Thursday, December 17, 2009

The holidays are here again. Strings of sparkling lights illuminate the homes on your street, Christmas trees are erected in front windows, and snow powders the countryside. It’s a time for hot chocolate, holiday radio stations, and movies about jolly ol’ Saint Nick. But don’t forget the books! Aside from Luke chapter two, here are the three books you should read every Christmas.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
It’s a classic, but for good reason. Not only is A Christmas Carol one of the greatest Christmas stories of all time, but it is one of the greatest ghost stories of all time. As I’m sure most of you know this short novel is about a greedy miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who knows nothing of generosity. Over the years, he’s managed to isolate himself from friends, neighbors, and family; a massive wedge of stinginess dividing them. Then on Christmas Eve, he is visited by three ghosts—ranging from comical to grim—who present Scrooge’s life as it was, is, and will be as a grumpy avaricious man.
The novel is littered with catchy lines and witty descriptions. One of my favorites is a description of Scrooge. Scrooge is as “solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, […] made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice.” Dickens makes Scrooge so real that he climbs out of the page and scowls at you for spending money on a silly book. As a true anthem of the Spirit of Christmas, A Christmas Carol stresses the importance of love, family, and charity.

“The Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore
Written in 1823, this poem was essentially the beginning of the elfish, chimney-happy Santa that we know of today. Moore embellishes on the original Saint Nicholas by adding the names of the reindeer and the flying sleigh to the folktale. “The Night Before Christmas” is a clever, rhythmic poem that kids love to listen to. My advice is to find a copy with intriguing artistic depictions of Santa for the kiddies. Sit down with them and read it together as a family. Your kids will love it. Plus, they’ll actually stay awake for this story.

“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry
O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” is a sweet short story of a couple struggling with finances—something I’m sure many of us can relate to this holiday season—and wonder if they’ll even be able to purchase presents for each other. The sacrificial solution to their predicament ends up teaching the two that pure and true love is the greatest present of all.
Read it to your older children, but be “Kleenex” warned: “The Gift of the Magi” tugs on the tear ducts just a little bit.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season! Fill your lives with love, charity, the syrupy serenades of Bing Crosby, and really good literature. Merry Christmas!
(as published in the Foothill Breeze Dec. 2009)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Riveting Reads: Catching Fire

It’s out! The sequel to Hunger Games is out!

Okay, so Catching Fire has been out for a couple of months, but in this economy one copy of a novel has a way of circulating through many of my friends and family and students before I have the chance to devour it. You might remember from an earlier review that I referred to Suzanne Collins’ first book in this series as “word chocolate”, and the description still applies to the second. Catching Fire had me biting my nails down to the cuticle. (Poor things look like I dug myself out of a casket.) Who would have thought Collins could outdo herself in the sequel. (Isn’t that the great thing about book sequels verses movie sequels? Book sequels are usually worth the purchase.)

To recap the ending of Hunger Games, the brave and resourceful Katniss Everdeen just won the national Hunger Games, although not alone. She and her doting fellow District Twelve tribute, a baker’s son named Peeta, accidentally survive the death match together under the ruse of a couple deep in love.

This is where Catching Fire begins.

Katniss and Peeta return home, go their separate ways, and only pretend to be in love whenever the Capitol is watching. Katniss wonders if she’ll ever even have a friendship with Gale again—the boy in District Twelve that she really likes. Since the rules of the games clearly state that there can only be one winning tribute every year, the president of Panem fumes as this tiny act of rebellion starts catching on in the other Districts. He fears that the Districts will all revolt as a result of Katniss and Peeta’s stunt, so the president leans on her to convince the public of the victors’ love, to legitimize it with sappy sideways glances and passionate on-camera kisses. Will they be convincing enough for the president? Read it and find out.

My one criticism, which you may have already heard from other book lovers, is that the ending of Catching Fire could not be more truncated! I was all geared up for an ending that tapered into a resolution. Instead I found a spray of unresolved problems that snaked around my sense of closure like a live wire. Am I so angry that I won’t read the third book when it comes out? No. The author hooked me with Hunger Games, and reeled me in with Catching Fire. I can only hope the third will grill me with lemon. (Yeah, time to retire that analogy to Florida.)

In any case, Collins is an exceptional, award-winning author. If you can’t wait for the last book in the Hunger Games series to come out, Collins is also the author of the Underland Chronicles Series. Her novels are praised by Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer, The New York Times, USA Today, and…me. Pick up your New York Times Bestseller today. Or at least borrow one from a friend.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Yesterday was a momentous one.

Weezer's latest album: Raditude hit the stores.

I personally purchased my copy for $14.99 at ShopKo in Spanish Fork. (Plus, I got a hot new pair of leather boots while I was there. Couldn't resist.) ShopKo didn't make the kind of fuss they should have about the album, as i had to dig in the regular section around some country CDs to find it. But behold, there it was. A large dog on the cover jumping in a iconic eighties living room (you know the kind with the striped brown and mustard couch, simplistic coffee table, and a carpet the same color and texture of a teenage boy's drab, overly-long and barely washed hair.) On the coffee table was a book--it's title unclear to the naked eye, and I found myself wondering what the book might be titled? What would Weezer have on the coffee table at home. Inasmuch as I don't follow any Weezer fan sites where this kind of thing is already known, I just guessed.


Snuggies for dummies?
Track suits etcetera?
The memoir of a 1/2 Japanese girl?

Any other suggestions?

