Wednesday, July 30, 2008


The picture to the left was taken last summer on a trip to Puerta Vallarta. I could use a vacation like that right about now!

Mom and I got through this weeks round of pre-op appointments. Surgery is scheduled for next week. She belongs to an HMO which has a reputation of not being people friendly, but in this instance everyone has been great and so has Mom's attitude. The information has been overwhelming, but consistent. Conflicting information makes decision making more difficult.

My mother has always eaten lots of fruits and vegetables, and she hasn't eaten red meat since the late 70's; however, she is going to make further dietary changes. One of my decisions is to seize this as an opportunity to make changes in my own lifestyle. My quandary is in the area of animal products. This summer I have significantly reduced the amount of dairy products in my diet and noticed a significant reduction in sinus problems. Is now the time to completely remove animal products from my diet? Should I start small and remove red meat from my diet? Should I only consume kosher and organic meat (which is the majority of what I eat now)?

I go back to work in eleven days. I didn't take a vacation this summer but with the way things have gone, I definitely need to run away for a few days before Mom's surgery and going back to work. My how the time has flown by!

Monday, July 28, 2008

New Toy

I picked up my new toy yesterday! I have been researching this phone (LG Voyager) since it and the iPhone came out. I finally made my decision yesterday. It was based in part on the fact that the iPhone just changes too frequently. I know someone who buys a new one whenever they release an upgraded model. In the time I have been researching, he has had what...four phones, and I owned one phone during that entire time. He's usually able sell the old one to someone who just wants an iPhone. That's an additional chore that I would not have the time or energy to do; although, I'm sure the monetary incentive might be the motivation needed to find a buyer for the old phone.

What finally sold me on the Voyager and staying with Verizon was a list of things, but the main one was I just did not want to switch to AT&T. When you are traveling outside of the country they can't be beat, but domestically they just couldn't sway me with their service or their prices.

I am downloading all of my music from my computer into my phone today. Just think, no more phone and iPod when I go for my morning or afternoon walk. I will still use my iPod, especially when I travel...the ability to store over 15,000 photos gives me a sense of security and power.

The quality of the camera on this phone is much better than that of my old phone. I'll post some cell phone pix soon.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Day By Day

I haven't posted in a while because there has been a lot going on. My mom is dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis. Today, I think we both reached an information saturation point. We go to her pre-op appointments next week.

Time for more gardening.

I've finished three novels since my last post and will update with brief reviews in a few days.

I attended a World History Association Summer Institute and will be making several changes in the way I teach social studies.

I go back to work in two weeks which is sad because with everything that has transpired recently I could use a vaction. I just don't have the time to take one now.

Catching Up On Reading

Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 8/10
First Published: 1979
The earth is destroyed to build a freeway and that is where the adventure begins. I enjoyed the fact that the author did not assume the reader is a moron. The humor is intelligent and I appreciated that.

My favorite character in this novel is Ford Perfect. This intergalactic hitchhiker is a survivor. Like the car company he is name after, he manages to keep his head just above water (even when the odds are against him).

Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Rating 7/10
First Published: 2004

My middle school students will appreciate this prequel to the Peter Pan story. In this story we get more background information about the Lost Boys, Captain Hook (before the hook), and Tinker Bell. It is a delightful, well told story.

My favorite characters in this story were actually minor characters. The mermaids in this story were not your typically gently, sexy mermaid variety. These girls could really defend themselves and were not afraid to make an offensive maneuver.

Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Rating: 10/10
First Published: 1990

This story, about a botched Apocalypse and a missing Antichrist, was the best of the lot and one of the best books I have read in a while. There are those that have difficulty with this type of book because they feel we should not joke about such things. I take this type of literature for what it is - fiction.

I literally could not put it down, and kept a close eye on anyone who grabbed my book to see what I was reading. My behavior may have given my orthopedic specialist the impression that I think he may be a book thief. My next appointment is in a year, which gives him time to forgive and me time to find another great book with which to tempt him!

My favorite character was (I hate to say it.) the demon, Crowley. If you have a horrible job about which you have some issues, who says you can't do it with style. And if anyone is wondering, Crowely is the same crawling demon that was there in the garden with Eve.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were presented in an interesting way. I had not really considered the variety of ways famine presents itself today, or the similar outcomes resulting from pestilence and pollution.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Day of Culture

Yesterday, I went to the Bowers Museum to view the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit.

They didn't allow any pictures, and as far as I'm concerned the ones I bought aren't nearly as good as the pictures I would have taken. Anyway, I bought a few things to share with my social studies classes, peeked in the Gems exhibit briefly, and then it was off to visit Dad. Most of the visit was spent working on an iPod/iTunes problem which, I am proud to say, was fixed after going through a few hidden files and transferring information. Dinner at a local seafood restaurant was just compensation for my hard work.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fresh Air and Sunlight

I have learned at almost 45 years of age that there are things you don't talk to others about, especially not with friends. I'll take it for granted that they say and do the things they do because they have my best interest at heart and not their own noisiness. They are, after all, supposedly my friends. My older, and wiser, neighbor said that she understood my side and I am correct. It was one of those debates that really boils down to is believing that what is right for me is right for everyone.

To blow off some steam, I got into the garden, pulled, dug, and poured. Fresh air and sunlight are good therapy. Unfortunately, the battle with my friends has been squashed and the fight with the snails begins.

Is "Snail Food" another name for marigolds?

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, is the story of one young woman's mental breakdown. I consider it a combination of Catcher in the Rye and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Plath's descriptions of the main character's breakdown, shock therapy treatment, and the asylum she is placed in are very well done.

