Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Common Book

Not sure if you have heard this or not, but there are several changes coming to the Kokomo region in the fall.  One is the move to twice a week daily classes; the other is the Common Book.

There will be Common Time built into the weekly schedule which can be used for a variety of activities or events.  Group meetings.  Special speakers.  Focused seminars.  Study groups.

During Common Time, the Common Book can be discussed by the students, either student-led or faculty driven. 

A committee was formed to select the Common Book and after much consideration This I Believe II was selected..  The subtitle is "The Personal Philosopies of Remarkable Men and Women," and it is edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman.

It has been suggested that ALL instructors use parts or all of the Common Book in their courses in some way, as a reading to relate to content, as an outside assignment, as a springboard for discussion of a topic related to their coursework, or any other way deemed appropriate by the instructors.

I see the book as a way to integrate new discussion into my classes.  Summarizing techniques can also be used after reading selected chapters.  My students can practice note-taking, paraphrasing, and selecting quote-worthy passages from what they have read.  Hopefully their research skills and transferring what they read into what they write will improve.

If you get a chance, take a look at the book. Tell me what you think, either of the Common Book, Common Time, or this year's selection.  Comments are welcome!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Another good read

On Friday my husband and I were in Lafayette to run some errands, then we were heading to our youngest daughter's house to help her celebrate her birthday.  We had some time to kill between our last stop at Target and her usual 'return home' time after work.  Where to go?  What to do?

I voted for spending some time at my favorite store, Barnes and Noble, which worked well because my husband could browse his favorite section (DVDs), then walk over to Best Buy and check out whatever he wanted there.

My first stop is always the Bargain Books area, where I picked up a KitchenAid cookbook to look through.  Next I surveyed the New Publications or the New Non-fiction, hoping to find the biography of Pat Summitt, the coach of the Lady Vols from the University of Tennessee.  After I found a copy, I headed to the Cafe, purchased a cup of Hot Caramel Apple Cider, and settled into a chair to peruse the reading material.

The KitchenAid cookbook I quickly decided to return to the shelf; although it offered good recipes and techniques to use with the KitchenAid itself, even at the bargain price of $9.99 it wasn't worth adding another cookbook to my collection. 

The Pat Summitt book intrigued me. I opened the book to random sections and read a few pages at a time.  I have always admired her, and we were lucky enough to see her in action during a tournament game at Purdue one season several years ago.  Recently she resigned (or retired) due to the onset of Early Alzheimer's Disease.  She is very young for that disease to attack as it did---she is in her early 60s. I may have mentioned before that my tastes in reading have swayed to biographies and non-fiction from the usual Bestsellers that I had read for many years.  This seemed like a good choice for my collection.

My husband returned from his stroll to Best Buy, and he asked my opinion of the book. I wanted it.  However, I wasn't going to buy it. While I enjoyed the feel of the book and flipping through the pages (it was a hardback copy), the price was $28.00 as opposed to the $12.99 on my Nook.  Even with my Barnes and Noble discount, the Nook price was too good to pass up. 

Now I have several books on my Nook or Kindle to read once May 12 rolls around.  I am looking forward to sitting in my sunroom, feet up on the ottoman, sipping a glass of iced tea, and exploring some 'good reads' that have been waiting for me.

Side note:  I couldn't find the Pat Summitt book so I had to ask.  When the B and N salesperson walked away after locating the copy for me, he chuckled and said, "Hey!  Great title too!"   What is it?  Sum It Up.   Get it?


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gatsby Parties

One of my favorite novels to teach in the classroom was Gatsby. With a gifted class we decided to do something fun while reading the first three chapters. Gatsby parties!

First they decided into three groups, then the planning began. The longer they talked, the more elaborate the plans became and the more excited they were. I am always ready for anything that promotes learning with my students, those "remember when we Mrs. Siemens' class" experiences. So I was not surprised that we had to get permission to leave the school, reserve the school van, and contact parents about the adventure.

Since we met at the end of the day, we piled into the van and traveled north immediately when class began. First stop was Amanda's house outside of Medaryville where her mother had set the dining room table with the good china and crystal for our candlelit dinner. I can't remember the menu, but it was very good, with small portions because we did have three parties to attend. There was a phone call that "Tom" left the table to answer also. Very nice.

Next we traveled to Francesville to Betsy's house. As we walked in the side door, her mom greeted us and indicated that we needed to descend the stairs to the basement. Her mom, who is usually a very quiet reserved woman, was dressed in a "house dress," smacking her gum, and telling us she had been shooting some pool and decided to thrown on "this old thing" and fix some snacks. In the basement we sat around on beanbags, throw pillows, and mismatched furniture, munching on chips, pretzels, and those yummy ham/pickle/cream cheese roll up things. We chatted while "Tom" flirted with "Myrtle" and eventually witnessed their fight which ended with his smacking her across the face.

The last stop was west of the school at Julie's house. Her parents greeted us dressed as a waiter and waitress who seated us a tables for four, then served a meal that was divine. There was music for dancing and "Gatsby" mingled with the guests.

As we returned to West Central in the school van, the students were very conscious of the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the parties, the characters who were featured, and the importance of each to develop the characters and set the stage for further developments in the plot. I was impressed with the ingenuity of the students as they planned and executed the "parties." Plus the parent involvement was awesome!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


My husband surprised me a few years ago with a Nook for a Christmas gift.  I loved that device!  We can debate the demise of libraries and the love of feeling a book in one's hands, listening to the pages crinkle and rustle as they turn, one by one, and inhaling time and mustiness in the pages of old tomes.  But that is not what this is about..not now, anyway.

