Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Club

So, about 3 months ago, my good friend Jessica sent an email requesting that we "resurrect" our Book Club. You see, back in the early-mid 2000's a core group of gals, all connected to one another in different ways, were meeting approximately once a month or so to do what book clubs do: eat, chat, snack, talk, catch up on the latest, and. . . discuss the book we were "supposed" to have read prior to our meeting. In those 2-3 years we read some great/interesting books (**see below), but more importantly, we cemented friendships that will last a lifetime.

When Jessica's email made the rounds, we all agreed to give our book club another shot, even though one of the core members, my good friend Gretchen, no longer lived in eastern Kansas. (We also agreed that we would try to hold all book club meetings when Gretch was back in town visiting relatives.) The first book chosen was Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, and so, when I had some time I dug out my sister's copy of the book (that she leant me years ago) and began reading.

Sidenote: my sister makes a lot of book suggestions. Some I pick up immediately, some I ponder awhile before actually reading, and some I have to be prompted to read over and over again. Even though I'm the Literature teacher, she and my mother are much more well-read. I completely failed them both last year when the three of us were going to read Washington Square by Henry James. . . and I have yet to read past the first few pages. Needless to say, Ari was glad to hear that I read Eat, Pray, Love, but I think she's still a little irked that I haven't "participated" yet in our nuclear-family "book club." Perhaps on the next book? :)

So, as I was saying, we read Eat, Pray, Love and met to discuss it in late March. I must say we had a lot of varying opinions on the book and an interesting discussion. I found it to be intriguing, simply because of the author's voice and the way she described her experiences. I don't think I should do a complete book review right here on my blog, but if you've read it, I'd be interested in your take. Just one observation: her take on spiritually=not a guidebook.

My friend Misty chose our next book, (we go by birthday month) The Sweetness at the Bottom of Pie. It's a great read with a wonderful protagonist: Flavia DeLuce. She's an 11 year old living in 1950's England. There are some classic scenes in this little mystery, and the characters are really well-developed. Again, if you've read it. . . I'd love to hear what you think. Alan Bradley, the author, has written a second book in the series and I hope to read it sometime this summer perhaps. (That's all of us in the picture below at Misty's after sampling a tasty Key Lime pie.)

Finally, to our current book choice (thanks Stacy), The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I haven't started this one yet, because I'm saving it for my trip to Spain (coming in just a week or so), but I've heard great things about it. Many of my friends and co-workers have read it, so I'm excited to jump on board. It is also one of the books we've chosen as a summer read for our AP Literature students, so I was going to have to read it anyway.

Well, I guess that's it about book club for now. I truly enjoy those nights spent with friends. . . especially when we're discussing a good piece of literature.

**A few of the books I remember reading (and actually finishing) on our first go-round include: Fahrenheit 451, The Eyre Affair (one of my favorite book club choices), To Kill a Mockingbird(perhaps my favorite novel ever), Endurance (a terrific nonfiction account), Memoirs of a Geisha, and Kite Runner (not one I enjoyed, but a good choice nonetheless).

Sunday, May 16, 2010


This weekend was graduation. . . an event that takes YEARS to prepare for and no more than two hours to celebrate. Since beginning my teaching career 11 years ago, I haven't missed a graduation, and I actually don't mind them too much. For parents, grandparents, family members and friends, it's a pretty cool deal to see your loved one walk across that stage. For those of us who teach them. . . well, our feelings may fluctuate between bittersweet, heartwarming, celebratory, or just a load off our minds. (I did think more than once, "Thank goodness we got that one through high school!")

Anyway, in preparing for the graduation ceremony this year, I was asked on a number of occasions, "Why do we have to wear these silly hats?" Because I didn't actually know the reason I made up an answer that sounded historically-based and passed it off as knowledge that I really didn't have. (Most kids believe you, as long as the answer sounds somewhat intelligent.) So, in pondering this question and thinking to myself that I should know the answer, I have done a little research on all things involved with graduation. Here goes. . .

The "Cap" or "Mortarboard" is traditionally worn at all high school and college/university graduations across the United States. However, you probably will not be surprised to find out that the tradition dates back to (possibly) the 15th century in Europe. According to a number of sources, the mortarboard is so named because of its similarity in appearance to the "board" used by bricklayers to hold mortar. Scholars generally believe that the cap/mortarboard developed from the biretta, a similar-looking hat worn by Roman Catholic clergy and as an indicator of social status.

If you're REALLY interested in the history/origins of the mortarboard (and my meager attempt at educating you wasn't fulfilling), you can check out this link to an article from the Yale Alumni Magazine that I found online. It's actually pretty fascinating.

Some other "interesting" graduation and high school rite-of-passage tidbits you probably never cared to know:

1. The graduation ceremony may date back to scholastic monks in the 12th century.

2. Original diplomas were made of sheepskin.

3. The first class ring was designed for students at West Point in 1835.

4. Tassels are worn on the right until the end and then ceremoniously moved to the left as a sign of graduation.

5. Pomp and Circumstance (that good ol' grad music) was composed by Sir Edward Elgar, an Englishman, in a set of five marches between 1901 and 1930. The title is taken from Act III, Scene iii of Shakespeare's Othello: "Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!"

6. The academic hood (worn at graduations by those of us who have masters/doctorate degrees) can be traced back to the Celtic people and the Druid priests. In the Middle Ages, the academic hood was a sign of superior intelligence. (I'm not sure we can say that anymore.) The color of the hood's facing designates the type of degree (i.e. English = White), and the hood's lining refers to the institution where the student earned his/her degree.

And finally, I will always think back to my own high school graduation of June 5, 1994. Wearing my red graduation gown, I received my diploma from my dad (Superintendents have the privilege of being on stage--and the right to give their daughters their diplomas if they so desire), and then headed out into the "real world". . . to find myself right back in that high school environment about 4 years later. . .and right back on stage at 11 graduations, watching those elated graduates process right on out into the "real world" themselves.

Congratulations Graduates. And Good Luck!