Monday, December 29, 2008

It's the Holidays!


Belly laughs, cuddles with Opa, a great dinner together and no electricity and you have our Gingerbread house making night!! The whole neighborhood lost power for about 45 minutes to an hour! In an all electric house we couldn't even get out the garage!! Needless to say dinner was a tad bit late - but the party went on! There's not much that can go wrong when you combine graham crackers, frosting and a lot of candy!

Some houses become structural masterpieces while others require a little more frosting!! The concentration level for everyone goes up and the candy consumption by the tiny ones soars through the roof.

A finished masterpiece!!
The little ones enjoyed building trains instead of houses and squealed with delight at being together. (I must admit that with tile on all the floors that the noise level is a LOT higher but cleanup is still a breeze!) They were probably pretty "high" on all the candy that was dropped on the floor but no one complained.
Christmas came all too soon for us!! I was in a flurry of Christmas buying and Rich worked hard on two oak wagons for Noah and Jase. Long hours in the new "man cave" (shed) were worth it all when the kids spent the morning loading the wagons up and pushing and pulling them everywhere. Each wagon can hold 3-4 kiddos!! Of course they were well tested Christmas morning as Quentin pulled the tribe down the block!!

Christmas came with all the trimmings and the good family feelings. Unfortunately Paul and Ben were not feeling the best, but they were troopers and good daddies so they pretended that all was fine. I'm sure they both just wanted to be in bed (with a good book and a cup of cocoa though! Colds are a bummer!) I love the kindness of everyone! We all played games, ate cinnamon rolls and talked. Presents were a hit as always!! It's fun to see what everyone has plotted and planned for each other. This year the kids all drew the name of one other person to buy for instead of giving to everyone. I know that some were concerned about it but it was wonderful. Each person tried to be so tuned into the person they were buying for and I was so intrigued with how they got the perfect present for them! Gracie can recognize the "G" in her name so was especially interested in what presents were hers!! She helped me be "Santa" this year and pass out all the gifts. Kyle joined us and I'm sure that he thought we were a wild a rowdy bunch! So true! The kids were so generous to me. Jennie and Kyle even gave us a "Photo shoot" for our present!! It's to recreate our "engagement" pictures that never turned out 32 years ago!! I hope I turn out looking like a "young engaged couple" then!! I will definitely need a new hairstyle, new clothes and ... oh heck, a new me!!

The rest of our Christmas day was quiet!! It's a new discovery for us as our nest in emptying. All the kids and their families journeyed off to other celebrations - even Jennie!! A big rainstorm hit as well and we spent the rest of the day napping, reading, and watching movies together. It kind of reminded me of our first Christmas together 32 years ago. We were married at Christmas time and spent Christmas day in Greer in a snowstorm!! This Christmas seemed almost as quiet and laid back!!

I spent 6 hours with a dear friend this week as she oriented me to my new calling! Can you guess what it is?!?!? I was so touched by her compassion and concern for those she has served and for ME! She knew everyone by name and situation and could spend 5 minutes telling me about each and every person! I fed her lunch, we hugged and cried together and I now wear a heavier mantle of concern for those I serve and love.

To complete a few days of play and parties we journeyed to Tucson to help celebrate Emma's 6th birthday. I was so touched that all she wanted for her birthday was a day with us! We partied hearty at Peter Piper Pizza, went to the movies and then home again for a Spaghetti dinner, cake and presents!! The weather was ever so chilly as we bundled up and cruised the neighborhood in the new wagon! Emma smiled, laughed and loved having us over to "play"! She has grown into such a sweet and kind young lady. I feel it an honor to be her "Big Moma"! Although I miss having them so close it is wonderful to see them all blossoming in Tucson. Thank heavens for highways that are widening, good gas prices and a great car to travel in style!

Rich and I are still on vacation!! Each day we have something fun planned - - good books, good food, good friends and family and so many blessings to count. It's awesome!!

I'm excited to welcome in 2009! Ready for some football and nervous for planning a wedding but that's what keeps life exciting and interesting. I am spending my days with my best friend .... what could be better?!?!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Peace-filled Weekend


I loved the peace that this weekend contained. It was full of family, friends, and visiting the lights at the Temple. There is nothing like it! It seemed that no matter the night nor how busy and crowded the grounds were, the Spirit was peaceful, happy, and reverent. We heard a great choir from a local school one night and a flute quartet the next time we visited. What a great place to walk, hold the hand of one you love, and remember the real reason for the season!! I wish all of my family could/would take the time to stroll the grounds.


Jennie and I began our wedding cake tasting expedition this week. What a hard job!! We laughed as we ate our way through two slices of cake while sitting in our car and licking off our fingers. Not quite the professional way but fun nonetheless! Jennie's still very open minded about styles, shapes and colors. We have even thought of cupcakes! Now to find the right taste and price!! More tasting ahead this week. I guess that means we will diet Monday through Friday!!


Aisling of Eire by Dorothy Keddington arrived via Inter-Library Loan this week! Ya gotta love this great service. This copy comes from the Sandy, Utah library!! Wahoo! I can't wait to jump in and enjoy. I have been waiting a very long time for it! I am currently reading Gravity by Tess Gerritson but I may have to put it aside -- I am awful at waiting! I love book choices!! Christmas break means some more time for reading. Yippee!


Rich and I have decided how we are going to spend our anniversary this year. We are going to take the light rail downtown and enjoy the shops, art galleries and a nice lunch at Durrants. Yum! We are going to go over Christmas vacation when the light rail is free for everyone! Sort of a field trip! Pretty low key but just a fun adventure together! Wanna join us?!?!

Wedding announcement ordering was fun! Jennie was very creative and she and Kyle chose a variety of shots for the announcement. It will be fun to see it all put together! She also WON a free wedding shoot from a very talented wedding photographer, Nikaela Curtis (www.nikaelacurtisphotography.com). WoW!! We are so excited. Even better, the friend who took her terrific engagement shots will be an assistant for the shoot! All of this was a result of blogging too! Isn't that amazing?!?!? A pretty great week!

Tomorrow we meet the future in-laws. I'm a little apprehensive .... you'd think I was the bride! I wish I was a cooler person! Guess I'll just have to go as me!! Yikes!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

I love a Love Story

Jennie + Kyle= LOVE!!


I am one lucky person!! Watching these two fall in love has got to be the neatest thing and I marvel at it daily. They are so much fun to be with, to watch, to talk with and play with ... gosh darn it I am lucky they are patient enough to play with me.

Jennie has found her knight in shining armor! They are both so darn photogenic that choosing engagement photos is going to be tough - boy, who knew that this would be the hardest part of the wedding planning! But what fun! I feel blessed!

Don't you love the tenderness in this black and white? Gosh, I LOVE love!

These two are always touching, laughing, playing --- they will have a happy life together! Don't you want to be there with them??

They both love sports, eating, chilling, going to the Temple, and laughing. They have the same goals, dreams, and desires. Yep, it sounds right to me.

Jennie is such an amazing daughter. Her dad always told her that she was in "princess training" - just preparing for the guy she would marry. She said that she was so surprised when she met Kyle that she kept repeating to herself..."princess training, princess training." I love to here her stories and make her repeat them over and over. Boy, her life is as much fun as Twilight!!

