Geek Out with your Chic Out

A little over a decade ago I was an avid World of Warcraft player. If you don’t know what World of Warcraft, or WoW, is, it’s what’s known in the Geekdom as a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, or MMORPG for short. So, WoW is an MMORPG. Got it? No? Ok, let’s slow it down…

First, what is a role playing game? No, it has nothing to do with the French maid costume you bought for that one time…oh, never mind… A role playing game is what it sounds like. You are given, or create, a role, like an actor, and you portray your character throughout a game. Remember back in the 80s when the world was freaking out over a game called Dungeons & Dragons (D&D)? You know, you heard that your neighbor’s cousin’s sister’s son was playing D&D with some shady friends and that probably meant that he was into devil worship and possibly sacrificed small animals or babies to Lucifer or something like that. This was a real thing that people worried about. Don’t laugh. Your parents were probably going through your room looking for evidence of dungeony-dragony stuff. If you were even born yet. And if you were the right age then.

Well, anyway, Dungeons & Dragons is a role playing game. It’s also a storytelling game, and today that type of storytelling has become an art form. The role playing games of yon were digitalized and given a world-wide platform on the Interwebs. World of Warcraft wasn’t the first, but to me, it still is one of the best MMORPGs. The game allows you to create a character of a new race with a specific skill set that you decide on to help you advance in the online world in which you choose a side, Alliance or Horde (aka good and evil). But in order to really be successful, you can’t do it alone. You must interact with real online people. There is a chat function in the game so you can speak with others and introduce yourself and get information, etc. You make friends and form alliances. Most often you will never meet these friends IRL (in real life, old folk), but you will continue to learn more about each other in-game and possibly out in other forums. Social media interaction does not replace social in-person interaction for most people, but for those of us who tend to lean toward the introvert side of the personality spectrum, it’s sometimes better.

So here I sit, a divorced 30-something mother of two, with a full career and busy life (that includes naps, so ok, whatever) and I am contemplating renewing my long-lapsed subscription to WoW. Because I enjoyed the escape and also the camaraderie built with others. It was easy to weed out the teenagers playing and those of us who were older with families of our own somehow gravitated toward one another in the online realms. I’m not sure how, but it was probably easy based on the more mature level of communication seen and received in the game.

I don’t know if it will be as easy today, or even as much fun as I remember, but it’s something that I know I used to love and I let it go, as many of us so often do with the things we love. But now I’m rocking a new MacBook (it’s “rose gold” – aka, pink – so a very chic machine) with the optimum specs for the game and the latest expansion, WoW: Legion, has received pretty good reviews. I’m not going to dive back in right away. I’ll probably actually wait until summer to start my new WoW adventure, but then I hope I allow myself to continue it as a pastime. Everyone deserves to geek out when they want to. And, who knows? Maybe eventually I’ll meet other geeks in real life and go old-school tabletop, a la Critical Role. (If you don’t know Geek & Sundry’s Critical Role and you claim Geek Status, you just lost a few points…at least for the gamers. Vote actors running D&D campaigns and filming it all in each campaign’s 3-5 hour glory – it’s a thing of beauty that few understand. But with 89 episodes under their belt, I’d say that it has been a successful venture, at least to Critters like myself. I may be biased.)

Am I the only one with super geek passions? Science fiction, gaming, Cons, fandoms…I have so many things to get excited about and know I’ reached full Geek when I honestly don’t care if anyone understands why or not. What’s your passion? Are you a Geek or a muggle? (Muggle passions are cool, too. I crochet, bro.) Whatever it is, I hope it makes you smile and gives you something to look forward to at least every once in a while. Because, fellow human, you deserve it.

Top Ten Gadgets I’d Love to Spend (Waste) Money On

In no particular order for the countdown, and with links to products when appropriate, please enjoy this Top Ten Tuesday post and let me know if there are any gadgets YOU want to get your hands on. Maybe I’ll add them to my growing list!

10. A Dyson Air Multiplier – Why? Well, I LIVED in Texas, where a fan is ALWAYS welcome, and now I live in Okinawa, Japan…where the humidity level is something rivaling a wet sauna in the fiery pits of an active volcano. And, have you seen these things? They look freaking cool! It’s like functional art! Why not??

