Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 - What a year!

I feel like I'm crossing over into some Star Trek year or something...Stardate 2010!! Wow! And I was just getting good at writing 2009 on the white board at school.

As this year wanes and a blue moon shines I want to remember some of the great memories of this last year...

  • I love carpooling everyday with Rich. He makes me go home on time and it's like a continual date. He enjoys the time waiting for me even more since he has his iPod linked up with podcasts and game applications.
  • Three weddings dominated 2009!! How can anything top that? At the Mesa temple, at a roller coaster theme park and at The Little White Wedding Chapel in Vegas. New family to love. It's so cool.
  • Books are a great souvenir. I'm still relishing books from this summer's vacation. A great memory is the little lady who hand sold so many to us.
  • Our weekly date has been going on for more than 33 years now. We still love it. It's like an insurance policy. Taking others along with us is a blast too.
What I've learned
  • I can get rid of 100 books and still have full bookshelves.
  • Getting books in the mail brings out the kid in me! It's like Santa Claus!
  • I am a much slower reader than I used to be. I think I have 1st grade teacher brain...everything in short segments!
  • There are so many terrific books out there. I remember when I was in 6th grade and read all of the biographies in our school library. I will never come close to that again. The more I read of book blogs the more I realize that I will never even begin to read a small portion of the books I'm dreaming of.
  • I am terrible at Reading Challenges. I am pretty good at reading for my in-person book group however. I'll celebrate the positive.
My Favorite Books of 2009 (in no particular order)
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  • North of Beautiful by Justina Chen
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  • The Scarlett Pimpernel by Baronness Emmuska Orczy
  • Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
  • Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
Resolutions/Goals for 2010
  • Read 8 of the 10 Book Group books this year.
  • Read from my shelves or the library this year.
  • Make personal scripture study more of a priority. So, put it first! No blogging, emailing, or other reading until it's done each day. (This one is going to be hard!)
  • Complete my ESL endorsement by June 2010. This will seriously cut into my reading time!!! (Note - I have already enrolled in a class starting in 2 weeks and then will start my last Spanish class in February!! I'm on top of this one - right now anyway!)
  • Walk 3 times a week - download reading podcasts, talks, Prairie Home Companion, or audio books to accompany me!!
  • Find the top of my desk!
  • Put my grades and gradebook on the computer!
Okay 2010, I'm ready for you to show me a little love...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Closing the Book

I used to be a bookstore manager. When I was hand selling books (which is one of my all-time favorite things to do) I would marvel at the fact that some people were afraid of reading a book that they might not like! "What if it offends me?" "What if there are bad words I wouldn't want to read?" "What if my child shouldn't be exposed to something like that?"

That always struck me as odd. My answer was always the same, "Just close the book!!" "You have the power." "You don't have to read everything you start."

Today I closed the book. I guess that's kind of figurative on my year of reading. It's the end of a busy year and my reading numbers are way down - darn you, day-job! But it's also what I literally did while I was reading a book while waiting for one of my sons at an Oral Surgeon's office.

My son is a daddy now, a grown man. Today I was just his "escort"; someone who would drive him to the appointment and then walk him woozily out to the car, "escort" him home, administer food and pain meds and wait until his wife got home to turn over the nursing duties too. Easy peasy stuff. I had just the book for the wait; a thin volume with an interesting story premise.

The waiting room was plush and comfortable. It was the perfect place to read a book on this overcast day. Perfect, perfect...

But my book reading was not going as planned. My uncomfortable button had been "pushed" a few times already. I had even resorted to my "glossing over" technique and was trying to skim over parts to see where I could pick up the story again when I finally hit a sentence by one of the main characters half way through the book.

"I guess it's a choice we make," she said.
"What's a choice?" I asked.
And she said, "How much of the world we let in."

It was then that I decided that I had the power all along. This just wasn't the book for me. Now I did what I told many people to do; I took my own advice and closed the book! There's too many books waiting for me out there to spend my time on a book that's not for me.

Abandoned: Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
Currently Reading: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown & June Bug by Chris Fabry

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Limbo Week

The week between Christmas and New Year's has always felt like a week in limbo to me.

A week between the past and the future.

I'm not quite ready to commit to resolutions but I'm ready to start planning and plotting.(I'm making my lists and pondering over what to really commit to!) This week seems to be a gift of time; where everything stands still. No December rush, no January sprint.I like the odd feeling.

In my "time suspended" week I think I'll get a pedicure, take a walk, visit a friend in need, read in bed, clean a little, play at the park with a special someone, finish my report cards, read a little more, and soak up this moment to breathe.

Finished last night - Altared Plans by Rebecca Cornish Talley
Currently Reading - The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Night Before Christmas

Yes, it's the night before Christmas and although my "littles" are now "bigs" I am still wrapping last minute gifts and filling last minute stockings for them. It feels great! I'm up to 3 Christmas movies while I wrap!

I've hardly had more than a minute to read our Book Group read, The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown. We had a fabulous trip to Washington DC two years ago and I feel I am reliving it as I read. (minus the intrigue and danger!) I am blocking out time to read as we travel tomorrow...."I will remember my booklight, I will remember my booklight, I will remember my booklight!!" I have lots more books to read this vacation - I'm scheduling it now~!

