Category Archives: Musings

Under The Influence…

Yesterday I went under the knife for minor knee surgery. Hard to believe that a snip, scrape, and stitch inside the knee with an arthroscopic Roto-Rooter can relieve that vise-grip pain behind my knee and down my calf.

operating-room-clipart_1500-1600.jpegI highly recommend checking it out if you are having pain! Don’t wait four months like I did – depriving myself of some good backpacking and hiking weather.

It seems I was Under-The-Influence of Self Delusion. No Pain-No Gain-No Maine. That means something to Appalachian Trail hikers. I should amend that to read No-Brain-No Gain-No-Pain.

Now I am recovering  with these gigantic self-inflating pads attached to both calves. (Blood clot averters) Every minute, one leg or the other inflates and deflates with a sound like my Keurig dispensing water.venapro As a matter of fact, this morning I waddled pain-free to my kitchen (thank you, Percocet), put my cup on the platform, slapped a coffee pod in the machine and not once but twice. checked to see if coffee filled my cup. Nope. Then I realized it was the sound of my left leg grinding away. I hadn’t selected a cup size.

I was Under-The-Influence of Sleeplessness. N0 Snooze-No Clues-No Brews.

As far as reading and reviewing for my blog, I have about 5 books started but just can’t seem to stay focused enough to finish them, let alone review them. They are good books and I owe the authors and their publishers reviews for the privilege of reading them in advance of publication.

As I lay here contemplating my navel and knee I think I have discovered my problem. I have been selecting the same type of book- narrative non-fiction or historical fiction with melancholy, war-time, or abusive coming-of age themes.

art-vector-cartoon-of-a-paranoid-woman-reading-the-newspaper-in-shock-krDULI-clipart.jpgI was Under-The-Influence of Social Anxiety. The political atmosphere nationally has soured my disposition and way-laid my mental ability to rise above the drama. What I need is Mental Peace and Quiet. So I had made a promise to myself. Less Screen-Less Screams-Less Bad Dreams.

I owe my blog readers to finish The Other Einstein by Marie BenedictI promised to make that title my first read of 2017. It isn’t that I am not liking the book- I really do– I just can’t get my mind to hold still. I have been reading a great number of books about women struggling to exist in a “man’s world”. See my review of Frontier Grit as an example. The future isn’t looking too bright for women at the moment in our country (let alone around the world). I need to re-trace back to that proverbial tuning fork in the road and change my reading direction to regain my positive vibes. Stay strong girlfriends!

So I have come to a decision that 2017 will be my year to read more amusing and lighthearted fiction for a while. Or some topic that doesn’t overlap with social unrest and divisiveness. That goes back to Less-Screen-Less Screams-Less Bad Dreams.

I am NOW Under-The-Influence of More Charming-No Harming-Less Alarming reads.

bookworm.jpgIf anyone has a recommendation for books like Man Called Ove, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, or The Snow Child send them my way.

Well, how about that -my right leg blowup pad is sounding like a tornado alert and flashing red so I guess it is time to recharge it. Thanks for taking time to read this mishmash if you have reached the end.  Pop pop. fizz fizz or what a relief it is- pain meds.

The End.

 

 

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The Curse of Cursive

Is this all you can read cursive-writing-blogon this page?

Several years ago, my husband and I attended a week-long program with a group of teenagers from several states.  The program, sponsored by several trail associations, introduced the kids to the Appalachian Trail and provided hands-on experience on trail building. As part of the orientation, we were to write down several questions aimed at getting to know each other better. We teamed up with one adult to one kid. The young man I met was amazingly eager to get started with the project. When I handed him my question, his face fell.

My question wasn’t that difficult! I asked if he had been aware of the Appalachian Trail before he was recommended for this special program. He handed me back my question and said, “I’m sorry.  I can’t read this”. I was taken aback and then quietly asked if my handwriting was that bad! He smiled and told me he couldn’t read cursive.  His school no longer teaches cursive. Of course, never being shy, I blurted out…

“You gotta to be kidding me!”

That was my first experience with the loss of cursive writing in our kids lives but it certainly wasn’t my last.

When I returned home from the program in New Hampshire, I spoke with a friend who teaches school here in Georgia about my experience. My jaw dropped again when I learned that it was becoming a national issue not just isolated to my student’s home in Massachusetts.

I began an experiment, because quite frankly, I still couldn’t believe the news. When I checked out at my local grocery store, if my bagger was a young person, I asked if they could read cursive. More often than not I would learn they could, but their younger siblings could not. Most said their parents taught them at home.

This information led me to dig deeper into the reasoning to stop teaching cursive. After reading several articles about the change, I learned those in favor of dropping cursive feel that it is antiquated and takes valuable time from teaching new technologies. There has been an increase in computer related skills and less emphasis on grammar, punctuation and spelling.(Picture an old librarian cringing right now.)

