Archive for October, 2009

The Door in the Wall 001The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli, was awarded The Newberry Medal in 1950. I first read the book alongside Andrew when he read it in elementary school, forty years plus after it was published. Although the book falls into the the genre of children’s literature, its 121 pages are filled with interesting vocabulary, and life lessons worthy of adult consideration.

The story describes how a young boy named Robin, residing in London during the Middle Ages, learns to face life with courage and dignity, in spite of a physical handicap. His parents are away from home when he becomes ill, and loses the the use of his legs. Brother Luke, a monk, cares for Robin in a monastery. The monk teaches him to swim so that he can gain enough upper body strength to use crutches, and how to read. Robin also keeps his hands occupied by learning the craft of woodcarving.

Robin is frustrated that he can no longer run and play as other boys. At first he is unsure what Brother Luke means when he tells him, “Thou hast only to follow the wall far enough and there will be a door in it.” As he hones the skills of swimming, carving, and reading, he understands that these disciplines can be doors in the wall. Eventually, Robin comes to appreciate that even the crutches themselves are a door in the wall, an opportunity to be useful, and to serve his king.

Some of the words that I enjoyed learning from this book were: breviary, postern, jerkin, missal, verger, newal, and sacristan. I was also delighted to learn that the word “window” was originally “wind hole.”

In de Angeli’s Newberry Award acceptance speech, the author said, ‘”It is really true, as we used to tell our children, “When you come to a stone wall, if you look far enough, you will find a door in it.”‘ Her advice, and the title of the book are derived from Revelation 3:8:

I know thy works:
Behold, I have set
before thee an open door and
no man shall shut it:
For thou hast a little
strength and hast not
denied my Name.

That’s good advice for children, and adults.


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The Pirates Are Busy, As Usual

Pirates are again in the news. Somali pirates boarded the yacht of a vacationing British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler, and kidnapped them last Friday. The couple is being held aboard a container ship (also hijacked) anchored about a mile off the Somali coast. Their last blog entry, made when they were taken hostage, contained three words “PLEASE RING SARAH.”

Mark has sailed by the Somali coast when the rule was to leave fifty miles between ship and coast. Now that Somali pirates have attacked as far as 400 nautical miles from shore, mariners are warned that there is no safe zone. Somali pirates have expanded their territory to include the unpatroled waters around the Seychilles Islands in the Indian Ocean. That’s where they boarded the Chandler’s yacht, as the couple slept. Modern-day piracy is big business: Somali pirates made more than $100 million last year. They are currently holding eight ships and 172 crew for ransom.

It is amazing to me that many people continue to hold a fantasy view of pirates. I’m expecting a crew of pretend pirates to come knocking at the door on Halloween.

Real pirates are murderers and terrorists, plain and simple.

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Fashionably dressed preschooler, circa 1914

The above picture is a reminder that I don’t know everything. See, I thought the child was a girl. But Grandmother Rachel identified the child as Hollis, Papa’s brother. A four-year-old boy in a white dress, long stockings, lace-trimmed bloomers, and long ringlets secured by a bow perplexed me. Grandmother explained that at the turn of the century, it was the custom for boys and girls to dress alike. I remember puzzling on that for some time, trying to conjure up an image of my, then young, brothers wearing dresses and long hair, but couldn’t quite picture it.

While the clothing and hairstyle attracted my attention, I was also intrigued by the beauty of the child. Uncle Hollis was a very pretty handsome little boy.

I am the keeper of Grandma’s Bookcase and this is what I found.

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Grace–It’s Amazing!

The official Hymn Poll results indicate that “Amazing Grace” is the most popular hymn. “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!” There willl be so many people to meet, including Mr. Anonymous who wrote the fifth stanza of “Amazing Grace”—When we’ve been there ten thousand years—around 1790.

One of my favorite websites is The Cyber Hymnal. Click on The Cyber Hymnal to check it out and bookmark it, if you haven’t already discovered it. This site contains thousands of hymns and gospel songs, along with information about the authors and the history of the hymns, and it plays MIDI files.

So, one more time, but probably not the last, here is “Amazing Grace,” complete with bagpipes, sung by Il Divo. Thank you, Aunt Kathy, for introducing me to this marvelous group.

Click here: Amazing Grace by Il Divo in Pula, Croatia.

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Rain Worms

A trio of rainworms at the front door.

A trio of rainworms at the front door.

We have been invaded by rain worms this morning. Andrew is the creator of the facinating “Rain Worm Race” game.
Andrew 001


Look out the window (vehicle windows work best) when it’s raining. Choose your special rain worm. Cheer like crazy for your worm to keep flowing down the window. That’s it! Oh, yeah, laugh a lot no matter how your worm performs.

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Anyway, As I Was Saying

 Do you find any of the following words or phrases bothersome?

  • at the end of the day
  • it is what it is
  • anyway
  • you know
  • whatever

Read what other people had to say in this Marist poll.

The one that bothers me most is “whatever.” While it bothers me when people say “whatever,” it doesn’t aggravate me. You cannot aggravate your spouse, friend, child, enemy, or any human for that matter. To “aggravate” means making a condition or thing worse. Therefore, only a problem or situation can be aggravated.

But not to worry—at the end of the day, you still have the option of “annoying” or “irritating” the people around you by stating “it is what it is,” you know?

So, which words or phrases irritate you most?

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George Washington Young, born 20 August 1880, died 7 January 1945.

Grandma Young, Maude Lee (Stout) Young, wrote “George My Husband” as a tribute to her husband, four months after his death. They were married for almost 41 years.

“George My Husband”

The fragrant moments that
I spent with thee
Are like a benediction
to my life.
Each thought, each memory,
Like unto a flower,
Thy loving ways and all
Thy sheltering care
Haunt my dreams by
day and night.
Every precious thing in
Life is some sweet hint
of thee, “my husband.”

Devoted wife

I am the keeper of Grandma’s Bookcase and this is what I found.

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