Don't ya love the crinkle in their eyes!?!?!

My sweet friend, Mary, photographed these two the day before Thanksgiving --the weather was cold, cloudy and even brought a rainbow! Isn't that just about perfect? I'll just be quiet now and let her terrific pictures do the talking!


WOW! Thanks Mary! You outdid yourself....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Long Time No Log - In

Yep, Long time no log - in!! Or, in other words .... that's what happens when life gets in the way!!

School started again and in first grade the first 2 1/2 months are the hardest!! It's getting back into the mode of teaching , modeling all the procedures for these little ones and coping with little "chicks" who can do so little by themselves - - in the beginning! Now, we are well under way and they are blossoming! I am still dealing with all the hassle of the new ELD program that the state of Arizona demands for English Language Learners but when I put it into perspective it is just another hoop to jump through. Argh!

Life hit me right between the eyes when our youngest went off to college!! Here I thought I would love and couldn't wait for an empty nest....NOT! I was not prepared to deal with all of the emotions and heart ache. I do believe I followed my husband around like a little puppy for the first few weeks. I still do! I couldn't think, concentrate or read! Yes, that's right! For me, reading is my solace and I was unable to even pick up a book. I still struggle with a changing of the job description in my life but I am eternally grateful for an understanding husband, good kiddos, a dog who is excited to see me, and friends that have reached out to lift me up. A dear friend, Mary, was there (unknowingly probably) when I really needed it, phone calls arrived when my heart was saddest, and letters and text messages became life-lines.

Yep, life just got in the way!!

Now our college kid has returned to our roost (but only momentarily!) She is engaged to be married!! Yep, life will get in the way once more - but we are so happy for her! Her fiancee is awesome! He's everything you would want for your precious daughter. Truly a man who treats her like a queen!! She's one very lucky chica! (And she knows it.)

I finally feel ready to blog a bit again and this list of questions was what prompted it! The post has taken me ALL night - I take my book reading seriously!! Completing the post has provided great insight and reminded me what a blessing reading is!!

(I was challenged to complete the post and take the scriptures out of the running!)

1. If you could host a party with 7 literary characters who would they be and why?

First for sheer fun and charm would be two irascible men, Joe Harmon and Gus Mc Crae. Joe's a dedicated worker, fun loving and in love with the land. Gus is a sharpshooter, a card shark, and a charmer! Every lady at the party would thoroughly enjoy themselves with them around. Harry Potter from book #1 would also make an appearance. His thrill and joy of discovering magic and another world would be contagious! I would invite Dashti along as well. She is upbeat, dedicated and loyal. What more could you want in a friend? Her curiosity would make her the perfect conversationalist! A book struck Queen Elizabeth II from The Uncommon Reader should most certainly make an appearance. How I loved her discovery of literature. She and I would/could talk books for hours. I hope the other guests don't mind! Junior (Arnold) Spirit would be a great companion for Harry and fun to just josh with. He is the best kind of nerdy boy; fierce, fearless, funny and dorky all at the same time. He and Dashti and Harry could keep the party young and fun! Last but not least Ani, Princess Anidori Kiladra Taliana Isilee, from The Goose Girl would be on the invite list. She is not afraid to make friends with anyone!!

Joe Harmon from A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute
Gus McCrae from Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Harry Potter from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Dashti from The Book of 1000 Days by Shannon Hale
Queen Elizabeth II from The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Junior (Arnold) Spirit from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Ani from The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

2. Which literary house would you like most to live in?

I do believe that I could be more than comfortable in Anne's home in Green Gables!! My mom actually visited there and said that it looks just like we all imagine it to be!!


3. Which literary couple would you like most for parents?

Please oh please don't let my mother be Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Predjudice!! If I could hand-pick a dad though Jean Valjean personifies devotion and unconditional love. Would he be attracted to my mom? I would pick "Mama" from Mama's Bank Account . She always knew how to solve a problem and what would work out - gosh, just like my mom!!


Elizabeth Bennett’s mother in Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jean Valjean in Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Mama in Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes

4. Pick 3 literary characters you would like to have as siblings.

Jenny Weasley, she would always have your back! Jacob in the Twilight series, he would be a great body-guard too! Lastly, Hattie Inez Brooks, from Hattie Big Sky. She would love to have siblings too!!

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowlings

Twilight (the series) by Stephenie Meyer

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson


5. Who is your favorite literary villain?

I do not like bad men; however every story needs one. I guess I would say the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

6. Name a character that most people dislike, but that you do not. Why do you like them?

Javert from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. We can all be misled by misguided intentions. Javert became so wrapped up in doing his job that he missed the mark in seeing the noble man Jean Valjean had become. Javert is me at times! I miss my marks.

7. Name 3 books that you rarely see on people’s favorite book lists that are on your own.

Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan

A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute

One In Thine Hand by Gerald Lund

8. What is your favorite literary name?

I guess names don't influence me in a book as much as I thought. But I can tell you what NOT to name a baby based on a student I have had! But characters in a book ... now that's hard. I love the character Wyl Thirsk from Myrren's Gift by Fiona McIntosh. Because his character is so cool I guess I love the name.

9. What is a book that changed your life?

I don’t know that I can say one book changed my life, but many have definitely improved it. I often reflect on advice given in Corrie ten Boom’s books - she was so inspiring for me. I also loved the inner journey in The Mutant Message Down Under.

11. What is a book that you’ve read more than once?

I read a few books more than once. Probably the ones I have read the most are childhood books or ones I have read to my kids and then classes of kids.... Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, Castaways in Lilliput, and finally one that I have read since I was a preteen, Jubilee Trail by Gwen Bristow. I think I'll pull it out again! It's been years!

12. What is a book that you’d want on a desert island?

A big, thick, detailed, how-to book on gathering and planting seeds, avoiding wild animals and directions for tying knots, starting a fire by friction and building that Swiss Family Robinson tree house. It better be a Reader's Digest compendium too, the ones with the condensed books in it for long afternoons when I might have some time to read!!

13. What is a book that made you laugh?

The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett - laugh out loud funny!

Prize-Winner of Defiance Ohio by Terry Ryan: envisioning the mother standing at the ironing board melting her girdle back together with the iron is a hoot!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie!

SkippyJohn Jones by Judy Schachner - grade school hysterical

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems - how can speech bubbles and a one eyed bird be so hysterical?? Gales of laughter peal from 1st graders to adults each time I read it to anyone!

14. What is a book that made you cry?

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. Old Dan, Little Ann . . . how can you not cry in that book? Old Yeller by Fred Gibson. Why do dogs have to die!?!?

15. What are you currently reading?

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
Just finished The Shack by William Paul Young (for Book Group)

16. What is a book you’ve been meaning to read?

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas has been on my list for years!
Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series (Book 1). Finally we have selected it for next year's summer read in Book Group!! Yeah, I will finally read it!

17. What is a non-fiction book that you have enjoyed?

Candy Freak by Steve Almond - funny, irreverent and it makes your mouth water. Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand - it reads like fiction!

18. What is a book that you don’t enjoy?

Sheeps_Clothing by Josi S. Kilpack - just not worth my time. Too preachy!

