Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Reading List!!

Schools been out for a little more than a month now, and as usual, I have thrown myself into summer reading. Unfortunately, much of it has been a textbook that makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon. I have managed to squeeze-in a few novels, but I simply don't have enough time to do a full review on each. Thus - the "mini-review"!!

Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill
I had a real love/hate relationship with this book. While it was an interesting glimpse into the life of Camelot, I didn't feel any emotional connection with Jackie. It felt to me more like a simple retelling of the day to day activities of the First Lady. A few funny moments, but overall, not a fabulous read....especially knowing how it's going to end.
Three out of five stars.

Let's Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
I'm not a fan of acronymns, but this book literally left me "ROFLMAO." How is it possible that one person can be so ridiculously warped? The book was almost too funny...perhaps even a little hard to believe in a few places. However...if I EVER find a Hamlet von Schnitzel...I will be the happiest girl in the world!
Four and a half out of five stars

Calico Joe by John Grisham
this is not your typical John Grisham book. There are no lawyers, no spies, no hidden schemes or plots. Calico Joe is a simple, but gut-wrenching story of jealousy, spite, and redemption. I haven't read anything that made me feel such contempt and disgust in a long time. This is a MUST READ for baseball fans, and a good choice for non-baseball fans.
Four out of five stars

I Suck at Girls by Justin Halpern
Like it's prequel, Sh*t My Dad Says, this book left me laughing out loud and giggling uncontrollably at night, trying not to wake my sleeping husband. Halpern is a master of the memoir, frighteningly honest, and unafraid to share his own humiliation again and again. I would recommend this book to anyone who can read. I even read a few chapters to my 11 year-old, and he giggled like a school girl.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
A good friend of mine recommended this book several weeks ago, but I didn't really get interested until I saw the movie trailer (which looked fabulous, BTW). I downloaded the book and devoured it in less than 48 hours. Unfortunately, the jury is still out on this one. Chbosky's story is a psychological coming-of-age story of a 15 year-old boy struggling with his identity and the suicide of one of his close friends. The characters are interesting, but I just didn't find the narrator believable. I just don't know about this one.
Two stars....but I may change my mind later. ;)

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffengaugh
I definitely liked this book, although I thought some of the characters were undeveloped and one-dimensional. Victoria is an 18 year-old foster child who has just been "released" from state custody and must make her way through the world on her own. She'd rather sleep in a flower bed in the park than in a real bed, and she'd prefer to avoid all emotional connections with human beings.
But she is really, really into flowers. If you want to know why - check out the book.
Four and a half stars

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
Another book recommended by a friend and so far, one of the top reads of the summer. This retelling of the classic Cinderella story was refreshing, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book once I got past the first few slow and extremely sad chapters. This is a book I would love to use to teach perspective and point-of-view. I recommend this book, but only if you have a dictionary app. Maguire is very proud of his ridiculously over-developed vocabulary.
Four and a half stars

The Front Porch Prophet by Raymond Atkins
If any book I've read this summer is deserving of an entire blog of itis own, this is it!! I read this book last summer at the urging of my friend, Sarah, and I completely fell for it. If there was ever a male version of "Steel Magnolias," this is it! The Front Porch Prophet is a story of friendship, heroism, love, malice, family, greed, and secrets. Atkins is a master story-teller, letting the story unfold bit by teensy bit with snarky humor and wit along the way. His descriptions are vivid, making his characters lovable and unforgettable:

"Rufus' lineage was unclear, but he appeared to be a cross between a Great Dane and a bear...his hair grew in patches around scar tissue...AJ likened the dog to a creation by Dante on LSD. He was a hound from hell, and AJ had no doubt that if Rufus ever got a hold of him, there wouldn't be much left to bury, exept maybe a half-eaten shoe or a few small pieces of the Louisville Slugger."

'Hell, AJ, the man wore me down. Had some of those hot lights shining on me. Beat me with a hose. I confessed. He also made me admit that I was the second man on the grassy knoll and he may have me pegged on the Lindbergh baby."

