Saturday, November 24, 2012

Snapshot Saturday - The Thanksgiving 2012 Edition

I love looking at holiday photos over the years...watching my girls grow and seeing the traditions being made.    
I take a bunch of pictures each year before during and after the holiday and then pick out my favorites much later down the road.  This year was no different.  I took pics of the decorating process, the cooking progress, all the help in the kitchen, early Thanksgiving morning just my husband and our children, and then gobs of photos of the 19 people who showed up for our feast.  I even took pics of the feast itself.
Early yesterday morning I snuggled up with my camera to revisit the memories.
This is what I saw:

"No CF card"

Excuse me, what?

So, I turned the camera off and back on again with my eyes closed and toes crossed, hoping I was just dreaming of the very silly possibility that there might not be a memory card in my camera.  

Same message.

My middle daughter loves taking pictures as much as I do.  She's even joined the yearbook staff at our college as one of the photographers.  I had no doubt what happened to my CF card.  You see, my card is bigger than hers.  Much bigger.  At some point this semester she must have decided to "borrow" my memory card.


The middle daughter and I had a very civilized discussion about the meaning of the word "borrow"...a very calm conversation bc I refuse to get upset at Thanksgiving.
I also suggested that she ask for a larger CF card for her own camera for Christmas.
And, then I very nicely mentioned that if she removed my memory card again, I would beat her.
Because that's what parents do.

I do have a few pics from my Iphone to share...the quality is not as good as my trusty Canon, but I did manage to capture a few memories thanks to Steve Jobs.

Middle daughter there on the left, mixing up her famous Butterfinger Pie and youngest daughter on the right wrapping the green beans for the Green Bean Bundles.

Watching the Macy's Parade on Thanksgiving morning...Layla's the one with the ears :)

Another shot of my Layla...Her favorite balloons in the parade were Snoopy and Clifford :)

And, finally a grainy one taken by the middle daughter (AKA memory card stealer) after the feast was over and the first of many loads of dishes were washing.
Layla's still the one with the ears, and that's me with a smile on my face bc I survived the day :)

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by Alyce @ At Home with Books.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black my pajamas

While I certainly don't begrudge those who shop on Black Friday, "those" don't include me.
I just can't do it.  It's just not who I am.  Waiting in line is not my forte' nor is being patient with pushy, rude people.  I was quite taken with an article I read earlier this week about the Colonial era blue laws still in effect in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Thanksgiving is revered there, the place where Thanksgiving actually began, and celebrated quietly and peacefully with family.  How the heck did we get so far away from the true meaning of the holiday?  Yes, I'm a little naive.  Why do you ask?  Maybe I should move to Plymouth.  
I asked the husband who is on his laptop, sitting next to me, and unfortunately, he says we can't move to Massachusetts.
So, you see, it's best I stay home.
And, I do.

After hosting Thanksgiving (my absolute favorite day of the year :), I've always spent the weekend after just resting and reading.  
Last year I participated in the Thankfully Reading ReadAThon weekend and vowed to make that part of my Thanksgiving tradition :) 
So, here I am! 

I don't want to spoil the weekend with too much planning, but here are a few things I've already picked out to start with:

The Daily Coyote - my friend Murray loaned this to me months ago...way past time for me to read this.

The School of Essential Ingredients - I actually own the hardback of this one...that's how long it's been on my TBR :/  

The Lost Art of Mixing - I've got this one up next for review so I'd like to get a little ahead of myself before things at school get completely nuts as we begin wrapping up the semester and exams begin.  I'm hoping to enjoy Erica Bauermeister so much after The School of Essential Ingredients that I'll fall right into this one.

Go on over to Jenn's Bookshelves for specifics and to sign up if you're interested in joining.  


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I generally fly around about 110 mph all day today and collapse after everyone leaves.
I. Love. Every. Minute. of. It.

