Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with the old...

As this year is coming to a close, I thought I would try to do my Top 10 Favorite Moments of 2008 - not in any particular order - just overall great.

10. Making our house into a diaper free zone!

9. Discovering a love of writing, due in part to Ally Condie visiting and NaNoWriMo.

8. Watching Will finally able to connect with the ball during a machine pitch game.

7. Seeing Ellie's face absolutely light up when she gets to dance.

6. Watching the fun Catie has everyday with a competent provider and her friends there.

5. Learning the joy that can be experienced in playing Guitar Hero and finding a good hair stylist.
4. Watching Enoch excel at coaching soccer and t-ball and playing ultimate frisbee in the Utah Summer Games.

3. Realizing I'm just five classes and a thesis away from a Master's in Education.

2. Getting to teach juniors and keep figuring out how to teach creative writing better.

1. Realizing that, since May, I read and reviewed 28 books.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Host

Well, I did it - I spent a whole day letting the kids play in their pajamas, playing too many video games and just hanging out, just so I could read The Host. But really, I have wanted to read it since it came out, and resisted in favor of doing what I should be doing. I figure I can take a day once or twice a year to just read, right?

I have heard many mixed reviews of this book in comparison with Meyer's others. Many say that it isn't as good, others claim it is much better. Here are my thoughts.

First, I really feel like Meyer's writing has improved and I don't know if that is because of the intended audience being older or what, but I didn't feel like there were as many instances where the description was as monotonous. The story is very well written, plot is phenomenal and characters endearing. I really liked how she wasn't so hesitant to let a character die, how they really have a true conflict, tests of courage and mandates for trust.

The best part? This book is over 600 pages long, but there wasn't a single instant that I felt I was reading through slow passages, that I didn't wish I could read just a little bit faster because I was so curious about the plot and characters, and I truly felt emotional ties to many of the characters, something that doesn't often happen.

Finally, I am in complete awe at Meyer's writing, her ability to produce such works of art while raising a family. Pop culture or not, Meyer can really write. The Host is amazing.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Two Days without Enoch

Enoch is going to be in SLC for a couple of days framing in the basement of his BFF, Greg (and yes, he would probably kill me for describing their relationship that way, but I find it hilarious) They are hoping to be back Tuesday evening, Wednesday at the latest.

I know it may seem silly, but I really hate being apart from Enoch. We have been married nine and a half years, but the number of nights we have spent apart is probably just over two weeks worth total. (Yes, I'm spoiled) I'm kindof fond of him for some strange reason.

Luckily, he bought me The Host for Christmas, which should take me some time to get through, and I still have this novel rattling around in my head begging to be written. Also, the Broncos play the Chargers tonight for life in the playoffs, I've got to plan a unit for A Raisin in the Sun, and figure out how I want to teach poetry to my creative writing class this time around. That doesn't count laundry, playing with the kids, cooking something or other, etc. I have more than enough to keep me busy.

But I still can't wait until he gets back. :)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

This is a book that I picked up from Barnes and Noble a couple of months ago. The title was interesting and the back description intriguing, so I thought I couldn't go wrong. It's really nice when i am so right about something like picking a book that I have never heard of before in my life.

The premise of the book is that, in a male dominated society, there are some things women can do to still communicate with others, writing in a secretive language called nu shu to let families they may never see again and dear friends from the first dozen or so years of their lives, know how things are going for them.

The story is told from one woman's memories, a woman who has lived much longer than anyone anticipates. It starts with her recalling turning six, which is the age when foot binding is supposed to begin. She then describes all the wonderful and tragic things that happen to her and her family.

This is a beautiful book. I really couldn't put it down. It has given me hope for Chinese literature again (I HATED The Good Earth) and see that while women in ancient China were oppressed, their oppression wasn't always what we think it was. It is a wonderful story about friendship, dedication and love.