This is a book that I could read again summer after summer. It's been a long time since a novel has inspired such a large range of emtions in me as this one did, and I know I'll keep coming back to it. After I read it TWICE, I went back and re-read all the places I'd highlighted just to experience it all over agin. You know those books that make you really sad when you finish reading them? Not because they're sad books or have sad endings, but you're just generally broken-hearted that they're over?? Yes...this is one of those. Double-up on the happy pills....

I'm currently reading Slammed by Colleen Hoover, and so far, I'm not really digging it. I'm assured it will get better, and that I'll be instantly downloading the sequel, but thus far, I'm not really convinced...but it is better than reading my textbook!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer Lovin'

It's been just over three weeks since school ended, and I'm just now getting around to my first blog of the summer!! What a lazy arse I must be!!

Not true, my friends. Not true at all. These last three weeks have been packed full of travel, work, home construction, and grad work. Despite all this, I am absolutely lovin' this summer!!

We left June 3rd for a four day trip to New York. With 30 middle school students, 2 high school students, and nine adults, we flew from OKC all the way to the Big Apple for a fast, furious, and FABULOUS adventure!! The highlights of our trip included: FAO Schwartz, 5th Avenue tour (Trump Tower, Tiffany, Saks, etc), St. Patrick's Cathedral, the children's zoo in Central Park, Empire State Building, Strawberry Fields, John Lennon Memorial, Shakespeare Castle (all in Central Park), walking tour of Greenwich Village and Soho, World Trade Center Memorial (which was magnificent), Wall Street, Chinatown, Phantom of the Opera, the Today Show, NYU, a subway ride, Rockefeller Center, NBC Studios tour, Statue of Liberty, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, and lots of yummy New York treats - cheesecake, coneys, and New York style pizza!! We even got to see the space shuttle Enterprise as it was being pulled down the Hudson to it's final resting place at the USS Intrepid. I know that sounds like a lot to cram into four days...and it WAS!! We got home exhausted, but just in time to see the Thunder take-down the Spurs to win their conference!!
The whole gang in front of the statue of Prometheus at Rockefeller Plaza!

My girls at NBC Studios

Chelsea and I with the Naked Cowboy

The John Lennon Memorial

The Today Show!!

Which is the second reason I'm lovin' this summer!! I can't pinpoint the exact moment when I became a die-hard Thunder fan, but it was sometime between December and February, and it was life-changing! I love that there is FINALLY a team that unites my entire family. No more bickering over bedlam (well, until November, that is!). We're all completely enchanted by the Thunder, and watching their games has become a family event for us. With all these games, I'm finding it hard to even watch my beloved Yankees (gasp!). Yes, it's true. The Thunder has topped my darling Yanks as my all-time fave. We've only made it to a couple of games this season, but I'm sure we'll hit more next time around. It looks like we may have worked our way into a group of season ticket holders, so I'm definitely pumped for that!
The boys in the "Thunder-Mobile"...

And that brings-up yet another reason this summer has been so hectic. No sooner than we were unpacked, my husband was ripping-up carpet and throwing paint on the walls in my youngest son's room. We'd been planning on redoing the room, but I had no idea he'd dive into it with such ferocity the moment we pulled into the driveway! I do have to say, the room looks fabulous. Dawson wanted a "Thunder Dome," and we delivered!! Two blue walls - one OKC blue, one navy- and one orange wall. The fourth wall is white with a huge  Thunder logo hand-painted by my husband's aunt and extraordinary artist, Terri. It took her most of one day and another evening, but the design is amazing. We finished the room off by ripping the closet apart and building an organizer. He now has a brand-new room complete with hard wood floors, mini-fridge with Thunder fatheads, an autographed photo of Desmond Mason, and enormous basketball television! I'm so jealous!
Photos of Dawon's new, awesome room!

