24 March 2017

Reading Challenge - Book Eight

The book I chose for the 28th category on my reading list (a novel set during wartime) was 1984 by George Orwell. Because in 1984, there is always war.

I despised this book. Hated it.

I read books for the happy endings. [SPOILER ALERT] No happy ending here, folks. I kept waiting for the 11th hour surprise switcheroo. Never came.

I usually enjoy dystopian fiction, even with cliffhanger endings. This? Did not fit the bill for me.

In the interest of saying something of substance, it was written in such a way that I was intrigued, and kept reading. So I may have enjoyed the reading for a couple minutes in the middle? I kept reading. All the way to the miserable last four words. I also found myself quite thoughtful over Goldstein's explanation of how the world had ended up as it was being described in 1984. But that is a rather grudging compliment.

I'm sure my bitterness will fade over time, but what was the book you read that you then wished you never had read? My big catch is that I NEEDED to read it, even to know that I would be this disappointed in it. So I suppose it was destiny that I would have to read it sometime. And now it's thankfully done.

22 March 2017

The Young Americans

A couple months ago I saw a post on Facebook (yes, much of my life starts or ends on Facebook). But this post was asking about an activity in our community education book that overlapped with school time. People were asking if it was just for home-schoolers, or if anyone had done it before and recommended that parents (gasp) pull their kids out of school for the day and a half necessary to participate. What really got my attention was all the replies. It was open to all students 3rd grade and older, and everyone who had participated HIGHLY recommended it. So we signed our 4th grader up.

It was The Young Americans workshop. If I had just seen the listing in the community education booklet, I probably would have skipped right over it. The name kind of sounds stuffy to me, like they're trying to indoctrinate young republicans or something.

Holy guacamole. I would not have been more wrong. The Young Americans have been doing workshops, presentations, and summer camps for 25 years, and they do them spectacularly well. After we signed up her, my daughter had an assembly at school that was comprised of just four of The Young Americans doing their song and dance thing. At that point, she was SO excited that we had signed her up.

The real deal started this past Sunday. The workshop ran on Sunday from 2 - 6, Monday from 8 - 6, and Tuesday from 3 - 6:30, with their presentations starting at 7pm.
I was there at the very beginning, dropping her off, and I was immediately so impressed with these college kids. We were waiting in a cafeteria until all the kids were checked in. The Young Americans were mingling, starting to learn the kids' names, and helping putting any shy or nervous youngsters at ease. These were not just 'leaders' here to work with out community's kids. These were young people who were really excited to get to know our kids, interact with them, build their confidence, and help them have a great time while integrating music and education.

Last night was finally the performance. I've got to say, my daughter was so excited after even just the first day. The performance started out with just The Young Americans, doing snippets from the history of music, movies, and musicals, with super fun singing, dancing, and choreography. The kids had gotten to know them, and were so excited to watch their favorites perform. After a 15-minute intermission, it was time for our kids to take the stage (oh! the stage itself was incredible! A HUGE floor laid out to protect the gym floor, a GIANT screen with accompanying movie/music/musical titles, and they all magically changed costumers behind the screen, full lighting and sound system - it was nuts!).
There were maybe 100 community kids at our workshop. They were broken into three groups mostly by age/grade, and all got to contribute somewhat to their groups name and moves. There were some dancers, lots of singers, and most of all, tons of fun and enthusiasm.
The kids part focused on music as a part of other areas of education, with emphasis on world languages (and several of The Young Americans were from other countries), science, math (aRHYTHMetic), and reading/language arts. The whole Young Americans program started out as trying to keep music in the schools, and their message is still the same.

Our daughter is super excited to participate in the summer camp in August, and said she also wants to host two of The Young Americans at our house for the week.

If The Young Americans come to your community, definitely check them out, and if your kids are 3rd grade or older, encourage them to get involved! Check out the website for more information about contacting them and getting them to your community. They truly provide a fantastic experience.

21 March 2017

Learning Styles and Anxiety

Having two small(ish) kids, I've thought about learning styles before. My oldest listens pretty well (if it's something she's interested in) and can repeat things she's heard at school that day. My youngest doesn't read yet, so I can really only observe him learning by listening or doing.