Really, it was amazing. I am going to seek out other books by Lisa See to determine if they are all up to this standard. If that is the case, I've found another author to add to my favorites.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Wednesday Letters

My sister let me borrow this book and I sat down this afternoon wanting a nice relaxing read while my cinnamon rolls were baking, and before I knew it I had finished this book. It is by Jason Wright, and when I heard the idea, I really expected an overly cheesy book that was "Awe, shucks, all marriages are wonderful" and the kind that says, "If you just do what these not real people did, you too will have the perfect marriage."

That's not what the book is about at all. I was hooked from the beginning - I love the stories where couples still snuggle in bed regardless of the number of years they have been married. I love that their kids weren't the little angels with their glowing halos. Faults makes the characters real and these characters were real and lovable at the same time but each for different reasons.

I'm glad that I read this book. It truly outlines what romance is - hint - it isn't moonlit walks on the beach or having over-the-top dates every celebration. :)

I'm really becoming a huge fan of Jason Wright. I love his writing style. I wasn't sure at first, I think I've mentioned that in both of the reviews of his books, but his writing is engaging, enjoyable and feel good without being disgusting. Enoch got The Christmas Sweater for his birthday and I know that Jason had some help in writing that. I have a list of books I'm trying to get through, but I'm definitely adding that one to the stack. I'm also going to just get Recovering Charles - have hesitated severals times, but since I've loved both the books Wright has written, I'm ready to commit.

This was a really good book.

Broken for You

This is another book that Danna gave to me at the first of the school year that I just got around to reading. It is an easy read, but a beautiful book. It is about an elderly woman who has a star in her brain, otherwise known as a tumor and lives in a mansion in Seattle. She decides to take in some boarders and the story begins.

Wanda, a woman who left everything to go across the country after a boy, of all things, moves in with her and their relationship builds and evolves, and is very real.

I loved this book. I found the perspectives and the complexities of the plot and the characters well done and wonderfully written. The way new people are brought in feels completely natural, the different storylines were woven together with great finesse and intracacy.

I couldn't stop reading it after I was about 50 pages in and found that I even had some moments to reflect about life in reality, how all of us are broken in one way or another and the different techniques we use to try to fix ourselves and others.

There is some language (that I didn't really feel was as necessary as it was used, but I'm just a sheltered Utahn, so what do I know) and some grown-up moments, but I really don't think anyone who hasn't had some trials in their life would know what do to with a book like this anyway.

I really recommend this book (yea, I know, you're shocked).

As a side note, this is my 25th book review on my blog :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!

Here's our Christmas letter, we didn't mail them out
That's why your mailman didn't bring you one, please don't pout
Life has just been, well, a bit too busy
We've had enough work to make us quite dizzy
We hope you will please forgive the informal greeting
We really do think about you when all the treats we're eating
It is just a bit before Christmas at our home in Enoch
The new fallen snow made the winter picture scenic
We still have some cooking and wrapping to do
Trying to just avoid Walmart to make it through.
Tasha is writing and reading lots of books
Spending lots of time with words makes Enoch give her funny looks
His love is golf, he's always trying to improve his swing
Any info about fairways, clubs and greens is really quite his thing.
Will still loves his Lego's and any game with a ball
He is almost eight, in 2nd grade and getting very tall!
Ellie is our kindergartner, the boys are already chasing after her
She loves anything with music and is quite the dancer for sure.
Catie's just adorable, her three year old comments are very funny
She loves to color all day long, we wouldn't trade her for all the world's money
That's a summary of our family for the year 2008
We truly hope, wherever you are, your life is also great
We are grateful this holiday season for all our blessings here
We wish you a Merry Christmas with a joyful New Year!
The Seegmiller's

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Santa's Little Helper

I have been trying to get back to writing my book that I started with NaNoWriMo since December, but have been swamped with life.  You may have seen that I finished writing the Sacrament meeting program, but at school I have had all five of my Junior English classes working as Santa's helpers by answering letters to classes from three different elementary schools.  While it may seem like they are doing all the work, I also wrote about 30 and proof read, typed up the personalized labels for the envelopes for each class, put them in bags with tags from Santa and just delivered them today.  Helping Santa isn't as easy as you might think and I'm very glad for all the hard work he does every year.

