Last week, the NHS President at my high school approached me and asked me to speak at the induction ceremony. I agreed, and then set out to overthinking my speech. I must’ve worked up seventeen different angles until I finally came to the one that was most heartfelt and honest. It might be a message the audience didn’t expect to hear, but it was one I thought they needed to hear nonetheless. Here is what I landed on…
Let me tell you something.
What’s beneath the icing isn’t always fluffy and sweet. Sometimes it is dry and damaged. The recipe is quite simple, really. First, add 2 cups of excitement of possibilities. Then, pour on the sticky confusion of rejection. Sprinkle a dash of self-doubt, fear, and loneliness. Top it off with a healthy heap of anger. Mix ferociously until you have a hot mess of the perfect victim.
Victim. Ugh. I hate that word. It reeks of weakness.
And let me tell you something else.
Bullies are the ones who are weak.
When you are a victim of bullying you think you are disgusting and gross. Plagued. You think about what you could’ve said or should’ve done the moment the moment has passed. When you are the victim of bullying, you think you have to change. You think if you can just close your eyes, keep your mouth shut and hang your head low, they will stop. Gosh, will they ever stop? You think if you could just convince your parents to let you change schools, it would all go away, and life would be grand.
And maybe it would.
I wouldn’t know because my parents made me stick it out.
“Kill them with kindness.”
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
“Tell them, ‘Quite frankly, I don’t give a damn.’”
“They’re just jealous.”
Easy to say when you’re not the one going to school every day waiting for the next blow to strike.
But here I am. I endured. I not only lived through it, but I like to think that I came out on top. My experiences shaped me into a compassionate being who cringes at the thought of causing someone pain. I look back on those moments with the strong realization that to feed on someone else’s differences and use them as ammunition for hurt defines a coward. While I was going to school every day terrified of what they’d do next, I was actually the bravest one. I endured. So while “victim” may connotatively suggest weakness, I would like to argue that it directly implies the opposite. We “victims” bake our pain deep down inside and while what lies beneath the icing may not be fluffy and sweet, it is the necessary foundation on which we spread the layers of joy, compassion, and hope.
I just finished reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I have always wanted to read it because Truman Capote fascinates me. He is one of my favorite people who has lived. But I put it off. I knew what it was about, and frankly, I just wasn’t sure that I could handle it. Once I started reading, I still wasn’t sure I was going to make it all the way through. Anyone who knows me well knows my tangible fear of people breaking in to my house. And Capote tackled a true story of the brutal murder of a family of four in their own home. I shied away from this book because it was too real for me. It scared me. I couldn’t read it before bedtime because I knew it would lead to nightmares, if I was able to fall asleep at all. But I finally mustered up the courage and finished the book. I am so glad I did. And I am so shocked at how it made me feel. There were moments in his conversations with Perry Smith, one of the murderers, where I actually found myself feeling sorry for the criminal. This poor excuse for a human murdered four innocent people for no apparent reason, even against his better judgement, yet I actually cried for him as I read about his unfortunate upbringing. Such a different reaction than I thought would come from this book.
You see, my fear stems from a very real place. When I was about five years old, a burglar invaded my family’s home and really did a number on my ability to feel safe. I wrote about it 5 years ago, but haven’t shared it with others much. Last semester, on Halloween, my seniors asked if we could read a “scary” mentor text instead of the lesson I had originally planned. I had to come up with something quickly, so I pulled up the piece I wrote about one of my most nightmarish memories. I hesitated and hemmed and hawed before actually sharing this piece with students. The piece puts me in a vulnerable place, and I just wasn’t sure I was ready to share that with my students. But then I remembered that I ask them to be brave when they write and tackle the things that need to come out of them. I assure them that I read their writing without judgement and appreciate when they become vulnerable because that truly leads to great writing. Once these thoughts crossed my mind, I knew I had to share this piece with them. And after reading In Cold Blood, I felt the pull to share this piece with others.
So here goes…
A STRANGER’S SILOUHETTE
Perhaps it bothers me most that I have unwillingly devoted my entire life to an unconquerable fear of him and those like him, yet he has probably not given me a second thought, if he even remembers I exist. 23 years later, I can still see that night with more clarity than any other in my history; partly because of the countless times I have heard the story, and partly because its consequences have gripped me in a way I can’t overcome.
