Monday, June 29, 2009

Today's young people

So, last week I told you I was chaperoning a bunch of young people for a few days. I love working with them. They really energize me, and this weekend reminded me why I write books for them. A lot of people talk about all the bad things that teenagers in this country are doing. Those who are doing great things don't get enough publicity, so I'm just going to use my little platform here to give them a bit of good press.

Here are just a few things that I heard or saw while I was there:

At the carnival that the kids put on:
--"This is the best day of my freaking life!" One 18 year old girl said. What had she been doing? Helping a special needs child play games. 

--A 15 year old boy cheering on and complimenting little kids playing a game he was running.

--A 17 year old girl walking around holding hands and guiding a special needs young man through the carnival. She was smiling and laughing and so was he. 

On campus:
--Young men and women holding doors open, getting drinks and treats, carrying suitcases, etc. for others.

At the talent show:
--Cheering for all acts no matter how amateur they were.

--A song of tribute for a young teenage girl killed in a car accident.

--A young man who has to work a lot harder at walking than the rest of us changing the sets and making sure everything was just right for each performance.

At the dances:
--Kids dancing with someone they wouldn't have chosen and enjoying it and being considerate.

--Dancing in groups so no one is left out.

--Those who know dances teaching those who don't rather than making fun.

I could keep going, but this is running long and you get the idea. Sure there were times when some fell short and weren't as considerate as they could be, but, in general, I saw so many things to make me proud of them. They made it easy and fun to be a chaperone for them. 

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pass me that flashlight!

Shocker! Lotusgirl is posting on a Thursday. Whoa! Here's the thing. I'm going to be chaperoning at a sort of Youth Conference Camp for the next few days, so I'm going to be without my computer. I'm already in withdrawal, but I'm sure I'll survive. This is part of the joy of having teenagers. It will be fun, but I'm going to be corralling them and making sure they get to their classes and not sneak off or play pranks. I'm about to go pick up the snacks for the kids for after the dance tonight. 

So have a great weekend! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--morphing animals

Up for today:  THE PRINCESS AND THE BEAR by Mette Ivie Harrison

Princess and the Bear by Mette Ivie Harrison: Book Cover

Why I bought it? It is the sequel/companion book to The Princess and the Hound that I loved. I had been keeping tabs on when it came out. 

Synopsis: A hound that was a princess for a while and a bear, who was once a human king changed into a bear because of his wicked deeds, are companions in a forest that is under attack by "unmagic." They must end the invasion of the "unmagic" to save their world from destruction. In the end, they must go back in time to when the bear was king and stop the "unmagic" before it became so powerful. When they go back in time they take on human forms. Through their adventures their attachment grows into love.

What I thought? This is technically a companion book to The Princess and the Hound and stands on its own, so if you haven't read the first one you're okay to read this one, but I would read The Princess and the Hound first. It is a fantastic book--engrossing and unexpected--and would get you in the mindset of this world. I found The Princess and the Bear very slow at the beginning. It is well written, and I think that is what kept me going. I didn't like it nearly as well as the first one, but it had its own charms. Some of you may love it. I had heard that Harrison wanted the title to be The Hound and the Bear, but the publisher insisted on "the Princess" in the title. I think her choice would have been more in line with what is in the book and wouldn't have led to false expectations. I was thinking that the princess would be the same one as in the first book. 

I was hoping to have my daughter read it before the review to have her opinions to add, but, alas, no such luck, and I didn't get another book finished this week, so... Oh well. All you get is my opinion.

My Rating: ***1/2 out of 5

Cleanness Score: 4 out of 10, This is mostly for violence. There are several fight scenes some fairly violent but nothing excessive. There is no language that I remember.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Friday (after our family time) and Saturday as I ironed, etc., I watched some DVDs that I had gotten through Netflix.  (I love to watch movies while I iron. It's about the only way I can do it.)  The concept had sounded interesting, so I thought I'd give them a try. They were modernizations of 4 of Shakespeare's plays:  Macbeth, Much Ado about Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, and A Midsummer Night's Dream
(Okay, so how could they leave James McAvoy off the "Starring" list? He was brilliant and a huge name draw if you ask me.)

Macbeth--set in the cut throat world of an haute cuisine restaurant kitchen. James McAvoy SHINES as Joe Macbeth as he descends into madness. 
I especially love the witches portrayed as 3 garbage men (in the background of the picture below). I would have loved to have seen more of Macduff played by Richard Armitage (also left off the "Starring" list and a huge draw to me. I didn't even know he was in it until he showed up on screen.), but I suppose time was short.  
The main downside at the beginning is that their accents are very thick and difficult for an American to understand. I'm wondering if it wouldn't have been easier with the subtitles on for that part. It's not hard to understand after the first scene though.

