Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings Part Two) by J.R.R. Tolkien

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 Two Towers: Being the Second Part of The Lord of the RingsThe Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings Part Two) by J.R.R. Tolkien

Once again I am left, on the edge of my seat, anxiously awaiting the continuation of the story. It was an excellent story, however the tale has not yet come to an end... The first Lord of the Rings movie comes out next week - I hope they remain true to the book!

Dated: 12/11/01

In your opinion, what was the best book to movie adaptation you have ever seen?
What do you think made it so successful?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What If #5

This post is an invitation to you to think about the word in the middle of life: IF (L-IF-E). Each week the Rivera Runs Through It blog will present a different "What If...?" question for you to explore. Some will be serious, some will be silly, some might be political, religious or historical.

You can either write a response of your own, or just tune in to see what everyone else has to say about it. At the bottom of this post will be a place for you to link up your own post about the question, so feel free to share. If you have arrived at this post and the inlinkz tool is closed, or you don't have a blog, then please leave your response (or link) in the comment section below using DISQUS.

Happy pondering to everyone...

What IF #5:
What if we lost electricity forever?

This is one of the first "What if" questions I thought up for this project. I had no idea when I was going to post it, but the events of this past weekend had this question haunting me day and night. As Hurricane Irene journeyed up through the Caribbean, East Coast of the United States and even Canada, the power outages were raising all types of emotion on all of the social networks. I, too, worried about the possibility of power failure.

And now the numbers are pouring in 3 hours without power, 8 hours without power, over 24 hours without power and some inching past 48 hours without power. As I hear them all I am reminded of my thoughts when first thinking up this question: What if I lost electricity and it never came back? What if I wasn't the only one? What if electricity just, somehow, died? Which lead to the really meaty questions:
  • How much of my day to day would be affected?
  • Would I be able to function without electricity?
  • How steep is my learning curve for life off the grid?
  • What little joys would my life be missing, and which would I come to realize?
  • How would this change our social lives, working lives and family lives? 
I have so, so many questions! I think the answers could be really interesting for all of us. So what are your answers to these questions? What other questions does this raise for you? Link up below, or comment below to let us all know!

For a list of all of the What if questions asked so far, 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Memories of Gloria, Waiting for Irene

It was 1985, less than a month before my ninth birthday. We weren't very close to my grandmother who didn't really raise my mother at that time, but she was still the only Gloria I knew. I wondered what it was like to have a song sung about you and have a really big storm named after you. It seemed exotic, dangerous and showy. I didn't understand these things, but imagined this somehow exemplified the woman I didn't truly know.

As the storm came closer, our emergency plan became more of an event:
  • "We'll watch movies in the basement!" covered my mother's fear of us being near the windows. 
  • "You can bring down all of the snack food you want with you! Make sure you bring drinks too! We're camping out!" was her nice way of saying upstairs will be off limits.
  • "Let's bring flashlights and candles. We can keep the lights off for the movie!" Another great plan to make sure losing power would not be overly dramatic for her young children.
With all of this caution, there was also an excited energy in the air. Mom loved storms. I understood why when we watched a lightning storm in the Florida Keys during one vacation. Storms were dangerous, but they could also be quite beautiful. We watched our movie, distracted from Gloria, but what we didn't realize is that Mom was waiting. Mom was watching.

Seemingly out of no where, "The eye of the storm should be overhead now! Let's go see!" she was almost childlike in her glee. We didn't know what was coming, but based on her tone, is was bound to be good.

As we emerged from our darkened basement we were fascinated by the deep gray sky framed in our front windows. Mom practically skipped to the front door and opened it.

"Nicole, are you ready?" she was smiling wildly.

Wrapped up in her excitement, I smiled back, "For what?"

"I have an idea for an adventure. People must be going crazy stuck in their houses all day, do you want to go see them your candy bars?"

I looked over her shoulder, out the window. I never saw the world look that color. I never experienced such stillness in our suburban neighborhood. I could think of nothing more exciting than getting out there and feeling it. "Really?"

"Only a couple of houses. Only where I can see you. The neighbors will love it!"

This picture alone make me drool. I LOVE these.
And that was it - raincoat was adorned (with awesome hood, of course), World's Finest school fundraising candy box was grabbed and I ran! I don't remember who's house I went to first, but I remember the smiles, the laughs, and the rolled eyes. I remember the, "Is your mother crazy?" questions and the family's gathered around the various doors as they shared their own, "Can you believe this?" or, "Isn't she so funny?" I would always give Mom the credit and point back to her and my little brother standing in our front door, watching my every move and exchanging happy waves with the bemused neighbors.

It was pretty successful, although I didn't get to too many houses before I heard, "OK! Just one more," with a slight tone of worry.

Almost everyone bought multiple candy bars (you can imagine the ruckus I created in the homes with other kids on Mother Nature's house arrest!). I ran home elated. I made people happy. Even as a child, I knew there was no greater high. We all laughed as I shared my experience, telling Mom, Dad and my brother about the shock on people's faces, the children who begged for more candy, and the people who were so happy just to see chocolate!

Hurricane Gloria was scary for all of us, but that little adventure in the eye is one of my great memories of my childhood. It is analogous to so much of the life we lived in this house - storms were always swirling around us, tragedy laying wait, but somewhere, usually right in the middle of it all, my family would gather, bunker down together and share joy with the few we could touch.

I know storms can be dangerous. I know they can be scary, but I know, too, that inside every storm is a beauty waiting to be discovered.

To everyone on the East Coast awaiting Hurricane Irene (strangely, the name of my great-grandmother) be safe this weekend!  
Embrace only happy, silly adventures and make sure someone is always watching your back!

10 Tweetable Tales

This post was written in response to a Red Writing Hood writing prompt from Write On Edge.

This week's prompt is as follows:
This week’s assignment will require the fewest number of words ever: we want you to write a story – your choice of topic – as a tweet.
That’s right. One hundred and forty characters. Not words. Characters.

