Saturday, June 27, 2009

Happiness is...

When I was a little girl there was a song called "Happiness is..." It was a catchy song inspired by Charles Schultz's little book called Happiness is a Warm Puppy. I remember singing and humming along with the song and my mom would always make up new ideas to sing about. Mom never sang (she swore she couldn't) but she had some great ideas to sing about!!

This has just felt like a "Happiness is...." kind of day. Nothing eventful, just a fun day with Rich. It's just reminded me that the best kind of happiness is the ordinary everyday stuff.

Happiness is...

lots of library books!! Can you believe the limit is 25 books per person! It makes me feel decadent. This week I didn't plan to do much more than read and it felt great!

This signs says it well....

Happiness is......

BBQ's, holidays together, talking together, family jokes, sharing Eegee's late at night, texting Jennie, Game night, birthday parties, movies and popcorn, marshmallow gunfights, bad jokes, talks around the table, April Fool's Day pranks, and just being together.

Happiness is.....

introducing little Hero to my dad. Isn't her smile great?!?! She's infectious. I dare anyone to keep a straight face when this little bug smiles at you. Her giggle and squeal rivals my dad's wonderful laugh. She is one loved little girl.

Happiness is .....

shopping with Jennie!! She's an adventure in every store. She has great vision and loads of great ideas. We have to
fill shopping carts full of treasures and then make the hard decisions - if it really can come home with us or not. She has a good eye for a bargain and color and loves to spend my money!! I love spending time with her!

Happiness is....

brother and sister love
. Emma, Gracie, and Noah are happy examples of loving each other. I swear I see my brother and sister in this same pose about *&#! years ago!! Time passed so fast - glad that we love each other this same way.

Happiness is .....

a new TV/entertainment unit...a great Craigslist find AND then updating it with new handles from the Habitat for Humanity store!! Saving money makes me happy!!

Happiness is.....

the view from my back porch swing!! Wispy clouds and cool mornings are my favorite. June has been wonderful this year and I've started each early morning on the porch reading. How lucky I am!!

Happiness is....

spending a Saturday with Rich, free Jamba Juice, watching a movie together, doing yard work side by side, talking, loading the dishwasher with someone, seeing friends at the grocery store, errands and a day full of possibilites.

I am lucky to know this kind of happiness. Thanks,Mom, for teaching me how to see it!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Left to Tell

Left to Tell is a remarkable story told by a young woman survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Immaculee Ilibagiza, a young college woman from the village of Kibuye states "This is my story, told as I remember it ... and I remember it as though it happened yesterday. It's a true story; I use my own name and the names of my family."

This is the story of how Immaculee survived certain death, along with seven other women, by hiding in a very small (4'x6') bathroom for more than 3 months. Day after day, for months, the killers would search nearby - gleefully chanting "kill them big, kill them small, kill them, kill them, kill them all!" "This is the story of how I discovered God during one of history's bloodiest holocausts. I wrote this book hoping that others may benefit from my story."(introduction)

While Immaculee tells an intensely personal story of great tragedy and loss, her experience also brings to light issues that impact the lives of most people - family, ethnic identity, and faith. In 1994 over one million (note that - 1,000,000!) Tutsi's were killed in Rwanda during that 3 month period. They were hewn down not with bombs,gunfire, or gas chambers but with machetes; up close and personal; by their neighbors and friends. All because of their tribal name and ethnicity. It has been called the "Machete Season", it was ignored and once again genocide reared its ugly head - but this time during MY lifetime.

Immaculee shares her soul's struggle from disbelief to anger and rage and, ultimately, forgiveness. I read in near disbelief at the atrocities she experienced and then continued to read how she progressed and ultimately forgave( and continues to forgive!) I learned so many lessons, new thoughts and ideas became a part of me; ones that I need to put into play in my life. Thoughts have come to me prompted by the book and discussions with others:

  • Every person has an innate desire to be treated as a person of worth.
  • One person can make a difference – for better or for worse.
  • Ethnic, racial, and national identities can be a source of pride but also a source of prejudice.
  • Conflicts always have unintended consequences and the innocent and helpless are always victims,whether intentionally or unintentionally.
  • Evil leaders can manipulate good people into performing terrible deeds.
  • Great suffering can bring about personal growth and deeper faith.
  • Hope and forgiveness can co-exist with despair and seemingly hopeless circumstances.
On Sunday I was to share a part of this book during a lesson. I read with a purpose in mind, one of teaching and studying the Power of Forgiveness. I read more quickly than I would have liked to and since I borrowed this book from a friend I was intensely sad to have to return it. Now I feel the need to race to my bookstore to buy several copies, not just to keep for myself but to press them into the hands of those I love and care about. This is a mind altering and hopefully life-affecting book!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Adventure on the High Seas

