Saturday, December 26, 2009

saving cicadas by nicole seitz

When single mother Priscilla learns she is pregnant again, she takes her family on a road trip they will never forget. What she’s looking for, she doesn’t really know, but along the way, she will discover the importance of family, unconditional love, and forgiveness.

Saving Cicadas is told mainly from 8 ½-year-old Janie’s point of view. This technique is quite effective, as it allows the reader to see grown-up problems from a child’s perspective.

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy the first half of the book much at all, and I probably would have stopped reading if I hadn’t agreed to read and review it for Thomas Nelson. However, the last third of the book really picked up, and the last fifty pages or so are spectacular. Seitz weaves an interesting tale with several shocking twists. (The twists are perfectly built up to throughout the book; I just didn’t pick up on the clues!)

I highly recommend this book. It’s so much deeper and more thought-provoking than much of the fiction on the market today, and it makes a powerful statement about life while not making light of the difficult choices facing single mothers.

***I received a free copy of this book for review through Thomas Nelson's book review blogger program.***

Friday, December 25, 2009

christmas in nebraska

My family always spends Christmas with my grandma in Kansas. Always. I can't remember ever spending Christmas Day at home, though we may have when I was very young. This year, though, we had no choice but to stay in Nebraska, due to a blizzard. That's right, a blizzard. I can't remember seeing snow this bad before.

My brother and sister-in-law came for our family Christmas on the 23rd. They left early in the morning on Christmas Eve because they had plans with her family for Christmas. We planned to leave for Kansas by 11 a.m., but because of the bitter cold conditions and the threat of more snow, my dad decided we should stay home and plan to go to Kansas on Saturday. We spent a fun day at my parents' house on Christmas Eve--playing Dutch Blitz, baking cookies, making pizza, and watching And Then There Were None. Then Janet (the international student who is staying with me over break) and I returned to my apartment, where we played with my new paraffin wax bath. (Thanks to Blendy and Val for giving it to me--now I can finally stop "hinting" about wanting one!)

This morning, we woke to lots of wind ... and lots of snow drifts! After looking outside, I decided we could probably make it to my parents' house. And we did--I just got stuck as I tried to pull in at their house! Dad came to the rescue and got my car pulled in--I got stuck with half my car still in the road!

We spent the day eating like kings, playing Dutch Blitz (and Blendy totally cheated--albeit accidentally!), waching my favorite movie ever, attempting to put together an insanely difficult puzzle, and playing a riotous game of Swap!

Dad drove me and Janet home around 10:30--and let me tell you, it really is a blizzard out there! We almost got stuck a couple of times, and we saw some insane drifts! 

This is the view from my front door--I know you can't see too much, but it was the best I could do tonight!

Now that we're home, I'll probably work on Christmas cards while we watch a movie. Janet wants to watch a thriller--I don't have many scary movies, so we'll see what we come up with!

All in all, this was one of the most fun Christmases I've spent. I guess it just goes to show that it's not where you are but who you're with that matters!

Monday, December 21, 2009

my day, facebook style

  • can't believe it's morning.
  • wishes she didn't have to scrape her car.
  • remembers more US history than she expected and probably would have gotten at least an 80% on the juniors' final!
  • is thankful for friends she can vent to.
  • hates the computer in her classroom.
  • wishes the yearbook deadline wasn't on Wednesday.
  • hopes the predicted blizzard doesn't come!
  • really could use a latte.
  • doesn't enjoy tomato chunks in her tomato sauce :-(
  • 's brain feels like mush.
  • is shocked. Steph K doesn't know who Harrison Ford is! 
  • wishes her students had turned in their spreads on time.
  • can't believe how much the gift of a latte brightened her day!
  • loves laughing with the Dockweiler boys.
  • is taking home a lot of work tonight.
  • opened her apartment door and was shocked at the sight of her living room--Stubes did a great job cleaning it!
  • is trying (rather unsuccessfully) to edit spreads while Chrissy plays country videos on YouTube.
  • had supper with the fam.
  • is editing. Still.
  • loves Landrigan cookies!
  • just discovered SNC's Ryan Ahlwardt's solo music. Some of it is pretty good.
  • will be up very, very late tonight.
  • hopes tomorrow's Stuco event is a success.
  • has listened to Ryan Ahlwardt's "My Strength to Jesus" repeatedly. He sounds a bit like Chris Rice here--in other songs, he sounds like John Mayer or Jason Mraz.
  • :: James 1:19-20 "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God."
  • just made Janae the best birthday present ever!
  • isn't accomplishing much yearbook-wise.
  • is getting frustrated and has to constantly remind herself of James 1:19-20.
  • has complied quite the mental list of issues to cover in yearbook after Christmas break. Perhaps it's time to write them down!
  • is glad that Janet is coming to spend Christmas vacation with her!
  • still hasn't heard her most hated Christmas song! Here's hoping she makes it through the next four days without hearing it!
  • :: Why is caption writing so difficult?
  • decided not to put up her new curtain rod--the neighbors probably wouldn't appreciate the sound of the power drill at 11:30 p.m.!
  • just remembered that she still needs to make copies of the final she's giving in the morning.
  • should stop blogging and start focusing on yearbook!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

