Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Short Review

This is a short review of a book I grabbed from school entitled Dance With a Vampire by Ellen Schreiber. The book is an ARC so I can't review it on amazon, but I'll give it a go here. It's the story of Raven, a Goth teen, and her vampire boyfriend, Alexander. Apparently it's the 4th book in a series (which I didn't realize when I scarfed it from our librarian), but it was easy to follow. It's definitely light reading, and full of teenage romance/angst. Raven and Alexander are faced with a pint-sized vampire named Valentine who is bent on revenge for his older brother and sister who were driven out of the town (aptly titled Dullsville). I see this book as sort of a light introduction to the idea of vampires, and since I'm currently enamored of them (thank you, Edward Cullen, from Stephenie Meyer's superb books Twilight and New Moon), I think it's a highly appropriate introduction for middle schoolers. Not great reading, but entertaining, and that's the main thing. I won't be searching out the others in the series, but I would feel very comfortable recommending them to any of my middle school students.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean 3

This won't be an official review of Pirates of the Caribbean 3; instead I thought I'd write a few words about how much I enjoyed our family viewing of this movie this afternoon. Where Pirates 2 at times dragged a bit, this one grabs you early and doesn't let go until the final frames (and be sure to stay until after the closing credits!). We settled in with a gigunda bag of popcorn and the obligatory Cokes, and I at least was thinking how on earth could I sit there for almost 3 hours? The truth is, the time just flew by! The action is fast and furious, and the fun of seeing how the characters have grown (or not) over the course of the trilogy is fascinating. Jack Sparrow's lines are beyond hilarious (One I quickly memorized: "Let me use my machete to clear out the thicket of your brain"), and Keith Richards is the PERFECT father-figure for Jack. And it's official: I'm a dirty older woman now, because the sight of Orlando Bloom on the Flying Dutchman at the end sent my middle-aged hormones into overdrive and made my temperature rise significantly. Can I just say Arrrrgh? LOL! I thought the storyline moved along fluidly and I particularly loved the marriage scene (but I won't provide any more spoilers than that so you'll just have to see who actually gets married). A perfect ending to a great series of movies! Go see it; you won't be sorry. Savvy?


Monday, May 28, 2007

Tammy Needs...

Playing along with Nanci, who stole the idea from Gillian, I went to google and typed in "Tammy" and then the word "needs" and came away with the following:

Tammy needs constant care. (Well, I am high maintenance if nothing else).

Tammy needs to settle something in herself. (Hmmmmm....)

Tammy needs your prayers and good wishes. (That's a given).

Tammy needs more opportunities to be creative. (Geez louise, this is dead-on).

What Tammy Needs To Know is a performance installation that incorporates autobiographical text, original music and audience interaction .... (uh, I don't think so).

Tammy Needs Your Help Now. (If it has to do with cleaning the house, the answer is yes).

Tammy needs to balance out. (Balance out what? My life? My check book?)

So there you have life according to what the google search engine believes I need. :)


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Kilgannon Review and A Romance Question

In what I hope turns out to be a good omen for the summer reading season, I finished Kilgannon this afternoon, my first "official" book I've finished since getting out of school on Friday. I'd picked it up last week to jumpstart my reading, particularly in light of the fact that I was struggling a bit with the Sean Astin book. I'm not sure why I had this book in Mt. TBR in the first place, other than it'd received good reviews and someone I know must've recommended it. It didn't disappoint; it wasn't the very best romance I've ever read (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon wins that one, hands down--come to think of it, it's one of the best books of all types I've read), but the book was good, and realistic in many ways. No steamy sex (darn! LOL), but a wonderful emotional bonding set against a backdrop of the era of Queen Anne of England and the beginnings of the Jacobite uprising. If you are interested, here is the link to my amazon review:

All of this has me thinking, too; why do I feel the need to defend my reading whenever I mention that I've read (and heaven forbid, enjoyed) a romance? Why do people look down on romance as though it's some sort of sub-genre only those who aren't erudite will enjoy? The fact is, I've read romance for years, beginning with Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss way back in junior high. Of course I read it for the emotional connection; why else would I pick up a book that is slightly formulaic and filled with sexual energy? Almost all the romances I've read in recent years have been of the historical variety, though I do enjoy contemporary at times, particulary those of Jennifer Crusie, but honestly, it doesn't matter. I'm here to say now what I know several people feel but won't express due to the expected derision: I like reading romance novels! As long as they are well-written and mostly believable, I'll continue to read them and enjoy them, and I will no longer feel like less of an academic reader simply because I enjoy the brain candy at times. So there. :)


