S(no)w Day

Here in the Atlanta, we’re gearing up in hopes of getting a few inches of snow tonight.

We tend to get a little crazy at the threat of snow here in the south. We just don’t know what to do with it. As a general populous, we feel the need to go buy gallons of milk and loaves of bread. We forget how to drive and have many wrecks, even before the predicted weather arrives. And we cancel EVERYTHING. All schools, a lot of businesses, and most of the government offices were closed all day today in anticipation of the snow that should appear this evening.

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Of course, I can’t say I really blame the powers-that-be for being a little trigger happy on the cancellations. A couple of years ago, winter weather caught Atlanta off guard and it was a nightmare–kids and teachers were trapped at school overnight, people were stuck on the interstate for 12+ hours…it was a disaster. So Atlanta is a little jumpy when it comes to snow.

I do hope we get a little snow…enough to go outside and stomp around in. JC is almost beside himself with the thought of setting up a “real life Hoth” with his Star Wars characters in the backyard. And I may sneak around the neighborhood and do this:

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Do you get a lot of winter weather where you live? Or are you a southerner hoping for an inch or two like me?

If You Read One Book This Month: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

I am so excited that my first “If You Read One Book This Month” column of 2016 is a book by one of my favorite authors, Chris Bohjalian.

  
The Guest Room tells the story of two very different people: Anahit, a young Armenian woman who was kidnapped at 15 by sex traffickers, and Richard Chapman, a legitimately happy family man who lives outside of Manhattan. Their paths cross when Richard hosts a bachelor party for his younger brother that turns deadly when the “management” for Anahit and the other young woman hired to entertain the guests end up murdered in his living room.

The story weaves backward from the murder of the men, until the reader is firmly ensconced in the messy world of sex trafficking. I’m not going to lie–this book was hard to read sometimes. There were moments I had to put it down and walk away. It terrified me as a parent, as a woman, and as a wife. There are things that go on in this world, right under our noses, that we don’t want to think about. This book doesn’t shy away from those evil realities. Instead, they are presented by the matter-of-fact voice of a girl that was told she was being taken to Moscow to become a professional ballerina and instead finds herself sold to men. It is the practical tone she describes what happens to her and the other girls she meets along the way that is far more chilling than any description of a bloody murder or even what goes on with the men who pay for her.

The other points of view we are privy to in the book are also thought provoking. There is Richard’s younger brother and his friends, who regularly use this “service” they have booked for his party even though they suspect the situation is not kosher; Richard’s wife, who questions her marriage and sexuality after what happens in her home; and the police who are both out to arrest the traffickers but resigned to the “realities” of that world.

I won’t spoil the ending, but as usual, it is unexpected and–despite the insanity that has happened up to that point–utterly real.

As always, it is Bohjalian’s writing that drew me into such a dark and spiraling topic. His books are never light and fluffy–he has written about transgender, nuclear explosions, and genocide. His writing is deep, his prose is addictive. It is his voice, and in turn the voice he gives his characters, that keeps me returning to his books and eagerly awaiting his new novels.

Always: A Tribute to Alan Rickman

Today the artistic world lost one of the greats: Alan Rickman.

During his career, Rickman lent his talents and voice to nearly 70 productions. He was the bad guy we all loved to hate: Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Harry the heartbreaking adulterer in Love Actually–but for me, and I think for most of my generation, he was Professor Severus Snape.

 

Conversation I had with my mom this morning. Excuse her for getting Sirius and Severus confused ūüėĚ

 
I realize that I have been outspoken about my feelings on the movie adaptations of the Harry Potter series. I have issues with them. However, there were two things I didn’t ever have issue with, and that was the casting of Hagrid and Snape.

There have been a few times in book to movie history when an actor takes on a role so perfectly that you simply can’t picture the character any other way. Meghan Fellows in Anne of Green Gables comes to mind. Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid is another. And Alan Rickman, from the first time we see him sitting at the Hogwarts Staff table, was Snape.

JK…had persuaded me that there was more to Snape than an unchanging costume, even though only three of the books were out at that time,” Rickman told Empire Magazine in 2011. Indeed, by the end of the seventh book we would learn that Harry was simply a player in a much bigger story–Snape’s story, some would argue. And Rickman led us there, first through the movies and then in the eyes of the reader as they read and reread the books. It is not often that a movie scene elicits more emotion from me than the written word, but the movie moment when Snape, portrayed by Rickman, holds Lily Potter’s lifeless body in the debris of her home gets me every single time.

  
And so while I loved him in Love Actually and Alice in Wonderland and all the other things I’ve seen him in, Alan Rickman will forever be The Half Blood Prince to me. He will be Severus Snape.

Always.

  
 

I Have a Weakness for Books

I have a really bad habit I’m trying to break: I always finish a book I start…even if I think it’s miserable.

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My husband thinks I’m crazy. My answer was always that I was waiting for the book to get better…or for the twist at the end…or for¬†something. Occasionally I was rewarded. Most of the time I was not.

Since I’m trying to live more intentionally this year, I’ve decided to stop finishing books I don’t like. I feel pretty dastardly about it too. There is just something…cruel about not finishing a book. I don’t know if I think this because I’m an writer and I want people to read all my words, or if I’m just crazy. ¬†But honestly, life is too short for books that don’t speak to you.