Below are my attempts to tell a tale in 140 characters or less (not including their titles, of course).

She woke up sweating, shaken by the previous night’s dream.
What’s that feeling on her face?
Lights on - She screams -The spider flees.

Two days I stare at a silent device.
Was it my laugh? Was it me?
We kissed, you smiled, the stars aligned.
Or maybe not, maybe -

Is anyone there? I think the power’s out. My flashlight’s broken. My son doesn’t live around here. I don’t know what to do.

“He ain’t here!” slamming the door, thinking that, at least, he’d shared his new address. But “the least” was always too much for her ex.

A boy, a fire dragon, and her egg - these are the ingredients for building a Leagacy. Flet clutched Sheleia’s egg awaiting the true battle.

A bucket in one hand, an icy cold jug in another. I struggle through the aisle peeling my shoes from the sticky floor with each step.

College; Whatever 101:
“Blah, blah.”
I write it down.
“Psst, you got a pen?”
“You got the notes?”
“What’s your name?”

Her eyes are wide. Her tongue dangles. The drool pools beneath her.
My head aches. My vision blurs.
The sky turns gray, the storm is coming.

9.  T.W.E.E.T.

Tell it
Without description
Emotion or
Through abbreviation, emoticons and links.

“I got it!” The words clear his stage.
He moves to the left, then to the right with the glove positioned over his head.

So that's it. Which one is your favorite?

Time Travel Troubles

This post is written as part of the What IF? Project hosted here on the Rivera Runs Through It Blog. Each week a new "What if?" question is presented and I do my best to respond to the query.  You are invited to as well. This week's "What if?" was

What if you could travel in time?

I'm the one who asked the question. I didn't think it would be so difficult for me to answer it.

After posting the What if #4 on Tuesday, I set my mind on thinking about my best possible answer. I went out to backyard, starting weeding and spent the time thinking about it, "What if I could really do it? Then what? What would I do? Where would I go? What experiences would I venture to get involved in?" I daydreamed like this for over four hours (yes, my backyard was that messed up!) and by the end of it decided given the opportunity, I might not travel in time at all!

What's the problem with time travel?

Check out more info on the Time-Turner
Here's what happened. I just started out on my weeding expedition when I thought I had figured the whole thing out. I thought, "Time travel is awesome. I could time travel like Hermione does with her Time-Turner!"

If you are not familiar with the Harry Potter tales, a time-turner was a device given to Hermione Granger in order for her to take more classes than time and scheduling would allow. She would take a class, turn her handy-dandy device back, and magically be able to re-live the same time span, but, on the second time around, she would attend another class being held at the same time as her first! It was/is brilliant. I thought, "If I could travel in time, I would use the time travel to learn, read, take up whole new lines of study, or - WAIT! - I could learn through experience and go to places and times where I could absorb actions as they happened! This is awesome!!"

And then I got carried away, "How much could I learn right now while weeding? I could just pop off - read a book, and then come back. No one would know I was gone and I could be getting two things done at once! After another ten minutes of weeding, I could pop off and go enroll in another graduate program! I could just audit classes for everything! I could go away for years, and then, when I was done, I could come back and finish weeding and no one would know..." but right then, in that moment, in that thought, it hit me. If I was gone for years, wouldn't I age?

I was stumped. I was done. No matter which direction I decided to move in time - forward or backwards - I would age while traveling. My heart was broken. If I somehow found a way to "beat" time, there was no guarantee that my body could beat it as well! Time travel couldn't help me squeeze more life out of life, it simply became a different type of vacationing. Crud.

What's the solution?

How the Doctor travels in time.
Nearly all the next day, I ignored thoughts of time travel (aside from allowing a couple of Dr. Who episodes to play on in the background while reading). Then, this morning, I started to tell my husband of my dilemma. For some reason, as I told him the story I just told you, I discovered that there is still some beauty in the time travel possibility on a quasi-regular basis. It can be used, if you use it for short jumps in time, where your aging does not necessarily factor in.

With this time travel is something I sorely need. I am CHRONICALLY late to things. It used to be a joke while growing up that my family was always the last to show up. As I began my own adult life working and developing my career, I improved slightly while getting out and about on my own, but eventually the genes won out. Finally, my stupid sicknesses added all types of delays to almost every single departure I have had from home! In short, I could use some time travel help! Every single time I am going to be late for something, there is a moment when I pretty much know this is going to happen - if I could travel in time, this is the moment where I could effectively make the decision to make a jump. If I am late due to sickness, I can ride out whatever symptom(s) are flaring and then jump. If I am dealing with the dogs, it can happen even sooner. If I am late for whatever other ridiculous reason, I can just stop and jump in time.

So it's not glamorous. It isn't adventurous. It isn't at all what I thought time travel could be, but, heck, it would be useful!

...and I guess I could probably sneak a couple of really good reads in without anyone noticing!

What are your thoughts on time travel?
Does the aging thing bother you? 
Could you choose to live in another time instead of this one?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blogging Beginnings Like a Pro

For many, new year resolutions come in January. For others, Spring often marks a time of renewal. However, for me, it has always been the Fall. After so many years as a teacher, September, not January, has been redefined in my mind as the beginning of the year, so when I found out that the SITSGirls were getting together to work on Darren Rowse's First Week of Blogging book starting next week, I knew it was a match made in heaven!

The group class will be running from August 29th through September 9th, 

[UPDATE: The class start date has been changed to September 6th instead of August 29th!] 

giving us a little more than a week to appropriately share, discuss and reflect upon what's going on in each task. The program/book is one I am really excited to be working through, even though this isn't my first week with my blog. I jumped in feet first into blogging, my first week had little to no structure, I can't find any reason why I shouldn't begin again in my Fall time of renewal! Darren Rowse, or ProBlogger, as he is known on the Internet, has the amazing ability to break down the big ideas of blogging into manageable tasks to work through. I found this to be the case while working through his 31 Days to Build a Better Blog program, and can see, just with a quick perusal of this new book that the format seems to be similar.