Here's hoping that your day is full of family, food, and fun...and being thankful for the many blessings we have :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

TLC Book Review - Because You Have To

Because You Have To by Joan Frank
University of Notre Dame Press, 2012

Format? Oversized paperback
Source? The publisher via TLC Book Tours
*FTC Disclosure - I received a complimentary copy of Because You Have To from the publisher via TLC Book Tours.  However, the opinions and comments in the review below are my own and offered without bias.

Why?  I'm a writing teacher...and have been an avid reader and writer my entire life.  Why would I NOT want to read this book? :)

Cover? An older model typewriter and a solitary chair situated within what looks like one of the "writer's shacks" of old...what all writers covet, but few actually experience...or possibly a tableau of Frank's father's own studio.

Title? Writers write for the same reason readers read...we just have to.  We don't know how to explain it...we just do it.  We just  need it, and it fulfills us.  Perfect title in my opinion.

What Now?  I knew from the Preface that this one was a keeper...onto the antique bookshelves it goes :)  I will also spend another hour or two adding books mentioned by Frank to my WishList.

Golden Lines

Author Antonya Nelson once said that after you become a writer it changes forever the way you read, that a certain loss of innocence is involved, which is true.  At the same time specific pleasures obtain, that might never have been grasped in prior innocence (x).

Writing is thinking on paper.  And many writers undertake the craft in the first place because it allows them to think their way through to some new understanding or new question or problem - watch it unfold, feel it lead them, in the lines and paragraphs taking form before their eyes (1).

In reading or writing we imagine with free-ranging motion, escaping present-time constructs - a process which nourishes and restores us in ways we don't yet fully understand, much like sleep (24).

To reprise Thaisa Frank, "Being a writer simply means that you have a passion for writing bound up with the way you think, feel, and live, and that you find ways - even if serendipitous, mad, or chaotic - to honor that passion (35-36).

In the end, writing that has life in it can't issue from someone else's formula, like dance steps painted on a plastic mat.  Anyone with an instinct for the shape and sound and movement of language must somewhere in her heart recognize this lonely truth, and agree to trust herself to go forward, absorbing the advice that fits along the way, tossing the rest.  This process is lifelong (70-71).

That program taught me to read widely, deeply, and very closely, in the study of craft.  It gave me a superb list of works and writers to investigate in depth.  It gave me instructors whose words had weight because they were themselves working writers (73).

In short, rejection reminds us over and over of the relativity of authority and the subjectivity of taste (82).

It's generally understood (silently for the most part) that the frustrations of commerce and marketing form a special, separate chamber of loneliness for authors.  This is far different from the generic solitude of making art, which most of us happily choose (98).

A hand in the game, a voice in the conversation.  To think and talk about reading and writing is delicious luxury.  When I shape a review, I feel that I am shaping an intimate message (as if over a cafe' table) about something whose survival matters desperately to both the listener and me - not just the book at hand, but the cause of literary art (152).

We can fight all day about what is and is not the "purest" literature (and we haven't yet considered the blatantly autobiographical novel or the intensely novelistic memoir).  But what or whom would anybody's bloody victory serve? (163)


Frank's book Because I Have To delves into the writing life of an author...not just the writing part...but all the messy "stuff" that's inevitable in any life plus all the "stuff" that most of us don't know about the writing life.  Frank writes about her own experiences but also how her personal perspective fits in with literary history, economics and shifts in the publishing world.  

What I Liked

Frank pulls in other writers' experiences with her own and that of her friends.  It's not just comforting to know that Frank experiences what many of us do, finding a way to express our literary loves, but even much more established authors feel the same way.  Even very well known, iconic writers (Bellow, Fitzgerald, Agee, etc.) had to "belly crawl along a ditch under bullet fire" in order to write.

The theme of Just Do It.  Find the time, even if it's only in small increments (as you dodge life's bullets).  Quit worrying about how much or how little you have.  That time spent worrying could be time writing.

