Valerie welcomed U.S. G.I.R.L.S, Sister Expressions, and guests into the private dining room of Brio's Tuscan Grille to discuss Daniel Black's novel, They Tell Me Of A Home.
Valerie staged the dining room with beautiful gift bags with matching name tags that also doubled as place cards. Each bag had two powerful words of affirmation ~ Strength and Faith. Valerie explained that these words were representative of TL's strength to return home and his faith to remain. How profound! Each gift bag contained a custom designed hand towel embroidered with the title of the book and U.S. G.I.R.L.S. 2013. The gift bag also contained a unique beverage cup. Valerie wanted U.S. G.I.R.L.S. and guests to have a keepsake to remember TL as he journeyed back to Swamp Creek in the smoldering heat. He really could have used a towel and a cool beverage. I know each time we use our gifts, we will think of today's discussion with a reflective smile.
Valerie requested that each member and guest bring a least 2 children's books to donate to Trinity Rescue Mission (see photo above). As everyone arrived, Valerie collected the books and placed them on the window seat to be displayed during the luncheon. Oh, what a beautiful sight...over 50 colorful books donated to economically challenged children right here in our community - needless to say, the book collection was a huge success.
Since this was our first joint meeting with Sister Expressions, Valerie opened the meeting by asking everyone to introduce themselves. After our introductions, our salad course was served, and Valerie asked Karen to offer our blessing.
Let the book talk begin!!!
Valerie wasted no time getting to the meat of the discussion by asking questions that were both thought provoking and in many cases emotional. There was much banter surrounding the question of favorite characters in the book. The answers were diverse as well as analytical. There was no clear consensus as everyone stated their opinion with reasons to validate. The choices ranged from Ms. Swinton all the way down (literally) to the roots of the meeting tree. It was amazing to hear everyone's favorite. Two obvious omissions were Cleatis and his wife, Marion. I think if anyone named either of those two, there would have been a modified American version of a coup d'état
As the 2nd and 3rd courses of Chicken Diavolo, Grilled Salmon with Citrus, and Roasted Vegtables were presented Tuscan style, U.S. G.I.R.L.S. and guests tackled some very serious issues; homosexuality, incest, small town mentality, child abuse and child abandonment, just to name a few (a few? seriously?!) We could have discussed these topics all day and well into the night. There were several "side bar" discussions surrounding individual family dynamics and sibling relationships.
Each meeting, there is a topic that causes much chatter, and yet again this meeting was no exception...well, there was an exception, in that there was MORE than one topic. The topics were TL's sexuality, and the paternity of Sister's child. An intelluctual book club can take tidbits from all positions and agree to disagree and that is what basically always happens. The room was divided on both topics and the debate was both heavy and lighthearted.
As or delectable 4th course of desserts arrived, (yummy cheesecakes, key lime pies, tiramisu...opps, I digressed) the question of abandoning one's home town or area of origin was a topic that many of U.S. G.I.R.L.S. as well and SEBC could relate to. All of us have moved on from our original home town or demographic area and are thriving as successful professionals. The burning question is do we have an obligation (excluding monetarily) to return to these areas to live and give back with regards to our human resources and talents? Valerie presented everyone with the question - Could you give back? After a few seconds of silence (which is very unusual for our group) we all concurred - it would be difficult to go back to LIVE and WORK in small town/rural America.
Valerie ended the meeting with a spiritual question regarding teaching as a profession. Is teaching a spiritual calling or a random choice? This question lead to several emotional disclosures by the educators in attendance. It capsulated with Marjorie's emotional testimony of her Mother and her Grandmother, who were both educators and the differences in their "callings."
Valerie adjourned the meeting and we gave her a standing ovation for her book selection and literary experience that enriched our minds, bodies, and souls.