In the same vein, I’m also a bit of a book hoarder. I buy books with covers I like at clearance sales. I take in stray books when friends are cleaning out their houses. And I may have been known to buy a used copy of one of my favorite books ¬†even if I already have a copy at home. I just¬†like¬†books.

As you can imagine, I have books all over the house. My bookshelves have long been filled and now the books are creeping into piles in every room. A lot of these books I don’t LOVE. It was bad when it was just me…but now that I have a junior bibliophile in the house, it’s officially out of control. ¬†And so I’m going to start purging, and creating a library of books I truly adore. So that when people walk in my house and look over my shelves, they’ll only see books that really matter to me.

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(Frankly, this is something I could do in every room in the house. But baby steps, right?)

Do you finish books you don’t love? Is there an area in¬†your life that would benefit from a purge?

Halfway Through Kindergarten

So here we are–the halfway point of our first year of homeschooling.

How is it going,¬†you may ask. If you’re a random stranger on the street, I may answer,¬†oh, it’s great!¬†If you’re a casual acquaintance, I’d probably say,¬†We have our challenges, ¬†but it’s going well.¬†But you, dear reader…well, you get the truth.¬†It’s…going.¬†

I do not mean to make it sound like we’ve been having a bad time of it. We did a lot in the fall and the beginning of winter. We’ve spent a lot of time outside, examining nature and observing what happens to plants as the weather cools. We’ve studied dinosaurs, our community, dinosaurs, maps, and dinosaurs. We’ve built cities that have been attacked by Darth Vader and his army of storm troopers and set up a jungle with miniature figures in our front yard. We’ve dug holes and glued things. Oh, and we learned about dinosaurs.

Here are my three big takeaways from the first half of the year:

  • When JC becomes interested in something, he wants to learn IT ALL, age appropriate materials be damned. For example, he really enjoyed the Peanuts Movie that came out earlier this year, especially the part with Snoopy as the Flying Ace fighting the Red Baron. For a stretch, everything we did had to do with The Red Baron. We did research (and I edited as I read out loud). We built model planes, recreated battles, wrote our own chapter book continuing the story. Everyone who came in contact with JC got a lengthy lecture on WWI. We had similar obsessions with At-At Walkers (I managed to create a word family tree activity with that one I was pretty proud of) and of course, the aforementioned dinosaurs, as well as pilgrims. He still requests to read all the first Thanksgiving books we have ¬†This is great–it’s what project based homeschooling is all about. Sometimes worlds collide and I walk into his playroom and find T Rex has gone over to the Dark Side and the brachiasaurus barely escaped Hoth because the Flying Ace comes to his rescue. Oh, and there’s a feast at the end.
  • In a similar vein, because that’s the way my kid functions, long term planning isn’t a reality right now. I do plan activities around a theme each week and JC enjoys them…but we often blow through them in a day or two and he goes back to focusing on whatever has his interest.
  • As he gets older, JC really needs a schedule. He was a super flexible, roll with the punches baby and toddler. He was the kid that took naps when he felt like it without too many late afternoon meltdowns, the kid who handled crazy long drives and late nights at Disney World like a champ. Then he turned five and, overnight, BANG. A different story. He needs his morning and nights to be the same, and he does way better when he knows what’s going on. Too much decision making sends him into a tailspin. This has been a really big–and evolving–change.

With this knowledge in hand, here are the three things I’m changing up for our winter and spring kindergarten:

  • We’ve established a “wake up” and “go to bed” routine, but I want to give JC a “morning” routine: updating the calendar, going over the day plans, maybe making a morning basket with a book and a short project that goes along with our theme.
  • We need to get out more. My child and I are both introverts–big crowds, flurries of activity and prolonged socialization wear us out, so we have a lot of solitary time. Which is perfectly okay. I’m not trying to change that about either of us, but I am still hunting for that perfect “tribe” that really suits us. I also think that regular routine will help with this–knowing we’re going to our co-op or kid book club in advance can prepare him (and me!) for the process.
  • I need to stop reading every book I come across on homeschooling theories and just do it. I like to research, I like to know what other people are doing so that I can assure myself I’m doing it right. Which is silly, because I have a smart and healthy kid. I’m doing it right. So my personal goal for the second half of the school year is to stay connected but not second guess myself (probably something I could carry to all aspects of my life!).

We’re “back to school” for the first time in 2016 tomorrow! Are your kids–homeschooled or not–back to reality? What’s new for them this year?

This Will Be The Year.

I’m not making resolutions this year. Why? Because I do not keep them. Resolutions from years past hang over my head like a giant, scowling to-do list that is never, ever going to get done. So this year, I’ve made a list of things I want to do this year that are FUN. This may be the year I finally drop the weight or organize my house from top to bottom, but it won’t be because I’ve declared them resolutions. This will be the year for…

…More sleep. Less social media scrolling before bed.

…More movement. Less crazy structured workout plans.

…More beauty in my house. Less stuff for stuff’s sake.

…More good books. Less mediocre tales.

…More nature. Less screen time.

…More decadent and special yummy treats. Less eating out of boredom.

…More regular mornings and evenings. Less fly by the seat of our pants patterns.

…More spending time with people I love. Less forced social interactions.

…More standing up for myself. Less pushover.

…More intention. Less random.

…More writing stories. Less writing “to do” lists.

What do you want more of in 2016?