Each of the seven "days" of this new book has a number of tasks/exercises to work through. To give you an idea of the major topics the seven "days" are as follows:
  1. Set solid foundations
  2. Publish and build presence
  3. Concentrate on content
  4. Understand the blog as a product
  5. Put yourself out there
  6. Define and demonstrate quality
  7. Strategize for success
"Blah, blah, blah," you're thinking. These may be obvious goals to have in blogging. However, it is not in the labeling of each of these days that gains this program my support, it is in the design of the tasks I am asked to do on each of these days. I am confident that the tasks and exercises structured within the program will ensure that each of these goals will be met, not just understood as important.

I hope to share them all with you as I work through the class with the SITSGirls, but I wonder, why not work alongside you? IT will be loads of fun!

Here are some links that may be helpful in convincing you:
Follow the group's conversations on twitter by following the hashtag #SITSClass. My twitter handle is @riverand, feel free to follow me there, or to follow the Rivera Runs Through It FB fan page!

[UPDATED] Hot Topic Sales!!

'Tis the season to gear up with some new graphic tees, sneakers, denim, backpacks and more. My favorite place to do so? Hot Topic, of course! It's the place I run to when I'm looking for new Harry Potter apparel, t-shirts that express ME :) , fun and crazy socks, super cool wallets (right now I am rocking an awesome "I love Nerds" wallet from Hot Topic), or great deals on my CONVERSE!

Basically if you are looking for something fun to wear, to express your personality or support your favorite band, TV show, book, character or even thinking about going a little pop-retro, then check out Hot Topic and their latest sale going on until 9/3/11.

Here's the link:

If you act today, there's even FREE SHIPPING ON ALL ORDERS MADE ON AUGUST 24, 2011!
ONE DAY ONLY: Free Shipping on All Orders at - No minimum purchase necessary! Shop Now!


From Jansport and Yakpak to character themed backpacks, Hot Topic has quite a selection for the back to school-ers, so it is definitely worth checking out their backpack sale going on right now, if you haven't found your perfect fit!
Get $10 Off Select Backpacks at Jansport, Yak Pak + More - Shop Now!


However, my favorite sale of all, the one that I simply CAN NOT resist (I doubt you will be able to either) is the RETURN OF THE BUY ONE, GET ONE 50% OFF T-SHIRT SALE!!! This starts tomorrow, so I am giving you a nice heads up to get your mouse-clicking hand ready for some seriously fun shopping! Awesomesauce.
Back for a Limited Time Only - Buy 1 Tee, Get the 2nd 50% Off, August 25th - 28th!

I hope you enjoy Hot Topic as much as I do. My love went so deep, I simply had to apply to be an affiliate and I am happy I have done so, this way I can spread the Hot Topic happiness on to you!

My First Earthquake

"Are you shaking your leg?"

"No, Bob. I am not doing that. Are you sure it's not your game?"

"They're probably just working on that driveway again today."

I continue reading as the couch continues to shake beneath me. I hear the china rattle. "No, really? That's not you?!"

I'm finally upright going toward the china cabinet as I feel my whole house shake around me. I push it toward to wall as I watch a plant on a decorative table next to me continue to wobble.

"What the heck is it? Do you see anything out there yet?" The videogame has been paused as my husband searches the exterior.

We have two dogs. They do nothing the entire time.

It ends. I am confused. So, of course, I take my confusion to the Internet.

Before I can even tell my husband that I have just submitted my facebook query, the responses come flooding in. Affirmations of earthquakes, disbelief from friends in Virginia and Maryland that we, here in New York felt it too, and, of course, because this is a novelty to us here on the East Coast, lots of "Wasn't it cool?!" type of comments.

It was kind of cool, but also kind of bizarre. I remember recently when re-reading the first Chapter of Clan of Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, I was struck by the unworldliness of the Earthquake experience to one who had never felt it before. I remember thinking to myself, "I might be just as scared and confused. It will most likey be a very unnatural feeling for me." However, it was strangely familiar.

This may be because I was in my home, on the first floor, laying down reading. It may be that if I were to feel a much stronger earthquake, or if I were in a skyscraper, I would still have these unworldly feelings. The feeling I had though, was that of a subway train traveling under my house. It was confusing, that's for sure, but not completely new.

And so, I can happily say, with no harm to home or, more importantly, anyone I love, I can strike this one off my bucket list. It is frighteningly true, that somewhere in the deep recesses of my desires was this inkling that I would have missed out on all that life has to offer if I had never felt the world shake beneath me.

Now, I just have to ready myself for that crazy Hurricane Irene.

How do you prepare for natural disasters?
Is there one type of natural phenomenon that you have yet to experience that you are curious about?

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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 Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

A funny book with an interesting perspective of humanity, Earth and its place in this Universe. This book answers the question, you know... the meaning of life and what an answer! This is the first of many books which I may decide to take a look at.

Dated: 08/23/01

What's the funniest book you've ever read?
What was the beset answer you have ever heard to answer the question: "What is the meaning of life?"?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Melancholy Monet Memory

This post was written in response to a writing prompt for  RemembeRED from Write On Edge. In an apparent attempt to make us all need some major happy pills after writing this week, this is this week's prompt: 

We all have them.
Memories that we wish we could forget…things that we wish we could banish from our minds.
Imagine that writing down your worst memory will free you of it.
What is it?
Why does it haunt you?
What could you have done differently?
Write it down and let it go.
Let’s keep it to 600 words or less.

I thought I would be haunted forever. I thought this time would live in my mind more vividly than any other in my 29 years. I thought I would relive it over and over in my mind for the rest of my existence.

I was wrong.

Instead, I was scarred. The outcome, everyone knows, but the details - oh those stubborn old details. My healed and scarred soul allowed only formless, broad coverings of the worst attack it has ever seen. Only a few power images force their way through to build this impressionist view of the most life-altering event of my life.

Sometimes, though, that scar itches.


