"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Snapshot Saturday, May 30th

Newborn owlets. Photo by T.Buhler

Dinner time for babies. Photo by T. Buhler

Triplets! These owls were born this spring in a nest in my sister and brother-in-law's yard.
Photo by T.Buhler. All rights reserved.
My sister and her husband have a nest of owls in their suburban backyard. They thought they had twins for several weeks. Now they know there are triplets. My brother-in-law is turning into quite the wildlife photographer. All rights reserved. Photos used with permission.

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Friday memes, May 29

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest or most intellectual books. They use the one they are currently reading.

Book: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Book Beginnings:
On the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island Amelia Loman paints her nails yellow and, while waiting for them to dry, skims her predecessors notes. 'Island Books, approximately $350,000 per annum in sales, the better portion of that in the summer months to folks on holiday.'
Friday 56: 
Ismay had chosen a college because she liked the pictures in the brochure, had married a man because he looked splendid in a tuxedo, and started teaching because she'd seen a movie about an inspirational teacher. 'Poor Ismay,' Nic had said. 'She always ends up disappointed.'
My thoughts:
I'm a sucker for books about books, though not funny the book seems quirky. I am also a fan of quirky books. I have high hopes for this one. I am currently listening to this book, on 2nd of 7 CDs.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ode to Maya Angelou

At the ceremony where she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor in 2011

Ode to Maya Angelou
by Anne Bennett

Maya Angelou passed from this earth today
But her influence on it will last forever.
She gave voice to anyone who tries,
to better her lot in life,
to find a voice when it is rusty from disuse,
to find peace among the clutter we make of our lives.

Maya Angelou who was born poor in a racist place,
who dropped out of high school,
who was the first black and female streetcar conductor in San Fran,
who wrote about being raped and the birth of her son,
who sang and danced on stage,
who read poems for Presidents.

Dr. Angelou, as she prefered to be called,
held over 30 honorary degrees,
earned the Presidential Medal of Honor,
yet she reminded us that we need to be humble,
loving, and kind to one and all, not puffed up and proud.
Her last tweet sums up so much of her life:
"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God."

Thank you for sharing your life with us. Rest in peace.

I love the poem "When Great Trees Fall" by Maya Angelou. Now upon rereading it I am struck anew by how it is appropriate on this day when Maya Angelou has departed us. Soon we will whisper to ourselves "[She] existed. [She] existed. We can be. Be and be better. For [she] existed."

When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.
Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Top Ten Books of 2014 in GKHS Library

Today is a Top Ten Tuesday Freebie Post. My list represents the top books of 2014 in the school library after screening out all books that were required for some assignment or another. These books represent free choice selections by students. The numbers next to the books represent how many times the books have circulated since January 1st.

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, 38
2. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, 23
2. Looking for Alaska by John Green, 23
3. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, 20
4. Allegiant by Veronica Roth, 19
5. Divergent by Veronica Roth, 17
5. Insurgent by Veronica Roth, 17
5. Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith, 17
5. Maze Runner by James Dashner, 17
6. Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas, 15*
7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, 13
7. Runner by Carl Deuker, 13
8. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, 12
8. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, 12
9. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, 11
9. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, 11
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, 11
9. Unwind by Neal Shusterman, 11
10. Cress by Marissa Meyer, 10*
10. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, 10
10. Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan, 10

(Way more than ten books, but there were lots of ties!)
* I only have one copy of these books in the library so technically they should be at the top of the list. By contrast, I have five copies of FIOS and Looking for Alaska. John Green is BIG right now. All of his books are popular.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Salon...May 25th

Weather: Overcast with the threat of rain but warm.

Memorial Day weekend:
On May 30, 1868, the first official Memorial Day observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery to honor and to decorate the graves of those who died during the Civil War. Today, Memorial Day serves as an opportunity to pause and remember the sacrifices of more than one million Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who gave their lives to secure our freedoms.
Textbook season: From now until the end of the school year it is textbook season in the library. In addition to checking in all the textbooks checked out in September to students we also have to surplus a sizable number of the books this year. Surplussing means several extra steps for us including boxing the books up for the district warehousemen to pick up. I just counted. We have 567 student books left to surplus. Now if the kids would just return them!