Much Ado about Nothing--set in the studio of a nightly news broadcast. This was my least favorite of the 4, but it was still very entertaining and captures the essence of the play very well.

The Taming of the Shrew--shows Kate as a modern politician famous for her bad temper. Her sister is a famous model/actress. Rufus Sewell is brilliant as Kate's suitor. I absolutely adored this version.
Shirley Henderson as Kate is completely over the top. I've always liked Sewell, but this really showed his range as an actor to me. He is something else here, something more. I'm even more in love with him than I was before, and it has nothing to do with the mini-skirt, heels, and mascara--although he pulls those off extremely well. (You just have to watch.)

A Midsummer Night's Dream--set in a wooded vacation resort. I loved the way the updating made the story so relatable. I think I never really got this play in the original or the remakes that I've seen. In this one I finally understood the point of all the different plotlines. Imelda Staunton does a fantastic job along with the other actors to make it real.  
There you have it--my take on Shakespeare retold. The BBC is so brilliant. I was amazed at how true to the spirit of Shakespeare's originals these retellings were. They are completely modern, and yet they retain Shakespeare's genius and feel. I was very impressed and entertained.

Have any of you already seen these? What did you think?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Summer hours!

Where my husband works they have started what they call Summer Hours. They work like crazy Monday-Thursday and are off on Fridays. So since he's off today we're going to be doing family things. Yea for us! Hope you all have a great day and a fun weekend! 

Anybody else doing summer hours? 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--What's in a name?

Up for today: THE NAMESAKE by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake by Lahiri Lahiri: Book Cover

Why I bought it? I had heard some good things from online friends about Jhumpa Lahiri's writing and figured that since she had won the pulitzer prize for her collection of short stories she'd be a good bet. I wanted to read a novel rather than a collection of short stories that's why I chose The Namesake. I picked it up in paperback at the Barnes and Noble the last time I was in there.

Synopsis: It tells a story that crosses 3 generations of an Indian family. An arranged marriage. Moving to America. Tragedies. Triumphs. Trying to assimilate and retain their own traditions. As the story progresses the focus turns to Gogol Ganguli. The young son of immigrant parents and the process that brought him his name and how it affected him throughout his life. In school. In work. In his love life.

What I thought? The writing is phenomenal. Lahiri did an amazing job of showing the immigrant experience. I felt like I was right there glimpsing into the souls of the characters. In a lot of ways it was like a novel length short story. It circles around the idea of identity and how our names influence our actions and personalities. I almost didn't review this book this week because I was so upset and annoyed by parts of what happens. I couldn't figure out what rating I would give it. On one hand, I loved it. On the other hand, I hated it. I thought that I would just review the other book I read this week and be done with it, but last night I picked up my latest Reader's Digest, and there was an article about the new trends of picking baby names. It reminded me of a scene in the book and made me rethink avoiding this review. Obviously Lahiri is doing something right if she has me so up in arms over what is going on with her characters. I keep telling myself that it is not real. That these are fictional characters.

My Rating: **** out of 5 stars--it's what I've settled on for now. You can't know how that score has gone up and down. Maybe I should do like Natalie and quit giving number ratings. 

Cleanness Score: 7 out of 10, This was a much easier score to come up with. There wasn't much language, but there is some recreational drug use and several sexual encounters. They were not told in an erotic way, but they are there.  Those are the main reason for the score. Just so you know.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rediscovering things I love

Last night my 14 year old daughter and I hung out around the piano singing while I played. This used to be one of my favorite things to do, but I haven't done it in a long time. It's almost as if I forgot how much I love it. How do I do that? I suppose I get caught up in other things and push those old joys aside for new ones or things that just have to get done. Does this happen to you guys?

Being on the cusp of summer with the stress of school dissipating, plus not having to be quiet after 8 PM, the desire to sing and play hit me. How wonderful it was to be able to share it with my daughter. I think we're going to be doing it a lot this summer. She had a great time. I'm going to need to practice. She especially loves show tunes, and I haven't done a lot of those in the past.

What are some of your old loves that you would enjoy resurrecting? 

Friday, June 12, 2009

Setbacks and leaps forward

Yesterday, I had a bit of a setback for me. I started questioning my abilities and threw myself quite a pity party. Then, I took a deep breath, put everything else aside, and focused on one of the things that wasn't working in my story. I hadn't made any progress with it in over a month and to tell the truth, I was kind of avoiding working on it. Skipping it and working on other stuff. 