The first day, a Thursday, the skies turned black and opened whole, ready to swallow me. They threw water at me. They shouted with thunder. They blinded with lightning. They left me behind saturated and beaten to battle with their elements as I gave the only give left giving... bring her home.
I was her rock. For the love of all things heaven and Earth, I promise you, this is what she said to me the day before. “You have always been my rock. You have to bring me home.”


“Help me,” she said weakly, but her frail frame, her eyes and soul screamed  it. We were alone in the hallway, in the middle of the night . She tried to go to the bathroom by herself. A reminder that she, too was eroding on this trip.

“I will.” This night, I believe my words. I believe in my power. The rock has only begun to be battered by the winds of defeat.

Hospice arrived with the chisel of reality. I feel the debris fall to my feet and wonder how long the rock will last. I make a phone call before it is too late. I call the Pastor and tell him, “You must do what needs to be done.”


I check on her incessantly. I bring her ice. I bring her morphine. I touch her hair, her arm, hold her hand and rest my head on her shoulder, remembering a time, pre-rock, when that is where I belonged. That is my spot.


I cried in the shower. There wasn’t enough water to wash away the tears. I would emerge a clean, water-beaten rock. A little more eroded, but shiny all the same.


“Help me,” I would hear her whisper, now lips cracked from lack of fluids, as the evil inside her stole everything we gave.

“I’m trying.” A new response as the evil inside also stole my confidence, my power, my hope. I began to understand that no matter the size of this rock, the erosion will win.


“Help me,” no longer words spoken, but now just mouthed and I’m the only one lip reading. Tears hot in my eyes that I hope her yellowing eyes can’t see, my mind screams back, “I can’t!”


And then a self-inflicted avalanche, “It can’t be much longer, can it?” Guilty to want to keep her. Filled with an unnameable darkness within realizing granting her reprieve meant wishing her death.


It took ten days for my mother to die after I brought her home. She was widowed with two children at the age of forty. For 29 years she never let me go hungry, cold, or want for a damn thing. She was my rock. While I know, if she were here, she would tell me that I did everything I could have, all I know is that my worst memory will always be being helpless when it really mattered.

What if #4

This post is an invitation to you to think about the word in the middle of life: IF (L-IF-E). Each week the Rivera Runs Through It blog will present a different "What If...?" question for you to explore. Some will be serious, some will be silly, some might be political, religious or historical.

You can either write a response of your own, or just tune in to see what everyone else has to say about it. At the bottom of this post will be a place for you to link up your own post about the question, so feel free to share. If you have arrived at this post and the inlinkz tool is closed, or you don't have a blog, then please leave your response (or link) in the comment section below using DISQUS.

***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.***

Happy pondering to everyone...

What IF #4:
What if you could travel in time?

You may or may not know this, but as of this summer I am a HUGE Doctor Who fan (thank you Netflix!). Since season six will finally be back underway this Saturday, I've been thinking a lot about timey-wimey things! It is for this reason, that this week's "What if" question challenges you to think about your own possible time travel.

There are so many things you can write about here: would you do it? If so, which direction - back, forward, or both? What would you see? Would you interact, or would you just observe? Is there someone you want to talk to, meet, or take a picture with? Is there a place you would like to be or an event you would like to attend? Oh... my list can go on. If you are looking to really let loose with this one - get creative and write it as if you have time-traveled! Take us with you on your journey. There are no rules at Rivera Runs Through It against fun fiction (unless, you actually CAN travel in time thereby making it nonfiction, which is, of course, fine as well!).

I'd love to hear (read) your posts! For readers without a blog of your own, I'd love to see your response here in the comments section. If you have a blog, use the in linkz tool below to write your post and link it up!

For a list of all of the What if questions asked so far, 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Let Brenna Tell you Almost All The Truth

Sometimes when you read someone else's blog you are left saying, "Now there's someone who gets it." Such is the case for me when I read the blog of this week's Stumble Buddy, Brenna at Almost All The Truth.

If you just started following my writing since I've started the Rivera Runs Through It blog, then you may not be aware of my obsession with living a greener lifestyle, becoming a more conscious consumer, or, most notably, my obsession with good, natural foods.Brenna's blog, Almost All the Truth speaks to each one of these topics and more spreading an amazing amount of important information for all of us to stay attuned to every single day.

Most times when I write about a Stumble Buddy I say "You'll thank me," for this introduction once you start readng, while this remains to be true in the case of Almost All the Truth, it also goes one step further: I'll thank you for taking the time to think about those things that are truly important in our world. Brenna's got a lot to share with you: sje's going to make you think, she's going to make you question and, if we are all lucky, she'll get us to change for the better!

Here's a quick tour of Brenna's blog to give you a taste of what kinds of truth she has to offer: 
 That's just a bit of a teaser for you. There is so, so much more. Please take some time this week to check out Almost All the Truth and truly think about the words she offers us. 

    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 has a FaceBook Fan page waiting for YOU to LIKE it!!**

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    The Writer's Toolbox Day 4

    The Writer's Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the 'Write' Side of Your BrainHere's is another writing from ancient history (February 2009) that I wrote using The Writer's Toolbox. It was my fourth day playing with it and I think I got carried away. I don't remember which game I used here, but I can't imagine that I obeyed the time restrictions given the length of this piece! I'm posting it here to submit to the Write on Edge Weekend Link-up. I hope you enjoy it.

    February 18, 2009

    There she was, Amy Gerstein, over by the pool, kissing my father. I couldn't believe my eyes, my mom had told me the story a thousand times in the last month, but to see it, with my own eyes projected on our living room wall in that authentic-looking 8mm film was more than I could handle. Ms. Gerstein was my teacher, how could she have dated my father?! My mother laughed at my bewildered expression, while my father just grew impatient, "Danielle, is this really necessary? She has to see Amy on Monday!" Eww! Why did he have to call her Amy? If he wanted to be casual he could call her Ms. G, but that's as far as it goes!

