Sunday, July 31, 2011

Muggle 'Til Monday (at least...)

It's July 31st. In the world of all things Potter, this is the holiest of days. It is JK Rowling's birthday, Harry Potter's birthday, and, in 2011, it is the date the first Magical Quill clue was released on

I was ready.

I was counting down.

I was armed with a laptop by 11pm on July 30th.

It wasn't enough...

What I hadn't guarded against was my exhaustion and global time zones!

You see, the only information I had was that a clue would be revealed ON July 31st that would enable participants to register early (before October 2011) for Pottermore. There was no discussion of what time that would happen!

I stayed with my laptop until about 3:45am EST, then I decided to sleep until 6am EST/11am BST (I had read in several places about a leak that the clue would be released then). When I woke up, I found the following message on

Screen capture from
I had missed it. The registration was closed! After some investigation, it seems I had missed it by an hour!

Alas, all is not lost!

Getting Into the Pottermore BETA Group
From the Pottermore Insider blog.
There are SEVEN days of Quills, not one, so I still have SIX more to go. As the banner says above:
Those of you who would like the chance to gain early access to Pottermore must find The Magical Quill and then submit their registration details. Each day, from 31 July to 6 August, a clue will be revealed here. Solve the clue and you will be taken to The Magical Quill. Be quick, The Magical Quill won’t be there for long and registration will only be open while spaces are still available each day. [from]
So I'll be trying again Monday. Here's some stuff that I know that will help me (and you too, if you are interested) out:
  • The clues will NOT be revealed at the same time each day.
  • The clues correspond to the books. So day one's clue was from book one, day two's clue should be from book two, and so on.
  • On days 1-3 the clues will be more difficult than on days 4-7.
  • The website for early registration is For example day one's clue was : How many breeds of owls mentioned in Eeylops Owl sign x 49! Which worked out to be 245. So the registration, while it was open could be found at
  • They are not kidding about the clue not being there for long. According to what I've gathered, the first clue lasted about 20 minutes.
Places To Go For Help/Information
from Pottermore Insider blog.
 Last night, as I was getting ready to sign up (before I fell asleep on the job!), I found a number of resources that were willing to help and share whatever information they had about the process. Here is a short list of the "go to" sources, if you are still a muggle like me:
  • Harry Potter For Writers Did a great job last night covering the whole process. I am not sure the blog will continue through the week since they got their quill and their e-mail accepting them into Pottermore, but it's not a bad place to check out to catch up on any clues you may have missed until now.
  • Pottermore Insider is the official Pottermore blog. It was started on July 14th and has already had a hidden link to help out faithful fans and kept everyone up to date on this Quill Quest. Note: They will not announce when registration starts, only when it is closed for the day.
  • Pottermore on Twitter is helpful to follow the blog above, but they have stated a number of times that no additional clues will be given through this account, as they do not want to give an unfair advantage to proplr on Twitter.
  • The Pottermore Help Page This is really probably where you should go first, just to acclimate yourself with the nuts and bolts of the entire operation! 
Worst Case Scenario...

After waking up an hour late and realizing what I had done, I ventured over to my #pottermore twitter stream to see how the twitterverse fared in the Quill Quest. It was such a mixed bag of emotions. There were the celebratory magical ones, the trash-talking "I got in B!tch" types, there were those who would brag about how many different accounts they signed up at once, there were the depressed, the dejected and the truly down-trodden.

I'll admit, when I first wiped the sleep from my eyes and realized how close I was to getting in and I missed it, I was disappointed in myself. It really wasn't until I saw others experiencing the same feelings that I realized how silly we were being. I remembered the power of one little word: yet. I used to tell my students this one all of the time when they would say, "I don't get math." I would correct them and say, "You mean you don't get math YET... it's coming, don't give up!"

Well. I give the same advice to my fellow Muggles 'Til Monday! We are not in Pottermore, that is true, but what we need to say is:
I am not in Pottermore... YET!
Because this project was so beautifully designed that even in your wildest nightmares of not finding a quill or answering all of the clues, we are ALL still welcomed to join in October 2011!

Until then, I've had my wardrobe stocked with appropriate attire from Hot Topic for years now, no need to fret about my Muggle status!
My first-ever Muggle t-shirt. (There are more now, of course. Thanks Hot Topic!)
Did you attempt the Pottermore Quill Quest on Day 1?
Did you receive your e-mail/find the quill?
Would you rather wait until October 2011 for Pottermore?

