All sorts of bookish adventures!

Category Archives: Life

Alright, now where were we?

Oh yes! The last time I was here, I explained that I’ve been busy planning curriculum for my new position as 8th grade English teacher (as opposed to the last 3 years as 7th grade). Before that, I submitted an “Inspired Adventures” post on LARPing and The Return of the King.

Whoo! It’s been a while!

Alright, well let’s catch up then, shall we?

Still, I am very much in the depths of reinventing the wheel when it comes to teaching 8th grade English. I have to learn the new levels of rigor embedded in the 8th grade English standards. No longer are my students simply expected to “identify an idiom”. Now, they must be able to translate said idiom and explain what it’s purpose is in the overall text and what its effect is. Higher level stuff. Plus, I’m trying to figure out how to make my class digital, what with the inclusion of iPad technology in our classroom. That will be interesting, engaging, and convenient (not so much paper!) once I figure it out. So, there’s that.

What else has been going on? Well, you may have heard through the internets that I have a new blogging job. I’m proud to announce here that I am now a contributor to Insatiable Booksluts, and my first post will be published this week. It’s an essay on the works of Stephen King. Not a big surprise for those of you who know me and read my writing here. I’m a big fan of King and it was a blast planning and working with the ladies of IB on this week’s event, which will be a week-long event commemmorating King and all of his work. If you don’t follow Insatiable Booksluts (which you should! It’s a phenomenal book blog.), I will let you know here when my post is published this week. This essay was a major undertaking, a major labor of love, and I really hope you all read it. If anything because I put A LOT of work into it (let’s just say that I’ve been working on this essay in varying levels of effort since April or May).

I need to also tell everyone that I am VERY PROUD to have been asked by Susie of IB to contribute to their blog. Anyone who reads my blog or Twitter feed knows that I am a huge fan of Insatiable Booksluts, and to be asked to write for them feels like a major promotion. I admire those ladies a lot, and I hope that I can live up to their standard of excellence in book blogging. I’m also just excited that this means I get to collaborate with them. They’re fun ladies to hang out with on Twitter, and any excuse to engage with them is alright in my book!

World War Z Max Brooks Zombie Apocalypse audiobook

I haven’t read much, if at all since the school year started. I have listened—I’ve been listening to World War Z by Max Brooks in the car and on my iPod. I’m almost done, and I really like the book. It’s like the back story to The Walking Dead. Unfortunately, while it’s a really good audiobook, I fail at audiobooks. I space out and have to rewind all the time. I’m probably going to have to re-read this one.

Fringe J.J. Abrams Fox

Since I haven’t been reading much, I have been spending my evenings after work watching Fringe. Super-awesome show. It’s right up my alley. I’ll probably write something about Season 1 this week.

Speaking of this week, I’ll be posting a few times here. No. Really. I will. I’m going to write and schedule my posts right now. Until my work load lightens, that’s pretty much how it’s going to have to be–writing on the weekends. I’ll be around on email and Twitter, but I really don’t have much time to write for the blog during the week.

With that said, I’ll see you all around!


There’s been a dark cloud hanging over my house for the last week. I haven’t really felt up to sharing about it, nor do I entirely feel comfortable sharing now. Yet, I want to say something here, especially since it might come up in the future. Don’t worry, this post won’t be all doom and gloom.

Last Friday, Jesse and I found out that one of our good friends was brutally murdered by his ex-wife’s boyfriend. His five-year-old son, of whom he had full custody, is said to be safe, presumably with the ex-wife, but I’m hoping he’s with his grandmother. We learned, and are still learning, the details of what happened to our friend via out-of-state newspapers. Seeing horrific details in print, that describe atrocious actions done to one of your good friends, is surreal to say the least.

Needless to say, Jesse and I are trying to figure out how to cope with our emotions. These aren’t the typical feelings of sadness and loss that derive from losing a friend to a motorcycle accident (which is what Jesse first assumed had happened when he heard about the death). No, hopefully, eventually, those will be the sole emotions remaining. What Jesse (and I, to a lesser extent) is dealing with is extreme, “I want to rip him apart”, anger. Because a great injustice has been dealt to our friend, a very caring and kind person who was the best dad anyone could ask for. And how awful is it going to be for his little boy, having to grow up under these gruesome and unfair events? So, we’re angry, confused, and starting to come out of the shock.

