Tuesday, June 26, 2012

5 Fictional Characters I Identify With

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I found out about thanks to Amber over at Me, My Shelf & I. There's a new book-related top ten list every single week and it is a great way to get to know other book-loving bloggers! Everyone is welcome to join in the weekly linky party, even if you can't think of TEN for a certain Tuesday (just think of as many as you can!), just make sure you link back to The Broke and the Bookish if you do!

This week's topic is:
TOP TEN CHARACTERS WHO REMIND ME OF MYSELF OR SOMEONE I KNOW IN REAL LIFE
image source
Although I identify with almost all characters I read, I found this list to be quite difficult to put together. Therefore, I stuck to the five characters that, before I was faced with this assignment, jumped off the page and screamed their similarities to me. This can also double as part of my list of my favorite reads of all time!

CHARACTERS THAT REMIND ME OF ME: 

1. Barbara Thorson from I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Nimura 
Because I understand her battle and know how hard it can be to kill giants at any age.
 2. Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Because since leaving work I have become as pallid and reclusive as Boo and imagine that the kids in my neighborhood are coming up with fantastic tales about me every day :)


CHARACTER THAT REMINDS ME OF MY BEST FRIEND, DAWN: 
 
3.  Sophia from I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and KM Nimura
Because she never gave up on Barbara and stood by her through all of her battles.


CHARACTER THAT REMINDS ME OF MY MOM:

 4. The Tree from The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Because she always gave and it always made her happy.
 
CHARACTER THAT REMIND ME OF MY HUSBAND:

5. Hobbes from Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Because we go, together on all of the crazy adventures we can imagine, have long philosophical and sometimes ridiculous conversations, he's cuddly, likes tuna and has been known to tackle loved ones with a strength that doesn't seem fair. Also, he is predisposed to having impromptu dance parties in the middle of the living room without warning.
 


So what about you? Which characters would you pick?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pet Loss - The Courage To Love

Yesterday was my Buffy's last day. While I am confident now that she is ok, I wonder how I will be. They are selfish thoughts, I know, but I have come to realize in my life that, in fact, that is what mourning is about and that's alright. Our soul has lost a companion and it aches... this is what mourning is.

In terms of pet loss, though, there is sometimes another emotion entwined within that: guilt. Not all pet owners choose this path, but it is very common for you to be given the responsibility of deciding when your love will leave this world. This is an immense responsibility and burden to place upon anyone at any time. My husband and I were given this choice on Friday night. We were told Buffy had cancer, did not have long to live and would not survive any chemo. Add to this that our last dog, Chewy died unexpectedly at home without either of us there (it was the day I was rushed to the emergency room and admitted due to what would finally be diagnosed as Intracranial Hypertension), we were set on not having Buffy suffer in any way.

By Saturday night, my husband and I were already discussing (through tears) what signs we would look for to decide when the time was "right" recognizing that many of the signs were already being shown. As our girl spent the entire night throwing up, having accidents and not sleeping at all, by morning the decision was made. It still took hours for me to make "the phone call." Finally, at 2pm I called the vet and made the appointment for 4pm. I was devastated and frantically searched the Internet for a prayer for putting a dog to sleep. I needed something... what I found was so impossibly perfect, that I feel like it was sent by angels themselves. Here is the poem I found on, of all places, the Garden Web:

IF IT SHOULD BE

If it should be that I grow weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle cannot be won.

You will be sad, I understand.
Don't let your grief then stay your hand.
For this day, more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the test.

We've had so many happy years.
What is to come can hold no fears.
You'd not want me to suffer so;
The time has come -- please let me go.

Take me where my need they'll tend,
And please stay with me till the end.
Hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time that you will see
The kindness that you did for me.
Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I've been saved.

Please do not grieve -- it must be you
Who had this painful thing to do.
We've been so close, we two, these years;
Don't let your heart hold back its tears.

--- Anonymous ---
I ran to my husband, who was lying with Buffy on our bed and I read it to him. It was beautiful, consoling, and perfect. It gave us the courage to love Buffy when she needed it most. It gave us the courage to do what was right for her even though it would hurt us so dramatically.

The fact is, watching her go to sleep was a great relief. Her pain was over. (Mine was just beginning, I knew.) She finally was able to sleep without being wakened by the pain and sickness inside of her. My beautiful baby could finally rest... and once she had a good night's sleep, I knew she would go find Chewy, on The Rainbow Bridge.

My husband and I learned about The Rainbow Bridge when Chewy died. When we went to pick up her ashes, we were given a card with its story inside. Ever since, we've been big believers in it and know that that is where Buffy is right now. If you have not heard of it yet, here is the story of The Rainbow Bridge:
 

The Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal who has been especially close to someone dies, that pet goes to the Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food and water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. 

Animals who were ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them from days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one thing: they miss someone very special to them; the person they left behind.

All of the animals run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to break away from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. Happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…
This is how I'm getting through today. Knowing I did what was right with the support of my husband. Knowing Buffy is in a better place. And knowing that yesterday, before we went to the vet, we gave our Buffy the greatest last day ever with laying in the grass, hanging out in our bed with us and the cherry on top: a private (no Champ-the-ShihTzu allowed) walk through the park where she met so many children and people, chased ducks and geese and was actually allowed to eat whatever crazy scraps of food she found on the ground! I'm so grateful for yesterday's perfection. 

