The WWI Book Club: The War That Ended Peace

A snippet from a recent conversation:
Guy: Downton Abbey is just a crap period drama.
Me, hackles up: It’s a very well-done “crap period drama” that prides itself on historical accuracy.
Guy: Ooohhh, what is it? Victorian England?
Me: It takes place between 1912 and 1924.
Guy, perplexed: What historically interesting happened in England then?
Me, choking: Uhh… WWI, dude!
WWI, dismissively: Why would they focus on WWI? England wasn’t affected by WWI.

Needless to say, he isn’t part of the WWI book club I belong to (although maybe he should be). When I relayed this to the club’s other member, her response mirrored mine: “WHAT?!? How can he say that?!?” followed by much sputtering.

So, yes. This “club” is only made up of the two of us. How many lines of people do you see who want to spend a year reading about WWI? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I can imagine what you’re thinking, “Where’d you guys meet? A nerd convention?” She and I have been friends for several years and belong to another book club together (an art book club, to up the nerdiness ante). We had often talked about spending a year reading books all about one subject, but since we both have interests that reach far and wide, which subject to choose? We knew that we both had studied WWI before and decided that we could further our knowledge. It is also apropos as we are in the hundredth anniversary of that war.

How does one embark on such a feat? (Because maybe you’d like to start a book club of two…) Like the generals in the war, we needed a plan of attack. However, it couldn’t be like the Schlieffen Plan that didn’t allow for change or revision. It also had to fit into our daily lives that include other book clubs (and in my case, teaching). We have decided to read eight books: four works of history and four memoirs that represent different perspectives. Since the works of history tend to be longer (600+ pages), we will take two months to read to read them, while the shorter memoirs get a month. We meet once a month to discuss what we’ve read. The way I found some of the titles was by searching a book about WWI on Amazon and seeing what others purchased; I’d click on one from that list and it would lead me to another list and so on and so forth. Based on the descriptions, I’d add it my interest list. Goodreads also provided many recommendations.

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Our first book was Margaret MacMillan’s The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914. MacMillan’s premise is to understand why and how Europe, which seemed to be moving towards a society of peace and progress, all of the sudden blew up into total war. So imagine a 1900 map of Europe under a microscope through which MacMillan’s eye peers and studies the minute actions at play under the surface. Like a scientist she gathers the information to discover the under-lying symptoms of the disease of war. She provides in depth character studies not just of the leaders, but also of society in how the growing labor movements, the rise of public opinion, and the shifting roles of the aristocracy helped prime people for war.

Often times in history classes one hears generally about alliances, militarism, and nationalism, and then boom! one day Archduke Franz Ferdinand, some dude from the Austria-Hungarian Empire is killed by some anarchist in some city and all of Europe falls apart. It’s a tenuous reason for millions to die and the possible end to Western civilization at best, but MacMillan does an excellent job showing how these forces developed and reacted over time through different countries’ decisions and skirmishes in Morocco and the Balkans to finally end in war. She tries to weigh how much of the war was the fault of “great men”– those in power– and that of forces hurdling towards conflict. Between 1900-1914, European nations had consistently used bluff and brinkmanship in their skirmishes, and each time they got closer and closer to war, and while she proves that they always had choices to avoid war, was it ultimately inevitable?

What I found most interesting was how many people had the foresight to understand what a long, bloody battle this war would be. Unfortunately, none were in charge of the militaries or countries and their views were often discounted.

MacMillan’s style is clear and easy to read. Each paragraph has a clear point followed by interesting and relevant evidence. She has a knack for finding interesting and funny quotes and for connecting issues if the past to issues in our modern times. The first half of the book sets up her argument on the state of Europe and the second half proves it (for us, the first half was more interesting as the second half was more military talk and policy). I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand how countries at peace can suddenly end up at war.

March memoir: e.e. cummings’ The Enormous Room

Readers: What book (or novel) about WWI do you recommend and why?

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Being a nerd, I didn’t want to show up to book club with nothing to say…

I Want To Write, But It’s Never The Write Time!

I miss blogging and writing and the freedom of expression. I miss reflecting on my day and thinking of moments to share that were meaningful to me and hopefully to others. I miss the community forged with other writers– those who care about their craft and motivated by having something to say. But I’ve fallen for the cult of busy-ness. I am always busy. My life style as of now does not support the goals of a semi-aspiring writer. In order to write at the level I wish, I need time and dedication to produce they kind of writing I of which I can be proud. If someone is kind enough to leave a comment, I want to have the time to respond. Because if I’m going to do something, I want to do it well.