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9. An Automatic Car Starter – These are more common nowadays, anyway. And, did I mention the heat and humidity with which I’ve had to deal? Having some air circulation in the car before I get in with or without my children would be great and would go a long way in helping avoid instant heat stroke upon entering the oven…I mean, car. In winter, a little head-start on the heat would be nice, too, but I’m beginning to think that winter is just a myth perpetuated by evil penguins. Okinawa has no real winter. It just gets wet and goopy and uncomfortable and even though you’ve lived in the Rocky Mountains with several feet of snow in the winter, a 60 degree day in the “winter” in Oki will make you pull out your parka and electric blanket. Acclimatizing to this sub-tropical island is no joke. Being able to start my car from my phone while I’m finishing the last bit of coffee would be very nice, indeed.

8. An Electrolux Reverse Scan Toaster – This is one of the more unusual gadgets I’ve stumbled upon while surfing the ‘Net. Think about the fun you could have with this thing! Who needs a newspaper subscription when you can save paper AND eat the toast!

7. Camera lenses to attach to my iPhone – They DO exist! Photojojo has a cool set of them for under $50. So, that’s not really wasting money, is it? I mean, they’re totally functional!

6. Taco Plates – For $8.00 as of this writing, you can own your very own set of four Fiesta Taco Plates! I mean, COME ON. Don’t you hate it when your taco falls over on your plate and all the filling falls out and you have to try to cram it back in the shell or just eat it with a fork? If I wanted to eat it with a fork, I would have made a taco salad. I want my taco shells to stand up proudly and hold my taco fillings in!

5. A Personalized Library Embosser – So maybe this is just a thing a teacher would want. Especially a reading teacher. Unless you’re really possessive of your books, and let’s be honest – you do most of your reading digitally these days, don’t you? (No shame – e-readers are supreme gadgets.) But this baby for a teacher – saves time, money, no more labeling with markers or stickers or library card pockets. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy…and you get to feel all official when making your seal, too!

4. Ostrich Ladies Comfort Lounger – It’s a beach chair, but trust me…it’s a gadget. A girly-gadget. It has a boob hole! Well, it’s not exactly a hole, but there’s a space in the chair that expands/contracts so you can lay on your stomach and not have that lovely boob smash thing going on that is often accompanied by some level of discomfort. PLUS, there’s a face hole and arm holes for stomach laying and reading, tanning, etc. It is neat0! (Look at the boob hole!)

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3. A Toothbrush Sanitizer – Let’s face it. You keep your toothbrush very close to where you take care of other hygiene and bodily functions. While the ADA recommends that you replace your toothbrush approximately every 3-4 months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed, you still don’t want to stick a germy mess in your mouth. Do you know what happens every time you flush your toilet? Let’s just say it ain’t pretty and leave it at that. Sanitizing your toothbrush daily might not be a bad habit to start. With help from one of the many automatic sanitizers on the market, it would be super easy, too. Take care of your toothbrush – take care of your teeth. Take care of your teeth and you might get to keep them well into your geriatric years.

2. A Swatch Watch – Remember the 80s? Remember the totally rad silicone watch bands that came in all kinds of cool colors and designs? Well, Swatch still makes watches and people still buy them. So why don’t I have one already? I mean, just check out their Classics for starters.

1. Altec Lansing Life Jacket 2 Floating Waterproof Speaker – It. Floats. Do I really need to explain this one more than that?!?! And really, this one isn’t even a waste of money. It could SAVE money…by ensuring that I do not drop my iPhone in the bathtub.