The integration of reading and writing - I'm sure there are readers who aren't writers and writers who aren't readers...but that's hard for me to imagine.  Reading and writing are reciprocal processes which feed off one is exactly why we (should) integrate them in the classroom and use both across the curriculum.  I personally loved the way Frank naturally tried in aspects of reading with her writer's life :)

The lists of other works, both fiction and non-fiction that I have now added to my own reading list.  One very important aspect of a book for me is that it leads me somewhere else...Frank led me to a lot of interesting reading material that I never knew was out there :)

The section on reviewing and writers as reviewers - anyone who reviews has his/her own personal "language" when discussing why a book does or does not work for him/her.  And, I'm intrigued lately with books hyped in the media and various reviewers' responses to them.  Frank warns against getting caught up in the hype.  Again, Frank emphasizes that the reader's perspective matters...even though the reader's personal connection or lack of creates subjectivity, that's not necessarily a bad thing as long as the reviewer doesn't attack the author unjustly.

Frank's vocabulary and prose-like language, is loaded with metaphor, humor, and deep thought...a "richness" that surprised me...but then, this is a book about writing as art :)

Frank's student perspective about working through writing courses with teachers who were actually writers and readers -  I teach freshman composition instead of the MFA that Frank described, but I think the same applies.   I've noticed an evolution in my teaching as well as my own writing since I've been blogging...and especially once I started reviewing for a larger audience.  Yes, as an academic I do have a few publications on my vita, but we all know those aren't circulated within a real world audience and many times are so full of educational jargon that what could be said in a few paragraphs ends up in 16 pages (ahem, the dissertation process), and when all is said and done, really looks nothing like what you initially intended it to.
Frankly, it reminds me of what one student said after reading a portion of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath in our class anthology that semester called "The Turtle."  After reading 3 pages of small print, the student simply said, "Dr. Smith, why the hell couldn't the author have just said the turtle crossed the road?"
If I'm going to teach writing, then I myself should be willing to write. I should be willing to put myself "out there" if that's what I expect my students to do.
Thanks for the reminder :)

What I Didn't Like
**For this review, these are simply things that I reacted to somewhat negatively...not that I didn't like them as part of this book.

The chapter on money - I don't write for money obviously :p and most likely never will.  I couldn't help but wonder if a popular published author's life sometimes becomes like the life of an educational administrator who leaves the classroom and forgets what's really important...the craft.  I don't write many negative reviews mostly bc I choose what I read carefully...but nothing can send me into a spasm quicker than spending my precious reading time on an established author's newest work and getting the strong feeling that I was simply sold a product.  I can think of 3 authors off the top of my head who've made me feel this way recently.  How frustrating it must be for the author Frank describes...the one who pours his/her heart and soul into a work, only to receive the "cordial" form rejection letter over and over again.  Sounds like trying to sell your soul to the devil to me.

The chapter on rejection - who gets to decide anyway?  Frank compares the process of getting published to a lottery...and that just makes me mad (not Frank's comparison, the actual idea of publishing as a lottery).  As a matter of fact, the more Frank talked about the publishing industry today, the angrier I became.  No wonder some of that crappy stuff gets put on the shelves, big author name, you waited at least a year for a next installment, $26.95 for the hardback, and you hate it.
Publishing practices discussed here also made me realize how some of the lesser known books I've read this year, published by smaller companies, have been some of the best.  

Overall Recommendation

One of her friends commented to Frank that she liked "cerebral" books...and I believe it, given her writing :)  This is not a "how-to" book, people, so don't expect it to be.  Frank's honesty, authentic voice, writing style and grasp of language may very well be for those readers who really like to think about/analyze (and maybe even look up a word or two) what we read. That description fits my reading preferences pretty well though.  I thoroughly enjoyed Because You Have To and highly recommend it to those who are readers and writers who like to mull over the nature of the craft.

