cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

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Shakesyear


This is a biggie for Shakespeare fans. This is the year we Bardinators celebrate the 400 years of the Bard’s influence since he left us in 1616. Usually I spotlight an author around this part of the month, but I plan I spotlighting Billy Bard every month this year as my personal salute to the guy who brought us plays like Hamlet, words like crocodile, and phrases such as “in a pickle.” So if you are not into Shakespeare plan on skipping my posties at the end of the month OR maybe I can convince you that Shakespeare is a big deal. You might want to skip down to the Shakespism video to see if you suffer from this malady.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the first Folger Summer Academy  in which thirty teachers from all over the USA came together and studied Hamlet for a week at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. It was a WOW time–Wonderful, Oh Wonderful.

Being surrounded by Shakespeare scholars and being immersed in Shakespeare culture for an entire week fortified my appreciated for the legacy of the playwright/poet of Stratford.

An embarrassing confession: it’s only been a mere fifteen years since I discovered Shakespeare. There was no Shakespeare in my home, in my schools, nor did I encounter him during my college years. Sad and shocking, I know. It wasn’t until I became an English teacher and had to teach Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Hamlet that I realized I had much to learn and I determined I had best make up for lost time.

As a celebration of  the Bard’s 400 years of influence the Folger Library is providing a first ever tour of Shakespeare’s First Folio. This is the book Shakespeare’s friends and colleagues put together after the Bard’s death and contains the thirty plus plays we associate with Shakespeare. I saw AND touched the Folio. Big ooooh factor. I also handled his lease for his Stratford house. Somehow that had more meaning because I know he actually touched that document. The folio is a more or less a tribute of his greatness, but he knew nothing about it.

However, I realize not everyone is wowed by William. Here are some videos that might help you overcome your Shakesfear or ennui of Bard Hoopla.

 

A Bit of Book Botherment


As much I proclaim to be a Book Bookster, I fear I’m not a proper one, for if I was,  wouldn’t I be scandalously boring about reminding everyone that September was National Get a Library Month (“get carded at your local library”) or that October was National Book Month? I’m not fully living up to my potential. I’m hoping it’s okay that I just read and blog about what I’m reading. Guilt does overtake me now and then that I should be organizing parties and perpetuating cute little cookies in the shapes of books or something. Perhaps I need one of those calendars that they tend to pin on the wall in the staff bathroom that spouts when it’s national Eat a Chili Pepper Day or National Hug Your Bank Teller Day. There must be a calendar app just for bibliophiles.

However-

In an attempt to make amends for not noticing October was National Book Month, I will reprint an article about books that have influenced a batch of Ted Educators. We do like our Ted Talkers.

If I were a Ted Educator and someone did ask me about a book which had influenced me, I would wholeheartedly reply: To Kill a Mockingbird for the reason that having read it I keep passing on my passion for it on to my students. It’s not just required reading. It’s required to read to understand our US country’s history better and how Jim Crow laws affect who we are today, and how walking around in someone else’s shoes should be a lifestyle commitment not just the answer to the question on the test of “name a famous Atticus quote.” I know the book makes a difference in my students’ lives because when they return to me three years later as seniors that unequivocally agree that TKAM  is “such a great book.”

As to the idea of books making a difference or creating an impact in live I provide for your entertainment and enlightenment John Green’s list of books he appreciates.

 

So, by the by–which book has changed your life? Or is there a book you want everyone to go and read right now?

A Good Year for Reading


January is a month of reflection. This is probably due to January being the default month since it is between Christmas past and Valentine’s Day to be. While working off Christmas treats in order to succumb to anticipated chocolate hearts I have decided to give my 2015 year of reading a closer examination. Actually, I probably wouldn’t have done much more than said “Cool. I met and surpassed my Goodreads Reading Challenge.” Since they took the time and trouble to send me such an attractive report, I shall share the highlights with you all. If the pontification of accomplishments is not within your scheduled viewing, I am absolutely not offended if you drift off to the next blog in your reader. However, I am hoping you will stick around.

First Off:
Books Read: 91
I set my Reading Challenge at 50 books, thinking “Hmm, that’s about one per week–that’s doable.” With so many great recommendations from so many dedicated Book Boosters like Heather and The Paperback Princess, I kept adding to my “To-Read” list and kept reading. I still have about 73 books on my TBR list. *Sigh* I have need to read issues.