Thursday, May 24, 2007

There and Back Again Review

I recently read the next book on tbr_challenge list (see side bar), Sean Astin's There and Back Again. I'd looked forward to it because I'm such a huge fan of the movies and the books, and I was suitably impressed by Astin's work as Samwise Gamgee in the movies. Unfortunately, his book really could have used a good editor; the book itself spends an inordinate amount of time on the filming of Sean's other films, which would have been fine if the book didn't bear the title it does. While there were some redeeming moments in the book, and I loved the idea of glimpsing behind the scenes, overall I'm mighty disappointed. Here's the link to my review:

At least I've knocked out another book that's spent way too long living in Mt. TBR, and I did indeed finish it, which I consider quite an accomplishment, actually.

Now I'm off to finish my current brain candy book, Kilgannon. Ah, romance...something you don't have to think about at all.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Overcoming the Fear

Once upon a time, I wrote. Not just a little, but relentlessly. I'd outline stories, make notes, and handwrite until my wrist felt as though it might fall off. I even had a routine during junior high and high school; I never wrote until 8:00 p.m., and then I'd sit at my desk, turn on the special gooseneck lamp, and write for at least an hour, and sometimes longer. I poured my soul into those stories; when I finished one, I'd pass it among trusted friends who generally gave me positive feedback and encouraged me to write more. And I did. One of my best memories of writing was in tenth grade when I'd shared a "novel" with a good friend who let a less well known acquaintance read it. This girl stood up in our Gifted and Talented class and told the entire group what a great writer I was and how much she loved my story. I still glow just thinking of it.

When I was in college, I shared my love of writing with a good buddy, Mike, who also had a vivid imagination. Between the two of us, we came up with a tale of a fantasy hero and his world, and I wrote, using his ideas. I seriously considered trying to get this one published, but alas, that fell to the wayside, even if once again, our friends and families seemed to love it. (I know it's a friend's/family's job to be supportive, but I also know false flattery when I hear it, and I never felt as though I was hearing it).

And then I took advanced composition in college. I'd comped out of freshman composition so I didn't have that background to prepare me, but hey, I was a writer, so how hard could it be? Well, considering that the professor beat the love of writing out of me, I'd say it was devastating. I wasn't one of the two newspaper reporters in the class so I didn't count. I'd meet with the professor for advice and walk away wondering what had just happened. This class was one of only two C's I earned in college, which I can live with. But even today, I'd like to take the time to let that professor know just how much she took from me with her casual dismissals of any skills I might've possessed, and her lack of enthusiasm for any suggestion I made.

My mind is still full of stories I'd love to write, but I haven't done anything since college. I'd like to move past that time and just write because I enjoy it, which is what I always did prior to that time. But how do you do it? Nowadays when I write, I think way too much about audience, possible publication, and turn of phrase. When I do write anything, I generally end up liking how I wrote it upon review, but the thought of sharing it with anyone sends shivers up my spine. In my mind, it just won't be good enough.

I've spent many years blaming this professor, and rightly so. But now I'm 43, and it's time for me to take responsibility for my own actions. I should never have allowed her that power in my life. Just who the hell was she, anyway? Just because she had a doctorate I've allowed her to judge me. Well, no more. As school comes to a close, I am promising myself that this summer, I will write. It may never see the light of day, and I've got to make peace with that. But I cannot allow something that gave me so much pleasure for so many years to lie dormant any longer. I've got to take back my own power. Do you hear my voice echoing over the years, Dr. Cox? If not, let me reiterate: You will no longer be the force that holds me back. And that in itself is going to be my reward. I promise myself.


Friday, May 18, 2007

I'm Old...

To paraphrase a line from Hannah: "Whelp. Hey. I'm old." Now naturally she didn't say she's old, but her "Whelp, hey" bit can be heard frequently around our house. And what else can I say when stating the obvious? Geez louise, how on earth did I get to be 43?

