Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer recap

Well, summer vacation is very near the end. School starts next week and we've been making preparations for Jen's return. We've done the back-to-school shopping thing and have been trying to reestablish a school-night bedtime again.

Unfortunately, there were some things I wanted us to do this summer that we didn't get to do! And why didn't we get to do them? Because this summer has just been so crazy. We have been busy-busy-busy!

I wanted to go on vacation this summer. Didn't happen. First because my husband had to work, second because I had a medical situation that lasted for some time, and third because we had to use the money we could have used for vacation on repairs. Sigh!

I wanted to go to the beach. As far as I know, the beach is an hour away. Didn't happen. Oh, well! Just as well, though. I don't exactly have a "bikini figure" (not that I'd wear a bikini, anyway! I'm too modest to wear one) and, besides, Jesse is not yet old enough to enjoy a sandy beach to play at.

I wanted to take a swimming class with Jennifer. I thought THIS would be the year I would finally learn how to swim! And Jennifer can learn, too. Again, didn't happen.

If there's one thing that describes our summer, then, like I said, it's the word "busy."

Still, we did find room to have fun. We went for walks, went to the park, saw movies, played games, read books, danced and sang, and did some crafts here and there. We slept in, ate lots of cold ice cream treats, had barbecues and built "forts" which later had to be taken down (unfortunately for Jennifer).

There is, however, one thing that makes this summer a productive one for my child: Writing. By far, she wrote stories more than she did anything else. I am simply amazed at how much she has written this summer. She has just written and drawn so many stories. I'm in shock!

There were some stories which were entirely in picture, which she narrated to me. And then there were some which had words and pictures. I never corrected her spelling mistakes, either; I didn't think it was something she'd have to worry about at this point in time. I merely enjoyed her stories, spelling mistakes and all, and praised her for her creativity and determination to write a story from beginning to end.

I know we didn't do all of the things this summer which everybody else is usually doing -- going to the beach, going fishing, swimming, going to summer camp (I couldn't find one that accepted children under 7), going camping -- but I'm glad that some good still came out of Jennifer's summer vacation. Instead of telling her teacher about all the stories she read on her summer break, she'll be sharing all of the stories she wrote, instead. And that's not all bad, really. At least she has still been working with words.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Talking dirty

After I finished cleaning up the backyard yesterday, it was hard to take pride in my work. My yard isn't exactly a picture you'd see in Better Homes and Gardens, not because it's small, but because it's in poor shape. The grass is dead, there are weeds, my rosebushes are in bad shape and there's a yucky pile of rocks I never liked since I moved into this place two years ago.

In other words, my yard looks terrible!

Never mind the pile of wood I've been WAITING for my husband to get rid of. Or the patio table that's broken. Or the miscellaneous stone pieces against the back fence which probably belonged to some kind of decoration.

No, the thing I didn't like was just how loud the landscaping was screaming, "HEAL ME!"

I am not one for landscaping. I often joke that I have a black thumb! (Seriously, flowers I once planted were dead the next day!) I have been living independently since I was 19, and in all those years, I have never been responsible for taking care of a yard. There was always someone else doing it. All I did was clean up after my dogs or water the grass, and that's it. I never pruned any bushes, mowed any lawns, pulled any weeds or cultivated any gardens. I just didn't know how to do that stuff! The one time I tried pulling weeds I ended up pulling out patches of grass that I thought had been weeds.

And true to "have somebody else do it" form, I tried hiring a gardener shortly after I moved into this house. I knew what I wanted in the yards, but I didn't know how to do that stuff. So I trierd to hire someone to do it. The first business I called, the guy who answered was so rude, I was too angry to call anywhere else. (He thought I was a scammer just because I was using the relay service. Too bad he didn't realize that I was using the relay service because I am DEAF! *rolls eyes* Yeah, I get that treatment a lot from businesses.) So that was out -- and so was maintaining my front and back yards. Oh sure, I watered the grass from time to time. (Emphasis on "from time to time.") But I just never really made the yard care a priority.

Until now.

Yesterday, after sulking over just how poor of a condition my yard is in, I made a decision: I am going to learn how to take care of a yard! I have no idea what method I should use to learn landscaping -- a book? online course? a course at Home Depot? -- but I'm going to ask around and find out. Part of the thing that influenced this decision is how envious I tend to feel when people boast about their beautiful yard or things they do to make their yard look nice. Why can't I know how to do that stuff, too? I'm sure I can learn. I mean, it's not exactly rocket science. (At least, I hope not.)

Also, I just don't want to keep WAITING for my husband to decide to fix up the yard himself. Believe me, I'll only end up waiting and waiting and WAITING. (I've actually been waiting 6 months for him to fix my rocking chair. Gah!!) If you want something done, you have to do it yourself! So I'm going to do it myself. I am going to learn how to take care of a yard.