Those preferring to continue to teach cursive cite the educational disadvantage to those unable to read cursive writing. Imagine college students unable to do archival research or grandchildren unable to read grandma’s notes in the family bible or grandpa’s old love letters to grandma.

There are, of course, many more advantages and disadvantages to learning to read and write in cursive style. Some feel that cursive is a faster way to write. I have included an article from edweek.org that seems to have a somewhat balanced discussion if you want to read more.

Why don’t the Common Core Standards Include Cursive Writing

My personal feeling, as a retired librarian, is sadness. As I sat here, freethinking, I realized that future generations may have lost the ability to learn about the personal lives of their ancestors. Having spent hours, myself, scouring old census records, diaries and dusty photo albums, I can’t describe my feelings. When reading letters my great-great grandmother wrote trying to obtain a civil war disability pension for my great-great Grandfather, a disabled Union soldier, I was reduced to tears. (She was successful.)

My question to fellow bloggers, friends, family and complete strangers… What are your feelings about this change in children’s education? Do you have anecdotal stories to share? Do you have an opinion..one way or the other? I would love to hear your thoughts. Vote if you like as well.

Itzey’s Mom

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Help Me Pick A Book

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MY TO-READ SHELF IS OVERFLOWING

Help me pick my first book in January

I have narrowed my choices to these five books:so many books

a-gentleman-in-moscow-cover#1

A GENTLEMAN FROM MOSCOW
by Amor Towles

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel.
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.“And the intrigue! … [A Gentleman in Moscow] is laced with sparkling threads (they will tie up) and tokens (they will matter): special keys, secret compartments, gold coins, vials of coveted liquid, old-fashioned pistols, duels and scars, hidden assignations (discreet and smoky), stolen passports, a ruby necklace, mysterious letters on elegant hotel stationery… a luscious stage set, backdrop for a downright Casablanca-like drama.” –The San Francisco Chronicle

the-other-einstein-cover#2

THE OTHER EINSTEIN
by Marie Benedict

In the tradition of The Paris Wife and Mrs. Poe, The Other Einstein offers us a window into a brilliant, fascinating woman whose light was lost in Einstein’s enormous shadow. It is the story of Einstein’s wife, a brilliant physicist in her own right, whose contribution to the special theory of relativity is hotly debated and may have been inspired by her own profound and very personal insight.

Mitza Maric has always been a little different from other girls. Most twenty-year-olds are wives by now, not studying physics at an elite Zurich university with only male students trying to outdo her clever calculations. But Mitza is smart enough to know that, for her, math is an easier path than marriage. And then fellow student Albert Einstein takes an interest in her, and the world turns sideways. Theirs becomes a partnership of the mind and of the heart, but there might not be room for more than one genius in a marriage.

to-the-bright-edge-of-the-world-cover

#3

TO THE BRIGHT EDGE OF THE WORLD
by Eowyn Ivey

An atmospheric, transporting tale of adventure, love, and survival from the bestselling author of The Snow Child, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

In the winter of 1885, decorated war hero Colonel Allen Forrester leads a small band of men on an expedition that has been deemed impossible: to venture up the Wolverine River and pierce the vast, untamed Alaska Territory. Leaving behind Sophie, his newly pregnant wife, Colonel Forrester records his extraordinary experiences in hopes that his journal will reach her if he doesn’t return–once he passes beyond the edge of the known world, there’s no telling what awaits him.

The Wolverine River Valley is not only breathtaking and forbidding but also terrifying in ways that the colonel and his men never could have imagined. As they map the territory and gather information on the native tribes, whose understanding of the natural world is unlike anything they have ever encountered, Forrester and his men discover the blurred lines between human and wild animal, the living and the dead. And while the men knew they would face starvation and danger, they cannot escape the sense that some greater, mysterious force threatens their lives.

Meanwhile, on her own at Vancouver Barracks, Sophie chafes under the social restrictions and yearns to travel alongside her husband. She does not know that the winter will require as much of her as it does her husband, that both her courage and faith will be tested to the breaking point. Can her exploration of nature through the new art of photography help her to rediscover her sense of beauty and wonder?

The truths that Allen and Sophie discover over the course of that fateful year change both of their lives–and the lives of those who hear their stories long after they’re gone–forever.

Underground Railroad#4

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
by Colson Whitehead

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

the-wonder-cover#5

THE WONDER
by Emma Donoghue

An Irish village is mystified by what appears to be a miracle but may actually be murder in the next masterpiece from New York Times—bestselling author Emma Donoghue.
A village in 1850s Ireland is baffled by Anna O’Donnell’s fast. A little girl appears to be thriving after months without food, and the story of this ‘wonder’ has reached fever pitch.
Tourists flock in droves to the O’Donnell family’s modest cabin, and an international journalist is sent to cover the sensational story. Enter Lib, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale, who is hired to keep watch for two weeks and determine whether or not Anna is a fraud.
As Anna deteriorates, Lib finds herself responsible not just for the care of a child, but for getting to the root of why the child may actually be the victim of murder in slow motion.
A magnetic novel written with all the spare and propulsive tension that made ROOM a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels—as a simple tale of two strangers who will transform each other’s lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil in its many masks.