Bloom

What does it mean to bloom? Dictionary.com has 23 definitions for the word bloom, not counting the idioms. I’ll pick my favorite: (v) to flourish or thrive.IMG_1619

I want my children to bloom. My daughters, ages 11 and 7, are in the process of blossoming, becoming themselves, and showing the world their true colors. I worry, as a newly divorced single mother, that I won’t be able to keep their soil fertile, their roots well tended… It seems like a daunting task, doesn’t it, this parenting thing? It is something that I expected to do as a couple and then had those plans ripped away from me suddenly. Why don’t I co-parent, you ask? Well, let’s just say that I’ve had enough crazy to last me a lifetime and I’d just like to move on. I’ll parent my girls the best way I know how and he will, well, hopefully not break them. I know that sounds mean. I hope it gets better. I’ve heard stories from others that it could go either way. But, I digress…

I truly want to watch and help my daughters bloom. I want to see them grow into their personalities that are already so strong. I want to see them build their lives and succeed in all ways possible. But, I also want to bloom. I want to get my color back. I used to feel as if I was flourishing, living a life that I’d dreamed of. When you cut a flower, it dies. That’s just how it is. I’m planting new roots now and turning my face toward the sun. The best way for me to ensure that I help my children bloom is for me to be the example. So it’s almost springtime: a great time for me to focus on ways to flourish and help my girls thrive.

Mama’s Losin’ It

The Perils of Penelope and the Spectacular Side-Effects of Censorship

There are things that I remember. I remember trying to reach the doorknob when we moved into a new house, but my fingertips barely brushed its underside. I remember the smell of my great grandmother’s powder, which always sat in a crystal dish on her dresser. I remember turning a refrigerator box into a very, very, VERY temporary swimming pool in the backyard one summer when I was about six years old. I remember picking blackberries on the side of the road with my mom and sister. I remember so much more, and I am blessed to have these great memories of my childhood.

Then, there are memories that I cherish. One particular memory is of my dad, “Pops,” reading to me as I sat in his lap. I was probably around four years old at the earliest I can remember. I know there were many, many different books and stories that he shared with me as I was growing up. The one that stands out – no, SHOUTS out in my mind was a simple Sesame Street story called, The Perils of Penelope.

Chances are, many of you have at least some memories of Sesame Street. I’m sure most of you watched the television show on PBS. Like me, you grew up with Big Bird, Grover, Bert & Ernie, Snuffleupagus, and Oscar. Oh, and let’s not forget Susan and Gordon, Maria and Luis!
   

My memory of having Pops read The Perils of Penelope with me, though, are very special. It wasn’t just the story, but spending time with him. I don’t really remember all of the predicaments that Penelope found “herself” in throughout the story. One of the main reasons I remember it so vividly is that, when reading, Pops would invariably pronounce the name, Penelope, as “Penny-lope” (lope rhymes with soap). At this point, I had not had any formal schooling, no PreK or daycare. Nobody had explicitly taught me to read beyond Sesame Street and my parents and older sister singing the ABCs to me. Every time my Pops would say “Pennylope” I would giggle hysterically and claim, “That’s not what her name is! It’s Pen-EL-O-PEEEE!” I’m sure that at some point, someone told me what the name actually said and that I was not in fact a preschool genius. But, knowing that Pops was getting it wrong and I knew the correct way to say it made me feel like I was already a reader. Everyone in my house was reading something every day, from a menu to a magazine to a novel or, in my mother’s case, the Reader’s Digest. Reading with Pops made me feel like I was part of the club, that I knew how the world worked, and that I would be able to do anything I set my mind to. I believe that the time that he, and my mother and sister, spent reading with me truly built up my confidence as a reader as well as an absolute enjoyment from it.

As a teacher, especially with my 4th grade class, there have been times that I mispronounced a word or two while reading. Sometimes this was intentional, to see if anyone would catch it. When they did, they were so very proud of themselves for being able to “teach the teacher!” After the first time it happened, my students were always on the lookout for any mistakes that I might have made. Not only did my mistakes help them learn the correct way to do/say/write something, but it also showed them that even educated adults sometimes make mistakes, and that it is okay to make a mistake as long as you try to learn from it. This really helped me foster a sense of learning security in my classroom. In addition, since I still constantly read, having my students see me reading for pleasure and information on my own, without making it something they are forced to participate in at every turn, has helped increase their reading motivation. Whether they are in Kindergarten or high school, most students want someone to look up to and emulate. By sharing a positive example of reading, I hope that many will follow my lead and gain a true love of the written word.