19. What is a book you remember as a real page-turner?

Boy, there have been lots of those!! Tell No One by Harlan Coben was fantastic - it consumed me as many a suspense book will. Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos - her prose was like poetry!! I loved reading her words. Austenland by Shannon Hale - fun and funny, pure chick-lit and I don't even "do"that!

20. Who is your literary role model?

With all of his misguided foibles Jean Valjean, of Les Miserables, is still my literary role model. Of course I still want to be as positive as Anne or Green Gables and as enterprising as Nick Allen in Andrew Clement's Frindle, but for pure humanness I still aspire to be Jean Valjean. Boy, did that book have an impact on me!! (I read it only recently and it has flavored every part of me!)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Some journal thoughts

List: 3 joys, 3 fears, 3 goals, 3 current obsessions/collections, 3 facts about yourself.

Joys

1. My family! They are a source of heartache AND joy but the good certainly outweighs the bad! Each of my kiddos have so many talents and together we complete each other. I love laughing with them and finding out what's up and important in their lives!

2. Rich - my husband is my best friend.

3. The gospel of Jesus Christ. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is my foundation. My love of the church and the gospel continues to grow every day.

Fears

1. Not having my family with me for eternity.

2. Going blind.

3. Feeling out of control - ie. when someone is driving too fast, when I don't know what is happening.

Goals

1. Learning Spanish - I would love to conduct a report card conference in Spanish this year.

2. Keeping my house clean..it should get easier when Jennie's at college, but who will pick up after me???!?!

3. Working at being a better teacher. I want to be more effective in teaching small groups and keeping stations active and appropriate. I'm excited to really work on this in an ELD classroom this year!

Obsessions/Collections

1. Getting lost in the "Time-sucker" (the computer!) I love reading other people's blogs (I guess I am just nosy) and listening to music on iTunes and youtube! I can't believe I'm admitting this!

2. Reading - I always have a "flood" book with me - in case I am caught out in a flood somewhere and don't have something to read. I keep a book in my purse, one upstairs and one downstairs. I love reading!

3. Listening to Jennie talk about her life - I love hearing about her dates, her fun times and her discoveries!

3 Facts

1. I love to staying in bed in the morning and reading!! Add a cloudy or rainy day and that is just about my favorite.

2. I love football season and Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday - food, family, AND football!!

3. I adore the people I work with. They make me laugh, cry, giggle, guffaw, and they are the most supportive people around. I am so very blessed!!!

What a great introspective this was. It was a terrific journal idea for my gratitude journal. Thanks for the idea Holly.

Monday, August 4, 2008

"Back to life, back to reality"

Can it be? My last day before I report back to work.... Where has the time gone?? On this last day of vacation I've been blessed with a cloudy, cool (relatively for AZ.) and book-reading morning! Nothing better than staying in bed and reading first thing in the morning for me. It feels like true decadence.

What I did on my Summer vacation...

Remember the first thing you would have to write about when you returned to school each year?? As tomorrow is my "back to school/work" day I have been thinking about what I will say when someone asks me the question..."What did you do this summer?" Before I stumble over the word "nuthin'" I decided I better think it through and recall what I did with my time. So here goes!
BREAD!
After years and years of my family pleading for me to NOT bake bread, they are actually clambering for my bread. What changed? I took classes, grind my own grains and have the right equipment!! I am so pleased with my efforts and love having loaves of bread in the freezer. I have made bread ever other week this whole summer and appreciate the $$ saved. We're eating better and it's fun to share what I can finally do with someone else! Boy, does it feel like a monkey off my back!!

Tortillas!
While not as complicated as bread it's just another thing off my list of what I learned! Our tortillas have ranged from whole grain to tomato tortillas (thank you bountiful garden!) and fantastic corn tortillas with masa from Guadalupe. Yum! I honestly feel like a Suzy-homemaker, but what fun! I sure appreciate our pioneer fore-mothers who had to do it all!!

Spanish for the Slow!!
After 9 weeks you'd think I'd be better! I trudge on but I am so grateful that I teach 1st grade - they are very tolerant of my struggles with their language! I must admit that I'm pretty awesome at reading the language and I can understand kid Spanish, but when adults speak so quickly and if I have to answer - well...it's just not too pretty! I've taken a class all summer on Spanish for school personnel. It's moved rather quickly and I'm pleased with how well I'm doing. Now let's see if I can apply it to the real world! NOT! I am amazed at how much I remember from high school though, that drill and kill from long ago really worked. I can adapt to verbs and conjugations much better than most and I can skate by on weeks when I really didn't want to give it much effort. My goal is to be able to conduct a report card conference without a translator - yikes! We'll see!


Crunchy Granola - Sweet!
Something so easy and something so basic - what fun to perfect this recipe this summer. Can I say that I just feel like an Earth Mother?!?!

Book Pleasure!

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.
Louisa May Alcott
I've spent the summer enjoying the "finer" print. While my "staycation" has kept me in the walls of my own home, in my books I have traveled to far away lands, across oceans, down the street, and to other worlds. Too bad the stamps aren't in my passport but that day will come. I'm grateful for the library and my own well stocked book shelves. I didn't even make a dent in my TBR pile - only added to it. Isn't life grand?!?

Dating on a Dollar - the research!
Rich and I are teaching a class on Dating on a Dollar in September and we've had a blast this summer doing all the research!! We've loved exploring, thinking outside the box, and spending the time on our own relationship! We've gone places we've never been and really feel like we know our community better. We've met great people and enjoyed dates in the morning, afternoon, and evening. I wonder if this is tax deductible?

Well telling someone what I did this summer may not be a one-word answer but more than anything I feel like I fed my soul! And that's the best gift I think I could give myself!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's All Too Much


I went to the library to pick up my holds and was really excited to find It's All Too Much: An easy plan for living a richer life with less stuff by Peter Walsh. I put this book on hold about a month and a half ago when Rich read about it on Kelly's Cool Tools but I'm glad it came right now. It's rather serendipitous actually as summer is the perfect time to de-clutter my life.

This is not a book about "color-coded boxes and storage bins" as a strategy but instead revealed facts and ideas for why we keep what we do and how it can damage our lives. I began to see how I can let go of lots more and how I am "paying" too much to keep things and not effectively use them.

I am not a big self-help book reader and don't like "preachy" books much either. but I became a "preachy" person myself after reading and pondering this book. I can look at my home and my classroom with clearer eyes after reading this book and I have a real desire to own my things rather than the other way around.
As Walsh says:

"My job may be all about organization and decluttering, but I cannot say enough times that it is not about the "stuff." I have been in more cluttered homes than I can count, and the one factor I see in every single situation is people whose lives hinge on what they own instead of who they are. These people have lost their way. They no longer own their stuff - their stuff owns them. I am convinced that this is more the norm than the exception in this country. At some point, we started to believe that the more we own, the better off we are. In times past and in other cultures, people believe that the worst thing that can happen is for someone to be possessed, to have a demon exercise power over you. Isn't that what being inundated with possessions is - being possessed?" p. 219

4.0/5.0

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Princess Ben

I love it when the library has lots of requested books ready for me. They arrived just in time for my summer read-a-thon!! I can't remember what led me to some of them but I love it when I crack one open and fall head over heels for the story!

