I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Linked in

While watching the television (or, in the spirit of the London Olympics, "the telly") this weekend, I had the sudden urge to use my computer.

Slight problem - I didn't bring it back to Chicago this weekend.

Slightly bigger problem - Why did I think I needed to be on the computer if I was already occupied with what was on the television?

Is this what multitasking has come down to? Or, is this just the mentality of society - we have to be constantly connected? Sadly, I think truth may be found here.

(Of course, as I write this now, I am both watching the Olympic swimming competition and using this computer.)

Have I learned nothing? Holy cow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Where a "kid" can be a kid

No, I'm not talking about Chuck-E-Cheese. (Good guess, though.) Nope, today my sister, mom, and I hit up...

Today's trip actually made me think of something I recently read in a book (The Geography of Bliss) - more people attend zoos each year than all sporting events combined. Now, I don't know if I actually believe that - how is the statement qualified? It could mean only pro sports or only college sports - I have no idea. But anyways, it was one of those statistics I read and was like, holy cow, that's a lot of people that go to a zoo.

And, let me tell you, there were a lot of people at the Detroit Zoo today.

Ok, enough of the tangent...to get back to the main point, we basically relived part of our childhood summer vacations - kid's meal (no joke) and all. (And I say this with love and in the very best sense - it was on my list of "must-do's" this summer.)


Beautiful butterflies...perky parrots...cute camels...running rhinos...(do you sense some alliteration here?)...gentle giraffes...


...hungry hippos - just kidding, there actually weren't any hippos, amazingly enough...

Today's visit definitely reminded me how fun it is to just be a kid - and, come the end of August, that's exactly what I'll be doing again for the next 10 months with the students at school. 

Better gear up pretty fast - not too much left of summer vacation...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Revisiting old favorites (with purpose)

There is a phrase that goes something along the lines of "Don't dwell on the past..." but, honestly, it doesn't hurt to look back every once in awhile - it helps you remember where you've been and why you're going the way you're going.

So, this morning, I browsed over some old blog entries from the good ol' Arizona days (always good for a chuckle or even some ahas). Many of the posts included quotes that I want to re-post (with the link to my original blog posts) - and explain - here:

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey." ~Wendell Berry

Why this quote still hits home: It's hard not to freak out or worry about where life is headed, especially when others around you seem to have their lives all in order (some of which seem to be tied up neatly with a ribbon!), but this quote reminds me that I don't necessarily have to (or need to) know which way I'm going. The quote that rests on my blog's homepage says more or less the same thing but more focused on putting trust in God: "I may not know where I am going...you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always..." (Thomas Merton) I gotta remember to trust - that's the biggie.

~ ~ ~
"Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these." ~Susan B. Anthony

Why this quote still hits home: It's essential to take time to treasure the small things. I think this quote comes to light especially surrounding the death of a loved one because it reminds us that we oftentimes let these little moments pass by without acknowledging the impact something or someone has made on us...sometimes before it is too late. And yet, it is impossible to forget these moments in time - the feelings, the people, the effects on us. Life truly is all about the little things - are we responding to them in the manner God calls us to?

~ ~ ~
"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." ~Pedro Arrupe

Why this quote still hits home: I could read this quote over and over without tiring of it - such powerful words and thoughts. Do what you love, love what you do. Remember, that affects everything.

~ ~ ~
"When you leave here, don't forget why you came." ~Adlai Stevenson

Why this quote still hits home: This quote still makes me think of ACE - ACE seems to be the thread that keeps stringing me along, leading me (literally) across the United States. And it's important in any time of change to remember why we started in the first place.

~ ~ ~
And here is just one more post - though not my own, I still love the image it conjures up whenever I re-read this reflection: "...God spreads his love like a 3-year old spreads peanut butter..."

To close, I'd like to include a BRAND NEW post (as in, one I haven't included the link to before) - I read it today on The Jesuit Post, and I thought it was pretty darn good: http://thejesuitpost.org/site/2012/07/but-what-does-it-even-mean-to-experience-god/

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Singing in the Rain

It's amazing that rain brings dreary skies but also brings feelings of freshness and cleanliness...which is especially refreshing after not having it for so long.

So many songs come to mind - and they really span the genres. (I hope you're in the mood for music.) Just ask the following questions to point yourself in the right direction:

For example, Are you feeling melancholy? Try "Here's that Rainy Day." Or, "A Little Fall of Rain" from Les Mis might be appropriate too.

