Friday, December 7, 2018

Friday Feature: The Amish Midwife's Secret

Usually on Fridays I write about something I'm reading or have read but, lately, all I've been reading is student papers. It occurred to me this morning, however, that it might be a good time of year to share some books worth reading, particularly as we go in search of the perfect holiday read for ourselves or a special gift for our friends who are readers. And, I just so happened to have the perfect candidate in mind.

Last weekend, I took a break from reading all those papers to have dinner with my friend Rachel J. Good, who just celebrated the release of the second book in her Love & Promises seriesThe Amish Midwife's Secret. The book is set in Lancaster and features a clash of cultures between an Amish midwife (bet that didn't surprise you) and an Englisch doctor whose approaches to healing are very different and who must find a way to work together. Not surprisingly, sparks fly in a more than medicinal fashion....

I'm not just sharing the book because it has a character named Leah and a doctor named Dr. Hess :-) Rachel is a dear friend and a talented and generous writer and I can't think of a better read to feature here today, especially since I'm longing to curl up on the sofa and do some vacation reading of my own!

If you'd like a copy of The Amish Midwife's Secret for your stocking, you can enter a giveaway here.

What books would you recommend this Christmas?

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Character Takeover

Hi Folks!

Lisa is here:

So you've got us -- all tucked in under a blanket on the porch swing. Here are a few questions we picked out of the pile of questions from her Happiness Project calendar pages.

What are your favorite parts of your ordinary day?

Marita: Coming home after work and having dinner with Charli.
Bets: Seeing Trevor.
Angel: Waking up to the sound of Spencer cooing over the baby monitor and picking her up while she's still warm and sleepy.
Charli: Um, getting out of school?

What makes you happier: To go to bed early and wake up early or to go to bed late and wake up late?

Bets: Yes. The second one.
Angel: Early to bed, early to rise.
Marita: Early to bed, late to rise.
Charli: Me, too. Like Mom.

Telephone, e-mail or text?

Bets: Text. Unless it's Trevor.
Marita: Text.
Charli: Text.
Angel (looks embarrassed): Phone. Sorry. I just like to hear people's voices.

More time with friends or more time alone?

Bets: Friends -- especially Ri-Ri.
Marita: Friends.
Charli: Friends, mostly. Depends on the day.
Angel: Friends, definitely.

Load the dishwasher or unload the dishwasher?

Marita: Load. I'm very particular.
Angel: Me, too! Jim gets mad when I rearrange things, though.
Charli: Neither.
Bets (laughs): I'm with you, kiddo! Hire a maid!

Favorite holiday?

Angel: I love Thanksgiving, but I'd have to say Christmas.
Marita: Christmas with children is so much fun -- Christmas!
Charli: Mom, I'm not a child.
Marita: I didn't say you were -- I meant Spencer. (Under her breath) But you are.
Charli: I heard that.
Marita: And you love Christmas.
Charli: Yeah, yeah.
Bets: It's unanimous! We all love Christmas. And if you need a Christmas book -- that we're all in, by the way -- you should definitely check this one out!
Marita: Subtle, Bets. Very subtle.
Bets (shrugs): It's a gift.

Monday, December 3, 2018

No Dearth of Deadlines

Maklay62 via Pixabay
This is the time of the semester where I either sleep like a rock or am plagued by an inability to fall asleep -- in my bed at least. I fall asleep easily (and much too early some nights) on the sofa in the family room, face first in my iPad as I watch TV or play Words with Friends. Then, when I go to bed, I either conk out the minute my head hits the pillow, or I toss and turn, making lists and worrying about things I can't quite put my finger on.

At my age, this isn't just a seasonal thing, but it gets worse as all of the pieces of the December jigsaw puzzle race at me. Finishing essential content. Grading papers. Christmas preparations. Grading presentations. Family time. Errands. Lists.


And there you have it, my friends (or, more accurately, I have it). The thing that pokes at me to put all of those pieces together and finish the puzzle, already: deadlines. Get it done. But did you do this? And did you remember to do that? And what if you tried it this way?

They're the thing that sends me running from my nice, warm bed to nest on the sofa under a blanket with a textbook, a just-right pencil and a Crayola Doodle Pad (the closest I can come to a blank slate) to sketch out the lesson plans that are running through my head at 3 AM.

I know this, too, shall pass, and I try to have a sense of humor about it, but the weight of a succession of deadlines sometimes makes me cranky. It makes me tired, too -- just not at the right time of day.

I've got my strategies: making lists, setting goals, building in breaks and reminding myself that the underlying buzz gnawing at me can actually be channeled into energy I can use for getting things done.

And it feels really good when I get things done.

So, I'll keep powering forward, checking things off my many lists and keeping in mind that, especially at this time of year, I'm not alone. Still, I'll resist the urge to go on Facebook and see if anyone else is up because that will just forestall sleep even longer.

But, if you need me, I'll be nesting on my sofa. Textbook optional, blanket required.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday Feature: Just the Right Word in Just the Right Language

I love languages and am in awe of people who are multilingual. I often wish I'd worked harder to master a second language instead of letting it atrophy like I did with French (And German. And Hebrew).

Though I recognized that each language has sounds that aren't found in every other language (especially as I tried to replicate the French "r" and any sound in German with an umlaut), I never really thought much about different languages having words that don't have precise equivalents in other tongues.

Then I stumbled across this article on concepts the Japanese have words for but English-speakers don't. It was a fun read, emphasizing the fact that languages are a cultural artifact, both informing and informed by the culture they represent.

