Friday, November 28, 2008

Grab Bag Friday: Raising Kids Who Care

I hope you all had a warm, full, cozy Thanksgiving!  

This week, while I was on vacation, a Readers' Digest article, Raising Kids Who Care, showed up in my inbox. It's a terrific read, especially as we're all coming down from our Thanksgiving celebrations and gearing up for the holidays. Especially in this economic downturn it's essential to think about ways to spread the love.

Some tips from author Martha Fay about how to raise kids who care:
  • Encourage their passion (I love the idea of Kids Cheering Kids)
  • Start them young (kids who volunteer at a young age are more likely to continue to do so as adults)
  • Involve the whole family (make it a bonding experience)
  • Involve their friends (it's *so* much more fun to do things when your friends are coming along)
  • Take volunteering on the road (how about rethinking your next family vacation?)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Marvin Gaye: How Sweet It Is

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, and my favorite part is thinking through all the things I'm thankful for in this world. My mother would call it "counting my blessings."

One thing on my list this year: the voice of Marvin Gaye.

Whose voice is on your list?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Marianne Moore: What Are Years?

Ten years ago when my husband and I first met, before we were even dating, he made me a birthday card with a Marianne Moore poem handwritten on the back. With my birthday coming around this week, I've been thinking about this poem again.

Moore asserts that courage lies in accepting our mortality, and within those confines, managing to find (if not satisfaction) joy. At the time, I thought Kevin's card was sweet and thoughtful (he knew how much I admired Moore's poetry). But now, ten years later--I woke up this morning, we went through the confines of our daily routine (teeth, face, hair, coffee, work), and laughed about some little thing or another. On our drive to work, I watched the sun glancing off the last surviving leaves dangling from the trees and thought: How pure a thing is joy.

What Are Years?
by Marianne Moore

What is our innocence,
what is our guilt? All are
naked, none is safe. And whence
is courage: the unanswered question,
the resolute doubt, --
dumbly calling, deafly listening--that
in misfortune, even death,
encourages others
and in its defeat, stirs

the soul to be strong? He
sees deep and is glad, who
accedes to mortality
and in his imprisonment rises
upon himself as
the sea in a chasm, struggling to be
free and unable to be,
in its surrendering
finds its continuing.

So he who strongly feels,
behaves. The very bird,
grown taller as he sings, steels
his form straight up. Though he is captive,
his mighty singing
says, satisfaction is a lowly
thing, how pure a thing is joy.
This is mortality,
this is eternity.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Grab Bag Friday Movie Vault: That Darn Cat

In honor of my beautiful brand new niece, Hayley Elsa, I thought I'd highlight another of my favorite Hayley Mills movies. (If you missed the last one, check out Summer's a gem.)

That Darn Cat was Hayley Mills' last movie with Disney, and Dean Jones' first. To be fair, I'm completely biased from the get-go because along with Fred MacMurray (who is not in this film) these may be my favorite Disney actors of all time. I'll tell you right off, it's not an academy award winner. But if you are looking for something light and goofy with a solid story and a whole lot of hilarious physical comedy, That Darn Cat is definitely worth a watch.

The hijinks start when a cat belonging to Hayley Mills (Patti in the film) follows a bank robber to an apartment where a woman is being held hostage. The woman scratches "Help me!" onto the back of her watch and puts the watch around the cat's neck. Patti finds the watch, calls the FBI, enter Dean Jones and, give you a taste, here's the original Disney trailer:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bill Withers: Lean on Me

Ever since I can remember, Bill Withers' Lean on Me has been one of my favorite songs. My brother and sisters and I used to sing it constantly--on car trips, while doing the dishes--getting especial pleasure from the "Call on me brother, if you need a hand" line (which is still the most fun part to sing).

I remember sitting with my brother at the old upright piano in my grandparent's guest cabin trying to figure out the chords while my mother talked about the bear she'd seen through the window. (Yes, my grandparent's guest cabin had one dusty bed, no running water, and an outhouse, but of course there was a piano. My grandmother will always be the a-house-is-not-a-home-without-music type of soul.)

