Ten Things Thursday

Each school year in my room begins with 6th graders reading Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. It lends itself well to teaching the concept of summarizing, characters, character arcs, plot and even the most challenged readers feel excited when they realize they can read and finish a book on their own. (It’s rare for me to have a student come to 6th grade having finished reading a book above a picture book). In the book, Opal, the main character, asks her dad to tell her 10 things about her mother who left them. We do a writing assignment based on this list, and today, since I’m struck by the alliteration, I’ll do my own Ten Things Thursday.

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Ten Things About Me

1. I love stories. I think this is pretty obvious to anyone who even knowns me a tiny bit, but I love all kinds of stories, not just the ones I tell. I love the stories behind the antiques my mother gives me, the stories of how a student’s family came to the United States, the story of how you got the scar on your arm from a rock fight with your brother when you were seven. I think we are all made of stories but not all of us know that. Not all of our stories are worth sharing, and not all of them are good stories. But they are still us.

2. Pens are my weakness. Lots of women have too many shoes. I have too many pens. I realized this while cleaning my writing room/home office this week. I now have groups of sharpies (fine tip, fat tip, neon, fall colors, metallics, and ballpoints), Flairs (fine tip, normal felt tip, in over 50 colors), Bics (in over 20 colors), four full gallon Ziplock bags containing a random collection of metallic pens, InkJoys, Zebras, Pilots…rollerballs, felt tips, gels…you name it, I have it. I’ve had this affliction since my early days of high school, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. I do have standards, though. If it doesn’t feel good to write with it, gets thrown out. I also have certain pens that I journal with in my Kenyon notebooks (morning pages), different pens for my bullet journal, and yet other pens for my art journal and letter writing.

3. Fountain pens are my passion. I first wrote with a fountain pen sometime back in my high school days, when I would ride my bike to the Kenyon College bookstore with my friend Kelly, and we would spend our hard-earned babysitting money on stationery. I bought it on a whim and I feel like that was the day writing changed for me. I have a collection of fountain pens now in their own case, and I think I’m nearing 25-30. Some are every day, some are more expensive, others less so. The one I’m most proud of is the one I found tucked in a secret drawer in my great-grandmother’s secretary desk that now graces my living room. It’s engraved with her name and needs to be fixed to work, but knowing she used that to correspond with family and friends in the nineteen teens, twenties, thirties, forties and fifties, makes it intensely special to me. I think I should write a story about it…

4. I have a favorite fountain pen. It’s a Lamy LX Ruthenium I bought at Origami Ink, in Asheville, NC., the day that I went to the service at All Souls Church. During a period of fascination with the Biltmores, I took a summer week to drive to Asheville and spent a few days touring Biltmore for the second time. This pen takes me back to the church service, the history, the beautiful tiny store a few blocks down from the church, and it fits my hand perfectly. It rarely leaves my side.

5. I believe that nature cures (almost) all ills. I’m not a doctor and I don’t pretend to be one, but what I know from my own experience in this lifetime is that by getting out and into some form of nature, off the phone and into the breath, you will slowly but surely begin to come back toward your self. This isn’t fluff, you can feel it. When I feel overwhelmed or strung out, the first thing I do is schedule nature time. Sun and soil can’t be beat.

6. I am an amazing cook and baker, but my mom doesn’t know how that happened. She never taught me to cook. My grandma Alice taught me candy making, but that was it. Mom taught me cake decoration, indirectly, but when we discussed my cooking ability a few years ago, we concluded we have no idea how I learned. I’m going to guess a combination of 4-H projects and reading cookbooks like literary novels. No, that’s true. I would simply read any and every cookbook (that’s what I checked out of the public library, along with Laura Ingalls Wilder books) as a kid.

7. I used to have a weakness for cookbooks but got over it. At one point I had three bookcases full of Shakespeare, Victorian Lit, and cookbooks. All of that is in my past. I gave up cookbooks and never looked back. I cook almost everything from my head, unless it’s a new baking recipe that needs exact measurements.

8. I do still read cookbooks on occasion. Mom gifted me with a large tub of old cookbooks that belonged to the various women in her family she’d collected from deaths and gifts over the years, and I love looking through those. I love finding handwritten recipes in margins or dates written down of when something was made, of recipes torn from magazines tucked in the pages. I want to compile a separate cookbook of these ephemera but lack the time.

9. I have a favorite recipe. I’ve never made it but it is handwritten by my great grandmother Elizabeth, the one I’m named after, and I found it in one of the family cookbooks. She signed her name on the bottom and I believe it’s dated 1934. How cool is that?

10. I have least favorite recipes. One is for piecrust. I cannot, for the life of me, make pie crust. Probably the only project I ever earned a B on in Home Ec class was piecrust. I just buy it, I’m not too proud. The other is pancakes. I inherited that from mom. She can’t make pancakes, either. (Don’t tell her that, we just eat them to keep her happy). I used to hate making homemade bread, but I practiced a lot and finally learned how to make it work. Practice makes perfect. Or, in the case of bread, practice develops the gluten strands to make good bread structure.

I am made of more than ink pens and food, despite the theme this morning. At any rate, I’d love to hear one or ten things about you, too! Wishing you a great Thursday.

Beth