Dreaming

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I have the most vivid dreams. I don’t dream as much, that I can remember, when I stay up late or sleep less than 7 hours. Lately, though, I’ve been making an enormous effort to get to bed before 10:00pm so that I can be up by shortly before 6:00am. The result of which has been dreams. Crazy dreams, scary dreams, bizarre dreams. So many dreams, but none more memorable than one during the early hours of Thursday morning.

My mother and I, as well as teachers from school, were invited to a private audience with Pope Francis. After the audience, we lead him in a procession into mass. Obviously, all of us involved considered this a huge honor. In my dream, I spent quite a bit of time shopping for the best, most flattering outfit. I ended up wearing a dress from Target. That’s not the punchline; I actually rather like the dress. The coral and yellow striped beach hat was another story. Not even dreams could make that hat acceptable.

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We were lined up with the Pope who, in my dream, was petite and friendly. Big church doors opened–I think my mind inserted Westminster Abbey–and Pope Francis turned to me and said, “Here we go! Are you ready?”

I said yes, even though I felt anything but ready.

Suddenly, as often happens in dreams, we were in the sanctuary. This sanctuary was different. It was circular, like the old 360° stages used in MTV Unplugged, only enormous. The stage held comfy leather sofas at least two deep. And chairs, also comfy, but more like something you’d see in a doctor’s office. Needless to say, we were all excited about the sofas and chairs.

I approached the softest looking sofa but was surprised to find a man stretched out and fast asleep. How rude of him, I thought, to be at this important mass, in a place of honor, only to drool all over the furniture. To say nothing about wasting the best seat in the house! My mom and I shared a glance of annoyance.

Pope Francis - General Audience - Nov. 20 2013

We kept moving. I saw two chairs that were empty, but on my way there I almost tripped on a pile of of dirty, stained blankets on the floor. I made a mental note to talk to whoever was in charge and tried to discreetly kick the blankets under the nearest chair. My foot hit something solid. I looked down and found the blankets covered a homeless man. A squatter! Now the people in charge were really going to hear it. All of us started mumbling opinions, none of them kind.

As I looked around the sanctuary, I noticed many of the chairs and sofas were occupied by the homeless, the addicted, and the ill. Even the floors were difficult to navigate. But it wasn’t impossible to sit down. The two chairs next to the homeless man wrapped in blankets were empty, but to sit in them we would have to step over the man. His stench was overpowering. He made my eyes water.

There was a chair next to another man, but he was obviously intoxicated. I almost sat down there, but he looked like he was going to be sick. No thanks!

It seemed like every seat in the sanctuary had a problem.

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At this point, mass was about to begin. Those of us invited by Pope Francis made our way to the nave. Not nearly as prestigious, but it smelled better and we could sit next to each other rather than people we didn’t know–or care to know, honestly.

During all this, I could feel Pope Francis watching us. I caught his eye; he smiled just like he does on TV and in pictures. I preened.

In a soft, gentle voice he said to all of us, “Your true faith is expressed not in your presence at a special mass, but in your treatment of the poor, the ill, the marginalized people of society.”

I woke up.

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The William Morris Project: 2014 | Revisiting School Work Storage

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I survived my first day of school as a teachers aide! I came home exhausted but aware of the fact that I have to be more organized at home than I have ever been if I want to juggle everything successfully. To that end, I decided yesterday I was going to work on how I store homework and classwork throughout the year.

My proven method worked until last year. Having both boys in elementary school meant a dramatic increase in paper, and it was no longer easy to pull out what I needed when discrepancies arose. There was too much stuff, and I was getting bad about discarding the items that weren’t graded. In Nico’s case, it seemed like everything had a grade.

[I keep all graded assignments, classwork, and tests until the final report card for that trimester. This has been fabulous for those times where grades were entered incorrectly or assignments were marked missing. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I'm glad to have the backup I need before I question the boys or the teacher.]

Homework Storage

This year I am straight-up copying my friend Susan. She makes Martha Stewart look disorganized, so when she says a system works for her, I feel pretty confident in appropriating it as my own and doing no further research.

This is what she does.

One way to store classwork, homework, and other school paperwork throughout the year.

I couldn’t find two accordion files–Susan uses the big ones with the handles–so I bought two Martha Stewart accordions on clearance. I figured if the smaller size doesn’t work, paying rock bottom for the files wouldn’t hurt as much. And I can always re-purpose them, too.