A life well-lived: Yesterday we attended the Memorial service for a friend who died last month of lung cancer. Kim was an incredible person who loved God and wanted other people to love him, too. You couldn't be in her presence without feeling that love just rolling off of her. Over 400 people attended the service, another testament to her incredible personality. Even in her dark days of disease and pain she held to faith and kept up her incredible testimony by blogging about her faith and life. Kim was not only a friend but she was my daughters' piano teacher. She was an amazing role model for them. I was so glad that both of them were able to attend the service with Don and I yesterday. It felt like a very important thing to do together.
Eyeconic, Pomegranate-Lemonade...my new rose bushes 
Roses: Don and I spent some more time in the yard yesterday and finally got the roses mulched and fed, the petunias and geraniums planted, and a few beds weeded. Last weekend we got the impatiens planted and the flower pots. I planted two small roses in pots, Eyeconic. They are light yellow-pink with dark centered petals. Lovely. Now we are ready for summer!

Books read this week:

  • Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan...controversial and eye-opening.
Currently reading:
  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. I am making progress but it is slow. Disc 12 of 16.
  • Noggin by John Corey Whalen. Actually I didn't read a word of this book this week. Can you tell that textbooks and the end of the year is coming? Everyday I come home from school beat!

Musical selection: The Stars and Stripes Forever

Happy Memorial Day tomorrow!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Is no one trying to become a better person?

What a day. It was a long, hard day at work. On the way home I felt cranky and tired. I had just sat through ten student conferences where, it seemed to me, almost all the students were unexceptional and just trying to get by with the minimum of effort. It was discouraging and disheartening. Is no one trying to become a better person?

In the parking lot of the grocery store, where I stopped to pick up a few things for dinner, I noticed a young mother pushing  her children in a cart made to look like a car. She looked hassled and grumpy. After she dropped off her groceries and children in the car she pushed the cart near the cart return but left it sticking out in the road and stalked back to her car without a backwards glance. Isn't anyone trying to be a role model to their children these days?

After I properly stowed the cart I looked up and noticed three young men under a nearby tree who are clearly exchanging drugs. I've never witnessed anything like this in my community before. It makes me feel sick and sad. Do these young men not care at all about how the drugs they sell impact others' lives? I think I was hyperalert to it since I noticed a boy smoking an e-cigarette while waiting at the bus-stop that morning.

Two overweight boys on skateboards cross in front of my car as I pass the park. Both are drinking from huge plastic containers of Mountain Dew. It seems to me that few teens are worried about their health and weight these days. I think it is a big problem.

My progress is halted as I am forced to stop for a school bus. A young girl hops off the bus, skips across the road and is greeted by an older couple waiting for her. She hands her artwork to the woman and then skips over to the man, opens her mouth to show him that she lost a tooth at school that day. The interaction makes me smile. The couple clearly love the little girl and she loves them.  I'm reminded that there are some wonderful people out there, and not just people who have problems. I just have to open my eyes to see them.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Salon, May 18th

Tent Rocks National Monument
Weather: is is rainy and blustery right now. This morning it was sunny. We actually came home from some errands and turned on the gas fireplace. The house just seemed cold.

This past week: We were in Santa Fe the first part of the week (as I reported on my last Sunday Salon posting) and we were there when the weather turned from normal spring weather---dry and warm--- to cold and snowy. In fact, it was snowing as we left town. Our plane was delayed due to the weather in The Rockies so we got into Seattle around 9 PM, home by 10 PM. The worst part of vacations is the flight home and this flight took the cake for obnoxious flights. Since I missed two days of work I had quite a bit of work to catch up on and the week zoomed along. By Friday afternoon I was exhausted. I went to a dinner engagement with my husband but spent most of the time there yawning.

Yesterday: I finally got out to a few greenhouses and picked up annuals to place in flower pots and the yard. When Don got home from his meeting he helped me for a few hours but we had to abandon the task before it was completed because we were expecting company.