Cradled in my mom’s lap, with Officer Tate at our side, I spoke through my hysterical sobs.
“But, where IS he? Where is Sarge? Don’t you think he is scared, out there all alone? I want my dog back, Mom! Make them find Sarge!”
“I promise, Sweetie, my team will find Sarge and bring him home safely. Now don’t you worry your pretty little head another minute about it.”
Paranoia prevented Officer Tate’s words from giving me much comfort. I wanted to believe him; I just wasn’t sure I could trust him. According to my 5-year-old logic, it appeared that Sarge’s absence had caused the frenzy developing before me. It seemed perfectly plausible to me that the team of police officers had assembled in my living room with the sole purpose of finding my dog. At the time, it wasn’t crystal clear why Sarge left, but I knew it was important that we find him. His whereabouts consumed me until the hysteria caught my breath and wouldn’t let go.
When that night began, I had no idea I would ever think of it again. It should have been a typical fun-filled family night in the Teare household. Due to a crippling back injury, my dad’s doctor had given him strict orders to remain flat on the floor for several weeks. My brother, out for the night doing teenager things, would not return until morning. The ladies of the household decided to keep my dad company with a movie night and sleepover. We found our places snuggled closely to my dad on the living room floor. I drifted off to dreamland as Robin Hood wooed Maid Marian with his charm and archery. Eventually, we all settled into our sleep comfortably—my mom, my dad, my two sisters, and our loyal playmate, Sarge.
About 1:00 in the morning, my mom’s caffeine consumption woke her from her sleep. Blind without her contacts, she squinted to see the silhouette of a shirtless man at the base of our stairs about 10 feet in front of her. She thought to herself, Is it Josh? Did he change his mind about staying out all night and decide to come home early? Her heart jumped from her chest when Sarge stood and shook, causing his metal collar to jingle in the darkness. Completely shocked at the presence of life on the other side of the stairs, the man changed his course, walked to the living room, grabbed Sarge by the collar, and led him to the sliding glass door where he pushed him outside and shut the door behind him. Paralyzed with fear, my mom quickly realized this was a stranger and not my brother. Horrified, my mom watched the intruder reappear in the living room. His hair was long, he wore no shoes, and the long chain that dangled around his neck nearly brushed our cheeks as he leaned over each of us to check for deep, unwavering slumbers. Afraid that he could see better than she could in the pitch black, and nervous at the thought of making eye contact, my mom did not allow herself to look above the stranger’s shoulders. Her heart pounded as he came for her next. The what-ifs flooded her mind, but she managed to hold her breath and feign sleep, listening intently for changes in our breathing. Satisfied with his inspections, the burglar proceeded up the stairs to our bedrooms.
At the first creak of the floor above us, my mom frantically shook my dad from his snoring bliss and enlightened him to the nightmare unfolding. They woke us and hurried us to my mom’s full size van without the keys. Sweat collected on our foreheads as we sat in the dreadfully hot van in anticipation of what would happen next. My dad reentered our house armed only with a 9-iron because all of his guns were in his bedroom with the culprit.
The police arrived in no time only to watch the thief jump from the roof and escape with ease. They canvased the scene for clues and found “goodies” stashed on the garbage can beside our house—my mom’s purse, a small radio, the very keys we needed just minutes earlier.
Once the house was deemed safe, we gathered in the living room to sort through the details of the crime. It didn’t take Officer Tate’s team long to squelch my childish agony. Officer McCullen waltzed through the front door with Sarge trotting beside him. I rushed to my furry pal and threw my arms around his neck, vowing to never let go—ever.
I look back on that night often—with anger, confusion, trepidation, relief. Anger. If only I could recover the naïveté of my 5-year-old perspective—the inherent belief in the good. But I can’t. The creep crept into our space. Our sanctuary. Our home. Uninvited. How dare he think himself entitled to what my parents had worked all of their lives to give us, not him? Materially speaking, he didn’t get away with much, if anything at all. However, what he did get holds much more value than the few dollars or trinkets he could stuff in his pockets. What he took, I can never get back.
