Centennial Olympic Park
Maybe it’s because this was an Olympic year and I just introduced my daughter to the joys of binge watching the best gymnasts in the world blow everyone’s minds. Maybe it’s because it was the twenty year anniversary of the night Keri Strug wowed us all with her stellar commitment to herself and her team. Maybe it’s just because I like parks…
My favorite part of Atlanta – the city, not the trip – was Centennial Olympic Park. I had to walk through it every day to get to the Vendor’s Hall for Dragon Con; and I am so glad I did.
Atlanta as a whole had a wild, unkempt feel to me, sporadically blasted with moments of finely controlled beauty. I’d walk from Joseph E. Boone, where the grass I think, had never been cut, to stepping into the symbol of perfection itself: Centennial Olympic Park.
Honestly, I enjoyed the contrast. As an environmentally friendly foraging hippie, I loved that the lawns were more like meadows. I found joy in poking along overgrown sidewalks with the opportunity to inspect local wildflowers. I even found a luna moth one morning, something I had never seen in person before.
But as a lover of community parks, I also found myself drawn to the twenty-eight million dollar completed project. City cleaners sweep, scrub, and constantly pick up trash, keeping the park immaculate. The statues seem to gleam, both from their artistic beauty and the city’s over all effort to maintain “curb appeal.” I found myself wondering what was there before 1996 and learned that it was a city block of old industrial buildings, some abandoned. The difference to Atlanta citizens when the park was first erected must have been startling.
I stopped to take pictures of some of the statues when I was there. I got some curious looks before people started stopping and taking pictures too. “Sheep” my friend called them, but I think it just takes someone noticing something beautiful before others stop and look up. And the monuments there are very beautiful.
Each morning I would cut across a paved walkway made of engraved stones to get to John Portman Blvd. During the park’s construction a donation of $35 got you a stone and a message. When I return to Atlanta, because I plan to, I’d like to pay more attention to those engravings. There are stories there, I think.
The weather was gorgeous. People (Yankees! Haha) kept talking about how hot it was. I was wearing a sweater most days, not the afternoons, but definitely in the mornings. My morning walks were the most refreshing parts of my day. I meant to stop and eat breakfast at the Waffle House right outside the park, but never managed to wake up early enough – or if I did, I found myself dawdling in the park instead. So, I spoiled myself and got coffee at the Starbucks in the AmericasMart. I kept looking for a local Non-Starbucks coffeehouse, but didn’t find one; again, next trip.
Title: The Summer We Read Gatsby
Author: Danielle Ganek
Genre: Literary Romance
Length: 292 pages
Something about seeing all the Christmas lights go up, and holiday party planning for the winter, led me to this book – despite its summer setting in the Hamptons heat. I suppose the deep autumn of Texas has similar weather patterns to summertime in the country of New York, but I don’t know as I’ve never been there. I just know that it’s anywhere from the upper 80’s to the lower 40’s all this Thanksgiving week, depending on the moment and precipitation.
Christmas in Texas always has a flair of Fitzgerald about it to me anyway. This is the time of year when people pull out garden lights, candles, splashes of extravagant color, sparkly dresses, and dine outside where it’s cool. This is when we cook breakfast together in over crowded houses and drink mimosas until noon, only to start pouring wine in its place by lunch. (Naturally we evolve into beer and football by mid afternoon, but that’s not very Gatsby of us is it. We only have so much ridiculous classy flair before we go full on redneck, after all.)
Still, there’s an appropriate place in my winter heart for this summer read, and I loved every second and every page of this witty little romance that had a Whole Nine Yards touch of mystery. I say romance, but the romance isn’t as much for *the guy* as it is for a house – Fool’s House – and a pair of sisters.
Ganek didn’t pull any punches, she created a perfect piece of over the top fiction with all the glitter and glam of the overly fictitious. All those moments you’ve had in your life when you’re staring at people thinking, what a character, they could be in a book. They are in a book. This book. The storytellers, the actors, the gay guy, the foreigners, the artists, the deceased benefactor, the millionaire, the villains, all the archetypes that don’t quite fit their mold… they’re all here, fluttering about like a party of confetti and lights, ready to entertain.
I loved it. It’s a keeper and I’ll read it again.
Author: Susan Hood
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Genre: Picture Book
Ay, caramba!, we just read this before bed this evening and we love it! First off, I’m a sucker for an axolotl. I discovered them about two years ago when an avid reddit surfer sent me some images they had found. Strange but cute creatures are kind of our thing, and an axolotl definitely fits the bill.
I remember thinking there should be a picture book about them. I love kids picture books featuring the odd ducks of the planet and offer educational value at the end of the story. I have tons of them lined up in my head that I haven’t written yet. My favorite thing about Hood’s book is that she incorporates Spanish words through out the story and the last few pages include research about the creatures who made an appearance. There’s so much educational value to this book and I can’t wait to own a copy. (We read from a library book.)