In the mood for country? Try "Rain is a Good Thing" by Luke Bryan or "Come in with the Rain" by Taylor Swift. (Or, if you prefer, Jodi Messina sings "Bring on the Rain" and Faith Hill puts up her "Red Umbrella.")

Are you upbeat and ready to face the world? Join Barbra Streisand with "Don't Rain on My Parade" from Funny Girl.

How do you feel about puddles? Would you jump around in them like Gene Kelly during his show-stopping "Singing in the Rain?"

And you better believe there are so many more...so sing it out, "Come Rain or Come Shine"...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Grandpa-isms...Sayings, Songs, Jokes, and More...

Undoubtedly these cannot all be attributed to my grandfather - I'm sure someone else made some of them up - but these are some of the words he said that I will always remember...and they are ones I wanted to share:

his favorite 'limerick' (I never had the heart to tell him it wasn't technically a limerick.): 
"There once was a girl from Boston, Mass. She stood in water up to her knees. It doesn't rhyme yet, but wait till the tide comes in."

words of wisdom: 
"Save your money, buy whiskey."

This one's a recent favorite - I never heard him utter it in person, but it was shared at his memorial - apparently it was directed at his friends: 
"If B.S. (bull s***) was an energy company, you two would be a couple of power plants."

upon leaving the table, 
"Meeting adjourned."

when taking a picture with my sister and me, 
"Ah, a rose between two thorns."

while holding the door, 
Age before beauty."

before heading out of town,
"Comes the dawn, we'll be gone." (Although, this is probably more accurately attributed to my grandmother.)

in order to ensure his order would be plain, the way he liked it:
"No garbage, and I'm allergic to pickle."

ideas about eating:
"If you eat one more piece of chicken, you're going to turn into a chicken."

when he wanted the rest of the house to wake up:
"Reveille! Reveille!" (while waving the coffee pot)

He rewrote the words to many songs that he constantly sang to himself around the house, and he usually could pull out a one-liner for any occasion - I wish I could remember all of them.

But this is a start of what I'd like to call my "grandpa-isms" - for it is impossible to think of these sayings without thinking also of him.

Friday, July 13, 2012

What matters most...

"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die." 
~Thomas Campbell

Well, at this rate, my grandpa will continue to live for awhile. So many great stories...memories...pictures...

Speaking of pictures, actually, my family and I nearly died laughing a few times at the ridiculousness captured on film. (Some negatives must be burned...) Oh the things that get buried away in boxes...

With his memorial and burial this weekend, it won't be easy to make it through without shedding a few tears - not that I will even try to stop them, by any means. But there's bound to be plenty of laughter too because, apparently, my grandpa did (and said) some pretty crazy things...in his own quiet way.

I realize how blessed I was to know him for over 25 years of my life (although, I guess my early childhood years don't really count - too early), but time never seems long enough when it comes to being with people you love. It makes me think of a song (most recently performed (to my knowledge) by Barbra Streisand - one of my grandpa's favorite artists) about love and how love supersedes time. 

It's meant to be a love song, I know, but it fits for all relationships, I believe. (See for yourself - here are a few lines of the lyrics below.)

It's not how long I held you in my arms 
What matters is how sweet the years together
It's not how many summertimes we had to give to fall 
The early morning smiles we tearfully recall 
What matters most is that we loved at all...

*In loving memory: July 11, 1924 - December 2, 2011*

Thursday, July 12, 2012

In the Good Old Summertime

Ah, the joys of summer time...the time when (as a teacher) it's okay to putz around the house because, let's face it, to voluntarily choose to work on lesson plans or ideas for next year just seems crazy.

And what kind of "putzing" have I been doing?

Well, I've been reading...(obviously)

exploring Pinterest...

watching interesting YouTube spoofs...

visiting with family & friends...


testing my skills at dollar bill origami...


running (well, jogging...slowly)...

watching classic movies...


You know, all the normal stuff. Good ol' summer stuff...

Monday, July 9, 2012

I was thinking about Seattle...

When it's sunny in Seattle...

Don't ask the locals what to do - sunshine is rare! (At least, that's what everyone says, right? To quote an old favorite film, "Seattle? It rains 9 months out of the year in Seattle.")

Seriously, what an incredibly gorgeous weekend, weather- and wedding-wise. While it would be wonderful to spit out yet another poem/song with changed words as I wrote for the last road trip, that is highly unfeasible - my creativity has its limits, you know.

So instead, let me highlight (again, with as small amount of words as necessary) a few of the greater moments...