Because of him, I live in certainty that someone is always waiting in the bushes, ready to strike at any minute. Because of him, I will never sleep soundly. Because of him, hyperventilation visits me frequently as an adult when I lie in bed and make sense, or nonsense, of the threatening noises in the night. Because of him, my daughters will never enjoy Robin Hood because I can’t face the emotions it conjures. Because of him, I hate Halloween and all of the scary scenes it carries with it. Because of him, I will never feel safe and secure in my own home, no matter how many times I check the locks or set my alarm.
Despite my family and friends’ promises that it will never happen again, the closure I need remains unattainable. If only I had an individual at which to direct my fury. With the confirmation of identity, I could march into a prison somewhere and scream in the face of the man who ripped my sense of security from my hands. I could recognize strangers that mean no harm and vanquish my fear that he is still out there waiting to finish his incomplete crime. Unfortunately, I must settle for remaining with and fearful of the bandit who got away with much more than he knows.
I’ve seen several of my friends sharing their #oneword for 2018, and I have become inspired. It only took 17 days of the new year to choose my #oneword: CONVICTION.
In 2018, I’m going to be courageous enough to believe in everything I do—the way I love, the way I parent, the way I teach, the books I read, the reasons I forgive, the new things I try.
And here, I will write with conviction.
I consider myself a writer. I write through my thoughts and fears often. I just don’t share the vulnerable ones often. 2018 seems like a good time to change that.
I’m that person who hates trying new things in front of others for the first time. I want to be good at something before others see me do it. I have lived 32 years that way—some things I avoid due to fear of failure or judgement: snow skiing, wakeboarding, driving a trailer, scuba diving. I didn’t start hunting or fishing with people outside my family for years—not until someone said I was good. And I don’t share my most personal writing with many other people for fear of their reaction.
I have always worried about judgement from others. And writing about personal things opens the door wide open for judgement from others. But I can’t let that stop me from sharing my stories.
If I don’t believe in my writing, who else will?
To borrow the words from the wise Taylor Swift, Haters gonna hate.
Even JT sings about haters in his new song, #filthy: Haters gonna say it’s fake. So real.
So I’m going bravely into 2018 believing in what I have to offer. And my first few posts are going to reflect that courage. Stay tuned as I look fear directly in the eyes and stand up with conviction.
Kindergarten. It is one of the first milestones in a list of many that you will remember. You will walk into that school with your backpack in tote as I follow you hoping you remember that I am there. You probably won’t want to hold my hand, but I hope you’ll humor me and do it anyway because I need it more than you do.
Today is hard for me. When I watch you walk into that big school, all I can think is, “Where did my baby go?”
You see, I can remember everything about your life from the time we found out you were in my belly until now. No seriously. Every. Little. Thing.
I was in Target the first time I felt you move- I had just checked out and was walking to the door when I felt the flutter in my stomach. I cried at the beautiful miracle growing inside me.
I remember that your dad and I planted trees two days before you were born- the same trees you would pick “limes” from a year and a half later (I am sure you’ve heard this story by now, but just in case, they were unripe oranges, not limes- oops).
In the hours before going to the hospital to welcome you, we shared Easter lunch with family. I never could go to sleep, so I sat on the couch at 4am entering my students’ grades and sending lesson plans to my team because I just had a feeling it was time.
I will never forget every detail of how you entered the world- you would not settle for anything short of a production and production it was.
I remember having to wait almost an hour to hold you for the first time and the absolute agony I felt until they handed you to me.
I remember the rush of emotion that swarmed my chest as I looked into your eyes for the first time and you wrapped your tiny little hand around my fingers.
I remember how you pulled up on your musical cube at 6 months, crawled at 8 months, and took your first steps on New Year’s Eve at 9 months.
I remember your first ponytail and what you were wearing that day.
There are so many things that I could retell right now, but there are also things I want you to know.
I want you to know that I am proud of you. Don’t ever forget that your dad and I are your number one fans. Whatever it is you choose to do, we will be right there behind you to support you. And on the days that I can’t be there physically, know that I am there in spirit. Because no matter where I am in the world, you are always at the front of my mind.
