Monday, June 27, 2011

WTJ: Make a Paper Chain

There's a simple answer for why I've been absent from the blog for a couple of weeks...

Wedding Season!

That's right, as June rolled in, so did another wedding season. This year, I have an unprecedented 10 weddings, only 8 of which I can attend, unfortunately.

So, about a week ago, as friends of mine exchanged vows, I began to break in my dancing shoes (and sure, okay, I shed a few tears too), as I geared up for a very busy 3 month-long wedding season like no other! *This is a link for the adult readers.*

I'm just now feeling refreshed enough to take to the blog with a renewed spirit to write and create. I also took to my journal, and to celebrate the party-spirit that accompanies all great weddings, I made a paper chain. You know, those silly paper things you used to make in grade school to decorate for class parties?

Umm... Fun! And what puts you in the mood for a wedding more than fun!? (I guess, love, romance... and hell, even friendship would have been better answers, but I'm going to stick with fun).

Bring it on, wedding season! I'm ready for you! 1 down, 7 to go! (And I can't wait!)

Monday, June 13, 2011

WTJ: Write One Word Over and Over

Here's a special musical post brought to you by Wreck This Journal:

I think I've made it clear before that music is a pretty special and important thing where I'm from.

At least, to me.

My past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of musical activity, and I'm excited to share some of it here. Especially since that's largely why I haven't written anything since the double posts on June 6th.

First thing's first: NKOTBSB... That's right. The large and somewhat nonsensical abbreviation for the classic combination of the New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys. (They get to share the first B).

Wednesday, June 8th, my concert dreams came true when after 15 years of waiting, I got to see the Backstreet Boys live in concert in Toronto! (Throw in the classic boy man band greatness of the New Kids on the Block, and wow! What a show!) It was a spectacular trip down music-memory lane and truth be told, those guys still have it very much "goin' on." (That's a BSB reference you'll have to look back to the first album to decipher).

Days before the boy band concert I also got my hands on some tickets for the Blink 182/My Chemical Romance show at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto in August. Though I have already seen them once in concert before, I was only 14, and so I am sure that 11 years later it's sure to be a completely different experience ... One I am TOO excited for!

Finally, last night, to bring my musical week to a close, I curled up on the couch to watch the Tony Awards, a celebration of the year on Broadway! (It seems I have a bit of an ecclectic taste with regard to music)... Some presentations blew me away (Hello, Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe, the ladies from Sister Act, and Andrew Rannells from The Book of Mormon)... And then Mr. Neil Patrick Harris was, of course, fabulous, er, awesome, as the "straight-as-they-come" host for the evening. I'll leave you with an example of what I mean. Enjoy!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer's Moving In

The heatwave of the past few days has been a forceful reminder of the fact that summer is just around the corner on the calendar, though it feels like it's already made itself at home around here.

For this reason, my next book choice was pretty simple... But on the other hand it wasn't easy at all.

It's not an easy task to follow up a book like The Help. One that I felt really strongly and passionately about. So, I did some searching. I abandoned my "To Read" list in search of something different. I found The Summer of Us by Holly Chamberlin.

What some people might call fluff, I'm not ashamed to admit I enjoy. Especially when the sun comes out and I'm reading on a lounge chair next to the pool, or with my feet buried in sand listening to the waves roll in on the beach.

Summer reading... Friends on the beach. A summer home. Camp fires in the sand. Summer romance.

These are the things my summer reading list longs for.

So, to transition from a special novel like The Help, I'm going to immerse myself in one of my most favourite indulgences...

"The little beach house has a rickety porch and no closets, but the location is unbeatable—close to a gorgeous shoreline and the best nightlife on Martha's Vineyard. All in all, more than enough to entice three total strangers into a house share for the summer. . .

At first, the only thing Gincy, Danielle, and Clare have in common is a desire to spend weekends away from the city. No-nonsense Gincy has worked hard to leave her small-town childhood behind. Danielle grew up with every advantage and is looking for a husband who'll fit neatly into her pampered life, while Clare is enjoying a last burst of independence before marrying her ambitious fiancé. Yet lazy beach days and warm, conversation-filled nights forge an unexpected connection. And over the course of one eventful summer, Gincy, Danielle, and Clare will discover that friendship isn't always measured in how well you know a person's past—but in opening each other's eyes to everything the future could hold..."

I always want to disappear inside these places. The little island towns and summer homes. For years they've been the foundation of almost every travel daydream. I can't wait bring those fantasies to life through another summer story.

Happy Reading!

Another Helping Please...

I just finished The Help. Literally, 5 minutes ago. I couldn't wait to write that it's a must-read.

I have plans to put together a list in December of my favourite reads from the year.  The Help just skyrocketed up that list.

It is every bit as moving, poignant, humorous, and hopeful as promised... maybe even more so.

Now, I don't have a lot of first-hand experience with the issues being dealt with in the novel. Obviously I've never been a white lady in the 1960s, dealing with segregation. Add to that, I don't have any experience being on any end of racism in any era. I've never had a maid or "help" to look after me... Growing up my mother always made it quite clear that she was "not my maid." And yet, despite what would seem to make me completely disconnected from the events in the novel, I spent every page feeling all kinds of connections and emotions for all of the characters: white, black, young, old, men, and women... But mostly the women.