Homework Storage, 2

Here is how I set up Mikey’s accordion. Because these accordions are smaller, I doubled up every month except for the beginning and the end of the school year. Nico’s doesn’t have the student handbook file since only one of those goes home, so I don’t know how, or if, I’m going to use the last pocket.

I’ll give an update in a few months on how they are working for us.

Newbery Challenge | Island of the Blue Dolphins (1961)

Newbery Challenge | Island of the Blue Dolphins (1961)Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2010-02-08
Genres: Action & Adventure, General, Girls & Women, Historical, Native American, Newbery Gold Winner, People & Places, Survival Stories, United States, Young Adult
Pages: 192
Goodreads
AmazonBarnes & Noble four-stars
Far off the coast of California looms a harsh rock known as the island of San Nicholas. Dolphins flash in the blue waters around it, sea otter play in the vast kelp beds, and sea elephants loll on the stony beaches. Here, in the early 1800s, according to history, an Indian girl spent eighteen years alone, and this beautifully written novel is her story. It is a romantic adventure filled with drama and heartache, for not only was mere subsistence on so desolate a spot a near miracle, but Karana had to contend with the ferocious pack of wild dogs that had killed her younger brother, constantly guard against the Aleutian sea otter hunters, and maintain a precarious food supply. More than this, it is an adventure of the spirit that will haunt the reader long after the book has been put down. Karana's quiet courage, her Indian self-reliance and acceptance of fate, transform what to many would have been a devastating ordeal into an uplifting experience. From loneliness and terror come strength and serenity in this Newbery Medal-winning classic. In celebration of the book's 50th anniversary, this edition has a stunning new look, and an introduction by Lois Lowry, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Giver and Number the Stars.

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Aerial images of the ocean scary. Satellite images are just plain terrifying. I will never go on a cruise and scuba diving is out of the question. The ocean is vast, endless. You can look up, down, left, right and still not know where you are. More importantly, you can’t see what monsters are sneaking up on you until they’re feasting on your limbs. The ocean is a place of nightmares. I could go into more detail, but this Buzzfeed post sums it up. Bad words could make it NSFW.

This has nothing to do with Island of the Blue Dolphins. I like to place an image under the book description to rest the eyeballs, so I thought it would be nice to include a picture of San Nicholas island for a point of reference. I had no idea I would find images lifted from my darkest nightmares.

I’m not sure I can write this post while staring into the face of evil, but I’ll try.

I really liked this book, which makes me suspect that the best books were written pre-1980 and all hope is lost for children’s literature. I look off into the horizon and all I see are quips and sound bites. Relax, I’m mostly kidding. I read and loved The Graveyard Book, and that was the 2009 winner.

Island of the Blue Dolphins has many of the characteristics I love in a book. There was history, adventure/survival, strong female characters, and a happy, but not overly-so ending.

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This is Juana Maria (name given to her by the missionaries who found her), the woman believed to be Karana, the 12 year old girl in O’dell’s book who gets left behind by her tribe. In real life, Juana Maria was alone on the island for 18 years until she was found in 1853 at the age of approximately 50.


Captain Nidiver reported on the encounter in his memoirs The Life and Adventures of George Nidever. The party consisted of himself, another hunter named Charley Brown, “an Irishman we called Colorado from his florid complexion” and four Mission Indians. They landed on the island in July, planning several months hunting. Shortly after their arrival they found an “old woman” stripping blubber from a piece of seal skin. According to Nidiver’s account, instead of running way “she smiled and bowed, chattering away to them in an unintelligible language.” She was “of medium height… about 50 years old but …still strong and active. Her face was pleasing as she was continually smiling… Her clothing consisted of but a single garment of skins.”

Nidever had been requested by the Fathers at the Mission Santa Barbara to “bring the lost woman off [the island] in case we found her” and that is what they did about a month later.

At this point, it was known that there was only one woman on the island, which explains the search. Over 20 years earlier, after an attack by poachers decimated the Nicoleño tribe (300 to 20), the mainland attempted to rescue those left and rebuild the tribe onshore (allegedly–who knows the real plan, honestly). Maria Juana, it is believed, begged to stay behind because she couldn’t find her young son. It took them 18 years to find her again.

The book paints a vaguely happy picture of Karana’s future, but Juana Maria’s future was far less romantic. It is said she was excited when she reached California. She was amazed by the horses, the fruits and vegetables, the architecture and buildings. She danced and sang for the town, who all came to see her. She spoke in a language no one understood, so members of another tribe of Native Americans were to come to visit to see if they could translate her language.