Friday, July 29, 2011


Have you ever had a spot on your  windshield, your mirror, or, my fellow eyeglasses wearers, on your lens? A spot can be maddening, it can ruin your day and can alter your view of the world around you. Things seem a bit off when the spot is around...

Spots don't just live on reflective surfaces either - maybe you have one on your wall, maybe there is a spot of paint gone wrong on your ceiling, maybe you got a spot of some mysterious foodstuff on your shirt! Let's face it. Spots crop up everywhere and they are rarely giving anyone happy feelings inside.

I've had a spot that has sort of been bugging me for awhile, although I tried to pretend it didn't. It was a spot on my blog. In fact, it was called, quite plainly: blogspot. It has been on my blog since its inception, which made me feel, at times, that it might even belong here, however, as the months rattled on I began to see it for what it was a pestering, intrusive, long-winded spot.

Something had to be done about it. My blogspot had to go.

This week I finally gathered the fortitude to do something about it.  I bought a domain name! This blog has a brand-new, spotless address at 
Don't worry if about all the links out there, they will all still lead here, but for future reference this address just got eight characters shorter!

Much thanks goes out to HostGator, where I purchased my domain name, to Blogger and Google for making the transition relatively painless and to this guy gal, Improbulus, whose blog post about changing domains on Blogger was the clearest of the options I searched!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Daddy

Today marks my father's 63rd birthday. While he passed away on Thanksgiving of his 40th year of life, this date never passes without a thought of him. So here's a little something I just wrote for the first man in my life.
Me & my daddy in the happiest place on Earth.

They called him Meatball
Two called him son
 Most called him Billy
In my heart, he was the first one.

A smile to light caverns
A laugh as beautiful as song
A man so full of spirit
A life not lived long.

An angel to watch over us
An empty chair at our meals
His heart couldn't be fixed
After so much time, mine still heals.
My 5th bithday ~ thank you for teaching me how to ride a bike, too.

"Thank you" were my last words said
Not knowing it was my goodbye
We had such big plans for the day
No one knew he was going to die.

I'm happy I said, "Thank you,"
Though I knew not what for
Then it was for a quick recipe
But NOW it is for so much more.

Thank you for your love
Thank for my brother
Thank you for our family
Thank you for loving my mother.

Thank you for LIVING your life
Thank you for teaching me "happy"
Thank you for all that is you,
But most of all, thank you for being my Daddy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

e by Matt Beaumont

The following post is taken directly from one of my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

ee by Matt Beaumont

A fun and fast read. It is written in the form of e-mails - what a great idea! Through the e-mails within this ad agency the reader learns of all things going on in this company while they try to land Coke as one of their clients. Hysterical from beginning to end! I am planning on recommending this book to everyone I know!

Dated: 02/23/01

What was the last book you read where the format of the story (ie. this book told its tale through a series of e-mails) impressed you?
Do you prefer traditional writing of stories, or are you drawn to unique styles such as this one?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What IF...?

A long, long time ago when I was but a wee girl in high school, an English teacher of mine said, "You know, ladies and gentlemen, 'IF' is the word in the middle of life," and then he walked over to the chalkboard and wrote the following:
I loved it. I continue to love it. Did the creators of the English language embed this little gem for us when they first decided to spell the word life? I doubted it, but there it was, that little preposition that has so many of us pondering throughout our entire existence.

As of late (probably because I have been storing up all kinds of creative juices by not being in the classroom for a whole year) I have been getting inundated by a lot of "What if...?" scenarios in my head. While they continue to build and crowd up my head, it has come to my attention that these are perfect writing opportunities!

I will post my first What If Quandary (with my response) next Tuesday. I think it would be great if you came on by and joined in, gave your own response or shared a link to your own blog where you responded!

In the meantime, in preparation for all of this out-of-the-box thinking, what are your big "What IF" questions?

If you have a What IF? question you would like to submit as a possible future prompt, please do so in the Rivera Runs Through It Community What If discussion.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Blogging with an Authentic Voice

A bit more "authentic" than necessary this morning. (nice hair)
When blogging, it sometimes feels as though you lose a piece of yourself as you send your words out into the Internet for the world to see. Most bloggers are interested in more than merely sharing their thoughts on a topic; most are looking for engagement. To facilitate this aspect of technological communication, blogging experts typically dispense with a singular bit of advice:

When you blog, do so with an authentic voice.

I doubt there are many bloggers that set out to do otherwise, but sometimes, under the pressures to provide continual content, efforts to find ways to monetize, bring more traffic and blog promotion, it is possible that an authentic voice can get pushed aside.