Anyhoo, the actual music, while slightly pop-ier than usual, has the signature "odd-girls are hot" and "regular jobs suck" thematic quality. At first, I didn't love the "partying" song or whatever it's called. But soon, I warmed much like I was wearing a Weezer Snuggie. Overall, the CD will be immortalized in my collection. like all the other albums. I am still firm in my declaration that Pinkerton is the best CD, but I still celebrate all things Weezer.

(PS-Rivers-if you're reading this, name one of your next songs Rena (pronounced re-nuh) I'm a 1/4 Mexican Mormon girl from Utah with feminist core and a birth mark shaped like Australia. I once had a cat named Nicodemus, a Pomeranian/poodle named Chanel. And my kick-a husband believes in the Sasquatch. Tell me you can't come up with lyrics for that!).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Riveting Reads: The Surrender Tree

Let me paint a word picture for you. The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle is short. It’s a short children’s book of poetry with a shocking yellow cover and the charcoal silhouette of a tree rooted in a palm of a hand. A tree that looks almost finger-painted against the yellow background.
Its captivating cover attracted me like bees to honey. Or me to shoes. Or me to candy corn. I digress.
The silver spherical sticker helped sell me too, of course. The Surrender Tree is a Newbery Honor Book. Also, when you flip the book over, there’s a list of seven more notable awards Engle’s book was given, including ALA Best Book for Young Adults and Américas Award.
Critics agree. The Surrender Tree is a hit. It’s circulating through bookstores, libraries, schools, book clubs, and blogs. No doubt it will end up on the Oprah Book Club list. (At least this is one book your book club will likely read all the way through. Now, if you only get them to stop with the tangents and focus on a literary discussion for more than ten seconds at a time.) At a hundred and sixty-nine pages with only a poem on each page—similar to Out of Dust or Crank, two other very popular adolescent poetry books—The Surrender Tree still manages to douse the reader with a powerful Cuban voice and lyrical imagery.
The book spans the length of three Cuban wars where slaves fought the Spanish for freedom. Pulling from experiences of her great-grandparents’ past (they were Cuban refugees during the wars), Margarita Engle writes of three central characters. Rosa is a rebel Cuban with a talent for herbal healing. Some call her a witch because of her healing power and her ability to vanish when the adversary is closing in on her makeshift hospital. Witch or not, Rosa nurses injured rebels so they can live to fight another day. But her charity doesn’t stop there; Rosa heals friend and enemy alike. Her husband José keeps Rosa safe from the Spanish soldiers and an especially frightening villain nicknamed Lieutenant Death. Lt. Death hunts Rosa for years, believing somehow that her death will kill the spirit of the rebel movement and cause the faction to deflate.
Read The Surrender Tree and find out if Lieutenant catches “the witch” or if the Cuban refugees best their opponent. Anyway, at least look at the cover. You’ll be hooked too.
(as published in The Foothill Breeze in October 2009)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Riveting Reads: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

It is a truth universally acknowledged that women love Jane Austen. Even I—who would rather be watching football more often than cozying up on the couch with the latest Sandra Bullock DVD—love Jane Austen. I love it all; the gooey, sappy, so-sweet-you-could-die, eloquent, British prose is like a Valentine just for me. Any woman who has fantasized about “the one” as being a wealthy man, who could have anyone, but picks you for your wit and spitfire nature, can relate to Austen’s masterpiece, Pride and Prejudice.
But who knew it could be better?
Throw in a little zombie action, a dash of ninjas, and some kick-butt sword fighting, and what do you get? The marriage of Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. (Bet Austen never thought she’d find matrimony like this!) With his bizarre and, let’s be honest, just plain fun interpretation of Austen’s novel, Grahame-Smith tweaks an already pristine classic into three hundred plus pages of laughs.
Grahame-Smith rebirths the famous first lines of the Pride and Prejudice into a telling opening. It says, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” And so the hilarity commences.
Elizabeth Bennet lives in a small British village outside of Meryton. Life is quiet, acquaintances few and far between, and scarcer as the epidemic inflicting the area—zombism or “the strange plague”—brings the dead to life and sets them hunting for scrumptious brain matter. The Bennet sisters are not the unprepared knitting and piano-playing types as Austen created. No, in Grahame-Smith’s version, the sisters had been trained in Martial Arts and wield weapons beneath their petticoats like Asian warriors. Grahame-Smith transforms Elizabeth Bennet into a heroine of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer persuasion. The strong female character we knew and loved is now a modest, zombie-annihilating vixen.
Although, I did laugh for nearly the first twenty pages without pause, I should warn you—as my sister warned when she loaned it to me—that the novelty tends to wear out sooner than later. Truth be told, it did. About the time that Mr. Darcy outlines the parameters of an accomplished woman as having “a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, [as well as being] well trained in the fighting styles of the Kyoto masters and the modern tactics and weaponry of Europe”, I thought the novelty had run dry. Nevertheless, it was worth reading.
Now, I realize there is a reader out there who is scoffing at the very idea of zombies in a Jane Austen novel, and is saying, “how dare someone pollute the words of a classic writer?” Yet, Grahame-Smith never claims to be a match for Austen’s intellect or talent. In fact, he only took one literature class. Truthfully, I hope he starts a trend. I, for one, would like to see A Farewell to Arms and Werewolves or Ulysses and Vampires. Besides, if you didn’t think Mr. Darcy could get any hotter, wait until he decorously blows the head off a zombie with a musket.
Kudos, Grahame-Smith. Write us another.