I want you to know that I wish I could keep you from heartache—but I can’t. And I won’t. Heartache hurts. But heartache is necessary. You will learn more about yourself in the low moments than you could possibly imagine. So, know that when the heartache comes, I will be there to pick you up.
I want you to know that I appreciate you. Nothing makes me smile bigger than thinking about how lucky I am to call you mine. Sometimes I sit watching you in awe of the little girl you have become. You are kind and determined and strong. And so absolutely “you.” I marvel at your confidence some days- how is it that at 5 years old, you know EXACTLY what you want? I learn so much from you every day, so thank you.
I want you to know that you don’t have to be perfect. I know that sometimes I expect a lot out of you- probably too much some days, but you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be a kid. Perfection is a myth. We all make mistakes. So, apologize when you know you’ve caused another person pain, tell the truth when you’ve messed up, and move on. I know it is hard to go through the struggle of learning, but that struggle is so rewarding when it finally sticks. I remember one day this summer you came out of gymnastics class and said, “Mom, that class was really hard. I don’t think I can do it.” But here you are, finishing the summer session having grown. Worth every penny.
I want you to know that I am excited for what is to come in your life. While I am sad that you are growing up so fast, I also know that there are many wonderful things waiting for you down the road. Learning to read and sharing a love of books with me, learning to ride your bike without training wheels, your first crush, your first date, your high school years- homecomings, proms, best friends, choosing the right college for you and the right major and the right career. Your little life is just getting started, but it will fly by. Take it all in and relish in the moments that give you joy.
More than anything else, I want you to know that I love you. I love you with every ounce of my heart and soul. Some days when I look at you, I just can’t fathom how I could possibly love you more. Some days, I love you so much it hurts. Whether I’m upset or happy, frustrated or excited, my love for you will always remain constant.
So, as you walk into kindergarten today, humor me and hold my hand, smile for the pictures, and shower me with hugs and kisses because that’s what I’ll be clinging to when you walk bravely away from us and into the world that is opening up for you.
At a PD last school year, the instructor showed us a video of Rudy Francisco performing his poem “My Honest Poem.” I was so moved by the poem, that I did an imitation activity with my students where they used Francisco’s structure to create their own honest poems. Because I am a writer, too, I created my own version of “My Honest Poem.”
It is honest and, as with any good writing, a work in progress. After all, what is true right now may become false in the coming years. Enjoy.
“My Honest Poem” by Megan Thompson
I was born on May 24th, Gemini by the stars
I think that means I have a split personality
I’m 5 foot 4…and a quarter. I weigh, well, if I’m being honest, more than I did in high school
I don’t know how to boil an egg, and I’m very glad that my husband does all the cooking
And adventure seeking.
I compete with cell phones for attention on the daily
From my students, my own children,
And even the man who is supposed to put me first
I like Dr. Pepper…a lot.
But I know I shouldn’t have it too much because it is bad for my teeth, my heart,
And my self-confidence
I find myself consumed with what others think and say about me
When, in reality, most days I don’t even know what I think of myself
I thought walking up on hushed conversations and guilty expressions would end when I graduated high school
But then I became a high school teacher
I’ve been told a million times that I’d forget my own head if it weren’t screwed onto my body
I live in a society where I feel the need to apologize for growing up wealthy with two parents who are one year away from 50 years of marriage
I contemplate my word choice heavily- I already regret the choice to use “wealthy” two lines ago because I know you are judging me
Some days, I’m a really good teacher, others, I’m a stellar wife, and still others, I’m mom of the year
Never am I all three at the same time
Because the focus can only be spread so thin before it becomes transparent
Like concrete, I crack under pressure
I’m not afraid of loving too hard
But I’m terrified of losing too much
I’ve never had a detention, but I have a stack of office referrals signed by me
I write myself up for not being the mother my mom is
And falling short of perfection
I secretly despise Pinterest-perfect moms who seem to have it all together
I’m embarrassed that my 5-year-old lies and eats candy for dinner sometimes
While my 3-year-old sucks her toe and talks really loud at all the wrong times
I love my girls with all I have
And worry daily that it isn’t enough
Hi, my name is Megan
I enjoy reading, warm summer days,
And blaring music through my car speakers
I love the idea of a sunroof, but hate the heat it lets in
I allow myself to cry too often
And regret my weakness the second the tears hit my cheeks
My hobbies include wallowing in self-guilt, starting projects I will never finish,
And treading water in this sea we call life
I know that life is chaotic now
And that I will miss the chaos someday
I know that if God puts me to it, He will help me through it
And what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
It has been awhile since I last posted. Probably because I have been consumed with enjoying my summer and soaking up every second of sunshine and quality time with my family—including my three-year-old daughter, Maycee Jo.