#1: Mastering of the dollar bill fold
Answer me a question - How do you pass a 4+ hour delay at the airport? Well, you could read (which I did)...or you could practice the art of dollar origami (which I also did). The evidence is in the picture below - enough said.

No, it's not a dolphin, nor is it a shark. It's some kind of swordfish.

#2: A view from the top
On such a beautiful day, it was worth it - all 45+ minutes wait time and $19 of it. It was a 360 outside view 520 feet up.


#3: Daily dose of (mini) donuts
"Were you here yesterday?" The donut man questioned my ACE housemate after our second day's purchase of fresh-out-of-the-fryer donuts. Put 'em in a bag, pour in some sugar, give the bag a shake, and voila - a taste of heaven in our mouths. Trust me, you would have gone back too...

#4: Mmm...market fresh
Seattle is famous for a few things - coffee (including the first Starbucks), the Space Needle (see above), salmon/seafood, and their public market to name a few. I didn't know what to expect, but the market lined both sides of the street, was inside and outdoors, and was both above and underground. They sold everything from fish to purses, from jewelry to artwork. And the vendors were there every day.

#5: Wedding bells...(and the reception too!)
After a beautiful ceremony, where, quite literally, a collective gasp went up from all wedding guests upon the bride's entrance, we boarded the shuttles to a lovely reception venue right on the water. Smiles, laughs, food, drinks, photos, and dancing were duly shared. It was a wonderful evening - and I was blessed to be a part of the happy occasion for 2 such wonderful people!

#6: Sunshine, Clear Skies, and 70s
And again, I bring up the weather. After spending some scorching days in Chicago, the highs in the mid-70s were quite a relief. We spent quite a bit of time outside, walking around, sight-seeing, and doing all things Seattle.

Until next time, Seattle...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Book List 4 Life

4th Grade Student: (eagerly) "Ms. Foyle, what books do I have to read in my life?"
Me: "Better give me a few days to think on that one - there are so many, after all." 
(to self: Oh dear...How does one go about making such a list?)

Well, in all fairness, I've had more than just a few days to think on it. And I wanted to share those thoughts here. (Granted, it's hard to be brief when gushing over books, but I will try. I will attempt to include how/when I got hooked on these books and also why they might want to make your "lifetime books" stack. Note, you may want to read this list in segments/installments - my apologies.)

Disclaimer: This list is by no means all-inclusive or comprehensive, nor is it in any particular order (though, perhaps alphabetical would have been nice). Also, the thoughts/opinions provided below are mine - you may disagree or agree as you see fit. (Feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below.) Last, these books range from young adult to adult and span multiple genres. 

(It's okay - I have a reading problem - Book Lovers Anonymous, here I come...)

Without further ado, I present... (NEWEST additions are at the bottom!)

Ms. Foyle's (Growing) List of Books for a Lifetime

1. To Kill A Mockingbird  by Harper Lee
I first read this book in eighth grade under the guidance of my teacher and then again for summer reading upon entering high school. (Most recently I listened to it on audiobook when I first got my own car post-ACE out in Arizona.) This book is truly timeless, and it not only gets straight to the heart of racial discrimination but also to important struggles of coming-of-age as an adolescent.

2. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
I cannot even begin to thank my 6th grade teacher for introducing me to this book and author - I'm officially hooked for life. This is a coming of age story of a young girl named Sal who forms a special bond with her grandparents as she comes to grips with the loss of her mother. I could read this over and over...

3. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Sure, the movies are something to behold, but if you haven't actually read the books, it's time to rethink that. I recently reread the first one in preparation for our classroom literature circle novel and the magic wrapped me up all over again. The characters are well-developed, and the writing is detailed and descriptive. Mmm...

4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Again, here we have a book that was made into a movie. But trust me, this is one of those books you can't put down. Told from the perspective of three (if I recall the # correctly) characters, this book is a brilliant portrayal of segregation and discrimination rooted in the deep south. You honestly can't help but love these women and root for them the whole way...sh** pie and all!

5. Heartbeat by Sharon Creech 
Do we sense a pattern here? Honestly, I recommend all her books! This one is told in an extended free verse poem that focuses on running, art, perspective, and (to put it simply) growing up. I've passed this on to numerous people, including my sister. It's one you can easily read in one sitting, but, by no means, is it one to be rushed.

6. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
I honestly don't remember all the ins and outs of this book, but I do remember being highly engaged. (Check out the summary here - although, they don't give away much on the website, either - for more info.) My favorite quote from the novel is We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, 'I survived'.

