Monday, March 31, 2014

April is National Humor Month

It seems like everything and everyone has a special day, week or month.  April just happens to be National Humor Month, and it is also national stress month – although if we used more humor we would likely have less stress. 
We all need some humor in our lives.  Scientists have actually proven that laughter is incredibly healthy for us. 

According to the Mayo Clinic:
Short-term benefits: A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:
Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.

Activate and relieve your stress response.
A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.

Soothe tension.
Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.

Long-term effects: Laughter isn't just a quick pick-me-up, though. It's also good for you over the long haul. Laughter may:
Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.

Relieve pain.
Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders.

Increase personal satisfaction.
Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.

Improve your mood.
Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and make you feel happier
National Humor month seems like a perfect time to offer a copy of my newly published book to my readers for free.  No this is not going to be an April Fool’s joke, but for one day only – April 1st, I will offer my ebook free of charge, with the hopes that if my book makes you laugh, that you will write a review of my book. 

I hope my book will make you laugh & help you to celebrate National Humor Month, because laughter is really good for you. 

FREE April 1st only #freebook

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Love/Hate relationship with technology

I have a serious Love/Hate relationship with most technology.

Technology has improved my life in countless ways.  I like to connect with family and friends on Facebook & look at all the creative ideas on Pinterest.  It is great to be able to take and instantly e-mail digital pictures, instead of the old days waiting a week or more for blurry shots to be developed.  I am having fun writing my blog & I am so excited about releasing my first book available on Kindle, but technology can also be extremely challenging. 

I have been known to yell obscenities at my lap top (especially when using Microsoft Word) when it randomly does strange things.  Even working on downloading my book to the Kindle publishing website took a while to figure out, I kept having weird spaces in random places, and I just couldn't figure out why.   

I personally believe that whoever designed Windows 8 should be taken out and tarred & feathered.   I HATE it!  I realize hate is a strong word – but I really do hate it.  I know that it is my fault that I am forced to use it.  I had a laptop that worked perfectly well, but apparently lap tops don’t like being fed coffee L so when I had to go out and get a replacement lap top last year, they all came with Windows 8 - I had no choice.  It is so annoying.  It has these stupid ‘applications’ that are supposed to be similar to when you use apps on your phone or ipad, but if I wanted to use my phone I would, I don’t want apps on my lap top – I just want a computer that is easy to use. 

I have even gotten angry at Siri when she doesn’t understand a request or a question.  I should be completely amazed at the technology involved in recognizing my voice (along with millions of other voices) and being able to process and respond to requests almost instantly, but I have become spoiled like most people now-a-days and I want technology to always work perfectly.  I get frustrated, I yell at the computer.  My fiancĂ© actively tries to avoid dealing with me when I am using technology. 

My family finds it incredibly ironic that I am considered one of the technology experts at my school, and that other teachers actually come to me for technology help.  It really is incredible, I know teachers who are barely able to do more than check their e-mail, I even had one teacher ask for help in using power point.  Yes, I said Power point – which I assumed was a staple technology of teaching for the past 20 years.  I can muddle my way through the basic technology at our school, I can update our boring teacher web pages that we were assigned, I can use our online grading system, I can set up an e-mail distribution list, but I am amazed at how many other teachers just don't know how to use technology.

Our students today have never known a world without cell phones, e-mail and of course the Internet.   These students interpret and share information in a huge variety of ways, they text, tweet, IM, Facebook, blog, vine, snap chat and more.  The use of technology opens almost unlimited options for amazing media that students can relate to, but the challenge is that most teachers like me are unfamiliar with all of the new technology.  It takes time and energy to learn all of the ways to share information with our tech savvy students. 

I will continue to challenge myself to learn new technology skills and try new programs and applications.  I know I will get frustrated, and likely I will hate some of them, but I am also sure that there will be some new technology that will help to make my life even better – if I am patient enough to learn how to use it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Don’t Go in the Water

Here’s a hint, when planning your amazing destination wedding on a beach in Antigua, it is best not to watch Jaws on TV right before booking a scuba trip.

