Saturday, January 11, 2014

Just Do It or Why Nine Posts in a Single Morning

I have split personalities. Part of me is a doer - someone who sees something that needs to be accomplished and just takes care of it. The old adage, why do tomorrow what could be done today, echoes through my mind and I race to check things off my silly to do lists. The other part of me is a procrastinator - someone who see things that are not absolutely essential to survival that can be saved for another day and leaves them, sometimes for days and sometimes for months. The past few weeks I have decided that I have decided that I am no longer split - I am either going to just do the things that I supposedly say I value (I'd like that supposedly to be taken off) and eliminate those things that are a distraction from what's most important. The cliched ideas that there's no time like the present and that having less to do's will help you sleep better at night are cliche for a reason - they're absolutely true and I don't want to waste my life thinking I should have done more. I want just want to be out there doing the things I love most and being the best possible version of myself. Life is too short for anything else.

{ps. If it's still unclear why nine posts in a single morning...I have had reviewing the books I read this fall on my to do list for MONTHS...and I finally did it. Now to the next...}

The Last Lecture

The Last LectureThe Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a teacher, we can check out library books longer than the usual three weeks. I have had The Last Lecture for months - partially because it took me a month to actually start reading it, but mostly because I just can't get myself to give it back. There are so many worthwhile quotes and ideas in this book that I want to write them all down before I give it back. I love books that make you see humanity and possibility in every moment and that make you want to be better. Such a great read.

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and GraceAn Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just the title of this book is delectable - Adler's writing is exquisite. She brings tastes and smells to life as she writes about not only the art of cooking the perfect egg, but how to then use that egg (or chicken or onion or pepper) in a dozen different ways. I sat on the beach in Hawaii reading this and absolutely itching to get into a kitchen to put Adler's theories into practice. The reason this book is a four and not a five is that it's not a perfect vehicle for teaching cooking principles - meaning there are no pictures and there are some overly generalized lessons that an unskilled cook like myself will not be able to navigate very well. This book though will sit in my kitchen forever and as I have ten minutes to wait for water to boil or cookies to bake, I will read and reread it trying to find ways to be a bit more economical and a bit more graceful, in and out of the kitchen. Happy reading and happy eating!

Just One Year

Just One Year (Just One Day, #2)Just One Year by Gayle Forman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't know what exactly draws me to Gayle Forman's books, but since I discovered her a few years ago, I have read her books right when they come out. I think I'm just intoxicated by the romance and the inevitable obstacles the plague her couples. It doesn't hurt that this book includes Shakespeare and Europe. It's not great fiction, but it is compelling story telling....kinda the equivalent of Halloween candy. You know it's not the best possible treat you could be eating, but sometimes you just can't help reaching for that second (or third) Butterfinger. Enjoy!


Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am such a bandwagon reader especially when it comes to young adult fiction. Lots of students and friends were reading this book, so naturally I had to too. I would actually give this book a 3.5, but because I have to choose 3 or 4 and because I read this book in only a couple days, I am going with 4. The premise of a world where we are categorized by attributes is great and the concepts of choice and whether we feel like we belong are universally applicable to readers. And when I'm allowed to buy books again (my to be read shelves are much too full right now), I will definitely be picking up Roth's next one in the series. Happy reading!

Romeo & Juliet...Again

Romeo and JulietRomeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every year I begin our study of Romeo & Juliet with a discussion of what makes a good love story. Then students come up with their best examples of love stories - their answers are occasionally classic but usually shout outs to the most dominant examples of love in their young lives - Disney princess stories, Titanic (seriously -this is theirs. I didn't add it though my freshmen self would have absolutely said this), The Notebook, Up. And then I have students ask parents and adults whether they think Romeo & Juliet is romantic, and the students return with a pretty solid split of opinions.

