Showing posts with label Personal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Personal. Show all posts

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Honeybee Rescue by Loree Griffen Burns: a review and personal connection


Genre:  Nonfiction, all ages
Source:  I purchased a copy


This is a wonderful book about rescuing bees.  The man who found bees in his garage was a beekeeper. He noticed the bees and realized that one of his hives had split. That means when a hive gets to big to support all of the bees, the queen and half of the bees leave and find a new home.  The man called in someone who specializes in bee rescues.  Being a beekeeper doesn’t mean if you find a swarm somewhere that you know what to do to capture them and put them in a box. Most beekeepers do not rescue bees. If you would like to know more about bee rescues then read this book. If you would like to learn more about bees, then read this book and check out the references in the back of the book.  This is a nonfiction picture book that people of all ages will enjoy.

Personal Connection:

I found out about this book through Kate Messner's introduction of guest authors for Teachers Write. Since she doesn’t charge anything for the three weeks of writing lessons, she asks that we consider supporting  the authors by purchasing their books.  I try to do this every year. I usually purchase books for middle grades and young adults since I teach eighth graders.  When I saw this beautiful picture book I knew I had to have it. 

 You see, about seven or eight years ago my husband started keeping bees. It started with being invited to a bee club meeting to learn about bees. Then he bought his first hive of bees.  From there it escalated.  Not only does my husband keep bees, he rescues bees like Mr. Nelson in the book. Some of the best honey we have ever gotten has come from hives he has rescued.

The house I grew up in had honey bees living in one of the walls. Every year we would have someone come out and smoke the bees out, and every year they were back. I now know why that happened.  When we sold the house to move to Florida the living room wall bowed outward. Honey was seeping through the wallpaper.  I was afraid of those bees, because every time I mowed I would be attacked.

When my husband started keeping bees in the backyard I wanted nothing to do with them. I would sit in our yard swing and watch him. He started telling me what he was observing. I started going closer and closer to the hives until one day he mentioned that I didn’t seem to be afraid of the bees. He was correct. I had lost most of my fear. I soon learned how much I enjoyed them when I was sitting in our yard swing reading, while he trimmed a bush. When he tossed a branch away a group of bees flew out. He quickly got a box, put a couple of waxed frames in it. He tried to find the queen. I walked over with my camera capturing it on video. He suddenly pointed out that the hand I was capturing in the video was my own. I had stuck my fingers gently into the midst of those bees and was moving them aside trying to help him find the queen. He found her and put her in a queen clip, and put the clip inside the box.  I stood amazed as I watched the bees walking right into the box because they could smell her pheromones. I have not participated in any bee rescues. I have on occasion gone with him and watched him remove a swarm with his bee vacuum. I am constantly asking him questions, buying him books and even talking to my student about bees. This is a great way to teach anyone about bee rescues.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Update to my Post on January 19

I wanted to give an update to my post of January 19. My first four period at school helped me remove all my books by genre and put them in my storage cabinets.  The district finally said that if a book was in "Destiny" our district's library system we could put them back out on our shelves.  I created an excel sheet so that I would know what books I have and what genre's. I have my own barcodes on them so I had to input that info as well. I was pleased.

I started off with 2,774 books. I had to remove 975 leaving me with 1,799 books. The sad part is I have several authors I review for. Their books are either self published or small press books. They all fell onto that list. Alfred M. Struthers writes mystery, Kandi J. Wyatt writes fantasy and Max Elliot Anderson writes mystery/adventure series for reluctant readers.  So what is wrong with these books? NOTHING. The issue is man-power. Only our media specialist can vet these books She doesn't have enough hours in the day to read all of the books from our school and vet them.  Here is a real kick in the teeth. My second book Seventy Times Seven had to be pulled. It was published by a small press and she doesn't have time to read and review it either.

I decided that I still had 1,799 books, so I would look on the positive side. I still had books to offer my students. Next principal meeting come and our principal called us in a week before Spring Break. Newest message was since we are a K-8 school I have to make sure all of my books are in a middle or elementary school. If they were only found in a high school I had to pull them. I spent my last week before Spring Break and the first three days of Spring Break checking out all of my books I had left on my shelves, through the district's system again.  I lost another 162 books.  

Since the beginning of the year where I started with 2,774 books, I have had to get rid of 1,137 books.  Leaving me with on 1,637.  That is almost half of my original books. I still have to check the district's website weekly. If they have banned or pulled any of the books still on my shelf I will have to pull them.  Some of them I am passing on to my grandson and grand-daughter.  Some I have told students to bring in a letter from their parents stating their child is allowed to choose books that can no longer be on my shelves to take home and keep. I have to have that letter for legal reasons. If I don't have it they can't take them.  It could land me in jail.  Yes that is right.  We heard about a teacher in Florida who had a book on her own desk. A kid took a picture and showed his mom. Mom took the picture to the police and demanded the teacher be arrested because it was a book not approved for their school.  I checked with the principal to see if it was true. He said it was but did not know if the teacher was arrested or not. It could be that it was a book that she was personally reading. Do we as teachers have to fear reading books not listed in our district library at school?  When I have my students do sustained silent reading (SSR) I make sure I model and read. Most of what I read are young adult or middle grade.  Where do we draw the line. Is it so surprising that teachers are quiting?  Is is so surprising that schools arcoss the United States are going to four day weeks due to teacher burn out?  Is it surprising that parents have made it clear to their congressmen that they want vouchers so they can choose to place their child in private schools where these regulations won't affect their child?  I think not.