I don't like to buy books for my Nook that are over $10.  I love to read, but I am cautious about my purchases.  "Free Fridays" were always popular, and I did read a book about Ghengis Khan that I NEVER would have selected solely because it was free.

Since my iPad has both a Nook and a Kindle app, my original Nook has a new home with my youngest daughter.  My Nook and Kindle bookshelves are populated with many books, some free, some cheap, and some just a tad more expensive to purchase.

This weekend an email from Barnes and Noble popped into my Yahoo mailbox promoting a 50% off weekend for selected titles...on the Nook.  Yesterday morning I did some shopping.

I enjoy reading Alex Cross novels (James Patterson) and had wanted to read one of his newer adventures, but I didn't want to spend over $10 for it. 

The same could be said of a David Baldacci book.  Both were on sale for around $5.  Just a few clicks and they were mine!

 Then I saw the book Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly.  I may not agree with the author and his views on some things, but I have heard good reviews of this book, and since I have to admit that I remember when JFK was assassinated, the book had piqued my interest.  And the price was similar to the other two.  K-ching!  Added!

Now I have three books awaiting my perusal.  Add them to my current selection that I am reading for an Online Bible Study, and my reading plate is quite full.

Update on the book on the Navy Seal that I began over Spring Break~~~  I read several chapters and it was just too depressing for me.  I stopped.  I usually don't quit, but the mix of relaxing at Myrtle Beach and reading that book just didn't mix very well for me.  Another time.....

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Here I am...sitting in the recliner, grading the blogs.  I am also watching reruns of The Cosby Show.  well, not really watching, but just having some noise around.

This particular episode is where Vanessa goes out with Jeremy when she told her parents that she was studying with a friend.  Rudy's help was enlisted to lie for her so she could stay out later than her curfew, which of course gave the whole scheme away to Cliff and Claire.  Lying is the topic of the show.  Lying.

My sister and I talked this morning about concerns about our mother.  I talked with Mom on Thursday about two issues that we needed to clarify, which we did, but she told my sister this morning that I had 'chewed her out' and 'used that tone' with her and was upset about something that I wasn't even upset about.  This is not the first time she has twisted and turned conversations or concocted stories to cover herself, and we usually catch her. Of course when we try to talk to her about the 'truth' she sees it as being disrespectful to her and uses more 'cover' to get herself out of any trouble.  My sister and I despise lying, and our father always taught us that lying would do nothing except destroy our character and the trust we had with an individual.  That has always stuck with me, and it is a value that we have taught our daughters as well.

Just when the phone rang this morning, I was ready to read the next post in Julie's blog.  The title? "When is it okay to lie?" with a focus on Huckleberry Finn.  If you haven't read that post, I encourage you to do so. Very good!

My husband and I have always been honest with each other.  We haven't lied to our daughters, and they know the value of honesty.  We know that honesty and trust have been a focus of their relationships with their husbands, and I hear Hilary talk about telling the truth to Landon.

Where do we encounter lying?  Sadly, too many places.  But the place I see/hear it the most is on campus or in my classes.  How often have I heard the reasons for not completing a paper (left it at home, left it in my car then my mom took the car, saved it on the flashdrive but left the flashdrive at home, saved it on the flashdrive but now the flashdrive doesn't work, sent it through BB but for some reason it didn't show up) when the real reason the paper isn't finished is because the student didn't finish it.  I know this.  If I send the student to the LRC for help...he balks.  If I make a deal for the student to send the paper to me IMMEDIATELY when he arrives home, it never arrives.  Why not?  It was left there, wasn't it?  No paper arrives.    The same thing happens with attendance.  A doctor's appointment that can only be made during class time. Other emergencies that just happen and are so complicated  and elaborate when told that I have to stifle the smile.  Very creative!

Is it any surprise that I am skeptical when the excuses come in?  Yes, I like to give the benefit of the doubt, and of course there is always the maxim of "Innocent until proven guilty."  But it is very hard when lying is so natural, so prevalent, and so much of a normal part of our society.  People do it.  Politicians do it.  You know people who do it.  Sad, isn't it?

That's why it was refreshing to read Julie's post.  Coincidence that reading Julie's post, the experiences with my mom, a call from my sister about Mom's 'twisting the truth,' and the Cosby episode about Vanessa's lying all occurred in the same four hour time span?  I think not. Maybe we all need a reminder now and then about this part of our character.

Note:  When I searched for a picture of Vanessa Huxtable, I found one where she was wearing the same outfit as the episode I viewed. How about that!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Starting early....

Today I took the day off to spend time with both daughters. They have spring break at the same time this year, so I asked them to choose Tuesday (when I have only office hours) or Thursday (when I am not on campus) as the day to do something with Mom. They picked today, so off we went to Michigan City to the outlet mall, then to Valparaiso for lunch and a stop at Target. We found new maternity clothes for Megan, Vera Bradley purses for me and Hilary, and other items for Easter and birthday gifts.

At some point we began to talk about reading and the early age that both of them began to read. Megan is more of a reader than Hilary, and I think I worked more with her because she was my first child..more time, fewer distractions. Landon is 3 and knows how to spell his name, recognizes letters, and will probably pick up reading quickly...and soon. Megan and Matt's child will most likely be a reader since both of them are avid readers.