and now, a word from our sponsors

Okay, not really, but I do feel like I've been plugging Straight No Chaser enough lately that they should start paying me! If you're not on the SNC bandwagon yet (and if not, why not?), maybe this will help. Click here. It will take you to the SNC Advent Calendar. Count over to Day 18, click on the window, and then follow the link to get a free download of their version of "Auld Lang Syne." The calendar has other free stuff too, but nothing as cool as the download. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

remy zero said it best ...

... when they sang "Somebody save me!"

That's how I've felt over the last two days--like I needed someone to save me from the insanity that surrounds this last week of school. If I had made a "to do" list yesterday, it would have looked a little something like this:
  • write ESL final
  • do powerpoint for Awana Christmas program
  • enter grades
  • proof/edit yearbook pages
  • read Saving Cicadas (my book review blogger book--I really want to finish it because they now have a book available that I'd love to read--I can't remember the name, but it has to do with Lost!)
  • practice Singing Christmas Tree music
  • attend Awana Christmas program
  • practice Festival of Lessons & Carols music (this practice will be with the conductor--and he's going to be able to tell that I don't know my music at all!)
  • meet with speech kids
  • figure out what StuCo is doing for Christmas
  • clean my apartment
  • go to Festival practice (all day Friday)
  • go to the last four SCT concerts
  • call the chiropractor
  • submit 16 yearbook pages (due next Wed!)
I honestly can't remember the last time I've been so stressed out (but I bet it involved yearbook!), and I really let the stress get to me. I was not fun to be around at supper last night, that much I'm sure of! This morning, I was on track to be just as stressed ... I had overslept, probably largely due to my inability to get to sleep last night as I continued focusing on everything I needed to do, I got to work late, and I was just plain grumpy. Then I read Jen's blog. She wrote about all the things she was looking forward to this Christmas season. She has had a lot of stress in her life, yet she was choosing to focus on the good things. 

Now I'm choosing to do the same. This week will undoubtedly continue to be stressful, but I can choose how I respond to the stress. I may have a zillion things to do this week, but I can be joyful while I do them, and I don't need to panic when things happen that are beyond my control. Before I know it, this week will be over, and it will be Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

the highlight of mom's year

At least, that's the way it seemed.

As I've mentioned before, my mom and I are big fans of Straight No Chaser. When I found out they were going on tour this Christmas, I checked out the tour dates and saw the closest they'd be was Junction City, Kansas. Then I got the brilliant idea to buy tickets and take Mom as her Christmas present. So that's what I did. I bought the tickets at the beginning of September, and I managed to keep it under wraps for two months--considering I almost blabbed the night I bought the tickets, I think I did a pretty good job!

The concert was Friday night. We arrived a full hour early (thanks, Google Maps, for wildly overestimating the time it would take to get there!) and had to wait about 40 minutes for the auditorium to open. Fortunately, we were able to wait in the lobby instead of out in the cold! Our seats were in the middle of the second row--we were so close that we couldn't see the whole group at once; we had to keep looking back and forth across the stage! (I don't know where this fits, so I'll just insert it here: Mom was so funny--I could tell how much she enjoyed each song by how high she held her hands in the air while clapping!)

The concert was wonderful. Afterward, Mom and I talked about how we grinned so much that our cheeks hurt. Seriously, I don't know if I stopped smiling once during the entire concert! I have all three of the albums they've released--Holiday Spirits, Christmas Cheers, and the Six Pack EP--and while just listening to them is wonderful, seeing them live is in a completely different realm. First of all, they sound just as good live as they do recorded--and a lot of bands don't. Second, they're absolutely hilarious! They definitely know how to play to the crowd ... whenever they weren't singing a "serious" song, someone was doing something to make the audience laugh. You can get a glimpse of that by watching their YouTube videos, but in person you can see all the faces they make--priceless!

