Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yes, I'm Gullible

I know I didn't write my normal review yesterday (I would have written about a YA book called Anna and the French Kiss...but, rain check).  We've been packing up for a move!  Tomorrow we get a new apartment...same complex, just way bigger!  Oh joy! 

I forgot how not fun packing is. 

And while my husband was at work or playing video games, I did a ton of packing (Celia, if you read this, don't say anything!  He'll do the heavy lifting tomorrow!). 

I knocked those boxes out.  My mom is my amazing example as a military wife with tons of experience.  Starting ahead of time makes the transition so much smoother!  Anyway, there is a positive to all husband and I have totally different packing styles.  So if I do it myself, I get my way:)

Now to the gullible part, which has nothing at all to do with the move.

I bought a magazine subscription for these teenagers who went door to door in our apt. complex (I know, I know).  I'm a sucker.  Their youth group's name was presented as Inspirations.  I finally looked them up online (after having not seen my Rachael Ray magazine that was supposed to be a birthday present for my friend Emily last JULY!).  They are one of the "scam groups" listed. 

You probably know the ones I'm talking about.  They say they get points for meeting people, points for your job...ask you all these questions.  I wouldn't have opened the door if they hadn't really looked like some neighbors I'd never met.  They hide their clipboards behind their backs.  And they pretty much come in right away and sit down on your furniture. 

At least it was just $40.  They told me my total was $96!  I said, "No way, not on a teacher's salary."  So one of the girls made a big deal, pretending like she was making up the difference from her own pocket.  I felt BAD for her.  Yep, I'm a sucker.

However, I read that the majority of these groups are kids in gangs.  One lady said she called the cops after two girls had been by her place, and they found a van with kids tied up in the back and the crew leader had been molesting some of the kids!  If the kids don't make certain quotas, they don't get food or they get beaten by the gang leaders.  I wonder how much of this is true, but I'll be praying for kids in those situations.  And, if my $40 allowed someone to eat for the day, I definitely don't feel bad.

Anyway, there are good lessons from all this...don't trust strangers.  Or telemarketers.  Or people who knock on your door near sunset.

And never, never give out your social security number.

Don't worry, I've never been temped to do that.  But maybe I just saved a person from identity fraud.  I'll be here thinking of my super hero name...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fun Friday: The Pit and the Pendulum

Yes, I know it's Saturday.  I totally forgot to post this yesterday.  Too much going on with the end of school! 

I showed this to my kids this week.  An amazing adaption of Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum.  If you are an English nerd like me, or just admire creativity, you will appreciate this video.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Bachelorette - Love Connection?

I've decided to forgo my Wednesday Write It Out topic to talk about something serious- The Bachelorette.

Does this show (and I'm including The Bachelor here) do anything besides give us drama?  Sure, it's mixed in  with some love, but mostly, it's a huge soap opera-esque competition.

I have to say, I love it, but it hardly ever ends in a happy union.

Is it even realistic to go onto a show hoping to develop feelings for a person you've never met?  25 of those people hope to fall in love with the same guy or girl.  Can we really help who we're attracted to?  Only 2 girls that I remember have bowed out of the show because of a lack of feelings or other women want love more (vampire girl on Brad's season).  Are you telling me you can stick a person in front of another and say, "Fall for this guy" and it works?  Doesn't the competition aspect make a person want it more badly than he or she might otherwise?  And also, the fact that these dates happen in such exotic locations as Africa, the Carribean, and Spain helps set the mood a little; but unless you're super rich, your honey won't be taking you around the world to brew up some lovin'.

*Side note: I'm done with the rhetorical questions now!*

Getting back to the relationships that did last...yes, there was Ryan and Trista's million dollar pink wedding that aired on television. And Ali and Roberto are still together (who she probably wouldn't have ended up with if Frank hadn't returned to his ex-- she clearly had a thing for Frank).  But everyone else gets back to the real world and realizes they've been immersed in this fun world of traveling and competition that hardly reflects the setting of a real relationship.  Even now, Brad and Emily (the most recent pair) are having problems, and they continually grace the covers of tabloids. 

So why does America tune in season after season?