If parents encourage reading and model reading for their children, then the children will have a better opportunity to learn to love books as well. A child who reads well usually does much better in school. I know that many will disagree with me, that I have no research to support my views, and that my side of the argument is extremely weak, but this is what I believe.

Landon and I read together often. He reads with his mommy before bedtime. I am sure my new grandchild will have a collection of books in his/her little library.

If this Mamaw has anything to say about it, we will be starting early..and loving every minute of the process! Bring on the books!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Battle of the Books

My Daughter the Librarian has been busy at Clinton Prairie High School, both in the library and in the classroom.  She said either her picture or quotes had made the Frankfort Times several times in the past couple of weeks.  Things are hopping there!

One of the recent achievements has been winning the Clinton County championship in Battle of the Books.  The four schools in the county participate:  Clinton Central, Frankfort, Rossville, and Clinton Prairie.  The students form groups/teams to read the books on the annual list. The titles range through a variety of interests, styles, and difficulty.  A "Teacher Team" also participates.

In late February or early March the school competitions occur.  Last year I was invited to participate as a proctor during the competition. My role was to monitor the pizza table and distribute drinks, plus watch the assigned team to ensure that they worked together, didn't cheat, and were honest in their scorekeeping abilities.  Since the competition was on a Wednesday night, I had other plans, like teaching a class!  Megan said I was missed though; several teachers and some of the students asked if her mom were coming to help again. 

This year the same team that had emerged as the victors once again took the crown.  One of the team members had been part of the winning team for three consecutive years.  She was pumped for the county competition.

After a postponement due to heavy snow, the county competition date finally arrived, and Megan was excited because not only was she the hostess of the event, but she thought the CP team had an excellent chance of winning the competition for the first time.

Sure enough, a phone call came at 10:00 p.m. while we were in Myrtle Beach.  Finally, after coming so close in the past years' competitions, the Clinton Prairie team came out as the #1 Battle of the Books team!   Bragging rights for the entire year!  Plus the girl who had been on the team for three years was graduating victorious!

What a great way to encourage students to read!  How fun it is to also battle against a faculty team, which shows that adults do read books too! 

Congratulations to the Clinton Prairie Battle of the Books team and to Mrs. Scott, aka "My Daugher the Librarian" for encouraging reading to all of the junior high and high school students.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Curl Up with The Great Gatsby!

Have you seen the weekend forecast?  Snow, blowing snow, more snow, depending on where you live.

For Olivia and me, we are on the northern edge of the watch area.  Seth may be on the southern edge and out of any significant accummulation, from what I have seen on the latest weather maps.  However, the rest of you in the central band---watch out!

What a great time to settle into the couch, cover up with a warm quilt, start a fire (if you have a fireplace), brew a mug of hot tea or coffee, and crack open The Great Gatsby!

Since our favorite 3-year-old will be with us on Saturday, overnight, and returning home on Sunday afternoon (at least that is the plan), I will probably be catching up on my Saturday morning grading instead.

*Jay Gatsby (aka Robert Redford--swoon!)
Stay warm. If you have to get out into the snow, be safe.  Enjoy some reading time, if you can!  Blog something too!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Making Connections

Have you noticed that there are connections between history, or what is happening in the world at a certain time, and the literature of that time period?

Maybe you are thinking, "Well, duh, Mrs. S.  Of course!  Who wouldn't know that?" 

Maybe you are one who just had the light bulb click on because that had never occurred to you before now.

Or maybe you are in the third group...."Uh...I don't know.  What do you mean, connections?"

I just read Jake's post about poetry and his mention of Sandburg's "Chicago."  The poem was published in 1916, which meant that the personification is tied to the early 1900s.  Knowing that lends a different perspective when interpreting the passages and the imagery portrayed.

The Great Gatsby will shed light into the Jazz Age, the era in which F. Scott FItzgerald and Ernest Hemingway thrived.  What will we learn about the Roaring 20s, the social expectations, and the Long Island party scene while reading the plight of Jay Gatsby for the love of his live, Daisy Buchanan.

Think about it.  How have the literary selections this semester expanded your knowledge of an era?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

There really is no place like home!

Up and at 'em at 6 on Saturday morning!  Quick showers, threw all of the leftover frozen fruit in the blender with the rest of the vanilla yogurt and a couple of splashes of OJ plus the one lonely leftover banana and whirred up a couple of smoothies, then nuked two remaining huge muffins, and out the door we went, following one of valet guys with a rolling rack containing our luggage and bags.

On the road by 7:30 a.m.  We drove until 9:30 p.m. with a few stops for food, gas, and the inevitable RR breaks.  Actually the threat of ice, sleet, and snow over southern Indiana into northern Kentucky propelled us further than we had originally intended, so we stopped at Our Daughter the Librarian's house near Frankfort for overnight.  It was good to see her and Matt, share the news of the past week, view all of my photos on the iPad, and just visit.  After breakfast this morning (homemade blueberry pancakes with REAL blueberries, not those dinky ones in the mixes), we did some 'baby talk' about the changes to the transform the bedroom into a nursery, our upcoming shopping trip for some clothes that will fit her now and in the next few months, and plans for spring and summer.

