Archive for the 'Books/Reading' Category

Those Five Balls

Tuesday, August 8th, 2006

Last week I wrote about a quotation that a friend had shared with me:

Life is a game in which you are juggling 5 balls.  The balls are called WORK, FAMILY, HEALTH, FRIENDS, and INTEGRITY.  And you’re keeping all of them in the air.  But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  The other four balls – FAMILY, HEALTH, FRIENDS, INTEGRITY – are made of glass.  If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.  And once you truly understand the lesson of the 5 balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.

~From Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas  by James Patterson

I had read Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas before, but it had been a long time, and I couldn’t recall the storyline.  So I got another copy and just re-read it.  It’s a quickie book – only took a couple hours to read.  Such a good book with such a good message.  So, if you’ve never read the book – find a copy and read it. 

In thinking about the five balls, I realize that I do a pretty good job of balance in my life except for the health ball.  So, since all I’ve done since I got home from work is read that book, eat two sugar-free ice cream bars and then write this post, I’ll go get some exercise. 

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

I hesitate to recommend another real-life drama book after being burned for my recommendation of A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (here, here and here).  Turns out the horrible experiences that Frey described in his book were “enhanced” for literary effect.  He lied, in other words.  Apparently he felt that the real story wasn’t dramatic enough for a book.  He even duped Oprah with his story.

I hope that the book I’m about to recommend wasn’t enhanced in any way.  Do you remember the guy a few years ago who was mountain climbing and a boulder fell and trapped his right hand between it and the side of a rock wall - and after a few days he cut off his own arm in order to escape?  That guy was Aron Ralston, and his book Between a Rock and a Hard Placeabout the experience is Between a Rock and a Hard Place.  I finished reading it last week, and I keep going back to re-read parts of it.  Such a fascinating and horrifying experience. 

During his experience, Aron who had been traveling alone and hadn’t notified anyone of his plans, had his video camera nearby and he recorded his experience.  He expected to die there since he didn’t have the tools the cut through the bone in his arm to free himself.  And so he videotaped his last will and testament, scratched his epitaph on the rock wall next to him – until, in one shining moment of inspiration, he figured how to bypass cutting through the bone in order to cut off his arm and escape.

Absolutely fascinating.

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The Writing Workshop and a gift

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

I just finished a 4-day workshop led by teachers from the NY Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.  I have to say that it was THE best professional development experience I’ve had in recent memory.  The four days flew past, and I learned so much.

Stephanie, a fourth grade teacher at my school, was my “writing partner” for the workshop.  We each wrote several pieces during the week, we read what we’d written to each other, we discussed information that the presenter gave us, and we practiced skills that we had been taught.  By the end of the four days we were much better friends and colleagues.  That kind of work and sharing develops trust.

We had a common bond.  Stephanie wrote a personal narrative about her grandmother – her “rock”, and I wrote one about my granddaughters.

Today was our last day, and as part of our “celebration” we each were to give our writing partner a gift – something to do with writing – preferably homemade.  Stephanie gave me a notebook with some of her favorite quotations inside – written by hand.

Here is my favorite.  It is taken from Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson:

Life is a game in which you are juggling 5 balls.  The balls are called work, family,health, friends, and integrity.  And you’re keeping all of them in the air.  But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  The other four balls – family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass.  If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.  And once you truly understand the lesson of the 5 balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.

Stephanie keeps a notebook of her favorite quotes and adds to it whenever she finds a quote that is particularly meaningful to her.  I never thought of keeping a quotation notebook, but I’m excited to begin one.  And the one she gave me is adorable – with a little yellow and pink angel on the front.

Here’s another quote Stephanie put in the notebook she gave me:

“Some people believe that time is money.  I believe that time is much more precious than that.  Money, as with any other object, can be found again when lost.  Time, on the other hand, is a permanently lost gift if it is not used wisely.”

~Duy Huynh~

A quotation notebook! I’m so glad I have one now.  I’m looking forward to filling it with my favorites.

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The DaVinci Code – Much Ado About Fiction

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

A couple summers ago I commuted back and forth to MTSU each day to take some classes.  I looked for books on CD to make the drive more enjoyable.  One of the books I enjoyed was The DaVinci Code.  It was a good read – a little long and tedious at times, but enjoyable.  It made my commute a tad more interesting for a few days.  I plan to see the movie – in a few weeks when the theaters won’t be so crowded.

So there are people who are protesting the movie.  It is FICTION.  Have these protestors checked out the latest X-rated movies or the ones that are so full of gratuitous violence that anyone who hasn’t been totally desensitized to death and destruction can hardly even watch them. Or maybe the ones that glorify satanism?  I can think of quite a few other movies that are more deserving of protest.

The DaVinci Code is based on a theory I’ve heard numerous times throughout the years – that Jesus married Mary Magdalene.  It doesn’t put the Catholic Church in a very favorable light since its premise is that the Church went to great lengths to re-write history.

One of the great aspects of the Christian faith is that it is open to questioning.  What good is a belief if you can’t question it and explore it and look at it from all sides?