(published first in The Foothill Breeze in Oct. 2009)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

I would have another Riveting Reads review for you this Thursday, but I lost my thumb drive. Might as well be my thumb, ya know? I'll see what I can do. It's on Pride & Prejudice & Zombies...and yes, it is that awesome! Darcy can get hotter!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Riveting Reads: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Do you know what you can get for under twelve bucks at Wal-Mart? About four bags of supreme pizza rolls. Or a small pack of Huggies—you know, the kind with only enough diapers to last a weekend. Or a Hannah Montana tee, knee socks, plaid miniskirt, hair clips, shoes, or pajamas—I bet if you could even get Hannah Montana fruit snacks. (Notice I didn’t list a Hannah Montana backpack? It’s because I’m banking that they’re more than twelve bucks. How else can you expect Miley to pay for her unicorn collection?!)

Or—if none of the above sparks your interest—you could get a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
Now, don’t be put off by its hokey name. You should know that my first instinct was, “Chic Book Alert!” which—as you can probably tell by now despite my chic status—isn’t really my type of book. Nevertheless, under the polite scrutiny and encouragement of my work book club, I purchased my own copy. OK. Say you just took my advice and bought your own copy, and opened it up to the first page. “What’s this?” you hypothetically say. “It’s a letter,” and as you flip through you realize, “What the devil? It’s all letters. It’s a novel entirely composed of letters!” And it’s true. It is a novel composed entirely of letters. But please stop walking to the Returns counter. Except for the crazy limitations the formatting must have put on the authors who still managed to pull off a New York Times Bestseller, you will still enjoy it.
Love it, I daresay.

Miss Juliet Aston is a newspaper columnist and semi-successful novelist living in London in a post WWII world. London is in ruins, a virtual skyline of crumbling brick buildings and other “dinosaur bones” of a once thriving city. Juliet’s own flat was destroyed by Germany's bombs, and paralleling the city’s aftermath, Juliet’s ideas for her next novel are scattered and lacking a common thread. Until one day…

…Juliet receives a letter from a Mr. Dawsey Adams from Guernsey, a Channel Island. Dawsey finds himself in possession of a book that once belonged to Juliet. She writes back to Dawsey, saying, “I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers” (a statement that I know has to be true. How else would I have found The Vorkosigan Series by Lois McMaster Bujold? It had to be Book Karma!)

In the midst of their correspondence, Dawsey reveals to Juliet of his participation in a local literary society, which was invented by accident in the heat of the Nazi occupation of Guernsey. Soon the entire hodge-podge literary society opens up a discourse with Juliet, telling stories of the occupation, some light-hearted and others heart-wrenching.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is worth reading. Book clubs will especially love it. With a ribbon of humor, Shaffer and Barrows offer a fresh perspective on the aftermath of WWII and testify to how literature can link people together in tough times.

(As published in the Foothill Breeze on September 17, 2009)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Things I didn't know (or just forgot about) and don't like...

1. I forgot that I hate that the 3rd season of Veronica Mars changed the theme song "We Used to be Friends" to some melancholy emo version of the song. It was the one TV show that I would never fast forward the theme song when watching the DVD. But the 3rd season version sucks toe.

2. I didn't know that if you kick a semi-deflated soccer ball at your car and it hits the antenna that the antenna will likely tap the back windshield and shatter the whole cursed thing. (Learned that lesson for a measly $500 bucks).

3. I forgot why I opted to have a $500 deductible on my car insurance policy.

4. I forgot that when a medicine bottle says, "take with food" that if you don't you'll have a stomach ache all day--even if you eat a half hour later.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Riveting Reads: The Road

(as published on Sept. 3, 2009 in the Foothill Breeze)

I visited my sister in Lehi recently, and every time I go there I browse her bookcase, picking at it like a vulture. This time I found a paperback copy of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. This particular copy has a very unremarkable cover. It’s black with the title and author's name as basically the only props holding up the cover. But there is a little golden circle in the bottom right corner that makes it decidedly more appealing than the cover art. The circle says, “Winner of the Pulitzer Prize”, and so of course I couldn’t put it back. And, boy, I’m glad I didn’t. Plus, within the first few pages of the exposition, the bland cover made a whole lot more sense.
It’s a post apocalyptic and dismal world to be alive in, especially for a child. The earth is burned and in ruins. The air so thick with smoke and ash that even the sun cannot penetrate the darkness beyond a predawn glow. Plants no longer grow and trees fall like thunder in the blackness. Food is scarce in McCarthy’s world, and as the years pass it only gets more difficult to find. A jar of homemade tomato sauce hidden in an already ransacked pantry or water found in a murky puddle and filtered with scraps of cloth. Some survivors—masked like harbingers of death—have become cannibalistic monsters, collecting and herding other people like cattle. They’ll feed off of a leg here, an arm there until nothing’s left and move onto the next victim. Humanity seems to be as scarce as the sun, and goodness is abandoned for butchery and a meal.
In burned America, the protagonist—a man who is never named (as if names are as luxurious as Twinkies)—and his little boy travel south on a road to avoid the treacherous winters. They head to the beach, hoping to find what? Neither really knows. But the man is driven by hope that they are not the only decent people left in the world, not the only ones left who “carry the fire”. Together man and boy journey down the road hoping to meet others with the fire, scrounging for food, and dodging the human herders with a measly pistol and what little survival skills that they possess.
McCarthy’s The Road is Hemingway-simplistic, and is so situationally terrifying that it raises the hairs on the back of the neck. It makes you wonder what you would do in the man’s place, and it makes you grateful for every miniscule piece of food in the house; the freezer-burned burrito buried in the ice box, the can of condensed milk that is over five years old, and the last remaining cereal crumbs in the bag that you would’ve thrown out before you read The Road.
Also, if you like The Road, you could also try No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses, or The Crossing, all by McCarthy. Critics agree. McCarthy is a top-notch, award-winning, gripping writer. In The Road, he pushes human condition off a cliff to see if it can survive, then coaxes it back with hope.
The Road is becoming a major motion picture as well.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rory: Do something to make me hate you! Loralai: Um, go Hitler?

