Monday, December 31, 2012

Challenge Accepted!

Dear 2012,

I am grateful you are over.  It's not you, it's me.  I'm just tired.

No, but seriously, the past two years or so have been a bit of a rollercoaster.  I have had wonderful, fantastic, stupendous things happen to me.  But, on the other hand, I have had horribly disheartening, terribly upsetting things happen to me the past year or two, as well.  So maybe I will make a list.  Two lists.  Because it's more easily encapsulated than me sitting around and talking about them forever.

The List of Wonderful, Fantastic, Stupendous Things:

2.  I got a real job.
3.  I moved out of Phoenix.
4.  I moved to Flagstaff.
5.  I learned how to drive stick shift.
6.  I discovered the joy of Gordon Ramsay television shows and the subsequent need to cook food using good, honest, locally-grown produce.  Yum.
7.  I ate a lot of delicious food.
8.  I discovered the joys of destroying your core with exercise.  Awesome.
9.  I learned that I love 5th grade.
10.  I get 120 little minds to mold and have fun with on a daily basis.
11.  I got a whole new set of friends through my colleagues and co-workers.
12.  I got my first grown-up apartment, and a bunch of things that go with that, such as:
               a.  A couch
               b.  A fancy coffee machine
               c.  Outdoor chairs.
               d.  The Indiana Jones Trilogy on Blu-Ray
13.  My husband had a lot of personal success.
14.  My husband and I figured out our personal recipe for our finances.
15.  I got a fancy new phone.
16.  I completed my goal of reading 50 or more books this year.
17.  I was responsible with my health (i.e., I saw doctors and got vaccines and had cavities filled).
18.  My husband and I discovered a bunch of new games.
19.  A lot of my friends had a lot of personal success this year, as well.
20.  I got to spend a lot of lovely time with my friends and family.

Now, the doozy. . .

The List of Horribly Disheartening, Terribly Upsetting Things:

1.  I got fired.  Not only was that upsetting, but it very much destroyed my self-confidence and made me depressed for a while.
2.  I have had some really upsetting moments in school.  Kids being jerks, parents being jerks, me being a jerk, et cetera.  I've only had a few crying episodes, and none of them really in front of my kids.  Woot.
3.  I have eaten way too much of things that are bad for me.
4.  I have not exercised enough.
5.  I have had some interesting community interactions.
6.  I spent the first half of the year wildly stressed out because of my wedding, moving, and finding a job.
7.  I spent the second half of the year wildly stressed out because of my job.
8.  I didn't read as many books as I would've liked.
9.  My husband was very stressed out a lot of this year.
10.  I would've liked to spend more time with friends and family.

So, it turns out that the bad list is half of the good list.  Score!

Now I have three or four pithy, vaguely required resolutions:

1.  Eat better.
2.  Exercise more.
3.  Read at least 50 books.
4.  Write down one good thing in my diary a day.

And now for the most exciting thing -- THE CHALLENGE FOR 2013.

You may think that I will merely read 50 books.  YOU WOULD BE WRONG.  My husband challenged my to read Bleak House (by Charles Dickens) and a collection of Jules Verne novels (including A Journey to the Center of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Around the World in 80 Days) by the end of summer.  So, by the end of summer, I will have my requisite Charles Dickens book for the year read, and I will have become a mild expert on Jules Verne novels.  I will rule all books mwahahaha.

Erm.  Anyhow, HAPPY 2013, PEEPS!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Review of The Casual Vacancy

NOTE: If you cannot get past the fact that authors are people and don't have to write the same stuff over and over again, don't read this book and don't read this review. If you can separate Harry and Jo, then READ THIS BOOK.

I understand if you can't do that.  Harry Potter also very much shaped my childhood.  I wept openly all through the second half of the last book and the last movie (even though the movie wasn't actually that good except that it symbolized the ending of an era).  Harry will always have the most special of places in my literary heart.  Having said that, I made a conscious effort to put aside my associations with Harry and Rowling in order to give this book a fair shake.  I didn't want to read this book just because Rowling wrote it.  I wanted to see what she could do, yes, but honestly it was the type of book I thought I'd enjoy.  I love a good, sleepy, character-driven novel.  Obviously, since I am a huge Dickens fan.  He does nothing other than giant, sleepy, character-driven novels mired in the ordinary.  AND I LOVE THAT.  So, I was curious.  I was able to look past HP and try something without the shackles of the beautiful world of magic around my intellectual ankles.  I am not trying to sound righteous or snobby.  I am usually not able to separate authors and their work.  For some odd reason, it worked this time.  If you can't do it or don't think you can, there's no shame.  This was a fantastic book, but there are lots of fantastic books extremely worth your time.  This doesn't have to be one of them.  However, if you can work through it (and the first 300 pages), then this is a book very much worth your time.

I sincerely enjoyed it. This book honestly shows what a brilliant writer Rowling is. It was a gritty, realistic, character-driven portrayal of the black and dubious goings-on in a tiny British town.  Nothing was sugar-coated.  Another reviewer pointed out that it's not so much gritty as it just is starkly realistic.  Right, again.  It's just that reality is so painfully grimy when you look beneath the sheen of the surface reflected back to us in cheerily false commercialism.  Also, if you are not a fan of books which are mainly based on characters and not on plot action, put this one back. It is plodding for quite a while, but if you stick with it you are rewarded. 
The setting up takes about 300 pages or so. Things all weave together seamlessly, though, at the end of the book. Like HP, everything has its proper place. Everything makes sense and there is nothing frivolous in Rowling's work. She does not place words there without meaning. It really reinforces why I prefer novels written by people who have actual purpose and talent, rather than drivel. As much as drivel can be fluffily entertaining, as much as it can be exciting, at its root it has no substance. Reading fluff novels is much like eating fluff. It is satisfying at the time, but you will feel rather disgusting in about a half an hour. The high of the rush will end, and you feel dirty and empty. When you eat a real meal or read a worthwhile book, you relish the savory and sweet flavors, you take your time, and you are satisfied long after the meal has passed. I found this book to be a proper meal, rather than a sugary snack. 
Gritty and hard-hitting though they may be, Rowling's character depictions are insightful. She manages to get at the root of people's unhappiness, and the consequences the actions of unhappy people can reap. This book is paradoxically about the reaping of what some people had sown, but also about some situations which feel virtually inescapable. Although all of the characters struck home for me, shadows of people I have known, one in particular felt uncomfortably familiar: Krystal Weedon. How many girls did I know growing up who had home lives bordering on her own? How many have I known since who have either escaped from horrible fates or else were hopelessly enmeshed by them, never to emerge? Krystal Weedon aside, every character seemed laced with reality, and I could see faces of people I knew in each and every one of them. Like I said, some of them were disconcertingly life-like. It made the plot all the more believable, and I felt very much so that Pagford was a real place and that these characters were merely put to page by Rowling, instead of total creations by her. 
Like I said, however, this book is not a page turner. Rowling, ultimately, is a dangler. She lets slip tiny pieces of information, tantalizing you with the hope of some big, juicy secret, some crucial bit of information that will let loose your gossipy imagination. Be honest, you were hoping for that too. But she continues to merely dangle. She keeps you in for the long haul. It's worth it. If you stick with it, you will be amply rewarded. I read the last hundred pages at a sprint. Those last hundred flew by as I was completely submerged in the story. The twists and turns at the end were compelling and horrifying. 
All in all, I would sincerely recommend this book for people who like a good character-based read, and for people who can look beyond the world of Harry Potter into a completely different story by a talented author. Rowling is always worth reading.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let's All Give Thanks!

Here it is, the best time of year!  And by that, I mean fall.  Autumn is by far my favorite season.  Crisp apples, brightly colored leaves, spiced pumpkin, the chill in the air. . .everything about it is perfect.  I love autumn vegetables, autumn colors, autumn foods, autumn activities, autumn holidays. . .  It is so lovely in every way.  This year I really got into the fall flavor of things, and I am sure next year will be even better, now that I have a general idea of what my husband and I like doing.  

We have had a grand old time this year.  P and I have cooked all manner of autumny things -- I even made an apple pie.  What ho!  We went and saw the leaves changing, we carved pumpkins, and we wore scarves.  I literally cannot wait to do it all over again this next year.

However, it is time for Thanksgiving!  My second favorite holiday of the year!  My first is Halloween (how can you not love dressing up, trolling for candy, and celebrating an ancient pagan holiday?).  Thanksgiving is a close second because it incorporates two things I very much love: family and food.  Not necessarily in that order.  Haha, just kiddin'.

And like I do every year, it is time for my ABCs of thanks.

A-  Apple cider.  I usually am not too excited about apple cider, but this year I have taken to it full force.

B-  Business dress.  I very much like looking nice at my job and I feel fortunate that I can do so.

C-  Chums.  I am always thankful for my friends.

D-  Driving.  I no longer feel terrified to drive stick shift.  I am finally getting it and I am so glad.

E-  Excitement.  I am still able to get excited about things in my life and I am grateful for that.

F-  Fifth graders.  They are continually entertaining, adorable, and annoying. They are my favorites.

G-  Greenery.  How nice it is to live in a town where there is an abundance of trees.

H-  Husband.  First year I've been able to say that.  I love my husband so much and he is the best thing in my life.

I-  Independence.  For the first time, despite the fact that I have a partner-in-crime, I am really an adult, responsible for all those things you think of as being adult things.  I earn money, I have a savings account, I use a credit card and make regular payments, and I go to bed before 10 PM.  Woot.

J-  Job.  It is so incredibly wonderful to be employed.  Except for my husband, I am most thankful for this.

K-  Kisses.  One of life's little pleasures.

L-  Libraries.  A free opportunity to expand your knowledge and horizons.  Lest we forget.

M-  Moms (and Dads).  How lucky I am to have two of each now.

