Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The House was Quiet...

As I was frantically thinking of everything I needed to pack for our week-long trip to 'da UP, eh?' (upper peninsula of Michigan), my eye caught the cable I need to attach my camera to my computer.

"I don't need to take that," I told myself. "I'm not bringing my computer."

Then a client called. "I need you to write some letters for me. How soon can you get them written?"

I gulped, "uh - Wednesday?"

"That's great," she said.

"So," thought I, "I am bringing my computer."

That did not help me remember that important little cord. So - pictures of the UP will have to wait until I am home.

I am writing from one of my children's favorite places to visit in the UP. "The beach?" you ask.

Nope.

"The way cool 'Kids' Kingdom' park down by the lake," is your next guess.

Nope.

The Gladstone Public Library. You are surprised, I can tell. But it's true! The first place they asked to visit when we arrived on Monday afternoon was the library.

What's so special about the Gladstone Public Library? Not much, except it's in Gladstone, and it's across the street from Grandma's house. Plus, I let them pop into the library whenever they want. Without me.

They love it.

We are staying at my grandmother's house, which is for sale. (We were, in fact, kicked out last night for a showing. We just went across the street to the school playground.) The house is practically empty, and while we do have electricity and running water, there is no cable TV, no telephone, no internet.

It is very, very quiet. And wonderful. We are listening to lots of audiobooks, reading lots of books, walking around town and spending afternoons at the beach. We're playing games in the evening after dinner, and after the kids are in bed, I read on the porch until it is too dark to see. Then I go to bed.

It's lovely. The only thing that would be better is if my husband could be here with me. But he had to work. At his office. No tele-commuting for him!

In honor of Poetry Wednesday, I found this poem here at the Gladstone Public Library.

The House was Quiet and the World was Calm
Wallace Stevens

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.

The words were spoken as if there was no book;
Except that the reader leaned above the page,

Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom

The summer night is like a perfection of though.
The house was quiet because it had to be.

The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind;
The access of perfection to the page.

And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself

Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

Click here to read more poetry.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Profits Aren't Everything...

I was browsing my library's "New Book" shelves, looking for an interesting business book to read, when I came across Profits Aren't Everything, They're the Only Thing by George Cloutier with Samantha Marshall.

What a provocative title, right?

The subtitle is even more intriguing: No-Nonsense Rules from the Ultimate Contrarian and Small Business Guru.

I wondered exactly how contrarian George Cloutier really is - so I picked up the book.

I almost put it down again when I glanced at the fly-leaf. It gives some of his rules:
The best family business has one member.
Weekends are for working, not playing golf or coaching.
Never pay your vendors on time.
Wear your control freak badge with pride.
Quit denial: if your business is failing during a recession, it's your fault.

Which of these rules rubs you the wrong way? None of them? Well, there are fifteen rules in this short book, so I'm sure one of them will make you mad.

Even so, I would encourage you to read this book - especially if you are a business owner. You will not agree with everything Cloutier says, but you may end up agreeing with more of his rules than you anticipate after you reading through his reasoning.

And even if you don't, he might make you mad enough to prove him wrong - which would only help your business. That would be worth the read.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chicago

Today, we had planned to go to Great America. We woke up to thunderstorms and it rained all morning.

The children asked to go to the library, so we loaded up our books & dashed through the rain to the library. I thought, while I was there, I'd quick find a book with a poem about rain in it for poetry wednesday.

Ya, right.

I glanced through the children's poetry section. I looked through the adult poetry section. I should have googled it or something. I came home with The Oxford Book of American Verse (copyright 1950), because it was thick, and I figured I could find something about rain.

Well, I did! Something incomprehensible, written by Mr. Edward Taylor, who lived 1645-1729.

So, on went the hunt. Now it's quite sunny and the children are dressed for the beach. A poem about rain didn't seem to fit.

Then I found this one from Carl Sandburg. I have never lived in the city itself, but I appreciate it from afar (ie, the suburbs).

