Saturday, January 28, 2012

Are young adult books too adult?

This is a conversation that my friend Laura and I have had many times.  We are both in agreement that young adult books are sometimes purposefully adult or dark, focusing on topics like drugs, alcohol, and sex.

I was reminded of this conversation when I read this article in The Indy Star this week.  The article interviews two authors, one of whom is Ellen Hopkins, the author of several books including Crank and Glass that my students regularly list among their favorite books.  I have read Crank, which is about a girl dealing with drug addiction.  While the writing is really interesting (she writes in a style that is somewhere between poetry and prose), the topic is not to my liking, especially for young adults.

I know that there are many people who probably don't think about this topic much, but it is something I encounter every time I make a book recommendation to one of my students or choose a book for one of my classes.  I tend to stay away from suggesting book that are about topics that the students already know about or deal with.  What good is it for me to suggest the same book to them that another student would?

Instead, I try to challenge my students by guiding them to books that I think they'll be interested in, but that might not be something they would read on their own.  The students will, more often than not, rise to the occasion when faced with a challenging book.  While they usually require help understanding some of what is happening in the book, I've really enjoyed watching my students read and enjoy books such as The Catcher in the Rye, Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseThe Kite Runner, and Things Fall Apart.  I think once a student has made it through a book they thought they might not enjoy or they might not understand it is that much easier for them to approach a similar book.

This semester I'm going to introduce two new books to my students: Rooftops of Tehran and The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  I absolutely loved reading both books and I'm excited to see how the students do with them.  (Sorry to be posting so much about my students lately.  They've obviously been on my mind...)

Friday, January 27, 2012

This has been a heck of a week

I can't go into details, but let's just say that there was an incident that happened at school for which we had to call the police.  It's not as though that's totally unheard of at my school (considering many of the students are/or have been on probation), but it still manages to make things more stressful.  At least when things like this happen it keeps the staff on their toes!

The good thing that happened this week is that we got our End of Course Assessment scores from first semester and the majority of the students passed the English 10 assessment!  That meant that I got to hear things like "Good job" and "Very impressive, Gretchen."  We don't tend to have the time or energy to compliment each other on how well we're doing our jobs, so I make sure to take every compliment I get to heart!

With the somewhat stressful week, I'm really happy to have a relaxing weekend ahead of me.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
This quote always reminds me of the Langston Hughes poem "Mother to Son"

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now --
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

So whether you can only see the first step or if you've already made it to the top of the staircase, but have had some problems along the way, keep the faith and keep going.

Weekend recap

This weekend was pretty low key for me because I have a cold that doesn't seem to be getting any better.  I'm sure you know the feeling.  It's one of those colds that is better when the medicine has kicked in, but is worse the minute the medicine wears off...

Friday night I took it easy at home, though I did go over to my parent's house to talk about wedding ideas with my mom and sister for my sister's wedding, which is coming up in May!

On Saturday, I spent most of the day hanging out at home and watching more Gilmore Girls.  (I may be just a little addicted...)  I still managed to go out to dinner on Saturday night at The Capital Grille with a group of friends.  I is one of the restaurants participating in Devour Downtown, which is when a bunch of restaurants in downtown Indianapolis offer fixed $30 menus.  This was the second time I'd been to The Capital Grille, and it was just as good the second time around!  I had a spring green salad, a sirloin steak, and creme brulee.  Mmm!

Sunday consisted of going to Sunday school, which my dad has taken over teaching.  We're learning about the specifics of the Presbyterian denomination.  It's been really interesting so far.  After that, we went to the store to pick up my favorite juice that I drink when I'm sick (Dole's pinapple/orange/banana).  Then I spent the rest of the day sleeping, drinking juice, and taking cold medicine.

I know, it was a really exciting weekend all around;)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

I don't consider myself a superstitious person.  I don't believe in horoscopes (though I like to read them anyway) or fortune tellers, but for some reason, my students always end up acting crazy on Friday the 13th.  Maybe it had nothing to do with the fact that it was Friday the 13th and it just had to do with the fact that it was Friday, but today was the worst day I had all week.

I hadn't had any discipline problems all week and then I had problems in two of my four classes.  Problems that were big enough I had to write the students up...

On top of that, the school (which has been converted from a warehouse/office building) has horrible heating issues.  Thankfully, I have my own thermostat that controls my room and the computer lab across the hall, though it only works some of the time.  When I came in this morning, the temperature in my room was 59 degrees even though the thermostat was set at a reasonable 70 degrees.  It took from 8:00 until 12:45 for the temperature to get up to 70 degrees.  Then during the hour we had lunch and there was no one in my room the temperature manage to fall back down to 66 degrees!  Needless to say, I wore my coat for most of the day.