Referred to as a water-monster by the Aztecs, I was introduced to these tiny creatures as Mexican Walking Fish. Either way, they are super cute, come in all different colors, and if ever there was an animal worthy of a picture book it would be this one.
I absolutely adore Melissa Sweet’s illustrations. They are bright and spunky and the kiddo was riveted by each and every page. Sweet captured the essence of the story with care and finesse and I look forward to seeing more of her illustrations on picture books in the future.
Today I am storyboarding for a children’s book for my mother-in-law… we’ll hand the pictures off to a real artist when I’m done.
“It was a dark, rainy day.”
Title: Pythagorean Theorem: the Story of Its Power and Beauty
Author: Alfred S. Posamentier
Genre: Mathematic History
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Length: 320 pages
I’m not sure why I picked it up. I didn’t even particularly care for math in school. Geometry was not my strongest suit – but it was fairly easy math that I slithered through with the least possible amount of effort of any of my math courses. But I was at the library one day and this geometric tree design was staring at me – I’d been collecting everything I could on trees because I am determined to become a certified arborist by the time I turn 40 – and upon impulse I through it in my “shopping” bag.
It might have been because I saw that it was about the Pythagorean theorem, and just a few years ago I attended a MENSA meeting where Andy Tang spoke on the topic. The lecture was riveting, the discussion entertaining, and the wine pretty great for free stuff. The event coordinator in me wanted to host his art exhibit at one of the bookstores I work with. This didn’t happen, but there was such an exhibit led by him in Austin:
The community art exhibition “Pythagoras (and Austinites) Discovering the Musical Intervals” invites you to discover the story of what Pythagoras heard at the blacksmiths’ workshop. Continuing the tradition of passing down this ancient tale, this art show showcases Austin-area artwork through interactive, musical, and visual interpretations. (https://www.facebook.com/events/308042019293116/)
Whatever it was that possessed me, I picked up the book. I read the book. I enjoyed the book – a lot. More than I could have thought I would enjoy a math book.
Although, let’s be honest, I enjoyed it for the philosophy and history, not so much for the endless diagrams and presentations on how the theorem works. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I took that math class, I get it, and it’s cool, but I was really into the book for the tidbits about Fibonacci and then later, Bosman. Bosman, by the way, is the guy that came up with the Pythagorean tree featured on the front cover.
I read this book for the whole chapter on music – that ties into that Andy Tang lecture I loved so much. I read this book because I was a “Choir Queer” in high school and loved chamber music and found it completely fascinating how much math and music were so intertwined. And of course, any one who does math and attempts music theory ends up asking the same questions:
“[…] do we simiply measure the distances between pitches or do we seek some measurable property of the pitches themselves that allows us to determine their relationships to other pitches […]”
Pythagoras had an answer. And he’s an old, dead dude, and I love reading ancient history and things on or by old, dead dudes. Except, naturally, Pythagoras was a top secret kind of guy and left no writings of his own behind and everything we know about him is second hand at best.)
Which leaves me diving into Philolaus, Plato, and Aristotle, and itching to get into Xenophon and see if anything is mentioned there because Herodotus didn’t spend nearly enough time on him.
I read this book thinking about Alyssa Martin’s Pythagoras cake bust. She owns The Martin Epicurean – and cake that looks like a face – how cool is that?
I read this book because I will pretty much read anything, but especially because I love science more than my student transcripts could possibly portray – mostly because I avoided science courses like the plague. I like the philosophies of science and concepts… I don’t care for the formulas and the math, but I’ll learn them ok if there isn’t any testing. Oh God, my test taking anxiety is insane… but reading up on it all, I love that. After all, it suits my passions:
“Science is the discipline that attempts to describe the reality of the world around us, including the nature of living organisms, by rational means.” – Dr. Herbert A. Hauptman, Nobel Laureate
This one is a keeper. I checked it out from the library, but I plan to purchase it when it comes time for kiddo to read it. It’s an educational must-have.
Title: Swirl By Swirl
Authors: Beth Krommes & Joyce Sidman
Genre: Picture Book / Educational
We actually read this one quite a bit ago, I was hoping to review it when I finally got around to purchasing it, but I can’t wait any longer. It’s too wonderful to keep under wraps any longer and it has been an inspiration to my kiddo who now draws swirls and “round ups” into all her artwork.
The book is all about finding math in nature. About how snails, flowers, and everything have mathematical patterns that create functional things we can see. It first page by page identifies all these things… spider webs, tendrils on foliage, the curls of animals’ tails, etc.
Then, it explains the how and why of it all.
