The Ways I ‘Became’: 2016 in Books

To ask “What are you reading?” is essentially to ask “How are you becoming? …changing?” since everything we read affects us or our world view in some way or another. While I inherently disagree with those who feel some books should be banned, I will always understand and relate to the reality that books change people. Books offer us new circumstances, ways in which to empathize with those unlike ourselves, and teach us simply the ways that we can be. Stack Of Books

In 2016 I have become something else from 2015, and it from the year previous. I have learned the ways of many things, people, and places. While I don’t claim to read all classic literature, canonic literature, or even current New York Times bestsellers, I do know I am better for everything I have read. Here are some of the ways in which I’ve changed this year, and some suggestions for ways in which you might consider seeing how they can change you.

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A Visit with Lois

“Time goes on, and your life is still there, and you have to live it. After a while you remember the good things more often than the bad. Then, gradually, the empty silent parts of you fill up with sounds of talking and laughter again, and the jagged edges of sadness are softened by memories.” –Summer to Die, Lois Lowry

Here’s the thing. Teaching can get boring. Professionalism, the constant yoke of academia, can get old. Sometimes it’s nice to take students to an event and just have fun, even if that fun needs to be central to school in some way.

So Lois Lowry came to a neighboring town and my speech class all wanted to get sushi and drink coffee and listen to her talk. So we went! We had a great dinner, enjoyed discussion and non-school related time with one another. We even held back the urge to scream out “WHY DIDN’T YOU FINISH YOUR BOOK?!” when remembering the end of the novella The Giver, our post-middle school brains still raw from the memory of the cliff-hanger ending.

Imagine students’ surprise (and my lack thereof) that her lecture was incredibly meaningful.

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My Real Vote

Today is a big deal. There’s no way around it, and I don’t care if you’re political. It’s a Big Freakin’ Deal. People in the hills of Nepal, jungles of…the places where there are jungles, and the sands of Egypt are talking about this election.

I remember in ’08 hearing the official announcement of Barack Obama’s secured nomination for the presidency. We took a break from our Non-Western Literature lecture and just sat and discussed the gravity of it. It wasn’t a biased discussion; it was merely a reflection on the weight of change in our nation. Not everyone was pro-Obama, but everyone recognized the moment for what it was–massive.

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Be the Best

We have an incredibly short time to spend with 90% of the people we come into contact with during our days–the paper delivery person, the waitress or waiter, the receptionist–such a very short time. Make that time something they’ll remember you by. Be the version of yourself you’d want to meet for ten seconds. Be the best.” -2013

Have you ever worked customer service? Retail? What about the food industry? Do you know what it’s like to make other people your job?

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In advance, I’m sorry.

“Do you care if I / don’t know what to say? / Will you sleep tonight? / Will you think of me? / Will I shake this off… / pretend it’s all OK / that there’s someone out there / who feels just like me? There is.”
Boxcar Racer

Someone I know and love is about to begin a very rough process, one which will indelibly mar his future for the next several years and perhaps even his life. It is a time of massive shifts, friends and enemies, and really, truly terrible haircuts.

Yes, that’s right. My son is about to start middle school and I’m losing my cookies.

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Show the Love

Two days ago, we paid tribute to the former student I lost in this post. It was a gathering of community members, friends, and family. His brother gave an incredible speech to everyone in attendance about how much love his brother had for others. And it’s true–the kid knew from a young age how to share and show love for others, a tactic not even those twice my age often employ. The call to action was that those there remember to share our love as a testament to what can no longer be shared by Dane.

And yet, this week I’ve been shown so much love by those that are not Dane. Perhaps, though, that is the way it works. Perhaps the love he isn’t able to share is now coming out in those left behind.

Saturday, my son and I ran to Wal-Mart to grab a few items that we couldn’t live without before Sunday: cat food, dog food, and contact solution. You know, the really important stuff. It’s late for me–after 7 p.m. because I’m old–and I just want to go home. I grabbed the items quickly and went to the front. A man whom I’d seen while walking to the front let me in front of him in line. While checking out, he asked “Can I do something nice for you?” and before I could respond, he swiped his card and paid for my items. $40 worth of pet food and eyeball fluid, paid. I didn’t even know what to do. He wouldn’t tell me his name, so I stuttered through a “thank you” and said I’d pray for him.

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Creativity Challenge(d?)

I’m in a rut. And this is no “change your state of mind” and remedy the rut type of situation. This is a dark pit, an abyss I’ve fallen into with no real rhyme, reason, or merit. (I could blame that it’s March-April-ish of the academic year and everyone wants to scream bloody murder, but really that’s a terrible excuse. I think we all feel it, regardless of occupation.)

And yet… how to solve it?

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