Wednesday, July 22, 2009

1 "'Woodrow, quite a party,' Augustus said."

Browsing Barnes and Nobles. . . finding the perfect book (or 5) . . . heading home trying not to get in a wreck as I attempt to begin the book at the red lights. . . Getting home and snuggling on the couch with a blanket and turning to the first page . . . I am immediately immersed in another world, another time, and another place.

Reading has been my passion since I was a little kid. When I was younger, I would start a book and not stop until I reached the end. . . Books have been my avenue to foreign places, my peek into famous lives, and my quest to the history of magical times. Some day I want a library in my house. Dark wood and floor to ceiling bookshelves around the circular room with a ladder on a track like in My Fair Lady.

Books are like old friends. . . when I look at my bookshelf I remember their contents with a smile and I run my fingers over the many spines remembering the places I was when I first read them, the memories they left in me, and the lessons they taught me.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I read Trinity by Leon Uris. "When all of this was done, a republic eventually came to pass but the sorrows and the troubles have never left that tragic, lovely land. For you see, in Ireland there is no future, only the past happening over and over." The best part of historical fiction is that it gives you the history of a certain time or place with romance and action intertwined! Trinity is still one of my favorite books and Leon Uris is by far my favorite author. This book started my obsession with Ireland! I contribute Trinity with pushing me toward a private study of Irish history and eventually to St Thomas University where I will graduate in December with my Masters in Irish Studies. A great book sticks with you and in some cases changes your life.

The Velveteen Rabbit is such a staple in a child's library and every child (or adult) longs to be loved the way the stuffed rabbit was loved. (every child secretly wishes their special stuffed animal would miraculously become Real) Throughout the book, we smile when the Boy and the Rabbit have long days in the garden, we listen intently at the Skin Horse's wise words, we cry with desperation when the Boy gets sick and the Rabbit must be burned and we rejoice when we read, "He was a Real Rabbit at last. . . ". What an incredible lesson and parallel of Christ's love. He loves us so much that when our time comes, He, like the nursery magic Fairy, comes to make us "Real" in heaven!

The book jacket or the back of the book either makes me want to read the book on the way home from the bookstore at the red lights, or makes me immediately dismiss the book. One of the BEST book jackets ever written is The Tale of Despereaux, which is also one of my favorite books!
"This is the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in darkness but covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl with a simple, impossible wish. These characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and ultimately, into each other's lives. And what happens then? Reader, it is your destiny to find out."
How could you possibly resist such a fabulous invitation? I'll admit it, when teaching 5th grade Language Arts, there was many a time that I read a little longer than necessary just because I, along with the kids, could NOT stop at the end of the chapter!

Then there is the DELICIOUS, sometimes slightly risque, but all the more appealing "poolside" reading! My personal favorite of this category is. . . The Devil in the Junior League. "The Junior League of Willow Creek, Texas is tres exclusive, one of the oldest and most elite women's societies in the country. And we work hard to keep it that way. Outsiders need not apply." How wildly entertaining! Again, a book you cannot put down until you turn the last page!

Very few writers can compose a memoir that is truly entertaining and not just self-reflecting! Every dog owner can relate to Marley and Me! "Our rambunctious, wired dog stood with his shoulders between Jenny's knees, his big, blocky head resting quietly in her lap. his tail hung flat between his legs, the first time I could remember it not wagging whenever he was touching one of us. His eyes were turned up at her, and he whimpered softly." How many times have we looked into the wise eyes of our 'rambunctious,' goofy dog and had them quietly reassure us with their silent comfort? Great books allow you to dive into another person's life while discovering the parallels of theirs with your own.

Of course, one must read and study the "classics!" Along with Moby Dick, and far too many others to name, one of my favorites is A Tale of Two Cities. "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." Again, Christ sacrificing his life for another's is magnified in this incredible book. A Tale of Two Cities is one of those books that end and you realize you have been holding your breath for the whole last chapter.

One Day in My Life and A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier are two of the greatest and most graphic autobiographies I have ever read. These books make you outraged at the living conditions of these authors and open your eyes to the reality of cruelty in other countries. Both infuriated me and took me across the world to experiences that I didn't believe existed. Books like these broaden the 'bubble' we live in and educate you about conditions in other countries. "I find it startling to hear myself say that I am prepared to die first rather than succumb to their oppressive torture and I know that I am not on my own, that many of my comrades hold the same."

One great thing about discussing books or being in book clubs is that it introduces you to new authors! Bex recently chose Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult. I totally disagree with a key part to this book but it made me think about my views and helped me to specify my thoughts on certain issues. Although I disagreed with the decision of the main character, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book which led me to read My Sister's Keeper. Again, Picoult makes you think and again nail down your thoughts on controversial issues. She is definitely an author that when you turn the last page, you have to sit and reflect for a while before coming back to the real world!