But even more than that, I am forever grateful for the dog I was blessed with for over twleve years of my life.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Movie Night Nightmare


It's 2:14 in the morning. My plan for this moment was that I would be sitting down getting ready to write my review of PIXAR's latest release Brave. Earlier this week I went to my movie theater to buy my tickets to the midnight showing in advance. I wrote to the staff at Word of the Nerd to see if anyone else was going to the midnight show or if they would be interested in my review as well; they were. With tickets in hand and schedule set for late night writing, I arrived at the theater with ten minutes to spare.

The trailers were fun. The PIXAR short, La Luna, was, as I anticipated, simply wonderful. In fact it wasn't until ten minutes into the movie Brave that things started to go dark... literally. Just as the story was building, right as our protagonist was taking us down a mysterious forest, the screen went black - the movie stopped. Moans and groans erupted throughout the theater; this wasn't new to any of us, ever since the theaters have changed from film projectors to whatever digital output they have now, the glitches have been endless and repetitive.

Two examples I have recently experienced are: 
  • Audio output and video output are not synced up as if I am watching a poorly dubbed foreign film, and
  • In 3D movies (as recently as Prometheus and The Avengers) I have had to personally alert the staff in my local movie theater that the film is showing up as double images even when we're wearing the glasses (in fact, this has become such a regular occurrence that I can now identify the issue in the concessions commercial so I can tell the staff before the movie begins).
One has to wonder, was this someone's idea of a joke?
Tonight's infraction, though, takes the cake. After the movie inexplicably stopped and paused for a moment it started up again all the way back at the beginning - and by "beginning" I mean we got to see La Luna again. The audience wasn't happy. I loved the short and was at least happy we weren't that far into the movie. I tweeted the movie theater company, took the opportunity to hop out for a bathroom break and continued watching the movie. I promise you, if that was all that happened, you would be reading my review of Brave right now instead of this post.

With about 20-30 minutes left in the movie the screen went black again. This time people just got out of their seats. I held steady. The movie flipped back about five minutes and started playing again, but something was wrong with the sound. I couldn't figure out what was happening until my husband leaned over and said, "It's La Luna. The sound is from the short." Somehow, some way the audio got reset to the beginning of the movie.

It's no longer funny when the laughter turns maniacal...
Disgusted laughs filled the theater. People shouting, "Are you kidding me?" or "Give me my money back!" quickly overshadowed the audio problem. Then the screen went black for one last time. When the new scene appeared the audio was fixed, but this was no scene from my memory. They had skipped straight to the climax of the movie! "They just ruined the movie," came the disappointed voice of my husband. He was right. I have no idea how the protagonist came to be in the position she was, but the scene that was playing before my eyes was the one we had been building to through the entire film.

I don't like spoilers. It's part of why I like midnight showings so much: it is very difficult for someone to tell me what happened in the movie before I see it when I get my butt in the theater the very first moment possible. I am quite sure many of the others in the theater with me felt the same way. In other words, this movie mishap couldn't have happened to a worse crowd.

So while I have become accustomed to movie mishaps in my twenty-six years of dealing with the same local movie theater, tonight easily marks the most heart-breaking one to date. And although I have my share of mishaps from the film days (melted film in the middle of viewing, anyone?), I must say that a spoiled ending was never in the realm of possibility. I appreciate all that the digital brings us in the form of clearer pictures and sound and, perhaps, it is even an easier delivery system for those working in the theater, but I can not ignore that even in the year 2012 we are experiencing some major growing pains with this new technology.

Any way I look at it, I am disappointed and starting to lose my patience. I don't want to be the bad guy that starts publicly blasting every time my theater falls apart, but tonight as I quietly got up, left the theater to go wait in line to get a replacement ticket, I couldn't help but think of another consumer whose patience was once pushed too far.

All I want to do is watch a movie, in a movie theater from beginning to end (in that order) with appropriate audio, video and temperature control (a post for another time). I am now paying over $12 per ticket to do so; I don't think I am asking for much. Am I?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

10 Thoughtful Tweets - Part 4

The first time I shared some of the great quotes I had been collecting from my Twitter feed, the post was pretty popular. I understand why: quotes are awesome. I've kind of always been obsessed with collecting them, so, believe it or not, I have even more to share since last time!

In no particular order, from my "Favorited Tweets," here are ten quotes that either made me smile, think, laugh or wonder when I read them. Enjoy!

10 Thoughtful Tweets
  1. “Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it." Madeleine L'Engle
  2. ”Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.” - Roy Goodman
  3. "Don't be discouraged! Don't cast sidelong glances & compare yourself to others...Writing is not a race." - Joyce C Oates 
  4. ”It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” - Vince Lombardi
  5. "Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger." - Saint Basil
  6. "The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper." - Eden Phillpotts
  7. "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." --Napoleon Bonaparte
  8. "Love yourself first and everything else falls into line." - Lucille Ball 
  9. “Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.” ― Janet Lane
  10. "If writers had to wait until their precious psyches were completely serene there wouldn’t be much writing done." William Styron

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Do I Have Intracranial Hypertension?

Yesterday I went to my neuro-opthalmologist for my check-up.

After a brief exam, my doctor began feverishly flipping through my records. He had two folders. The pages were written on their front and back and, from what I could tell, he appeared to be looking at everything. I'm so lucky I have such a thorough doctor, I told myself in a secret promise to keep things positive. However, somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind were questions, Isn't this just routine? Didn't he just say things looked stable? Is stable no longer good enough?!

Finally, he spun around on his stool and told me all he was thinking. I sat stunned. I can't even imagine what my faced must have looked like: amused? offended? confused? terrified?