Everyday I think about writing, but again, I let the moment flit away. What to do?

Well, there’s only one solution: just do it. Just sit down and write.

Bring It!

It’s happening again.  Yes.  Again.  As a matter of fact, it will happen this, of all days, Friday.  I will wake up before the dawn, reacquaint myself with near-forgotten rituals such as doing my hair and putting on my make-up, leave my house as the neighborhood sleeps, cruise through my commute, unlock my classroom, and welcome students.  Yes.  It’s the first day of school.  And I say, “Bring it.”

After a taxing, trying 2012-2013 school year during which I experienced a mystery illness that left me weak, sore, and anemic; burn-out; and a strong desire to sleep– so much so that I would pass out at my desk on my prep period only to come home and pass out again.  I trained a student in each class to call the school secretary just in case I had to run out of the room for an “emergency”, and one day I had to run out of a meeting because of an “emergency” (as one student said, “You drove all the way to work just to vomit?  That sucks.”)  My response to my very good students, who I was very lucky to have during this time, slowly deteriorated to, “Me-no care-oh” (translated: “I don’t care what you do, just turn it in.”).  Doctor’s appointments and going home sick impeded my ability to be a good advisor to my book club and my Academic Decathlon team.  The kids had to rearrange their schedules and find other teachers who could take over for the day.  Once again, the AcaDec materials weren’t ordered correctly (cough, cough, district office, cough, cough), and we didn’t get our materials until late October.  Competition is in January. I questioned myself.  I knew I was not the teacher or advisor I could be, but I couldn’t muster the energy to be that person.

My questioning deepened after I attended a Common Core Conference in Monterey and the keynote speaker, Kate Kinsella, chastised teachers who had pictures of the Eiffel Tower and posters of kittens dangling by a paw from a tree that say, “Hang in there!”.  There is no place in the classroom for these non-academic distractors!  My co-workers gasped, glancing my way.  In lieu of the Eiffel Tower, there is a big poster of Central Park over my desk, next to my Kandinsky poster, over my Warhol Marilyn Monroe -inspired rubber ducky picture.  There are no posters of kittens, but there is one of a silly-looking frog that says, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.”  This doesn’t take into account all of the rubber ducks that line my desk and cupboards, the student art, my travel postcards, and the cutouts of Toy Story characters that had been on a Kleenex box.  One of my TA’s cut them out once it was empty and made me a collage.  My room was clear, undeniable evidence that I was not A Serious Teacher.  Fortunately, Kinsella also alienated every other teacher in the room by telling us to do our “damn jobs” and implored Social Studies teachers to actually teach kids something.  However, once made, the wound was slow to heal.

It was a challenging year.  Too tired to be creative or care too much, I stopped blogging.  There was nothing really to say except express my own uncertainty.  I turned to my books and novels.  I read and read and read.  There just didn’t seem to be enough words that I could gobble up.  I did not want to write or create.  My book clubs with my friends were the  life lines that kept me afloat.  They forced me to not recede to wherever it was that I could possibly go.  My husband, stymied by the fact that I requested white bread, made me endless bowls of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  During my two-week spring break, I broke tradition and stayed home.

Slowly, the universe shifted.  I learned that I would be teaching AP Literature the 2013-2014 school year.  The fact that I was chosen to teach it was a boost to my self-esteem as an educator, but I was still plagued with doubt.  I still smarted from Kinsella’s implication that I am not a Serious Teacher and considered ways to make my classroom more “academic”– befitting of an AP teacher.

The universe, it seemed, wasn’t done with me yet.  One day I sat reading my students’ personal statements, allowing me to glimpse into their real lives and thoughts.  One student wrote about her two inspiring teachers: her Spanish teacher and…. me.  She wrote about how much I encouraged her and challenged her, and blah, blah, blah.  “Is she trying to butter me up and get an “A”?” I asked myself.  The next line proved that she was not: “In Ms. L’s room she has a poster of Central Park over her desk.  I look at it everyday.  This inspires me to do well and be successful in life so I can go visit wonderful, magical places in the world like Central Park.”  With tears welled up in my eyes, I decided that Kate Kinsella could suck it.  My student, on the other hand, earned her “A”. And a hug.