I already had the beginning of a cold when I came to school and being freezing for most of the day didn't help so tonight I'm taking it easy (while Andrew's out at a party...) so I can be ready to go to dinner at The Capital Grill tomorrow night.  I hope your Friday the 13th was better than mine!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekend recap

I mentioned in my post on Friday that my goal is to keep doing the things I was doing over break even though I'm starting back to school.  I managed to do that pretty well over the weekend.

On Friday, I headed to the gym for my 6th day in a row of working out!  I have to say that I'm really proud of myself for this.  I've figured out that I do better when I don't allow myself to make excuses and simply plan on going to the gym for at least 30 minutes a day.  After that I came home and cleaned up the house. Andrew went to hang out with a friend of his and I had my parents, sister, and some other friends over to address my sister's wedding invitations.  We managed to finish all of them and spend some time hanging out.

On Saturday, Andrew had to work during the day.  So I woke up late (really late) and spent some time knitting, watching Gilmore Girls, and eating macaroni and cheese.  (The Meijer brand is my absolute favorite by the way.)  Then I got my butt to the gym, came home to shower and change, and then headed out to meet Andrew and our friends Laura and Craig for margaritas at La Hacienda.  Yum!

On Sunday, we woke up and went to a congregational meeting at church where my work on the nominating committee was shown as we presented our choices for the new church officers.  Then we went to Sunday school, which my dad recently took over teaching.  After that, we went to my parents house for a while.  Then I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening working on some scrapbooking and knitting while watching Gilmore Girls.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I'm concerned about our dog, Schmoo, because my mom pointed out that he has a lump on one of his back legs.  I hadn't realized that it was there until she said something.  Andrew and I are going to watch it for a few days, but if it doesn't go away then we'll be taking him to the vet.  I want my dog to be okay!!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Back to school

After a relaxing break, I'm headed back to school today.  I get to ease into it because it's a teacher workday.  I don't have to get to see students until Monday.  

I'm going to attempt to keep up with everything I've been doing over break.  I've had a good balance of relaxing (watching Gilmore Girls/catching up on DVR) and productivity (working out/reading blogs and books/scrapbooking/knitting).  We'll see if I'm able to keep it up!

Do you scrapbook?

I attempt to, but I find that I'm not very good at it because my indecisiveness comes out.  There are just so many choices when you're making a scrapbook page (and when you're shopping for scrapbook supplies!).  For example, tonight I scrapbooked the Christmas cards we received this year and made one page three different times.

I started doing this three years ago when Andrew and I sent out our first Christmas card.  I wanted to be sure to document our Christmas card each year and then I thought that I would include Christmas cards we received with pictures or notes in them.  Even if I don't scrapbook anything else in the year, which this year I didn't because there wasn't anything terribly memorable that happened to us, I make sure to scrapbook our Christmas cards.

How do you scrapbook and not get overwhelmed by it?  I know that I tend to be better about it when I have a specific event I'm trying to scrapbook.  That way I can make a few pages at a time.  But that hasn't worked for bigger events.  I'm still working on our wedding scrapbook because I have such a hard time making decisions about it.  The pictures turned out so well that I feel as though the scrapbooking has to live up to that quality.  How do you remember to take pictures, to print them out, to scrapbook them?  What works for you?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dream On or How I Found Myself Interested in an Interview that Oprah did with Steven Tyler

I have never had any particular feelings about Steven Tyler, but the other night I was flipping channels and started watching an interview that Oprah did with Steven Tyler.  And it was so interesting.  Seriously.

Image from here
Some of the most interesting things about the interview were:

  • That he lives in Sunapee, New Hampshire.  It's absolutely gorgeous and definitely not where I'd expect him to live.
  • Hearing him talk about being with his father when he died.  He said, "We were all in the room with him as he took his last breath...I've been told that to be with somebody when they die is one of the most important things you can do on the planet...There was a piece of me that didn't want to go through all that, didn't want to hear all that, and there was a piece of me that knew I needed to be there with dad.  Every second it changed."  (I won't write about it too much, but I completely agree that it's important to be with loved ones when they are dying.  I had the privilege of being in the room when my Grandpa Chuck took his last breath and, while it was incredibly sad, it was also such a spiritual experience that I am grateful I was there for.)
  • His comments about growing up "under the piano" while his dad played Bach and Beethoven.  What a beautiful image.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

To keep reading or not to keep reading?

When you start reading a book and don't like where it's going, do you stop reading or do you continue reading hoping that the book will eventually get better? 