Cole and I were watching the special features of Gilmore Girls a few weeks ago, which btw are really lame and don't bother. After one particularly lame "Tour of Stars Hallow" the clip ended with a violet screen with the watermark of a maple leaf. Centered were these words: Own all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls on DVD today. And there was a voice over reading those words.
I know what you're thinking, It was probably Loralai or Rory's voice or Miss Patty. No. The voice was not a lovable character from the show. It wasn't even Luke. It was some dark, bass voice who sounded almost like a retired drill sergeant. I mean it. We were both a little startled...and one of us peed a little. In fact, if I didn't already own all 7 seasons of Gilmore Girls--including the Amy Sherman-Palladino knock-off (i.e. the 7th season)--I would've gone right out and purchased them out of fear for my life.

The voice was enough to trump the "sophisticated, but understated" background.

Friday, August 28, 2009


So, there's a kid in my English class that tries to test the boundaries of religious persecution by saying things like, "Jesus is a fictional hero just like Beowulf". Also, he pokes fun of Jesus when he can--in drawings and snide remarks, you know, the regular everyday rebellious teen who tries to rock the boat.

Today I finally said, "_________, you know that the students around you have all come to terms with the idea that religion might be a social construct. Some decided it is and some have not. Either way, you're disrespectful remarks are not going to change their minds." I then assured the class that I had religion and was in fact LDS. The kid then nodded, kind of knowingly. And 2 seconds later, another kid said, "I've never thought of religion as a social construct, but now I am."

I. am. so. stupid.

Why didn't I just give the regular "respect thy neighbor" speech? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Riveting Reads: The 13th Tale

I came upon Diane Setterfield’s novel by accident. A happy accident. The book stood on a shelf with a dozen others like it, upright, tall, and looking important in its regal book jacket. As I turned it over in my hands, the front cover photo sparked my intrigue. There was picture of a stack of very old books, and centered was the title in a kind of enchanting gothic font: The Thirteenth Tale.
Thirteen tales? I thought. Why thirteen? Why not twelve or fourteen? Was it the superstition behind the number thirteen that Setterfield meant to harness? Captured by curiosity, I flipped to the prologue and read, “All children mythologize their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won’t be the truth; it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.” Of course, I immediately thought of my own birth-story. (I almost popped out early on route to a hospital in rural Missouri). Then, I immediately wondered what the devil that tells about me. I’m overly punctual? Hardly. In any case, I was hooked. I had to know what the deal was with the thirteen tales.
Meet Vida Winter. One of the world’s greatest living writers. As her career builds, so does her status, and public interest piques. But to interviewers Winter holds out, telling lies when truth is requested. She mythologizes her own story again and again. Why? To divert reporters from the truth, something decidedly more chilling than any of her tales. When Winter finally chooses to tell all, she picks Margaret Lea as her scribe.
Lea is a quiet biographer with a simple life and few regrets. When she receives the entreating letter from Winter, Lea goes to the elusive novelist and begins piecing together the tale of the century.
Winter’s story begins with Charlie and Isabelle Angelfield and their twin girls; the mercilessly violent and hot-tempered Adeline and the submissive, flaccid Emmeline. Living in their own world with their own language and lack of rules, the twins terrorize their governess, the gardener, their House of Usher-type manor, and much of the town. Aside from dealing with their feral twins, the Angelfields must also juggle a ghost, mental insanity, and a devastating house fire.
A skeptic by habit, Lea wonders at the validity of Winter’s story and her bizarre connection with the Angelfield family, for some parts seem too gothic, too supernatural for truth. Truth or not, Winter’s final version of her beginnings—with its unnerving twists and turns—trumps all of the other bestselling ones.
Reader to reader, Setterfield ranks brilliant in my eyes. Not only are her characters as tangible as my next-door neighbors, but her constant, wide-ranged references to other novels are unprecedented. If the classics were a religion, Setterfield would be its Pope. If you like mystery, unexpected endings, and/or classic literature, then you’ll love The Thirteenth Tale.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Riveting Reads: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I confess.
I picked The Graveyard Book because of the author: Neil Gaiman.
Yep. The wild-haired British literary miscreant does it for me. I’ve been a Neil Gaiman fan ever since I was a kid and discovered my brother’s stash of Sandman graphic novels—all written by Gaiman. After I exhausted the pile, I was fortunate enough to continue my addiction, because Gaiman began writing novels. I breezed through them as they came across his shelf in the bookstores. I read Neverwhere, American Gods, Stardust, and Anansi Boys, each time feeding off Gaiman’s Poesque wit and imagery. There is something mysterious and realistic about Gaiman’s contemporary gothic novels. And then he started writing children’s literature, and I was in hog heaven. As an English teacher, I’m always looking for adolescent literature to introduce to my students. Coraline was a hit with the kids (and now is a major motion picture), and although it was targeted more a much younger demographic, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish also attracted a few fans in my classes. This leads me to his latest accomplishment: The Graveyard Book.
The setting of The Graveyard Book is—surprise, surprise—a graveyard. The character: Nobody Owens, or Bod to his companions. After the brutal murder of his parents by the man Jack, the toddling Bod wanders out of his house and into the depths of nearby graveyard. The residents of the ancient graveyard take him under their wisps and raise him as a live boy, yet teach him a few ethereal tricks to keep him safe from harm. Bod’s foster family educates him as a regal vampire serves as his guardian. Among these creatures, Bod also encounters a witch, werewolf, Indigo Man, and the gateway to a ghoul city. But these are just the everyday dangers of his home. Outside the boundaries of the graveyard walks the man Jack, who has unfinished business with Bod.
The Graveyard Book is Gaiman to the core, and now in a nice children’s literature package. It’s the perfect melding of the supernaturally grotesque and naturally grotesque with Gaiman at the reins. And if my word isn’t enough to sell you, the whole world seems to be on board with me (including Tori Amos, but probably because she’s dear friend of Neil’s.) Not only is The Graveyard Book internationally bestselling, but it also won the prestigious and coveted Newberry Metal. Gaiman’s got talent, no doubt about it. Get a copy of The Graveyard Book, fall in love with the wordsmith, then exhaust the rest of his collection like I did. Your mind’s eye will thank you.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Drum roll, please... novel, One-Armed Freak, is now available for downloads as a Kindle!
You can get yours today from Remember, if you don't have a Kindle, you can get it on your iphone through the Kindle app.
Check it out! Click on my blogpost title for the link.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Moving to Our Own *Bleeping* Beat