Exactly three years and one week from the day I was diagnosed, three years and one week from the spinal tap that answered all the questions, this doctor was calling that diagnosis and spinal tap into question. "I want to play devil's advocate here. What if you never had Intracranial Hypertension?" He wondered about how the spinal tap was taken, since he wasn't there. He wondered about my initial symptoms, since he took me on three months after in an emergency eye surgery to save me from blindness. He wondered if everything he saw came from something else and perhaps the diagnosis was incorrect.


My doctor, like most of the specialists I have dealt with on this journey, is also a researcher, an intellectual and curious. I respect this and understand this, even on the days it flips my life upside down. He proposed an "experiment" to possibly answer the questions and, in turn, possibly speed along the process of me getting off the medication I've been on for three years. He told my husband and I to think about it. He told us to decide if it is something we think is worth trying (and risking) and he told me what to do if I decide to go for it.

The proposal:
 Drop off my medication and get a second spinal tap now to see where my pressure is.

Risk Factors:
If my intracranial pressure is still high, then I am putting my already damaged vision in danger again. BLINDNESS is a possibility.

Possible Benefits:
If my intracranial pressure is normal, then I can stop taking Diamox, which (a) sucks the life out of me, (b) my body is starting to show signs that it might have a sensitivity to, and, most importantly, (c) is stopping my husband and I from starting our family.

Questions that will be answered as a result of this "experiment":
Maybe only one. If the pressure is high, then we will know that I currently have active intracranial hypertension (IH) and the initial diagnosis was correct. If it is normal, a new question will be raised - Was my initial diagnosis wrong, or was it correct and the IH just went into remission?

So why am I sharing all of this nonsense with you on my blog tonight? Well, two reasons: First of all, I'm doing it and it is equally terrifying and infuriating. The terror comes from the risk, of course. I already suffered through two years of being unable to read because of something wrecking havoc on my eyes and I don't ever want to go back there again. The infuriating part comes from being swept back up into the tidal wave of the "unknown" - although I was diagnoses with a rare disease, having a name for what caused all my problems has been comforting; calling that name in to question is nothing less than disconcerting (never mind, as my husband reminded me, I almost had a brain shunt put in due to this disease!).

The second reason I am blogging all about this is that I know this is not going to be easy. Whether my sight falters or not, I am most likely walking into a world of pain when I take down these meds. My doctor has instructed me to keep going even if the headaches come. The only thing that should bring the experiment to a screeching halt is vision complications. Those are my instructions. Tomorrow I will call the hospital to make my appointment for my LP (lumbar puncture/spinal tap) and build my schedule for coming off the meds from there.

If I can be so bold to make a request of you, it would be this: please send me good vibes in any way that you see fit - prayers, reiki, happy thoughts, virtual hugs, etc. I will take it all. I know I have only come this far in my healing journey on the wings of such mystical creatures and I feel this could be their greatest load to carry yet!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top 10 "To-Reads" for the Summer

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I found out about thanks to Amber over at Me, My Shelf & I. There's a new book-related top ten list every single week and it is a great way to get to know other book-loving bloggers! Everyone is welcome to join in the weekly linky party, even if you can't think of TEN for a certain Tuesday (just think of as many as you can!), just make sure you link back to The Broke and the Bookish if you do!

This week's topic is:
TOP TEN BOOKS ON THE SUMMER TBR LIST
 This list is mostly comprised of books I have started and better have finished by the end of the summer! Some are new starts, but a couple have been hanging around for way too long!!

1. 


 
I grabbed this book up about a month ago, but I was already in the middle of to other must-reads for reviews I had scheduled.I have since starting getting into it and I am finding even the first chapter fascinating!

2.

 
I started Skinny last week because it is one of the books I have been looking forward to most from my BEA stash. An overweight teen has this voice in her head named "Skinny" that whispers to her what everyone else is thinking. I think this is going going to be a very important YA book coming out this Fall.

3.

 
I know this cover looks ridiculous, but this is the Philip K. Dick collection that contains the story that Total Rekall is based on. Since I am a book before the movie kind of girl, I wanted to read the story, as well as get a taste for some of Philip K. Dick's other stories. (This will increase my nerd-cred.)

4.

 
I happened to catch a really cool interview on The Today Show a long time ago (I think it was last year!) with Al Roker and the children's reading group where they were discussing this book. I thought it sounded fun and fascinating. I really do love reading kid's books, particularly like this - the title is secret, the author is "pseudonymous bosch" and the narrator is just terrible at keeping things hush hush!

5 - 10 ++ Curtis High School's Summer Reading List
About ten years ago, when I was still teaching I took home my school's summer reading list. I always taught freshmen and, while I taught mathematics, I loved to talk to my kids about what they were reading. I thought that if they had someone else to talk to about their books besides just their English teacher they could see that reading was really awesome and not just homework. Until this day, that was one of my most productive reading summers. I read every single book on the list that I hadn't already read. In many cases I read multiple books in one day! It is something I've wanted to do again.

I no longer teach, but my husband is still an English teacher at the school I used to work at. The summer reading list has been completely redrafted. I asked him to bring it home to me last week to see if there were a lot of books I hadn't read, or if it was just a couple of additions.

Here's how the numbers play out:
  • Freshman reading list: I read two of the book choices and have not read nine others.
  • Sophomore reading list: I read five of the book choices and have not read five others.
  • Junior reading list: I read one of the book choices and have not read seven others.
  • Senior reading list: I have read three of the book choices and have not read five others.
Based on this, and on my "rules" from the last time I went with the last time I tackled the summer reading list, that means I have twenty-six more book to add to my TBR list! To see the complete list, check out my post about it here.