In my first grade class we are authors. I have been using an idea called Writer's Workshop for about 4 years now and my little bugs are writing!! Really writing! These are children who are not native English speakers, some cannot even speak in English at the beginning of the year - but boy, by mid-year they can write! How can 1st graders do that??

Number #1 - We read a LOT of books!!! I can't stress that enough. I teach mini lessons everyday using picture books, I have daily read aloud times and I just bathe the little bugs in language and books.

Number #2 - The next part is very important ..... model, model and model. The students learn how to write from what they hear and also from what they see. So not only do I show them books, they see me writing and authoring books also. We go from just pictures and drawing to whole books. It's great!

Number #3 - the best of all; they learn to "stand on the shoulders" of an author. That does not mean copying directly the words of an author or tracing the pictures
(that's stealing!) It means that we can get a good idea from that favorite author and keep the story going. We can make a change or a twist and make a new tale. They get ideas!!! My students are truly inspired by authors. By "standing on their shoulders" my little bugs want to become authors too and in the end, they become writers!! They are writing fictional stories with beginnings, middles and endings that are more than just "THE END", they are writing non-fiction bear reports and doing their own research all while they are losing baby teeth! My 6 and 7 year old bugs are writers.

Now I tell you that to tell you this:

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson is just another example of someone who is "standing on the shoulders" of a classic - Peter Pan! Purists alert - this is not JM Barrie's version. This is a different take, an updated Peter - Peter seen through a different lens.

I love a good twist on a tale. Isn't that what storytellers have been doing for generations? Just taking a tale and making it their own?? Ok, soapbox aside, Peter and the Starcatchers was another enjoyable twist of a tale; another example of someone who is "standing on the shoulders" of an author.

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson took full advantage of modern technology and penned a book together while they live miles apart. Thank you internet!! They wrote and edited back and forth until a story began to take shape. The authors don't continue the Peter Pan story, they front load, they change the backstory, they deliver their variation of how it might have been. It was a fun twist of that tale.

I know this isn't a new book, it was published in 2004, but it is our summer book group read for June. We generally read a kid's book or young adult book in the summer so we can invite our kids (or neighbor kids) and share our book group experience. It's fun to find one that is an AR book so kids can test on it when they go back to school in August ( did I really utter that word already - say no!!) We try to choose a book that has an audio format too, so the books can be a vacation read-along while traveling. This audio is fantastic - read by Jim Dale of Harry Potter audio fame!! For our summer start Peter and the Starcatchers was a fun adventure.

I discovered a new way that Peter could have arrived at Never Land, how he met the dread pirates, how the mermaids came to be and how he learned to fly. I realized that my Peter Pan experiences have really only come from Disney (the cartoon version and Hook) and I now intend to rectify that and try the original asap!! I do have a hankering now for an island vacation - guess I'll pop some popcorn and sit down to watch the movie instead..... Peter Pan anyone??

Gosh two pirate/corsair adventures in a row. What next?

Monday, June 8, 2009


Let me tell ya bout my best friend....

He drives me to work each day and watches til I'm out of sight.
He waits for me to come out of my classroom each day - and he waits patiently!
Gosh, my own personal chauffeur!

After church he almost always comes to find me - I feel lost when he doesn't.
He texts me to tell me when he's on his way home - get ready!! (He's learned to communicate - we've grown together on that one!)

He takes me to the temple and always squeezes my hand.
He still tells me I'm as pretty as the day we went the 1st time!
He loves to sit beside me in the temple til I'm ready to go.
He just smiles from the minute
we get there til we leave.

He loves his garden, his shed, his backyard, his bike.
He walks into the house and right out again to see how everything has grown. (He's learning to find me and kiss me first!)
He likes to have hobbies and learn new things.

He's comfortable being who he is!
Yep, a man this confident will definitely hold my purse for me!
He laughs at his own jokes - and mine too!
He lets me make the small decisions - - where to go to dinner, where to live, etc... and he makes the big ones - if we should go to war, raise taxes, you know; the big stuff!

