just sayin’.

So anyhow, what in the world am I doing writing about a slang word?

Well you see, I tried really, really hard to finesse something from one of my students.

It all started last night when I posted the following picture on my favorite social media sites:

This book had arrived at my house just two days prior, and although I’m already in the middle of one book, I was curious, read the first two chapters, and was hooked immediately.

Rebecca commented on Facebook and told me how much she had enjoyed reading Everything, Everything by the same author.

I got excited because I already had that book in my class, so that’s what I looked for when I got to school this morning.

I couldn’t find it.

That meant one of two things:  1) A student was reading it, or 2) Someone had made off with the book already.

As my first period students began their silent reading today, I mentioned that I was looking for the book, and one of my girls told me that she had it.

Oh my.

I was so relieved and began hatching a plan.

A plan to finesse that book right out of her hands for the weekend.

When reading time was over, I asked if she was leaving it in her folder.

No such deal.

Dang.

I admitted that I had planned on finessing the book when she wasn’t looking because I really, really want to read it.

The entire class started laughing…because I was using their slang…and because I wanted her book.

She did take it home, which really is fine because I still have the newer book to read.

I’m going to have to work on my skills though.  Apparently my modus operandi is not stealthy enough.

And that’s Latin, not slang.

Celebrating Readers

My students continue to impress me with the rate at which they are finishing books.  It seems like a day doesn’t pass when a student stands in front of me and announces the end to another story.

I love hearing them explain why they liked certain characters over others, or why the stories touched their hearts.

As you can see in the picture below, Kwame Alexander continues to be a favorite for my boys, while Jennifer Brown is reigning supreme for the girls.  The Bluford series is also popular with the kids who aren’t exactly in love with reading or get intimated by larger books.

Oh, and the gal who read Lucy in the Sky?  She read Go Ask Alice a week or two ago.  This gal is on a roll!!!

When Boys Read

I teach a LOT of boys.  In fact, my last block of the day is currently comprised of 15 boys and four girls.  Until Friday of the week before, that number was 17 boys and four girls.  This doesn’t even count the young men in my other three classes.

It can be challenging to find books suited to them; young adult fiction seems to be permeated with “girly” books.

As a result, I’ve been searching really hard for books that will appeal to the young men who grace my classroom each day.  Kids are good at fake reading; many don’t actually finish books but float from one to another because they lose interest quickly.

Thus it is that I’m especially excited when one of my guys announces that he’s finished a book.

This past week, TWO of them did just that, and I had to capture photos.

I’m extra fond of the young man on the left (don’t tell my other students this).  I taught his sister two years ago; she’s a senior this year.  I really like teaching siblings!

He LOVED the book you see pictured.  It’s about a boy who is the only Muslim student in his school.  Tensions run high with the profiling that naturally accompanies such immigrants, and the lead character in the story finds himself in a quandary about how to come to terms when a federal investigation is launched against his father.

My student told me that he felt like it was incredibly relevant to what’s going on in the world today.

Cha-ching!  Connections made.  A teacher’s dream.

The guy on the right, another sweetie with an easy smile, picked up Code Talker after I gave a book talk about it.  He remembered his father mentioning this topic in passing one day.  The book is about the group of Navajos serving in the Navy during World World II who were tapped to send messages to one another in their native language while overseas.  They saved a lot of American lives because of this special task.

I’ve wanted to read this book for awhile.  I’m such a history buff.

Although my student liked the content itself, he said that parts of the story were a little boring.  I was so proud of him for not giving up on the book and seeing it through to the end.  As a result, he’s got background knowledge that might come in handy one day.

Cha-ching! Another teacher’s dream.

My biggest hope for my students is that they will become life-long readers.  With each book that is opened and each story devoured, my kids are certainly one step closer!

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