And maybe my luck with greenery is starting to change. My husband recently bought me some plants and, so far, they're still alive.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Carolyn Howard-Johnson talks books

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the award-winning author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of Books for writers, including USA Book News' award winners:
The Frugal Editor
The Frugal Book Promoter
Squidooing at:
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Now blogging on War. Peace. Tolerance and Our Soldiers at:

Q. Why are books so important?

A. Historically books are the repository of all the cultures of mankind, all the learning. They contain all the stuff we learn. Times are changing with the advent of the Internet but at one time people worried that microfilm would take the place of books in libraries and you can see that didn't happen. There is just something special about a book. Books touch the senses. We can feel them, smell them, hold them. Because we are human and those things are important to us, there will always be a place for books.

Q. How have books helped you in your career as a writer?

I don't think any writer would be a writer without them. There is no past history for writers and no future without books.

Q. Please name one of the most influential books you've ever read and why/how it impacted you so much.

I'm going to name two. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee influenced me because at its roote it is about the courage it takes to be tolerant in the face of bigotry. Anna Karenina by Tolstoy affected me because at its root it is the story of the affects of repression (one of byproducts of intolerance.)

Q. With changing technology, we see books coming out in new formats. Do you think print books are here to stay? Why or why not?

I think I answered that. So I will speak to the opposite. Are e-books here to stay? Emphatically yes. They are good for the environment and you can carry 300 of them on a Kindle when you travel.

Q. Please share with me an experience you've had where you found a great or autographed or priceless book to purchase in an unexpected place.

I have a huge dictionary, truly a doorstop. It's about a foot high. It has those little thumb cutouts as alphabet guides. Publishers don't use those anymore. Too expensive, I guess. And it has color plates of all kinds including one of all the flags in the world (the world was quite different when it was published). It has little etchings of plants and flowers and certain machinery and the page edges are gilt. My grandfather worked at a high school in Utah and when the library updated its copy from this 1949 edition, he brought it home. I don't remember exactly how I inherited it, but it is mine. It is a an amazing record of English from my childhood and a great example of how extensive the English language is. And our language keeps growing! Experts suggest that English will soon reach one million words. Compare that to less than 500,000 for both Spanish and French, and you'll get an idea of how versatile English is and how hard it is to master. As you can see, I could go on and on and let one thing lead to another with this question!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Books and the SAHM

One thing that a lot of people have liked about books is that they are so portable. You can read them ANYWHERE (even in the bathtub!) and take them everywhere. You can read a book while waiting for an appointment, standing in line, while going on a long trip or during a long flight. You don't need electricity to read a book -- though you MAY need a book light when it gets dark. You don't need to be able to hear, walk or talk in order to enjoy a book. Heck, you don't even need to know how to read, thanks to audiobooks! And, best of all, there are books available in Braille for the blind bookworm.

Books definitely have a lot going for them. There are so many places where you can buy a book, so many different things to read and learn about from a book, and you can stop/start reading anytime thanks to bookmarkers.

Books are also a valuable commodity for a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). We can't always be on the Internet to socialize with other adults out there, and having a book to read is just as good a substitute. Even though they are not actual "companions," they are, in a sense, like an ongoing conversation with another educated individual.

They also act as a form of escape for SAHMs. When the days get hectic, the children don't behave and/or there are domestic problems to be dealt with, cuddling up with a good fantasy novel, or even a romance or chick lit novel, helps us SAHMs just forget about all of that for now. With these books, we don't have to deal with those problems, because we get to be an adventurous rancher living on a homestead or a shapeshifter fighting for the survival of her planet.

When we need to learn about something and can't afford to take a course or can't find a sitter for the kids so that we could take said course, books are the next best thing for us to turn to. There are books that will show us how to speak with perfect grammar, books that will guide and inspire us through tough times, books that will motivate us to try something new, and books that will instruct us on anything from how to build our own greenhouse, how to manage a rose garden (for beginners!), and how to create a website.

Books also allow us to indulge in a hobby or read about others who share our interests. There are books offering tips and techniques on how to decorate cakes, books which share true ghost encounters, and books which will chronicle the history of, say, stamp collecting or gunsmithing.

Finally, reading books allows the SAHM the chance to broaden her vocabulary. Reading a variety of books introduces us to a variety of new words and phrases, and the organization and detail of certain books encourages us to think and write more constructively.