Eventually, there will be a fund set up for his son, and when that goes into effect, you will probably see something about it here. Because, I figure, the only thing to do in this situation, the only way to get past the hate and anger, is to combat it with love. I think I read that over at Lucy’s Football last week, which was definitely well-timed in my situation. So, I’m going to do whatever I can to help that little boy who was so loved and cared for by his father. I’ll probably ask you all to help in whatever way you can as well. Until then, Jesse and I are coping, trying to find some sense of normalcy.

Here’s a song for Brando and his son by Flogging Molly, a favorite of Brando’s:

—-**—-Here is where I transition awkwardly to how I am coping.—-**—-

It’s been very hot in San Diego this week, so I haven’t felt up to doing much of anything. We don’t have AC in our house, nor do most people in SD, because, for the majority of the year, we don’t need it. But, I definitely wouldn’t have minded it this week. So, I’ve been eating popsicles and raw veggies, drinking lots of iced tea, and reading books. I finished The Return of the King this week (I was sad to say goodbye to my friends when it was all over), and have worked my way through about half of Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber, the second book in the Outlander series. Hopefully, I’ll have that finished by next week. Then, I’ll be returning to The Dark Tower series, to finish what I started in January. The Wolves of the Calla is what I’ve got next (one of my favorites in the series).

So here’s something out in left field that I started last night: writing a really crappy YA paranormal romance. Yesterday, my friend Pat invited me to “Book Club”, a group he and another friend started on Facebook. The purpose of Book Club? Reading, analyzing, and writing crappy tween books. Right now, Pat is working on a teen romance between a human girl and a wraith boy. Apparently, it’s tough being a wraith in high school-it’s hard to stay focused. You know, fellow LotR-reading friends, what I imagine…the Nazgul king meets Eowyn on the fields of Pellenor.

She takes her helmet off, and the wraith falls madly in love on the spot.

He sheathes his sword, pulls Eowyn up on his mount, and flies off to his hidden nest up near Mount Doom. After weeks of being holed up with the king, Eowyn starts to notice a softer side to him, and one day realizes that she has fallen madly in love. The love of the wraith and the princess…

Artwork by TAD RVA-

coming to a Kindle near you.


I can’t wait to see what happens in Pat’s story…it’s definitely going to be absurd. I, on the other hand, started my story last night by pulling out my handy-dandy Field Guide to Demons  book, using a random number generator to choose a page number, and selecting a paranormal love interest based upon the page I came up with. So, I’m writing a tragic love story centering around a human boy and a nixie! There will be a love triangle and my story will be heavily ripping off Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence. That’s how it’s done, right? Surprisingly, based upon my struggle with the first 400 words, writing crap is hard!

My nixie wears more clothes and falls in love with the star of the swim team!

Of course, the best way to cope in times of sadness is through retail therapy.


But, I have been utilizing my own type of retail therapy. You know that I’m not talking about shoe shopping, right? You guys know me better than that. Nope, I’ve been indulging in book-buying of course! Here are some of the books I’ve picked up this week via thrift stores, used bookstores, and Amazon.

For my Kindle:

Shadow Show Ray Bradbury Joe Hill Margaret Atwood Neil Gaiman

Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury by various awesome authors

as recommended by Heather at Between the Covers

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

Hopefully, I’ll be able to read this in October. We’ll see.

From a local thrift store:

Two John Irving novels: A Widow for One Year and The Cider House Rules

The Cider House Rules by John Irving

and Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, author of my ’90s favorite Generation X.

Microserfs by Douglas Coupland Generation X

Grand Total: less than $4!

Then the most exciting purchase from the used bookstore:

The Drawing of the Three Dark Tower Stephen King

A first edition of The Drawing of the Three! With all of the pictures! Only $20!

I’m now one book away from having all of the Dark Tower pictures, (remember when I bitched about that?). I just need The Gunslinger for a complete set!

So, I think next week I will be back to “back to normal”. That means at least three posts from me, lots of reading, and my normal amount of tweeting (which is usually <5 per day). This weekend, I’ll engage in my planned inspired adventure of watching local LARPing for next week’s Return of the King-Inspired Adventures post, which will either appear on Monday or Thursday.

