50 Books- To Kill a Mockingbird

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

This is another Amazon kindle book I purchased for the challenge, clocking in at 376 pages.  I get a lot of my books from Amazon, a habit from years of living in countries with a primary language that is not English.

Have I read this book before?

Yes, this was a book I read in high school as required reading.

What do I remember?

I remember is was about racism, and a trial where a man is obviously innocent but is still convicted due to his race.  I remember Boo Radley, but only as a name.

What do I think now?

The story moved at a very different pace than I remember.  There is a lot of slow background, which makes sense as it is being told by a child.  In many ways this point of view makes things more powerful.  All of the things she picks up, without completely understanding them.  Yet, in spite of her limited understanding, she understands that things are not right.  There is such an innocence to her clarity, a way of understanding how things should be with the idealism of youth.  There is one scene specifically where this is shown.  A mob of people are surrounding her father.  In her innocence, Scout jumps into the middle, thinking that it is a joke.  She starts talking with one of the men, discussing her relationship with his son.  She has no idea what she is doing, but her innocent view of the situation helps to shock the men out of their darker actions.  It is an amazing use of humanity to highlight inhumanity.  This story may be hailed as a brilliant piece on racism, but it is more than that, it is a piece on people.

Should you read this book before you die?

I do recommend this book.  It is slightly out of date.  Racism is slightly different today than it was then, but the idea of mob mentality is still relevant.  It is amazing what people will do when they are swept up in a moment of intense feeling.

Moving on to the next book, I selected The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, followed by The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

Happy reading everyone!

How To Embarrass Your (Almost) Teenage Daughter

This is my daughter.  She is smart, funny, creative, and wonderful.  She is also just a couple of months away from becoming a teenager.

At this point the few months we have to wait is really just a technicality.  She has the attitude, and personality of a surly (yet still livable) teenager.

There are many disadvantages to living with a teenager.  The grunting as a way of speech.  The late sleeping, which combined with the weird smells of a messy room, makes you wonder if they died in their sleep.  The pickiness regarding food, clothing, and entertainment.

It is not easy, but there is one large advantage; teenagers are so much fun to embarrass.  Every little thing can yield a cringe, or a blush. Even on a bad day, I still manage to get an eye roll.

It’s not easy.  It takes work to constantly make certain you have something planned to keep my day interesting, and making sure she always knows her mother loves her enough to embarrass her.

1) Show affection in public.  Let your child know you are proud to be their parent.

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2) Dance and sing in public.  The store has your favorite coffee creamer?  That is worth a dance.  Cheesy 90’s song on the radio?  Sing loudly.  Extra points if it is some sort of rap.

3) Selfies.  Whenever possible, preferably squishing in together.  Be super excited about it.

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4) Use faux-modern teen slang.  I constantly use words at home such as ‘totes’, ‘cray-cray’, or ‘for realsies.”  When I really need to pull out the big guns, I channel Snoop Dogg and throw in a few ‘fo’ shizzle’s into the mix.  Big One swears she has never heard any person speak that way in real life.  I’m kind of grateful for that.

5) Photobomb!  This is Little One’s favorite way of helping to embarrass her big sister.  As I am usually behind the camera, I have few opportunities to try this one but the look on her face whenever it happens lets me know it has potential for the future.

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6)Take pictures of her when she isn’t expecting it. Make sure to tell everyone how adorbs she was when it was taken.

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7) Take her picture at all.  Private, public.  It doesn’t matter.  It gives the illusion that she is a cute little kid in her big girl panties for the first time.

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8)Call her adorbs.  We also enjoy the term ‘adorkable’ in our house.  In a real pinch I go with calling her my nerd-dizzle.

9) Video her embarrassing moments.  Make sure she knows it is now preserved forever.  (I am not posting the video of her first archery shot where the arrow landed directly in front of her.  I don’t want to be smothered in my sleep.)

10)  Make sure she knows she is awesome, in spite of her embarrassing parents.

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5 Ways I am Preparing for NaNoWriMo

I am super excited for National Novel Writing Month, starting in less than a week.  I have never tried anything like this before, and I am hoping for, nay, demanding my success.  I know not everyone finishes, and most people end up with work that will require major editing, but I am still remaining hopeful as I prepare.

There are a lot of articles out there right now, teaching people how to prepare for NaNoWriMo.  They talk about time management, outlining, story planning, all sorts of funny little details.  Some of these I am listening to, but not all of them.  After all, they won’t all work for everyone. Here are five things I am doing to prepare.

