Today’s #TwoForTuesday writing prompt made me look
over the list of books I’ve read since October, 1993 (when I started keeping a
list) and select two books that encourage change.
Life-Changing Magic of Tidying,
by Marie Kondo
I read this book four years ago this month. It
immediately inspired me to reorganize my dresser drawers. I changed the way I
stored many of my garments. It made seeing and finding what I had easier.
Marie Kondo’s mantra is, “Does it spark joy?” If an
item doesn’t bring you joy, she says it needs to go. I went through my clothes
and some kitchen items asking myself that question, and it felt good to donate
some things to Goodwill where they could bring someone else joy.
Reading the book a couple of months before a kitchen
remodel helped me part with some pots, pans, and dishes that held sentimental
value because they had belonged to my mother. One thing I learned was that I
don’t need the chipped or cracked bowl to remember Mama’s potato salad, and I
don’t need her beat up pots and pans to remember the delicious meals she
lovingly prepared for us.
Ms. Kondo says one must tidy by category, not
location. I tend to want to tidy a room and then move on to another room (or
not move on, as the case may be.) She says to start with clothing, then books,
then paper. I think that’s where the wheels fell off my wagon. Paper is the
bane of my existence. As much as I recycle and try to depend on technology, I’m
still overwhelmed by paper.
Four years later, I need to read the book again. I
think it will encourage me to donate or discard some things that have accumulated
since April of 2015. Why should I keep it if it can bring joy to someone else?
I plan to read this book again. After four years and
the gaining of a few pounds, it’s time to sort through my clothes again, donate
more books to a charity used book sale, and take that giant step into all that
paper that seems to multiply while I’m asleep.
Small Changes: One Year to a Happier,
by Brett Blumenthal
I read this book 15 months ago. The idea is that you
make a small change in your life every week for 52 weeks. At the end of that
year, you’ve theoretically incorporated all those changes into your daily life
The author says it’s easier to make small changes than
major changes. Also, it take time to make a permanent change in your life. A
study done by University College London psychologist Phillippa Lally found that
it take an average of 9½ weeks to make a lasting change.
I might give this book another chance, even though the
first change is a major one for me:
“Drink an adequate amount of water each day to maintain a healthy level
of hydration.” Water is not my favorite beverage but, starting today, I’ll make
an effort to drink more of it. The rule of thumb is: “Drink the amount of water in ounces that
equals your weight in pounds divided by two.”
Maybe that Week One change will inspire me to lose
some weight. The less I weigh, the less water I need to drink! Week Two isn’t
any easier: “Get seven to eight hours of
restful sleep every night.” I’m afraid to look at the third week.
For today’s blog post, I’m going back 20 years to remember a delightful children’s book my sister and I enjoyed reading to one of our great-nieces when she was a little girl. That book is still being published, and I’m thrilled because it is a hilarious children’s book.
The reader and the child being read to get to make all sorts of pirate sounds. The book is How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long. In addition to a very entertaining narrative, the book has wonderful illustrations by Caldecott Honor illustrator David Shannon.
I was in Park Road Books in Charlotte, North Carolina
last week and was thrilled to see this book on the shelf. It immediately
brought a smile to my face and then the memories flooded in.
Shiver me timbers! Aargh! The illustrations will entertain a child (and an adult!) for hours. I have been unable to import a photo of the cover of How I Became a Pirate into today’s blog post. Technical difficulties. That’s too bad because seeing the cover would give you an idea of the illustrations within the book.
Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider
Another book that makes me smile is The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of
Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider. The copyright date on it is 1961, and
that’s probably about when I received it as a gift. I just realized that was 58
years ago! I was eight years old and had apparently just discovered the humor
of Mark Twain. I became a lifelong fan. From my lopsided signature on the
flylead, I can tell I received it as I was learning to write cursive. Second
Flipping through this collection of Mark Twain
writings makes me smile because I was no innocent in 1961 and got to read the
book for sheer enjoyment. I read this a mere 90 years or so after Mr. Twain
wrote the pieces. That seemed like a million years to an eight-year-old, but
not so long to me now.
Something else about the book made me smile today as I
looked through it. We had a rule in our house:
you don’t write in a book and you don’t underline in a book. Books were
sacred and to be damaged under no circumstances. (The same went for Daddy’s National Geographic magazines. No matter
what the school assignment was, I knew not to cut pictures out of National Geographic. I doubt I could
take a scissors to a National Geographic
to this day. Some things are just beyond the pale.)
So what made me smile today as I went through the
book? On page 43, beside the story title, “A Touching Story of George
Washington’s Boyhood,” I had printed in very light lead pencil, “Satire?” I
found the same marginal note on page 49 next to “Answers to Correspondents.”
There it was again, minus the question mark, (I must have been gaining confidence
in identifying satire) on pager 59 next to “A Page from a California Almanac.”