And, this is how I’m dealing. Am I doing it right? Is there a right way to mourn? I figure that the best way to deal is to get back to doing what I normally do. And do as much good as I can for that little boy who is left behind.

As always, thank you friends for all of your support and caring. It never ceases to amaze me how kind people can be.

This is what I was rocking out to on my way home from school today! You have to pump your arm in tune to the chorus, rooting Tony on.


And you have to wave hi, hi, hi, hi, hi….and wave bye, bye, bye, bye, bye

At this time of year, working at a year-round school is so freaking awesome (not so much in June and July, when other schools start vacation and I’m still working in the heat). I get my vacation separated into months throughout the year, with two weeks added on to Christmas vacation, and a whole month for Spring Break, and then one month in August. Now, a reminder for those who don’t know…teachers are technically not paid for vacation…we get ten months of pay every year, and that pay is split up amongst the twelve months for some teachers. This is why many teachers take a second job during vacation–summer school, independent contract work, etc. But, not me!

Every time I get a month off, I set personal goals to accomplish. Most are simply things I wish I had more time for, and I always set one for something that I’ve always been too chicken to do–a big goal. Last year, in April, I set the goal of reading as many books as possible, and ended up reading 28 and gained 10 pounds in the process! In August of last year, my big goal was starting a blog, and here I am! January of this year was the beginning of boxing and Muay Thai classes, which I am still taking four times a week! So, what are my goals for this Spring Break?

    1. Read at least two books per week! I think I can easily manage this one (except for The Canterbury Tales…I think that will be read concurrently throughout the month!) I’ll just be reading during the day while the husband is at work. Depending upon the difficulty of the books, I should be able to manage more than two per week!
    2. Write at least five posts per week! Again, I think I should be able to easily manage this, if not more. With all of the reading I’ll be doing, I’ll have a lot of reviews to write and post. Plus, there’s some really good television happening in April (Mad Men and Game of Thrones), so I’ll never run out of things to talk about!
    3. Just Dance video game WiiDrop five pounds–cut calories, run, bike, etc. Ugh. Despite my major sweat sessions doing boxing and Muay Thai for four hours per week, I have actually gained about six or seven pounds since January! I’m told that this is muscle, but this is ridiculous. I have never weighed so much in my life! So, it’s time to get all Dr. Phil and get real…time to cut calories and take more walks or ride my bike. Maybe I’ll also “Just Dance” it off. I just want to see if I can!
    4. Deep-clean the house! When I say “deep-clean”, I mean normal stuff that I’ve been putting off–dusting and sweeping, clean the bathrooms, pick up the clothes in the bedroom, shred the huge pile of stupid, unsolicited credit card applications, etc. I’ve become a terrible housekeeper!
    5. Sansa Lemon Cakes Recipe Game of Thrones

      Sansa's Lemon Cakes! (Man, she drives me nuts)

      Cook at least one Game of Thrones- A Clash of Kings-themed meal! Ah yes! This is a fun one! Last year, when Game of Thrones premiered on HBO, I got together with friends to watch, and I cooked Honeyed Chicken with potatoes and onions (like they serve in King’s Landing) and Sansa’s favorite–Lemon Cakes. Then, for a later episode, I made a true Dornish meal with pita, hummus, olives, rice, and chicken (I think?). I get all of my recipes from The Inn at the Crossroads, and this year, I want to make another GOT-themed meal. Maybe something they’d serve in the kitchens of Harrenhal…

    6. Go for at least one hike! I better do this one–I need some nature in my life!
    7. Do something special for my one-year anniversary with my husband. We got married during my Spring Break last year–April 12 in Reno. We need to do something for this occasion, since we both accidentally missed our other anniversary–the anniversary of our first date, which we have celebrated every year for the last five years. What to do though? Maybe a camping trip or a night in a hotel or something. I have no idea.
    8. The Canterbury Tales by ChaucerRead The Canterbury Tales! This one is long and difficult! I will be reading TCT in it’s original format (using the footnotes a lot!), so I’m anticipating a very slow rate of reading. Since it’s broken up into each traveler’s tale, I’ll probably set my goal for two tales per day. That way, I should be able to complete the text by the end of April. It’s a moral imperative that I do so! I have been wanting to read this for the last 12 years!
    9. Write a short story that I don’t want to throw in the trash! This is the big goal! I haven’t written a short story since college–ten years ago, to be exact. I want to see if I can write one complete short story that doesn’t make me want to puke! To do this, I have to do the next task as well.