Tomorrow is moving day! Hizzah! We closed on the house today--signed more papers than Cory Feldman has signed autographs--but we're done! So the moving commences tomorrow. It'll take all flipping day, cuz who the heck wants to help us on a Tuesday, right? *bleep*bleep*bleepity*bleep*. In any case, we're excited. Got a new fridge, thanks to a good friend, and we're ready to do the whole lot by ourselves...mostly. *bleep*

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"I'm a Survivor. I'm Gonna Make It."

I'm so irritated with my kids today. I mean they keep following me around the house and I just want them to go play and leave me the heck alone! I can't get anything done and whatever I try to get done ends up taking me a million hours b/c of the constant interruptions:
"Mom, Gavin's opening the drawer."
"Mom, Gavin's eating paperclips!"
"Mom. I'm hungry. Not for lunch, for chocolate. Can I have some chocolate?"
"Mom, Gavin hit me for no reason."
"Mom, if you're not crazy by the time my childhood is over, I'm totally putting you in a rest home when you're old."
Ok, I adlibbed that part.
Anyway, it's like my head is going to explode. I wish I had an in-home oasis or something.
Also, I've been wigging out about writing. It is so hard to continue when the outcome is unclear. I guess that is a universal truth, though, huh.

PS the title is from that Beyonce song--cuz I just watched her E! Hollywood Special. (How housewife-y of me, huh?)

Monday, June 15, 2009

What should I name my newspaper column?

Hey friends and family,

I've devised a few names that might be good titles for my bi-monthly book review column. They are just under the picture of my family to the left of this post. Please take 2 seconds to vote for your favorite.



Friday, June 12, 2009

Old Adage

You know the old adage, "When it rains, it pours"? Well that's supposed to be about bad stuff, right? I think it applies to blessings too.

One-Armed Freak has been picked up by a publisher (Oak Tree Press) who is taking it as a Kindle. It will be available for downloads in a month. This picture is one of the author pictures that Angie took for me. check out her site at


The Springville/Mapleton newspaper (The Foothill Breeze) offered me a book review column. I'm thinking about calling it: "From Tome to Tome" or "Riveting Reads"or maybe "Crazy Awesome Newspaper Article (with guitar solo in the background). Not sure yet. starts July 2nd!


Our house will be done on the 15th of July.

That's a lot of blessings to be thankful for. =)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The last post and this one were posted by Zarieck. I don't want Rena stealing my thunder... or my camero.
now that its summer, I get to post stuff. yep. its zarieck time. and my first post will be about books I want to read this summer.

1. "Anybody can be cool...but Awesome takes practice"
2. "Better never to have been: The harm of coming into existence"
3. "Cheese problems solved"
4. "Cooking with Pooh: Yummy Tummy Cookie Cutter Treats"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"We Don't Need No Education"

Alas, school is near the end, and therefore my constant use of the Internet will become my rare use of the Internet. (I know, I don't have it at home like a freak of nature. I'm poor. sue me. Actually, don't. I couldn't afford legal costs.) I may not post much for the next few months, but here's a list of things that I would likely blog about in my absence.
1. How cool was that movie that came out and was supposed to be a blockbuster and deserved it. ya know?
2. I can't wait for our house to be done already! I'm drowning here, Summers.
3. Gavin/Elayna did the funniest thing or said the funniest thing about the thing with the thing. Had to be there I guess.
4. Yeah, I moved into the house! It's awesome! and small...
5. I think we need a bigger house.
6. I wish we had a fence so Gavin would quit running out into the street.
7. I wish we had a lawn so we could play football and soccer with the littuns.
8. I read the best book by Christopher Moore called Fool. It's a spoof on one of Shakespeare's plays and so so so funny.
9. Crap. I have to start school again next week. ughhhh.
10. Well, I'm back again.

Hopefully this will tide you over for the few months that I will be hanging with the family. If it doesn't, then hey, guess what? There's still an invention called a Phone. I know it sounds antiquated, but I swear, it's so nifty. There's buttons and a voice at the other end. You should check it out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Since when did bureaucracy have to infiltrate every facet of my life?

I want to order books for my classroom.
I want to teach my students how to fraking read so they can be successful in life.
I want to move into my house this millennium.
I want to upgrade my lane change so I can get paid more and afford my new house.

