Showing posts from 2010

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent...a review

There are times when I realize just how incredibly lucky I really am, and at this moment it is in direct correlation to the time that I currently live. Obviously there are downfalls that those living have faced in every single time period in history, and our world today is no different. However, I have shelter, I am able to eat when hungry, and I have a job that enables me to provide for Leah and I (she really likes her dog biscuits), and most importantly, I am not outright condemned for my beliefs.

Heretic's Daughter details the life of Sarah Carrier Chapman, who is not as lucky. As a young girl Sarah's mother, as well as other members of her family, is accused of witchery during the height of the Salem witch trials.  I couldn't help but compare the description of the trials to that of the hearings held by Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities during the late 1940's. These trials basically forced innocent people to prove their innocence by s…

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen a review…

Poor, poor Patty and Walter. The main characters of Freedom spend the majority of their time living exactly the way I’ve avoided living. However, similar to reality shows like Teen Mom and Sister Wives, there is something within the sadness of Freedom, of living a life so unlike my own, that pulls me in so completely it were as if I didn’t have a choice. 
Freedom is an unusual read, both in style and story. Reminiscent of Pulp Fiction, the plot isn’t presented in a nice and neat series of events. Instead, connections are forced. Questioning and predicting about what is to come is ideal, and especially nice for a book club read. Speaking of which, this was our third choice following Three Cups of Tea and The Lacuna. I really enjoy that I have someone else choosing books besides me, because I probably would have never selected this one. Many of our discussions focused on the idea that no major conflict was occurring, yet, we were continually pulled back into Patty and Walter’s lives itc…

It must be hard to be so perfect

This Friday, I am expected to attend a meeting to discuss why a student in my writing class is no longer the “A” student they were before I began grading their child’s work. This is the third such meeting and/or phone conference I have had with various parents since starting my new position almost two months ago. Last week, I received the following letter.
After reviewing __________’s progress reports for the past few weeks, I am curious as to how a straight “A” honor roll student is suddenly going downhill and receiving “C”s.____________ is not a “C” student. Therefore, I would like to schedule a meeting with you so we can all get on the same page.
These are the moments that make me regret my desire and ultimately my decision to teach writing. Why, oh why, have I voluntarily chosen to teach a subject that demands resistance to simple “formulas” for success in order to be successful? Why have I chosen to spend hours upon hours of my free-unpaid-time grading essays and other assorted w…

A request...

Dear fellow facebook enthusiasts,
I have what I consider to be a small request, and I am aware that out of the fifteen or so people who will read this a percentage of those readers may take offense but I’m willing to accept this as a possible outcome. All I’m suggesting is that updaters simply think about what kind of information they are choosing to share with friends and family, BEFORE they actually post.
Now admittedly, I’m neurotic. I check my fb often, probably too often. When on fb, I typically like to scroll through my friends’ recent posts, because in some weird way it makes me feel connected to those I no longer live near. But perhaps, this is my downfall. Perhaps I should just pop on to write something about myself and ignore what everyone else is saying and doing. Perhaps then I wouldn’t be so disenchanted with how some of my friends choose to present themselves.
So what exactly is my problem? Well for one, there are occasionally instances of over-sharing. One time I was ma…

I'm Thankful for...

Thanksgiving is almost here, and in light of my very favorite day, I thought it would make sense to take some time to reflect. I am so completely thankful for my family as well as every opportunity I have ever had. Not many days go by that I don’t in some way acknowledge how grateful I am.
This list may have a location bias at this time, and it is not in any order whatsoever.
I am thankful for:
1.A home, food to eat, access to clean water…
2.My parents who have supported and encouraged me through every single decision I have ever made.
3.A boyfriend who plays no games, is kind and considerate, makes me laugh, and who treats me with respect. And he likes to go on “dates”.
4.Leah. I have always said how she saved my life…forcing me to walk her every day, and simultaneously protecting me from a raging depression.
5.Bloody Marys with Demitri’s seasoning sauces.
6.Being able to bike, or hike, or sit outside and read, any day I want, without the rain.
7.My decision to leave a position with job se…

Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver…a review

Who would have thought that a story depicting a year in the life of a family farming their own food, could not only be entertaining, but also entice me; a well documented insect phobia-ist, to have my own garden complete with whatever forms of life this may bring? This is a remarkable feat.
I never before thought of the food I eat in terms of what all is required to grow produce out of season, or the carbon footprint that is left behind when it is then shipped to a faraway, final destination. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle also discusses exactly what has to be done to those fruits and veggies to make them so travel friendly. It is pretty unbelievable when you think about how much trouble we go to as a society to ensure that we always have strawberries, or tomatoes, or oranges, or any other produce at our fingertips despite the lack of authenticity (taste) that inevitably follows such maneuvering.
Two summers ago, I backpacked through Greece and Italy.Unlike some of my previous Internation…

