Reading Piles & Don’s Birthday

I am loving this Christmas break. Lots of staying up late playing games and then sleeping in and staying in bed and reading. There is nothing better than reading for an hour after you wake up but before the day really begins. Normally, I would read scriptures and then hurry off to start the day but this Christmas break, Don and I have been waking up late and catching up on our fiction piles — such a nice treat. I am thoroughly enjoying the 2000 edition of the Best American Short Stories edited by E.L. Doctorow and Katrina Kenison. My favorites so far are a Utah author Ron Carlson’s “The Ordinary Son” as well as Amy Bloom’s “The Story” and Percival Everett’s “The Fix”. You can see more reviews at Goodreads . I do think it’s ironic Don is reading Twilight and going to donate blood to the Red Cross on his birthday. Makes me chuckle. He says he’s going to take it to read “in the chair” on-site. He’s closer to 50 than 30 today but I can guarantee you he doesn’t act like it. He will always be a boy at heart and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Man vs. Himself: Good Books & Enlightenment

“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself – the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s at.” — JESSE OWENS


I really enjoy quotes from runners because they always seem to be like the jester in a Shakespeare play: The truths they’re talking about have so many levels and layers of meaning. Running is such an accurate metaphor for the journey of life. I know I have learned much from running – just in the course of 2 years – that I don’t think I could have learned any other way and have it so deeply written on my heart. Patience. Trial. Perseverence. Gratitude. The depths and different applications of those emotions are astounding.

The best movies and books, in my opinion, come from the stories of man vs. himself. I know many teenagers enjoy man vs. man (or alien vs. alien) and things along those lines but for me the best stories include subtle action within the heart and mind. There is another literary category of man vs. nature — and this, too, is valid, enlightening and entertaining — but I truly believe that even with man vs. man or man vs. nature, the true enlightenment comes from within those experiences. Those situations all eventually point back to, and reflect, the struggle within yourself. It may begin as a struggle with another person, situation, or nature but it comes back to what is within you. I think those situations help shape who we are mentally and spiritually but I don’t think you can truly discover who you are if you forget the physical element. All of them work together to create who we are.

Some philosophers believe that the body is to be cast off to achieve enlightenment. Don’t tell that to a runner. Runners KNOW that BODY + SPIRIT = SOUL. I’m convinced that the greatest wars are waged within a single human being and it is reflected in the world around us. It’s not a control issue – it’s more of a self-control issue. Balance is the key – nurture, demand, selfless, selfish, experience, knowledge, truth, joy, humor – there is so much to experience. I think that there’s no adventure so profound as the one wherever you are sitting right now.

Middle School Curriculum Rant #1 (I expect there will be more)

I just finished a 1970 copy of a MIDDLE SCHOOL text called Close Up: A Collection of Short Plays. I enjoyed it immensely! It was better than a magazine – each play was short enough that I could read it in little bits of time but feel liked I’d watched an entire drama. These one act plays are fantastic. If you’ve never read short drama, I highly recommend it. It leaves so much to the imagination and is a very cunning and concise craft. What bothers me is this: Why is this textbook withdrawn and why are our children reading much less interesting and much less thought provoking, easier texts today? I visited my son’s 7th grade reading classroom at the middle school’s open house and discussed what was going to be read this year with his reading teacher. I was delighted to see Shakespeare’s Hamlet among the reading list. I was not delighted to see the dumbed down version they were reading. I was appalled – the original text on the left hand side with the easier, new version on the right hand side of each page. What?!? This is someone’s interpretation. It is not Shakespeare. Every nuance, vocabulary, contextual usage, etc., will be completely lost. What kid is not going to prefer to read the easy side? This makes it seem that Shakespeare must difficult to understand since we’re being provided a comprehensible version. Nothing could be further from the truth (this reminds me of the Barbie that said, “Math is HARD!”). Give ’em the real deal and I don’t think the reader will let you down but you have to let them discover and help them through discussion – NOT replacing the text. We truly demand so little of our kids these days; whatever happened to excellence and enlightenment? Nah, it’d be easier just to excel for them and make it easier on them because we love them, right? Geesh. Rant over, for now.