Image from here
I am definitely the type that continues reading.  I feel bad giving up on a book.  In fact, I can only think of a few books that I have given up on.  I always hope that something will happen that will change my opinion of the book, though that rarely seems to happen.

The times I've been most disappointed, have been when I read a book that is the second one the author has written and absolutely love it.  After that, I do a little research, find out some more about the author, and realize that he or she had already written a book before the one I read.  Then I go find the first book that he or she wrote thinking, 'If I loved the second one of course I'll love the first one, right?'  Wrong.

This has happened to me twice now.  First, it happened with Jane Hamilton.  I read several of her books, my favorites being A Short History of  Prince and Disobedience.  (Both of these are particularly good because they are told from the point of view of teenage boys, which Jane Hamilton manages to do beautifully.)  And then I decided to read her first book, The Book of Ruth.  It was really well reviewed and was an Oprah book club book, which of course was high praise at the time.  Sadly, not only did The Book of Ruth not get better as I read, it actually got worse.  It is one of the few books I can actually say that I hated.  I mean, really hated.

And now it's happened again with Nicole Krauss.  I read The History of Love and loved it.  Then I bought her first book, Man Walks Into a Room, when I was in Powell's bookstore in Portland, Oregon.  (Which is an experience.  If you haven't been, you need to go.  It's amazing!)  The book had been sitting on my shelf for over a year and I finally took the time to read it.  I thought the whole time, 'I don't really like this character or this plot, but it's got to get better.'  And I read all the way to the end and it didn't...

I guess writers do change a lot from their first book to their second book.  I'm just glad I've managed to find the second books first in both of those author's cases so I can appreciate their talent for writing.

Monday, January 2, 2012

January goals

  • Work out more than I don't work out in January
  • Take a multivitamin daily
  • Drink water
Relationship with God
  • Read God's Story, Your Story: When His Becomes Yours by Max Lucado
  • Attend church and Sunday school
Relationship with Andrew
  • Finish reading Let's Get Real: Bringing Authenticity and Wholeness to Your Marriage by Dale Forehand and Jena Forehand
  • Go to dinner at one of the restaurants participating in Devour Downtown
  • See Beauty and the Beast in 3D (opens January 13th)
  • See Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (opens January 20th)
  • Do 30 things on the Declutter Calendar

New year's resolutions

I've never been good at keeping new year's resolutions.  I tend to make them because it helps me get excited about the new year, but I have a hard time following through on them so this year I'm working on making resolutions and then breaking them down into smaller goals that will be easier to keep track of.


  • Work out more than I don't work out.  This plays into my competitive side.  If I track the days that I work out against those that I don't work out, then I can clearly see which one I'm doing the majority of the time.  I plan on tracking this month by month.  That way if I have a bad week and don't make it to the gym much, I can still feel like I'm able to achieve my goal and actually get extra motivation to do that.
  • Take a multivitamin daily.  This should be easy enough to do.  I used to take multivitamin, but got out of the habit.
  • Drink water.  I never drink enough water.  In past years I've tried to set a goal to drink a certain amount of water, but I never end up doing it.  So my goal is simply to drink more water.

Relationship with God

  • Always be reading a devotional book.  This goal is simple.  When I finish reading a devotional book, I'll simply start another one.  This may even be my year to get through some of those that I've started, but never managed to finish.
  • Attend church and Sunday school.

Relationship with Andrew

  • Continue reading books with Andrew.  Andrew has a huge problem actually getting through a book.  He's fine reading magazines, the newspaper, or the occasional article online, but for some reason he always falls asleep when reading a book.  I've attempted to remedy this by reading books with him.  This is the perfect solution because I get to read the book aloud, which I love to do, and we get to share what we're reading and discuss it as we go.
  • Plan out things we want to do together at the beginning of each month.  Andrew and I have never been the couple that plans out date nights.  We have a tendency to do what we want, when we want.  But with his schedule getting busier with the new job and classes starting up again, I think it'd be nice to plan out some things to do together.


  • Work through the 2012 Declutter Calendar.  I downloaded it from here.  While they have it set up so you do specific tasks on specific days, I think I'm going to work through it in my own order and just keep track of which ones I've done.
  • Cook more often.  Last year, a friend and I challenged ourselves to cook on Crockpot meal a week.  The year, I think I'm going to shoot for cooking one recipe a week.  That gives me four recipes a month, which is totally doable.  Andrew and I have a tendency to cook whatever is easiest, which means we eat a lot of frozen pizza and other things that are not that exciting or inventive, so this will help us to eat some new things.


  • Catch up on scrapbooking.  This means I need to set specific, achievable goals for my scrapbooking so I don't get overwhelmed by everything I want to get done.
  • Start a new knitting project every other month.