We've thought about our Christmas traditions this year and have decided to start a few new ones.
  • As we travel we're going to read O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi aloud to each other. It was fun to find the book at the second hand store for only 75 cents!!
  • Tonight we're going to a Christmas service where a friend is singing, another new tradition to start. I can't wait for more carols and a performance that I'm NOT in!
  • Today we had pizza for lunch when our daughter and son in law came over. We loved that. What a fun tradition to start.
  • Tomorrow we are traveling to our oldest son's brand new house. Their tradition is to make homemade pizzas on Christmas afternoon and play games. I love that tradition! We'll join in and adopt that too! (I love pizza two days in a row!)
  • Hot cocoa and backgammon - we're dusting off this tradition from years ago and giving it a new twist. I'm enjoying the changes!!
  • Movies at the theater the day after Christmas!!! Bring on the popcorn and soda and ignore the malls!
Changes are not easy, I'll miss my kiddos that are not with me this year, but I'm determined to face the changes with a smile. I'm ready to make some memories....Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Best of 2009

I've been thinking of the Best of.... for quite awhile now and feel I'm ready to take a stab at a few of these... So here goes.

Best trip of 2009 - Hands down goes to "Roadtrip - the Incredible Journey (or 6500 miles with just the two of us!) We visited 5 states
and Canada! Golly, we are so blessed and the trip was amazing!

Best Restaurant Moment of 2009
A steakhouse in Butte, Montana. Our son proposed to his girlfriend after we finished a fantastic dinner!! What a privilege to be there. Thanks for the great food AND memories! By the way, try MacKenzie River Pizza Company if you're ever in Butte, Montana! Fantastic!
Best Book of 2009 - Can I choose two?!?! Please, please! I even polled my sister in law to see if she could help me break the tie, but she had the very same answers I did! So I am declaring it a dead heat! The Help by Kathryn Stockett and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Two very different books with incredible voice!! They sucked me in from page 1. They are real winners!!

Best Night Out
of 2009 - Las Vegas with all of my kiddos!! A night on the strip with all of them was a highlight. Fun, mesmerizing; like Disneyland for very big people....just something to be experienced. We had a blast!! We were there for a son's wedding so we were all happy and jolly and ready for fun!

Best Album of 2009 - Rob Thomas' Cradlesong. As a matter of fact I'll listen to anything he sings! Can someone load up my iPod please?!?!

Best Memory of 2009 - A three way for sure...three weddings! It took my breath away as we added to our some ways it felt like childbirth all over again. The outcome is remarkably sweet and I cherish these new members of our family!

The year isn't quite over yet...there's more to enjoy, remember, and record.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am struggling to teach my first grade class math this year. I've never had a year like this before. I've worried and whined, complained and cajoled. Nothing was working. Then I made a mind change. I decided to look at what they DID know, what resources I had, and start over. Yep, end of October and I was starting over with math!

I decided to be grateful for what I had been given and make the most of it. They are curious; they love to discover and play - work with that! It was a revelation of sorts. We pulled out the tubs and have been counting and discovering. And what do you know....we are growing into mathematicians!! After only a month! Now, it's still not easy and I know I still have miles to go, but I am able to see progress and a deeper understanding. It has been a load of work on my part; not easy or pleasant. I am the one who has stretched and grown and for that I am grateful!!

I needed to be the one to learn the higher law; the one of Thanksgiving! I already had blessings - I just forgot to notice them. They are anxious to learn; I don't have to struggle alone. I hope I have learned to assess their needs more accurately, to look to MY resources, and how to swallow my pride and ask for help!!

"How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age. Thanksgiving opens the doors. It changes a child's personality. A child is resentful, negative-or thankful. Thankful children want to give, they radiate happiness, they draw people." ~ Sir John Templeton

I want to be a more Thankful person midst the challenges and not just after!! I'll start today!

I am grateful for.... my testimony, the Gospel, my children, family, friends, first grade students, my husband - Rich,
blogging friends and relationships, jobs, crisp weather, new blankets, football, airplanes, book group, trips, Emma-Gracie-Noah-Ariel-Hero-Jase (what great joys!), bookstores!!, Sonic, shopping, libraries, sunsets, gardens, choices, lotion, bed, lipgloss, soft socks, books!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving !!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye is NOT my favorite thing to do....

As a child it meant sad airport kisses as we left daddy at the terminal gate, goodbyes to grandparents each summer vacation, and farewell to friends when we moved - again!!

I grew a bit and goodbyes still were NOT my favorite thing to do....

I sent a young man far away for two years and bid adieu to High School friends who I knew I would never see again. I said goodbye to double flips on the sidelines, size 6 jeans, stick straight hair, mini skirts, carefree days. I said goodbye to childhood.

I said goodbye to single life (okay, that was one goodbye that was not so hard!! As a matter of fact, I really scored in that department - thank you, honey!) But saying goodbye to snuggles and cuddles and baby breath was harder than I imagined. Loose teeth, feety pajamas, Saturday morning cartoons are a thing of the past now. When did I wave goodbye to them?

Today I said my goodbyes to a good friend. I stood by her bed tonight, midst tubes and machines, and told her I was there with her. Her goodbye comes too soon for us. We were not ready. I left her side, but not before tucking her grown daughter in beside her so she could sleep with mom one last night. Saying goodbye is NOT my favorite thing to do...

I am going to have to flip this coin and see the other part of goodbye. I am going to have to see the hello!! For every goodbye at the airport there was always a hello hug at the other end. I just forgot to remember it. It will take some practice this time, but I need to remember that there is a hello hug somewhere....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Things I KNOW....

I know Halloween is supposed to be all about the kids but it's truly fun for!

I know that field trips are hard but holidays are harder as a teacher. Because of that truth, we took 100 first graders to the Children's Museum on the day before Halloween. It was great. No costumes, no class parties and the kids thought it was the "best day ever"!!! That's a direct quote! At the end of the day they are content with a treat from the teacher and we all leave tired and with a big smile.

I know relationships are worth it! All 5 of my kiddos made it to Las Vegas to celebrate their brother's wedding and a creation of a new family!!

I know that road trips are fun. But you will never catch me going across this new bridge at the Hoover Dam when it opens!! No way!!

I know that the first bite is the best! Maybe that's why fun-size candy bars are the perfect bite!