    My mother just laughed, turned off the projector and sashed out of the room with a grin from ear to ear. She planted a kiss on my father's head on her way to the kitchen. He grimaced and turned to me, "Honey, pay no attention to your mother, she is terribly amused that Amy, I mean Ms. Gerstein, is your new teacher," he rolled her eyes, "It was so long ago, but she was the last girlfriend I had before your mother, so your mom always feels the need to remind the world that I chose her."

    "And," Mom called from the kitchen, " I need your daughter to know that her teacher may still have a crush on her father!"

    "Eww! WHAT?!" I couldn't believe what my mother was saying, here are the things I know:
    1. Teachers do not have first names (unless they teach nursery school, Pre-K or Kindergarten in a very liberal school)
    2. Teachers have no lives outside of school, checking my homework, and maybe, sometimes they will use a phone or e-mail to contact parents of their students.
    3. Teachers were never young once - they never dated or did normal things - they are either married or painfully, eternally single; how they get to either of these lifestyles is not for any student to understand.
    4. Teachers don't have crushes.

    My mother was working very hard this weekend to breakdown all of my rules, but I refused to believe that Ms. Gerstein had a crush on MY father!

    "Jesus, Danni! Enough! It is only October, she has to be in her class all year, don't start anything," my father was laughing when he said this, so it became obvious to me that I was the only one taking this seriously at all.

    I got up to go to my room, they were both getting way too giddy for me, "Call me when dinner is ready." My dad was in the kitchen tickling my mom - this was going to be a long year.

    I missed most of what went on in class on Monday, I was too busy daydreaming about the adults in my life. When I got to class on Monday I could not get the projected image of the young Ms. Gerstein out of my mind. Her skinny little body, with long black hair tied up in a ponytail kissing the young image of my father. She was in a little red bikini, although the color was faded on my living room wall from the film's age and projection surface. My father had spiky hair and yellow swim trunks, he was missing his glasses, his salt and pepper dad hair and, most notably, my mother! Who were these adults in my life? Really? Did the Amy Gerstein of the past, that 8mm ghost, imagine that she would someday be a single teacher having to deal with ex-boyfriends at PTA meetings? I am guessing: no. She probably had plans, big plans, some that may have even involved my father... what happened to those plans? Where do big plans go when they are unfulfilled? Which then led me to thinking about something else quite profound... who am I going to be? What are my big plans? Should I even bother to make any? Am I to be the Amy Gerstein of tomorrow? Or will I be more like my mother?

    I was snapped from my stream of consciousness by the recess bell. I had zoned out for nearly the entire school day. A quick glance at my day's notes would tell the tale: a few sentences here and there and then random doodles of girls in bikinis, boys in swim trunks and lots of question marks. I went home happy that I hadn't been caught unaware during class, and slightly annoyed at my mother for starting all of this nonsense in the first place. I decided on the walk home that I was not going to think about it anymore. I would go back to my normal routine: naïvety. I would call Becky when I got home to find out what the heck went on in school today, get my assignments and go back to normal. My parents already seemed to do so, nothing had been mentioned about the illicit affairs of my father or teacher since the night of the film's premier, so this should be easy, as long as I allowed it to be.

    If only Ms. Gerstein could have been in my head on the walk home Monday afternoon to hear my resolution. On Tuesday she asked me the most peculiar question. "So, Vicki, how's your dad's car doing?"

    I blanched. I was on my way to the cafeteria, looking for Becky, "W-w-what do you mean?"

    "I saw him at Ray's on Sunday. I figured something was up. Is everything okay?"

    I needed to get out of this conversation quickly, "I guess so, he had it today," I spotted Becky, finally, "Hey Beck! Got to go, Ms. Gerstein," I practically ran to the unsuspecting Becky Miller, my best friend for as long as I could remember.

    "Vick, you okay? What happened with Ms. G? You looked completely freaked out! You did the homework, right?"

    "Yea, yea, no it's nothing, I guess. I just didn't see her coming," in more ways than one - I wanted to talk to Becky about it, but we weren't alone, and I wasn't sure if I was overreacting. I needed some time to mull it all over. I was happy we had a big group at lunch, I could be relatively quiet without being noticed. Becky and friends were enraptured in a discussion about the upcoming holiday ball that was announced this morning during announcements. It is a pretty big deal at our school, so the cafeteria was all a-buzz with dance chatter, in fact, Ms. Gerstein had a hard time reigning in our class after lunch due to the overwhelming excitement. By about 2pm, she gave in and chimed in with her own dance duties, "Alright, alright... Class. Since you can't stop talking about it anyway, let's get through with all of the formalities now. I was going to wait until just before recess, but I can see you are hopeless."

    A series of cheers erupted in class, some from legitimate joy about dance discussions, and some from joy of class distraction. I often wonder if teachers can decipher between the two. Either way, my class did not give Ms. Gerstein enough time to decide, they hushed quickly to hear the news.

    "First of all, Principal Lindt asked that we help decide on a theme by next week, some of the ideas were: Holiday Earth: A Global Celebration or Dancing for a Cause." Ms. G circulated around the room handing out a sheet of paper with both themes and brief descriptions below, of course Principal Lindt also had a brief list of Causes he wanted us to select from. The chatter erupted again, I was sure Ms. G had lost the class for good this time when she declared in her best teacher-voice, "Ladies and Gentlemen, that is not all," she paused for effect, and it worked, "Principal Lindt also informed the faculty that there will be no dance if there are not enough chaperones, so it is time to enlist your parents' help!" for a moment I thought Ms. G had glanced right at me. She came around the room again with a parent volunteer form, when she got to me, she stopped, still gripping my form as I tried to take it from her, and addressed the class, "Class, this is not just a ladies' affair, remember your dads like dances, too." She looked down at me, winked and released the form. I could hear or see no more. All I know is that by the end of class there were two more forms on my desk and the class chatter had become a near-roar. I also knew that I needed to talk to Becky because I was not overreacting.

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    The Road Home

    This post was written in response to a Red Writing Hood writing prompt from Write On Edge (the new and super-improved site from the ladies of The Red Dress Club).