The Author

Joan Frank's Website

Other Stops on the TLC Tour

Monday, November 5th: Becca’s Byline
Tuesday, November 6th: Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, November 7th: Stephany Writes
Monday, November 12th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, November 13th: Kind of a Mess
Wednesday, November 14th: Book Chatter
Monday, November 19th: Peppermint PhD
Tuesday, November 20th: 50 Books Project
Monday, November 26th: BookNAround
Tuesday, November 27th: Let’s eat Grandpa!
Wednesday, November 28th: Luxury Reading
Thursday, November 29th: Much Madness is Divinest Sense

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Salon - November 18

This past Friday afternoon when I left work, I felt like a huge burden had been lifted.  I had reached that point where writing teachers feel as if we're slipping into the abyss of essays that need grading.  The essays are not all graded, but at least I have a break.
I'm a slow grader...not even gonna try and make excuses for it.
I'm not a snooty teacher...I promise...but I can only read so many student essays at a time, especially if the students write about the same essay topics over and over again :(  Please imagine hundreds of essays comparing and contrasting dining at home vs. eating out.  Really, after two or three essays, tops, there's just not that much original material left to talk about :/ 
I try to encourage my students to write about something original, something that they know a lot about...I know that they will write a better essay on a topic like that, but I also know the essay will be easier for me to grade...a quicker read in many cases bc I'll actually be interested in what I'm reading.
Heavy sigh.

My friend and colleague, Missie, sits down with a stack of essays as soon as they've been turned in.  She mechanically grades that stack right then and there.  She won't even talk to the rest of us if she has essays to grade.
I've tried.
I can't.
It just wears me out.

Our Thanksgiving break is the best week of my year...I get to be Mommy, my house gets cleaner than any other time of the year, and I get to cook for days.  I've got my menu made and the turkey is already thawing in the fridge.  I stick to the same basics, especially the family traditions (canned cranberry sauce, no discussion), but each year I might add a new recipe to the mix just to see how things go.  One Thanksgiving issue that bothers me is when I reach that point of the meal prep where it seems everything needs to be in the oven or on the stove at the same time.  
Do you know what I'm talking about?  
The cornbread dressing and sweet potato casserole are the two main sides that really throw me for a loop each year.  They are both so big and need to cook for the longest...and that's AFTER the turkey is finally finished cooking.  I always find myself juggling pots and pans in and out of the oven for the last couple of hours before mealtime.
I stumbled upon a website just yesterday that lauded using crock-pots for both of my main sides.
I never even thought about the crock-pot as an option!
I then googled both cornbread dressing and sweet potato casserole in the crock-pot to see what other people said, and all I found were positives.  I think I'm gonna try it...I'm a little nervous...what the heck will I do if they turn out yucky?  
My other questionable recipe for this year is Giblet Gravy.  I struggle with gravy.  For the life of me I do not understand the idea of making gravy out of a turkey's neck and innards :p I used to eat it with no problem...until it became my job to make it.  I usually just give in at the last minute and make a simply brown gravy or turkey gravy from one of those McCormick packets, but I found a recipe and step by step instructions yesterday that I might can handle. 

The Best Books of 2012 lists have started popping up.  This was the first one I've run across:
Some good stuff here, but I always find it interesting what some folks think is "best."  Of course, I guess we'll be having this conversation for as long as there are readers in the world with differing opinions.

I'm participating in the Gratitude Giveaways this month, hosted by I Am A Reader, Not a Writer.  Check out my list of gently read books for optional prizes and then check out the list of over 100 blogs participating in the hop.

Unless you've been under a rock, you know that Hostess has filed bankruptcy.  That means no more Twinkies, no more King Dons and no more Wonder Bread (amongst a whole bunch of other stuff).  
It's kinda sad to see iconic American products reach the end of the road, isn't it?
Even sadder though are the people and families who've found themselves without jobs.
I can't even imagine.

I found a couple of other articles I think are worth sharing.  The first one is about 80 year old author Phillip Roth who has decided officially to retire.  It's interesting to read about what his life as a writer entailed and how he is using these last years of his life in such different ways.

The other article is about a child who was diagnosed with an inability to feel pain.  Did you think that only happened in the movies or on tv?  Me too.  This article really brings to light some of the day to day dangers of living with the disease.  Sadly, not many children survive to adulthood.  Imagine having an inflamed appendix (which should hurt, but doesn't) but never knowing you were in danger until it killed you. Imagine that being your child.  Very interesting stuff.