N-  Nest.  No, I'm not "nesting," but we have a nest just for the two of us.  It's little and cute and suits us just fine.  It's perfect and it's home.

O-  Olives.  I'm not kidding.  I freaking love olives.

P-  Parks and Recreation.  New favorite show.  I want to be Leslie Knope.  And P is my Ben.  He will try and deny it and say he is really Tom, but we all know he is Ben.

Q-  Quinoa.  After all, it's very good for you.

R-  Roasted vegetables.  The best way to eat them.

S-  Security.  It is such a relief to finally feel secure in my love, my life, and my heart.

T-  Tulips.  I have a bunch in my apartment right now (they're pink), and they are very sweet and nice.

U-  Unconditionality.  This has played a big part in my life of late and I am always sensible of it.

V-  Variety.  My life recently has been nothing but varied, and it leaves never a dull moment.

W-  Watermelon.  I got to have some of the most delicious watermelon ever over the summer and I can't wait until next summer.  I'm going to get a whole orange Navajo watermelon. Noms.

X-  X-rays.  No, genuinely.  I went to the ER over the summer because of chest pains and they took a full chest x-ray.  It is still hanging on our fridge.  It was able to show that I was perfectly fine.  I was very relieved and thankful.

Y-  You, whoever you are.  I bother to keep writing in this blog because I hope someone might read it. So thank you, good ol' you.

Z-  Zion.  Because you always need something to look forward to, and I would like to eventually travel to Zion and camp.  Maybe with my cousin and her new fiance, who I am also grateful for.

Anyhow, there's lots more, but that's my basic ABC.  Thanks for reading and I hope you have the best of Thanksgivings.  It is a delectable holiday, you know.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Trial by Fire


These past two weeks have been insane.  And I know I've said that in the past, but this time. . .wow.  This past week was nice -- we worked hard, we did good stuff, we did some fun stuff, I may have caught something but it's still brewing and not in full swing so I can still kill it. . .

But last week was the week from hell.  Every day was somehow just horrible.  Thursday was the worst day possible.  I was running around all day, there was a choir rehearsal during their study period, and there were major student issues.  I was so swamped with grading I didn't know which way was up.  Somehow, Friday did not make anything better.  There was a school dance, which was very fun, but then someone stole my iPod.  So instead of getting home around 8 PM, I got home around 11 PM.

The next day, we had to get to California for a wedding, which turned out to be an experience.  On the way out, we had to fly out to Phoenix, so I woke up at 4:50 so I could do the packing I neglected to do the previous night.  Then we got held up in Phoenix for a while, so we left a little later than anticipated. Not too bad, we were still on time, but then there was a fire on the freeway we were on.  Exciting, yes. Relaxing, no.  The nice thing is that when we got there, we had a great time.

You hear so many different stories about extended families, new families, in-laws, etc., that you aren't quite sure what to expect when you get one.  I got lucky.  I got extra family I am just as happy to see and excited to be with as my "old" family.  They are lovely, wonderful, fun people and I am always thrilled to get to go out and visit with them.  Plus, there are a lot of little ones on the California side of the family, so I always get to play with them, which I love.  They are a hoot and a half.  For example: K: "I have this one friend who is a princess."  S:  "Is it my cousin?"  Hahahahaha.

In addition to which, the wedding was gorgeous.  P's cousin was getting married to his long-time girlfriend.  She looked stunning (her veil was exceptionally cute and stylish, btw), he looked very handsome, and they had wedding advice mad libs.  Oh yeah, we used the word "Led Zeppelinesque."  The ceremony itself was long enough to make you feel like you really got to experience their commitment, but short enough that everyone didn't get overheated or tired (easy to do in the surprisingly warm SoCal morning heat).  In short: perfect length.  Watching them say their vows was well worth any inconvenience in the travel department.  The wedding itself was held in a beautiful garden, overlooking a valley of fields and a big mountain/hill in the background.  There were creative photo opportunities for the guests, an easy connect to an online wedding album where we could add our photos, and a big cardboard house for the kids to color and play in.  Then, the food they served was brunch (noms!) with a donut and candy bar.  The songs were great, too.

All in all, the wedding was wonderful.  We are so happy for the new couple.  They are two amazing people and it is a blessing they found each other, and I do not use that phrase lightly.  I think they mesh really well and I'm really looking forward to having such a great new addition to the family.  I am so grateful to have such a wonderful family.

The nice thing in adversity and struggle is that when you can calm down, take a breath, and look around, you either realize that you are all alone and you have done it yourself, or that you have fabulous, supportive people surrounding you and quietly lifting you up.  I realized the latter.  I have wonderful coworkers, a supportive husband, and a kind family. Every which way I turned in these past two weeks, there was someone to help me out or give me a piece of advice or a reassuring pat on the back.  I am very thankful.  And it's not even Thanksgiving yet!

Speaking of Thanksgiving, I AM SO EXCITED.  I can use all-caps here because it's silly.  When you are genuinely excited about something that matters, you need to present it with seriousness.  I'mma serious.  But no, really, I am stoked for Thanksgiving.  It is my first big holiday as a new wife, and I really don't care if my hubband doesn't particularly like Thanksgiving food, I am making a huge meal.  I love Thanksgiving food and I am making enough to feast on for several days.  I am putting my heart and soul into it and I'm waiting not so patiently.  Errrghhhh, please hurry by, next two weeks!  And then four more weeks until Winter Break!  The schoolyear is pumping along and it doesn't feel unsurmountable.  Hip hip hooray!

That is all.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Four Day Weekend!

First of all, this four-day weekend was very necessary.  I have finally hit the first year teacher downward slope.  I won't go so far as to say it's a spiral (let's not be dramatic), but the honeymoon period is over.  When they yap in class, I don't say something sweet like, "Let's remember to be respectful."  Well, okay, I do, because respect is important, but I WANT to say "Shut your yap".  I tend not to, but the urge is so much stronger.  Likewise, the urge to not grade things is also very strong.  That's the beauty of a 4-day break, though.  You recover your strength just long enough to keep grading and going.

Having said that, everything is still moving by at a pretty fast clip.  Just yesterday school was starting, and in the blink of an eye it will be halfway over.  October is a busy month for me.  I have a whole bunch of stuff to do, from grading an ungodly amount of reading questions, quizzes, and essays, to working on prepping my kids even more for AIMS, to going to Oak Creek next weekend and to going to California two weekends after that.  Plus, we have to plan for Halloween.  That, in and of itself, is going to take some time.  I really need to think about it.

Once October's over, November and December literally fly by.  There's hardly any time before Thanksgiving, then no time at all before Winter Break, then it's back to the grind.  But the grind is so much better because there's a light at the end of the tunnel.  Yes, it's stressful, but in April once the AIMS are over, it's basically fun times and smoooooooth sailing.

Currently, I'm just trying to enjoy a book and fix my garden up a bit.  I basically killed my tomato plant, in between forgetting to water it as much as it needs and then the frosts and the onset of real fall.  I have a new set of sprouts in a baby pot I need to bring inside so it doesn't die in the next week, but I at least made a try of everything this year.  Next year will be better because I'll be able to get a real start, in the spring.  Maybe I can even try squash or cucumbers!

I have two books I'm reading right now: Under Wildwood, by lead singer and songwriter of the Decemberists, Colin Meloy, and The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart.  The illustrator for both those books is Carson Ellis, Colin Meloy's wife.  Naturally, they are sort of two peas in a pod type books.  So far, too, Under Wildwood is much better than the first book in the series.  It's much more exciting and the action starts much more quickly.  It took 300 pages for me to get interested in the first book.  I'm only 120 pages into this one and I'm really enjoying it.  I know I said I wanted to do some more adult reading, but I take it back.  I want more fun reading.  I haven't been having fun with the adult books I've been reading, though I really really need to work on Bleak House.  I want to actually finish it by the end of the year, and since I am part of the ensemble in a local production of A Christmas Carol, I figure I should probably be reading that, too.  Then, there's the bit of Welsh history I'd like to read, the Mabinogion, which the book we're reading in class right now is based on, in large part (The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander).

With all this reading to do, I really shouldn't be sitting here blogging and watching sleepy British murder mysteries.

But I like blogging.

Can I go live in England for a bit?  The greenery is really lovely.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Little Habits

"We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit."
             -- Artistotle

Although I'm not a big fan of classical antiquity, I think he's got this one pegged.  I can do something well, but for me to really be excellent at something I do, I need to do it over and over again and perfect it.  Additionally, when I get in the habit of small routines, it enhances my overall performance.

It always takes me a while to settle into a routine.  For example, it's taken me over a month to get into a comfortable routine with my job.  I still need to tweak it (clearly), but I'm kind of proud of what I've established so far.  I managed to get up and out of the house by 7 AM or a little earlier.

That's my big accomplishment.  Wooooot.

When I get out of the house that early, I have way more time in which to start my day and I have a little bit of solitary leisure time to rewrite my whiteboards, reorganize my papers, put in some grades, and help any student who might decide to stop by for tutoring.

This routine has helped me so much this past week.  I sent out progress reports on Friday and then this week there was a test on Tuesday.  Thus, this week has been crazy!  I've had a bunch of parent meetings, staff meetings, and plenty of homework that I have been dutifully ignoring, mostly because I knew that this weekend we had no plans and no houseguests.  I kind of saved all my major work for this weekend, but I'm still pretty caught up with everything.

This week has also been a big week for seeing my students and their parents outside of school.  I saw one of my kids' mother at our nearby Starbucks (inside Safeway -- we're so cool here in Flagstaff).  I saw one of my kids playing in Heritage Square last night, and when I went to the library yesterday afternoon I not only saw another one of my kids and her dad, but her dad and I sat down because he had some things he wanted to speak with me about and believe you me, it was much easier than scheduling a conference, if not as kosher.  All these experiences this week have reinforced the idea that I am pretty free to do what I want (I don't do anything really risque to begin with), but I have begun being careful of what music I play when I have the windows down and what I say whilst in traffic altercations.  It occurs to me that they're everywhere and I need to set a good example everywhere.  This is excellent practice for parenthood.  Lawsy that sounds so dorky and boring.  But it's true!