Next stop was up the road to Pyrmont to see DD#2 and her husband.  Landon had been with Grandma Jan and Don (her husband) on a weekend adventure with Don's daughters, their husbands, and children to celebrate a birthday at an indoor water park in Shipshewana.  When Landon finally came in the door, he was so excited to see everyone....and went straight to Papaw, much to his Mommy's distress and Papaw's delight!  More good time spent visiting with everyone, catching up, making plans for babysitting in the next few weeks, and planning April (both daughters have birthdays, a meeting with a cousin from Ohio in Ft. Wayne, and a b-ball all-star game, plus other usual stuff).  After early dinner at Monical's in Delphi, we finally headed north again.  It was SO good to finally pull in our driveway and be home!

Now I am trying to catch up.  The sounds are comforting.  The washer is filling for the first of many loads.  My husband is putting away his stuff, couting his leftover cash, and fixing himself a cold glass of Diet Pepsi.  I am in the recliner, in PJs, and pecking away at the keys on the laptop, anticipating the 'back to a routine' that I must ease into.

It is always good to get away. It is fun to see new sights, try new restaurants, experience new climates, and seek new adventures. But it is always good to be home, in comfortable surroundings, sleeping in one's own bed.  I have to admit that I was getting a little bit homesick for my daughters, my sons-in-law, and Landon by the end of the week. I am so glad that we drove the extra couple of hours to Frankfort last night so we could see both sets of kids then and today.

I am even excited about getting back into the routine of classes again.  We have a Blackboard IM session on Tuesday--I hope I don't forget!!!  Before we know it, the end of the semester will be here, some will be graduating, and I will be thinking about summer session.

No lit related post tonight.  Just a 'happy to be home' thought and a reminder that we will be chatting on Tuesday!  See you then!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Wonders of Nature

If you haven't figured it out already, I love nature.  I live in the country. My husband is a farmer.  We have a camper.  I like to walk in the woods, watch the ocean waves, and enjoy a good thunderstorm, as long as there are no tornadoes.

The return trip on Thursday to Brookgreen Gardens revealed something new to us....on the four original plantations that now comprise the Gardens were slaves who tended the rice fields.  We hadn't known before that rice was grown in South Carolina.  We wandered through the old slave quarters, listened to the recorded narrative at each spot that explained the role of the slaves, the overseer, the homes, and the tending of the rice fields.  They were flooded four times, each time very crucial to the crop.  The overseer and his slaves were full of knowledge about the planting and harvesting of the crop.  Quite interesting! The picture below is of the former rice fields, now a marsh.

This morning we walked along the Boardwalk, out on Pier 14, and along the beach in both directions. Today was so sunny and warm, but windy, and the water was glistening like sparkling diamonds. The expanse of the ocean is always amazing to me---it stretches so far, and I know that there is no landfall for hundreds and hundreds of miles.

We have visited several beaches, but I think this has to be one of my favorite areas.  I like the sea grass.  I enjoy the unique restaurants.  Even though there are many little shops that all feature the same items, such as sweatshirts and t-shirts and various other tourist type of memorabilia, many unique shops are available which feature local crafts, paintings, and sculptures. Seagrass baskets fascinate me, and on our next trip, we will stop at one of the many markets along Route 17 between Myrtle Beach and Charleston to check them out.

Saturday we bid a fond goodbye to Myrtle Beach and start the 14 hour trip home.  I must admit that the weather was cooler than we would have liked, but we enjoy being on Spring Break before the public schools are just because the crowds are smaller.  I have sighed several times when I see the temps predicted for the next few days---in the 70s.  Oh well...there's always next year.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Ship. A Boat. A Vessel.

Today we visited husband's choice of activities.  He wanted to see the USS Yorktown and Fort Sumter. I wanted to explore historic Charleston. One of those stops was crossed off the list----the USS Yorktown.  We missed the boat for the cruise out to the fort, and after Gary saw the HUGE bridge we would have to cross to go to the town proper, he opted not to drive it.

Since I have been relating everything to literature in some way, I was hard pressed to make a connection today.  Hmm...what to do?  What to say?    There have been many poems about boats, ships, and other vessels.  Much has been written about the wars.  We just finished reading Red Badge in this class, but that was the Civil War, not WWII, and there were no aircraft carriers, subs, or destroyers on Henry's battlefields.  I finally came up with...heroes, wars, and boats.

My dad is a WWII Navy veteran, one of my heroes.  He died three years ago from mesothelioma, a disease he contracted from the asbestos that had lain dormant in his lungs since he was on the Destroyer Escort,  DE Eldridge.  The visit to the USS Yorktown was one that put me close to my dad and his stories. He would have loved the walking tour we took  (four of the six within the ship, then the DD Laffey which  was also docked next to the aircraft carrier).  Actually our visit would have been double or even triple in time had he been with us because he would have had stories about the bunks, the galley, the bathrooms, the torpedoes...all of it he would have shared.  Even though the ship (and I often called his DE a 'boat' and was promptly corrected each and every time) was much larger than Dad's, some things were the same and he would have shared all of the details. I wish he had been with us.

While we were walking on the flight deck and looking at the planes there, I spotted a group of sailboats in the water between the Yorktown and Charleston.  There was a motorboat, I think, in front of the group, and as they approached the bridge, they seemed to stop and perform a type of routine. Finally I guessed that those steering the sailboats were taking 'sailboat sailing classes' of some sort and learning different moves.  Someone in the main motor boat must have been transmitting commands because the sailboats would move in a circle around the motorboat, then split off into groups of two or three, then move in a straight line.  It was rather comical watching some of the boats tip so far over that I feared they would capsize, but then they seemed to right themselves and all was well, until the next move!  What seemed so simple to me as a spectator was probably frustrating and difficult to the individual sailors.  I could compare this activity to my experience with my husband, canoeing down Sugar Creek at Turkey Run State Park a few summers ago. Paddling the oars a certain way made the canoe travel in a specific direction, and I am sure the sailors were struggling with their sails and the wind also. Longfellow in "A Psalm of Life"  (ENGL 222) said 'Be not like dumb, driven cattle!  Be a hero in the strife!" Each one of those sailors today was striving to succeed and not follow the others as they tipped and swayed in the water!