Thank God we’re living in a country where people can discuss and debate religious beliefs – where literature and thoughts and speech are not controlled – where writers and filmmakers and songwriters and the average citizen on the street can discuss and question without fear of reprisal.  Can you imagine the killings and beheadings that would be going on if the movie were about Mohammad (RoPMA)?

It’s a movie.  It’s fiction.  Get over it.

Others posting on The DaVinci Code: Reflections of the Times, Freeman Hunt, The Age of Reason, Ramblings of a GOP Soccer Mom, Both Hands, Low Earth Orbit, Verum Serum, Cacciaguida, Movie Marketing Madness, Letters in Bottles

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I Give Up! American Idol Makes No Sense (Taylor, Elliot, Catherine, Chris)

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Elliot is still in the running, and that is just bizarre.  He’s awful, and yet Randy, Paula and even Simon week after week act like he’s God’s gift to music.  I don’t understand it.  He’s got a good voice – not outstanding and certainly not unique.  His voice is the classic night club singer or karaoke singer – maybe a soloist at church or at weddings or such.  But an American Idol?  No way.

Last night I did something I have never done before.  I actually voted.  I kept dialing until I had voted four times for Catherine because I figured she was the underdog after the judges criticized her so much, and I was afraid Elliot had enough loyally deaf fans to sneak past her.  It never even dawned on me that more people would vote for Elliot than for Chris.  Chris is so far beyond Elliot in talent.  He has a unique sound whereas Elliot is completely forgetable.

Oh well.  I guess it doesn’t matter.  SURELY there is no way Elliot will win.  Surely there aren’t THAT many crazy people in America.  I think tonight’s results pretty much sealed the deal for Taylor.

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An Army of Davids

Thursday, March 16th, 2006
Last week I wrote about Glenn Reynolds’ book, An Army of Davids. At that time I had only heard about it. After reading about it in various blogs, though, I ordered it immediately. It finally got here Tuesday, and I’ve been reading it every chance I get, which isn’t much – I’ve had to catch up on some book club reading first.  However, here’s what I like up to this point:
Benefits of working from home:     

“. . . kids who get to watch their parents work up close – the way kids did in the pre-Industrial Revolution, cottage industry days – are likely to have a much greater appreciation of how the world of work operates. . . . At the very least, however, they’ll see work behavior modeled in their presence.”

On the trend away from big businesses and back to self-employment:     

” . . . people who are self-employed are far more aware that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and far more likely to look at the bottom line.”


And also:

“The secret to success in big business and politics in the twenty-first century, I think, will involve figuring out a way to capitalize on the phenomenon of lots of people doing what they want to do, rather than – as in previous centuries – figuring out ways to make lots of people do what you want them to.”


So far, I like it. It isn’t the kind of reading that makes me want to stay up late to read it, but I’ve enjoyed reading it whenever I’ve had a chance the past couple days.

An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower the Little Guy to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths

An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower the Little Guy to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths


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Friday Forum – It’s All About Books

Friday, March 10th, 2006

Each week I receive an email from Friday Forum with a topic or questions for blogging. This is the first time I’ve actually used the suggestion! Look at the topic for this week, and you’ll see why I decided to use it. Feel free to follow the link and join the Friday Forum or see previous weeks’ topics. Here are the five questions for today:

1. How often do you read? Daily – multiple times daily. . . literally for hours each day. Most of it is reading with children as part of my job, but I also read aloud to children, read for my own enjoyment, read lots of professional books, and each night before I go to sleep, I read for a few minutes before turning out the light and zzzzzzzzzz.

2. Who are your favorite authors? My favorite children’s authors are Patricia Polacco, Lois Lowry, Shel Silverstein, Mem Fox, Gary Paulsen, Dr. Seuss, and Doreen Cronin. I don’t have a favorite author of adult books – probably because I read such a strange assortment of books.

3. What genre most interests you (For example, suspense, romance, horror, contemporary, etc.)? Children’s literature. Some of the best writing in the world is in children’s literature. In adult literature I read mostly nonfiction – self-help type stuff. There are only two non-education related magazines that I read each month: Readers Digest and Guideposts. I subscribe to several others, but I rarely read them. They just collect dust for awhile until I gather them up and give away. I won’t renew those subscriptions when they run out.

4. What elements of a book most appeal to you (character development, plot, dialogue, etc.)? I call it the “connection factor.” Whether or not I can connect with the text.

5. Do you buy books written by celebrity authors? Why or why not? Sometimes I do. It depends on the topic and the author. Again, if the connection factor is strong, I will buy it.

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Others With Open Trackbacks for the Weekend: Blue Star Chronicles, Linkfest Haven, TMH Bacon Bits, Conservative Cat, The Liberal Wrong-Wing (more after work)

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Read Across America and Dr. Seuss’s Birthday

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

Did you know that this week is Read Across America week? Thursday, March 2nd is Theodor Seuss Geisel’s birthday. Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) was born in 1904 and would have been 102 this year. He authored and illustrated forty-four children’s books. The first one was published in 1936. Not only have our children grown up with his books, but we did and our parents did. Maybe even some of our grandparents.