I guess I lost interest in satire on page 59 because I
can find no more marginal notes in the book. Thank goodness I didn’t use it to
practice diagramming sentences! Do student still have to do that?
The following entry in “Answers to Correspondents”
made me laugh today because it brought back memories of those dreaded “word
problems” we had to do in arithmetic. I believe that’s known as math today.
Here’s the entry: “’Arithmeticus.’ Virginia, Nevada. – If it would take a
cannon-ball 3 1/3 seconds to travel four miles, and 3 3/8 seconds to travel the
next four, and 3 5/8 to travel the next four, and if its rate of progress
continued to diminish in the same ratio, how long would it take it to go
fifteen hundred million miles?” Twain’s answer:
“I don’t know.”
I can identify with that answer.
This is a 716-page book, plus appendix and index. I’m
sure it was the first thick book I owned. I’m glad I still have this treasure
from my childhood.
This week’s writing prompt for Rae’s #TwoForTuesday blog post was a real challenge for me. I don’t tend to read books with flowery language, so I was stumped for a few days. If you’re interested in participating in Rae’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts or want to read what other participants are saying, go to Rae’s blog at https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/01/april-two-for-tuesday-prompts.
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Many novels of the 1800s would qualify for today’s
#TwoForTuesday prompt, but I decided to go with A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. You need go no further than
the preface to know you’re in for some flowery language.
“I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise
the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with
themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their
houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. Their faithful Friend and
Servant, C.D., December, 1843.”
The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River, by Dr. Thomas Hugh
The first book that came to mind for today’s topic is an excellent nonfiction book by Dr. Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr. You might be familiar with it if you live in the Charlotte area or have ancestors who were or are part of that congregation. It’s a history of Rocky River Presbyterian Church called The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River.
Dr. Spence’s father was the pastor of Rocky River Presbyterian Church in Cabarrus County, North Carolina in the 1910s, and Dr. Spence loved that church. He did a yeoman’s job of researching the first 200 years of the life of the congregation. The flowery language Dr. Spence sprinkled throughout this 1954 book endear it to me all the more because it demonstrates his abiding love for the congregation.
After the preface, is a page about the Rocky River and the first
church that took the river’s name. I think you’ll agree that the language is a
“The waters of more than two centuries have followed the course of Rocky River toward the Eastern Sea since the vanguard of the Scotch-Irish settled along its banks and branches…. The foundations were laid beyond the seas, amid the verdant valleys of Ulster, or, even earlier, upon the heathered hills of Scotland. But there is no uncertainty in regard to that staunch and sturdy race who made their way across the Atlantic, settled for a season in Pennsylvania, and then resumed the march to rest only intermittently until the Yadkin had been forded and the region of Rocky River attained.”
(This book is available from the Rocky River Presbyterian Church office at 7940 Rocky River Road, Concord, NC 28025. You may contact the church office at 704-455-2479 or firstname.lastname@example.org for details. The church’s website is http://rockyriver.org/.)
Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John
Ross, and A Great American Land Grab,
by Steve Inskeep
I can’t remember how I became aware of this book, and
I don’t remember what I expected it to be. What it turned out to be was a real
eye opener! I consider myself a bit of a student of history, but I had never
read the details of how Andrew Jackson speculated on land and grabbed it up by
the tens of thousands of acres as a result of the inside track he enjoyed.
The main things I knew about Andrew Jackson were:
He was born near the North Carolina – South Carolina border, so both states claim him as theirs;
His father died just days before he was born;
He was delivered by his Aunt Sarah Hutchinson Lessley, who just happened to be my 5th-great-grandmother;
He became famous for his service in the Battle of New Orleans;
He was the 7th President of the United States of America;
His image appears on the United States $20 bill; and
He is blamed for the Cherokee “Trail of Tears” as he forced them off their ancestral lands in western North Carolina and northern Georgia and into a grim and often fatal march to the Oklahoma Territory.
The more I learn about Andrew Jackson, the more I
wonder why North and South Carolina fight over him. Let’s just let Tennessee
have him, since that’s where he chose to build his estate called The Hermitage.
The more I learn about him, the more I wish my ggggg-grandmother had delivered
a president of better character. I don’t blame her, though. Her sister, Jean
Jackson was in need of a midwife.
What I learned by reading Jacksonland: President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and A Great American Land Grab, by Steve Inskeep was that President Jackson not only forced the Native Americans off their lands throughout the Southeast, but afterwards he personally gained financially from purchasing thousands of acres of those lands. So did his friends and his wife’s nephew. That’s just the half of it.
Ignorance is bliss. I almost wish I hadn’t read the book.
No, I’m glad I did. I wish I’d known about all this thievery and fraud earlier. It’s amazing the details that are not included or are just mentioned in passing in history textbooks!