Let's just say I'm feeling a kinship to postal workers right now.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chapter 2: Gravy Eyes

Mrs. Taylor’s level figure stared up at him. The once Kryptonite marbles, subject to that teacher stare—the kind that could halt a student in mid-sentence—were now stiff, glossy, like the film on standing gravy. Unnerving in life and in death. He walked forward, dragging his shoes on the carpet in short strides.
“Mrs. Taylor?”
No response.
He nudged her ribs with his shoe, but she didn’t move. He half expected, hoped, she’d smile, laugh, and crack a cruel joke. And then with lively dedication, morph the situation into some kind of teaching lesson. Saying, “Don’t commit suicide or you’ll do the same thing to your family.” Instead her body lay still, limp.
Next to her leg an open EXPO leaked a quarter-sized blue blotch onto her khaki skirt. Corey glanced at the board. It appeared that Mrs. Taylor had been in the middle of the word: onomatopoeia. Instead it read, onomato and half of the p. Out of some primal duty and respect for the dead, he knew he couldn’t let the marker continue to leak all over her dress. Corey snatched the marker up, searched for the cap, and discovered it wedged between Mrs. Taylor’s forefinger and thumb. Tainted by every scary or suspense movie made, Corey abandoned the idea of taking the cap from her hand, for fear that her body would rise, hauntingly animated, and grasp his forearm during the cap rescue. Then later the zombie teacher would devour his pulsating brain straight out of his severed skull. Swallowing, he set the naked marker on the white board tray; his civic duty or some kind of duty completed.
Corey sucked in a heavy breath through the nose, caught a whiff of something sweet and moldy. Its source momentarily escaped him, but then as realization hit, so did a wave of nausea. The smell of fresh blood was weakening enough, but the acrid smell of gallons of blood souring within a rotting corpse sent Corey sprinting to the wastebasket and puking up his donut breakfast.
Lightheaded and wheezing, Corey leaned against Mrs. Taylor’s vacant desk, terrified of the stench of death. His moist eyes spotted a bottle of apple-scented lotion next to the stapler. He snatched up the bottle, turned to Mrs. Taylor’s corpse, and squirted pump after pump onto her rubber torso, staining her blouse with scattered pink dollops of hand lotion. The entirety of the scene was so revolting and blasphemous that even Poe might have recoiled from it.
He stepped away, shaking. I better get some help, he thought.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chapter 1: Taught to Death

Corey parked outside the 7-11 and ran in to get some breakfast. At the register he paid $1.12 for two glazed cake donuts, and tried to ignore the echoes of his mother’s morning plea, “You’ll do better on the test if you eat something healthy.” Back in his truck, Corey put the vehicle in reverse, and then stuffed a donut into his mouth. Crumbs and glaze dribbled down his Weezer T-shirt, which he absently brushed off. The song on the radio blared some old-school U2 lyrics, and in between belting along with the chorus, Corey rehearsed the major plot events and metaphors in The Lord of the Flies. By the time he reached the school, the first light of morning peered over the hillside, and Corey was ready for the test.
He parked outside the English wing, grabbed his books, and ran towards the school. At Mrs. Taylor’s room, he swung open the door.
“Hey Mrs. Taylor. I’m ready for—,”
He stopped, his eyes blinking involuntarily. One..two..three blinks. At the front of the room, behind the overhead cart, a pair of stocking clad legs and inexpensive sandals poked out, horizontal and motionless. Deadly motionless.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Haunted by the Past

Have you ever been haunted by the past? Thought you saw someone from your past that you totally would rather avoid? (or maybe run up to and kick 'em in the shins?) I think everyone has. But what about three ghosts of the past? People that couldn't possibly be sitting in church a few pews ahead, or walking by in the parking lot, or passing the sacrament?

That's what happened to me last week. What would Freud say to that? Somehow I doubt that an inner obsession with my mother and secret misogyny would quite answer that. Why would i see 3 apparitions in a brief time? and why during church? It's not like these people are dead, or that I have any unresolved issues with them. They were barely around long enough to be significant in the weave of my life. 3 blips on the Rena radar. The billboards on the road of my life. Why is my mind divulging their personas now? Is my subconscious imploding?

Who will be next? My manager from Burger King, the Mole-man? The girl that sat next to me in home ec--with the brassy hair and Dorito nose--she was training to be a stenographer, I think--will it be her?

I don't really know how to react to this except with curiosity. Wonder wonder wonder.

Maybe I have the swine flu. ;)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Top 5 reasons to frown upon the Twilight Series or Movie

1. You cannot successfully impregnate a vampire, unless you're Joss Whedon. So don't even try it, babe.
2. Leave the imprinting for the lobsters.
3. To quote the movie: The old vampire doctor says to Edward: "Remember who you are" --which is what? A carnivorous beast with a blood lust.
4. A real story would have expendable main characters.
5. There weren't any good gypsy curses.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Both Feet in one Boat

The verdict is in. I'm going to teach exclusively at Salem Hills next year. I'll miss Payson, but am glad to be firmly planted in one school.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