My Writing SpaceStart writing in my office. Last summer, I turned our spare bedroom into my own personal writing office. All of my writing books are in there, I have a huge desk covered in quotes from my favorite writing texts, pictures of my heroes staring down at me from the wall (two pictures of Stephen King, hard at work on his own writing, as well as my signed picture of Felicia Day, who is one of the hardest-working creators I know of –she’s my lady-hero!) It’s all set up and ready for me, but because I don’t have a working laptop, I haven’t been working in there. But, for Christmas, I got a keyboard to go with my IPad, so I could turn that into a laptop. I need to start making that office work for me! This will have to happen!

So those are my ten goals for Spring Break! If you had a month off from your responsibilities, how would you spend it?

Tonight’s the night! Season 5 of Mad Men premieres on AMC at 9:00! Two hours!

While I haven’t had to wait as long as other fans (I only just started watching seasons 1-4 in November), I am still very excited to see what’s happening to my favorite characters!

So, today I will be gearing up for the premiere by watching some of my favorite episodes from the past seasons (all previous seasons are streaming on Netflix). These favorite episodes include:

-Warning: Don’t Click on These if You Haven’t Watched the Show–Synopses Contain Spoilers!-

“A Night to Remember” Season 2: Episode 8

“Six-Month Leave” Season 2: Episode 9

“Meditations in an Emergency” Season 2: Episode 13

“Out of Town”: Season 3: Episode 1

“My Old Kentucky Home”: Season 3: Episode 3

“The Grown-Ups”: Season 3: Episode 12

“Shut the Door. Have a Seat.” Season 3: Episode 13

And most, if not all, of Season 4 (definitely my all-time favorite episode “The Suitcase” and the finale).

Other Mad Men Links That Have Me All Worked Up!

While watching the last two episodes of The Walking Dead (also on AMC), I loved these Mad Men trailers that link up my two favorite shows! Check ’em out!

and my personal favorite

“and drinks like Hershel used to…” my favorite line!

Book Riot has posted a couple of bookish posts on Mad Men. First, there’s “Recommended Books for the Characters of MAD MEN”. Then, there’s also “Nonfiction for the Life and Times of MAD MEN“.

There’s a lot of reading being done on Mad Men. Flavorwire has compiled “The Definitive ‘Mad Men’ Reading List” for any fans who want to read along. Also, they’ve pulled together a 1966 playlist to act as soundtrack for this season. Check it out!

Then, for those of us planning to really celebrate the return of Mad Men, there’s tips and recipes for throwing a Mad Men premiere party. I think I might try out Joanie’s famous Ginger Snap and Roger Sterling’s Party Nuts!

Can you tell how excited I am? So excited! Just wait until you see how excited I am for the premiere of Game of ThronesI’m gonna be nuts!

I called in sick today. It’s a mental illness sick day–I need to not be in the classroom.

As I already wrote about, I received a pink slip on Tuesday.

Then, one of my students was put into handcuffs in the middle of my classroom, in the middle of my lesson on “Main Idea and Supporting Details”, in the middle of a student participating in discussion. This was uncomfortable for all of us, to say the least. Particularly because she is a classroom favorite–always participating, always smiling, always getting her work in on time. In short, she is ideal in the classroom. Apparently, she is less than ideal outside of the classroom. I have no idea what she was arrested for, and I have no idea why the vice principal decided that it would be appropriate to arrest her in the middle of my lesson, without even letting me know ahead of time, but let’s just say that it shook me up. Luckily, my classroom is full of pros, and my students continued on with the lesson as they led her out, continuing to raise their hands to contribute to our lesson. They blew my mind with how cool they were. And, at the end of the day, I received a letter from the student, apologizing for getting in trouble and getting arrested in the middle of my class. I certainly didn’t receive an apology from the two adults who participated in this disruptive scene. Grrr.