That is an update to the state of reading in my classroom, due to a bill that was passed here in Florida.  It makes me so sad. I have spent 30 years trying to get students to read more and maybe, just maybe learn to love reading. Was it all for nothing?  I can only use my textbook and resources that come with it. I can no longer use outside sources for my lessons.  This is sad because my last unit was my Anne Frank Unit. My last text book had the full play and an excerpt from the book.  This one had Act 1, Scene 1 from the play. It was exactly one and a half pages, as was the excerpt from the book. My students were disappointed they could not read the whole play in class, I couldn't bring in my outside resources that taught them about the holocaust before we read the story/play.  If all we are going to give them is 1-3 page excerpts, how are we going to teach them the value of reading? Right now I can't even teach a novel.  Those are banned until possibly next year. Then they will tell us which novels we can read.  I will say that the state of teaching has become a sad job. I am still passionate about teaching. It is getting more and more difficult to remain passionate.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Taking Books Away From Our Students

"Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance." —— Lyndon B Johnson

"I have it that Americans are taught to fear some books and some ideas as though they were diseases..." —— Kurt Vonnegut

This is my favorite:

"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture, Just get people to stop reading them. -- Ray Bradbury

I promised my principal yesterday I would not post what I am going to say here, on Facebook. I did not say I wouldn't post it on my blog.

The first item on yesterday's Department Chair agenda was to tell us of something new he had learned at his principal's meeting. Due to a State House Bill, as of today, I have to box up and secure my classroom library. My principal is not happy about this, and he did mention the fact that I have worked so hard, like my whole department, to get kids to read. At the beginning of the school year, they would send out a list almost weekly of books that were challenged or banned. We had to pull these from our library. This was ironic because one of those books on the list has an excerpt, one chapter, in our new textbooks. We were told to skip that reading until further notice.
He pointed out he was trying to find boxes for me because not only do I have eleven bookcases in my room, but I also have two cabinets full. Some of these were gifted to me by authors. Between the cabinets and my bookshelves, I have nearly 2,000 books, separated by genre. So let me tell you some reasons I am angry.

Every year I MAKE my students set a goal of at least 15 books from 11 different genres. A lot of these kids would never read if you didn't make them. I also do this to introduce them to different genres. I have helped turn many non-readers into readers. The best compliment I have ever received was from a kid many years ago that came to me on the last day of school. His exact words were, "I want you to know I hate you. You taught me to love reading." Then he hugged me. Students don't always know what to pick, and I can help with that. Many students have no access to books at home or to the public library. These are the reasons why I have so many books. My principal knew I was hurting. He sat beside me and told me he had asked if we could just put curtains over our bookcases, and he was told no. A student might reach around and take one off the shelf. He said he felt we had returned to the days of Hitler and book burnings.

Although this is said to be a temporary thing, it hurts. We were supposed to Buddy-Read with elementary next week. Now my middle school students won't have that joy of sitting and reading with a younger child. We are a 100% choice school, and I tell potential students about my extensive library to hopefully draw them in. We are waiting, for who knows how long, for our district to tell us what we have to do, what hoops we have to jump through to be able to put them back on our shelves. ALL books have to be vetted to be placed back on our shelves. Tell me, who in our downtown offices will have time to read my 2,000 books? How long will my students have to go without reading anything except dry, boring textbooks? Here is what really scares me. We were told that if we violate this it could be considered a 3rd-degree felony. Are we as a society criminalizing reading? For the sake of our world, I sure hope not.


Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 Reading in Review


I set my reading goal at 100 books for the 2022 year.  I figured that would be do-able.  

According to my book stats on Goodreads, this is what my year looked like.

I read 117 books which translated to 14,361 pages.

My shortest book was 18 pages, and my longest book was 674 pages

I had attempted two unofficial challenges. I had an A-Z Title Challenge and an A-Z Author Challenge. Had I completed those two challenges my total books read would have gone up by twenty.  I have decided to work on my reviews next year by once again attempting the two A-Z challenges. I have already made my lists for the 56 books. I will be posting that the first of the year. Below is a list of the books I read this year by category. Check them out. All of these books were reviewed on Goodreads. I have not linked this list to reviews because the majority of them were reviewed on Goodreads and or LibraryThing and not my blog. I can't always access my blog from work due to the work "Addict" in the title. It is easier to just post on Goodreads and LibraryThing sometimes.

I encourage you to set your own reading goal for 2023. You don't have to publish it on Goodreads or anything. My students keep a reading log in the front of their writer's notebook. They write the title, author, and genre as well as the date they started the book. They are not required to write when they finish. For those who are slow readers it messes with their head destroying their confidence. For my fast readers they forget because they have moved on to the next book.  No matter what your decision, choose to do more reading in 2023. If you would like to leave a message telling me your goal feel free. 