These are just some of the reasons why we SAHMs love books and enjoy reading them. I have always been passionate about books, and feel no shame in admitting that I am a bookworm. As a SAHM, though, I have been able to witness firsthand just how varied the benefits are of reading books can be, and enjoying these same benefits a little more each day.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My 50 Favorite books

This is a list of my 50 favorite books, books I have read so far. I may make another list in the future of 50 favorite more! :)


Sole Survivor by Dean Koontz

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Humard

The Pacific Between by Raymond K. Wong

Mafia Summer by E. Duke Vincent

Dark Harbor by David Hosp

There's No Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester

The Forever King by Molly Cochran

Forward to Camelot by Susan Sloate and Kevin Finn

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst

Blessings by Anna Quindlen

The Starry Rift by James Tiptree, Jr.

E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial by William Kotzwinkle

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

1984 by George Orwell

The Inferno of Dante by Dante Alighieri, translated by Robert Pinsky

White Fang by Jack London

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

The Street Lawyer by John Grisham


The Bible

The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren

Live in the Moment by Julie Clark Robinson

Chosen By a Horse by Susan Richards

Max, the Dog that Refused to Die by Kyra Petrovskaya Wayne and Kyrap Wayne

Healed by Horses by Carole Fletcher

Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

Would Somebody Please Send Me to My Room! by Bob Schwartz

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

We Are Their Heaven by Allison DuBois

Kindred Spirits by Dr. Allen M. Shoen

Affluenza by John de Graaf, David Wann and Thomas H. Naylor

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

The Silk Robe by Shaunna Privratsky


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

In My Own Words by Sapna Mittal

Tracings by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein


The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

The Fox and the Hound (by?...)

Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O'Dell

Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch

Friday, August 08, 2008

8 good books to read

In honor of today being 8-8-08, I'm going to list my eight favorite books of all time. These are the books I couldn't put down, that I've read and reread, and couldn't stand to be without.

1. The Bible
Hands down, THE number one book of all time!

2. The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren
I came across this book listed as favorite on my friend, April's, Blogger profile. I checked it out and this book LITERALLY changed my life!

3. Live in the Moment by Julie Clark Robinson
Another life-changing book. It also helps in dealing with crummy things in the past.

4. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
I know, it's a children's book. But it's a classic that I have always cherished.

5. The Fox and the Hound (by?...)
Another children's book, but it was my most favorite book when I was a child. And I mean the ORIGINAL story, not the one that's the same as the movie. But the movie is good, too. :) Unfortunately, I no longer have this book, but I hope to find a copy to buy someday!

6. Sole Survivor by Dean Koontz
A novel, sure, but it was so captivating and a very good story. The ending had me in tears.

7. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Another novel, but I love dogs so of course I took to it. It's so much more than just a story, let alone a story told from the POV of a dog. Here again, the ending made me cry.

8. Chosen By a Horse by Susan Richards
This memoir tells the story of how Susan, survivor of an abusive past, was taught how to love, forgive and heal, thanks to her companionship with a most unlikely horse. (Yeah, this one brought on the tears, too.)

So, there you have it. My 8 favorite books of all time. I have others, of course, but these are my eight. As you can see, they are the books that made me laugh, cry, feel inspired but, most of all, grow inwardly just a little bit more. And that's what every good book should do.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tolerating books

I read a lot of books, but some books are harder to finish than others. Some books just lose my interest, some have poor organization or insufficient writing, and some books have issues too controversial for me to swallow. (Just as I refuse to keep watching a movie where a child is brutally murdered, I refuse to read or even keep a book that includes things like a graphic rape scene). There has only been one book I ended up throwing across the room. It was a story called Friedrich. I read it in middle school. I was outraged that, at the end of the story, the main character had been murdered, all because he was Jewish. I knew it was a story about Nazi Germany. I knew that it would have bad things done to the Jews in it. But to actually have something like THAT in the story, a little boy murdered, was just too much for me. I was outraged!!

For the most part, I like to read nonfiction. I'm a history junkie, so I have a lot of biographies and books about historical events. There's just so much stuff out there that I want to learn about. So much I want to read about. So I'm definitely one to buy a nonfiction book faster than a novel.

All the same, some nonfiction books are not all that great. The main issue I have with nonfiction books is how they are organized. If it's poorly put together, then it's hard to enjoy. If I have a hard time finding the information I need in such a book, then that's a downside, too.

One book I am reading right now, though, has one problem: It keeps repeating what was said in an earlier chapter. People introduced earlier in the book with a brief introduction reappear carrying those very same kind of descriptions or comments said about them. It's very irritating and it looks lazy on the author's part. Like he didn't take the time to dig up OTHER material about these people. Sure, what he uses as descriptors are interesting and novel, but the novelty dies pretty fast if those same words pop up again later in the book.

I'm also seeing errors. Like, in an early chapter, it said someone was on MTV. In a later chapter, though, it's revealed that she WASN'T on MTV. And I'm sitting there wondering WHY the heck they said she WAS on MTV earlier in the book when she wasn't. They sort of neglected to include that little detail.