    This week's prompt is as follows:

    Your assignment: You must begin your story with the words “We had to leave immediately” and end it with “And then we realized we were already home.”

    The middle part is up to you.
     Here's my beginning, middle and end.

    The Road Home

    We had to leave immediately. There was no time to contact you. I am sorry you had to find out this way, but it was really the only way we could guarantee our safety and keep the secret. The phone numbers, e-mail addresses and Twitter handles we have all been using are all gone. To state it bluntly, this piece of paper is the last communication we shall ever share.

    With that said, let me tell you what you need to know:
    Your house is the blue house on the road we have already discussed. There is no number on the front and I suggest you keep it that way. There are three bedrooms and each contains a suitable wardrobe for at least the next month or so. I won’t write about the cash here and hope that you remember all that we discussed before. The car in the garage is registered and insured under your husband’s new name.

    The attic is  the KEY, remember? Girl, I hope you do, because there is no way I am leaving that kind of information in a printed letter. Here’s what I can tell you: your day is Tuesday. Be there at 16:34. If you miss your time it’s over, for all of you. This is non-negotiable.

    Your assignment will begin this Tuesday.

    For Now, For Then and Forever,

    “Was that it?”

    “Oh yeah. That was definitely IT. No one is coming for us. This letter is the end. We have to go.”

    “A letter. On a god-damn tree? How did you even know to stop here?”

    “The GPS. This marker popped up about two hours ago. I knew it was them. I hate this. Don’t make me think about it; just grab the kids.”

    I hated it too. What I don’t think she realized is that I hated it more than she ever could have fathomed. We were in the woods, hiking for three days since we got off at the designated station and now the sun was setting again. Tomorrow was Tuesday. If we didn’t get to that blue house soon we would all be killed and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that these people would kill my children first.

    As I approached my wife, now with the kids in tow, one little hand tugged my arm, “Daddy, can we live there?” We followed her pointed finger to a point about 100 yards in front of the tree where we found the letter. There was a house.

    In a broken voice, my wife asked, “Sweetie, would you like that?”

    This time, as we struggled to see in the dusk that the house was indeed blue, two delighted children’s voices, “Yesss!!”

    And then we realized we were already home.

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    "I'm Not Good At Math" Says Too Much

    This post is written as part of the What IF? Project hosted right here on the Rivera Runs Through It Blog. Each week a new "What if?" question is presented, and, if we so choose, we respond to the query. (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.) This week's "What if?" was

    The Reader versus The Mathematician

    I can read. I love to read, in fact. Saying such things does not necessarily imply that I hold Ph. D. in literature, or that I am a master of all of the classics or that I can speak, with any type of authority, on the expanse of books in Bloom's Western Canon. I am a reader in its most basic function: for the purposes my own entertainment, edification and to get around in society. That is all that is meant by the statement, "I can read."
    created by Susan Barker

    I can also do math. Believe it or not, I also happen to love doing math! Personally, I have studied Mathematics professionally and while I do not hold a Ph.D. in this course of study, I do have a B.S. in Mathematics and have taken countless hours of graduate level Mathematics courses from various institutions of higher learning. I do not believe, however, that all of this is required for one to state simply, "I can do math."I believe, on the other hand, that one can say, "I can do math," if they have the same sort of relationship with the subject as I do with reading: basic functionality for the purposes of personal entertainment (yes, that is possible), edification and to get around in society.

    What "I'm Not Good At Math" Really Means

    When we say something like "I'm not good at Math," this is the same as making the ridiculous declaration, "I don't eat food," just because we don't eat one particular type of food (for example, I don't eat dairy - I can't - this does not, by any stretch of the imagination mean that I do not eat food!). When we go around saying "I'm not good at Math," because we struggled in Algebra or Trigonometry, or because we are confused by theorems put forth in Chaos Theory, we are making a similar unrepresentative statement. It is important to remember that "Math" is short for Mathematics - a plural word (this is why I love that outside of the US, it is shortened "Maths") representing many disciplines within!

    What's the Big Deal If Everyone Says "I can't do Math"?

    I believe that nearly all of the people who walk around this planet declaring to anyone who will listen, "I can't do math," are, in fact, quite mistaken! What saddens me is that I am not sure that they believe so. The ability to "do Math" has for so long been accredited solely to the Mathletes, Mathematicians and the elite group becoming casually known as "math people" that everyone else has started to believe that, without those types of academic successes they are devoid of all skill.

    This, on its own would not be such a huge problem if the words spoken by Henry Ford did not ring so true:
    "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right." ~Henry Ford 
    Once the seed has been planted, the idea will sprout. Millions of people are leaving their formal educations believing they can't do math, and, so, once free of their homework, they don't. They grab a smartphone to figure out a tip, they let an online service or a computer program balance their finances, they buy the ELECTRONIC BANKING EDITION OF MONOPOLY for the family (can I start an angry petition about this one?! Please, someone tell me it doesn't do ALL of the math for you!), the list goes on... The huge problem that comes from all of this is the fact that math is definitely a subject where you use it or lose it!

    I Propose A Culture Shift

    In order to save us all from losing our abilities to do Math and raising another generation that believes it's OK to say "I'm not good at Math" or "I can't do Math," I propose a simple challenge to those of you who truly believe you can't do math:
    JUST DO IT!  

    Not all of it. Remember, Mathematics is plural, find the piece you like. If fractions and decimals scare you or the thought of figuring out a percentage gives you the chills, I am not suggesting that you do anything that will cause you to seek the aid of a therapist. I am simply suggesting you s-t-r-e-t-c-h your expectations of yourself.
    • If you typically use a calculator or a smartphone APP to figure out some mathematical calculation, then try to see if you can start to predict an estimate of what the answer will be before you use it.
    • If you have children heading back to school who are taking Math classes, ask them to teach you something from that class that they feel comfortable with.
    • If you are a seamstress, a quilter, a carpenter, contractor, electrician (oh boy! this list goes on...), recognize that you are DOING Math all of the time! (Probably even more than I am these days!!)
    • The next time you get a phone bill, or a cable bill, or something else with a ton of number-y stuff on it - double-check their sums, just for kicks (maybe you'll catch them stealing from you!)
    • If you're bored, do a Sudoku puzzle, a logic puzzle, or  play any one of these cool math games.
    As you can see, there's lots of stuff you can do, but it shouldn't feel like homework. It should feel as natural as reading does when you pick up that menu in a restaurant, just find the math in your day, and recognize that you are doing it and that you are probably good at it.