Fast-forward from Four-Year-Old Me to Eight-Year-Old Me.
(Or 2 1/2-years to 6-years, since I found these pictures…so picture me a little older)

 

I was in the third grade. Many things happened in my life in the third grade, it seems. My great grandmother passed away that year and my teacher didn’t make me go out to recess for a few weeks while I was grieving. She sat inside with me for the entire 30 minutes of recess for about two weeks and just let me play or read quietly, or she would talk to me about different things. That year I won the spelling bee at my school and then was automatically entered to be in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram Spelling Bee. I never actually made it to the Bee, though, because I was so nervous and had such terrible stage fright that I became physically ill. The alternate from my school went, instead, and he was two years older than I was and lost to me because he couldn’t spell the word, “football!” Needless to say, he did not progress very far in the Bee.

Something else happened to me in the third grade. I discovered Judy Blume. My childhood love affair with books began, obviously, way before the third grade. When I checked out a copy of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing in my school library, however, things begin to get really crazy. First, a little more background about my upbringing: I grew up in a loving, caring, churchgoing family where “butt” was considered to be a bad word and bodily functions performed outside of the privacy of your own bathroom would be utterly unspeakable. If you’ve ever read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, you might know where I’m headed with this (or at least think you know). So, I checked out the book and began reading it at school on a Friday. I pretty much finished it that night at home in bed, except for a few pages, which I proceeded to read the next day sitting comfortably on the couch in the living room. As I was finishing the book, I’m sure I was smiling and giggling out loud at some parts. I think I even made a comment to my mom about how funny the book was. After I was finished with it (so glad I got to the end!) she asked me about it and what parts were funny, like good parents everywhere who encourage their children to read by taking an interest.

Well, although I can’t remember the exact passage that I read to my mother, I am fairly certain that it contained the word, “fart.” Oh, boy. That was it. Mom told Pops that the book I was reading was inappropriate, and since he was on the school board, he needed to do something about it. He inevitably agreed that the book was “too old” for children my age (even though it really wasn’t, and was one of the funnier and most relatable books I had read up to that point). My parents took the book away and read through it. I’m convinced that they still had no idea what the book was actually about, but were simply looking for “bad words” or things that were “inappropriate.” The issue was brought up at a school board meeting and I am pretty sure that the book was pulled from the elementary school library, at least for a time, along with other Judy Blume books in the same series. I have no idea whether or not that library has a copy of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing on their shelves today, but I only hope they do.

I spoke with my mom today about the book. She didn’t really remember what the hubbub was all about, either, but she remembered that the author was Judy Blume and she knew that the issue had something to do with bodily functions. My dad passed away when I was in middle school, but he most likely would have laughed along with my mom today as we were remembering that time. My mom chuckled and apologized at the same time, telling me that she hoped it didn’t cause any psychological scarring. She also said that whatever the actual issue was back then would seem completely ridiculous today. I thanked her, not for totally embarrassing me since my friends found out my parents were “book banners,” but because after that incident, I made it a point to read things I wasn’t necessarily “supposed” to be reading. I read The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl before they were ever assigned to me just because they were considered by people somewhere to be somehow controversial. AND I enjoyed every one of them, even when I had to read them again for school and in so doing, gained a better understanding of each. I read books that get bad reviews in addition to the bestsellers, because it’s obvious from things such as the ALA’s Banned/Challenged Book List that the opinions of some people don’t always mesh with my own, very valid opinions. I am just thankful that my personality allowed me to go in the opposite direction after my parents tried to impose their own skewed, if well-intentioned, censorship on my entire school. Thanks to them, I have a mind of my own and I read what I want…and I read a lot…and I always try my best to get my students to do the same.

In my experience with middle and high school, if a student discovers that a book has been challenged and that someone has tried to have it banned, their curiosity is immediately piqued. They want to know why someone objected to it and they usually want to read it to see if it really is “bad.” I am lucky to have been able to guide students toward interesting and substantial literature in this way, while still taking into account the sensitivities that some families may have toward certain topics. Giving students choices and keeping parents/families informed of what we are learning and discussing in the classroom helps dispel possible controversy or complaints. I firmly believe that it is not my job to give students an opinion about anything, but it is to responsibly guide them and give them tools to form their own. And, once they have formed an opinion, even if it changes multiple times over the course of the school year or their lives, I try to respect it.