Curtis High School Summer Reading List

Isn't it pretty?
In my second year of teaching at Curtis High School I was asked to be a part of pretty incredible program where I had the opportunity to teach the same group of students for three years of high school. It changed everything about me as a teacher and as a person. I connected with those students in a way that just isn't possible when you have a class for one semester and then they are gone. Even though I was their math teacher, I wanted to know about what was going on during their entire day. Jokingly, when they would ask why I was so interested, I would tell them to just think of me as their "in-house mommy," which, over the years, is exactly what I became.

Anyway, it was because of this desire to be a part of their everything, that I grabbed a copy of the school's summer reading list. I talked to my freshmen about what they would read for their sophomore year and asked them what they read the year before. The responses lacked enthusiasm. The students did not take this list seriously. They said all they had to do was "take a test" and "it didn't count that much, anyway," so they what they read, if anything, didn't really matter. Now, I was wise enough to know to take everything they say with a grain of salt, but the fact of the matter was, whether the grade did have a major impact or not, this assignment didn't count that much to them.

I looked at the list and there was little I could do in the ways of offering advice, since I had only read a few of the titles provided, so I made a decision: I was going to read these books.

I had a new class of freshmen coming in, this group was going to be sophomores, and the year after that they'd be juniors: I would read through as many of the books as I could, so I could bug them about these books in September! (Yes, I occasionally moonlight as an evil genius!)

As was the case for most of my "big lessons," this started out as something for my students and ended up being a wonderful gift to myself. I never read as much as I did that summer. I plowed through books - some were wonderful, some were typical "school" books, but every one had something to offer. I loved that experience. In fact, reflecting upon it now a decade later, I can not remember what the ultimate impact of this project was on my students, but I know it forever changed me.

This year I am going to attempt to do it again. This time with no students (unless I get some virtual volunteers via the Internet!!), and with the new Summer 2012 Summer Reading List that has changed so dramatically it includes TWENTY-SIX books I have not read and only eleven that I have!


So, without any further adieu, I give you the:

CURTIS HIGH SCHOOL SUMMER 2012 READING LIST

For the general population of Curtis High School students, not in IB, SIS or AP classes (which have their own instructions), the assignment is to read one book from Category A and one book from Category B.

Incoming Freshmen
Category A
Gym Candy by Carl Deuker
Game by Walter Dean Meyers
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Cut by Patricia McCormick
The Heroes of Olympus Book One by Rick Riordan
The Lightning Theif by Rick Riordan

Category B
Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
The King Must Die by Mary Renault
The Afterlife by Gary Soto
The First Part Last by Angela Johnson
The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
Sea Monsters by Rick Riordan


Current Freshmen (entering Sophomores Sept. 2012)
Category A
The Running Dream by Wandelin Van Draanen
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Catching Fire (Book Two) by Suzanne Collins

Category B
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The Color of Fire by Ann Rinaldi
Days of Obligation: An Argument With My Mexican Father by Richard Rodriguez
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Mockingjay (Book Three) by Suzanne Collins


Current Sophomores (entering Junior year Sept. 2012)
Category A
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson

Category B
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Sold by Patricia McCormick

Current Juniors (entering Senior year Sept. 2012)
Category A
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Category B
Lush Life by Richard Price
What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau by E. Lockhart



Here comes the crazy part: Are you with me? How many of these books have you read? If you took on this challenge, how many books would you have to read this summer? Do you want to follow the assignment and just select one book from each category? Do you want to tackle one grade? Do you go to Curtis? If so, which books are you reading this summer?

Let me know in the comments and we'll make up a fun summer reading party!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Review & Giveaway - Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

One of the first books I received as part of BEA was an ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy) of Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian which is to be released in September 2012 by Simon and Schuster. Armed with a bag load of brand new books on the bus ride home, I decided to take the plunge and start reading. What caught my attention first? Well, the cover, of course!

 
One has to wonder: what are these girls up to? The second thing that got me was the tag line: Big girls don't cry... they get even. I read that and thought, Whoa. Things are going to get REAL in this book!

From page one I was set adrift on Jar Island, the beach town setting of the novel. Han and Vivian do such a good job of bringing this place to life that I actually had to Google "Jar Island" to double check that it wasn't actually a real place I just hadn't heard of (technically it is a surfing spot in Australia, and the subject of this very strange YouTube video, but neither of those are the Jar Island from the book).

There is something about living and existing in small communities like that of Jar Island - with one high school, a ferry boat as the only means to get you on and off the island, where everybody knows pretty much everybody - that makes one feel as if all of life's dramas are viewed in high relief by your community. Therefore, when you were once part of the popular crowd, but now deemed as trash; when the guy you counted on as a friend has betrayed your trust and your family; and when you were ostracized in your youth for your weight by the boy who is now the quarterback and most popular kid in your high school, it can feel as though the world is unfair, unbalanced and simply out to get you. It may feel as though the only way to empower oneself is, instead of rising above it all, you can get even. The three protagonists in this novel: Kat, Lillian and Mary do just that. They decide enough is enough and waiting around for karma to deal out justice for them is not efficient or validating.

I love this book, not only for its presentation of story, but for all of the questions it raises for the reader.  As I read along, rooting for each of the girls to get the justice they deserved, I slowly felt the quagmire of deception, secrecy and vengeance swallowing me and blurring the lines of good and evil.  Who is right in this novel? Who is just? When does revenge go too far?

I highly recommend this book, particularly to anyone who may still feel the sting of the slight of a friend or bully in school. This novel is incredibly timely as media bursts with discussions of bullying, "it gets better," and unbridled support for victims in bullying situations.

