Monday, November 3, 2014

Ode to the Indefatigable Ladies

The world was hers for the reading.

- Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 

I don't think it's a secret that I enjoy my book club.  If this is your first visit to my blog, or you've never, ever had a conversation with me, FYI: I enjoy my book club.  Okay, now you're up to speed.  We met last Tuesday night to discuss The Selection series by Kiera Cass.  It's a fun young adult series we chose to read on the heels of this year's fourth (fifth?) gritty war novel, When the Elephants Dance, which I drone on about at length here, if you missed it.  That's the thing about gritty war novels.  They plunge you into deep, aching thought.  The Selection series inspires decidedly fewer deep thoughts, which is exactly what we wanted after the horrors of WWII.

We also discussed next month's book club meeting, which will be a screening of Mockingjay, Part I.

I had a few glorious minutes alone in the car driving home, & I was in a reflective mood, which I've discovered is an ancillary effect of a book club meeting.  My invitation to the book club came in March of 2012.  I'd just read The Hunger Games & I suppose I'd been making some noise about it on Facebook.  My fangirling caught the attention of a book club member, & I joined them to see the film & then we went to Chili's to bloat ourselves with chips & salsa & bemoan the film's shortcomings.

One of my most favorite things ever is to discuss books with others who agree with me.  I'd almost forgotten this until I met with my favorite ladies for the first time.  It had been many years since I'd sat in a classroom, bickering with my peers over our assigned reading.  I didn't realize how much I missed it until I found myself seated at Chili's, bursting at the seams to discuss The Hunger Games; imagine my elation upon discovering I was surrounded by ladies eager to do the same.  It's the closest I'll ever come to being high.

As we make plans to go see the first installment of the final book in Suzanne Collins's series, I've been thinking about my tenure in book club.  I've only missed two meetings, one because I was hospitalized with a wretched case of mastitis, & one because Reagan was in PICU, having hours earlier been diagnosed with diabetes.  During my hospitalization, I missed the discussion of Dogwood by Chris Fabry; during Reagan's hospitalization, I missed the discussion of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  I read & loved every word of both of those novels, & there's a niggling, unfulfilled part of me that wants to sit around discussing them for hours while Trey watches the kids.  I've entertained the idea of seeking out another book club & possibly dropping in on their discussion should they read either of these novels.  Sort of like a book club exchange program.  I'd be willing to buy everyone coffee.    

I've learned a lot from my time with the book club ladies.  I am continually reminded of the fact that when I shut my mouth, I learn things.  When I'm not talking, I'm in a much better position to listen; it's  a lesson I learned the hard way when I was a wee school girl.  When we get together, I often think of a Will Rogers quote I once read, "Never miss a good chance to shut up."  There are always numerous opportunities for me to shut up when we all get together, & I'm always rewarded when I do.  These ladies are sharp.  They pull things from books that make me, the English major who contends there are layers of meaning in Twilight, slouch in my chair as I grab for another cookie.

I showed up Tuesday night ready to relax & eat taco salad.  Those were really my only goals as The Selection series, while I enjoyed reading it, isn't a series I felt I just had to discuss.  Admittedly, I read most of it the week Trey was in Denver, so I was extra tired (& entering an Ebola panic frenzy from which I've yet to fully emerge), so it is quite possible I missed many nuances in the series.  Tuesday night, I sat, shoveling in taco salad & then homemade cookies & brownies, & was schooled (by one of the youngest members of our group) on her plans to parallel the series with the book of Ester for the eighth grade girls to whom she teaches Bible.  I was floored.  I wanted to put down all the food in my hands & immediately read Ester.  There's a sentence you don't read every day.

As a group, we mesh nicely.  Obviously, we all like to read - - no, no, we need to read.

We need to read, & then abandon our families in order to come together & exercise all the demons so much of what we read brings to the surface.  We share an insatiable appetite for young adult literature, specifically young adult series featuring fickle teens who are charged with ushering in societal change while simultaneously deciding whose babies they ultimately want to bear.  With an average age of around thirty, we are in the perfect position to read & then critique the decisions of teen protagonists, over coffee, of course.          

The women I meet with once a month are indefatigable readers (isn't that the best word, indefatigable?). They're indefatigable wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, teachers, & students.  Indefatigable Christians.  They continually impress me in every aspect of their lives.  They have & continue to walk paths I cannot fathom, burying children, burying parents, carrying & birthing & mothering not three, not four, but five (5!) children, & homeschooling their children (I get hives just thinking about that), always keeping their eyes on Christ, & pointing all those they encounter in the same direction.  They are the bedrock of what is quickly becoming a rare commodity in America, a Christian home.  You learn a good deal about people by discussing literature with them, & in everything these ladies say & do, I am reminded of Joshua 24:15, "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  I always walk away from a book club meeting feeling intellectually stimulated & spiritually encouraged.