44 odd things about me

1. Do you like Bleu Cheese? not ever.
2. Have you ever been drunk? never ever. Did get a little loopy at a dentist appointment after they gave me laughing gas.
3. Do you own a gun? no way.
4. What flavor of Kool Aid was your favorite? I hate Kool Aid. I like crystal light--with caffeine.
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? If there's needles involved, yes.
6. What do you think of hot dogs? wouldn't buy them from a street vendor.
7. Favorite Christmas movie? All of them. I recycle them every year stretching them out over the whole month of December. Elf is one of the best though. "You sit on a throne of lies!"
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? crystal light--with caffeine.
9. Can you do push ups? not well, but I can rock the squats.
10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? my wedding ring
11. Favorite hobby? Reading and writing.
12. Do you have A.D.D.? sorry, what was that?
13. What's your favorite shoe? kitten-heeled blue leather open-toed sandals with alligator skin detailing.
14. Middle name? Ann
15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment? Who wrote this stupid song on Pandora. I want to go to the No Doubt concert. Obesity is a symbol in Oliver Twist.
16. What are 3 drinks you normally drink? water, crystal light, hot chocolate
17. Current worry? Another rejection letter?
18. Current hate right now? waiting.
19. Favorite dog breed? Boston Terrier
20. How did you bring in the New Year? asleep
22. Name three people who will complete this? ???
23. Do you own slippers? No. Socks.
24. What color shirt are you wearing right now? Taupe and white.
25. Do you like sleeping on Satin sheets? Egyptian cotton-600 thread count
26. Can you whistle? yep.
27. Favorite color?blue
28. Would you be a pirate? no, I like to bathe and keep my appendages.29. What songs do you sing in the shower? whatever woke me up in the morning on the alarm radio.
30. Favorite Girl's Name? Elayna
31. Favorite boy's name? Gavin
32. What's in your pocket right now? phone.
33. Last thing that made you laugh? Elayna saying, "Mom, Gavin sometimes eats chicken butts."
34. Best bed sheets as a child? uh...the ones with hearts.
35. Worst injury you've ever had as a child? broken heart.
38. Who is your loudest friend? My kid.
39. How many dogs do you have? None
40. Does someone have a crush on you? Cole
41. What is your favorite book? The Wife
42. What is your favorite candy? peanut m&m's
43. Favorite Sports Team? NY Giants!
44. What song do you want played at your funeral? "Because I have been Given Much" - hymnal

Friday, April 3, 2009

What is love?

A friend of mine is getting married, and she offered me time to read something at her wedding reception. What do you think of this?

What is Love?

Right now, if someone asked you to define love, you’d likely have an explosion of answers. Because right now love is attacking every inch of your being; gingerly exploring and caressing the five senses.

Love is fresh summer watermelon bursting in the mouth. It’s memorable like mango. It’s tart like kiwi. It’s sweet and potent. It’s pralines and pie.

Love is delicate and firm. It’s satin and cashmere. It tingles at touch. It’s his t-shirt you always borrow. It’s your hand through her hair. It’s 600-thread count Egyptian cotton.

Love is homemade bread. It’s sugar cookies on a Saturday night. It’s mountain foliage in the Spring and cultivated earth in the Fall. It’s Thanksgiving and Christmas and Birthday’s 1 through eternity. It’s Café Rio.

Love is whispers. It’s gasp. It’s “you’re welcome” and “thank you”. And “you did the dishes again?” It’s a high-five. It’s lips smacking. It’s teeth grinding. It’s as startling as thunder and as gentle as a sigh. It’s methodic and erratic. It’s a song and an un-tuned instrument. It’s “Love you” and “Miss you” and “Come home soon”.

Love is the note on the fridge, the text just because, the kiss before a nap. It’s her without make-up and him in jammies. It’s candlelit faces. It’s that smile. That touch. That laugh. Those lips.

In the years to follow, your description of love will continue to grow, piling like grains of rice. And you both will have silos full to the brim with ways to describe love. To explain love. To express love.

And one day when you both have more wrinkles than the waiting room of a Botox clinic, someone young and new to love will ask, “What is love?” You’ll have become so accustomed to it, so used to the threads of love woven into your being that the words in reserve will be summarized down to two, and you’ll answer, hoping the young one will grow to understand as you have that:

Love is.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Murtaugh List

Stole the idea from How I Met Your Mother, but think it still applies.

Things I'm too old for or should be too old for:
1. Texting every 5 minutes.
2. Dr. Pepper lip smackers
3. Lunchables
4. Body glitter
5. Cruising the strip or main street or anything related.
6. Coloring (unless it's with my kids)
7. Taking seductive pictures of my face for my myspace page--never did this btw, but I'm definitely too old for it.
8. Pouting, blubbering, whining, etc.
9. Saying "dude" or "like" too much.
10. Sneaking food into a movie theater... (definitely should be too old for, but still do.)

What's on your Murtaugh list?

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Good Man is Hard to Find

I asked my students this question to front load some reading: "Have you ever connected with a book/text on a deeply personal level? Explain."

So, I felt determined to answer it myself. The first piece that jumped to mind was Flannery O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find.

While reading this piece I found it delicious, yet it's meaning came gradually. It was kind of like my brain was sucking on a fruit leather. The satisfaction constant and eventual.

It's a rather morbid story of a family murdered by The Misfit--whose name is only that (an intentional barb at labeling). The last member of the family to die is the grandmother. In her moments before death she becomes overly religious, praying emphatically, and repetitively insists that The Misfit is a good man (the very same man she was terrified to meet on their road trip). Her last words, the one's that drive The Misfit to murder her are "You're one of my own children." It is such a revelatory statement--she birthed the man figuratively. Her prejudices gave birth to The Misfit. the misfit. categorically. The murdered then says to a companion, "She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

And then the irony of the title projects itself.

A Good Man is Hard to Find.

A Good Woman is Hard to Find.

A Good Person is Hard to Find.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Buffy the Movie???