Giveaway!!
 
With that said, I am happy to inform you that I happen to have an extra Advanced Reader Copy of Burn for Burn to give away! Unfortunately open to US residents only, you can enter my first Buried in Books Giveaway by using the Rafflecopter widget below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you'd like to share this giveaway on your own blog, here's a link to help you to get the embed code for the Rafflecopter widget above

Thursday, June 14, 2012

C25K - The Riveras Are Really RUNNING Through It

Image Source
Now who in the hell came up with this hair-brained idea?!

Oh... wait a second... that might've been me.

It's a bit foggy, but it's coming back to me now... Hubby needs to lose weight (weight that the stress of me and my illness thrust upon him) and I need to work towards being, you know, healthy. Food is one thing, but man oh man, do we both need some exercise!

Early on in my blogging life, I came across one of my wonderful online challenges called Couch-to-5K which, according to its website is a "beginner's running schedule has helped thousands of new runners get off the couch and onto the roads, running 3 miles in just two months." When I first found it I thought, The couch? Well... that's EXACTLY where I've been! Maybe this was made for me!

I set myself up to start the program in the winter of 2010. Obviously, that did not work. Then, I thought that I would be ready last summer. Another epic fail. A couple of weeks ago I delicately presented the program to my husband, explaining to him that we both needed it, but more importantly, I needed him if I was ever going to feel confident enough to exert myself physically throughout the neighborhood.

We were supposed to start Monday.

Then Tuesday.

By Wednesday I decided to wait until his school year ended and, instead, to rededicate myself to the writing of my novel.

Plus it was raining, anyway.

So, of course, what happened? My husband walks in Wednesday night and says, "I'm ready to do the 5K thing now."

We've been married almost four years now, and we dated eleven years before that; I knew one thing for sure: if I didn't go with him Wednesday night, the deal would be off.

In short, here's what happened:
  • horrible flashbacks to my first ever swim practice where I got in the water believing I knew how to swim and, after five minutes, knowing I had tons to learn.
  • my playlist was so not ready for running; two years of headaches and relaxing changes what you listen to.
  • halfway through I thought I would die.
  • almost got hit by a car.
  • almost tripped in the darkness about a thousand times.
  • was attacked by a tree.
  • my husband runs faster than me. 
  • got confused by husband's shadow and swore he was running right at me.
  • lost half a lung.
  • my C25K app for my iPhone was awesome and I probably would have given up without it.
  • we finished.
The rule is, you must have a day of rest in between, so the Riveras will be "running" again on Friday.

*Special note: The iPhone App I am using, from Zen Labs altered the original Couch-to-5k program slightly. Here is how they define C25K


About C25KWhat is C25K™ all about?

  • You alternate between walking and running until you build strength.
  • C25K™ is designed for people who are just taking up running
  • C25K is an 8 week long plan.
  • You workout 3 times a week, ideally with breaks between days.
  • Each workout session is from 30-40 minutes long (including 5 minutes warm up and 5 minutes cool down)

Finally, as much as I am disappointed about my lost writing time due to my first workout in over two years, while on the "run" my mind remembered something I wrote on this blog just about 24 hours before:
In my dreams when I am healthy, strong and 100% back to me, I am a runner. I'll get back there.
I am constantly mystified by the power of the written word. I remember writing the first sentence, pausing and then, almost as if I had decided it in that moment, following it up with the second.

I will get back there... the first step has finally been taken!

10 Thoughtful Tweets - Part 3

The first time I shared some of the great quotes I had been collecting from my Twitter feed, the post was pretty popular. I understand why: quotes are awesome. I've kind of always been obsessed with collecting them, so, believe it or not, I have even more to share since last time!

In no particular order, from my "Favorited Tweets," here are ten quotes that either made me smile, think, laugh or wonder when I read them. Enjoy!

10 Thoughtful Tweets
  1. “If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities." - Maya Angelou
  2. “Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.” - Phyllis Dorothy James
  3.  "Be occupied, then, with what you really value and let the thief take something else." - Rumi
  4. "The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher." - Zen Proverb
  5.  "I can accept failure, but I can't accept not trying." - Michael Jordan
  6. "The test of every religious, political, or educational system is the man that it forms." - Henri Frederic Amiel 
  7. "The stories we love best do live in us forever." - JK Rowling
  8. "Life is a grindstone. But whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us." - Thomas L. Holdcroft
  9. "There cannot be a stressful crisis next week. My schedule is already full." — Henry Kissinger
  10. "Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive." -Matthew 21:22 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

30+ "Urgent" Matters That Keep Me From My Writing


Do you know who I am? I am the maniac that likes to work under pressure. I am the one who rarely finishes anything early, not merely because I have procrastinated doing it, but because every other thing in life seemed exceedingly urgent.

