Saturday, July 09, 2016

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaaaaack

Inspired by my friend from St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Robbie Clark, I am going to start blogging again. Since my dad died in 2014, I have had major writer’s block due to my own emotional stress.  After I read In My Words by Robbie Clark, a vivid recount of growing up and living with autism, I knew that my time to write had come again.  I really like making lists so I will start simply and go from there. Thank you, Robbie Clark, for being such an inspiration to me and so many others.

After seeing this list of what was the top selling book the year you were born from 1930 until 2016, I found that I have read 13 of the books.  Here is my TO READ list from the rest of the list.  I only chose books I was interested in so the years are not all that important. If you have read any of these books, give me a one/two sentence summary of why you liked it and why I should read it soon.

1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith 1943
2. You Only Live Twice by Ian Fleming 1964
3. Jaws by Peter Benchley 1974
4. Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow 1975
5. Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie 1976
6. E T The Extra Terrestrial by William Kotzwinkle
7. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos 1990
8. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien 1991
9. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt 1994
10. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby 1995
11. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold 2002
12. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom 2004
13. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd 2005
14. Marley and Me by John Grogan 2006

15. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow 2016

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Remembering Dad

These are the memories that Lindy, Lee, and I wrote about our dad, Ed Fowler, who died on March 9, 2014.  These memories were read as part of his funeral service.

The following was written by Ed’s daughter, Laurie.
My initials are E.L.F. and although my given name is Elizabeth Laurie Fowler, I was named in part so my initials would honor my dad.  I used to hate being called by my middle name and vowed that I was changing it when I was older, but today I am very glad that my initials are the same as my dad’s.
My dad was the smartest man I knew. When I was in elementary school, he was my “daddy dictionary” because if he was around he could define and spell any word I was having trouble with.  He was an excellent, if sometimes harsh, editor and proofreader for many a paper that I wrote.
 I remember my dad read all the time—he read newspapers, biographies, nonfiction, mysteries, spy novels, and literature. Lindy, Lee, and I were probably the only kids that preferred going to a book store, rather than a toy store. Our odds of getting to buy a book when we were with Dad were pretty good. 
After divorce, my Dad remained a presence during my teenage years.  He taught me to drive and to care for the mechanical quirks of my 1968 Volkswagen Beetle. He wiped away my tears when I made my first Cs and assured me that I would still go to college.  And Dad told me that my life was not over when a boy that I liked didn’t like me.  Dad never belittled my teenage problems, but he offered practical advice and a shoulder to cry on.
Cooking and eating were passions of my dad.  He could make the best Fettuccine Alfredo and the best from-scratch clam chowder.  Because he was an adventurous eater, he taught me to be one, too.  Growing up, I ate lobster, shrimp, artichokes, Eggs Benedict, caviar, and other exotic things;  however, I never did pick up his love for raw oysters or fried baloney sandwiches.
I remember the wonderful trips and experiences that I had with my Dad. For many years, he took us to the beach for the Alabama Press Association Annual Meeting.  Playing on the beach with my family are some of my favorite vacation memories. He took me to concerts including Willie Nelson and Lionel Richie; and he took me to symphonies, and to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Dad loved to go to sporting events and it sure helped that he had a press pass. I remember seeing a golf tournament with him and meeting Jerry Pate.  He also loved to watch Atlanta Braves baseball and Alabama football and basketball and lots of times I had the joy of being there with him.
Reading and writing were his passions, and he handed them down to me. For this, I am forever grateful. Dad also taught me that life is not fair which was a hard, but necessary lesson.  He always let me and Lindy and Lee know how special we each were and that it was perfectly fine to be different from each other. Dad was there for me with a hug, or a phone call, or a blue pencil edited letter when I needed one.  My dad rarely let a visit go by without telling me how proud he was of me. 
For my college graduation, Dad wrote a column in the Montgomery Advertiser where he offered these wishes:
First, for a rewarding career that offers challenge and satisfaction rather than simple opportunity to make money.
And, second for the love of another person to share the life that lies ahead.

Dad introduced me to Robert Frost’s poetry, probably in 3rd or 4th grade, when he used a quote from The Road Less Traveled to explain why I was different from other kids in my class. I am sure I had been made fun of for being smart and was feeling pretty down about it. My Dad (and Mom) did their best to make me feel secure in being smart and being a girl, but also they provided much needed grounding to keep me bearable to live with! 