I can still vividly remember standing in line to see Jaws when it was released in the theatres.  I lived in Tucson at the time – and the movie came out in the middle of the summer (just in time for beach season I guess).  I was wearing these groovy new shoes that I was really proud of– they were plastic sandals that had a cool open section in the heel.  We were standing outside in the heat of the Arizona sun and my shoes literally melted into the 100+ degree pavement as we waited in line to be first to see the blockbuster hit. 

Just a few weeks after seeing the movie I went on a trip to San Diego with my mom, and as I looked out at the Pacific Ocean, all I could picture was that big shark out there waiting for unsuspecting swimmers.  Visions of a big hungry Great White crossed my mind, and I know I wasn’t alone.  Like most people I am intrigued by sharks.  I have to admit I would love to see one up close, and even touch one. 

My fiancĂ© loves to scuba dive.  I have been diving with him a few times and we are planning to scuba dive on our honeymoon.  I told him that I would like to scuba dive with sharks and he thinks I am crazy (but to be fair – I am a little crazy).  I don’t want to swim with big scary Great White sharks, but to see a small shark up close sounds cool.  I have seen pictures of divers getting really close to big whale sharks and that looks amazing too. 

 I have to be honest, every time I go swimming in the ocean I wonder whether there are sharks out in the surf with me.  Jaws made a big impression on everyone, and we all became more aware of these great predators of the sea.  There have been dozens of other movies that tried to capture the thrill and fear that Jaws created, but none of them ever came close.  Steven Spielberg forever changed how we view the ocean, but I am still planning to take my chances and enjoy swimming in it.   

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spring has sprung.....

Last Thursday was the official first day of spring (although no one told the mid-west that, since they are still having snow).  Springtime, that lovely time of year when flowers bloom and my allergies go crazy.  I have always had terrible hay fever.  When I was young, I was tested for allergies, the doctor scraped my skin and put little dabs of allergens to see which ones I reacted to.  According to the doctor I am severely allergic to “Everything that Grows”.  I had some of the highest reactivity scores he had ever seen – lucky me, even in allergies I am an over-achiever.  Grasses, trees, weeds, mold, you name it and I am allergic. 

In high school I began getting weekly allergy shots to help.  I took the prescribed allergy medicine, and unlike the better versions today, those medicines made me extremely drowsy.  During allergy season I also constantly had red eyes.  I am convinced my teachers all believed I was a stoner – sleepy and red-eyed, I certainly fit the bill.  I was hopeful when I moved up to Washington State right after college that maybe I wouldn’t be as bad up there, but I was very mistaken.  Apparently I am extremely allergic to Rhododendrons.  Here in Arizona, the Mesquite trees are my nemesis.  Once on a trip to California, I had such a strong reaction to the orange blossoms that I almost had to go to the emergency room.  If it smells sweet and pretty when in bloom, I am allergic to it.

This time of year I always face a great internal struggle; I want to open all the windows and let in the beautiful fresh air but then I struggle with the pollen or I close all the windows trying to avoid anything that might make me sneeze (which is pretty much everything).  One doctor that I went to years ago tried to convince me to get rid of all the rugs in the house and put my pillows in plastic.  It reminded me of that really horrible movie back in the 1970’s where John Travolta played the boy in the plastic bubble. 

It isn’t just plants, I am also allergic to dust, dogs – really any animal dander.  One year my former husband was trying to be sweet and he brought home an adorable Guinea pig that we named Truffles.  When I picked up the guinea pig and held it (he was extremely friendly and liked to snuggle) I could tell my nose was getting stuffy, but it wasn’t until my daughters came over and asked if I was okay, that I realized how allergic I was.  My eyes were bloodshot red and began to swell almost completely shut.  I figured out that small rodents and I don’t mix.