I really like this project because it gets the kids writing LOTS without them feeling like they are writing lots.  They have to identify with voice, use correct grammar, and practice significant creativity, especially for the younger children who can only write that they love Santa.  

How many classes did we write to you ask?  Sixteen.  I think the average number of students per class is 21.  We wrote about 335 letters in all.  The best part of this?  With the exception of the few that I wrote this morning, all the letters were completed in three school days, or eight class periods.  I think that is pretty impressive, lots of fun and really good writing practice.

Now, maybe I can get back to writing what I want to write :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

2008 Christmas Sacrament Program

Well, it's finally finished - the Christmas program for my ward is written, approved, and with one more practice, will be perfect. I thought I would post it here if you are interested in a brief escape from the constant "buy, buy, buy" that gets thrown down our throats at this time of year. I also decided it would be appropriate to make the background tie in with the theme of the program, for a little ambience, but I find these a little hard to read after a while, so I don't think it will stay this way for long.

Enjoy and take some time to redirect yourself to the Light...
(some of the links have mp3's so you can listen and other just let you know where I found it if you find yourself needing to throw together a musical number anytime in the future)

On a quiet night, many years ago, the everlasting Light was sent down from heaven to illuminate the dark world. Heaven looked on in wonder and silent jubilation for a time before angels started sharing the most joyous news the world had ever known, for in a humble stable within a crowded town, the Savior of the world was born, and given a lowly manger for a bed. Very few were present to witness this arrival, but many since have wondered about the joy and peace they must have felt. As we are busy in preparations to celebrate that joyous event, let us pause often to remember, as the song states, “Where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”

O Little Town of Bethlehem

The Christmas season provides us with many things, the opportunity to gather as families that may otherwise be apart, the chance to give gifts to show our love for those dear to us, and the occasion to once again ponder and celebrate the time when the earth received her greatest gift, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Very few events during the Earth’s history have warranted the arrival of a multitude of heavenly hoses, singing praises. The one we are most familiar with is the arrival of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Shepherds watching their flocks nearby were greeted initially, by a singular angel, who comforted them saying, “Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings or great joy, which shall be unto all people.”

The shepherds were giving instruction to find the Savior of the world, “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” A multitude of angels then filled the sky, singing praises for the arrival of God’s beloved son, for the event that had been anticipated and told of by numerous prophets of old had occurred.

Born is the Light of the World

Over 2,000 years ago, wise men in the east saw a new star appear in the heavens. They, being learned, knew that this symbol was present because the light of the world had been born, bringing hope to a world of darkness. Seeing the appearance of the foretold light was such an exciting event that they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. They made the journey to Jerusalem, always keeping an eyes on the light to show them the direction they should go. They arrived to see the holy child, adorned with love resting in a humble bed. Following the light gave them the opportunity to be led to Christ and be witnesses for the child, and opportunity allowed to very few people.
The key for them was they were looking for the light, looking to be led.

Star Bright (Women’s Group)
We are only doing just a little of this in Spanish, but this is the only recording I can find of this beautiful song.

When Christ arrived on the earth, he came as the greatest gift our Heavenly Father could ever bestow upon mankind. His arrival wasn’t the only gift, he also brought to the earth the Light of Christ. “I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” the Savior said. “The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things. This light is further described in Moroni, Chapter Seven as that which “inviteth and enticeth to do good continually” is “given to every man, that he may know good from evil.” By using the Light of Christ to discern and choose what is right, we can be led to an even greater light: the gift of the Holy Ghost.
This light is the light of Christ. Our heavenly father gave us this light, with direction that it is our responsibility to maintain it and keep it going, to make sure that the Light of Christ is shining in our eyes.