As I was leaving on the last of school, I glanced in the mailroom.  There, on the floor, was a delivery from the US Academic Decathlon.  My materials for this upcoming year arrived– early.

After a positive end to the school year, gaining back my health and energy, much collaboration for cross-curricular teaching with a history teacher, much fun in Ireland, the UK, and Michigan, much learning at the AP training, and planning a curriculum that includes short stories, poetry, Like Water for Chocolate, Oedipus The King, Death of a Salesman, Othello, Pride and Prejudice, Their Eyes Were Watching God, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, and John Trimble’s Writing With Style:A Conversation on the Art of Writing, I am ready for this school year.

Life, Examined

One of the joys of winter break is the long, uninterrupted stretch of reading.  It’s even better when the books read are given to you.  My friend Christine passed along Aryn Kyle’s first novel The God of Animals and my MIL gave me Rebecca Stott’s Darwin’s Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution.  Happy that neither were in MLA format, 12 point Arial font, and full of high-school errors, I eagerly dove in and devoured the delicious diction.  Even though they are completely different books, Kyle’s novel is a coming-of-age story of a young girl on a horse ranch and Stott’s non-fiction work delves into the naturalist-philosophers who helped create the idea of evolution prior to Darwin, both share a similar theme: observing the world around us and the consequences of that knowledge.

the god of animalsIn The God of Animals, the protagonist is twelve-year old Alice Winston who is left to fend for herself after her beautiful and talented older sister runs off with a rodeo cowboy.  Her mother is a recluse and her inattentive father is lost in dreams of how to make his middling ranch a success.  Her life is shrouded by mysteries: Why did her sister leave?  Why does her mother never leave her room?  Why is her father so silent?  Why are people the way they are?  And in the recent death of a schoolmate, why did she die and what were her secrets?   Having no Atticus Finch as a father to explain life’s mysteries to her, Alice relies on keen observation to come up with her own conclusions.  She delves into the mysteries of love, growing up, others’ actions, and the choices people make. What should she do with the knowledge she learns?  Should she keep it to herself?  Share it?  And to what purpose: to help or hurt?  Ultimately, she has to grapple with the truth about her family and her own actions.

Naturalists who explored ideas and studies in “transmutation”, ultimately, evolution, had to grapple with the truth they unveiled and how to disseminate it to the public.  Stott explores the list Darwin compiled for his book On the Origin of Species that acknowledges the work of other men (including his grandfather) who helped bring forth the idea of the descent and modification of species.  The first third of the book is devoted to Aristotle, Jahiz, da Vinci, and Bernard Palissy and their devotion to observing and questioning the natural world and learning that organisms have existed a lot longer and are more connected that previously thought.  What differentiates these men from those who came after them is that their knowledge did not threaten their livelihoods or threaten the power and belief of the Church.  The evolutionary plot thickens as Enlightenment philosophy takes hold in the 18th and 19th centuries and the formations of life turn from theorizing and the biblical narrative to close observation and research.

Darwin's ghostsDarwin’s list of predecessors runs long.  Benoit de Maillet, a French consul to Egypt, discovered the age of the earth was much, much older than previously thought and that life descended from the sea and was not formed by God.  Everything happened by chance rather than divine intervention.  He wrote his findings in a book titled Telliamed and presented them as though an old Indian revealed the earth’s secrets to a philosopher rather than stating his evidence outright.  His book, which he wrote anonymously, was eventually published in Amsterdam, since it was too seditious to be printed in Paris.  Three decades later Abraham Trembley cut a polyp into two, and with the help of his newfangled device called the microscope, was shocked to discover that it regenerated its missing parts.  He was just a tutor to two aristocratic Dutch boys creating exciting lessons and experiment for them, not someone out to dismantle the hierarchy of man.  But as he shared his findings with just about everyone of importance in Europe, people began to wonder about man’s role in the world.  Man could not regenerate himself, but polyps could.  Philosopher Denis Diderot, who wrote about species mutability and how they change and fall away, wrote and worked under constant police surveillance.  His work was deemed heretical because he placed the Catholic church on the same level with other churches, declared that the only things we can really know are what we see, and that the chain of being is not separated but each species is bound up with the others.  Erasmus Darwin cloaked his views on mutability and adaptability in poetry  and buried his evidence in the footnotes in order to avoid controversy.  Charles Darwin’s former mentor, Robert Grant’s career was destroyed because of the backlash against his beliefs in “transmutation”, even though he discovered that plants and animals shared a “monadic base” in the past as he proved with his study of sea sponges.  Publisher Robert Chambers had his book Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation anonymously published.  What made Chambers different from the rest of the naturalist philosophers was that he wrote his book for the lower and middle classes; he understood that people wanted to learn and be educated, but only the few could afford the university.  He explained his ideas in layman’s terms and had it priced for the everyday consumer.  While his work was deeply heretical, it was also very popular with the public; it provided the basis for the public to accept Darwin’s theories.  The efforts of these men and others set the stage for Darwin’s knowledge and study.

