Saturday, December 25, 2010


Have a wonderful day filled with family, peace, joy and love!
From our house to yours :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Carol - Book Review

Even though I've seen a multitude of A Christmas Carol movies...from Disney to George C. Scott to Bill Murray and all the others in between, I had never read the Dickens original. 
I decided this Christmas would be the year.
Following the suggestion of a Read Along over at Dog Eared and Bookmarked I decided to read 1 Stave each day.
Now, I'm embarrassed to admit that my copy of A Christmas Carol has been on my bookshelves in my den for years.  As a matter of fact, I cannot remember when I first purchased it.  The book jacket is even gone.  I actually didn't even realize how short A Christmas Carol copy has other stories in it as well...which I discovered only after I started reading Stave 2 and wondered what all the other chapters in the book would contain.
Remember, I told you I'm a doofus Ph.D.

When I began Stave 1 I thought the Dickens experience might be similar to that feeling I get when I've already seen the movie and I'm trying to read the book.
You know, that "Why am I reading this; I already know what's gonna happen?" feeling??

That only lasted for a line or two, and then I became totally immersed in the language and the description so eloquently used by Dickens to literally paint a picture with his words.

The obvious moral dilemmas are there and the lessons learned...most everyone knows the story...greed, family, loneliness, etc. etc. etc.
but Dickens doesn't preach or really even teach...the story is the the original Scrooge doesn't have quite as hard of a heart as he is portrayed in the movie versions.  He doesn't have to be "convinced" that his life is a mess...he seems to already know that. 
There are also some very real reasons for Scrooge to have turned out the way he is...very realistic to me for someone who suffers loss early in life to become hardhearted and defensive later. 

The one thing that I didn't expect was my response to the others in the story...those who Scrooge was mean to...they were mean too...they made fun of him, hated him, wished horrible things upon him...etc.  I don't remember noticing this as much in the movie versions.
I don't know if Dickens meant for the reader to notice this or not, but it sure made an impression on me...namely that you never really know why people act the way the do and that other people's actions, no matter how hateful, are never justification for us to act in a vindictive manner.

I will definitely read more Dickens...I felt as if I was in old London...I felt the chill of winter and could see the snow, the darkness of the night and Christmas through the eyes of a different generation...not so unlike our own.

My firstborn is reading this tonight, and I think we'll make it a tradition from now on.
We've been snowed in so to speak by illness, but for some reason I don't feel unhappy.  We've been able to be together more than we have in many Christmases that I can remember.  The illnesses have enabled me to spend quality time with whoever has been well at different times.  Does that even make sense??  No fighting over who gets to wrap what and who gets to run the mixer.  The illnesses have also forced me to rely on my older girls to get things done...I think responsibility has made them feel more of an ownership of our family's Christmas and that's a good thing.

The Head of My Household is out now trying to find meds for our youngest who is suffering from severe nausea and dizziness caused by Tamiflu which she needs to take...if I can get her some relief, I think this may be our best Christmas yet :)

Peace and joy to all of you on this blessed holiday :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

We Have the Flu

We have battled every kind of malady in existence over the last couple of weeks.  My household has been snorting, coughing, sniffing, running fever, name a symptom, and we have had it.
My kids never share anything; but they have generously been sharing germs over the holidays. 
Isn't that sweet???

As the flu began to make its presence in our community the last week of school before the holidays, I convinced my youngest to stay home with me...she happily conceeded until the last two days of school...a Polar Express party and the class Christmas party were enough to "pull her back in" (think Al Pacino in Godfather III)

At the Christmas party (which I also attended) in the course of an hour, 3 children left the classroom and had to have their parents called.  The office was full of sick children and parents were in and out picking up children who were running fever. 
As I had already been to the doctor's office with my oldest that week, I prayed that we would somehow escape what seemed to be the beginnings of an epidemic.

Up until yesterday I was still holding on to hope.

Of all five of us...4 of us strapping, big, healthy BABY is the first with a positive diagnosis.
With fever that has been as high as 103 over the last 24 hours and an upset tummy that obviously doesn't agree with Tamiflu on top of everything else, she announced this morning, "I don't think I'm gonna make it, Mama"

Go ahead and say AWWWWWWWWWWW!
You know you want to.

I told her she was gonna make it...cause that's what Mommies are for.
I bet Santa brings her extra presents.
What do you think?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings

Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I've been out of this loop for a few weeks, but I'm back in full force...thanks to or not thanks to a houseful of sick people :(
This Top 10 list was easy...I just pulled up my amazon wishlist with almost 300 books on it and chose 10 :):)

Top 10 Books I Hope Santa Brings

1.  IPAD - ok,'s not a book...BUT..."my" Ipad that I've been reading ebooks on was really my boss's Ipad...and she made me give it back to her over Christmas holidays.  How rude! Yes, I know.  My 3rd Stephanie Plum was already downloaded on my boss's Ipad, which I'm sure she's reading right now.  WAH!  I will never be a proponent for completely replacing books with Ebooks, but after having an Ereader and then having it "stolen" away from me, I definitely see a place for them in our future.  I've even gone out on a limb this Christmas and ordered my middle child (the non-reader) a Nook-Color.  My hope is that it might inspire her to read a little more...she's big into electronics so maybe an electronic book will be the key.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

2.  The new Annotated version of Pride and Prejudice - From the moment I saw this one in real life it was a gimmee...a larger than normal beautifully covered edition of one of Austen's classics of classics.  And, to top it off, annotated and illustrated.  No thought necessary here.

