Wednesday, January 18, 2017

mentally decluttering

     I don't know if it's my growing to-do list, my busy schedule or the fact that I have not been able to sit down to write a letter in a long time but I'm feeling super stressed out. Everything is fine, I just need to mentally declutter a bit. So, I'm going screen free for a week (other than 1 check in for e-mail per day and incessantly checking work e-mail because I have to.) With no tv, no social media, way less e-mail and no wasted time there, I think I'll be able to catch up with my to do list and feel a bit more like myself. See you in a week!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Feeling artsy

    As part of their Christmas gifts, each of my sons got a box of pre-planned "Mom Dates" for 2017. Over the past few years, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to take each boy out individually to just hang out. January's dates were both artistic.

Timmy and I went to a place called Wicked Art Bar. They are a local place that hold paint nights. Once or twice a month, they do family days. I wasn't sure if Timmy would like it but, based on his interest in his painting from Thanksgiving, I thought I'd give it a try. We painted "Snowy Bunnies." Here's how they came out:
Tim, hard at work.

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 Tim and I:
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 Finished product (check out Tim's snow bunny on the left.):
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Ironically, my sister-in-law, Sarah, gave me a gift certificate for this same paint place. I had seen a painting that I thought my mom would like so I invited a friend and we went to paint it last Friday night. Here's the finished painting. Don't show my mom, I made it for her birthday. (I know, I sound like a 5 year old but I hope she likes it.)
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    My date with David was on Monday. We went to Clay Dreaming, which is a pottery studio. You can either go to the wet studio and legitimately put together a piece of pottery, or paint pre-made pottery which will then be glazed and put in the kiln. David developed an interest in pottery in his elementary art class. I think he was slightly disappointed when we got there and he realized he wasn't making the pottery, but I thought we'd check it out before we really got invested.

David painted a mug. The inside is green and the outside will be a darker blue once it's fired.  He was having a nice time at this point.
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Still good:
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Then we had a bit of a meltdown. He was working really hard on the mug and everything was going well. He tried to draw a Minion and things came I saw a lot of myself in him right then. He had an idea of what he wanted, couldn't do it- but wanted to try. When he tried and it didn't go well, he got super upset. He didn't want me to do it for him, didn't want help, but he also was really stressed about how to finish without ruining his final piece. It was sad. We changed the Minion body into a face. We worked together to make the face, eyes, goggles and he did the smile. I hope he's happy with it when it is finished.
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Here's my plain plate. (Which will be very dark blue with a coral-ish color around the edge) I would've done very well if I had just copied an idea someone gave me, but I'm not very creative with blank space. Also, my snowflake stamp rebelled. I wish I knew some cool techniques- next time. Oops- I didn't post because I had written my last name across the plate. Sorry! I'll let you know if I like it. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Land of Stories

The Land of Stories- The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories, #1)  
    On a recent trip to Barnes & Noble, Timmy and I saw this book.  I immediately recognized Chris Colfer's name as the author and realized that he was the actor who played Kurt on Glee. I didn't know that he was an author as well. Tim ended up buying the book and when he was done with it, he told me I should read it.So, you'll get a 2 for 1 deal- Tim's thoughts and my own. 
     Timmy's review- "The Land of Stories is about 2 children who fall into The Land of Stories. They have to find a certain spell to get back to their world. I liked it a lot because it was exciting and suspenseful. I would recommend it to 12-14 year olds."

     My thoughts- Overall, I enjoyed the book. If you have seen Into the Woods, it is very much like that. The Wishing Spell, is a spell that will grant any wish.  In order to do the spell, certain items must be collected. The items are found throughout the kingdoms in the Land of Stories. The 2 kids in the tale- Alex and Conner- are twins who are very different from each other. (I often chuckled at Conner's sarcastic comments.) In addition to the challenge of the quest to find each item, they are also under pressure since the spell can only be used twice and this would be the second time. Oh, I forgot to mention that the Evil Queen is also seeking to perform the Wishing Spell.
      There were some parts of the books that I found a little predictable but I enjoyed the backstories of many of the fairy tale characters. There were a few unexpected twists too.It was entertaining throughout most of the book but I enjoyed the end chapters the best.  I think many people who enjoy fairy tales would like this book. 