1. Have a plan.

I am getting ready for this, and I am trying to do this properly.  I know the story I am going to write.  I have an outline, with some scene details where I have them ready.  I am not going in blind, I am planning to follow a map.

2. Schedule writing time.

Life can get busy.  If the writing time is not respected everyday, the words will not be written.   They always tell you if you are trying to workout, write it in your schedule like an appointment.  Just like anything else, you promise to be there, and you show up.  My writing will be the same way; I am making an appointment for my writing time, and I intend to keep it.

3. Clean up.

To get all of my writing done this month, I will need to be focused.  So, the next week will need to be spent cleaning out the other projects on my list.  Beta reading, homework; anything I can get ahead on I need to do, so that I can have the time I need later.

4. Anticipate issues.

You can’t necessarily fix everything, in either the story or your life.  I can however look at my life in the next few weeks and see what will make things easier.  I know when my kids will be out of school, and when I have appointments.  Those times will not be a free pass to goof off and not get my writing done.  Instead, I can look at those moments and plan around them, not letting myself waste anytime.

5. Write!

No matter what I do, the only thing that will get me through NaNoWriMo will be sitting down and writing.  I can plan everything, anticipate everything, but if I do not actually do the writing, it is all for nothing.  By this time next week, I plan to be neck deep in a story, bringing it out, and hopefully making it mean something.

50 Books- The Great Gatsby

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I hope everyone will give me an allowance on this one.  Normally I write up a post within a day of finishing a book, if not directly after I finish.  However, I finished this one the first night of my Roman vacation, and as a part of my vacation, I did not bring my computer with me. Between trying to enjoy myself and my family, and not wanting to finger peck anything I didn’t have to out on my iPad, I decided to wait to do the writing.  Not a huge deal, but it does mean it has been a week since I finished reading and everything is not as fresh in my mind.  Please forgive me!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

This is one of the books I purchased intentionally for this challenge.  I have the kindle version (therefore bought through Amazon) which clocks in at 213 pages.

Have I read this book before?

No.  I know a lot of people read this one in high school, but not me.  I’m not sure why some books are taught at some schools and not others.  I mean, I understood why my husband read Animal Farm, and I did 1984; both were the same writer and similar themes of government, population, and authority figures. I’m not sure what my school did instead.

What do I already know?

This book takes place in the 1920’s, assumedly before the crash, and during prohibition.  There someone named Gatsby who throws parties and maybe looks sad?  I am sure there was a recent movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, but as I hadn’t read the book, I didn’t bother to watch the movie.  This seems to be a frequently mentioned book when people are discussing favorite books from high school, or are picking their favorite classic novel.  Oh, and the girl who plays Daisy in the movie was Sally Sparrow on Doctor Who.  She is adorable.

What do I think now?

I have two points of view on this.

First of all, I don’t get how people could consider this to be one of their favorite books.  None of the characters are particularly likable.  They cheat, they lie, they have zero loyalty, and seem to care about nothing but their own pleasure.  Yes, it is period piece, set in the twenties about a bunch of privileged rich people, and therefore what else would they do but pursue their own selfish desires, but that does not make whatever they do all right.  The best person in the book is the narrator and he is only less repellant than those around him.  While he does not engage in all of the same activities as the others, he admires them for their misdeeds and enables them to continue.  To be perfectly honest, when things start to go wrong for everyone, not only am I not surprised I have a desire to tell them all that they deserve it all.Yes, you could call it a lesson, but I’m not sure anyone learned anything.

On the other hand, the writing itself is beautiful.  Fitzgerald pulls you in, casts a spell on you, makes you want to read more.  I didn’t like any of the characters, but I was reading their tale and I didn’t want to stop.  The mood is set, and you feel what the narrator is feeling.  The words moved me in a way that surprised me.  I loved it.

Should you read this book before you die?

I think you should, but not for the same reason that everyone else might recommend.  I don’t think you should read it because it is a great book, or because the story is wonderful, or because the characters are wonderful.  Read this book so that the words can pull you in and make you believe that maybe this time, things will be different.

I hope you all are enjoying this challenge, I know I am.  For those go you reading along, next up is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, followed by The Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  Happy reading everyone!

Rome

When my husband first proposed a trip to Italy, I was on the fence.  Italy was not one of the places I had ever had a strong desire to go. I mean, it was on the list, but only because I technically want to go everywhere eventually.  I just really didn’t know too much about Italy. I knew there was Julius Caesar, and gladiators.  I knew a little about the Roman empire, but mostly just that once upon a time it was huge, and then it fell.  I knew that Vatican City was the smallest country in the world, coexisting with Mama Italy as the heart of the Catholic church, and the home of the Pope.  I knew a very tiny amount about a minuscule portion of a country that was rich in culture and tradition.  Of course I was not as excited as I could be; I was unprepared for everything I had in store for me.