Leah versus Usery Mountain Park—Part II

The air has cooled quite a bit down here, so much so that we have actually pulled the heavy comforter back out of retirement. I have to be honest when I say that I didn’t expect to use that particular blanket until we moved again, if we move again. But the highs are no longer ridiculously high, and the nights especially are much cooler. Let’s be real though, I’m not complaining, at all. We still have our windows open. We wake up to blue skies and our days are filled with sun. I absolutely love Arizona for this, even if it is getting a little chilly (like 70).
And today was no different. Veterans’ Day always seems to come at just the right time during the school year, and while admittedly my year has just begun, I am very appreciative for this day to enjoy the freedoms we have. When we attempted the 7.4-mile Pass Mountain Loop last weekend, but ended up on some random trail, Tyler had a great idea for us to use our day off to try again. [That’s why I like him.] 

We set off for the loop f…

Pass Mountain Trail (Attempt)— Usery Mountain Regional Park

[Edit]-- The Pass Mountain Trail (entered through the main entrance) is easily accessible...and has become one of our favorite hikes. It is not very busy and has a beautiful view midway (the exact spot where my hubs proposed). Definitely worth it. We even know how to get to it from the other side now!! The following post is basically the back side and we took the "wrong" instincts in our directions. 

This is not the trail we actually hiked. We couldn’t seem to locate the 7.5-mile loop that we were looking for. This may be due to our starting the hike at an alternate parking area instead of the main trailhead, or perhaps it is because Arizona parks seem to be against marking trails and/or providing any information at the start of the trails. This is frustrating.

 The hike we ended up on, I believe, is still a part of Usery Mountain Park. But again, who really knows. As we were walking we started our ascent up and then up a little more until I was seriously out of breath, and Le…

Public School versus Charter School- Second Installment

I now have one week served as a teacher in a local charter school. It is still very vague as to how things work exactly, but I am least getting used to my schedule that is now five days old. I should specify that my current school is also a public school. So just like any other public school, its doors are open to anyone. I suppose the exception is that students don’t automatically enroll based on where their home falls in regards to school boundary lines, that instead a family elects for their child to attend based on the program design of the school.
This is an interesting and rather foreign concept for me. My parents elected for me to attend a Catholic high school for my freshman and sophomore year because the choice of public school, was not much of a choice at all, in their eyes. They based this on my mom’s own experiences at the same school, and my dad’s brief stint in public school after leaving Catholic school. They wanted more for me. However, they had to pay for it. Catholic…

Homemade Pizza

We just finished eating some homemade pizza and since it was quite tasty and super easy to make, I thought I’d share it. I have often made “pizza” from home just using French bread, tomato paste, cheese and whatever I feel like topping it with. But this is like real pizza, made with actual dough.
As I’ve mentioned in my recent review of Barbara Kingsolvers’ The Lacuna, I like love her. Due to this infatuation, I am currently reading Animal Vegetable Miracle also by Kingsolver and actually published in 2007. I bought it and had to put it aside while I went back to school. Well after my last read by her I was definitely ready to pull it back out. It is different than her fiction because instead the book documents her family as they attempt to live off the land for a whole year. It is a good read that I intend to tell you more about later when I finish. But I will say it is making me want a garden of my own, bad.
Back to the pizza. You can find the exact recipe on Kingsolvers’ website li…

Coconino National Forest Camping and Hikes

The weather has cooled enough to allow us to venture outside for days at a time ☺. So, we decided to head up North a bit to the Sedona and Flagstaff areas of Arizona.

We set up camp at Cave Springs campground. It is the northern most campground in what is considered Oak Creek Canyon. This is probably not a spot that we will return to. We had not reserved and were fighting full camps due to area schools being on “fall break”. We did however manage to find a pretty nice site with a mountainy backdrop and have a great time in an otherwise blah campground.

The grounds were completely open making it impossible to avoid inviting other campers to see every aspect of your camping experience. This is not an exaggeration, and has nothing to do with the local vegetation as we later found on our hikes. Radios were also not allowed, but generators were okay to loudly hum away. A radio is an essential element to camping, especially when you already spent close to thirty dollars on eight C batteri…

New Job = New Shoes

Today I received all of my new employee paperwork. I have accepted a teaching position at a local, highly accredited, charter (gasp!) school, a school that has just been nominated (again) for “school of the year”. Let me start by saying I knew nothing of the school’s reputation prior to applying. I simply found an opening on the Department of Education website and applied.