The concert wasn't solely Christmas music, though they did sing many of their Christmas songs. They did all of the Six Pack songs, as well as one or two new ones that hopefully will show up on their next album--including a song that morphed into "Single Ladies"! And ... they did some of their old songs, too! If they had asked me, "Becky, which of our old songs would you like us to do?" I would have said, with no hesitation whatsoever, "Sitcom Medley." Well, they didn't ask me, but they did it anyway! It's a slightly different version than they sang back in the day--the Growing Pains, Spiderman, and Perfect Strangers themes have been replaced--but they still started out with the Full House theme, so I was a happy camper!

Basically, if you ever get the chance to see Straight No Chaser live, you should go. Also, check your local PBS listings, as they recorded a special in New York that is airing this Christmas season ... pretty much everywhere but in Nebraska. (NET, what's your issue? Oh, I know--you have to show Big Red Wrap-Up over and over and over ...)

Now, for the real reason you're reading--if you're coming from my facebook page, anyway--my thoughts on the guys! Go here to see their individual bios. 
  • Jerome--What a ham! His faces cracked me up. Throughout the concert, he was the one to watch; he was always making some crazy face or doing something silly! Some of my speech kids could have learned from him.
  • Dan--Founded the group back at IU. He arranges a lot of the music. Interestingly, he wasn't that memorable. He didn't make a poor impression or anything, but I definitely remember some of the other guys better.
  • Dave--Cracked up when he wasn't supposed to--something I can totally identify with! For everyone who is dying to know which guy Mom picked out for me, Dave's the one. She thought he spent the entire concert looking at me, which apparently means he wants to marry me. (Sorry to burst your bubble, Mom, but according to his bio he's in a relationship!)
  • Charlie--easily the best-looking of the bunch, but married. Tells a great story.
  • Michael--SNC's answer to Robert Pattinson--but better looking. Much better looking. Also looks much younger than he really is. I was guessing 21 or 22--he's 28.
  • Seggie--Mom thought he looked like he belonged in the Italian Mafia.
  • Tyler--Should I even say this? The guy seemed to have no personality. He can sing with the best of them, but his stage presence wasn't so great. He's one of the new guys (two guys left the group after the first album came out last year), so maybe he just needs to get used to performing.
  • Randy--He's the guy who put their old videos on YouTube, where millions of people watched them. He looks quite a bit older than the rest of the guys, and there's something endearing about him.
  • Ryan--I liked Ryan. Two days later, I can't really tell you why, but I remember liking him!
  • Walter--Incensed the crowd by mentioning the Jayhawks. Apparently, Junction City is firmly in Wildcat country! This was a running joke all night. He's now the "Jewish guy," as the original dreidel guy left the group.
Now for a pictoral glimpse of the evening:

This is right before we went inside. We're excited!

We're still excited! We're waiting for the concert to start--and the lovely vocal stylings of Michael Bublé are keeping us entertained.

Intermission. We can't stop smiling!

Mom whipped out these chocolate chips for a snack during intermission. Soon, the little girl behind us started talking about smelling chocolate ... should we have offered to share?

After the concert, and we still can't stop smiling!

We stopped at IHOP for a late supper. And we're still smiling!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

snow day #2

I don't know if I've ever had two snow days in a row before. I suppose it may have happened back in the day, but I certainly don't remember it. And, as a nice little bonus, we also have a late start tomorrow!

I woke up this morning to the smell of gasoline. My sleep-addled brain finally determined that the smell was coming through my heat ducts. I opened the door to my utility closet, and the stench slapped me in the face. My first thought was to call my landlord. My second thought was to shower before calling him (as I didn't shower yesterday--yay for snow days!), just in case he was already on site and decided to come right over. While in the shower, it occurred to me that the smell might not be coming from my furnace but might instead be drifting up from the laundry room and/or utility room, both of which are directly below my apartment. When I checked out the utility room, I determined that the smell had originated there. Perhaps my landlord had problems with the snow blower this morning? I turned my heat way down so the stench would not be transported through the apartment by my heater. Then I closed all the other doors in the apartment, opened the utility closet, sprayed Febreze, and turned on a fan. After several hours, the smell dissipated.

When I ventured down to check my mail around noon, this is what I saw:

I don't know how many inches that is, but I know it's a lot! Later, after my neighbor and the Bobcat man were finished moving snow, this is what the front lawn looked like:

Notice the SUV in the background--the snow practically obscures it!

I spent my afternoon cleaning my bedroom. I've discovered that I sleep better in my spare bedroom, so my room has been quite neglected recently. However, one of my students is staying with me over Christmas break, so I'll have to move back to my room. Hopefully having it clean will make it a little more inhabitable!

I ventured out to do some laundry at my parents' house, and then I got a haircut (which was rescheduled from yesterday). Val said she liked it, but Blendy said she prefers it when it flips out. Well, it will probably be flipping out tomorrow--I don't really possess many hair-doing skills, and letting it flip out (or basically go whichever way it pleases) is the easiest!