There was a reason to choose the path less traveled--the difference it made in the long run. Making good choices, if less popular, was a life skill that my Dad taught me.  So I leave you with this quote from Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
 I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

These are the memories of Ed’s daughter Lindy.
I was most definitely a “Daddy’s girl.”  Some of my earliest memories of my father involve music.  I remember dancing around the room with him holding me tight.  He was a great dancer – he could slow-dance and do the bop.  My favorite dance with him was on my wedding day when we danced at my reception.  I’ll never forget the look of pride in his eyes as he sang the words of the song we were dancing to – “You’re the end of the rainbow, my pot of gold, Daddy’s little girl, to have and to hold.”
 Daddy also loved singing.  Although he never sang in public, our house and car was constantly filled with music.  We sang along to the radio – our entire family, eventually being able to harmonize and sound pretty darn good!  It was years before I realized that not everyone sang every note of a song – including the instrumental bridge.  He and my mom introduced me to classic artists such as Carol King, Willie Nelson, and Simon & Garfunkel.  Daddy and I also performed an amazing version of the duet “Islands in the Stream,” with me singing as Dolly Parton and him as Kenny Rogers. 
When my parents got divorced, he came to pick me up for school every day and he would bring me home from ballet class at night.  He was a gifted writer and he passed on his love of the written word to all of us kids.  He wrote special articles dedicated just to me for my 16th birthday and when I graduated from college.
I lived with him – just the two of us- the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college.  I can remember calling him from the apartment as he was about to head home from work and asking, “Do you think the HOT NOW sign is on?”  It usually was and he would come home with a dozen Krispy Kremes for us to share. 
My daddy was unbelievably proud of me as his daughter, a sister, a teacher, a wife, and a mother.  He was a very loving and dedicated Poppa to my four kids, Hallie Grace, Luke, Eli, and Ella Kate.  Some of my most treasured memories are handing him my sweet newborn babies in the hospital, so that they could meet their Poppa for the first time.  He loved his grandchildren fiercely, and was always bragging about them to anyone who would listen.  Although we didn’t see him as much as we would like, the times we did spend together, were filled with love and laughter.  And now, my children can carry those precious memories of their Poppa with them always.
My daddy was an amazing man and I loved him with all my heart. There is an empty space in my heart now that he’s gone—a girl never really grows out of being her “Daddy’s girl.”  I will miss him every day and I am so blessed to have called him my Daddy. I am so thankful to know that I will see him in heaven one day and that we will be able to dance together once again.

And these are the memories of Lee, Ed’s son.
I have so many thoughts and memories of my dad that it feels impossible to pick just a few.
The main thing my father was to me was supportive. Throughout my life I have been able to go to him for advice, listen, and then make my own decisions.  His advice has generally been true, and even if I didn’t follow it, he supported me and made sure I knew that he was on my side no matter what.  I know it must be difficult for a parent to let their kids make mistakes, and deal with the consequences of those mistakes, but dad did that for me countless times, and never judged me for it.
Even when growing up, he supported me in following my passions. Most fathers dream of their sons becoming athletes – stars of football, baseball, basketball. Athletic prowess has never been my strong suit, but I have always been passionate about artistic pursuits: music, theatre, and writing. He came to see me in the marching band several times a year in high school and college, saw every play I performed in, and read my short stories as quickly as I could give them to him. He always supported me and let me know how proud he was of me, not because I was the best, but because I loved doing it. And because I loved it, he loved it too.
His love of music is something that all of his children carry to this day. As a kid, I hated being forced to listen to his favorite: Willie Nelson. 
Then, sometime in my early 20’s I heard “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” playing at a record store and was singing along before I even noticed.  As time passed I realized that my dad had pretty great taste in music. He fostered me to develop my own tastes as well. I don’t think any of my friends have parents who not only listened to, but enjoyed Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the rest of the music that was so important to me as I grew up.
Finally, he was a very giving man. Even in times when he didn’t have much to give by way of money or gifts, he always made sure to give me as much time as he could. My earliest childhood memories of my dad are fishing with him at the lakes at NorthRiver Yacht Club in Tuscaloosa, on a quiet Sunday morning, just me and him. We never caught much, mainly because I wanted to talk about everything going on in my world, and scared away the fish. Good thing, then, that catching fish was not the point of these days together. The time spent was.
I can think of no better tribute to my dad than the final words of the song that will always represent what he has meant to my life.
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
If you need a friend I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's Monday. What are you reading?