Being a Texas History teacher, two of my favorite books are Lonesome Dove and Not Between Brothers. My dog and my chickens were named after the main characters in Lonesome Dove, which is based off of the Goodnight/Loving cattle trail drive. Not Between Brothers is the BEST book I have ever read and follows Texas History from the time of the land grants to the beginning of the Civil War. Again, romance, betrayal, violence, and unforgettable friendship brings these historical stories to life!

Slowly, I turn the last page and close the book. It is over! The journey has concluded and I am thrown back into reality. I sit and reflect over what I have just read and it takes me a few minutes to organize my thoughts or fully take in the ending of the book. I let out a massive sigh and in disappointment return the book (alphabetically, of course) to my bookshelf.

After a few minutes of reflection and melancholy thoughts about the fact that the story is over. . . the fun begins again, as I pull a new book off the shelf. . .
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

2 MORE chickens????

"Elizabeth, turtles belong outside." "No, we will not buy you a two thousand dollar parrot." "That cat has mange! Get it out of your bedroom." "MORE chickens??" "HOW many puppies are you bringing home?" "Elizabeth, you may not bring anything home that breathes without calling first."
My love for animals started early. I remember riding a massively big horse every time I went to my Uncle Johnny and Aunt Lucy's farm. (I found out in college, I was really riding a Shetland Pony) But my love for animals was not entirely cultivated on my own. . . my daddy was always there to spur me on! One of my first "animal" memories was Daddy catching ducks for us at Conroe so we could pet them. Feeding the ducks was a highlight when we visited Gigi and Pop's lake house!
Daddy also used to bring back Horny Toads for us every time he went hunting in South Texas. I loved those little lizards and am sad that they are endangered. Both of my parents taught us to have a compassionate heart for animals, but I learned early, that DAD was the one to go to when I wanted to keep a pet I had found! Mr. Baker had a birthday party at his farm when I was really little. Each family invited was supposed to bring a farm animal for him. It was so much fun for all the kids when Mr. Baker opened each "crate" to see what animal would come out! I was in HEAVEN! Recently, I thought that if I am so blessed to have a ranch some day, that would be my DREAM birthday party! (hint hint) One of my FAVORITE animals the Baker's had was their pet goat, JOB! Dad would take me with him to the Baker's ranch when he went fishing but we would always have to stop to get carrots on the way so I could feed the horses!

At Second Baptist in third grade, each class hatched chickens from eggs in an incubator. I am sure you can imagine 20 3rd graders excitement when the chicks finally started to peek out of their shells! Well, of course I HAD to take my two chickens home with me. Luckily Mom and Dad allowed me to keep my chickens in the backyard in our Memorial home. Dad would catch June bugs at night and feed them to the chickens by hand. Needless to say, my chickens had a pretty ritzy life. How many chickens are hand fed bugs?? The time came when they started crowing and we took them to Uncle Johnny and Aunt Lucy's farm. I wasn't as sad when I saw the chickens running around eating as many grasshoppers as they could catch! They were pretty funny!
More than anything in the world, I wanted a dog! We lived in a small house in West University and my parents wanted to move to Memorial before we got a dog. I will never forgot being at Second Baptist on a day when everyone was supposed to bring their dog to school. Well, I had my stuffed animal dog and I still remember how sad I was that I didn't have a REAL dog like everyone else. We FINALLY moved and Daddy and I went to C.A.P and immediately found our dog! We raced home and brought the whole family back and KNEW that Charlie was the one! I finally had the dog I always dreamed of! Charlie was a special part of our family and our childhood would not have been the same without him! He was so cute with his under bite and his ferocious barking (from behind the couch!)

I rode when I was little but didn't have horses so it was sporadic. I found a beautiful horse in a magazine when I was really little and kept the picture well into college JUST in case anyone wanted to know what kind of horse I wanted! :-) I remember watching National Velvet and totally identifying with Velvet's overwhelming desire for her own horse! When I was 11, I went to Camp Waldemar and got to ride 2 hours every day! There was an elite riding group called Connie's Cowgirls and my counselor told me that if I worked REALLY hard, I could make it into that group and ride for 4 hours every day! I worked so hard and memorized (literally) every part of the horse anatomy (which i have completely forgotten now!) and made it into Connie's Cowgirls! I was probably one of the only girls who didn't have my own horse and was probably the least experienced rider. . . but I tried my best every time and it paid off! I took riding lessons for a while after I quit going to Waldemar, but high school got in the way. I still love riding but, again, it is sporadic! I hope one day to have a ranch and be able to have my very own horse! Since I have waited so long, I think I will appreciate it so much more!!