I've recently noticed that for myself, my mind is getting too scattered to 'listen' much. I recently attended a day-long meeting for my primary business (Perfectly Posh), and there was apparently a great presentation about (excuse my french) 'owning your own shit.' Basically, taking responsibility for your own actions, and the results of those action. But I have to say 'apparently a great presentation' because if it was at my location (the presenters varied a bit based on location), I missed it. Just flat-out spaced on it. Never even heard the word 'shit' uttered from the stage (you'd think that might catch my attention!).

There are a couple reasons I may have missed parts of what was happening on the stage. See, I have a hard-ish time watching videos on my computer too. I've always attributed it to the fact that I've got too much going on in my office. To sit and watch a video, and be engaged with it, I have to ignore the other piles and to-do lists on my desk, the laundry shaking the floor a bit from downstairs, and frequently my son asking if he can have a snack, or go to the basement, or...you get the idea.

But for the day-long event? I'm SO grateful we got printed programs of the days high-points. There were 900 (that would be in capital letters, if I could...), yes, 900 tickets sold. And I hate crowds. There were people everywhere. And I was supposed to find more than a dozen of them. Finding a dozen people in a crowd of 900 - oh, most of the dozen I had never met in person before - whew. I'm getting stressed out all over again just thinking about it.

Oh, getting a bit off the rails here. But I think part of the reason I don't remember what were surely valuable presentations, is that my stress level was through the roof. For nearly 12 hours straight (thanks to the three people I knew, who helped me decompress a bit at lunch ;) ). The point being, my anxiety detracted from the great learning opportunities all day. Luckily, my next big event will be with my best friend, who usually grounds me enough to be present. When alone, it's actually getting worse with every big event I attend.

So, is my learning style now confined to reading in peace? Is there something that can help me ignore 900 people and focus on what I truly hope to glean from an event or presentation (please tell me your secrets!)?

13 March 2017

Reading Challenge - Book Seven

I ready my seventh book this year for the 'book with a cat on the cover' category of the PopSugar Reading Challenge.

Unlucky 13 by James Patterson would be a wonderful beach read. Well, if it wasn't February in Michgan for me. LOL It was a fun read, with engaging characters and a plot that made me want to keep reading so I could find out how it all ended. As the 13th book of the 'Women's Murder Club' series, I was a little worried that I wouldn't know what was going on, but the intro of all characters and situations was thorough, so it's the only book of the series that I've read. That being said, there were some loose ends still not explained by the end of the book. Maybe they're the plot for book 14? Someone who has read more will have to let me know, as I still have a long enough to-be-read list that doesn't include it for now.

If you've got time for pleasure reading on your schedule, I'd absolutely recommend this book. I believe I've read quite a few by James Patterson, and they don't disappoint.

What are you reading in your spare time?

09 March 2017

All Grown Up...

Do you know when you grew up?

I mean, I’ve had this theory for a while that most people grow up, or mature, when they’re forced to.

I grew up in early October, 1991. I’d been out of high school for a little more than a year. I was working retail and going to school for marketing, I think (I may have changed my major a few times…).

It was a weekend, when it all changed. From what I’ve heard, my brother took the life-changing phone call. He was able to reach my parents, who were camping nearby. When I walked in the door to our house after work, I was surprised to see the three of them (my parents, and my brother) sitting in the living room. Something had to have happened.

I got the news that has literally eclipsed who I used to be. My best friend from high school had committed suicide in her college dorm room. The old me ceased existing, or maybe just the adult me immediately evolved.

We hadn’t obviously seen each other every day anymore – she was a few hours away at college. But even a few hours away, I was supposed to be her best friend. I’d let her down in the most ultimate way, and now I just deserved to be alone. She felt she had no one to turn to, so now neither did I.

Like I said, I really don’t remember a lot of who I was before that, and I just remember snippets of things around that time. I started dating an ex-boyfriend, just because he’d met her when we were dating before. I remember that work got a lot easier. Everyone knew what had happened, so they all wanted to make my life easier. I sat and stared into space for hours, while getting paid for working retail – they put me where there were the least customers, to take the pressure off me. I quit eating for a little while. And when I lost weight (from my 110 lb frame), I finally started counseling for my depression.

Counseling just taught me to get through the days. It taught me that not everyone imagines dying (did I already know this? Had I been depressed before she died? I don’t know). Anti-depressants numbed everything for a while, but numb doesn’t really fix things. I quit feeling all of it. So I wasn’t actively sad anymore, and I gained the weight back, but I wasn’t really happy either.