I know that I am an expert at letting time get all sucked up... by reading blogs, watching football, surfing the internet. I really have such little self control at times!

I know a good book will keep me up, deprive me of sleep and draw me in....
good books this month . . .
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull ( a book group read for October that most all enjoyed. Interesting discussions, insight and snacks to match!!)
Die For You by Lisa Unger. A first for this author for me. You would think you know the one you married. But when they take your identity and nearly your life, it makes you think about everything.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman. An accomplished cellist, a loving family, a fun snow day adventure and tragedy collide. Narrated by the main character through flashbacks and out of body observation - I found it intriguing. The push and pull of heart-rending choices.
Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison. How do you help someone recover when all is lost? Who defines who we are? How can we find value in life again? Is it by facing our fears, learning to trust? Two characters from opposite backgrounds and experiences are cast together in a small town in the Pacific Northwest where one is recrafting a life and another is ready to start a new one. Scuba diving plays a large role in this book and would be my only complaint....when it got a little technical and beyond my basic understanding I felt lost. It truly is a minor complaint though...the rest was worth the journey.

I know where to find peace.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One Bite Did That?

I bought an apple yesterday. It was an ordinary apple, the kind I eat all the time. But this apple was amazing. One bite of that crunchy apple and my mind was aflood with memories. It was sweet and juicy and I was instantly transported to an apple grove where our kids reached for apples to fill our bushel basket. Another crunch and I was 14, it was a chilly fall night and I was at the Texas State Fair munching on caramel apples the size Texas!! My mind flitted to the colors of fall in the Utah canyons during my freshman year of college, the sounds of fall; football games as a cheerleader and marching with the band, the sound of helmet to helmet and the twang of the trampoline bounce as we rocketed into flips and spins with each touchdown. Another bite and I was watching my kiddos bob for apples at Fall Festivals, sewing Halloween costumes for the umpteenth time. Wow, how could one ordinary apple do all that?!?!?

It's Fall Break in our neck of the woods (or cactus as it may be) and that means a while week all to myself; days to read, ponder and make some more brain connections!! I made a list of things to do so I would not waste one precious minute of this week. My list was a simple one - some of the things it included were visiting Sonic for my favorite drink, walking through a favorite store, washing my sliding glass door, shopping with my daughter, getting my hair done, and calling a friend. I also included a few chores so anyone who saw my list might think I was at least appearing productive - yep, cleaning that closet really was therapeutic!! I even wrote down my favorite guilty pleasure - - laying in bed in the morning and reading til I was ready to get up for the day.

Actually each activity was a memory maker this week. Was it just because I had the time (or took the time) to watch, listen and enjoy the memories? The closet cleaning transported me again. Each pair of old shoes was a reminder of a dance, an event, an outfit. Each shirt folded up and ready to give away was a memory. Some items I could hardly bear to part with. These were the parts of my little girl, all grown up now, that I was unsure if I wanted to give away; unsure if she was ready to say goodbye to. Wow, one closet held all those thoughts and experiences??

The reading in bed each morning sent my memories back to flashlights and books under the covers in the bedroom with my sister, to cuddling in bed with my kiddos and reading story and after story to them. My brain was full of connections!! I am amazed at the connections our brain makes. When it somehow pieces places and names together, smells and sounds, images, events.

I'll see the cover of the book Black Angels by Linda Beatrice Brown now and always think of fall break, the Civil War, and friendship. I'll walk into my local bookstore and remember the smell when I picked up my copy Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins; it was the smell of pages, ink, books, the cafe, and fresh bread baking!! This week has been a feast for my senses.

We're finishing our week with a trip to Las Vegas to be with all of our grown kiddos and see one of our sons get married. My brain is already making connections as I pack books for the drive, select clothes for the wedding and plan restaurants to eat at and celebrate in. It will be another packet of memories for my brain to open next time I bite into the perfect apple. I know an apple can do that!

Does your brain ever do that??

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

When Little Things Become Big

Today I walked home for a mile in my sassy high heeled sandals. I tried to keep up with my husband and his incredibly long legs step for step. As we walked I could tell that my feet were beginning to hurt just a little. I was too proud to stop and fix what was bothering me. Instead I waited until I got home. What started out as a little blister is now a BIG blister. Ouch!

(I opted to not show you my real blister - too yucky!)

Other things go from little to big too!

My TBR pile .... it seems to be growing exponentially!! Just awhile ago it was a little pile....and then another must-read arrived this week. I can't wait for October break so I can catch up! Waiting in the wings: Black Angels, Catching Fire, Silksinger, Fablehaven (for Book Group,) The Other Queen ...and darn it, I'll probably add another book or two from some great suggestions!

My stacks of papers to be graded for Report Cards. I am doing much better than previous years but this last week of testing always snowballs. Where there only a few stray papers to grade now there are stacks!! I have English Language Report Cards, regular academic Report Cards, Reading lab Report Cards, Writing Portfolios, and End of Book Reports all due. I will need a Fall Break!


My silly mistakes!! They start out small and seem to grow overnight. When did I become so proficient at making mistakes? It seems the more I try to improve, the more mistakes I make; at home, at work, in my church service. I've decided to practice what I preach at school and remember that "Mistakes are the stepping stones to learning!!" Don't be afraid. It may take me awhile but I'll try to be willing to make mistakes!

I'm going to find some big bandaids now and admire my blisters....

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Eyes Have It!

Little Jase came to visit us last weekend... and Jennie captured images of him for me to keep. He's grown so much since Christmas! He's not a baby anymore. His eyes are still full of wonder and they are a piercing baby blue! He loves cars and trucks, his wagon, and his Daddy!

Jennie did such a great job on these photos! How has she just learned this on her own? She amazes me. She really caught the little boy inside. Check out Jennie's blog - Ampersand photography!!

