Friday, May 30, 2014

A Blank Page


A blank page can be very intimidating.  There are so many possibilities.  Sometimes I feel like my life is like that – there are so many wonderful opportunities, it can get overwhelming. 

Right now for instance;

·        I could take my dog for a walk on this beautiful morning
      ·        I could go down to the YMCA for a much needed workout
      ·        I could go upstairs and clean out the spare bedroom
           (I have been meaning  to do that for ages now)

·        I could go and scan all of Mom’s old pictures
(I want to make a disk for each of my sibling with family photos)
·        I could surf Pinterest for hours, looking at fun recipes or really cool old photos
·        I could watch cooking shows and get inspired to cook an amazing meal
·        I could fold the laundry before it wrinkles
·        I could do some research for my book
·        I could actually be writing my book

Every single one of these ideas is a good one, the hard part is deciding which one to actually do.  Yes, a blank page can be a challenge, but it won’t stay blank for long so I’d better get busy…


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

“Life is too short to drink bad wine.”


“Life is too short to drink bad wine.”  ― Anonymous

At the risk of offending wine connoisseurs everywhere, I admit it – in my youth I actually drank Boones Farm Wine and the big jugs of Gallo wine.  Now before you judge me too harshly, that was a long time ago & there were lots of folks who were doing it too.  That doesn’t really make it any better, but we have all done foolish things in our youth. 

Drinking wine & really appreciating good wine is not a skill that is mastered overnight.  As an individual grows and matures, so does their taste in wine.  Reading ‘Wine for Dummies’ might acquaint you with the vocabulary necessary to sound like a wine aficionado, but appreciating wine is a process over time.

When I was growing up, my mother’s idea of wine was a glass of Cold Duck Champaign that she drank with our neighbor.  I was always thrilled when I got to sneak a sip of that sweet bubbly goodness.  I think I was 11 or 12 years old when my dad actually gave me my own glass of Cold Duck at a family holiday dinner and boy did I feel special.   Even back then I knew there was a connection between the wine and the experience.


I enjoy drinking a glass or two of wine.  My recent trip to Napa was so much fun.  I got to experience so many excellent wines, and I admit I felt proud when my friend Laura complimented my wine palette.  I can proudly boast that I now know the difference between a Cabernet and a Pinot or the difference between a Chardonnay and a Riesling.  I learned about food pairings and all the different elements that make up each unique wine.  I still have a great deal to learn & I don’t think I will ever become one of those pretentious wine snobs.  It sure is fun trying out different wines J I am hoping to go visit some of the Arizona wineries soon.  If you haven’t had the chance to visit a winery or tasting room – I highly recommend it, you will learn a lot and it will help you to enjoy the wines when you learn more about each one.   
I did find a fun new wine app for my phone called Vivino that lets you upload a picture of the label and it tells you all about that wine, you can rate the wine and just like on Facebook, you can share your ratings and other wine info with your friends. 

I am looking forward to learning even more about wine in the days ahead, and I promise no more Boones Farm wine for me. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Book Review: The Sugar House by Jean Scheffler

The Sugar HouseThe Sugar House by Jean Scheffler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For anyone who has ever wondered what life was life for their parents or grandparents, this wonderful story is filled with history of a time very different from our lives today. Author Jean Scheffler shares what life was like in the early 1900 through the story of Joe, a boy who gets caught up in life's circumstances and winds up as an illegal rum runner in Detroit during prohibition. Joe tries hard to help take care of his family in the only way he knows how. Well researched, this book blends historical facts with a compelling personal story.

View all my reviews


Journaling


I am one of those people who believes in journaling. 

When I am upset or stressed out, I use a journal to help me cope with it.  When I was struggling through a significant time of grief and loss in my life, my journal was like a lifeline for me.  I would sit and journal and pour out my feelings onto paper.  Writing down my feelings really helped me to sort out my emotions and get it all straightened out in my own head.  I have written in a journal for as long as I can remember.  I do NOT write every day, in fact, when things are going really well for me I rarely feel the need to journal.   My journaling is very inconsistent, but I think it is one of the most valuable things that I can do for myself.   I did some research and I was not at all surprised to learn that journaling has been proven to be helpful. 