A different connection to lit was found in the Medal of Honor room.  Here I learned several things---O'Hare Airport was named for a Medal of Honor recipient, and a post office in New York was named recently for another one.  Obama has awarded just one Medal during his presidency.  I began reading Seal of Honor last night, and Michael Murphy came to mind, plus the play on words for the title of the non-fiction book.

There you go!  Connections!  I can make connections to just about anything....just give me some time and I will do it.

In the pictures today you will see my husband in front of the USS Yorktown, a picture of a Navy helicopter, and the sailboats-in-training and the HUGE bridge.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Finshed One, Beginning Another

Earlier I had mused about having no time to read.  On the brink of Spring Break, it seemed like a good thing to plan to, read, read. 

Unfortunately my numerous books on my Nook/Kindle apps on my iPad have just been sitting there, patiently waiting for me to crack open their virtual covers.  Not too much reading has been happening here in the condo on the Atlantic Ocean.

But I did finish one book. I had been participating in an online Bible study with a book by Karen Ehman called Let. It. Go. The focus was on reliquishing the need to control every aspect of one's life, with a focus on women since many of the chapters related to being wives, mothers, daughters, working mothers, single mothers.  I really enjoyed the book; in fact, I read it before the OBS began, then read it again with the  group of several thousand.  I even allowed myself to be added to a special Facebook group so we could bond, get to know each other, help each other with the study, compare experiences, and share thoughts.  That was a flop since only two people participated in any type of coversations.  I really did enjoy the study, however, and the book itself.  I hope I can put into practice the ideas presented.

Now I am reading another one, Seal of Honor: Operation Red Wings and the Life of Lt. Michael P. Purphy, USN  by Gary Williams. I know this book will be very intense and meaningful.  I hope to become deeply engrossed in the book during the remainder of our time here and on the long drive home this weekend.

I will keep you posted.....

Vanishing Sand Castles

Two sand castles or forts were at the end of the walk to the beach from our resort. It was clear so much time and effort were put into the two creations, so naturally I recorded them for posterity with my handy dandy camera. Sure enough, when we returned nearly an hour later, e incoming tide was slowly but surely destroying the most intricate of the two.....but the other had totally disappeared. All that was left was one stick.

As I stood and watched the waves rolling in, I heard a voice behind me.

"Two hours! Two hours of hard, intense work...washed away with just a few waves." The man stood there, sighing, taking pictures of the sand fort as it met its demise.

Ahh..such is life. Sometimes we work so hard for something, but instead of using our strengths and making good choices and decisions, we slip, and a few "waves" reduce it to nothing but wet sand.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Visiting BrookGreen Gardens

Today we visited BrookGreen Gardens which are south of Murrells Inlet which is south of Myrtle Beach. Our tickets are good for 7 days so we hope to return to see what we missed this afternoon. The gardens were full of flowers, fountains, and statues and really quite interesting. Some of the statues were very intricate, full of detail, and just downright impressive.

One of the statues was of Samson wrestling a lion. What I noticed were the rippled muscles and then the lions law on Samson's arm trying to stop him from breaking his neck.

I was most excited, and then disappointed, in the Poetry Garden, which held a few written plaques of Kipling's poetry, very few statues, and not much else.

I did find the first few lines of William Cullen Bryant's poem "Thanatopsis."

When I can figure our how to upload pictures on my iPad into the blog, I will share!

Looking forward to a return trip to visit the zoo and take a boat ride through the Low Country.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls

I know Longfellow belongs in ENGL 222, but walking along the ocean tonight reminded me of two of his poems, my favorites of his actually.

In  "The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls" the speaker laments the fact that his footprints in the sand disappear when the tide rolls in.   He takes it one step further and expresses his sadness that all that he has accomplished in his life may be wiped out and not remembered, just like the footprints are washed away by the rolling waves.

I was feeling a little blue myself as we walked this evening.  Memories came flooding back at me of times when we visited Jekyll Island in Georgia and Indian Shores in Tampa with our daughters and had such fun being tossed around by the waves. As I looked out over the Atlantic, I could hear their voices and see them running back and forth as the waves came crashing to shore.  I remember the sand sculptures they crafted and the drawings they made in the soft sand, all of which were erased by the tide the next day. I felt sad that our little "footprints" had been erased.

However, my husband reminded me that life goes on, that the girls are grown up, graduated from college, married, home owners, employed, and have families.  They live close enough for us to see frequently.  Now we will be able to watch Landon and the new little grandchild running around on the beach, chasing the waves, picking us seashells.  The footprints will endure in the form of our family and the memories we share and will continue to make.

The tide does rise, and the tide does fall, but my "Psalm of Life" continues to endure....through Megan and Hilary and Landon and Baby Scott.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Home of Carl Sandburg

As my husband and I were driving through North Carolina today, we spotted an exit for the Carl Sandburg home. of our poets!

Normally I would have wanted Gary to switch lanes quickly and careen off the interstate to the exit and search for the house, but I decided not to force him to endure a tour of an author's home this early in the vacation!