So, I’m mentally ill today. I will stay home today and begin what I think will be a readathon weekend.

The goal is to finish The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss this weekend. This is a 1000-page book, and I’m only at page 700, and I’ve been reading for 3 weeks now! Something must be done! I want to start reading The Forsyte Saga and The Waste Lands next week, so it has to be finished by Sunday.

Usually, when a book takes me this long, it can be assumed that I’m just not really into it. Let me be clear, this is a VERY GOOD BOOK! If the next 300 pages are consistent with previous 700, I will write a glowing review of this fantasy novel next week. Plot is excellent and fast-paced, the characters are very well-developed, lots of good themes going on, and I am just really enjoying it! But, for some reason, it is taking me forever to read! Maybe it’s because I keep falling asleep when I read it–not because it’s boring, but because I am exhausted!

So, I think I will do a readathon this weekend. Starting today! I will probably do updates on my progress and reflections on my reading throughout the days too. I need to go to Jiffy Lube, take a nap, and go to the gym tonight, but I should be able to read quite a bit throughout the day. Tomorrow should be wide open too.

If any of you have free time this weekend, maybe you’d be interested in readathoning with me? I always love company on these sorts of endeavors. Will you at least consider it? Either way, I hope you have a wonderful weekend! I will be updating here later on, throughout the day!

Reading Update #1:

I just finished getting an oil change at Jiffy Lube…whoo! 230 bucks with a few of the extras thrown in. I don’t know anything about cars, so I just space out when they talk about what needs to be changed or fixed and simply nod my head “yes”. A few of the suggestions I said “no” to, just to add in variety to the conversation. I really don’t know what the hell is going on! Ah well. I’m sure it was all necessary.

Meanwhile, I read 30 pages while sitting in the waiting room. Not much, but it’s pretty much par for the course with this book. I wonder what the word count is on this book. Am I just savoring every word, or am I just tired? All I know is my reading speed goes dowwwwwn when I read Rothfuss (I was pretty slow at reading The Name of the Wind as well, but that definitely had some less than thrilling parts).

The reading is good. Kvothe just took a journey to Stormwal, and is now seeing the Adem life for the first time (a stoic type of people who are trained in a sort of martial art and live as mercenaries). Pretty interesting…

I think I’m going to be asleep in the next two hours. Didn’t get much sleep last night. Will probably check in again in the afternoon!

Reading Update #2

Woke up about two hours ago from a good 2+ hour nap. Before falling asleep, I read another 20 pages of The Wise Man’s Fear, putting me at page 752. Not as far as I’d like, but I’ll have less to do tomorrow, so I should probably get more reading done.

In the meantime, I’ve really enjoyed the conversations that I’ve been having here on the blog today! Thanks so much for your comments and support! It’s really been a good recuperative day thanks to the reading and all of you!

I don’t know how much more reading that I’ll get in today, as I am going to the gym in an hour, and then I’ll have to make something to eat when I get home, and, after that, apparently my husband and I are going out to drink and dance to Britpop at a local bar. All in the name of consoling a grieving friend who just lost her father. I do enjoy dancing though, so hopefully it will be a good time. However, I have a tendency to almost get in a fight at this bar with hipsters. Usually over something stupid, but this bar puts me in such a pugilistic state that I seriously think about using my fists on someone with cute bangs or a handlebar mustache. And I’ve never been in a fight (well, except the one in 6th grade, with a boy whom I beat in arm wrestling. But, that was more shoving and kicking. And I didn’t want to fight, but he wouldn’t let it go. It didn’t help that my sister Erika was egging us on.)! So, who knows how this night will go. With the luck I’ve had this week, I could be writing a post on Sunday about how I spent the night in jail after breaking a bottle of Jack Daniels over the head of some chick who snickered at my chucks (“that is so 2002.”).

I’ll be back to reading tomorrow if I’m not in jail! Have a good night!

Today, I was going to post a character sketch of Denna, the female love interest of Kvothe in The Kingkiller Chronicle series. That’ll happen. Maybe Friday, maybe Saturday, it’ll happen. I’ve pretty much written it, I just have to put the finishing touches on it. But, I’m not in the mood for that today.