3.  Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin - The setting is rural Mississippi...a lifelong friendship that crosses racial boundaries but ends with suspicion...two men who meet again in adulthood when the violence returns.  This one is probably a no brainer for Santa as well.  I'm a pretty transparent reader most of the time.

4.  A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse - a mystery? set in a bookstore??  Can any book lover resist a book whose setting is in a bookstore, library, book collector's home, etc??? I think not.  Bring it on, Santa!

5.  Great House by Nicole Krauss - Even if there hadn't been such hype about this novel this year, the idea of a desk with history...based on the homes and owners of its past...would have caught my attention just from reading the book jacket.  I've been waiting a while for this one.

6.  Just Kids by Patti Smith - This selection might be one that would surprise Santa just from the cover and a first look at the content.  Do you have any idea how many times I've been asked if I'm the rocker Patti Smith??  Not seriously, of course, but everybody's a comedian when the opportunity arises.  She even spells her name like me!
Anyhoo, my literary interest in this one goes past the rocker Patti Smith and my name sharing.  This story is more about her move to a New York that no longer exists and her friendship with the eccentric photographer Robert Mapplethorpe both before and after they both became famous. Sounds cool to me.

7.  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein - Back to the no-brainers for me.  A story about how an animal touches the life of its owner.  Several bloggers have promised tears and I have no idea why I do this to myself...but there's nothing like the love of a pet and I need to share those sentiments with all the authors who choose to write about these relationships.

8.  Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen - I'm admittedly weird when it comes to books and movies.  This one has been on my list for a while, but when I saw that a movie was on its way in 2011 it became necessary for me to read this book immediately.  We all have our quirks, right?

9.  Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls - If I had to name books that touched my life in ways that I'm sure I'll carry with me the rest of my life, The Glass Castle would be one of those.  I reviewed it here.  When I heard that Jeannette Walls had backed up even further in her family's history and told the story of her maternal grandmother, I was and am intrigued to learn more about this woman who raised Jeannette's mentally ill mother.

10.  A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick - I LOVE historical fiction.  A well written story set in the past that also teaches me something about lives long ago really has the ability to transport me to another time and place.  These are escape books to me...I read paranormal fiction as well, but that is not real to is a fairy tale or make-believe while historical fiction is a story with truth embedded.  This one has received a lot of buzz this year and many bloggers have recommended it...please and thank-you :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest - Book Review

My firstborn talked me into this one.  I'm ashamed to say that even though I'm an English teacher, I have never read anything by Oscar Wilde until now. I've had a smattering of literature over the course of my college career but my major focus areas are reading and writing/rhetoric and composition/literacy so while I had a lot of lit in college, it was not the major focus of my coursework...especially when I made it to grad school. 
How I missed this hilarious 3 Act play about two snooty Englishmen and their desire to guessed it, Earnest, I'll never know.

Jack and Algernon are not exactly friends...but they have to act civil to one another bc English society expects it of them in their gentlemenly positions.   Both are guilty of "bunburying" as Algernon labels the practice of being one person in the city and another person in the country....essentially leading two lives completely separate from one another.
As both men are contemplating marriage, each has his own ideas about remaining a "Bunburyist" into marriage.  Jack intends to give up his "brother" Earnest who lives in the country and must be seen to on a regular basis while Algernon has no intention whatsoever of giving up his poor sickly friend Bunbury.
As a matter of fact, bunburying is, according to Algernon, completely acceptable by one's wife and even appreciated.


Jack has his sites set on Algernon's cousin Gwendolyn while Algenon is infatuated by Jack's 18 year old ward Cecily.
Both must overcome society's restrictions (in the form of Algenon's aunt, Lady Bracknell) before attaining their hearts' desires.  Complicating things even more is that each of the ladies thinks her suitor's name is Earnest.

Confused yet?

What is absolutely hilarious about this read is the sincerety of the characters' ridiculous comments to one another as they work their way through this conundrum as only those who've been bred to a life of leisure can.
I laughed out loud more times while reading this short play than I have in much longer works of fiction.
Here are a couple of snippets for your teasing enjoyment:

LADY BRACKNELL (to Jack as she is trying to decide if he is "worthy" of her Gwendolen): Are your parents living?
JACK: I have lost both my parents.
LADY BRACKNELL: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

GWENDOLEN (conversing with Cecily about their two men who have distractions "in the country"): Personally I cannot understand how anybody manages to exist in the country, if anybody who is anybody does.  The country always bores me to death.
CECILY: Ah! This is what the newspapers call agricultural depression, is it not?  I believe the aristocracy are suffering very much from it just at present.  It is almost an epidemic amongst them, I have been told.  May I offer you some tea, Miss Fairfax?

You must experience this little play yourself in order to completely enjoy it...again, only 3 Acts, and you'll finish it in an hour probably...snorting with laughter all the way through at Wilde's comic treatment of London upper class in the late 1800's.