These ladies are some of the finest people I know, & I am certain the Lord put them in my life at the perfect time.  Reagan was diagnosed with diabetes on a Thursday.  As I mentioned, I was supposed to meet with my favorite ladies that night to discuss The Book Thief.  Not having come to grips with her diagnosis myself, I didn't want to post anything public on Facebook, but I did post a note on our book club page letting them know I'd be absent, & why.  That evening, after Reagan had been moved to a room in PICU & was finally receiving the blessed insulin she needs to remain healthy, I sat, watching it drip into her veins, watching her slowly come back to life, & read countless words of encouragement from friends who'd responded to my post on the book club's page.  It was exactly what I needed in that moment.  I was strengthened by their words, & by the knowledge that, across town, they were all gathered, thinking about me & my sweet girl.

As you might imagine, it is much easier for me to express myself with a word processor than in person, for I tend to blubber, so to each of you I say, I love you & I am so thankful for your presence in my life.  I love discussing literature & life with you, & I admire the lives you lead.  Thank you for humoring my obsessions, for listening to me gush & rant, for surprising me with a baby shower - - really, really surprising me as I was raring to discuss Gatsby - - , for sitting (& nursing your newborn in the theater) & watching The Great Gatsby with me when I was hugely pregnant, for agreeing to read Hemingway, even if it was only so I would shut up.  Thank you for sharing your favorite books with me; several of them have been added to my favorites list.  Thank you for sharing your time with me; I know how precious it is.  Thank you for welcoming me into our little reading sorority.  It has become my haven.  

I have few pictures of us together, otherwise I'd never post this of me while enormously pregnant with Henry.  On the upside, I weigh, oh, maybe fifty or sixty pounds less now.

In closing (which you should know means there's at least three more paragraphs), I regret to report that the return of my hour hasn't been as glorious as I'd hoped.  Neither my children, nor my aging body, nor Reagan's insulin needs observe Daylight Savings Time.  I was up earlier Sunday morning, but so were both the kids.  They usually sleep until around nine, only occasionally waking closer to eight, so I was hoping they'd sleep until eight o'clock (formerly known as nine o'clock), but no.  They were both up at seven.  I felt kind of blah all day Sunday.  I guess I'm too old to stay up until one in the morning because It's really only midnight!  No, no it's not; it is one in the morning.

A complication I hadn't given much thought to has arisen, & that is changing the time on Reagan's insulin pump, & also redoing her basal dosages.  Her body simply wants insulin, more at some times, less at others, & it doesn't much care that we've set the clocks back an hour.  I'm grappling with aligning her insulin needs with the settings on the pump, constantly doing calculations like this in my head, "Okay, if she needed .325 units of basal an hour beginning at nine in the morning before, now that's eight in the morning . . . "  It's as relaxing as it sounds . . . & now we've circled back around & you see why I read SO MUCH fiction & only miss book club when someone's been hospitalized.

I'll return with a few weeks worth of pictures, a full report on surviving my first Halloween as the mother of a diabetic, & other general fall glee.  I'm hopeful there will be much to celebrate in the coming week, including the Republican takeover of the Senate, a nationwide rejection of the Democratic Party & their failing policies, & **fingers crossed** LSU's defeat of Alabama.  I never, never, ever, ever thought I'd utter that phrase this year, but hey, anything is possible on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium if LSU's defense shows up & our QB inflicts minimal damage & Alabama has a bad night.  Fellow Louisianians, we may be on the precipice of an epic week, presented with the opportunity to slay two noxious foes, Mary & the Tide, in the same week.  While very few of us can do more than hope & yell & wear our purple & gold regarding a victory for the Tigers, we can all do our part to shame Mary at the polls as she so mercilessly attempted to shame us last week.  If you didn't participate in early voting, geaux vote tomorrow, assuming of course you plan to vote for Bill Cassidy.   

Two years ago, I learned an important life lesson that I hope to never forget, & that is that it is unwise to allow oneself to plunge too deeply into depression over the results of an election.  Whatever happens, whatever comes my way, I will continue to smile & rejoice, for in the last week, I've had cause to use the seat warmer in my car, decked myself out in a scarf & boots, & discovered that Yankee Candle's newest scent is . . . brace yourselves . . . Salted Caramel.  Additionally, both Catching Fire and Saved by the Bell are now on Netflix.  And yes, I realize my "recently watched" list on Netflix is a strange mix of young adult lore.  So what if I like to relax & unwind with the blonde boys Peeta & Zack Morris?  As if all that isn't enough to permanently plaster a smile on my face, I'm sporting a fabulous new hairdo that has cut my hair drying time in half, & I am rereading Mockingjay in anticipation of joining my favorite ladies for the film in a few short weeks.  Throw in a handsome, hardworking husband & the two cutest kids ever, & it certainly feels like it's almost Thanksgiving. 


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