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In May, when I went to Blog World Expo New York, I went to a panel by Jodi Beck of MomTalk and fame entitled "Why an Authentic Voice Rings True." She spoke a lot about how she started (back in 1996!) and built up to such an enormous venture, but the most valuable part of the panel, for me, was her break-down of what an authentic voice is and is not.

An Authentic Voice IS
  • YOU in print. As basic as that sounds, I agree with this. Does your printed word reflect YOU? While you do need to keep your readers in mind as you write, and those for whom you are an affiliate, these two aspects should not have you being insincere to yourself. Select your affiliate programs carefully - do you truly enjoy this product? Will you be able able to sell it sincerely? There are plenty of programs out there, simply find the ones that work for you.
  • Honest, transparent first person. If you are going to sell, let your readers know. If you have an opinion about a topic, share it. You will not make all of your readers happy all of the time, but that is normal, that is human. Wouldn't it be nice if your readers remembered, even for one post, that there was an honest-to-goodness human being behind all of your beautifully designed digital masterpieces? However, from a creative writing standpoint, I am not sure one actually has to write in first person to have an authentic voice, but I do believe the perspective should be yours.
  • Emotionally connected. I agree with this point if, for no other reason, that it too brings in the human aspect of blogging. This does not mean that every post needs to be some emotionally charged work that leaves your readers requiring a monthly supply of Kleenex tissues just to get through your feed. This simply means, in my opinion, that blogging does not have to be objective reporting one would find in a newspaper that's interested in "Just the facts, Ma'am!" (Unless, of course, your blog is serving as a news source and your portfolio for a future in journalism!).
An Authentic Voice IS NOT
  • Preachy. This can be difficult if you feel strongly about a topic. In fact, a reader of Grist actually wrote into an advice column about the issue after a difficult situation in real life. There is some good advice in the response that I think can be transferred to blog writing in Umbra on talking about environmentalism without being preachy.
  • Arrogant. Here's another one to be careful with bloggers! Did you start writing your blog because you are an expert in your field? Do you feel that you know more than the average man/woman on the topic at hand? Do you have a litany of references that can be furbished upon request and awards and accolades to prove just how much of an expert you are?! Well, that is just AWESOME! That is why we, your readers, come to your blog in the first place. Find a way to incorporate all of that into your "About Me" page. There is absolutely no need to be arrogant in your posts once we have arrived. We don't need to be reminded of how amazing you are all of the time, we simply need you to share a bit of your awesomeness with us - if you do that, we'll be back and we'll tell our friends about you, too!
  • Perfection Oriented. Machines are perfection oriented. Humans have this cute little thing called "human error." Everyone knows about it, statisticians even account for it in their big studies about really important stuff. If you try to pretend that you are above error, that makes you a tiny bit less human to your readers and less relate-able.
  • Manufactured. This speaks mainly to the blogs that expand and become joint ventures, or posting with an enormous frequency. If you have gotten to this point, it is important remember how you did so - even if you bring on guest posters, or start to collaborate with other bloggers, there is no reason for you to ever shift your voice and sound "manufactured." This can create a quick and slippery slope - why would readers stay? In short, Jodi Peck's point here was, the authentic voice of a blog is important no matter what level of blogging your are at. (And she could speak to that point a heck of a lot better than I can!

It is YOUR VOICE, more than anything else, that sets you apart from the crowd and makes you truly unique.

How do you maintain your authentic voice when writing?

Other Blogging Lessons I've Learned

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Save up to 30% off when you register by Sept. 21st for BlogWorldExpo in Los Angeles, Nov. 3-5, 2011.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Stumble Buddies Blogroll

My Stumble Buddies Blogroll

Each week I engage in an interactive discussion with the Kludgy Mom community in Blog Frog! It is designed with bloggers in mind. We share our posts with each other and with the world of StumbleUpon. Throughout this process I have discovered a great number of excellent blogs and bloggers. I decided it was time to shine a spotlight on them. Here, on the Rivera Runs Through It blog, I have been introducing  my readers to some of these great blogs by writing an individual post on each one. 

If you missed each of the individual posts, or are just looking for a one stop shop for some great reading, this is it! This is the blogroll of those bloggers in the spotlight. It will continue to grow as the weeks pass on.

If you are interested in becoming a Stumble Buddy, and sharing in all of the Blog Love, then feel free to join in our latest discussion over in the Kludgy Mom BlogFrog group!