Secondly:
The Short and Long of It
Shortest book: 96 pages

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep

by Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin

Reading books to kids at bedtime is a lovely routine, a cozy bonding time, and a way to pass on the joy of words to children. I anticipated this sort of connection when I requested Ehrlin’s The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep and was sorely disappointed when I discovered the text to be a form a hypnosis-inducing sleep tool. The purposely scripted story is almost a little scary in its intent. Instead of waving a golden watch and chanting, “You are growing sleepy” a fuzzy bunny becomes the stuff dreams are made of.

While some may like a lab technique to put kids asleep, I’ll go for the classic lullaby of cuddle and lulling words.

                                                             LONGEST BOOK
                                                                  624 pages
                                                                   Jane Eyre
                                                         by Charlotte Brontë

Average Page Length: 305 pages

Most Popular Book:

4,019,963

people also read

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
I decided to reread the entire series in one dedicated weekend as a preparation for the last installment of the film adaptation. I do think JLaw IS Katniss.

Least Read Book:

2

people also read

Sky Blue Pink
by Pam Lippi 
This is a self-published fictional memoir and it is a fun little read about two seventeen year old girls who travel around Europe after graduating from high school. This was back in the days of the seventies when bell-bottoms and adventures were part of the culture.

Benediction:

Completed square

You read 86 out of 50 books. [I actually snuck in 5 more after this]
172%
Congratulations! You’re really good at reading, and probably a lot of other things, too!
Not a bad year for my Goodreads [a litotes, if there ever was]
Okay–your turn…
How was your 2015 year of reading?
Favorite book?
Definitely won’t be recommending?

Cricket’s Great Hamlet Adventure:Day One


The day was certainly full:

  • Up at 3 am to catch a 6 am
  • Fly over at least 3 time zones
  • Learn quickly how to ride the MARC from Baltimore to DC
  • Figure out my hotel from Union Station
  • Where to eat dinner? Back to Union Station because the pub next dinner is not on my budget
  • Move with the masses to the Mall for fireworks–crowds are not my fave, but Fourth of July at the nation’s capitol? I got over myself and blended, absorbed, dodged, and weaved.
  • I claimed a spot and waited.
  • There were so many cultures represented I felt I was at an outdoor Ikea festival (okay, my odd personal reference since whenever I go to an Ikea it’s like a UN day, either that or my smalltown bubbling is showing)
  • The big moment:  

NOTE: our smalltown event lasts about 10 minutes consisting of very dramatically spaced singular shots. I was indeed properly dazzled by this pyrotechnic dazzlement. 

  • And then my approximate 19 minutes back to the hotel turn into an hour long “lost, yet flowing with the masses walking tour of DC at 10 o’clock at night”–it would have been scary except for there being two cops for every second block. Locals were very friendly and helpful in redirecting me. At one point after asking directions once again (I forgot to turn on my precise location indicator on my Google Maps–now corrected) a nice young woman caught up to me on the sidewalk and sincerely cautioned me about steering clear of the sketchy 8th street area. And I thought DC would be harsh and sense my smalltown girl and chomp me up. Everyone, especially the police, have been very nice.

DAY TWO: squeezing in Dorothy’s shoes before dinner

    End of Year Cheer


    Last night rounded out the academic year of 2015. I actually feel somewhat refreshed instead of the usual frazzle.

    My, to borrow a phrase, “parting of sweet sorrow,” began early in the day. Having posted my grades the day before, a perk of having seniors, and having already tidied up my room, I decided to plant lavender and poppies outside my school window. One teacher greeted me with “Hey, Miss Maudie!” I took that for a compliment.

    I then listened to essays of future AP students–promising beginnings. After that I polished some lesson plans for next year, arranged books in the library (you can take a librarian out of the library, but never the library out of a librarian), rearranged my room, and waited for the final bell. Having no students, I listened for how students would react to their release from captivity.

    “Summer!” “I can’t get out of this building fast enough!” 

    I’m not sure if those were student or staff voices crying out their jubilation.

      
    After a quick power nap, it was off to help ready seniors for our community graduation at the football field. A few moments of the usual panic–“my walking partner isn’t here yet!” “I lost my tassel!” “The valedictorian can’t find her speech!” “Do I have time to go to the bathroom?” but we managed to line them up, march them off over to the bleachers to the repeated strains of commencement’s “da da dada da da”. Many speeches later,  and after no pranks of slipping the principal interesting bits of memorabilia, the class of 2015 tossed their hats in celebration.

    Next stop: grad nite.