(Side note: I visited my sister's office downtown a few years ago and her colleague asked me if I was in from out-of-town. I said, "Well, I guess I am if you consider the suburbs 'out-of-town'." She laughed and answered, "Yes, actually, I do!"

this is for my sister - who loves the city and the UP with equal fervor)

Chicago
Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.

They tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.

And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.

And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:

Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and course and strong and cunning.

Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a told bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Bareheaded,
Shoveling,
Wrecking,
Planning,
Building, breaking rebuilding,

Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,

Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,

Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,

Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse,
and under his ribs is the heart of the people,
Laughing!
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mosquito

This morning I sent three of my children off to day camp. (whew!)

My oldest was waiting for his friend to come pick him up for a trip to Great America (lucky kid!), so I decided to wait outside with him and get at least a little weeding done. It was on my list, and I wasn't quite ready to start writing (which is really the number one priority while the house is quiet).

All that to say - I hate mosquitoes. They are everywhere. As soon as my son was gone, I dashed inside, ready to do anything else that would not involve fighting mosquitoes.

Which makes my pick for poetry wednesday just a tad ironic. I guess I feel a need to seek out another perspective on the dreadfully annoying insect that I swear is a result of the Fall (Genesis 3) - God did not create mosquitoes. They must have had some other purpose in the Garden of Eden, although I cannot think of what would have been.

So here it is: another perspective on that dreaded insect.

mosquito
valerie worth

There is more
To a mosquito
Than her sting
Or the way she sings
In the ear:

There are her wings
As clear
As windows,
There are the sleek
Velvets on her back;

She bends six
Slender knees,
And her eye, that
Sees the swatter,
Glitters.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

On the Attack

I feel I have to preface this poem with a disclaimer.

I am a basketball fan, but I have not followed women's professional basketball (WNBA).

However, when I was looking for basketball poems, I ran across this book about professional women basketball players and several of the poems in it are just fantastic.

So, since the WNBA season is going on right now, and since I'm waiting for the children to completely finish their chores so we can go to the beach (and I think technically they are now waiting for me), I will share with you this poem about Lisa Leslie, a WNBA player for the LA Sparks.

On The Attack: Lisa Leslie

By Charles R. Smith, Jr.


Graceful gazelle

gallops and glides

fast past defenders

with effortless strides.

Sly and swift

and standing tall,

eyes on alert,

nose sniffing for ball.

Positioned in paint

ready to score,

on misses and bricks

bouncing from boards.

Two points scored

on rebound and putback,

using animal instincts

while attacking the rack.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Events Too Many to Mention....

Life has been going full-speed ahead recently! Noteworthy events include:

You might think by this pile of hair I shaved a dog.
Nope.

Just gave the Leichty boys haircuts on Saturday.

Here they are after their cuts.
(scroll down a few posts to see the 'before' shot)

On Sunday (as in yesterday), we met my family in the city for an afternoon together to celebrate Nana's (my mom's) birthday.

Since this is a public blog, I won't reveal her age.
(I bet you'll never guess!)

Doesn't she look great?

We were supposed to go to the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Then it rained. No, it poured!
Luckily, I have a well-connected sister (and brother, lest he nail me for not crediting him too) who found us a beautiful brownstone to shelter in and celebrate Nana's birthday.

Here she is with every last one of her grandkids - all eight.

And lest you think they are actually as angelic as they look,
I had to promise the following picture as a reward for looking so angelic in the first.
Nana, of course, takes it all in stride.
Doesn't she look serene?

(Quick story, because it's so classic and so I don't forget it: Ben (in the blue shirt) was playing hard with Lydia (in the pink headband & pink shirt) at the park. He kept calling her "Olivia! Olivia!" and his mom overheard.
"Ben," Molly admonished, "your cousin's name is Lydia, not Olivia. You need to get it right!" Lydia overheard this conversation and stepped in.
"Oh, it doesn't matter. I don't care what he calls me as long as it starts with an 'L'. "
Oh. my. word. We laughed our tails off!
In case you're wondering, they are both the 3rd-born. Oh so much in common...)


