Reading Challenge – Last of the Mohicans

Here’s the latest update on my classics reading challenge. I just read The Last of the Mohicans, and I quite enjoyed it. I don’t know why I’d never picked it up before, other than the fact that I don’t generally read much American lit (the exception being Poe). I found it a compelling story, aided by interweaving historical events and people into a fictional story. While Hawkeye’s biases towards the Delawares and against the Hurons colors the interactions, this serves, in my opinion, to add to the authenticity. Both sides held that the tribes who worked with them were better than the opposing tribes, even while they committed the same offenses – this is a common view, excusing the faults of our own side, to which I think we can all relate.

1. A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899. – unfinished

2.  A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1967. – unfinished

3.  A classic by a woman author. – North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’d never heard of her before, but it sounded like a good book and I wasn’t disappointed. While I wished part of it would have moved a little faster (and apparently it did in the original publication as a serial), it was a well-written story.

4.  A classic in translation.  – unfinished. Maybe I’ll go with Madame Bovary, but I’m not sure.

5.  A classic published before 1800. The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper

6.  A romance classic. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster. I wasn’t all that impressed, really.

7.  A Gothic or horror classic. – Dracula by Bram Stoker. I can’t recommend this book enough! It is such an amazing book. Everyone needs to go and read this. Well – what are you waiting for?!

8.  A classic with a number in the title. – unfinished

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  – unfinished

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. –unfinished

11. An award-winning classic. – unfinished

12. A Russian Classic. – unfinished

Reading Challenge Progress

I’ve completed 1/4 of the reading challenge and thought I’d update here.

 1. A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899. – unfinished

2.  A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1967. – unfinished

3.  A classic by a woman author. – North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’d never heard of her before, but it sounded like a good book and I wasn’t disappointed. While I wished part of it would have moved a little faster (and apparently it did in the original publication as a serial), it was a well-written story.

4.  A classic in translation.  – unfinished. Maybe I’ll go with Madame Bovary, but I’m not sure.

5.  A classic published before 1800. reading now  – The Aeneid by Virgil

6.  A romance classic. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster. I wasn’t all that impressed, really.

7.  A Gothic or horror classic. – Dracula by Bram Stoker. I can’t recommend this book enough! It is such an amazing book. Everyone needs to go and read this. Well – what are you waiting for?!

8.  A classic with a number in the title. – unfinished

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  – unfinished

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. –unfinished

11. An award-winning classic. – unfinished

12. A Russian Classic. – unfinished

So for the ones I’ve yet to read, or even to decide on a book to read for that category, I’m open to suggestions. I’m trying to read books I’ve not read before (I had read Dracula years ago, but it’s so good I just had to reread it).

Size Matters Not

Growing up, I didn’t believe that fat could be beautiful. No, beauty was restricted to those who were thin. I didn’t understand the beauty of Renaissance models, instead trying to say that they valued fat as a sign of wealth, but that it wasn’t actually beautiful.

And I was completely confused when I watched Oklahoma! and heard Will singing about Kansas City. In the song, he describes going to a burlesque show and how “one of the girls was fat and pink and pretty.” But using the words “fat” and “pretty” in the same sentence, the same description, just didn’t compute. I assumed he must be using the word “fat” to mean curvy, not actually fat. I even said so to a girl I was babysitting (who was also confused by that line).

In both cases, I was performing mental gymnastics to avoid associating anything beautiful with fat. Fat was a bad word, an ugly word. After all, all the media told me that beautiful women were thin. My grandfather, who was wonderful in many respects, also commented negatively on the weight of any in the family who were not super thin (and praised those who were slender).

Even though I was naturally slender – to the point of being accused of having an eating disorder, which is also not a fun stereotype, but not the same as fat-shaming – I always hoped I wouldn’t gain weight. I hoped I wouldn’t gain the “freshman 15” in college, for fear of being less beautiful. I’m ashamed to say I even looked down on those who did gain that weight.

But now I have children of my own, and I see the media portrayals and stray comments with a new perspective. I wonder how my children will receive and internalize those nearly subconscious messages. What I want them to know, what I want to teach them, is that their beauty comes from within, and that their clothing size matters not at all in that determination.

A lot of this comes from my acceptance of the changes in my own body, having had 3 children well over 8lbs at birth, and the diastasis recti that has come with that. While I wish I could’ve come to this realization earlier, I’m glad I’m learning it now, and I hope my children see me be comfortable in my own skin and internalize that example. I’ll just keep repeating that size matters not, and pray that message will overshadow what the media tells my children.

A Room with a View

I decided to tackle the romance classic for this Back to the Classics reading challenge I’m doing. I wanted a book I hadn’t read before, so I pretty much just did a search for classic romance novels and this one came up. I duly downloaded it on my Kindle and started it.