7. Holes by Louis Sachar
Any student of mine who has listened to or read this novel has been completely taken by it. The transfer between two stories past and present is seamless, and the grit and determination of the main characters are something to which we might aspire and stand in awe. Plus, this book is chockful of good humor. Better believe in curses...

8. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
In some ways, this book starts out like a personality test - which of the 4 children are you most like? With highly individualized skill sets, the children in the book work together to overcome evil and learn about friendship along the way. It's quite a long book, but it's a page-turner, for sure. (It's another classroom literature circle favorite.)

9. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult 
Get out the Kleenex box. How is it possible to not be awed by how wonderfully Jodi Picoult presents all sides of such largely ethical issues, especially in this case of a young girl who was conceived for the sole purpose of being a perfect blood match for her older sickly sister. It tugs at the heart, and makes you wonder about who decides the quality of life. (P.S. Read all her books. Seriously.)

10. Kindred Souls by Patricia MacLachlan
I've gushed about this book before - so simple and yet so incredibly touching. This story tells the tale of a young boy, Jake, and his grandfather, Billy, in the summertime on a farm. This book is for anyone who's shared special memories with a grandparent. (Keep out that tissue box.)

11. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
While this book jumps all over the place, I'm determined it was written for children (of all ages) with short attention spans. Another classroom favorite, this one deals with a boy on the run who comes across bullies, blacks vs. whites, and special people who he helps (and who help him) along the way towards his understanding of "home."

12. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The fact that this book is told from the point of view of the Angel of Death is enough to probe a reader to open the first page. This is quite a treasure, and to divulge much of the plot (except that it takes place during the time of Nazi-occupied Germany) would prove to be quite the disfavor to all who have not yet devoured its pages. After reading this, it did not stay on my shelf - it's another one of those books that must be passed on and then talked about. It seriously leaves you saying, Wow.

13. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Talk about life questions - What if you could live forever? Would you want to? This story focuses on a 10 year old girl who accidentally stumbles upon a family who have been "cursed" with such life questions - they can't die. Enter greed, love, friendship, and fantasy as this short (but densely-packed) novel takes you on a whirlwind look at some very important, to-the-heart themes.

14. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsberg
While classified as a "mystery," this book is really so much more. Lessons are learned about seeking adventure, discovering the importance of family, and learning the value of certain secrets. The main characters, Jaime and Claudia, are so lovable and relatable - a true brother-sister duo!

15. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Such genius is found within the pages of this novel, as it weaves two stories (one through pictures 50 years earlier and one through words). While the book boasts of over 600 pages, over 400 of those are illustrations, and it is able to be finished within one (long) sitting - take it from experience...because that's exactly how I read it. This book quite literally flew among many sets of hands in my fourth grade classroom, and I think those that read it really enjoyed it.

16. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Mr. Darcy...need we say more? This is another book that, once discovered in high school, I have probably read a few more times. As in Little Women (see directly below), the look into family relationships is poignant and, at times, rather hilarious. Ok...the movie adaptations are pretty good too.

17. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The relationships developed in this book are, without a doubt (in my humble opinion), some of the absolute best found in any literature. Period. I admit, I have from time to time seen myself as Jo March (quite the admirable heroine), but I have also been able to relate to each of the sisters (Meg, Beth, and Amy) in some way or another.

18. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
I think I read this book in middle school, and thus began my fascination with the Holocaust. As told through the eyes of this young girl in hiding, it is honest, eye-opening, (at times) naive, and all-together quite amazing (and inspiring).

19. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupry
This is another of those books in which it is hard to express in words what you, as the reader, feel/experience through its few pages. But the tale of this little prince and how he is capable of changing the perspective of those he encounters is truly magical. (I don't remember when I first read it, but I did recently re-read it last year...and it still holds that same magic from the first reading.)

20. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
I'll be upfront here - I have not yet read the whole series, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in and of itself deserves to make this list. The reader falls in love with Lucy, hates Edmund's actions, and wishes he, himself, might find Narnia in the back of his own wardrobe. Such magic, such sacrifice, such adventure. Amazing.

21. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
All the hulabaloo is true - this series is worth the read. Set in the dystopian future, this story is both horrific and intriguing. Packed with adventure, strategy, a love triangle, and some violence, this series does not disappoint. Please do yourself a favor and don't stop after Book 1.

22. Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery
Oh, Anne Shirley, what an amazing character with plenty of spunk and smarts. And how can you not fall in love with Gilbert Blythe? It makes you cry, it makes you laugh, it makes you smile...an all-around great read. Oh yes indeed...

23. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Enter play-on-words-extraordinaire! Holy cow, this book is one of my all-time favorites because of such great English and Math puns/stories. From the "watch"dog to the different kingdoms, this book makes me laugh out loud. As much as I love this book, though, I usually recommend it for grades 5 and up. (How I would love to use it in my fourth grade classroom one day, though...)

24. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
While I did not read this book in the traditional sense, I did listen to it on audiobook, and it really was a good one. This missionary family is, again, one filled with complex and loving familial relationships, and the story is told through many different sets of eyes. (And, admittedly, both my mother and sister would probably disregard the rest of this list without this book's inclusion...and we can't have that.)

25. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
This was (by far) my favorite book of summer 2012. It's a fictional account of a newspaper based in Rome in a time when the written press is becoming somewhat obsolete. It weaves together the stories of many individuals somehow involved in the paper, from the foreign correspondent to the corrections editor to the publisher. It's very poignant, and it is rather funny at times. The cover is what caught my eye - and I'm sure glad it did. Read it!

26. The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
"There is a reason God limits our days...to make each one precious." This book is amazing - could not put it down (to be read as, "I finished it in less than a 12 hour span"). It's an incredible look at time - how we count it, try to control it, wish it this way or that... I encourage you to read it - it will be time well-spent.

27. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
It's one of those books that compels you to read it and yet makes you want to look away at the same time due to descriptions that leave nothing to the imagination as well as conflicting emotions all woven beautifully together to tell a fictional story of complex family (and romantic) relationships, hope of redemption, and stories of the Holocaust kept hidden for many years. There is also a story written by one of the characters in the book that acts as a parallel (or, perhaps, allegory?) to the lives of the characters. (It is also quite graphic – be forewarned.) And, in true Jodi Picoult fashion, the novel ends with a twist that makes you want to flip back and reread (at least parts of) the story.

28. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Holling Hoodhood (no, that's not a typo) is the book's protagonist, living in the time of the Vietnam War (1967) in an upstate NY city divided (literally) with Jewish families to the north and Catholic families to the south. The story line that weaves the book together is that on Wednesday afternoon the students who are Jewish go to prepare for their bar and bat mitzvahs, and the Catholic students go for Catechism. Well, poor Holling is a Presbyterian, so he's stuck behind as the only student in class each week on that day. Things come into play involving the NY Yankees, classroom pet rats, fresh cream puffs, the school's cross country team, and more. At some points of the novel, the reader is left nearly in stitches, yet in other parts the reader is left with a sinking feeling in the stomach (e.g. when Holling's father is out of touch (constantly) with his children). Middle school classrooms, look out! This book is for you.

29. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
This book was gifted to me by a wonderful mentor (and friend), and I have since passed it on, insisting that others read it too. It's a beautifully told story of a sixth grade girl who has routinely acted out at school in order to avoid her classmates and teachers finding out the brutal fact that she has great difficulty reading. (Later on in the novel, her teacher helps her figure out exactly why she struggles so much, but I won't tell - my lips are sealed.) Take my word for it - it's a highly recommended read for teachers and students alike.

30. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

This nearly 600 page book is a real page-turner (so much so that I finished it in a less than 12 hour period). The author spins three tales that are ultimately (and most brilliantly) tied together in a love of music and a magical harmonica. Through it all, the reader is drawn into the lives of the story's protagonists as they face the trials of the WWII era. Holy cow - my head is still spinning in wonder and awe of the author's ability to deliver such a story.

31. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli does it again - if Maniac Magee wasn't enough, this story nails the idea of the battle between being true to yourself versus constantly striving for the approval of others. Though the title implies that the main character is a girl, the story's narrator is, in fact, a boy (which will help me with my case for possibly using it as a read aloud in my middle school classroom later in the year). As I "turned" the final pages (I confess, I read it on my Nook, so "turning" is a bit of a stretch), I didn't want to put it down. The emotions that rise up in the reader are both raw and universal. What a gem!

32. The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen
This book is a beautiful reminder of God's incredible, unending forgiveness and desire to be in relationship with us. My reading of it came at a perfect time - Pope Francis has declared 2015-2016 the Jubilee Year of Mercy (which starts on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of 2015). From the book: "Here is the God I want to believe in: a Father who, from the beginning of creation, has stretched out his arms in merciful blessing, never forcing himself on anyone, but always waiting; never letting his arms drop down in despair, but always hoping that his children will return so that he can speak words of love to them and let his tired arms rest on their shoulders" (p. 95-96).