    If you really can't, if it confuses the heck out of you, if you're stumped, stymied and thinking about giving up - DON'T! Please feel free to come back here and ask me for help - believe it or not, I enjoy that kind of stuff! And if it's too advanced for me (that can totally happen), I'll find a resource we can both tap for furthering our math-y knowledge!

    Do you consider yourself a "math person," a "non-math person" or neither? Why?
    Did you like Mathematics in school? Why/why not?
    Do you believe this challenge is possible for all people?

      Wednesday, August 17, 2011

      The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings Part One) by J.R.R. Tolkien

      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 Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of The Lord of the RingsThe Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings Part One) by J.R.R. Tolkien

      It was so wonderful to revisit Middle-Earth and all of its fantastic occupants. I find it amazing that Tolkien makes every facet of his world come to life. It is very easy to see how this trilogy has become a classic. I can't wait to continue the story to see how Frodo Baggins and the rest of the Company of the Ring complete their heroic mission! And, once again, I will be crossing my fingers since the movie (first of three) comes out this Christmas! 

      Dated: 08/19/01

      Are you a Tolkien fan?
      What is your favorite Tolkien piece?
      What is your opinion of the Lord of the Rings movies by Peter Jackson?

      Tuesday, August 16, 2011

      Write On Con

      Many people wonder what the value of twitter is. They say things like, "I don't know... it just seems like a waste of time to me," and I understand the perspective. I felt the same way once upon a sometime. It is easy to see how all of the utterings of of the world wide web could seem irrelevant, annoying or even intrusive, but then, sometimes, a tweet intrigues and shows you something new. Such was the case last night, when one of the tweeps I follow (I wish I could remember who, so I could give full credit for this inspiration) asked, "Will anyone else be joining me tomorrow for the #WriteOnCon?" I had no idea what that was, but what a cool name... I had to investigate!
      What is Write On Con?

      From my one day brief exploration, I can best describe WriteOnCon as a Convention/Conference for writers that takes place virtually rather than physically. The website and conference seems to operate on donations and the participation of authors, literary agents and illustrators. WriteOnCon 2011 is their second annual conference taking place this week (August 15-18) and has a full schedule of "events" that vary from blog posts, vlogs, and even live Q&A sessions with a litany of literary professionals. The events are posted hourly from about 6AM through about 6:30PM (EDT) and then each day has some later scheduled events as well.

      In addition to the annual huge events like the one going on now, WriteOnCon also hosts monthly events throughout the year and has a fairly active forum. The site itself seems like an excellent resource for anyone interested in the industry.

      Who is Write On Con for?

      Well, I'm sure this comes as no surprise, but writers are the audience in mind here. What might not be initially obvious, however, is that it seems to be open to writers/authors at multiple stages of their career. Among the attendees are debut publishing hopefuls, those who are in the midst of the query process, those who have been published and me (probably others in the same boat), a curious observer wondering if this is the next path for these feet to tread.

      Where is the Value in Write On Con?

      The short answer? Everywhere. First of all, WriteOnCon is a freely accessed website. It costs absolutely nothing to check out the event, although donations are appreciated, I'm sure. Once you read a couple of the posts from best-selling authors, or watch a couple of the vlogs from from a group you've respected from afar, I'm sure a donation will be the least you can do. Also, if you can catch one of the live Q&A sessions, you are free to submit your very own burning question to the professional on the hot seat! 

      And if you miss it... If somehow you let this week pass you by and are unable to see each of the "events" as they are posted on the website, well then THAT'S NO BIG DEAL! WriteOnCon is a website, after all, and everything is still there waiting for you! Isn't that awesome? You can check out all of the wonderful content at your leisure!

      So that's it. That's what I did with myself for a bunch of today. I imagine I'll be checking in tomorrow as well, but I wanted to let you know, too because good things are always much better when shared!


      An Insomniac's Poetic Ramblings

      If you can't sleep, then you know what I mean.
      Noctural existence isn't as odd as it once seemed. 
      Sleep is still wonderful, but may still allude you -
      Or perhaps this was a plan that you decided to collude to.
      My hopes is that it is accidental and only for a day
      Night-time sky shouldn't replace the sun's rays!
      I hope to at least nap in a little while
      All- nighters really aren't my style!      

      Caffeine: you stink!!
      Tucked away in your tasty drink.
      I had you last night with my supper
      forgetting, somehow, that you're such an upper,
      and now I am filled with tons of regret
      as I listen to the snores of my husband and pets.

      Click image for complete infographic.
      The sun is now rising,
      though the clouds block the rays,
      the web is mesmerizing
      as the night becomes day.
      Reddit gave some reads
      with my cute alien friend,
      I checked my Twitter stream
      as I looked for a funny trend.
      FaceBook statuses were updated
      and Google + was further explored
      StumbleUpon couldn't keep me sated
      and Gmail couldn't be ignored.
      Pottermore dreams are foiled
      as so many others have gained entry
      and my experience may very well be spoiled
      if the first in do not tread gently.
      I'm back on Blogger at this hour
      so there must be nothing left to do
      and though I'm losing all battery power
      you know there's no way that can be true!

      The What If Prompts

      Each week, on the Rivera Runs Through It blog, I present a new "What if" question for readers to respond to either on their own blog, or in the comments section of the prompt. Since this could go on for quite awhile, I thought it might be a good idea to have one place to gather up links to all of the questions asked so far so you could easily sort through them all!

      Here they are, and please, feel free to join in on any of the conversations at any time, we'd all love to know you're perspective(s)!