Tonight as we are sitting in a hotel room in Columbia, SC, I decided to do a little searching and found some pictures on Google Images and also this blog that was an interesting read.

You might enjoy checking it out too.

Sandburg's poems are really some of the best for me. I particularly enjoy the "Chicago" --'city of the big shoulders.... '  I was very excited when we were watching an episode of  MASH years ago (some of you have no idea what the program even was, I know!) and Hawkeye ordered ribs and sauce from Adam's Rib in Chicago (through Radar or Klinger, I forget which one), and started to recite Sandburg's poem.  Maybe I really like that poem too because we live so close to Chicago, we have been there several times, and I just like the Windy City.

Another favorite of mine is "Fog."  Short. Simple. To the point.   

Anyway.....on this trip I know we will spend some time in Charleston. Gary really wants to see Fort Sumpter and some ships that are docked closeby. 

I think that my touring a fort and ships (even if I am a Navy vet daughter) would merit a stop at an author's home on the return trip. Don't you agree?  I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Reader's Digest

Ever since I graduated from college many moons ago, my parents have given me a subscription to the Reader's Digest.  One year at Christmas somehow there was a double subscription so now the expiration date is Dec 2014.  Nearly two more years of the Digest!

Dad always loved reading the Digest, as did my grandfather.  They used to discuss various articles they had read.  Me?  I started by reading what I thought were the most interesting things:  Campus Comedy, Life in These United States, All in a Day's Work, Humor in Uniform.  Then I discovered the Word Power, and I always tried to get a top score as I tried to deciper the definitions of the words, using the roots and suffixes and prefixes. 

The articles never really seemed to interest me until well into my adult life, then I discovered various human interest stories that seemed to broaden my horizons in some way. Heroes in Real Life, stories about celebrities, just everyday people with everyday problems and solutions---all of those piqued my interest.

Recently I discovered that I could have my subscription to RD converted from the copy we received in the mail to a digital format which would pop in my Newstand on my iPad.  Wow.  Cool.  I went through the process to change my subscription, the little Reader's Digest cover appeared in my Newstand, and I was all set.  Yeah! 

Tonight when I came home from Logansport, what was on the dining room table with the mail but a copy of the Reader's Digest!  My husband said "You changed that to the digital version, didn't you?"  I did. We still have the paper copy.  Oh well...maybe it will appear on a table in the Student Commons.  Maybe I will take it along to a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning and forget to take  it with me when I leave.

I am sure someone else will get a little bit of enjoyment from reading Campus Comedy or All in a Day's Work or feel a little proud to score the big numbers on Word Power!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Reading the Newspaper

We missed church this morning (overslept, then graded the Pod), so after breakfast (my husband fixed blueberry muffins--he is such a sweet guy!), my husband went to town (Francesville) to pick up a newspaper, which we usually stop for after church.  Long sentence--whew! 

Now that the Pod is graded, the Midterm Blog scoresheets are ready and marked for the Blog Creation points, and I have checked Messages for the other four classes, I think I will take some time to read the newspaper.


About 10 years ago I was invited to a Newspapers in Education seminar at the Lafayette Journal and Courier office.  It was a quick seminar--maybe 3 hours one summer morning.  At the end the leader asked us to complete a questionnaire, then add the number of copies of the paper we would like to receive for our students to use and how often we would like to receive them---free.  FREE?   Free.

The highest number of students I had in my classes during the year was 25, so I asked if I could order that number.  Yes. I asked if I could have papers delivered every day that we were in session. Yes. 

My heart started beating faster.  Twenty-five newspapers delivered to my door each day of the school year ---FREE!  Yes, FREE!

What a great opportunity for me and for my students!

I was so excited!!!!

Why the excitement?

During the seminar, the leader shared a story about a student who struggled to read.  He froze every time a teacher even mentioned a reading assignment because he couldn't process the words and larger paragraphs.  He had always seen one teacher reading a newspaper each morning.  He asked one day if he could look at it.  He found that he could read the newspaper much easier than he could read a textbook, so he asked the teacher to help him learn how to read better with the newspaper.  Finally he asked if he could take the newspaper with him.  You see, other students made fun of him because of his difficulty with reading. But when he was carrying the newspaper, whipping it out during study time or before classes began, they saw him differently. His self-esteem inproved. Plus he was learning many things by reading the paper.

I had so many students who would sit and NOT read the lit selections when I gave them time to do this.  Maybe if they became more comfortable reading the newspaper each day, they would get into the mode of reading the short stories too.  (It worked. They did.)

Next I saw many teaching opportunities.  With our 90 minute class periods, we were encouraged to include a variety of activities to keep the students focused and to fill the time period. Newspapers were a great way to start the class (while I was taking attendance or talking with students who had been absent about make up work), or a way to fill the time after a test quietly while others were finishing, or to fill the time when we finished a lesson early or returned after a convocation or pep session and there wasn't time to teach something new.

Also there were so many skills and techniques that I could share with my students using newspapers.  Read the article and summarize.  Read the article and express your opinion in your journal.  Look for a job or a new car or a house in the Classifieds. Log the information in your journal and analyze the type of information included.  Read an obituary, then write a similar one for a character in the short story we just read.  Learn how to read a weather map, a box score (that was a fun one!), the stock market charts.  Track the story line in a comic strip for 10 days (then we focused on the history of the comic, the creator and the illustrator in a research paper).   Have a scavenger hunt (that was fun!) to find certain bits of information in the paper (of course I had to create that in the morning before school started if I had some time in my room with no interruptions).  We looked at national news, state news, local news, sports, advice columns, classifieds, editorials and letters to the editor (we wrote a few of those also and sent them off and were even published).  It was a great opportunity for learning!  Plus the US History teacher said he noticed an upswing of participation in Current Events discussion because the students were reading the newspapers each day.