3rd Saturday bunch: for many years we met with a group of friends for a potluck dinner every 3rd Saturday of the month. We would shift the location from one house to another and always had a true potluck---if all anyone brought was dessert, that is all we would eat. Several years ago the group just seemed to poop out and we stopped meeting. Last month the group was resurrected, adding two new couples to the group. Last night was our turn to host. Six couples came over and we all seem delighted that the 3rd Saturday group has been reconstituted.

Today in church: was confirmation Sunday and we had ten or more junior high students join the church. At one point our pastor had the parents come up and stand behind their children and he got out the big baptism book and recounted the day that each of the children were baptized and who signed the certificate. It was very moving and a special event. It had me in tears.

Books completed this week:
  • Secret Son by Laila Lalami---a book club selection. The story is really a quite depressing tale looking at poverty and privilege and the problems we make for ourselves.
Currently reading:
  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor---book three of the Daughter of Smoke and Bones trilogy. I am on 200 of 600+ pages.
  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. I am on disc 7 of 7. Look for my review later this week.
  • Noggin by John Corey Whaley---I keep trying to figure out if this is a modern Frankenstein story or not. 
Health tip: try to buy just one ingredient foods---fruits, vegetables, meat, milk, plain yogurt, healthy oils like olive oil or macadamia nut oil (my new passion.) Here is a link, in case you want to check it out, to the farm in Australia that harvests this wonderful oil very ethically: Brookfarm.

Video/Musical selection dedicated to California Chrome. Will he win the coveted Triple Crown?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Snapshot Saturday, May 17

It has been quite a week, exhausting but fun for the most part. I'm still running on fumes from our big trip to New Mexico. Below are a few pictures taken at Tent Rocks National Monument and Bandelier National Monument. It was exhilarating to be out in nature witnessing such beautiful and interesting sites.

Here I am on the trail between two huge rocks (Tent Rocks, NM)
Can you believe the color of the sky? (Tent Rocks, NM)
The rock formations were so interesting and odd. (Tent Rocks, NM)

We were the first people at the park that morning so we had the top to ourselves. (Tent Rocks, NM)
The trail was more arduous than we were led to believe but I made it up and down without complaining.
Here I am in front of one of the caves at Bandelier National Monument.

A replica of what the dwelling places probably looked like built into the rock walls. (Bandelier, NM)
In this spot several for hundreds of years was a vast network of homes, almost like condominiums. (Bandelier, NM)
Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday memes, May 16

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest or most intellectual book. They use the one they are currently reading.

Book: Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Book Beginnings:
"Listen--- I was alive once and then I wasn't. Simple as that. And now I am a live again. The in-between part is a little fuzzy, but I can tell you that, at some point or another, my head was chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado."
Friday 56:
"Then Principal Carson was crying these little tears and wiping them away with the back of her left hand. Her fingernails were shiny red, and she was wearing a ring that looked to me like she didn't need this job. Maybe she's for real, I thought. Maybe she loves kids that much."
My initial thoughts: Well, this is a different storyline, one I've only encountered in one book before, Frankenstein. I have no idea if it is a horror novel or not but so far it hasn't seem scary in the least, unless one considers head amputation and reattachment as horror-worthy. The story, told in first person, is about a boy who has his head removed to save his life and then reattached when the technology catches up. Within days of his reattachment, he goes back to school in the same grade he was in before, five years earlier. This is where he meets back up with his old principal. I'm wondering where this storyline is going. Any ideas?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Laurie Halse Anderson does not shy away from tough topics

