Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Wedding

Originally, I thought it would be easy to write about what I was fortunate enough to witness early this morning: The Royal Wedding of Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton. As it turns out, the hopeless romantic in me finds it very hard to put into words what can only be described as truly beautiful morning full of all of the fantasy I had hoped for.

If you're a book lover like me, you know all about "Once upon a time..." and "Happily Ever After."  Fairy tales are no mystery to you.  Today we got to bear witness to a real life fairy tale moment.

Everything seemed perfect to me. The classic dress. Understated tiara (well, as understated as a Cartier tiara passed down from the Queen Mother can be). Simple flowers complete with "sweet williams" (a touching tribute to her new husband). The lovely readings and speeches at the ceremony. The sweetest, most bashful groom I can ever remember seeing. Even that moment where William had to really squeeze that ring on Kate's finger was wonderfully sweet as it reminded me that they're just two young people, Royal or common, utterly in love.

My early morning, complete with tea and crumpets, was made more perfect by the lovely newlyweds' first excited kiss, followed by a second.  Everything was a highlight.

If you missed it this morning, watch the replays and highlights this afternoon and tonight. It's wonderful reminder in a world of disasters and war of the beauty of love and celebrating it.

Congratulations, William and Kate.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Celebrate World Book and Copyright Day!

Yesterday was Earth Day, (you can sing that to the tune of Rebecca Black's "Friday" if you feel so inclined), now today another exciting day of celebration is upon us: World Book and Copyright Day!

This lesser known day of celebration "promote[s] reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright" and is brought to you by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (or UNESCO).

Why April 23rd? Well, the website reveals that on this day in 1616, Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died, and it is also the date of birth or death of many other prominent writers throughout history. Check out the website for even more interesting information about this special day.

In Canada, April 23rd has become "Canada Book Day," but unfortunately, it goes largely unnoticed and uncelebrated

So today, I challenge you to celebrate Canada or World Book Day!  Here's a short list of different ways you can do just that:

1. READ! Read at home. Read in public. Turn off your TV, and pick up a book!

2. Visit your local library. Aside from books, you never know what (or who) you might find there today. Your library might be hosting some really great events, and the best way to find out is to show up! Even if it's just another day in the stacks, it's a great excuse to get lost in the hundreds and thousands of stories hiding in there.

3. Donate books.  Today is a great day to go through your bookshelf and old boxes of books from your childhood or university days and decide what you need/want to keep, and what you want to share with someone else. Public libraries are often accepting donations, but so are schools and school libraries. Maybe you want to share some novels and picture books with a local women's shelter. Your books want to be read, so give them a good home where people are itching to read them!

4. Dress up like your favourite book character. Will you don the lightning bolt scar in honour of Harry Potter?  Maybe sport a plaid cloak and pipe to channel your inner Sherlock Holmes. Blow the dust off your most comfortable straight-jacket, Mr. Hannibal Lector.  Get out your red and white striped top hat and whiskers to parade as the trouble-making Cat in the Hat. Whomever you admire, fear, or delight in most from your favourite stories, honour them today in the highest form of flattery: imitation

5. Write a novel. It sounds like a lofty task, but I know many of us have secret or not-so-secret ambitions to write a novel, memoir, or storybook of some kind, and today is as good as any to start! So go for it! (Just don't forget to dedicate it to me for giving you the push to get going on it!)

How are you going to celebrate? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Earth Day to You!

Whether you're a book nerd, athlete, musician, artist, sports fan, pop culture guru, video or online gamer, movie nut, outdoor enthusiast, or anything else, we all have one thing in common: we all live on the same planet, Earth. It doesn't matter where on Earth we call home, we're all faced with the same pressing issue every day: What are we going to do to make sure our Earth, our home, can survive for the generations to come?

It's a big question. And it can be overwhelming to think about for even the shortest of seconds. But this Earth Day, I thought I'd bring you some resources (you guessed it, books!) that can simplify this heavy question so you can spend more than a fleeting moment thinking about what you can do to be more "eco-friendly."

I spent a fair amount of time sorting through books and trying to come up with those that get you good information, a bit of entertainment, and have simplified the task of "living green" every dayBy clicking the title of each book you will be taken to sites where the book is available for purchase.

Something for Everyone:
Though the environmental issues of today are no laughing matter, I think that a little bit of humour can go a long way.  This is a great resource that provides 150 insights on living greener, and it provides humorous anecdotes and images to complement the great ideas. It's so easy to read, VERY inexpensive for 160 pages, and printed on recycled paper with sustainable soy ink. My favourite bit of advice: "Giving to Charity: When you or your family grow out of old clothes/books/furniture/boyfriends, take them to a charity." Click here for a Google Preview of the book.