At first I was a little worried Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock might turn out to be just another feisty princess story, and I've read a lot of them this summer. All the ingredients were there: unconventional princess, arrogant prince, horrible queen, locked tower, fire-breathing dragon, magical prophecies - you know, the same old fairy tale stuff! Fortunately this story kept me on my toes. Ms. Murdock manages to take familiar fairy tale elements and turn them upside down. See if you can find the story elements to other fairy tales hidden inside.

Oh, and the voice! Ben has an appealing wit, done in a style that sounds like it was written with a quill pen on parchment. She even sent me to the dictionary a time or two or three. Words like abstruse, benignant, sagacity and obfuscated are not in my normal vernacular yet each one was the perfect fit for this voice of the character.

Favorite quotes:

"Nay, Your Highness, you'd best stay clear of those two. Some folks have pasts that prevent a future." p. 267

"Sophia sniffed. 'Young people forever believe that kingdoms are made on the field of battle. Believe me, dear princess, they survive or perish not through warfare but through gestures and dances and incidental conversations. As you desire the preservation of your country, you must act on this reality.'" p. 301

Catherine Gilbert Murdock is the author of two other books; Dairy Queen and The Off Season. I have not read either book but have heard about them. I guess the fact that I come to the author later is a blessing - I wasn't expecting a certain style or character. What I got was a readable escape and a terrific twist. While I won't liken her totally to Shannon Hale (goddess of all fairy tales well written!) I will note that Ms. Murdock is right up there!! 4.5/5.0

I wonder what my next book holds??

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Flashing By


Time is flashing by!! I can't believe that my summer is almost
over :( My carefree reading days are coming to a close. It can't be. My TBR pile only got BIGGER this summer.

I finished reading The Judas Strain this weekend. This was my first book by James Rollins and I was in for a rolicking ride.
Two marine biologists are diving in the Indian Ocean. They discover that the water appears to be infected with what looks like an algae bloom. Within hours plague-like symptoms start appearing on their bodies.
On Christmas Island, a mysterious epidemic is raging. This illness is attacking both humans AND animals. Any living creature in the water and on the land that comes in contact with the algae begins to exhibit symptoms, crazy behavior and eventually dies. Dr. Lisa Cummings and her colleague, Monk Kokkalis, of the SIGMA Force are dispatched to the island to help find the source and hopefully the cure.
On the other side of the world Gray Pierce thwarts the schemes of a murderous assassin - a killer who holds the first clue to the discovery of a possible cure.Time is an enemy as Pierce and an unlikely ally are drawn into an astonishing mystery hidden deep in antiquity and in humanity's genetic code.
Combine the centuries old plague, throw in Marco Polo, the Vatican, a twisted terrorist organization (really bad people,) heroes with the SIGMA Force (that would be the good guys) and James Rollins has a page turner! The man can write!
Rollins has an incredible ability to yank you right into a story and keep you on a wild roller coaster ride page after page. He builds likeable characters, horrifyingly possible circumstances and plot twists and turns that keep you gasping. I literally kept having to close the book to breathe.
This was my first book by Rollins. I heard him speak at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale and thoroughly enjoyed him and his stories. He wrote the novelization of the current Indiana Jones movie and was also there to talk about his newest book, The Last Oracle. The Judas Strain was the precursor to The Last Oracle and coincidentally my son gave it to me to read! I traded him my new book and we both enjoyed good reads!! Now I'm ready for the next one!

Summer house guests abound, schedules are full and the monsoon rain may make its return in today or tomorrow. Lets keep our fingers crossed! I went to lunch with my oldest son and his little family on Monday. We discovered Joe's Farm Grille (In Agritopia in GIlbert.) It had been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network this week and my son wanted to go for lunch before they move away. Great food and a terrific location! They've revived the ol' family farm and farmhouse and it was so much fun to be there. Yum! Not only that, the company was great. I will miss my time spent with them. How can 125 miles seem so far?!?

Life is getting wild and busy and time is flashing by. Is it just because I am older? I swear I will make every encounter a memory so I don't forget and can hold on to things longer. I'll try anyway!

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things


Monsoon rains, gully washers, dark clouds, thunder and lightning and saucer-size drops. I love them all. The air is full of waiting and suspense. I have always loved rain storms but I especially love the summer monsoons. The kid in all of us comes out in the aftermath too - skim boarding down streets, rushing through dips and splashing in puddles!

This weekend we were blessed with not one but two great storms. These were the knock-your-socks-off kind of storms that literally shut down freeways, flooded neighborhoods, and made even my tile roof leak. But I must admit that I love them all! They bring back great growing up memories, they smell like the desert is blooming and they provide an intimacy that seems lost on a bright and sunny day. Best of all I am grateful for rain in this desert.



Fun dates keep the smiles in our marriage! This weekend we continued our "research" into fun, cheap, and easy dates!! We laughed at ourselves as we dressed in vintage "cow" and got free food from Chik-Fil-A! Yum! We also enjoyed free Slurpees from 7/11 but laughed at their size - 7.11 ounces!! We have cataloged months worth of fun dates this year and it just proves to me that we are having as much fun now as we did when we were first dating, eons ago!


Great conversation!! I love when the give and take of conversation gets past the basics, the platitudes, and the niceties and into deep conversing! I have sons that I can really talk with. I love it when we have the time to really share and talk. My daughter and I are finding time to really listen and talk to each other. How I enjoy when good friends have time to really visit with me, when I just click with someone and you can instantly engage in great conversation. I cherish this kind of time and this kind of friendship. It takes work to set your own thoughts aside and to really listen to someone else but it is when spirit truly speaks to spirit and it's wonderful!!


Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!! We have been so blessed with a bounteous garden this year! I've learned how to use what I have ---- to can, bottle, dry, and create! Tomato soup, tomato salads, tomato sandwiches, tomato tortillas, tomatoes in every kind of dish you can imagine - Now it's pumpkin time! I've baked them and frozen them and added them to meatloaf! The zucchini have finished for the season but the freezer is loaded with bags ready to add to zucchini "crab" cakes, galabacitas, zucchini bread and muffins and even brownies. If nothing else gets done this summer it has been the summer of learning in the kitchen. I love the bounties of full pantries and produce baskets!


Books, Books, Books! I love the quote:
"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. " ~Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991
I grew up in a reading house, loved (and love) libraries, and still want to bring more and more books into my life.
I've raised readers - and now teach little ones to fall in love with stories and books. Believe me, there is no greater job! Books bring me solace, comfort, companionship, adventure, and peace. I am empowered when I read a book!
"Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled "This could change your life." " ~Helen Exley

This post has been a fun one for me - I learned to add photos from my computer and from the web, I practiced focusing my gratitude for the day, and it feels great to count my blessings!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Princess and the Hound




He is a prince, heir to a kingdom threatened on all sides, possessor of the animal magic, which is forbidden by death in the land he'll rule.

She is a princess from a rival kingdom, the daughter her father never wanted, isolated from true human friendship but inseparable from her hound.

Though they think they have little in common, each possesses a secret that must be hidden at all costs.

