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Sunday, October 29, 2017

I'm flailing

    I'm struggling with my Write 31 Days challenge. Occasionally, I will hear about people who are just going places/doing things to "get likes" on social media. I don't understand that concept at all. However, this week has been busy and I'm finding little time to do things that I need to do. Writing 31 days has been good for discipline, but if I haven't had anything important to say, I've struggled with making writing a priority over my family, work and general upkeep of life. On some of the days when I have pushed myself just to write SOMETHING, I have thought about the fact that it will probably be seen by like 10 people. So, I'm back for the last few days but I'm not feeling good about where I am in the challenge. :/

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Preparing for a first

    Tomorrow Tim is going away with his school for a few days. He has never slept over anyone's house (but family) and doesn't have a lot of super close friends. He is so excited and I know he'll do great. I am not sure I will do as well. Home will be very different without him here. :( It will be a great experience for him!

Black and white photo challenge

    So a friend of mine challenged me to one of those black and white photo challenges going around on Facebook.  I have enjoyed seeing everyone's pictures. Here are 3 taken from my day today. Unlike the challenge, I'll let you in on the background of the photo and why I took it.

Image may contain: people sitting and indoor 
This is in the waiting room of the dermatologist's office. Over the past 3 weeks I have spent way too many hours here. I'm grateful for knowledgeable doctors/surgeons and for their kindness and care over the past few weeks.  

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   It is a stormy autumn day here and these curtains were billowing out. I thought it might be kind of a cool picture but not so much!

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, closeup 
     There's a no people rule in the black and white challenge but the little guy wanted in on the black and white action.This is the debut of my "new face."  I still have steristrips on where I got stitches and my eye is still a bit swollen, but it's not too bad. 
Image may contain: plant, flower, nature and outdoor 
 I shared the flower.  This is from a plant that was given to me by a former student. She brought it to me on my birthday as a gift. (Here's a picture I took a few days ago that show the colors:)
Image may contain: flower, plant and indoor

Sunday, October 22, 2017


Image result for kindness for colleen 

     Today I'd like to take a minute to honor a woman who taught in the town I live in. She died 4 years ago today. She was murdered by one of her students. Although I never met Ms. Ritzer, I was greatly affected by her death for many reasons. Rather than focus on the obvious tragic side of this whole, horrible story. I would like to pass on the positive things I have heard about this teacher. 
       Colleen Ritzer seemed to embody kindness. I have heard stories about her interactions with students at school that were inspiring. I heard she was incredibly kind and caring. I know people who loved her dearly (and honestly, still do). I have seen students tell stories of gratitude and of their personal connection with her. I have also watched them mourn and come together to support one another. 
       I cannot truly understand the hole left in the hearts and lives of her family and friends, but I do want to be a part of keeping her memory alive.  Tonight, at part of the #kindness4colleen movement, Tim and I gave out a gift card to a stranger. We wrote the above quote on the inside of the gift card envelope. Do all that you can to spread goodness and kindness in the world.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Recent postcrossing cards

Postcrossing Logo
  Another one of my favorite snail mail activities in Postcrossing.If you haven't heard of postcrossing, it's like a postcard exchange program. You sign up for an account and then you agree to send a postcard. You will be given the address of another Postcrossing member and will get a little blurb about the user and their preferences. You also have an option to see a gallery of cards they've received and their favorites. Once your card has arrived to the person you were assigned, they register the card and your address gets given to a user. I have been a member of this site for over 7 years! I have learned so much and have met a ton of awesome people (especially through the forums. I have even met a few in person.) Here are the cards I have received within the past month or so:

From Japan:

 From Lithuania

 From Germany- This was actually sent from a Facebook group for penpalling that I'm in. Thanks Anita!

 From the US- This was a thank you card from a Postcrosser that Tim and I mailed something to.

 The Netherlands

Norway- From a Postcrosser who is also into Bookcrossing. (I do that too but haven't had a lot of success.)

   If you like to learn, see new places and write, I would highly recommend Postcrossing. Here is a link to their site.