I love this time of year – I always want to go outside, but it can be a challenge.  I don’t need the Meteorologist on TV to tell me the pollen count, I can accurately tell you the pollen count based on my congestion level.  I continue to take my pills and nose spray.  I wish I had stock in Kleenex this time of year.   I really do love springtime – just not all of the sneezing, stuffy noses and itchy eyes that go along with it. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Is it okay to review my own book? - Of course it is

Now that my book is officially released on Amazon - I have been busy promoting it and looking for wonderful people out there who will read it & post a review.  Since I have read through this book more times than I could possibly tell you, I think its only fair to write a review.  For full disclosure - I really LIKE this book, that's why I decided to publish it.  I think its funny.  I hope everyone else will like it too.

The Misadventures of Me and My UterusThe Misadventures of Me and My Uterus by Laurie WJN
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is for anyone with a uterus, or anyone who wants to understand what its like to have a uterus. The Misadventures of Me and My Uterus is a book that all women can relate to, especially if they have had challenges with any uterus health issues.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 24, 2014

Yes you can find love online

As the date of our wedding approaches, I find myself reminiscing about how I was lucky enough to meet this crazy wonderful man that I am going to marry.

The Story of How we met

After finding myself 40 something and suddenly single (that’s a very long story that I may write a book about someday) I was thrown into the world of dating and I was VERY out of practice.  Not exactly sure what to do first, I had some hilarious dating misadventures with my wonderful friend Susan.  We braved single bars and even an ill-fated attempt at speed dating (and yes it was as awful as you think it would be).  Susan and I both agreed to try an online dating web site. 

I had realistic expectations, I knew I would fail at least a few times before I found someone that I wanted to be with.  I dated a few different men, but nothing really clicked.  I was actually getting discouraged and considering just giving up for a while, when I decided to try one more time – and I am so glad I did.  I went online and got a message from a nice sounding guy – so I gave him my phone number & he called right away.  That first time we talked I immediately knew he was special.  We talked for almost 3 hours – and I never laughed so hard in my whole life.  He is smart, he is funny & he has such a fantastic attitude and love of life.  When we finally met in person, I felt so comfortable and at ease with him, and I had such a great time.  Peter has a way of making everything fun.  Even a day of housework is an adventure with Peter. 
After 5 years together, I am still amazed at how much fun we have all the time.  Peter has a joie de vive that is unlike anyone I have ever met.  His enthusiasm is absolutely infectious.  I am now officially a Green Bay Packer fan, because I really have no other choice.  We watch every new Marvel movie that comes out – usually on the very first weekend (and sometimes at the midnight premier).   Both of my daughters love him too.  It’s hard not to love Peter. 
Life with Peter is not perfect - no one is prefect.  Some days with Peter can be interesting, he is extremely ADD so he is constantly losing his keys/wallet/phone/glasses etc.  Despite this, we manage to get along just fine, even if I do have to pick up after him sometimes.  Peter has a larger than life personality - he is loud and joyous and even if something does go wrong, he always keeps a good attitude. 
My life with Peter has been incredible, he is so kind and sweet and loving, and he listens to me, actually understanding my concerns.  He is supportive of me (he is the one who keeps encouraging me to write).  He is patient with me - and even when I lose my temper and yell, he just laughs and says "you're so cute when you're mad".  He lets me know that I am the most important person in his life and I feel truly grateful to have found such a special man. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

For those of you wondering, I will be changing my name

 “A name is a powerful thing. It sets one apart and gives significance.”
“Must a name mean something?" Alice asked doubtfully.- Lewis Carroll
I have given a great deal of thought to whether I will change my name once I get married, I even wrote a freelance article for a wedding blog about it (which was very exciting in itself because it was my first official paid freelance writing job)

Generally most of us don't really have to make many choices about our name, we take the one given to us, but getting married is one occasion where you need to make a choice about your name, and since I will be married for the second time, I have another choice to make. 