Kiddo’s eye lit up at the end of the book every time (we had to read it over and over again before we turned it back into the library). My four year old’s mind was blown.
As a homeschool mom there’s a constant struggle for designating specific “school times” through out the day. She is learning that education is a life pursuit, and at four can tell you that. I can’t tell you how adorable it is to have a four year old look at someone when they ask her about school and tell them, “Education is a life pursuit.” Every day, every moment, is a chance to learn something – and she is extremely aware of this as we stop to read information along trails, get sidetracked by research projects after asking a simple question, and discuss the scientific reasons things are happening in the kitchen as I cook. But sitting down for specific lessons, that’s a bit harder to grasp. We open our reading book and she thinks that crazy silly time shall commence. She has a stubborn nature she gets from me combined with her father’s joy of watching me fume with frustration, seriously, I get angry and she laughs at me. It’s a problem.
Someone from one of the homeschooling forums on Facebook gave us a great idea, though. Read Ecc. 3:1 before every lesson. Don’t know that one off the cuff? The “lyrics” were made famous in the 1950’s by The Byrds.
The concept of there being a proper time and place for every activity and emotion, is a necessary lesson to teach toddlers (and kids, and teenagers, and humans at large). Emotions, feelings, and attitudes toward chores can be intense. There is a time to feel those things and a time to suck it up and do what you have to do. Just like a gardener has “a time to plant and a time to uproot” there’s also “a time to weep and a time to laugh.” We end the reading of these verses with, “there is also a time to be silly and a time to focus on your lessons.”
Needless to say, both little girl and I were excited to find this book at the public library last month.
This picture is beautiful. It reveals art styles from all different regions, cultures, and time. It gives a child a great sense of the impact these words have on every human throughout history. Everyone must learn this lesson, the fact that everything has a time and place. That feelings can and will be embraced and (if we want to be overly bookish and quote An Imperial Affliction – a book by a character imagined by John Green in The Fault in our Stars) and say, “Pain demands to be felt,” but as every grown person has learned at some point, sometimes it can’t be felt right now. For a four year old, the wiggles must come out… but they can’t always come out right now either.
And everyone must learn this lesson. Whether you are from China, Russia, Germany, Egypt, or Ancient Greece. Whether you are Native American or from the heart of Mexico. Whether you hail from the Ukraine or Australia, Japan or England. Humanity is united in this one all encompassing lesson of life: “There is a time to mourn and a time to dance… a time to search and a time to give up… a time to love and a time to hate… a time for war and a time for peace.”
Title: Thomas Jefferson
Author/Illustrator: Maira Kalman
If you want to teach about the founders of America via biographical picture books, Maira Kalman is a great place to start. With spunky pictures and fonts, Kalman introduces children to Jefferson (and in another book she tackles Lincoln), his love for books, language, and gardening.
Kids can discover in Thomas Jefferson quirky details about how Jefferson got out of bed in the morning, his obsession for peas, and learn the quote he told his wife:
“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any.”
There’s a few pages dedicated to Jefferson’s friends: John Adam, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington, and the ideals the team struggled for.
Kalman doesn’t pull any punches. She talks about slavery and addresses the truth of Sally Hemings. Jefferson had so many wise quotes that adults praise and sharing them with a four year old is especially wise:
“When you are angry, count TEN before you speak; if very angry, to ONE HUNDRED.”
The book ends with a visit to his burial grounds and notes regarding his epitaph.
As a whole it’s lovely and educational. When I told kiddo I was finally posting the review and asked her what she wanted to say about it, she said, “I think we should read it again.”
President’s Day is fast approaching. This one is worth having in your hands on that day.
The Glorian Legacy Series by A.L. Raine is about to begin.
Not long before it’s in print for you to read and enjoy! For now, here’s the cover!
Cover art by Gershom Wetzel of Aoristos.
“I think this is where I belong – among all your other lost things.” – Lang Leav
The tree branches are even still. No rustling.
The kind of night that leaves you staring at the sky, eyes peering through the cool fog in a way a camera lens can never quite capture.
So I retired indoors to read Lang Leav poems, proud of being mature enough for her to not be spoiled by the memory of the one who introduced us. Happy that no one can take the written word from me, no matter how awful they are.
Because I truly adore Lang Leav. She is my favorite currently writing poet, along with her partner Michael Faudet.
Then came Lullabies and Michael Faudet’s Dirty Pretty Things.
My other favorites, if you follow my blog, you know: A.E. Housman, Edna St. Vincent Millay…
Clearly, I enjoy the hint of melancholy mixed with nostalgia.
I like the presence of mind to live in the past, the present, and the future all in one moment. To acknowledge that your experiences have made you and your hopes are what you live for… and right now, this breath, simultaneously deserves all your attention. It’s a beautiful conundrum, balancing it all.