Lots of things are pounding this home for me lately. Today's clincher is the realization that my contact lens prescription has changed yet again. Arrgh. My eyes can't seem to settle in one stage. What's up with that? Now I've got to make an appointment with Dr. Fred (the world's best eye doctor) to get my lenses adjusted...and what else on my body needs adjusting these days?? LOL

Can we talk peri-menopause for a moment? Good gracious, no one warned me about this crap. My mother swears she didn't have a single symptom of menopause--just bang, it's over. (I know she's lying but sometimes self-deception is a coping mechanism). The night sweats (yuck), the mood swings, the periods...Gott in Himmel, the periods. They are coming fast, furious and flooding. Geez. Thirty plus years is enough already and now I've got to put up with this? In addition, the cosmos has dictated that the periods from hell=anemia for me, so that's a whole 'nother piece of the pie to deal with. Geez again.

And I'm becoming set in my ways. Schedule changes just irritate the snot out of me. I like my days orderly; I don't like change. I can envision myself years from now, sitting in my easy chair like my Uncle Wes, living day-to-day with the same things. Better do something about that while I still can...

Anyway, today I was informed that my computer lab at school will be "borrowed" by several groups of teachers for inservices this summer, thus thwarting my end-of-the-year routine and taking control of my environment out of my hands. Gah. I wasn't nice to the lady, though I'm sure she's a nice enough person; I just cannot stand the thought of anyone in my domain, messing with my lab, upsetting the apple cart as it were. Ha. I'm hiding the speakers. Let her deal with that! Bwahahahaha....

Well, I suppose next week, once school is out, I'll feel more energized and will realize that 43 really isn't old and I will realize that adapting to change is what makes life interesting. Or at least I can hope that's what's going to happen. If it doesn't, I'm in serious trouble here, lol.

And as dear little Katherine told me this morning, I'm not really old until I turn 50. That brings a very evil grin to my face for some reason.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

For years now, I've admired my mother; older than the moms of most of my friends, she's plowed ahead with her life in the face of losing my father, forging friendships and bonds with others and never letting life get her down. She looks good, too; I'm seriously hoping I've gotten those genes if nothing else. Tomorrow she turns 81, and she could easily pass for someone at least 15 years younger, in both looks and attitude. She still mows her own 8 acres every week; she goes out with her "gang" about once a week for lunch; and she's set to travel once again at the end of the month when she accompanies her friends to Mackinac Island and New York for a week. She may be one of the world's best cooks, and she certainly knows how to keep a clean home. She's had breast cancer twice and both knees replaced and she's still running circles around me and most everyone else. "Can't" is not a word in her vocabulary.

Also for years now, we've butted heads on a regular basis. Somehow I was dropped into this family, never quite fitting in though always assured of being loved (and probably very spoiled). I certainly had more in common with my father than my mom. Mom has never understood my interests and in fact has often belittled them. In her defense, if she said the sky was blue I'd have to say it was purple, and if she said she liked one thing, I'd go out of my way to find something else. Oppositional/defiant? Maybe. Distancing myself from her? Definitely.

My mom has always been there for me, ready to babysit, lend money, and help out whenever asked. She doesn't insert herself into our lives without being asked, but that of course does not stop her giving opinions. And I may also be growing up; in the past few years I've made a concerted effort to NOT engage in arguments with her (doing a pretty fair job, but certainly not perfect). It's difficult to let some things go, especially when her beliefs and mine conflict. She's definitely not one for letting things go, so it's been a major milestone for me to learn how to do it. Jeff's even impressed that I'm making progress.

Overall, I'd have to say I've been fortunate and blessed to have this wonderful woman in my life, despite the head-butting and the sticky times when we've both said things we shouldn't have. When I see other people whose mothers are in nursing homes at age 81, I know God's letting me have her because I still need her. And while we may not always be on the same wavelength, part of getting older is learning where to meet one another--and sometimes learning to go past the halfway mark in doing so.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and Happy Birthday!


Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Amazing Life of Birds

No, it's not really about birds, but there are birds in it. Confused yet? This is a young adult book by Gary Paulsen, who wrote one of my all-time favorite young adult books, Harris and Me. This little gem chronicles the pubescent life of poor Duane "Doo Doo" Leech in journal form. While this is a very funny book,it's also a bit poignant as Duane realizes he's changing in both mind and body and if it's embarrassing, it's bound to happen. I'm planning on sharing this one with my 12 year old nephew tomorrow and I predict he'll find it hilarious. My review on Amazon hasn't posted yet, so I'll have to do the link once I see it.

Our week of band concerts is successfully behind us! Only Katherine's piano recital left and then we can breathe for a bit. It's a good thing school's almost out as most of our students have indeed lost their minds...even the good kids seem to be pushing the limits here at the end of the school year. I definitely need the summer to regroup!