Unfortunately, Juana Maria died 7 weeks after reaching California from dysentery. How she contracted it is unknown, but some speculate it was from her indulgence of fruits, vegetables, and grains after decades of a diet centered on fish and seal blubber.

[pauses to allow people to regroup after major bummer]

I liked the book, and I can see why it won the Newbery, but reading about the real “Karana” had a far bigger impact on me.

The News

Library Fall 2014

Thank you so much for all the helpful comments on my Veggie Boy post! I haven’t had a chance to reply to them, but I will. I was out of the house yesterday and will be the rest of the week because…I’m the new 4th grade aide at the boys’s school! :)

It’s only a part-time position because I told them that while I would love to help in any way I can, I didn’t want that help to jeopardize the existence of the library. They looked at me like a was a little crazy because, like most schools in our area, there is no budget for a library.

“You do realize that if you kept the library open we wouldn’t be able to pay you, right?”

“Yes, but it’s important enough to me that I’ll do it for free.”

This may sound ridiculous to some, especially since we could use the money, but I don’t care. I have faith that this is what I am supposed to do. God provides us with what we need, and I need the library and those kids more than the small increase in money a full time aide paycheck would provide. The library has brought me joy and purpose. It’s an incredible feeling to touch the life of a child in a positive, long-lasting way. It’s jump-for-joy exciting to see a child fall in love with reading. As a school parent, it has been inspiring to see the power of a school in action. We, the school community, have come together to build something great. I have received so much money in donations to buy books. People trust me with their money! I’ve had parents empty their toy rooms of games and puzzles for the kids to play with during library. They have purged their home libraries of books their kids no longer read or have outgrown. They have donated decorations, bought Christmas trees, volunteered their time to help…it’s been amazing and heartwarming. The never ending supply of books for me to read hasn’t been a bad thing, either. (Except for Flora & Ulysses. There’s a handful of hours I’ll never get back.)

I’m expected to aide in a classroom with a teacher I love, then they want me to sit in a room full of books and kids and talk about what to read. Life is good.

Veggie Boy

Veggie Boy 2

I walked a few days last week, but I spent the majority of the time wrapping books, decorating the library, and painting the 4th grade classroom. Since I can sum up a week like that in one sentence (see above), I thought I’d talk about kids and how they can inspire action.

Immediately after bringing home Buttercup, Nico stopped eating chicken. Shortly after that he stopped eating beef, and not long after it was pork. Now we when go to restaurants he says, “I don’t eat cows or birds or pigs.” He eats veggie burritos or tacos at Mexican restaurants, burgers or sandwiches without the meat at casual dining spots, tofu stir-fries at Chinese restaurants (we’ve only been once because Mikey and the Mister don’t like Chinese food), and his favorite pizza is pineapple and onion.

People think it’s cute, but they think it’s just the whim of a 7 year old boy. Even I wondered about the strength of his dedication when we went to my mother in-law’s house. But he turned down her pot roast, which he loves, and when we asked him if he wanted gravy (true test) he said no because “gravy is made from cows.” He looked at us like we were dimwitted for not putting together the beef gravy = cow-thing.

Nico will occasionally eat fish. Dairy is a no-go unless it is an accent and even in tacos and burritos he asks for no cheese/sour cream.

Mikey says he doesn’t have what it takes to be a vegetarian.

Cooking to appease both boys has been challenging. Already I’m getting well-meaning advice from family and friends. Don’t let him eat soy. Don’t let him eat too many carbs. Were is he getting his protein? He’s going to get anemic. You’ll stunt his growth. The comments all come from a place of concern and love, so I don’t take offense.

The Mister isn’t a problem. He eats whatever I make and has already cut down the amount of meat he eats. He says Nico inspires him. The pediatrician said that I should not discourage Nico and that he wished all his patients were budding vegetarians. I have the support of Nico’s dad and his pediatrician, and that’s enough for me.

Nico says it’s important to him that I do this too, and of course I will. It’s not like he’s asking me to join him in his den of ill repute! That said, I do need some advice. We don’t know any vegetarian families. We definitely don’t know any vegan families. I’m not afraid of being different or trying something new. I consider this an exciting adventure and am up for the challenge. I’m hoping someone here has a vegetarian/vegan family that can lead the way and give me tips.

Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.