In a book

   I feel incredibly guilty for abandoning books for most of my adult life.  They were forced down our throats with such frequency in school and, sadly enough, my first reaction to force is usually rebellion.  Though I truly loved works like The Secret Garden, Jane Eyre, and even Taming of the Shrew, Homer's The Odyssey ruined it all for me.  It was the first semester of ninth grade honors English, and our teacher told us to start reading.  Had I any clue she would give us a pop quiz on the book bi-weekly and it would consume what felt like the entire first semester, I might have actually read the book Cliff's Notes.  I had opened it and attempted to read it the first week of the assignment, but I just couldn't make it past the first few pages.  I couldn't.  I hated it.  Ever since, I avoided books and even laughed at the whole concept of reading.  Who had time for that?  I'd rather be out living my life, thank you very much. 


   Like anything else in my adolescence, and even into my early twenties, I was stifling myself.  Instead, I pored over fashion magazines and tabloids.  I made time for junk food instead of feeding my brain with real nutrition.  Of course, fashion magazines aren't a complete waste.  (Tabloids are.)  However, I wasn't truly appreciating their art and I hadn't accepted the dark side of fashion as dark yet.  I was wishing for her waist, for her skin, for her hair, for those clothes, and for another life.  During breaks at work or waits in airports and studios, I smoked cigarettes, gossiped, and checked my phone.  Every once and a while, and always by myself because I never wanted anyone I knew to catch me, I'd grab a book in the airport gift shop and skim a chapter or two in my hotel room.  But I never finished them.  The only ones I ever finished were self-help books purchased in desperate attempts to fix my life at the Borders near my apartment.

   I wasted precious time not reading and now that I am a mother it's more difficult to find time to escape in a book.  Now, I'm trying.  I put down my phone and read in the pick up line at school.  I turn off the tv and crack one open right before bed.  Sometimes I sneak a few pages in the evenings after dinner.  It feels really good.  Frequently I find myself being pulled to the library or the bookstore in the rare time I have alone.  This is where my new habit gets dangerous.  I always find another stack of books I really "need" and am constantly trying to find space for them when I get home.  Oops.  I guess it's one of the better shopping habits to have, but I still have to be careful not to over-buy.

   The only truly bad thing about searching new titles on the same, lovely old shelves is every once and a while I run into this:

Happy Birthday Sweetheart!
The past three years have been the best of my life.
I love you very much, Savannah!
Hugs, Mommy  March 11, 2006
As much as Mommy loves you I love you more!
Happy Birthday Sweetheart!
Daddy  3/11/06

Just as the bunny searched for a home,
books will always provide a path for your life. 
Love, Pappy & Mimi 
Christmas 2006

To Jonathan
From Can Can
Destin, Fla
July 27, 1998
I love you!

To Chalsie
Because we love you!
Mama & Papa

Belongs to Chandler Gift. 
If found take to 2nd grade.
   Of course anytime I see these I want to buy them and reunite them with their owner.  They are perfectly preserved messages in a bottle.  Somehow a few of my childhood favorites have found their way back to me recently through my niece cleaning out her book collection and passing down so many to my daughters.  I treasure them now more than ever before.  I run my fingers across their covers like I did when my hands were much smaller, and every turn of the stiffened pages brings me back to my old room, our old street, a different era.
  I wonder what my life would look like if I hadn't ignored the thing that would bring me such joy and unleash a slumbering passion- books.  I don't remember collecting them as much beyond the picture book phase in my earlier years.   And now I've come full circle, back to the innocent tales and unscathed imagination, but I feel like I've lost so much precious time.  I'll forever be playing catch up.  I wish I hadn't strayed.  I wish I had known sooner that I was made to write.
   On one of my trips to Half-Price Books over Christmas, I was sitting on the floor sifting through a stack of picture books trying to slim the purchase when a family walked into the children's book section.  Their four-year-old daughter was immediately eye-to-eye with the spines while her parents lingered near the carpet's edge.  The little girl watched me opening a few and flipping through the pages for a minute or so.  I guess she figured I was an authority enough to ask me where she could find "a good one".  Eager to help, I jumped up and started pulling a few crowd pleasers off the shelves and presenting them to her, waiting for a reaction. 
   It wasn't until I held out, If You Take a Mouse to the Movies that I saw the light in her eyes I had been waiting for.  She swept it out of my hands and clutched it to her chest.  I noticed her parents had ventured in and were talking to each other about their childhood love for Little Golden Books.  Just as the little girl approached her mom and began to ask for permission to buy "the good one", her mom grabbed the book from her hands, shelved it, and said, "No.  You don't want that one.  You want this!  I used to love this book!"  "But Mom, I want the Christmas mouse book, please?"  "No, no.  You can't get that one.  You're getting this one."  And off they went to the front of the store as I heard a fading, "I really want the mouse one."  It took all I had not to buy it for her and sneak it in their pile.  But I didn't want to cause any trouble.  I still feel guilty for failing her in some way.
   So here is my plea to you, parents: provide your children with books, and not just any books, but the ones they choose.  Take them to the library or the bookstore, even if you don't enjoy it as they do.  Encourage them to explore the written and creative languages hidden in stories.  They just might find a favorite character that shapes their childhood or discover their truest selves nestled in the pages.  I know our world is moving too quickly, even for us, but I beg you to take the time to read with them sometimes.  It isn't easy.  None of you may like it at first.  But after staying the course with both of my girls- one who is such a perfectionist that the concept of reading words she hadn't already conquered sent her into meltdowns the first several months, and the second too animated and excited to sit or care about bedtime stories for years- now they both cry if we don't have time for a story before bed.  

   And one more thing.  If you're going to donate or sell any books from your home, for whatever reason, take the time to open them and check for any personal messages tucked inside.  The words may not mean much to you now, but they meant something to their authors, and they might mean something to your child some day.

Burning Through Pages


  1. I'm a new reader, and read through a few of your archives. I intend for this comment to be constructive, and I hope you take it that way and use it for further exploration, which is what it seems this online diary is assisting you with. As a mental health professional in her late fifties now, I see some of my previous self in you. It seems that you might be turning to this new fascination with children's books in an attempt to find direction, identity, an identity that's appropriate for your new role as mother. After reading your post on marriage counseling, which is how I found you via Pinterest, I wonder if children's books aren't a way to escape what might be an ugly or challenging time in your personal life? What safer place to escape to than the pages of picture books? It's a wonderful hobby to have, to be sure. I just hope you don't distract with it and avoid the real issues, because life is so much fuller once you've found yourself. Best of luck to you, Isla!

    1. First of all, thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I appreciate your compassion and thoughtfulness in taking the time to extend a hand. Secondly, I think you are spot on. I absolutely have turned towards writing for direction and identity. When I switched careers to stay home I felt lost for a long while, still a loving and lively mother, but I always felt like a part of me was missing. Then after I rediscovered my love for literature, I had a hard time finding balance so it didn't consume me and take me away from the family I'd longed for my entire life. Now I use it as a motivator, for example, if I organize my day and use my time wisely, then I'll have time to write tonight or tomorrow. I think it has made me a much happier and more productive wife and mother. If you read through some of my marriage posts, then you get a taste for what was absolutely a tough time personally. I still haven't finished that series, but I plan to. I am beyond grateful for our recent transformation as a couple and owe it all to strengthening our vertical relationship with God. Thank you for your words of encouragement. God Bless.