For those of you who are multilingual: what's a word you love in a language besides English that has no English equivalent?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Sneak Peek, Courtesy of Todd Fitzpatrick

www_slon_pics via Pixabay
When I start a new novel, the first thing I do is create my characters. I love doing this -- it's one of my favorite writing tasks. As I create the people who will populate my novel, I have to decide who my point-of-view characters will be. Though I love writing from multiple points of view, I can't be inside every character's head and so while all of my characters will speak, some of their inner thoughts will remain a mystery to readers. 

But not to me. 

Though I don't work out inner thoughts for everyone who appears on the page, I sometimes delve into the feelings of the characters who interact with my main characters. Occasionally, I even write little mini-scenes from the perspective of the secondary character. This helps me to make their interactions with the primary characters more well-rounded.

Last week, when I shared "5 Things I Know About Todd Fitzpatrick" (Charli's first boyfriend and her best friend Anna's brother), I teased that I might have a little more to share about Todd -- a scene that would have made it into book three (currently in the works) if Todd were a point-of-view character.

Curious? Take a look.

Todd tossed his backpack onto the sofa and slouched onto the cushion beside it, nearly knocking a soda out of Anna’s hands in the process. 

“What is wrong with you?” his sister said. “Ever since you and Charli broke up...oh.”

“Not oh. No oh. This has nothing to do with Charli. This is just how a guy sits on a sofa.”

“Uh huh. Sure. A guy who’s too stubborn to admit he’s heartbroken, so he’d rather act like a neanderthal.”

“I am not heartbroken. Geez, Anna. You’re so dramatic.

Anna stood up. “Okay. Whatever. So I guess I don’t need to warn you that Charli’s sleeping over tonight.”

Todd shook his head and shrugged one shoulder. “Couldn’t care less. Just don’t think you’re gonna get the good TV in the basement.”

Anna smirked. “Already cleared it with Mom.”

“Yeah, well, we’ll see.”

“I guess if you want your phone confiscated two days after you got it back, that’s up to you.” Anna turned on her heel and took her smirk upstairs.

Charli was sleeping over. Great. 

The first thing he’d done when he'd gotten ungrounded from his phone was to text her the news that he'd rejoined the twenty-first century, hoping Charli would tell him how much she’d missed him and how stupid she’d been to break up with him. But no. Instead, she’d texted back, That’s great, Todd! Bet you missed it!” like an hour later.

Message received. And now she was coming here to spend the night, making it impossible to avoid her until these feelings — these stupid feelings — went away. 

After Charli broke up with him, Brad trash talked her and told him he should just get another girl. It wasn’t like there weren’t other girls who thought he was cute.

But they weren’t Charli.

Zander had defended Charli, telling Brad to shut up, even though Brad could shove Zander into a locker with one hand tied behind his back, which made Todd wonder — not for the first time — if Zander liked Charli. If Charli went out with Zander….man, that would suck.

Todd pushed his backpack off the sofa and onto the floor. The thud was satisfying, especially since his mother wasn’t home to yell at him about backpacks on the furniture or being shoved onto the floor. 

Well, if Anna had plans tonight, he’d just have to make some, too. And he certainly wasn’t going to give her and Charli the satisfaction of leaving his own house. If Anna wanted to invite Charli here, then she’d just have to deal with the fallout of having both of them in the same house. He certainly wasn't going to let a couple of stupid girls ruin his night.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Rainy Days and Mondays

lavnatalia via Pixabay

It's a rainy Monday and the cold I've been denying seems to be digging in its heels and laughing at me. On my way to work, I started thinking about Monday songs and, along the way, decided they might make a good post

So, if your Monday's a bit gray and gloomy (or if you're just in the mood for a Monday soundtrack), here's a little Monday music for you. I'm sure the selections say as much about my age as they do about Monday, but I hope they add a little sunshine to your day.

Rainy Days and Mondays (The Carpenters)
Monday, Monday (The Mamas and the Papas)
Come Monday (Jimmy Buffet)
Manic Monday (The Bangles) 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday Feature: Mindfulness

Yesterday, we had Thanksgiving dinner at my sister and brother-in-law's house. When my husband, daughter, dad and I arrived, my niece took our coats and I plunked my purse, with my cell phone inside, onto a chair, which was where it stayed for the duration of our visit.

This was a conscious decision. At 57, I am as guilty of cell phone distractibility and overload as my students, who are more than three decades younger than I am. Thanksgiving, I decided, was not a day for cell phones.

That's not to say that I went electronics-free yesterday -- that would be a bold-faced lie. But it is true to say that I was mindful of my electronics usage, and that I chose times that I wanted to be in the moment. During those times, I wanted my cell phone out of sight, which also kept it (mostly) out of mind.

Mindfulness -- our focus on being fully present in the moment -- is a practice that's been getting a lot of favorable press, perhaps because in today's busy, electronically fueled world, it's especially hard to come by. Research has shown that mindfulness has health and wellness benefits even beyond stress reduction. In addition, practicing mindfulness helps us to cultivate it even in settings that can be stressful, such as the workplace.

Though I didn't think of it until I sat down to write this post, Thanksgiving was an especially good time to opt for being in the moment. I was seeing my family (who deserved my full attention) and opting to take a day off from work and its related activities -- that much I knew. But, in addition, Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season and, for me, the end of the semester, both of which can be stressful. Choosing to start this season with my full focus away from distractions -- things that are much lower on my priority list that the people who matter most -- might, perhaps set the tone for a holiday season where I choose to do more of the same.

Looking for ways to improve your mindfulness? Check out this article from the New York Times on increasing mindfulness at work and, perhaps follow up on some of its suggestions for improving your own ability to be mindful.

Who knows? Maybe that's the key to kicking off a season where we can truly focus on peace, love and joy.