Throughout my years at home, I had fish, canaries, and Charlie! Much to my dismay, I was not allowed to get any other pets! Not that I didn't try! My favorite date with Daddy was to go to the bird store and look at all the beautiful parrots! Emily Jochetz and Ashley Suddarth also helped me in my endeavor to have as many animals as possible. Emily and I found a cat with mange in a friends front yard. We took it to the animal hospital and quickly realized that we didn't have the five hundred dollar deposit needed for the cat to be examined, so naturally we took it back to my house! I put it in my room with some milk and tuna and put a note on my door that said, "Do NOT go in my room" and then left to hang out with friends! When I got home, my mother told me that whatever was in my room needed to go outside immediately! I COULD NOT understand why we HAD to put the cat outside! It was gone the next morning and I was so upset!
Ashley, Mrs. Suddarth and I also found a turtle! Mrs. Suddarth crawled in a ditch to rescue it for us and . . . of course it came home with me! It lived in the backyard for a while before Dad took it to the Arboretum. I wanted to build it a huge habitat in my bedroom, but had to settle for the "outside" habitat Dad helped me make! From getting to go behind the scene at Sea World to babysitting a litter of pointer puppies for a week, my childhood was filled with animals!
Kanakuk brought lots of new animal experiences! From baby deer, raccoons, and wolf pups, there was always something interesting being nurtured at Kamp!

My love of course did not stop when I went to college. When Amy Hardy got chickens for her birthday, she knew who to call! I took them to my parents house and they took care of them until they were too old and had to go to the farm! For some reason, the Lord must have thought it was funny to keep putting chickens in my path because a later year in college David Schwarz had 4 baby chicks he needed to get rid of! Well, of course, I knew where to take them! They were beautiful and turned out to be Rode Island Reds. I named them after the four girls in Lonesome Dove: Laurie, Peach, Clara, and Elmira! It was after I "surprised" my parents with the third set of chickens that my mom gave me the lecture which included, "You may not bring things to our house that breathe without our permission." These were my favorite set of chickens and had such funny personalities! Dad made them a whole roost area outside and every night they would follow each other up the ladder to their branch, where they would cuddle together! Dad would also get a shovel and dig up the compost pile to look for worms. Well, the chickens got to know the routine and when Dad went for the shovel, they came running. It got to the point that he could barely put the shovel in the ground because they were all around his feet looking for bugs and worms! He also, OF COURSE, hand fed them June bugs! My mom even admitted when the chickens had to go to the farm that she missed seeing the colorful birds out in the backyard!

My junior year in college, I lived next to some Sigma Chi's that had two labs! I loved those labs so much and braved running in Cameron Park when I had both of them with me! Duke's personality was a little wary of strangers and I knew if someone ever messed with me, Duke would kill them! He was a pretty big lab and was red because his parents had been chocolate and yellow. Darla was the sweetest thing! She was chocolate and smaller and LOVED to cuddle! She thought she was really a lap dog. Senior year, I begged Kyle and Cole to let me breed Duke and Darla. I said I would do all the work as long as I could get a puppy! Finally, February 11th came and the puppies were born! I immediately picked out Gus! He was the only "red" boy! There had been a massive discussion with my parents about me getting my own dog because Charlie was very old and Mom didn't want a puppy aggravating him. Well, the Lord works in mysterious ways and Charlie passed away before Gus was born. So Spring Break, I loaded Darla and the 11 puppies into my Tahoe and headed to Houston! Cole was going skiing over Spring Break and of course I volunteered to take the puppies to Houston with me! Dad had so much fun playing with all the puppies for the week! Mom, thought they were cute, from a distance! :-) When the time came, I finally got to take Gus home and we have been best friends ever since! There is nothing like having a wagging tail and a goofy smile meet you every time you come home! He is so funny and it is debatable whether he like food or being in the water more. . . the jury is still out!

My travels have also led be to some pretty fun "animal" experiences!
Holding a sea urchin in New Zealand

Petting sheep in Australia!

We got picked to hold the cow in a farm show in Australia. . . I think they knew we were from TEXAS!

Feeding kangaroos in Australia!

Feeding the Asian elephants in Australia
Feeding the monkeys on the Rock of Gibraltar!
I will always have pets. Right now, I am limited to Kappa, my Betta, and various fish in my fish tank, and Gus Gus! Gus is my baby and we do everything together! His personality is like Duke's and I can't take him certain places for fear that he will EAT someone! (he is just trying to protect me!) It has been so much fun going through hunt test with him and going with my Dad to watch his progress. My family is obsessed with him! Gus goes to "Grandparent Day Care" every day while I am at work! One of my favorite stories is when Gus was a puppy and Mom and Dad were taking care of him, he had to stay in the laundry room at night time. Parker was home one weekend and felt so bad for him that he slept in the laundry room with Gus all night! Dad is by far the most obsessed! He even takes Gus to the office sometimes! Every morning when I bring Gus to "Grandparent Day Care," Dad gives Gus a biscuit and takes him outside to throw the ball! It is like clockwork! Nothing can ever compare to the love of a dog!

One day I would love to own a ranch so I can REALLY have my own Noah's Ark! Can't you just see it!??!! A cow named Norman, two donkeys - Eeyore and Donkey, pigs - Wilbur and Babe, goats, horses, rabbits, cats, and, of course, chickens!
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