And speaking of the library, it was HOPPING on Friday.  Despite that, I could only find one book I really, really wanted.  And even then, not sure if I'm going to actually get around to reading it or not.  However, I did just finish a grown-up novel for my newly-joined grown-up book club (yay!) and have plans for several others.  I have checked out several ebooks by Tony Hillerman (Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, anyone?) and am genuinely thinking about starting and chipping away at Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville.

Because I'm just that nerdy.  Oh yeah.  Honestly, reading every day or every week is a habit as well.  I've been getting in bad habits at home of coming home, changing into something comfy, and then sitting in front of the TV until bedtime.  That's bad.  I mean, yes, we have discovered Parks and Recreation and it's AWESOME, but at the same time, I really need to be doing something productive with my time instead of rotting my brain away every night.  Hence the books.  If I can sit down and read for half an hour every night and get in the habit, I would feel so much better about myself and my life.  Plus, my cousin bought me a gift certificate to Bookman's, so I've been getting way too excited about buying fun books recently.

All in all, good habits actually are important!  Who knew!

Okay, Aristotle knew, BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It's September Already!

I have a feeling this is how many of these blogs posts are going to go for the rest of this year.  Time is literally flying by.  I am very grateful.  The week doesn't seem that long when it speeds along like it has been.  I am wonderfully busy, but not so busy I feel like I can't take a breath.

Well, okay, maybe not always.  I got sick toward the end of last week (right when my laptop got a wee bit fried and my students turned in a BUNCH of stuff), so basically I've been playing catch-up all week.  However, because I've been sort of lax on them because of that this week, so I only have some basic worksheets to grade this weekend, plus it was a 3-day weekend.

With all that in mind, I decided to finally sit down and read a fun book this weekend.  Either it was an easy book or I was really excited to be reading it (I'm gonna go with really easy) because I finished it in only two sittings.  You won't be surprised anymore when you hear what it was: How to Train Your Dragon.

When I finished it, I decided to write down all the rest of the books I've been reading this summer.  I have a little book where I make sure I keep a record of all of them.  So far, this year, I've read 49 books.  This is only ONE book away from my goal for the year!  Last year, I struggled to make my goal.  I was still burnt out on school and I just couldn't seem to get my head in the game.  This year, I'm really trying to make up for lost time and learning and really read read read read.

And, extra good news, I got invited to participate in a book club!  I've only ever been in one book club before, and I must confess that I didn't actually read those books.  We read all Jane Austen, all the time, and I'd read them all before, so since I had a really tough semester, I sort of fudged a little.  Not this time, baby.  I am way too excited for this book club.

In other news, Board Game Club has it's second week this upcoming Thursday.  I am in charge of word games, and this week I am bringing Scrabble, Scrabble Slam, Apples to Apples, and Bananagrams.  That means that fun is definitely in store for this week!

So keep hanging cool.

Friday, August 17, 2012

7 Days Down, 173 to Go. :)

What an interesting week.  I am definitely tired and I need some relaxation.  I am also looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow with relish.  And I used "relish" correctly in that sentence.  "Relish" was one of the words in a story a lot of my kids defined as part of a worksheet I made them do. . .about half of them still didn't use it correctly in a sentence.  I'm thinking that if I want them to learn it at all, I have to make them redo those sentences and then give me five more.

That was actually a great brainstorm.  Brainstorms are very necessary to survival.  There are so many different ways to impart information in a meaningful way, and when we are getting trained as teachers, we are literally bombarded with information.  It's essentially impossible to retain that information, so when I do have a brainstorm like that which actually helps me, my mind explodes from all the sheer awesome.

I have learned that I do love this age group.  When kids act out in my class and I write their names up on the board, half of them will come see me after class and apologize of their own accord.  Simply because they feel bad.  Some kids just need a push in the right direction.  They were working on some questions about a short folktale we had read, and a few kids were stumbling on a couple questions.  I walked over to them individually, told them which passage to reread, and then all of them were answering those questions when I returned.

One of my colleagues gave me some invaluable advice: compliment the kids or the class three times for every negative comment you make.  If you stay in this ratio (3:1), the kids will like you and you will have a better time.  IT'S TRUE.  I haven't gotten mad once this week, and believe you me, there's been plenty of occasions for that to happen.  I have gotten a little frustrated, but then it's been actually easy to compliment the kids who are doing the right thing and to just remember that they're not wasting my time.  They're wasting their own time.  I could be working in the spice mines on Kessel, but instead I'm teaching and if they're not willing to learn, then I assign busywork and take a step back and try again in five minutes.  At this age, they are still so eager to please that if you give them five minutes to calm down and to refocus, THEY WILL.

It's insane.

Funny Stories/Unique Incidents:

1.  I was talking about how folktales are false or based in superstition, then gave the example of The Little Mermaid.  Student raises her hand.  I call on her.  She goes, "Mermaids are real, though.  Scientists have found proof". All hell breaks loose.  Another student goes, "Those scientists are whack".  I may have laughed a bit too much.

2.  As an example of a noun that is a thing but doesn't fit into the "you can smack it, therefore it's a 'concrete' noun" category, I brought up atoms.  I mentioned that it is possible to split an atom but it's incredibly difficult.  Children then assume I am a nuclear physicist and that I know all the answers to the universe, and begin asking me how to split an atom.  I do appreciate the fact that they think I know everything.

3.  Today, I turned homework in class into a reward for one class, and then told them that if they were extra good for five minutes we would listen to classical music.  We totally rocked out to Dvorak's "New World Symphony".

4.  One girl came very close to a breakdown in one of my classes because she couldn't find her assignment (which she expressed to me by saying, "You never gave me one," to which I then answered, "You haven't been absent, you HAVE to have one").  She had turned it in the day before.

5.  Another kid turned in her worksheet the day before.  She then proceeded to ask me if I still had it.  My response:  ". . .Yes. . .why wouldn't I?"

6.  Yet another student labeled the word "squirrel" as an abstract noun.

7.  I came up with hand motions for the 5 elements of plot and made my students remember that rising action is when problems start to happen by having them say "problems" like a Valley girl.

8.  Apparently, even in 5th grade, cooties are still a thing.  I was making my students shake hands as their hand motion for the resolution of a story (#5), and several kids refused to shake hands.  Creatively, one student drew an outline of his hand on a whiteboard and then made his partner shake that.

9.  While learning about nouns, under the category of things, all the classes listed animals.  In one class, however, a student goes, "But animals aren't things -- they're people!!"  You have to give her credit for genuinely loving animals, but I definitely shot that one down.  The same girl also asked if we could stop talking about Little Red Riding Hood because she didn't like that the wolf was portrayed in a negative way.

10.  I had a student raise his hand upwards of a dozen times in one class, and every time I called on him he would forget what he had to say.  EVERY TIME.

Needless to say, at the very least, these kids keep me entertained.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Survival Mode: Engaged


I have survived lots of things: terrible jokes, bad puns, horrible smells, painful hangnails, mold. . .the list goes on and on.  One thing I am now able to add to my list is that I have survived the first day of teaching as a full-time, first-year teacher.  It's like I'm real or something now.

And, all in all, it wasn't too bad.  In fact, I would describe it as fun.  I am teaching four sections of 5th grade English, or Language Arts, if you will.  I have learned some things, and I have enjoyed some things.

Things I Have Learned:

  1. It feels really good to have made a whole bunch of packets and papers before they're actually needed.
  2. Attendance is unfun.
  3. Copy machines must be cajoled, particularly mine.  I must coo and coddle and turn any number of knobs before I can actually copy anything.
  4. When put before a captive audience of 25-odd students, all that comes out of my mouth is $5 words.  It may elicit confused looks on their faces, but it will benefit them in the end.
  5. Most of my jokes go over their heads and thus I resort to doing voices and making faces.
  6. My coworkers are very nice and helpful.
Things I Have Enjoyed:

  1. I asked the kids to tell me an interesting fact about themselves.  One kid said, "I'm dangerous."  Bear in mind, he's 10.
  2. I also asked the kids to draw me a pretty pretty picture on the back of the diagnostic I gave them today.  I got, in no particular order: a narwal, zombies eating brains, Godzilla, several flowers, dogs, cats, and at least three cute and funny depictions of myself.
  3. One drawing was of sharks in the ocean with a sign that said, "Be careful!  The water is shark infused".  I laughed for about five minutes.
  4. Yelling "HUSTLE HUSTLE HUSTLE" at stragglers in the hallways.
  5. A group of students used the word "aesthetic" mostly correctly in about 30 sentences over the course of two days.  Then, when I told them they were creaming the other groups and had to stop because they were vocabulary monsters, I made them make monster noises and claws.  Oh the power.
  6. My coworkers are very nice and helpful.
Needless to say, I am actually quite looking forward to this year.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Can Do This

My goodness starting a new school year is overwhelming.

There's always so much to do and so little time in which to actually do it.  Or at least that's what it feels like.  It feels like I'm Atlas and I'm holding up the world (or at least a mountain) and any second now somebody's going to come up behind me like my mom used to and bop me on the back of the knees and make me fall over.  Awesome.

Having said that, aside from the occasional burst of grumpy snippiness or full-fledged, 5 minute sob-fest, I have been uncannily calm about the whole situation.  No, really, it's kind of eerie.  Here I am, about to embark on my first full year as a teacher (yikes), teaching a new grade (yikes yikes) and a new subject, ostensibly (yikes yikes yikes!).  Despite this serenity, I AM TERRIFIED.  In other words, feeling just as should be expected.