This summation from the inside cover seems a good beginning to the book, The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison. The cover is a beautiful draw and I was intrigued. Now keeping with the title I assumed that a princess or at least a female would narrate or guide this story, not so. The story is instead told from Prince George's vantage point, a twist for many a fairy tale. (But the luscious cover will probably keep those male readers away!)

I really did like this book, but felt it lacked something - some sparkle maybe. It certainly was not a riveting book, although I enjoyed getting lost in its story. The plot was uneven in places and began to lag towards the end. As much as I had been enjoying it, at one point, I glanced at how many pages I had yet to go to be finished and I felt that the author had already said it all.

I did enjoy George's emotional and poignant growth and found some of the supporting characters such as Henry appealing. I would have liked to see him more involved in the story.

This story is one that I have found difficult to explain to others without giving too much of the plot way and now find writing about it to be the same. I enjoyed the "ride" but don't know if I truly got my money's worth!

3.5/5.0

I got emergency babysitting detail for sweet baby Jase today. What a fun time I had playing with him. Of course I had forgotten how much time a little 14 month old needs!! We giggled, tickled toes, discovered and sang songs. Having this sweet little one in our lives makes us so happy. It seems like just yesterday that my little ones were this size and now they have babies of their own. Where did the time go?? Because of babysitting I missed attending a book signing in Glendale where I hoped to meet a fellow blogger. Please forgive me for not coming. I will try to come another time!!

Lunch dates with another good friend this week was a real refreshing treat for me. I don't get to do it often enough - but in these economic times it's probably a good thing. Guess next time I'll just invite others over for fresh garden salsa and chips!!

Rich and I are studying A Heart Like His by Virginia Pierce for our weekly FHE. We've started our experiment together and it's a great experience so far. We're motivated. We miss having so many others be with us, so we decided to kind of change our modis operandi!! We'll get back to doing Game Night soon as well. Boy, I like this not working stuff!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Blessings Abound!

Bountiful Baskets is helping us stay healthy and stocking our fridge and cupboards. Between it and a garden we never have to visit the produce section of the grocery store anymore! It has been a really great blessing for our kids who live on their own as well. Bountiful Baskets is a food coop available to anyone in the valley. They have distribution sites all over in the East and West Valley and soon hope to have distribution in Tucson and Yuma. We contribute a set amount of money and the coop negotiates a fruit and vegetable purchase. It truly does fill our basket! It is a 50%-50% combination of fruits and vegetables and is never the same. We've experienced tomatillos, leeks and collard greens and reveled in mangoes,pineapple, strawberries, limes and watermelon. I feel blessed to have discovered this all volunteer group!

Our garden is HUGE and producing massive amounts. We have had zucchini and yellow squash in all varieties - today I'm doing zucchini bread for the freezer! The tomatoes have all started ripening at once too. Salsa and canning are on the agenda this week. Yum! The tomatoes are as big as baseballs - what a hoot for 115 degree days in Arizona!

I am loving the grinder that Rich bought me for Mother's Day! I have conquered delicious whole wheat bread (now I am making 8 loaves every 2 weeks) and we love the whole grain tortillas I've been making. Breakfast pizza was a huge hit and now it's fun to keep dough in the freezer. I am having a blast! Jennie is enjoying learning with me - she's trying to learn everything she can before she leaves for college in August.

Last night I went to go hear James Rollins speak at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore. He was very interesting. He is a veterinarian from Sacramento, California who writes high action books that are a blend of Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones! As a matter of fact he was asked to write the novelization of the newest Indian Jones movie. He talked quite a bit about that. I had a great time and was very motivated to read more of his books and share them with my sons. They will love them too I know!

Currently I am reading two books - my "upstairs" book and my "downstairs" book - The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison and Sway; The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by two brothers, Ori and Rom Rohman. Both books are so good and so different from each other. It's hard to remember to make the time for studying Spanish each day!

I love what I am learning from others who blog! I have met up with many old friends through their blogs and I really enjoy how they journal for themselves and others. I even learned a cool tip on using vinegar and baking soda to unclog slow drains!! That saved us $$ - a neat benefit. I am so technologically dorky that I don't comment much or post pictures (don't know how yet) but I feel like I am learning so much and gaining new friends in a new way!

With high temps outside it feels great to stay home and nest a bit. I'm afraid I'm not really good about getting lots of important things done but I am feeding my soul!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ta Da!! It's done!

Fini, finished, viola, yippee! I am done with the Once Upon A Time II Challenge that Carl from www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com hosted. I finished The String in the Harp by Nancy Boyd and loved it. A book involving Welsh and Celtic mythology and a Newbery Honor book in 1976.

When the Morgan family loses their mother in a car accident their lives are obviously torn apart. When their father decides to accept a teaching post on the coast of Wales the family divides for a time with Peter and Becky relocating with him and Jen staying in the states to continue high school. Family relationships are strained at best. Jen journeys to Wales for Christmas vacation and does her best to keep her family from splintering any further. But the bleak winter on Wales in a small seacoast town has little to offer and emotions are as a volatile as the weather.

Peter finds an ancient harp tuning key and soon begins not a time travel journey but one of glimpses into the past. In a land full of Welsh legend and mythology it appears that even the mountains are full of spirits. Jen tries to deny the magic of the Key but Becky notices Peter falling deeper under the Key's spell.

A String in the Harp develops slowly but it is worth your patience. Nancy Bond blends fantasy and realism and does not dumb-down the Welsh mythology. This was a book I didn't want to end - the author created a sense of place that I have not felt quite so distinctly in a long time. After days of 113-115 degrees it was a pleasure to escape to the gun-metal grey skies of Wales and ponder about Taliesin, the bard. A well crafted book! 4.5/5.0

So the Challenge is complete. I veered off my "well intentioned" list but I felt that all the books had so much to offer and were right off my bookshelves! It was great to know just what I was going to read next and I wasn't disappointed with any of the books.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond

Blood and Memory, the Quickening Book Two by Fiona McIntosh

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

*The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim - this is the one I started but didn't finish and I substituted The Magician's Nephew by C.S.Lewis (which was my book group read for June)

What a fun challenge. Next year I will definitely stretch a bit more and approach different genres. Although 5 books doesn't seem like much, it was the perfect number for the end of the school year time period. As a teacher it always amazes us how crazy the end of the year gets - this year I threw in the graduation of our last "chicken" and presto - chaos ensued. I am feeling like doing the happy dance for just completing a goal. Hmmm, so now so far this summer I have learned how to make GREAT homemade bread, whole wheat tortillas, corn tortillas, I'm harvesting the garden, studying Spanish daily and now have finished a challenge!! Wahoo!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Book#4 - Once Upon a Time Challenge

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis is the 4th book in my Once Upon a Time Challenge. I decided to change to this book when I realized that it was June's Book Group selection. (We always read a kid-oriented book for the first month of the summer, invite any kids to come and have a combined special book group on a summer afternoon. We make ice cream sundaes and the kids participate, eat and then escape to the game room and play pool and games while the adults talk.)

