Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Where were you?

Where were you when you heard the news that President Gordon B. Hinckley died ?
I've read that question on many blogs the last few days. Where was I? Home and sick in bed. Our oldest son, Ben, called us to let us know and we marveled at his "direct" line to Salt Lake!! Really I was taken aback. It's strange how you reflect on the last time you saw someone. At Christmas time he seemed somewhat older, but still full of vim and vigor and waving his cane. I am grateful that I have good and vital memories.

As I have read news releases they say that he began to fail this last week and that his family was with him when he died. What a blessing for them all. I know that we all felt a combination of happy and sad. One person called it "had!" Happy that he would finally rejoin his wife and sad for losing such a great example and friend. Certainly a prophet dear.

Gordon B. Hinckley was a man of honor and integrity. Well read, and keenly aware of the world around him, he was adept at fielding questions in all areas of life. His personal confidence and testimony are a great example I want to emulate.

I feel blessed to have had such a strong testimony of a living prophet.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Great ideas

Because of a lack of time to really read much beyond work related items or a textbook, I thought I would choose to answer an occasional question to prod my memory, pull an opinion out of myself and generally just keep me committed to blogging.

How much do reviews (good and bad) affect your choice of reading? If you see a bad review of a book you wanted to read, do you still read it? If you see a good review of a book you’re sure you won’t like, do you change your mind and give the book a try?

I guess I should say that book reviews of one kind or another are very powerful for me. I can't say that "official" reviews peek my interest as much as the reviews from fellow bloggers though. An official review helps to outline a plot for me and typically begins to peak my interest but it is the reviews from everyday readers, bloggers (typically those much more well-read than I am) whose opinions really intrigue me the most. I have always felt that word of mouth was the strongest recommendation and I still agree. When a friend pitches a book, a restaurant, a movie, a town to visit then I feel privileged with "insider" information.

I used to work at a bookstore and the goal of each employee was to put a book into every customer's hand. Of course if you could place it there with a personal comment about it 9/10 times the customer purchased the book, many times just on your recommendation alone. I loved that time. I felt like a member of a special club when I might find someone with a similar interest or another recommendation. If we had read the same books the fun was doubled and then the quest to find a different book to recommend was born. It was great fun.

I do read book synopsis in magazines, online, and on book jackets but I also pour over blogs from other readers all the time. I enjoy reading the Word of Mouth column at BookReporter.com although it is typically just a gushing review that just puts the title in my mind. With a list of titles I begin to look on the library website and see if a copy is available - it's there that I find out a little more about a book and decide if it is the perfect book for me. Nancy Pearl of BookLust is such an eclectic reader and her books have exposed me to lots of authors I had never heard of. Great stuff. I even discovered a book review podcast that was such fun. I couldn't write down names fast enough. Good thing I subscribed to it!! I keep a very tacky list of recommendations on everything from post-its to envelopes and then try to write them down in my notebook. It seems that my list of things I want to read far exceeds the number of hours in a day, a year, heck, probably my lifetime!!

My sil and I share book titles in weekly emails. She's a wonderful source for me and vice versa. She's introduced me to Ivan Doig and I introduced her to Mildred Walker. Don't ya love it? There have also been clinkers though and I've given myself permission to not finish them. I used to feel guilty about it, sort of like not cleaning your plate, but now I realize that there are too many books and far too little time.

Best of all though is my own personal recording journal of what I have read and comments and passages from reading. It's a chronicle of my reading since 2000 and it's really quite precious to me. When I look back at titles and comments that I've made about the books I am instantly transported to the time when I read them and my feelings. I can locate the book I was reading when my nephew died and still feel the pain but also the growth afterwards. I can find the soothing books and the life-altering ones. It may sound schmaltzy and smarmy but it is a journal that I hope lives long after me! It says a lot about my interests and more than a bit about what I'm thinking. I keep personal quotes and comments as well as dates and starred ratings.