Picture Books
A Boy’s Best Friend: 5 Happy Short Stories for Kids About curious Little Boy Who Loves Animals by Janice Ford
Adventures with Scarlet and Twinkle by Janice Ford
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella by Susan Loywell
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds
Dayana, Dax and the Dancing Dragon by Once Upon a Dance
Ellery’s Magic Bicycle by Maria Monte
Federico and the Wolf by Rebecca J. Gomez
Grace and the Gravy Pirates: A HEINZ Thanksgiving Story by Aaron Cushley
I Didn’t do It by Sarah Read
It’s Not My Fault by Michael Gordon
It’s the Rules by Michael Gordon
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Learn to Trace Alphabet Letters and Numbers from 0 to 20
Little Aiden A Feelings Book for Toddlers by Albert Choi
Mr. Pancake Turkey by Christopher Francis
My Pandemic Diary by Vedika Agrawal
Noise by Kathleen Raymundo
Oh Kojo! How Could You by Verna Aardema 
Rodney the Rabbit Learns About Healthy Foods  by Janice Ford
Scissor Skills Workbook for 2 year olds and Older Kids by MamTalk
Springtime Rhymes by MamTalk
Summertime wit Snowman Paul by Yossi Lapid
The Barnabus Project by Eric Fan
The Empty Pot by Demi
The Girl Who Wore Too Much: A Folktale from Thailand by Margaret Read Macdonald
The Nativity Book for Toddlers by Kidsup
The Nativity Story by Kidsup Publishing
The One and Only Dylan St. Claire by Kamen Edwards
The Picky Eater by Betsy Parkinson
The Real Story of Christmas Directly from the Bible by MamTalk
The Tale of Rabbit and Coyote by Tony Johnston
The Tantrum Monster by Michael Gordon
The Tree and the Girl by Andrea Hahnfeld
There Once Was a Penny by Mark Restaino
We Don’t Eat Our classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
We Forgot Brock! By Carter Goodrich
When I Lie by Michael Gordon
Early Reader
Heroes of the Quest by Mirja Camphausen (fantasy)
The Dream Catcher Rescue Squad: The Basement by Christopher Francis (fantasy)
The Dream Catcher Rescue Squad: The Fear of Being Lost by Christopher Francis (fantasy)
The Dream Catcher Rescue Squad: The Fear of Falling by Christopher Francis (fantasy)
The Dream Catcher Rescue Squad: The Fear of School by Christopher Francis (fantasy)
Upper Elementary
 Ezcape from Sobibor by David Fischler (Short Stories)
Meeting Henry Greenfield by Christopher Francis
The Whispering Storm: Respecting Mr. Ravi by Christopher Francis
There’s an Ogre-Beast in the Playground by Christopher Francis
Middle Grade
Alone by D.J. Brazier (Realistic Fiction)
Andrew Jackson: The Making of America by Teri Kanefield (Biography, Memoir)
Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova (Graphic)
Bats and Bones by Jeffrey Hickey (Ghost Stories)
Diamond Willow by Helen Frost (Poetry)
Free Lunch by Rex Ogle (Memoir)
History for Kids the Illustrated Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Charles River Editors (Biography, Memoir)
I Survived the Hindenburg Disaster, 1937 by Lauren Tarshis (Historical Fiction)
Imperfect II by Tabatha Yeatts (Poetry)
Last Chance by Max Elliot Anderson  (Releastic Fiction)
Lonely Dead by April Henry (Mystery)
Long Way down by Jason Reynolds (Realistic Fiction, Poetry)
Maybe a Fox by Kathi  Appelt (Realistic Fantasy)
My Name is Layla by Reyna Marder Gentin (Releastic Ficiton)
One Last Word by Nikki Grimes (Poetry)
Punching Bag by Rex Ogle (Memoir)
Remembering Kaylee Cooper by Christopher Francis (Mystery)
Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge (Poetry)
Spinning Through the Universe by Helen Frost (Poetry)
Stoneway by Christopher Francis (Mystery)
That Thing in the Sky by Christopher Francis Fantasy)
The Everlasting Seasons by I.K. Silver (Fantasy)
The Forgotten Girl by India Hill (Horror)
The Girl in the Lake by India Hill (Horror)
The Girl in the White Van by April Henry (Mystery)
The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry (Realistic Fiction)
The Great Wide Sea by M.H. Herlong ( Realistic Fiction)
The House on Screaming Ridge: Alex Was Here by Christopher Francis  (Mystery)
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Traditional)
The Robber Girl by Franny Billingsley (Fantasy)
The Scarecrow by Max Elliot Anderson (Releastic-Fantasy)
The World Inside my Plastic Mirror by Christopher Francis (Fantasy)
What Waits in the Water by Kieran Scott (Mystery)
What Waits in the Woods by Kieran Scott (Mystery)
Wild River by Rodman Philbrick (Realistic Fiction)
Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick (Historical Fiction)
Young Adult
Blessed by Kandi J. Wyatt (Fantasy)
Child of Etherclaw by Matty Roberts (Science Fiction)
Exalted by Kandi J. Wyatt (Fantasy)
In A Dark, Dark Wood by Cece Louise (Mystery)
Perchance to Dream by Tamara Belko (Realistic fiction)
The Lake Never Tells by Alex Tully ( Mystery)
Uprooted by Kandi J. Wyatt (Fantasy)
Where She Fell by kaitlin Ward (Adventure)
After the Fall by Craig DeMartino (Christian Inspirational)
Anger and Death by Ron Ripley (Horror)
Anger’s Ruin by Ron Ripley (
Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane (Romance, Christian)
Bloody Anger by Ron Ripley (Horror)
Coffin Cemetery by Ron Ripley (Horror)
Feast of Fear by Ron Ripley (Horror)
Kurtain Motel – A.I. Nasser (Horror)
Of Wise Oaks and Weeping Willows by Diane Robertson (Poetry
Plum Springs by Dan Lawton (Thriller)
Purgatory bt A.I. Nasser horror)
Refuge by A.I. Nasser (horror)
Rise by Cain S. Latrani (Fantasy)
Streets of Anger by Ron Ripley (Horror)
The Shaker Murders by Eleanor Kuhns (Mystery)
The Twisted Road to You by Barbara Longley (Romance, Suspense)
What Hurst the Most by Willow Rose (Thriller)
Witness: Lessons From Elie Wiesel’s Classroom by Ariel Burger (Biography-Memoir)

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Sorry I Have Been Missing


For those of you who have been following my recent review I apologize. I hope to be back soon.  After two and a half years of teaching through the pandemic, it seems that Covid has found me the last weeks of my summer break. Once my husband and I are back on our feet I will be back with more reviews.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Welcoming in 2019

Image result for 2019 free image

2019 is going to be a great year. There was so much heartache and so many changes in 2018 that I choose to believe that 2019 is going to be great.

I will be hitting the Paleo way of eating beginning January 1, 2019. I felt better, my health was better and a great side affect was that I lost weight. One change taking place in 2019 is that I am finally saying goodbye to most of my teeth. For years we have battled periodontal problems.  The situation in my mouth is now posing eating issues. I am unable to chew food properly. This means I either begin to choke or it gets stuck and I hiccup for  10-20 minutes. The opening to my stomach has suffered.  That will soon take care of itself.