Actually, I’m not really in the mood to be bookish at all today. I kind of just want to be self-centered and talk about ME. Usually, I save this for the weekends, but I’ve got a lot going on right now, and I feel like venting. If you’re not in the mood for it, tune in tomorrow when I get back to books and whatnot.

No, this isn’t just a book blog, this is also a Mandy blog. So, let’s talk about me, Mandy.

Now, I’m not looking for sympathy–I’ve got things under control. I just want to vent.

So, yesterday I received my pink slip at the school. Now, before you think this is a pity party, just know that I knew this was coming. I was pink-slipped last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and well, this is my fourth pink slip in five years of teaching. I’m used to it, and I knew it was coming.

So, I’m slightly bummed, just because it’s always an uncomfortable situation when your boss gives you a letter saying that you will no longer be needed in the upcoming year, “we’re sorry, but the budget…”, yada, yada, yada. And the sad looks that your colleagues give you is always depressing, because, of course, they knew that you were going to be pink-slipped too. Sucks to be you, bro!

Here’s the thing that always gets under my skin, and I know it gets under my bosses’ skin too. I am a kickass teacher. I’m not being cocky. It’s a fact. My students are engaged, I get them excited about learning, and my students always perform well. That’s saying something, considering that many of my incoming 7th grade students come at a 4th grade level. By the end of the year, every year that I have taught, the test results prove that I raise my students to proficient and advanced levels, which means I usually help my kids advance a few grade levels in about nine months time. Perhaps the best indicator for me has always been that the students who get busted for drugs, who are on the truancy watch list, who are most teachers’ worst nightmare…these kids always perform well in my class and have been known to skip every period except my class and lunch.

But, I’m the one that’s let go EVERY YEAR. All because I’m the new kid on the block, with only 5 years of experience, while the senior teachers sit back at their desks, collect their paychecks, and continue to be mediocre. Houston, we have a problem!

And here’s the sad thing–I’m not the only one. I work at a school that no one wants to work at–urban San Diego–where many of the kids are homeless, or have one or both parents in prison, or if they do have parents at home, they’re completely unfit due to various forms of abuse. Also, the majority of my students are English Language Learners. Yet, I’m estimating that at least half of our staff received a pink slip yesterday, and the majority of them were energetic, innovative young teachers who want to work with this population! And again, meanwhile, the staff that didn’t receive pink slips are the ones with seniority, who don’t want to be at our school (they were placed at our school because none of the other schools wanted them, and they’re too senior to get rid of). Just collecting paychecks and bitching about how bad our students are and how they receive no support from the administration. Same shit, different year for the majority of them.

So, what’s your point, Mandy? I thought this wasn’t going to be a pity party!

Well, it’s not…I’ll be unemployed in July and either get hired back in September or work as a sub throughout the year while I pursue my Masters in English again. Or, I’ll collect unemployment checks and blog a lot.

My point is that, well, this sucks. And nobody seems to be talking about the dire situation that is education. And I’m on the fence on the unions. I dunno. It’s because of the unions that the shitty teachers are able to keep their jobs even though they’re doing a shitty job. But, at the same time, I’ve worked at schools without union representation, and it was a totalitarian dictatorship. The administrators treated the teachers like shit, blaming us for the students’ shortcomings, paid us crap wages, and would often put us “on blast” in front of the students, so that the students felt that they had all the power. I actually had students who thought that they could get me fired because I scolded them–they actually thought that they had all the power!

But, teaching is supposed to be about the students, not about the teachers. So, when it comes down to it, all of these layoffs are really hurting the students. I’ve become a pro at doing a good job even though I’m currently laid off, but that’s me. The stress that comes with knowing that you won’t have a job in a few months really begins to impact the morale. Who would blame a laid-off teacher for not caring anymore about their lessons, for deciding to cash in on their sick days before they’re lost at the end of the year. It’s a crappy spiral—you treat the teachers like crap, the education suffers, and students perform poorly.

So, my point is…I don’t know. Things kind of suck. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know there is a problem.

Sorry if my rant was ranty, but I just wanted to put it out there.

Back to the regularly scheduled program tomorrow!