Monday, September 26, 2011

Brenna Yovanoff ARC giveaway, trinkets and memories

My blogger/twitter buddy/fellow goat posse member/cheerleader friend Michelle at Greenwoman, recommended this book to me, "The Replacement" a while back. I can't remember now if I told her at the time, but I'd seen the cover of 'The Replacement' by Brenna Yovanoff and the cover kinda creeped me out. Alot. Enough to get my attention on the Kindle store page and say.."Geesh..I think I'll pass on that one" I tried to save a picture of the cover on here, but blogspot wouldn't let me so here's a link to it. "The Replacement"

See what I mean??

Then my trusted friend, Michelle, who likes the same kind of books I like, suggested it. The first thing I thought of when I saw it again was, "There's that book. Hm. Do I really want to read this?" She promised me it was good, so I trusted her. After I started reading it, I decided I liked it and it wasn't a horror story like I thought it was. Not that there's anything wrong with that..;) I have a fellow Goat Posse member, Justin Holley, who's specialty is horror, so, I'm not completely against it. I'm just normally a big chicken.

So now, the lovely and talented Brenna is coming out with a new book. 'The Space Between'. 
The cover to this one is pretty cool and WAY less creepy, in my opinion.

Since I enjoyed "The Replacement" so much, I'm really curious to read "The Space Between" to see what this is about. For an ARC, Brenna asked that we blog or tweet or put on our facebook page, something that means something to us but nobody else. Some little something.
Sitting here at my kitchen table, right in front of my is a china cabinet full of not just china, but also trinkets and stuff people have given me when I was little all the way up until now.

There are so many things I could've chosen that have a special memory attached to them. I said on her on blog that I might be considered a small-scale hoarder. There are so many random things in just the china cabinet, it would take a couple of hours to go through and tell all the memories that go with them. Then there's my pine chest at the foot of our bed....

When I looked in the china cabinet, I saw a small ceramic palomino foal laying in there. I remembered it from when I was little. When I turned it over I found it had my initials, the word 'birthday' the date which was April, 1975 and two other initials. 'B.B.'
I knew immediately it was from my next door neighbor, Billie Ruth. She and her husband lived and still to this day live next door to my parents' house. I call them my 'next door neighbors from life' because they've always been next door. They moved next door to my parents' house when I was three, so I don't ever remember them not living there. She'd just learned how to paint ceramics and gave that horse to me for my 9th birthday.

She's part of my life because she and her husband and their three kids grew up next to me. When I think of the phrase, 'It takes a village to raise a child', I think of her, because all of us kids were back and forth in each other's yards and houses all our little lives. As we got older, we got busy and then we got married and we all moved to our own houses. But Billie Ruth, Larry, Kirk, Kim and Kristie, will always be my next door neighbors.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tigger Brained

I'm  Tigger brained. I admit it...I have a problem. My brain bounces from one thing to another...maybe it's adult ADD. I wonder how many of you that write suffer from this. Is it just me??? I feel like I'm all alone here. Maybe me and Michelle Simpkins. I've heard her say she gets distracted all the time too. Maybe I should go to Dean C. Rich's site and see if he can help me organize my time.
Being a teacher, we've been bombarded over the last few years about brain research and the best ways to teach these young brains.
What about us old brains? Are we just toast?
Since I turned 40, and I'm way past that now, thanks, my brain has hit a creative peak. I'm coming up with stories and characters and all this stuff I would've never been able to do earlier in my life. Maybe  because I just never tried.
I'm not sure.
What I DO know is that my creative brain can also be very distracted. I can say, "I'm going to go do blah blah blah and five minutes later completely forget what I'd said I would do. I'm just a step above Dory's short term memory loss.

Some days, my focus can go on for an hour..sometimes several. Usually, it's when I'm working on something new. This summer, I noticed when I was writing the short stories I wrote, I was distracted when I was working on the initial idea for the story and where it would go, but not as much as when I'm editing. I guess my brain is bored with it, but it has to be done.
When I try to go back and work on the MS I've been tweaking and rewriting for..uh...well...forever, seems like my brain bounces around like a 'Tigger'. That's what I call kids that can't sit still. They're Tiggers because they're bodies
Lately, I've been doing a little better, but I still catch myself wandering off to facebook or yahoo, or twitter...if only for a few minutes...
Why can't I just stay focused on what I'm working on???
I've even tried to use a timer and say..."I'm going to edit for this much time." Inevitably, somebody or something distracts me and before I realize it, 10 minutes have passed that was not spent editing. Sometimes I have to do things like...cook ..or wash the dishes. I wish I had an 'ON' switch for the concentration level in my brain. When I need it to be upped, it's enough to keep myself working on what I need to do so then I can play.
So is this common for writers or just me?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Memories of Sept. 11, 2011

I've seen a lot of blog posts about different people's memories of Sept. 11th.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to write down what I remember from that day, at a risk of being repetitive.  But then I realized, everyone's experiences are unique to them and I thought every single one I've read, I've read until the end.

