After answering the questions, it was determined that I am a frog.
Let me back up and explain that first sentence.
Last week, my dad, son, and I went to the Annenberg Space for Photography to see the National Geographic Photo Ark exhibition. (If you are in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend it. The exhibit is on display until January 13th, 2019. Joel Sartore’s photographs are astounding, and his mission is so inspiring!)
One part of the exhibit involved an interactive activity where visitors use a touch-screen to answer simple questions. After making it known that I was an early riser and not a night owl, preferred a beach area to a snowy area, and would rather play with stuffed animals than video games, (there were other questions too), the determination was made that my Photo Ark animal was the Reinwardti’s Frog.
I’m not sure how I feel about being a frog. (My son was also a frog; my dad was a toad).
I think of frogs as slimy. As bug-eating. As noisy. As the dead creature I had to dissect back in seventh grade biology class.
Though, when I read the paragraph explaining the “similarities” my animal and I shared, one line did stand out. “… and when the going gets tough, you show your backbone.”
You don’t often think of frogs and their backbones. And maybe people don’t always think of me as being tough either. But if I’ve learned (and am still learning) anything during these years with a chronic medical condition, it’s that I am indeed tough.
My ten-and-a-half year old son received an early Christmas gift last week from a friend of the family. Well, she’s not just a friend of the family. Several years ago, she and I taught at the same school. Now she teaches at Ryan’s elementary school, and two years ago, she was his third-grade teacher.
The gift was a surprise to us both.
It was wrapped, so as Ryan looked at it and felt it, he first thought it was an iPad. It would have been an incredibly generous, though unlikely, gift. But in his mind it was the right size.
It wasn’t an iPad. It was a book. A hardcover book. A hardcover book signed by the author. A hardcover book signed by the author and inscribed to Ryan.
And Ryan loves it.
Ryan loves it so much he whooped and hollered around the house. He proudly showed it off.
I don’t think it’s a book Ryan would have picked up on his own had we just been browsing at our local Barnes and Noble or public library. But because his teacher selected this book for him, because his teacher asked the author to sign the book for Ryan, Ryan is reading it.
It’s a beautiful testament to the power of books and putting a book in a child’s hands.
I have just completed “Creative Nonfiction III,” a ten-week writing course offered through UCLA Extension.
And, I didn’t complete all my homework.
In addition to workshopping essays every other week, each student was supposed to read a book a week. There was no prescribed reading list. We were simply to read one book each week of class. And I didn’t.
When I’ve taken this course in prior years, I diligently completed all my reading homework. I calculated the minimum number of pages I needed to read each day to make sure the book would be finished on time. It was stressful. I’d power-read, just trying to get the book finished without truly enjoying what I was reading or paying attention to the author’s tone or the book’s structure.
So with this class, I decided I wasn’t going to do that again. I would try to read a book a week, but if it didn’t happen, so be it. There is no negative consequence. I wasn’t taking this class for a grade. I was taking it for me. I pushed myself during this class, writing in a couple of new styles, writing on different topics. And I slowed myself down to enjoy what I was reading.
I may not have finished ten books in ten weeks, but overall, I did pretty well.
Since class started in October, I have read:
- Close Encounters of the Third-Grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood by Phillip Done
- The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
- Tell Me More – Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan
- Writing Is My Drink by Theo Pauline Nestor
- Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro
And I’m currently reading. Wherever You Are: A Memoir of Love, Marriage, and Brain Injury by Cynthia Lim (an author I first met through a Writers Retreat and who has also taken classes through UCLA Extension).
Readers, I’d love to hear about any books you’ve read in the last ten weeks. Feel free to share in the comments section!
Hourglass – Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro is the latest book in my “just finished” pile. Ms. Shapiro’s memoir is an intimate look at her eighteen-year marriage. She writes of honeymoon memories, family struggles, financial worries.
Basically, she writes about her marriage. Not the wedding; because marriage isn’t the wedding; it’s everything that comes after.
From Ms. Shapiro’s book:
“How do you suppose time works? A slippery succession of long hours adding up to ever-shorter days and years that disappear like falling dominoes?”
“A shared vocabulary – like a soundtrack to our lives – so familiar that we hardly even notice which of us is speaking.”
“I cannot bring myself to even idly wish any of it – not even the most painful parts – away. Eighteen years. Change even one moment, and the whole thing unravels. The narrative thread doesn’t stretch in a line from end to end, but rather, spools and unspools, loops around and returns again and again to the same spot.”
Eighteen years for her and her husband.
Nineteen years for me and my husband.
Forty-three years for my parents.