My reading goal for this next year is 100 books. I already have the book picked out. You will have to check back to find out what it is. Our local park, only 3 blocks away, has added some workout equipment. Now parents can take their children to the park and while they are playing inside the fenced in  area, the adults can workout on the new equipment. My husband and I also plan on taking advantage of the walking trail there.

My writing must take more of a forefront for me. I felt like a desert this year. I would start writing and then something would happen and it would have to be put aside. My mom was excited that I picked up my notebook and began writing as soon as school was out. That was short lived as her health deteriorated. I found I was so stressed I couldn't read or write. Writing has always been a way for me to get rid of stress. I did write two poems for my mom while she was in the rehab facility. I couldn't even focus on preparing for school for the next year.

This next year, unless we are near progress reports or report cards I will no longer bring work home to grade. Home is time for my husband and I.  We are just beginning to learn how to be a couple again. A lot of his bee removals are done at night. As I lose more weight and purchase a bee suit that will fit me I plan on getting involved with his bee business. I have overcome most of my fear. I can remain calm and remove a bee when they get into the house. I haven't been able to put honey on my finger and pick them up like that yet, but I have hope. I often will video him at his hive if they are calm, even if I have no suit. Looking forward to doing and learning more about the bees.

Most importantly I am no longer going to stress about those things I can't control. So much is out of our hands. As long as I keep God in control then things will work out the way he sees best.

Wishing all of you the happiest of New Years.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Look Back at 2018

Goodbye 2018

I had high hopes for 2018. I set some lofty goals.

My Health
My goal was is to stick closer to my paleo diet. That went so-so. My thyroid and everything is working great. However, the weight loss didn't happen. The reasons (excuses) for that will become evident in a bit.

My Reading Life
I met my goal of 50 books for my Goodreads challenge. My reading was not where I want it to be, but we had a strange and challenging first semester at school. Blending an elementary and middle school was not as smooth as I thought it would or should be. I have students this year who don't seem to care if they get work in on time or at all. Having to grade papers due to late turn in cuts into my reading time. 

My Writing Life
I actually spent less time writing. However, I got to work with and encourage several middle school students who are currently working on writing a book.  I put my energy there instead of on my own writing. Again, the reason for that will soon become clear.

My Creative Life
My plan was to start painting and quilting again. I haven't begun painting. It was discovered when we cleaned out our shed that I lost most all of my paints. I have filled four sketch books with drawings and doodles and colored them. I have been creatively sewing throughout the year and have really enjoyed it.

My Work Life
Knowing that I have always put my job first made me work harder at leaving my job with limited work. This was made easier at the beginning of the year when another teacher and I arrived as usual an hour early. We both pulled our bags out of our cars and discussed how we didn't get anything graded over the weekend. She informed me that another teacher told her that what we take home is a bag of lies. We lie to ourselves that we are going to work on these things at home then bring them back ungraded. I asked myself throughout the year if I was truly going to work on those things. I seldom took anything home with me. We learned before Thanksgiving break our Principal is going to be heading up the new middle school that will open next school year. However, that means that when we return in January she will be gone. She must ready the new school. I look forward to the challenges of the new year.

My Family Life
My husband and I had been trying to capture small amounts of time for ourselves as my mother lived with us. In February my mom fell in the bathroom and cracked a rib. This led to the discovery of a spot on her lungs. A biopsy in April found stage 3 lung cancer. She started having trouble with her heart, blood pressure, breathing and sugar in June. At the end of June she was hospitalized for two weeks and then sent to a rehab facility. She seemed to be improving when the props were knocked out from under us. Her breathing became worse. The cancer had taken over one lung. She was told that on a Saturday. On Wednesday the following week she was put into a hospice facility where she died the next day. After thirteen years of her living with us, we had to learn how to live just the two of us. It was quite an adjustment. This death was followed in October and then three days before Christmas by the death of two brothers-in-law.

This has been a tough year. The daily visits to the hospital and rehab facility meant we ate out more. There was no energy left to cook. I had to give daily updates to family and friends both here and in four other states. That was a 2 - 4 hour job every night. Eating out meant I put more weight on and spent less time exercising. I have begun to lose it again.  My mother was very proactive in everything. The week before she died she gave me daily "To Do" lists. These were things like; go through her things, get rid of her clothes and bedroom furniture, sort everything. She asked for a daily update. I had no energy left for writing. I would get ideas and jot them down in my journal, but no work on any of my projects. Drawing and doodling, along with coloring became my down time activity. Even now when I am stressed or have writer's block I doodle and that frees up my mind.  I am not going to get down on myself for the things I didn't accomplish. I will look at the things I was able to accomplish through all of these trials. The new year will definitely bring some changes.
Check back with  me on Monday to see what my plans are for the new year. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Tribute to My Mother

If you have been reading my blog for a while you will notice that my posts have been irregular.  In April my loving mother slipped in our bathroom hitting the toilet paper holder and cracked a rib. The x-ray also showed a spot in her lung. A biopsy was ordered and she was diagnosed with stage 3.5b lung cancer.   In June she went into congestive heart. The solution always comes with its own set of problems. They give her an extra water booster. This usually messes up her electrolytes and dehydrates her.  Then we have issues with her sugar.  This time we spent three weeks on a roller coaster ride with trips every 3 days to the doctor.  At the end of the third week he hospitalized her.  Her oxygen level was 71 and her heart rate while sitting was over 120.  She was very sick.  After ten days she went to a rehab facility for physical and occupational therapy.  They absolutely loved her. She was a strong Christian woman and her love for God and her fellow humans was a natural part of her life.  She seemed to be improving. She tried to do everything she could to improve.