Something for Teachers:
There are so many great resources out there for encouraging kids to live greener and to guide you in developing eco-friendly classrooms.  This is just one from a long list of valuable resources. I chose it primarily for its user-friendly appeal.  Each chapter covers a new environmental issue such as water, air, and farming, and is broken down into different sections: What It's All About, Global Picture, For the Classroom, School Projects, Field Trips, Human Health, and Take It Home. Though it is geared more toward elementary classrooms, any creative high school teacher can find applications for their classrooms as well.  Click here for a Google Preview of the book.

Something for Women:
Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano
A New York Times Bestseller, this book has now turned into more of a mini-franchise of books, blogs, vlogs, newsletters, and more. Endorsed by the likes of Julia Roberts and Oprah Winfrey, the series focuses on simple steps toward a greener life. Geared toward women, the original book Gorgeously Green provides green-living tips in areas like fitness, diet, beauty, and home maintenance.  Several other books have been added to the series, and for the whole Gorgeously Green experience you should check out the website here:

Something for Men?
Sorry guys, but in my search I wasn't able to find any resources geared specifically toward you. BUT, if you know of some, please let me know! I'd love to share them here.

Something to Do Now:
Head out this weekend to see Disney Nature's "African Cats" in theatres everywhere April 22nd. For every ticket sold during opening week, Disney will make a donation to help Save the African Savanna these wild cats call home.  By clicking here you can find more information about this and other programs Disney is running to help the "Save the Savanna" campaign.

Please use the buttons below to share this post on your Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. "Knowledge is Power" and sharing this post with YOUR friends can get the word out about different ways we can help the Earth this Earth Day and every day.

WTJ: Chew On This

This past weekend I went on a shopping roadtrip in Michigan with my mom, cousin, and aunt. In only one and a half days I went many places for the first time, and I did a few things for the first time.

It was my first time in many of the stores we shopped in. It was my first time eating at some of the restaurants we ate at. It was the first time (in a long time) that I really went a little crazy and spent money on myself and bought things I didn't necessarily need but wanted instead.  And it was the first time I ever took pictures of a stranger's food in a restaurant. ...But look at this! How could I not!? 

On the left, the standard pound of bacon that comes with any breakfast order and all BLTs.
On the right, the towering banana split made with half a gallon of ice cream and 2 bananas.

So, now that I'm home and back to my regularly scheduled programming, I thought I'd try one more thing for the first time. This is by far the weirdest of all of my firsts: I chewed on a page from my journal. (Only after my journal's insistence of course).  Weird...

...And a little gross.

Friday, April 15, 2011

National Poetry Month

It's National Poetry Month in Canada! To celebrate, I wanted to share one of my most favourite poems.

In university, I majored in English. I don't share this point to sound pretentious.  In fact, because I focussed mostly on the 18th century, I ended up missing out on many of the classics you'd expect an English major to have read. (Think, Austen, Twain, and Bronte). This poem I'm sharing is from the 18th century, but the message is one that still means a lot today.  I think that's why it's my favourite.  It's about holding out for someone special and not settling for anyone less than the best. (Though there's also a sneaky warning about being too picky...) It's lovely and fun!

The Lover: A Ballad
by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

At length, by so much importunity pressed,
Take, C– –, the inside of my breast;
This stupid indifference so often you blame
Is not owing to nature, to fear, or to shame;
I am not as cold as a Virgin in lead,
Nor is Sunday's sermon so strong in my head;
I know but too well how time flies along,
That we live but few years and yet fewer are young.

But I hate to be cheated, and never will buy
Long years of repentance for moments of joy.
Oh was there a man (but where shall I find
Good sense and good nature so equally joined?)
Would value his pleasure, contribute to mine,
Not meanly would boast, nor would lewdly design,
Not over severe, yet not stupidly vain,
For I would have the power though not give the pain;

No pedant yet learned, not rakehelly gay
Or laughing because he has nothing to say,
To all my whole sex obliging and free,
Yet never be fond of any but me;
In public preserve the decorum that's just,
And show in his eyes he is true to his trust,
Then rarely approach, and respectfully bow,
Yet not fulsomely pert, nor yet foppishly low.

But when the long hours of public are past
And we meet with champagne and a chicken at last,
May every fond pleasure that hour endear,
Be banished afar both discretion and fear,
Forgetting or scorning the airs of the crowd
He may cease to be formal, and I to be proud,
Till lost in the joy we confess that we live,
And he may be rude, and yet I may forgive.