Fortunately, I have had some help and support from my fellow-teachers, something I rarely got at either of my previous jobs.  So that's nice.  I do feel way more comfortable knowing I have them and their vast swathes of knowledge essentially at my fingertips.  Thank goodness.  But still, I am viewing this school year as a "We'll know what we're doing next week when next week comes along" sort of thing.  And I'm not going to feel badly about it.  If I get to teach the same grade level and subject next year, then I'll probably be doing this much better.  But right now, I'm feeling lucky to have any sort of plan whatsoever.  Plus, I've been hanging out at the copy machine all day, and I'm pretty stoked about the fact that I have four packets all ready to go.

On a not unrelated note, have you ever noticed that lots of words get smushed together that you wouldn't think should be smushed together, but words that make sense to go together don't?  For example: why isn't copy machine one word?  It just feels better.  And why forthwith a smushed word?  Maybe that one just doesn't make sense because it's kind of archaic.  But you know what I mean, right?  Like tiddlywinks.  What now?  Of course, every now and again, they get it right (e.g. footstool. . .clearly it's a stool for your foot and should stay together because your foot and the stool stay together).  Maybe I'm just cantankerous.  maybe I prefer made-up words like vorpal and frindle.  And possimpible.

So I'll just end with this thought:


Friday, July 20, 2012

It's Crunch Time!

Let me start with:  I ain't getting any younger.  Damn.

I hate to be that person who rambles on about the glory days for eons, but I've really been feeling it this week.

I hate to be that other person, but trying to get 14 little boys to behave on a hike is like herding cats.  "Stay on the trail. . .stay on the trail. . .stay on the trail. . .STAY ON THE TRAIL" was sort of my whole day yesterday.  Even though we walked at a the pace of a snail, I was exhausted by the time I got home.  Then there was no time to relax because Philip was doing his first ever cupping.  It was a successful evening all the way around, but by the time we got home it was 9:30.

For us old people, that's late.

I'm tired.

But the workload is going to start. . .now.  For the past three weeks, I've essentially been babysitting.  I got some great prep work the last week of June, but since then I've really been slowing down.  I probably shouldn't even be sitting here, blogging, when I could be making grammar worksheets.  And last night, even though I'd made up my mind to stay up and work hard. . .I just couldn't get my butt in gear.  I even had a cup of coffee (god it was delicious) but it just wasn't enough to get me to read some more of my book.  I traded a relatively early night (10:30) for a few hours of much needed work.  Uh-oh.

For the next two weeks, I have training (yay!), then one week of time to get my classroom ready (yikes!) then school starts (yay again!).  Pretty much from now until next June I'm booked solid.

I'm still so excited.  I just bought some school supplies: post-it notes, dividers, notebooks, and lots of red pens!

For the record, I don't understand all the hullabaloo about red pens.  Remember all that nonsense a few years ago about how red ink on papers was traumatic to young minds because it was pointing out all the things they did wrong?  Newsflash: that's what it's supposed to do. If it's pointing out all the right things, that seems a bit redundant.  Maybe I'm just a dork, but I liked seeing the red ink on my papers.  It meant that I could improve.  Sure, there's that first twinge of "aw man" and then sometimes the "I really thought I had fixed that," but after those have passed and you sit down and really think about it, aren't you glad that now you have the chance to make something better instead of passing off a mediocre piece of writing as something excellent?  I always am.

In related news, I am not a teacher so that I can babysit and coddle.  If you want me to hold your hand and spoon-feed you, newsflash again, it ain't gonna happen.  I see nothing wrong with a little sweat, blood, and tears.  Mostly the sweat and tears.  You know, the classes that caused me the most grief in high school are inevitably the ones I look back on as having influenced me the most (I wish I could say the same for college, but alas the ones that were the most influential required no less sweat but way less tears).  Things really do feel better when you have genuinely earned them.  Praise is so much sweeter when you know it is well deserved.

And that's why I use red pen.

Welp, here goes resolution #2: drink more coffee.  Where's that pitcher of toddy?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hey Wow, It's July Already!

Is it sad that I'm actually looking forward to the bitterly cold, gale-force winds of November in Flagstaff?

I thought I moved away from the literal hotbed of Arizona in order to enjoy a cooler clime where sweat was a mere figment of the imagination.  THINK AGAIN.  It is incredible how hot it can get in Flagstaff.  And there's at least two more months until it starts to get cool again.  I mean, yes, when it's hot, it's 86 instead of 120, but still!  This is kind of outrageous.  Maybe I'm just in a combative mood with the weather because I'm sipping a hot drink at the coffeeshop, but I kid you not when I discuss the overbearing nature of this heat.

Fortunately, Flagstaff has one thing in its favor most days that Phoenix definitely does not: clouds.  As I sit here, beautiful plumes scud across the sky.  Have you ever noticed that only clouds scud?  Nothing else ever does.  Clouds also wander.  Apparently, they have quite a personality.  Whatever their anthropomorphic qualities, they make me happy.  And they make the scene so much more pleasant.  I am thinking of rewarding myself for this week (which is going to be long and tough, I am sure), with a creek trip on Saturday.  Wouldn't that be nice.

There's so much to look forward to in July.  I get a paycheck (isn't that nice).  I get infinitely more practice driving stick shift.  (Coincidentally, I drove all around Flagstaff yesterday with my best friend, to both of my work places for July, to the library, everywhere, and I DIDN'T KILL US.  Yes, in fact, we even got up to like 45 mph.  There may have even been a curb incident, but like I said, witness the two of us distinctly alive today.  I consider that a triumph of the highest order.)  I get to start training for my new teaching job (ohmygiddygoodnessI'msoexcited!).  I'm going to get a haircut (you have no idea how much I've been needing a haircut and haven't been able to get one).  I'm going to get some flower baskets to put on our back porch, and maybe some things to eat someday.  I get to catch up with old friends before school starts.  And, perhaps most importantly, THE OLYMPICS START ON MY BIRTHDAY.  Is there any greater birthday present than fireworks in London and incredibly jingoistic portrayals of national fervor and competition??  NO, there is not.

Ooh, and right after school starts is me and the man's two year anniversary of starting to date and he promised to take me to a really nice restaurant for dinner.  I'mma gonna dress up all fahncy and order me some classy wine and say things like, "Oh my!  What a delightful bouquet of fromagian splendour!"

Still, most of all, I'm grateful and happy to have such a great husband.  I am going to gush about this as long as is humanly possible.  Some of you may know that I had to go to the emergency room recently.  I was having chest pains, shortness of breath, dizzy spells, and I almost fainted earlier that afternoon.  We felt it was a case of better safe than sorry, so we packed up and headed out to the emergency room. This man not only held my hand all night and told me stories of when his little brother stabbed him in the thigh with a fork, but he giggled at the next-bed crazy right along with me.

In case you have never been to the emergency room around midnight, I will tell you what kinds of shenanigans go on there.  In one bed you have a man so wasted they called an ambulance for him at the bar and he keeps barking "Don't touch me!" to the nurses who are trying to take out his IV.  In the other bed, you have a woman who has broken her L1 vertebrae (god we were bored), and in the course of the various conversations spanning three hours managed to discuss at length how her mother did not in fact commit suicide (she had goals), but her father most likely murdered her mother and then staged it as a suicide.  And then started playing a Justin Bieber documentary on her phone.  Fortunately, unlike either of those folks, there was nothing actually wrong with me so after three grueling hours of listening to crazy, we got to go home.

Best of all, we now have a beautiful x-ray on our refrigerator.

Ahhhh, the magical days of summer.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

New Reading List!

I am WILDLY excited.

I just got a job.  Not only do I finally feel legitimated as an adult and a teacher, but I also finally feel like things are turning around a bit for me and my darling hubband.  He got a job too (which is very thrilling) and we're finally getting set up in our new life.  I know it wasn't really that long (it's not even our three month anniversary yet) but boy did it feel like forever.  I hate being unemployed and every day felt like a year.

More than that, I am so very stoked to do what my job actually entails: teaching 5th grade English.  Ohmygoodness there's just so much exciting stuff that goes into it!  We're going to be reading and writing and working with technical literature and grammar and regular literature and poetry and creativity and growing our minds and exploring our world!  Could you ask for anything more?

Currently, I am asking some more of myself.  I made up a reading list for my kiddos just yesterday (so long ago, I know).  Now, I've read about half the books on that list, but I feel that I really should know the material before I ask them to read it.  My challenge, then, is to read the rest of the books before school starts!  First up, The Wind in the Willows!  And next up, Bud, Not Buddy.  It's nice, too, because some of these I'm looking at and thinking "How the hell have I never read this book before?"  Like, for example, Number the Stars.  How on earth did I not read that?

I.   Love.  These.  Books.  I always have.  When I was in upper elementary school, I read A TON.  I know, shocking.  I was even in Battle of the Books so that I could read extra.  Some of my all-time favorite books are from there and from this age-range: There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom, Bridge to Terabithia, The View from Saturday, Phoenix Rising, Gregor the Overlander. . .the list goes on and on.   One of the best parts about this job is now I get to TEACH these books!  How awesome is that!  And I have close to 100 kids (or more) all a captive audience for me to gush about Gregor.  I know, it's a bit of abuse of power, but WHATEVER.  It's a fantastic book and I want them to know about it.

But all of these are fantastic books, and I am going to read every last one of them so that I can tell them, with 100% certainty, that they are awesome.  Plus, I need to know if there's violence or nudity or profanity or something else questionable for the age level that we need to be aware of.  There's nothing worse than leading a sensitive young student into a graphically violent novel where they get super grossed out.  That was definitely me and Hatchet.  I so do not want to try to read it again, but at the same time I feel compelled to do so.  Ugh.  Oh well, hip hip hooray for books!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Heebie-Jeebies


That's not really an emotion I like to have coursing through me like the Mississippi in the middle of the night.  Especially when there is no ax murderer hanging over my bed (i.e. no real cause for the panic).