I have chosen to list my name on the blog as Laurie W-J-N which is my way to respect all three of the names I have had or will have in my lifetime.  As I think about my name choice, it is hard to consider changing a name I have had for almost 30 years, virtually my whole adult life, all of my professional colleagues know me by my current last name - Jake, but to be honest in my heart I have always associated more with my original family name - Ward.  It suits me, so much so, that I have my maiden (family) name on my Facebook account.  I did that very intentionally, I started Facebook with my married name, but decided that, as a teacher, I didn't want my very creative middle-schoolers to be able to find me,  and since I had already established many professional contacts, they were already my friends on Facebook so they would know it was me.  Having my maiden name on my Facebook allowed me the opportunity to more easily reconnect with old high school friends. I love my crazy mixed-up family and my maiden name is a true representation of belonging to them. 

I never felt like I truly belonged to my husband's family.  His death only intensified the divide I felt, thus it was easier to go by my maiden name.  I am pretty sure that both of my daughters and I will leave the name Jake in our past - It is weird to think that none of the three of us will likely remain with our current name.  It will still be part of us, but it is not part of our current or future reality.

Taking Peter's name is actually an easy choice for me.  My girls are grown and won't care at all, in fact it won't be too long before they change their own names.  I know Peter says it doesn't matter to him, but I really believe that it does just a little. He doesn't have any children that will carry on his name.  I am excited to start OUR new life together, and taking his name seems like a good symbolic way to represent what I feel.   

Another positive about changing my name when I get married this summer is that I will have a consistent last name for publication.  So far I have only one book already published, and that one was done ten years ago for a very specific audience, I think changing my name now, before I release any books, is perfect timing.  Of course I could choose a pen name for writing - but to be honest, a big part of the allure of writing for me is that moment when you see your name in print - so seeing a nom de plume would not be the same.  My thoughts, forever in print (or on ebook as the case may be) with my name on them, what a cool experience.  

I will always consider myself Laurie W-J-N, as all three names are part of my story, they all have been, or will be, a huge part of my identity and I am proud of all three of my last names. Maybe that will be a fitting nom de plume, honoring all 3 of my names.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

I'm working with an artist on a book cover & I can’t wait to show it off

It has been so exciting getting my book ready for publishing.  I have been working with a professional editor, and obviously I am looking at some fun cover art that really expresses the story I hope to share.  I am learning so much about publishing.  I don't think I will make millions from my book, but just the idea of having something out there - that people will read, it is so very exciting. 
I've worked so hard on my book, it’s my baby - and I don't want to send my baby out into the world under dressed.  I want the cover to convey the silly fun and humorous nature of the story - after all, when writing a memoir of your peri-menopausal health issues with a mean spirited uterus - I think humorous is really the only way to go. 
I tried a cheap approach, I used someone from Fivrr - and it showed, while it was fun to visualize a completed book, it looked amateurish and I really did not like the work at all.  I guess my mother was right, you get what you pay for.  I contacted another artist who didn't seem to understand my vision for the book.  I knew she wasn’t going to be the right one for me.  I went online to some author groups and asked for recommendations – and I was so happy to find Rachel at No Sweat Graphics.  I told Rachel about my book and what I was looking for and I almost cried, I was so happy when she sent me the first design.  We tweaked it a little, changed the size on some parts and the color on others, but overall I think this cover fits the content of the book extremely well.  I didn’t pay thousands of dollars, she was very fair and reasonable in her price. 
I read several articles online about cover art, and there were lots of warnings about making sure your cover will appeal to audiences, and I do agree for the most part, but I also think as an author you have to be happy with the cover.  Your book is such a creative personal expression of who you are, and the cover needs to reflect that – at least for me it does. 
It is nice to know that I am not alone in these struggles.  I think I am picky.  I have worked hard on my book - it is my baby, and I want to make sure my baby is dressed well before she goes out into the world.   
Keep watching my blog & Facebook page for the big Cover reveal….Coming Soon

Friday, March 21, 2014

I Hate the Dentist

I HATE the Dentist!  I understand that is a strong statement to make, and yes, I know that no one really likes to go to the dentist, but I have a fear of the dentist that is bordering on the pathological. 