I've also decided to torture myself by starting grad school this summer. I had intended to start back in January, but I just didn't get around to enrolling...yes, I'm a horrible procrastinator. I missed the first two days of class because of the New York trip, and as of yesterday, I was so confused and behind that I was ready to drop the class and restart in August. I had a 4-page paper due by midnight last night, and I miraculously finished it by 10:48 (proofread and edited!). Despite being a little confused and somewhat overwhelmed by the though of a 20+ page research paper, I am going to tough it out and finish this class. I keep thinking that surely if I make it to every class, do the work, and put forth an honest effort, the professor will pass me!! Ordinarily, I wouldn't be satisfied with just "passing," but I'm not working on scholarships this time around, so a B (or even a C) won't kill me. However, my massive OCD may push me into overdrive and force me to earn a better grade. Time will tell...

On top of all this, I still have my wonderful, fabulous book club, which meets every other week. I adore book club and am so glad I took the initiative a year ago to officially start it. June is our one-year anniversary!! Yeah!! Go us! I've actually already read the next three books for our meetings, so I've started reading a couple of other things. I started Calico Joe today, and couldn't put it down. I read nearly the entire book while sitting poolside, and will probably finish the last few chapters as soon as I finish this blog. I sincerely hope my grad work doesn't get in the way of my summer reading....that would make me very angry. You woudn't like me angry.

I also have baseball games 2-3 nights per week for my 11 year-old son. Dylan usually plays first or second base, but he's been getting in some practice time as pitcher the last couple of weeks. I prefer him on first or second, but he'll step it up and do whatever is needed for his team. So far, they've beaten every opponent but one...not bad!

The next couple of weeks will continue with the hectic madness. The spouse and I are playing in a golf tournament on Saturday morning, and I have a family reunion that afternoon. Sunday is the designated lake day (weather permitting), and I have to drive to Alva on Wednesday for some peer editing in my class. We leave next Friday morning for a long weekend in Dallas with the boys - Dallas Aquarium, Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, Madame Tussaud's, Rangers baseball, and some relaxation time by the pool. Of course, we'll have to spring from our beds on Monday morning and fly back to town in time for Dylan's baseball game at 6:00....

I definitely have a full plate for these next few weeks, but I absolutely relish this time of year. Hopefully, we can find time to squeeze in a camping trip or two, as well as a day at my favorite summer hangout...Whitewater Bay!!

So, dear reader...what are YOU lovin' this summer??

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Book Review: 50 Shades of Grey by EL James

Not since Oprah was bamboozled by autor James Frey has a novel caused such outrage, controversy, and complete madness in the literary world. After hearing some of my co-workers discussing 50 Shades of Grey, reading the numerous blogs and articles about it online, and seeing the discussion about it on GMA, I decided I simply had to grab it for myself.

When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind - until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time. Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

As mentioned above, I purchased the novel late Thursday night, as the book I was reading had left me bored and unamused. It took me less than 24 hours to become a hopeless addict, unable to put the novel down (even during class!), and desperate for more. Before I delve further into the dark and twisty tale of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, let's establish a few things.

1. This is not a book you share with your mother.
2. It's not your typical book club selection.
3. It's graphic...very, very graphic.
4. If you are of a delicate disposition - offended by foul language or sexual content- do NOT read this book. It is not for rookies.
5. Did I mention it is exceptionally graphic?

50 Shades of Grey is not your sterotypical romance novel. Christian Grey is no Mr. Darcy, and Anastasia Steele is definitely not Lizzy Bennett. Anastasia Steele is a soon-to-be college graduate, coerced by her strong-willed roommate to interview billionaire bachelor Christian Grey for their college newspaper. Clumsy, innocent, adorable Anastasia is instantly captivated by the uber-charming Grey and his sexy, unruly curls (Yes, I imagined him to look like Dr. McDreamy!). Unbeknownst to Ana, Christian (a sado-masochist who specializes in dominant/submissive kinkery), is equally enamored and quickly presents her with a 'proposal' to become his weekend playmate and partner in his universe of whips, paddles, chains, and clamps.

And so the story begins...