It was the effort of Alfred Wallace that set the stage for Darwin’s publication.  Wallace, a contemporary of Darwin, caught, preserved, labeled, and sold insects, birds, and animals from Brazil and the Malay Archipelago to museums in England.  In a fit of  malarial delirium, he came up with the idea of the survival of the fittest, an idea that took Darwin twenty years to form.  Wallace sent Darwin his discovery.  Darwin, in fear that Wallace may gain credit for the same idea he himself had labored on, got the okay from other scientists to hurriedly publish his work.  We all know and are still dealing with repercussions of that publication as many continue to deny and refute his science.

Both books shed light on the importance of asking the big questions, observation, learning, and finding answers.  Kyle’s style is lyrical and cemented in a sense of place; her characters are finely drawn, and Alice is a sympathetic protagonist.  The story builds slowly, so much so that I often realized that nothing of great importance “happens”, but her writing propelled me forward to the startling climax at the end.  Stott has the ability to bring people from the past to life.  The first part of her book is not as engaging as the rest, mostly because she’s setting the background and its devoid of conflict.  The rest of the book picks up, mostly because it explains the discoveries and their times are more similar to our own.  Stott writes well, but is often repetitive in her phrasing and sentence structure (long sentences that catalog names, animals, and ideas– there are a lot of them).  If you want an interesting read on the history of nature, evolution, or ideas, I recommend it.  If you want just a really good story, read Kyle’s novel.

Grateful in 2012

This time last year I anxiously awaited 2012, also known as the year of the Dragon in Chinese astrology.  As a fire Dragon, I fully anticipated this to be MY year.  Dragons are known for being rather lucky, and really, who can be luckier than a Dragon in its year?  However, the year of the Dragon is a tumultuous one, fraught with changes and upheaval. No one escapes unscathed… even Dragons.

2012 did give me a year of fortune and luck. I have a loving family and husband. I went to Palm Springs (three times), Michigan, Chicago, and New York; I took four students to London and Paris and brought them all back.  I started this blog, got back into writing, and met wonderful people from all over the world.  I have a job I love with an administration and staff that supports my goals.  I coach our school’s Academic Decathlon team and advise our Book Club, Health Careers Academy, and Adventure Club.  As a result, I spend a lot of time with students who give me a lot of hope for our future.  Then there are my own students who bring me many smiles and laughs.  In their reflections of the class, a few wrote about how they learned to love reading.  As an English teacher, is there any higher compliment?

2012’s upheavals served to remind me how lucky I am.  In February, my cat Toby fell ill and we were quite sure we’d have to say goodbye to him; fortunately, after a weekend at the vet’s, he came home more chipper than ever.  In April my MIL fell and broke her hip.  This resulted in a full hip replacement and pelvic reduction and exposed a whole host of other issues.  Anyone who has a stubborn, fiercely independent aging parent in complete denial about her bad health and habits knows what we’re up against.  There were many tense moments at home as my husband tried to acquire care for her even though he is 400 miles away.  Right now everything is “stable”– whatever that means.  Meanwhile, my health went bonkers with recurring bouts of getting sick (ie. vomiting) that landed me in the ER, my doctor’s office a few times, and the gastro-entologist.  We’re still pursuing tests to find the root of the problem.  Next up is my colon (yay.).  The most recent tests revealed that I am anemic, which helps explain my lethargy and constant need for sleep.  Oftentimes, I come home from work, take a nap, eat dinner, and go back to bed; hence, no blogging.

2012 taught me how to be grateful for everything I have.  I am grateful for my husband who takes care of me and makes me laugh.  I am grateful for my family who is always there for me.  I am grateful for my friends who all inspire me.  I am grateful for my cats, Toby and Molly, who melt my heart.  I am grateful for my job and my students.

I am also grateful for all of the readers who read my work regularly and those who stop by every now and again.  Thank you for making this so much fun.