Island of Sea Women,
by Lisa See
I listened to this historical novel on CD. It is based
on the women who live(d) on the island of Jeju off the coast of Korea. The book
covers nearly 100 years of life and changes on the island, from the 1930s,
through Japanese colonialism, through World War II and the Korean War, to the
On Jeju, women learn from a young age how to dive deep
into the ocean to harvest certain fish and other sea life. They can hold their
breath longer than any other people in the world. They are known as haenyeo.
The women do this dangerous work, and their husbands raise their children.
This is a story of friendship and betrayal against a
back drop of war and military occupation. I was mesmerized by The Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See.
Due to spending so much time deep in the water, the
haenyeo have hearing loss. For this reason, the older women speak loudly. It
took me a while to get accustomed to the varying volume of this book on CD, as
the narrator went above and beyond the call of duty in demonstrating how much
louder the women spoke compared to the other characters. For that reason, it’s
not the best choice if you like to listen to a book at bedtime or with ear
buds. You, too, could suffer hearing loss!
Tales: The Magic of Creating Stories and
the Art of Telling Them,
by Jackie Torrence
Jackie Torrence was a master storyteller and a
reference librarian in High Point, North Carolina. This book includes 16 folk
tales along with Ms. Torrence’s stage directions and sidebar comments for each
story. I’d never in my life considered being a storyteller until I read this
book. I don’t know that this is something I’ll pursue, but the book is so
inspiring that it made me entertain the idea!
Even if you just want to be able to read stories to
your children or grandchildren with more enthusiasm, facial expression, and use
of your hands in a demonstrable way, you can benefit from this book. An
alternative title for the book could have been, “The Many Faces of Jackie
Torrence” because there are numerous up-close photographs of her
extraordinarily expressive face as she told the stories.
Tales: The Magic of Creating Stories and
the Art of Telling Them, Ms. Torrence explains what makes a good Jack Tale
and what makes a good story. She writes about adjusting stories depending upon
the age of her audience and how to (and how not to) hold children’s attention.
If you have an appreciation for the art of
storytelling, you will enjoy this book. Look for a copy in used bookstore and
online at used bookstores or consortiums such as Advanced Book Exchange.
I read one story each night before going to bed, and I hated to see the book end. It’s one I’ll definitely reread and enjoy just as much the
second and third times.
Since my last blog
I had the pleasure of attending Anna Jean Mayhew’s reading
and book signing at Park Road Books in Charlotte on Thursday night. What an
enjoyable evening it was as she read from and talked about her latest
historical novel, Tomorrow’s Bread.
More on that in my blog post on Monday, April 15.
I’ve had a net gain of 8,325 words to my The Doubloon manuscript, bringing my
current word count to 30,325. I get to start on Chapter 8 today. I can’t wait!
Until my next blog
I hope you have a good book to read. I started reading The Irishman’s Daughter, by V.S. Alexander yesterday afternoon. After reading Mr. Alexander’s earlier novels, The Magdalen Girls in 2017 and The Taster last year, I was eager to read his recently-released novel, The Irishman’s Daughter. He writes extraordinary historical fiction.
If you’re a writer, I hope you have
quality writing time and your projects are moving right along.
Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow: “Two Books with Flowery Language.” Thank you for providing the writing prompt, Rae, in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog. Here’s a link to her April 1, 2019 blog post in which she listed all the #TwoForTuesday prompts for the month of April: https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/01/april-two-for-tuesday-prompts/.
Thank you for reading my blog. You
could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to
read my blog.
continue the conversation
Have you read any of the three books I talked about
today? If so, please share your thoughts with me. Have I piqued your interest
in reading any of these books?
month’s prompts are more challenging than the ones from the previous month. It
remains to be seen if I can come up with books to write about this month. Rae
is stretching my memory to think back through my many years of reading.
With today’s theme in mind, I selected two book series instead of two individual books. (There I go, bending the rules again!) They are series I enjoyed a few years ago. They are books you might enjoy when you want something light to read, although after a while they become somewhat predictable.
Stephanie Plum Series
appreciate how Ms. Evanovich numbers her books in this series in chronological
order. It makes it easy to keep up with where you are in the series, especially
if you’re late coming to her books and you want to remember which ones you’ve
Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter for her New Jersey cousin of questionable character. Stephanie is white. Her sidekick is a large black woman named Lula. There’s no end to the trouble Stephanie and Lula get into. This usually involves Stephanie’s car getting blown up and one of her two heart throbs, Ranger, coming to her rescue. The earlier books in this series were fresh and laugh-out-loud funny. After 25 books, though, they don’t make me laugh as much.
If you want to give Ms. Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books a try, start with One for the Money in order to get acquainted with the recurring cast of characters. The books don’t have to be read in order, but occasionally knowing what has transpired in the past will help you appreciate a later book.