Other places to share this blog love:
-The Rivera Runs Through It Facebook Fan Page
-follow me on twitter @Riverand

Ask Alison Golden About Her Secret Life as a Warrior Woman

At the beginning of this summer, I was catching up on my blog reading and my Stumble Buddies when I was struck silent by a post by Alison Golden. It was timely, it was relevant and it was one of those reads that you simply knew you had to share once reading - the post was 4 Heartstopping Myths On Drowning Every Responsible Parent Should Know. I read it, shared it and could not stop talking about it. Although I had been reading Alison's bog for a little while before this, it was with this post that I recognized the Warrior Woman Alison truly was!

I look forward to Alison's posts as I know I will be exposed to humor, inspiration and possibly even learn something new! This blog is written in such an authentic voice, you can't help but feel like you are getting to know Alison, the person, more and more as you read her blog. I invite you to do so and join me in reading Alison Golden The Secret Life of a Warrior Woman, and just to get you started here are some of my favorite posts:

This post was written as ta part of my continuing series on My Stumble Buddies. To be a part of our StumbleUpon party to read and stumble week by week, come visit the Kludgy Mom community in Blog Frog!

Other Stumble Buddy Posts:
**Don't forget Rivera Runs Through It now has a FaceBook Fan page waiting for YOU to LIKE it!!**

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Number Devil - A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Mangus Enzensberger

The following post is taken directly from one of my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

The Number Devil: A Mathematical AdventureThe Number Devil - A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Mangus Enzensberger

What a fun book! A boy, Robert, dreams of a Number Devil that takes him, humorously, through many mathematics topics. While the official names of Mathematics and terms are not given, an index in the back of the book refers to all of the correct terms. I will read this again and possibly read it with my students as part of this Spring's (2001) MP2* curriculum!

Dated: 01/28/01

*MP2 was the second semester of a "Math Foundations"/PreAlgebra course that I taught to ninth graders. (I DID use the book and the kids liked it!)

Have you read The Number Devil? 
If so, will you be my friend???
If not, how do you feel about reading a novel centered around mathematics?

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Chinese Scholar's Garden [Staten Island, New York]

It's funny how you could live in one place for so long and experience next to nothing about it. Such is my relationship with Staten Island, New York. 

My parents were both raised in other outer boroughs of New York City (Brooklyn and Queens) and moved to Staten Island for the family environment and the ability to be in the city without the hustle and bustle. Of course, they liked Staten Island, but they raised my brother and I to believe that if you wanted to do something then you needed to get off the island. We spent nearly every weekend and all summer going to Manhattan, to visit family in Brooklyn, or driving out to New Jersey or even Pennsylvania. It took a long time for me to realize that there actually were things to do on Staten Island besides bowling and going to the Mall!

It is for this reason that I am a 34 year old native Staten Islander that had not set foot in the Chinese Scholar's Garden until this past Sunday. I wanted to take a moment to share my experience with you so you could see one of the wonderful things you might want to check out (for the low price of $5) if you happen to be in New York City.

You enter through a bamboo forest...

You are greeted by a koi filled pond.

You will, inevitably, need to stop, sit down and OBSERVE.

You will stare, with wonder, at the window designed perfectly to be a living frame of the beauty beyond.
You will peer through a moon door and it will drawn you in...
You'll find, and cross, stone bridges.
You'll be captivated by and pulled down a hallway filled with sunshine, breezes, trees, flowers and more picturesque views.
You'll squeeze through some more funny shaped doorways.
You'll be entranced by the varying floor patterns,
and you'll think about the people who gathered and arranged all of the river stones into these shapes.
You'll find fish at every turn - big and small.
And you'll thank me for telling you about this.

Have you been to this (or any other) Chinese Scholar's Garden?
Do you have a place near you that you would like to share with us?
Do you have a favorite Staten Island sight?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter Deathly Hallows: Book to Movie

Clutching my brand-new book, just after midnight on 7/21/07.
Four years ago today I was exactly one week from a Midnight Magic party at the Barnes and Noble up the block from my house. I had one question on my mind:  

Who will die?

I wasn't alone. All of us who had kept up with the Harry Potter stories knew what the prophecy said - one had to die so that the other could live - it was either going to be Harry Potter or Voldemort. I am ever the optimist, so I was heavily anticipating that Harry would live, but as we got closer and closer to release day, the rumors were spinning, the leaks were dripping all over the Internet, and people were saying that Harry Potter was going to die in book seven! 

I thought about it as I waited and I said, "JK Rowling is genius. She has already killed Dumbledore and Sirius, perhaps this will all end tragically."