Simply put: Chris Harrison.  He's a master interviewer-- knows how to build suspense-- and his ties are quite entertaining (I crack myself up).  Okay, really.  It's the crazy stunts people pull, the drama that goes down.  In Brad's season, there was possessive-stalker Michelle (who turned out to be a totally different girl on the What Happened After The Bachelor show) who talked bad about people and gave herself a black eye while sleeping.  Justin from Alli's season went on the show as a Canadian wrestler.  The guys thought he was there to promote his career.  Not only did he have a girlfriend, but he hobbled around on crutches and the question is, which leg did he truly break (he can be seen with the left leg AND the right leg in a cast at separate times)?  Now there's this Bentley guy trying to get with Ashley, the newest Bachelorette, who said in an interview that aired on the first episode that he doesn't give a crap about her but he would if she was Emily.  What a quote.  That definitely hooked me from the first episode.  That, and...

the guy in the mask.  Take the mask off.  We want to know what you're hiding!

Any comments about the show in general?   

J.P., my favorite for Ashley.  Him and Ryan P.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mystery Review Monday: Bridesmaids

Length - 125 minutes
Genre - Comedy
Release date - 13 May 2011
Starring - Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph (and several minor parts played by people from The Office)

I couldn't wait to see this-- it looked so funny!  I actually got my husband excited too, since there were ladies from SNL in it.  The previews did a great job of marketing it as a comedy, and it is; but more specifically, it's a chick flick comedy, which let him down just a little. 

The movie centers around the relationship between Lillian (Maya Rudolph) and her best friend Annie (Kristen Wiig).  When Lillian gets engaged, Annie can't help but evaluate how sad her life is.  She has a boyfriend who uses her and a cake shop that failed. 

There were very funny parts: the drunk behavior of Annie on an airplane that gets her Vegas-bound bachelorette party crew kicked off; a bridal shower where competing new friend of Lillian's (Helen, played by Rose Byrne) goes head to head with Annie (they each give never-ending speeches to prove they each know the bride better); and a scene where the girls get an attack of food poisoning while dress shopping.  I liked the sweet love story for Annie, who's in her thirties and unlucky in love.  The movie was obviously written by women; it portrays the woman who lacks self-confidence after a failed relationship and the female tendancy to trust "bad" guys (if you're saying "No way!  That's not me," then good for you!). 

Some of the characters' actions are heavily exaggerated, but that's also what makes the movie funny.

Didn't like: A sex scene opens the movie and kids were in this rated R flick (that last one is just a lot of bad parenting).

I'd give this movie just under 4 out of 5 stars.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Win or Fail? Rainbow Brite

What I miss most about Saturday mornings as a kid is watching cartoons in my PJs.  Rainbow Brite was one of my favorite shows. 

Other early favorites (not all cartoons):
Care Bears
Fraggle Rock
Sesame Street
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
Lamb Chop's Play Along
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (ha)
Captain Planet
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Some cartoons disappoint me now because of the rough drawings and out-there concepts, like Catdog.  I also get sad when a long-time favorite changes voices or the way they do animation (TMNT).  I guess actors get old, but still!

What do you think of this?
What were your favorite cartoons growing up?
Are these adult dolls win or fail?
As a person who grew up loving this cartoon, I know my vote...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Yearbook Distribution Day:) and Opening Your Story

It's the time of the year I most look forward to...tomorrow we hand out yearbooks!  Not to brag, but this year, the book is a thing of beauty.  All the kids are so happy with their work, and I know the school will love it.  Wish me luck getting to school by 6:40, and even more luck that my staff gets there by 7:15!

I've been on sort of a blog hiatus, skipping the last Friday, Monday, and Wednesday, but I figured it's never too late to talk about writing!

I'm going to kind of mesh two posts together.  If you are looking for an author who knows description, check out Sarah Ockler.  She's an amazing YA writer.  I just finished reading Twenty Boy Summer and now I'm on Fixing Delilah.  I love that she always starts her first chapter with an obvious problem.  It's no more than a few lines long, but it definitely hooks you.

The beginning of Fixing Delilah is:
"Claire?  It's Rachel.  I'm afraid I have some bad news."

That's it-- the whole first chapter.  Simple and intriguing.

Combine that with excellent description (and of course a good plot), and you're going places.

Here's description I marked from Fixing Delilah (thank you Kindle for making annotation easy):
(talking about leaves)

"One by one they floated and swirled and fell to my feet, and when he flashed his up-to-no-good smile with the moonlight soft and blue on his skin, I wanted to stay there forever."