We all "caught" something else from him....a yucky virus!! It was wicked and everyone this little guy had contact with seemed to get it. (10 people at least!) It was pretty nasty and I must say after that I was first in line to get my flu shot on Tuesday! I want no repeats of what was ravaging our house as well as that of my extended family. Needless to say we've gone through lots of Gatorade, saltine crackers and soup. Yeah for "real" food!

Looking at Jase's blue eyes it makes me think how our eyes are such a reflection of who we are inside. Wasn't it William Shakespeare who wrote, "The eyes are the windows to the soul
."? With those words he reminded us that by looking into the eyes of a person we can see their hidden emotions and feelings.

Language is filled with metaphors referring to eye contact.... He/she had a "cold stare", their eyes were "steely and hard," she had a "penetrating look," shame faced, the child "stared at his shoes," "he and I came to see eye to eye." There are thousands of such metaphors referring to our eyes! And it's the eyes that play a big part in a book I finished this week called Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

From the website:

"Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

She never expects to fall in love with beautiful Prince Po.

She never expects to learn the truth behind her Grace—or the terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone."

Debut author Kristin Cashore marked those who carried a Grace with two different color of eyes and eye contact is the subtle way the author communicates tensions, aggression, and power. Direct eye contact can be mis-perceived in our encounters with others as a challenge to a fight. Those in Katsa's world look on her two eyes and know that they are encountering one Graced with an extraordinary ability - her ability to fight and kill.

In our society, it is often said that, much like in the animal world, when two men who are strangers stare at each other, they are sending the challenging and dangerous message about being willing to fight. This is sometimes expressed as "get outta my face" or "whatcha staring at?" This is said in a loud and aggressive tone. On the other hand, when a man and woman stare at one another, they can be communicating an interest in one another and sparks can fly. Cashore used this psychological truth and melded her character around it.

Cashore's writing further enhanced her metaphor of the eyes. I loved her phrasing:

"Oll wasn't foolish; he knew to fear the quiet girl with one eye blue and one eye green." p.11

This was just an ordinary sentence that flowed with careful wording. The whole book felt that way - there was no accidental writing here. Each word was carefully chosen and crafted; placed in just the right space. I read the book slowly and savored this author's work!

p. 340 "The storm had been building all afternoon. The clouds knitted together. The snowflakes swelled and sharpened."

What word choice!! That sentence alone was a picture in my mind.

Kristin Cashore wrote a story of survival; a story of conquering self. Her characters take their weaknesses and hone them, develop them. Katsa battles her natural inclinations and strives to live on a higher plane. She conquers self to do it and the story soars as she does it!

The eyes have it - in more ways than one!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thanks bunches

Oh my goodness - I feel like I have won an Oscar or something!! Thank you to a sweet Susan for passing this on to moi!! It made my day.

This nifty little "feel-good" is given to bloggers whose posts come "from the heart." ( I do know I have one lately 'cuz it's been tugged and pulled and stomped on... sorta like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz!!) I'm supposed to pass it on to 7 bloggers, then answer a little meme. But I'll break the rules and write first and tag next...this brain tries to do the most important thing first...oops, I think I got online to pay bills!! Oh, whatever! Here goes: 10 Random Things about Me!

1. I love rain! It could rain almost everyday and I would be a happy camper!! (Well, then again - not at recess time or at lunch time! Give a teacher a "break" would ya?!?!) I do love when it rains on weekends and I especially love when the clouds build up, all black and blue, and it just pours and pours! Can you tell I live in the desert? Actually I grew up for several years on an island in Washington state. Maybe that's where this rain-love comes from!

2. I do NOT like clear soda pop! My mom would always give us 7-up or gingerale when we were sick. Now it makes me feel sick whenever I even smell that stuff!!

3. Bird feet freak me out!

4. I had a monkey sit on my head once! It was on an island in the Caribbean and I really "paid" for it!

5. If I had a personal motto it might be, "Is this the hill I want to die on?" It's made me back down from ruining many a relationship.

6. It was my goal in high school to date the Student body President...and I did!

7. I love chick-flick movies but I don't like chick-lit books. I enjoy thriller books but won't even go near any thriller movies - no way! I enjoy fantasy books but not fantasy movies (okay, Harry Potter is an exception.) I hope the book-to-movie people are not trying to please me.... I'm a hard sell!

8. My favorite smells....desert rain, a bookstore, puppy breath, and the coffee aisle at the grocery store! Mmmmmm.

9. Greek food is my favorite! Wanna share a gyro?

10. I grew up playing tennis since I was in 3rd grade. I had the whole shebang...lessons, tournaments, cute little skirts, fancy rackets, and a killer lob. I don't think I could even swing a racket anymore. Goodbye Wimbledon!

So now on to some bloggers who deliver up their whole heart ---

Jennie at The Krazy Karges Life makes me laugh and smile - but she should, she's my "baby girl!" I am loving reading her take on life. She's forthright and more than bluntly honest with herself and others. I admire her BIG heart...

Jenn at A Storybook Story is fairly new with her blog. Her daily posts are so heartfelt and her "voice" is more than real. She sees things with clarity - plus she has really cute kiddos - my grandkids!

Jenners at Find Your Next Book Here is a hoot. She is one caring person and writes frankly and with a great sense of verve. What fun it is to read her blog and check on the heartbeat of her life and books!

I've been a lurker on Amy's blog, the English Geek for several months now and boy does she feel like a fellow soul mate. Her inner thoughts are recorded with passion and I admire her honesty with herself. What heart that takes. She doesn't seem to try to please anyone but herself. I think I want to be like her when I "grow up!"