At the end of the day, the newspapers went on a chair in the hallway outside my door, free to anyone who wanted to pick up one.  They usually disappeared quickly.  One student always stopped by to take one home to share with his parents.  Another always asked me to save one for him since he was in a morning class and didn't want them all to disappear before he could return after school.  Nice to know that many students besides the ones in my classroom were benefitting from the free newspapers.

There were only two downfalls to this  wonderful opportunity.  One was a comment from a disgruntled student who really disliked English and me.  He wrote in his cover letter for his final portfolio that reading the newspapers and the activities that we did with them were only because I was lazy and didn't want to teach what I was supposed to be teaching.  Ok..those of you who know me and those who have had me as an instructor are probably laughing at that statement. As my daughters often say "Do you not know me?" Come on.

The other was with my replacement when I felt to take the position at Ivy Tech.  I had not planned to leave, so I had already ordered my set of newspaper for the coming year.  The new teacher saw no point to having all of those newspapers delivered each day.  Often she left them at the curb rather than having them picked up and delivered to her room.  If they did make it to her room, she often left them in the packages and threw them in the trash at the end of the day.  Since my son-in-law's brother was in her class, he gave me the low-down on the status of the newspapers.

I do know that reading the newspapers have had a continued effect on several of my students.  My son-in-law and daughter were both in my junior Lit classes when we were reading newspapers.  They both enjoy reading the newspaper each day.  Several of my former students who are now FB friends have mentioned that they have continued reading the newspaper, sometimes online, each day.

Newspaper withdrawal seemed to hit me at the end of the year for those four years I used newspapers in the classroom. Since we live in the Black Hole of Pulaski County where no daily newspapers are delivered, I really enjoyed the daily dose of news.  Now I look at the jconline version.  Just not the same as flipping through the pages, however. 

With that....I think I will close, fix a new cup of tea, and read the Sunday paper.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

No Time to Read!

"Yes, Mrs. S.  We too have 'no time to read' and you are overloading us with reading assignments!"

I understand.  My whining of 'oh no...I have no time to read!' comes from the overload of grading I have been experiencing the last few weeks--plus other things.

It seems like every one of the five classes has had urgent demands lately.

Basketball season is FINALLY over, but with the sectional win came a Saturday spent in a gym watching the regional game.  Now that my husband is not at practice every day and running off to games several times a week, he is home waiting for me to arrive so we can go someplace or do something.  Not a bad thing, but not a good thing when I have other things, like grading, to do.

Family obligations interrupt my grading routine also.  Since our son-in-law had back surgery last week, we had Landon for a few days, then I fixed dinner for them one night, and we have stopped by (which means a 45 minute drive each way) to help out while he is recovering.  Our other daughter and son-in-law are expecting our second grandchild in August, so she has been very talkative about plans for the nursery (have to visit them to see the actual room--another 15 minutes beyond the other daughter's house). Then there are the in-laws, who called while we were in Pyrmont to tell us the cows were out so we had to drive nearly an hour to their house to discover the cows weren't really out; instead, we think my mother-in-law saw some deer wandering around in the yard in the dark.  Just things like that, which I know all of my students experience, but for some reason many students think their instructors don't experience these 'life events.'

Back to my 'topic of the day':  No Time to Read!

Reading for pleasure has been at the bottom of my to-do list.  Even my morning time for the Online Bible Study has been interrupted.  Many experts have urged us to set aside a time and never stray from it for morning devotions or just pleasure reading time. Good for the soul.  Good for the body (relaxation before sleep).  Just good.

But how to do that when so many other things are pulling at one's time?  No, the online Ad Analysis papers are not completely finished because I was reading a novel.  Doesn't work for me,  and it doesn't work for my students.

This morning I am checking off the list:

Pay bills.  Check!
Wrap baby shower gift.  Check!
Check messages for all five classes.  Check!
Update blog addresses.  Check!
Add blog post for today.  Check!

Yet to do:

Finish grading ENGL 112 online Ad Analysis papers
Grade ENGL 112 online Annotated Bibs
Grade RBofC Pod submissions
Go to baby shower
Meet one daughter, son-in-law, and grandson for fish fry in Francesville
Return home and finish whatever I didn't finish from the first three items on the list

To remember:  Spring Break is coming!  Time to read!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Wilma the Waitress and the Waffle House

One of my former high school students and a classmate of My Daughter the Librarian has written and published a children's book.  It hit the bookstores and Amazon last week.

Amber was interviewed by WLFI in Lafayette and the link below shows that interview.

I can't be more proud of her and her success.  She hopes to continue the saga of Wilma the Waitress and has ideas jotted down for more books in the series.

If you have small children, nieces or nephews, grandchildren, or friends with children, consider selecting this book as a gift for an Easter basket, a birthday, or just because.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Challenge

One of my ENGL 112 students sat in my office yesterday for a conference about her last paper and plans for the next one.  Since we changed the curriculum to a literature focus, I have had fun with sharing poetry, short stories, and drama with students who might not otherwise read the selections. 