It read fairly quickly, but I found hat I kept wanting the characters to just hurry up and do what we knew they would. When I was a third of the way through it, I debated just stopping reading it, but decided to continue. It ended much the way I expected it to do. It wasn’t horrible (or else I wouldn’t have finished it), but I much prefer other books in this category.

Let Kids be Kids

In the newspaper today was an article about the new Early Learning Centers in our district. In these centers, kids as young as 3 will be taught literacy and “classroom skills” (eg: how to stand in line, go to centers, etc.). The centers only go up to 2nd grade, and all the work is more intense. The reason? Too many children are deemed to be unable to read at grade level by 3rd grade, and so the powers that be are trying to find ways to avoid that happening.

Some thoughts: it seems that every year I hear about school systems seeing that some kids are falling behind and saying that the solution must be do things earlier and with more intensity. Usually there are also then articles from those who are experts in childhood development saying this is the wrong approach and that children learn by play, which needs to be encouraged. Somehow the school districts never seem to pay attention to that.

How many adults could sit quietly, keeping completely focused, for an entire school day? Not many, I’d wager. But these students are expected to do so. In the article, there was a description of a 1st grade classroom. A group of students was sitting at the teacher’s desk to have discussion time with her, and it mentioned that one girl was instead standing and jumping/dancing around while answering questions. Now, my daughter is in 1st grade, and does the same thing. It’s perfectly normal for a child that age.

In the article, though, it was mentioned that most teachers wouldn’t allow that, and don’t understand that children learn in different ways, but that this particular teacher knew the girl was engaged in the lesson and so was okay with it. How sad is it if our teachers don’t know that this age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate? I remember when I was teaching 3rd grade. I had a student who just truly needed to be standing and moving around to do his work. I made an agreement with him where he could do that, provided he was within reach of his desk. Suddenly, his behavior problems weren’t a problem, because he was able to do his work. When I praised him and recommended him for an accelerated program, though, I was met with skepticism.

My own children wouldn’t do well in a program where they had to sit quietly for hours on end. K needs to walk around to think about his ideas. C needs to bounce around. Often they try to sit on my birthing ball to do their work. And really, I don’t want them to just sit still all day. Don’t we hear every day about the obesity problem and that children (and adults) aren’t active enough? Why would I then want to make them develop the habit to be sedentary during most of their waking hours?

So really, I just want kids to be allowed to be kids. It’s how they learn best. Maybe we should change our methods to match their reality and development, instead of expecting them to just be quiet and sit still to make our lives easier.

2017 Classics Reading Challenge

I’ve decided to join a reading challenge for this year. My brother said he was doing the Classics reading challenge, and since I want to catch up on some classics (or reread some good ones), I decided to join him in this. Now I just have to decide which books I’ll read! Here are the categories:

  1.  A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899.

    2.  A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1967. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.

    3.  A classic by a woman author.

    4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories).

    5.  A classic published before 1800. Plays and epic poems are acceptable in this category.

    6.  A romance classic. I’m pretty flexible here about the definition of romance. It can have a happy ending or a sad ending, as long as there is a strong romantic element to the plot.

    7.  A Gothic or horror classic. For a good definition of what makes a book Gothic, and an excellent list of possible reads, please see this list on Goodreads.

    8.  A classic with a number in the title. Examples include A Tale of Two CitiesThree Men in a Boat, The Nine Tailors, Henry V, Fahrenheit 451, etc.

    9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  It can be an actual animal or a metaphor, or just the name in the title. Examples include To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Metamorphosis, White Fang, etc.

    10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. It can be real or imaginary: The Wizard of Oz, Down and Out in Paris and London, Death on the Nile, etc.

    11. An award-winning classic. It could be the Newbery award, the Prix Goncourt, the Pulitzer Prize, the James Tait Award, etc. Any award, just mention in your blog post what award your choice received.

    12. A Russian Classic2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so read a classic by any Russian author.

No Complaining

I don’t know quite how it began. I complained a little about this, maybe even in jest, then about that, then I was looking out for the negative things, just so I could complain about them. I found I wasn’t as positive as I’d once been, and kept complaining about more and more. Until one day I realized I was just becoming more and more negative, and that that isn’t who I want to be.

See, complaining really does change one’s outlook. If I’m always looking for things to complain about, then I’m missing all the good. The problem is that complaining and looking for the bad becomes an ingrained habit. So how does one replace a bad habit with a good one? I’ve personally decided that every time I complain, or am tempted to do, I should instead find two things to praise and be thankful for. Of course, I can’t just do it on my own, so I also ask for God’s grace to be able to do this. I trust that, with His help, this, and any other obstacles in my spiritual life, can be overcome. Here’s to no more complaining.