Before she got sick she and her best friend Marie would visit another of their friends in an assisted living facility every Thursday to play Uno.  She was cut-throat when they played. They joked around and accused each other of  cheating when they won. She was very happy during this time.  Before she lost all of her sisters they would get together when she would visit them up north and play games. It was always the same story. The losers always accused the winner of cheating.  They would laugh for hours.  Her pastor's mother-in-law was the lady they visited on Thursdays. His mother-in-law lived with him and his wife before she went into assisted living. They would go to his house to play dominoes or Uno.  He jokingly nicknamed them "The Casino Gals". She loved it as much as she loved her pastor. She always shared with us what jokes he cracked as they sat around playing games. 

Janis often went with them whether it was to drive them or assist them in some way.  My mother loved her like another one of her daughters. Janis and her husband Jason had been there for my mom for quite some time. When hurricane Irma went through last year and we lost our power, they loaded her up along with her mattress and took her to their house until our power was restored. They visited her at the hospital. Most importantly to me and her they visited her at the rehab facility.  When she took a turn for the worse and started filling up with fluid and could no longer lay in a bed they bought a wedge shaped pillow to put behind her and a small footstool to put under her feet. They visited her almost daily. The last few days of her life they gave my husband Brad and I a break so we could eat and take care of a few things.  They were there when the nirse came in to assess my mother for hospice. Once again they stayed with her so we could run errands and eat. We returned and they sat with us until we learned what time they would transport her to a hospice house. We knew it would only be a day or two before we would lose her. We had learned only three days before that the cancer had completely taken over her left lung. Three months before it was a spot the size of a walnut.  My husband and I followed the transport and spent the night in my mother's room. The next morning we contacted Janis and her husband and told them we were leaving to eat and change clothes. They came up and stayed until we returned. They were there with us, and my mom's best friend when my mother passed into glory.

Janis and her husband, and my husband and I were never really close. My mother wanted us to be friends. The newfound relationship the four of us has, the closeness we have found was all because of my mother. It was amazing to watch the therapists, social workers, nurses all come in and out of her room at the rehab facility her last day there to tell her how much they loved her, give her a hug and kiss and walk out crying. They told her how much she had impacted their life and what an inspiration and blessing she had been to them. This shows the effect that one person can have on others when they let God's light and love shine through them.  My mother will be missed. But I am truly blessed to have been able to call her my mother.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Why "Teachers Write" Is So Important To Me

Every year since it began, I've joined Kate Messner for Teachers Write.  I do this for several reasons. First, I have the opportunity to write for me. Second, I have the opportunity to be led and guided my many of my favorite authors. Each of them have so many different styles and things to teach us. Most importantly for me, is that I learn so much to take back to the classroom to teach and encourage my own students on their writing journey. I have always hoped I was getting through.

Yesterday, ended my school year for me. I am having double knee surgery on Monday. This meant turning my classroom over to a sub for the last three and a half weeks of school. I've been trying to prepare my students, and myself, for the last month. I cry every year when they leave my classroom for the last time. Friday was an emotional roller coaster as I had former students coming and going as well as my sixth graders all day. But I have one student who is very quiet and has always had a beautiful writing style. She above all my students touched my heart in a way no other student every has. Below is her gift to me.  This is why I will always participate and encourage other to join Teachers Write.

A Poem for Mrs. Stiles
One day I walked
into a room
labeled Language Arts
where I could learn
how to put pencil to paper
and unleash the magic.
The magic that waits
beneath the white,
so my messy scrawl
could burn through
the snow-colored shield.
The little candle
in my pencil
could melt through the paper.
And the worlds I’ve gone to
through thin black crevices
in the pages of books
are extraordinary.
And I loved Language Arts
through the first school.
Elementary school.
And it was almost as great
as the library
where I could travel through
little black lines
in otherwise blank walls,
into worlds of magic.
For those years
my candle burned
in the same little room

in the same little school.
A new, bigger school
where I could see the sky
through patches of blue
in the hallway.
In middle school 
where I headed
to Language Arts
my heart in my throat
because my teacher would be
an author,
who had wildfires in her pencil,
and knew how to
burn through the paper
and create portals
to other worlds,
where anything was possible.
And I only had my candle.
She welcomed us
I liked her
in moments.
I was glad
she was the one chose
to show us how to burn through
with flaming pencils.
Mrs. Stiles
I look forward all day
to Language Arts
where anything
is possible.
And we can write

About spinning torrents of wind
and flames unquenchable.
Neat, orderly writing
Or wild, imagined tall tales.
with rhyming sequences
and corresponding syllables.
Or free
like an eagle
flying into the flaming sunset.
You helped my candle
grow into a flame
dancing on a torch.
You’ve been a great teacher,
Thank you for showing me
how to put pencil to paper
and unleash the magic.
The magic that waits
beneath the white.
Now my messy scrawl
can burn through
the snow-colored shield.
Thank you.
I’ll see you next year.
and good luck.

Madison B.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Time to Look a Where I Am, Where I've Been, and Where I'm Headed

Photo Credit:

Where I Am
It has been a while since I wrote a post. We have been in the midst of state testing for the last two weeks. I am also preparing my class for what will be a heartbreak for me. I have four more weeks of school left this year. I've had a wonderful year with some of the best students ever. However, in four weeks I turn my classroom over to a very capable young man. He will finish out my year for me. I will be having surgery and then will spend some time in a rehab facility and then physical therapy throughout the summer. I've been trying to catch up on reviews, prepare my students for the rest of the year and testing. I've had to sprinkle in all those things you must do to prepare yourself, your family and house for when you are away. I realized I had begun to hate my blog as it seemed as if I was always rushing. I had wonderful parents this year that were very supportive. Yet I still felt like I was running behind. I was in the middle of revisions of my latest book and even that got shoved to the side.
I created a summer reading assignment and then gave  this blog url for reading suggestions. In this manner I didn't have to create a small reading list when there are so many great books out there. The assignment allows them to pick their own book and this assures parents there is help out there in case they don't know what to suggest for their kids. My principal was concerned about whether they were appropriate for students and how they would find the books. So, I went back and redesigned my blog adding a simpler way for parents and kids to find just right books for them. At the top of the blog there are four new buttons: Children, Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult. If they want to find a book by genre then they can look in the sidebar. However, eventually there will be a link from the books listed to their review. I can continually add to the list.