Walking into the dentist office, every muscle in my body starts to tense & my nerves are on edge.  As I sit down I can hear the drill in the next chair over and my whole body manages to get even more wound up in knots, and then I notice that smell, its unique to the operation of a dentist drill, it send shivers up my spine.  Yes, I do realize I sound melodramatic about all of this, but I have good reason to not like the dentist.

Simply put – I have bad teeth.  I have always had bad teeth.  Even as a very young child, my mom took me to the dentist and he informed her that I had more cavities than teeth (apparently Dentists count cavities on each separate section of a tooth).   I have a complete mouthful of fillings, crowns and several root canals.  My dental x-rays look like a dot-to-dot picture.  I could have purchased a car with the amount of money that I have spent on dental work. 

I am one of ‘those people’ that a dentist office doesn’t like to deal with.  I always require extra Novocain.  Honestly, even that darn rinsing & suctioning bother me.  My teeth are just really sensitive (and yes I do use that special sensitive teeth toothpaste). 

There is very little I can do about my bad teeth except to grin and bear it (yes pun intended).  I brush, I floss, and I go to the dreaded dentist for my regular checkups and cleanings.  Unfortunately none of these things really seems to matter when you have a mouthful of bad teeth. 
Having bad teeth isn’t all bad.  I have had some very interesting experiences in life because of my bad teeth.  On a middle school field trip, I was given some sticky candy by a very generous students, which I should have declined, but instead I attempted to chew it & out came a crown.  Yup, a bus full of kids and me holding the crown in my pocket. 

Another fun experience with my delicate dental work occurred on a trip to Italy with my Mom.  Yes I said Italy.  There we were outside of Venice, in a lovely restaurant enjoying a fantastic meal when I felt something odd, it was another crown that had decided to fall out.  We had 7 more days of our trip left and I had a crown in my hand – NOT on my tooth where it belonged.  When we made it back to the hotel, I asked the lovely Italian hotel staff where the nearest pharmacy was located.  Luckily they understood enough English to tell me that there was one just down the street.  I walked down to what I think was an Italian drug store and began to look for something that might help.  A very sweet young lady came up to me and I think she asked how she could help me, but I really don’t know that much Italian – so she could have been asking me anything.  I took the offending crown out of my pocket and showed it to her.  She nodded her head and brought me to an aisle with what I could only guess were dental accessories.  She handed me a box and pantomimed me gluing my tooth back in.  I purchased the item, but since it was in Lire I have no idea how much I actually paid for it and I walked back to the hotel room.  I tried to follow the directions, which was challenging since they were in ITALIAN, but luckily there were enough pictures for me to muddle through.  I mixed up the goop, put it inside the crown and stuck it on the waiting stub of a tooth.  I am happy to say – It worked!  To be honest – it worked extremely well and that crown stayed put for many years after. 
I will probably always dislike going to the dentist, but for me it is a necessary evil, I like being able to chew my food. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review: Busy Dizzy by Orly Katz

Busy Dizzy (Inspirational bedtime story for kids ages 4-8)Busy Dizzy by Orly Katz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This fun and friendly little book takes the idea of negative self-talk and puts it in kid friendly language, showing young children how to cope with fears and doubts in a positive way. I could see this book working very well in younger age classrooms or as a great read-aloud book for parents, to open some great dialogue with their children. The illustrations worked, and the rhyming content was straight forward, I especially liked how the text did not talk down to small children as many adults tend to do. As the sweet teacher Miss Young showed the children how to deal with the busy dizzies, by identifying them and telling them “you don’t belong here”, the author shows children some really great coping skills. At the end of the book there are coloring pages for children to identify their own busy dizzy. I would recommend Busy Dizzy to parents & teachers.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Empty Nest is not so empty

             Have you heard about women who mope around the house once their children are grown and gone?  I want to make it clear – I am not one of those women.  Mostly because I haven’t had the chance to experience being alone.  My two daughters have moved out and back in to my house numerous times so far.  When I hear someone talk about having an empty nest, I usually offer a sarcastic retort like “I wouldn’t know what that’s like” but to be honest, I don’t mind that much.