Thanks for your help
I’ll let you know the results in a week!

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Banned Book Week

Banned books image.jpg

Celebrating the Freedom to Read:
September 25 – October 1, 2016

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read…[It] highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community; librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types, in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

challenges by reason 2000-09_0.png

http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek

I was naive as child to assume I could have access to any book I wanted to read as soon as I was able to read it.  Back in the dark ages of the 1950’s, I thought I was a real big shot when I mastered Fun With Dick and Jane. It wasn’t until high school that I learned that some books offend some people and those people didn’t think I should make my own reading choices.

The American Library Association’s Office of Information Freedom began collecting data about challenged and banned books in 1990 and that list of 20,000+ is just the tip of the iceberg – it doesn’t include unreported challenges.

If you want to see a list of the most popular titles listed by challenge reasons, visit the link to the ALA in the graphic above.

Each year, I choose a title from the latest list of challenges and read it for myself. This year’s selection is:

LOOKING FOR ALASKA

by John Green.

looking for alaska.jpg

AWARDS
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Top 10 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers
2005 Booklist Editors’ Choice
Kirkus Best Book of 2005
2005 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age

CHALLENGE REASONS

Offensive Language
Sexually Explicit
Unsuited for Age Group

 

New York Dutton | 1st Ed. 2005
Hardcover: 350 pages
Genre: Fiction
Audience: Secondary School (High School)

Stayed tuned for my review and thoughts in the coming weeks. If you choose  to read a title from the banned books list I would love to hear about it!

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And so it begins in 2016

Itzey at fireplace

New Year’s Resolution.

2015 was not my favorite year for a variety of personal reasons; all trivial but aggravating.   In this new year, I hope to avoid stepping on a shovel and mashing my glasses into my face or falling off the deck steps and ripping out a few tendons in my right foot.  My friends will acknowledge these listed trivialities to be true but not unique to 2015.  I walk through life with one foot in trouble all the time.

Actually the down time from the ankle surgery has given me a head start on my goal of reading 100 books in 2016.  I don’t know if I will meet that challenge but it will be fun to look forward to trying to do it.

When I learned that I would be in semi-permanent timeout for a while, I decided to set up this blog.  It has been a blast.  Thankfully at this point I have few readers so my bumbling and miscues aren’t seen by the vast blogging universe.  Not that it matters in the scheme of things.

For the few readers that have stopped by in 2015, I hope you enjoyed my thoughts and reviews.  I would love to hear from you!  I have been thrilled to have many advance reader copies provided to me by my favorite publishers.  What new titles for 2016 have caught your attention?  I might have a copy in my to-read list and we can share our thoughts about them!

See you online!

Itzey’s Mom

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January 23, 2016 · 12:29 pm

Teaching an Old woman to blog…

How many of you remember the old TV show “Bewitched”? Rather than adding copyright infringement to my woes by posting a picture from the show let me tell the younger generation that Samantha was a good witch that could twitch her nose and “poof” problem solved.

Sue and sandy

How I wish Samantha could twitch her nose and get this blog site up and running so I could get to the business of reading and reviewing!

It seems I have always needed a little help with things.

I remember my father beating his head against the wall when he tried to help me with basic Algebra.    “Why do you need to call things A or B or AB?  Why make it so hard…why do you have to mix up numbers and letters?”  Well.. that’s how I feel now about Slugs or Categories or Stickies or Widgets.

I feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.  Bear with me.  The only thing twitching right now is my right eye.

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Taking the next big step

I want to spiff up my blog now that I have had a few months to mess around with WordPress.

I have nothing better to do over the next few months except cry and gnash my teeth as my normal routine has been rudely interrupted by ankle surgery.  I fully expect to be medicated the first few days so I am quite interested in my first thoughts and musings.  “Private pity parties” are only fun for a limited time so don’t expect a long tirade on poor me.

As a woodsy gal, I would much prefer to be out backpacking in the cold weather but that option ended when I stepped off a  retaining wall and landed in outer-space instead of  the workshop porch floor.

I decided to take advantage of my invalid status by turning my husband into a hausfrau and do little projects like this that demand quiet introspection.

TTFN.

 

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I think I can, I think I can……

I sure enjoyed this little book as a child.  My grandfather worked on the railroad for 50 years.  Not many people left can remember watching a train snag a mail bag off a post as it hurdles through the station.  In my day that rated pretty high up in excitement.

As I have struggled to get the basics of this blog established I am reminded of the Little Engine That Could.

My ultimate goal is to post reviews of pre-publication titles that I have been given the privilege reading.  Additionally I want to re-read some classics.

Wish me luck!  I am struggling.

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