I have to admit it took me a while to get into this one. Once it became clear that Esther Greenwood was not merely depressed, the pace picked up and I could not stop reading.

Rating: 8/10

The Messenger

This book, a companion to Gathering Blue and The Giver, is the story of Matty, the village messenger. As he waits to receive his true name, life in the village changes for the worst, and he discovers that he has a strange gift. In the end, Matty's true name reveals his true role in the lives of the villagers and the village itself.

I really enjoyed this book. It was not as detailed as its companion novels, but it did an excellent job of bringing together the three societies created by Lois Lowry. I started reading it last night and finished early this afternoon. It definitely kept my attention.

Rating: 10/10

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Read Aloud/Think Aloud

As I was doing some reading and planning for the coming school year, I revisited a read aloud/think aloud I did with my reading class this past year. The novel I chose, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, was one that I had never read. The think-alouds were genuine examples of how readers digest a text. When I said I was surprised by a characters actions I really was and students could sense that. My predictions were actually predictions and they seemed to be more comfortable sharing their own predictions because of this. Sometimes I was right, sometimes a student was correct, and sometimes we were all wrong. Students were engaged and did a great job on the assignments that went with the readings.

This activity raised what I consider to be a worthwhile question. Is there any benefit in exposing students to this type authentic reading compared to our annual readings of the district core novels? One provides authentic examples/modeling of what good readers do, and the other places a greater emphasis on students using these strategies (will giving dramatic re-enactments of what good readers do). With the pacing guide, adopted curriculum, and numerous district and state tests will I get enough bang for my buck if I do this with my language arts class? I do believe it will be most beneficial in creating life long readers, but that does not always translate to test scores.

Coming and Going

Starbucks has announced that they will be closing 600 locations nationwide. Is this Starbucks location really coming soon? I guess I shouldn't worry since there are three Starbucks Coffee shops less than one mile west of this one and three more one mile east of this one.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Hooray! This is my first completed book challenge!

My theme was "getting back in the game". I liked reading about one theme for a while because I feel like I actually learned something about it. Caribousmom, thanks for the great opportunity! I wouldn't change a thing.

My final book list and what I learned from each:

Eat, Love, Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert - Don't lose your balance, work through things body, soul, and spirit. Allow God to heal your pain.

Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach - Just get back in there and consider the ups and downs part of the adventure.

Chosen by a Horse by Susan Richards - Make connections and allow them to help you heal.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion - Getting back in the game has its own rules (For example, "the vortex" is unavoidable), and you're not the first or last to go through it (Allow yourselft to heal. Despite how it feels, you will.)

The book I enjoyed the most was Chosen by a Horse. It caught me off guard because I just didn't expect to get taken in by the plot, but I was captivated from the beginning.

Themed Book Challenge

Title: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia
Author Elizabeth Gilbert
Genre: Biography
Year Published: 2006

This covers some of the same themes that are covered in Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach with the additional theme of spirituality and depression. The author finds different parts of herself in India, Italy, and Indonesia. Having read both of them

This was my second reading of this book (I initially read it last spring), and it was unusually difficult to get through. I think I had taken what I could from it during the first reading, or perhaps I'm just in a different place now.

"Going into that meditation cave every day is supposed to be this time of divine communion, but I've been walking in there lately flinching they my dog used to flinch when she walked into the vet's office..." (Gilbert, p. 141)

We have all had times when we have approach our spirituality from a different angle in order to make a connection. Gilbert takes you with her as she struggles with her spirituality. In my opinion, the spiritual theme (Hindu),which ties this book together, gives balance to Gilbert's personal growth. Body, soul, and spirit, she is transparent. She has problems and difficulties that happen to many of us, and she grows.

Rating: First Reading 9/10
This Reading 7.5/10


Just a few thoughts here.

1. How did we become the person we are? Better yet, how do we become the person we want to be?

2. I'm going to start sending myself postcards during my travels.

3. I have made my peace with it. Surgery for fibroids in December (Yes, I know -- Christmas). I just refuse to spend another wonderful summer recuperating... which means I need to begin having one. (I went on a shopping spree yesterday to officially kick-off "My Wonderful Summer".)

4. I am definitely getting the house painted.

5. I am still thinking about a post I saw on TravelinOma's blog and a corresponding post which was on Marta's blog. I do believe that real writers blog (just look at CTG), but I do not feel that every blogger is a writer. No, I do not consider myself a writer. I'm just someone who feels connected by sharing their thoughts and if blogging is a way to do that, count me in. I'm more of a speaker and storyteller (emphasis on teller) than a writer.
Do you consider yourself a writer?

Themed Book Challenge

Title: Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman
Author: Alice Steinbach
Genre: Biography

Without Reservations contains the memories and musings of Alice Steinbach in her quest to be spontaneous and independent. Her journey takes her on a solo trip through Europe. During this journey, she meets many people and has many experiences which help redefine who she is and give clarity to shared female experiences and feelings.

"But the work has it perils: spending large chunks of time immersed in another person's life makes it easier to lose track of one's own place in the world." (Steinbach, p. 25)

Although Steinbach is talking about the work of being a newspaper reporter, she has captured what happens to many parents, caregivers, and teachers.

I love the way she sends post cards to herself during her trip! It causes the journey to continue after you return home. I am going to start doing this.

What I learned:
When it comes to getting back in the game -- Just do it, be open to the positive, and enjoy the moment (even the rough spots are part of the adventure).

Rating: 7/10