I am honestly not sure how to condense my entire trip into one post.  Rome?  Amazing.

We stayed near the Colosseum, and visited on both our first and second days.  The first day, we only saw the outside, and on the second we toured through.  It was huge and impressive, and unbelievable.  After the Colosseum, the rest of the trip begins to blur.

We visited Vatican city on Wednesday.  Small tip for anyone traveling?  Make sure to check the Pope’s schedule before you go.  My husband had told me that the Pope would not be in the country when we went; he was wrong.  By not checking the schedule we ended up arriving at San Peitro with hundreds of people who came to hear the Pope speak.  Luckily, a trip through the Vatican museum killed enough time, we were able to enter the church afterwards.

We spent a lot of time in churches.  I am not a religious person, but I love art and the best art in Rome seemed to be in Churches. The truth is, most of the churches sort of blend together in my mind. Of course, the Sistine chapel was distinctive, but it was also one of the few I knew before I went.  We took pictures in the churches were it was allowed, but I’m honestly not certain I would be able tell which pictures came from which church or even which day.

I suppose my favorite would be easy.  It was not a large church, or maybe the part where we visited wasn’t even a church at all.  A portion of the tour was focused on the history of the Capuchin monks. (Side note, according to the guide book we had, the cappuccino got its name from the brown robes worn by these monks.  True or not, I like it.)  The tour ended with a trip through the most beautiful crypt a person could visit.  According to the story, a monk took the bones of dead monks that had been displaced and used them to create art as a sort of penance.  It gave him time to consider his sins, and think about the life he would live after his death.  It was haunting, and disturbing, and beautiful.  I think what struck me the most is the devotion he showed.  There is very little in life I feel that passionately about.  I wished I could feel that way, even just for a moment.  It truly inspired me.  No pictures were allowed inside, but it is worth looking up if you are interested.

The trip was exhausting.  We always walk everywhere when we travel.  Part of it is being slightly cheap; walking is a lot less expensive than taking a cab.  A lot of it is the ease; you never have to worry about parking, or weird traffic patterns in an unfamiliar city when you walk, not as long as you can look around an make certain you are not hit.  However, I learned that five days of straight walking is about my limit.  We were all very sore, and I am still not entirely certain I  have recovered an ability to walk normally.

I also learned that gelato is amazing.  It was a good thing we walked so much, because there were a few days in there were we enjoyed double gelato, as well as pasta and pizza.  I was happy to know that gluten free is surprisingly easy in Italy; we even learned on our last day McDonalds has gluten free burgers.  Not all of the gluten free food was that impressive to me.  Not to brag, but I think my pizza crust was better; however I am pretty sure the crust I had was frozen, not fresh.

The end of our trip left us with one absolute fact.  We need to go back to Italy.  Rome was amazing, but we need to see more, experience more, and find the rest of a beautiful country, full of history.  I don’t think it is a place I would want to live (Edinburgh is still winning that race), but I definitely want to go back.

Welcome Home!!

I am home!

Six days in Rome were wonderful, more so than I ever anticipated.  We went everywhere we could, it felt as though we walked all of the seven hills, though there was so much we missed.  Much of our time was spent in churches, because that seems to be the best place to find art in Rome, and many of them are free to visit.  We also visited ruins of things that were amazing feats of architecture in their time, and impressive to have anything left standing.  I left feeling relaxed, inspired, and incredibly lucky to be able to travel as I do.  I also left feeling very angry.

Now I will get to the good eventually here, but I need a moment to complain about something that angers me to unreasonable levels.

First of all, I am aware that this is unreasonable.  I am angered by something that technically has nothing to do with me.  It is not my business, it is not my problem, but at the same time it effects me.  Is this reasonable?  Should I be so passionately angry about this issue?  No, probably not.  But I am.

Second, I know some people may be offended by these comments.  I know I should say I am sorry for being rude or offending you.  But I won’t.  Your being offended won’t change how I feel about this, just as much as my being angry is not likely to change your actions.  If I say I am sorry it would be a lie.

So what has me riled up?  Smoking.

There were a lot of people smoking in Rome.  Everywhere.  All the time.  And it makes me so angry.

I don’t care that these people want to do something that will hurt them.  It’s their life, they can live and die as they choose, it is not my business.  However when they are smoking in places, blocking pathways with their smoke, and blowing it on my family, it does become my issue as well.