Now, my definition of "urgent matters" and your definition of urgent matters may differ wildly. Here are some things that, depending on the circumstance, could be deemed as an urgent matter:
  1. BBCAmerica is showing an episode of Doctor Who I have only seen once before.
  2. I told myself I was going to write a particular post for my blog.
  3. There is a conversation going on on Twitter that I believe I can contribute to.
  4. There is a book next to me, in my bag or on my nightstand that I have not yet finished.
  5. My dog is looking at me.
  6. I haven't looked at my gecko in a little while.
  7. I require chocolate.
  8. I forgot to take my medicine.
  9. Tonight is the opening night of some movie.
  10. My brother is on the phone.
  11. I've decided today is going to be mega-clean-up day.
  12. I've decided today is going to be the day where I teach myself about some new social media tool I know next to nothing about.
  13. The neighbors found a dog roaming around the neighborhood and I've decided I am going to "hang on to it" until we figure out who the psycho dog belongs to (that was last Friday).
  14. I'm going to research how to find bachelor mockingbirds some girlfriends so they don't have to chirp all night long outside our bedroom.
  15. I'm going to figure out how to actually use my slow cooker.
  16. I'm going to put all of life on hold to go to a ginormous book expo and simply forget that I am no where near healthy enough to do such a thing!
  17. BBCAmerica is showing an episode of Doctor Who I have seen many times before.
  18. Oh... wait a second... BBC America is showing Battlestar Galactica after Doctor Who and this happens every weekday from 4pm through 6pm?! Reschedule dinner time, this is extremely  urgent!!
  19. Facebook needs an update.
  20. Facebook has 20+ messages waiting for me.
  21. I must check my e-mail. 
  22. I must read more blogs.
  23. I must go back and read blogs that I started reading a long time ago.
  24. I must figure out a better way to read blogs.
  25. Very urgent! Check in on foursquare! Don't let that guy steal your one and only mayorship again!
  26. Feed the dogs. 
  27. Is it garbage day? If so, get everything out of the house!! If not, ignore everything and wait for garbage day.
  28. I bet those weeds are growing back in the backyard... Get outside.
  29. Qdoba opened up right up the block! MUST go try it!
  30. Mother-in-law invites us for dinner. Never saying no to that!
  31. I'm feeling pretty weak. I should probably do some more bicep curls with that large salsa jar.
  32. Husband is lingering near the laundry... better get some of that done.
  33. I must watch all the YouTube channels I am subscribed to, otherwise, why bother to subscribe?
  34. I'll convert my china cabinet into a bookcase (sure Mom and Dad are both flipping in their graves over that one!).
  35. I will engage the telemarketer, survey person, or whoever else randomly calls my house (particularly if they ask for one or both of my deceased parents) in a long winded conversation.
  36. I will give my gecko a bath.
  37. What I really need to do is write a really long list of all of the things that keep me from revising and editing my novel!
There are more, I am sure, but, for now, each of these things has kept me, in some way shape or form, from completing my novel. Since Camp NaNoWriMo and JuNoWriMo started at the beginning of this month, I told myself I would use this month to work on it, however, this has not happened. Every day, the "urgent matters" (and yes, some of them are actually pretty valid, like my health kicking my @$$) keep creeping up and stealing my time. Every night I go to bed asking myself Why didn't I write today? Then I got this tweet today:
@riverand How's the writing going?
— Susan Sipal (@HP4Writers) June 13, 2012
In the instant I read it, I thought, Oh no... I have no excuse! You see, Susan and I trade tweets maybe every month or so. I recall her asking me the same question last time we tweeted and I remember having big plans... As I started to write back, I stumbled upon my solution:

A deadline. So simple, even if it is completely made up and has nothing behind it but my word. Because, as I said at the beginning of this post: I am the maniac that likes to work under pressure. Unfortunately, in this writing life, right now, there is no one to apply that pressure but me! Susan's response?
@riverand Without deadlines, I'd get nothing done - even if the deadline is an artificial one that I've set.
— Susan Sipal (@HP4Writers) June 13, 2012
So glad I'm not alone...
Image Source
The deadline is set. Are you ready? My obscure date is August 17, 2012. On that day I will be done with my revisions and editing. I think that means I'll be done with beta readers, too. I want to be able to jump into the rejection pool (query time) by this Fall. I have set up a countdown on my iGoogle homepage to remind me every time I open up my computer (adding that pressure!), it looks like this:
 
I have 65 days. Is it enough? I. have. no. idea. But this is the only way I am going to find out, right?

Here's what I need from you guys:
  • Support, cheerleading, etc.
  • A good butt kicking every now and again.
  • A simple "@riverand How's the writing going? #deadline" tweet, to keep me accountable (or embarrassed!)
  • Volunteer beta readers for a contemporary YA novel. I'm looking for more critique over grammar/spell check - if you think you might want in, let me know!
For now, I'll just have to protect myself...

funny facebook fails - Weapons of Mass Distraction
see more Failbook

 

The New 8-Week Cholesterol Cure


The following post is taken directly from 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 New 8-Week Cholesterol Cure by Robert E. Kowalski


My total cholesterol is 244 - very high - so needless to say I needed to read this book. I plan to go through this book again and take notes. Diet change and exercise I can do, but I am not sure of the niacin suggestion by Mr. Kowalski. I realize after reading this book that I need to take my cholesterol more seriously than I have. I have started by reading this book and hope that it can help me reduce my cholesterol without medication.

Dated: 01/20/04

I'm going to go ahead and guess that a brand new school semester got in the way of all of the lofty plans I had after reading this book. That's a real shame, too, because I'd love to tell you my cholesterol is at a healthy level eight years after I first read this book and finally realized I needed to take my cholesterol more seriously, but, alas, it is not. However, even my doctor was shocked to find that to be true after my dramatic weight loss, so we think it might be hereditary.
Do you have a tried and true cholesterol lowering tip you'd like to share? 
(By the way, since I have both gluten and dairy intolerances, I already DON'T eat any butter, cheese, milk and most desserts one can think of).


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top 10 Beach Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I found out about thanks to Amber over at Me, My Shelf & I. There's a new book-related top ten list every single week and it is a great way to get to know other book-loving bloggers! Everyone is welcome to join in the weekly linky party, even if you can't think of TEN for a certain Tuesday (just think of as many as you can!), just make sure you link back to The Broke and the Bookish if you do!