I could think of a million different things – strong memories and those that flitter by occasionally – that have shaped my literacy and my teaching. I hope that someday, a memory of me and what I have taught will help form another person’s literacy memory.

Semi-Sweet

Well, it turns out that I’ve been blessed once again with another year of semi-unemployment. I say “semi” for a several of reasons. First, I am actually doing some work from home right now, which does bring in a little income. Second, in another month or so I might actually spend a good portion of my day in an office working. Third, I’ve enrolled in college…again…for a second Masters degree. And, fourth, I am, of course, a mom, so unemployment never really means not working.

I did say that I had been “blessed,” with this condition, didn’t I? I have to look at it that way, or else I might cry a little. I would love to be back in the classroom this year teaching students and watching them grow. However, because of this unexpected bump in the road, I will actually get to take my daughter to the first day of Kindergarten and pick her up when school is over. AND, when I start working in the office, my hours will be such that I will still be able to drop her off and pick her up at school every day! How awesome is that?!? If I were teaching this year, I would miss this, as well as most of the school activities, and she would have to be dropped off and picked up by a daycare! (Don’t get me wrong, I know that this is a necessity for a lot of people, and it usually would be for us, as well, but I feel so happy to get to take her and pick her up every day!) I’ll still have my baby at home with me every day until I start working in the office. It will also be nice to spend some one-on-one time with her, since she’s never really had much of that.

So, I will be very busy working and learning this year, just not in the way that I had imagined. I hope this means that I have time to keep up with this blog after having had a lovely summer vacation with very little thought about writing. Now I’m off to pack my daughter’s lunch box for her first day of Kindergarten!

Waiting is the Worst

I have discovered that waiting for really important things is not one of my strong suits. I can wait for the coffee pot to beep in the morning (and that’s no small feat), and I can wait for the water in the shower to get hot. I can even stand waiting at those red lights that seem to last forever. None of that really bothers me. But, right now, I’m waiting on information that is potentially life changing in a good way…and it is KILLING ME!

I am so nervous and anxious right now that I am dizzy. I know I haven’t exactly eaten anything healthy today, and it’s 1pm now. That might have something to do with the dizziness. I don’t feel like eating, though, because my stomach is in knots.

So, I’ll be here. Going bonkers. Wish me luck that I actually find out today! I’m starting to become frantic!!!

My Top Ten Favorite Cheesy Movies

Top Ten {Tuesday}

In addition to my love for reading, I also love movies. I love all kinds of movies. I love great classics, science fiction, romance, comedy, action… You name the genre, and I bet I can find at least one movie within it that I absolutely adore. That being said, my movie choices aren’t always “mainstream popular.” My husband, in fact, would tell you that I have terrible taste in movies…which is SO not true…mostly. I mean, HE thinks Starship Troopers is a fantastic movie! (And should I mention how much he likes the movie, Spice World? You know, the Spice Girls movie? Nah, I won’t mention it…that would just be mean.) I like all the Twilight movies, but they aren’t on this list. They may have a definite cheese factor (“You’re like a drug to me…”), but as a teacher, I read the books first and they were captivating, if not classically written.

So, my movie preferences may run toward less-popular titles, but I’m okay with that. Some are more mainstream, but are still definitely cheesy. There are a few movies that I really, really like that I’m embarrassed to admit…but only a little embarrassed, and probably just because my hubby makes fun of me for watching them. Here are my Top Ten Favorite Cheesy Movies, in no particular order.

10. What a Girl Wants, starring Amanda Bynes – This is a family-friendly movie, a little on the teeny-bopper side. It is really cute, and mega-cheesy, but I absolutely LOVE it! In fact, I own it, and when I’m having a not-so-great day, I pop it in and instantly start to feel happier. I think Amanda Bynes is such a great comedic actor in almost everything she has done! (I haven’t seen She’s the Man, although my nieces can quote it word for word.)