Gorgeous.  I love how the reader realizes Delilah's "non-boyfriend" Finn has a naughty side.  And have you ever really noticed how someone looks at nighttime?    

I'm working on a YA novel right now called Accepting Ellie.  I keep changing and changing my beginning because the beginning is crucial...for hooking readers and for hooking agents.  Here's what I changed mine to.  Did I do a good enough job of combining interest with description?  Let me know your thoughts!  I don't know if it's okay to use "subletting" in this instance since that implies payment...

Couch surfers actually exist. There’s a whole website devoted to strangers searching for other strangers who own couches and don’t mind subletting them for free. Anyone can create a profile, pick a destination, then boom, they have an instant friend wherever they're headed. What words come to mind when I hear this, you ask? Suspicious, creepy, and axe murderer, though the website testimonies swear the experiences are fabulous, amazing, and life-changing. I’m fine sleeping on my own couch, but thanks a billion for the offer.
From Sunday afternoon to early evening, I slept on our own cozy sofa the way a person does when she’s bored and way too lazy; drifting in and out, not quite comfortable, mind blending the noises of reality into fuzzy dreams. When a sharp sword slashed through those dreams in the form of a telephone ring, my mood transitioned from peaceful to confused to just plain pissed. My mother brandished an iron in her right hand, which really meant “I’m away from my head right now; please leave a message.” Not a phone, not an exploding microwave, not even a brick through the window would tear her from her task. I shook off the clinging bits of drowsiness and answered the landline. We needed a maid for this.

(That first paragraph is inspired by Keri P., who shared with me her couch surfing experiences.  The thought freaks me out a bit, but she loves it.  She is a much braver individual than I!)

The 1st chapter goes on to discuss an unsettling phone call.  The main character's best friend has been in a car wreck and is undergoing emergency surgery.  Will she survive?  It's the beginning of their senior year and they have so many things to do, so many memories to create. 

That's all for now.  Wish me luck tomorrow.  Dinner is now calling my name.  I'll have to think of something good for the Fun Friday post that isn't Rebecca Black's song "Friday."  Ugh, if I have to hear another one of my students sing that chorus...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Write It Out Wednesday - Six Word Memoirs

Most of us have heard Hemingway's famous six word story:  "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn."

I know a teacher at my school who talked about doing this as an assignment.  What would you write?  Can you tell an entire story in just six words?  Here are my first few attempts.   

Promising me forever, he smokes another.

If sleeping cures depression, why live?

Lost my chance at experiencing childhood. 

Marry him?  No way in hell.   

Okay, now it's your turn!  Leave a comment so I can see your creative side.
You might surprise yourself.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wedding Season - Decorating on a Dime

First off...yearbooks came in today and ours are AMAZING.  As the yearbook sponsor I'm totally biased, but I'm telling you, these kids did a phenomenal job.  Just can't wait to show them off to the school in two Fridays (seems like such a long time!).  I'll post a pic of the cover when it's officially released to the public. 

Now, I know millions of people tuned in to the Royal Wedding.  I must admit, I DVRed it then fast-forwarded for highlights as I thought, "What am I doing with my life?  I must be crazy to watch a four hour program about one wedding.  Even if Kate looks stunning in the dress."  If it had been four hours of TLC's Say Yes to the Dress, I could have been convinced.

The kickoff to a summer of weddings makes me reminisce about my own.  July 12th will be my 3rd year anniversary!  It's amazing how the time flies.  I love you honey, even though you'll never read this!

So something you all might not know about me is that if I wasn't a teacher, I'd definitely start a wedding favor or decoration shop with my mom.  We made all the decor for my wedding and it looked far from cheap.  Our secret, of course, was that everything assembled piece came from the dollar store and lots of trips to Joanne's Fabrics for sales on ribbon.  I wish I had a great picture from the wedding to show you, but here are some examples of how far a little creativity can go.  You don't have to spend millions on your wedding like Will and Kate.  Obviously no one reading this plans to do that (if I may assume without offending anybody).
We made everything here...can you believe the candleholders are made of doll rods and medicine cups?  All that's missing on this place card is my rockin' calligraphy.