The Magician's Nephew was written as the 6th book in the series, The Chronicles of Narnia, but is actually a precursor to the series. It comes before The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and really focuses on the creation of Narnia, how Aslan did it, and even explains how the wardrobe came to be, was magical and ended up in the house in the countryside. It's a fast afternoon read; full of types and shadows and a journey to enchanting places. 4.0/5.0

Book Group discussion should be interesting. I wonder how much the kids will see in the types and shadows. As a teacher I found that many of students had a lot of insight when they were challenged to think outside the box - I bet we have that again!! I especially found these quotes to be interesting:

p. 18 "Rules ... can't be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages." "Men like me who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures." Digory saw through it all though and said, "All it means," he said to himself, "is that he thinks he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants." (Isn't that just like most people today?!?! We think the rules apply to others and not to ourselves!)

p. 126 "Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed."

Aslan spoke about Uncle Andrew, who could not hear his voice or the other animals as they spoke:
p. 171 "... he has made himself unable to hear my voice." "But I will give him the only gift he is still able to receive." Aslan saw that Uncle Andrew could not receive the higher gifts but would only be able to handle the simplest of miracles and gifts. Interesting.

Yippee! One more book to go.

Blood and Memory - Book #3

Book #3 for the Once Upon A Time Challenge was Blood and Memory, The Quickening Book Two by Fiona McIntosh. The second book in a series, I waited a year to read this one. Far too long! I spent the first 50- 75 pages trying to catch up to what happened and reconnecting threads of the story. But the first story had been so compelling that I knew it would be worth the wait - and it was. This story is indeed a bridge from book one to the last and closing book but I enjoyed the backstory, the political wranglings and pondering for myself what could happen.

Handsome, but evil King Celimus is intent upon ruling not only his kingdom but all around him - either through marriage or conquest. Any who oppose him, or who might possibly oppose him are ruthlessly dealt with. Queen Valentyna, of neighboring Briavel, is his intended wife, uniting two kingdoms that have warred for generations. But Valentyna is in love with another and that is a definite obstacle. Celimus has the rival murdered.

But there is a problem for Celimus' s plan; Wyl Thirsk can't exactly be killed. Instead his soul and identity enter the body of whomever kills him. In this way, he has become first another man and then a female assassin. Quite a twist to a tale! He now needs to visit a powerful mage; one who might be able to explain this strange curse or gift. Meanwhile; Valentyna faces increasing pressure from her own people to consent to the marriage and end the threat of war.

The concept of the "curse" which requires Wyl to take over the body of those who kill him has powerful fantasy potential. Author Fiona McIntosh has also created an intriguing fantasy world with medieval-style warring kingdoms, strange magic and a forbidden forest. While this book was not the strong book that the first one was, I still enjoyed the journey. I love the character Wyl, appreciated the struggles of Valentyna and found new characters equally engaging. I'm anxious to finally finish the series and see how the author twists the tale next!!

4.0/5.0

Book signings and lectures are a pleasure for me. I love hearing an author share their insights of the writing experience and rubbing shoulders with those who share my loves and passions. This weekend Douglas Preston appeared at The Poisoned Pen and I talked not only my husband into a free date, but also my son and his girlfriend into joining us.

Douglas Preston's new book, The Monster of Florence, is based on the true life serial killer who murdered lovers in their cars in the Tuscany Valley of Italy from 1974-1985. Mr. Preston became involved when he found out that the house he was living in was next to one of the old crime scenes. He began a lengthy research collection that lasted for years. He and his Italian co-writer were eventually threatened and his co-writer was imprisoned and Mr. Preston was arrested and indicted. He had 12 hours to leave the country! The story was quite riveting and the slide show he presented made it all the more real. He is an extremely personable man and Rich and I talked to him at some length before the event began. The Poisoned Pen was packed with interested readers, the audience had good questions, there was plenty of food and a summer's night of good company was a plus. Barbara Peters, the owner, is so knowledgeable and she and Douglas Preston talked about some of his other books - really whetting my appetite for some I've missed. We were there for at least two hours and it truly flew by.

Father's Day celebrations included a homemade Dark Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake for Rich! Quite an event! But he loved it and that's what was worth it - and he really appreciated the efforts! We went to Ben and Jenn's for Father's Day dinner and it was super. The little kiddos were funny and happy. The food was delicious and I didn't have to cook! Wahoo! What a fun day. Rich also loved it. He was proud as could be of the kids and their tribute to him. We are having a Father's Day/birthday celebration next Saturday morning. All of the kids are coming over at 6am to help spread gravel in the front and back yards and will help him move the tool bench to the new shed. I will make a huge breakfast - breakfast pizza, bacon and eggs, cinnabon casserole, fresh fruit, hash browns and smoothies. The benefits of having a great family are great mealtimes together. Yum!

Summer is winging by and I've not gotten a lot done - cleaning, studying Spanish, surfing the net and reading. What am I talking about - this is great!!


Friday, June 6, 2008

It's all in the timing

They say that "it is all about the timing" and I do believe that I have found that to be true when it comes to reading. You know, sometimes a book is the perfect fit - time, place, characters, for stretching or comfort; it's just right. Other times you fidget, "work" at it and something just doesn't work for you - it doesn't fit. Now I'm a firm believer in stretching myself in reading. I love trying new genres, a recommended author, a bit of this, a dab of that, but I have realized that it's all about the timing!! What will work at one time or season will not work for another!

I read great reviews of Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst and was excited when my turn for a copy came up at the library. But it was all about the timing on this book - I read it the next day after finishing The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale and it just can't stand up in comparison. I did enjoy 3/4's of the book - just not the last 1/4th and that is what has resonated with me. In the last part of the book I was "lost" and I just didn't care about the character or their situation. I skimmed and tried to re-catch my thread but it just left me lost. I felt bad that I couldn't get the book to work for me like it had for so many others. You know, I felt a bit guilty even.

Into the Wild is about choice. Choice - a predictable, planned out life when you get to live happily ever after OR freedom to make your own choices, choose your own destiny, with all the risk that freedom entails. Julie, the protagonist/heroine, is the daughter of Rapunzel, and Rapunzel is the guard of the Wild; a fairy tale land run amuck. Rapunzel and the other fairy tale characters now live happily ever after in the real world with true life choices, until one day someone wished the Wild free. The Wild begins to take over Julie's town, trapping the characters and others into beginnings and endings of the same old stories. Ones we all know the endings of. Now it's up to Julie to rescue her mom and save everyone from the Wild. If she stays in the Wild herself, in the stories, she can finally find her father, stay with him and live happily ever after, but others may be doomed to more miserable fates. The choice isn't easy. Stories have a way of sucking you in, tangling emotions and making you feels as if you had no choice at all.

What a great premise for this book - but the last 1/4 of the book ruined it all for me. There was too much twisting of tales, I was lost and confused and it brought me up shaking my head, "who?? what??"

I did highlight a good quote,
"That's the beauty of the real world," Gothel said. "wishing doesn't make it so. Outside the Wild, it's actions that matter. Your choices matter." page 115

I liked that! Give me a few more days, a little more separation from The Goose Girl and it's lyrical language and sense of place, maybe then I'll like Into the Wild a little better. 3.5/5.0

Because I have more control of my time in the great summer I have been able to visit more blogs than I typically do. What creative and thought-filled people!! I am envious of their talents and techno-savvy. I did notice a though provoking question that I thought would help me be a little introspective:

"Have your book-tastes changed over the years? More fiction? Less? Books that are darker an more serious? Lighter and more frivolous? Challenging? Easy? How-to books over novels? Mysteries over Romances?"