50 Shades of Grey is a little bit of Twilight, a touch of Pretty Woman, a dash of The Graduate, and a lot of 9 1/2 Weeks. Ana is the sterotypical sweet, innocent, naive heroine, and Grey is a dark, brooding, exceptionally wealthy Heathcliff with a mysterious past, a controlling nature, and an overwhelming desire to spank. The sexual content of the book is bountiful and explicit (I'm pretty sure I turned 50 shades of pink while reading), but if you can get past the constant fornicating, you will discover a truly gut-wrenching psychological romance that will leave you emotionally exhausted and desperately yearning for more.

Initially, I was very turned-off by the violent sexual details of the book, and bored with page after page of glorious, always-satsifying coupling, but there is an infectiousness to the story that is mystifying and addictive, and I couldn't put it out of mind. I knew there was no way to write a best-selling trilogy that consisted only of pornographic prose, so I continuted to read on, and I'm glad I did!

James is a genius at pulling the reader's sympathy for her characters, and she lets the story unfold slowly, keeping the reader completely enthralled. I did get a little tired of Ana's constant worrying, second-guessing, and insecurities. I found that I had to constantly keep reminding myself that she is only 22 years old and in her first-ever relationship and it's with an older, controlling, jealous man who wants to dictate her every move. (Wow...does art really imitate life? Perhaps James knew me when I was 22? Yikes...that's another blog for another day!) But, I loved that Christian was a character I'd never seen before - a unique, self-loathing loner with an undiscovered ability to love. The growth of both characters throughout the story is impressive, and I was ridiculously consumed by their tale, sobbing like a blubbering fool and sick to my stomach at the book's conclusion.

Overall, I have to say this book is deserving of the hype. For fan-fiction, it is nastily scandalous, horribly inappropriate, extremely disturbing...and utterly irresistible. I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it, and I cannot wait to start the sequel!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

In What Other Profession?

A friend of mine posted this picture on Facebook the other day, and it left me giggling (although I prefer to think I'm more like Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds than Robin Williams).

It also made me remember a really good blog I read a while back from a teacher in Kansas.

It's too good NOT to share. Enjoy.

I’m going to step out of my usual third-person writing voice for a moment. As a parent I received a letter last week from the Kansas State Board of Education, informing me that my children’s school district had been placed on “improvement” status for failing to meet “adequate yearly progress” under the No Child Left Behind law.

I thought it ironic that our schools were judged inadequate by people who haven’t set foot in them, so I wrote a letter to my local newspaper. Predictably, my letter elicited a deluge of comments in the paper’s online forum. Many remarks came from armchair educators and anti-teacher, anti-public school evangelists quick to discredit anything I had to say under the rationale of “he’s a teacher.” What could a teacher possibly know about education?

Countless arguments used to denigrate public school teachers begin with the phrase “in what other profession….” and conclude with practically anything the anti-teacher pundits find offensive about public education. Due process and collective bargaining are favorite targets, as are the erroneous but tightly held beliefs that teachers are under-worked, over-paid (earning million-dollar pensions), and not accountable for anything.

In what other profession, indeed.

In what other profession are the licensed professionals considered the LEAST knowledgeable about the job? You seldom if ever hear “that guy couldn’t possibly know a thing about law enforcement – he’s a police officer”, or “she can’t be trusted talking about fire safety – she’s a firefighter.”

In what other profession is experience viewed as a liability rather than an asset? You won’t find a contractor advertising “choose me – I’ve never done this before”, and your doctor won’t recommend a surgeon on the basis of her “having very little experience with the procedure”.

In what other profession is the desire for competitive salary viewed as proof of callous indifference towards the job? You won’t hear many say “that lawyer charges a lot of money, she obviously doesn’t care about her clients”, or “that coach earns millions – clearly he doesn’t care about the team.”

But look around. You’ll find droves of armchair educators who summarily dismiss any statement about education when it comes from a teacher. Likewise, it’s easy to find politicians, pundits, and profiteers who refer to our veteran teachers as ineffective, overpriced “dead wood”. Only the rookies could possibly be any good, or worth the food-stamp-eligible starting salaries we pay them.

And if teachers dare ask for a raise, this is taken by many as clear evidence that teachers don’t give a porcupine’s posterior about kids. In fact, some say if teachers really cared about their students they would insist on earning LESS money.