The fact of the matter was, I had no idea what to expect, AND THAT WAS VERY EXCITING. As I read each page I realized more and more that anything was possible. It was a true adventure of exhilaration.

And NOW...

Three nights ago, I prepared for a different kind of midnight magic. I was getting ready to see that story come to life on the screen. I no longer had the question of "Who will die?" in my head, because I knew that answer. I didn't worry about how I would get on after Harry Potter, because I knew that already. I didn't wonder if this would be a good movie, because I knew that already, too. However, now I wonder if I knew too much...
Here are some other things I knew before I saw the movie on Friday morning:
  • I knew that the Harry Potter experience - reading the books, connecting with the characters and growing with them, touched me deeply page by page.
  • I knew that I cried my heart out throughout book seven, not just for the characters in the story, but for JK Rowling. I was equally happy and sad for her, and wondered what the experience must have been like for her.
  • I knew that through the battle at Hogwarts, JK Rowling brought to life the ferocity of spirit in so many characters. It became clear that any one of them could have easily had a book series written on them. I was happy that they each got their time in the spotlight.
  • I knew, that in a couple of pages, JK Rowling turned my seven year distrust of a character into an unyielding love, adoration and appreciation.  I was floored. I was happy. My heart broke for all of the years of misunderstandings.
  • I knew that by the end of the book I had received one message from JK Rowling loud and clear: LOVE is the most powerful magic of all and it is present in all our lives whether we are witches, wizards, muggles or some other creature. Harry Potter was a love story!
So why was this all "too much" for me to know. Well, put simply, I expected it all and one can never expect the same things from a movie that they get from a book. That is simply not the way it works. A movie is a visual reference for a book. It should convey the story and most of the emotion one feels when going through that story, but it can't, I think, provide it all. There are two simple reasons for this:
  1. Once you have read the book, you already know the story, therefore, whatever feelings of surprise or discovery you experience during your reading will have been lost by the time you get around to seeing the film.
  2. Books are extremely personal. You design the characters, the set, the tastes, the smells, well... all of the details in your own mind based on the descriptions you read.
I know this. I always know this. However, when I walked out of the Deathly Hallows Part 2 I was still slightly disappointed.  
Was it EPIC enough? Did the characters get their time to shine? Can the depth of Snape's story be fully comprehended by an audience that did not read the books? 
THESE are the questions that I am left asking. I know I will come to love this movie. I know I will see it again in the theater (perhaps this time in 3D!). For now, I am left wondering. This weekend I am a book lover, thirsty for that beautiful experience I had on the weekend of July 21, 2007 when I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows  for the first time. It was epic. It was emotional. It was amazing. And what I now realize is: It was unique and not meant to be replicated.

Did you have a similar book to movie experience?
Did you see the movie before reading the book?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Just a bit of the fan fare in the Times Square subway station advertisements for HP7 Part 2.
Before the Film

To all of my faithful readers and facebook followers, it is no secret that I was highly anticipating the date July 15, 2011.  With a group of friends, the midnight tickets were obtained and a party was planned. We were all going to meet up at seven to eat snacks and re-watch Part 1 and get to the theater early enough to find our seats.

We had a fabulous time! Besides our typical snacks of chips, edamame, veggies and dip, one brilliant buddy came prepared to mix up some butter beers! Now, I am, sadly, dairy-free so I could not have one of my own, but when I saw the faces of every single other person in the room light up with pure glee as they pulled back from their mugs with a foamy mustache; I insisted that I have a sip - regardless of consequence - to gain a full understanding of the experience. It was A-MAZ-ING. I did not get the actual recipe (I plan to), but I recall ingredients such as cream soda (a favorite of mine!), butterscotch, butterscotch schnapps and ice cream being discussed. I believe this will be a recipe easy enough to adapt for my tasty pleasure!

As we watched part 1, those of us who read the books whispered back and forth about How do you think they handle this? or I can't wait for the scene when... Those who hadn't read the books, asked clarifying questions about part 1 and insisted we stay tight-lipped about spoilers for part 2. Whether we knew the story or not, we were all tingling with anticipation.

The Theater
Just one line, that we had the pleasure of not waiting on!
When the movie finished at about 10:30pm, we received news that the multiplex theater was already loading up the theaters that had the midnight showings. We got on our feet, split into various cars and speculated about how many students we would see this year.