While I would like some space and privacy, and a lower grocery bill, having 20 something’s around the house can be fun.  I learn so much from my grown kids all the time.  I can proudly boast that I have a Pinterest, Instagram, and a snap chat account.  I know what a Vine is (which is something I do not think most people my age can say).  I know the latest music.  My house is noisy and messy but my life is very full.

If and when I finally do get that actual empty nest – I am really looking forward to having a cleaner house and lower utility bill.  I’m looking forward to bringing home leftovers from my favorite restaurant and actually still finding them when I want to eat them.  I am looking forward to the freedom that comes from having your own personal space, but until that day actually happens I will enjoy having my daughter living with me and making my life much more interesting.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Back to work

Today was my first day back to work after several weeks off to recover from pneumonia.  I have to admit it was a long day.  I had a stack of papers to grade (and by stack I mean it was over 7 inches high – more than 1,000 individual papers) that had accumulated during my absence.  I spent all day Sunday grading & my arm hurt before I was finished.  I also had to lesson plan, answer parent e-mails and work on report cards – and that was before the kids even got there. 

I missed my kiddos & I am very happy to say they missed me too.  I was greeted with lots of hugs and smiles.  It has been a rough time at my school lately, a lot has been going on.  As a teacher – it always feel like a burden to others if you take some time off.  It was nice to be able to be there to see my students, help my co-workers and simply to do my job. 

I don’t think I ever appreciated how hard teachers worked before I became one.  I simply took for granted that my daughters’ teachers would do a good job – and I am so lucky to say that for the most part they really did.  We were lucky to have fantastic teachers from Kindergarten through High School.  Although I bought the standard teacher gifts and I always tried to be polite, in hindsight I wish I had done more to thank the great teachers who made a difference to my daughters.  Their enthusiasm, their excitement and their caring made a big difference.  Both of my daughters went on to earn a full ride scholarship to ASU and I know that I have many wonderful teachers to thank for helping them to accomplish that incredible feat. 

I am always humbled and honored when parents take the time to say thank you to me or let me know how much I have meant to their student.  Starbucks gift cards are nice, but the best gifts I have ever received as a teacher are the beautiful heartfelt thank you’s from students and parents. 

Even though it is only Monday and I am already exhausted – It is nice to be back with my kiddos, doing my job.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Proud to be Irish

This time of year, everyone seems to be boasting about being Irish.  St. Patrick’s Day can bring out the Irish in all of us, but I really am proud of my Irish heritage and not just for the green beer. 

I often tell people that my dad is as Irish as the Blarney stone.  He was the son of an Irish immigrant, and he worked hard his whole life.  When I was growing up, I remember dad singing in the kitchen while he cooked.  Songs like ‘My Wild Irish Rose’,  ‘McNamara’s band’  or the 'Unicorn Song' were part of the fabric of my childhood.  We always ate Corned Beef and Cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day.