This week's topic is:
TOP TEN BOOKS I'D RECOMMEND AS GOOD BEACH READS
Image source
Sun, surf, salt, and, yes, books... they have always gone together, haven't they? Well, for me they always have, and when I was in high school that actually resulted in my first-ever bout with sun poisoning. Thank you John Grisham and The Firm. I was 15 or 16 years old and bought the paperback on the way to the beach because I (gasp!) had nothing to read with me. When my mother, brother and I sat down on the beach, we lathered each other with sunscreen. My mom went for a walk down the boardwalk to shop and my brother and I jumped in the water. I got out shortly after, and spent the rest of the afternoon reading The Firm cover to cover never once thinking that all of my sunscreen washed off in the water!! Thank goodness I finished the book, because the fever didn't break the rest of the weekend that I spent, delirious, in bed!

So I will offer you up my top ten list, but I will do so paired with a fair warning: make sure someone's got your back both literally and figuratively when it comes to sun protection before you get swept away on some of these adventures!

1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel: If you haven't already read this intriguing novel, then now is the time! This winter the story will make its theatrical debut. I read this when it first went paperback and, until this day,  I still have thoughts of Pi and his mysterious travels every time I look at the ocean. 

2. While Mortals Sleep: Unpublished Short Fiction by Kurt Vonnegut: Do you tend to go to the beach with large groups of people that interrupt your reading a lot? Some of my trips are like this, so that's when short stories are in order! This collection from one of the masters is perfect for such a trip. It is not set on a beach, and the stories don't have anything to do with the ocean or swimming, in general, but they are true Vonnegut, and what's not to love about that?

3. Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson: I know this is still hardcover and may weigh down your already larger than life beach bag, but it is worth it. You are already going to look awesome in your brand new bathing suit, under the sun; why not accentuate it all with a big ol' smile? Lawson, more widely known in these parts as The Bloggess, is hilarious. Her memoir takes what you thought was crazy about your family and makes it Norman Rockwell material. I haven't finished my copy yet, partially because I don't want it to end!

4. Heading Out To Wonderful by Robert Goolrick: is coming out this week and one that I am looking forward to reading during this beach season. I saw Goolrick speak at BEA last week and was so impressed by him and what others were saying about this book, that I think it will be one we will all be talking about. Here's a quick synopsis from Amazon:
"Let me tell you something, son. 
When you’re young, and you head out to wonderful, everything is fresh and bright as a brand-new penny, 
but before you get to wonderful you’re going to have to pass through all right. And when you get to all right, stop and take a good, long look, because that may be as far as you’re ever going to go.”

It is the summer of 1948 when a handsome, charismatic stranger, Charlie Beale, recently back from the war in Europe, shows up in the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village of a few hundred people, nestled in the Valley of Virginia. All he has with him are two suitcases: one contains his few possessions, including a fine set of butcher knives; the other is full of money. A lot of money.
Oooo... I must know more!

5.  Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian: I don't know if this is cheating, because this book doesn't come out until September, but after just finishing the ARC and being consumed by the beach town of Jar Island in which it is set, I can not think of a better beach read for the contemporary YA lovers out there. So, jot it down for next year (this will be a trilogy, so that will still be timely), or come back later this week and see if you can win my copy of the ARC for your summer travels!

6. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall: In my dreams when I am healthy, strong and 100% back to me, I am a runner. I'll get back there. This book is an amazing, true adventure about some of the most amazing runners in the world, of all time.  Running barefoot is also one thing they love to do, so don't be surprised, if, in the middle of reading on the beach, you feel the sudden urge to put your book down and run up and down the shore! If you have any interest in running, I am sure you have already read this book, but, if not, make sure it is in your beach bag (or, as I have it, in audio form on your iPod so you don't have to put the book down to pick up and run!).

7. The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standard Text for Writing and Life by Marion Roach: OK, fellow writers, don't cringe at the word "memoir" if that is not your genre, this book has plenty to offer and is fun, too. Roach takes us through her writing life in a very realistic hold-no-punches way that is not often seen in books of this nature. Balanced with some great anecdotes from her own life, the lessons within this pretty short book will stick with you long after you've finished.

8. The Maze Runner (Trilogy?) by James Dashner: I put the question mark in only because I have barely begun book one and although everyone who knows me swears I will love this series, I'm not sure I should go ahead and recommend the whole series without reading it all for myself. That said, there's enough good news bubbling around this series that I think it is safe to say that if you are behind in your reading like I am and haven't at least started The Maze Runner, then it should be in the beach bag!

9. Ultraviolet by S.J. Anderson: I heard about this book from SableCaught on YouTube and ever since, I have been wanting to read it. Here's the great pull: "Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her." What?! OK... You got me. Tell me more... So, like my recommendation above this comes without my experience of reading it first, but I am excited about it! (If, by the way, you haven't yet subscribed to SableCaught's YouTube channel - you should do that now; she's awesome.)

10. Read Your TV: Have you seen this image rolling around the Internet yet?
Image source
It's hilarious, and it's true! Pick a series you are addicted to (and, yes, this works particularly well if it's on HBO) and grab the books. There's True Blood, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead, Bones, Friday Night Lights, and The Vampire Diaries which only begin to shed light on some TV reading you can be doing in the sun.


So that's my crazy top ten. It's all over the map, I know. My tastes are... well... diverse, I guess. What would you put on the list? What do you think I should be grabbing to toss into my beach bag (I'm up for just about anything!)? Let me know in the comments, and, remember, if you want to join in on Top Ten Tuesday, just check back in with The Broke and the Bookish!