33. The Cay by Theodore Taylor

I was quite insistent that we order this book for our last 6th grade book club (of which the theme was social justice and prejudice) of the year, but I couldn't for the life of me put my finger on exactly why I thought it would be the perfect book. I remembered reading it in 6th grade (as part of our monthly book folders project - thanks, Mrs. Hosack!), and I remembered getting a lot out of it. It wasn't until I re-read it (in preparation for that book club) that the insight came back to me, probably at a level deeper than my 6th grade self could have understood. Though the book is short in terms of pages, it does not lack in terms of food for thought. Some childhood books are meant to be re-read, and I firmly believe that this is one of them.

~ ~ ~ NEWEST ADDITIONS (as of January 1, 2018) ~ ~ ~

34. Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
What struck me most about this books was the beautiful language (word choice, sentence fluency, etc) of the author. It tells the story of two young children, one who is Japanese (a girl) and one who is Chinese (a boy). It takes place during WWII in America, and, at that time, many Japanese Americans were being transported to work camps (out of fear of the Japanese due to Pearl Harbor). There is love, there is loss; there is sweet, and there is bittersweet. Do yourself a favor and read it. It's probably one of my all-time favorites...and I definitely cried while reading it more than once.

35. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The author's writing style was phenomenal, and I feel that it allowed me to get a better look into the full range of human development from young teen to older adult - what life events shape someone's life? How do we really know someone if we don't know his/her story? Good old Ove...what a guy...

36. The Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall & Denver Moore
This is a beautiful true story told from the perspective of two men, one who is a wealthy art collector and salesman and the other who is homeless and lived like a slave when he was young. Their friendship is an unlikely one, but they both find the hand of God in it. There are some ups and downs along their friendship journey, so make sure you have tissues handy. It is definitely a worthwhile read!
Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book: “The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin’ in between, this earth ain’t no final restin’ place. So in a way, we is all homeless - just workin’ our way toward home.”

37. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
I recently recommended this book to a coworker from Michigan who has read some of Mitch Albom's other books. This fictional one combines historical people and events with characters of his imagination. The story, as with his other novels, does not fail to deliver. I can't wait for his upcoming sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven!

38. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
I use the movie version of this book every year with my sixth grade students, and the discussions that follow are incredibly meaningful. Many students keep talking about the movie for years after we watch it. Morrie's wisdom is incredible! I originally picked up this book in high school - my grandma had ALS, the same disease as Morrie, so it hit close to home. I re-read the book a couple more times throughout the years. I take away something new every time. It's about learning how to love and to let others love you.

I'm afraid that this is where I must end for now. However, I reserve the right to add to this list as I think of other books or as I read new ones that may become a favorite.

Happy (lifetime) Reading!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Happpppppy Birthday!

Of the 365 (or, in the case of this year due to the Leap Year, 366) days of the year, only one of those is your actual birthday...so you gotta make it count.

Happy Birthday Mom! It was fun celebrating with you today. :)

@ Mom's Birthday Lunch

Easter Family Beach Photo

Sunday, July 1, 2012

"Book"ing through Summer

Two summer reads down...So many more to go.

...What a good problem to have, right?

I can honestly say I've been off to a great start. Allow me to share a little about both books (without giving too much away):

Book #1 = Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (Adult Nonfiction)

Pros: Comes highly recommended by multiple friends; is inspiring and entertaining while highly informative (and rather awesome); makes you think about why you run; is eye-opening and humbling

Cons: Was a longer read than anticipated; was somewhat disjointed with author switching sub-stories

Book #2 = Wonder by R.J. Palacio (YA Fiction)

Pros: Deals with a sensitive topic (child with deformed features); explores big adolescent topics (i.e. popularity, relationships, etc.) through the eyes of multiple characters; includes an appendix of precepts good to discuss/think about; is a quick read with short chapters

Cons: More "deep" thoughts packed into the final chapters than included throughout the story; resolves some big problems relatively quickly (yet, the resolutions are believable)

Yep, you could say I've really been "book"-ing it through the summer. In fact, I've already started my next read, The Great Unexpected (an advanced reader's edition of Sharon Creech's newest release available in September), and that will likely be followed by the first in the Game of Thrones series. (Apparently I can't ignore that series anymore.)


I know some people don't consider themselves readers, but, holy cow, there are SO many great books out there. Maybe today is the day to finally pick that book off the shelf or actually read that book club novel. And after doing that, don't forget to pass on the recommendations...