Lesa at Lesa's Book Critiques is a professional librarian across town from where I live in this big hot state. Her blog is always full of new books, she has fun giveaways from her "closet" and she's always giving us rundowns of authors who visit or come to chat. I love her little glimpses into her life as a librarian and the heart she has for books, authors, and patrons! She is also so very supportive of everyone.n

I think I've been reading Melissa's blog, Book Nut, since I started blogging. She's led me to more fun (in book format) and she's a whiz in the blogging universe. Her interviews with authors and reviews on Estella's Revenge give an insight into the kind of heart she has...

I happened onto Amanda's blog, A Patchwork of Books, a long time ago. She was amazing as she blogged about her job as a librarian and then as she gave birth to a sweet little boy. Unfortunately his little life was so short but he won the heart of everyone who read about her journey. She and her husband are on to new adventures and she still blogs about almost daily. She gives the best "book commercials" for kids books!!

Thank you, Susan, for making my day - if I could play recess tag-backs I would. Your blog inspires me and I just know we should do lunch one day!! Now on to what I was doing when I sat down....paying bills.....ooh, look there's another cool blog.....

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Puppy Dog Tales

(The boy and his dog - 14 years later!)

Once upon a time a boy wanted a dog. Something of his very own. He looked high and low and one day, with his mom in tow, he found the perfect dog. There in the pound she sat, with ears not ready to be up or down, this ball of fur with a smile and a glint in her eyes. The boy named her Shelli, so that whenever he "called, a pretty girl would come running!"

That's how Shelli came to our house. Paul adopted her when he was 17 years old. It was an odd time to get a dog, he was a year or so away from leaving the nest, yet he had always craved a dog of his own. She became a healer of sorts. She could calm a troubled heart by just laying next to you. Many a time Paul would hold her, lay down beside her or just sit next to her and talk his heart out. She worked on others too. we would sit next to her, her head on our leg, rub her soft ears and away went the sorrows. We all learned to lean on her.

Time flew by and she remained when Paul grew up and flew the nest. Now she slept with Drew, hogging most of the bed while he made do with the edges. When Drew moved away, Shelli stayed by my side and healed my wounded heart. Another fledgling to leave our nest. Shellie now shared the bed with Q. At his feet or on his pillow. She would race him up the stairs to bed, bring her ball, and lick his face as he slept. But boys grow up to be men and when he did Shelli nestled in next to me and licked my face. Another bird had flown.

Shelli had grown older and she no longer could climb the stairs at bedtime. But she remained our constant friend. Shelli protected her last little bird, Jennie, and barked when dates arrived to woo her away. She lay at the feet of every date and pretty much gave approval or disdain. When Jennie was sad, she rubbed Shelli's ears, got a sloppy kiss and cares were easier. When Jennie flew off to college, Shelli stayed by me almost night and day. She made those hard days easier. When Jennie married, Shelli was the only one who knew all my feelings. (She knew more of my secrets than anyone!) Yep, all the chickens flew the nest and only Shelli stayed behind to need some love and care.

Today she leaned on us. She told us with soulful eyes that it was time to let her go...I hate writing this tonight...
I hate it when the dog dies at the end of a story.... Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, even Marley and Me. Yet this is another story with another sad ending. I've already used up my tissue allotment and it's only day 1...

I know we are talking about our pet.There are friends and family who have suffered far greater losses, those who've lost children, parents, and other loved ones. There are those who are going through scary illnesses and unknown futures. I certainly don't want to negate that. But my heart still hurts!! This house is too darn quiet. I call out, "hey Shelli-dell..." and no jingling of collar and tags, no climbing off the couch to come and lick me. (We finally gave in and gave the living room couch to her. Front rooms and parlors are very overrated you know. She loved the country french cabbage roses even when I was ready for Metro chic. My next sofa will be leather anyway!) So, through swollen, red-rimmed eyes I ask myself, "What am I supposed to learn from this?"

Things I learned from Shelli:

1. Unconditional love - no questions asked!! Each and everytime! She was awesome at that. It's hard for me at times. I have lots of practice ahead.

2. Never, never, never give up! Chasing balls, walking when wounded, coming back for more attention. She never gave up. I can try that!

3. How to care for someone when they are older - Rich was better than me. Not usually. He was always the one to discipline her when she was younger, but no more. He was patience personified. He just adopted the attitude that she wouldn't be here forever. That was a great lesson. I should have remembered that when I was mopping floors at 2am.

4. Always be eager - for a car ride, a treat, a walk, to throw the ball. (even at the end of her life - she would take one or two steps after it, but she was always eager.) I may not be able to wag my tail but I vow to try to always be eager!

5. ...Until the last few days. Then she just slowed down. She knew it was time to go. She looked at me as if to say, "it's time,let me go, you can do this." Not really, Shelli-girl. This is harder than I thought. But you sure have taught me a whole crop of lessons. You're preparing me for the big stuff. I think she also taught me to appreciate what you've got... don't worry about what other's think...Eat cat food (who cares that you're a dog, eat what you like....leave a little bit of yourself behind....that way people will remember you! We call it - Dog hair! (everyone always left with a little bit of her!) But what a good idea. Always leave a little bit of yourself with people!!

There are many more lessons that I'm sure I was taught but they may take a few more days to materialize. Thanks, Shelli-girl!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Random Points

Some days my life just feels like random points plotted in chaotic fashion. I'm sure someone knows the rhyme, reason, purpose, and plan....but for me it just feels like 1000's (well okay, at least 20) of random incidents and thoughts. Today is one of those days - and blogs!