Wahoo. I'll never make it as Siskel and Ebert but I've recorded and stretched myself.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Learning Curve

My learning curve is definitely getting steeper!! I am NOT technologically savvy, but I can typically catch on to at least a part of something!! Until the iPod came into my life. I have had 3 of my 5 kiddos stop by and give me lessons, or iPod 101, as I call it! But I still cannot get my iPod to rewind a little to catch something I missed. Argh! I think I have listened to the beginning of a podcast (that is a real new thing for me! Be impressed!) 30 times now as I try to figure this out. When I conquer it, and I will, you can bet I won't forget it. I am learning in baby steps and my kiddos have been ever so patient with me. One of them spent two hours tutoring and guiding me. These kiddos are great!! When they gave me the iPod for Christmas I'm sure they never thought that they would have to give me lessons too!

In school my little ones are also discovering the learning curve. Some are flying along and have become real readers. You can hear it in their voices. Many have also had their "aha" moment in math and now they just "get it!" It's so exciting to witness. Usually this really happens in March (I call it the Magic of March) but I am so privileged to see it early this year. On the other hand there are a few little ones that are still struggling. At conferences this week the learning curve has been a topic of a few discussions. After my iPod experience I can really feel the pain of a struggling student. I just want someone to do it for me!!! Much like they must want to say! "Let's just get to recess and leave all this hard stuff behind!" It has helped me put myself in the students shoes and I hope that I was able to communicate this to parents.

Listening to a podcast this week resulted in my books to read list growing exponentially longer!! I got a boat-load of great recommendations and leads to other books to dip into. I feel like I have hit a gold mine. As far as actually reading I have been finishing up the last essay in At Large and At Small by Anne Fadiman. The book has been great fun for me. The essays are just the right length, they make me think, ponder, laugh, nod my head, and learn. I truly enjoy her writing style. Unfortunately the rest of the time I seem to be spending time studying for an ELL class and working on upcoming projects.

Last year at this time I was in jury selection process and beginning what would be a 3 month adventure in our Judicial System. It was one of the harder things I have done in my life. I am glad that it's over and that I have just the wonderful, routine and uneventful life ahead. Learning curve and all, I am pretty lucky!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Back to Work, back to reality

Christmas vacation ended far to soon for this teacher!! (Yes, we can call it Christmas break now, the backlash for years of ignoring the real reason for the season!) I believe that we are the only district that is back in school and we all shake our heads and wonder why. Not much teaching is going on for these two days but I did take the time to read to some tired first graders and re-excite them about books! Believe me I take every opportunity that I get.

For my in-person book group I am reading the book, Education of a Wandering Man by Louis La'mour. He was a real reader and takes every opportunity to share his love of reading with his audience. I find myself writing little quotes down in my book journal - "No matter what there is to read - a reader has to read it!" That sounds just about right! I have even found myself trying to read over people's shoulders when things get bad. Now that's a desperate woman!

I am also reading a collection of essays by Anne Fadiman called At Large and At Small. How I enjoy her work!! Her detail and her wide and varied interests blend together so well. She crafts a beautiful paragraph although I admit that many times I have to sit side by side with my dictionary. Some words just don't roll off my tongue in everyday conversation! I especially loved the essays entitled "A Piece of Cotton" about our country's flag as well the one called "The Arctic Hedonist." It really exposed me to things I had never talked or read about. I would love to sit down and chat with this woman - she seems like she must always be thinking about some great idea while I struggle with the mundane and minutiae!

Despite the real crimp that teaching puts in my reading time I do love being around my students. They are excited about life, eager to learn and to please. It is a joy to help them discover the tools to being a great reader. They are certainly little sponges. I count myself lucky to be in their presence!

Christmas brought me only ONE book this year - I,however; gave lots away and of course when I visited my favorite bookstore I just had to get some for myself. My book-buying moratorium lasted until December 22 so I guess I did pretty well. Since that is my anniversary I think I can count those as anniversary presents!!! So, even though the "get" list wasn't long, I still made out well in the books category . My TBR stack grows ever higher and it seems that the books I put on reserve at the library always become available at once! So much temptation.

I best go put my nose in a book or I will never catch up - - after teaching today and back to an early schedule I just hope I can keep my eyes open!