This student had discussed one of Whitman's poems "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" for her first literary analysis.  Some of the terms she used in her paper were not included on my 'terms sheet' that I share with non-literature students, and I was curious as to how they were familiar to her.  Her use of vocabulary and her writing style were more sophisticated than I am used to seeing from my ENGL 112 students also. In fact, thoughts of plagiarism had flitted through my mind, and I had "googled' passages of her paper, plus My Daughter the Librarian had searched for something that may have been directly copied and not cited.  We came up dry.

As we chatted, I found that she had a more extensive background in lit in high school than most of my students.  She was well-versed in terminology, and it was impressive to just talk with her. 

But here is the problem.  When we talked about ideas for her literary argument paper, and, as often happens, one idea leads to another, then changes, then builds....and I suggested that she read a short novel as another literary source to use for her paper, she bristled.  Her response?  "But I don't like to read.  I would HATE to read an entire book." 

I was stunned.  For a student to have the extensive vocabulary, the knowledge of terms, the extraordinary writing style.....and then not like to read.  It is always said that the more one reads, the more one's vocabulary grows, the better he/she will write, and the more varied the writing styles will be.  Eveidently not in this case.

What is my challenge?  To encourage, to nudge, to tempt.

When she left my office, I asked if she would like for me to order the book for her through inter-library loan, and she said yes.  But only because I thought it would be a good thing to do for her to write a good paper. Otherwise,  she just didn't like to read.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lovin' Some Amy Tan Short Stories

Prof. McCauley and I changed the ENGL 112 curriculum for our region this year, so there is more of a literature focus to the writing assignments.  This is actually the fifth semester I have used a lit focus for my classes, and I really like it. In fact the reason why some of the students in THIS class are here is because their love of literature was born, maybe re-born, in ENGL 112.  How about that?

Today I met with two students about their first papers, and we made a plan for the second one.  "Two Kinds" by Amy Tan is the selected story for Katy.  She loved that story as much as most of the students who have read it, especially the women.  No surprise there. Amy Tan has a way of drawing her readers into her stories, making them care about her life, and showing a slice of life that is foreign to many of us, not only because of the ethnic qualities of the story, but also because of the time period in which she wrote.

No matter the nationality or the time period, mothers and daughters conflict.  That is true.  I was in a ongoing conflicted relationship with my mother throughout middle school, into high school, continuing through college even though I was 2 1/2 hours away from home, and on into my adult life. 

As Katy and I were talking, I shared the impressions from the lecture that My Daughter the Librarian and I attended at Purdue several years ago. Amy Tan was the featured speaker.  She was petite, very attractive, quite personal, and very entertaining.  She discussed her life in detail.  She shared experiences as she was growing up in the western part of the United States. She talked about the inspirations for her stories and her novels.

Even though so many of her stories are more interesting to female readers, there are messages for male readers as well.  My juniors read "The Rules of the Game" which we could relate to football, basketball, NASCAR, and just life.  As a follow-up activity we spent a few class periods playing board games.  Why?  Not just an easy lesson plan for a couple of days!  One of the requirements was 'reading the directions' and following them.  Reading the directions.  How many times do we NOT read the directions, and more often how many times do we NOT follow the directions we have read?  What was interesting was that not too many had actually read the instructions for The Game of Life or Monopoly, but many played by their own family set of rules. I often heard "That is NOT the way my family plays it!"  or "My dad says we can't do that...we have to do this!"  Very rarely did anyone play by the rules.

Lesson?  Is that the way life is?  Do we know the rules?  Do we play by them, or do we create our own set?

Yes, Amy Tan shares many of her experiences as she was growing up in a blended culture family on the West Coast, but more than likely she is confirming many of the experiences that we have right here in midwestern America.  Slice of life at its best---from Amy Tan.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Raisin in the Sun

We are watching this play as the drama selection in ENGL 112.  The first half was viewed last week, and we will finish this week.  Usually I am distracted by other things during the viewing of a film in class, but this time I watched closely, hoping to catch the finer details.

I also noticed some of the effects that I taught in film lit class (during my high school teaching experience).  Placement of items, camera angles, characters' positions, dialogue, diction, gestures, non-verbal communication - all of those came to mind as I watched the movie.

Sidney Poitier is a superb actor, bringing the character of Walter Lee to life.  When I researched his life a bit, I found that he is now 86.  Wow.  Even though he is not best known for his portrayal of the Younger son in this play, he does give a significant performance.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Getting started!

I have to admit that I am not too tech savvy. I have several blogs, and I have been blogging for quite a while. However, putting together this blog for the class was a trial and error process, plus it was very frustrating. I hope that my students are more adept at creating a blog and will eventually enjoy the midterm and final project---blogging!

As you can see by the title, this is the fifth blog of this type--Pods of Thought #5. One semester we tried the blog feature on Blackboard, but it was less than desirable format for the type of project I wanted for the class. The reason we tried that medium was for a student who was not permitted by law to post in a blog type format; otherwise, he would be arrested. I think we could have limited the viewers of the blogs to just those in our class, but he didn't want to take that chance; therefore, neither did I.

Blogging can be fun. Blogging can be tedious. My hope is that all of the students enjoy the process and find this type of activity conducive to sharing thoughts and ideas about the literature we are reading, as well as creating some of their own pieces (don't panic--not required to share original work!). With that---start to blog! Follow the instructions given. Play with the Blog creation process. Share ideas. Check the blogs of other students.

Have fun!

  Blog on!