Ms. Evanovich writes one book every year now in this series, with Look Alive Twenty-Five being released last fall. The Stephanie Plum books are stereotypically-New Jersey.
Ann B. Ross’ Miss Julia Novels
I read a few of Ann B. Ross’ Miss Julia novels a few years ago before I got hooked on historical fiction. That’s not to say they don’t still make me laugh.
Miss Julia is an elderly widow who lives in a town in western North Carolina. Every time Miss Julia thinks life might settle down, a relative or other ne’er do well shows up on her doorstep to throw a monkey wrench into her life.
Miss Julia rolls with the punches with good humor. Start with Ann B. Ross’ debut novel, Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind. This is great Southern fiction.
Ironically, Ms. Ross’ latest Miss Julia novel is being published today. The title is Miss Julie Takes the Wheel.
Until my next blog post
Thank you, Rae, of “Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog” for this month’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts. Visit her blog, https://educatednegra.blog.
Let’s continue the conversation
In the comments section below, tell me about
one or two books that made you laugh.
Many unsung female heroes have crossed my path. I
haven’t known any famous people, so all the heroes in my life – male and female
– are unsung.
I’m going to break the “Two-For” rule today and write
about just one of my unsung female heroes, my great-great-great-great-grandmother,
Mary Morrison. I know her only through names and dates on the written page and
a plain rock that marks her grave in Spears Graveyard, but she is my hero.
I know few details of this Mary Morrison’s life. I don’t
know if she had a bubbly personality or was a negative person. I only know her
from the circumstances of her life.
She was born in Scotland, probably on the Kintyre
Peninsula in 1732. She married John Morrison from the same place. They came to
America, lived in Pennsylvania for a while, then moved to North Carolina in the
Mary and John had nine children. John died in 1777.
Tradition tells us that he was ambushed by Tories not far from his and Mary’s
home. Knowing that he would soon die, he wrote his will in August of 1777 and
died less than a week later. From John’s will, we know that Mary was expecting
their last child at the time because he made provisions for the unborn child.
Sadly, Mary died early in 1781, leaving her minor
children in the care of relatives. We also know that when Mary was sick and
writing her will that one of her daughters was very ill and it was uncertain if
the daughter would survive that illness.
What a hard life Mary must have had! I hope she had
joy in her life.
I marvel at how she left Scotland for the great
unknown American frontier. She left a place on the sea for a new life 200 miles
inland in the backcountry of North Carolina where the woods and meadows were filled
with all sorts of wild animals about which she knew little or nothing. She must
have feared every day for disease or injury to herself and her family.
I live on land today that has been passed down from
generation to generation from John and Mary. I came to feel a real kinship with
Mary a few years ago as I worked in our vegetable and flower garden.
I practiced organic gardening, much as Mary would have in the 1770s. I imagined Mary growing some of the same vegetables and varieties of flowers on this same land. I enjoyed the butterflies, writing spiders, hoppy toads, dragonflies, birds, and box turtles that visited the garden, and I liked to think that Mary did, too.
As I was always on the lookout for copperhead snakes
while in my garden, I can’t help but think Mary kept an eye open for them, too.
One of the earliest things my parents taught me was how to distinguish between
a copperhead and a non-poisonous snake. I feel sure that was an early lesson
Mary and John taught their children. Also, how to identify and avoid poison
I can imagine Mary showing her children how to pluck a honeysuckle blossom, bite the end of the stem off, and suck in the sweetness of the flower.
When wild passion flowers sprouted in her garden, I hope she left them to grow, bloom, and produce lollypops.
When the wild orange butterfly weed bloomed in sunny
spots in the yard, I hope Mary showed her children the black, yellow, and
white-striped caterpillars munching on the green leaves, and I hope she knew to
tell them that those caterpillars would one day be transformed into brilliant
Mary did not have benefit of a tractor to till her
garden, comfortable 21st century clothing to wear in the summer sun,
or an air-conditioned house to retreat to when the heat and humidity got the
best of her or when her back ached or blisters rose on the palms of her hands.
I gardened because I wanted to. Mary gardened because
she had to. If deer trampled her corn or raccoons raided her apple trees, it
could be a matter of life or death for her family. When it happened to me, I just
got mad and bought corn and apples at the supermarket.
When the deer and raccoons decided to eat all the
plants in my garden, I raised the white flag of surrender and stopped
gardening. Mary didn’t have the luxury of stopping. In fact, she probably didn’t
have the luxury of stopping for a single day of her life. She could never stop
working hard or worrying about her family.
My heart breaks to think of her on her death bed in
March of 1781, writing her will, and wondering what would become of her
When I get to Heaven, I will sit down with Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Mary Morrison and hear all about her life and her garden.