Well, yesterday I decided that I had to work on that. I think I was trying to prove something to myself. That I can write. That I am capable. That I am doing the right thing by spending all this time writing. And guess what? I really moved forward. I made it work and more. My brain cleared, and I made real progress. It was as if someone told me I couldn't, and I got my back up and said, "Yes, I can," and set out to prove it. 

Do you find that happening to you sometimes?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--An aftermath

Up for today: THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold

the lovely bones by mush2274

Why I bought it? I had heard so many good things about it from friends and online. One day trawling for books I noticed it on the shelf and snagged it. It sat on my TBR pile for a long time before I actually felt I was up for reading it. I wish I'd read it sooner.

Synopsis: Susie Salmon is 14 when she is raped and murdered. (This happens in chapter 1, so I'm not spoiling the suspense.) She narrates from heaven the story of what happens after her death. The impact it has on her family. The investigation into what happened to her. The rumors among the kids at school. The killer's cover-up. And so much more.

What I thought? It was so well written and engrossing that I couldn't put it down. The uniqueness of Sebold's voice is compelling. I have never read anything like it before. The main character is dead by the end of the second sentence. Whatever your personal vision of heaven, you can enjoy Sebold's take on it in this novel--with roommates and counselors, etc. I was surprised at how uplifting it was. There were times of horror and grief as you would expect, but there were also moments of healing and transcendence and more hope than you would think possible. I loved it.

My rating: ***** out of 5

Cleanness Score: 7 out of 10, The first chapter is where most of this score comes from. The rape/murder is honest and horrifying--quite disturbing, but by the end of the first chapter (which is not very long) it is over and the rest of the book has a certain distance from it. There is some language, but not tons. It's not the sort of thing I would recommend to a teen without their parents' permission. It is a book written for adults. A lot of teens have read and loved it though. If you are concerned about letting your teen read it, read the first chapter and see. It doesn't get any worse than that.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A poem

I just thought I might share one of the family portrait poems I've done. Some of you may have seen this before, but some of you may not. Have a great weekend everyone.



She looked faded,

like a comfortable old pair of jeans.


There was no vigor

in her halting marionette-like walk,

and her bosom hung emptily

on a rounded belly.


The right hand,

poised for its habitual cigarette,

shook from the awkward absence.


A fluff of whitened auburn

framed her sagging face

powdered with

expanded flecks of rust.


Her weary eyes hid

like saphires

in the folds of her face.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Julie

Up for today:  HOME by Julie Andrews

Product Details

Why I bought it? It this month's read for my book club. (It just came out in paperback in May.)

Synopsis:  It is a memoir of Julie Andrews' early years. She tells some of her family's history and goes through how she got started in show business.

What I thought? At the beginning I was worried that I wasn't going to like it. There were a lot of vignettes and disjointed facts that didn't really flow, but as the book got going it was very interesting. I'm a big fan of Julie Andrews, and so I was intrigued by the subject matter, and that helped a lot. There are a lot of great details. I enjoyed the sound of her voice too. She has lived an amazing life with lots of ups and downs. It's very open an honest. She was lucky in a lot of ways, but I loved the fact that she rose above her past and really made her own luck. 

My rating: **** out of 5

Cleanness Score: 4 out of 10, a little language and some adult situations

Monday, June 1, 2009

Where does the path lead?

Those of you who've been around a while may remember the family trip we took last fall picking apples. We went up to that lovely spot in Virginia again. No apples this time. Just hay in the fields next to the orchard. A path had been mowed through the hay so we could have our weenie roast, etc. It was a gorgeous day with lots of good company and music.

Here I was arriving at the picnic site and looked back up the path we had just come. At one end of the path was food at the other a gorgeous homage to the day.

In photography a path is nice to have. It visually leads the viewer into the picture and emphasizes your subject. The path in this picture leads to the clouds. As you know I love clouds. They can really make the shot.

In writing we lead the reader down figurative and sometimes literal paths. What we put at the end of those paths can make it worth the readers while or leave them frustrated. A book I read last summer drove me absolutely crazy, because it kept leading me down pathways that left me unfulfilled. I kept thinking that when I got to the end of the novel that everything would come together and all those winding paths would make sense. They didn't, and I felt betrayed. That made me not want to read the author's work again, but I'm sure I will give her another chance eventually.

Do your paths all lead someplace essential for your story?