Yes! I have grown and stretched as a reader and I am so pleased and proud that I have changed in my reading tastes. They weren't wrong or bad, just immature and small. I must admit that I still tend to shy away from techno sci fi and from most of the horror genre but I now have dabbled in them a bit and I'm pleased with this progress. I have now read classics that I missed as a young woman, delved into mysteries and general fiction, reveled in historical fiction, and have even enjoyed westerns (thanks Larry McMurtry and your beautiful Lonesome Dove.) I have discovered that I really love memoirs and the "nosy me" enjoys well written biography. I have learned more from the non-fiction shelves in my local library than I ever thought possible. Before the internet I was a frequent visitor to those shelves and learned horticulture from books before I tried it in the garden. I checked out every quilt book our libraries had (in two towns!), read true crime, money management and career planning. I've truly enjoyed books such as Freakonomics, An Omnivore's Dilemna, and Salt; sailed the waves in The Hungry Ocean and climbed Mt Everest in Into Thin Air. I easily could spend hours tasting a little morsel from each book and consider myself well fed. When I visit a bookstore or library I find that I don't stick to one area (with the possible exception of staying away from the business or computer sections) but I roam and nibble wherever I am. I love that growing as a reader has given me this gift!

My book group helps me stretch too. We have read a variety of books in different genres, most recently Inside the Brain, and our discussion was a workshop presented by one of our members based on the Brain Research workshops she's attended. We ate "brain" boosting snacks and shared discoveries and developments that we have learned about. Was that an area I was reading about 30 years ago?? No way! But I'm so grateful for the stretching and growing I've done. I am learning to read in different ways for different purposes and with that comes greater insight too. I'm not the same girl I was when I got married, thank heavens! I'm better!! And I also feel I'm better for the growing and stretching I have done in being a life-long learner!

I'm excited about summer days of reading and great conversation, I love the time to think and contemplate. What a gift! It comes at the end of a busy, busy school year - and this year with the last of our kiddos graduating!! This year it is all about the timing!!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Number Two

Book number two for me in the Quest Challenge was The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.

The setting for The Goose Girl is the mythical kingdom of Kildenree in the nebulous time of fairy tales. The story begins with the birth of Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee who does not open her eyes for three days until welcomed by her aunt who is able to converse with animals. Like many other fairy tales, the heroine is unlikely: quiet, shy, timid;an anti-hero(ine), if you will. But one of the biggest accomplishments for this story is that it just kept changing from what I expected.

Just after her 16th birthday Ani learns that she is betrothed to the Prince of Bayern and she sets out on a three month journey through the pine forests and Bayern Mountains to meet her future husband. During the journey Ani's fate takes a turn for the worse and she finds herself in Bayern not as a Queen but as a Goose Girl.

The development of Ani (the "anti-heroine" ) from awkward and dutiful to heroine of the people is a change that occurs subtly throughout the story. The reader discovers with Ani the fire that burns within her, that ultimately transforms the "dutiful" Ani to the Ani that realizes the dark truth and decides to act upon it. This development of character is heartfelt and seemingly impossible from the Ani that is introduced in the beginning chapters. I loved that the reader was able to make the journey with Ani herself. No glimmer of what would lie ahead for this character. We were reading along as the development was occurring.

I do so love Shannon Hale's use of language.
Her imagery is unique and beautiful.
page 11
when Ani's aunt leaves her and "her chest felt like a gutted walnut shell."

Shannon Hales is a master at styling a book. I felt completely IN the setting as I read it. The tale was infused with magic and the language reflected the magic - lush and tactile. The magic Shannon Hale incorporates is not the "wave your magic wand type" but instead a magic of being able to hear and speak to the elements and animals. The animal talking was well crafted; Hale stayed true to the way that animals talk, not letting Ani have long conversations with them, but rather getting ideas such as "danger" or "good grazing land" from them. The geese were especially well written - truly evil and loyal creatures that they are. I had never thought about having geese as an attack animal before but after a few park visits myself I am reminded that it is a great idea.

I love how Shannon Hale tweaks a fairy tale, I adore her writing style and once again I was swept up into one of her stories!! A great summer read and one I have already recommended to others. 5.0/5.0

Book reading aside the summer is finally off to a great start!!

Three days of English Language Development classes for the new school year are over! Wahoo! House guests are gone, babysitting duty is done and I am ready to kick up my feet and enjoy the summer. Wow! I feel energized and ready to conquer closets, drawers and laundry! My TBR pile is towering and I have just 3 weeks to finish 3 more books for the Quest challenge - I'm ready! I do believe I will change one of the books I was planning on to The Magician's Nephew by CS Lewis as it is our book group read of the month. Let's work smarter, not harder!! Who cares that it's going to be hot - a diet coke, a fan and a good book. Terrific!


Saturday, May 24, 2008

"School's out for Summer" and a book review!

The old Alice Cooper song reverberates in this household this week - "School's out for summer, school's out forever!" I finished yet another year of first grade while Jennie graduated high school in a downpour!! It was the first rained out graduation that her high school has had in its 30 year history~! It has been "May Madness" around here as celebrated with proms, banquets and honor ceremonies and thrown in report cards, finals, field trips, birthdays and jobs!! At times we felt like our head was in a whirl but we didn't want to complain ~ our baby girl was graduating! After 5 graduations we are really finished.

Graduation turned out to be a very intimate thing. Due to a string of powerful thunderstorms and hail the school decided to move the ceremonies inside. They split the senior class into 2 groups and held one ceremony in the gymnasium and one in the auditorium. Due to seating capacity each senior got 3 tickets for family. After out of town family arrived we all pow-wowed and Jennie decided that she wanted just Rich and me there. It was somehow just the perfect decision - two of us were there when she was brought into this world in the operating room and now two of us were there, holding hands, and introducing her and ready to release her into the world! Meanwhile, back at the ranch, company was gathering and enjoying long visits and glad not to be out in the elements!! Typically graduation here means sitting in a football stadium on hard metal bleachers for several hours while 700 ( this was a very small graduating class compared to most years) students graduate. The temperatures are many times in the 100s even at 6:30!! Thursday night it was 60 degrees!! We wore winter sweaters and boots, slogged through the rain with our rarely used umbrellas and sat on padded seats in the auditorium. Rich actually said that this was his favorite graduation!!

As the week got busy or life felt wild and wacky I kept a book by my side that was like reading a poem. Love Walked in by Marisa de los Santos was the perfect companion for this wonky time. Each word was carefully chosen and it was a feast for my eyes and feelings. Cornelia, a manager of a coffee shop in Philadelphia, Clare, an eleven year old girl struggling with an unstable mother, and Martin Grace, a Cary Grant look-alike form a triangle of a relationship when their lives converge in the coffee shop. I read the book slowly after a recommendation from
Lesley's Book Nook.

My favorite passage was on page 190 and stemmed from a similar experience in my own life:

"But that's not what I did. What you have to remember is that I'd organized my life in such a fashion that I'd never had to take much responsibility for other people, for their well being or their whereabouts. I'd never had anyone to keep track of, so I'd never had anyone to lose, and if you've never had anyone to lose, you don't know the proper way to behave once you've found her. Which is just an excuse, of course, because although I didn't know, I could have imagined the proper way to behave."