  • We know we need to arrange for the last few days of our Shelli-dog's life. It's hard and it stinks and I hate it! Weird though, a vet will charge you about $50 as a consult fee if you have never been in their office before - even if you are arranging euthanasia - nothing more! (Guess what?? after our Shelli is gone, we won't be seeing them again! It's not like we can bring them back, right?)
  • It's that time of year - Brach's mellowcreme pumpkins are here!! Some nights I would rather eat them than dinner!
  • On days when I don't want to be a teacher or when I don't really want to be at school I can actually do my best! How is that? It's almost like I rise above. I'm not advising it to anyone. Merely an observation of today.
  • Today SMELLED like fall here. No falling leaf, no crispy cool nights but it just had that "feel" and it wasn't a "hundred and gazinga" outside. Yep, it must be almost fall. (The other hint was the mellowcreme pumpkins!)
  • I love college football. I love college basketball. From now on Saturday TV is mine!
  • Work is seriously cutting into my book reading time. Argh~!
  • When I have a good book I am tempted to read it very s-l-o-w-l-y so that the story keeps on going. I'll read a page and put the book down over and over again.
  • I could eat popcorn everyday for lunch - and I do!! Pass the salt and Diet Pepsi, please!
  • Thank heavens I carpool with my husband. He makes me go home on time.
  • I don't mind going to meetings.
  • I like doing laundry.
  • To me a clean fridge is an empty one. It looks crisp and clean and full of potential!
  • I can't wait to read Catching Fire. I refuse to read anything about it until I do.
  • I hate making phone calls. I think I passed this on to my daughter.
  • I can't sleep without a fan on.
  • I wear a silly sleeping mask to sleep every night now. Any little light keeps me up or wakes me up. I'm sure I look very "Holly Golightly" (from Breakfast at Tiffany's") in mine!!
  • One of my secret wishes would be to dance (!!!!) and be on Dancing With the Stars!! I choose Mark Ballas...yum!
  • One year I forgot how old I was. When I had my birthday I aged two years instead of one because for a whole year I had my age wrong! Drats!
  • When we were young my sister would laugh every time someone would say the word "avocado"!!!
  • Today when I took my kiddos out to recess I told them to make sure that they got all their wiggles out before they came back inside. A quiet question came from one of the boys, "what is wiggles?" They then wiggled and waddled all the way to recess. Too cute.

Life observations can be intriguing....or just random.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I Think I'm Crabby... or something!

Disclaimer: I think I'm crabby or something.... and it doesn't happen THAT often (okay, my family would be laughing, but at least for long periods of time!)

It seems that everything is a little off this school year. Not enough time, harder class, lower abilities, harder tasks and requirements, larger class sizes, same high expectations, loads of stress, no place to vent... Geez, who am I kidding, every teacher has it hard, I guess I'm just crabby.

My reading time has seriously been sucked up. Gosh that could be another reason I'm crabby. Hmmm.

I have not lost weight on my "see-ice cream-and-eat-it-diet!!" Gosh, that is not fair! Every girl needs ice cream after a hard day! Yep, I am definitely getting crabby!

My last two books have just not been perfect for me. Don't get me wrong....most people are loving them. But I guess I just have that "I am just not that into you" kind of attitude lately. Drats! Maybe someone else would love them - it seems that most do. Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog and Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George were good books. interesting characters - strong male characters too and that's a plus! There was a brand new twist in Fairy Tale when the boy needs to leave this world to take his rightful place as Fairy King in the Otherworld...but his earthly girlfriend is determined not to let that happen!! Princess at the Midnight Ball was the retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm. There was a lot of back story to this that really fleshed out this fairy tale and it featured a great male lead character that even knits!! Sure I liked them... so why didn't I love them??? I purposely didn't read any reviews of the books before I read them but I did read them after I finished. It seems lots of people are loving them. So why not me??
I am sad to say that maybe I didn't bring what I needed to the table. Those authors worked hard and did yeoman's jobs. Can I say it was all about the timing? Or maybe I'm just crabby!?!?! It sounds like it, doesn't it?

Well today is a new day....

Maybe I'll just try acting like this one instead....

Friday, August 28, 2009

Excessive Heat Warning!

Today was an Excessive Heat Warning! (Did they have these when we were kids?)

No recess at school. No outside play. (Because we all know that children melt in Arizona!) Argh!

I worried about our super-son-in-law toiling away and working on people's A/C units here "on the surface of the sun!" Would he be a puddle of sweat and goo by 8:30 am??

I attribute all of my forgetfulness and "airheaded" thoughts to my brain frying as I walked from cool classroom to cool air conditioned car and into cool and air conditioned house. Thank you lovely air conditioner. I will continue to pay your $400 monthly bills if you remain faithful and steady at 79 degrees! (Believe me, after 114 that feels heavenly and it's worth every penny!)

And the photo above is not the temperature in our car, but the temperature outside our car in Montana this summer - IN JULY!! I knew I should have bottled that!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The best of the best of the best.....

I always hate to see summer end. Not because I dread saying good by to 110 degree days, oh no, those continue until at least Halloween!! (I am not kidding!) No, I hate to see the summer end because I miss afternoon reading sessions, mornings when I can do a few chores and reward myself with a few pages of a good book. Darn, I miss vacation already!

I have had some great books to read during this vacation too. I can honestly say that almost all of them have been pretty darn terrific. It was hard then to narrow it down so I could answer this question that's floating around the book blogasphere:

"What’s the best book you’ve read recently?"

Was it:
Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede was clever and catchy, with a spunky princess and clever dragons. A dragon fairy tale to truly revel in. But no, that wasn't the best one of the year.

Was it:
North of Beautiful by Justine Chen Headley was a book I was not prepared to like. I had no idea when I started how powerfully written this young adult novel would be. Sentences were awkward at first; broken, scattered and choppy. But I became invested in the book. The characters had depth I wasn't expecting and as the story progressed the author actually changed her style. Sentences flowed and the pages flew by.