Monday, September 16, 2013

I am listening to the new Diane Mott Davidson culinary mystery, The Whole Enchilada, in the car as I travel to and from work. (Of course, now that I live in Huntsville, my drive is very short; I may never get to the end of this mystery!)  I love these mysteries and have been reading them for over 20 years after my dear friend, Luanne, introduced them to me during my first year of teaching.

I am reading Stardust Summer by Lauren Clark on my Nook app on the iPad.  I just finished another book by her called Dancing Naked in Dixie that was hilarious and had lots of Auburn football references which I thought were funny.

I just finished another book that I highly recommend—The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life by her brother Rod Dreher. It is about the blessings of living in and being a part of a small town.  Even when the tragedy of cancer strikes Ruthie, her spirit and love for her family, friends, and community shines through.  This is a great book about sibling rivalry, growing up, chasing dreams, and learning about love and community.  Warning—it is a tear-jerker!
What great new books are you reading this week?  Have a happy reading week!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Good Morning, Vietnam

In my new job, I have been learning American History in order to do teacher professional development on the eText.  I have been slogging away through history of the United States from 1877 to present.  This morning I got to the chapter on Vietnam.  Several things occurred to me as I studied this chapter.

I only know about Vietnam from television and movies.  I was born in 1968 so much of the conflict occurred when I was ages 0-5 so I was not the most attentive news watcher.  As I read the history, I recalled the movies I have seen set in the Vietnam Era--Good Morning Vietnam, Forrest Gump, and Apocalypse Now (watched that one for a class).  Then, there are the ones I have not watched--Platoon, Born on the 4th of July, We Were Soldiers, The Killing Fields, The Deer Hunter, and Full Metal Jacket. Being media savvy now, I can see how these movies all had their individual bias about what they were trying to communicate about Vietnam.

Next, I wept as I read about the Army nurses who were treating the young soldiers and who were just trying to get them home safe.  And I wept again as I read about the Vietnam War Memorial in D.C.  I have seen it and seen my uncle Bill's name and Gus's cousin Eddie's name on that vast slab of black marble. It is haunting to me to see all those men's names literally spelled out in a tribute. I am sure there are families who did not suffer a loss in Vietnam, but the ripples thato out from the over 58.000 men lost continue.  I am crying now as I write this.

Finally, I realize as a 40-something person in 2013 that the 11 year-olds and even the high schoolers who will study the Vietnam War see it as something from long, long ago. They will probably think of it as I used to think of World War II--something my grandparents dealt with.  But then, I do the math and for many of these current students even their grandparents won't have much memory of Vietnam.

My hope is that history teachers in the future will treat Vietnam as the war it was and show both sides of the war--the hawks and the doves--the brave soldiers who fought--the nurses and doctors who patched them up--the South Vietnamese people who tried to help the Americans--the protesters at home. I hope also they show this video clip of POWs returning home. And take the time to find pictures like these to share.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Who wears short shorts?

Slice of Life, March 21, 2013

Well, according to the 1980s tv commercial, it was girls who used Nair.  Now, I would say just about anyone can wear short shorts because they are so prevalent in the stores. I saw this pair of shorts at Target recently (Size 18 in case you care).  They are indeed short; in fact, they break both of my very important fashion axioms for big girls like myself. 

The first tenet is--"Just because they make it in your size, does NOT mean you should wear it."    The second is related--"If what you are wearing is WIDER than it is LONG, it is not for you." So, I would say BOTH of these very important fashion rules apply.  Just sayin'!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Luke was born a decade ago!

March 20, 2013

Ten years ago today, I was teaching a group of Tuscaloosa County teachers how to do stuff with Intel Teach to the Future at the old Alternative School in Holt. It was our second or third meeting and we had gotten very comfortable with each other.  I found out the night before that my sister, Lindy, was being induced the following day--yes, the day of my workshop.  Usually, the teachers and I took a lunch hour and went to civilization to enjoy sustenance, but on that day, I took snacks and drinks from Sam's so we could finish by 2:00 and I could go to the hospital to see Lindy and the new baby.  We boogied through our workshop that day and were packing up my stuff when my mom called to tell me it was going to be soon and I needed to hightail it to DCH if I wanted to see Luke be born.  My wonderful teacher colleagues were rushing around helping me pack the car, getting the lights turned off and the doors locked so I could go.