So this is mine.

By 2001, in Sept., I'd begun my 11th year of teaching.  I was at the same school I'm at now, but at the time, we still had our middle school kids in the building.  Our grades ranged from 1st-8th grade. This would be the last year we'd have these kids.  They were opening a middle school to house them and our structure would change to a Kindergarten through 5th grade as it is today.

Since my schedule is basically non-stop, I started teaching around 8:00 and didn't stop til around 11:00.  I'd seen a 6th grade kid in the hallway on my way back from the bathroom and he stopped me and said, "A plane hit the towers."
I said, "What towers, John?"
He answered me, "The twin towers," and then walked on down the hall.  I had no idea was he was talking about. All I could think about was a small plane had run into one of them by mistake.  I thought it was interesting that none of the teachers had mentioned it to me, but as I think back on it, they were younger grade teachers and maybe didn't want to upset the kids by talking about it, or maybe they didn't know either.  I had a TV in my room, but it wasn't hooked up to cable or anything, so it wouldn't have done me any good to turn it on.

So when it was time for me to go eat lunch, I walked into the teacher workroom and sat down to eat my lunch.  When I asked, "So what's going on with that plane hitting the twin towers?"
One of the 6th grade teachers looked at me with her eyes wide,She said, "They're gone."
"What's gone?" I asked, because I didn't get what she was telling me at all.
"They're gone.  The twin towers fell. It's all just rubble!" Her eyes were watering by now, which scared me.  But I still wasn't processing what she was saying.
I said, "I thought a small plane hit one of them."
She said, "No, they were jets, full of people and they flew straight into them and now both of them have fallen.  We've been watching it on TV and it's just been awful."
I was in shock, of course, like everybody else.  My memories are blank after that initial conversation. Here I was, sitting here attempting to figure out her words and then I had about 15 minutes before I had to go back and face kids and finish teaching.  I remember not being able to fathom anything that she was saying.  I couldn't imagine what any of it looked like.  None of it still made sense to me.  I don't remember anything else about that day until I got into the car.  My oldest daughter was in 2nd grade and with me at school.  When she got into the car and I turned on the radio, all I could hear was Tom Brokaw's voice recapping what was going on.
The gravity of the days events hit me hard in the car.  This is bad.  This is really bad.
My daughter asked me, "Mama, why is there no music on the radio?"
I told her, "Some really bad stuff happened today and they're talking about it."
She proceeded to ask me what happened and I tried to explain it the best I could. So all the way home, we heard a recap of what had happened and then I found out about the details and all the planes that had gone down.
When we'd gotten my youngest and got home, I turned on the TV immediately to watch the news.  When I saw the footage of the plane going into the building, shock just blew through me.
When they showed the towers falling, I couldn't believe it. Once I'd seen it, I still didn't really believe it.
When the local news came on, they told every one all the malls were closing early as a safety precaution and for everyone to stay in their homes.  Public events were cancelled.  I wondered if we would go to school the next day.  At that moment, I thought it might be a good idea to keep every body home and allow us all to have a day of mourning and try to get all this processed in our brains.
School went on the next day anyway and all of us, of course were still in shock.  But we did our jobs the best we knew how and tried to help the older kids process all they had seen.
Fast Forward to Sept. 9, 2011
On Friday, on our school wide announcements, they showed a 9/11 tribute, which showed the footage of the plane crashing into the towers.
Right after that, we got two classes of 1st graders that hadn't had time to really process what they'd seen.  I didn't see it, so I don't know what they actually saw, so when they came in talking about it, me and my partner teacher thought it was a good idea to allow them to ask questions.
One of the little girls was starting to get upset and started to cry. I'd seen a special on the 9/11 memorial in New York and told my partner to Google it.  I said, "We need a happy ending here."
So we looked at a video of what the memorial looked like and I also told them about things I'd seen in the special and the details about it. Just seeing those gigantic waterfalls brought a sense of peace to the kids and awe.  They were impressed by how big they were and how pretty they were. That memorial did exactly what it was meant to do. Bring a sense of calm and peace to a horrible situation.  Even in a portable classroom a 1,000 miles away.
I was glad I'd seen the program, because it helped them have a resolution to what they'd seen.  I'm sure if the 1st grade teachers had known that was going to be on the announcements, they would've turned the TV's off.  But it is history, as violent as it is and as ugly as it is.
It happened to us and I pray for all the people we lost.  I'm also grateful to all the people that worked on all the memorials at WTC, the Pentagon and in Penn. I think those memorials will finally bring some peace and closure to the people that lost loved ones that horrible day, just like it did for my first graders.
I've added on my bucket list to visit each of these memorial sites, because even though I didn't lose anyone close to me that day, I feel like we were all changed by it.  I feel like I need to go there and pay my respects at some point.  The people that died deserve at least that from me.