It sounds so easy, but it wasn’t at all. I was looking for jobs and not finding anything that fit my new mindset. I was frustrated at not hearing back from positions outside of education, positions that I was easily overqualified for to begin with, but for whatever reason was not even a candidate worthy of an interview. I was also being completely stubborn, and refused to even look at positions in education while my boyfriend applied and found a job rather quickly at a local junior high. Most of my friends know that I resigned from a position last year, and most know why. I left thinking I wouldn’t teach anymore.

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver...a review

I have to just come out and say that I loved every aspect of this book so completely that I was very sad when it was clear that the amount of pages left was diminishing quickly. The Lacuna has moved into the # 1 position on my Top Ten, dethroning the reigning champion for the last two years, The Glass Castle.

I was already a fan of Barbara Kingsolver when I started The Lacuna. The Poisonwood Bible is not only on my Top Ten, but it is the first book that I remember being blown away by as an adult, full of characters you want to know, and help, and in some cases seriously hurt. Kingsolver has a way of creating fiction, of telling a story, that not only is completely unforgettable, but forces the reader to want to read about situations that they probably never would have envisioned themselves immersed in. Plus, Kingsolver is so adept at creating such rich surroundings and lifelike situations for her characters that it is difficult not to let yourself fall into the magic of a well-told st…

Education Reform Is Hard

And it always will be if the people who make the decisions regarding education policy continue to treat our schools as businesses. Schools are beginning to be rated based solely on their “productivity”, otherwise known as standardized tests scores. If a school does not perform up to standard the school can face a number of consequences. 
Probably the most public example of this is the 2010 Rhode Island “house cleaning” that took place in Central Falls School District in which the, “school board voted to fire all teachers at [the] struggling high school. Central Falls High is one of the lowest-performing schools in Rhode Island. It is in a community where[the] median income is $22,000, [according to census figures]. Of the 800 students, 65 percent are Hispanic and for most of them, English is a second language. Half the students are failing every subject, with 55 percent skilled in reading and 7 percent proficient in math,” according to the CNN article, dated Feb 24th, 2010.(See Bits an…

I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell by Tucker Max...a review

There are very few books that have caused me to laugh out loud numerous times while reading. In the same sense, it is even more rare that a passage is so outlandish, so ridiculous, that I simply have to stop reading in order to share that passage with someone- even if it is multiple pages long. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell does this with remarkable ease.
The absolute absurdity that Tucker Max and his friends continually find themselves involved is on par with one of my top ten books, Youth in Revolt. The books are very different in content, but the willingness of the authors to write without care, is visible in both. And in this case Tucker very obviously does not mind sharing every detail about his life, even the stories that don’t make him look good. Plus, he claims the entire book is absolutely true.
I’m going to preface my next statement. I don’t want to admit the following. This is exactly the kind of book a book club would not choose, when really it is exactly the kind of book …

In Defense of Chelsea Handler

Recently a video was posted on a blog that caters mainly to MTV and Howard Stern fans. It was Chelsea Handler introducing her “sex tape” according to the title posted. The clip had the following as its description, “The fact that only women like her is just further proof that she’s unfunny. Broads dunno funny. Sorry to break it to you!!!”
I enjoy Chelsea Handler. I mentioned previously how I watched the VMA’s because of her. Well, I like her show Chelsea Lately, as well as the monthly piece that she does for Cosmo, and I was recently reminded of her part in the sketch comedy show Girls Behaving Badly, which also had some positive moments. The thing is, I realize that not everyone has to like her. I also realize, and this is key, that probably not all females like her, and chances are not every male dislikes her. Generally, I am mature enough to acknowledge that opinions typically are based on individual interest, not gender specificity.
Therefore, I am left with a few aspects of this …

What the hell MTV

The following is not exactly time sensitive, however I felt it necessary to post due to the supposed huge following MTV had for the show.

I haven't watched MTV's Video Music Awards for at least five years, probably more like ten. I decided to watch the 2010 awards last night because Chelsea Handler was hosting. She is absolutely hilarious, and I genuinely feel sorry for the fact that she was actually a part of this "show". Ugh. What a waste of time. I remember seriously looking forward to these shows when I was younger, and I can't seem to wrap my head around what the hell happened.

I now realize I have grown beyond the days when singers actually sing their own music, show up for award nominations, and just overall have talent without the use of some sort of voice modification. It was a sad showing. I'm sure no one else watched it so I'll just provide you with a couple tidbits.

Eminem and Lady Gaga one every award except two. Since I like both…