Happy New Year!

The White Girl

“Hey, Ms. L!  Did you hear what he called me?  He called  me the n-word!” said one of my African-American boys about another African-American boy (who also happens to be his best friend).  I stared at him.  This was another game of lets make the white girl squeamish about race.  “Oh,” I replied, not taking the bait, “he called you nice?  No wonder you’re shocked.”  It was his turn to stare.  He tried to engage me again in the “n-word”, but after my “Really?!” look, he quieted down.

There’s a lot of discussion about creating “teachable” moments about race in the classroom, but in my classroom, it’s mostly joking about one’s own race.  My students are very diverse and probably know more about other’s races than the average kid.  It’s quite often that I’m the only white person in the room.  It often seems to me that all my kids need is acknowledgement from me that I’m white.  Once a student noticed my blue rose tattoo and immediately asked if I was a Crip to which I responded with a curtsey, “I’m just a little white girl from the suburbs.”    Evidently, though, it’s not always clear.  One student  once pointed out how there were no white people in class, and some others pointed at me.  What followed was a heated debate about what color I was, because according to some, I was not “white”.   Years later, I’m still not sure how that discussion came about or why it was debated.

When I worked on my credential, one the classes I most anticipated was the one on the mullti-cultural classroom.  This was information I needed!  Unfortunately it was the worst class I ever had.  The professor had our first meeting be a three hour discussion of multi-cultural awareness: do we do it or do we live it?  I still don’t know what it means, and the question was so poorly worded with abysmal grammar, that I will never know.  He asked me, “Who is the minority in your classroom?”  He didn’t believe me when I said, “I am.”  How could I be the minority?  I’m white.  He also didn’t believe my peer– a Japanese-American teaching at an affluent school with a predominantly white population.  She was the minority in her classroom.  All we learned in that class was how not to teach.

To make up for my noodle-salad up bringing, I went to the source. My first year was spent pumping my kids for information.  We did projects about heritage and family. They brought in their traditional foods.   One girl taught me island dances. They explained what quincineras and debuts are. We looked on the map to see where they were from.  I shared my stories about growing up white (they’re amazed that I am only child and have only five cousins who do not even live in my state).  They tell  me about Fiji, Pakistan, India, Samoa, Vietnam, and Cambodia.  I tell them about far off places like Michigan.

Learning how to deal with race had it’s tough moments. One class of freshmen went through a phase of saying that everything was “racist”.  I was racist for asking them to open their books, turn in their homework, or answer a question.  I really wanted to tell them that they were really racist: they didn’t do their homework because I was white.   I didn’t say that, but it would have been nice for the shoe to be on the other foot, so they could see that racism wasn’t just something only white people do.  Instead I tried to tell them that calling a non-racist person racist degraded any valid claims they had to real racism.  It also didn’t honor the work of those who had worked tirelessly for equality, sometimes giving up their lives.  Those crusaders didn’t make the strides they did so some kids could call the wind racist for blowing.

The real lesson about race is to not hide from it.  I used to be afraid to acknowledge my students’ race– I felt like I might “out” someone.  I was also afraid to share my stories, that I would have nothing to offer them, that my past was not relevant.  However, To hide the fact or not acknowledge the fact that a student is black, Cambodian, Hmong, Russian, or whoever they are, is to deny them that part of their identity.  Being open and honest about their experiences is one way that we find our similarities.  I also have to be upfront about who I am, where I come from, and the experiences that  shaped me into this little white girl at the front of the class.

For the day our enthusiasm has a door slammed in its face. Great story!

DaunaEasley

teaching strategiesThe Lesson

We were going to make a memory.  I mentally pictured one of those warm and fuzzy moments between my students and me.  Planning all the little details was giving me a great deal of pleasure.  On our high school career campus where I taught at the time,  all the buildings surrounded a courtyard.  The landscaping in this opening was minimal, especially at this time of year.  It was autumn and most of the trees had shed their leaves, but one spectacular tree was left.  Its leaves shone a brilliant crimson in the sunshine.  I decided to take my class outdoors under this single beautiful tree to make the moment memorable.  I knew they would enjoy the break from our windowless classroom. this would alert them to the importance of the occasion and help cement the memory.

Why?