Laurie Halse Anderson must be a fairly serious person because her books always seem to tackle tough topics. None of that light, fluffy YA stuff from Anderson. She believes in speaking directly to teens, "addressing their real fears, concerns, and frustrations." Her first book Speak (1999) dealt with the oft taboo subject of date rape; Catalyst (2002) addresses school cliques and rejection. In Twisted (2007) Anderson grapples with what it means to be a man in todays world, while Wintergirls (2009) gives the reader a startling look at the ravages of anorexia and bulimia. In her latest book, The Impossible Knife of Memory (2014), Anderson confronts PTSD head on.
For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, trying to outrun the memories that haunt them both. They moved back to Andy's hometown to try a "normal" life, but the horrors he saw in the war threaten to destroy their lives. Hayley watches, helpless, as her father turns to drugs and alcohol to silence his demons. How do you keep your father alive when death is stalking him? What are you supposed to do when your parent stops acting like an adult? And what happens if a sweet guy who can make you laugh barges his way into your world and for the first time, you find yourself thinking about the future?- Book flap
Hayley, a high school senior, is trying school for the first time in over five years. She is behind her classmates in math but way ahead of them in Social Studies. She doesn't want to play the school game which involves going along with teachers even if she knows they are wrong, or attending classes that seem irrelevant. Every moment at school she is distracted worrying about her father and what he might be doing or not doing. She makes a few friends including Finn, a handsome young man who seems almost too good to be real, but Hayley has a hard time being a normal teen when things at home are in such chaos.

Review: I really appreciated Anderson's handling of the seriousness of untreated PTSD and how it affects all members of a family. I wanted to throttle her father half the time for what he was putting Hayley through but then it was obvious that he was mentally ill and not in full control of his actions and emotions. Hayley seemed so mature and responsible some moments and so immature and impulsive the next. I think that is very realistic.  Kids who grow up in homes plagued by mental illness are asked to shoulder such burdens it is hard to imagine how difficult their lives must be at times. Finn, as a counterpoint to Hayley, was also dealing with dysfunction in his family and his approaches to the problems were much more healthy. He was an excellent role model for Hayley if only she could have stopped worrying about her father long enough to take a look.

As usual when I read YA literature I find myself getting really frustrated by the adults in the book that should know how to help and do the right thing, but don't. There were plenty of adults who could have come alongside Hayley at critical junctures but they missed chances to make a differences when it counted. The seriousness of the book was not offset by many/any light-hearted moments or humor. This was one very serious book from beginning to end.

I listened to the audiobook version of The Impossible Knife of Memory read by Julia Whelan and Luke Daniels. Daniels handled the few chapters where we see into Andy's flashback memories. Whelan read the rest of the book doing really well on the female parts but not so good on male voices. By the time I reached disc 6 of 8, I decided that I needed to read the book faster than the audiobook allowed so I picked up the book from my school library and finished the book myself.

Because of the seriousness of topic of The Impossible Knife of Memory the book will have limited appeal to the casual teen reader but will resonate with students who are grappling with similar topics at home or don't mind digging in deep with an emotional topic.

The Impossible Knife of Memory
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Brilliance Audio, 2014.
Checked out from the public library.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday---What are you reading?



Currently reading:

  • Secret Son by Laila Lalami---set in Casablanca; the story of an illegitimate son when he meets his father. Progress: page 140 of 291.
  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan---an audiobook selection; Aslan is a scholar who is writing about the historical Jesus. His book has stirred up the Christian community. Progress: disc 2 of 7.
  • Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor---the third book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. I am listening to this book on my iPod (when I walk the dog.) Progress: less than 30 minutes in out of 19 hours of listening. Gulp. That's a lot of dog walks!
Books finished this past week:

  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson...Haley and her dad move around a lot trying to outrun the bad memories brought on by PTSD and abandonment issues. Not a very cheery topic. I give it 3.5/5
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter...set mainly in Italy in the 1960s with characters from the movie Cleopatra. I really enjoyed this book a lot.  Read my review. I gave it 5/5.
  • Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan.... classic Shaun Tan. It is a short picture book but the message carries a punch, one that make you think. 4.5/5
  • 100 Poems to Lift Your Spirits edited by Leslie Pockell... I enjoyed this collection of poems at first then go bogged down trying to finish it even though I didn't feel like reading all the poems in it. It has a nice collection of silly poems which I think will attract students who are working on poetry projects. I gave it 3/5.
Up next:

  • Noggin by John Corey Whaley...Whaley won all kinds of awards for his first YA novel. This one is getting good reviews, too. I like the cover.