    How to persuade new grads from going to parties and ending a happy day with a series of unfortunate events? Easy. Throw a party for them. Having done this rodeo three times with my own kinder, I help out by selling tickets and wandering around as a floater. Fun, food, and a chance to hug students one last time? I’m all in–at least until midnight. And the band played on until the wee hours of the morning.

    This morning? I still woke up at 5:30 am. I guess my body isn’t quite ready for vacation yet.

    I am hoping to dust off the laptop and get some writing projects cranking before fall arrives sooner than I hope it will.

    Any other teachers, students, or parents embracing the delights of school being out?

    NPM: #5: a winter sonnet


    Sonnet to Winter

    Emily Chubbuck Judson (1817-1854)

    Thy brow is girt, thy robe with gems inwove;
        And palaces of frost-work, on the eye,
        Flash out, and gleam in every gorgeous dye,
    The pencil, dipped in glorious things above,

    Can bring to earth. Oh, thou art passing fair!
    But cold and cheerless as the heart of death,
    Without one warm, free pulse, one softening breath,
        One soothing whisper for the ear of Care.
    Fortune too has her Winter. In the Spring,
        We watch the bud of promise; and the flower
        Looks out upon us at the Summer hour;

    And Autumn days the blessed harvest bring;
        Then comes the reign of jewels rare, and gold,
        When brows flash light, but hearts grow strangely cold.

     

    Although I am ever so glad winter is passing into spring, this sonnet reminds me that beauty can be found in the harshness of our coldest season.

    image: EricBerthe/MorgueFile

    33 in 2015: a love story


    Marriage is like a long-playing record–a bit of static, some scratches, a couple of skips now and then, but overall the music compensates for the irregularities that occur. image: bunko/morguefile

     

    33 years ago, my hubs, whom I affectionately designate as MEPA (most excellent personal assistant) and I, stood on a slip of beach in the calm of a January storm and exchanged vows. I was 25 and he 36.

    Neither one of us thought marriage when we first met. Both of us, tired of the dating game and relationships gone wrong, thought it satisfying to have a working relationship. You see, I hired him to help me remodel the little shop I had decided to set up my balloon bouquet delivery service. The landlord had cut me a deal: remodel the store–I provide labor and he provide material. I gained six months free rent from that little agreement. I signed the line and upon recommendation, hired the cute guy sporting the fu manchu and curly hair who worked at the local hardware store. Auburn gingers are a weak spot.

    The first night of work involved sheet-rocking the ceiling. It took the two of us, my entire repartee of elephant jokes, and about five hours to finish the job. I paid him the agreed sum of $65 and threw in a deli sandwich.
    We met in October. I proposed two weeks after meeting him and we eloped 56 days later. I thought getting married January first would be a significant way to start our new life together. Too broke to afford a reception or honeymoon, we found a pizza place open and had the place to ourselves.


    Last night we celebrated our anniversary with dinner at a new restaurant and the owners sent over a delicious complimentary slice of key lime pie. The evening was topped by watching Anything Goes with Donald O’Conner and Bing Crosby. The Cole Porter score fits the general theme of our marriage: a bit whirlwind and somewhat lyrical.
    We are opposite in tastes, strongly singular in outlook, and much more mellow than we used to be.
    33 used to be a LP record designated for long playing–yup, just like it should be for marriage.
    Happy New Year!!

    Breaking Out


    December 19th is a happy day for several reasons:
    1. Christmas Break begins as soon as I turn the key on my classroom door.
    2. I’m invited to the library staff Christmas party (being a trustee has it’s perks)
    3. The next time I enter my classroom it’ll be a new year, meaning we’ve turned the corner and we’ll be heading towards June graduation.
    4. Because the 20th is when our very own kinder plus the wunderkind begin arriving for Christmas.
    5. I will not be grading papers and don’t have to create lesson plans, although I might fuss and dabble with the ones I have ready to go for January.
    6. My room is prepped ready to be painted over break, transforming it from bowl-of-oatmeal-blah-grayish taint to contemporary calming tan and teal.
    7. I anticipate two weeks of napping, reading, exercising, visiting, snacking, writing, celebrating a joyous season, and overall relaxing.

    I’m contemplating some serious Shakespeare reading–I have a mungo long TBR list of background bio books on the Bard. I’ve a hankering to write a middle grade novel about Wm. Shakespeare, something that will fetch up some interest in him prior to forced readings of his plays in middle school and high school–something that will pique their interest. To go where no author has gone before with the Bard. I know, that’s a tall order for two weeks.