Terra was a layered young woman who was used to hiding. She lived in a safe shell of her life behind thick layers of makeup as she tried to hide the port wine stain that covered half her face. When she meets Jacob he challenges her to be who she is without the makeup. He speaks from experience, he is damaged on his own. Both characters are well crafted!

A long book, 400 pages, Headley has the space to really explore topics; physical beauty vs true beauty, honesty, life journeys.... It was wonderful. And it was best for a long time.

And then I read this:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is truly the best book I have read in a very long time. It transported me back to the south were I grew much of my identity, were I was cradled and grew up for many years.

Narrated by three remarkable women, each with a unique voice and experience, The Help chronicles life in 1960's Jackson, Mississippi. The Help are those black women who raised white babies, cooked like nobody's business, sat at the back of the bus, and served and slaved in crisp white uniforms. One 22 year old Skeeter Phelan, an aspiring writer, brings them all together as they begin a secret project that may put all of their lives in great danger.

Run, don't walk, to your nearest library or bookstore and get this book. I have sat and pondered about it since finishing. I did not dare pick up another book for days as it simmered inside me, I didn't want anything to dilute the feeling. I have all but thrust it into the arms of friends who read!! American History classes would do well to have their students read this book to open the eyes of those who wonder what life was like before the Civil Rights movement. It is a must read, told in a magical fashion.

My summer is over, I am back to work with a new crop of first graders with wide eyes and loose teeth, but my TBR pile is growing steadily. I wonder which new book will be "the best of the best of the best" !?!?!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ever feel like.....

Ever feel like you are the one holding up the world all be yourself?? So it all won't crash in on you if you let go??? Sometimes the stresses of teaching (non- English language students !!), of church callings and responsibilities, of home life and relationships all add up! I begin to feel like I am trying to shoulder it all alone. I'm afraid to let go for fear it will all come crashing down on me. I can't take one more burden... it will all be too much....I'm afraid...

I know I'm wrong when I think that I shoulder it all alone. I am just one person... but someone bigger than me is carrying my burdens too. Carrying what I can't shoulder and relieving what I can't take. I just have to TRUST - and that's the hardest part.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Do I have "Juan" too many?

I just got a list of my students for this year. I am very lucky and only have 20 little bugs right now. But, out of 20, 5 of them are named Juan!! Truly! And get this, they all have the same middle name!! No joke!

Now, if you know 1st graders you know that they know their first name and maybe their middle name but they just don't know their last name, yet! What can I do? What will I be able to call them so they know who I'm talking to??

My witty husband's suggestion?!?!
"Juan, two, three, four, five..."

Don't ya love it?!?!?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What Next?

When we came home from our "Incredible Journey"/aka 6500 miles in a car with each other/aka VACATION, Rich had a flat tire on his bike. Fixing it involved an airtank, a new tube and a house shaking boom!! I was upstairs and ran like the wind to check and see if he had blown something off his body...There he was, grinning with green tire goo all over. No worries.

A few nights later there was a huge crash in my bedroom - -I ran into my room thinking that this amazing husband had "fallen and couldn't get up" ..... There he was,in bed, grinning and staring at my piles of books, now all over the floor. He just said, "they jumped." No worries.

I'm beginning to think this is a cry for attention....

Seriously though....maybe the piles are getting a little out of hand.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who's on My Team?

Reading a couple of books over vacation has gotten me thinking about who's on my team. Who is it in my life that supports me, cheers me on, and picks me up when I'm down. Who is it that may not always see things the same way I do but is willing to help me focus - find my passion, set some goals and help me achieve them.

Everyone needs a good team and yet many people I've talked to lately feel that they don't have that "team" support, that they are not really a "team" player, or that they don't k
now how to help the "team." I have more than a few thoughts on that after reading 5 more books on vacation and I never thought that they had a common thread until I remembered the "team" premise.

The Loser's Guide to Life and Love by A.E. Cannon is about four ordinary teenagers who each think that they're not enough, who doubt their idiosyncrasies which give them their personalities and make them who they are. Narrated by each of the 4 different characters; Ed, Scout, Quark and Ellie, the story takes place during an ordinary summer in Salt Lake City.( I timed this to read while I was there and loved eating in the same places as the characters!! Yep, it's so often about the timing when you read a book! :) )

Ed and Scout work at a video store, wear s
tupid uniforms and quote great movie lines and plots. Ed even has to wear a name badge that says "Sergio." When not at the store Ed hangs out with his other best friend, Quark. One night Ellie, the girl of his dreams, walks into the video store and Ed thinks he will be a cooler person if he really IS Sergio!!

Have you ever wanted to be someone different? Talk with a different accent? Change your name? I have an actress frie
nd who makes up whole new characters and practices them when she goes out on the town. It's part of keeping her "acting muscles" alive. But when Ed tries this he is caught up in a whole web of trouble! It's his "team" that helps him understand that what's most important is being yourself. They, along with Ed, discover what happens when we let go and drop the disguises that so many of us wear. They really do like the realness of themselves and each other and they realize that it takes courage to be yourself and love it - ordinary and all! 3.5/5.0

A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick was an easy read, a touch of chick lit of an older nature. It was a book about women and friendship. Friendship is the "single thread" that binds these people together through hard times.

Evelyn is newly single and turns her car towards the north; she never stops until she gets to New Bern, Connecticut. There, on a whim she opens a quilt shop and tries to spread her wings. But life has a way of knocking us down again and Evelyn discovers she has breast cancer. She is alone, thousands of miles from her family a
nd "team" - - interestingly enough 3 total strangers help her through it all. They become the "team" and do for Evelyn and each other what one could not do alone. That's the way teams work. When one person loses the ball, the others pick it up. Strangers and people we don't even know come into our lives (when we let them) and help us in ways unimaginable. This was very readable and an easy way to spend a Sunday afternoon. 4.0/5.0

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George is based on the Nordic fairy tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" and shades of Beauty and the Beast. I loved the Norse language, their folktales and beliefs along with a mix of trolls and magic. Reading this was like a Jan Brett book for YA.

