Monday, April 15, 2013

Waiting For Normal

YA novel
A regular life is what Addie, protagonist of Leslie O'Connor's
Waiting For Normal, wants. She'd love a family that stays together or
even a mother who doesn't live an all or nothing, feast or famine life
style. She gets to spend far too little time with her younger half
sisters who come on rare visits. Her mom had lost custody by leaving
the kids home alone too long.
As the story opens Addie and Mommers are moving into a tiny
trailer. Mommers hates it. Addie, however, is used to change. It's
been the constant in her young life. She settles in to her new abode,
makes friends with the folks who run the local minimart, and is
accepted into her school's stage orchastra.
Clouds loom on the horizon. Mommers' new business associate
seems a bit sketchy. New friend Soula is battling cancer. Dwight,
Addie's stepfather, moves, making visits from her stepsisters fewer
and further between. Everything goes wrong on the day of Addie's
Despite these challenges and the constant danger of the
authorities learning too much and stepping in, Addie remains an
optimist. If she just holds out she'll get the normal life she yearns
for. Telling her story in a straight forward, down-to-earth voice,
she's a heroine you can't help pulling for.
On a personal note, I'm finally getting over a yucky virus. I stayed
to home over the weekend instead of doing Hike for the Homeless and
going to church. There must have been some pretty potent Methodist
prayers offered up on my behalf. Today I am just about myself and
ready to take on the world.
A great big shout out goes out to all the kids and adults waiting for
normal and those who strive to help them find it like my Christine who
works with homeless students.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Lucky Fools

YA novel
David, protagonist of Coert Voorhees' Lucky Fools, is sure he's
different from the other students at Oak Fields Prep, his swanky high
school. He knows what he wants out of life. Julliard will prepare
him for an acting career. True, his father is on him to not waste his
education. But this is his passion.
In the course of the book David's life begins to deviate from
his script. Gradually growing attraction to an actress with whom he
shares a stage kiss comes between him and his long term girlfriend.
He bombs his Julliard audition. His current play isn't going as well
as he'd hoped it would. What if he isn't as good as he thinks he is?
Other stressors effect his fellow students. The college most of
them want to attend has instituted a strict admissions quota for Oak
Fields. Someone who dubs him/herself The Artist has taken to putting
up collages of well known students, showing their dirty secrets.
Voorhees has a good grasp of senior year pressures for seemingly
privileged kids whose parents define them by their achievements.
Lucky Fools is a hard to put down book with an engaging plot and easy
to relate to characters.
On a personal note, my 2013 April Fools joke was a smash success. I
told friends including my minister's wife that I had my belly button
pierced. (As if! You can get some really NASTY infections!) They
fell for it hook, line, and sinker and were very glad to be wrong.
A great big shout out goes out to all my friends who either were
fooled or indulged me by pretending to be fooled. What good sports!
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Sunday, April 14, 2013


Well, I've discovered another book about what has become one of
my favorite subjects--Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in
a World That Can't Stop Talking. Cain, an introverted motivational
speaker, shows that the world loses a lot by undervaluing us. This
book covers many fascinating facets: how we came to see extroverts as
ideal, the role of temprement, is extrovertism idealized in all
cultures, and how introverts and extroverts can get along better.
One of my favorite chapters is, "The Rise of the Mighty Likeable
Fellow." It starts with the story of how Dale Carnagie went from
fearful pig farmer's son to dynamic public speaker. His metamorphasis
parallels a transition that was going on in America in the same time
period: a shift from a culture of character based on ethics and
integrity to a culture of personality based on charisma and image
management. The advice in self help books became all about
cultivating outer charm instead of inner virtue. Methinks this could
be at the root of a lot of the problems in today's world. Cain sees
it as the cause of much anxiety. Manners and integrity are traits
just about all of us can acquire; charisma and magnetism are a lot
more elusive.
Another of my favorite chapters discusses connections between
introvertism and sensitivity. We're keen observers. We're
empathetic. We feel guilt over transgressions. We're not very fond
of sports and celebrity small talk. We're often the ones who, "move a
conversation to a deeper level, only to find out we are the only ones
there." That last line surely resonated with my life experience.
If you are an introvert or love or merely want to understand
one, this book is a great source. The blending of anecdote and
research makes it a really fun and informative read.
On a personal note, sadly the towns of Veazie and Glenburn have voted
to withdraw from RSU 26 as of July 1. :P As probably the only
introvert on a Veazie only school committee I will have to find ways
to maximize my quiet power.
A great big shout out goes out to my fellow introverts and those who
get us.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Last Child in the Woods