Where I've Been
It was while I was going through the review to find the list of books that I came across a post from 2011 that reminded me why I blogged, where I started and how well I was doing. You can read it here.  It made me realize that the reason it began to feel like a job instead of what I wanted it to be in the beginning, was because I was spreading myself so thin that I'd lost site of my reason for the blog. I have done no challenges except asking my students to set a goal. I've had no books to give away at school. Most authors are sending me ebooks. This makes it difficult to put new books on my shelves. Due to medical issues there has been no money for new books. I've not been able to do a school wide challenge as we've had so many new challenges this year.

Where I'm Headed
As I go through the summer preparing for next year I need to think seriously what I want for my blog and for my school. I want to continue my writing. That needs to be first and foremost. I've cut down on the number of reviews I can guarantee. I need to get back on track because I have really loved it so much and hate to think I have let those who follow me down. I hope you will continue to follow as my journey continues to evolve. I'm not sure what that will look like, but as long as I constantly reflect on where I've been and what I've done I am sure I will always keep moving and adapting to changes that come my way.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Embracing Change

This is not a review. It is notice that I have decided to embrace change in my life. I wanted to start 2016 with a change I could stick to. I wanted to prioritize things in my life. I have to say that here we are at the end of the first month of the new year and I find myself frustrated with the way things have been going. So, after reading a post this morning by an author I admire and follow (see post here).
I have finally made a decision about my own life.

I started this blog nine years ago. Why? I followed  a very small site at the time called The Picnic Basket (find the link here). I would read a post and if I liked the book I would request it. That is how I started getting books for my school shelves. I taught ESOL  (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and itensive reading. My husband suggested I put up writing prompts and reviews in the hopes I would entice my reading kids and ESOL kids to read more. I have continued to review books. For a while I joined every reading challenge I could, and encouraged my students to join as well. Some time later I noticed I was no longer reading the books I purchased along with my students from Scholastic or my local book store because I was reading and reviewing the books I got from publishers and authors. I still wasn't worried. I cut down on the number of reading challenges I did. 

Then one day it happened. After giving a writing assignment, again, to my reading students. After modeling the process by writing a story along with them, one of them said something that changed my life. Jesse said, "Miss, we like your stories. Why don't you write books to put on your shelves. We'd read them." So I started down the writing road.

The reason for change is multi-faceted. I am a teacher with 147 students. This year I became the English Department chairperson. My English department personnel is almost all new. I mentor two new teachers as well. I have several students who participte in NaNoWriMo each year so that takes a chunk out of my after school time. Once again I found my writing suffering, as was my blog. I would read multiple books but not get around to the reviews. These are the reasons for the change.

Steps to Courage was self published in 2011. I wanted it out there for the tenth anniversary of 9/11. That decision changed several things for me. I liked to stay in the background of things. This challenged me to step out of my comfort zone in the form of book signings.  I have four other books in the works. One is in revision, one I've just completed the research, and two others are partially written. I decided for the new year I was going to focus more on my own writing. I've been turning down reviewing books that don't grab my attention 100%. This was hard to do. I usually am wise about selecting books I would enjoy reading. However, if it is a book I could wait 3 months to read I want to pass and let someone else have the opportunity to read and review it. I decided this was the year I would finally take the next step in writing. I am a founding member of Jerry Jenkins' Writing Guild. He has multiple classes, webinars, one page critiques and more to offer me. There is help 24/7 from him and others. In other words, I am taking my writing more serious.

Beginning February first, I can guarantee a post only twice a week. I haven't set specific days. This will allow me several days to read and several days to write up the reviews and post them. If I can fit more in I will. It could be I'll have a lull and be able to schedule posts. I already have some that are set up for one day each week, up through June.  It is important that I do this in advance because sometime in May I will leave may job a few weeks early to have double knee surgery. The knee issues were another item thrown into the mess. All of this is why I will commit to only two guaranteed posts a week. Yippee if I can pull off more. I am no longer going to stress if I can't. I must focus more on my own dream of writing or I'll never get anywhere with it.Writing is hard and I'm constantly learning.

If two posts a week is not enough for you then know that I understand. You must do what is right for you, as must I by embracing change.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Years Resolution "PERSEVERE"

This year promises to be a great year. I choose to believe this no matter what may happen. Following several other people who choose a word to help define or guide their life for a period of time. I have chosen the word persevere to be my word for 2016. Persevere means to persist in anything you attempt no matter how difficult, no matter what obstacles get in the way.  You just keep going.