Jessica Day George is quickly becoming a favorite author. She delivers a great story line; one that is easy to immerse
myself in and one that keeps me reading. Her writing is smooth, clear, and clean. The story however is hard to paraphrase and really hard to review so I'll resort to the jacket flap:

"Blessed—or cursed—with an ability to understand animals, the Lass (as she’s known to her family) has always been an oddball. And when an isbjorn (polar bear) seeks her out, and promises that her family will become rich if only the Lass will accompany him to his castle, she doesn’t hesitate. But the bear is not what he seems, nor is his castle, which is made of ice and inhabited by a silent staff of servents. Only a grueling journey on the backs of the four winds will reveal the truth: the bear is really a prince who’s been enchanted by a troll queen, and the Lass must come up with a way to free him before he’s forced to marry a troll princess."

Who were those on the lass's "team"? A wolf, strangers (there really are people who want us to succeed and will help just to help!) her family - they were mainly unseen and behind the scenes but she depended on their love and uplift! "teams" are like that - you might not know they support you until you really need it! You just have to look for it!

I truly enjoyed this book! 4.5/5.0

Rebound Rules: The Art of Success 2.0 by Rick Pitino. Now I bet you see the "team" in this book! For those of you who may not know, I have some closet dreams and loves. One of them is college basketball. This fiery coach has caught the eye of many and reading his book was an insight into some of his passion. He is the only coach to have coached 3 different college teams to the NCAA Final Four (the Super Bowl of college basketball!) Interestingly he has been hit down many times by personal tragedy and has had to dig down deep inside himself to find his PHD (his passion, hunger and drive!)

More than anything Rick Pitino speak
s to the power of "teams." Those we should surround ourselves with and those we need to support as well. Pitino has found that his "team" includes his faith, his famiy, his friends, laughter, and letting go. This book is about remaking ourselves into someone better, seeing failures and tragedies as ways of deepening our character. The writing was spotty but I felt I could actively apply something from every page to my life. I loved his PHD and aim to make that my motto at school this year for myself! I enjoyed his version of "teamwork!!" 3.5/5.0

Need by Carrie Jones is a supernatural tale I instantly likened to Twilight. Now that's not all bad, it was just something I immediately noted. No vampires but there was a girl who went to live with a relative in a cold and cloudy place. She wasn't klutzy but she did collect phobias.

Zara White suspects that someone is stalking her. She sees him everywhere - paranoia is the name of that phobia!! But when Zara is shipped off to Maine to live with her grandma, she sees the stalker again. It turns out he is not Zara's imagination but a real mystery. He's someone who leaves trails of gold dust where he walks.

Yep, Zara was a pretty interesting character. I liked her spunk and determination and sympathized with her hollowness as she tried to heal after the death of her father. I did not feel the same about her boyfriend, Nick however. I just wanted his character to have a little more backbone and development! The story was predictable but I admit that I wanted to know the story and enjoy the ride.

Zara had a "team" to help her too. A really likeable friend named Issie and another named Devyn. Zara's grandmother, Betty, was a stitch - irrascable and endearing. No cookie baking grandma here. All of these characters pulled together in the story. It took all of them to sometimes physically if not emotionally lift the others, it took the "team" to unite and defeat the unknown. Another enjoyable book for a hot and sizzling summer day! (It really was great to read about a Maine blizzard when it was 116 outside here!).4.0/5.0

Everyone needs a "team" - be they family, coworkers, Facebook friends, church family, neighbors, whatever or wherever...

George Shinn said, "There is no such thing as a self-made man. (or woman) You will reach your goals only with the help of others."

That's what I need a "team" for - to help me reach my goals, if only just to make it through a day. I want people on my side. My list of "teammates" has YOU on it to. Unseen and many times unspoken I realize that we are also a part of a supportive team and I am better for it!! Go TEAM!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Perfect Days

I admit that tastes change, but my recipe for a perfect day seems almost the same as when I was little/younger!! Back in the "old days" the perfect day was full of activities, maybe getting something new and/or being with a best friend. Kind of like yesterday!

The day was full of activities!! We drove through 3 states;

and back to Utah again!! We left Bear Lake Valley in Idaho and traveled to Ft. Bridger, Wyoming, stopped by a friend's ranch,

and drove through Emmigration Canyon, Utah just like those hardy pioneers. We arrived at a great hotel and then adventured off to find the coolest bookstore almost anywhere - -The King's English!

That's the "getting something new" part. The King's English is an enchanting little store right smack in the middle of a neighborhood. Upstairs, downstairs, a patio and even a small cafe. There was a kid's room that was bright and cheery and stuffed with only the best of books.
We hunted through the "rabbit-warren" rooms where books literally jumped into our arms. A great bookseller that could hand-sell like no one's business talked with us forever and both of us came away with books we were excited to jump into.
I could hardly stand to leave this charming new place. I told Rich I was ready to move into the neighborhood just so I could shop there.

No lie.

Dinner called and we high tailed it over to our favorite hamburger joint in the SLC valley - Hires Big H!! Frosty mugs of rootbeer, homemade cheeseburgers and fresh cut fries and onion rings. Even fry sauce. Yummers! I bet you're jealous.

To complete the perfect day my best friend and I wandered the streets of old SLC,
walked hand in hand through the gorgeous capital building (practically by ourselves),

and made our way "home" for the night. It may sound corny but it was just a "perfect" day! I am not ready for this vacation to end. I refuse to let Rich even turn the car to face south..... can you get back to Arizona without ever turning left?!?!?!