And I made it! I was there for the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed in my life--the birth of my nephew Luke.  He was a beautiful newborn and I was in awe of my sister.  We oohed and aahed over him and then let him and Lindy rest.  I came back that night to check on them after the hubbub had settled down. Lindy wanted to be sure that Luke had a new baby page on the day he was born just like I had done for Hallie Grace so we had a little photo shoot in the hospital room with me, Lindy, and brand new Luke. Click here to go to the page.

I love all of Lindy's kids, but seeing Luke be born has always made him have a special place in my heart.  I have enjoyed his "cwazy hair", his singing before he could talk, his funny impersonations, and his winning personality for ten years.  He is truly a special young man who is growing up way too fast. I visited his class today and took him 10 gifts to commemorate 10 years and took his class a snack to enjoy this afternoon after PE.  Love you lots, Luke!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Best Friends

Slice of Life March 19, 2013
Today, I talked to my friend Luanne. We met when I first visited Mt. Zion High School in December of 1990.  She and I really hit it off and she made me feel very welcome. I ended up taking that job teaching Latin and English at Mt. Zion for the 1991-92 school year.  On the first day of pre-planning, Luanne gave me a card and a purse calendar since it was my birthday. I was so surprised and grateful because it was hard being away from my family and on my own on that birthday.

We became fast friends. I only worked with her for one year, but we have been friends ever since.  Because I moved around a lot as a child, only my brother and sister are my remaining friends from childhood. Luanne, however, has been there with me for over 22 years; we have both had good times and bad, but we have been there either in person or on the phone or in cards and notes or on email.  I am blessed to have such a friend!

Happy Birthday, Grannie!

Today is my grandmother's 86th birthday! She is a wonderful lady who has been there for me all of my life.  She was a lunchroom lady for over 25 years and was the chief reason I never (well almost never) got to take my lunch to school when I was growing up. She is always ready to go and enjoy a good meal and find a bargain. I recently spent Girlfriends' Weekend with her and I am glad to say she is my friend. She is one of my fiercest supporters and I know she loves me dearly.  I am so thankful to have her!

St. Paddy's Day Fun

St. Patrick's Day
So it was my turn to teach Sunday School today on St. Patrick's Day.  I told the story about St. Patrick and how he had been kidnapped by pagan pirates and spirited away from Britain to the wilds of Ireland. I told them about the way he decided to become a priest and return to Ireland to convert the Druids and other pagans to Christianity. I also got to tell the cool story of how he drove all the snakes out of Ireland.

But, alas, nothing much impressed them until I got out the cool photo props for St. Paddy's Day! And then we had cupcakes with green icing and gummy snakes (gummy worms) for snack so, in the end, the day was a success!

Beware the Ides of March!

Slice of Life March 15, 2013

Can it really be 30 years ago since I was first introduced to the Ides of March?  I guess so since I was a freshman in high school taking Latin I from Magistra McNair (for more about her see this previous post).  I did not know much about world history before I began taking Latin in 9th grade. I learned lots of great stuff about the Romans from Magistra.  She taught us about Roman architecture and how it was still evident all around us especially on the University of Alabama campus.  She taught us how to make Roman togas and what it meant to wear a yellow one! (Think red light district and you'll understand what a yellow toga meant.) She told us all the titillating stories of the gods and goddesses and their various love affairs with each other and humans.  Great stuff if you are a 14 year old nerd!
Here are my colleagues posing on the Ides of March when I was a Latin teacher.
But she also took great pleasure in teaching us about Julius Caesar and why we were to Beware the Ides of March since Caesar met his untimely end on this particular date.  She often dressed in a white toga on this day and put fake blotches of blood with knives sticking out all over it. She was definitely a character.  And so even thirty years later, I know to Beware the Ides of March and that it is on the 15th, but the Ides is on the 13th in some other months.  Thank you Magistra for making sure I knew the significance of this day.