From an Article in the professional journal Advances in Psychiatric treatment, Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing,

“Over the past 20 years, a growing body of literature has demonstrated the beneficial effects that writing about traumatic or stressful events has on physical and emotional health. …‘writing about earlier traumatic experience was associated with both short-term increases in physiological arousal and long-term decreases in health problems’ (Pennebaker & Beall, 1986: p. 280).

It is wonderful to see medical science affirm something that I have always known and personally experienced, it helps to write about it.  Whatever struggle or challenge you are facing, sitting down to write your thoughts in a journal can really help. 


There are many benefits for keeping a journal:

·        There is just something about seeing your thoughts in black and white.  It helps clarify your thinking and allows you to put things into perspective. 

·        Writing it down allows you to express your feelings and not keep them bottled up inside.

·        Writing things down also has the benefit of allowing you to see how far you have come.  When I was overwhelmed with grief it was hard to feel like I was making any progress, but reading previous journal entries showed me how far I had come.  It was very affirming.

·        Writing things down helps you to see not only where you have been, but where you are going, it allows you to identify the next logical steps you need to take. 

·        Writing your story can possibly help others.  Think about the value of Anne Frank’s famous journal, telling your story can have value to others facing the same struggle.  Using my journal and blog entries, I wrote “The Misadventures of Me and My Uterus” with the goal of helping other women who were facing similar health struggles. 

I realize journaling may not work for everyone, and I do have to admit that as an emerging author & blogger it is clear that I like to write, but you don’t have to be an author to use journaling.  I wrote down my feeling long before I ever published a book.  My journals are some of my most prized possessions.  They are a reflection of me that is very real and very personal. 

The next time you are facing a struggle, or feel overwhelmed, you might want to try picking up a journal, it can really help. 


Friday, May 23, 2014

Blog Tag Tour - My Writing Process

Do you remember playing tag as a child, well this week I got the chance to play tag once again – with some fellow Authors & Bloggers.  I was very excited when Deborah McNight asked me to join in the blog tag tour.  Please make sure to check out Deborah’s answers on her blog Novel Notions.  Make sure you visit her site and learn more about her book, Of Dreams and Shadow, a Young Adult Paranormal.

With this tour, the participants are given four questions.  Below, you'll find my answers.

·       What are you currently working on?  So far my two books have both been non-fiction, but I am currently working on a young adult historical fiction story about the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918.   I am really excited about moving beyond non-fiction and I have a strong passion for history.  My experience working with middle-school students has given me a very unique perspective on young adult books, I actually have two different story ideas, so I will be pretty busy working on both of those projects, as well as continuing to work on blogging and marketing efforts for ‘The Misadventures of Me and My Uterus”. 
·       How does your writing process work? For “The Misadventures of Me and My Uterus” I actually spent several months going through my old blog posts and journal entries, and writing down all of the procedures I had during my crazy year of uterine issues, the weird physical symptoms and all of my feelings and fears during that time and I put them together into a book. It was actually very therapeutic for me.   As I researched every procedure, I checked out online support groups, I studied types of uterine cancer, and I included all of it in my book.  No one ever wants to talk about their uterus.   In my research I found that gynecological cancers are much more common than I realized. 

For my new book,
I started with an idea, then I did a bunch of research, and put it all together in a very loose story outline, then it’s time to just write it.  When I sit down with a notebook or when I sit at my computer, I just start writing and let the story just jump out onto the paper or the screen.  The only barrier I face is enough time to work and avoiding distractions. 
·       How does your work differ from others of its genre? I think every writer has a unique voice and style of writing.  In “The Misadventure of Me and My Uterus”, I kept the book very informal and tried to use humor as much as I could. 

With my new book, I think what will really distinguish me from other historical fiction authors are two things; first, I choose historical events that are not as well known, which makes the story unique right away, and second, my story itself, it draws the reader in to the action and mixes accurate historical research with authentic young adult perspectives. I feel very strongly about not talking down to kids, my experience in middle school gives my work a very genuine feeling.