Now, the biggest news of the weekend, the week, the month (at least so far!) is....

Isaac learned to ride his bike today!

Isaac tells me he walked his bike around a little, sitting on the seat. Then, the minute he decided to put his feet on the pedals, "I was awesome Mom!"

This boy has no problem with humility... hm.

Here he is with his coaches - and good ones they were.

It is quite an accomplishment for him - he was quite fearful of learning to ride.

And now - just look at him!


video

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Too Big to Fail


I quite surprised myself two weeks ago when I picked up Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin. It's a huge, huge book - 544 pages (including Acknowledgements) and about 50 pages of footnotes and bibliography after that.

More surprising to me was that I thought I might be interested in the topic - the front of the book states "The inside story of how Wall Street and Washington fought to save the financial system - and themselves."

A dry topic for someone who admits no financial acumen, nor interest in Wall Street.

I remember shrugging, thinking, "well, I'll read the first chapter & if it's boring, I'll return it."

Now, it's two weeks later, and I've not only read the first chapter, but I've read the entire 544 pages (I have to remember to write that down for the summer reading program!)

If you haven't guessed already, let me tell you how this book absolutely engaged my attention. This is not a dry book, discussing derivatives, securities, credit loans, etc. and how they brought down Wall Street.

All of the above are mentioned - you cannot write a book about Wall Street without mentioning those mysterious words. But Sorkin does a masterful job of making the reader understand, not the intricacies of these words, but the implications of these words. And the implications are what caused havoc in our economic system.

Sorkin focuses on the people involved in the dramatic events of 2008 - starting when JP Morgan bought Bear Stearns. I remember when Lehman Brothers failed - but I wasn't paying attention to events on Wall Street at the time. It doesn't affect me much - I felt (perhaps still feel) quite distanced from the events in New York & Washington... and can appreciate even more fully why Warren Buffet maintains his office in Omaha instead of New York.

I'll admit, I still don't understand why the CEOs of Lehman, Morgan Stanley & Goldman Sachs despise the short sellers - and why short selling stock is so detrimental to a firm - but I do feel I have a better understanding of the dramatic events of the fall of 2008 and a better understanding of who are some of the big 'players' on Wall Street.

And, I spent time enjoying a well-written book.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The End of Everything

We are wrapping up our school year in the Leichty house. It's not technically the end of everything, but it is the end of everything 6th, 4th, 2nd & 1st grade.

I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that my oldest child no longer qualifies for the children's programs at the library. Now he must register for the summer reading program at the Adult Reference Desk. And if there's a library program he wants to participate in, he qualifies for the Teen programs.

YIKES! When did this happen??

I just finished reading Stoneheart, a book he's going to read for the Middle School book club. He was reluctant to sign up for it, because he wasn't sure he wanted to go to a book club without me. And he wanted me to read it first to make sure it was OK for him to read.

(BTW: it is, I enjoyed it, and I'll write a review of it later on my kidsbooksthatrock.com blog)

sigh

I guess I am still important in his life.

The last book we enjoyed together for school was The Hobbit. I'll admit - I was chicken to read the whole thing out loud, so we requested the audio book via inter-library loan. We finished it this morning - it was wonderful. Rob Inglis read it and did a masterful job. I'm tempted to buy a copy for our family because I know we will enjoy it again and again.

At the end of The Hobbit, as Bilbo approaches his home after his huge adventure, he makes up this poem:

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.


Life has a way of changing us - I hope mostly for the better. This homeschooling journey we've embarked on has certainly changed me - and again I add - hopefully for the better.

That said, I am looking forward to a great summer break - I think as heartily as Bilbo was looking forward to his own hobbit-hole.

And I am also looking forward to our next adventure - as we start 7th, 5th, 3rd & 2nd come August. But let's not get ahead of ourselves!