President Faust explained, “What are we doing to keep the light shining in our own eyes and countenances? Much of that light comes from our discipline, dedication, and consecration to some important absolutes. The foremost of these absolutes is that there is a God who is the Father of our souls to whom we account for our actions. Second, that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Third, that the great plan of happiness requires obedience to God’s commandments. Fourth, that the greatest gift of God is eternal life.
At times, it seems difficult to keep the light of Christ in our eyes, with the chaos that is swirling about us at all times. If we will but keep our attention focused on him, the same light that guided the wise men to Christ so many years ago will still be a guide for us.

The Star of Bethlehem

Much of our time during this season is spent wondering what we can give to each loved one in our lives, which will be a proper demonstration of the love we have for them. We examine budgets and think of interests and relevance of friendship to warrant the cost. The better gift would be to consider Emerson’s statement, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”

President Monson explained several years ago, “There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ. It is the time to love the Lord our God with all our heart and our neighbors as ourselves. It is well to remember that he who gives money gives much, he who gives time gives more, but he who gives of himself gives all.” Just as we have been given the Light and the Spirit of Christ, we have the responsibility to share it with all around us, inviting them and teaching them how to let the light guide their lives, especially in tumultuous times.

A poet wrote:
I met a stranger in the night, whose lamp had ceased to shine;
I paused and let him light his lamp from mine.
A tempest sprang up later on, and shook the world about,
And when the wind was gone, my lamp was out.
But back came to me the stranger—his lamp was glowing fine;
He held the precious flame and lighted mine.

Perhaps the moral of this poem is simply that if you want to give a light to others, you have to glow yourself. President Monson explained, "Look to the lighthouse of the Lord. There is no fog so dense, no night so dark, no gale so strong, no mariner so lost but what its beacon light can rescue." If we have even a small portion of the beacon of light from the Lord, we too, may have the opportunity to help or save one who may be wandering and lost.

Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy (Men’s Group)

When the Prophet Joseph Smith went into a grove of trees made sacred by what occurred there, he described the event:

“It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.” After enduring a harrowing experience from an unseen power, Joseph continued:

“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. …

“When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”

There have been many times when the darkness in our lives seems overpowering, unable to be conquered. Just as the light provided joy to the shepherds and wise men and offered comfort and enlightenment to Joseph Smith, we too can receive all the blessings our Heavenly Father has in store for us, if we will just have the trust to make the Lord our Light, our guide and follow his every teaching. Christ told us in Doctrine and Covenants 93:2 that he is “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” That light that many search for in times of trouble is readily available, if we will just follow the wise men’s example and look for it, follow it, and trust that it will lead us to the source of peace and calm in a chaotic world, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Lord is our light and He will guide us.

The Lord is My Light

Closing Hymn Silent Night
(we are using a violin instead of a flute, and the congregation is just joining in the last verse)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm dreaming...

...of a white Christmas!!! We are getting pounded with snow right now, and it looks like we are going to get snow all next week. I'm so happy I can't stand it!!!
I think Enoch's sharing my joy, but it's hard to tell...

The Friday Night Knitting Club

This was a book that I first was interested in when I saw it popping up on best seller lists a while ago. I almost bought it probably five or six times, and then, one day when I was using one of the two Barnes and Noble gift cards that I got for my birthday, I decided it wasn't my dime, but I was curious enough that it warranted an investigation.

I wasn't disappointed.

Kate Jacobs weaves in all these different lives of women, finding ways to keep each one unique and with their own challenges and their own ways to solve them. I love the determination and gritt of Georgia, the reality of raising a teenage daughter and the amazing complications that arise when James (aka Dakota's dad) suddenly shows up after more than ten years and thinks he can just jump in, included and upsizing her efforts with very expensive gifts.

This book is very well written. I didn't feel like there was anything in it that was just filler, and the whole time I was reading it I thought that I would recognize each character if I was to see them in the street. I think this is a very empowering book, kindof feel like it would lose some of it's appeal among male readers, but I could be wrong. I is for adults as there is some sexuality discussed and language at a few points stronger than I think most teens should read.