But do you know what I mean?  Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night completely and irrationally freaked out by something?  Or woken up and been wildly happy?  If you have, read on for feelings of familiarity and mutual experiences, and if you haven't, read on for some hilarious-in-the-light-of-day stories.

So I'm a girl who has very vivid, complex dreams that usually include a storyline of epic proportions.  If only Chuck Heston was still alive, they'd use him as the lead and make these into movies.  Every so often, I'll be dreaming about something and not realize I'm dreaming.  Like, for example, BUGS.  And then I FREAK OUT.

This one night, I think I was still in high school, I dreamt that an army of spiders were coming up through my mattress right into the middle of my back.  I freaked out so hardcore that without even being fully cogent and awake, I grabbed my Puppy and all my blankets and rolled completely off the bed.  I was really into the idea of sleeping on the floor for a while.  I had to get up and turn on the light and poke around my bed for five minutes before I was willing to accept the fact that my dream just seemed extra real.

Here's another pro tip: don't read about serial killers right before bed.  Then you dream that they have a luminous green poison that's seeping across your arm and is going to kill you and then they're going to skin you, boil all the flesh off you, rearticulate you, and sell you to a doctor as a classroom skeleton.  Try going back to sleep after that.

It's not always bad, though.  Right after we moved in up here, my husband and I were sleeping and I suddenly woke up.  I just felt so happy to be with him and to be here and not in the Valley and I just couldn't handle it.  So I turned over and went whapwhapwhapwhapwhapwhapwhap. . .whap on his bottom.  In my mind, it was a happy noise, and once I was done, I blissfully turned right back over and went to sleep.  Understandably, my husband did not think that was a happy smack.  He thought there was an intruder or something was wrong.  So the poor guy wakes up all disoriented and concerned, and he comes and leans over me and is all like, "Babe, what's wrong?  What is it?"  Meanwhile, I've already gone back to sleep, so now I'm confused.  Pile a little on top of that because I'm thinking, "Uh, that was a happy noise, clearly there's nothing wrong," and basically tell him so.  Poor guy gets woken up for nothing.

Yet another night, I turned to him, frantic, and said, "WHERE DID ALL THE PEOPLE GO?"

Yeah, can't explain that one.

Last night (and sort of why I bring all this up), I woke up, all snuggled up with my Puppy, and I could have sworn I felt an extra heartbeat.  Now this was like the freakout of all freakouts.  Stuffed animals do not have heartbeats.  Clearly.  So my mind went immediately to bugs.  I don't know why, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to feel bug heartbeats either.  So I fa-reak out and roll over and snuggle up reeeeeeeeeeal close to my husband.  Being the kind person he is, he sort of wakes up and asks me what's wrong, so I ask him if there could be anything in my Puppy.  Dutifully (and truthfully), he says no, and then turns over to spoon me.  Unfortunately, I'm already freaked out, so this was helpful and detrimental all at the same time.  He is a heavy guy sometimes, and it got a little hard for me to breathe, and then I started feeling his heartbeat.  And it was going THUBATHUBATHUBATHUBATHUBA  at breaknight lightspeed.  Naturally, I felt concerned over this, and started hyperventilating.  Then, concerned that I was hyperventilating, he asked me what was wrong, and I go, "Your heartbeat is so fast!  Have you ever had that checked out??"

The long and short of these stories is:  I am waaaaaaaay too easily freaked out and messed with by my dreams, and my husband is a saint for putting up with these shenanigans.  So if you get the heebie-jeebies, remember -- you can sleep when you're dead.

Pro tip #2.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Here it is and we are fast approaching the one-month mark of moving up from the insanity of the Valley.


All in all, I think we're having a good time.  It is so nice to be living on our own.  We have the most adorable little apartment.  The crown jewel of our little living space is our couch -- a Lovesac giant that takes up all the space in our tiny living room but is just the best couch ever!  The first week up here, every afternoon I would do nothing but nap on that thing.  We have our beautiful new, classy black slipcovers and our homemade purple afghan (courtesy of Rose's Crochet Creations) which compliments it perfectly. It's finally feeling very homey -- I put up all my pictures and my books and my knicknacks.  The boy has set up all his games and technology and connected up the Internet, so he's pretty happy.  I love our bedset, too. . .when I get it with all the big pillows on their it feels so nice and comfy!  It's nice to have a snuggle buddy, too, hee hee hee.

Perhaps my favorite thing about our apartment, in terms of decorating, is our bathroom.  We got kiddy-themed decorations and they really put a smile on my face.  We have this cute shower curtain that has cartoon, brightly colored sea animals all over it with matching soap and toothbrush holders and curtain hangers.  It just makes me so happy!  I love it!  Coming home is so nice, I hardly want to leave.

The weather up here is absolutely gorgeous, too.  I do keep forgetting that it's easy to get sunburned up here, but I think I'm finally getting a nice even tan (even if it is accidental).  For like eight years I've had a farmer's tan and I might actually have evened out my shoulders with the rest of my arms.  Woot!  Sometimes it can get a bit warm, but then the gale-force wind kicks in and it gets nice and cool again.  I am waiting patiently for the clouds, however.  They'll probably come in July or August, but I'm missing them right now.  The other thing that's nice is that I get to walk so much more -- I feel like I'm actually getting a little natural exercise.  I could still use a little more, but hey.

The other exciting thing (ha) is that we spent our first month here watching the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I had tried to start watching it with my mom, but we thought it was too campy.  Philip was all excited about it, so I decided to try it again with someone who had an already positive attitude towards it.  And I was well rewarded!  It was so much fun!  I really love that Joss Whedon sense of humor.  My favorite type of humor is the little slip-ins.  You know, like something hilarious going on in the background.  The funny lines that are said really dead-pan and quiet so that they're easy to miss but if you catch them you're well-rewarded.  That's kinda Buffy all over.  So it was enjoyable -- just what to watch next.  I guess it will have to be Angel.

Other than that, I am not really reading anything anybody who wants to stay conscious wants to hear about, so I will close with this:

It's adventure time!  Summer fun is just around the corner!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Snow Whatever and the Random People

I love movies.  I mean, who doesn't, right?  Well, some people, like how there are some people who don't like chocolate.  I don't get them, but they're out there.  Anyhow, with movies, I have certain things I really enjoy.  Good acting, a great script, fun special effects. . .and when they all come together, you have perfect movie magic.

Sometimes, none of these things come together and all we can do is gleefully mock it to our heart's content.

This blog posting will contain spoilers for Snow White and the Huntsman.  Because Kristen Stewart has the right blend of blah mojo to ruin any major motion picture.

I mean, seriously, I genuinely don't get her appeal.  She's fine but not super pretty, and she can't act her way out of a paper bag.  Her only real draw is that she's Bella and that draws huge crowds of tweenyboppers which translates into cash elsewhere.  Like in pointless reimaginings of fairy tales.

My first problem with this movie was that there was hardly any background or dialogue.  I think they were scared of giving Kristen Stewart more to do than look scared.  Either that, or her character was actually mentally traumatized by years of imprisonment in a dark tower like she would be in real life.  When I read that biography of Catherine the Great recently, there was mention of several princes and noblepeople who got imprisoned in horrible, dank cells for quite a few years.  Inevitably, their minds were broken and they were insane shells of people when they were finally released, and no one to rally behind at all.  When you think of it that way, you really have to pity the regular joe schmoe townspeople.

Kristen Stewart's lack of ability to manage scripts more complex than a Dick and Jane picture book or the Twilight series severely impinges on the quality of this movie.  There is no real character development.  There's some background from the other actors, but for some reason it just doesn't sink in.  It never really makes the movie richer.  And nothing is quite explained enough.  Chris Hemsworth's Huntsman is all depressed because the queen sucked his wife dry for her youth and he's all salty and cool, but then suddenly he's so impressed with Snow White he's the one who can give her the kiss of true love, bringing her back to life.  What?  When did that happen?  There could have been an awesome love story, maybe a decent triangle, but no.  There was no real working up to it.  It just sort of was.  Plus, he definitely makes reference to fighting in a war that happened when she was like 9.  He's like twice her age.  And she's probably still a minor.  Ewwwwwwwww.  Then, the queen's powers come from the blood of the fairest, but it's not really explained, so Snow White kills her using blood?  Not really sure how that happened and I don't think she does either.  There's no real conflict, either.  At the end, after she kills the big bad queen, Snow White stares at her reflection in the Mirror Mirror on the Wall, but that's it.  There's no moment of seduction, there's no moral dilemma about whether or not to use the mirror for her own powers, there's no grand refusal where she hurls it to the ground, it's just "well ain't I pretty and now it's time to be crowned".  The same goes for the dwarves.  It's all like, "we used to mine for gold but now we're all sad," but that's about it.  There's no real attachment.  Which is a shame, because they could've been something really great about the movie.  I guess if I want enjoyable dwarf fun I'll have to wait for The Hobbit.  Errrrghhhhhh, I'm not a patient person!  Gah.

When there's no real attachment to the characters or their story, then everything else is just kind of pointless.  The special effects were fine.  But what's the point of making Charlize Theron turn into a bunch of crows if we have no idea why?  It's just like, "well that looks cool".  And, truth be told, it was kind of a bit much.  In the magical fairy land, EVERYTHING MOVES.  It's overstimulating.  It would be more powerful if only some things moved.  But when the ground writhes, it doesn't seem beautiful, it just seems creepy.

The last thing that was really awful about this movie was that it dragged on forever.  Sort of like this blog posting, I know.  The pace was slow and disjointed, and even the action didn't feel like anything was really happening.  Those movies are the absolute worst.  You're just begging for a reason to enjoy them and they just can't give you one.