Ways to give back through letter writing

     There are 2 letter writing sites that I also enjoy contributing to.
 Image result for chemoangels
 The first is: ChemoAngels. The purpose of this site is to assign patients who are currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments a buddy that will send them encouragement. I have been a ChemoAngel for a few years. I think I"m on my 7th? patient. My patients have ranged in age from 12- 65. A few have become friends of mine once they have graduated from the program.
     Some of my acquaintances have asked me questions like; "So, basically you write to a complete stranger who is not expected to write you back just to wish them luck with their treatments? Writing a card a week is a big commitment." Yes, although I usually send something a little more personal than "good luck this week."
      "Do your patients ever die?" I have had 2 patients die. One in treatment and one who had graduated.
      "Have you ever heard from any of your patients?"  I have heard from all but 2 of them and chat often with 5 of them.
      "Why do you do this program?" I first started doing Chemoangels because they put out a call to people to get involved. One of the women who was a patient of mine, who has since passed away, was a woman named Mary. She was an older widow who had lung cancer. She was the first patient that I ever became close to after she was out of the program.  She and I were pretty different from one another and I wasn't sure if she really connected with my letters (since they don't have to write you back) and one day I went to my mailbox and found a card from her. It was a Thanksgiving card. In it, she wrote that even though she was surrounded by family at home, she felt like I had become family and that she felt very close to me. She told me that she was extremely thankful for my letters because they gave her something to look forward to, she enjoyed hearing what I had to write and, most importantly, it made her feel normal- like I wasn't tiptoe-ing around the fact that she was sick, but I didn't dwell on it either. The card meant a lot to me and gave me renewed energy to take on more patients.
       This week I am celebrating the last chemo treatment of my current patient! If you're a letter writer, I would encourage you to check out ChemoAngels.
Image result for the world needs more love letters
      The second site I like to "spread some love" is The World Needs More Love Letters.  This site was founded by Hannah Brencher in 2011.  This encourages letter writers to send some postal love (or leave letters in public) to people who are needing it. To be honest, Timmy was a recipient of a bundle from this site about 4-5 years ago. He was struggling with some kids at school and his feelings of not fitting in. They chose him to be a recipient of a bundle and we probably got 100 letters. Each letter was personal and beautiful. We hung them up all over his room and he read them over and over again. Just last month, I realized that a man from one of my penpalling groups was one of the people who had sent him a letter. It was a huge boost of confidence for him and he felt extremely special. We still have all of those letters in a large manila envelope somewhere. Occasionally we will take them out and read them. Current letter requests are for an inspiring teacher, a sister-in law in need of encouragement, a widow who has just lost her husband, and a mom who just lost her child. I so not think that I have many beautiful words that will inspire people, but I do believe that it is important for people to know that they are loved and not alone. The letter requests are here if you feel led to write one!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Reading favorites

     If I had to choose which hobby means more to me- reading or penpalling, I would really struggle. Reading takes me away from every day life. It will often calm my rushing thoughts- or might even cause me to think in a completely different way. I thought I'd tell you a few of my favorite reading related sites. Since I'm not a person who enjoys sitting and reading on the internet all day, you are probably aware of most of them already but I'll explain why I like them.
Image result for goodreads image 
    I think tons of readers have a goodreads account. I know some people are really involved in their accounts and others just go on to look up books. Here's how I use goodreads:
1) The yearly reading challenge- and keeping track of that challenge
2) The bookshelves- Keeping a record of what I've read and having a place digitally to store what books I would eventually be interested in reading.
3) The giveaways- I have won a BUNCH of books from Goodreads. I am really grateful to have read a lot of new genres and new authors simply because I didn't have to pay for a new book. I have gotten some bookish swag from a few giveaways, have connected with a few authors and even been lucky enough to have some notes written for me.If you don't know where to look for the giveaways, go to browse and it's in the pull down menu.
4) Connecting with authors. Most times when I've written to an author, it has been through e-mail, but I have followed a few authors on Goodreads to hear their thoughts on other books, see what's new or follow their blogs. A few authors have also contacted me after reading a review on my blog or on Goodreads.
5) Community- What most surprised me about Goodreads is seeing what all of my friends and acquaintances are reading. Some of my friends are secret bookworms and it has been nice to learn this about them. There are also areas where you can connect with other readers if you have no friends. lol. Jk. There are discussion panels about certain topics, books, etc. I don't use this as much.