We had Awana tonight, despite the fact that both NC and the public school were closed today. Next Wednesday is our Christmas program, so I guess it was pretty important that the kids were there to practice. We only had nine Sparks, so our practice accomplished a little, but not a lot. Hopefully more will be there next Wednesday!

After Awana, I watched the end of Edward Scissorhands while munching on some delicious cinnamon popcorn that Sue, my Sparks co-director, brought for treats tonight. (Shocker that Sue would bring popcorn!)

A glimpse of both the new haircut and the popcorn ... as well as my styling flip-flop pajamas!

All in all, it's been an excellent two days off!

lesson learned on a snow day

I learned a powerful lesson today. Sometimes I can be a little dense, and it takes a while for me to catch on to whatever God is trying to teach me. Today, though, it was impossible to miss.

While cleaning my bedroom, I decided to open the curtains and blinds to let the sunshine in. I should mention that I rarely open the curtains as I'm basically only in the bedroom to sleep. Soon, I noticed one of my neighbors digging out his car. Then I noticed that he was scooping the snow from behind his car and dumping it behind mine! At first, I just stared in disbelief. Then, I got annoyed. I would never have confronted him over it, but I definitely was thinking some not-so-nice thoughts about him. After about 20 minutes, he got in his car and pulled away.

I continued cleaning, and my thoughts often centered on how long it would take me to shovel the snow surrounding my car. Then, I saw my neighbor pull into the parking lot. With him was a man on a Bobcat. While the man with the Bobcat moved the large amounts of snow, my neighbor went from car to car, clearing a path to the road for each one. He also shoveled a path around each car. He worked for well over an hour.

As I watched him, I felt ashamed. Ashamed of the way I reacted when I saw him moving snow behind my car. Ashamed of my grouchy thoughts as I anticipated digging out my car. But most of all, I was ashamed that I chose to jump to conclusions rather than give my neighbor the benefit of the doubt.

While I don't know my neighbor well, he's never been anything but friendly to me--yet I rarely entertain positive thoughts about him, due to one incident that occurred nearly three years ago. I was more than ready to condemn him for his actions while he scooped the snow around his car because those actions seemed to confirm what I already thought about him.

Today, God clearly showed me how judgmental I can be, and He also showed me that I should not assume to know someone's motives ... because what I think is happening may not be what is really happening at all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

snow day #1

Ah, snow days--one of the benefits of working in education! Today, we had our first snow day of the year. Tomorrow, we'll have our second! I spent a rather lazy day at home, and it was fabulous. I'll have to get some actual work done tomorrow :-)
  • I woke up at 11:30. 11:30! When I went to bed last night, I initially set my alarm for 9, but then I decided to just let myself sleep. I had no idea I'd sleep so long, but I woke up feeling wonderfully rested!
  • Blendy braved the snow to spend the afternoon with me. Or was she spending the afternoon with my fast internet?
  • While she was here, we made biscuit pizzas for lunch. They're such kid food, but I still love them!
  • I finally cleaned up the living room--it was about time! I also did all my dishes. Again, it was definitely time!
  • I put up the rest of my Christmas decorations and wrapped some presents. (Note the cross-stitched angel at the top of the tree. One year, Val and I had a colossal fight about what should go on the top of our tree--she thinks this angel is ugly, and I love it! Now that I have my own tree, I can put it wherever I want ... and it fits in well with the rest of my tree!)
  • After seeing a commercial for Dean Cain's new Christmas movie, I had an urge to watch Lois & Clark. So I did. For hours!
  • Janae gave me her recipe for her amazing molasses cookies a few weeks ago, and I finally made them today. They didn't turn out quite as amazing as hers did ... after they cooled, they turned into rocks!
  • Check out Cinematic Survey. I finally posted something new!
  • I never really had supper ... I just had molasses cookies. So, at 10:30 p.m., I decided to make pancakes! They were delicious.
  • Several months ago, I wrote about this cross-stitch project that my grandma started several years ago. My goal was to finish it by her birthday. Well, that didn't happen, but today, as I was trying to figure out what to give her for Christmas, I decided to attempt to finish it before we go to Kansas on the 24th. Do you think it'll happen? (Interestingly enough, the day I wrote about the project was also a snow day.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

cornhusker excitement

I've never really talked about Nebraska football on this blog before. In fact, a search of the terms "Nebraska football" will turn up one post, and that was more about politics than football.