I will tell you this, though. There are some passages in there, that I am going to save to a file, word for word, to use for future conversations with all of my teens about discovering who they are, living up to who they can be and how to be the best them. There were many life lessons taught that I wish I would have known sooner, but it was done in such an amazing way that I felt like I could still use them in my life.

I highly recommend this book.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

William Joseph

When I was at my mom's house on Sunday, she showed me a new piano book that she had just bought, and I listened to a few tracks of it on her ipod.  The pianist - William Joseph.  I love his music, have downloaded his songs both on my home computer and my school computer and just bought his piano book as well.  

His music is classical, or the new sub-genre, classical pop.  If you like piano music, some with more of an upbeat tempo or the very classic yet somehow new, like songs like Homeward Bound or Ave Maria,  even if you are a fan of Led Zeppelin (he did an arrangement of Kashmir),  I promise you will enjoy this album.

He has a song that is called Butterflies and Hurricanes.  The song is amazing, but the idea of a butterfly in a hurricane I think is a poem or story just waiting to happen (hint, hint, Erin).  

Give yourself a treat, especially if you are feeling half as frazzled as I have been lately, and give William Joseph a listen.  You will be so happy you did.  You can preview some of his tracks here.  

If you were wondering, the one I am working on is Piano Fantasy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The poor, poor MBA

When I drive to work each morning, I tune in to 590 AM and listen to Glenn Beck. When he takes a short break, there comes a short blurb called the Neil Cavuto, who is a money guy, analyzes the stocks, various markets, talks about trends, etc. I really like it because I get a feel for the economy in 30 seconds or less, which really, is about all that I can stand anymore after having it dominate the news for such a long time. 

Every once in a while they throw in a little story about some real person to make it more relatable, bring it down to the average person, give us a tidbit that may make all the different numbers, percentages, trends, etc. more real.  

The story that they have run two days in a row now is about a guy who has his MBA, and the market is soooo poor that this poor man who is highly qualified with his magnificent MBA can't find a "real job" so he has to drive taxi.  He has posted his resume in the back seat, but so far has not had any calls.

Here is what ticks me off.  We have become such elitists that if a person has a degree and isn't immediately hired in a job that requires him or her to wear Italian power suits with $500 shoes and several assistants at their every beck and call, it is truly an indicator of the traumatic downfall of the economy.

I know the economy isn't great - I'm married to a contractor.  I just had my superintendent send out a message questioning the Utah budget that will continue to be allotted for education, which is kind of important to me, for some strange reason.  But the guy with the MBA?  Guess what.  He still GOT a job.  A job that is the sole income for MANY families.  He is making money, often very decent money, if he can drive well at all.  He isn't collecting unemployment, he isn't standing in soup lines hoping to find something to eat to give him strength through a day of job hunting.  Just because someone has a degree doesn't entitle them to a job, and an MBA just means he went to school longer - doesn't mean he is more qualified, a better worker, more experienced or even has a natural business sense. 

The story should have been, "Yes, the economy is bad, but guess what?  There are still jobs. People can still get work, pay some of their bills, and do something to contribute to society. Look at this MBA - even when he couldn't get the job he wanted, through his determination to be a success, he has found a job 
driving a taxi.  He has even had the ingenuity to post his resume in the back of his cab, where it will be seen by many day after day.  What an excellent example of American determination and desire to succeed."

Geez - you would think that that we expected money to grow on trees.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thank you Shannon Hale

One of the blogs that I love to follow is Shannon Hale's.  I haven't read all of the back postings, but I have been following some lately where she is discussing what is a good book, bad book, good writing, bad writing, etc.  I have enjoyed reading her comments and then all the comments that are posted in following up her discussion initiation.  