Image result for netgalley 
      This is a site that claims: "We help readers of influence discover and recommend new books to their audiences." The it says: "If you are a librarian, bookseller, educator, reviewer, blogger or in the media, get started right now by signing in or joining for free"   I think I was tempted by 2 things- 1) free books (Buy food for my family or new books? hmmmm.)  and 2) being considered a reader of influence.
     I was excited to be "accepted" to NetGalley and to request books from publishers. I was ecstatic when they started accepting my requests.My ONLY hesitation at first was that they send you ebooks instead of the hard copy. I detested e-books before NetGalley. I had bought a Nook thinking that it would be my new favorite and I barely used it before NetGalley. Now I don't mind them, but it's still not the same as the physical action of reading a real book. I know some people will think that's weird, but true readers I think will commiserate with me. 
       I have also connected with a few authors here, but not as much as Goodreads. You are asked to give feedback about the books you read, which I don't mind since they were generous enough to share with me!

Image result for paperfury 
Paper Fury
       I was originally lured in by the amazing book pictures on this blog.Then I just began enjoying Cait's sense of humor. Then her book recommendations. Then her advice about how to deal with various things. She's just great. She updates her blog a lot and is crazy good at reading comments and connecting with people. Out of all the blogs I read, this is probably the only blog that I make sure to read every post because it brightens my day. Check it out. (Beware that you'll probably find lots of books you're eventually going to want to read. Her enthusiasm is catchy.) 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reading challenge(s) updates

I'm taking part in 3 reading challenges this year. My favorite so far was the Keyword Reading Challenge. Unfortunately, the blogger who was hosting the challenge decided to take her website down. Fortunately, I cut and pasted the prompts when I blogged about it in January. So, super excited that I'm continuing on my own. For this challenge, you were supposed to read a book with one of the keywords of the month in the title. I have completed 10/12 books! Go me.

Goodreads challenge- My goal for the year is50 books. I'm up to 42 so far.

My Mount TBR Challenge is that- out of the 50 books I read, I would like at least 24 of them to be out of the stack of books I've been hoarding saving for a later time. So far I am up to 21 out of 24. So, I'm generally happy with all of my challenges for far. This is the latest book I read:

    This book is about boy named Eric who is looking forward to spending his summer at a lakeside "cottage." His family ends up renting a giant home called Pinecrest, which once believed to a former dr. at a mental hospital who has been missing for a few years. While exploring with his 2 friends, Eric discovers a hidden room in the carriage house of the property and strange things begin to happen with the boys as well as within the town. If you like thrillers, this has a pretty good story but I was disappointed that some things were kind of left hanging. With that being said, I read at my dr's appointments and at night and I finished it in a couple of days. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

My face hurts

       I know I said that I was going to continue in the direction of my hobbies, but a few things have been on my mind today so I'm going there instead.
     Last week I mentioned that I was nervous about Thursday. To be really personal, last spring, I was diagnosed with squamous cell skin cancer. I have always had extremely sensitive to the sun. Despite the fact that I wear sunscreen every day and avoid the sun like it's the plague, I still burn very badly. I even burn inside my classroom at school since I have a large window that the sun is directly in line with. (I'm not kidding. It's bad.) I had surgery to get rid of it in June. During a follow up appointment in August, I pointed out a spot of concern on my face. It turned out to be a freckle kind of mixed with melanoma. Well, this made me quite nervous. I kept it to myself for a while. (Sorry if you're a family member hearing this through my blog.)
       Thursday I had the spot on my face removed. I wasn't quite sure what it would look like and I found myself worrying about what my return to school the next day would look like. The dr. told me that bandaging would be "less than subtle." Fortunately, what I imagined in my head was way worse than what it actually looked like. It was, however, really noticeable. Oh, did I mention this week was school picture week too? After a quick discussion with my principal, I decided that I would just be upfront with the kids. I know that some people would answer "It's personal" or "None of your business" to the kids but, frankly, they know I care about them and I know that many of them care about me too. So, I just told them what had happened and that I was going to be just fine once it was all gone. Then we could look past the gigantic bandage on my face and get on with life.
       Fortunately, my surgeon is wonderful and he got all the cancer on the first go. Today I went in to get the wound stitches up. It was... painful and uncomfortable. I saw the wound before they closed it and it was basically a hole the size of the pad of my thumb. It was bigger than I expected but a scar scares me less than dying from cancer so I'm good. The surgeon came in and explained everything that would happen. I was really aware of how carefully he spoke about how he was going to sew everything up, the scar, etc. Maybe it's because I'm not super beautiful or because I don't usually care about how someone looks, but I wondered how many people would be devastated by having a scar across their face. Mine seems like it's going to be about the length of my pinky, maybe even my index finger. He tried to make it follow my smile lines,
       I thought about how much my face hurts and how my new black eye and bruised cheek is going to look in a few days. (Luckily I wanted the students that it might look like this this week.) I got another giant bandage running down my cheek. I thought about how nice some of the people who know what's going on have been treating me- and even of how the students who have the potential to be snarky and unkind went easy on me this week.
      My mind couldn't help wandering though to people who might have problems that aren't visible. What about people who are struggling with a medical issue that you can't see or mental issues?  What about people whose issues are visible that I might be able to deal with, but are hard for them? I am usually pretty intuitive about noticing people, but I wonder if lately I've been too consumed in my own medical fog to notice all of them.I don't know why, but all this weighed heavily upon me today. Maybe it just goes along with the "be kind" post from the other day.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Recent reads and my reading challenges