All in all, don't go see this movie unless you want a good giggle.  I've really enjoyed ripping it to pieces in this blog.  But it's not good for anything else.

Go see The Pirates, instead.  It was hilarious and super British and inventive.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Full Speed Ahead!

It's time to start again.

And I'm not just saying that because I moved.  I'm saying that because I feel like everything in my life is different, and I'm trying to just plain keep going.  I need a lot of things, most of which I really don't want to discuss here.  Mostly, I could use a new direction -- something to set goals for and to move towards and work for that isn't watching all the seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in three weeks.

Thank god for old connections.  See, this past year, I wasn't. . .oh what's the word. . .intellectually challenged hardly at all.  Oh sure, I had a ton of mental stress, but I emphasize now that it is not quite the same deal.  I mean, I read.  Sure, I read.  But I didn't read a whole lot that I would say furthered my professional education.  Maybe one or two books, but even then I don't really remember any too much like that.  So when one of my old professors mentioned to me in March that maybe we could do an independent study come summer, and then when I suddenly had plenty of time to spare on my hands, I thought: "Yes!  This is it!  I am ready to start thinking and learning again!"

So here I am, talking about how excited I am to start being ultra dorky again.  The topic of the "class" is essentially nation and migration, particularly concerning the Indian diaspora in other parts of the Imperial Commonwealth, preferably pre-20th century.  The reason I want to know about this is because I know that Indian upper middle class men sent their promising (or not so promising coughGandhicough) sons to Britain to be educated.  But what about everybody else?  And what about the people who stayed in Britain?  The founder of Pakistan lived and worked quite happily as an adult in the UK for like fifteen years.  And what about their fathers?  Did they go to school in Britain too?  Anyhow, I want to know about these things.  And if I can get grad school credit somehow, all the better.

On the other hand, I'm going to need something to read aside from academic books (or else my brain will be fried).  And as much as I'm enjoying sitting so much on our giant and hugely comfortable couch, methinks my waistline will not forgive me for doing that all summer.  So, I have picked out fun books in an attempt to get me out from in front of the TV and then maybe that will prompt me to get off my butt and go run around in Flagstaff a bit.  I'm still working on Bleak House (gimme a break, it is a summer project), and I just picked up The Folded Earth, which should prove to be like an Arundhati Roy book except it's by a lady named Anuradha Roy.  I know, I definitely had to look up and see if they were related.  Here's something funny -- this page put a red squiggly line under the second name but not the first.  Weird.

So I guess what I'm saying is while everything around me is churning with change I am trying desperately to hold onto something familiar that I'm good at: school.  And Backstreet Boys.  Or, more loosely, the good ol' songs that I love and listen to ALL THE TIME.  And my hubby.  He must get annoyed at me sometimes because there are definitely days where I'm like a leech, just hanging onto him for dear life.  I am ridiculously lucky he is so supportive or I would've given up on the entire move thing last week, would've shelled out the extra cash to break my lease, and high-tailed it back to the Valley.  Let's be honest.  But having someone to stand next to you and hold your hand really helps.  It grounds you and let's you be brave.

And I will be brave.  I will stick out the tough times and I will hang on to what's beautiful and happy and I will be just fine.  That's my new mantra.  Well, okay, I have a lot of mantras, but that's the one for this week.  That, or "oatmeal raisin cookies are delicious".

P.S., my computer crashed hardcore this past weekend.  And when I say "crashed," I mean it crashed onto the bathroom floor and bent the harddrive completely out of whack.  Yes, I am a bad computer mommy.  Since then, I have had to rename my computer.  It is temporarily renamed "Bernard" (it was "Bernadette") but somehow I don't think that's right.  It's like I gave my computer a sex change, but I didn't.  I gave it a new soul, not new naughty bits.  So the search for a new name kind of continues.  I'm toying with "Gunther" but mostly I think this computer is a bit of an old lady.  Perhaps "Olive".  Yeah, I kinda like Olive.  Olive, I love you.  Hahahahaha.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Slant-wise and Upside-down

How I feel about this book is much like how I've been feeling about my life recently.


The better word for this novel is probably something more along the lines of: shifting realitites. Or some such nonsense.

Becky Thatcher. We all remember her from that classic, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. She's Tom's big love interest, and can you blame him? The shy glances, the twin braids, the gingham! But, according to this novel, Becky: The Life and Loves of Becky Thatcher, little old Samuel Clemens took a few liberties with the veracity of that story.

In this novel, Becky Thatcher is nothing if not fiery. She is a tough old soul who keeps getting thrown curveballs by life and takes them with determination and dignity. I'd say "like a man," but more and more I'm realizing that phrases like that don't hold with the truth of the matter. And so does she. She basically does what she likes. She runs with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn at nights around Hannibal, MO (a fact Mr. Twain conveniently left out), Injun Joe was, in fact, innocent and wasn't actually planning on killing them, and Tom Sawyer did not rescue her from that cave of death. Along the way, there is much more for the reader to enjoy, far past the familiar story-line of Tom Sawyer. There is love and loss and shame and guilt and PROSPECTING. Everyone enjoys a good bit of prospecting. The main theme here is that Mark Twain twisted the truth so much that it was no longer the real version of what had happened. Becky Thatcher is merely setting the record straight. It makes for an exciting story. There's the familiar plotline of Tom Sawyer woven into the rest of her story -- how she marries Tom's cousin Sid, goes off to war to try and bring him home safe, how they eventually travel West, and how Tom Sawyer never really seems to be out of their lives. He is a powerful character, even when she hates the fact that she is so easily influenced by him. He is the one thing in her life that she can never, ever hope to change or erase from her existence. We've all had that one love (or just person) who we can't get rid of from our minds and our hearts, no matter how hard we try. They linger and fester there, and if we never get the chance to really love them and be loved by them, that old hurt just continues to ferment and torment. Some people can find peace, but others, like Becky Thatcher, are doomed to forever focus on that one person like a haunting death wish. The one caveat I have for people wanting to read this book is: it does really help to be familiar with the Tom Sawyer story. When I was in school, they made us read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and he's in there a lot, but this story isn't about him. It's about Tom, and unless you're like me and read Tom just because you wanted some extra fun (yes, that was why I read it), then maybe this isn't the book for you. If you have read Tom Sawyer, then delve right in. It's kind of a beach read -- not too straining on the dendrytes, I'll say, but it's not a super trashy romance novel. And, let's be honest here. You would be a million times better off reading this than Snooki's book (if you can call it a book). It's not Charles Dickens (oh what a snob I am) but it is fun. As for myself, this might be my last fun book for a while. But probably not. I can't seem to resist a good fluffy book. I just started up a new independent study (whether or not it's for credit remains to be seen) with one of my old professors, so I'm going to have a lot of researching to do with that one. Then, I have my Dickens novel to chip away at over the course of the summer (I WILL FINISH IT MWAHAHAHA), and after that, we'll just have to see. I could use a few recommendations, as always. And hopefully, as my reading becomes more regular and orderly, so will my life. One can only hope.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Wide Open Spaces

Confession:  I am terrified of moving.

Half of me is the very adventurous type, the let's dunk our whole head underwater and devil-take-the-hindmost type.  The other half of me is the very conservative type.  Not the Rush-Limbaugh-listening, pro-life protesting, gun-toting Republican we've all come to love.  I mean the "boy, that bridge sure does look a little creaky, I think I'm going to take the long way around" type.

Granted, if someone else is being a chicken, then I'm Mrs. "Step Up and Jump in the Freezing Water First".  It's a very odd thing but completely true.  I've even talked to my cousin about it and she has this syndrome too. And, fortunately or unfortunately, I'm married to "Nothing Ever Phases Me" Philip.  Hahaha.  I'm gonna go with fortunately.  But it does tend to make me a little more cautious when nothing ever rumples his feathers.

But this time, I am determined to not be scared.  Or too scared, anyhow.  Change genuinely is good.  I know that's what people always say and everybody always rolls their eyes, but seriously, people!  Change is the only constant.  Oooooooohhh.  Change is the entire reason I can study history.  If there was no change, life would be super boring!  So I want to see you get up, RIGHT NOW, and do a happy dance for change.  That's it, shake that thang.  Yes, I am a gangsta.

Things are changing quite drastically for us.  We're moving to a different city where, granted, I've lived before, but we'll really be striking out on our own.  We're getting an apartment all to ourselves, and for the first time so far (all three weeks of it) being really able to call ourselves a settled married couple.  Soooo excited about that.  I'm already planning holiday decorations.  And Halloween costumes.  I got a new, full-time job, which will just about pay all our bills.  Philip's looking into a part-time job and he's going to finish up school.  We're going to buy our dream couch.  We're going to put away our books on our bookshelves and sit on our couch and watch our TV.  We're really on our way to something.

So things are scary in that they're very different (I mean, I'm going to be a preschool teacher.  I think I'll kick butt at it, but still.  15 children under the age of 4 for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week is going to be a unique experience for me), but it's a good different at the same time.

To that end, I have decided to give this transition ITS OWN THEME SONG.  Theme songs are great and I recommend everyone get one.  I have several.  Now, if someone wants to write me a Vegetable Subduer theme song, I will remunerate them in the form of delicious baked goods.  Probably cookies.  Which are not biscuits, biscuits you put gravy on.  Get it right, British-type peoples.  Anyhow, please write me a theme song.  And further anyhow, I don't care if you don't like country, this song is AWESOME.  And it's my new theme song for three weeks.  And very applicable since we're moving up north, where there is a potential for said spaces.  If you sing this song in, say, San Francisco, you feel very silly indeed.  Here she goes!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Where Are All My Books??

So I'm packing.  Because we're moving.  Not because I just love to pack.  It happens, but that would be weird.

And guess what is the bulkiest, largest section of my material life?  That's right, my books.  I have two giant bookcases full of books and one mini one.  Not to mention several giant tupperware storage units underneath my bed.  Those mainly just have books from my childhood, however.  So I may leave them behind for now, but who knows?  I get unreasonably attached to books and I might not be able to let them stay behind.

Anyhow, this poses a bit of a problem for my reading habits.  You see, I am reluctant to keep checking things out from the library right about now.  I don't want to accrue more fines, I don't want to have to track them all down before moving, and I have a few I have to check out for work purposes anyhow.  It has been very hard to put down my natural inclination for checking out as many random books as possible.


And it is called The Greater Phoenix Digital Library.  And if you have a library card with any of the Maricopa libraries (i.e., Scottsdale, Tempe, Glendale, Peoria, etc.), YOU TOO CAN USE THIS AWESOME RESOURCE.

It's easy peasy and you can get to it from the Scottsdale Public Library webpage.  Here's a handy link:

I'm going to issue a warning right now.  This website is NOT, I repeat, NOT for popular novels.  If you're thinking you're going to find a copy of Mockingjay, keep looking.  I suggest just camping out in Barnes & Noble, drinking a cup of coffee and having a muffin, and just taking a few hours out of your day and reading it right then and there.  At breakneck speed.

The GPDL works much like a regular library, except it's digital.  You check out books for a set period of time (usually 14 days), and when your time is up, it's gone from your computer.  And they only have so many books, so when someone checks it out, it's out.  Hence why anything super popular is probably not a good bet.  But what if you're like me, and you really enjoy reading obscure books?  You know, those tomes of classic literature that nobody in their right mind downloads in ebook form and then wades through on their laptop.

For example.

I was jonesing for some Alice in Wonderland, and I was lamenting to my hubby the fact that I had already packed my copy.  BUT THEN I REMEMBERED THE DIGITAL LIBRARY.  There were like 8 different version of Alice, and they came in lots of varieties -- ebooks, PDFs, WMA audiobooks, mp3 audiobooks. . .different people reading them to you. . .(where's Levar Burton??).  And then I remembered that I really wanted to read the copy of Alice that I got at the British Library, which is a special manuscript version of Carroll's finished product.  So no dice on Alice, but then I remembered it was time for my annual Dickens summer read!  Yay!

The bonus about loving Dickens -- one of the library copies was (and I had never seen this before): always available.  Yay classic literature!  So I promptly downloaded it and cannot wait to get cracking.

So here's the moral of today's story: if you have a really hard time getting physical print, it is okay to settle for electronic if you have no other choice and if you are hurting for some reading really really badly.

Otherwise, pick up a book.  It doesn't need to be charged.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012



4 days away.

I may have already changed the name on my library account.  Because #1 it's exciting and #2 it's so much easier than getting a new social.  I definitely don't want to think about that right now.

In fact, there's a lot that I have to think about right now that I don't feel like: getting an apartment, getting a job, paying for, oh, I don't know, food, my current work, resigning from my current work, and this whole wedding thing, you know.  Plus, I am now getting more concerned about proper female role models the more I think about becoming a mom. . .or proper male role models, for that matter.  If my boys want to play with Barbies I'll sure as hell let them, but will they be bullied or teased about it?  I don't think I could handle that. . .

Anyhow, my life is changing dramatically in half a week.  A quarter of a fortnight.  [Which reminds me, totally gonna check out this DVD of Ian McKellen (when he has brown hair!) doing famous Shakespeare monologues.  Afternoon relaxing win!]  And between the fits of hysterical giggling, the all-out fear, the nightmares, the sour tummy, and the almost constant threat of weeping just below the surface, I haven't really gotten much of a chance to think too much about it all.

Growing up is kinda scary.

And let's not forget that Death's just around the corner.  I mean seriously, that dude is always lurking, waiting for you to slip up.  Take your eyes off the road for one second, choose the wrong hallway during a tornado, or eat one too many Twix bars.  I love Twix bars.  Guess we know what I'll die of.  One of my friends used to say she didn't care -- she loved food too much and she wanted to die with a cheeseburger in one hand and a Diet Coke in the other.  NOW THAT'S LIVING.

But honestly, Death really puts things in perspective.  Recently, I've been reading/watching/listening to a lot of stuff involving Death, particularly spouses/lovers/loved ones dying and leaving people depressed, sad, and lonely.  The Hunger Games,  Titanic, even Ghost Whisperer are all conspiring to impress upon me the fact that I would be wrecked if Philip were to die suddenly, and even though I hope he dies after me, old and happy and sleeping, I will still be wrecked.  It's like Tennyson says, my dust would hear him and beat, had I lain for a century dead.

It turns out that there's really only one thing I'm scared of anymore: Philip dying.  I think I can face Death myself.  Despite the fact that I get a little nervous whenever I think about it (and super freaked out when I think about it too much), I feel like Death is a little comforting.  Like they always say, I imagine that it's like returning home.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, coming home again.  But if Philip were to go first, I would be alone.  Without him.  Missing him.  Every single day.  It would be a struggle to construct any kind of meaning for my life.

But ultimately, this is one of the best reminders that I feel I am making the right life choice.  When I think about losing him, I feel an instantaneous searing pain in my chest, and I feel like my heart is literally about to explode.  Which is a bit terrifying.  I have nightmares about him dying (or leaving me), and whenever a spouse dies on TV, I bawl.  Seriously, I cried during the entire episode of GW when Jim dies (don't worry, he comes back. . .somehow).  I thought I was going to make myself sick.  Then I cried for a whole hour during Titanic.    That one actually gets me more, because of at the end when Old Rose is all like, "I don't even have a picture of him; he exists now only in my memory."


As a historian, there is like no worse fate than not being remembered.  I'm sure there are TONS of people who aren't remembered and tons more who won't be. . .in a population of 6 billion that's bound to happen.  But it still kills me every time when someone is nameless and forgotten.  It's like they never existed in the first place.  I console myself with the idea that someone once upon a time knew who they were.

Identity is such paramount to humankind, not just as individuals but as a group.  We are not only defined by how we decide but how everyone else decides we should be defined.  We may try to deny it, but we are so intricately intertwined with the lives of those other 5,999,999,999 people on the planet.  It's completely inescapable.  Because trust me, even if you try to pull an Into the Wild move (God I detest that hideous excuse of a book), someone will find your idiotic rotting corpse in some bus in the wilderness.  And it won't be pretty.

I guess that's why I'm having a philosophical moment -- my identity is changing.  I am still Karen, but I will have a new last name.  I will have someone to run things past all the time, depend on all the time, and in turn have them depend on me all the time.  Fortunately, he is a grown person and not a baby so he's still capable of taking care of himself and I don't have to hold up his head because his poor neck isn't strong enough, but someday one of us will probably poop out and actually need the other to hold our neck up.  At the end of the day, that is the real commitment I am making.  I am resolving to stand by him no matter what.  I am resolving to annoy him and get annoyed by him, to love him and be loved by him, and to be able to call him my partner.  I am unfathomably lucky.

Now, all I have to do is in fact try and make each day count, so that when Death comes, I can look him in the eye and tell him I'm ready.  That I loved and was loved, and that someone mattered to me and I mattered to someone, and that because of that I can go with a clear conscience.

Unless of course I've horribly wronged someone and then I have to haunt them and send them incomprehensible messages until somehow it all turns out okay and they forgive me.

THEN I can die happy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Chaos Theory (Or, How to Relax)

So I'm getting married in less than two weeks.

That's simultaneously thrilling and terrifying.  And right now, I'm tending to flip-flop between the two worse than John Kerry at a Democratic rally. 

There's lots of stuff to think about: flowers and dresses and favors and programs and music and cake tiers and shoes and gifts and thank-yous and transportation and maps and did I do this and did I do that and when can I talk to that person and what if something goes wrong and will the wax lady do it right when I tell her to make my eyebrows look natural.


So basically, when I'm in the "I'm so thrilled" stage and not thinking about the aforementioned puddle of chaos and disaster that is my planning life right now, I am majorly trying to destress.  I'll tell you what's not helpful: reading about teenagers ripping each other to shreds in a "game".  Though it was sickly enjoyable.  No no, what I am here to tell you about tonight is my tips on how to relax, and what has been working for me recently or has worked in the past.

#1.  Get yourself a fluff novel.  This is not a time to pick up Dickens or Chaucer, this is a time to read a trashy romance novel or an equally mindless piece of nonsense in a genre of your choice.  Though I beg of you, don't pick up Nora Roberts.  If you're going to choose trashy romance novels, at least pick a real bodice-ripper.  Hint on how to find the right one:  It's got to have a girl in a low-cut, 19th century gown that's still way revealing and some guy in tight-fitting trousers with no shirt on, thereby exposing his twelve-pack.  Okay, so this isn't really my bag.  I have no lack of romance, even now, and if I do want trashy there's always my fiance's fabulous reenactment of a break-up between a Snooki look-a-like and a bro he overheard on campus the other day.  You can't make this stuff up.  So instead, I am trying Zorro by Isabel Allende.  I give.  I love Zorro.  Let's hope this one is fluffy enough.

#2.  Bath time.  Ahhhhh, bath time is so perfect.  I love bath time because when I was living with roommates, it was one of the only times when you had perfect solitude.  Nobody wants to disturb you when you're in the bathtub.  Unless there's a fire alarm.  And that's just inconvenient.  Anyhow, if your bath water's warm enough, too, you can stay in there for, like, an hour. With the bubbles, the candles, the music, and the book (and the occasional glass of wine) it's the perfect way to spend an evening.  True, you may be a bit wrinkly when you get out, but they are mercifully the kind of wrinkles that go away.