After counseling was done, I’d moved on to alcohol and loser boyfriends. Classic college combination. ;) And then I remember how it all started when I found a note while moving apartments. In the bottom of a dresser drawer I didn’t usually need, I found a note to myself, “I promise I will never be happy again.” It was dated in 1991. I had forbidden myself from enjoying a life my best friend was no longer an active part of.

I realized, logically, that this was a horrible choice. I deserved no penance or punishment for my best friend’s choice. I’d had enough counseling and education to know, intelligently, that I didn’t really play much of a part in it. Sometimes it can be a blessing or a curse to realize how little influence you may have on others…

I’ve moved on a long way since then, but I’ve never fully recovered the memories from my life before she died, or even the time when I wasn’t allowed to be happy and live my life fully. I now have a dark sense of humor, and a rather jaded response to pain at times. But I know what is important in my life. I value the friends and family who love me as I am. And I know that nothing is guaranteed, and everyone gets to make their own choices in the end.

So, I’ve wanted to write more of myself. I don’t really need a comment page of, ‘So sorry this happened!’

Do you agree that something forced you to grow up? Can it ever be something good, or do only bad things force people to mature? Just pondering…

02 March 2017

Reading Challenge - Book Six

My mom passed on a box of books, with several being by Liane Moriarty. Lucky me!! So the sixth book I've read this year is another by this newly discovered (for me) author.

I am (as usual) being a bit flexible with my categories and listing What Alice Forgot as 'a book set in two different time periods.' While I suppose it's a stretch to say it's set in two different time periods, What Alice Forgot is about Alice rediscovering her life after a bump to the head causes her to think it's ten years earlier.

Imagine if you suddenly felt the same about things as you did ten years ago, without knowing any of the intervening facts and events. This is where Alice found herself, in the middle of a messy divorce from a man she still thinks she's desperately in love with, and fighting over custody of three kids she doesn't fully remember or recognize yet.

At this point, I would recommend any of Liane Moriarty's books. I would recommend a break in between them, though, as the characters are starting to blend together in my head, and none of the books are actually related or have any overlap of characters.

Luckily I've already finished another book, and am partway through yet another, that are by different authors. But I am looking forward to getting back to the box and some more of this delightful author.

What author have you been lucky enough to pick up, and wanted to keep reading everything they've written?

27 February 2017

Good vs Evil

What makes someone good? or evil?

I remember years ago, when I was attending night college classes to finish my degree, and dating when I had a chance, having an interesting conversation with another adult student. I was struggling with dating, and finding someone who I wanted to stick around. My fellow student suggested it might be the fault of the venues I was meeting people at - usually, the bar. He said, "Why don't you try meeting a nice guy at church?"
At first, I just looked at him for a minute while I decided how to respond. Finally I told him, "We'd have pretty fundamental differences since I'm not a christian."
It was his turn to look confused, and he promptly said, "But you're such a nice person, with good morals and values!"

That conversation still comes back to me. A good or bad person can be any religion, faith, spirituality - whatever you want to call it. I was amused that this student (who went on to be a friend and co-worker for years), thought I should be something other than a 'nice person' if I didn't have an active church affiliation.

I believe no whole population based on their religion is good or bad. In just the same way, no whole population based on their race or any other identifying characteristic is good or bad.

I think a lot of religions appear similar in their legends and stories for good reason - most people are good, and know the difference between good and evil, without being told by a church or other religious organization.

Gosh, I thought I had so much to say, but when I spell it out, it feels repetitive and obvious!

I am a good person. I am also not a member of a church, or declare myself as belonging to any religion. I'm raising my children to be good people too. We talk about the platinum rule (treating others as they want to be treated), and I even tell them the religious background behind holidays that are publicly acknowledged, or they hear about. If I don't know, we're not afraid to look it up. It's never presented as 'right' or 'wrong,' but just someone's belief and perspective.

By the way, I was brought up with plenty of religion. I went to private (religious based) school for a bit, and even taught Sunday School when I was in high school. I'm not 'mad' at anyone, or condemning any religious system, it just didn't work for me in my life.

What assumptions do you think people make about you, based on their background? Do you mind? Do you think there is something people have to do or be to be considered good - or evil?