Cole forwarded this information to me. Didn't mention the source:

"When Twilight was feeling its rise to popularity there were twocomparisons that were thrown about. The literary popularity in youngreaders like Harry Potter fans, and the criticism that the romance wasripped from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And now Hollywood is rumoured to be alive with the buzz that JossWhedon, creator of the aforementioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer is eyeingthe success of Twilight with anxious hands gripping a feature filmscript he had prepared for the continuation of the show.

Moviehole Reports:The monster success of girly vampire pic Twilight at the US Box officelast weekend could kick open the door for a big-screen return of JossWhedon’s much-loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Rumours are circulatingin Hollywood that Whedon has a feature-film script based on his hit TVseries ready to roll as soon as a studio is prepared to commit."

Let's hope he does it. Joss, you have our support! We love you!!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Neil Gaimania

You know how I love Neil Gaiman! Well, here's an interview with the lovely Brit and Stephen Colbert on March 16, 2009. He does interviews almost as well as he writes. Also, Neil's hair looks especially independent this March.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Here we are now. Imitate us.

Ha!-Sarah, you should've used that as the title for your idea-stealer post.

Anyhow...I'm using it to describe Gavin's language development. He just turned one, and I think he's doing great. The other day I called up the stairs for Cole to come down and eat. Gavin walked up to the stairs and totally mimicked me in baby-talk.

Me: Cooo-ole! Time for dinner!

Gavin: Daddad! Dad Dad Dad Dad.

I swear it had the same number of syllables and everything. So cute.

He's such a stud. Gavin also likes to grunt at everything. He hits me when I'm not paying attention to him and then grunts as if punctuate. Also, he makes vroomm noises when playing with his Tonka trucks.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Sometimes I think I'm exactly like the guy in Blake's "Poison Tree" poem. I'd like to talk issues out with people I don't get along with, but it never gets that far. I guess I retreat at the first sign of an attack. That's not true always, I suppose, but nevertheless. Anyway, I let things build too much and usually regret it later. This may seem to be obscure, but it's making sense to someone right now. So here it goes. I'm going to talk it out.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I got rejection letter in the mail for One-Armed Freak. Didn't let it get me down too much. I sent out 4 more copies of the book to 4 other publishers. This particular rejection letter had a hand-written note explaining how the editor liked the novel, thought it was well-written, but that she didn't have room for it at this time. She said she had to reject it with regret. So chin up. Like Layne here. She looks hopeful, eh?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Scripture I was looking for...

I found that scripture I was looking for. It was D&C 134: 4 &5. I've italicized the parts that I was referring to in my "gay marriage" post.

4 We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.
5 We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.

I'm still researching the origins of marriage, which comes from matrimony. Matri-means mother. Mon-means warning or reminder. however, moni-means one. So is the word going for "one woman"? "one mother" maybe? I keep forgetting to look up the Greek origin in our concordance, but I will. I'll keep you up to date.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rena needs...

You google your name followed by “needs” and post what comes up.

1. Rena needs a forever home Dog Rescue. (I'm a dog?)

2. Rena needs a new cello. (True, cello-ing is a secret passion. My other secret passion: Pokemon.)

3. Rena NEEDS lived in Lawrence Township. (My alter-ego lived in this weird town).

4. Rena needs a family dedicated to training, house breaking, and helping her grow healthy and strong (I'm a dog again.)

5.Rena needs a firm, experienced owner yet one who can show her some lovin' too! (Sounds kinda kinky, huh? A little S & M action.)

6. RENA offers solution packets for wet chemical surface handling. (The solution: baby wipes. They can clean my kid, they can clean wet chemical spills.)

7. Rena needs a new outfit!Can you say revealing!? (Um...I do need a new outfit, but not b/c of that.)

Monday, February 23, 2009


Yep. I got an owwy. While moving out of our condo, I decided to carry two boxes at the same time down the stairs. In the stairwell, I somehow managed to misjudge the first step and stumbled down a few. With my cat like reflexes, I stuck out my arm to steady myself against the wall. Only then did I realize how painful stucco can be when raked against your elbow and arm. I might as well have taken a cheese grater to my skin. Now I have a scrape the length and width of my thumb across my elbow/arm.

Moving is so fun.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

25 Random things about Rena

1. I have had multiple hair colors.
2. I have a picture of a rainbow and a sasquatch holding a unicorn in my office.
3. I wish i could put someone's stuff in jello just once.
4. I married my best friend.
5. I'm 1/4 mexican.
6. I speak choppy spanish.
7. I'm fluent in double-dutch. Ibits Tribue. Ibi Swibear!
8. I love lasagne.
9. Is that how you spell it?
10. I'm an English teacher.
11. Stop shaking your head.
12. I'm a writer.
13. I've published 4 short stories and won a local award for a story about the devil.
14. he didn't wear prada.
15. He left souvenirs.
16. I've written a couple novels.
17. One is under review right now. (fingers crossed.)
18. I used to like Twilight.
19. then I saw the movie. What was I thinking???
20. I could say the same about some people...What was I thinking???
21. I love peanut m&m's.
23. I love vermillion.
24. I love Cole.
25. I love Othello.

Friday, February 13, 2009

am i a mac? will i have to start wearing argile and combing my hair forward except for the front part which is combed up?
Here's Layne at the San Francisco Zoo, June 2008. We had a fabulous family vacation. There's nothing in the world like turtle riding. -wink-

It's a brand new day.

I am a blogger. I want to start by saying. I'd rather write for money, but this will do fine for now. Happy Friday the 13th. May your day be filled with crazies and freak shows. --might I recommend for some real fun, check out Denny's at midnight. Once there was a girl there wearing a helmet during her meal. Fun stuff.
am i blogging? is this working? hello?


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