·       Why do you write what you do? I have always been a writer, creating stories as a teenager, using journaling to process my feelings, and I have always been an avid reader – especially historical fiction.  It was inevitable that I would wind up writing, and specifically writing historical fiction.  I learn new history facts and find myself creating stories about the people who lived at that time and place.  I feel like these stories are already inside my head and I simply have to let them out. 

 Who's up next?  That would be authors Rita Chapman and Celia Kennedy.  Rita is the author of Missing in Egypt and Winston-A Horse’s Tale.  Make sure you swing by her blog.  Celia is the author of Charlottes  Restrained and Venus Rising. Make sure you visit her blog too.

 



Memorial Day - a time to be Thankful


As Memorial Day approaches, somewhere in the midst of organizing the big camping trip, family barbeque or visit to the beach, we all need to take a minute to reflect on the meaning of this very special holiday. 

To those of you who have served, and those of you who are serving our country, THANK YOU!  It might not be a lot, but my appreciation for your service is genuine and heartfelt. 
To your families, who endure time away from you, with the ever present fear that something bad could happen, I say thank you.

To everyone who serves, whether you repair vehicles to keep them safely running, or you fly jets across the globe, each of you contributes to the safety of our nation and I thank you. 

To the politicians & talking heads, who so easily demand that our country ‘do something about…?” (Whether it’s Russia, Syria, Iran or anywhere else in the world), I want to remind them that there is NOTHING easy about the service you give our country and we should never be in a hurry to put American men and women in harm’s way. 

So far, more than 6,700 U.S. servicemen and women have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and at least 50,000 more have been wounded.  In Vietnam 58,209 US servicemen were killed and 153,303 were wounded in combat.  In Korea 36,516 servicemen were killed and 92,134 were wounded.  In World War II 405,399 US servicemen were killed and 670,846 were wounded.  In World War I 116,516 US servicemen were killed and 204,002 were wounded.  We owe a debt of gratitude to each and every one of these individuals, and we should NEVER enter into war without considering the enormous price these men and women have paid for our freedom. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book Review: Three Little Sisters by Ryann Adams Hall

Three Little SistersThree Little Sisters by RyAnn Hall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I did like the story, and the three little sisters offer lots of fun ways for children to play and enjoy themselves, but for me the story was a bit too simple and the illustrations were not very appealing.

View all my reviews

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A farewell to teaching


This will be my last week of teaching.  After nine years I am leaving the classroom because I am unhappy with it and life is too short to work at a job that makes you miserable.  It was not an easy decision – I love teaching and I love my students even more, but to me it just isn’t worth it anymore. 

I have spent literally hundreds of hours beyond my regular school day in committees and professional development trying to improve my skills as a teacher and trying to advocate for the teaching profession.  I have spent weekends and summer breaks at workshops.  I have spent hundreds of dollars of my own money to supplement my teaching supplies.  I am not whining – I chose to do these things to be a better teacher, but I have come to the conclusion that it is no longer worth it for me. 

I did not come to this decision lightly, here are some of the reasons why I feel like it is the right time for me to leave;

·        As the Kyrene district implements the new teacher evaluation system mandated by the state legislature, I have been marked down on my evaluations for not stopping every five minutes to have students discuss what they just learned with their peers or have students evaluate their own learning, simply because some book said that is better teaching than what I had been doing.  My evaluation scores have been erratic, and have more to do with the mood of the evaluator than with my teaching skill.

·         I have been asked to increasingly do more with less, larger class sizes, limited budgets, begging parents for classroom supplies, etc.

·         I have watched as the media and the legislature vilify teachers and strip away teacher rights. I watch every day as the Arizona legislature makes decisions to siphon even more away from the public education system through private vouchers.  I have made phone calls & visits to the state capitol.  I have been there when legislators actually admitted that they don't like teachers. 

·         I am appalled by legislative discussions of arming teachers with guns – I want no part of that.    

