Thursday, November 06, 2008

Building a Library

When someone asks me what I am reading, I always consider lying.

“Oh, I’m currently re-reading my favorite Shakespearian comedies.”

Or, “I’m reading The Isles by Norman Davies and Alison Weir’s collection on the British monarchy and then I’m going to read the latest biography about Mao Zedong.”

I consider lying because the truth is that I’m probably reading People magazine or perhaps the Twilight books, again. Or blogs. Do blogs even count as “reading”?

“I’m currently reading The Superficial and Feminist Mormon Housewives.” Um, yeah. That doesn’t sound nearly as erudite. (And NOTHING sounds nearly as erudite as using the word erudite on one’s blog.)

It’s not surprising that I read low-brow literature considering what I chose to read while growing up. When I learned how to use the school library in the sixth grade (yes, that’s correct, I didn’t learn how to check out a book until the sixth grade) I became addicted to The Babysitter’s Club first and then to Sweet Valley High. I read every single one. Ugh.

At home, we had a complete set of 1978 encyclopedias. That was cool. However, when I was bored with the encyclopedias I would read whatever else was on our bookshelves. Usually that would be a Readers’ Digest condensed novel or a Danielle Steele book. (I hold my mother fully responsible for my condensed novel and Steele phase).

Despite her penchant for Readers’ Digest, and against all odds, my mom tried to get me to read good literature. I’ll never forget reading The Secret Garden with her. We would read it in the formal living room (you know, the room where the vacuum marks were visible all week long) on the fancy couches. It was very special, but unfortunately, it didn’t ignite a passion for good books.

So, to my point. (Yes, there is one).

I want to build a library for Xiao Mei full of timeless children’s and young adult literature. I don’t want too many books, but enough to tempt her away from the shelf full of old issues of People (and realistically, by then, a shelf full of Weekly World News—Bat baby!).

Today I’m going to find my library card and pay my late fees. Then I’m going to borrow children’s books and start reading them. Lots of them. I’m going to start with the National Book Award finalists for young people’s literature or whatever the library staff recommends. If I love the book, I’m going to buy it.

See, I’m building a library (sung to the tune of Building a Mystery).

What do you recommend? What was your favorite book when you were a kid? What do your kids love to read? What is the Babysitter’s Club of today so I can avoid it?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Broken Heart

The following essay sounds a little eulogistic (is that a word?). Please be assured my dad is alive and almost well. He is recovering from heart surgery at home (well, at his apartment in Beirut).

My dad was in the hospital when I was born. He wasn’t there to see me (though he was present at my birth), but rather he was there as a patient. He was involved in a ski accident several weeks earlier, and was still undergoing treatment on his leg. This was only one of several sports related injuries he would sustain in his lifetime. You see, my father is active, somewhat impetuous, and often quite fearless. He is also pragmatic, devoted, loving, and a bit irreverent.

I love the story of when the apostle Peter tried to walk through the stormy sea to Christ. Only after he jumped out of the boat did he start to fear. I love that Peter was the only one who jumped out of the boat, and he did it because of his love for the Lord. Peter reminds me of my dad. My dad would have jumped out of the boat, too.

My dad is currently serving his fourth mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served in France when he was young, and in Belgium, Hong Kong, and Lebanon as a “senior” missionary.

In France, my dad braved anti-American sentiment to profess his faith. In Belgium he held together, through sheer diligence and devotion, a small, eclectic congregation of worshipers whose only commonality was their love of God. In Hong Kong he acted as a surrogate father to hundreds of Filipina women who were so far away from home. And in Lebanon, he is using his charm, wit, and intuition to choose lucky recipients of substantial charitable donations. (My mom has been his strong and inspiring partner in Belgium, Hong Kong, and Lebanon.)

In the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 9:20, it says “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.”

My dad has sacrificed for the Lord. He has given his time, talents, money, and energy. He has already offered a symbolic sacrifice of a broken heart to God. But, as my dad would say, “Don’t give me any of that symbolic crap. Give it to me straight.”

So, when the Lord asked for a broken heart, my dad literally gave Him a broken heart.