Reading Challenge updates:

Keyword Reading Challenge 1/12 (2 books for January-)
Goodreads Challenge 3/50
Mount TBR challenge 2/24

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2017 mail and Secret Christmas RR#3

I haven't written much about mail since the new year. I have received some beautiful cards that I wanted to show off:

Secret Christmas RR#3
 From gzechanka in Ukraine
 From Rodzinka in Russia. I loved the stamps on this one too.
 From Liisa in Finland. Thanks for telling me about the traditional decorations with the Finnish flags. I didn't know that.
 From Alevtina in Russia Thanks for the great stamps too. Love the braid on the snowman!

This is from Jacque in Az. I love it.  Because she's awesome, she also sent me the next card.
 I love Nouvelle Images!!!
 Keeping with the music theme. She also sent an Elvis stamp and Edith Piaf too. That would be a really interesting duet, eh?
Naoko sent this yummy card from Japan.
    This next one made me giggle a bit. It's from Marilyn in Texas.  I have never been to Tx, but I've heard "everything is bigger in Texas," so I guess this fits. I'm right on the "Damned Yankee" and snafu border.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

My first NetGalley Review

The Happiness Effect: How Social Media Is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost     
     This month, I received an advanced reader copy of The Happiness Effect by Donna Freitas. This is also the first book I have received from NetGalley (Thanks!).  
      When I first saw this book, I was very interested in the topic. This book deals with social media and its effect on people, centered around college aged students. Freitas has surveyed and interviewed college students on thirteen college campuses across the United States and asked questions about anything from sexting to addiction to their smart phones.  As and educator and a mother, I have often wondered if the interactions with social media that I notice are as harmful as it can sometimes seem. This book made some really interesting points and observations. 
     Here are some specific points that got me thinking:
1) The topic of "likes."  Being a woman in my late 30s who is teaching teens, I didn't feel like I was really "out of touch" with the next generation, but this chapter made me wonder if maybe I am. I have always thought of my photos on sites like Facebook or Twitter to be like an online photo album; something to share special moments with people I care about. They are a way for me to connect with distant relatives and people that I don't see often. If I am looking at someone's social media and I 'like" a post, it is usually to acknowledge that I have seen the post or to let a friend know that I enjoyed looking. I assumed it was the same for everybody else too. The concept of comparing the amounts of likes that a picture I post to the number of likes a friend gets on their page is totally foreign to me. I can understand doing this if you are somebody who is marketing or promoting something, so you can see that your posting is effective, but doing this for a personal site was a little crazy to me.   Another thing that was a little disturbing was the fact that there are many people just posting things for the purpose of obtaining likes. If I go out to dinner with a friend, take a picture and post it, I don't care if people like it or not. I do not make the effort to go to a specific event or destination only to get likes. Lastly, the importance of likes quantifying self-worth was kind of discouraging. I didn't realize that some of these actions/attitudes were this prevalent. I was especially surprised that many people seem to go through their social media posts at the end of the day to delete anything that didn't get "liked."
2) Branding yourself- I am on Twitter and Facebook. I have never tried Instagram or Snapchat, and probably won't. I use social media to connect with other people. This book mentioned how many high school guidance counselors and college professors have emphasized to students that people will examine them on social media, so they should be aware of the image they are sending out. This has led to many people only putting up "The highlight reel" of their lives, which has a few implications. The first thing that can be noticed is that many people are putting out an "online version" that is different from the in person version of themselves. Secondly, if a person is told that they can only put positive things on their page- or to never make a mistake, is that carrying over to life offline, where they think they have to be perfect all the time? Lastly, constantly comparing how happy/adventurous the lives of everybody else seem to be is not usually healthy for anyone who has ever felt lonely or longed for something better in their own life. I think it is easy for many people, myself included sometimes, to watch other people live their lives through the lens of social media and wonder why our life seems a little drab in comparison.
3) What are the implications of social media in the long run? How will it affect relationships and face to face communication? Do people have to be "on" 24/7?  Is it healthy to feel like you cannot be without your phone at any time? I particularly liked what she said about this. "The burden we are carrying around because of our phones would be lifted if they would only disappear if they dropped off the face of the earth. These tiny, light, pretty, shiny devices have come to represent an outsized weight upon our shoulders- we look at them and see our to do lists, our responsibilities and other people's needs, o ur perpetual inability to keep up, the ways in which others constantly judge us, everyone's successes amid all our failures, among so many other stresses- stresses that feel more like thousands od pounds than a few ounces."
 4)Faith and social media- How does being a person of faith impact your use of social media, if at all? I loved this chapter and really enjoyed seeing the perspective of other people. 
    One thing that Freitas mentioned, that I had never really considered, was that college aged kids are truly the first generation growing up with "no precedent for a life lived and celebrated and picked apart on a virtual scale." Freitas says that this fact alone makes them explorers and pioneers who are trying to navigate the same way that all the rest of us are and adjusting accordingly. 
     This is a good read for anybody who works with students or has children on social media.
     I would be curious to hear some of your views on social media. What are some things you like and dislike? What social media sites are you on? Are there any things you have wondered regarding the long term use of technology? What is your relationship to your smart phone?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