If that entire attitude weren’t bad enough, what other profession is legally held to PERFECTION by 2014? Are police required to eliminate all crime? Are firefighters required to eliminate all fires? Are doctors required to cure all patients? Are lawyers required to win all cases? Are coaches required to win all games? Of course they aren’t.

For no other profession do so many outsiders refuse to accept the realities of an imperfect world. Crime happens. Fire happens. Illness happens. As for lawyers and coaches, where there’s a winner there must also be a loser. People accept all these realities, until they apply to public education.

If a poverty-stricken, drug-addled meth-cooker burns down his house, suffers third degree burns, and then goes to jail; we don’t blame the police, fire department, doctors, and defense attorneys for his predicament. But if that kid doesn’t graduate high school, it’s clearly the teacher’s fault.

And if someone – anyone - tries to tell you otherwise; don’t listen. He must be a teacher.

Sunday Stealing: The 99'er Meme - the Final Part

Cheers to all of us thieves!

76) In your opinion, what makes a great relationship?
Laughter, trust, and bail money.

77) How did/could someone win your heart?
Chocolate, flowers, Dave Matthews music, and Ugg boots!

78) In your world, what brings on more creativity?
I'm a pretty creative person, and most of my inspiration comes from completely random things.

79) What is the single best decision you have made in your life so far?
Finishing college

80) Why did you break up with your last ex?
We despised one another

81) What would you want to be written on your tombstone?
My name, I guess???

82) What is your favorite word?

83) Give me the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word: delusional.

84) What is a saying you use a lot?
No more photos, please!

85) Are you watching Idol this season? If yes, how do you like it?
Are you kidding me?? The Kardashians are going through a crisis. Who has time for idol?

86) Were you surprised that House got canceled?
Not at all. It was the same show every week with different patients.

87) What is your current desktop picture?
Myself with a Roman gladiator - taken in Rome circa 2008.

88) If you could press a button and make anyone in the world instantaneously explode, who would it be?
Tim Tebow

89) What would be a question where you'd not tell the truth?
This one....

90) One night you wake up because you heard a noise. You turn on the light to find that you are surrounded by WEEPING ANGELS. The Weeping Angles aren't really doing anything, they're just standing around your bed. What would you do?
Offer them a tissue and some chocolate?

91) You accidentally eat some radioactive vegetables. They were good, and what's even cooler is that they endow you with the super-power of your choice! What is that power?
I'm pretty much all-powerful already, but if they could give me the ability to pick the powerball numbers, that would be cool.

92) You can re-live any point of time in your life. The time-span can only be a half-hour, though. What half-hour of your past would you like to experience again?
I really have no idea. Well, i do, but it's too personal for the net.

93) You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be?
My first marriage

94) You have the opportunity to sleep with the music-celebrity of your choice. (let's say that you are both single and available) Who might it be?
Brad Paisley?? Not really sure.

95) You just got a free plane ticket to anywhere. You have to depart right now. Where are you gonna go?
Somewhere warm, peaceful, and rum-filled

96) Do you have any relatives or friends in jail?
Who doesn't?

97) Who's winning the U.S. Republican presidential nomination? Why?
Ron Paul?? Not really sure. I don't keep up with this crap until it gets closer to the election.

98) Who's winning the next U.S. Presidential election?
Whoever gets the most votes.

99) If the whole world were listening to you right now, what would you say?
Don't do the final part of the 99'er's pretty dumb.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The 99'er Meme: Part 3

Cheers to all us theives!
51) Do you tend to hold grudges against people who have done you wrong?

52) What is your astrological sign?

53) Do you save money for anything? What?
I am horrible at saving money. If I have it, I spend it.

54) What's the last thing you purchased?

55) Have you ever had a relationship that you realized was lust not love?
What?? Never!!

56) In a relationship?
With my shoes.

57) How many relationships have you had?
Why do we keep dwelling on how many shoes I own?

58) What do you want to tell us about your day?
There will be no "funday" in my Sunday, that's for sure.