·         I have witnessed a push toward standardization that is not in the best interest of the children I teach.  We are forcing students to take standardized tests, yet teachers are being asked to provide differentiated lessons for each student – which makes no sense.  The new common core curriculum is being rushed to implementation before students and teachers are ready for it.  There is a frantic quality to teaching now, that somehow implies if we could just work even harder and harder we could fix this broken system. 


·         I have had to deal with parents being abusive, demanding and belittling and school administrators telling us to just put up with it; what other profession would be okay with being yelled at and abused?  (most parents are wonderful and caring - but there have been some that yelled and have even been threatening to me and my fellow teachers).  I have had to deal with Administrators who are poorly trained and overwhelmed, and who do not support their own teachers. 
 

When I started teaching I was really proud of the impact I had on the lives of children.  I was thrilled and honored to be recognized with an Excellence in Education award from the Tempe Diablos.  I have worked with amazing and dedicated colleagues who literally pour their heart and souls into their teaching every day.  It is disheartening to see my fellow teachers stressed and overworked. 

I love middle-school students.  They are bright and eager to learn.  There is nothing quite like watching students get ‘turned on to learning’.  I will miss my students so much.  I am not leaving because I am angry or bitter – I am leaving because I don’t want to become angry or bitter.  My students deserve better than that.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I'm so excited to be on the Book Review Depot Blog Tour

 



 



13 AUTHORS OVER 3 DAYS


GENRES: Epic fantasy, Paranorma, Romance, YA

Tour Link:  May Book Festival

 Find AMAZING books of unrivaled quality, right here on this CATALOGUE.

http://eepurl.com/UWg_D



www.alterranlegacy.com

 
REMEMBER! Follow the hop by visiting as many of the blogs on the linky as possible.
And visit the blogs of participating authors.


 
This Hop is brought to you by 


 



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 16, 2014

GERD - my latest acquisition in acronyms


No one ever said getting older was easy, but I didn’t realize that it might be this hard.  Everything seems to be breaking down and falling apart.  My latest acquisition in age-related health maladies & diseases is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, otherwise known as GERD. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when stomach contents flow back up into the esophagus—the muscular tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach.  GERD is also called acid reflux or acid regurgitation because the stomach’s digestive juices contain acid.
 
Apparently this is just another normal occurrence for many adults.  Anyone can develop GERD at any age but you are more likely to develop it as you get older.  Spicy or acidic foods are just harder to take as your stomach gets older.  It is even more complicated for women.  While women and men have the same basic digestive plumbing (stomach, liver, gallbladder, colon), the lower portion of the colon, called the sigmoid, tends to be longer in women so  along with a longer colon, women have extra female reproductive organs all vying for the same small space, and their digestive systems don't have as much room to expand when troubled by excess gas, air or food so they are likely to experience distress.  Yes it’s true, once menopause finally stops your annoying monthly cycle with its cramps and bloating, you get to experience new gas and bloating due to GERD. 


Luckily, there are lots medicines out there to help & just plain old diet and exercise can help too.  Reducing excess body fat can help improve your symptoms, and eating smaller portions is not only good for your waistline on the outside, it helps on the inside too.  If your symptoms are persistent and really uncomfortable, you should see a doctor.  An occasional antacid is a quick fix, but relying on Tums everyday could be an indication of a more severe problem and could cause additional challenges. 


Experts do suggest limiting your consumption of wine, chocolate & coffee if you have GERD, but I have to admit – I would rather suffer than go without the essentials in life J  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The big day is almost here

Yup, it’s almost here.  After months of planning and dreaming, our incredible Antigua Beach Wedding is only a few short weeks away and we are both like little kids waiting for Christmas morning, we are so excited.  We have even started this adorably annoying habit of reminding each other how many days it is until the wedding. 

 
I feel so incredibly lucky to have found such a rare and wonderful guy.  He is so supportive of everything I do.  He is my biggest fan.  He makes me laugh and smile all the time.  When I am with him, I can’t be in a bad mood – it’s impossible.  He has such a great outlook on life and his enthusiasm is absolutely infectious. 
 