I felt a lot of myself in Skeeter Phelan, one of the story's leading ladies. She's fresh out of college and trying to figure things out in a really confusing time in her life... and history. She seems to be a very honestly written character, and after reading through the acknowledgements and other extra readings at the end of the novel I learned Skeeter seems to be largely based on the author, Kathryn Stockett.

Aibileen and Minny, the other two women in whose perspectives the story is told, gave me a lot to think about.

Aibileen, a black maid who loves to look after "her" white children, was so tender and loving it seemed I would read her pages with extra care.  And it was often Aibileen's chapters that would bring a tear to my eye, with her all tenderness.  I especially loved reading the passages about her and her "Baby Girl" Mae Mobley... like the time she taught the little girl all about Martian Luther King, from outer space, who no one liked because he was green.

Minny, despite the struggles and abuse in her life, brought some of the biggest laughs the novel offered.  Some of her one-liners can brighten up even the heaviest chapters: "I might as well be Little Stevie Wonder I am so blinded by that dress" (290). There's also a fantastic running-bit about the "Terrible Awful" thing she does to a boss involving a pie. But mostly, I think the fact that Minny is such a fiery and hilarious character, despite her troubles, says a lot about the kind of person I'd like to be. Something about when life hands you lemons...

The stories of all 3 women are woven together so perfectly that it makes it hard to understand why we were once all so separated... And in some ways, unfortunately, still are today. The Help is eye-opening and inspiring.  It's a novel I think I'd like to teach some day.  Or at least encourage my students to read themselves.

Maybe I've blabbered on for too long about this book, but I also feel like I haven't said enough. Maybe you should just read it for yourself. And I don't say this too often, but if you aren't going to read it, at least go watch the movie in August when it's released.

It's worth every penny spent and every minute spent reading.

Friday, June 3, 2011

WTJ: Climb Up High... Drop the Journal.

It's been a slow, slow week of supply teaching for me. 1 call out in 5 days. Not great. But it's June, and that's to be expected.

What was unexpected was on my 1 day in the classroom this week, the high schools were on a "late start" so the teachers could participate in a workshop in the morning. This means, I got to attend. The topic was "Differentiated Instruction." Anyone who has attended a Teacher Education program in the last few years can understand the internal groan that coarsed through me when I found out. DI is a fantastic approach to teaching, but the topic itself is so exhausted in BEd programs, workshops, memos, etc. that I find it hard to believe there's anything left to say about it.

My instincts on this were correct; there was not a whole lot of new information presented. There was however, one "fact" or "statistic" that caught my attention (for obvious reasons):

"25% of people are book lovers. We must find ways to engage the other 75%."

There was no summary offered for where this data came from, and for all I know it could just be one of those random statistics people make up. (Did you know that 75% of the time facts and statistics are simply made up?)

However, with this stat in mind, I would like to dedicate today's WTJ activity to the other 75%. If you don't love books, you'd probably love to do something like this...

Just so you know, I dropped it out of a second-storey window.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma'am...

Sometimes, there's nothing like a good action movie novel.

I don't read them very often, but when I do, they tend to be pretty exciting. Steve Berry's latest novel The Jefferson Key falls in this category.

My sources were correct in telling me that despite it being a 7th installment in a series about the ass-kicking Cotton Malone, the story was still very accessible to me. (And it's a good thing too... because this book has armed me with a host of pirate-torture techniques I'm not afraid to use on people who cross me. Except they're really graphic and gross, and I would definitely never be able to stomach seeing them performed in person considering I could barely read those parts. Which reminds me... Disclaimer: This book is not a good read for the faint of heart or weak of stomach).

That was the only "problem" with the novel; it reads like a movie, so if you're like me and create pictures of everything in your head while you read, you're in for a treat. Normally this isn't a problem (and it really isn't one here), unless you enjoy visualizing eyeballs popping from their sockets. (I wasn't joking about the gruesome happenings).

Seriously though, it was a great story, with exciting insight into modern day piracy, US Intelligence politics and corruption, and just enough great one-liners to keep you reading into the next chapter long after you vowed to put the book down for the night.

That's the Wham, Bam.

Now, for the Thank You, Ma'am.

Next up off my bookshelf is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Another one of those novels that found its way bumped up on the "To Read List" because of an impending movie due for release later this summer. (I've always been a "read first, watch later" kind of person. It takes longer to read a book than watch a movie so since I invest much more time in reading than I will watching, I don't want to know how it ends when I sit down to read... But that's just me).

I should admit though, that although I've seen the book in the bookstores for quite some time, it wasn't until I saw the trailer for the film that I was so enticed to read it.

The novel follows the story of three women who come together in a 1962 Mississippi town to make a change.

"In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t."

After all the swashbuckling in The Jefferson Key (okay, there wasn't any of that, but I needed to use the word once when writing about a book that highlights piracy), I think I'm due for a more emotional read.

Sometimes I just can't help (nudge, nudge) but want to read something closer to the Chick Lit variety.

Happy Reading!