9. The Cutting Edge, staring Moira Kelly and D.B. Sweeney – This one is definitely old-school, and I’m still young enough to not care if that dates me at all. It’s from the early 90s, so if that’s old-school for me, I suppose I’m not doing too bad. I’ll always remember growing up, any time my sister or I did anything stupid in front of each other, saying, “Toe pick!”

8. Snakes on a Plane, starring Samuel L. Jackson – This has to be one of the top cheesy movies of all time. The title alone is enough to make people cringe. Don’t worry. I didn’t rush out to the theater to watch it. I didn’t even order it on Netflix. I caught it when it came on cable…and I have watched it more than once since then. It’s not all bad! It’s full of action, albeit within a very limited setting. And, come on…Samuel L. Jackson is just cool!

7. Dream a Little Dream, starring…the Coreys – I have not watched this movie since Corey Haim died last year. It’s not because it would bring up too many sad memories. It’s honestly just because I don’t own it and it doesn’t often come on TV. I think I need to check to see if it is available on Netflix. I was probably in middle school when I discovered this gem, and I have loved it ever since. Embarrassingly or not, this is probably one of my very favorites. Corey Feldman channeling Michael Jackson in a dance scene was just fun!

6. Footloose, starring Kevin Bacon – This. Is. A. Classic. I don’t care what you think. As cheesy as it may be, and I can face the truth about it, it is simply a phenomenal movie. It might not have as great of an impact today as it did in the 80s, but it’s still a great story. The remake of this movie is due to come out this year. I’m already preparing myself to be disappointed. Julianne Hough may be a great dancer, but she doesn’t seem like a rebellious preacher’s daugther to me. And Kenny Wormald? Who the heck is that?

5. Independence Day, starring Will Smith – Aliens! Destruction! Jeff Goldblum! I love it all. I think if this movie were rereleased in the theater I might actually pay (again) to see it on a big screen with surround sound. It’s a great end-of-the-world sci-fi flick. Period.

4. Flashdance, starring Jennifer Beals – Admit it. If you were born before 1990, chances are you’ve danced in the middle of your living room, belting out, “She’s a maniac, MANIAC, on the floor!” I can’t remember how old I was when I first saw this. It does have a lot of boobs in it, but you know, a girl has to make money somehow. It’s a truly cheesy love story. Poor welder girl who moonlights as a stripper catches the eye of her extremely wealthy boss… That’s totally how I met my husband! Haha!

3. The Day After Tomorrow, starring Dennis Quaid – It’s another end-of-the-world movie! There are no aliens, but there is a massive ice storm that freezes everyone within seconds of being exposed to it. And there’s a dad, who happens to be a climatologist, that must trek across the country to save his son, who happens to be trapped in the National Library. This movie is total cheese at its best. Whenever this one is on TV I watch it. It might be the movie that my husband makes fun of the most.

2. Sweet Home Alabama, starring Reese Witherspoon – I think this movie is fun. It’s not the cheesiest movie on this list, by far. There is one particular line that always, for no apparent reason, pops into my head. I think that this line might be what adds to the cheese-factor for me. “You have a BABY…in a BAR!” I live in Texas, and although it’s fairly different from Alabama as a whole, I’m sure that there could, at some point, be a time in my life when I would actually get to use that statement.

1. Bring It On, starring Kirsten Dunst – I am not now, nor have I ever been, a cheerleader. I had friends who were cheerleaders, even in college, so this movie should not have appealed to me. Each sequel, and I haven’t even seen them all, gets progressively worse. So, while this movie may have been tolerable, and is definitely cheesy, it’s also kind of like a train wreck – you just can’t look away! The most memorable line from the movie isn’t even from this actual movie, it’s from Not Another Teen Movie. But whenever most people hear the title, Bring it On, they think, “Oh, it’s already been broughten!”

This list is my no means comprehensive. I could easily write a Top 100 on this topic. I think this is a pretty good representative sample of my tastes, though. Don’t make fun of me. I know there are probably many worse movies on your list!

Have a top ten list of your own? Click the Top Ten Tuesday link at the top of this post and share your list on Oh Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday Link-Up!

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