    I’m also considering revisiting former reads such The Hobbit and then watch the film adaptation.

    I might also start a series I’ve never encountered before. Mystery? Adventure? Sci-fi? Historical? So many options. Any suggestions?

    Of course, I could do a thorough scrubbing of my writing and edit and revise and market and well, that sounds an awful like work and aren’t I supposed to be relaxing?
    Whatever I decide to do, I want you all to know I appreciate your comments, views, likes, and follows. I hope to end out the year with 25,000 views and a 1000 followers.

    Happy joyful season of friends, family, feasting, and most of all, thanks for the Star of Bethlehem.

    Rolling Over


    Displaying photo.JPG

     

    I glanced at the numbers clicking away the miles, rhythmically measuring off the coveted roll over. I envisioned the possibilities: fireworks, though it’d be daytime, a serendipitous cavalcade of singers and dancers ala Doris Day:

    or at least the significant Beethoven four beat–da da da dum. None of these happen as I turn into my driveway. I am three miles shy of my goal. My anticipated day of Shazzam will not be happening today.

    A bit dramatic, I know, but ever I was a little kid I held great significance in the reckoning of the great roll over. It only happens once in the lifetime, at least I have only witnessed it once. And it happened today. And I almost missed it. This is way the MEPA, the Most Excellent Personal Assistant, is valued beyond belief. He noticed the momentous occasion on the way to obtain yogurt and fresh bananas:
    “Look, Hon–it turns over in one mile.”
    “What?! Ack, I almost missed it.”
    Fumbling for my iPhone I quickly recorded the event. Blurry, yes; however, it is recorded for always and forever.

    Displaying photo.JPG

    What about you? Have you owned a car long enough to record the reckoning of the rollover?

    My parents traded out cars regularly every five or so years (part of the old American dream, you know), so I never actually witnessed the event, although my kidmagination just assumed something significant happened at 100,000 miles–a second chance perhaps? All fibs erased? A sharper remembrance for the eights of the multiplication table? Something. I knew something had to happen.
    Of course something had happened: I have saved $20,000 because I replaced the timing belt instead of buying a new Honda. I can’t wait for the next ($)100,000 miles and what it will have in store.
    This set of 100,000 has seen the progeny through driver’s ed and high school graduation, trips to visit the grandkiddo, jaunts to do book research, vacation wanderings, Sunday drive escapes, and has ushered us into glad tidings of empty nestering. New car? No, not yet. This one still has a few more memories to accumulate.

    Just Another Smalltown Fourth of July


     

    small-town-parade

    image: writeonnewjersey.com. I don’t live in New Jersey, but a small town parade sings across America

    Another perk of living in a small town is the Fourth of July celebration. The day starts off with the town parade. It starts at 9 am, rain or shine, and concludes around 10 am, depending on where you are sitting. There are options with this  parade: watch or participate. I’ve done both several times. Both forms are fun. The past couple of years though, watching is much more my style.

    In the past, I’ve hauled the kids and bikes to participate in our church’s parade theme entry. I think that year was patriotic. We dressed up in red, white, and blue and I attached the tandem bike trailer so the youngest progeny could ride with his mum. Flag waving, crepe paper streaming, and cycling along made for a great Kodak moment.

    Another time (actually a couple of times) I marched with a group of teachers with our signs signifying our thanks to the community. I am blessed to live in a school district where parents and the school board actually love teachers. When I march along with my compadres I usually bring along my bubble wands and make a spectacle of myself. True, I am not the usual English teacher.

    After the parade it’s breaking out the BBQ. Past years involve family or church get togethers. Since we are now empty-nesters and the chickadees have flown, a twosome BBQ just doesn’t hold the fun factor like a full out group gaggle. And we admittedly have become rather hermitish in our ways and avoid the big organized ta-dos. I do try to make a special supper, even if it means hauling the plates outside to eat al fresco.

    I do love a good pyrotechnics extravaganza so I drag the MEPA out at night for the fireworks down at the beach. Looonnngg ago we would grab our blanket, chairs, and snacks and huddle with our group among the masses. Now as E-nesters we skulk among the secret backsides of buildings and empty lots to feast on the fireworks from afar so we can scoot out before the crowd disperses. The fireworks traffic tangle afterwards always lasts twice as long as the show so making a clean getaway involves strategy.

    Somehow once the Fourth of July hits it seems like summer has really begun.

    How about y’all? What are your memorable aspects for the Fourth?

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