      The Questions So Far...

      Also, if you have a "what if" question of your own that you think others may want to respond to/write about, feel free to submit your suggestion(s) to the What If discussion in the Rivera Runs Through It Blog Frog Community, or, if you're a Facebook fan, suggest it on our FB fan page!

      Copy the Code Below to Put the Button on your Blog

      What if #3

      This post is an invitation to you to think about the word in the middle of life: IF (L-IF-E). Each week the Rivera Runs Through It blog will present a different "What If...?" question for you to explore. Some will be serious, some will be silly, some might be political, religious or historical.

      You can either write a response of your own, or just tune in to see what everyone else has to say about it. At the bottom of this post will be a place for you to link up your own post about the question, so feel free to share. If you have arrived at this post and the inlinkz tool is closed, or you don't have a blog, then please leave your response (or link) in the comment section below using DISQUS.

      ***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.***

      Happy pondering to everyone...

      Getting ready for back to school, here is our

      What IF #3:
      What if saying "I'm not good at Math" had the same stigma as "I can't read"?

      Let me set the scene: You go out to eat with a large group, when it comes time to split the bill, suddenly everyone starts averting their eyes - some fumble for smartphones with calculators, some start up conversations with the nearest friend, but then someone, inevitably, grabs the bill, with a tired, "I'll do it." Everyone else exhales - thankfully, one of the attendees is a "math person."

      Situations like these are all too commonplace, and the fluidity with which people will admit, "I can't do math," is even more so. Yet the opposite is never even a consideration. What if we behaved similarly when the menus showed up? Would people be as comfortable saying, "Someone else grab the menu and order for me; I can't read." Reading is fundamental, society seems to agree upon this fact, we work hard to ensure that our citizens can read well enough to function in our world of words, but, for some reason, we fall short in empowering each other in our world of numbers.

      Why is it socially acceptable to not be a math person? What if it wasn't? What if numeracy was as valued as literacy?

      This week What If prompt challenges us to think about a different world - one where numeracy and literacy are equally valued in social circles. As you respond, think about how this would change your perspective of the two subjects, how would it alter children's perspectives? Would this be powerful  enough to have an affect on the education system, or do you think it is not that important after all?

      I'd love to hear (read) your viewpoints no matter what they are! For readers without a blog of your own, I'd love to see your response here in the comments section. If you have a blog, use the in linkz tool below to write your post and link it up!

      For a list of all of the What if questions asked so far, 

      Monday, August 15, 2011

      My Reddit Mistake

      This past week, for the first time ever, I was called a spammer (cue dramatic music).

      This made me sad, but it happened on Reddit, the social news website, which I had minimal experience with, so I instantly knew it was all my fault. Although I had no intentions of ever spamming anyone and I thought what I was doing was basic blogger practice, it was clear that I had made a mistake. This led to one big question:

      What did I do wrong?

      The short answer to this question is "Everything!!" but I can slim it down to two biggie mistakes that led me down this path. Here they are:

      Mistake #1:
      I Used Reddit As A Submitter Before A Reader 

      Most of my social media use has started since I starting blogging, not before. I had never even heard of Reddit before I started blogging, and I didn't start using it until, one day it showed up in my traffic stats. Back in March 2011, I wrote a blog post about a non-profit grant opportunity here on Rivera Runs Through It. I was hoping to share the post with IHRF (the foundation for my rare disease) and other people who have IIH. Well, someone submitted it to Reddit. It remains, until this day, as the most popular post on this blog. I needed to know what Reddit was, so I followed the link in my traffic stats to find out.

      The link took me to a page that asked me to sign up and asked me if I wanted to submit anything. I saw the power of this tool and I decided to save up only my best posts for this guy (to be honest with you, the speed with which that first post rocketed, scared the heck out of me!). A couple of times I went into the Reddit site directly to try to use it, but, with my inexperience, it overwhelmed me. 

      Mistake #2:
      I Used Reddit Just Like it Was StumbleUpon

      All social media sites are not created equal. I know this. I swear I do... but the submission process felt  so similar! Those of you not new to Rivera Runs Through It, you know that I am a StumbleUpon gal - I know it, I love it, I use it regularly (maybe too regularly!), so, when I submitted my first link to Reddit, the process felt very similar and something I was quite comfortable with. Here is the StumbleUpon process:
      1. When deciding I want SU to know I like something I found on the web, I click my thumbs up "I like it!" button
      2. If no one else has ever done so (happens to me quite often), then I am asked to write a REVIEW for the site if I would like to, so other "stumblers" can see why they might like it.
      3. I go on with the rest of my life. 
      When I submitted a link to Reddit, I was asked first about the title and what part of Reddit I would like to submit it to, and then I was asked to write a comment if I would like to. I mistakenly interpreted this "comment" request to be the same as the "review" request and would often write it as a teaser or a "selling point" so people could see why they might want to read this post! Had I not made mistake #1 (above), this would have never ever happened.
       What have I learned?

      You must know that the teacher's soul inside of me was, in fact, quite excited that I made a mistake, because without it I would not have been able to actually, finally learn about Reddit! I have decided in just the one weekend of playing since "the incident" that Reddit Rocks!!
      Reddit is a community! The "comments" that I misinterpreted as reviews are actually (brace yourself people...) comments in order to engage in a discussion about the link with other "redditors." I love this! There is a main page of Reddit that has the top leading links from all of reddit, but there are also separate sections of Reddit for just plain old "funny" links or "food" links or "world news", or, honestly, almost anything you can imagine (I even found a MATH group of redditors!!!).

      I am concerned I have created a whole new addiction for myself (the iPhone app has already been downloaded), but I think I have also found a fun new way to find out what's going on on the Internet. I think you should check it out to (if you haven't already), but you should do so in the right order! Go in and USE Reddit; become a redditor, join the conversations, begin some conversations and just have some fun! I highly recommend it.
      Have you used Reddit before? 
      Are you already a Redditor?
      Have you ever misused a social media/media sharing site before?