Seeing the footage after so many years, you'd think it would be something that wouldn't bother you anymore because we've seen it so many times. But it still does.
 The good news is the World Trade Center memorial is beautiful and it will be there for all of us from now on.  And that makes feel better.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Excitement today

     You could say elementary school is exciting...when you're five.  Everything is new, everything sounds really cool.  If you have a great teacher making you think everything you're about to do is exciting, then it will be. really was a little exciting, even for the teachers.

It all started at about 1:20.

The intercom beeped it's five tones, that are an 'F' by the way.  Yeah, I'm a music major..I just had to know. Anyway,  when the intercom beeps, everybody stops to listen.  Usually, it's this person or that person come to the office because they can't find them.  These are adults that might not have a specific place to be at that time, not children.  I didn't want you to think we were losing kids all day every day. 

So the crisis team gets called to the office.
They don't usually call the crisis team anywhere, unless we're having a drill, which we usually know about, or have an idea that it's going to happen in a specific week.

Clue #1 something was amiss.
Then over the next five minutes, the intercom came on at least 5 more times, calling teachers or teachers aides to the office, which is NOT normal.  Clue #2.
     By now, my younger more inexperienced partner teacher looks at me, her eyes a little wider than normal and says, "Ok, I'm starting to freak out a little".  She hasn't learned that a teacher with a room full of elementary kids, no matter if they're Kindergarten or 5th graders, NEVER admits that she's scared because then it will scare them.  You've got to stay cool in a crisis. You can cry later after the kids are taken care of.

The intercom comes on again about 3 more times before our assistant principal.  By now our nerves are beginning to be a little edgy because it's so out of the ordinary and very annoying all at the same time.  She announces we won't be having our last class of the day.
By this point, I can't really teach because I keep getting interrupted.  My partner teacher decides to find out what's going on because now we know it's something big if they're interrupting the schedule.  Our other assistant principal comes on and says, "Teachers, please read your email in the next five minutes-EVERYONE." with a little tremor in her voice. I'm starting to worry about what's going on.  The school calls partner teacher's cell phone, which they haven't done in forever because we have an intercom that works now, so the class is silent and we're waiting to see what she says.  I figure out later, she calls the cellphone so the kids won't hear what's up over the intercom.
She writes down on a note what's up and then runs out of the portable.  A school is coming to our school for dismissal. I am with about 50 5th graders all looking at me for some enlightenment. (we see two classes at a time) Some of them looked a little more than worried, but nobody cried, which is unusual even for 5th graders.  They still get scared too.  They're still kids...they're just taller.  So I decide to just level with them.  If there had been a threat to their safety, I wouldn't have told them, but it really didn't concern our safety.

I told them for some reason that we don't know and at the time we didn't, it wasn't safe for the other kids to be at their school so they're bringing the kids to our school.  Then I warned them that their teachers might be a little edgy during all of this and their best bet was to listen and do everything we said. 

I still had about 10 minutes left before class was officially over, so we played a few rhythms on their instruments so we could say we got something accomplished.  Then I told them about when the road was being widened in front of our school years ago and the work crew hit a gas main.  I remember it sounding like a jet engine.  It was loud and dangerous and it stunk.

We had to evacuate our school and go to another school.  That's been over ten years ago now. 
Turns out, the other school today had a gas leak and had to be evacuated to our school.  *major flashbacks by now*
So all of our 950 kids plus the other school's 650 kids had to be dismissed out of the same building with not a whole lot of notice.  Luckily, we have three places we dismiss normally, so we were just down by one.  There were kids crying because things were different.  There were kids crying because they were afraid they wouldn't get home.  There were a few that had gotten mixed up with other groups, but they were little and it was caught and fixed quickly.  The other school's kids were in our gym and all of our kids were in the hallways and the lobby and the cafeteria.  For not having much notice, we got everybody on the right buses, in the right cars and daycare vans and all out of the building by 3:00.  That was a pretty big deal.  That's a lot of bodies to move, but we worked together and we did it.

I love my school.  The people there are top notch.  I never want to work at another school.  It's a truly amazing place and I'm proud of the job we did today.

To most people, this wouldn't be too exciting, but to us, it was a pretty big deal.