Our group midnight trips to the Harry Potter films always lead to surprised squeals of, "Oo! Oo! Miss!!" leading us all to flinch - either looking to see who's calling, or ducking behind a seat. My husband will often get an entire band at once, "Miiissterrr RiVERaaaaaa!" However, we know, this is the price of teach-lebrity, an issue that plagues teachers all over the world, I am sure, when they live in such close proximity to those they teach.

This year was not that bad since we were not left out on display on a line for an hour or two. This year, we strolled right into the theater, straight into Auditorium 9 and had third row seats (the theater was already packed, of course). It was 11pm and we were ready.

And, Of Course, The BIG EVENT: The MOVIE

The Harry Potter midnight movie experience is something I will miss. While my husband and I do fit midnight movies into our schedules more than most of our friends, they all tend to pale in comparison. This is never a one-theater event and we never go it alone. We were in a group of ten this time, and, for the most part, it seemed most others in the theater traveled in the same types of groups. The energy was buzzing - the robes, the wands, the endless Harry Potter t-shirts - the kids were squealing and yelling from one row to another, but when the lights went down after all of the trailers, there was a collective inhale and silence.

I was impressed.

I was excited.

When I saw Severus Snape up on the screen, I already started to tear up. I was invested in this story.

There are seven defined battles in the Deathly Hallows book; five of the battles were in part 1 of the movie, which left only two for this last part: the break-in at Gringott's Wizarding Bank and the Battle at Hogwarts. I felt as though one was done perfectly and one left me wanting more. To be honest with you, I have already began my discussing my hopes for what I might see in the deleted scenes when the DVD comes out!

Did I enjoy the movie? Absolutely. Should you see the movie? Without question! Haven't you already?! I think Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was a very good movie. I simply wanted more. In order to appropriately describe my feelings about the movie, I think I must devote a second post to my Book to Movie experience with Harry Potter.

Here's my plan for now: I will see it this movie again. I know, from previous experience, these feelings of disappointment will dissipate. In the meantime, these are my honest feelings about the film upon my first viewing.

Have you seen it yet?
What are your thoughts?
Did you have a Harry Party?
Do you know of any Potter-related snacks we all should be trying?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter, Full Circle

Tonight, at midnight, I will be clutching my ticket in one hand, tissues in another and waiting for the beginning of the end of one of my great adventures in the past eleven years. Tonight I will be seeing the final installment in the Harry Potter series in film.

There will be a post to come later, of course, that will include my reaction to that experience, but today I would like to share with you something I found a couple of weeks ago, stuffed in the cover of my reading journal: A notebook page from 8/8/00 with my initial reaction to reading the very first Harry Potter book.
The notebook page and a newer copy of my first HP book (Chewy, my aptly named beagle, ate my first one!).

So, without any further adieu, I give you my very first impressions of Harry Potter hours before I experience, perhaps my last of this original series:
8/8/00 Tuesday
Last night I finished reading Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone. I loved the book.
I, at the age of 23, found the book captivating and it is easy for me to see why and how this book has such a large following of young readers. Harry has all of those wonderful features we look for in children's books.
First: the lonely child with talents that go unnoticed in a world almost too common for him. The story can easily be paralleled to the underlying ideas found in Cinderellla. Cinderella, a common slave in the world of her step-family, was a sought-after beauty in the royal family. In the same light Harry, blatantly ignored by his step=family, is a highly revered savior in the world of magical wizards and witches.
 A second feature commonly found within children's stories is the idea of overcoming the bullies. The great thing about Harry Potter is that it tends to be a bit more realistic than most children's literature where the main character has only one bully. In every aspect of Harry's life he meets some sort of bully to deal with. His cousin, aunt and uncle set the scene early in the story showing us, from the beginning, that Harry Potter has a strong spirit (perhaps foreshadowed by his "strength" during his infancy when faced with his first bully Voldemort). Then, when it seems that Harry is on his way to utopia - away from his family and bullies - he finds yet another set of bullies in Malfoy and Snape. Harry's conflict with each of these bullies remains throughout the book, not disappearing after one momentous victory. As in real life, these bullies are not easily swayed. In fact, even at the completion of the book we can see that Harry's happy ending does not include the complete ending of his bullies.
 I think this is one of the great draws of this book. Harry is a character many children can relate to (even if they are not in-the-closet wizards or witches) because, beyond his wizardry, Harry is quite an ordinary boy who, in our world, has to fight for himself - completely. This ordinary boy manages to go on even with all of his foes - Harry does not allow these people to bring him down or interfere with the progress of his life.
What a wonderful role model for the children of today. What a wonderful role model for us all!
Harry Potter's Bookshelf: The Great Books behind the Hogwarts AdventuresI had so much more to learn about Harry! Even so, as you can read, he impressed me from the start.Last year I read a fantastic book called Harry Potter's Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures by John Granger that truly opened my eyes to all sorts of literary analogies that could be made with the Harry Potter books. I highly recommend this book to all Harry Potter fans. I loved it.