I know I have found the perfect partner for me & I can’t imagine a more beautiful setting to start our married life together.  We have had so much fun making plans for all of the fantastic things we will do in Antigua, but to be honest, the one thing I am looking forward to the most is just sitting in a beach chair next to Peter and enjoying the moments together. 

In one month from today, I will be standing on a beach, saying I do to the man that I love! 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Review: The Dead Game by Susanne Leist

The Dead GameThe Dead Game by Susanne Leist
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found the Dead Game to be fast paced and intriguing. I am not normally a fan of paranormal work, but decided to read this book and I am glad I did. There are numerous plot twists and turns. The main character Linda finds herself falling for the dark and mysterious Todd, but she suspects he is hiding something. The story moves along at a rapid pace, and I must admit at times I got confused by some of the new characters introduced later in the story, but overall felt like this was a fun book with lots of action and suspense.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 9, 2014

The best thing about Mother's day is...

As mother’s day draws near, I can’t help but spend a few minutes thinking about how lucky I am.  Like most people, I will spend some time on Mother’s Day thinking about my Mom and how much she meant to me, but I will also spend time thinking about how very honored I am to be the Mom of two of the most incredible people on the planet.  I know that raising my two amazing daughters was the greatest accomplishment of my life.  It is hard to find the words to describe how proud I am to be their Mom.

 
I have often described Rachael as a force of nature.  She is the most determined and driven person I have ever met.  From day one she has been in high gear, accomplishing any goal that she set out for herself.  She is so smart and funny and such a genuinely caring person.  She does have that famous red-headed temper,  so we have had our struggles at times, but I am constantly in awe at her ability to tackle any challenge and master any skill.  I remember one of her elementary teachers saying “I wish I could fast forward and see the incredible things you will accomplish” and I know that teacher was right.  How could a mom not be proud to have a daughter like Rachael?
I usually describe Danielle as my hippie child, born a few decades too late, Danielle is a strong advocate for compassion and justice.  Just like her sister, Danielle is motivated and very successful, but Danielle is very much her own person.  She is a kind, sweet, intelligent and amazingly creative young lady. Where Rachael is much more traditional, Danielle is comfortably unique. Danielle is always proud to wear her upcycled clothing and make a fashion statement that is all her own.  She never fails to amaze me with her crazy costumes or her newest business ventures.  As a successful model, most people immediately notice how beautiful she is – but I know that her true beauty is on the inside. 

Mother’s day is the perfect time to think about how lucky I am.  I know I made mistakes at times, and being a Mom is never easy, but when I look at these two phenomenal women I can’t help but feel great. 
 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I Hate Bullies


Just like Captain America, I hate bullies! I love how the character of Steve Rogers won’t back down from a bully, even if the bully is much bigger than he is.  A bully can really hurt someone, but bullies don’t always throw punches, sometimes bullies are much worse than that.

Working in middle school, I see some kids get picked on and bullied, and I always try to intervene.  Sometimes the bully isn't who you think. 


I work with someone who is a bully.  Bullies do their job through intimidation and fear.  Unfortunately for me, just like Captain America, I have never been the kind of person who will back down from a bully.  This has often led to challenges, and in the words of Brittany Spears, “Oops I did it again,”  I called a bully out for their bad behavior, and in true bully form this person is trying to use fear and intimidation tactics against me for challenging them.  It’s too bad this bully doesn’t understand anything about real leadership.  Fear, intimidation and bullying are never part of effective leadership.
 
Have you ever seen that TV show called “What would you do?” where the hosts set up awful situations where someone is being a jerk and they see who will step in and say something.  I know I would be the person who would say something.  I have always been the kind of person who speaks up when I see something wrong.  I’m glad that the bully is focused on me, I know I am strong enough to stand up to this bully, and they will be so busy with me that they won’t have time to bully other people for a while.  It’s not fun to stand up to a bully, but someone has to step up and challenge those bullies…..
And like Steve Rogers said – “I can do this all day!”