The truth is, smokers can be incredibly rude.  In Rome, I had smoke blown in my face more times than I could count.  Several times I had someone else blow their smoke into my open mouth as I was talking.  Maybe they couldn’t understand how disgusting that is, but it made me gag and cough.  Now, there is a little credit to be given to some smokers who try not to be rude.  They hold their lit cigarette down, trying to keep the smoke out of people’s faces.  However, do you know where that puts the smoke?  Directly at the level of my children’s faces.  Trust me, that is not any better.

Beyond the rudeness, intentional or otherwise, smokers can be a bit dangerous.  These are people who are walking around swinging hot sticks, capable of burning passers by.  No it doesn’t happen often, but trust me, when you feel that cigarette get close it is not fun.

It all just comes down to showing common courtesy.  Smoking all over the place, breathing it all over people, and waving it in their faces is rude.  Maybe I am biased, as a lifelong nonsmoker, but the other side is just as biased to their opinion.

I love living in Europe.  Quite honestly there are times when my husband and I am not sure we ever want to go back to the states.  However, there are also times when I wouldn’t mind going somewhere where there have been limits put on smoking in public.

All right, rant over for now.  If it offended you, well I hope at least it also made you think.  Soon, I will share things much more pleasant about my trip, and how it is helping me to be ready for NaNoWriMo in just a couple of weeks.

Seco

50 Books-Jane Eyre

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

Kindle version, purchased a year or so ago, with 322 pages.  I did notice there was several pages that seemed to repeat in number, so I think that was just a standard thing which can account for font size and other formatting things.  I’ve never noticed that before, so maybe it always does it.  Hmmm.

Have I read this book before?

About the first 5 pages, but that was it.

What did I already know?

Jane Eyre is a woman who did not have a happy childhood.  Other stuff happens that is also not necessarily happy. Charlotte was one of a few writer sisters, with a quirky story as well.

What do I think now?

The first time I picked up this book it was part of an effort on my part to first, read more classic literature, and second read more cheap or free books.  I read the first few pages and decided I had no desire to read the depressing tale of an abused child.  (Oddly enough, I had a very similar reaction to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.)  I can’t say exactly why I gave up.  Maybe I was just not in the right mood to enjoy this book the first time.

When I pushed through I began to see a little more than a sad tale of an abused child. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Jane’s life was hard, but it wasn’t just a story about how hard her life was.  The story was also about a woman who was strong enough to keep going no matter what happened.  She was strong enough to forgive those who wronged her, or maybe just strong enough to forget them.  Her life was not easy, but she never gave up.

The writing was a bit flowery for my tastes, but not bad.  There was simply a certain point where it was too much.  I get it, no one has every loved as you do.  You pool of grief is deeper than an ocean. Message received.

Should you read this book before you die?

This is a hard call for me.  There is nothing about this book that makes me fall in love.  It simply was a story I read.  It does however show a great tale of adversity and persistence.  Read this book when you feel like you cannot go on anymore, and remember that everyone has those moments where they need to keep going.

For those who are following along, get out your copies of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and start looking for a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Happy Reading!

NaNoWriMo!!!

October is moving along, already almost half over.  For writers around the world that means one thing. NaNoWriMo is almost here!

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month, the yearly challenge for writers to stop making excuses, sit down, and just write.

The most common piece of writing advice I have heard is to stop talking about writing, and start writing.  Not only is this the most common piece of advice, but it is the most practical.  I can talk, and I can plan, and I can dream, but if I never put the work in it will never matter.

I’ll be honest, I have never done NaNoWriMo.  Last year was the first I had heard of this event and I wasn’t exactly sure how it worked.  I tried to use it as a push to finish a novel I had already started and it didn’t work out.  Long story short, that novel is still not finished.

This year I am determined to make it work for two reasons.  The first reason, is NaNoWriMo is fun to say, and fun to do.  I love to write, and I need the push.  The second reason is to complete my yearly writing goal.

I gave myself a goal to finish three manuscripts this year.  In January that seemed easy.  I had two that were sitting at 100 pages, and what felt like an abundance of ideas.  Now, halfway through October I still have those two 100 page manuscripts, as well as a third 100 pager, and one that I finally finished.  I need more than just November to be NaNoWriMo in my house; it’s looking like December is going to be one too.

Last year was a disaster, but this year I am going in prepared.  I have spent weeks preparing my outlines, thinking about the characters, plotting the scenes.  I have a plan, and I plan to succeed!

I might be getting a little excited here.   Or perhaps this is the beginning I need.

Let’s go NaNoWriMo!