The Wonderful Happens

Teaching a writing class at my local senior center has been an unpredictable experience. My numbers are up and down, depending on therapy appointments and whether or not my wheelchair-bound students have rides. Conversation goes anywhere from meeting our husbands, to beating cancer, to faith, to helping neighborhood kids cheat on their homework. Some of my students write eloquent poetry/prose, and others’s writing is very straightforward and simple. But the one constant is, I’ve heard a lot of great stories! People have been amazingly open books, and that’s special. I feel pretty honored to hear the stories these people have to tell.

So far, I’ve used mostly selections from Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems  for sample texts, even though my students are mostly writing prose, because it’s a great way to give a short burst of inspiration on a given topic.  However, I like to mix all the things I love together in a literary casserole, so one week, we used The Wonderful Happens by Cynthia Rylant. Can I pause for a second and say how much I love this picture book? I read it as often as my girls will let me. We got it from the library one day, and it now lives at our house. (We didn’t steal it from the library. We bought our own copy.)

The assignment I gave was to write – in any way meaningful to them – how the wonderful happens each day in their lives right now. We do a lot of looking back, but focusing on the good in life right now is important for anyone, young or old. As they’re creating a collection of stories to share with people in their lives, I felt that this was an important ingredient. Here is a small sampling from the book:

Up a white fence climbs a red, red rose

A wonderful rose.

Someone loved flowers and asked a seed to grow

And the wonderful happened….

A rose!

I made a sample of my own that followed the pattern and went like this:

In a little laundry room sit piles of pink laundry,

Wonderful laundry.

My daughters painted, rolled in the grass, and ate spaghetti,

And the wonderful happened….

Laundry!

I love the way my girls get messy, even if I don’t love doing loads and loads of laundry. I encouraged my students to record as many things, big and small, that they could that brought them joy throughout the week. Their work vared greatly in form and content, but my favorite comment came from a sweet lady who said:

Every day, I thank God that I can focus on what I can do now, instead of what I can’t do anymore.

Wow, I thought, I need to remember that when I’m 75. Wait, no, I need to remember that NOW! Every stage of life brings “can’ts.” When you’re a kid, your life is full of so many “can’t yets.” When you’re a senior citizen, the “can’t anymores” are hard. But every moment of life is full of “can’t yets and can’t anymores.”  In my life now, I can’t go anywhere alone without a babysitter, including the bathroom. Some days, I can’t sit for five minutes without hearing whining or fussing, can’t sleep through the night, can’t see my living room floor even though I cleared it the night before. But what a great time of life this really is, full of wonderful “cans!” And no matter how many “can’ts” my life will have in the future, I CAN always choose to focus on the Wonderfuls – even on the whiniest, grumpiest days when everything spills and naptime doesn’t happen. So can you!

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Picture Books We’re Loving Right Now

Need some inspiration for your next bookstore or library trip? Some Christmas gift ideas for the littles in your life? Here are a few new or recent titles that get the Bandy Girl stamp of approval.

King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson by Kenneth Kraegel

King Arthur's very great grandson

Follow Henry Alfred Grummorson as he sets out to find adventure on his sixth birthday, with his trusty donkey, Knuckles- challenging a dragon, a cyclops, a griffin, and a leviathan to a “battle to the uttermost.” Disappointingly, the beasts are more interested in blowing smoke rings, having staring contests, and playing chess. However, in the end, Henry finds something even better than sword-clashing adventure! Publisher’s Weekly says of Kraegel,

“He has a Monty Pythonesque sense of language, humor, pacing, and character—the text’s mixture of bombastic and deadpan deliveries makes for a stirring read-aloud. This fine sense of the epically absurd also animates Kraegel’s rococo watercolor and ink renderings: in his hands, a dragon’s scales coalesce into an intricate mosaic, a tree is a swirl of mazelike lines, and the sea becomes a tangled mass of blue ribbons.”

I LOVE the artwork, and the text is absolutely hilarious and fun to read! Though it looks like a “boy book,” my girls and I found it irresistible.

13 Words by Lemony Snicket

13words

Any book that has gotten the words haberdashery and panache in my kids’ vocabulary is pretty spiffy. The illustrations by Maira Kalman are wonderfully bizarre and colorful, with delightfully strange surprises on every page.

The Dark by Lemony Snicket

The Dark

This book is so different, I promise you’ve never read anything quite like it. Personifying the dark, Lemony Snicket creates the wonderfully ominous atmosphere his readers love, while delivering a highly comforting and satisfying ending. Jon Klassen’s pictures are really cool, too!

If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade

IfINeverForeverEndeavor

Readers of all ages will find this sweet, poetic story comforting and inspiring. Follow baby bird as he weighs the pluses and minuses of attempting to fly, and ultimately decides to take the risk to become who he’s meant to be. Read it with your kids to encourage them to try new things; read it to yourself when you’re feeling scared that you can’t reach your own dreams.

The Black Rabbit by Philippa Leathers

the-black-rabbit

This book is so clever and cute, I experience author envy every time I read it. The fast pace keeps the attention of the littlest of readers (my two-year-old loves shouting “sha-tow!” over and over), and bigger kids will love being in on the little secret of the black rabbit’s identity from the start – and surprised and delighted by the way the black rabbit saves the white rabbit from a hungry wolf!

Because I Am Your Daddy by Sherry North

because I am your daddy

This is a perfect gift book FOR a Daddy! Kids will love snuggling up with Daddy while he reads this sweet story at bedtime, or any time. After a series of imaginary adventures together where he does some cool, fun stuff for his daughter, the Daddy tells her, “If I were a wizard, I would make your dreams come true…Because I am your daddy, I would do anything for you.”