For many years, I tried to only read what I then defined as "good books" meaning mostly classics, very little contemporary and very "high brow" if you will.  If the author wasn't dead, it probably wasn't worth my time.  After all, I have an English degree, therefore if I was ever seen reading something that wasn't "English degree material," I thought people would think that I wasn't smart, didn't really deserve the degree I had, etc.  

I think that one of the best things that happened when I started teaching was that I started reading what I could recommend to my students to read.  Let's be honest, high schoolers, for the most part, aren't interested in Milton's Paradise Lost, most Shakespeare plays, Dickens, Chaucer, Hemingway, etc.  So I decided after I had several students ask me for recommendations of good books, that I needed to spend some time reading what I could recommend to them.  

I have never made a better decision in my life.  

Because of this little self-challenge, I have had the opportunity to experience Stephenie Meyer, Philip Pullman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Ally Condie, Alice Sebold, and just a portion of Shannon Hale.  It is so much fun to sit down and just read a good book, because I want to read a good book.  This is something that Hale elaborates on here which is what really got me thinking, and then she talks more about it here, this one is more from the writer's perspective. 
If you have time, you should read them.  I think you will find the discussion very enlightening.  

In the meantime - thank you Shannon Hale, for hosting such great discussions.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mothers of Daughters - REJOICE!!!

A federal judge has just ruled that ALL BRATZ DOLLS must be removed from shelves FOREVER in January 2009.  I'm so happy I almost cried a little.  Apparently, Mattel (aka the Barbie makers) sued them for something or other, I don't really care what because the result is that these dolls that came out just before my first daughter was born have been penetrating the doll industry (and clothes, and games, and TV, and books) and that I have hated everyday, will have to come off the shelves.  
I, along with most mom's of girls, am all about having my adorable girls in cute clothes, wanting to look nice, etc. But I don't want them, at the ages of 5 and 3, to look like they could make money on any corner in the greater Las Vegas area, which is what I feel these dolls are teaching girls. 
Without Bratz on the shelves, maybe the window can be opened for a great selection of cute dolls, whose message is all about sharing, kindness and helping out other friends - Strawberry Shortcake dolls!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Those Who Save Us

I got this book from Danna, a fellow teacher, a week or two before school started, and with everything that has been going on, I just didn't have the time or the emotional and intellectual sense to delve into a book about a mother and daughter in Germany during WWII. I'm very glad that I didn't try to force this book until I was ready to read it.  

This story starts with a young girl whose mother passed away and her irritable and erratic father makes strict and demanding look sweet.  It is also told about 40 years later from the daughter's point of view as she is researching German, non-Jewish people to get their thoughts on what happened in Germany during that time, what they saw but didn't tell, etc. 

This is an amazing book.  It was written for adults, there is a great deal of sex, as was standard during this time that the German soldiers would use their power to manipulate women into doing what they wanted for protection, and often more importantly, food.  I love Anna's whole story, seeing all the events leading up to the discovery of why she is how she is and Trudie's realization that life isn't always how one believes it to be.  

I highly recommend this book to those who aren't offended by sex and some language.  I felt it to be very real, an emotional roller coaster of a book, but in the end, heartwarming and redeeming.   

Monday, December 1, 2008

TIBTW Day is December 1st.  No, I didn't get my 50,000 words.  I tried really hard, feel like I did a good job, but didn't hit my 50,000 words, which, being a goal oriented person, really, REALLY bugs me.  

Therefore, I dubbed today "Trying is better than wondering" day.  Yes, I took the authority today here in Wecmomland to make an official day.  So, like the dare I gave you, today is the day to try even if you don't think it is really possible to get it done.  

Really, what's the worse thing that can happen?  I think playing among the stars is fabulous!

On a side note, ten years ago today Enoch first kissed me.  Yes, we have been in each other's life romantically for ten years.  I'm thinking this calls for chocolate kisses all over our house, but since I just cleaned, I think I will do it in containers.  I wonder if I can still find some wax lips somewhere.   Hmmm....