The thing I love about this song is how it captures our innate, human tendency to feel like we are alone in this world. When hard times come (and boy, do they), we often try to shoulder the burdens on our own, either because we think it's heroic to "soldier on," or we don't want to bother anyone, or we just don't think anyone cares.

But the song reminds us of something we need to try very hard not to forget: we are all in this together. We need to swallow our fear and pride and acknowledge that we all need someone to lean on every once in a while. And then, we need to reach out a hand.

Here is a great live version of Bill Withers singing Lean on Me (listen closely to the lyrics, they're so simple, but they're creative genius):

Lean on Me
by Bill Withers

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you don't let show

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road
I'll share your load
If you just call me

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'd understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
Till I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Lean on me...

Monday, November 10, 2008

New York Times Children's Book Fall Special Issue

I always look forward to the New York Times Children's Book Special Issues. Well, the Fall issue is out, and some highlights include:
There are so many other lists and reviews to peruse. You could (and I'm sure I will) spend hours scanning through and making your wish lists. Enjoy!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Concert Tonight: Damariscotta, Maine

One more note...

For those of you who are in the Damariscotta, Maine area, I'll be playing tonight as the featured performer at a new open mic/coffee house at Round Top Farm (formerly the Round Top Center for the Arts).

The open mic runs from 6:45 to 8:15, and I'll be on from 8:30 to 9:30. If you'd like to participate in the open mic, please be sure to sign up for your slot promptly at 6:30.

Round Top Farm is on US Rte 1A across from Poole Brothers hardware/lumber yard.

Grab Bag Friday: Exceptional Websites for Kids

Congratulations to The Children's Book Review, which was added to the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) list of Great Websites for Children.

Browsing through the other 14 sites that were added, I got a kick out of stopping at the National Mock Election and noting that among kids who voted, Obama/Biden won in Alaska (Palin's home state) and McCain/Palin won in Hawaii (Obama's home state). I guess kids there are a little bored with their home state heroes?

There's a *lot* to see and do at the Nature Educational Resource, but I have to say I especially like the Weird Questions Answered page. Kids can email their weird questions and have them answered. Like Are Redheads Different from Other People? (the answer is yes, in one obvious and one surprising way) and What's Up with the Exploding Toads? (it's gross).

Another nice addition to the list is the search engine GoGooligans. Powered by Google (it's Google for kids), it will filter your searches and only give kid-friendly results.

If you've got a rainy weekend, you could spend hours browsing the entire list.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How I Got Over!

I'll admit it. I got teary-eyed as I filled out my ballot yesterday. And I shed more than one tear watching the results come in. I woke up this morning and walked outside, and the clouds were all lit up with morning light, and I had to choke back the tears again.

I just kept thinking about what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would think if he were alive. And I thought of all those individual people who stood and marched and fought with Dr. King, many of whom *are* alive today. Did they ever think they would live to see a black man elected president?

I tried to think of words, but I just have to go back to that Mahalia Jackson song I posted last month. The one she sang just before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have a Dream speech.

How I got over
How did I make it over
You know my soul look back and wonder
How did I make it over?

Don't get me wrong. We still have a lot of work to do in this country. We can't just sit back and say, "We did it!" and that's that. But I think for this morning, it's ok to be quiet for a moment and watch the sunlight coming through the clouds. It's a new day.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Closing Argument: Please Vote Tomorrow!

In the I-couldn't-have-said-it-better-myself category...

Conservative writer Andrew Sullivan has written a concise, reasonable, and compelling piece for The Atlantic: The Top Ten Reasons Conservatives Should Vote for Obama.

And The New Yorker closes their incredibly in-depth final endorsement (worth checking out) with this simple sum-up:
At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure, and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness. It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually, and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe. That leader’s name is Barack Obama.
I've posted it before, but go ahead, play it again: