Sunday, December 29, 2013

Puppet Master 2: Requiem for a Soundtrack

Recently, I was sitting in the lounge at my work and my coworkers and I were having a discussion about music in movies.

Being the musical person I am, I've always considered music to be one of the key elements to film.  I cannot count the various musical themes that move me to tears or invigorate me or take me to a place in my childhood.  Themes from Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Lord of the Rings, To Kill a Mockingbird often make it into my regular playlists and I love soundtracks.  When the composer gets it right, it's magical.  Sometimes, when the movie is Harry Potter, it is genuinely magical, but I digress.  Justing thinking about it, I can't stop listing all the great soundtracks in my head and playing snippets of them over and over again.

However, one of my coworkers made a point that really got me thinking.  She said, "I hate it when music tells me how to feel".  And at first, all I could feel was hurt and mild outrage for all those wonderful, lyrical themes that I keep coming back to year after year, that I cherish in my movies.  How could she resent being touched profoundly by the beauty of Philip Glass's soundtrack for The Hours?  How could she ignore the wonder of the beautiful notes in Contact or the awe-inspiring, impressive theme for Jurassic Park?  I know these aren't great symphonies or anything, but they have a power and majesty all of their own.  One of the most satisfying things for me, in that mildly interesting kind of way, is the moment right at the end of each Star Wars movie when the music closing out the film transitions perfectly into the theme for the credits and the main theme for the movies.  When they changed the ending song to Return of the Jedi and it didn't do just that, I was in tears.  I know, it sounds silly, but there was a beautiful simplicity to that transition and it was important to me musically.

But the more I thought about it, the more I began to consider her opinion and notice it in the movies and television shows I watched.  Music is emotional coercion.  When you have music in a film, it is a reflection of the plot, the characters (oh how I love character themes), and the underlying emotions of the film/show.  Unfortunately, this doesn't actually mean that the emotions you are forming are true, unadulterated emotions and are a result of the actors and their performances.  In fact, your opinion is highly colored by the responses elicited by the chord progressions, keys, and instruments used in the soundtrack for the movie.

It's not like this is a secret, either.  Certainly ballets traditionally used music to convey ideas and emotions about the plot and characters they couldn't do with words, and opera marries the two concepts.  If you ever saw the old-school cartoon version of Peter and the Wolf, you'll know that they explain why they use all the instruments they do for the various characters (violins for the heroic Peter, a clarinet for the duck, a flute for the flitty little bird, etc. etc.) and it all seems a bit obvious.

So maybe, it's a willful duplicity.  If the moderately educated person is aware of the emotional impact certain types of musical instruments/melodies/chords/etc. can have on a person's emotions, does our continued inclusion of them into film just mean that we're really okay with having our emotions manipulated like that?  (And really, what isn't emotional manipulation, even if it isn't intended?  I'm not trying to discount the experiences of people who endure true emotional manipulation, but it is true that all kinds of innocuous, innocent seeming things are puppet-mastering our emotions.)  I mean, isn't that also the point of film?  To have our emotions manipulated?  To escape from or change our realities?  What's so wrong with a little extra help from one of the most primal, human things we can manage?  I suppose I'm just going to fall on the side of those saucy girls from the make-up addiction website I frequent: music in the movies, like make-up on your face, is meant to enhance what is already there -- the natural emotions and your natural beauty.  Like make-up inartfully applied with a trowel (you know what I'm talking about), heavy-handed and obvious music can ruin the experience.

Now, to relate this to book reading, I had a similar experience with a thriller I was reading.  I love reading thrillers -- they're exciting, there's usually a lot of death and plot twists -- and it's one of the pleasures I have been deriving in my off-work time recently.  Up until my last book, though, I was reading books all written by the same author pair (Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child).  I have found their books to be interesting, scientifically based (even if they then take the science into the realms of science fiction), and emotionally and intellectually satisfying.  I would particularly recommend Thunderhead.  This made me think I should expand to other authors, so I asked my mom who I should pick up next since she reads a ton of books and a lot of thrillers, to boot.

So I started with Matthew Reilly.  The first (and so far only) book I've picked up is called Temple.  It chronicles the adventures of a linguistics professor as he is dragged along with a group of military men to find an ancient Incan idol sculpted from a rare meteor made of "thyrium".  The material is the key ingredient in a world-ending superweapon, you know, thereby ending the world.  Half the book is dedicated to the story of how the idol ended up where it did from the eyes of a Spanish monk helping an Incan prince hide the idol from the prying eyes and hands of the conquistadors.

Sounds great, right?  Well, not so much.  With the author's help, he managed to nullify any of the actual thrills of the book.  When the author wanted to make sure that I indeed knew that this particular part of the book was exciting, he would italicize the most exciting part of the sentence and then throw on an exclamation point at the end.  For example, "William Race turned, and there, staring him in the face, was a giant, man-eating jaguar!"  When I wasn't outright laughing at this childishness, I was annoyed at the fact that the author was telling me entirely too bluntly how I should feel (or at least the intensity of my emotions).

Sort of like music in movies, eh?

And so my moment of introspection comes to an end, and I am off for a pleasant drink and a pleasanter read.  I am ever so desperately attempting to finish Bleak House by Tuesday night.  I know, it's been three years, three separate attempts at cracking this book, but now I'm 75 pages away from the end and this is the year I'm going to do it!  And I'm going to laugh in the face of naysayers and Charles Dickens haters as I do so, ringing in 2014 with a 150-year-old book.  And wonder which one I shall read next year.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fall is Here!

Fall is officially here!  Whether I want it to be or not.  Confession: fall is my favorite season.  Further confession: I am only okay with cold if I want it to be cold.  Translation:  I'm so ready for pumpkin-flavored desserts but not ready to give up my sandals, yet.  So, to get in the mood, I've done several things:

#1.  Fall-flavored candles.  Mmmmmmmmmm.  There's just something about your home smelling appropriate for the season that makes you feel so comfy and happy.

#2:  Make-up neutrals.  Further, further confession:  I have been lurking a new subreddit the past couple of days -- MakeUpAddiction.  I have decided that I want to experiment more and see if I can't look a little nicer.  I'm a little lighter on my feet, I've been experimenting with my hair (not as much as I should, though), and now I want to experiment with my make-up.  So I bought some nice neutral eyeshadow shades and a nice light pink lipstick and I'm just going for it!

#3.  Breaking out the scarves.  Oh, how I've missed them.  It's so much easier to add a scarf for that pop of color than some jewelry.  Which is awesome because I've been waaaaaaaaaaay too lazy to deal with jewelry.  For some odd reason, a scarf is much easier.  And warmer.  Fridays are get-up-at-4:45 days, and these days the weather is just a little bit more than brisk.  Scarves make my neck happy.

#4.  My husband has started layering again.  And he won't appreciate this, but it's hilarious to see him in his long johns.  And definitely adorable.

#5.  I'm totally making pumpkin bread and muffins right now.  And I didn't use a mix.  What what.  I don't know if this is going to turn out, but this is new for me to not use a mix.

#6.  Last but not least, fall is the perfect season for baths.  Baths (and the gym) are my ultimate ways to relax, and it's hard to relax in a hot tub when it's also hot outside.  Now, a warm bath is the perfect way to warm up the whole body and soul.  Pair it with a great glass of wine and a fabulous book, and the ultimate remedy for a tough week.

Enjoying fall on a day off, doing absolutely no work -- ahhhhhhh, that's the stuff.  Next week, it's time for a trip to Sedona, a visit from some old friends, and a reread of my favorite book.  I try to do it the same time every year.  I can't wait for that.  But first, it's time to try these muffins!  (No, I did not take that picture.)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mary Poppins: Nothing and No One is Safe

You know what bothers me a lot?  Revision.  And I'm not talking the I-wrote-this-and-found-some-errors-so-I-fixed-them revision.  I'm talking about changing history or purposely bending it to suit the current needs.  Think Holocaust deniers.  Now, while Holocaust deniers are certainly the biggest blackguards on the block when it comes to revision, this doesn't mean that smaller revisions don't count or won't bother people.

Now we come to it.

Like basically every American kid of a certain age, I grew up watching Mary Poppins.  Basically irresistible to children because of its bright and bubbly music, images, and ultimately happy themes (albeit tinged with a hint of dark clouds), Mary Poppins was a classic when it came out and it is still beloved by many.  I mean, who didn't want a nanny who could pull an entire lamp out of her purse and have tea on the ceiling and jump into a painting?  I certainly did.  The darker elements put me off Mary a bit and so it was never one of my all-time favorites, but I sure did enjoy it.

So, being the children's literature buff I am, I notice after a while that not only was Mary Poppins based on a book, but on a whole series of books!  I love reading kids books, so I promised myself I would pick them up, someday.  In my head, I imagined them being akin to Pippi Longstocking, a book series I absolutely adore.  Both characters, so I thought, were quirky and lovable, and when I picked up Poppins, I was excited.  I was thinking Julie Andrews and one-man bands and ingratiating chimney sweeps.

What I got was much different.  If you haven't read the books, I'll try not to spoil them too much for you.  But the biggest difference is Mary herself.  While in the movie she's a bit terse, it never seems cruel or unloving.  You get the sense that she does care about these children, even when she's gruff.  And she smiles occasionally.  The genial singing helps, too.  In the books, Mary is downright curmudgeonly.  She is curt, rude, and no-nonsense.  The children simply adore her, but it seems a bit more like Stockholm syndrome than anything, with the way she treats them.  She berates them, they compete over who gets to hold her umbrella.  I found it unpleasant and bizarre.  She certainly was no Julie Andrews, and I wondered how the two could possibly be related.

Then, after some poking on Wikipedia, the truth came out (as truthful as truth can be from Wikipedia).  P. L. Travers did not want to sell the rights to Mary Poppins, did not like Walt Disney or the Sherman brothers, argued constantly with them about the film, and was displeased with the final result.  Although some things you can see remain true from the book, it's clear that Disney and Co. ran roughshod over her wishes.  Mary Poppins became much more saccharin and upbeat, and her original story began to dwindle more and more.  It was so bad that upon seeing the final product, Travers vowed to never let Mary be translated from the page again, into film, play, or musical.  Eventually, she did renege on that vow, allowing Mary Poppins to become a Broadway musical, but she forbade anyone but British people from working on it and specifically disallowed the involvement of the Sherman brothers, who were apparently still writing.  I have to admit, too, that this is a personal pet peeve of mine: artistic integrity.  I understand that for film adaptations, sometimes things must be changed, but I also feel it's important to keep it consist with the wishes of the artist and of the general underlying theme.  Disney butchered both of those for Mary Poppins.

Essentially, the whole process was a mockery of a sham.  A shamockery.  But the question is, who cares?  It was a long time ago and it's all over with, right?  Right?

Not anymore.  Disney -- the ultimate business conglomerate -- is at it again.  It wasn't enough to undermine P. L. Travers's original works and ideas.  It wasn't enough to make her so appalled and angry that she resolved never to allow her work to be messed with again, by anyone other than her.  It wasn't enough to blatantly ignore her input on many occasions.  Now, they are making a movie about the movie-making process.

In case you haven't seen the trailer, here's a link:

Starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson (who doesn't love them?), the trailer makes it seem like there were plenty of creative differences, but Walt Disney being the fabulous, wonderful, considerate, magical man he supposedly was resolves all their differences, placates P. L. Travers, and makes something she can be proud of.

What now?

P. L. Travers hated the movie and hated Disney for making it.  How on Earth does that fit in with this feel-good, up-tempo, sparkly movie they're putting out?  Doesn't that kind of ruin the perkiness of the film?  But how can they ignore that?  It would be a blatant revision of history.  To end the film saying that P. L. Travers was anything less than mightily pissed off would be a lie.  A LIE.  Is Disney so comfortable with bending truths and lying that they'll do it AGAIN to this woman?  They don't have the common decency to stop with her works of fiction but instead will do it to her LIFE to garner a profit and rekindle the magic of "Disney classics"?

Frankly, this is getting to be the last straw.  I was okay when Disney sugar-coated and warped the Pocahontas story.  I was okay when the only character in Aladdin who looks Arab is the bad guy.  I was okay with the butchering of Alice in Wonderland plus catchy songs.  I was okay with Dumbo's band of Jim Crows and roustabouts.  I was okay with the Asian stereotypes of the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp.

That is, I was okay with it until I realized what it was.  Disney likes to do what it wants.  It's big enough and powerful enough that it can basically get away with it.  It will warp and twist and steamroll anyone and anything to do what it wants and make a buck.  Don't even get me started on the Disney vault.  That really is shameless.  Do I still watch Pocahontas?  Yes.  In fact, just last night I was rather musically reminding my husband that I knew the lyrics to every song in Pocahontas.  Will I see Saving Mr. Banks?  Probably.  At this point just because I'm dying of curiosity as to how it will end.

Will it be the right thing to do?  In basically every sense of the question, no, it probably will not.

And I am ashamed of myself for it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ants in My Pants

I have returned, fresh-faced, from "vacation" to Phoenix.

First of all, how sad that my big traveling of the summer was to Phoenix.  Yuck, what a heinous city.  The drivers are mean and inconsiderate (but at least they know how to go over 25 mph).  The weather was insufferable -- either scaldingly hot and dry or five degrees cooler and disgustingly humid.  And everything is so far away.  The closest coffee shop in walking distance was shudder Starbucks.  But, we're still getting on our feet as a tiny family.  So, we were buying camping equipment instead of going somewhere exotic, but at least we got out of town for a bit.

One niceish thing about this vacation was that I kind of went back to work.  I've mentioned before on this blog, but I'm the kind of person who really likes to keep busy.  If I'm not running around like a chicken without a head, I'm not really happy.  In Phoenix, I had a four-day training session for the section of Advanced Placement United States' history I'm going to be teaching this next year.  While most of the training was comprised of our teacher making us pretend to be the students and doing worksheets and mini-courtrooms and stuff (hello, isn't that why I went to high school? And college?), it gave me a realistic idea of how much work this class is going to be and how much planning I need to be doing in the two and half weeks before school starts.

I'll use one of my favorite phrases to describe: a butt ton.

So now I have ants in my pants.  I'm itching to get started.  Problem though: still haven't chosen my last book.  Suggestions?  Right now I'm trying to decide if Beowulf is really a good idea or not.

Fortunately, I have three new textbooks I can use as reference, I'm hopefully going to start a website, and my school is open for teachers who want to come in and work quietly.  What I need now is to purchase myself some new posters and start putting my classroom together.  Rawr.

The other nice thing about going to Phoenix was getting to spend time with family and friends.  Because we were there for something like a week, I got to spend a day helping my mom clean out my old room a bit.  That was eye-opening.  You inherently understand that when you start putting two lives together you realize just how much (or how little) crap you have.  Well, I left behind a bunch of my crap and had effectively blocked it from my mind.  Returning home and rounding up at least a third of what was hanging behind was a bit mind-bogling.  I mean, it was a third of what was there.  And it was a terrifically large amount of just. . .stuff.  Now, granted, a significant portion of that was for my classroom (Jane Austen figurine, anyone?) and will be out of my house soon, but golly gee if I don't go on a cleaning spree pretty soon here I'm going to feel a bit like I'm drowning in stuff.

However, I'm blogging right now because I'm putting off further cleaning.  Hmmm.

My watermelon plants survived.  Hooray!

I accidentally left the freezer cracked while we were gone so now our freezer looks like the ice man's lair (read: full of bizarrely-shaped icicles, because that's obviously what an ice man's lair looks like).

I still have way too many books but can't seem to shake a bunch of them.

Okay, this song's over, I have to man up and go clean.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Meh

I'll admit it, I've got a few reading weaknesses.  We all resolve to read a wide variety of authors and genres, and then we secretly just read what we like, over and over again.  Dickens novels.  Picture books.  And kids fantasy books.  Those are my big weaknesses.

I like to think I'm well-versed in kids fantasy books, but recently I've come to realize I've just hit the tip of the iceberg.  If this genre was the Beast's library, I'd only have read one shelf.  So, I set myself the goal of reading some more of this genre this summer.  I've got The Lightning Thief, Inkheart, The Bartimeus Trilogy, and Septimus Heap (Magyck) all lined up for this summer.  And I thought I'd start with The Lightning Thief.

Unfortunately, not everything was roses and peaches.

I was distinctly whelmed.  I wasn't overhwlemed.  But I wasn't underwhelmed.  I was just plain whelmed.  (Side note, using that word should be a thing.  Rather than meh.  Anyhow.)

There was plenty I enjoyed about Percy Jackson and his merry band of followers.  Every now and again, I found something to chuckle at.  Good example: the sign for DOA Recordings is "No Soliciting, No Loitering, No Living."  I'll admit, I got a giggle out of that.  Percy sticks to his guns pretty well.  But come to think of it, that's kind of annoying, too.  There's no major struggle with him.  Aside from the fact that he doesn't like being the plaything of the gods, his moral compass never really wavers.  He's never swayed or tempted.  For someone who has a lot to be resentful about, he sure doesn't seem to bothered by it.

Really, though, I found more things about this book that I didn't like than I did.  It was hard to let go of the teacher in me when it came to Percy as a student.  My (mostly) internal dialogue kept saying things like, "stop using your disabilities as a crutch to do poorly in school!"  And it made me feel less sympathetic.  What kind of lousy hero doesn't even try to succeed in regular life?  I didn't really like his friends.  Okay, I didn't really like Grover.  He vacillated between being on the verge of tears and raging at someone or something for not treating the earth right.  Annabeth was okay.  She was at least a tad conflicted.  But pretty quick to give up on years of prejudice and in-bred teachings.

But I'm not here to rag on Percy today.  (Look for my review on Goodreads, if you want a nice long rag.)  I'm blogging about this because reading The Lightning Thief has made me realize why I like the kids fantasy books I do.


A tad morbid, yes.  But death is possibly the most serious thing in life and the thing a majority of humans fear the most.  It's the thing we've struggled mightly with for our whole existence.  It's why we find comfort in ideas of an afterlife, because then death really doesn't matter.  It's why we're worried there is no afterlife.  Because then we do have to think about death.  And maybe we'll be scared.

And a major reason of why so many of us like literature is because it gives us tools with which to grasp the ideas of dying and death.  To know that someone else has these same fears is quite a relief and a comfort.  And, call me old-fashioned, but I think that death should be given some respect.  It should not be treated so lightly.  I've realized that all my favorite fantasy books do just this -- they take a long, hard look at death, and try and come to terms with it.  In a relatively serious manner.  I think the trigger for this realization was Percy Jackson.  Death is treated with such levity in this first book.  There's never a true, threatening sense of death, no genuine fear.  Yes, they go down to the Underworld and yes, it's pretty scary, but those scenes seem to lack conviction.  Hell, I wasn't scared.  I wasn't even vaguely upset.  It was kind of ho-hum.  And anytime Percy's kind of teetering towards death or at least serious illness/injury?  A deus ex machina saves him at the last minute.  Again, very ho-hum.

Is it just me, or do I expect more out of my reading, even if it's for kids?  One of the reasons I love teaching the grade I do is because kids will do amazing things when you treat them like people.  When you stop talking down to them and start treating them like grown-ups and give them grown-up expectations, they will actually rise to the challenge.  And so I don't want the books my students' read to talk down to them, to treat them like kids, and to fail to challenge them in new ways.  Oh, sure, there's no harm in a popcorn read from time to time, something fun and fluffy, but why can't something be fun and stretch the borders of your mind?  Harry Potter certainly did that.  What was the point of raising the bar that high if no one is willing to emulate it?  I almost feel like I've been set up for disappointment.  Because of Harry Potter, I've come to expect a certain level of writing out of my kids fantasy books.  And when I don't get it, I'm crushed.  And I write vicious reviews (I admit it).

But I feel strongly.  And you know what?  There are plenty of kids fantasy books out there that do something very similar to what Rowling did: they interweave the fun and entertaining with the serious and the challenging.

Guess this means I've just got to keep reading.  Oh bummer.  On to the next!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Harry Potter Challenge

Summer is here.

And when summer comes, I redouble my reading efforts.  Not too long ago, I got a hankering to watch The Sorcerer's Stone again.  Then I felt like watching Chamber of Secrets.  And you can't just stop there, you have to watch Prisoner of Azkaban.  And then it turned into a full-fledged movie marathon, with my husband and myself watching the whole series.

Upon rewatching the whole series, I noticed a couple of things.  Firstly, I hadn't seen Order, Half-Blood, or Hallows 1 and 2 since theaters.  My criticisms of them came mostly from a single viewing, when I was still raw and upset.  I particularly remember being upset at Order.  Giving it some time (and a little leniency), I found that most of the movies were much better than I ever remembered or gave credit for.  I enjoyed rewatching them immensely.  And it made me think I should reread the series.  So I set myself the challenge of reading all 7 Harry Potter book the first week of summer vacation.  I lingered a bit on Book 7, but I did it.  Woo!

I tried to read Harry Potter several times in the beginning.  It just couldn't seem to stick.  I have this sticky problem where if too many people are praising something or trying to get me to enjoy it too, I tend to dig in my heels and refuse.  The list of things I waited entirely too long to read/watch/listen to because of this is long (Sherlock, Firefly, and quite a few things I'm still not into), and Harry Potter tops that list.  So many people were going crazy over it and trying to get me to read it.  So many people.  Now, I'm still a snob, but at least I'm up-front about it these days.  Back in elementary school, when Potter was getting big, I was reading The Lord of the Rings and I thought Harry Potter was childish and a fantasy rip-off.  There are lots of things I have been wrong about.  There are fewer things I have been spectacularly wrong about, but this is one of them.

Finally, I saw the first movie.  It came out the winter of my 7th grade year, the same winter as The Fellowship of the Ring.  I enjoyed the movie a lot.  And not for the first time or the last, I decided I should give the book another try, based on how well I liked the movie.  From then on, there was no turning back.  By the time I saw the last movie, Harry Potter, for me and countless like me, was no longer just a fantasy series, but a key part of childhood.  And when it ended, I felt like the last vestiges of my childhood were truly gone.  I cried a lot at the end of Deathly Hallows, Part 2, half because of the tragic circumstances but half because it was that final moment, that close of a door which cannot be reopened, nor really should be.  (Don't even get me started on the book.  I cried for the last 100 pages, at least.)

Rereading the books has affirmed how much I like this series.  This was the first time I read them all in order, one after the other, and the first time I had read some of them since Deathly Hallows came out (sad to say).  Here are some of the things I noticed:

1.  I know we all say that Rowling is a master of plot, but it's kind of incredible how well-plotted these books are.  EVERYTHING TIES TOGETHER.  Everything.  Rereading them, I noticed just how many references she makes, or things she mentions, to key points or important details looooong before they occur.  She mentions things in the first or second book that are to become major details later, or if not major details, just more pieces of the world which ring true and stay together wonderfully.  Plus, how great is it that the series matures with Harry?  Best decision ever.

2.  Neville grows up a lot.  I had forgotten.  He's so strong and brave at the end of the series that I had forgot he cries almost constantly for the first two books.  Your heart just aches and aches for him.  He's never good enough for his Gran, his parents have been essentially murdered but are still there to cause him pain, he sucks at basically every subject, and he has hardly any friends.  You just pity him until Book 5 when he really gains confidence through the D.A.

3.  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is such a good book.  The first time I read it, she broke from her formula and it made me upset, so I had a hard time reading it.  I went back and reread it a couple years later and found it not only good, but very funny.  Now, coming back to it a third time, I found it the best, objectively, of the series.  I know, I know, the last one's super good, but there's just something about number 6.  As a cohesive whole, it's just the best.

4.  The Order of the Phoenix is still my sentimental favorite.

5.  I realized just how attached I am to this series.  When I was in middle and high school, LOTR was my series.  I cried through the whole first viewing of Return of the King.  But now, I don't know.  I kind of feel like I have more of a liking for the movies than I do the books.  I haven't been tempted to pick them up in a really long time.  I don't think I've read the last one more than once.  I know that LOTR has more literary acclaim.  I know that it has a universe just as complex and detailed, if not more (Tolkien did write several languages for the books).  But thinking about it now, at this point in my life, if I had to choose one. . .I would choose Harry Potter.  It's funny how serious this feels.  Just sitting here, writing that, I feel a bit like I've betrayed a close friend.  But it doesn't matter that much.  It's odd how attached you can be to fictional characters and stories.  When I read these books, it's like meeting up with old friends.  I also think Rowling actually did a better job at portraying evil and the fight against it.
     In Tolkien's world, there are a few internal struggles, but the majority of bad people are bad and the majority of good people are good.  At least, if there are shades of gray, they are not immediately apparent.  The only characters who ever have any kind of real moral struggle are Frodo and Boromir (although one could make an argument for Aragorn).  And Frodo doesn't even have a moral struggle.  He's just constantly fighting the influence of the ring.  In a way, none of them are truly struggling because it's only the ring that's giving them these feelings, or at least bringing them out.  Would they have acted that way one their own?  Whereas in Harry Potter, every character of note has a major moral struggle, between the good and the bad in themselves (Harry, Hermione, Ron, Sirius, Lupin, Dumbledore, and even minor characters like Seamus and Percy).  There's a lot of questioning and searching for the truth.  It is always arrived upon (basically) but the search is ongoing and is arrived at differently and challenged in different ways for different characters.  I like that.  It's very natural and organic.  The other thing that really bothers me about Tolkien is what happens to his bad characters at the end.  Without a major baddie, they just kind of run around stupidly into one another.  There's no penalty and no lasting consequences for anyone or anything.  Saruman is murdered by his right-hand man, who is then murdered by over-eager hobbits.  No need to go to a trial or discuss ideas like "what if he wasn't all bad?  what then?".  One of my favorite sets of characters in Harry Potter is the Malfoys.  The Malfoys are hungry for power and to retain their status and crush others beneath them.  However, as the 7th book draws to a close, they start to realize that all that has been taken from them anyways, despite the fact that they are on the winning side (at the time), and that the only real thing they have left is each other.  At the end of the book, Narcissa betrays the Dark Lord in one of the most important moments in the whole series because she no longer cares about helping him; she just wants to get her son back.  Draco is a wonderfully created character, full of conflict and moments of goodness intermingled with the incredible ability to cause harm and hatred.  There is so much complexity to him.  I don't see this moral complexity from Tolkien.  Maybe I need to reread it, but to me, the story is more about the actual struggle of overcoming bad than the moral struggle of first ascertaining what is good.  Maybe I'm just reading way too much into all this.  (Plus, I would so much rather be able to do magic than be a hobbit. I'm basically a hobbit already, just a bit tall.  A wand, on the other hand, would be so cool.)

All in all, this has been a positive experience for me.  I cried some more, I noticed things I hadn't, and I spent my first week of summer vacation reading almost non-stop.  I have a new list for the summer, now that these are done, but I think I'll take a bit of a break first.  Haha, who am I kidding, I'm already chomping at the bit to keep reading.

Happy summer!

Monday, May 27, 2013

If For Nothing Else, Look at my Pretty Peas!

Today is Memorial Day, so let me begin with a thank-you to all those who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces, not just in the United States but anyone sacrificing to serve their country and their families.  Thank you especially to both my granddads.  My paternal grandfather was in the Navy, although since he died a long time ago I don't know much about his service.  My maternal grandfather was, to put it simply, a badass.  He probably wouldn't approve of the term, but really it's the best word.  I could go into detail but you never know, these days.  Just think Rambo meets James Bond meets 24 meets nice-guy-next-door.  No, I don't have an overly inflated view of my granddad.  Why do you ask?

What I really wanted to talk about today is how happy I am.  I know I've been saying this a lot, but this one is going to be a juicy one I've been hiding for a while.  BUT NO MORE SECRETS.  I can't decide if I just have no boundaries whatsoever in almost every part of my life or if I can't keep anything to myself.  Or a combination of the two.  Whichever, the blogosphere was probably designed for people like me.

So, I was a normal little kid.  Oh wait, no, I had a heart condition.  Oops.  Well, one major surgery later, I was a normal little kid.  A couple years pass, and my dislike of P.E. has coupled with a deep enjoyment of all things nutritionally unsound.  Enter awkward pubescent period and chubby Karen.  Ugh.  It's embarrassing, to be frank, to look back at some of those pictures.  However, I try not to dwell.  College came and with it a distinct awareness of the food I was eating mixed with the inability to eat excessively due to financial constraints and the most slight amount of knowledge mixed with 7,000 ft. of general movement throughout the day.  To put it plainly, I slimmed down.

And I stuck that way.  Until about a year ago.  Then, I got married, got depressed, and got busy.  Before you think too much into this, the depression and the marriage are two different things.  I was depressed because I was out of work, and then when I got back into work I was depressed because I wasn't seeing my husband much (hello, didn't I get married to remedy this problem?) and because of weight gain.

This is my deep dark secret.  I gained 15 pounds in the first six months of our marriage.  And it sent me round the bend of depression.  I never feel worse about myself than when I feel like I'm not where I want to be with my body.  To be honest, I've had a long, long struggle with this, probably like every single other girl my age.  I have a couple of things going for me.  First off, parents and now a life partner who value my personality and intellect.  I know that if I get really fat and ugly, my hubby will still love me.  Woooo.  Secondly, I have spent a long time coming to grips with myself and what I look like, and finding the little things I like about myself.  For example, I think I have nice feet.  As far as feet go, which I find vaguely repulsive.  Hahaha.  I have excellent teeth and devote a lot of time to keeping them healthy.  After so much flossing, mouthwashing, and brushing, I feel like I have a right to be proud of my teeth.  And I'll say it, I like my butt.  This post is all about being brutally honest, so there it is.  I like my butt.

These were not enough to keep me happy, though.  Everything else in my life was alright -- my job, my personal life, even my reading habits were okay -- but I was distinctly heavier than I wanted to be.  So in January, I got out my little pen and paper and made myself a list of New Year's resolutions.  They were as follows:

1.  Eat better.
2.  Exercise more.
3.  Read more than 50 books
4.  Write down one nice thing per day in my diary.

Let's work backwards.  First, write down one nice thing per day.  Has not happened.  Ah well.  Next: books.  So far, this year, including things I've re-read, I've read 9 books.  Oh my.  Now, granted, it's the beginning of summer and I'm planning on reading a bunch of kid books (which go by super fast).  Note to self. . .make list.  Hmm.  Third: exercise more.  Well, I ran in my first 5k, began doing yoga again, and can now run basically two miles straight.  Does that count?  And lastly, eat better.  Still working on it, but I'm trying much harder.

Here's where it gets nice for me.  After the 5k, I had two weeks of kind of sitting around, being fat and lazy, and eating whatever I wanted (stupid teacher appreciation week. . .so many bad foods that are so tasty and you eat them because you like being appreciated. . .).  After I went back to the gym, I weighed myself and I was back at my highest, where I was in January when I started trying to be healthier.  I had effectively taken several steps back and made no real progress.  I'll admit it.  I cried in the locker room.  It was my lowest point.  Fortunately, once you've hit rock bottom, there seem to be two major options: either have someone throw you a shovel, or make footholds and start climbing.  I decided to start climbing.

I got an app on my phone which laid out a weight-loss/exercise plan for myself.  I set a taret amount of calories and number of times I wanted to exercise per week.  I set myself a weight goal and I'm doing it by my birthday.  This has opened my eyes to a lot of things.  One: the reason I was overweight is glaringly obvious.  Too many calories, not enough exercise.  Secondly: burning calories at the gym is super fun!  And makes you feel super good about yourself when you burn, say, 400 calories in a sitting.  Or, should we say, in a running.  Thirdly: things have way more calories than you would think.  And I was eating a lot of the wrong things.  Just because the pasta is made partially of veggies doesn't actually make it any better for you.  Pasta is just the bane of my existence.  I don't really care that much about bread, I found a delicious and low-cal ice cream option, and I prefer lighter meats to dark meats anyhow.  But pasta.  Oh.  Low blow.

I have been doing the app for one week so far, but I feel too good to keep it to myself.  I lost seven pounds in a week.  I feel great.  I look better.  I am WAY happier.  I am jazzed and excited and ready to be healthy.  I wish everyone could feel this great working out and not eating slop.  Again, I realize it's only been a week.  BUT I FEEL SO GOOD.

Feeling so good made me think about last year around this time.  I was unemployed, we were burning through our savings, I was depressed, and I was slowly being fattened up.  Now, I am thinning down and muscling up, I am employed for next year and ready to tackle planning and organizing (no, I don't get excited over making grammar worksheets and organizing them into a notebook so I can pull them out whenever I want. . pshhh. . .), I am possibly even more in love with my husband than I was a year ago, and I am just generally satisfied with my life.

Plus, my peas are growing SPECTACULARLY.  And I'm stupidly excited about it.  You should be too.  They're adorable and I love them.  Sorry this was so long.  Carry on.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Springtime for Karen and Flaggystaff

Kudos if you get the reference.

Ah, spring.  The time of year when you get to relax a bit and everyone is still in a good mood because the weather is warmer but still not horribly hot.

Except in Phoenix.  HAHAHAHA.

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, it's time to talk about books!  Hooray!  I have been getting more work done at work and been giving out less homework as it is, so I've gotten a chance to do some reading recently.  This weekend being excluded, but until pictures get posted to Facebook I don't think I'll write about that just yet.

I may have talked about this before on this blog and I'm sure I could go back and check, but the act of reading a book again can be a powerful one.  The way I see it is that people are fundamentally the same day to day.  We are who we are and the majority of things stay the same.  I have been a Beatles fan since I was two.  But the minutiae of who we are is different every day.  For example, which Beatles's song will appeal the most to me today when skipping through my iPod while driving to work?  I also think that every couple of years we recognize what major changes we have gone through.  We rediscover who we are and what makes us joyful.  Change is good.  Change brings new life.  I think people are always afraid of changing and drifting farther apart from one another.  I'm excited to share changes, whatever they may be, and drift closer to people.

(It always reminds me of the scene in Ed Wood where Johnny Depp's character finally tells the girl he's interested in that he likes to wear women's clothes.  She responds by taking off her sweater and offering it to him.  I wish more people were like that.  Just accept and support.  I think my only exceptions to this are substance abuse and most illegal activities.  Like murder.  Not cool to blame that one on personal growth.)

Anyway, as we change in small ways and in big ways throughout the years, we should give books another chance.  Or not, if your memory is wonderfully rosy-colored and you want to keep it that way. I recently showed one of my friends a scene from Fern Gully; she used to watch it as a kid but had forgotten that Robin Williams is a voice talent, so I showed her the Batty rap scene.  She got very disturbed and began to wonder what else from her childhood no longer had that hue of adorable.

Sometimes, though, if you're lucky, the book you reread changes in positive ways.  You notice things you didn't before, subtleties pop out at you, metaphors and emotions garner more meaning.  I recently reread The Giver and The Great Gatsby.

The Giver I originally read in middle school.  I'm not sure if I was simply having a horrible time in middle school or if I truly didn't enjoy the book, but for whatever elusive reason I hated The Giver.  A burning white hot passion, if ever there was one.  I was disgusted with it.  And now I can't even remember why.  The 6th graders at my school were reading it, and all the other teachers were commenting on how much they had enjoyed it and continued to do so, even as adults.  Since I was curious and I respect my colleagues (and was vaguely incredulous), I decided to reread it.  Wow.  I wouldn't say it was a stunning new approach to literature.  The plot was interesting in a sort of predictable, regular dystopian kind of way.  Content child growing up in what he thought was a normal environment suddenly discovers, through the help of a mentor, that it is much more sinister than originally thought.  Not exactly the freshest idea on the planet, but the execution was well done.  That was what I think I missed the first time.  The first time, I was so focused on the plot, which I found at the time to be slow and uninteresting.  Now, I knew the plot pretty well, so I could appreciate how well the story itself was woven together.  It's hard to convey that kind of emotion in a simple, quick novel.  Lois Lowry did it surprisingly well.  I still don't really care for Number the Stars, however.  I prefer just going whole hog and reading The Diary of Anne Frank.  Hmmm.  Been a while on that one, too.

The Great Gatsby I read in high school.  Junior year with Mrs. Miller.  Boy, I sure did like Mrs. Miller, but I didn't really like any of the books I read that year.  Except Brave New World (which I hate now), and The Grapes of Wrath, which no one else liked.  Our summer book was East of Eden, and everything about that book made me feel hollow and unloved.  It was like nothing in the world was nice.  Then, we read The Scarlett Letter.  Meh.  If I were to read it now, as an adult, things would probably be different.  But back then, naive and young, it was very overwrought.  The last, other thing we read was Gatsby.  If I remember correctly, we listened to it in class off of old tape cassettes.  Haha.  I think this was the case because I vaguely remember the narrator singing the excerpt from "The Sheikh of Araby".  Which now seems definitely racist.  I remember our teacher gushing about it but really feeling dissatisfied.  Kind of like, "okay, what's the big deal, again?"  And I sure couldn't identify with any of the characters.  They were all rich, spoiled children.  Big creepy brats.  It all seemed so wasteful and pointless.  No one really struggled and everything was in vain.  There was no real meaning to life.  Now, reading it, there's almost too much meaning.  Everybody feels deeply but either can't or won't give in to their feelings and expression.  They choose the easy and comfortable option while knowing that their lives will never have true happiness or meaning.  But what is true happiness?  It is the green light at the end of the dock.  We always want it, but when it comes our way it's lost its appeal and we no longer have it.  It's an illusion towards which we always strive and never arrive.  Plus, I hate to say it, but actually having been in love and having someone for whom you would literally sacrifice anything really changes your perspective about characters in love.  I now sympathize quite a bit with Gatsby, even if he was misguided, because I can understand that pain of separation and jealousy and forbidden love.  Even if my life has none of that.  Haha.  So thanks, Mrs. Miller.  I get it now.

Whew.  I have about four hours to kill before guests come over for dinner and an evening of Game of Thrones.  Yes, I should make the bed and pick up the bedroom, but I don't have any grading to do.  What should I read now?

East of Eden.

Just kidding, I think I'll pick up Reliquary, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  Who doesn't like monsters loose in NYC?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Brain Candy

Ah, April.  Such an interesting month.

Things that are awesome:

1.  Spring is finally here!
2.  The stuff I planted is actually growing.
3.  Our anniversary is in April and we have big plans.

Things that are not so awesome:

1.  Parent of students problems.
2.  AIMS
3.  The end of the school year is almost here but not close enough.

Now, on to the actual blog bit.

So, I like to read.  And I like to challenge myself.  Doesn't that sound pretentious?  For the most part, though, it's true.  At least, when I was in the dawn of my reading life.  I was the kid who 1984 for fun in 8th grade.  The kid who read her English textbook for giggles sophomore year.  The kid who freaked out when the summer reading list got passed out at the end of the year. Sad but true.  When I got to college, I challenged myself not with the novels I was reading (rarely was one of actual interest -- way to go, Sexing the Cherry), but with the non-fiction I was reading.  I had never been much of one for non-fiction, and suddenly my college degree depended on it.  Since then, I always feel like I challenge myself with non-fiction, even if I also try to enjoy it.  Oooh, I got a whole bunch of neat, free non-fiction books in the mail the other day!  They are so cool, and originally meant to be used as textbooks, so they have documents and stuff included in them, for example.  Definitely started the Darwin one already.  So fascinating.

Despite all this, sometimes you just have to let the challenge go, let your brain go, and read something just for giggles.  Recently, I've been achieving that by reading thrillers: Sphere, by Michael Crichton, The Ice Limit and Relic by Preston/Child, etc.  Entertaining, and relatively easy to get through 500 pages in a week or less.  Those I don't feel too bad about, though, because they're not awful.  In fact, often, they're pretty good.  But they're not a treatise on African religion mixed with Islam and the resulting heterogeneous culture in the late 11th century by the famous Dr. Reese.

However, I've sunk to a new low.  I don't even necessarily want to tell you the name of the book.  It's that bad.  It's like Twilight, except without the force of popularity vaulting it into college classes.  The good thing is, it's almost exactly like any supernatural YA novel, with hardly any variation.

For example:  There are two young people who fall in love almost immediately, with no real reasons behind it.  It's almost as bad as The Little Mermaid, where Ariel sees Eric, thinks he's cute, and less than twelve hours later is spewing absolute inanities like "But Daddy, I love him!".  Somehow I don't actually believe you, honey pie.  There's a major secret that one character is hiding, which turns into a huge conspiracy.  The person who doesn't know what the major secret is spends all his time trying to wheedle it out of the secret-keeper by saying things like, "it's destiny".  Whatever, dude.  Plus, I do not believe the protagonist.  He is supposed to be a teenage boy.  I so do not believe it.  I think I met one boy who was like that at 15.  I'm not saying it's not possible, I'm just saying it's wildly improbable.  There's this weird trend, too, where crap writers think they can elevate their work by mentioning classic literature, as well as making their protagonists seem brainy and better than everyone else in the book.  In Twilight, it was Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and any other cliched teenage girl novel you can think of that was published before the 20th century.  This book's choice of classic literature to attempt to lift it out of YA purgatory is To Kill a Mockingbird.  How clever.  Choose the most visible book about Southern culture that also just happens to be anti-racist.  It must have been so hard to find it, what with it being on every school reading list in the United States, on Oprah's Booklist, and an award-winning movie.  Oh, and they regularly mention Gone with the Wind.  Also, super original.  It's like the authors have read two books only based in Southern culture.  That must make them experts.

Needless to say, when I actually finish this book, I will have a lot to say.  Why am I reading it?  Well, because every now and again, it's nice to read something that reminds me that there is an actual difference between good literature and bad literature.  You have to know the bad to appreciate the good.  Here I am, reading the bad so I can laugh at how horrible it is.  Hopefully, this way, too, I will recognize the bad among the touted-as-good.  Haha, we'll see.  Like I said, pretentious.

Any other terrible teenage books I should be reading?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Little Victories

So recently, a lot of things have been bad/going badly.

1. We had a massive, annoying snow last weekend and a snow day on Friday.
2. It's the end of the grading period this week.
3. It's the week before spring break this week (kids = insane).
4. There have been some unusual and (for professional reasons) unmentionable issues at school.
5. I've been having trouble sleeping.

But today, I felt good.

Like, really good.

So I decided, I was going to look for little victories I could celebrate.  I know I am always looking for stuff like this, but it makes it no less relevant if I repeat myself or rediscover these same truths over and over again.  Sometimes the best truths are the ones that come to you over and over again, just in different situations each time.  The universe is basically always trying to remind me that I'm a worry-wart and a negative person and I need to remember to see the good.  The good is everywhere, if only we look for it.  So here is a list of my small victories recently:

1.  The snow day gave me a nice, relaxing day.
2.  The end of the grading period and the week before spring break means the kids don't have any homework, which means I don't really have homework.
3.  I love my coworkers.  They're genuinely awesome.
4.  I cut back to one (maaaaaaaaaaybe two) cup(s) of coffee per day which is helping the sleep thing.
5.  I finished two books in two weeks.  Yes, they're cheesy thrillers, but still.
6.  I figured out that "Floo Powder" is named that because they travel through chimney flues.  I am too old to just be realizing this now.
7.  I lost 3 pounds.
8.  I ran for 7 minutes straight today.  As a secret fat kid, that was awesome.
9.  I mentioned a book in class a couple of weeks ago, and one of my students who struggles with Language Arts is reading it.  And it's definitely above his level, so he's voluntarily challenging himself. And told me, again voluntarily, who his favorite character is.  Teacher win.  I think I teared up.
10.  I wrote a Game of Thrones quote on the board randomly a couple of weeks ago because I thought it was great and at least 5 kids copied it down into their vocab packets.

In case you're wondering, it went something like this:

The mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.
      --George R. R. Martin

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Pleasant Day Off

Ahhh, it's so nice to have a day off once in a while.

And two Mondays off in a row, to boot.  I am going to be so grumpy come Monday next week.  But currently, I am just basking in my day off.

Do not judge me but I am especially loving that I am getting some time to myself.  It's not that I don't love my husband and love being around him.  I do!  But I was raised that it was a good thing to get some time to yourself every now and again.  I was an only child, and even though my parents were very good, active, involved parents, it was still a childhood that depended a lot on me being able to entertain myself alone.  As such, I developed two things: a good imagination and an ability to sit quietly with my own thoughts.

As a teacher, this never happens.  Especially when you teach elementary school.  If your door is open, someone is walking in it.  When I have a free period where no one is in my classroom using it. . .I lock the door.  And spend at least thirty glorious minutes by myself, just taking care of business.  Yes, it is very difficult to get work done when one is constantly fending off younguns.

It also just so happens that my husband very rarely is not at home when I am, recently.  Which is fine with me.  Usually, on afternoons when he works, I come pick him up after school, so even though I get more work done, I'm not alone.  He recently has gotten the weekends off, too, so even though we get to spend a lot of quality time and do a lot of activities together, I am not alone then either.

Mostly, I'm really okay with this.  If I really need it, I can have alone time at the gym or simply go into our bedroom and shut the door and be in there by myself.  Usually that's all I need, but every now and again I love getting at least a morning or an afternoon to myself.

This is my midday to myself.

And what have I been doing and what shall I do later?

So far, I have cleaned the apartment half, taken a practice test for my teacher test next Saturday, watched a whole movie, cleaned out my backpack, wrote two holiday cards, and made a homemade veggie lasagna.  Noms!  And it's not even noon!  For the afternoon, I am planning on doing some reading, perhaps watching another movie, making dinner, and doing some homework.  Oh, and more cleaning.  I just feel so productive!

And relaxed.

Somehow, when I get some time off on the weekend to really let my mind and body unwind and relax, even if I'm actually doing work, I feel so much more prepared for the week.  And much more cheerful.  I'm sure the kiddos appreciate that, because then I'm much more patient and happy with them, rather than curmudgeonly.

And now to what I've been reading.

Two weekends ago, the hubband and I went down to Phoenix for a wedding (which I realize I have not yet write about, so I will have to do that another time -- suffice it to say it was amazing).  He had some extra audible credits so we got The Hobbit on audiobook.  Man, I forgot what a great little book that is!  So now I'm finishing that up in real book form.

Then of course, I'm still working on Bleak House (when am I not??).  But I just decided the other day that I was in the mood for another Michael Crichton novel, so here I am reading Sphere.  Yes, I'm bad.  Yes, I love Michael Crichton.  He's fluffy enough that I feel my brain gets a bit of a break from the big bads like Mr. Dickens, but not so fluffy I feel like I'm wasting my time or my brain is turning to mush.  In fact, most of his books are technical enough that I end up looking things up and. . .dare I say it?  Learning something!  WHAT IS THAT NONSENSE?

Well anyway.  Enjoy your President's Day off, if you have it!  If not. . SUCKAAAAAAAAAS!

And there's a photo of my lasagna.  In an all edges pan.  Yup.  That's right.  I went there.

Be jealous.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Crazy Busy but Crazy Happy

It's been a bit since I've been blogging, for several reasons.  First of all, I've been crazy busy.  Second of all, I needed to replace the battery in my laptop because it was old and sad.  And it's very difficult to blog on a phone.  But now I have a new battery and it's back to blogging!

This new beginning to this year has been very busy.  First of all, it took us longer than expected to go back to Flagstaff over the break.  So that was stressful, and then coming back to school was stressful.  The kids were just starting to settle back down when we put them all topsy-turvy again by taking them out on field trips.

Let me just say, even when your kids are wonderfully, fabulously behaved, it is still enormously hard and stressful to look after 120 ten and eleven year olds.  And they are lovely children who still manage to give me huge headaches.  I guess they wouldn't be children if they weren't a little tough.  Having said that, I know that adults often cause more headaches than children.  If you don't believe me, just ask any of us teachers about parents meetings, hahaha.

Moving past field trips, I've still been very busy with school.  The week after field trips, grades were due and the grading period ended.  Yikes.  The week after that, I kicked it into high gear.  AIMS is coming up in April.  Even though there's quite some time yet until April, it's never as much as you really think.  So we are BUSY learning things and practicing things and perfecting things.  The kids are doing great, though, and we had an awesome week last week.  Honestly, I think part of it was that I took the whole weekend off from work and didn't grade anything.  I did a lot of reading and exercising and spending social time with friends and loved ones.  Fandiddlytastic.

The last thing that is making right now super busy is that my spectacularly wonderful cousin got married this past weekend (or should I just say yesterday?)!  It was an absolutely gorgeous ceremony and reception, and I honestly felt that everything truly reflected the bride and groom.  The vows were touching, sincere, and beautiful, the dress was unique and elegant, and the cake was om-nom-nommy!  I kept saying this but it was completely true: I cried more at her wedding than I did at my own wedding!  Yes, I was trying to really keep it in on my own wedding day and yes, I do just have random crying spurts when I think too deeply about how much I love my husband, but it was just. . .magical and spiritual and moving and powerful watching them join their lives.  Tears galore.

What I realized this weekend, watching my cousin get married, catching up with friends and relatives, and then heading home today, was that I am so happy to be where I am.  I like a good adventure, but mostly I am happy in a small, settled life.  My life is small, but it is not uninteresting and meaningless.  Merely because I am not a constant globe-trekker and enjoy the simple life doesn't mean my life is lame or boring.  One class period alone can be more exciting and interesting than some people's whole week of work.  Not to be crass or anything, I'm not trying to compete or one-up anyone, but I am just saying that I am. . .contented.  Satisfied.

I am a happy person.  I love my husband, I love my home, I love my job, I love my friends, I love my city, I just love my whole life.  The nice thing too, though, is that I am always thinking of new fun things to do and new adventures to have and new things to learn.  I'm so glad I can realize this and say all this and be genuinely happy.