Well, enough of all that. I have great preparations to make:
  • What Harry Potter t-shirt am I wearing tonight?
  • Which earrings?
  • What kind of caffeine with I be using to keep myself awake tonight?
  • Is my phone charged in order for me to take pictures of the midnight madness at the movie theater? you can see, I have things to do! I am SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Are you going?
Are you happy/sad/excited?
Are you dressing up or just watching the spectacle?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hannibal by Thomas Harris

The following post is taken directly from one of my hand-printed Reader's Journals. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

Hannibal: A NovelHannibal by Thomas Harris

A strange book from the start... Although it is titled "Hannibal," the character Hannibal does not appear, in the flesh, until the halfway mark of the book. As a sequel to The Silence of the Lambs - the change in Clarice Starling's character is quite odd. To seal my feelings of confusion the ending of the novel is as strange and anti-climatic as I was warned. Some have said the film will be better - having read the plot, I have my doubts.

Dated: 01/27/01

Have you read either the Silence of the Lambs or Hannibal? 
What were your impressions?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Who Do I Think I Am?

Who I Am
I've lived here my entire life, so, if I want to make this post short, sweet and to the point, the answer is simple: I am an American, a New Yorker or, to really pinpoint it - I'm a Staten Islander.

Who I Think I Am
However, a couple of years ago, I began to explore my roots. My parents always told me I was half Sicilian (dad's side) and half Irish. Well, maybe more like an Irish mutt - Mom's side was a little less pure, but "Irish" was evidently the most prevalent. After losing both parents early along with my grandparents being gone as well, I realized it was high time that I learned my back story before I had some confused kids of my own - because, like their mother before them, they'll find dad's lineage to stems from one island's story (this time Puerto Rico!) and mom's (that would be me) one big muddled mutt mess!

Growing My Family Tree
I've been on my own personal "Who Do You Think You Are?" (a la the NBC show) journey without the budget, the celebrity, the international trips or the cameras to follow me all around. It has been slow going and it is really making me wonder about Who I Think I Am!

I've been learning a lot throughout this process - some things I am learning about myself, some things I am learning about genealogy and some things I am learning about history (my family's and my country's). I am no where near the finish line, but I thought I would share what I've picked up so far with all of you tuning in to my adventures here at the Rivera Runs Through It blog!

Lessons Learned from my Family Tree Adventure:

  1. This could easily turn into a job. I have been at this for years because I am not in the best health and can not give it the attention it needs, but I could easily see me waking up each morning to do more research, scan more records and add more info every single day. This is a big project.
  2. The family stories are invaluable. While my parents and grandparents are no longer alive, I had up to 33 years of stories from one grandmother, 29 years of stories from my mother and almost 25 years of stories from my paternal grandparents. I remember them, they are what I have and they helped so much in the process. I knew approximate dates of major events (coming to America, births of brothers and sisters, deaths, careers, military service and weddings) and general locations of family units.
  3. There are never enough stories. Once I reach a point where my stories no longer reach I begin to kick myself, "Why didn't you ask them more, Nicole? Why did you waste time telling them about your day?!" It is a silly thought, I know. Conversations are a two-way street, so, of course, I had to add input, but there is always a point where a question mark pops up and I think of missed opportunities. My advice to those of you who still have your family with you: Don't become an intense reporter bombarding them with questions all of the time, but don't miss opportunities. In fact, start this process now WITH THEM while they are still alive.
  4. Sometimes legends are just that... [maybe] nothing more. I have gone back four generations on mom's side and I've crossed "the pond" in three different directions so far - England, Germany and France - and have no Ireland in sight yet! I'm not saying that there is no Irish blood here, I'm just thinking that goes back a bit further than my family once believed. I'm wondering if this is a lot of wartime movement, or if it is actually where we are from (this is why I say I have a lot more to go!).
  5. "Family" has a much broader meaning than what is flowing through our veins. There is so much evidence of this in our everyday lives, but let me demonstrate just two (and a half) examples that glare at me repeatedly in this process.
    • My mother was raised by her "grandparents" - Bob and Ann. When she died I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that they were the first angels to greet her, and the first she would look for. These two people made my mother the woman she was. And, yet, search as I may, there is no record of Bob and Ann together nor with my mother. I am not surprised. Bob was Ann's second "husband" and I don't think they were ever married. Also, I think mom was legally listed with her dad at the time.
    • As I search through the census records of my ancestors that were the first to come to this country in search of (who knows?) freedom, work, a new life; I rarely find that they are living with blood relations in the initial years. There are names listed that I know from "the stories", but I can clearly see now that they are not blood-related. This, in no way, changes my own definition of them as being family.
    • There is NO MENTION of pets on In this house, pets = family/