This girl keeps this mama on her toes and the wineries in business. I swear, I have never encountered a kid who is as lovable, funny, independent, fearless, and headstrong. She can make me want to pull my hair out then turn around and make me belly laugh at her quirkiness. She loves harder than any kid I’ve ever been around and wants so badly to do everything her sister does. She rarely takes no for an answer and repeats curse words like a sailor. She is the reason there is a saying that goes, “Quiet children are dangerous children.”
A quick rundown of the things I have said to this child in the last two hours:
- You CANNOT get water from the toilet for your tea party.
- Please just watch the movie and suck your toe and stop asking what is going to happen next every five seconds.
- I didn’t put you in timeout, why are you sitting in the timeout spot crying like I did?
- Stop hitting your sister in the face. She was just trying to hug you good night.
- Do not put toothpaste in your teapot. That is yucky.
- Do not drink water from Kourt’s (our Labrador Retriever) bowl.
- Quit feeding Kourt your chicken nuggets.
She is the child who yells, “Okay, Father” from the second to last row of the church when he asks a rhetorical question during his homily. This is right before she screams in frustration that she cannot go onto the altar to see her cousin, Jaden, who is serving Mass. I make sure to hold her in front of Father a little bit longer at Communion to be sure she soaks in all of his blessings (we all need Jesus, but she needs a double dose).
One of my friends recently shared an article about loving your strong-willed child and it hit home for me. It also made me want to write about my sweet girl.
In one of my absolute favorite Maycee Jo adventures, we attended big sister Aubrey’s Christmas program. Aubrey’s class had practiced and rehearsed beautiful Christmas songs to share with the packed cafeteria of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other proud onlookers. The rows were full with people and the people’s hands were full with video cameras, smart phone cameras, professional grade zooming cameras, and who knows what other kind of filming devices- anything to catch the memories on film. In my family, my sister videoed with her handheld camera, my other sister videoed with her cell phone from one angle, while my sis-in-law videoed with her cell phone from a different angle, and I snapped still shots with my high-quality Canon. We couldn’t possibly miss a single part of the show. Thank goodness because I want to be certain that Maycee Jo sees the night’s events from every angle when she gets older.
As Aubrey walked out on stage, Maycee shouted with glee at the sight of her sister. “HI AUBREY!” she screamed from the crowd; Aubrey gave a nervous wave about hip-high.
“Mommy, look it’s Aubrey! Aubrey singin’! I wanna sing wit Aubrey!”
Distracted by capturing the perfect picture, I quickly brushed her off and without thinking said, “Ok, Maycee, sing away. You can sing with Aubrey. Now let Mommy take Sissy’s picture.”
About 17 quick clicks later, I pulled the lens down and glanced to my left to check on Maycee only to see an empty chair. Panicked, I asked my brother-in-law where she had gone. He simply pointed toward the stage and replied, “Up there.”
WHAT? Sure enough, I could see her white bow weaving through the crowd heading straight for the stage. I threw my camera down and began to chase after her. By the time I caught her, she already had one leg on the stage crawling up to “sing wit Aubrey” just like I had given her permission to do. I pulled her from the stage kicking and screaming, “I want to sing wit Aubrey, Mommy, NOOOOOO!”
And that was it, she cried REAL tears the rest of Aubrey’s performance because I had destroyed her chances at stardom.
Don’t feel too badly for her, I let her climb on stage after the program ended and sing her little heart out. She immediately looked up at the mic stand still holding the microphone and said, “I need that!” Then, she proceeded to sing “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way! Oh my God, it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh. HEY!” on the stage. At the top of her lungs. At the Catholic school. Awesome.