There are many reasons I chose this word as my New Years Resolution

  • I will persevere in my quest to revise my current work in progress and get it published.
  • I will persevere in my quest to finish two other works that are half finished.
  • I will persevere in my quest to complete  the picture book I was creating with my grand-daughter.
  • I will persevere in my quest to lose weight because I will be having double knee surgery this summer.
  • I will persevere in my quest to be as prepared as possible to the new school year before it begins.
  • I will persevere in my quest to complete my reading challenge of 150 books this year.
  • I will persevere in my quest to read the Bible through this year.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Summer Reading Plans

I have fallen so far behind on reading books.  Part of this was due to new testing at our school this year.  We literally tested from the middle of April to the end of May. I didn't personally test every day. However, it meant I had students missing at different times for different tests etc.  It meant I had more school related things to do and got behind on my usual amount of reading.  I am here to tell you that is going to change. I am reading everyday this next week. That means I will be posting anywhere from two to four book reviews a day throughout the month and hopefully throughout July. When given time to just read I can read anywhere from four to six books a day. This is especially true when I tell my mom and husband I am doing a reading challenge.  They leave me alone for a specified amount of time. I will continue with other things in my life during that time such as physical therapy, working out, and getting out of the house. But it is that undisturbed time to read which will benefit me. The only days I will have a single review posted is if it was previously arranged with the author or publisher. I plan on keeping up this pace until I have worked through a large number of my books. If I can get ahead enough then I will continue posting a morning and evening post until I am completely caught up. That may take me up until Thanksgiving, but I am willing to do this. Why? Because I don't like taking books from authors and pubishers and then getting behind. The second reason is that it is interrupting my own writing. I can't focus knowing I have made a committment to read and review books and then I have fallen behind in that committment. So, wish me luck.
Here is a list of books I will be reviewing this month. So far I written reviews through Tuesday the 16th. So let the fun begin.

My List for the rest of June beginning the 17th and July. There are 40 books here and I will see how it goes. Some of these are picture books that I have read but must write the review.  I will cross the off as I go and maybe add some more.

Pressed Pennies - Steven Manchester
Becoming Monsters - Liss Thomas
Qumran - Jerry Amernic
Heroes and Giants - Douglas Ashby
If Only - Norma Buden
Sacrifist - T. Mason Gilbert
You Are Not Alone - W.R. Watkins
An Obsessive Infatuation - W.R. Watkins
deepFreak - Mars Dumont
The Skye in June - June Ahern
City of Redemption - Jue Ahern
The FunGkins - C.Raymond Gray
Second Chance Friends - Jennifer Scott
The Circle - Mario Escobar
D.E.M. Deux Ex Machina - Lee Ness
Stereo Realism - Milton R. Trice
Kitty Hawk and the Case of the Yukon Gold - Iain Reading
Parents For Sale - Dr. Nicole Audet
The Enterprising Chipmunk - Gramps Doodlebug
The Karate Shepherd - Walter Rouzer
Diary of Chris & Boomer the Wonder Dog - Walter Rouzer
Wolf City - Walter Rouzer
Perfect Pam and the Big Bad Wolf - Walter Rouzer
Oliver and Jumpy Stories 10-12
Cool Magic Tricks You Can Do - Steve Black
A Light Shining in the Darkness - Karen A. Cooper
Blood Sweat Tears and Prayers - Gary Ludwig
The Jumble Jungle - Michael Sasson
Playlist of the Ancient Dead - Aaron Frale
The Diary of an Ugly Sweater - Cassie Eubank
Ninelands - K.E. Boyer
Dragon's Future - Kandi J. Wyatt
Nuts About Nuts - Shir Guez
The Mind of the Living - J. Kaihua
Witches Protection Program - Micahel Cash
Youngtimer - G.G.Fulton
Dinosaurs - Rose Leo
Two for Joy - Gigi Amateau
Sapient - Jerry Kaczmarowski
Mercy's Rain - Cindy K. Sproles

Saturday, March 29, 2014

How to Promote Your Children's Book - Katie Davis

I was excited to participate in the promotion of this book. I received a copy from the author to read and review.  What you get here is my honest review.

Promoting my first book was extremely hard and that is probably why it has not done as well as I’d like it to.  I can take the advice in this book and apply it to not only my first book but to the one I have almost finished. Shy by nature, promoting myself and my work has always been an issue.  I am a National Board Certified Teacher.  I missed getting the certification the first time around by nine points.  When my mentor, someone who had been an evaluator in the process looked over my results her words were no surprise.  I missed it because I did not promote myself.  I grew up believing if you did that you were vain and self-centered.  In writing you have to promote yourself whether you are self-published or traditionally published.

Katie’s book takes some of the sting out of what seems like such a daunting process.  I was pleased to see that some of the things I had already done with my first book were things she had recommended in her book. I was also shocked at how much more I could have done. As a teacher, I loved the section on “Teacher’s Guides”. The proper way to use “Social” media is hit on which makes it very relevant to every author and really focuses on the social part of it. When I promoted my first book I was afraid of offending everyone by talking about my book on Facebook.  I had come across people who made it clear they hated and unfriended people who they felt used them just for that purpose. There is a right and a wrong way to use social media.

Another thing that was especially helpful to me was all of the links she included in the book.  This is a book that you need to read with a pen and pad at your side as there will be so much you will want to go back to or check on. Keeping a notepad handy helps.   This book doesn’t come across a stiff how-to manual.  Instead it is more like sitting down with a group of writing friends and discussing ways to promote your book, what worked and what didn’t work.

So how much do I believe in this book?  I have a group of middle school students who participated in NaNoWriMo.  I am going to tell them and their parents that this is the book they need if they are serious about getting their book published.  I am also going to work with them on some of the ideas in the book.  That is how much I believe in this book.
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Thursday, August 2, 2012

TBCN Birthday Bash - Come Celebrate

One of my favorite websites is The Book Club Network.  This is a place where people with like minds can meet and discuss their favorite things, books.  Today I am honored to have as my guest  Nora St. Lauren