I enjoy this process more than I ever thought I would. I thought it would become a passing curiosity, but it is, in some ways the greatest story ever to be revealed: The Story of Me. I remember, as a child, having a book that was customized to have me in it as one of the characters. I loved it. I thought it was just fantastic. Growing my family tree is like reading that story but 1000 times better! There are no fictional characters in this tale, and there are so many characters that I have loved for a lifetime before  even unveiling their creation story. It's like I am getting the prequel to the story I am living every single day.

I love prequels.

Do you have a family tree or are you in the process of growing one?
Did you have any surprises in your backstory?
How do you capture and share your family's story?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Overworked, MisUnderstood and Feared

This post was written in response to a Red Writing Hood writing prompt from the Red Dress Club. This week's prompt is as follows:
The most frequent advice I come across for amateur writers is, "Write what you know."

"What you know" doesn't necessarily always mean "your comfort zone." For this week, take what you know out of your comfort zone. Try a new genre, a new time period, a geography you've only dreamed of, fantasy or historical instead of contemporary fiction, try the male POV if you usually write women. Or vice versa.

Switch it up. See where it takes you.

I switched it up. Here's where it took me.

Here I am again. On every notebook page, in the textbook, on the whiteboard, projected onto the SmartBoard  and even in the classroom decorations. The teacher gets me, but these kids, oh these kids, every single year they get so stressed every single time I am around. I keep hoping they’ll start using someone else in my stead - the pressure is too great, the feelings of hate, fear and anxiety all pointed in my direction are more than I can bear.

I am only a letter. Why am I the one given all the responsibility? Why am I the one that has to represent all of the lost numbers of the universe?

“Find x,” they say. “Solve for x,” are the directions from others. Don’t they know I AM RIGHT HERE! It is not I who needs to be found! And I am smart enough to solve my own problems!

I mean, sure, sometimes y gets called to action, but everyone knows which one of us comes to mind first when humans are having their post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks of Algebra - no one is getting fooled here! I understand that e and i have other responsibilities in the realm of mathematics, and that o, l, and t are often avoided for their ability to be confused with other members of the mathematical symbol army, but that still leaves so many others to choose from!

ANY LETTER CAN BE A VARIABLE! Why is this lost on so many?!

I am one letter, I stand for whichever number you want me to. I also represent the horizontal axis of the coordinate plane (I recognize I can give that responsibility to no one). I am feeling overworked, misunderstood and feared. I did not agree to this.

I became a variable to expand my horizons. I became a variable to stand in for numbers. Numbers that could be anything -  a measurement, a monetary amount, a place in space, a quantity, or anything else that you can quantify. I did not become a variable to become the trigger of the math-phobic’s nightmares!

Through it all, though, I love my job. I just wish more people could understand it... could understand me. I have so much to offer and I am not scary. I just show up when I am needed to stand-in for a missing, unknown, or ever-changing value.

It is really exciting work. I have seen the world, heck, I’ve seen the universe. People who don’t understand each other’s spoken or written languages can still share me when I am in my role as a variable. I have been doing this for a really long time, so I’ve seen what humanity is capable of and, I am proud to say, that I have played my part in some fabulous discoveries.

So please don’t take this as my resignation. Just try to understand where I am coming from. It’s a really big job and sometimes I feel like I’m all alone out here.

I am a letter, but I can represent any quantity in the universe. It’s a big idea to pack into one little x, but that’s it in a nutshell. Don’t over-complicate me, I’m abstract.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

The following post is taken directly from one of my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4)Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

This is the fourth in the Harry Potter series, and, perhaps, the best. As usual, numerous new characters are introduced and brought to life. This book not only deals with Harry's usual wizarding adventures, but also his first crush, the ups and downs of friendship and prejudice.

Dated: 01/07/01

Have you read the Harry Potter series? 
Do you agree that book four was, "perhaps, the best"? (not sure I still agree!)
If not, which would you count as your favorite and why?