BOOK REVIEW - Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith


In preparation for the upcoming film and for the Word of the Nerd Book Club, I spent most of May reading Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I was new to both the author and this mash-up type of tale, so, unfortunately I am ill-equipped to offer a comparison in either of those arenas, however, I have a perspective to share with you nonetheless.

As a first time mash-up reader, I was thoroughly engaged by the very nature of the tale: a what if story about one of the giants in my history books. What if Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter? What if vampire control in America was the true motivation behind the Civil War? As a writer and a lifelong daydreamer, how could I not fall helplessly in love with a story that is hinged on such wild imaginings? Grahame-Smith's recreation of Lincoln's youth in order to create a man capable of carrying this secret horror all the way to the White House was just plain fun reading for me. Although, as I admitted in my weekly check-ins for the Word of the Nerd Book Club, History - American or otherwise - was never my strong suit in my studies in school, so in many respects I was along for the Grahame-Smith's literary ride from page one. The only thing I could ever be 100% sure of not being actual fact was any mentions of vampirism.

With all my weaknesses as a reviewer now revealed, let me plunge forth and tell you what I ultimately thought of the book. In a word, I'd describe the book as fun. I happen to enjoy vampire stories of all sorts and enjoy that every author has their own set of vampire "rules." I enjoy the weaving of these horrific beings into our society and unraveling how those with immortality could actually come to pull so many strings. I am also a sucker for the fight for justice and the idea that, in that, there can never truly be a black and white definition of what is right and what is wrong. For all these reasons I enjoyed Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. And yet I stay my typing hand from punching out a word like "great" associated with this book, or that it is a "must-read."

For a little while I was perplexed by what was holding me back, but, as I was going over my weekly book club check-ins I was reminded of my discovery when I went to go see Dark Shadows on Mother's Day. Seth Grahame-Smith was the writer for that film. Big deal, you say. Who cares, Nicole?! I hear you. Here's the thing: I'm not out recommending Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter the novel to all of my reading friends because, to be honest, I can't imagine that this is a case where the book is going to be better than the movie. In fact, looking back on my reading experience, I wonder how early on in the development of the novel Grahame-Smith was already in movie-talk. Of course, I will be at the theater to see the movie as soon as it comes out, so I'll be back to let you know for sure, but right now this is my suspicion.

In short, if you are a fan of historical figures thrown into other-worldly circumstances, vampire lore and their affects on societies, or you just have to read the book before seeing the movie, then hurry up and go get your copy of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. It's a fun, quick read with all the ingredients for a blockbuster film: an emotionally fueled protagonist, epic and bloody battles, a fight to save the world (or at least a society) and an ending that hints at a lifetime of stories still untold. On the other hand, if you are "done" with vampires or would rather see the story reinterpreted for film, then this is one case where I will not barricade theater doors until you have proved you have finished your reading assignment!

To see the latest trailer for the movie Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, check out Natasha Collier's post.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Free Critique For New Writers From Author Brittany Glynn

Brittany Glynn, the award-winning author of Dreams, a romantic suspense debut novel, realizes how much writer to writer collaboration can help on your journey to publication. “So many people helped me along my path to becoming a published author that I wanted to pass along help to other aspiring writers,” she said. “I know how how much a little encouragement can motivate a new writer and I wanted to give that push to a few talented and deserving people.” She's decided to offer that push in the form of feedback and special gifts to inspiring new fiction writers.

Here's the nitty-gritty of Ms. Glynn's amazing offer: 
From June 15 – July 15, 2012 only, Brittany will read the first three pages of writing submitted in the fiction genres of contemporary romance, women’s fiction, historical romance, romantic suspense, humor/comedy, adventure, chick-lit, inspirational, and mystery.

Shortly after July 15, Brittany will email her feedback to her chosen top ten from all of the entries submitted. She will also request additional writing and give more feedback to her top three chosen entries. Finally, on or before August 15, 2012, Brittany will choose her favorite entry and post their name and a sample of their work on her website  at http://www.brittanyglynn.com, and on her social networking sites, including her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001616528108. The author of Brittany’s favorite entry will also win a gift basket of books from her publisher, Cool Titles (http://www.cooltitles.com)

Guidelines for Submitting:
For works of fiction that fall under the accepted genres listed above, please send only the first three pages of the writing as an attachment in Microsoft Word format to: writingsubmissiontobrittany@gmail.com.

Please put “Writing Entry” In the subject line of the email.

In the body of the email, and following the format below, please include on separate lines:
Your name
The city/state/country in which you live
Genre of the writing (from the list above)
Title of the work
The format the work will be in completed form (book, short story, blog, etc.)

There is no cost to submit, however entries that do not follow the above submission guidelines will not be reviewed. In the event that you are Brittany Glynn’s top selection, by submitting your writing you are giving Brittany Glynn permission to post your name and a portion of your writing on her website and social media sites.
So, fellow writers, spruce up your pages and get them ready for the award winning Brittany Glynn. Dreams is the winner of a silver medal for fiction from The Moms Choice Awards®, and a silver medal for religious fiction from the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Benjamin Franklin Awards. Of course, it makes sense that you should read Dreams (if you haven't already) before submitting, to get a feel for Brittany’s style and preferences in writing (here's a sample on Brittany's website to get you started).

Good luck to all the writers that take Brittany up on this fantastic offer and a huge thank you to Brittany for being magnanimous enough to think of others! How awesome is she?