The main reason I am proud to be Irish, is how proud I am of my incredible Dad.  He served in the navy during World War II (well at least the very end of it).  He was one of those guys who enlisted before he was even 18, because he wanted to serve his country. 
After that he went on to become a New York City Detective.  He worked with the NYPD until he retired.  His old police stories are legendary, and I love to watch his eyes light up when he tells them to us. 
He has been an amazing Father and Grandfather, and Great-grandfather.  My two daughters love telling people about their Grandpa.  He continues to amaze me every day with his love for us and his incredible spirit.  He really is a perfect example of the 'Greatest Generation' that Tom Brokaw wrote about. 
Yes, I may have a green beer or two this St. Patrick’s Day, to go along with my Corned Beef & Cabbage, and I will wear my shamrock earrings and my 'proud to be Irish' t-shirt, but more than anything it’s my Dad who makes me infinitely proud to be Irish!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Book Review: Gabby, Angel of God

Gabby, Angel of GodGabby, Angel of God by Greg Sandora
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was an Author requested review and this might be a case of 'be careful what you ask for'. I found this book engaging at times, but I also found Gabby, Angel of God to be jumbled and confusing in many of the plot twists and turns. I also found the story to be very preachy at times, well beyond what I expected for a novel about an angel of God. The story revolves around Bo, a grieving widower, who meets Gabby, an angel of God sent here on missions of God to help people. These missions often involve fighting demons in human form. The main character Bo is often confused by the events that unfold, and so is the reader. The minor characters are never fully developed and just feel like pawns that Gabby toys with. Gabby must leave in two weeks, although the reason makes very little sense. Bo also has the chance to go back in time to see his dead wife. He is given instructions to be careful not to disrupt time or there will be serious consequences, but he does make big changes & there don't seem to be any consequences to his actions. Unless supernatural & spiritual based stories are your preferred genre, I would not recommend the book.

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 13, 2014

March Madness: What's all the excitement about?

I LOVE college basketball.  Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you about my obsession with ASU basketball.  Peter and I go to every single home game.  We wear our Maroon & Gold and cheer loudly for our Sun Devils.  If you have never been to a college basketball game, you don’t know how much fun you are missing.  These games are entertaining, loud and very exciting.  At ASU we are fortunate to have a dedicated group of student fans, known as the 942 crew, named after the 942 seats they fill each game & these students yell, dance, cheer and add so much fun to the games.  Even folks who don’t typically like basketball will enjoy the atmosphere and exhilaration of college basketball games. 

For us basketball fans, we are entering the most exciting time of the year – March Madness.  During the month of March, all NCAA Basketball teams are vying for their place in the ‘Big Dance’, the tournament that will decide who will be crowned as College basketball’s national champions for the year.  Teams participate in their own conference tournament first (ASU is in the PAC 12 Conference) & a win in your own conference assures a spot in the NCAA tournament. 

Unlike professional sports, watching college games shows the hope and potential of these young athletes.  The magic of March madness is in the incredible last minute finishes, the amazing effort of the players, the genuine excitement and camaraderie of the teams.  Everyone wants to be the best – and playing at the NCAA tournament, or the ‘Big Dance’ as some fans refer to it, is the way to showcase your team’s talent and make a name for yourself.  Fans who watch the tournament games are always treated to some unexpected surprises, some big upsets – when well known power house teams are beaten by virtual unknowns, and there is always some excellent basketball. 
For those of you unfamiliar with this whole March madness thing, here are some basics:
  • On March 16 – the names of the teams who will advance to the tournament will be announced.  This is called Selection Sunday.  Teams that don’t make it, may be asked to come play at other less prestigious tournaments like the NIT
  • 68 total teams will have the chance to become the best in the country.  The first few rounds go quickly, as some teams lose right away & are given the label “one and done”.  During this single elimination tournament, a single loss and you are out.  As teams advance the number of teams competing shrinks. 
  • When there are only 16 teams left in the tournament, these games are referred to as the Sweet 16. 
  • Those teams that advance will move on to the Elite Eight.
  • The winners will then be included in the very prestigious Final Four. 
  • The two winning teams will then compete for the national championship title.
Fans like to follow along by filling out their bracket, which is simply a chart to show the process of teams advancing.