      I LOVE to read. It is one of my favorite pastimes. If you left me in a room for days with a few good books (and maybe a mailbox too), I would be happy. I used to have a huge book hoarding problem but I've managed to gain some self-control. lol.

   Image result for some girls prince i wanted books meme 
      Fairly recently, I became a member of NetGalley.  NetGalley is a site that asks readers to read advances reader copies (ebooks) of their books and send feedback to the publishers and authors. I have read a bunch of great books that I have gotten from them. Here are my 2 latest books:
This book was an amusing, yet slightly terrifying read.  I was fascinated to read about the beliefs people had about how the body worked, how to fix medical issues and some of the crazy things used for medicine. I'm not going to lie, I thought about which medicines/medical treatments that we're using now that will probably be considered insane to later generations too. The pictures in the ARC did not have captions. I imagine that I would enjoy it more when those are in it. If you're interested in how people in different times and places have lived, I would recommend this book. Thanks to NetGalley and Workman Publishing Company.

Not to be shallow, but I loved this cover and when I heard about a hidden letter and Bible pages in this story, I knew I'd like it. The story follows a girl named Jessica who survived the Paris attacks at the Bataclan. While trying to heal, both physically and emotionally, Jessica is convinced to follow through with a previously planned trip by a steadfast friend, Patrick. On this trip she buys an antique sewing box and finds a secret compartment that contains a letter and Bible pages. The sewing box belonged to a girl named Adeline who had lived 300 years ago. She was a Protestant Huguenot who was persecuted for her faith. Jessica and her newly found friends search for the answers of what happened to Adeline and her family, questions of faith and evidence if things can be okay after you have experienced traumatic experiences.
      Although I found the book a little repetitive and predictable in some places, I really liked to story and some of the questions that arose from the situations. Since I had an advanced reader copy, I didn't have the authors notes or discussion questions, but I'm sure I would've really enjoyed those. Another book I would recommend. Thanks NetGalley and Thomas Nelson.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


    I have felt slightly disappointed in myself that I did not choose 1 topic for my Write 31 days topic. Realistically, knowing what was going on during the month, I knew that some days would be tough to sit and write, other days had a lot of fun and excitement and I wasn't quite sure on a direction. Now that I have my feet under me a little more, I think I'm going to dedicate the month to my hobbies. My main hobbies are reading, penpalling/postcrossing and art. I have not done any art in a while so I'm hoping this will push me into starting a project that takes a ton of time that I usually do in November. Tomorrow I'm going to update the page with a few books I've read and where I am in my current reading challenges.
      What book are you currently reading?

Aquarium pics

I was going to share Tim's small blog with his pictures, but he's taking a long time to get to updating it so I'll share some of his fantastic pictures on this. Tim just turned 12. My husband took a few of these too but I don't know whose is whose. These were all taken at the Aquarium du Qu├ębec
    They had the most extensive jellyfish display I've ever seen. 

 I love this one.

 They had a ray touch tank. The white ones were especially friendly. They kept coming up out of the water.

 There was a path outside with trails. The colors were so vibrant but it was an extremely rainy day for a while. There was also a playground. I'd love to see what these paths look like in the spring.

 Possibly the worst picture ever taken of me. lol. It POURED on us right until we paid for these ponchos. Then the rain miraculously stopped.

 Back inside to another touch tank.

 Some skulls.

 This guy was amazingly cute.

 I had never seen a polar bear before. Beautiful, massive creatures.

 Contemplating eating the child that the hand belongs to,.. lol


 The salt water tank inside

    If you're ever up in Quebec, I would highly recommend bringing your family. About 40% of it is outside, so be prepared if it's rainy!