#3.  Extra-long out to dinner.  Take your time, for god's sake.  Enjoy the company and the conversation, eat what you want and don't hurry it.  Order dessert.  Bring your favorite person and just sit back and enjoy the show.  I did this the other night with my favorite person, and instead of eating on the go or standing or something else stupid like that, we took an hour and a half out of our day, we didn't talk about anything stressful, we just laughed and talked and ate each other's food (okay, mostly me stealing his fries) and had a great time.  It was like the coils of stress literally unwound from my spine.

#4.  Work.  I know this may sound stupid, but seriously, when your home life is stressing you out, just lose yourself in your work.  In my job, I have a lot of stuff to do on a regular basis.  There's not a whole lot of sitting around passively.  Therefore, it's relatively easy to just focus on the task at hand and not think about anything else.  If you are currently unemployed, have a boring job, or are younger than 18, try doing the dishes by hand.  I swear it's a Zen thing.  I do the dishes by hand, and I relax like no other.  I just focus on each dish and doing a good job, maybe listen to some music, and I get into this almost trance-like state where my mind is miraculously free of thoughts.  Yes, you can call me Siddhartha.

#5.  Movies.  If you're not much into reading, try movies instead.  It's never so easy to forget your troubles as while watching Simon Pegg take out zombies with record albums in Shawn of the Dead.  Don't worry, they only use the albums by crap bands.  Personally, this is my plan: I am going to see Titanic.  By myself.  Yep, I'm going to sit in that dark theater and bawl my freaking eyes out of Rose and Jack and their poor doomed love.  I am one of those girls who needs a good cry.  I'm not really upset, it's just a fabulous stress reliever.  So rather than melt down about a particularly bad traffic jam (of which there has been plenty recently), a particularly spectacular fall, or a particularly failed recipe, I am going to have a prescribed meltdown of my own choosing.  A controlled cry.  Then, when I get into that bad traffic altercation, I will be able to remember all of the soliloquy of Caius (a.k.a. The Earl of Kent in disguise).  According to my Shakespeare professor, it is the best collection of insults and should be hurled at wrong-doers as frequently as possible.  It goes something like this:

KENT:  Fellow, I know thee.

OSWALD:  What dost thou know me for?

KENT:  A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a
    base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited,
    hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a
    lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson,
    glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue;
    one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a
    bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but
    the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar,
    and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I
    will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest
    the least syllable of thy addition.

Try that on for size the next time someone pulls out in front of you and then decides to go 10 miles below the speed limit.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hungry? Oh, Why Not.

Okay, when I first started this post a week ago, it was a rant.  I am going to try and meld it into something cohesive.  To that end, I have broken this posting up into three parts: the previews for the Hunger Games, the movie itself, and the book series.  Now, let's get along to it.

Okay, let me rant a little.

Stephanie Meyer ruined vampires, teen fiction, and fantasy.  All in one fell swoop.  Or at least, she tried really, really, really hard.  Aside from the fact that I do not understand what all the fuss is about (I mean, there was hardly enough plot in the last Twilight book to make into a book, let alone two movies), and aside from the frightening surge of teenage fanaticism, Stephanie Meyer has made it so that every fantasy book series for young adults gets compared to Twi-hards and their insatiable frenzy.

Thank god I got into Harry Potter beforehand.

Here is my question: how many people are going to pass up something popular because it gets associated with Twilight?  Case in point: The Hunger Games.

Thank god I got into Suzanne Collins beforehand.

If I hadn't, I probably would have really truly put off reading The Hunger Games.  Like forever.  Because seriously, why do I want to read something that's just another Twilight?  When there is basically no shortage of reading material in sight?  And that would truly be a shame.

The way I see it is that Harry Potter is the stuff one bright person saves during the type of rebellion Collins' Panem is created, and hands the rabble-rousing hordes the manuscript of Twilight instead.  Then someone, somewhere, will be a little warmer that night around their fire, and Stephanie Meyer will finally have contributed something meaningful to the existence of humankind.  And, also the way I see it, The Hunger Games falls somewhere in between.  It's like Vilette.  Hardly anybody reads that Bronte novel.  But it's still out there, probably still quality (though I'm not a huge Bronte fan myself), and people do still read it.  Just not as much as they read Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre.

Initial rant over.  Begin section 1:  previews.  Can I just say the previews before the Hunger Games sucked?  And sucked massively.  There was Snow White & the Huntsmen -- it begs the question, how many interpretations of Snow White can we have in a single year?  There's at least one other coming out and it's definitely not the first in a slew of recent reimaginings of fairy tales.  And let's not even get started on TV shows on the same topic.

Next up is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  Despite the fact that one of America's finest leaders is currently doing whirligigs in his grave, do we really need to mess with today's kids' knowledge of history any more than we already have?  I mean, mutants were behind the Cuban Missile Crisis.  This we know.  But do we need to add the weight of mishistory to one of the most important events in the lifetime of our nation?  And let's not forget that very obviously in the preview they link the vampires with the Southerners.  Because obviously Confederates were pure evil and not really human.  I'm sure that will go over really well in Georgia.

Moving right along, we have The Avengers.  Okay, I'll admit it, I enjoy a good superhero movie as much as the next person, but I just don't see the point of this line-up.  You have Captain America, Mr. Goody Two Shoes who has no inner conflict whatsoever.  How boring.  Then you have Thor.  Okay, yeah, he's hunky, and that hammer is awesome, but beside his smolder, what's he good for?  Blacksmithing?  And let's not forget the Hulk -- a temper-tantrum throwing two-year old.  Who happens to be green.  Insert minor characters only die-hards know.  Instantly forgettable.  Throw in a token woman who's nothing more than sex appeal.  Last but not least, possibly the coolest character, Iron Man.  Why?  Maybe because Tony Stark is secretly a genius and he made that creepy heart thing in a freakin' cave in Afghanistan.  I hate to say it, but he may be even cooler than Batman.  Wait, no, Batman wins.

Finally, the crowning achievement of underwhelming previews, Breaking Dawn: Part II.  The preview literally consisted of a monologue of Kristen Stewart talking about how awesome she is, as Bella.  With shots of her hideous engagement ring.


It's no wonder our society is falling apart.  From the dawn of human communication, storytelling has been a way of giving ourselves identities, of distinguishing ourselves from our mute surroundings, and of passing down the depth of the human experience throughout the generations.  Communication is more than mere stories -- it is the very fabric of our existence.  Excellent storytelling lifts us out of ourselves, inspires us to do better, be stronger, have hope. . .in short, it shows us our potential and encourages us to reach out and grasp it.  Stephanie Meyer writes self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing fluff.  She is simply helping to lead to a gradual decline in the human condition.

Combine that with Snooki's due date being on the purported day the world will end, and it's time for Apocalypse Now.

Rage at previews subsiding.  Onto section 2: the movie.  All in all, I liked the movie.  I thought Jennifer Lawrence had the right kind of intensity for Katniss, and Josh Hutcherson the right kind of sweetness for Peeta.  Although having said that, the main things I remember that kid in are like Journey to the Center of the Earth and Bridge to Terrabithia.  DAMN he grew up.  I kept finding myself lost in thoughts about how thick his neck was.  Kinda on the creepy side (his neck), but I'm gonna let it slide.  I did perhaps laugh when I found out that Gale was played by Thor's baby brother.  I may still be laughing.  So we know by pedigree he's got the smolder.  I'm just uninterested next to Peeta.  C'est la vie.

Cinematically, I thought they got quite a few things right.  I liked the shaky camera work.  It gave the impression of violence while not actually showing you every gory detail of teenagers literally ripping into each other.  I was kind of relieved.  Next, I loved the sound track.  Not just the music (which was passable, though no John Williams), or the song she sings to Rue (TEARS EVERYWHERE) but the actual sounds of the movie.  I was expecting much louder and over-the-top.  You know, every punch that lands sounds like the guy's fist was made of pure iron.  But no, I thought actually it was wonderfully understated.  Finally.  It still conveyed the feeling of the arena, too.  And maybe the best thing I liked about this movie was that it felt like a movie.  FINALLY a director gets the pacing right for something like that.  I felt like the last, oh, seven Harry Potter movies didn't really feel like movies -- more like jumbles of scenes.  Like I was repeatedly being dropped into a pensieve.  And it wasn't boring as all get out like at least the first two Twilight movies.  There were also some nicely scripted lines.

Anyhow.  The biggie, section #3:  the books.  I broke.  It took me probably a solid year (maybe more) to actually buckle down.  With no small amount of complaining and poo-poohing, I did it.  And did it in a scant number of days, might I add.  I really had no right to turn up my nose.  I love Suzanne Collins.  I do.  She created Gregor.  He's my favorite.  Really truly.  So I should've been more open to this.  I am a not-so-secret snob, and I know this about myself and I don't like this about myself.  And yet, I act snobby time and time again, usually with stuff like this.  What am I, a hipster?  God I hope not.

By and large, I enjoyed them.  Yes, they're not great literature.  I honestly think that realm is reserved for Harry Potter.  I do.  But they're not drivel.  There's actual thought and meaning behind them, and most of the plot is well thought out and executed.  I say most, because I got so mad I could spit in the third book, and I felt it could've been done better.  It did feel like a bit of a let-down to the series, and I would maybe say the first one is my favorite this first time around (although the second was great).  And who am I kidding, I love an epilogue.  Love love love them.  I know it's trite, I know it's cliche, and I get mad at certain books that don't have them.  My best friend and I used to read the Dear America diaries when we were in elementary school, and she would berate me because I would always skip to the epilogue because I had to know how their lives played out.  I wanted to know if two people who fell in love got to stay in love, and if it all worked out for them.

So I may not have cried at all, I may still prefer Gregor, but I thought The Hunger Games was actually worth my time.  I probably will read them again (I read them so fast the first time I think I missed stuff), and I will recommend them to people.  And, for future reference, I will post this blog in order to remind myself that I need to loosen up.  For heaven's sake, just read it.  Who cares what other people think, just give it a chance!

You might be pleasantly surprised.

I was.