For some reason, I see a lot of visits to the principal at the Catholic School in our future- a place I NEVER saw as a student there. Maybe we will just let Daddy handle those meetings.
Regardless of how many battles we have or principal visits we encounter, one thing is absolutely for certain–my life would be incomplete without my Maycee Jo, and I am so lucky I get to call her mine.
You always hear about the terrible twos- how your toddler suddenly turns into an unrecognizable creature who screams, cries, falls to the ground in utter devastation at the drop of a hat. Then comes the threenager whose list of demands changes with the wind- she liked oranges yesterday, but when she came home from school today, she explained, “Mom, I was not happy with you at lunch today. You know I don’t like oranges anymore.” No, no I didn’t know that, sweetie. I must’ve dreamt that you sat at the table yesterday devouring an orange from the huge bag of Cuties I just bought at the store. Forgive me for thinking your tastes would remain consistent for 24 hours.
Terrible twos and threenager years are no joke. But we survived (at least with the first one. Verdict’s still out on that second one. No telling what her next two years will bring). But the past few months, I have encountered a new phenomena: the Frightening Four and a Halfs.
I can’t even tell you how many times in the past few nights I have thought, “Who is this kid in front of me, and what did she do with my sweet, well-behaved princess?”
Exhibit A: Beginning Sunday, I realized a peculiar situation regarding my bathroom toilet paper. Every time I went to the restroom, the toilet paper, plastic rod, and extra rolls of toilet paper were nowhere to be found. The dispenser sat empty on the wall laughing at my perplexed face. I soon discovered that all missing elements had been carefully tucked away behind the toilet. My initial thought was, “Hmm…that is a weird place to put the toilet paper. My husband must have caught our dog eating the toilet paper or something, so he hid it where Kourt can’t get to it.” And then I snapped the rod back in place with a fresh roll of toilet paper and went on with my day. This happened, no lie, 6 times before I became suspicious. Then, one night it clicked. Every night before bedtime, Aubrey has to go potty in our bathroom. I was getting dressed for bed when it dawned on me that she was taking longer than usual. Aha! Light bulb. I opened the door of the bathroom and caught her in the act. She was the culprit! I hadn’t even thought it might be her because she just wouldn’t normally do something so mischievous. Hmph… now I know better.
Exhibit B: Wednesday night, as we were winding down for bedtime, she asked for a drink. I told her she could have some water and handed her a cup and walked away- leaving my complete trust in her. Fast forward about an hour to the time we finished our nightly routine. I walked to the kitchen to turn out the lights and stumbled upon the squeeze bottle of Crystal Light Peach Mango water flavoring suspiciously sitting next to Kourt’s water bowl. The water bowl had a pretty orange glow coming from the usually clear water. I called my suspect in for questioning. “Aubrey, did you do this?” Her head shook side to side as her big brown eyes grew even wider. “Are you sure? Remember to be honest.” Again with the denial of the crime. One final plea, “You know you will be in more trouble if you fib, right?” “I know, Mommy, but it wasn’t me.” Let me spare you the details– it was her.
Exhibit C (I’ve saved the strongest evidence for my finale): Friday afternoon after a long week at work, I’m driving home enjoying the peace and quiet before I arrive at my house full of loud screams and bickering sisters. Ding! One new text message- from Aubrey’s PK4 teacher:
Please speak with Aubrey about not taking her shoelaces out of her shoes at nap time. It only makes her cry when she cannot put them back in place. Also, please help her complete the stapled set of class work she did not complete when it was assigned.
Utter devastation, disappointment, and embarrassment flushed red through my face. My Aubrey? Really? She didn’t complete her class work? (At that point, the shoelaces were the least of my concerns.) When I got home, she was perched on the couch watching videos on the tablet. Stripping the tablet from her hands, I marched her into her bedroom to discuss her choices at school that day. Come to find out, it was way worse than I suspected. She had actually been hiding her incomplete class work in her desk, telling her teachers she was finished, and even sometimes asking for MORE WORK! She painfully sat at the kitchen counter and completed every last page of that incomplete work (10 papers total). She cut, colored, traced, and glued until her little fingers bled (not really, but you would’ve thought they did with that little diva). The socialite preschooler had to spend an entire week without a single playdate. We skipped family dinner at my brother’s and an extravagant birthday party. It was torture- for her and her parents. I even leaned down in church that Sunday and whispered, “You need to talk to Jesus about your lying. Pray about it.”