I guess the reason I never mentioned football is that there was nothing incredibly blog-worthy about the program ... at least nothing interesting enough that my readers who aren't already Nebraska fanatics would care about. By the time I started blogging on Blogger, Steve Peterson and Bill Callahan had already been fired, Tom Osborne had been named Athletic Director, and Bo Pelini had been hired. Sure, there were wins and losses, but Husker football has been fairly mediocre in recent seasons (though I do believe we're getting back on the right track ... if only we can find an offense somewhere!)

Today, I have something to blog about. Actually someone. Ndamukong Suh. Prior to this season, folks outside the state had probably never heard the name. I really only started following him at the beginning of the season. After the Missouri game, I started seeing "Ndamukong Suh for Heisman" groups popping up on facebook. Still, I thought he didn't stand much of a chance of being named a finalist, largely due to the fact that the team didn't stand a chance of contending for a national title.

Last Saturday night, though, Suh showed the nation just how good he is. In the Big 12 Championship, #93 and the rest of the defense showed they could play with the big boys of Texas, and Colt McCoy may have seen his Heisman hopes go down the tubes. Take a look:

The Heisman finalists were announced on ESPN earlier this evening. One of the names called? Ndamukong Suh.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

catching up

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I feel like I have my life back. Sort of. I'm no longer tied to my laptop for hours a day, but December brings its own craziness. So here are some little snippets I've been wanting to tell you but haven't taken the time to yet:
  • Amazon is once again offering a free Christmas mp3 every day of the month through Christmas. Of course, these are hit and miss in their quality, but it's worth checking out.
  • Last year, I blogged about Christmas music. Karen left a comment recommending Selah's Rose of Bethlehem. At that point last year, I'd already spent way too much money on Christmas music, so I didn't consider buying it, even though I love Selah. Yesterday, it popped up as a recommendation on Amazon. I listened to the 30-second preview of each song, and then I downloaded the mp3 album. Phenomenal! I highly recommend it.
  • I officially have my first cold of the season ... fortunately, this cold seems to be controllable by DayQuil. Most of the time, cold medicine just knocks me out, but today I felt better after taking it! I'm hoping my ears don't get plugged ... that would make singing quite difficult!
  • Speaking of singing, we have our first official Singing Christmas Tree concerts this weekend. We had a dress rehearsal last night, and things were pretty rough (as in nearly all the altos stopped singing during one song because we couldn't find our notes. It was truly painful). We have another dress rehearsal tomorrow night, and the concerts start on Saturday ...
  • But I'll be missing the Saturday concerts because I'm going to see The Nutcracker in Omaha with our international students!
  • You might notice new badge on the left hand side of the blog. I've joined another book review program--"Blogging for Books" for Waterbrook Multnomah. Multnomah put out the Palisades romances in the '90s, but they do publish books that aren't in the Christian romantic fiction vein. I'm very excited about the first two books I'm going to review for them, but as I don't have the books yet and the reviews can't be posted until sometime in January, I'll keep you in suspense a little longer!
  • Saw The Blind Side with my sisters and cousins on Sunday. I loved it! It's a feel-good movie and it actually portrays Christians in a positive light! (Side note: Tim McGraw looks completely different when he's clean shaven and not wearing a cowboy hat!)
  • I haven't posted on my other blog since Halloween. I do intend to remedy that soon, honestly!
  • The latest issue of the Advance should be mailed tomorrow. (Finally!) You can also see it here. Note my awesome cousin Nate, trumpeter extraordinaire, on page 3 and my wonderful student council kids on page 8. The STUCO kids make my role as adviser fun and incredibly easy!
  • I'm having a love affair with apple cider. STUCO sponsored a Thanksgiving social, and we majorly overestimated how much cider we'd need. I brought a full jug home with me, and I've been drinking some every night. How had I never before realized just how awesome cider is?
  • My apartment is still completely undecorated. I did put up my stairwell decorations, so anyone who goes to the mailboxes will think I'm ready for Christmas. It's just a ploy. Maybe I'll have some time on Saturday???
  • Cari suggested I write the book jacket synopsis for my novel and post it. That's a great idea ... I'll just have to force myself to do it! I will throw you a bone for now ... the title is Together for Good
  • Have to give them points for creative marketing ... I got this in the mail the other day:

    I really have no interest whatsoever in the show (especially after reading the review in TV Guide), but I could always use another jump drive!

  • Our amazing drama team took second place in our district this week! I love drama competitions because I don't have a real job to do--I just go along because I'm state certified and our drama director isn't. So I get to enjoy the play without the stress that comes with being in charge! The play is called "Searching for Happily Ever After." It is, as one of our judges so aptly put it, "Walt Disney meets the Bible."