TBCN INTERVIEW with Nora St.Laurent

Nora St.Laurent;s Bio: Nora is the CEO of The Book Club Network Incorporated. Nora and her husband run The Book Club Network She runs two book clubs near Atlanta, Ga., Former ACFW On-Line Book Club. Nora currently writes a Book Club column for the Christian Fiction OnLine Magazine and is a Book Club Talk Columnist for Novel Rocket. You can read author interviews on her Finding Hope Through Fiction blog, located at, and reviews around the web at The Christian Pulse Mag, Title Trakk, Novel Reviews, and Suspense Zone.
What inspired you start TBCN?
The Book Club Network was born out of a desire to share Christian Fiction authors with other book clubs, share book club ideas with other leaders and to encourage the authors who are writing such amazing books. The economy has been really tough for a few years and people are not parting with money like they used to. Through TBCN they can take their time and find the right book or win it. We have give away opportunities each month. ALL of our contests are from the 19th – 21st of the month.
I run two face to face book clubs one at the Christian Book Store I work at and the other at the church I attend. It’s a position I never imagined I’d be in since I didn’t read for pleasure much before I started working in a Christian book store 11 years ago.
But since I love talking with people and the main thing to talk about in a book store is books I started reading Christian Fiction (publishers sent ARC copies to our store and I started checking them out) The first book that rocked my world and got me hooked in Christian Fiction was a book by Linda Nichols called Not a Sparrow Falls her next book did me in and I couldn’t stop talking about it, At the Scent of Water was her next book that prompted me to contact the author and let her know how much her book touched my spirit.
After reading these two books and telling customers about these reads I had a reason to read.  These books spoke to me because I wasn’t expecting it. It reminded me of the stories in the bible. Jesus is the greatest story teller and He knew a story could change a life or prick our spirit and move us in a direction we never thought we’d be in.
I tell you all that to say I’m dyslexic and I have not been a fan of reading. Movies were more my thing. I could watch a movie of a book and have a lot more fun. Reading Christian Fiction changed my life in more ways than one.  I wanted to tell everyone about the greatest book I read, and I’d do that at the book store.  It was possible to talk about the new book I read and loved for about a month or more but when At the Scent of Water and Not a Sparrow Falls were not on the shelf anymore, I had to find some other books to talk about at work.  I’m not a very fast reader so; discovering the next new book was a challenge. Would I get the book read before it disappeared from the shelf?  How long do books live on a book shelf? The shelf life of a book was a mystery to me and still is.
I was whining to my husband Fred about my problem. How can I get the word out about great books for a very long period of time??? Being a man who likes to face challenges head we began to talk about how we could do this and the fact that I can’t read books fast enough to keep up with it’s shelf life at the store.
I also told him as a book club leader I wanted to promote great books and share them with other groups. Not everyone has the advantage of working at a book store and see what new books hit the shelves each week. Another struggle I had was if I had an author speaking at my book club I wanted to share them with other book clubs in the area. How could I do that? Where are book clubs meeting?
Our answer to many of these questions and more was the birth of The Book Club Network - TBCN. Connecting authors to book clubs and readers to their books; it’s also a network of book clubs as they post what they’ve read and how the meeting turned out.
It’s a place to find where a book club is located. We have a member map where you can find a book club near you. Message them and see if they are accepting new members. I envision it to be similar to be similar to the Weight Watchers program (don’t laugh Grin) you can go to a meeting anywhere in the country right? All you have to do is look on line and get connected. This is my hope for the future of TBCN.
Have there been any surprises for you @TBCN? What benefits have you seen by bringing readers and authors together?
I’ve been encouraged and fascinated by our growth. I can see there were other people out there like me wanting to connect with other book club members.
I’ll tell you what has surprised me is the author/reader interaction each month. This is something I didn’t foresee as I’ve watch the authors are having a blast interacting with the readers and visa/versa. The beauty of this discussion is it’s there forever for all to read no matter when you join TBCN.
The authors have done a great job coming up with questions for reader to answer that give them a peek into their book – create interest and then the discussion helps book club leaders connect with the author. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the amount of authors that want to be featured @The Book Club Network. It’s been a great thing.
The interaction with the authors is almost like having a book club meeting on line. It’s a huge benefit for both the authors who’ve wanted to ask clubs questions and readers who want to get to know authors. The authors are catching on. Our sponsors have loved the interaction as well. Members have told me that they love the author interaction from the 19th-21st as much as having a chance to win all these books. It’s hard to know if a book will be a fit for your group so these interaction times are helpful for that and so much more. Another thing I love about TBCN members is the fact they are not afraid to share what they think in a good way. I’ve learned so much and laughed out loud in some discussion where the questions lead to sharing funny moments.
My hope is that book club leaders and/or members participate in the discussions and make that book connection with the author and their book. I want TBCN to be a tool for them in picking out their books. Maybe invite the author to speak to their book club on the phone. It’s my hope. The discussion will be there forever. No worries about a books shelf live here @TBCN. So, everyone has time to get to know each other!! It’s a beautiful thing!
How can readers join in the anniversary celebrations?
It’s easy to sign up to be a member of TBCN.  We ask a few questions for you to answer and for other information that helps us keep spammers and other information seekers out of the network. It’s also FREE. You have opportunities to win lots of books. For our BIRTHDAY BASH we are giving away 10 books a day and announcing winners once a week. You’ll have all week to enter the daily featured contests. 
Do you have any other comments for my readers?
 If you are avid reader this is the place for you to learn about the latest in Christian Fiction and interact with the author each month.
Are you a book club leader? Well this is the place for you to find your next book club pick. We’d also love for you to set up your Book club page at our site for others to see. It’s a place to share your latest featured book. Post pictures of your club and the field trips you’ve taken. The authors you’ve met and the book fun you’ve had. Learn from other book clubs that have already set up their pages.
Want to start a book club but felt it was too overwhelming? You can learn from other experienced book club leaders, and you can start right away making your book club list!
Do you like to win books? This is the place for you. You’ll have a chance to get to know the authors and their books and read genre’s you normally wouldn’t. We’ve been giving away about 100 books a month and for our birthday bash it’s going to be 10 books every day; starting August first. Winners are picked weekly and announced each weekly.
THANK YOU! You’ve been a grand host to have me here and let me talk about The Book Club Network and our Birthday Bash!! I hope to see you there @TBCN

You are a Blessing!!

Nora :o)
The Book Club Network CEO