We had waited til midnight. We drove without lights, clutching
trowels and flower pots. The van slid to a stop. Our teacher
instructed us to out our ski masks on. Then we slipped into the
shadows, intent on our mission.
No, this was no crime school a la Artful Dodger. Our plant
kingdom teacher (an endearing man with a striking resemblance to the
Pillsbury Doughboy) carried out frequent field trips to green spaces
where we were to trudge leisurely, checking out flora. The eagerly
anticipated grande finale was a weekend retreat. This time he'd
discovered a place where cars were running over cacti. We were on a
rescue mission.
This treasured memory popped into my mind when I was reading
Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from
Nature-Deficit Disorder. It's an indictment of the many factors in
our society that have growing numbers of children missing out on the
experience of going out to play. There's a lot more at work than
nostalgic sadness. When youngsters lack unstructured time in the out-
of-doors it can negatively effect their physical and psychological
health and ability to learn and build positive relationships.
Early on kids know they need this. I know of schools with
perfectly manicured playgrounds surrounded by off limits woods.
Recess can become a battle of wits between teacher monitors trying to
keep everyone safely and manageably in the designated play area and
their charges getting as close to the trees as possible.
Sadly when kids get older things happen. They catch our fears
of Mr. Stranger Danger or lawsuits. We schedule them as relentlessly
as we do ourselves. Electronics become alluring. So you have
heartbreaking sights like pristine sledding hills...on snow days for
Pete's sake.
All, however, is not lost. Last Child in the Woods is a
treasure trove of ideas ranging from ways parents can introduce their
little ones to nature to eco friendly urban designs. Teachers and
school administrators will love the chapter on place/environmental
based education. If we all work together we can restore to our
children the natural world they and we so badly need.
On a personal note, Orono United Methodist and Universal Fellowship
churches shared an Easter sunrise service outside where we belonged.
Then my church hosted a breakfast. I was pleased and proud that our
guests were delighted with the food and fellowship.
A great big shout out goes out to the men who did all the cooking,
serving, and cleaning for that fine breakfast.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Room for Baby

Picture book
Michelle Edwards' Room for the Baby is a lovely little tale
about recycling, hand made gifts, neighborliness, and waiting for the
arrival of a very special little person.
The narrator's mother is given her neighbors' cast offs. Even
though she uses them to create clothing and other useful items, every
corner and nook of the sewing room is full. This creates a problem
when she becomes pregnant. The space is needed to create a baby's
Mom empties one corner by using old sheets to sew cloth diapers
for her baby and a neighbor's expected grandchild. Pajamas and
jerseys become clothes for the baby and friends' toddlers. The yarn
from holey sweaters is made into blankets and mittens. There is still
not enough space. But the narrator knows just what to do. And his
neighbors have some ideas of their own.
Pictures beautifully and softly compliment the story. They give
a sense of warmth and coziness. Finding the green-eyed black cat in
the pictures is fun. This sweet picture book would be a wonderful
gift for a child expecting a new sibling.
On a personal note, my BFF Christine's dog just had ten puppies. All
are doing well. They're ever so cute!
A great big shout out goes out to Christine and her canine community.
My sympathy goes out to Jasper, Christine's even more outnumbered
family cat.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Cold Snap

Whether you love it or abhor it, winter weather sure is holding
on, at least in Maine. I still can't put those coats and mittens out
in the shed. I was, of course, delighted to discover a wonderful,
humorous read aloud book: Eileen Spinelli's Cold Snap. Far better to
laugh than yell or cry!
In the town of Tobys Mills temperatures begin to plummet. At
first the kids have fun sledding and making snow angels. But the
chill begins to take its toll, particularly on adults who bombard the
municipal office with complaints. When the icicle on the tip of the
town founder's nose hits the ground, the citizens get an invitation to
a winter surprise. What could possibly be going on?
Illustrations convey vividly the frigidness of the climate and
the warmth of people's hearts and deeds. The language just begs for a
read aloud. The message, that community helps folks get through the
hardest of challenges, is timeless.
On a personal note, I sure hope that my daffodils, just rising out of
the ground, aren't snuffed by this latest round of snow.
A great big shout out goes out to my fellow weather weary New
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Fwd: Islam

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Begin forwarded message:

From: Julia Hathaway <>
Date: April 12, 2013 4:50:08 PM EDT
Subject: Islam

    In my early teens I went to a friend's Sunday school.  The teacher started talking about converting the heathens in the Middle East.  I tried to explain that they had their own perfectly good monotheistic religion.  It did not go over well.  I was labelled Satan Spawn and my friend's family was told that if she was allowed to associate with me they'd be kicked out of the church.  (They chose me.  In case you wanted to know.)
    Sadly since then things seem to have worsened or at least not improved.  So many people think "terrorist" or "suicide bomber" or "they hate us" when they hear the words "Islam" or "Muslim." This is a truly sad state of affairs.  Islam, Christianity, and Judaism have so much in common such as roots and ethics.  Most adherents of these and other world faiths are saddened and horrified by acts of wanton violence justified in the name of religion.
    Nothing beats fear and prejudice like knowledge.  I've been looking through books to recommend to readers who want to understand this major world religion.
    The Idiot's Guide to Islam (an oxymoron if I ever heard one--if you're seeking this information out you are NOT AN IDIOT) is a wonderful adult book.  Beliefs, history, daily practices...all are covered in succinct, informative chapters.  Controversial topics are not avoided.  I would advise taking it a chapter at a time to not be overwhelmed with information.
    Growing Up Muslim:  Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam is perfect for younger readers.  Growing up in California, the author fielded lots of questions from curious classmates.  She covers topics young people might notice (dietary restrictions, holiday observations, dating) as well as basic beliefs.  She is quite candid, even revealing conflicts she has had with her faith.
    If you don't know what Islam is about I'd advise you to check out one of these fine books.
On a personal note, in my adult Sunday school class we're having spirited discussions about the Old Testament.  Since Christianity, Judaism, and Islam share the same roots we will have a Muslim come in and talk to us.
A great big shout out goes out to Pastor Steve, our teacher, and my fellow classates who make the study of religion anything but dull and boring.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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