What fun to be married to your best friend......

Friday, June 5, 2009

I am not a Chance kind of girl - but I like a challenge (on MY terms!)

This challenge is all about taking chances in your reading. There are 10 tasks in all -- 7 involve finding a book to read in very random ways. The last three tasks are about taking chances as a writer as you are challenged to take on the role of short story writer, poet and movie/book reviewer. The challenge is meant to be fun and no pressure. Complete as many or a few of the 10 challenges as you want. However, the more you complete, the more chances you'll get to win the grand prize. Here are the details:
  • The challenge will run from June 1, 2009 through November 30, 2009 (6 months)
  • One winner will be drawn on December 1, 2009 and will receive a grand prize of $25 worth of books from Amazon (any books you choose!)
  • Each completed task earns you one entry into the drawing for the grand prize.
  • To earn an extra entry, blog or Tweet about this challenge and let me know in the comment section.
  • To earn 5 extra entries, complete all 10 challenges.
  • The total number of entries that can be earned is 16 (10 for each challenge, 5 for completing all tasks and 1 for blogging/tweeting about the challenge).
  • You can join the challenge anytime before the November 30 deadline but only tasks completed by November 30, 2009 will be counted as entries.
  • To have your entries count, you must publish them on your blog and leave a comment with a link to your entries in the comment section for this post.
  • All participants must sign up in Mr. Linky below so I can keep track of everyone who is participating.
Here are the 10 challenges to work on:
  1. Random Book Selection. Go to the library. Position yourself in a section such as Fiction, Non-Fiction, Mystery, Children (whatever section you want). Then write down random directions for yourself (for example, third row, second shelf, fifth book from right). Follow your directions and see what book you find. Check that book out of the library, read it and then write about it. (If you prefer, you can do the same at a bookstore and buy the book!)
  2. Random Word. Go to this random word generator and generate a random word. Find a book with this word in the title. Read the book and write about it.
  3. Birth Year Book. Find a book that was published or copyrighted in the year of your birth. Read the book and write about it.
  4. Judge A Book By Its Cover. Pick out a book based SOLELY on the cover. First, write about what you expect the book to be about based on the cover art. Then read the book and write about how the book was different from and/or similar to what the cover art led you to expect.
  5. Phoning An Author. Pick a random last name out of the phone book. Find an author with the same last name and read a book by them. Write about it. (I'm flexible ... if the first random name you pick is Xprxyrsss, you can pick again!)
  6. Public Spying. Find someone who is reading a book in public. Find out what book they are reading and then read the same book. Write about it.
  7. Random Bestseller. Go to and, using the True Random Number Generator, enter the number 1950 for the min. and 2008 for the max. and then hit generate. Then go to this site and find the year that generated for you and click on it. Then find the bestseller list for the week that would contain your birthday for that year. Choose one of the bestsellers from the list that comes up, read it and write about it.
  8. Lit Riff (inspired by the book Lit Riffs by Matthew Miele.) Choose a song and then write a brief story that is inspired by or further explains the lyrics of the song.
  9. Poetic Review. Write a book review in three different forms of verse: haiku, limerick and free verse. (You can pick any book you want to write about.)
  10. Movie/Book Comparison. Find a book that you haven't read that has a movie based on it that you haven't seen. Read the book and watch the movie within a few days of each other. Write about your reactions to both the book and the movie and compare the two.
I think it sounds like a little stretching for me. I may tweak and I love remembering my 50 page rule. If I don't love one - I give myself permission to change and try something else! Whoa, I am SUCH a risk taker! NOT!

Want to join the ride?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

15 in 15

“This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

I found this on a friend's blog today. It made me think - for about 15 minutes!! That's hard to do in the summer...I'm on vacation -NO THINKING! It was fun to wrack my brain for a minute or two to ponder books that impacted me in one or another. Just remembering the titles was like looking at a scrapbook!

Here goes:

1. Book of Mormon
2. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
3. Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan
4. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler
5. Tell No One by Harlan Coban
6. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
7. Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker
8. Oh, Pioneers by Willa Cather
9. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
10. The Giver by Lois Lowry
11. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
12. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
13. Celia Garth by Gweneth Bristow
14. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
15. Pride and Predjudice by Jane Austen

Just to think that I'm a different person because of the impact of the printed words in these books. Wow! Ah, the impact of the written word!