I try to read every book I start until the very end. Sometimes, though, I will stop reading if a book is really irritating, too confusing, if the story is too unbelievable or has characters with an encyclopedic listing of descriptions attached to them, or if it has stuff in it I just don't feel comfortable reading about. It's not just that I don't want that stuff in my head or I don't want to be influenced with that kinda bad stuff it talks about, but more than anything, putting up with a bad book seems to be a waste of time. There's a bazillion other books out there to read, and not enough time to read them all. It's not like I HAVE to read bad books for, like, a homework assignment, or something, so maybe I shouldn't feel all that bad in wanting to stop reading the books I just can't tolerate.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Earthquake country

I've read quite a few blog posts lately in which some people visiting California go on about how they "just felt their first earthquake" (RE: the most reecent one in Southern California at the end of July) and how the way Californians react to earthquakes are "crazy."

Well, ya know what? I've lived in California long enough to know this: A LOT of earthquakes happen there. So hold on to your hat: You're in earthquake country now! And you know you are a California native when you don't freak out over it or act like the whole world must STOP. I mean, depending on the earthquake, most Californians just go on with their lives, ya know? (Just look at the way Will Smith's character reacts to the quake in the movie Independence Day. Yeah, that's a pretty typical thing. "Ah, it's just a small one. No big deal.")

Mind, that's not the way Californians react to EVERY earthquake. I had the pleasure of being in Northern California when that big 6.4 quake hit. My father and I were at a grocery store and it felt like the whole store was picked up then thrown back down. Trust me, we DID NOT go back to business as usual after that. In fact, my school was closed the next day and a lot of us were without power for a long time after that quake hit, during which we all experienced aftershocks.

A true Californian is used to the earthquakes that come with living on the West Coast. The fact that we react to it differently than someone from the Midwest or the Northeast doesn't make us "crazy" or weird. I'm sure if we experienced a tornado in Kentucky or a hurricane in Florida, we would think that the way the natives handle things like that with the greatest of ease has a screw loose, or something. (I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that people have parties when a hurricane strikes Florida.) It's just a regional thing, you know? But it doesn't make us crazy or weird. If we ALL freaked out when an earthquake struck California, THAT would make us crazy or weird!

Up here in the Northwest, the biggest threat is flooding. I experienced "flood season" during life in the desert, but I don't think I could handle something as big as what they say could happen to Oregon and Washington with the same nonchalance I've felt over an earthquake. Then again, maybe I just haven't lived here in the Northwest long enough.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A good day

Something unexpected but wonderful happened today. I really had a "good day."

For the first time in a long while, there were NO MOOD SWINGS today. The moodiness didn't strike at all. There WAS one instance in which I was on a message board and almost posted a snarky comment, but I held back and didn't do it. I just moved on to other things and forgot about it. But for the most part, I was in a REAL good mood today and, the bestest part of all, had ZERO of that physical pain I have been dealing with. I was SOO happy and relieved that it didn't happen at all today. Thank God for that!!

I know tomorrow might be different. I might have to deal with the moodiness again. I might have to deal with that pain again. But not today. Today, it didn't happen. I had a good day and I thank God for this day. I hope there will be more of them.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


If you have tried to communicate with me lately and I have not been all that nice or anything, it's because I've been really moody lately. I am trying to distance myself from family and friends because of it. It's just really bad, you know? And I don't like the person I am when the bad mood strikes. So I'd rather keep my distance. I don't want to hurt anyone.

One other thing I've been dealing with is pain. Because of a certain medical thing I am going through, I have been having bad, physical pain on a daily basis. My doctor hasn't figured out what it is yet. I am going in for more testing on August 13th. She has an idea of what it COULD be, but not saying anything for sure until we take this other exam I have to have done. Meanwhile, it's causing a lot of pain, which I have been taking Tylenol for. (There is NO WAY I will take anything stronger than that. That stuff makes me sick.)

Anyway, dealing with that has only contributed to my bad moods. It's been going on for some time. Thankfully, it hasn't gotten worse, but the fact that it is ongoing is really irritating.

Part of me wishes I could reach out to my friends. Part of me needs to talk about this (WITHOUT being called a "drama queen"). But I don't feel in a position that I can do so. The bad mood strikes anytime and just so easily. Anything can set me off. I'm afraid I'll hurt my friends' feelings. So, I don't talk about it. Maybe it's better that way. (I know I've got tough friends but I also know if the bad mood strikes and I say something really mean, it could have some serious problems with my friends later on.)

I'll just deal with it. Hopefully, we will know more soon and the pain will pass. I hope the moodiness will pass, too.