And that my delight may be solidly fixed,
Let the friend and the lover be handsomely mixed,
In whose tender bosom my soul might confide,
Whose kindness can sooth me, whose counsel could guide.
From such a dear lover as here I describe
No danger should fright me, no millions should bribe;
But till this astonishing creature I know,
As I long have lived chaste, I will keep myself so.

I never will share with the wanton coquette,
Or be caught by a vain affectation of wit.
The toasters and songsters may try all their art
But never shall enter the pass of my heart.
I loathe the lewd rake, the dressed fopling despise;
Before such pursuers the nice virgin flies;
And as Ovid has sweetly in parables told
We harden like trees, and like rivers are cold.

Before you log off, check out The League of Canadian Poets website for more information on National Poetry Month. Teachers, there's a link there that'll give you some ideas for activities for young poets!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Teaching the Value of Books

In my very first post ever I wrote about how books (and stories) serve so many functions; they can be a friend, an escape, an adventure... I need to reiterate their importance today.

Now, just the other day I wrote about a book that highlights the importance of technology in today's classroom. (If you missed it, check it out by clicking here).

I want to be clear on one thing.  Technology certainly has its place, but so do good old fashioned books. What brings me to write about this is some really unfortunate things I saw in a school recently.  (In a "Student Acheivement Centre," no less).
The best way to use this book is to prop up
the desk your computer sits on.
"Extra Reading Materials"
This tub was sitting on an empty bookshelf.

When we as teachers, or adults in general, treat books this way, what message are we sending?  I'd say, that books are not important.  And if books are not important, or not valued, what reason does a student or child have to pick it up and read it?  And then what does that do to literacy?  Maybe it's just the book nerd in me speaking, but I think that modelling the importance of something is just as important as preaching its importance.  Just something to think about...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

WTJ: Draw Lines While in Motion...

The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. The ice in the pool is melting. And that can only mean one thing... Bathing suit season is just around the corner.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not one of those girls who gets all stressed out that I don't look exactly like Giselle in a bikini. I've long since accepted the fact that my curvier 5"3 frame will never grace the centrefold of a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.  But every Spring I am reminded that I have lived a less than healthy winter and want to do my best to feel absolutely great about myself once those rays of sun are at their shiniest.

I don't like getting winded walking up a flight of stairs. And though I am far from being obese, a long winter of hibernation tends to take its toll.

So, for the past few weeks I've gotten myself back into a routine of some cardio and Pilates, and despite my ever increasing frustration with how long of a process it can be to start seeing results, I can definitely say I'm feeling them. My stiff knee has more mobility, I feel stronger, I get less winded on the stairs, and generally, I just have more energy. (I sound like I'm approaching 80 years old, instead of being a 20something).

To remind myself of how good I feel I documented today's workout in a WTJ exercise. Instructed to "draw lines while in motion," I did just that while doing my cardio this morning. Though the overall hideousness of the drawing could represent my frustration over a lack of visible results so far, I think in the long run it'll remind me to just go ahead get active. Whenever I flip past that page I'll think, "Hey! Remember what it was like to be active?" and go for it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

WTJ: Fill This Page With Circles

It goes without saying that in our lives things will happen and people will say or do things that we don't like or will frustrate us beyond belief.  I would say that it's inevitable.  But it's what we choose to do with those negative feelings that will make or break us.

I had such a day, and instead of slamming my head against a desk, or throwing a toddler-like tantrum, I took a page out of Wreck This Journal and filled it with circles instead.

I'm well known for needing a mental time-out sometimes, and today my journal saved me. All it took was a good 10 minutes or so and all of the wrongs of my day have been righted with the colourful repetition of circles.

Thanks again, Journal.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Cell Phone Debate

In the age of emails and text messages, one of my greatest thrills is getting actual mail. You know, from that man or woman who walks from door to door dropping off envelopes and packages from all around the world. It's incredible stuff. I'm always most excited when my mail carrier brings something good. So, basically anything that's not junk, a bill, or something from the National Student Loan Centre. Yesterday, the greatest thing of all came... a book! Sure, it was one I ordered, and paid for, and was essentially expecting, but the thrill is same.

The book is called "Teaching With the Tools Kids Really Use" by Susan Brooks-Young, and I was inspired to order it based on a conversation I had with some students a few weeks ago...