It was easy to curl the stems of these silk flowers from Hobby Lobby and hot glue strands of pearls on them.

We ordered 200 plain white boxes from a paper company online.  The best part was sitting with my mom at the table and chatting while we made our own unique designs on the outside.
Inside were netted bags of hershey kisses with a note on the inside lid that said, "Here are some kisses from the Mr. and Mrs."

This is a wishing well for cards, a tradition in our family weddings that was really important to my dad.  He made it, we decorated. 

I have my mom to thank for all of the above ideas and her creative inspiration.  That's why we need to start a shop!  Here are the things she thought of for my brother's wedding...I was only home to help with a few of these decorations.
On the back table are terra cotta flower pots with wire rods for flower stems and wooden heart frames at the top.  The circles in the middle of each heart was a pic of my brother or sister-in-law at different ages.

Would you think of upside down glasses for candle holders?  Mom, you're amazing.

Anybody have any neat tricks for executing the perfect wedding on a budget?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Book Review: Where She Went

If you know me, you know I reading love young adult.  In fact, I write young adult lit.  This is one of those keeps-you-up-'til-four-a.m. novels which makes life worth living.  Honestly. 
Aspiring cellist Mia is in a car wreck with her family in book 1. She is in a coma, and has the power to decide if she stays or leaves earth. The story is mostly what she experiences while floating around out of her body. Where She Went is told from her boyfriend Adam's perspective three years later. He's a paparazzi-stalked rockstar and she's a rising clasical musician at Julliard. They're no longer together, but one night in New York, they cross paths.

  • Sequel to If I Stay
  • Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
  • Release date: April 5, 2011
  • Page count:  264
  • Unique elements:  Almost every chapter starts with a verse from his band's album.  This mostly has to do with Mia ripping his heart out (not mentioning her name, of course).  Also, the suspense and sexual tension constantly build.
  • Would appeal to: If I Stay enthusiasts, anyone who likes a guy's point of view, anyone who likes music 
Some of the descriptions in this book are phenomenal.  My favorite one is about the stretching fingers of dawn, but I can't find it right now.  Check out some of these great lines.

Favorite Quotes:

"You were so busy trying to be my savior that you left me all alone."

"I look at her there in the shadows of the shut-down city, her hair falling onto her face, and I can see her trying to figure out if I’ve lost it. And I have to fight the urge to take her by the shoulders and slam her against a shuttered building until we feel the vibrations ringing through both of us. Because I suddenly want to hear her bones rattle. I want to feel the softness of her flesh give, to hear her gasp as my hip bone jams into her. I want to yank her head back until her neck is exposed. I want to rip my hands through her hair until her breath is labored. I want to make her cry and then lick up the tears. And then I want to take my mouth to hers, to devour her alive, to transmit all the things she can’t understand."

And Gayle Forman writes things that resonate with the reader:

"That’s the thing you never expect about grieving, what a competition it is."

"Standing here, in this quiet house where I can hear the birds chirping out back, I think I’m kind of getting the concept of closure. It’s no big dramatic before-after. It’s more like that melancholy feeling you get at the end of a really good vacation. Something special is ending, and you’re sad, but you can’t be that sad because, hey, it was good while it lasted, and there’ll be other vacations, other good times."

I find it refreshing to read a story, especially one involving love, from a guy's perspective. Adam is totally believable and totally hot. I stayed up so late to finish this and recommended it to each of my English classes for the pure sake of its descriptions.

I like this MUCH better than If I Stay. A lady at Barnes and Noble said If I Stay would make me cry. It didn't. I think this second book was much more powerful. It deals with so much raw, human emotion.

Welcome to my blog!

Hey everyone!  I originally had the idea to make this a reading/writing blog because I'm a tad bit on the obsessive side about both, but I wanted a little more freedom to talk about random things should the mood strike me.  I did just get back from an amazing Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc. Conference and met some fabulously talented (and super friendly) writers.  I hope you'll check out some of their blogs (see the side!). 

Some of the recurring posts I'll have:

Mystery Review Monday - Just to keep you guessing...will I talk about a movie?  A book?  Music?  The possibilities are endless.

Write It Out Wednesday - I'll either post about something I'm working on, or fill in what comes next...don't worry, I won't copy your ideas!

Fun-Filled Friday - Something to make you smile at the end of the week!