The only way I can make sense of this phase (oh God, please let it be a phase) is to think that God is easing me into the whole “discipline” territory with Aubrey and paving the way for that second child of mine because I have a pretty strong inkling that Maycee Jo is going to give us a run for our money. Who knows what she will do with her shoelaces…
In early January I posted about one of my New Year’s Resolutions: Reading until my eyes hurt. I’m here to tell you that my eyes don’t hurt just yet, but I can feel the burn coming on. I am currently on book number six of the year! Six books in the midst of being a wife, mommy of a gymnast -dancer, mommy of a wild and crazy toddler, teacher of 170, and sleeper of a few hours here and there. Pretty dang impressive if you ask me.
So here are the books I’ve read so far…
- The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin— I have dedicated a whole blog post to this book here, so I won’t add many more details… except that my friend is now reading it and loves it as much as I do. READ THIS BOOK.
- We Were Liars by E. Lockhart— Plot twist at its finest. With young adult books, I can usually predict the plot twist before it happens, but not with this one. I was truly shocked. A book about a girl who is confused about love and family and her role in the world. A very good read with a very good story.
- Shanghai Girls by Lisa See— This one took me a little longer to finish than the others I have read this year. Two reasons for my prolonged completion of this book: 1- I was learning SO much about the Chinese culture that I had to stop often to do research (which was fun) and 2- this book had so much heavy content that I could only take so much in one sitting. But gosh, what an incredible story of cultural identity and how much loyalty one owes to her cultural roots. I wasn’t crazy about the ending, but then I found out that there is a sequel, so the ending makes more sense.
- The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner— After the rollercoaster Shanghai Girls took me on, I needed something faster and lighter. I heard about this book at TCTELA, a conference for English Teachers, and decided to give it a try. Light is was not, but I am so happy I gave it a chance. It was a little dark and odd, but told a wonderful story of three best friends who are learning all about the trials of life at a much too early age. Did you know that churches exist where venomous snakes are passed around the congregation to test each member’s faith? Snake bite=Satan in your heart no snake bite= pure heart with no Satan. I didn’t know until I read this book. It was a pretty quick read- I finished it in about 4 days. Definitely worth checking out.
- Looking For Alaska by John Green— SO I came really late to the John Green party. I read The Fault in Our Stars a few years ago and just wasn’t all that impressed, so I didn’t read anything else of his. So many of my freshmen love him that I decided to give him another try. When I started Looking For Alaska, I realized his other books aren’t nearly as predictable and cheesy (sorry- not that I think dying teenagers are cheesy; I don’t, it just didn’t feel all that real to me) as The Fault in Our Stars. Again, the story of teenagers trying to find their way, but told with a unique spin on how resilient teens can be in the face of adversity.
- Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon— Another young adult book about a teenager facing a really hard life. The main female character has “bubble-baby disorder” and has never been able to leave her house because she could die if she did. Long story short, she falls in love with the new boy next door, which poses a serious problem since she cannot go outside. I really like Yoon’s writing style. She inserts super short chapters every now and then to keep the book moving quickly. She also alludes to several classic books as the main character spends most of her time in solitude reading. My favorite part are her “Spoiler Reviews” where she sums up the books she is reading in one short sentence that spoils the most important part of the book.
I picked up The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver to read next, and I am about 40 pages in. It is a commitment book, so I am not sure I will be able to read it in isolation for the weeks I know it will take me. I may have to continue sprinkling in a few young adult books here and there to stay in touch with my kiddos.
Two other great reads (not from this year, but worth your time):
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys “My mother is a prostitute.” (First line of this book- how can you not read it after that first line?)
Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman– nonfiction book about when and how to keep your mouth shut and when to say what you need to say (with a little guidance from Jesus