So this year, all through the book I thought about whether I think Romeo & Juliet is romantic...because I love this play, but I realized this year that it's not the overall love story that makes me love it. It's the language, the way the characters live the passions and their days with an unbelievable "all or nothing" attitude, and yes -there is love and descriptions of love that only Shakespeare could create. But the love I have for the "greatest love story of all time" comes from adaptations of it - Baz Luhrmann's party scene and that perfect first kiss or the Romeo & Juliet performance in the final moments of Shakespeare in Love. So no, Romeo & Juliet is not a good love story - not for the reasons I think make up a good love story, but it is a great story and I am already looking forwards to teaching this unit next year.

The Book Thief - Round 3

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book stays with you just the way the smell of baking bread or the sound of the ocean crashing on the sand does. It is just so right and so comforting. The Book Thief is about words, their infinite power, and how simple, small actions can change alter a person's life in the most profound ways. I love this book more than anything I have ever read. Read it. Then watch the movie. Then read it again. You don't be disappointed. January 11, 2014 (Read again in November 2013)

The Happiness Project - Round 2

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More FunThe Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book in 2010 as I was searching for happiness amidst the chaos of a grad school program I didn't feel entirely at home in. I couldn't have known it then, but reading this book laid the ground work for a summer and a shift in thinking that has changed my life. It's not that I have completed full happiness projects, but I did stop waiting and started doing and I am so much happier. Taking responsibility for my happiness was absolutely a game changer.

This past summer (yes, I'm four-plus months late with a review) I picked up The Happiness Project again in an attempt to redefine my goals and what makes me happiest. It was a perfect summer read because summer is my season of rejuvenation and September my time of resolutions and goals. I love the ideas in this book and am just starting Rubin's latest book "Happiness at Home". The idea of actively living instead of passively waiting for life to happen is one of the most enabling principles. If you're looking for a reset button or just something to boost what is already a pretty great life, I would definitely suggest this book.

Happy Reading!

ps. Why four versus five stars if I consider this book so life changing? Because it's a bit long-winded and occasionally, I am not in love with everything Rubin says. That said, I really do love it. It, like most of us though, just isn't perfect.

Words To Live By

I have been a quote collector for as long as I can remember. Since the beginning of the year is such a reflective time (and because I was cleaning out my email inbox), here are quotes that I have been musing on for the past few months. 

Perhaps the secret of living well is not having all the answers but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company. --Rachel Naomi Remen

What's terrible is to pretend that second-rate is first-rate. To pretend that you don't need love when you do; or you like your work when you know quite well you're capable of better. --Doris Lessing

Funny, when you finally faced reality, it was amazing how clearly you could see things. --Mary Higgins Clark

Two is company, four is a party, three is a crowd. One is a wanderer. --James Thurber

Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They’re never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal. --Lenore Hershey

Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. --George Saunders

The truth isn't always beauty, but the hunger for it is. --Nadine Gordimer

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. --Carl Sagan

You don't write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid's burnt socks lying in the road. --Richard Price

Charm is the ability to make someone else think that both of you are pretty wonderful. --Kathleen Winsor

None of us really changes over time. We only become more fully what we are. --Anne Rice

Sorrow is better than fear. Fear is a journey, a terrible journey. But, sorrow is at least an arriving. --Alan Paton

Of all sound of all bells... most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the Old Year. --Charles Lamb

And when you're done with this, check this out...It's a blog entitled "Don't Date a Girl Who Teaches". My favorite section says, "You thought PMS was bad? Try PEGPS. PEGPS stands for Pre End-of-Grading-Period Syndrome, the period of time before grades are due for report cards. Like PMS, PEGPS is characterized by extreme irritability, poor nutritional choices, and zombie-like fatigue. However, unlike PMS, PEGPS lasts for 2-3 WEEKS and happens four to six times per YEAR."  Considering it's the second week of January, I've been able to stave off the irritability, but Seth and I had French Fries and shakes for dinner last poor nutrional choices. Check....

Happy Reading and Happy New Year!!