59) Where were you yesterday?
At home, hosting a jewelry party

60) Is there anything interesting within 10 feet of you?
A lazy cat.

61) Are you wearing socks right now?
Yes...I have hardwood floors, so socks are required.

62) What's your favorite animal?
My students.
63) What is your secret weapon to get someone to like you?
If they aren't won-over by my sensational looks, I usually get them with my adorable dimples and sparkling personality.

64) Where is your best friend?
Why? Did someome let him out of the kitchen?

65) How did you end your last relationship end?
Signing divorce papers.

66) What is your heritage?
Um, not really sure. My mom is a card-carrying indian. I'm pretty sure I'm just a mutt.

67) What were you doing last night at 12 AM?
Mourning the death of Whitney by torturing my children with my stellar version of "I will always love you." Oh, and whining because I'm missing Mardi Gras.

68) What's new?
The rug on our living room floor.

69) What is the key to seduction?
Salt, lime, 1 oz tequila.

70) What was the weirdest thing that happened to you this week??
Getting tons of free school supplies from Wal-Mart...

71) You are walking down the street on your way to work. There is a dog drowning in the canal on the side of the street. Your boss has told you if you are late one more time you get fired. What do you do?
RIP Fluffy

72) You are at the doctor’s office and she has just informed you that you have approximately one month to live. a) Do you tell anyone/everyone you are going to die? b) What do you do with your remaining days? c) Would you be afraid?
D- None of the above

73) You can only have one of these things: trust or love.

74) What's a song that always makes you happy when you hear it?
If you're happy and you know it...

75) Who has your cell phone number (other than family)?
Apparently, every car salesman in a 120-mile radius.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Stealing: The 99'er Meme Part Two

26) Are you happy with the person you've become?
There's always room for improvement...not much, but a little.

27) What's a sound you hate; sound you love?
Hate- alarm clock
Love- 3:00 bell on May 26th

28) What's your biggest "what if"?
What if I wasn't so ridiculously fun?

29) Do you believe in ghosts? How about aliens?
Ghosts - yes. Aliens no...although I think I may live with a couple.

30) Stick your right arm out; what do you touch first? Do the same with your left arm.
right arm- Dawson...left arm - nothing.

31) Smell the air. What do you smell?
Cinnamon stick Scentsy!!! YUM!

32) What's the worst place you have ever been to?
It's a toss-up...either Detriot, Michigan, or divorce court.

33) Choose: East Coast or West Coast?
Never been to the West, so I'll have to say East!

34) Most attractive singer of your opposite gender?
Enrique!! He's yummier than the Scentsy!

35) To you, what is the meaning of life?
I'll have to get back to you on that one.

36) Define: Art.
Anything that makes you stop and think twice...

37) Do you believe in luck?
Just the bad kind.

38) Patriots or Giants? Or, who gives a rat's ass?
Giants. Tom Brady is the devil.

39) Will you watch the game? If yes, with who?
Yes - we're having our fifth annual "Junior Super Bowl Party"...we'll be watching with eight wild little boys!

40) Do you drive? If so, have you ever crashed?
It seems like we've covered this before. Yes, I drive. Yes, I've been in multiple wrecks.

41) What was the last book you read?
Night Road by Kristin Hannah. There's a book review a few blogs back.

42) Do you like the smell of gasoline?
Absurdly, a little.

43) Do you have any nicknames?
Famous Amos
Amy Jo (which I despise)
Princess of Everything

44) What was the last movie you saw?
The Change-Up...freaking HYSTERICAL!! The first 30 seconds in and I was already rolling.

45) What's the worst injury you've ever had?
I broke my elbow when I was little, and my brother once tried to bash my head in with a boulder. Other than that, probably the three times I've broken my nose.

46) Have you ever caught a butterfly?
Yes...the little darling became the inspiration for my tramp-stamp.

47) Do you have any obsessions right now?
BOOKS!! Always books!

48) What's your sexual orientation?

49) Ever had a rumor spread about you?
Of course.

50) Do you believe in magic?
Not really...but I do believe in fairies!!