January Keyword Challenge Book Review- The Death of Sweet Mister

    In January, the keywords for the 2017 Keyword Reading Challenge were: Court, Fall, Of, Way Deep, and Thousand. I took all books with any of those words out of my "to read" pile" and ended up reading The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell.
The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell  
 The Death of Sweet Mister is about a 13 year old boy named Morris Akins, nicknamed Shug by his mother and names like "Fat boy" by his mother's boyfriend.  It tells what life was like for Shug, growing up in the Ozarks surrounded by adults who are bad moral influences on him. Glenda, his mother, is an alcoholic who is in an abusive relationship with a man named Red,  who may or may not be Shug's father. Red is a career criminal with an addiction to anything that can seem to give him a high- booze, prescription pills, gambling, drugs, etc.    Shug is often brought along on these criminal escapades and witness to many events that he shouldn't have been, "Men stuff."  Life is bad, but changes when a man named Jimmy Vin Pearce shows up in a green Thunderbird and develops an interest in Glenda. 
     This book is hard to say that I "liked" because of the subject matter. I thought the writing was good and I know that it has been read in many book clubs. I just found it to be bleak and depressing. I Not the cheeriest way to start 2017. I gave it 3/5 stars on Goodreads because I thought it was written well, despite the story.  I'm not sure I would recommend it to anyone.   American author, Dennis Lehane, wrote a foreword in this edition of the book and he says:
     "Most of us remember parts of ourselves that didn't survive adolescence. At some point, to make our way in the world, we did as the Good Book suggested and put away childish things. And so it is in   The Death of Sweet Mister, where the death in question is not physical. In some ways, though, it's worse. It's the death of the "sweet," the death of the soul, the end of anything approximating childhood or innocence." (xi) 

Progress in The Monthly Keyword Reading Challenge: 1/12 months completed 
Progress in MOUNT TBR Challenge 1/24 books

Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 Reading Challenges

     I have decided on the reading challenges that I'm going to take part in next year. I'm going to do a few of them.

1. Keyword Reading Challenge hosted by My Soul Called Life     
My Soul Called Life 
 For this challenge, I need to read at least 1 book per month with the following words in the title:

Here Are Your 2017 Keywords 
JAN- Court, Fall, Of, Way, Deep, Thousand
FEB- And, Rose, Promise, Every, Deception, Blazing
MAR- Shall, Go, By, Silence, Her, Saga
APR- From, Trigger, Tale, His, CrownMist
MAY- Four, Wind, All, Fury, Days, Shade
JUN- Without, Know, Good, Watch, One, Have
JUL- Before, Final, All, Freedom, Life, Dream
AUG- Sun, Infinite, Big, My, Wherever, Most
SEP- Sand, From, Between, Ever, Reasons, Clash
OCT- Darker, You, Ashes, Out, House, Sea
NOV- Place, War, Heart, Why, Give, Meet
DEC- Forget, Twilight, Only, Crystal, On, Will

    This will definitely make me choose my books from my to-be-read pile rather than randomly pick one. (I'm a little OCD about this. I have my quirky methods, which is why my books are always so random. Matt has made fun of me for years about this.)

2. Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted by MY READER'S BLOCK
My personal goal is: Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
   In this challenge, I am supposed to choose books from my "To be read" pile, which is currently a bookshelf... plus a really tall pile on my bedroom floor. I would estimate that I have 100 books in there currently. I think 24 is a noble number considering I'm going to be tackling a few challenges at once. 
3. My personal Goodreads challenge will be to read 50 books over the course of the year.