Today was “Crazy Socks Day” at my school in honor of Fox in Socks, one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books. Children and teachers wore their craziest socks. For me, that meant some Rudolph-the-red-nosed-Reindeer socks. Yes, Christmas was over two months ago, but my Rudolph socks are the only unusual socks I own.

Fox in Socks is a tongue-twister of a book that the children LOVE, and it’s great reading practice for them. They have to read THROUGH each word carefully to get it right. I used the book with a small fifth grade reading group yesterday, and I used it with first grade, second grade and fourth grade groups today, and they all loved it. I even read it aloud to the entire third grade yesterday. With a room full to bursting with children, it held each one’s attention. In the small groups, it was fun to watch the children’s faces as they struggled through the tongue twisters. There was laughter. No one realized they were getting some high quality oral reading practice. The introduction to Fox in Socks warns

Take it slowly. This book is dangerous!

And it is! Dangerous for anyone who doesn’t want to smile. Here’s a sample:

Let’s do tricks with bricks and blocks, sir.
Let’s do tricks with chicks and clocks, sir.
First, I’ll make a quick trick brick stack.
Then I’ll make a quick trick block stack.
You can make a quick trick chick stack.
You can make a quick trick clock stack.

Or how about this one?

Bim comes.
Ben comes.
Bim brings Ben broom.
Ben brings Bim broom.
Ben bends Bim’s broom.
Bim bends Ben’s broom.
Bim’s bends.
Ben’s bends.
Ben’s bent broom breaks.
Bim’s bent broom break.
Ben’s band. Bim’s band.
Big bands. Pig bands.

Tomorrow evening I will stop by Sam’s Club to pick up NINE sheet cakes so that each child at my school can celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday on Thursday with a piece of birthday cake. I’ll be wearing a Cat In The Hat hat as I dish out cake slices.

Your assignment: If you know a child, read a Dr. Seuss book to him or her this week.

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Patricia Polacco

Friday, September 30th, 2005
I have a favorite children’s author, and it’s Patricia Polacco. Without even having to think about it, I can name my three favorite Patricia Polacco books: Thunder Cake, Thank You, Mr. Falker, Pink and Say. Make that four! I can’t leave out The Keeping Quilt. Okay -five! Chicken Sunday is a fabulous Polacco book, too. Once maybe 12 years ago my mother visited my classroom of second graders and read Chicken Sunday to my class. Funny how one remembers a small detail like that from so long ago. I can’t read Pink and Say out loud to my classes because I can’t get through it without crying. It’s a Civil War story, and it is probably one of the few stories that children talked about long after we read it at school. On the playground one day as I walked around, several girls came up and held my hands as we walked. The one on the outside said, “I’m holding the hand of the hand of the hand that’s holding Ms. Shaw’s hand.” If you read Pink and Say you’ll know what she was referring to. She was making a text to self connection (That’s teacher terminology). It means she GOT a particular point of the story. She understood it well enough to translate it into her own experience.
Thunder Cake contains a recipe for a chocolate cake that contains TOMATO PASTE (yes, that’s right – tomato paste)…and it’s delicious! Over the years my classes have made it many times. One year I had a child in my class who was fascinated by the weather. I think he was traumatized a couple years earlier when the entire school had to sit in protective positions in the hallway for over an hour during a tornado warning. He handled his fear by learning as much as possible about weather. Whenever I wanted to know the weather forecast, I just asked Billy (name changed to offset the remotest possibility of identification) — and he always could tell me what the high and low temps would be and whether there was any rain forecast for the upcoming weekend. I remember he particularly enjoyed Thunder Cake since it dealt with how one family handled an approaching thunderstorm.
Patricia Polacco spoke at a conference I attended a few years ago, and brought the real keeping quilt – the one the book is based on. Often at conferences, the attendees must sit through boring speeches. That wasn’t the case for Patricia Polacco’s speech. I hated for her to stop talking. I wished she would keep on telling us more. Her story is incredible and tender. Thank you, Mr. Falker is based on her own story as a struggling reader. Hearing her tell the story in person was a touching and memorable experience.
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French Women and Weigh Down Workshop

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

I’ve been reading lately about different diets. Actually, what I’ve been reading hasn’t been about “diets” but about ways of life related to eating. One book, French Women Don’t Get Fat fascinated me.

My niece, Brannon, who is currently traveling in France says that French women don’t get fat because they all smoke nonstop. The author of the book, though, says that French women don’t get fat because they don’t have all the hang-ups we American women have about food. They eat whatever they want to eat, but they eat in moderation. They don’t feel compelled to eat everything on their plate, and they’d rather throw away food than to eat something beyond what’s needed to take care of their hunger. And essentially, the Weigh Down Workshop is based on the same idea. Food is there for our enjoyment, and even the Bible tells us that there are no foods that are off-limits. We just have to get to know our bodies and not eat until we’re physically hungry — and stop eating when that hunger is satisfied. The author goes on to write about how so much of our hunger is emotional hunger rather than physical hunger, and how we can satisfy that emotional hunger through a relationship with God instead of with Food. Whatever your religious beliefs, it makes sense to work to separate emotional hunger from physical hunger — and only use food to feed the physical hunger.

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