Tomorrow we are headed to my mom's for lunch for Mother's Day. Monday is her 81st birthday--I can hardly believe it as she still runs circles around me. She's one tough lady! And busy...I think she's headed to Mackinac Island sometime toward the end of the month. I hope I can be as active when I'm her age.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What's A Ghoul To Do?

I accomplished a rarity (for me these days) this weekend---I picked up a novel and read the entire thing in one weekend (and no, it wasn't a YA novel). It was just so much fun and the pages flew by. It's the first in a new series by Victoria Laurie called What's A Ghoul To Do? and I really enjoyed it--it was just the right amount of brain candy I needed right now. It's a paranormal mystery with liberal doses of humor and romance thrown in and perfect for an engrossing read. Here's the link to my amazon review:

I picked up my next tbr_challenge book, Sean Astin's There and Back Again, mostly to fuel my Lord of the Rings obsession and to fulfill my May goal. It's started off a bit slow, dealing with Sean's work before LOTR, which frankly at this point isn't all that interesting. I'm thinking of skipping ahead to where he actually signs on to the movies so I can get to the good stuff. I've got bits and pieces of Fellowship of the Rings and The Two Towers on regular tv these past two weekends and I'm having the feeling that a viewing (all 3 movies in extended form) cannot be too far off. Perhaps I'll reward myself when school's out May 25.

Did I mention school's out May 25? :)


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Cassandra's Sister...

I finished an ARC our librarian loaned me today entitled Cassandra's Sister by Veronica Bennett. Our librarian knows I enjoy Jane Austen, and when this ARC crossed her desk about Jane and her sister, she knew I'd probably enjoy it. And I did, though I'm still not sure who the actual audience will be for this book. It appealed to me, an Austen fan, because basically it's written in the style of Austen herself, but I'm still unsure that it will go for middle school girls who are unfamiliar with Austen. It is sort of written in the style of Little Women, so it might gain an audience there, but I think it's going to take some tricky advertising on the part of the publisher to find its niche.

Since it's an ARC, I can't review it on Amazon, so I'll give a brief review here: We first meet Jane when she is 17 and looking for love. We follow her, not unlike many of her heroines, as she attends balls and visits with friends and family, and we see her mature as a young woman hopeful for love and ever looking up to her elder sister. Following Jane as she develops her writing skills is interesting, and the author does a credible job of using Austen's own style to give us insight into the world of the late 1700s. I was kept engaged throughout, and enjoyed this little gem quite a bit, though I did find it tragic that poor Jane never did achieve the love and household of her own that she so desired. Beyond that, I can recommend this one to lovers of Jane Austen, no matter their age. Now I'm off to read What's a Ghoul to Do? and I'm already almost 70 pages in, and gobbling this fun one up. ~taminator40

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Why Teachers Are Ready for Summer, Too

It's that time of year...only 16 and a half days left with students, a teacher work day, and then we're free! We know the kids are ready to be out, but the teachers...ah, if you could be a fly on the wall in a teachers' lounge, just what would you hear? Without naming names, I can give you some idea...
  • "Testing's over, and so are the kids!"
  • "When am I supposed to actually teach anything with all of these end of the year activities?"
  • "This parent wants me to do what at this late date in the year?"
  • "It's too quiet in here...they're plotting something."
  • "It's too noisy in here...they're plotting something."
  • "How many times do I have to tell them that yes, we are actually going to WORK this afternoon and not just watch movies?"
  • "And all of a sudden he's worried about passing NOW?"
  • "Sure, I can run the Awards Ceremony, do car duty, keep up with all my grading, discipline everybody in sight, plan a field trip, do scheduling for next year, and get my grades turned in two weeks early. No problem."
  • "How long can we suspend a child now? Can we make it last through the end of the year?"
  • "OMG, just how many hormones do 7th graders have at this time of year?"
  • "I swear, if he gives me one more thing to fill out, I'm going off the deep end."
  • "Now why would the kids believe that we're suddenly going to have a different way of doing things simply because there are 3 weeks of school left?"
  • "Now why would the parents believe that we're suddenly going to have a different way of doing things simply because there are 3 weeks of school left?"
  • "Why can't they pipe in Prozac through the vent system?"
  • "What if my class next year is worse than this year's?"

And you thought we were all sunshine and roses all the time, right? This is easily the most stressful time of year. I'm saying the above in a joking manner, but I could rant until I'm blue in the face. As it is, I'm just going to take deep breaths and remember that this, too, shall pass. Even if some kids don't. :)