What are you reading and how is your progress?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday Salon...Santa Fe

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico, 5/11/14
Weather in Santa Fe: Don and I are visiting this lovely and exotic city for a conference and we are scrunching in a few days of sightseeing before it starts. The weather was in the high 70s the first two days we were here, but today a weird weather system moved in bringing strong winds and it's expected to drop below freezing tonight with possible snow in the higher hills tomorrow or Tuesday.  My my.
Art is everywhere in Santa Fe.

Yesterday: we marched around Santa Fe, which included taking in the Passport to the Arts on Canyon Road (over a hundred galleries and boutiques in one half mile). We even ended up at an art auction. Over 70 artists participated in a Quick-Draw contest where they had only two hours to paint something for the auction. We saw some amazing art on display. I actually wanted one of the pieces but the price quickly was bid out of my range.  I did score two free glasses of a very nice Pinot Noir out of the event, though.
The auctioneer and artist Barbara Meikle before starting bids on the piece I was interested in buying.
We were both very enamored with the whirligig field seen here.

Tent Rocks National Monument: Today we visited two National Parks. First we went to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and hiked both the whole canyon trail and the cave loop trail. See amazing photos below and above. We knew the windy weather was on its way so we got up at the crack of dawn and we were the first visitors to the park this morning. In fact, the gatekeeper was just getting there when we arrived. The hike was spectacular but arduous. A few points along the trail we had to squeeze through the rock formations. We gained over 650 feet in elevation on the second half of the hike but the views from the summit were worth the work to get up top. Put this place on your bucket list. WOW!

I am contemplating the beauty and majesty of the tent rocks.
Don is between a rock and a hard place, literally. Believe it or not, he is actually on the trail here.

They are called tent rocks because of the funny little tents atop many of the formations.
The color of the sky and the formation of the rocks = spectacular.
Bandelier National Monument:  After leaving Tent Rocks, we drove to Bandelier National Monument on the other side of Santa Fe. In addition to more fabulous rock formations this park is spectacular for another reason: the archaeological significance. It has old cliff dwellings and caves created by the Pueblo people over hundreds/thousands of years ago.

Some of the caves made by the Pueblo people in the tuff rocks which are relatively soft.
Don explored this little cave.
How Great Thou Art: At one point during the day we were both just overcome by the sheer beauty and majesty of what we were seeing. As an act of worship to our creator we sang together, as best we could, an old timey hymn How Great Thou Art. I will leave you with this musical selection of the week: The Piano Guys playing their version of this hymn in a beautiful mash-up with another song.

Time for bed: I'm tired.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Snapshot Saturday, Santa Fe Art

"Circle Camp #2" and others by Micqaela Jones

"He Brings the Thunder" by James Tsoodle

"Jumpfire" by Amy Ringholz

"Aspens in the Field" by Tim Kenney

My husband and I checking out the art hanging in the hallway of the El Dorado Hotel in Santa Fe, NM. Today we will do the city art walk.

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy Reads.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I wish I were a poet...

I wish I were a poet
     so I could put words together that are as beautiful and evocative as tonight's sunset or as sweet and gentle as the baby bunny I came upon quite unexpectedly this afternoon.

I wish I could write poems
     that inspire people to think lofty thoughts, or to uncover feelings long buried below all the day to day drudgery of our lives.

If I could write one really great poem it would be about
     being a mother when my daughter is singing in her very last concert at college and it feels like my heart will break from pride or sorrow or joy;
     the unexpected pleasures of family life---walks with the dog on beautiful spring afternoons; being the sous chef next to a husband who is creating some delicious concoction for dinner; the camaraderie between me and my married daughter;
     some deep spiritual or theological thought.
Poetry can transform ordinary events into almost mystical experiences, and make a moment  in time stand still.
     Ah, to be the poet who could manipulate time and space this way.

I wish I could write a poem
     that activated all your senses so that you could experience the sights, sounds, and smells from my back porch: watching the white cat who thinks she is camouflaged as she sits in a bush in quiet anticipation of catching a bird; hearing the birds in the sweetgum tree cackling at her lack of disguise; smelling the heady almost over-fragrant wisteria blossoms that just bloomed out this week.

Good poetry
    transports and transcends. It gives words to unknowable thoughts. It inspires and it soothes. And like music, it can speak to the heart.

I wish I were a poet.