While supplying one day, I had caught more than one student trying to sneak a text here and there (they're not as sneaky as they think they are... I, myself, once thought I had mastered the art of the Sneaky-Text in university).  The general rule is that I am supposed to confiscate the phone.  However, I'm a supply teacher, and generally detested among most student populations, so, in an effort to be slightly less monstrous, I usually let the first offence slide. (Shame on me). On this particular day though, I was inspired to do some investigating. I asked them why, when they know they could lose their phones for a day (or sometimes longer), they even bother to carry their phones on them at all. The board I teach for has a strict "No Phones At All" policy, so why not lose the temptation and leave the phones in the lockers? The responses wavered from the 'smartassed' to the somewhat logical, but the one that struck me most was when one student said, "It's just what we know."

"It's just what we know."

In a world where the answer to a question can be found in seconds, no matter where we are in the world, by pulling out a cell phone and "Googling" it, at school we are refusing to acknowledge a technology that most of today's students have grown up with.  I know my argument is a controversial one. But it's a conversation I think is worth having.  In the past 3 years of my very short teaching career I have already considered countless times how to appropriately bring the 21st century and ALL of its technologies into the classroom. Education has evolved over hundreds of years in order to teach to the students of the day, and now, all of a sudden I feel as though we've hit a brick wall of resistance.

I think this book will arm me with some powerful information and strategies for the ideas I'd like to set in motion.  It covers everything from "21st Century Skills," cell phones, mp3 players, social networks, virtual worlds, gaming, and "digital citizenship."  Each chapter explains a technology, strategies for use, and (for the naysayers) "common objections" to each technology.  I've only flipped through it so far, but already I'm highly recommending it to any and all teachers who have a dream of a classroom that engages students fully using methods that are meaningful and relevant to them and the 21st century we're all living in.

That's my lecture for today. I've got a a BlackBerry blinking at me for some attention...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

WTJ: Glue, Staple, or Tape These Pages Together

Today has been the kind of day where every time I make a move to do something I stop and say "But if I do that, then....." It's a self-sabotaging habit that I picked up growing up that I never really realized I suffer from.  I wonder if you do too?

Consider the consequences of our actions.  For every action there is a reaction.  From childhood, different variations of these "words of wisdom" are drilled into our heads at home and at school.  Even now, as a supply teacher, I find myself sharing the "think of the consequences of your behaviour" gem on the regular to students of all ages.

But I wonder if this nugget of wisdom ever holds me back from taking risks or chances on things in life that could make me happy.

I started calling all of this into question with today's journal activity.  When asked to fasten two pages together, instead of just going for it, I stopped and said: "But if I do that, then you won't be able to read this page anymore!" and "But if I do that, then I will have ripped up this page for nothing!"  What I ended up doing was making a compromise.  (Please feel free to judge me for talking to, and compromising with, an inanimate object... I do). 

I stapled the pages together in a way that still showcases the torn strips and the instructions on the following page.  I'm not sure it's exactly what the author of the journal had in mind, but my constant need to evaluate the consequences of my actions lead me to act in a way that had a similar result but with less "negative consequences." (I use the quotation marks because, let's face it, they're hardly negative consequences... It's just a book after all. But I'm trying to make a point).

My point is (see?), that it likely would have been a lot more fun and less work on my part to just act.  Get the glue and smoosh those pages together without worrying about what comes after.  It's a really appealing thought, and I wonder if sometimes it's better for me to not analyze every single consequence of every single action.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

WTJ: Tear Strips. Rip it up!

There is no starting slow with this journal. It gets right down to business. Rip up a page!? Really!?

I couldn't even fathom it. Hence the short hiatus from WTJ posts. But who knew tearing pages would be a little like eating Pringles: Once I started [popped] I couldn't stop! I enjoyed the smooth ripping, the tearing sound, and the small little release I got from destroying something.  That sounds a little darker than I intend, but with all of the "crap" life throws at you sometimes, it was nice to relieve a little frustration with some constructive destruction. I sound pure evil right now, but I swear it was really more like this ...

As they say, simple minds, simple pleasures.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Create Your Own Adventure

I'm making good progress on The Lost Girls, and I'm really enjoying it. (A bonus considering my recent unfortunate track record with my book selections). I might even say I'm enjoying this one a little too much. I find myself fantasizing about visiting the places the girls visit, and doing the things the girls do. Even though up until this point in my life I have never once imagined hiking the Inca Trail or partying all night long at a rave in a slummy area in Brazil.  But now, their fantastic adventures have me itching for my own adventures.

So, it was off to Ottawa for me!

Okay... Maybe Ottawa isn't exactly the adventure capital of the world, but I'd say being a Leafs fan in Sens territory is adventurous in its own way. We did some shopping, took in a Leafs/Sens game daringly decked out in our proudest Leafs gear (despite our now dashed playoff hopes), and we had a really great time.

That's what adventures are all about.

...And my adventure itch has temporarily been scratched.