It is a lot of fun so if you are ‘game’ – grab a bracket and a pen and get busy watching some incredible college basketball – I’m sure you will be glad you did.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I did it - 31 days straight of writing #500words

It might not be as big as summiting Everest or finishing an Ironman, but it is a big accomplishment for me.  I am excited to announce that I have met a goal I set for myself.  I knew that the only way to become a better writer was to practice, practice, practice, so I made a commitment to myself to take the 500 words a day challenge.  I made sure to write a minimum of 500 words every single day for the last month (31 days).   

I don't win any prize.  I didn't make any money.  I did, however, push myself to work hard every single day, whether I felt like writing or not, because I wanted to be able to say I did it.  I didn't take a single day off.  During that month of writing, I competed over 10,000 words on my book and wrote over two dozen blog posts.  It wasn't always easy, I do have to admit I really had to push myself for a few of those days.  I was lucky on several days where the writing just came easily & one day I had a marathon writing afternoon of almost 5,000 words. 

I have always told my students that to be good at anything they need to practice & writing is no exception.  I hope that my diligence this past month has helped to improve my writing skills.  I am really proud of this past month and what I have accomplished.    
I do plan to continue to challenge myself everyday - maybe I will try for 1,000 words per day next month?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review - 22 Leadership Fundamentals: The Door to Success says Push!

22 Leadership Fundamentals: The Door to Success says Push!22 Leadership Fundamentals: The Door to Success says Push! by Alison Vidotto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was asked by the author to review this book and I found it very helpful and insightful. This book is full of really good basic advice for leadership, broken into digestible segments of 22 chapters, each exploring a unique principle of leadership. The author expertly weaves her own experience and personal story of leadership through the chapters, to expand on the ideas presented. One of the really great aspects of this book are the reflection questions at the end of each chapter. These are designed to provoke more in depth discussion of each concept presented. The author uses a range of quotes throughout the book, from acclaimed leaders like Steve Jobs, Vince Lombardi and Nelson Mandela, just to name a few. The author is Australian, so there are a few language differences, but they do not detract from the message. I would recommend this book to anyone seeking to grow their leadership IQ.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 10, 2014

"I'm Somebody Now"

For some of us, there is just something special about seeing your name in print.  It reminds me of one of my favorite movie lines of all time.  Actor Steve Martin’s character, in the legendary comedy ‘The Jerk’, goes running out to the delivery truck and grabs the latest copy of the white pages, exclaiming “The new phonebooks are here, I’m somebody now”.  Seeing your name in print establishes your identity, it give you a special sense of permanence.  You are somebody now!

You name is your unique identity.  Whether you like your name or not, it is a part of you.  It is what you are known by.  When someone sees your name it means something.  We’ve all done it, looked up our own name on google, just to see what’s there.  For a writer though, it’s much more than simply having your name in print, it is having your thoughts, your ideas, and your words seen by other people.  It can be exciting, but it can also be very scary. 

I remember when I was younger, I would write my inner most feelings, all of my teenage angst in my diary and then I would lock it away for safekeeping, so that no prying eyes could read my words.  What a difference there is in my viewpoint today. 

As an author and blog writer, it is my hope that my words will mean something to other people.  I want my thoughts, my ideas to have a lasting impact.  They are no longer carefully hidden from my older sisters in my locked diary, they are out in the world for everyone to look at. 

Being brave enough to share my words with the world can be daunting – what if the world doesn’t like my words?  Or worse yet, what if no one even cares enough to read them.  All writers face rejection every day.  As a writer, you need to believe in yourself and you need to have the courage to face rejection, but you also get to experience the amazing feeling when someone does read your words. 

As I learn my way around the world of blogging, I am overwhelmed at the tools available to help me.  One of my favorite things to do is to check how many page views my blog has received.  This is my way of looking in the new phonebook – when I look and see that my blog has over 2,000 page views so far – I know that I am somebody now & I know that someone is reading my words.  For a writer there is nothing more wonderful than that.