Something positive and significant had happened.  It was an event of great importance to…

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The Kids Are All Right

The dark cloud of doubt hung over me as I drove to work.  It was only the second week of school and I had been gone for two days laid up with a cold.  My voice was slowly coming back to life, but it still lingered in the ICU.  The cough, the sniffles, and the sinus pressure still hung on.  Yet at work, the homework piled up and my curriculum materials lay dormant on my desk; if I didn’t want to walk into a total mess on Monday, I needed to go in and get everything and prevent my classes from falling behind.

Then there was the thought of the subs and my students.  I knew my students were good, but I had made some parent phone calls before I left, and sometimes there’s the fall-out of an angry student.  I’ve also seen my “angelic” students who would do anything I asked, turn on a sub they didn’t like.  Then there’s the case of the seasoned sub who lost his cool with one of my more rowdy (but good-natured) classes.  Had he waited five minutes, they would have calmed down and got to work.  Instead he flipped out, got ridicuously angry, which caused my kids to lose it some more, and then got into an altercation with one of my students.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what happened in order to determine my next steps.  While my students didn’t have model Dick and Jane behavior, they weren’t being bad or doing anything out of character.  It was the sub who flipped.

I had no idea what I would find waiting for me, nor did I know how my kids would respond to me not having a voice. What I found was both good and disheartening.  The good: two nice notes from both subs telling me how good my kids were (WHEW!).  The disheartening: the second sub was brand new and thought my detailed lesson plan (that allocated specific amounts of time to each activity) was arbitrary and proceeded to do things his way.  One of my TAs, who has a better understanding of how my class runs than I do, tried to steer him onto the correct course.  He brushed her off and said, “I got it!  It’s all good!” (which is code for “something’s going to hit the shitter”).  The warm-up he put on the board were not either of my warm-ups and had nothing to do with either of my classes.  Because of his actions, we’re all a day behind.

What made me feel better was my kids’ kindness and support.  They were all respectful, did their work and many offered to “speak” for me. When the class got to chatty, they corrected themselves.  One student said, “This activity doesn’t require talking!”. One of my students whose parents I called earlier in the week went out of his way to be helpful. Everyone worked together and got along. Two boys created a rap about my illness; one rapped that I was “fakin’ it” while the other rapped about how I was really sick.  They had me and the class in stitches. Another student showed me an app for short stories she thought I would like.   It was an amazing day.

It’s really easy to become negative about today’s youth.  It’s easy to say that they’re lazy and they don’t care and they have a grand sense of entitlement– it’s easy to say this about them because often it’s true (and I’ve had my share of them).  But kids are good, too. Most kids want an opportunity to be good and be recognized for good behaviors.  My kids reminded me of that.

Speechless

There are two things going on at my house at the moment.  One, it’s my husband’s birthday, and two, it’s the third straight day of my cold that has me laid up at home and without a voice.   It really should be him lounging around the house today (minus the sneezing, the snot, and the coughing), and before he left for work this morning, he made sure I had everything I needed.  Yesterday he worked a half day so he could spend the afternoon on the phone (six hours) with family in Palm Springs to put out fires for his ailing mom.  He took a break to run to the store and get soup, crackers, and ice cream for me.  He mentally kicked himself for forgetting the 7-Up.   This just highlights who he is.

Steve and I have been together for fourteen years.   Yet, I am always struck by his generosity of spirit and his ability to make me laugh.  He is the first guy that I was able to be truly silly with, and he is the first to “get” what bothers me and haunts me.  When someone hurts my feelings or makes me mad, he gets angry so I don’t have to.  He always knows what I like– whether it’s books, videos, or meals at a restaurant.  He also knows that I do not want to eat off the yellow plate.  He supports me in every endeavor– even if it means that I’m going to some far off locale without him. During the summer, when he’d rather watch the morning news, he uncomplainingly reads the paper as I workout to one of my videos.  He makes sure my iPhone is up to date,  and always tells me of the teaching apps he finds that would make my life easier.  He saves articles about Downton Abbey for me.  He has strong political convictions and wants to see fairness, equality, and a better life for everyone.  He is a hard worker and always has been.  He always does the right thing, and is thoughtful and considerate to everyone.

On a typical day he hears more about how he should wipe down the counters better or clean up the coffee spills or tackle any other little annoyance.   Sometimes I sigh and roll my eyes when he shows me a new feature on the computer.  Sometimes I make fun of the drumming videos he watches (okay, all of the time!).   Sometimes I glaze over when he goes on a political tangent. However, the love, strength, and integrity of the man I married always leaves me a bit… speechless.