Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Remembering the Joys of Reading

As a child, I was an early reader. I was also a young kindergartner, having turned 5 just before the school year started. I was starting to read simple books before I started school and probably during first grade I was on to larger chapter books and my favorites were the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I remember how much I loved watching the series on television and my mom had found a full-length pioneer-style dress with a bonnet that I would put on to get into character when I'd sit down and read the books.

Later, in maybe fourth grade, I remember reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and how much I liked it and then The Diary of Anne Frank made quite an impact in about sixth grade. By high school I was so preoccupied with all the social interacting and boys, I didn't much care for reading anymore. It seemed more of a chore. And once I got out in the working world and married, I didn't really read books much, mostly magazines. I recall reading The Firm after I'd seen the movie starring Tom Cruise and it was the first book I read in a very long time that I read for pleasure and not because I had to. When my first son was on the way, I read everything I could that had to do with caring for babies or naming babies and from then on, every bit of reading material revolved around motherhood. I'd try to relax from time to time and read something for pleasure, but I'd often get a few chapters in and never get back to it.

When I picked up packets at the library for the kids' summer reading program, I realized that it had been last summer when I last read an entire book from start to finish. It was the required summer reading for my high schooler, but i decided to read it, too. It was Swallowing Stones, a book that I had a hard time putting down. It was the fourth book I read last year over a couple months, which was more than I had completed since I was a student. I do read daily. It's just usually a newspaper or a magazine article or something I find online. Something that you can get through quickly when you just have a few minutes to spare. Full books are hard to fit into the schedule, especially since I find myself needing to get back t it when it's a good one and everything else seems to fall by the wayside while I am enthralled in the story.

The other books I read last year were Let's Roll (the story of 9/11 passenger Todd Beamer's life as told by his wife), Why You Crying' (a hilarious and heartwarming autobiography by comic George Lopez) and The Passerby, which I read before interviewing the author for an article. With all of them, I started and just kept reading and reading, unable to pull myself away.

A few months ago I picked up a copy of Three Cups of Tea, but just couldn't find the time to finish it.

So, on a trip to the library with the boys recently, I told them we'd go to the children's section after Mom picked out a book to read while they played. I went to the biographies, my favorite reading material, and grabbed a few. My eight-year-old even grabbed one from that section. It was way beyond his reading level, but I wasn't going to discourage it. he checked out a 670+ page biography of Christopher Columbus.

Once we got to the youth area, the boys got to playing and I got to reading. I opened Last Man Down, the story of FDNY Battalion Commander Richard Picciotto and his escape from the rubble of the World trade Center north tower on 9/11. I just kept reading. The kids kept playing. Next thing I knew I was nearly half-way through the book. It had been almost two hours and the library was about to close. I brought it home and read another hour before bed. Then the next day, after the kids got out of school, we headed to a park where they ran for a little bit and I read a little more. We got home, had some lunch and they watched a movie while I finished up the book. 243 pages and I was done in less than 20 hours. I start reading and race to the end, then am left with this feeling of "now what?" So, after some housework, we set off for the pool and I grabbed another book. This time it was another autobiography, 700 Sundays, by Billy Crystal. As the kids swam and splashed, I sat in the shade at the edge of the pool, flipping pages and watching the kids frolic, laughing out loud at both the kids and the story.

I had forgotten how fun it was to read - to escape into the setting of the book. I'd sit there looking at those manila pages and suddenly I was there beneath smoldering rubble alongside some exhausted and anxious firefighters or I was taking in a jazz concert as a young Billy Crystal or sitting with him at Yankee Stadium watching Mickey mantle hit one out of the park. Over the two hours at the pool, I got through roughly two-thirds of the book. I probably won't be able to rest my head tonight until I'm finished so i can start another book tomorrow. I know I can't keep this up. I'll soon be completely exhausted and my home will suffer. However, I've resolved to keep a book close at hand this summer. I seem to spend so much time waiting. Waiting in a doctor's office, waiting in parking lots for my children, waiting at a sports practice. Rather than spending that time sending texts or staring off into space, I can escape to whatever place or scene exists on the pages inside the cover.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sisters Weekend, Part II

I intended to write a follow-up to our second sister's weekend and time got away from me. So, I'll fill you in now. My sister, who lives in Geneva, Illinois, had noticed a sisters weekend planned in downtown St. Charles. She offered up her house as our lodging for the weekend and another sister booked us for the sisters weekend activities.

It was a great break that we all needed. It was me, my three sisters and a sister-in-law. We started night one with a wine tasting at a local steakhouse, followed by a a pajama party at Hotel Baker. It was so much fun. They have different prizes for pajamas and some groups went all out with cool, matching sets. There was a DJ and dancing and the best part was the mini-spa services - short massages, manicures, wax treatments, pedicures and make-up applications. We had a blast, leaving the hotel in pajamas and slippers in a rainstorm, then making a late-night Taco Bell stop.

The following day there were workshops and special sales at downtown shops. We discovered a wonderful restaurant, the RX Cafe, and had a leisurely gourmet lunch. In the evening it was a show at the Arcada Theatre of Michael Jackson tribute artists and a Mowtown Band.

On Sunday, we went for a cooking demonstration at Thai Zie, a great Thai restaurant with fresh, tasty food and wonderful service. After making spring rolls, we stayed for a filling lunch. I headed home and the other girls stayed for a little shopping. It was a great end to a fun-filled, refreshing weekend. I'd recommend it for any group of sisters or girlfriends to get together. Get more information at http://dtown.org/events/sisters_weekend.asp.