When my son disappeared at SeaWorld 22 years ago I truly felt this way - this passage resonated with me and I kept going back to it so as not to forget the passion and the feelings. I don't think I've ever seen in print how my head felt when I had the experience. Kudos to an author who could do it! Terrific book, delicious writing - the perfect kick-off to a summer of reading!!! 4.75/5






Sunday, May 11, 2008

Keturah and Lord Death

I finished book #1 for the Quest#1 (Once Upon a Time) Challenge and it was a keeper!! A beautiful book that has stayed in my mind for a few days now. The kind that mixes fairy tale and allegory, that paints and picture with words.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt feels like a classic. I felt compelled to read this when I read a recommendation on a library website and I was drawn in from page one. The language is lyrical; perfect for the time and setting.

A fairy tale or sorts, Keturah lives in small village in the country of Angleland long ago. She follows a great stag into the forest one afternoon only to become totally lost. After three days she is nigh to dying and Death himself comes to her. She begs for more time. Time to marry her true love and hold her own wee babe; a bargain is made with Lord Death. Much like Scheherezade she tells him a story promising to come back the next night and finish it in exchange for one more day to find her one true love.

I loved how Death becomes a character, so handsome and not a "grim reaper", but still feared and respected. She felt compelled to fulfill her promise to Lord Death no matter how she tried not to. Was she in love with Death herself? Set in medieval times of peasants, lords of the manor, midwifery, and plague, the language was lyrical and phrases were quaint.

My one complaint was how time was treated. It seemed that in 24 hours more happened or was accomplished physically than would be possible or probable. I realize that I am more than nitpicking but it kept nagging at me. When I finished the book I had time to really ponder it and I decided that when faced with death that time does do weird things. It both speeds up and slows down. It's just altered. Keturah is faced with death every minute - so perhaps it was appropriate as well.

What a terrific book. Truly worthy of being a National Book Award honoree. I have recommended it to many in the short time since I finished it and I'll be looking for more like this - I read that Mette Harrison might be another match if I enjoyed this. It will be hard to find and equal!
4.75/5.0

Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Cruisin'"

WOW! What a fantasy....cruising the Caribbean! Vivid blue seas, a pirate's hideaway, tropical islands, pampering, sunning, fantastic food and enjoying the blessings of family - Incredible!

We did it! It truly was a great time and I can't sing the praises of our cruise too highly. It was so much fun. We visited San Juan , Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Grenada, Bonaire, and Aruba. I think I loved every minute of it. I was impressed with the kindness of others, the general happiness of those who live without all that I have been blessed with, and the courtesies extended to us and that we were able to return. Indeed, besides a sunburn, I think it was practically perfect.

Favorite memories - riding Segways through old San Juan at sunset, seeing "our" ship for the first time, land sailing on a desert island, the Spice Island - Grenada - and the smell (it smelled like a spice cookie from the time we got on the island until we sailed away!!), waterfalls and monkeys, dinner with family and telling our tales of the day, afternoons of sunning by the pool and reading until I was crispy on all sides, a formal dinner - men in tuxedos and women in gowns - wowee!

I was able to read three books on the cruise and will remember them for a long time for the spots that I read in. Of course I took three more, I just ran out of time.
First Drop by Zoe Sharp featured Charlie Fox, a bodyguard from England, on her first assignment. She was hired to watch a sullen teenager in Florida (where we stopped over - I looked for "her" everywhere in the airport!!! I even looked for Horatio from CSI:Miami and was disappointed not to find him as well!) The book moved quickly and I really enjoyed the character of Charlie. Ms. Sharp also has teenage angst down to an art. She displays a keen eye for their behaviors and depth. I really enjoyed this book.
The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall was like a Hallmark movie. A slim volume that can be read in a short afternoon, The Ultimate Gift was an allegory of learning the important lessons in life. Although it was schmaltzy, I felt that the author wrote from his own experiences and had a real desire to share it from the perspective of fiction and not from his own life. Jim Stovall, blind and the creator of NTV, has conquered his own problems and is quite a motivational leader. It was a bit too sweet, too perfect - like artificial rose perfume, yet parts of it linger with me today. Besides, I got a good tan while reading it.
For Whom the Minivan Rolls by Jeffrey Cohen. This first book by screenwriter Cohen introduces Aaron Tucker, a writer, stay at home dad and a family that is loved and faces it's own problems. Sarcasm was pretty thick. At first it was funny but, like many literary and conversational devices, it can get old real fast. I read the book on the recommendation of a book group buddy and I liked the same things she did, the love the character has for his wife, and the slant of reading a "cozy" mystery from a man's point of view. I felt that it moved slower than she did however. At one point I almost gave up, I just didn't care that much about the plot and the characters. It seemed that the author didn't like most of them either. I will say that I enjoyed Aaron Tucker and his family but beyond that it was a wash! I have heard that the series gets better so I may try one again in the future - maybe on my next cruise!

Back to life and back to reality!! Only 19 more school days left!

Jennie was safe while we were gone. Her cousin stayed with her for the week and we found all well here when we returned. What a blessing. In a few short months she leaves for college - I will miss her more than I thought possible. Have I done everything I could to teach her and assist her? No, of course not. But she will bloom and flower on her own and at her own time. For that, I am grateful for the "village" that has helped make her the great young woman she is and will become. Thank you! Life is now busy with graduation plans, invites, prom, honor banquets, apartment shopping and general happy chaos! She's busy and happy. Thank you!

I am an infrequent blogger so I realize that this is mainly for me, but I need to officially record my thoughts of gratitude, abundance and blessings. I realize that some of my loved ones are struggling with the cares of this world - $, employment and some worry, but I also have realized that when we help and support each other that the burdens may not go away, they just become easier to bear. I am grateful for the support of family, the love and caring, the relationships and the friendship. I am so blessed!


Friday, March 21, 2008

Okay, I think I can....

"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.... "

Famous words by that little engine are going to be my motto. I am being pulled into my first reading challenge and when I wonder if I can do it I will just murmur "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..." What I am really worried is doing all of the little computer -technology things with it. Truly; linking to something, attaching photos and all that jazz seem to be what holds me back more than anything else. But I am going to try!

Here's what I am starting the Quest I with:

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond

Blood and Memory, the Quickening Book Two by Fiona McIntosh

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim (ok, so this one is a nonfiction book but it is all about the meaning and importance of fairy tales and is considered a handbook for those in education and those concerned with child development. I did some research on it in college and now can really take the time to read it. I guess that's a round about way of making it work!)

I pulled all of these off my bookshelf today!! I guess I could count that on another challenge if I was a double-dipping kind of girl!I don't seem to have any mythology books so I can add another book if something along the way crops up! I love it that I can grow, read a few more books off the shelf and stretch!! Here is the link to Carl's blog http://www.stainlesssteeldroppings.com/?p=863#more-863 .

I have loved reading other blogs and their ideas and challenge books. Here's to trying something new and "stretching"! I knew my word of the year would find it's way in here!